« AnteriorContinuar »
ces of vice are too often seen in men, whose educa. tion, advantages and profession, had given us quite different expectations. Many, who are last, shall be first; and the first shall be last. Let us not condemn others for their want of privileges, but be. ware, lest we be condemned for our abuse of them. How God will deal with those who enjoy not our light, it is not easy for us to decide. But how he will deal with us, if we walk not in the light, there remains no doubt.
III. The case, under consideration, teaches us that the indulgence of too bad an opinion of mankind, is of dangerous consequence to ourselves and others. Had Abraham entertained a just
just opinion of the prince and people of Gerar; or taken pains to be. come acquainted with them, before he listened to the secret whispers of jealousy, he would have shunned so dangerous an artifice, as to disguise his re. lation to his wife, and would have prevented the mischiefs which ensued, and the still greater mischiefs which threatened his own family and the house of A. bimelech. It was a special divine interposition, which averted consequences of the most serious nature.
Caution and circumspection in our intercourse with mankind, are always prudent, and may often be necessary. An implicit unguarded confidence, will expose us to many inconveniences, and may involve us in ruin. The advice which our Saviour gave his disciples, deserves attention in times less dangerous than those. Be wise as serpents and harma less as doves. Beware of men. Put not confi. dence in every one. Expose not yourselves to unnecessary dangers. But ever maintain your inno. cence. Injure no man ; and then, as far as pru. dence can secure you, let no inan injure you.
But we must not carry our caution to a total distrust of mankind, nor treat them with such
ent jealousy, as would naturally provoke their resentment; neither ought we, in our concern for our own security, to pursue unwarrantable measures, or neglect the plain calls of duty.
By extreme caution, men often run into the mischiefs which they aim to avoid ; and by exces sive jealousy bring on themselves injuries, which were not before intended. By indulging too ill an opinion of those around them, they contract a sourness of temper, a reservedness of behaviour, an unsociableness of manners, which injure their own feelings, obstruct their usefulness, and disgust those with whom they converse. Good Elijah, in an evil day, met with so many obstructions and disa couragements in his endeavours 'to reform the na: tion, that he gave over his labours, and retired to a cave. While he was there, indulging a gloomy imagination, he concluded that there was no piety in the land, and no safety for him. Lord," says he, “they have pulled down thine altars, and slain thy prophets, and I only amí left, and they seek my life.” But, What says the divine answer? * I have reserved to myself seven thousand meny, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”_" What dost thou here Elijah ?”
His ill opinion of the world first urged him into a cave ; and, in this retirement, the gloom in creased, until his jealousy condemned mankinel without reserve.
While we mingle with the world, we should keep ourselves unspotted from it. But to shun the pollutions of it, we must not withdraw from all im tercourse with it. The Christian is to keep him self from an untoward generation, and to be blamet less and harmless, and without rebuke in the midst of the ungodly and profane, holding forth the word of life, that others may be gained by his good conVersation.
İV: It is proper farthér to remark, that, in the best men, there may be great infirmities and failings.
None is more celebrated than Abraham for the eminence of his piety, and the strength of his faith. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God. The greatness of his faith appeared, in his leaving his mative land at the divine eall, and going forth to sou journ in a strange country in his steady observa ance of the worship of God, in all places where he sojourned, in his pursuing the enemies who had conquered and plundered the country of Sudom, recovering from them the spoils which they huid taken, and restoring them to the proper omers, in his reliance on the divine promise concerning his seed, at a time of life, when, according to the course of nature, no issue could be expected, in his obeying the painful command, to offer up that son in whom his seed was to be called ; and in his reasoning from past experience that God was able to raise him from the dead, from whence he had already received him in a figuré.
Could we imagine that such a man as this would, or any occasion, betray symptoms of timidity, or discover a distrust of God? But this same patri: arch, when he went to sojourn in Gerar, dared not owyn his relation to his wife, test the meh of the place should kill him for her sake. Where is now the faith and fortitude, which at other times, he discovered, when difficulties pressed, and dangers threatened him ?-_His faith now languished ; his feát prevailed ; and, in a time of imaginary data ger, he adopted a method of conduct which ex: posed him to the reproof of the very persons, who, he imagined, had not the fear of God.
Let him, who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.
Even they whose faith is strong, must guard against the prevailing influence of tour, and call Vol. I.
into exercise that confidence in God which is the best security against the terrours of the world.
In times of apparent danger, and threatening temptation, they have need to be peculiarly watchful. Let them deliberately inquire, whither Prov, idence calls them ; and, having found the line of their duty, pursue it with calm resolution, and steady reliance on the divine protection.
We are never so safe, as when we invariably follow the path of virtue and integrity. He who walks uprightly, walks surely; but he who perverts his way, shall fall. Duplicity and artifice, to avoid an evil, will but embarrass us the more. It was only a special, gracious interposition, which prevented most fatal consequences, from the patri. arch's unworthy device.
While we aim to act with integrity ourselves, let us remember the weakness of human nature, treat with candour the failings of our fellow meil. We see weakness and errour in so good a man as Abraham. We are to look for perfection in none. Nor ought we; for particular faults, to withdraw our charity from men of general integrity and virtue. The candour of Abimelech was great and noble. While he reproved Abraham in one instance, of unworthy conduct, he acknowledged him as a good man and a prophet of God. He sought his prayers, and solicited his friendship, being persuaded that God was with him. We may reprove a good man's faults ; but for particular faults, which are an exception from a general character, we must condemn no man's person. Let us walk in that charity, which hopeth all things; for this will cover a multitude of sins.
2 ale 1. ( ន)ង )
bivals SERMON XXII. .
LUKE xvii. 20, 21.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, When the kingdong
of God should come ; he answered them and said, The kingdoms
of God comeik not with observation : Neither shall they say a: Lo here; or, lo there; for behold, the kingdom of God is with
HIS phrase, the kingdom of God, is frequently used in the new testament, and it signi. fies either that state of glory, to which good men will be exalted in the future world, or the gospel dispensation, and the church of God in this world. The latter is the more common acceptation, and evidently intended in the text. The question of the Pharisees, When shall the kingdom of God appear
? manifestly respected the kingdom of the Messiah, or that dispensation which he was to introduce.
Christ, in his answer, uses the phrase in the same sense, only correcting their mistake concerning its nature, and the manner of its introduction and es tablishment.
At the time of our Saviour's appearance, there prevailed a general expectation of him. This exz