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Our Saviour's constant devotion. Another instance of his love to God, was, his delight in conversing with him by prayer; which made. him frequently retire from the world, and with the greatest devotion and pleasure spend whole nights in that heavenly exercise, though he had no sins to confess, and but few secular interests to pray for; which, alas! are alınost the only things that are wont to drive us to our devotions. Nay, we may say his whole life was a kind of prayer, a constant course of communion with God; if the sacrifice was not always offering, yet wag the fire still kept alive: nor was ever the blessed Jesus surprised with that dulness or tepidity of spirit which we must many times wrestle with, before we can be fit for the exercise of devotion.
Our Saviour's charity to men. In the second place, I should speak of his love and charity towards all men. But he who would express it, must transcribe the history of the gospel, and comment upon it: for scarce any thing is recorded to have been done or spoken by him, which was not designed for the good and advantage of some one or other. All his miraculous works were instances of his goodness, as well as his power; and they benefited those on whom they were wrought, as well as they amazed the beholders. His charity was not confined to his kindred or relations; nor was all his kindness swallowed up in the endearments of that peculiar friendship which he carried towards the beloved disciple, but every one was his friend who obeyed his holy commands, John xv. 14; and whosoever did the will of his Father, the same was to him as his brother, and sister, and mother.
Never was any unwelcome to him who came with an honest intention; nor did he deny any request which tonded to the good of those that asked it. So that what was spoken of that Roman Emperor, whom for his goodness they called the darling of mankind, was really performed by him; that never any departed from
him with a heavy countenance, except that rich youth, Mark x. who was sorry to hear that the kingdom of heaven stood at so high a rate, and that he could not savo his soul and his mr.oney too. And certainly it troubled our Saviour, to see that when a price was in his hand to get wisdom, yet he had no heart to it. The ingenuity that appeared in his first address, had already procured some kindness for him; for it is said, and Jea sus beholding him, loved him. But must he for his sake cut out a new way to heaven, and alter the nature of things, which make it impossible that a covetous man should be happy?.
And what shall I speak of his meekness, who could encounter the monstrous ingratitude and dissimulation of that miscreant who betrayed him, in no harsher terms than these, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? What further evidence could we desire of his fervent and unbounded charity, than that he willingly laid down his life even for his most bitter enemies; and, mingling his prayers with his blood, besought the Father that his death might not be laid to their charge, but might become the means of eternal life to those very persons who procured it?
Our Saviour's purity. The third branch of the divine life is purity; which, as I said, consists in a neglect of worldly enjoyments and accommodations, and a resolute enduring of all such troubles as we meet with in the doing of our duty. Now, surely, if ever any person was wholly dead to all the pleasures of the natural life, it was the blessed Jesus, wbo seldom tasted them when they came in his way; but never stepped out of his road to seek them. Though he allowed others the comforts of wedlock, and honoured marriage with his presence; yet he chose the severity of a virgin life, and never knew the nuptial bed; and though at the same time he supplied the want of wine with a miracle, yet he would not work one for the relief of his own hunger in the wilderness: eo gracious and divine was the temper of his soul, in allowing to oth
ers such lawful gratifications as himself thought good to abstain from, and supplying not only their more extreme and pressing necessities, but also their smaller and less considerable wants. We many times hear of our Saviour's sighs, and groans, and tears; but never that he laughed, and but once that he rejoiced in spirit; so that through his whole life he did exactly answer that character given of him by the prophet of old, that he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Nor were the troubles and disaccommodations of his life other than matters of choice. For never did there any appear on the stage of the world with greater advantage to have raised himself to the highest secular felicity. He who could bring together such a prodigious number of fishes into his disciples' net, and, at another time, receive that tribute from a fish which he was to pay to the temple, might easily have made himself the richest person in the world. Nay, without any money he could have maintained an army powerful enough to have jostled Cesar out of his throne; having oftener than once fed several thousands with a few loaves and small fishes. But, to show how small esteem he had of all the enjoyments in the world, he chose to live in so poor and mean a condition, that though the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, yet he who was lord and heir of all things, had not whereon to lay his head. He did not frequent the courts of princes, nor affect the acquaintance or converse of great ones; but, being reputed the son of a carpenter, he had fishermen and such other poor people for his companions, and lived at such a rate as suited with the meanness of that condition.
Our Saviour's humility. And thus I am brought unawares to speak of his humility, the last branch of the divine life; wherein he was a most eminent pattern to us, that we might learn of him to be meek and lowly in heart. I shall not now speak of that infinite condescension of the eternal Son of God, in taking our nature upon him; but only reflect on our Saviour's lowly and humble deportment
while he was in the world. He had none of those sins and imperfections which may justly humble the best of men; but he was so entirely swallowed up with a deep sense of the infinite perfections of God, that he appeared as nothing in his own eyes, I mean, so far as he was
He considered those eminent perfections which shined in his blessed soul, as not his own, but the gifts of God; and therefore assumed nothing to himself for them, but with the profoundest humility renounced all pretences to them. Hence did he refuse that ordinary compellation of good master, when addressed to his human nature, by one whom it seems was ignorant of his divinity: Why callest thou me good? there is none good, but God only: As if he had said, The goodness of any creature (and such only thou takest me to be) is not worthy to be named or taken notice of; it is God alone who is originally and essentially good. He never made use of his miraculous power for vanity or ostentation. He would not gratify the curiosity of the Jews with a sign from heaven, some prodigious appear-, ance in the air: nor would he follow the advice of his countrymen and kindred, who would have had all his great works performed in the eyes of the world, for gain. ing him the greater fame. But when his charity had prompted him to the relief of the miserable, his humility made him many times enjoin the concealment of the miracle; and when the glory of God, and the design for which he came into the world, required the publication of them, he ascribed the honour of all to his Father, telling them, that of himself he was able to do nothing.
I cannot insist on all the instances of humility in his deportment towards men; his withdrawing himself when they would have made him a king, his subjection, not only to his blessed mother, but to her husband, during his younger years; and his submission to all the indignities and affronts which his rude and malicious enemies did put upon him. The history of his holy life, recorded by those who conversed with him, is fall of such passages as these. And indeed the serious and attentive study of it, is thc best way to get right measures of hu
mility, and all the other parts of religion which I have been endeavouring to describe.
But now, that I may lessen your trouble of reading a long letter, by making some pauses in it, let me here subjoin a prayer that might be proper when one who had formerly entertained some false notions of religion, begins to discover what it is.
' INFINITE and eternal Majesty, author and fountain of being and blessedness, how little do we poor sinful creatures know of thee, or the way to serve and please thee! We talk of religion, and pretend unto it; but alas! how few are there that know and consider what it means! How easily do we mistake the affections of our nature, and the issues of self-love for those divine graces which alone can render us acceptable in thy sight! It may justly grieve me, to consider, that I should have wandered so long, and contented myself so often with vain shadows and false images of piety and religion: yet I cannot but acknowledge and adore thy goodness, who hast been pleased in some measure to open mine eyes, and let me see what it is at which I ought to aim. I rejoice to consider what mighty improvements my nature is capable of, and what a divine temper of spirit doth shine in those whom thou art pleased to choose, and causest to approach unto thee. Blessed be thine infinite mercy, who sentest thine own Son to dwell among men, and to instruct them by his example as well as his laws, giving them a perfect pattern of what they ought to be. O that the holy life of the blessed Jesus may be always . in my thoughts, and before mine eyes, till I receive a deep sense and impression of those excellent graces that shined so eminently in him; and let me never cease my endeavours, till that new and divine nature prevail in my soul and Christ be formed within me.'
The excellency and advantage of religion. And now, my dear friend, having discovered the nature of true religion, before I proceed any further, it