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humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another ; if any man have a quarrel against any, even as CHRIST forgave you, so also do ye.
But, while I observe, that the grace of God is by no means averse to refinement and even elegance of conversation and conduct; I would beg leave to add, that, in order to avoid the suspicion of brutality, it is not in the least necessary to take up a dissimulating politeness, Simplicity of behaviour, like simplicity of dress, admits of such engaging beauties, as set off a person to the utmost advantage, while they become the most proper ornaments of his exterior profession, Doubling and disguise are utterly irreconcileable to the gospel, and ill befit him, who has any sense that he is walking before the great SEARCHER of hearts, or who has no injurious designs upon others.
I often admire the decent firmness of the celebrated seven bishops, whom King James the Second, in the illiberal and persecuting spirit of a Romish bigot, committed to the Tower, for refusing their sanction to one of his insidious declarations. They submitted to his Majesty, that their refusal to comply with his commands did not proceed from any spirit of opposition, but from a conviction that it was impossible to obey him in that instance, without violating not only their prudence, honour, and conscience, but the established jaws of the land; and therefore they earnestly and respectfully besought him to grant them his excuse. When this unhappy prince retorted upon them with eonsiderable acrimony, and with his reproaches was
pleased to throw out some threats; one of his bishops replied, in a submissive tone of voice, God's will be done! The king, not distinctly hearing him, called out with some quickness to know what he had spoken. Sir, says the bishop (looking upon the king, with the most determined, and, at the same time, with the most respectful courage,) I said, God's will be done! and immediately retired.
I have reason to fear, that many of the insults, which some truly serious people meet with, are not brought upon them merely for their adherence to the truth of God, but too often from the carnal tempers and improper conduct which they indulge in themselves. Such persons need to be very frequently upon their knees in secret, not only that they may escape evils upon this account to themselves, but that they give no solid occasion of offence to others. And I am sure, that few reflections can give a real Christian more pain, than the thought that the gospel of his Saviour should receive any disgrace by his misconduct, or that by his means the adversaries of true godliness should find the shadow of a pretence to blaspheme.
I he eastern nations have many truths current among them, which, however intermixed and debased by the common corruptions of time and other peculiarities of situation, bear evident characters of a divine original, and prove, from the very nature of the truths themselves, their transmission from antient revelation, The doctrine of the fall and of the Trinity, however mutilated and depraved; the notion and practice of sacrifices, with many other religious tenets and circumstances; have been traced almost throughout the world : and none but savages of the very lowest form are without some principles which bear a resemblance to those revealed in the Bible, notwithstanding a thousand miserable distortions and extravagances. It is likewise very remarkable, that, though the corruptions may and do differ exceedingly, according to the genius and climate of the several nations, the great and leading principles they have corrupted are the same among them all. If the expression may be used, it is a likeness of body with a variety of dress, according to the whim and superstition of minds, Jeparted from God, and without the true knowledge either of him or themselves.
I confess myself much pleased with one of their tenets which is founded upon the doctrine of the soul's IMMORTALITY, and which therefore I take to have been derived, however remote in time, from God's own revelation to his people: “The state of man in this world (say they) resembles only that of a fætus in the womb after its conception: it is dark, confined, void of reflection, and capable only of that sensation which, in the same circumstances, is common to the merest brutes. On the other hand, what we call death, is actually the birth to a real and immortal life; where the faculties of. the soul can expand themselves, can find innumerable objects for their exercise, and can range from world to world without limit or end.” It is in this view that“ the day of death (to use the words of the wise man) is better than the day of one's birth.” On the latter, we are “ born to sorrow;" but on the other, if we have been born also in a better sense, we only pass to an eternal “ newness of life.”
Let me be understood in this matter. I would not affirm, that death in itself, simply, is better than our present life; but death in certain conditions and consequences. Many have desired to die; because they have been either afraid to live, or were weary of life. Like the indolent Indian, perhaps, they can take up their word, and say, “ It is better to walk than to run; it is better to lie down than to walk; it is better to sleep than to wake; it is better to die than to live:” and they may say it, because, like him, they are only tired with breathing, or find the vexations of life pressing hardly upon them. Not a spark of grace may be in all this;but
than to die than are only
only the laziness, the disappointment, or the petulance, of a corrupt and jaded nature.
But there are cases, blessed be God, in which men may say, Death is better than life; because, in those cases, to die is gain. The apostle could desire to depart : but it was not merely for the sake of departing, but because he should be with Christ, which, he tells us, was the very best thing for him, as it certainly is for any one. We are to wait, however, in faith and patience for God's time; and if it argue greater courage to dare to live, as in some instances it is possible, than to rush upon death; then it becomes the courage of a Christian to meet life with all its sorrows, and to call upon the Captain of his salvation for victory over them. I never could read Dr. Donne's learned and ingenious treatise in justification of suicide, without even greater horror and contempt than the verses of Lucretius upon the same subject: the one was a christian, and (notwitlistanding this strange and melancholy opinion) a good man, who ought to have seen that suffering patience is the true conquest; whereas the other was an Epicurean heathen, without the knowledge of God, or his enlightening revelation. It was happy for the one, that divine grace preserved him from following the miserable example of the other.
There are but few, however, of this desperate strain. The greater part of mankind are fond of life, and would fain see good days; and therefore God hath graciously explained the blessedness of death to his people, because it leads them to the best days. He doth not, as the poet Lucan imagined of his gods, conceal the happiness of dying, lest men should not endure to live; but he