« AnteriorContinuar »
sequence of their bloody proposal; for the sake of St. Paul, to whom they were indebted, not only for admonition and instruction, but also for their lives. His prayers for them all, which, without doubt, his piety would offer daily and hourly in a time of such distress, received this answer by an angel, “ Lo, God “ hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” As to the soldiers, he had preserved their lives in a more especial manner, by detecting the treachery of the shipmen, and preventing their escape. When men have been fellow-sufferers (and such were all on board this vessel) it naturally endears them to one another. So many days and nights as they had been exercised with such imminent danger, and had despaired of life together, it would rather be expected, that they should congratulate each other on their common deliverance. But there are some hard minds, which are never to be wrought upon : such men would have stained their swords with the blood of their deliverer. After this example, surely no minister of Jesus Christ ought to be surprised, as if some new thing had happened to him, if after all his endeavours he finds some of those among whom he has exercised his ministry repay all his kindness with indifference: nay, if they should even oppose him, and hate him, and rise up in arms against him, for an attention to their welfare, and a desire of promoting their reformation and improvement. Vice, wherever it is found, has an interest against the ministers of the gospel ; lt therefore always was disobedient, contradictory, ungrateful and unmerciful; and such we must expect to find it at this day. What! are we greater than St. Paul ? No, we are not to be named with him; our powers in the ministry are nothing when compared with his : it must therefore follow most certainly, that where he could make no impression, we shall make none: the same sort of persons who would have killed him, will neglect and despise us; and such there will be, more or less in all places; persons of no breeding, of no feeling; who having not God himself in all their thoughts, have no regard to any thing or any person that belongs to him; who, if you were to save their lives, could never be won over to any decency or respect. Men are as different from men, as men from brutes; and the gift of God's grace, or the want of it, makes all the difference.
My dear brethren, when we consider these things, our duty, as deducible from the whole, is, to be thankful to God for the labours, and sufferings, and example of St. Paul, by whose preaching we Gentiles have been brought to the knowledge of the Gospel : and if we should be called upon to suffer contradiction, or reproach, or shipwreck, for the truth's sake, the same God that delivered him, can own and deliver us in all dangers and adversities : he that rescued his apostle from the fury of the waves, and the cruelty of unthinking heathen soldiers, can deliver all those who are engaged in the same undertakings, and bring them safe from a tempestuous sea of trouble in this world to his heavenly land; there to reign in peace with apostles and martyrs, under the captain of their salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord.
IF IT BE POSSIBLE, AS MUCH AS LIETH IN YOU, LIVE PEACEABLY WITH ALL MEN. ROM. xii. 18.
The first and greatest design of the Christian religion, is to reconcile man to God: the next, is to reconcile men to one another, and to abolish, if it were possible, all enmity from the earth. That this will actually be possible, the Apostle does not affirm: and, as things are now constituted, it certainly is not. The world is a mixture of good and evil: it is a field, wherein wheat and tares grow up together; a plantation, in which trees that bear good fruit are surrounded with briars and thorns, offensive to the flesh, and fit only to be cut up and burned in the fire. Peace, whether public or private, is to be maintained by endeavours which are mutual: as the roof of an house is kept up by a wall on each side. If either of these be withdrawn, ruin must be the consequence. No single person can secure that peace, which must arise from the joint endeavours of other people : but he must do his own part, and contribute what he can towards it.
The duties which a man owes to society, will depend much on that state of life, to which it hath pleased God to call him. Men in society differ from each other in their offices, as the limbs and members of the same body differ in their uses. We do not expect that the hands should speak, or that the feet should see: all men cannot perform high and eminent services to the public: but if every man keeps his own place and rank in quietness, he performs the duty enjoined in the text. And let not him that can do much, despise him that can do little; for mean as the offices of some men may appear, their help can as ill be spared, as that of the lower and weaker members in the body. The providence of God hath tempered the world together with so much wisdom, that we are all necessary to one another: and supposing we were not so, there is no member of society so insignificant as to be incapable of doing mischief, and disturbing the peace of others. Every man can do what vermin and creeping things, and insects are able to do; that is, every man, if he sets about it, can make himself hateful and troublesome to other people.
They who are placed in a lower station, should therefore submit to the offices which Providence requires of them; and if they cannot do any great good, they should at least be careful to do no harm. But they whose character in life gives them any influence over others, are bound to study the peace of society in a more particular manner. It is frequently in their power to moderate the unhappy differences of contending brethren, or to sow the seeds of hatred, and to foment strife, till it spreads into a wide and destructive flame.
God, who is the common father of us all, hath given us many precepts, which ought to lead us to peace and unity amongst ourselves. The reasons upon which they are grounded, are such as these; that a contentious disposition is not only sinful in itself but is the occasion of a multitude of sins. Who, that has any knowledge of the world, does not see what strange opinions are kept up, what perverse actions are defended, and applauded, only for the purpose of supporting an opposition, when it hath been once begun. Where envying and strife is, saith the Apostle, there is confusion, and every evil work. So that contention is a sort of mother-sin, which brings forth many others, and some of them such as the con. tending parties never thought of in the beginning of a dispute. Such is the obligation which arises from the consideration of our own nature: if we consider the nature of God, we are told, that he is the God of peace; that his Holy Spirit is the spirit of peace; that his kingdom is a kingdom of peace; and that they who hope to be members of it in heaven, where there will be nothing but peace, must first endeavour to agree together upon earth.
We have strange passions to contend with; and unless we set a strict watch over them, their natural tendency is to destroy us and disturb the world. Experience would teach us, if the bible did not, that the seeds of strife are in all the children of Adam; and that if they are left to themselves, they will as certainly grow up into disorder and confusion, as thorns and thistles will spring from their own proper seeds. It is chiefly on this account, that the world is so miserable a place as we find it to be. The inhabitants of it, blinded by ignorance, and agitated by every turbulent passion, are like a fleet of ships upon a rough sea in a dark night, which are in continual danger of running foul of each other: and as no vessel can give a shock to another without receiving some injury to herself, so cannot any one man hurt another without diminishing his own peace and comfort at the same time.
Peace is so necessary to private happiness, that