« AnteriorContinuar »
And so, truly, when thou thyself art turned into mercy and goodness, others will behold the mercy and goodness of God shining forth in thee, and be induced to give God the glory. And that, upon a double account;
First. Whilst thou art beneficent and good to others, they cannot but gratefully acknowledge the mercy of God, in so sweetly disposing and inclining thy heart to those actions of love 'and kindness towards them.
And, indeed, this thou oughtest to propound to thyself as thy utmost end, in all the offices of charity and humanity that thou dost unto others, that God may have the praise and glory of all. And, therefore, if thou relievest the poor, or rescuest the oppressed, or remittest thy due to those whom a rigorous exacting of it would ruin, and dost it with an intent that thou thyself mayest be praised and extolled for it, and not God; this is so far from being charity, that it is sacrilege: for all mercy and compassion in us, is but the mercy of God communicating itself to others through us; as all light in the air, is but the 'light of the sun shining through it. And, therefore, all the good thou dost or canst do, thou dost it upon God's stock: and, certainly, if thou employest his stock, it is but reason'that he should have the interest; which if thou withholdest from him, and assumest to thyself, thou robbest God of his right; and, whilst thou art bountiful in communicating his goodness unto others, thou art likewise unjust in taking his praise and glory to thyself. It is a most commendable piety in those, who, when they have given alms to relieve the bodily necessities of the poor, have likewise given a better alms to their souls, in exhorting them not so much to thank them but God, who hath both enabled and inclined them to do it. And, indeed, though we are bound to acknowledge and respect those, who have been kind and munificent to us; yet we ought especially to bless and praise God, who hath inspired and moved them to those actions, and derived his universal and extended goodness through them unto us: this is the way to make their goodness glorify God's goodness, when we take notice how the mercy of God appears in their mercy to us: and therefore it is remarkable, when Jacob addresseth himself unto Esau, and had found favour in his sight, he teils him, Gen. xxxiii. 10. I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me: that is, in the courteous and reconciled countenance of his brother, he discerned the favour and gracious dealing of God with him. So should we say, when we partake of any benefit or goodness from men: " In such a one's goodness, I have seen the goodness of God: in.his bounty, I have seen the bounty of God." And thus, by assimilating ourselves unto God in this attribute, we shall give occasion to grateful and considerative persons frequently to make such reflections, which will highly conduce to his praise and glory.
Secondly. The shewing of mercy and doing of good unto others will glorify God, as it may cause them to reflect, that, if there be so much goodness in a creature, how infinitely more is there then in the Creator.
This is a rational and easy inference, which those, who are any way ingenuous, cannot fail to make when they behold that benevolence, and bounty, and readiness to help and assist others, which appears in you. And, therefore, saith our Saviour, Mat. v. 16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. We shall thus glorify him, by giving others a happy occasion to conclude, that, if there be so much mercy and goodness in the creature, then certainly there is infinitely more in God himself: if a river pours forth such abundance of waters to refresh the dry and parched earth, how boundless must the treasury of the great deep be, from whence, as Solomon tells us, they are all supplied! Now think with thyself, O Christian! what a vast sum and revenue of glory will come in to God, when, by thy beneficence and liberality, thou shalt give a worthy occasion of extolling his; and, though thou canst resemble it but in part, according to the stinted measures of thy finite nature and ability, yet shalt glorify it entirely, by causing others to adore the infinite riches of it in the divine nature.
Now, that our mercy and goodness may be like unto God's, it must have in it these Four qualifications.
[1st] It must be a General goodness, universally respecting all.
For God's is so. Ps. cxlv. 16. Thou openest thy hand, end sa~ tisfiest the desire of every living thing. He spreadeth his cherishing wings over all the creation; and, with his rich bounty, rejoiceth all the works of his hands. And, if thou wilt glorify him, thou must act proportionably within thy sphere; and do good unco all, according to the opportunities and abilities that God hath bestowed upon thee: thy mercy is not like God's, if thou sufferest any, who make their applications to thee, and whom thou canst relieve, to go away with the pressure of their wants and necessities upon them. And, as though this field were not large enough for the exercise of our mercy, and mankind were too few for us to do good unto, God hath required that we should shew mercy and goodness to the very beasts: Prov. xii. 10. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast. And, so far doth he esteem of this sweet and compassionate temper in us, that he rather chooseth to dispense with his own immediate service and worship, than to hinder us from any opportunities of doing good to any creature: still preferring mercy before sacrifice; and accounting the life of one beast saved, a more acceptable service, than the death of many beasts sacrificed.
[2dly] It must be a Free, Undeserved goodness, to be like unto God's.
For his is so. Yea, so undeserved, that he lays it forth upon those, who have deserved his wrath and vengeance: He maktth his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust: Mat. v. 45. And, if we would glorify God by our likeness to him in this attribute, our goodness must proceed by the same measures. Possibly, some have abused and affronted us; and now it is in our power to revenge ourselves upon them: but know, that the Divine Providence hath given thee an opportunity for revenge; yet the Divine Mercy requires that thou shouldst not only forgive the injury, but requite it with courtesies and kind offices: thou oughtest not to diminish the least part of that good, which thou canst do them; upon consideration of wrongs and contumelies, which thou hast received from them. This, indeed, is a high and transcendent pitch of goodness; yet this is but that, which our Saviour very instantly presseth upon his disciples, as the very mark and badge by which they may be known to be the children of God: Mat. v. from v. 44, to the end: I say unto you, Love your enemies: bless them, that curse you: do good to them, that hate you: and pray for them, that despitefully use you and persecute you: That yc may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven: and so, again, Luke vi. from v. 21 to 37. this important and difficult duty is most earnestly inculcated: If ye do good to them which
do good to you, what thank have ye? But, love ye your enemies;
and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again and ye shall
be, that is, ye shall appear and be known to be, the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unlhankful and to the evil.
[3dly] Our goodness, that it may be like unto God's, must be wholly disinterested.
We must not carry on any selfish designs by it; nor seem to do others good, but really intend only our own advantage: this is but to make a benefit a bait, which whilst others take, they are themselves taken. God's goodness is more generous; expecting no recompence to be made: for how can we be profitable to him? or what can we return him, that is not his own? And, although his favours towards us be many and great, yet he is pleased to reckon that we acquit ourselves of our obligations, if we return him but acknowledgment and praise. And, if we would glorify God, such must our goodness be. Our Saviour hath taught us to scorn that sordid way of laying snares for other men's courtesies, by ours to them: Luke xiv. 12^ 13.
When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy rich neigh~
lours; lest they also bid thee again, and so a recompence be made thee. Andj whosoever he be, that is good and bountiful to others upon such a mean design, he doth but barter and truck benefits, not bestow them.
[4thly] Our goodness must be Discreet, likewise; and, though it ought to be universal, it must be Discriminating too: for even God's is so.
He doth good unto all; yet not equally. Some there are, who pass only under the general influences of his common bounty; and, though he give a liberal allowance to these, yet be bestows the treasures of his grace and mercy and the inheritance of his glory on those, who are the excellent ones, and whom he hath made worthy : hence God is said to be the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe: 1 Tim. iv. 10. And, if we would glorify God, we must imitate him in this particular also. Though our goodness ought to be general; and, so far as we are able, we should tread where God hath passed on before us: yet we ought, likewise, to put a difference, as he hath done; and to make a deeper impression of our charity and goodness upon some, than upon others. Hence the Apostle exhorts us, Gal. vi. ip. As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. All, that are in want, challenge relief from thee, according to thine ability: but, seest thoii any, that are poor in outward respects, but yet rich in faith? thou art obliged, under a double bond, to supply and provide for them; both as they are partakers of
Vol. Uk x
the same common human nature, and much more as they are" partakers of the divine and heavenly nature. And fear not, lest such an enlarged bounty and goodness, as I have described to you, should inevitably ruin and beggar you; for Christian prudence must here dictate to you the measures which your ability can extend unto: the only danger is, lest you should take them too short. Nor is it to imitate God, if, by some few profuse acts of charity, (for there may be lavishness even in this) I say, it is not to imitate God, if, by some few acts of charity, you render yourselves incapable of doing more: for God is good unto us; yet so, as he still keeps the stock in his own hands, and doth not exhaust himself to replenish us: but sit down, and impartially consider what is necessary for thyself and thine, in the rank and station in which the providence of God hath set thee; and, whatsoever abounds, thou oughtest not to look upon as thine, but as God's and the poor's: thou only art a trustee for their use; and, if thou withholdest it from them, thou art no better than a thief and a robber, and stealest even that which the law of man calls thine. Indeed, it were very strange, if the most of us could not cut off some superfluous and unnecessary expences, and lay them up into a treasury for good works: we see how sparing and thrifty some men's covetousness is; who will pare away the very edges of decency and fitness, only that they may amass their sordid sums together, when all the use they can make of their wealth is but to look upon it: and why should not piety and charity teach us as much thrift, as vice and covetousness? but only that men are grossly foolish in this particular; looking upon whatsoever is laid out this way, as lost, and no longer theirs; whereas, indeed, had they but faith, and half that religion which they may pretend unto, they would know, that, that only is lost which is unduly kept, and that safest laid up which is well laid out. And, if thou canst but purchase the glory of God, though by the greatest expence, either by relieving or encouraging his servants, know it is the most gainful, bargain that ever thou madest: and faith will tell thee, that thou hast but remitted thy wealth to heaven, where it shall be punctually paid thee with abundant interest; and, in the meanwhile, God hath given thee as many bonds, as he hath made promises, to secure thee.
This, therefore, is the First way of glorifying God's mercy and- Goodness, by our resemblance to it; cherishing in ourselves agenerous,free, disinterested, and discreet goodness towards others*