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you so hasty for so dreadful a revenge ? can 'you not stay when the Judge is at the door? Mark both the usage and remedy of believers, in James v. 5—8. To the rich and great ones of the world he saith, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter! Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you." There is your usage. "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” There is the remedy. But must we stay so long? He thus repeateth his advice: “Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Let your moderation be known to all men; the Lord is at hand.” (Phil. iv. 5.) not God avenge his own elect, that cry night and day unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” (Luke xviii. 7, 8.) There is no contradiction between crying long and avenging speedily.
5. Consider what compassion, rather than reproach, you owe to those by whom you suffer. They do themselves much more hurt than they do you. Are they great? They have the more to answer for, and their fall will be the greater. (James v. 1-3.) If you are yourselves believers, go into the sanctuary, and ask the Scriptures what will be their end; and then deny them compassion if you can. Alas! consider they are, at the worst, but such as you were formerly yourselves as to the main. Paul makes a sad confession of his own persecution of the church, when he was before Agrippa, and doth not complain that he was himself so hardly used. “I verily thought,” saith he, with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus. Many of the saints I shut up in prison (little thinking that they were saints); I gave my voice against them, I punished them oft in every synagogue; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them.” (Acts xxvi. 9—12.) He would not tell Agrippa that he was mad, but he might speak more freely of himself. Oh ! Sirs, pity poor men who have the temptations of worldly greatness and prosperity, and must go through a camel's eye if they will come to heaven; who stand so high that sun and wind have the greatest force upon them; who see so much vanity, and little serious exemplary piety; who hear so much flattery and falsehood, and so little necessary truth, saith Seneca, “Divites cum omnia habeant, unum illis deest; scilicet, qui verum dicat : si enim in cliente
lam fælicis hominis potentumque perveneris, aut veritas, aut amicitia perdenda est.” If you were in their places, you know not how far you might be prevailed upon against yourselves. If little temptations can make you miscarry in your places so oft and foully as you do, what would you do if you had the strongest baits of the world, and allurements of the flesh, and the most dangerous temptations that Satan could assault you with ? Have you not seen of late before your eyes, how low some have fallen from high professions, and how shamefully the most promising persons have miscarried, that were lifted up and put to the trial of such temptations of prosperity as they had never been used to before? Oh! pity those that have such dangerous trials to pass through, and be thankful that you stand on safer ground; and do not cruelly envy them their perils, nor reproach them for their falls, but pray, and daily pray, for their recovery.
6. Consider this speaking evil of those by whom you suffer, hath too much of selfishness and corrupted nature in it to be good. If another suffered as you do, and you were advanced as another is, would not you speak more mildly then ? Or, if not so, yet the proneness of nature to break out into reviling words, though it were for religion and for God, doth intimate to you that it hath a suspicious root. Do you find it as easy to be meek and patient, and forgive a wrong, and love an enemy? Take heed lest you serve Satan in vindicating the cause of God. It is an unfit way of serving God, to do it by breaking his commands. Read seriously the description of a contentious, hurtful, foul-tongued zeal, in James iii., and then tell me what thanks Christ will give you for it. The two great disciples, James and John, thought it would have notably honoured Christ, and curbed the raging spirit of the ungodly, if he would have let them call for fire from heaven, to consume a town that refused to receive him. But doth Christ encourage their destroying zeal? No; but he tells them, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.” They little knew how unlike to the tender, merciful, healing spirit of Christ that fiery hurting spirit was, that provoked them to that desire, nor how unpleasing their temper was to Christ. This is the very case of many thousand Christians that are yet young, and green, and harsh, and have not attained to that mellowness, and sweetness, and measure of charity, that is in grown, experienced Christians. They think their passions and desires of some plagues on the
contemners of the gospel, are acceptable to God, and blame the charitable as too cold, when they little know what spirit it is that raiseth that storm in them, and how unlike, and unacceptable it is to Christ. Were you as zealous to serve all others in love, and to stoop to their feet for their salvation, and to become all things lawful to all men, that you may win some, this saving zeal would be pleasing to your Lord, who comes to do the work of a physician, and not of the soldier, to save, and not to destroy, and therefore most approves of those that serve him most diligently in his saving work.
7. Lastly, consider, your passions and evil speakings will but increase your suffering, and make it seem just, if otherwise it were unjust. If you are not meek, you have not the promise of inheriting the earth. (Matt. v. 5.) If you honour not your parents or superiors, you have not the promise that your “ days shall be long in the land.” And your evil speaking will make men conclude that you would do evil if you could and durst; as it is said to be Zoilus's answer, when he was asked why he spoke evil of Plato, and such worthy men, “Quoniam malum facere cum veliin non possum-Because I would do them hurt and cannot." Give not occasion for such a charge.
Finally, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another: love as brethren: be pitiful : be courteous : not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but, contrariwise, blessing, knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing; for he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil.” (1 Peter iii. 8—11.) “But if
suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, nor be troubled.” (ver. 14.)
But I suppose you will here say, 'Is it not lawful to call a spade a spade?' Is not a wo against them that call evil good ? May not a man speak of the hurtful crimes of others?' I answer, first, Yes, when, as a magistrate, a minister, or a brother, you have just cause to tell them of it lovingly, though plainly, to their faces, in order to their recovery: secondly, and when you have a just call to speak of it to others, either in seeking justice, or in charity and mercy, for the preservation of those that else will be more hurt by the silencing of men's faults, than you do hurt by mentioning them.
But, 1. You may not slander men as guilty of what indeed they are not.
2. You may not make men's faults seem worse than they are.
3. You must endeavour the good of the person as much as you can,
blame the sin. 4. You must not mention men's faults without a call; unless the good of himself or others do require it.
5. You must not do it with a revengeful mind, for personal injuries.
6. You must manifest love and compassion in all.
7. You must difference between reigning sins, and human frailties ; and between a course of sin and an unusual fall; and between a sin repented of, and not repented of; and must censure but as you find God censure in his word.
8. You must be more ready to speak of the good that is in the same men as you have a call, than of the evil ; and not maliciously stick only in the galled place.
9. Let it be as far as may be to his face.
10. Let it be according to the common rule of equity. Do as you would be done by. Not measuring your duty to others, by a corrupt impatience of bearing such yourselves ; but speaking nothing for matter or manner to another, which you would think unmeet to be spoken to you, if
you were in his
11. And especially be tender of the honour of superiors, yea, though they were evil, and do you wrong.
12. And foresee the consequence, whether your words are not like to do more hurt than good.
And if still you think that sufferings will justify reviling, contumelious complaints, consider these two causes of your mistake.
1. You make a great matter of a little one. As there is not so great good in the prosperity of the flesh, as worldlings think; so neither is there so great evil in the loss of it; what great harm is poverty, imprisonment, reproach, or death? Nay, you have a promise that all shall work together for your good. (Rom. viii. 28.)
2. You make a strange matter of that which is the ordinary condition of believers, to be hated of all men ; to have all manner of evil spoken falsely of you ; to be persecuted from one city to another ; to be killed all the day long, and counted as sheep to the slaughter. Do these seem strange matters to you? Did you never read or hear the Gospel ? nor know the terms of Christ till now? Did you never read of forsaking all for Christ, if indeed you would be his disciples ? Did you never
count what it must cost you to be saved ? Did you
not renounce the world and the flesh in your baptismal, oft-renewed covenant, (1 Peter iv, 12, 13.) “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, as if some strange thing happened to you ; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings.” And will you think so strange of smaller matters, as to think they excuse your impatience, and evil speeches?
By this time you may see, if you are willing to see, that all among us that are not real saints, are hypocrites, if they profess themselves Christians and the servants of God; and that miserable, ungodly souls, that call such hypocrites, as are more diligent than themselves for their salvation, do but discover their ignorance and malignity, and condemn themselves in betraying their hypocrisy, while they reproach the practice of the same christian religion which themselves profess; and the obedience to that Scripture which they confess, themselves, to be the word of God. All the profane, and unsanctified among us, that call themselves Christians, are certainly hypocrites. And for the godly it is the very same religion, that is professed by them and you ; it is the same engagement and vow that you all made to God in baptism; and suffer but reason impartially to tell you, when two men have entered the same covenant, and one never mindeth it so as to keep it; and the other makes it his chiefest care; which of these is like to be the dissembler in his covenant ? When two men profess themselves the servants of God, and as such place their hopes in heaven, and one of them makes a jest of sin, and serveth the flesh and world which he hath renounced, and hates those that diligently serve the Lord; and the other maketh it the principal care and business of his life to serve and please him, insomuch as he is reproached for it, as making more ado about it than he needs; which of these are hypocrites, and which are serious, in the performing of their covenants, and living according to their profession? If two servants promise to do your work, and one labour as hard as he can, and the other sit down and deride him for making so much ado, which was it that played the hypocrite in his promise? If diligence in God's service be a sign of hypocrisy, then promisekeeping is hypocrisy, and promise-breaking is sincerity; and then you may transfer the case to God, who will be the rewarder of them only that diligently seek him. (Heb. xi. 6.) And say that it is his faithfulness to break his promises, and his unfaithfulness to keep them. But who will spend words on such impious