Page images
PDF
EPUB

sult as the greatest monarch. And the elevation of one above others, far from authorizing him to trample upon them, strictly binds him to show humanity and afford protection to all those whom Providence, by putting them under his power, hath entitled to his patronage.

This then is the conduct, which humility requires of superiors. And to preserve it steadily, they should call to mind every day, that the world was not made for them alone, to gratify their vanity or love of pleasure, to indulge their humours, or pursue their advantages, whatever becomes of the rest : but with intent that each of them should contribute faithfully in his station, as well as others in theirs, to the common benefit of the whole. For God hath created all men of the same nature and the same blood : and united them by strong inward ties of sympathy and mutual tenderness, which it is both impious and unnatural to break or loosen. If I have withheld, said Job, the poor from his desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail ; if I did despise the cause of my man-servant or my maid-servant, when they contended with me : what then shall I do, when God riseth up ; and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me make him ? and did not One fashion us in the womb *? We, that are so fond of exalting ourselves above those of our own species, who are equal to us in most things : preferable, it may be, in many; and beneath us only in accidental circumstances; do we consider before how awful a Superior we stand all the time? One that accepteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor : for they are all the works of his hands t. But, happily for the universe, his infi* Job xxxi. 13-16.

+ Job xxxiv. 19.

nite greatness is inseparably joined with infinite mercy and bounty : which blessed union is the very ground of the worship that we pay him, of the honour and love that fills our hearts at the thought of him. And what is it then, that deserves love and honour amongst men ? Surely to imitate this adorable goodness of Him, who is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens : who yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth *. For though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly : but as for the proud, he beholdeth them afar off t.

Let us therefore delight in showing ourselves, by all fit proofs of condescending benevolence, the true children of our heavenly Father, and the true disciples of our gracious Redeemer ; who hath made us all members of one, that is, his own body:and whose rule it is, Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant : even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many I. The same lesson, of not disdaining the very meanest offices of kindness one to another, when occasion requires them, he taught his apostles, and through them all his followers, in a manner so unspeakably engaging, just before his death, as one of the farewell demonstrations of his tender affection to them; (for so the evangelist puts it ;) conveying his meaning the more expressively, as the eastern custom was, by an outward action, peculiarly fitted to exemplify it: that I shall read you almost the whole passage, as the best conclusion that can be made to a discourse on the present subject. * Ps. cxiii. 4. 6. + Ps. cxxxviii, 6. Matth. xx, 26, 27, 28.

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father : having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, he laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself. After that, he poured water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. And after he had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord : neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them *.

* John xiii. 1-17.

SERMON VI.

PSALM XC. 12.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply

our hearts unto wisdom.

THERE are not many subjects recommended so often from the pulpit to your serious consideration, as the shortness and uncertainty of human life : indeed there are very few, that deserve it so well. For our business is, not to entertain the curiosity of our hearers with learned discoveries, refined speculations, or uncommon remarks; but to remind them continually of such truths as are most useful to direct their practice by mending their hearts. And how impossible soever it may appear, that any one should be ignorant of some of them, yet if men will forget or neglect them, and live as if they knew them not, they must be still repeated and inculcated. The wisdom of our gracious Maker hath provided, that the greatest part, not only of our duties, but of the motives to perform them, shall naturally and frequently suggest themselves to our minds. And amongst the latter, one should think there was none more obvious, more unavoidable, than the consideration of our own mortality. But as those objects which are continually present to our senses, are apt for that reason scarcely to effect us more than if they were absent: so this truth, being fa

3

miliarized to us by daily examples, about which we are indifferent, makes almost as little impression upon us as if the case were otherwise. It is a fact, which we have no doubt of, and no pleasure in : we therefore turn our thoughts to somewhat else, with such unhappy success, that, though the consequences of it are the most interesting to us all, that possibly can be, multitudes of us live, as if we neither believed nor suspected any thing of the matter. When indeed the voice of exhortation, or the unexpected decease of a friend or acquaintance, forces us to attend, we acknowledge for that moment, and perhaps with some concern, that we must expect to die soon : but quickly proceed again to act, as if we hoped to live for ever. And therefore it was a wise prayer of Moses, that God would condescend to help our infirmity in this important point. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Or, as the words may be translated, without any material change in the sense: teach us to number our days thus ; to count them as the preceding part of the Psalm had done, like the sleep of a night, like the grass, which in the morning flourisheth, but by the evening is cut down and withered : or again, Teach us to number our days aright; and we will bring, that is, in order to learn, or, we shall acquire, an heart of wisdom.

The expression of numbering our days carries in it an implication, that they are not many. For in Scripture, as being without number denotes a large multitude *, so the contrary phrase hath of course the contrary signification. Thus, when Moses mentions the continuance of the cloud only a few days upon the tabernacle, it is in the Hebrew days of

* Gen. xli. 49. Numb. xxiii. 10. Judges vi. 5. vii. 12. 1 Kings iii. 8. Job v. 9. ix. 10. xxxiv. 24. Eccl. i. 15.

« PreviousContinue »