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Now the sovereignty of God, as taught in this discourse, leads to a directly opposite result. Here we see him employing men, of the very worst character, in doing good; makes them correct his people, and feed them, and clothe them, and sanctify them, and bless them. And if God can oblige bad men, who do not love him, to do him a service like this, and still leave them free, and permit them to be as happy as they can be, and will at last merely demand of them that their motives were good, none but devils, and men desperately hardened, will complain.
They all have liberty to attach themselves to his family, and be his people, and be served, and be happy. But if they will not quit their sins, will not love the Savior, and will not serve voluntarily, so good a Master, they must either do nothing, that shall turn to any good account, or God must employ his wisdom and his power to turn all they do into a blessing to his people; and is this a hardship? For my life I cannot see, that in all this God does the impenitent any wrong. Or would it make them happy to know, that on their way to perdition, they had done mischief that God himself could not repair!!
I should think from what I know of God, that he would do just so. It is spoken very much to the praise of Cromwell, that he could employ to advantage the vilest man in England. And it seems to me that every good man must be glad, as every angel is, that God has this power, and this wisdom. "And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever."
If any would prefer not to serve as the ungodly do, while they mean not so, but prefer to do the voluntary service of a child, they may, and this is the very thing we wish and what God wishes. You need not build a Jerusalem, in which you are not to dwell, or a temple in which you are not to worship, unless you prefer the condition of a slave, to that of a son or daughter. You have but to come in at the invitation of the Gospel, and you may in an hour belong to the family of Christ.
And if he turns your mis
God lets you do what you please. chief into good, this cannot hurt you. Serve him willingly, and he will reward you, and love you. O, can there be a fairer offer? can there be a kinder God than this? I should think devils would be ashamed to complain of this doctrine. I know it exalts God, but I cannot see, if the life of my soul depended on it, what there is hard, or cruel, or oppressive, or discouraging, in the divine sovereignty. If men choose to say, that God is not sincere in offering them mercy, and that he always meant to destroy them,
after making them hewers of wood and drawers of water in the camp of Israel, and that they have only to serve and then perish ;— if they will give divine truth this construction, and thus pervert it to their own ruin, we have only to leave them in the hands of a sovereign God, and rejoice that he is not the Jehovah they suppose him to be.
Finally, this subject must afford comfort to God's people. Here they see all their interests identified with the prosperity of God's kingdom, and he determined to make that kingdom happy, and employing for this purpose all beings and all events. If their enemies would hurt them, he puts his hook in their nose, and his bridle in their lips. He bids them "fear not," and has pledged his word, that all things shall work together for their good. He will guide them with his counsel, and afterward receive them to glory.
Ye happy believers, my soul casts in her lot with you. The God we serve is a gracious, and a mighty God. He rolls along the spheres, guides the events of every hour, manages the wrath of man, and the rage of devils, controls every storm, and directs the course of every atom. He is known in the palaces of Zion for a refuge, and his name is a strong tower into which you may run and be safe, whenever alarm comes over you.
It was in the confidence which this very doctrine inspires, that the Psalmist could say, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear." A people so shielded, so served, and so beloved, can want only a song, equal to the gratitude they owe their Lord. They may keep at their Master's work, high in the confidence that he will never leave them, never forsake them. Amen.
WRATH "CONQUERED BY LOVE.
ROMANS XII. 21.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
A VERY good man once said, "If there is any one particular temper I desire more than another, it is the grace of meekness; quietly to bear ill treatment, to forget and forgive; and at the same time that I am sensible I am injured, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good." But this sentiment, be it remembered, could be learned only from heaven. It did not belong to the systems of heathen philosophy. In them it was taught, that to forgive, till revenge had been taken, was weakness. To swear undying wrath, and plot the most summary redress, and sleep not till the enterprise was accomplished, all this was the height of virtue. And above this it is not to be expected that unsanctified human nature will rise. Hence every unchristian land is a field of blood. "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty."
At the dawn of the age of mercy, a Pliny said, but had learned the sentiment from that very religion he affected to despise, "I esteem him the best good man, who forgives others, as though he were every day faulty himself; and who at the same time abstains from faults, as if he pardoned no one." But it was one from heaven, who had long enjoyed the harmony of happy spirits, and had himself the power to mould the hearts of men into his own image; who came down in all the amiableness of God, and taught the world principles of kindness; that to forgive is possible, and that the meek are blessed. His conduct accorded with his principles. When smitten on the one cheek he turned the other. When led as a lamb to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth, and when nailed to the tree, he merely prayed for those who drove the nails, and plead in their behalf that they knew not what they did. When he quit the world, he made it one of his last acts, to engrave upon
the hearts of his followers, as with the point of a diamond upon a rock, the very next text I have read you. Its spirit has constituted ever since, and will while the earth is blessed with a trace of his religion, the leading and prominent social virtue of his people. It is that feature of their Master which if they do not wear, they cannot now be recognized, nor can be known when they come to heaven.
Suffer me to make three inquiries, When may it be considered that one is overcome of evil? How may we save ourselves from the shame and the injury of being thus vanquished? and, How may we overcome evil with good?
I. When may it be considered that one is overcome of evil? This is a calamity that may doubtless happen to the good man, but is a matter of every day's occurrence to the multitudes of the ungodly. I remark, then, that a man is overcome of evil,
1. When ill treaatment excites the angry passions, and produces harsh and ill natured language. In this snare unsanctified men are caught daily. Even men of correct habits are sometimes surprised by sudden and unexpected abuse, and rage when they should But in every such case much is lost, and nothing gained. To lose our recollection and temper, and thus be brought down to a level with the man, whom we should rather have held in dignified and Christian contempt, is to be in a very uncomfortable sense overcome or conquered. This unhappy result was perhaps the very design of the onset. The foe has gained his whole object, and his antagonist is vanquished.
2. One is still more completely overcome of evil, when he settles down into confirmed hatred of the offender. He gives place to the devil, and lets the sun go down upon his wrath. By suffering anger to rest in his bosom, he becomes in God's esteem a fool. His passions have the mastery over him, and he becomes and remains a conquered man. And as he pores again and again over the insult that at first unmanned him, and thus deepens the tone of his anger, he may be seen in a figure putting chains upon himself, and rivetting the very fetters that bind him. Hardly may he be said to wish an escape from his bondage, or to make the least effort to break the chain that holds him. And not the miseries of an Algerine bondage, could more jade the spirits or vex the heart. It may be, too, that the foe was one whom in his calmer moments he would disdain to set with the dogs of his flock. Yet he has done the very deed he intended to do, and glories in his victory.
How unhappy, that one should be thus rendered a captive and a slave, by suffering his passions to rise upon him, and bind him.
3. One is overcome of evil when he indulges designs of revenge. The Divine injunction is, that we return good for evil, that we love them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us. If the enemy hunger we are to feed him, if he thirst we are to give him drink, and thus heap coals of fire on his head. By no other means can we so readily conquer our foes. We use in this case a weapon whose thrust they can neither parry nor endure, under which they melt and perish.
But when we take the opposite course, and return evil for evil, we grant the foe a victory. We suffer ourselves to be driven from the delightful duty of doing good to all men, the only post where we can be happy. The foe who invades our land, and drives us from our farm and our home, has not gained a point, to him more dear, or to us more disastrous; for not the family and the fireside yield us better comforts than the habit of doing good as we have opportunity. No wealth will buy a luxury like it. Money will purchase food, and raiment, and ease, and influence. But the habit of blessing others with kindnesses, of making glad every heart about us, this is angel's food. The recollection of good done, can make calm the surges of adversity, and render light the gloomiest evening. It has produced a smile upon the brow of death.
It is when nothing can hinder us from doing good, that we are like God. He sends rain upon the just and upon the unjust. Now who will deny, that when injuries prevent us from acting like God, we are overcome of evil. We cease then, for the time being, to have any right to say, that we are the children of our Father in heaven, who causeth his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. And what result more painful, and more degrading, could any foe desire, than thus to dislodge us from all the comforts and privileges of adoption.
4. We are overcome of evil, when the ill treatment of one, leads us to suspect the friendship of others. If to some extent it should be the fact, that suffering one instance of abuse, should draw upon us the necessity of suffering other abuses, and the treachery of one friend make others treacherous; still this is far oftener true in imagination than in reality. In the gloomy moments of suffering injury, we are often induced to believe a lie. An individual may treat us rudely and unkindly, and he may be the only one in the whole circle of our acquaintance, who would be willing