« AnteriorContinuar »
dares, that the Creatures also shall be deliver d from the Bondage of Corruption into the glorious Liberty of the Children of God. At present he tells us, that the whole Creation groans under the Weight and Burden of Man's Transgression, and travails in Pain to be deliver'd of if, of which they may nave some secret Hopes or natural Impulses towards it, which is that earnest Expectation of the Creature, that puts them upon waiting for the Manifestation of the Sons of God. And, not only they (faith the Apostle) but we who have the First-fruits of the Spirit, and the Foretastes of a future Happiness, earnestly long for the Completion of it, by the Regeneration of our Soul, and the Redemption of our Body. So that the Force and Sum of the Apostle's Reasoning herein seems to be this: If all inferior Creatures, who secretly feel and groan under the Miseries that Sin hath brought upon them, naturally long for a Deliverance from them; of which, by an invisible Instinct, they have some Hope and Expectation •, How much more may we, who have higher Faculties, and fuller Discoveries made to us of these Evils, groan within our selves, and long for a Redemption from them? especially considering that unspeakable Bliss and Glory they will e'er long be attended withal; which is so great, that we may justly reckon the Sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compar'd with the Glory that shall be reveal'd in us.
This is briefly the Sense of the Epistle for this Day j which may teach us sundry Lessons: As,
1st, From the Apostle's reckoning upon Sufferings here in this Life, let us learn to do so too j for 'tis certain they will come in one kind or other, either in Body, Goods or Name, and 'tis better to expect and provide against them, than to have them seize us unawares. Let none dream only of happy and halcyon Days, or fay with David, that his Mountain is made so strong, that it cannot be moved; for 'tis but for God to hide his Face, and by and by we are troubled. And God will hide his Face, or frown upon such secure and bold Sinners, to shew them their Error, and to punish their Presumption. We were better then to count upon and look for Afflictions, which are as necessary as Phylick for the Health and Welfare of our Souls, and serve as Goads to mind and prick us forward in our Duty. Let us, with the Mariners at Sea, prepare for a Storm in the
midst of a Calm, and then we shall weather it the better, and come the sooner into a fafe Harbour. ,
zdly, From the Apostle's reckoning upon a future Glory to be reveal'd in us to crown and reward our Sufferings, let us learn to do the fame, and that will enable us to bear them with the greater Courage and Patience, and make us rather rejoice than repine at Tribulations. Indeed, if Matters be well weigh'd, Afflictions are no such heavy and dreadful things as we vainly imagine• , for tho they may carry a stern Aspect to Flesh and Blood, yet if we look to the end of them, and consider that eternal Weight of Glory they work out for us, all the Terror of them will vanish, and we shall fee greater cause to own the Kindness, than complain of the Hardship of such Sufferings. Let none then despise the Chastening os the Lord. or saint when he is rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourges every Son whom he receiveth.
Let us not increase our Burden by Impatience, nor entangle our selves, like a Bird in the Snare, with too much fluttering ^ but rather commit our selves unto God in Welldoing, and patiently rely upon his Providence, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the Temptation make a way to escape.
idly, From the vast Disproportion between the Sufferings of this present time, and the Glory that shall be reveal'd in us, we may learn to live above this World, and by the Eye of Faith to look thro the Troubles of this Life, to the Happiness of the next; between which, our Text tells us, there is no Comparison. If the Cross be plac'd in the Highway to a Crown,'twill be greater Wisdom to take it up, and bear it awhile, than seek to decline it by Ways that lead to greater and everlasting Sufferings.
qthly. From the Creatures being made subject to Vanity," and the whole Creation's groaning under the Weight of Man's first Transgression, we learn the Heinousness and Malignity of Sin, which thus crack'd the Heart-strings of Nature, and brought these Pangs of Sorrow upon the whole Creation which should teach us to abhor and abandon it, as the Occasion of all the Evil and Mischief that is in the World: it hath brought Disorder and Distress upon all the Creatures, and without Repentance it will yet bring greater upon us• , and that which funk Nature into such Confusion, will, if not amended, sink our Souls into Hell.
Lastly, From the earnest Expectation of the Creature to> fee deliver'd from the Bondage of Corruption, let us learn to long much more for the Adoption of Sons, and to be instated into the glorious Liberty of the Children of God. In a word, let the present Sufferings of this Life take off our Hearts from all things here below, and set us a waiting and preparing for that incomparable and transcendent Glory, that shall be reveal'd in us hereafter: To which God of his infinite Mercy bring us all, thro the Merits of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Luke vi. j6 43.
J$e ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is mersiful: judg not, and ye shall not be judged; con* demn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven, &C.
THIS Gospel for the Day is taken out of our Blessed Saviour's Divine Sermon on the Mount, as 'tis deliver'd by St. Matthew and St. Luke. The Part or Portion of it selected for this Day's Meditation, contains the great Duty or Vertue of Mercifulness, which is here recommended to us in all its Branches: it begins thus; Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. The word there' fore shews it to be an Inference from the foregoing Verse; wherein our Saviour bids us to love our Enemies, to do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your Reward shall be great; and ye shall he the Children of the Highest, for he is kind to the Unthankful, and to the Evil: And from thence infers, Be ye therefore merciful, &c. Where we have a Precept and a Pattern; the Precept is to be merciful, the Pattern is, as your Father also is merciful. St. Matthew expresses it by being perfeil as your heavenly Father is perfect, Mat. 5. 48. to
signify that Mercifulness is the Perfection of all Vertues, call'd therefore by the Apostle, The Bond of Perfettness •, and likewise that 'tis the highest Perfection of a good Christian, making the Man of God perfect, and thorovoly furnifoed to
both in giving and forgiving•, the former relates to the Wants and Necessities, the latter to the Trespasses and Failings of one another; giving to the one, and forgiving of the other: both which are to be briefly consider'd.
The First Branch of Mercifulness consists in giving, and that relates to the Wants and Neceilities both of Body and Soul. As for the Wants of the Body, that stands in need of Food, Physick and Rayment ; and therefore the Acts of Mercifulness here are to feed the Hungry, to give Drink to the Thirsty, to clothe the Naked, to visit the Sick, to redeem Captives, to entertain Strangers, and the like. These are recited by our Saviour, in his Account of the Proceedings of the last Day; and the good Samaritan is commended for taking care of the distress'd Traveller, by pouring in of Wine and Oil into his Wounds, and making other Provision for him, with a Charge to all Men to go and do likewise. As for the Wants of the Soul, that stands in need of Counsel, Comfort, Admonition and Encouragements and therefore the Acts of Mercifulness here are to instruct the Ignorant, to counsel and settle doubting Persons, to admonish Sinners, to comfort the Afflicted, to support the Weak, to correct the Obstinate, to preserve Men from Sin, and the Temptations leading thereunto, and the like: All which are requir'd and expected of us, according to the several Places and Stations wherein God hath set us.
Moreover, there are Acts of Mercifulness that relate to Mens Goods and good Names: Those that respect Mens Goods, are to preserve them as far as we may from Rapine and Robbery, to relieve the Oppress'd, to undo heavy Bur-< dens, to see the Needy and Necessitous have Right, and to promote as much as we can by our Interest and good Word the Prosperity of all Men. To this the Apostle directs, Gal. 6.10. As me have Opportunity, let us do good to all Men, especially unto them who are of the Houf/jold of Faith. Again, there are Acts of Mercy and Charity to Mens good Names,' as to discountenance evil Reports, to vindicate honest Mens' Reputation from Slander, Detraction and Defamation, and to give every one the just Praises of his Worth and good
These Acts of Mercifulness are to be extended to all Men, high or low, Friends and Foes for our Saviour commands us to love our Enemies, to do good to them that hate tu7 and to pray for them that despite fully use and persecute us: for so the Pattern here added to the Precept obliges to, for we are bid to be merciful, tu our Father also is merciful \ that is, to follow his Example, who is kind to the Unthankful, and to the Evil: He maketh the Sun to shine upon the Good and Bad, and the Rain to descend on the Jult and Unjust \ he scatters his Blessings promiscuously upon all Persons, and thereby teaches us to make no Distinction in the common Offices of Humanity and Charity. Solomon tells us, that a good Man is merciful to his Beast; he will not overlade or overwork him: but as the Providence of God takes care for Oxen, so will he provide Necessaries for all Creatures that serve him, and are under his Care. But much more is our Compassion to be shew'd to the bodily Wants, and the Necessities of Mens Souls, who are made after the Image of God, and are of the lame Kind and Nature with our selves, whose Needs are to be supply'd out of the Abundance of those Talents which God hath entrusted us withal. Moreover, a good Man will be tender of the Credit and Reputation of others, and will be merciful in his Censures and Judgment of other Men so we are directed in the next words, Judg not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not he condemned: Which words condemn not the publick Office of a Judg, nor forbid the condemning of Criminals upon a fair Hearing in Courts of Judicature j for these act in God's Name, and by his Authority, and what they do herein is absolutely necessary for the Publick Peace, Order and Safety of the Commonwealth: And so are indeed Acts of Mercy highly conducing to the Publick Welfare, by countenancing Vertue, and suppressing Wrong. But the judging here condemn'd, is private Persons rash judging and censuring one another without any Authority j and passing Sentence upon the Actions of others, without any Examination of the Matter, to which they have no Right or Call. This is a Practice too common in the World, most Peoples Discourse in their impertinent Visits consisting of Tales and Stories of their Neighbours, whereby they play away their Reputation, and please themselves in one another's Follies and Weaknesses. Neither is this Practice less mischievous and malicious, thus to destroy the Credit of others by rash Judgment and Censures ^ it hinders the