Imágenes de páginas

not on recollection say, “I do well to de angry;" but will consider him, who “ when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not;" for we are called to copy his example, to show the reality and excellency of our religion, by doing well and suffering patiently; and however such a servant may be neglected by an austere, injurious, earthly master, yet he shall certainly receive a gracious recompense from the Lord, (Eph. vi. 5–8; Col. iii. 22-25). Thus his principles teach him not to be an eye-servant and a man-pleaser, attentive to his business only in his master's presence ; but in singleness of heart to do the will of God, and to refer every thing to the honour of the Lord Jesus, and the credit of his gospel; not so much fearing man's displeasure, as disgracing the cause of evangelical religion by his misconduct.

Such habitual behaviour, in a servant professing the gospel, will not only conduce to his own interest, credit, and comfort, but will procure attention to any serious remark he may make, or commendation he may give to a book or a preacher: and this will discountenance vice and impiety ; nay, perhaps it may dispose some to examine the nature of that religion, which produces such excellent fruits: whilst violent and zealous disputes for doctrines, in him whose conduct is disobliging and impertinent, not to say slothful and dishonest, expose to contempt the very truths for which he contends. The same principles will also lead a man to follow after peace with his fellow servants : he will not indeed silently see his master defrauded, or join with others in riot : but he will avoid a morose and invidious conduct ; not reporting, or even protesting against trifles; but only against manifest evils : endeavouring by kindness, patience when ridiculed, and forgiveness when injured, to win their attention to calm discourse on Divine things. He will also take care never to seek his own interest by countenancing children in misconduct to their parents, or each other; though he will oblige them for their good. He will not treat indigent relations or dependents with galling neglect, or attend on them with grudging. If he be obliged to refuse obedience to an improper command, he will do it with mildness and respect. If his time be too much taken up on the Lord's day, he will endeavour to redeem what remains more diligently; and if he be constrained to leave his place, he will be careful how he needlessly lessens his master's character in his own vindication. The same rules, with circumstantial alterations, suit the case of apprentices and labourers ; and all who are employed by others, according to the degree and nature of the trust reposed in them, (Gen. xxiv.)

On the other hand, masters are also instructed in their duties, by directions and examples, in the holy Scriptures. The Christian's principles will influence him to consider true piety as an invaluable accession to the character of a servant who suits him in other respects; and to seek the blessing with fervent prayer; and by making his place desirable to such persons. If he be thus favoured, he will endeavour to behave to his servant as a brother in the faith; he will make proper allowances for mistakes and defects; and value a servant, who, on the whole, is faithful, upright, diligent, and peaceable, though he be not without faults; knowing how much the comfort of his family and the best interests of his children depend on such domestics. If he meet with bad servants, he will strive to repress his anger, to avoid reproaches, and to behave well to them, till he can change them. If his servants suit him in other respects, but are strangers to religion, he will use all proper means of conciliating their minds to it. In general, such a master will not expect more work from his servants than they can well perform ; nor deprive them of time for relaxation and retirement. He will deem it his duty to give them adequate wages, and to make their situation as comfortable as he can. He will provide them with things suitable to their station, when in health ; and be very tender to them in sickness; procuring them help in their work under slighter indispositions, and proper advice, if he can in more acute sickness, (Matt. viii. 1--9.) He will not think himself justi, fied by custom, in turning away a fuithful servant, by sending him to an hos

[ocr errors]

pital, because he cannot do his work, if he have it in his power to prevent it: but will consider, that he who has the benefit of his skill and labour when well, ought to submit to trouble and expense for him when sick. Nay, if he can afford it, he will copy the example of the Lord, in respect of the aged; as he does not forsake his servants in their old age, or when their strength faileth.

Remembering that he also hath a master in heaven," he will consult their interests, and be a sincere and faithful friend to them, in whatever may tend to their comfortable settlement in life. He will not keep them at a disdainful distance, or answer them with harshness, even when they are mistaken or unreasonable ; nor express discouraging suspicions of them, or descant on their faults to others. The same principles will influence him to consider the souls of his domestics as entrusted to his care. He will, therefore, order his affairs so, as may give them most leisure and opportunity for hallowing the Lord's day; and use his authority in enforcing that observance, (Gen. xviii. 19.) He will read the Scriptures to them, and join with them in family prayer; he will arrange his daily plans in subseryiency to that grand concern, and avoid whatever may prejudice their minds against it. He will watch over their morals and principles, and exclude from them infectious companions, as much as possible. Thus he will make family religion the cement of family peace, and not only aim to influence his servants by love to willing obedience, but to give them cause to bless the day when they entered his doors, both in this world and for ever, (Acts x. 7, 22; Eph. vi. 9; Col. iv. 1.) Many other relative duties might be discussed ; but this topic has already occupied a full proportion of the limits prescribed to these Essays. Subjects are required to obey the lawful commands of magistrates; to respect their persons and reverence their authority, as God's ordinance; not to speak evil of them, to pay them tribute conscientiously ; to pray for them, and to study to be quiet and mind the duties of their station. The duty of rulers and magistrates, as far as it falls under our plan, will be mentioned in an Essay on the improvement of talents. The poor should behave, with respect to the rich, without envying, coveting, or repining. The rich should be courteous, condescending, compassionate and liberal to the poor ; and set them an edifying example of piety. The young should behave with modesty, deference, and attention to the old; especially to such as are godly, however poor they may be. The aged should temper gravity and seriousness with cheerfulness and kindness in their conduct to the young. The faithful pastor will study from the Scriptures his duty to his flock; and the consistent Christian will, even in this relaxed day, consider himself as bound to honour, love, and attend to his faithful pastor. In one word, true Christianity, will influence every man to fill up his station, in the family, the church, and the community, to the glory of God, and the common benefit of the whole : and all that comes short of this is the effect of remaining contrariety to its heavenly principles, in the judgement and dispositions of true Christians, and among those who name the name of Christ, but depart not from iniquity.


On the Christian's Improvement of his Talents.

When the humble penitent has obtained peace of conscience by faith in Christ, and enjoys a prevailing hope of eternal life; he will be disposed, in proportion as his views are distinct and consistent, to inquire seriously by what means he may best glorify the God of his salvation, and do the most good to mankind during the remainder of his days ? For “ the love of Christ,'

[ocr errors]


(in dying on the cross to deliver sinners from the wrath to come, and to purchase for them everlasting felicity; and in calling him, as he hopes, to para take of so inestimable a blessing) “ will constrain him to live no longer to himself, but to Him who died for him and rose again.” This will induce him to consider very attentively, what advantages or opportunities his situation affords him, of promoting the honour of the Redeemer's name, the peace, purity, and enlargement of his kingdom, the comfort and edification of his people, and the welfare, temporal and eternal, of the human species. These opportunities and advantages are commonly called talents, from the parable which our Lord spoke on this subject, (Matt. xxv. 14—30); and doubtless this portion of Scripture, and that coincident with it, (Luke xix. 11–27), relate entirely to this matter; for they do not point out the method of salvation, as if the improvement of natural powers or common grace could merit or procure special grace (as some have confusedly argued);

for special grace produces the inclination and disposition to use natural powers, and all other advantages aright; which all men who are destitute of it are wholly disposed to abuse, as far as selfish principles will permit them. But there are a variety of endowments and opportunities that may be improved to the best of purposes, but which wicked men employ in gratifying their base lusts, to the increase of their own guilt, and the injury of all around them; and which mere formal professors of religion, who harbour hard thoughts of God, and a secret dislike to his service, as it were, bury in the earth. Of these, the true disciple of Christ will avail himself; and by “ occupying with the ta- . lent entrusted to him," he will both prove his own faith to be living and his love sincere, and also become as “a light in the world,” and “ the salt of the earth,” (Matt. y. 13–16; 2 Cor. viii. 7, 8; James ii. 14—26). Every man has some measure of these advantages afforded him, according to the appointment of infinite wisdom, which also assigns to each person his station in the church and the community: and if a man profess the gospel, the use he makes of these advantages is one of the most decisive tests, by which the sincerity of that profession may be ascertained, and the degree of his grace estimated. But the improvement, and not the number of his talents, is to be considered in this decision: “ he that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much,” (Luke xvi. 9—12): and whilst the servant to whom many talents have been entrusted may be more extensively useful, he that hath improved a very small proportion may be equally favoured of his Lord ; and the poor widow's two mites may be more evidential of sincere love and fervent zeal, than the liberal donations of the affluent.

Almost every thing may be considered as a talent; for a good or a bad use may be made of every natural endowment, or providential appointment; or they may remain unoccupied, through inactivity and selfishness. Time, health, vigour of body with the power of exertion and enduring fatigue, the natural and acquired abilities of the mind, skill in any lawful art or science, the capacity for close mental application, the gift of speech, and that of speaking with fluency and propriety, and in a convincing, attractive, or persuasive manner; wealth, influence, or authority ; a man's situation in the church, the community, or relative life; and the various occurrences which make way for him to attempt any thing of a beneficial tendency; these, and many others, that can scarce be enumerated, are talents which the consistent Christian will improve to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. Nay, this improvement of talents procures an increase of them, and gives a man an accession of influence, and an accumulating power of doing good : because it tends to establish his reputation for prudence, piety, integrity, sincerity, and disinterested benevolence; it gradually forme him to an habitual readiness to engage in beneficent designs, and to conduct them in a gentle, unobtrusive, and unassuming manner; it disposes others to regard him with increasing confidence and affection, and to approach him with satisfaction; and it procures for him the countenance of many persons, whose assistance he can employ in accomplishing his own salutary purposes. For, as

far as we are consistent in our views of our calling and business in the world, we shall, both in the concerns of our own salvation and in endeavouring to be useful, imitate the skilful mariner, who always keeps his port in mind, and gets forward in his voyage, by using every wind that blows to help him as far as it can be done, and avails himself to the utmost of every circumstance that arises from gales, currents, &c., to accomplish the purpose at which he perpetually aims. But we shall perhaps obtain a more distinct view of the subject, by selecting a specimen of these talents, and the improvement of which they are capable.

I. Power and authority constitute a most important trust, committed by the Great Ruler of the Universe to some of the human race, for the benefit of the whole, and of every individual, as far as consistent with it. In one sense or other, the Scripture represents all power as derived from God, and all rulers as the ministers of his providence in governing the world: who must all render an account to him, both for the manner in which they acquired dominion, and the use they make of it. Waving, therefore, all questions on these subjects, it suffices to say, that too many, who in any way have exercised authority over their brethren, have made a very bad use of it. Ambition, vain-glory, lust of dominion, rapacity, caprice, envy, furious anger or dire revenge, superstition or impiety, have often influenced them to employ their power in exciting and waging bloody wars, destructive to their subjects as well as to foreigners; in oppressing and burthening the poor; in favouring the exactions and oppressions which they ought to have crushed; in protecting and advancing the men whom they should have punished; in harassing those whom it was their duty to have protected; in persecuting their peaceable subjects for their religious opinions: and thus in various ways increasing the miseries, which they were exalted on purpose to remedy. There have also been some, who, as princes or magistrates, have upon the whole behaved negatively well: they have not waged unnecessary wars, or molested their subjects by oppressions or persecutions: but have been peaceably contented with the splendour, dignity, and pleasures of their station, and have left it to their servants to keep the machine of government in motion. They have, therefore, done far less mischief than some others: but they have not done the good incumbent on them, nor prevented the evil which has been done, perhaps under the sanction of their names, and which they ought to have strenuously opposed. "These have buried their talent in the earth." There have also been certain rulers and magistrates, who from natural principles have made, in some measure, a salutary use of their authority they have enacted good laws, and administered justice with a considerable degree of impartiality: they have taken care to preserve their country from foreign enemies, and have yet avoided war as far as they consistently could, from a wise preference of the blessings of peace, above the advantages arising from the most splendid victories: they have relieved the people from burthensome taxes, and defended the poor from oppressions, and the pious from persecutions; and, by thus providing for the temporal welfare of the state, they have obtained the endearing title of "Fathers to their people." This conduct the real Christian, when placed in authority, will carefully imitate from higher motives: but he will unite with it an uniform endeavour to render his whole administration subservient to the interests of true religion; and this constitutes the proper improvement of his talents. Not only "the king as supreme," but all his counsellors and ministers of state, the members of the legislature, and the magistrates, from the highest to the lowest, have a degree of power and authority vested in them by the great Ruler and Judge of the world, and to him they must be accountable for the use which they make of it. As they are placed in a conspicuous situation, multitudes scrutinize their conduct, either to censure or to imitate it; consequently their example becomes proportionably more important. This will be an additional motive to the true Christian, to walk circumspectly and accurately; to shew himself a pattern of a reverential regard to the name, the day, the word, the

house, and the ordinances of God; of sobriety, temperance, moderation, and beneficence in the use of outward things; of equity, punctuality, sincerity, and fidelity, in all his transactions, promises, and engagements: of meekness, condescension, courteousness, kindness, and compassion in all his deportment; and of attention to his domestics, and to all the duties of relative life. He will endeavour to unite wisdom, firmness, and justice, with candour and clemency in his public conduct; to manifest a disinterested, impartial spirit; to be the patron of the poor, the oppressed, and the friendless; without respecting the persons, or fearing the unmerited displeasure of the rich and powerful; and to cleave to what is right, without warping, even when his conduct excites the censures and clamours of an ill-judging multitude. His principles will influence him " to love righteousness and hate iniquity;" to promote to the utmost the peace of nations, the good order of the community, and the temporal advantage of all ranks of men in it. But they will also dispose him to render all this subservient to still more important purposes; and to aim "to adorn" and recommend "the doctrine of God our Saviour;" to soften men's prejudices, and silence their clamours, and to win their attention to it, by making them feel its benign effects. He will not indeed attempt to compel any man to assent to his creed, or conform to his mode of worship; for this can only make hypocrites: but many things may be done by those in authority, to promote religion, consistent with the most complete toleration. They may very properly repress, by the power of the magistrate, various kinds of vice and impiety, and endeavour to exterminate the seminaries and haunts of profligacy and villainy, and the schools of blasphemy and profaneness: they may furnish the endowed seats of learning with teachers of sound principles and good morals; and countenance every reasonable plan for the good education of youth, and especially for instructing the children of the poor: they may protect from insults, and liberate from restraints, such ministers of the gospel “as labour in the word and doctrine;" and favour their being placed in extensively useful situations; they may select young persons, who give hopeful evidences of piety and ability, and assist them in obtaining that learning, from which their circumstances excluded them: they may render the admission into the ministry open to able, conscientious men, and close it against the vicious, the ignorant and the mercenary: they may shew a decided regard to upright, diligent, and pious ministers, who differ from them in some forms or sentiments; and a marked disapprobation of the negligent and profligate, who pretend to be of their judgment. Thus authority may be improved as a talent, in promoting the cause of truth and piety; in the religious instruction of the people at large; in preventing the effects of the indolence, carelessness, ignorance, and vice of those who ought to instruct them; and in countenancing such, as would do all in their power for this purpose. Books may also be dispersed, and multitudes taught to read; the attendance on divine worship may be encouraged, and every thing discountenanced that tends to keep men from it; prisons, workhouses, hospitals, the army, the navy, &c., may be supplied with diligent, able, and pious teachers; and various societies and plans may be formed and adopted, to promote this great end, by rulers and magistrates, who are zealous for the honour of Christ, and the interests of pure and undefiled religion and yet every man may be allowed to worship God according to his conscience; and care also taken not to allure mercenary men to an unprincipled conformity. Thus the pious rulers of Judah, according to the dispensation under which they lived, restrained vice and idolatry, and supported the worship of Jehovah : from Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and David, even to Nehemiah; and true religion uniformly flourished in proportion to their prudent and pious endeavours: nor would it be easy to assign a reason, why the same talent may not be improved to similar purposes by Christian rulers, according to the genius of the new dispensation: except it be thought, that because many have abused it by intolerance and tyranny, all the rest ought to bury it in the earth; a con

« AnteriorContinuar »