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5. We should often contemplate the great examples of patience: "Be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises," Heb. vi. 12. "Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us—-run with patience the race that is set before us," chap. xii. 1. The observation of the great patterns of patience will convince iis, that it is a practicable thing, and that the best of men have often had the most trying exercises; and it will be of use both to direct and excite to the practice.
Let us especially look unto Jesus for this purpose. Think what trials of patience he met with; the most difficult work to be performed, wherein he often met with the contradictions of sinners; the severest sufferings to be undergone; and a time to wait till his work was finished ; for it is often observed in his history, that his time was not yet come. Let us observe, also, how he behaved in all these circumstances of trial; with the utmost regard to the will of God. This he came into the world to do; though that was the most amazing instance of humiliation, Heb. x. 7- When his last sufferings were at hand, while he expressed the desire of human nature, "Father, save me from this hour," he breathed also the calmest submission to his will, "Father, glorify thy name," John xii. 27, 28.; and in another evangelist, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt," Matt. xxvi. 39. His patience was as illustrious to his injurious enemies, praying to his Father on the cross to forgive them, Luke xxiii. 34.; and* "when he was reviled by them, he reviled not again." And though he could have no relish for this world, any farther than to do good in it, yet he was content to stay God's time for finishing his work, though he was straitened with desire till it was accomplished, Luke xii. 50. Here was a perfect pattern for us to follow in the way to perfection. i But the examples of others of the excellent of the earth in this grace, are not without their use. As the apostle refers us, Heb. xii. 1. to the most eminent saints in general of the. Old Testament, for an example of patience, as well as of faith; so we are directed in particular to "take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience," Jam. v. 10. Many of them, under the darker light of the Old Testament, as they met with ill treatment, and that for their fidelity to God, so were illustrious patterns of patience. The apostles were the like under the New Testament; they were "our brethren and companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," Rev. i. 9- You may see their case in that of St. Paul, 1 Cor. iv. 9.; they were "set forth, as it were appointed to death, made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men and ver. 11. they "hungered and thirsted, and were naked and buffeted, and had no certain dwellingplace." Such examples shew us, that God's highest favourites had very ill usage from the world, and great affliction in it; and their eminent behaviour is a noble pattern for imitation.
And it will be our wisdom particularly to turn our eye to those patterns, which are most directly suited to our circumstances from time to time. Job will furnish us with an example of patience in almost all the peculiarities that can attend afflictions of a common kind; and the noble army of martyrs and confessors will be of like use, if we are called to suffer persecution.
6. We should be earnest in prayer to God for this grace, Jam. i. 4, 5. "Let patience have her perfect work. If any of you lack wisdom (this wisdom of patience,) let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given unto him," Patience is justly called here wisdom, by way of eminence, because it is one of the hardest, and yet one of the most excellent lessons of Christianity. Now, the apostle puts the very case in the text, "If any man lack wisdom ;" and directs him to ask that very thing of God. He adds encouragements to such a prayer,. "He giveth to all men liberally," to all who uprightly ask it: and if he gives liberally, we shall have a plentiful stock to spend upon: "And upbraideth not," either with coming often to ask it, as the occasions for exercising it are frequent, or,even with past impatience, if men come with penitent hearts to beg a better frame. And as if this were not enough, he adds, "And it shall be given him to animate the assured hope of all sincere supplicants.
For a close, . 1. Let those who are destitute of the principle be sensible of their need, and solicitous that they may obtain it. We should consider patience as a frame, for which every day's occurrences give us some occasion,, and when there is such occasion,• patience is a very necessary duty, as necessary as it is to please God, to honour religion, to keep a good conscience, to run our Christian race well. We can no more inherit the promise without patience in a prevailing degree, than without an unfeigned jaith.
2. Let us be solicitous to have this necessary principle daily strengthened, to exercise it upon every proper occasion, and that it may " have its perfect work." The full work of patience is the highest perfection of a Christian on earth.
Be solicitous to exert its most excellent acts. Not only that we may be preserved by it from sinking and murmuring, and notorious misbehaviour; but that there may be the most complacential acquiescence in the will of God, that we may be in a frame for praise in the darkest day: "Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Study to have the actings of patience easy and ready to you, as there is occasion; to be able to say with Paul, Acts xxi. 13. "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Be careful that the exercises of it be lasting; that it be a fixed habit, and not only by starts; like Moses, who made the exercise of patience so constant a practice, that we find but one instance to the contrary through his whole story.
And let there be a general exercise of this holy frame upon every occasion, in all the proper instances of it, however it may be tried; in great as well as in less trials, and in small exercises as well as in great; for sometimes impatience breaks out in men upon trivial occasions, after they have been signal for patience in great and shocking calamities, and in unusual trials, as well as in those to which we have been accustomed. Let our Master find us in such a frame at his coming, whenever it shall be.
LOVING OUR NEIGHBOUR AS OURSELVES.
Mark Xxii. 39.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.
THESE words are part of an answer given by our Lord to a question, which was proposed to him by one of the Pharisees, with a captious intention, namely, "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" ver. 35, 36. Christ, in return, cites two passages of the Old Testament, which contain the sum of both tables of the moral law, or of our duty to God and man; plainly intimating thereby, the man's inquiry to be a matter of vain curiosity; and that these great branches of our duty rather require our observation, than that we should set them in competition. "The love of God," and the proper expressions of that, are indeed "the first and great commandment," ver. 37, 38. It is first in order of nature, and in the pre-eminence of the object to which it relates; and it is the foundation of our duty to our neighbour.
But lest the Pharisee should run away with this just commendation of the first table, and either represent Christ as making light of the second, or excuse himself by Christ's authority in neglecting the second, while he paid a seeming regard to the first; our blessed Lord not only adds the second, but an emphatical recommendation of it also: And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy
self. Like the first, not only as the observance of that, as well as of the former, may be summed up in love; but as it is prescribed by the same authority, and made by the great Lawgiver, as indispensably necessary as the other. - 2 I, therefore, choose this precept, as our Lord does, to be a summary of the temper due from us to other people ; and so to stand at the head of the particular graces and virtues which have them for their direct object. In the consideration of it, it will be proper to inquire,
I. Whom we are to understand by our neighbour. II. What is intended by the love of our neighbour. III. What is implied in the measure prescribed for this love ; to love him as ourselves. And, IV. As this gracious command stands in the Christian institution, I would consider the special obligations from Christianity to such a temper.
I. It is a needful inquiry, whom we are to understand by our neighbour.
In the passage from which our Lord seems to quote the precept, this phrase appears to mean only a man of the Jewish religion, Lev. xix. 18. “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The “children of thy people” in the former sentence, and “thy neighbour” in the latter, seem terms of the same import and extent, denoting those of the Jewish nation and religion. It is, indeed, commanded in the same chapter, ver. 34. “The stranger that dwelleth with you, shall be as one born among you ; and thou shalt love him as thyself.” But the Jews understood this only of such, who, though they were not born of the seed of Abraham, yet became proselytes of righteousness; that is, voluntarily submitted to their law, and so became full members of their church and community.
Many proofs might be given of the narrowness of the Jewish charity. It plainly appears in the prejudice which remained in Peter's mind, even after Christ's ascension, against any converse with a devout Gentile, as Cornelius was, till God by immediate revelation, cured him of his bigotry. He spoke the common sense of his nation, when he