« AnteriorContinuar »
excessive or lasting displeasure. As Solomon says : “ He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty: and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city,” Prov. xvi. 32.
This is another thing implied in keeping the heart; governing the affections : particularly, our desires and aversions, joy and grief, hopes and fears, love and hatred.
4. Another thing that may be intended in keeping the heart is, planting and cherishing in the mind good principles and dispositions, and cleansing it from all contrary evil dispositions and propensities. Particularly, it is of importance that we root out pride, and high conceit of ourselves; inward contempt and disdain of other men: and that we cultivate humility of mind; meekness of temper: we should likewise be concerned to improve in religious awe and apprehension of the Divine Majesty, and take care to be in the fear of God all the day long, and all the days of our life. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning, the source, and principle of wisdom. We should also cherish a faith in invisible things, which will be a great security of every virtue, and encourage a right conduct.
5. And lastly, by keeping the heart may be meant and intended, a due care and concern that the mind be well employed.
There must be a guard set upon the acts or operations of the mind; and the thoughts should be exercised on fit objects. Vain thoughts should not lodge within us: no evil thoughts should be indulged and cherished. The mind should be employed and taken up, not in things useless and insignificant; but much about things profitable and important: we should contemplate the works of God, meditate on his word, consider our ways, reflect upon ourselves, confirm our resolutions of virtue, and our abhorrence of evil; form good designs, and think and contrive how we may best bring them to pass. We should frequently ascend in acts of humble, believing, grateful devotions to God.
That is the second thing, what it is to “ keep the heart.” 1. It implies a taking care, that the mind be furnished with necessary knowledge, and just sentiments of things concerning good and evil. 2. To keep the heart implies a concern to form fixed purposes and resolutions to act according to the rule of right. 3. It implies the government and regulation of the affections. 4. Implanting and cherishing good dispositions, and rooting out those that are evil and sinful. 5. It implies a care that the mind be well employed.
III. The next thing observable in the words is, the manner in which the heart ought to be kept: “ with all diligence:” literally, according to the Hebrew, “with all keeping.” The connection, which was shown before, helps us to understand distinctly and clearly the design of this expression in this exhortation. This is the first counsel : then follow those before taken notice of, and briefly paraphrased. «
Put away from thee a froward mouth: let thine eyes look right on:' and “ponder the path of thy feet:” that is, care ought to be taken of these; that we sin not with our lips, and that our actions are righteous and virtuous. But the first and chief care ought to be about the heart: the mind, and its inward operations : “ Keep thy heart with all diligence."
IV. The fourth particular observable in the words is, the argument and motive so “ to keep the heart:" it is taken from the importance of so doing: “Out of it are the issues of life.” Our good, or our bad conduct, and the consequences of each depend hereupon. As the heart is, so is the man: so will be the words and actions. The streams must partake of the qualities of the fountain. Or, as our blessed Lord says : “ A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit: for every tree is known by its fruit.-A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth" forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, that which is evil; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” Luke vi. 43–45. And to the like purpose in Matthew xii. 33–35. Again, “ Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites : for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter; but within they are full of extortion and excess," Matt. xxiii. 25, 26. You aim at a fair outward appearance, by observing those acts of devotion, and that zeal for the temple, that is taking among men; without aiming at virtuous habits, and consequently are defective in acts of justice and goodness. “ Thou blind pharisee! cleanse first that which is within the cup, and the platter; that the outside of them may be clean also.” First cleanse your heart, and cultivate the sincere upright disposition of mind; and your life will be an uniforın pattern of virtue, consisting in a devout and fervent worship of God, and works of righteousness and goodness among men: which will be really worthy and valuable; truly becoming, acceptable and agreeable.
This is the argument, to keep the heart with all diligence: “Out of it are the issues of life:” the words and actions depend hereupon. If the heart be quite neglected, the life will be very irregular: if the heart be well kept, cultivated, observed, and watched, your life will be excellent and commendable.
Moreover the different consequences of good and bad conduct, as already hinted, depend hereupon. You cannot otherwise approve yourselves to God, but must be rejected by him who sees and knows the heart, as well as the outward actions.
I have now explained the several parts of the text. I have shown what is here meant by the heart. Wherein keeping it consists. The manner in which it ought to be kept. The importance of so doing: or the arguments and motives so to keep it.
V. I shall conclude with two reflections only, in the way of application.
1. We hence perceive, that religion, even under the ancient dispensation, did not consist only in external worship, and good actions, but also in pious dispositions of the mind. Indeed the laws of Moses, being many of them civil and political, are very much concerned about words only, and external actions: and many men were too apt to content themselves with a fair, outward, and visible appearance in the eye of men, and some tolerable regularity of outward actions and behaviour. But it is certain, they were obliged to more than this; and good men observed their thoughts as well as their actions. And the wise, and those who were favoured with a prophetical gift or commission, faithfully represented to men the extent, purity, and perfection of the divine law. Of a good man it is said: “The law of his God is in his heart, Ps. xxxvii
. 31. And the Psalmist prays, that God would “ incline his heart unto his testimonies,” and “ not to covetousness," Ps. cxix. 36. Again: “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes,” ver. 80. Men were reminded by the prophets, that “ the Lord searcheth the heart, and tries the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings," Jer. xvii. 10. And they were called upon to mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace,” Ps. xxxvii. 37.
2. Let us attend to this counsel of Solomon, and the importance of it. And do we not see one great reason of the many defects and errors of our conduct ? that we do not keep our heart with all diligence. We have too much neglected that which is a principal point : considering that God equally knows all things, we ought to be equally concerned about our thoughts, and our outward actions. But there is also another reason for a strict care of the heart; that so much depends upon it. Uniform virtue and eminence therein, will never be attained without it. We shall also, for want of this care, be very liable to be surprised into sin many ways. Is not this the occasion of many of our failings ? that the inward principle of faith in God is weak, and fear of' men prevailing. The love of this world is unsubdued : and our affections are not set on things above, as they should be, but rather on things of this earth. How can it be expected we should be prepared for temptations, if we do not carefully keep our heart? No wonder that we often transgress with our lips, or that imprudencies, failings, and even greater faults appear in our behaviour, if we do not watch our hearts. It is very likely that there will be many bad consequences of this neglect: we shall be oftentimes unsatisfied and discontented with our condition, possibly without any reason. We shall greatly misbehave under afflictions; prosperity will be very dangerous: and the offences and provocations we meet with from men, will mightily disconcert us, and occasion undue resentment and displeasure.
If we are sensible of a defect this way: let us be, for the future, more frequent in meditation and consideration : let us be more careful of our inward temper, and the frame of our heart: let us diligently cultivate right sentiments, holy resolutions, and good habits of the mind : let us learn the regulation and government of our affections, and how to employ our thoughts upon profitable subjects. It is a thing of great importance. Diligence herein will be very advantageous; and negligence very prejudicial and detrimental in the end. Keep (then) thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life.”
END OF POSTHUMOUS SERMONS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
TWO SCHEMES OF A TRINITY CONSIDERED,
THE DIVINE UNITY ASSERTED,
FOUR DISCOURSES UPON PHILIPPIANS ii. 5-11.
Acts ii. 22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God,
among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Chap. v. 31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Chap. X. 37, 38. That word you know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached : how God anointed, &c.
THE EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.
The Editor of the following Discourses accounts it no small happiness, that, by a late favourable accident, he has it in his power to present them to the public. They show themselves to have been part of a course of ministerial services; and a memorandum, under the author's own hand, makes it probable that they were delivered from the pulpit, to a very respectable society of Christians, so long ago as the year 1747.
The name of the author, as he himself did not place it there, is not given in the title page. An omission, which the judicious reader, it is supposed, will reckon to be of no great moment. And respecting the author himself, it may be most truly observed, that he was always far from affecting, in any degree, the character or influence of a Rabbi, or dogmatical teacher; and could not at any time wish his name, however justly endeared to many of his cotemporaries, or sure to go down with distinguished esteem and honour to latest posterity,--should be accounted of the least weight, in the balance of reason, on any argument excepting that of testimony. He has now been several years removed from our world. But, as the controversy, to which these discourses have respect, does still survive, and will probably, be yet of long continuance, it cannot but be desirable to all good minds that the largest portion of his excellent spirit may be retained among us, communicated, and diffused : in order that controversies of this nature, for the future, may be carried on, as our most candid author has expressed it, without detriment • either to truth or piety.'
It may, however, be apprehended, that to the curious and attentive readers, who have been happily led into a previous acquaintance with his other valuable and most important works, these discourses will soon make a pleasing discovery of their author. And all such readers, there is no doubt, will be glad to receive the following declaration concerning them, though anonymous.
They are here given with a most strict care and fidelity, agreeable to the author's own manuscript, which he had drawn out fair for the press, with particular directions designed for the printer. And
any small additions, which a casual oversight seemed to make requisite, are distinguished by being inclosed in brackets thus : [ ]
Any attempt of the editor, to recommend such discourses as deserving the attention of the public, could not well be exempted from a charge of officiousness. They are, therefore, cheerfully left to speak for themselves.
All Christians are agreed that the subjects, of which they treat, are very weighty: and ecclesiastical history too sadly shews in what manner the contentions about them have been agitated.
Whatever may be the issue of the arguments suggested, with respect to the measure of conviction they shall produce in favour of any particular doctrine,-if the temper, with which they are proposed, should prove sufficiently attractive to engage a general imitation, and excite
prevailing diligence to maintain and cultivate it, on all sides, the apparent chief design of the author, and most fervent wishes of the editor, will have their best accomplishment.
Maidstone, August 1, 1784.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus : who being in the form of God, thought it
not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God has highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven,
and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.-Philip. ii, 5-11,
read to you.
In these verses we have at large the apostle's argument to the meekness and condescension before recommended : taken from the example of Christ's humility, and his exaltation, as a reward of it.
Within the compass of a few months I have delivered two practical discourses from the fifthverse of this chapter, explaining the duty of mutual condescension and forbearance, and enforcing it from the example and the reward of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But now I am desirous to explain in a more critical manner the words which have been
I shall be hereby unavoidably led into somewhat controversial : but I hope it will be also practical, and not unprofitable; were it only instructive to some who are not thoroughly ac, quainted with some controverted points, which yet are thought to be of much moment. Indeed it people will decide in points of any kind, it is fit they should know and understand what they. affirm; especially if they take upon them to pass sentences upon those who differ from them. This needs no proof. Certainly no honest and upright man would willingly form a wrong judgment in any case; especially in such a case as this, where, if he be ignorant, he may pass sentence upon himself. I fear this is no uncommon thing. One cannot be disposed to insult any man's ignorance. But when censoriousness is joined therewith, and it becomes troublesome to others, it will be remarked. I think I have met with some good people who have severely condemned Arians, and yet were not orthodox themselves. And if they could have been persuaded to explain their own notion, it would have appeared that they were in the Arian scheine, or very near it. But they were too positive, and too well satisfied of being in the right, to hear any argument from those who would have debated with them, and led them into the merits of the controversy.
Disputes about the person of Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity, as is well known, have been exceedingly prejudicial to the Christian cause and interest: and chiefly so, because those disputes have been managed with too much heat: and contending parties on both sides,
have not been contented to dispute and argue, and then leave it to every one to determine conscientiously according to the best of his own judgment; but would impose their own sense. And if they had the authority, and civil power on their side, would require men under heavy pains and losses to profess, in a word or writing, an assent to their opinion, whether convinced or not.
Whereas serious and impartial, free and patient inquiries and debates might have been instructive, and let in light: and different sentiments have been allowed without detriment either to truth or piety.
I hope we may now have an example of this kind: and that all will hear with patience an argument which is intended to be proposeel with mildness, though with plainness, free from all reserve and disguise.
In order to understand this text, and to give free scope to every one to judge of its design, according to several apprehensions concerning the person of Christ, it will be needful to consider the several schemes of divines relating to the doctrine of the Trinity. For, as Christians among us have before them, beside what is said in the scriptures, divers determinations upon the doctrine of the Trinity, in catechisms, articles, and liturgies, they will apply those determinations to this, and other texts of scripture.
I have therefore thought that no method will more directly lead to a clear judgment in this point, than to propose and consider the common schemes or ways of thinking of the Deity, which obtain among the professed disciples and followers of Jesus.
The first shall be that which is reckoned the commonly received scheme, and called orthodox and catholic.
In the Assembly's catechism it is said: • There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, • the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the same in substance, equal in power and glory.'
The first article of the Church of England is : • There is but one living and true God, ever• lasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the maker * and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this godhead there • be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the • Holy Ghost.
Here certainly ariseth a difficulty. How are we to understand these expressions? And how are they understood by those who use them, and approve of them, and assent to them, as right? “ One God, three persons, the same in substance, equal in power and glory: or of one substance, power and eternity.” Is it hereby meant, that there are three really distinct minds, or intelligent agents ? So we might be apt to conclude from the use of the word person, and saying, that o these three are equal.
Nevertheless there are two different sentiments among those who are called orthodox. Some believe three distinct persons or beings, of the same substance or essence in kind : as three men are distinct, but are of the same kind of substance. Others do not understand the word “ person
" in the common acceptation. They believe only a modal distinction. They openly say, that in discoursing on the mystery of the Trinity, they do not use the word “person in what is now the common meaning of that word. We might be disposed to think that these went into the Sabellian scheme, which holds one person only in the Deity, under three different denominations. But yet they deny it, and disclaim Sabellianism, and speak
of it as a very pernicious opinion. They say, that though the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are not three distinct beings, or individuals, there is a distinction, which may be represented by that of three perons.
Here then are two different opinions among those who pass for orthodox.
And which is right? that is, which of these is the prevailing and generally received opinion ? I answer the latter ; [or the opinion of those) who hold only a modal distinction in the Trinity; This
appears to me evident from what is called the Athanasian Creed,which is always allowed by those who bear the denomination of orthodox, to be the standard of the true doctrine of the Trinity. It is to this purpose: The catholic faith is this; that we worship one God in TrinityTrinity in Unity: neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is
• I say called the Athanasian Creed, for it is now generally time. Nor is it certainly known by whom it was composed. allowed by learned men, that it is not the work of the cele- For proof of this I refer to the Benedictine edition of Athanabrated Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who flourished in sius's works, tom. II. p. 719, &c. the fourth century, but of some other person long after his