« ElőzőTovább »
Soul when he befought us, and we would not bear; therefore is this Diftrefs come upon us.
When we come to languish upon a Bed of Sickness, our Minds will then take the liberty to reproach us for those many Days of Health and Strength, which now without any fenfe or remorfe we fondly trifle and fquander away, Should our Riches take to themselves Wings, and fly away, (and we all know how flippery and uncertain ali thefe earthly Enjoyments are) it would then wound us fore to think how much we stretch'd our Confciences to get fome part of them, and how prodigally we mispent other part of them; how much we loved them and trusted in them, and what an ill use we made of them. If ever we our felves fhould come to ftand in need of the Help, Affiftance, and Charity of others, how irkfom and uneafy will it be to us to remember how little our Bowels were moved at the Misfortunes of our poor Neighbours, and what little compaffion we fhewed to the miferable and neceffitous, and how loth we were in our flourishing condition to do any one a good turn, if it put us but to the least expence or trouble?
However great and profperous your present Condition may be, yet often confider, it may fhortly be otherwife with you; daily interpofe the thoughts of a Change: Should I lofe this Honour, Efteem, Authority and Dignity I am now poffeffed of, how many untoward Scars and Blemishes will stick upon me? Should I be reduc'd to a mean low Estate, shall
I not then blufh to be put in mind of that Pride, Vain-glory, Haughtiness, Oppreffion, and Domineering I was guilty of when I was in Place and Power? And will not the forced Remembrance of fuch our base and unworthy Behaviour be more grievous and afflictive to us, than any outward Lofs or Pain? Our Confciences, which now we ftifle and finother, will at fuch a time be even with us; and our own Wickedness hall reprove us, and our Iniquity hall correct us, as the Prophet expreffeth it.
Learn therefore fo to demean your felves in Profperity, as that your Hearts may acquit you, and have nothing to chide and rebuke you for, when you come into Adversity; and fo to husband and improve those present Advantages and Opportunities you have in your hands, that when they are withdrawn from you, you may be able with great comfort and fatisfaction to reflect upon the Good you have done with them; the fenfe of which will mightily blunt the edge, and mitigate the Sharpness of those Evils that do at any time befal you. This was Job's great comfort and fupport under all his difmal Sufferings, when he was fallen from the highest Pinacle of Wealth and Honour almost as low as Hell, that he had held fast his Integrity, and that his Mind could not reproach him.
2. We fhould never, either to prevent or to redeem our felves from any outward Evil or Calamity, do any thing which our Minds
and Confciences do difapprove and condemn. Tho Job had loft all other things that Men ufually call good, yet his Righteousness he held fafi, and would not let it go. And indeed the Peace of our own Minds is more to be valued than any temporal Bleffing whatever; and there is no pain or lofs fo intolerable as that inward Fear, Regret and Shame which Sin and Guilt create: fo that whatever external advantage we acquire in the World by wounding our Confciences, we are certainly great lofers by it; no real good can ever be obtain'd by doing ill, a guilty Conscience being the forest Evil that a Man can poffibly be afflicted with.
Herein especially do inward Troubles exceed all outward Afflictions whatever that can happen to our Bodies or Estates; namely, that under all temporal Calamities, how desperate and remedilefs foever they be, yet we have fomething to buoy up and fupport our Spirits, to keep us in heart, and enable us to bear them, the Joys of a good Confcience, the Senfe or Hopes of God's Love and Favour, the inward Satisfaction of our own Minds and Thoughts: these things will wonderfully carry us thro all thofe Difficulties and Adversities which we fhall meet with in the World, and are able to uphold and chear our Hearts under the greatest Preffures and Hardships. But when a Man's Mind it felf is disturbed and difquieted, where fhall he feek for, where can he find any cafe or remedy?
This feems to be the meaning of the Wife Man, in the 18th of the Proverbs, the 14th Verfe, The Spirit of a Man will fuftain his Infirmity, but a wounded Spirit who can bear? It is a Saying much like that of our Saviour, If the Salt hath loft its favour, wherewith Shall it be falted? If that by which we season all other things, it felf want it, by what shall it be feasoned? So here, the Spirit of a Man will fuftain his Infirmity; i. e. a Mind and Spirit that is at peace within it felf, that is conscious of its own Innocence and Integrity, will enable a Man to bear with great Patience and Contentment thofe Chaftifements which God may fee good to exercise him with in this Life: but a wounded Spirit who can bear? i. e. if that Spirit or Mind which fhould help us to bear all those Evils that betide us, be it felf wounded and difquieted, what is there then left in a Man to fuftain it? When our only Remedy is become our Disease, when that which alone can fupport us in all our Troubles and Diftreffes is become it felf our greatest Torment, how fhall we be able to bear it?
What Dangers foever therefore we are expofed unto, let us be fure to preferve a good Confcience; nay, let us rather fuffer the greatest Evils, than do the leaft. If we always continue faithful and conftant to the Dictates of Reason and Religion, our Minds will be in peace, and the Confcience of our having plea fed God and done our Duty, and fecured our greatest Intereft, will hugely eafe and alleviate
our Afflictions, and fustain us under the most preffing Evils we can fuffer in this Life; whereas on the other fide, the greatest Confluence of the good things of this World will not be able to free us from the disturbance and anxiety of an evil Confcience, or to quiet and fettle our Minds when haraffed and tortured with the sense of Guilt. And this leads me to the second thing I propounded; which
II. To confider thefe Words more generally, as they may be applied to Men in all States and Conditions; and then they propound to us this Rule, which we should always live by; namely, that we should, upon no Confideration whatever, do any thing that our Minds or Confciences reprove us for. And this is the just Character of an honeft Man, and of one fit to be trufted, that he will never either out of Fear or Favour confent to do any thing that his Mind tells him is unfit, unworthy, or unbecoming, or that he cannot answer or juftify to himself; but in all cafes will do what is right and honest, however it may be thought of and relished by other Men, and refolutely adhere to his plain Duty, tho perhaps it may hinder his Preferment and Advancement, his Trade and Gain, and expofe him to many Inconveniencies in this World. I wish you would all with Job in my Text take up this brave Refolution, My Righteousness I will hold fast, and will not let it go; my Heart Shall