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abstain from retaliating ill Words, or ill Actions, and the like.
But that we should go further than these, further than the common Duties we owe to all Men, and the particular Duties we owe to Enemies; even to the higher Duties we owe to intimate Friends, such as Trust and Familiarity, and venturing our Lives and Fortunes for them, and espousing their Interests with a particular Zeal and Concern ; this I do not find required. For though God makes his Sun to shine, and his Rain to fall on Good and Bad, Friend and Foe; yet there is no Body will deny that there are many peculiar Favours, which he reserves for his Friends and Children, to which others are perfect Strangers. There is we know a great Addition of particular Grace and Talents upon the good Improvement of the common Grace bestowed upon us at first.
2. A second Instruction I would recommend from this Example of God's in the Text is, that we ought not to set any such high Value on these common Mercies, which God bestows promiscuously on Good and Bad, as to think our felves ever the more in his Favour on account of them. As some Writers of the Church of Rome make worldly Prosperity one of the Marks of the true Church, fo there are a great many who pursue worldly Wealth and Grandeur with such Ēagerness, as if their chief Felicity consisted therein. But these are but among the common Mercies, and such indeed as fall more frequently to the Lot of wicked than good Men; and therefore we are not to reckon our selves either more or less in God's Favour as to our eternal State on account of them.
3. A third Instruction we are to learn from this Example in the Text, is, that we are to aim after such Blessings as distinguish the. Good from the Bad; inward Graces are the Jewels which God reserves for his own Children, those Graces which adorn the Soul with all Manner of Virtue. It is certain that God values Faith, Humility, Charity, Purity, Meekness, Patience, Courage in resisting Temptations, Justice, Peaceableness, Repentance, Sincerity, and all the other Christian Virtues, far before Riches, Honour, Learning, Eloquence, Power, Beauty, Strength, the Favour and Applaute of the World; and all those other Things which are in so much esteem among Men. And therefore above all Things let us apply our felves to God, the Giver of all Grace, through the Mediation of Jesus Christ, for those best of Gifts. Grace to subdue our Corruptions, and to persevere in the diligent Exercise of all Virtue, is infinitely preferable to all that this World can afford. And therefore let us be both very diligent in asking, seeking and knocking, that is, in an holy Importunity at the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain it; and likewise careful to abstain from all those Things which may extinguish it, or provoke God to withdraw it; improving it so, as to lay up Treasures in Heaven of all sorts of good Works, that may stand us in stead, when all these worldly Blessings shall leave us.
So much for the first Argument in the Text for the Love of Enemies; the Example of Almighty God. Time will not allow my entering on the second Argument taken from the higher Degrees of Duty expected of us Christians, than from other Men, especially Publicans and Heathens, who had
but a very indifferent Character in the World. Only before I have done, because there is one Evasion Men have from the Argument I have been managing, and confequently from the Duty it presses; it will be necessary to afford it a short Confideration. The Evasion is this; though we are commanded to love our Enemies, and after God's Example to do a great many Duties to them, yet sure, say they, if they are God's Enemies, there lies no such Obligation upon us, but we may hate and persecute them. But in answer to this Subterfuge, the same Argument of my Text, viz. God's Example, which obliges us to love our Enemies, that is
, to perform the common Duties to them which are due to other Men, will oblige us likewise to pay those Duties to God's Enemies, For, does he not make his Sun to rise, and his Rain to fall on Good and Bad, Just, and Unjust; i. e. both on his Friends and Enemies? And are not we called upon to imitate him in this particular? And a great deal of Reason there is for this Duty, if I had Time to infist upon it. For, 1. How come we to take upon us to know, who are God's Friends, and who his Enemies? Is not this to encroach upon God's Prerogative, who is the Searcher of Hearts ? 2. Suppose we knew who are God's Enemies at present, I hope we do not pretend to know what Change may be made upon them before they die. 3. In order to the making of this Chạnge, which is the most effectual Way, the Way of Love, or the Way of Hatred ? 4. If wicked Men deserve ever so much to be punished, who gave us Authority, (I speak of private Chriftians) who gave us Authority, I say, to do it? 5 Which is most like to God's Example, which
is the Argument in the Text? He has suffered them hitherto patiently in his World; he has afforded them the common Benefits of Nature, and perhaps the Means of Grace, and Time to repent. And shall we take upon us to cut off their Day of Grace, and so have a Hand in their final Impenitency and Condemnation? Had these Things been duly considered, what Abundance of bloody Persecutions, and other Effects of blind Zeal might have been prevented ? Let us learn what manner of Spirit we are of, and remember that we are the Disciples, not of a fiery Elias, but of the meek Jesus, who came not to destroy Mens Lives, but to save them.
Now to him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all Praise, &c.
MATT. V. 46. For if ye love them which love you,
what Reward ye
? Do not even the Publicans the fame? Ver. 47. And if ye falute your Brethren only, what
do you more than others ? Do not even the Publicans so?
The Third Sermon on this Text.
recommended the rare and difficult Duty, the Love of Enemies, presently backs it with two Arguments ; one taken from the Example of Almighty God; the other, from the Obligation lying on Christians to aim at higher Degrees of Duty than other Men, especially such Men as had no great Reputation for Sanctity in the World, but quite otherwise, Heathens and Publicans.
Now having, at the last Occasion, spoke to the first of these Arguments, taken from the Example of God, I come now to consider the Second, contained in the Words which I have read, For if ye love them which love you, what Reward have ye ? do not even the Publicans the Jame? And if ye salute your Brethren only, what do you more.