« AnteriorContinuar »
Mercy towards Mankind, and hath opened to us the wonderful Councils of hia Wisdom arid Love for the Salvation of Sinners. He it was that first clearly published the glorious Tidings, that God Jo loved the World that he gave hu only begotten Son, that whosoever believe fh in him, viz.. with a vital operative Faith, productive of sincere Obedience, Jhould not perijh, but Jhould have everlajling Life. John iii. 16. And the Use he made of that most astonishing Discovery, in which there are the most marvellous Displays of the Divine Grace and Goodness that can possibly be conceived, was to engage Sinners to Repentance. He offered himself to them as the great appointed Saviour, who was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. And never was there any Thing so tender and moving as the Invitations he gave them to come to him, that they might find "Rest unto their Souls, and to return through him to God, the Father of Mercies, whom he most affectingly represents as rejoicing in the Conversion of Sinners, and ready to pardon all their Iniquities, and to receive them to his Grace and Favour upon their penitent Return. And yet, that this Grace of God might not be abused to Licentiousness, he takes Care to guard it in such a Manner, as not to give the least EncouK 4 ragement
ragement to thole that impenitently go on in a presumptuous Course of Sin and Disobedience. Agreeably to that most amiable Representation which this Divine Teacher giveth us of the Deity, he summeth up the Duty we owe to him in Love: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, ninth all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind. 'This is the Jirft and great Commandment. And he would have us manifest our Love by a constant Endeavour to please and glorify him, the most effectual Way of doing which is by abounding in the Fruits of Righteousness and holy Obedience. Herein (faith he) is my Father glorified, that ye bear much Fruit; so shallye be my Disciples. John xv. 8. And again, Let your Light so Jhf'ne before Men, that they may Jee your good Works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Matt. v. 16. He urgeth us to aspire after a Conformity to him in his illustrious moral Excellencies, that, as far as the Condition of our Nature will allow, we may be perfecl as our Father which is in Heaven is perfeSf. With Regard to the Worship we owe to the supreme Being, he teacheth, that God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit find in Truth. John iv. 24. He recommendeth an humble, serious, unaffected Piety and Deyotiasi, withput vain Often-:
tation and Shew. And, as Prayer is that Part of Divine Worship which is of daily Use, and upon which the Maintaining a Life of Religion doth very much depend, he hath furnished the most useful Directions for the right Performance of it, as well as the most encouraging Promises to engage us to a persevering Constancy in that sacred Exercise.
As to the Duties Men owe to one another, which must be acknowledged to be an important Part of the Work which God requireth of us, our blessed Lord hath also given the most admirable Instructions. He doth not merely forbid the gross outward Acts of Fraud, Injustice, and Violence, but representeth the being angry with our Brother without a Cause as highly criminal in the Sight of God, and thus teacheth us to endeavour to suppress the first Risings of a malevolent Disposition. He chargeth us not to judge, i. e. not rashly to censure and condemn others, lejl we ourselves be judged. And, whereas Men are apt to flatter themselves that, by a Diligence in outward Acts of Piety and Devotion towards God, they may compensate for the Wrongs and Injuries they do to their Fellow-creatures, he lets them know that they must first do all they can to be reconciled to their offended brother, and to make Reparation for the
Injuries Injuries they had done him, if they would have their Gists and Offerings accepted of God. And he teacheth us not to think it enough to abstain from Injuring others, but that we must endeavour to do them Good j and, the more to affect our Minds with a Sense of the Necessity of this, he acquainttth us that this shall be particularly inquired into, and the Neglect of it severely punished at the great Day of Judgment. He layeth it down as a Rule, that whatsoever we would that Men should do itnto us we should do unto them likewise; and that we should love our Neighbour as ourselves; instructing u3 by our Neighbour to understand every Man that needeth our Assistance, and to whom we have an Opportunity of shewing Kindness, however differing in Nation or Religion from ourselves. But there is no Part of our Saviour's Doctrine, concerning the Duty we owe to others, more remarkable than that which relateth to our Temper and Conduct towards those that have offended us, and towards our Enemies. Never was Forgiveness of Injuries so strongly inculcated and inforced by such weighty Considerations. And not only doth he forbid the Bitterness of Revenge, and the Returning Evil for Evil, but he requireth us to return Good for Evil: Love your Enemies. (faith he) bless them that curse you, do Good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matt. y. 43, 44. And this certainly is carrying Benevolence to the noblest Heighthj of which he himself hath given us 1fr the most illustrious Example.
Nor are the Instructions he gives less excellent with Regard to the Duties that relate to ourselves, and the right Ordering and governing our own Affections, Appetites, and Passions. He urgeth his Disciples not to content themselves with a fair outward Appearance, but to aim at an inward Purity of Soul, and to make it their principal Care to get the Heart cleansed, which he represented as the Fountain from whence evil Thoughts and Actions flow. Whereas an inordinate Self-love is one of the chief Distempers of our Natures, and the Source of many Disorders, Self-denial is what he insisteth upon as an important Part of our Duty, and <hat we must endeavour to mortify our corrupt Appetites and Passions, though they, be dear to us as right Hands and right Eyes. Not only doth he forbid the outward gross Acts of Uncleanness, but the cherishing and indulging impure lustful Desires and Inclinations; and declareth, that whosoever lookftb on a Woman to lujl aster her, hath committed