« PredošláPokračovať »
us, it is needful that we should presently seek to recover or SERM. to retrieve it.
If goodness be so hardly pressed by opposition, then hath every good man the more reason to appear strenuously in its defence, the more are we engaged to hasten with all our might to its relief and succour from irrecoverable oppression.
Every one should labour to raise a bank against that inundation which threateneth to overflow and overwhelm all. Shall we endure to see the adversary of our welfare to carry all before him without any opposition or obstruction? Shall we suffer iniquity to enjoy a quiet reign, to root and settle itself in its usurpation, to raise itself a title of long occupancy and prescription against goodness?
Is it not then more generous to avow our friendship to virtue, and to abet it in our patronage, when it is under the hatches, and crieth for our aid? is it not vile treachery in such a case to desert it?
Is it not gallant then to resist sin, and check wickedness, when it is so high and rampant?
Who will not be virtuous (or endeavour at least to appear such) when virtue is in fashion and request; when it flourisheth in reputation, when all the world doth countenance and abet it? who will not shun or disown wickedness, when it is commonly odious and despicable? who will not help the Lord against weak adversaries?
But to embrace virtue upon greatest disadvantages, to disclaim vice in its triumphant prosperity, this is indeed brave and masculine.
He is a worthy man indeed who can keep the field among so many stout enemies, who can stand upright in a crooked generation; who can despise the scorn, defy the rage, bear up against the impudence and malignity of vain, base, wretched men, combining to supplant and extirpate good
Nor have we reason in proceeding thus to despair of
Specta juvenis-in ea tempora natus es, quibus formare animum expediat constantibus exemplis.
Tac. Ann. 16.
SERM. good success; we need not fear thereby to expose the creLXVII. dit, or endanger the interest of goodness. For,
How can we fail of prospering in the maintenance of God's cause and special concern? Although men may commonly desert him, yet doth he not utterly forsake them, or give over the government of the world; he may let the reins lie a little loose, but he doth not put them out of his hands: his power cannot be abated, his providence can never sleep; though he is so patient in suffering wicked men to provoke him, yet he will not be slack in assisting good men, who take his part, and undertake to maintain his honour; assuredly he will help them who help him against the mighty.
In this service one will chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight; one David will knock down never so many Philistines reproaching God's name; one Phinehas will repress the petulancy of a whole nation; one Jeremy Jer. xv. 20, shall be a brazen wall against a whole land; God will Jer. i. 19. make it good to such an one, They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.
One sober man in defence of virtue is able to discomfit all the Hectors, the huffing blades, and boisterous ruffians in the world, attacking them with sound discretion and steady resolution: for all their bravery and confidence, they Jam. iv. 7. are easily mated; and being like their sire, if you resist them, they will flee from you: a prudent, seasonable, smart check will quash their spurious courage and giddy audacity. Their contempt of goodness is but feigned; they cannot really for their hearts despise it; there is stamped on their souls and consciences such a respect, such an awe thereof, which they cannot quite rase out: wherefore if you briskly represent it to them, and challenge their reverence to it, they cannot but succumb, their own mind and conscience joining to back your reproof; so that if you canJer. xx. 11. not reclaim them, you shall however repress them; if you cannot correct their vice, you shall confound their impudence; For so, saith St. Peter, it is the will of God, that
1 Pet. ii. 15.
with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of fool- SERM. LXVII. ish men; and, Having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed 1 Pet. iii. that falsely accuse your conversation in Christ.
Tit. ii. 8.
It is only sneaking, or a timorous pretence to virtue which they contemn; but they will admire those who stiffly adhere to it, and stoutly maintain it.
We shall therefore expose virtue, not by frankly avowing it, but by faintly slinking from it, when occasion requireth an open acknowledgment and exemplary practice of it.
If the world is so very bad, it will not be worse for our attempt to better it; it will be so much at least better, that one therein hath that worthy purpose.
It was bad when Noah preached righteousness to it.
It was bad when Elias was so zealous for the Lord of hosts.
It was bad when Jeremy was derided for declaring God's will and exhorting to repentance.
They were very bad times, when all the Prophets did strive so earnestly to reclaim men from their wickedness; being reproached and persecuted for doing so, but not deterred from doing it; the resentment they had of the badness of times did not make them abandon the means of its recovery from it.
The whole world did lie in wickedness when the Apostles 1 John v. did undertake the reformation of it.
In fine, if men generally upon such accounts of despair- None calleth for jusing prudence neglect to own goodness, what must the contice, nor sequence be? what, but that piety shall be cashiered, that any pleadvirtue shall be discarded, that conscience shall be quite ex-truthploded and exterminated from the world? that consequent. Isa. lix. 4. ly an horrible deluge of various mischiefs, a general prevalence of lewdness and luxury, of fraud and violence, of faction and tumult, a violation of all faith and friendship, a dissolution of all order and peace will ensue?
And what must grow upon this state of things? what but another flood of judgments, and woful vengeance?
SERM. when God's patience hath been tried to the utmost, and his LXVII. goodness tired with bearing such a load of abominations, he Jer. v. 29. will be forced to cry out, Shall I not visit for these things? Isa. i. 24. shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
Stulta calli- 10. Another principle of dispensing with conscience in ditas, per- public duties and conversation before men is a kind of perta prudenti- verse wisdom, or subtle craft, affecting the name of discretion.
am. Cic. de
of. iii. p. 143.
Men see there are divers inconveniences attending the profession of respect to God and conscience in all their doings; that the world may dislike and disesteem them, that divers persons will hate, malign, reproach, and persecute them for it; that they may chance to be crossed in their designs, and lose profits or preferments thereby; therefore they deem it advisable to decline it in open view, making up the defect by adoring and serving God in private.
Thus they think to salve all, by maintaining a neutrality, and compounding the business, yielding an open conformity to the world, and reserving a secret regard to God; sinning publicly, and privately repenting; retaining their credit, quiet, ease, pleasure, with their conscience and peace of Gal. v. 11. mind; affecting some piety, but avoiding the scandal of it. They would hold fair with both sides; so that neither the world should persecute them for crossing its humour, nor God punish them for transgressing his will.
They drive a subtle trade, hoping to gain on all hands, both the benefits of the other, and the advantages of this world, to save their soul, and serve their worldly interests together:
This they would believe a point of special wisdom, prescribed by Solomon: Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise; for why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not overmuch wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before the time?
But this rooking trick, to hedge thus and save stakes, to play fast and loose, to dodge and shuffle with God, God doth not like, nor will suffer himself to be gulled with it.
Eccles. vii. 16, 17.
He will not be satisfied with such a mongrel, partial, and SERM. halting service. LXVII.
He will not allow us to withhold that half of his service 1 Kings (the external, visible part thereof) which is most honour-xviii. 21. able to him, and most beneficial to our neighbour.
He cannot endure a double heart, or a double face; one looking upward to heaven, another downward to the earth.
He exacteth from us an integrity of heart and perfection of obedience; that we should love him with our whole heart, that we should be perfect with him, that we should walk uprightly, not deflecting to the right hand or left from our duty.
1 John ii.
He will not endure that we should hold amity or correspondence with his enemies; particularly with the world, the friendship whereof he hath declared inconsistent with his favour; and that it is a spiritual adultery to impart any of our affections to it; according to that of St. James; Jam. iv. iii. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friend- 15. ship of the world is enmity with God? so that whosoever Kadisara will be a friend of the world becometh the enemy of God. 19. xvii. We may shift as well as we can in the world, provided P. xxxvii. that we hold innocence, and do not conspire with it against xxxviii. God, by violation of our duty to him f: Be wise as serpents, Phil. ii. 5. innocent as doves. Matt. x. 16. (as lambs, Luke x. 3.)
They reproach good men as superstitious; who are afraid of invisible powers; who let go things in hand (present interests and pleasures) for a reversion and hope.
As if God's word were not sufficient security; as if we may not as well rely upon things conspicuous to reason, as those which are obvious to sense.
If Christianity be plainly false, they say well; but if it 2 Thess. iii. be true, very absurdly; yea if probable, very imprudently; 2. yea if possible, not wisely.
e Psal. xii. 2. Jam. i. 8. iv. 8.
Chron. xii. 33. 1 Tim. iii. 8. Aíñoyos. Psal. xxxviii. 37. Their heart was not whole with him. (O. Tr.) Deut. xviii. 13. Job i. 8. Psal. xliv. 18. cxix. 51. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 2. Job xxiii. 11. Matt. vi. 24. Luke xvi. 13. Aveì xugías.
f Rom. xvi. 19. Σοφὰς εἰς τὸ ἀγαθὸν, ἀκεραίες δὲ εἰς τὸ κακόν.