« AnteriorContinuar »
The ineqnality of the match between such habitual good-will and prevailing propensity an one and the subtilest of us, would quickly of mind to his friend, that he had before. And appear by a fatal circumvention : there must whose friendship soever is of that strength be a wisdom from above, to overreach and and duration as to stand its ground against, master this hellish wisdom from beneath. and remain unshaken by, such assaults, And this every sanctified person is sure of in (which yet are strong enough to shake down his great friend, “in whom all the treasures and aunihilate the friendship of little puny of wisdom dwell ;" treasures that flow out, minds,) such an one, I say, has reached all and are imparted freely, both in direction and the true measures of constancy : his friendship assistance, to all that belong to him. He is of a noble make and a lasting consistency; never leaves any of hıs, perplexed, amazed, or it resembles marble, and deserves to be wrote bewildered, where the welfare of their souls requires a better judgment than their own, But how few tempers in the world are of either to guide them in their duty, or to dis that magnanimous frame, as to reach the entangle them from a temptation. Whoso heights of so great a virtue : many offer at the ever has Christ for his friend, shall be sure of effects of friendship, but they do not last ; counsel; and whosoever is his own friend, they are promising in the beginning, but they will be sure to obey it.
fail, and jade, and tire in the prosecution. 6. The last and crowning privilege, or For most people in the world are acted by rather property of friendship, is constancy. levity and humour, by strange and irrational He only is a friend, whose friendship lives as changes. And how often may we meet with long as himself, and who ceases to love and those who are one while courteous, civil, and to breathe at the same instant. Not that I obliging, (at least to their proportion,) but yet state constancy in such an absurd, sense within a small time after are so supercilious, less, and irrational continuance in friendship, sharp, troublesome, fierce, and exceptious, as no injuries or provocations whatsoever can that they are not only short of the true break off. For there are some injuries that character of friendship, but become the very extinguish the very relation between friends. sores and burdens of society !
Such low, such In which case, a man ceases to be a friend, worthless dispositions, how easily are they not from any inconstancy in his friendship, discovered, how justly are they despised! but from defect of an object for his friendship But now, that we may pass from one contrary to exert itself upon. It is one thing for a to another, “ Christ, who is the same yesterfather to cease to be a father by casting off his
father by casting off his day, to-day, and for ever” in his being, is so son; and another for him to cease to be so by also in his affection. He is not of the numthe death of his son. In this, the relation is ber or nature of those pitiful, mean pretenders at an end for want of a correlate : so in friend to friendship, who perhaps will love and ship there are some passages of that high and smile upon you one day, and not so much as hostile nature, that they really and properly know you the next : many of which sort constitute and denominate the person guilty there are in the world, who are not so much of them an enemy; and if so, how can the courted outwardly, but that inwardly they other person possibly continue a friend, since are detested much more. friendship essentially requires that it be be Friendship is a kind of covenant; and most tween two at least; and there can be no covenants run upon mutual terms and condifriendship, where there are not two friends ? tions. And therefore, so long as we are exact
Nobody is bound to look upon his back in fulfilling the condition on our parts, (I biter or his underminer, his betrayer or his mean, exact according to the measures of oppressor, as his friend. Nor, indeed, is it sincerity, though not of perfection,) we may possible that he should do so, unless he could be sure that Christ will not fail in the least alter the constitution and order of things, and iota to fulfil every thing on his. The favour establish a new nature and a new morality of relations, patrons, and princes, is uncerin the world. For to remain insensible of tain, ticklish, and variable; and the friendship such provocations, is not constancy, but which they take up, upon the accounts of apathy. And therefore they discharge the judgment and merit, they most times lay person so treated from the proper obligations down out of humour. But the friendship of of a friend, though Christianity, I confess, Christ has none of these weaknesses, no such binds him to the duties of a neighbour. hollowness or unsoundness in it.
But to give you the true nature and mea neither principalities nor powers, things presures of constancy; it is such a stability and sent, nor things to come," no, nor all the rage firmness of friendship, as overlooks and passes and malice of hell, shall be able to pluck the by all those lesser failures of kindness and meanest of Christ's friends out of his bosom ; respect, that, partly through passion, partly for," whom he loves, he loves to the end.". through indiscretion, and such other frailties Now, from the particulars hitherto disincident to human nature, a man may be some coursed of, we may infer and learn these two times guilty of, and yet still retain the same things :- 1. The excellency and value of
friendship. Christ, the Son of the most high them, but it is not at all moved by any of God, the second person in the glorious Trinity, them. took upon him our nature, that he might give People at first, while they are young, and a great instance and example of this virtue; raw, and soft-natured, are apt to think it an and condescended to be a man, only that he easy thing to gain love, and reckon their own might be a friend. Our Creator, our Lord and friendship a sure price of another man's. King, he was before ; but he would needs But when experience shall have once opened come down from all this, and in a sort become their eyes, and shewed them the hardness of our equal, that he might partake of that noble most hearts, the hollowness of others, and the quality that is properly between equals. baseness and ingratitude of almost all, they Christ took not upon him flesh and blood, will then find that a friend is the gift of God; that he might conquer and rule nations, lead and that he only, who made hearts, can unite armies, or possess palaces; but that he might them. For it is he who creates those symhave the relenting, the tenderness, and the pathies and suitablenesses of nature, that are compassions of human nature, which render the foundation of all true friendship, and it properly capable of friendship; and, in a then by his providence brings persons so word, that he might have our heart, and we affected together. have his. God himself sets friendship above It is an expression frequent in Scripture, all considerations of kindred or consanguinity, but infinitely more significant than at first it as the greatest ground and argument of is usually observed to be ; namely, that God mutual endearment, (Deut. xv. 6,)“ If thy gave such or such a person grace or favour brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or in another's eyes. As, for instance, (Gen. thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or xxxix. 21,) it is said of Joseph, that“ the Lord thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice was with him, and gave him favour in the thee to go and serve other gods, thou shalt not sight of the keeper of the prison.” Still it is consent unto him.” The emphasis of the an invisible hand from heaven that ties this expression is very remarkable; it being a knot, and mingles hearts and souls, by strange, gradation or ascent, by several degrees of secret, and unaccountable conjunctions. dearness, to that which is the highest of all. That heart shall surrender itself and its Neither wife nor brother, son nor daughter, friendship to one man, at first view, which though the nearest in cognation, are allowed another has in vain been laying siege to for to stand in competition with a friend ; who, many years, by all the repeated acts of kindif he fully answers the duties of that great ness imaginable. relation, is indeed better and more valuable Nay, so far is friendship from being of any than all of them put together, and may serve human production, that, unless nature be instead of them ; so that he who has a firm, a predisposed to it by its own propensity or worthy, and sincere friend, may want all the inclination, no arts of obligation shall be able rest without missing them. That which lies to abate the secret hatreds and hostilities of in a man's bosom should be dear to him, but some persons towards others. No friendly that which lies within his heart ought to be offices, no addresses, no benefits whatsoever, much dearer.
shall ever alter or allay that diabolical rancour 2. In the next place, we learn from hence that frets and ferments in some hellish the high advantage of becoming truly pious breasts, but that upon all occasions it will and religious. When we have said and done foam out at its foul mouth in slander and all, it is only the true Christian and the invective, and sometimes bite too in a shrewd religious person, who is or can be sure of a turn or a secret blow. This is true and undefriend, sure of obtaining, sure of keeping niable upon frequent experience; and happy him. But as for the friendship of the world ;
those who can learn it at the cost of other when a man shall have done all that he can men's. to make one his friend, employed the utmost But now, on the contrary, he who will give of his wit and labour, beaten his brains, and up his name to Christ in faith unfeigned, and emptied his purse, to create an endearment a sincere obedience to all his righteous laws, between him and the person whose friendship shall be sure to find love for love, and friendhe desires, he may, in the end, upon all these ship for friendship. The success is certain endeavours and attempts, be forced to write and infallible; and none ever yet miscarried vanity and frustration : for, by them all, he in the attempt. For Christ freely offers his may at last be no more able to get into the friendship to all, and sets no other rate upon other's heart, than he is to thrust his hand so vast a purchase, but only that we would into a pillar of brass ; the man's affection, suffer him to be our friend. Thou perhaps amidst all these kindnesses done him, remain spendest thy precious time in waiting upon ing wholly unconcerned and impregnable, such a great one, and thy estate in presenting just like a rock, which, being plied con him, and probably, after all, hast no other tinually by the waves, still throws them back reward, but sometimes to be smiled upon, again into the bosom of the sea that sent and always to be smiled at; and when thy
greatest and most pressing occasions shall call 1st, That whosoever appears in the house for succour and relief
, then to be deserted and of God, and particularly in the way of prayer, cast off, and not known.
ought to reckon himself, in a more especial Now, I say, turn the stream of thy endea- | manner, placed in the sight and presence of vours another way, and bestow but half that God. hearty, sedulous attendance upon thy Saviour 2dly, That the vast and infinite distance in the duties of prayer and mortification, and between God and him, ought to create in him be at half that expense in charitable works, all imaginable awe and reverence in such his by relieving Christ in his poor members ; addresses to God. and, in a word, study as much to please him 3dly and lastly, That this reverence required who died for thee, as thou dost to court and of him, is to consist in a serious preparation humour thy great patron, who cares not for of his thoughts, and a sober government of thee, and thou shalt make him thy friend for his expressions : neither is “his mouth to be ever; a friend who shall own thee in thy rash, nor his heart to be hasty, in uttering lowest condition, speak comfort to thee in all any thing before God.” thy sorrows, counsel thee in all thy doubts, These things are evidently contained in the answer all thy wants, and, in a word, “ never words, and do as evidently contain the wholo leave thee, nor forsake thée.” But when all sense of them. But I shall gather them all the hopes that thou hast raised upon the pro- into this one proposition ; namely, mises or supposed kindnesses of the fastidious That premeditation of thought, and brevity and fallacious great ones of the world, shall of expression, are the great ingredients of fail, and upbraid thee to thy face, he shall that reverence that is required to a pious, then take thee into his bosom, embrace, acceptable, and devout prayer. cherish, and support thee, and, as the Psalmist For the better handling of which, we will, expresses it, “he shall guide thee with his in the first place, consider how, and by what counsel here, and afterwards receive thee into way it is, that prayer works upon, or prevails glory.”
with, God, for the obtaining of the things we To which God of his mercy vouchsafe to pray for. Concerning which, I shall lay down bring us all; to whom be rendered and this general rule, That the way by which ascribed, &c. Amen.
prayer prevails with God, is wholly different from that by which it prevails with men. And to give you this more particularly:
1. First of all, it prevails not with God by way of information or notification of the thing
to him which we desire of him. With men, SERMON X V.
indeed, this is the common, and with wise men
the chief, and should be the only way of obtain. AGAINST LONG EXTEMPORE PRAYERS.
ing what we ask of them. We represent and lay before them our wants and indigences, and the misery of our condition. Which
being made known to them, the quality and “ Bo not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be
condition of the thing asked for, and of the hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, persons who ask it, induces them to give that and thou upon earth : therefore let thy words be few." — to us, and to do that for us, which we desire ECCLESIASTES, V. 2.
and petition for ; but it is not so in our
addresses to God, for he knows our wants and We have here the wisest of men instructing our conditions better than we ourselves ; he us how to behave ourselves before God in his is beforehand with all our prayers, (Matt. own house; and particularly when we address vi. 8,) “ Your Father knoweth what things to him in the most important of all duties, ye have need of before ye ask him ;” and which is prayer. Solomon had the honour to (Psal. cxxxix. 2,) “ Thou understandest my be spoken to by God himself, and therefore, thought afar off.” God knows our thoughts in all likelihood, none more fit to teach us before the very heart that conceives them. how to speak to God. A great privilege cer And how, then, cau he, who is but of yestertainly for dust and ashes to be admitted to; day, suggest any thing new to that eternal and therefore it will concern us to manage it mind! how can ignorance inform omniso, that in these our approaches to the King science ! of heaven, his goodness may not cause us to 2dly, Neither does prayer prevail with God forget his greatness, nor (as it is but too by way of persuasion, or working upon the usual for subjects to use privilege against affections, so as thereby to move him to pity prerogative) lis honour suffer by his con or compassion. This, indeed, is the most descension.
usual and most effectual way to prevail with In the words we have these three things men ; who, for the generality, are, one part observable,
reason, and nine parts affection. Su that one
of a voluble tongue, and a dexterous insinua. which God has freely promised to convey his tion, may do what he will with vulgar minds, blessings to men. God of his own absolute, and with wise men too, at their weak times. unaccountable good-will and pleasure, has But God, who is as void of passion or affec- thought fit to appoint and fix upon this as the tion, as he is of quantity or corporeity, is not means by which he will supply and answer to be dealt with this way. He values not our the wants of mankind. As for instance; rhetoric, nor our pathetical harangues. He suppose a prince should declare to any one of who applies to God, applies to an infinite his subjects, that if he shall appear before him almighty reason, a pure act, all intellect, the every morning in his bed-chamber, he shall first mover, and therefore not to be moved or receive of him a thousand talents. We must wrought upon himself. In all passion, the not here imagine, that the subject, by making mind suffers, (as the very signification of the this appearance, does either move or persuade word imports,) but absolute, entire perfection his prince to give him such a sum of money ; cannot suffer; it is and must be immovable, no, le only performs the condition of the and by consequence impassible. And there promise, and thereby acquires a right to the fore,
thing promised. He does, indeed, hereby In the third and last place, much less is engage his prince to give him this sum, though God to be prevailed upon by importunity, he does by no means persuade him; or rather, and, as it were, wearying him into a conces to speak more strictly and properly, the sion of what we beg of him. Though with prince's own justice and veracity is an engagemen we know this also is not unusual. A ment upon the prince himself, to make good notable instance of which we have in Luke, his promise to him who fulfils the conditions xviii. 4, 5, where the unjust judge being with of it. a restless vehemence sued to for justice, says But you will say, that upon this ground it thus within himself, “Though I fear not will follow, that when we obtain any thing God, nor regard man, yet because this widow of God by prayer, we have it upon claim of troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her justice, and not by way of gift, as a free result continual coming she weary me.'
of his bounty. In like manner, how often are beggars re I answer, that both these are very well lieved only for their eager and rude importu consistent ; for though he who makes a pronity; not that the person who relieves them mise upon a certain condition, is bound in is thereby informed or satisfied of their real justice upon the fulfilling of that condition to want, nor yet moved to pity them by all their perform his promise ; yet it was perfectly cry and cant, but to rid himself from their grace and goodness, bounty and free mercy, vexatious noise and din ; so that to purchase that first induced him to make the promise, his quiet by a little alms he gratifies the beg and particularly to state the tenor of it upon gar, but indeed relieves himself. But now such a condition. “If we confess our sins," this way is farther from prevailing with God says the apostle, (1 John, i. 9,) "God is faiththan either of the former. For as omuiscience ful and just to forgive us our sins.” Can any is not to be informed, so neither is omnipo thing be freer and more the effect of mere tence to be wearied. We may much more grace, than the forgiveness of sins ? And yet easily think to clamour the sun and stars out it is certain from this Scripture and many of their courses, than to word the great Creator more, that it is firmly promised us upon conof them out of the steady purposes of his own dition of a penitent hearty confession of them, will, by all the vehemence and loudness of and consequently as certain it is, that God our petitions. Men may tire themselves with stands obliged here even by his faithfulness their own prayers, but God is not to be tired. and justice, to make good this his promise of The rapid motion and whirl of things here forgiveness to those who come up to the terms below, interrupts not the inviolable rest and of it by such a confession. calmness of the nobler beings above. While In like manner, for prayer, in reference to the winds roar and bluster here in the first the good things prayed for. He who prays and second regions of the air, there is a per for a thing as God has appointed him, gets fect serenity in the third. Men's desires can thereby a right to the thing prayed for; but not control God's decrees.
it is a right, not springing from any merit And thus I have shewn, that the three or condiguity, either in the prayer itself, or ways by which men prevail with inen in their the person who makes it, to the blessing prayers and applications to them, have no which he prays for, but from God's veracity, place at all in giving any efficacy to their truth, and justice, who, having appointed addresses to God.
prayer as the condition of that blessing, canBut you will ask then, Upon what account not but stand to what he himself had apis it that prayer becomes prevalent and effica pointed, though that he did appoint it, was cious with God, so as to procure us the good the free result and determination of his owu things we pray for ? I answer, Upon this, will. that it is the fulfilling of that condition upon We have a full account of this whole mat
ter from God's own mouth, (Psalm 1.) “ Call acknowledges it in the power and pleasure
proceeding in this matter, even by the meaLet this therefore be fixed upon, as the sures of our own reason, what could be more ground-work of what we are to say upon this rationally thought of for the properest instru subject, That prayer prevails with God for the ment to bring down God's blessings upon the blessing that we pray for, neither by way of world, than such a temper of mind, as makes information, nor yet of persuasion, and much a man disown all ability in himself to supply less by the importunity of him who prays, his own wants, and at the same time own a and least of all by any worth in the prayer transcendent fulness and sufficiency in God to itself, equal to the thing prayed for ; but it do it for him? And what can be more agreeprevails solely and entirely
upon this account, able to all principles both of reasou and relithat it is freely appointed by God, as the gion, than that a creature endued with understated, allowed condition, upon which he will standing and will, should acknowledge that dispense his blessings to mankind.
dependence upon his Maker, by a free act of But before I dismiss this consideration, it choice, which other creatures have upou him, may be inquired, whence it is that prayer, only by necessity of nature ? rather than any other thing, comes to be But still, there is one objection more against appointed by God for this condition. In an our foregoing assertion, namely, That prayer swer to which ; Though God's sovereign will obtains the things prayed for, only as a conbe a sufficient reason of its own counsels and dition, and not by way of importunity or determinations, and consequently a more than persuasion; for is not prayer said to prevail sufficient answer to all our inquiries ; yet, by frequency, (Luke, xviii. 7,) and by fersince God in his infinite wisdom still adapts vency, or earnestness, (James, v. 16,) and is means to ends, and never appoints a thing to not this a fair proof that God is importuned any use, but what it has a particular and a and persuaded into a grant of our petitions ? natural fitness for, I shall therefore presume To this I answer two things, - 1. That to assign a reason why prayer, before all wheresoever God is said to answer prayers, other things, should be appointed to this either for their frequency or fervency, it is noble use, of being the condition and glorious spoken of him only dvQqWTOTedūs, according conduit, whereby to derive the bounties of to the manner of men'; and consequently, hcaven upon the sons of men ; and it is this; ought to be understood only of the effect or because prayer, of all other acts of a rational issue of such prayers, in the success certainly nature, does most peculiarly qualify a man to attending them, and not of the manner of be a fit object of the divine favour, by being their efficiency, that it is by persuading or most eminently and properly an act of depen- working upon the passions : as if we should dence upon God; since to pray, or beg a thing say, frequent, fervent, and importunate of another, in the very nature and notion of prayers, are as certainly followed with God's it, imports these two things,-1. That the grant of the thing prayed for, as men use to person praying stands in need of some good, grant that, which, being overcome by exceswhich he is not able by any power of his sive importunity and persuasion, they cannot own to procure for himself; and, 2. That he find in their hearts to deny. 2. I answer