« PreviousContinue »
ing to his work*. Say not, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee t. If then you take the opposite course, you reject what God hath expressly appointed to be your rule; you choose, instead of it, what he hath expressly forbidden to be your rule; you put yourself from under the protection of his providence, and knowingly expose yourself to his heaviest displeasure. But, you will
say, If we may not revenge ourselves, we may surely resolve to have nothing more to do with the man who hath injured us; and look on all obligations of kindness to him as cancelled. Now here again consider : would it be reasonable, if you had once, or more than once, behaved to any one as you ought not, that therefore you should be rejected for ever? Might not you regain in time a title even to friendship and confidence? Might not you from the first be a fit object of lower marks of favour? Or supposing you did not deserve them, might it not be very laudable and right to treat you better, than you deserved ? Do not you hope to be treated thus, on many occasions by men, and in the important concern of your future happiness by God himself? whose mercy you dare ask for no other terms, than those of being forgiven, as you forgive. If therefore the forgiveness, which you beg, includes bounty and gracious notice; let that, which you grant, do so likewise, in a proper degree; and imitate the goodness, which otherwise you will pray for in vain. Observe but in what manner our Saviour hath in St. Luke connected the precept before us, with that of pardoning injuries : As ye would that men should do to
do to them likewise-Love your enemies, and do good, and ye
shall be the children of the Highest : for he * Prov. xxiv, 29.
+ Prov, xx, 22.
is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful t. But at least, you will say, proper submission may be required first. Why undoubtedly it may. And he, who hath done the wrong, should always consider, whether, if he had received it, the satisfaction which he deems it beneath him to give, would not have appeared very necessary for him to claim. But then at the same time, you, who have received the wrong, should consider too, whether if you had done it, you could have yielded to the rigorous terms and debasing compliances which you exact: nay, would not have thought it very hard, that such as might be in strictness due, should be without abatement in
Another situation, requisite to be mentioned, in which we are strangely apt to violate our Saviour's rule, is, when connexions or circumstances call us to show courtesy, love, or pity. Very commonly we have scarce any attention to return the obliging behaviour, which we absolutely expect: give mighty small proofs of affection, even where we should be miserable, if the greatest were not given us; and hardly express the least compassion to the afflicted, whereas we should look for all possible assiduity of tenderness, were we in their condition. Or if even our strength of mind were such as not to need support; we ought surely to ask ourselves, what we should justly wish for, had we less strength, as others may. But instead of being moved by that consideration to a friendly sympathy, we can persecute the wretched with unreasonable harsh maxims of impracticable wisdom; nay, perhaps imbitter their sorrows with groundless or immoderate reproaches, when the
Luke vi. 31. 35, 36.
justest and the gentlest reproofs would be ill-timed and hard-hearted. What feelings the persons thus treated must have, and consequently what our own under the same treatment would be, is incomparably set forth in those words of Job: I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words, and shake my head at you.
head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth; and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief *. This therefore is our duty : for this would assuredly be our desire. But then, as they, who are not in affliction, should think, if they were, with what kindness they should expect to be attended and regarded : so they, who are, should think in return, if it had fallen to their lot to pay this attendance and regard, what patience and reasonableness they should have expected from those, to whom they paid it; and what thankful acknowledgments, for discharging an office but tolerably well, which must be in itself a melancholy and unpleasing one.
These are some, and I hope the more usual, of the numberless cases, in which we should all be solicitously careful to do to others, as we would they should do to us.
Indeed were we to aim at taking one step further, and a little exceed the goodness, which we conceive we might equitably demand, we should seldom go beyond the rule, but only make somewhat surer not to fall short of it: a point of which it concerns us in the highest degree to make sure. For when God is so gracious, as to appeal to our hearts, and govern us by a law, as it were of our own enacting (a law which we cannot be ignorant of, cannot except against, and one should think can hardly forget or misapply); we must be dreadfully inexcusable
* Job xvi. 4, 5.
before him, when we disobey it. Indeed the general disobedience to it which there is in the world, affords us a deplorable view of the state of mankind; and should excite us to a strict examination of our past, and a diligent watchfulness over our future conduct. We have all transgressed even this most obvious and unexceptionable rule: let us all beg that pardon, which our Saviour hath merited, for what we have done ill; and apply for that grace of the Holy Spirit, without the help of which we can do nothing well.
Gen. ii. 3.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it :
because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made.
THESE words contain the account of that original appropriation of one day in seven to the purposes of religion, from which all subsequent appointments of the same nature have been derived. And therefore I shall take occasion from them to shew, God willing, in three discourses,
I. On what authority the observation of a weekly day of public devotion and rest is founded.
II. In what manner that day ought to be spent. I. On what authority it is founded.
It is not only our duty to address God in private prayer, but also to assemble ourselves together in order to offer up to him our united devotions. As we are by nature formed for society, we ought to be social in religion as well as in other instances. As we are all dependant for every thing we have or hope for on the same Almighty Being, the Creator and Governor of the universe, we ought all to join in openly acknowledging that dependance, in begging with one voice the supply of our common wants, the forgiveness of our common offences, the removal of our common calamities ; and in returning thanks for the various mercies which we have in common re