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have myself as one invested with that power from above, to restrain vice and encourage virtue, as oft as I have an opportunity so to do, always looking upon myself as one commissioned by him, and acting under him. For this reason, I must still endeavour to exercise my authority, as if the most high God was in my place in person as well as power. I must not follow the dictates of my own carnal reason, much less the humours of my own biassed passion, but still keep to the acts which God himself hath made, either in the general statutebook for all the world, the holy Scriptures, or in the particular laws and statutes of the nation wherein I live.
And, questionless, if I discharge this duty as I ought, whatever sphere of authority I move in, I am capable of doing a great deal of good, not only by my power, but by my influence and example. For common experience teaches us, that even the inclinations and desires of those that are eminent for their quality or station, are more powerful than the very commands of God himself; especially among persons of an inferior rank and more servile disposition, who are apt to be more wrought upon by the fear of present punishment, or the loss of some temporal advantage, than any thing that is future or spiritual. Hence it is, that all those whom God entrusteth with this precious talent, have a great advantage and opportunity in their hands, for the suppressing sin, and exalting holiness in the world: `a word from their mouths against whoredom, drunkenness, profanation of the sabbath, or the like; yea, their very examples and silent gestures, being able to do more than the threatenings of Almighty God, either pronounced by himself in his word, or by his ministers in his holy ordinances.
This, therefore, is my resolution, that whatsoever authority the most high God shall be pleased to put upon me, I will look upon it as my duty, and always make it my endeavour, to demolish the kingdom of sin
and sa'an, and establish that of Christ and holiness in the hets of all those to whom my commission extends; king more at the duty God expects from me, than at the dignity he confers upon me. In a word, I will so exercise the power and authority God puts into my hands here, that when the particular circuit of my life is ended, and I shall be brought to the general assize, to give an account of this amongst my other talents, I may give it up with joy; and so exchange my temporal authority upon earth, for an eternal crown of glory in heaven.
I am resolved, by the divine grace, to improve the af fections God stirs up in others towards me, to the stirring up of their affections towards God.
IF the authority I have over others, then, questionless, the affection others have to me, is to be improved for God; and that because the affection they bear to me in a natural sense hath a kind of authority in me over them in a spiritual one. And this I gather from my own experience; for I find none to have a greater command over me, than they that manifest the greatest affections for me. Indeed, it is a truth generally agreed on, that a real and sincere esteem for any person, is always attended with a fear of displeasing that person; and where there is fear in the subject, there will, doubtless, be authority in the object; because fear is the ground of authority, as love is, or ought to be, the ground of that fear. The greatest potentate, if not feared, will not be obeyed; if his subjects stand in no awe of him, he can never strike any awe upon them. Nor will that awe have its proper effects in curbing and restraining them from sin and disobedience, unless it proceeds from, and is joined with, love.
I know the Scripture tells me, There is no fear in
love, but that perfect love casteth out fear, John iv. 18. But that is to be understood of our love to God, not to men, and that a perfect love too, such as can only be exercised in heaven. There, I know, our love will be consummate, without mixture as well as without defect; there will be a perfect expression of love on both sides, and so no fear of displeasure on either. But this is a happiness which is not to be expected here on earth; so long as we are clothed with flesh and blood, we shall, in one degree or other, be still under the influence of our passions and affections. And, therefore, as there is no person we can love upon earth, but who may sometimes see occasion to be displeased with us, so he will always, upon this account, be feared by us. This I look upon as the chief occasion of one man's having so much power and influenee over another.
But how comes this under the notion of a talent received from God, and so to be improved for him? Why, because it is he, and he alone, that kindles and blows up the sparks of pure love and affection in us, and that by the breathings of his own Spirit. It was the Lord that gave Joseph favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison, Gen. xxxix. 21. and that brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs, Dan. i. 9. And so of all others in the world; for we are told elsewhere, that as God fashioneth the hearts of men, so he turneth them which way soever he will. Insomuch that I can never see any express their love to me, but I must express my thankfulness to God for it: nor can I feel in myself any warmth of affection towards others, without considering it as a talent hid in my breast, which I am obliged in duty to improve for him, by stirring up their affections unto him, whose affections himself hath stirred up toward me. And this will be the more easy to effect, if I take care, in the first place, to express the zeal and sincerity of my own love to God, by making him the chief object of my esteem and adoration, and
manifest my aversion to the sins they are guilty of, by representing them as most loathsome and abominable, as well as most dangerous and damnable. For, whereever there is a true and cordial affection to any person, it is apt to bias those that are under the influence of it, to choose the same objects for their love or aversion, that such a person does, i. e. to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. This therefore is the first thing to be done, to stir up the affections of others to love and serve God.
Another way of my improving the affections of others to this end is by setting them a good example; for commonly what a friend doth, be it good or bad, is pleasing to us, because we look not at the goodness of the thing which is done, but at the loveliness of the person that doth it. And if the vices of a friend seem amiable, how much more will his virtues shine? For this reason, therefore, whensoever I perceive any person to shew a respect for, or affection to me, I shall always look upon it as an opportunity put into my hands to serve and glorify my great Creator, and shall look upon it as a call from heaven, as much as if I heard the Almighty say to me, I desire to have this person love me, and therefore have I made him to love thee; do thou but set before him an example of goodness and virtue, and his love to thy person shall induce and engage him to direct his actions according to it. This, therefore, is the rule that I fully resolve to guide myself by, with relation to those who are pleased to allow me a share in their esteem and affection, which I hope to improve to their advantage in the end: that as they love me, and I love them now, so we may all love God, and God love us to all eternity.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to improve every good thought to the producing of good affections in myself, and as good actions with respect to God. WHATSOEVER comes from God, being a talent to be improved to him, I cannot but think good thoughts to be as precious talents as it is possible a creature can be blessed with. But let me esteem them as I will, I am sure my Master will reckon them amongst the talents he entrusted me with, and will call me to an account for, and therefore I ought not to neglect them. The Scripture tells me, I am not sufficient of myself to think any thing as of myself, but that my sufficiency is of God, 2 Cor. iii, 5,
And if I be not sufficient to think any thing, much less am I able of myself to think of that which is good; forasmuch as to good thoughts there must always be supposed a special concurrence of God's Spirit; whereas to other thoughts there is only the general concurrence of his presence. Seeing, therefore, they come from God, how must I lay them out for him? Why, by sublimating good thoughts into good affections. Does God vouchsafe to send down into my heart a thought of himself? I am to send up this thought to him again, in the fiery chariot of love, desire, and joy. Doth he dart into my soul a thought of holiness and purity? I am to dwell and meditate upon it, till it break out into a flame of love and affection for him. Doth he raise up in my spirit a thought of sin, and shew me the ugliness and deformity of it? I must let it work its desired effect, by making it as loathsome and detestable, as that thought represents it to be.
But good thoughts must not only be improved to produce good affections in my heart, but likewise good actions in my life. So that the thoughts of God should not only make me more taken with his beauty,