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eventually prove a calamity to us. And that is by no means to be desired, the acquisition of which renders men more miserable. IX. Therefore, if we believe that all the cause of prosperity and success consists in the Divine benediction alone, without which miseries and calamities of every kind await us; it follows also, that we should not passionately strive for wealth and honours, either relying on our own diligence or acuteness of understanding, or depending on the favour of men, or confiding in a vain imagination of chance; but that we should always regard the Lord, to be conducted by his direction to whatsoever lot he hath provided for us. The consequence of this will be; in the first place, that we shall not rush forward to seize on wealth or honours by unlawful actions, by deceitful and criminal arts, by rapacity and injury of our neighbours; but shall confine ourselves to the pursuit of those interests, which will not seduce us from the path of innocence. For who can expect the assistance of the Divine benediction, amidst fraud, rapine, and other iniquitous acts? For as that follows him only whose thoughts are pure, and whose actions are upright; so it calls away all those by whom it is sought, from irregular thoughts and corrupt practices. In the next place, we shall find a restraint laid upon us, to keep us from being inflamed with an inordinate desire of growing rich, and from ambitiously aspiring after honours. For with what face can any man confide in the assistance of God, towards obtaining things which he desires in opposition to the Divine word? Far be it from God to follow with the aid of his blessing, what he curses with his mouth. Lastly, if our success be not equal to our wishes and hopes, yet we shall be restrained from impatience, and from execrating our condition, whatever it may be; because we shall know, that this would be murmuring against God, at whose pleasure are dispensed riches and poverty, honour and contempt. In short, he who shall repose himself, in the manner we have mentioned; on the Divine blessing, will neither hunt after the objects violently coveted by men in general, by evil methods, from which he will expect no advantage; nor will he impute any prosperous event to himself, and to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune; but will acknowledge God to be the author of it. If, while the affairs of others are flourishing, he makes but a small progress, or even moves in a retrograde direction; yet he will bear his poverty with more equanimity and moderation, than any profane man would feel with a mediocrity of success, which would merely be inferior to his wishes: possessing, indeed, a consolation in which he may enjoy more tranquil satisfaction, than in the zenith of opulence or power; because he considers, that his affairs are ordered by the Lord in such a manner as is conducive to his salvation. This we see was the disposition of David, who, while he follows God, surrenders himself to his government, and declares, that he is “as a child that is weaned of his mother; neither do I exercise myself,” says he, “in great matters, or in things too high for me.” (p) X. Nor is this the only instance in which pious persons should feel such tranquillity and patience; the same state of mind ought to be extended to all the events to which the present life is exposed. Therefore no man has rightly renounced himself, but he
who has wholly resigned himself to the Lord, so as to leave all
the parts of his life to be governed by his will. He whose mind is thus composed, whatever may befal him, will neither think himself miserable, nor invidiously complain against God on account of his lot. The great necessity of this disposition will appear, if we consider the numerous accidents to which we are subject. Diseases of various kinds frequently attack us; at one time the pestilence is raging; at another, we are cruelly harassed with the calamities of war; at another time, frost or hail, devouring the hopes of the year, produces sterility, which brings us to penury; a wife, parents, children, or other relatives, are snatched away by death; our dwelling is consumed by a fire; these are the events, on the occurrence of which men curse this life, or their natal day, execrate heaven and earth, reproach God, and, as they are eloquent to blaspheme, accuse him of injustice and cruelty. But it behoves a believer, even in these events to contemplate the clemency and truly paternal goodness of God. Wherefore if he sees his relatives removed and his house rendered a solitary place, he must not cease to bless the Lord, but rather have recourse to this reflection; Yet the grace of the Lord, which inhabits my house, will not leave it desolate. Or if he sees his crops bitten or destroyed by frost, or
beaten down by hail, and famine threatening him; yet he will not sink into despondency or displeasure against God; but will abide in this confidence; We are under the guardian care of God, we are “the sheep of his pasture;” (q) he therefore will supply us with food even in seasons of the greatest barrenness. If he shall be afflicted with disease, even then he will not be so far discouraged by the bitterness of sorrow, as to break out into impatience and to complain against God; but will rather strengthen his patience by a consideration of the justice and lenity of the Divine correction. Finally, whatever may happen, knowing it to be ordained by the Lord, he will receive it with a placid and grateful heart, that he may not be guilty of contumaciously resisting his authority, (to whose poyer he has once resigned himself and all that belongs to o: therefore from the heart of a Christian man be that foolish and most wretched consolation of the heathens, who, to fortify their minds against adversity, imputed it to fortune; with whom they esteemed it foolish to be displeased, because she was thoughtless and rash, and blindly wounded without discrimination the worthy and the unworthy. On the contrary, the rule of piety is, that God alone is the arbiter and governor of all events, both prosperous and adverse, and that he does not proceed with inconsiderate impetuosity, but dispenses to us blessings and calamities with the most systematic justice.
BUT it becomes a pious mind to rise still higher, even to that to which Christ calls his disciples; that every one should “take up his cross.” (r) For all whom the Lord hath chosen and honoured with admission into the society of his saints, ought to prepare themselves for a life, hard, laborious, unquiet, and re
plete with numerous and various calamities. It is the will of their heavenly Father to exercise them in this manner, that he may have a certain proof of those that belong to him. Having begun with Christ his first-begotten Son, he pursues this method towards all his children. For though Christ was above all others the beloved Son, in whom the Father was always well pleased, (s) yet we see how little indulgence and tenderness he experienced; so that it may be truly said, not only that he was perpetually burdened with a cross during his residence on earth; but that his whole life was nothing but a kind of perpetual cross. The apostle assigns the reason, that it was necessary for him to “learn obedience by the things which he suffered.” (t) Why then should we exempt ourselves from that condition, to which it behoved Christ our head to be subject; especially, since his submission was on our account, that he might exhibit to us an example of patience in his own person? Wherefore the apostle teaches, that it is the destination of all the children of God, “to be conformed to him.” (u). It is also a source of signal consolation to us, in unpleasant and severe circumstances, which are esteemed adversities and calamities, that we partake of the sufferings of Christ; that as he from a labyrinth of all evils entered into the glory of heaven, so we are conducted forward through various tribulations to the same glory:(w) for Paul teaches us, that when we “know the fellowship of his sufferings,” we also apprehend “the power of his resurrection;” that while we are conformed to his death, we are thus prepared to partake of his glorious resurrection. (x) How much is this adapted to alleviate all the bitterness of the cross, that the more we are afflicted by adversities, our fellowship with Christ is so much the more certainly confirmed. By this communion the sufferings themselves not only become blessings to us, but afford considerable assistance towards promoting our salvation. II. Besides, our Lord was under no necessity of bearing the cross, except to testify and prove his obedience to his Father; but there are many reasons which render it necessary for us to live under a continual cross. First, as we are naturally too prone
(s) Matt. iii. 17. xvii. 5, (t) Heb. v. 8. (u) Rom. viii. 29.
to attribute every thing to our flesh, unless we have as it were ocular demonstration of our imbecility, we easily form an extravagant estimate of our strength, presuming that whatever may happen, it will remain undaunted and invincible amidst all difficulties. This inflates us with a foolish, vain, carnal confidence; relying on which, we become contumacious and proud, in opposition to God himself, just as though our own powers were sufficient for us without his grace. This arrogance he cannot better repress, than by proving to us from experience, not only our great imbecility, but also our extreme frailty. Therefore he afflicts us with ignominy, or poverty, or loss of relatives, or disease, or other calamities; to the bearing of which being in ourselves unequal, we ere long sink under them. Thus being humbled we learn to invoke his strength, which alone causes us to stand erect under a load of afflictions. Moreover, the greatest saints, though sensible that they stand by the grace of God, not by their own strength, are nevertheless more secure than they ought to be of their fortitude and constancy, unless he leads them by the discipline of the cross into a deeper knowledge of themselves. This presumption insinuated itself even into David; “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved: Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong. Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.”(y) For he confesses that with the torpor of prosperity his senses were so stupified, that disregarding the grace of God, on which he ought to have depended, he relied on himself so as to promise himself a permanent standing. If this happened to so great a prophet, who of us should not be fearful and cautious? Though in prosperity, therefore, they have flattered themselves with the notion of superior constancy and patience, yet when humbled by adversity, they learn that this was mere hypocrisy. Admonished by such evidences of their maladies, the faithful advance in humility, and, divested of corrupt confidence in the flesh, betake themselves to the grace of God: and when they have applied to it, they experience the presence of the Divine strength, in which they find abundant protection. III. This is what Paul teaches, that “tribulation worketh Vatience, and patience experience.” (z) For the promise of God
(y) Psalm xxx. 6, 7. (2) Rom. v. 3, 4.