Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

mouth, and the empire of their prayers, and invocation of the holy name of Jesus. But their Master gave them a lenitive, to assuage the tumour and excrescence, intimating that such privileges are not solid foundations of a holy joy ; but so far as they co-operate toward the great end of God's glory, and their own salvation, to which when they are consigned, and “their names written in heaven," in the book of election, and registers of predestination, then their joy is reasonable, holy, true, and perpetualo.

18. But when Herod had heard these things of Jesus, presently his apprehensions were such as derived from his guilt; he thought it was John the Baptist who was

“ risen from the dead," and that these “mighty works” were demonstrations of his power, increased by the superadditions of immortality and diviner influences, made proportionable to the honour of a martyr, and the state of separation P. For, a little before this time, Herod had sent to the castle of Macheruns, where John was prisoner, and caused him to be beheaded. His head Herodias buried in her own palace, thinking to secure it against a re-union, lest it should again disturb her unlawful lusts, and disquiet Herod's conscience. But the body the disciples of John gathered up, and carried it with honour and sorrow, and buried it in Sebaste, in the confines of Samaria, making his grave between the bodies of Elizeus and Abdias, the prophets. And about this time was the passover of the Jews.

DISCOURSE XV.

of the Excellence, Ease, Reasonableness, and Advantages of

bearing Christ's Yoke, and living according to his Institution.

1. The holy Jesus came to break from off our necks two great yokes : the one of sin, by which we were fettered and imprisoned in the condition of slaves and miserable persons ; the other, of Moses' law, by which we were kept in pupilage

• Vide Discourse of Certainty of Salvation, Num. 3.
P Virtutem incolumem odimus,

Sublatam ex oculis quærimus invidi. — Horat. lib, iii. Od. 24.

and minority, and a state of imperfection: and asserted us into “ the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” The first was a despotic empire, and the government of a tyrant: the second was of a school-master, severe, absolute, and imperious; but it was in order to a farther good, yet nothing pleasant in the sufferance and load. And now Christ, having taken off these two, hath put on a third. He quits us of our burden, but not of our duty; and hath changed the former tyranny and the less perfect discipline into the sweetness of paternal regiment, and the excellence of such an institution, whose every precept carries part of its reward in hand, and assurances of after-glories. Moses' law was like sharp and unpleasant physic, certainly painful, but uncertainly healthful. For it was not then communicated to them, by promise and universal revelations, that the end of their obedience should be life eternal : but they were full of hopes it might be so, as we are of health when we have a learned and wise physician. But as yet the reward was in a cloud, and the hopes in fetters and confinement. But the law of Christ is like Christ's healing of diseases ; he does it easily, and he does it infallibly. The event is certainly consequent; and the manner of cure is by a touch of his hand, or a word of his mouth, or an approximation to the “ hem of his garment,” without pain and vexatious instruments. My meaning is, that Christianity is, by the assistance of Christ's Spirit, which he promised us and gave us in the Gospel, made very easy to us; and yet a reward so great is promised, as were enough to make a lame man to walk, and a broken arm endure the burden; a reward great enough to make us willing to do violence to all our inclinations, passions, and desires. A hundred weight to a giant is a light burden, because his strength is disproportionably great, and makes it as easy to him as an ounce is to a child. And

yet,

if had not the strength of giants, if the hundred weight were of gold or jewels, a weaker person would think it no trouble to bear that burden, if it were the reward of his portage, and the hire of his labours. The spirit is given to us to enable us, and heaven is promised to encourage us; the first makes us able, and the second makes us willing: and when we have power and affections, we cannot complain of pressure. And this is the meaning of our blessed Saviour's invitation;

we

“ Come to me, for my burden is light, my yoke is easy * :" which St. John also observed : “ For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh, even our faith b:" that is, our belief of God's promises, the promise of the Spirit for present aid, and of heaven for the future reward, is strength enough to overcome all the world.

2. But besides that God hath made his yoke easy, by exterior supports, more than ever was in any other religion; Christianity is of itself, according to human estimate, a religion more easy and desirable by our natural and reasonable appetites, than sin, in the midst of all its pleasures and imaginary felicities. Virtue hath more pleasure in it than sin, and hath all satisfactions to every desire of man, in order to human and prudent ends; which I shall represent in the consideration of these particulars. 1. To live according to the laws of Jesus is, in some things, most natural, and proportionable to the desires and first intentions of nature. 2. There is in it less trouble than in sin. 3. It conduces infinitely to the content of our lives, and natural and political satisfactions. 4. It is a means to preserve our temporal lives long and healthy. 5. It is most reasonable ; and he only is prudent, that does so, and he a fool, that does not. And all this, besides the considerations of a glorious and happy eternity

3. Concerning the first, I consider that we do very ill, when, instead of making our natural infirmity an instrument of humility, and of recourse to the grace of God, we pretend the sin of Adam to countenance our actual sins, natural infirmity to excuse our malice; either laying Adam in faulty for deriving the disability upon us, or God, for putting us into the necessity. But the evils that we feel in this, are from the rebellion of the inferior appetite against reason, or against any religion, that puts restraint upon our first desires: And, therefore, in carnal and sensual instances accidentally, we find the more natural averseness, because God's laws have put our irascible and concupiscible faculties in fetters

a Matt. xi. 30.

[blocks in formation]

and restraints ; yet, in matters of duty, which are of immaterial and spiritual concernment, all our natural reason is a perfect enemy and contradiction to, and a law against, vice. It is natural for us to love our parents, and they who do not, are unnatural; they do violence to those dispositions, which God gave us to the constitution of our nature, and for the designs of virtue: and all those tendernesses of affection, those bowels and relenting dispositions, which are the endearments of parents and children, are also the bands of duty. Every degree of love makes duty delectable : and, therefore, either by nature we are inclined to hate our parents, which is against all reason and experience, or else we are, by nature, inclined to do them all that, which is the effect of love to such superiors, and principles of being and dependence : and every prevarication from the rule, effects, and expresses of love, is a contradiction to nature, and a mortification; to which we cannot be invited by any« thing from within, but by something from without, that is violent and preternatural. There are also many other virtues, even in the matter of sensual appetite, which none can lose, but by altering, in some degree, the natural disposition. And I instance in the matter of carnality and uncleanness, to which possibly some natures may think themselves apt and disposed: but yet God hath put into our mouths a bridle, to curb the licentiousness of our speedy appetite, putting into our very natures a principle as strong to restrain it, as there is in us a disposition apt to invite us; and this is also in persons who are most apt to the vice, women and young persons, to whom God hath given a modesty and shame of nature, that the entertainments of lusts may become contra

tions to our retreating and backward modesty, more than they are satisfactions to our too forward appetites. It is as great a mortification and violence to nature to blush, as to lose a desire ; and we find it true, when persons are invited to confess their sins, or to ask forgiveness publicly, a secret smart is not so violent as a public shame : and, therefore, to do an action which brings shame all along, and opens the sanctuaries of nature, and makes all her retirements public, and dismantles her enclosure, as lust does, and the shame of carnality, hath in it more asperity and abuse to nature, than the short pleasure to which we are invited can repay. There

are unnatural lusts, lusts which are such in their very condition and constitution, that a man must turn a woman, and a woman become a beast, in acting them; and all lusts, that are not unnatural in their own complexion, are unnatural by a consequent and accidental violence. And if lust hath in it dissonancies to nature, there are but few apologies left to excuse our sins upon nature's stock: and all that system of principles and reasonable inducements to virtue, which we call “ the law of nature,” is nothing else but that firm ligature and incorporation of virtue to our natural principles and dispositions, which whoso prevaricates, does more against nature than he that restrains his appetite. And, besides these particulars, there is not, in our natural discourse, any inclination, directly and by intention of itself, contrary to the love of God, because by God we understand that Fountain of Being which is infinitely perfect in itself, and of great good to us; and whatsoever is so apprehended, it is as natural for us to love, as to love any thing in the world; for we can love nothing but what we believe to be good in itself, or good to us. And beyond this, there are, in nature, many principles and reasons to make an aptness to acknowledge and confess God; and, by the consent of nations, which they also have learned from the dictates of their nature, all men, in some manner or other, worship God. And, therefore, when this, our nature, is determined in its own indefinite principle, to the manner of worship, all acts against the love, the obedience, and the worship of God, are also against nature, and offer it some rudeness and violence. And I shall observe this, and refer it to every man's reason and experience, that the great difficulties of virtue, commonly apprehended, commence not so much upon the stock of nature, as of education and evil habits d. Our virtues are difficult, because we at first get ill habits; and these habits must be unrooted before we do well : and that is our trouble.

[ocr errors]

'Εγώ γαρ ουκ αν ουδέ άλλο περί θεού ό, τι αν είπoιμι, ή ότι αγαθός τε παντάπασιν είη, και ξύμπαντα εν τη εξουσία της αυτού έχει. λεγέτω δε ώσπες γινώσκειν έκαστος υπέρ αυτών όιεται, και ιερεύς και ιδιώτης. Procop. Gothic. 1.

Τοιούτος μεν ούν και τους λογικούς γένεσιν ενoυσιωμένος όρκος, έχεσθαι του πατρός αυτών και ποιητού, και μη παραβαίνειν μηδαμή τους υπ' εκέινου διορισθέντας νόμους. - Hierocl.

d Siquidem Leonides, Alexandri pædagogns, quibusdain eum vitiis imbuit, quæ robustum quoque et jain maximum regen ab illa iustilutioue pucrili sunt prosecuta. — Quintil, lib. i. c. 1.

« AnteriorContinuar »