« AnteriorContinuar »
a grateful heart. The provision made for them in the innumerable comforts, conveniences, and beauties, even of this world, is an effect of infinite bounty and goodness. Were I, on this occasion, to remind you of them, by what arithmetic should I sum up their number? Or, by what skill in measure, calculate their greatness? He hath created the whole globe of the earth to furnish you with food, raiment, and other necessaries. He hath given you the spoils of the ox and sheep to keep you warm, and of the silkworm to make you gay. His bounty, you see, stops not at mere necessaries. He hath laid up for you, in the bowels of the earth, materials for erecting stately houses. He hath diversified the year into seasons, that each may refresh your taste with a set of new delicacies, after it is tired with the fish, fowl, fruits, and other nourishing vegetables, of the former. Nay, he hath even condescended to regale your sense of smelling with an endless variety of odours, one exceeding another in delicacy and sweetness. That your ear may be also entertained, whilst you feast on his bounties, he salutes it with the sweet music of the grove. When you walk out in a summer's evening to see how God blesses your industry, open your senses to the innocent music from every tree, to the delicious smells that breathe from every hedge and meadow. Cast your eyes over the face of nature. See how it smiles upon you, and decks itself out in a hundred beautiful colours to please you. If you have innocence and sense to taste these sweets, lay your hand on your heart, and ask it, whether it can trace and adore the bountiful Being that spreads forth such a lovely scene of things for your entertainment? If all this does not sufficiently move you, lift up your eyes to the heavens. Behold what a noble arch your Maker hath erected over your head! See how it bends about you, and compliments you with the centre wherever you move ! See the sun, that glorious source of light and warmth, who rejoiceth as a giant to run his course, and the moon, just rising to supply his place! Smite again on your heart, and say to it, Did the Infinite Being vouchsafe thus to furnish the heavens, did he condescend thus to adorn the earth, for my accommodation ! How ought I to love him for his amazing goodness! Hallelujah.
It is the property of a beast only to enjoy the creature ; but of a man to enjoy the Creator and Giver through all his gifts. We deservedly esteem him a brutish man, who being entertained by his patron with all sorts of delicacies, finds no pleasure but in the taste of what he swallows. The grateful and sensible guest enjoys a much higher pleasure in the kind smiles, and affectionate expressions, with which his great entertainer helps him. What a wretched figure must he make in the creation, who manifests in the eye of God, considered as his benefactor, no other property but this of a brute !
Let no man say, in the blindness of his heart, when he abounds, I neither see God, nor perceive that he gives me the good things I enjoy; but I find they proceed from second causes, such as my own wisdom and strength. Base and vain presumption! Do not second causes imply a first? Who
gave thee understanding ? and to say nothing of God's grace, who gave thee a mind naturally turned to frugality and industry? Who gave thee health and strength ? Are not others as frugal, as skilful, as industrious, often, by accidents both at land and sea, which no human wisdom or care could prevent, reduced to the last extremity ? Adore not, ungrateful man, your own wisdom, or strength, or fortune ; but the Giver. Neither sacrifice to your plough, nor to the hand that guides it, nor to the earth that bears, nor to the sun that ripens your fruits, for these are but second causes ; but to him who made them all. If you are not blind, lame, bed-ridden, or begging your bread, be thankful to God. If you are in wealth or honour, learn to love him; and beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, lest when thou hast eaten, and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein, thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, and say in thine heart, My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.'
If, in our enjoyment of God's creatures, we forget our great Benefactor (such is the curse entailed on ingratitude), we lose almost the whole benefit of what is given us; or what is worse, make it the means of our own ruin. From the beauty and conveniency of the world, and our own por
tion therein, we should learn to love its Maker, who had our accommodation in view when he contrived it. Thus should the world, our enemy by the corruption of human nature, become what it was at first, our friend, our monitor, and an inspirer of love and gratitude. How different a thing is the world to a good and a bad man! A bad man cannot look abroad into it, but he meets with continual snares and provocatives to vice. A good man cannot converse with the world, nor take a walk, either through city or country, but he meets a thousand things to prompt him to love and gratitude towards God. Thus the good and bad man, out of one and the same world, make to themselves two opposite worlds. Like the bee and the wasp, they extract medicine and poison from the same flower. The unthinking and the low-minded wretch tastes only his food, hears only the sound of music, sees only the proportions and colours of things. But the sensible and religious soul tastes God in his food, hears him in the sweets of music, sees him in the beauties of nature, and enjoys him in every innocent delight; for he knows God made and upholds all things by the word of his power.' He always considers, that God gives him his capacity to relish and enjoy, and gives every thing he enjoys the power to please. Hence it is, that he never stops short in the enjoyment of the creature, but is carried up from thence, by his grateful heart, to a more exalted knowledge, and to a more divine enjoyment, of his gracious Benefactor, God engages his love by continual benefits, and he woos the favour of God by the gratitude that accompanies, and, at the same time, brightens every enjoyment. Blessed intercourse! that ensures the favour of God, and does so much honour to human nature. How different a man is this from him, who, although the bounty of God is visible in his health and worldly possessions, yet is so proud, that he careth not for God, neither is God in all his thoughts!
Is it not a very unhappy thing, that the minds of most men, being swelled with pride, being continually solicited, and shamefully softened, by fleshly delights, are apt to rest in them, and lose sight of Him whose bounty they abuse? From this criminal lethargy they seldom or never awake, till Providence withdraws its favours by poverty, or the en
joyment of them by sickness. These men, having then nothing else to come between God and them, begin sometimes to consider upon what tenure they hold their riches, and to remember who it was that gave them. They bask in the sunshine of health and prosperity; but can never see from whence it comes, till it is either setting, or almost obscured behind a cloud.
Great and wonderful although the goodness of God hath been to us as men, and in relation to this present world ; yet it is as nothing, if compared to that which he hath demonstrated to us as Christians, in order to our happiness in a better life. Herein it is, that his compassion rises to an immeasurable height, and becomes too great for our conception. His goodness, shewn to us in the things of this world, was more an act of his bounty, than his mercy; can by no means make us happy even here; and relates entirely to a state of things, which, although it were ever so pleasant, can last but a few years at the most. But what he hath done for us as Christians, being a pure effect of his mercy to a guilty race of creatures, and having for its end our deliverance from the eternal disgrace and misery of devils, and our introduction to the everlasting glory and happiness of angels; and for its means, not only a miraculous violation of that nature he had imprinted on the world, but even his own incarnation and sufferings; is to be esteemed as an infinitely greater and higher demonstration of his goodness, than can be found in the being he hath given us, and the world he hath created for us. Had he left us in the state of ignorance and sin, into which, by an abuse of our freedom, we had plunged ourselves; had his just displeasure determined him to lay on us the reward of our ingratitude and perverseness; our very being, instead of a blessing, had become a curse to us, and the life we are placed in, notwithstanding all the worldly conveniences provided for us in the present state of things, a short passage to endless shame and misery
If the business of our instruction by revelation be considered, we shall find in it the marks of infinite patience and mercy.
When God undertook to be our teacher, we had departed from his service to that of idols and devils; we had stained our nature with the most detestable pollutions; we had given up ourselves entirely to injustice and violence; and to complete our odious character, we were at once ignorant almost of every thing that was good, and yet highly vain of our knowledge. We were ignorant, but we needed no instructor. We were wicked, but we needed no reformer. We were guilty, we were miserable, but we needed no redeemer. If a man had servants thus disposed, he would never once think of reclaiming them. No; he would with indignation strip them, and, having abandoned them for ever, leave it to their own abominable minds to punish them. But God, whose mercy is equal to his majesty and power, thought fit to deal otherwise with us. He gave us prophets and apostles to teach us the knowledge of himself and virtue ; and, knowing that we should never become disciples to such strange instructions, if nothing more than our boasted reason was employed for that purpose, he empowered his messengers to work miracles for our conviction; that is, he vouchsafed to depart from that otherwise invariable course of nature, which it became his infinite majesty to preserve. The stated rules of nature, and the regular course of things, having been found insufficient teachers for scholars so stupid, he made use of an inverted nature to instruct us, that the evident signs of his power, who made and controls nature, might authorize the message he sent us.
If the great work of our redemption be ever so little considered by a true Christian, it will stretch his imagination with wonder, and melt his heart with love. A God incarnate! buffeted! spit on! ridiculed! healing! blessing ! saving! dying! And for whom? O inconceivable goodness! O infinite mercy! for the sons of men! for those who call the earth their mother, and the worm their sister! for a race of mortals, foul with sin, and hardened in guilt! for those who persecute him! for those who spit on him, buffet him, ridicule him, murder him! For them! What does he propose to himself in thus suffering for them? To snatch them from a lake of fire and brimstone, into which they were falling headlong, and to purchase for them thrones and crowns in heaven. To enlarge by words of man's invention, on this amazing miracle of mercy, is to wrong it. It is our duty to entertain the thoughts of it in a tempest of grief and confu