« AnteriorContinuar »
loves the conversation of those who commend him to his face, may assure himself he is proud; for when pride cannot be seen itself, it may be discovered by its effects.
Those, who have feeling enough to perceive themselves addicted to this diabolical passion, in order to extinguish it, would do well to ask themselves, Whether they are. willing to be abased by God, for exalting themselves before men? Whether there is any thing substantial, and really beneficial, in the breath of applause? Whether it is not more difficult to earn the praises of men, than the favour of God? Whether, if they had gained the favourable report of all that know them, they could reasonably hope for the continuance of such a character among persons so fickle, and apt to change. Such persons as are at present basking in the sunshine of applause, would do well to consider the words of our Saviour: 'Woe be to you when all men speak well of you;' on which St. Chrysostom puts this excellent question: • If, in order to know the goodness of any piece of work, you would choose to advise with a workman skilled in that kind of manufacture; why would you make the multitude judges of your virtue, rather than God? God, who is the author of virtue, knows what it is, and will reward it with eternal glory. But the multitude, who are corrupt and vicious themselves, can neither be sufficient judges nor rewarders of it. For after having slighted the approbation of God, to court the applauses of the crowd, you lose your reward with God; and the crowd that now applauds you, shall soon forget or bespatter you.' This woe, denounced in the text, and thus explained, is in itself a sufficient caution against vain glory.
But farther: A Christian should consider, that, unless * the mind be in him that was in Christ Jesus,' he cannot be united to Christ; for whoever is, must be governed by the mind of Christ. Now Christ, who, being equal to God, took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient to death, even to the death of the cross,' was a pattern of infinite humility. From an "head so meek and lowly, every member swollen with pride must expect to be for ever cut off.
Again : Let the Christian consider, that, unless he wean himself of his pride, he can never expect to be admitted
into the kingdom of heaven, from whence the devil was thrown for that very rebellious passion. He who is admitted into heaven, sees numerous orders and hosts of blessed beings placed above him, and standing nearer the throne of glory than himself. Now were the proud man, who can suffer no one above him, advanced to that happy kingdom, this preference would fill him with such envy and discontent, as could not fail, in respect to him, of turning heaven itself into hell.
But again : Let the proud man, for once, consider what it is he values himself upon, and how very insignificant or minute that real or imaginary advantage is, for which he prefers himself to other men. Perhaps he is, by one small degree, more wealthy, more powerful, or more knowing, than this or that neighbour ; and therefore, while he looks downward, is tempted to regard himself as somewhat considerable. But he ought to look upward, that he may learn humility, by comparing himself with those who stand far above him in any of those respects. And, even supposing he can see none above him, and that he is invested with a very extended and absolute power, with imperial wealth, and with the knowledge of a Newton; does he not shrink to almost nothing, when compared with a superior Being ? Does he not dwindle, on this comparison, to a beggar, or an idiot ? And hath not such a being reason to look on the pride arising from the trifling difference between this man and his inferiors, just as a giant looks on the pride of one dwarf that overtops another by the advantage of an inch in stature, which he gains perhaps by a bit of leather, or a piece of cork, placed under his heel? Does not his pride stoop very low, who suffers himself to be lifted up by a preference so ridiculously insignificant? The pride of man, viewed in this light, betrays, indeed, somewhat extremely abject and contemptible.
Lastly: Let the proud man, if he can, look impartially into himself, and there he will find enough to humble him. It is impossible for that man to be vain-glorious, who knows himself. For what is man, whose breath is in his nostrils, whose life is a thin vapour, whose days are swifter than a post, and full of evil;' whose strength is weakness, and his wisdom ignorance and folly? And what hath man that he
did not receive, and must not account for to the owner?. All he possesses is borrowed, and must be restored; nay, he does not even belong to himself. Let him give back to God his natural talents, his beauty, his strength, his riches, his worldly pomp and power; let him restore to men the little knowledge he received by instruction; let him render to the beasts his cloathing, to the worms his finery, to the earth and the dunghill his delicacies, to the rocks his shining stones; and what is left? An ignorant and vicious mind, a naked and starving body, a wretch, precarious, dependant, infirm, and helpless; whom any beast, nay, the smallest insect, or a blast of wind, can destroy; who feeds on dirt, and subsists on a momentary supply of air. Shall we call him ashes, or dust, or smoke, or dirt ? This, as St. Chrysostom observes, will only represent his vileness and infirmity ; but, to paint that, and his swelling vanity too, let us say he is a bubble, puffed up with the wind of other bubbles, which with difficulty he contains for a while in a frail bladder of water; and, being tossed to and fro on the tide of life, soon vanishes, and is seen no more.
Come down, vain man, from the throne which thy vanity and thy flatterers have erected for thee in thy own imagination, and behold thyself springing from the dust, and borrowing all thou art so highly vain of from the same original. Behold thy heart polluted and enslaved by mean appetites, and brutal passions; and thy boasted reason imposed on by slight appearances, hoodwinked with childish ignorance, and misled by shameful errors. Behold thy body subject to accidents, afflicted with sickness, and destroyed by death, which stands at thy side, waiting for the signal to strike thee down. But, above all, remember thy sins, thy many open and secret sins, and behold thyself led by them, like a slave, far from thy known happiness, through a course of life condemned by thy own reason and conscience to endless disgrace and misery. Behold this picture of thyself; consider it attentively; and then tell us, canst thou be proud ? No, surely; it is impossible: And therefore,
* Not unto man, O Lord, not unto man, but unto thy holy and glorious name,' be ascribed all honour, and dignity, and majesty, for ever. Amen.
THE DIGNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
Preached at a Visitation in 1751.
ST. MARK X. 43, 44.
Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your
minister ; And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. Few subjects beter deserve the attention of a true believer (and to such only I speak in this Discourse) than the dignity of the Christian ministry. It is true, it concerns us above all things to think attentively, in order that we may think rightly, on the fundamental principles of our religion. But, as those principles are conveyed to us through the clergy, we see they generally partake of that esteem or contempt, wherewith the clergy are regarded.
Hence it comes to pass, that the opinions people entertain of their teachers do very materially assist, or obstruct, their own edification; unhappily for the most part obstruct it, sometimes by sweetening the errors of a favourite teacher; but infinitely oftener by imbittering the truth in the ears of such as are forced to hear it from persons they do not like.
It were to be wished, indeed, that all men could think of our religion, as it is in itself, invariably wise, holy, and awful; without attending, so much as they do, to the good or ill qualities of its preachers, which have little more connexion with its truth or falsity, than the good or ill qualities of other Christians. But that the case is otherwise, in fact, daily experience may convince us. It will by no means content the world, that we appear to be properly commissioned, unless they have reason also to think us duly qualified. Whatsoever degree of respect, or disrespect, they may entertain for our pretensions to Scriptural institution, if they hold our understandings and morals in esteem, they will listen to us; if in contempt, they will turn a deaf ear to all we can say; for they know, as well as we do, that the bulk
of what we say to them, being the produce of our own minds, may, according to the degree of our honesty, and of our ability in the Scriptures, be more or less agreeable to the mind of God. If therefore the Clergy are respected, they will be heard, not otherwise.
Now, pursuant to what hath been premised, the respect paid to them, so far as piety is permitted to interfere in the matter, will be in proportion to the character they appear to be invested with in the holy Scripture; and so far as their hearers are governed by observation, or experience, according to the character they give themselves by the moral part of their behaviour, and by the discharge of that sacred office they assume.
And first, as to the ministerial character setforth in holy Scripture, it is expressed in terms, that intimate, as you may observe, an equal degree of humility and dignity,
Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister, and whosoever will be chiefest, shall be servant of all.' Here is plainly signified a certain dignity and pre-eminence of some, who are to be greater than others, and chief among their bretheren; and yet, at the same time, with this dignity is joined a proportionable humility, on which the very dignity is founded; for, in order to his future exaltation, the messenger of Christ must humble himself here; must of himself take the lowest seat, before his Master will promote him to one that is higher; must make himself little and inconsiderable in one respect, in order to be great and chief in another; that is, the higher he is advanced in spiritual, the more regardless he ought to be of mere, worldly pre-eminence; for the same reason, perhaps, that a king thinks that precedency not worth his claiming, which the lowest of mankind yields to him, who is but one degree above him, Indeed he who hath ever tasted that internal grandeur, which springs from the consciousness of real worth, of religious honours, will have little relish for outward
and parade; his soul will soar above it, to the dignity of Christian humility. Thus we see, in these words of our Saviour, that we must all be servants one to another; and that, in order to gratify the highest ambition we are permitted to entertain.
If all the passages of Scripture, relating to the dignity of our function, are fairly weighed and compared together,