Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

2. But in a more proper sense, we give God our heart, when we not only seek, but find happiness in him. This happiness undoubtedly begins, when we begin to know him by the teaching of his own Spirit: when it pleases the Father to reveal his Son in our hearts, so that we can humbly say, "My Lord and my God;" and when the Son is pleased to reveal his Father in us, by " the Spirit of adoption crying in our hearts, Abba, Father," and bearing his testimony to our spirits that we are the children of God." Then it is that “ the love of God also is shed abroad in our hearts.” And according to the degree of our love, is the degree of our happiness.

3. But it has been questioned, whether it is the design of God, that the happiness which is at first enjoyed by all that know and love him, should continue any longer than, as it were, the day of their espousals? In very many, we must allow, it does not : but in a few months, perhaps weeks, or even days, the joy and peace either vanishes at once, or gradually decays. Now, if God is willing that their happiness should continue, how is this to be accounted for?

4. I believe, very easily. St. Jude's exhortation, "Keep yourselves in the love of God," certainly implies, that something is to be done on our part, in order to its continuance. And is not this agreeable to that declaration of our Lord, concerning this and every gift of God; "Unto him that hath, shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but from him that hath not,”-that is, uses it not, improves it not,—" shall be taken away even that which he hath,” Luke viii, 18.

5. Indeed, part of this verse is translated in our version, “ That which he seemeth to have." But it is difficult to make sense of this. For if he only seemeth to have this, or any other gift of God, he really hath it not. And if so, it cannot be taken away: for no man can lose what he never had. It is plain, therefore, o doxei exsiv, ought to be rendered, what he assuredly hath. And it may be observed, that the word doxew, in various places of the New Testament, does not lessen, but strengthen the sense of the word joined with it. Accordingly, whoever improves the grace he has already received, whoever increases in the love of God, will surely retain it. God will continue, yea, will give it more abundantly: whereas, whoever does not improve this talent, cannot possibly retain it. Notwithstanding all he can do, it will infallibly be taken away from him.

II. 1. Meantime, as the heart of him that is “an Israelite indeed” is true to God, so his words are suitable thereto: and as there is no guile lodged in his heart, so there is none found in his lips. The first thing implied herein is, veracity: the speaking the truth from his heart: the putting away all wilful lying, in every kind and degree. A lie, according to a well known definition of it is, falsum testimonium, cum intentione fallendi: a falsehood known to be such by the speaker, and uttered with an intention to deceive." But even the speaking of a falsehood is not a lie, if it be not spoken with an intent to deceive.

2. Most casuists, particularly those of the church of Rome, distinguish lies into three sorts: the first sort is malicious lies; the second, harmless lies ; the third, officious lies: concerning which they pass a very different judgment. I know not any that are so hardy as even to excuse, much less defend malicious lies; that is, such as are told with a design to hurt any one : these are condemned by all parties. Men are more divided in their judgment, with regard to harmless lies, such as are supposed to do neither good nor harm. The generality of men, even in the Christian world, utter them without any scruple, and openly maintain, that if they do no harm to any one else, they do none to the speaker. Whether they do or no, they have certainly no place in the mouth of him that is “an Israelite indeed." He cannot tell lies in jest, any more than in earnest. Nothing but truth is heard from his mouth. He remembers the express command of God to the Ephesian Christians : “Putting away all lying, speak every man truth to his neighbour," Eph.

iv, 25.

3. Concerning officious lies, those that are spoken with a design to do good, there have been numerous controversies in the Christian church. Abundance of writers, and those men of renown for piety, as well as learning, have published whole volumes upon the subject, and in despite of all opposers, not only maintained them to be innocent, but commended them as meritorious. But what saith the Scripture ? One passage is so express, that there does not need any other. It occurs in the third chapter of the epistle to the Romans, where the very words of the apostle are, verses 7, 8, “If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why am I yet judged as a sinner ?" (Will not that lie be excused from blame, for the good effect of it ?) “And not rather, as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm, that we say, let us do evil that good may come? Whose damnation is just.” Here the apostle plainly declares, 1. That the good effect of a lie is no excuse for it: 2. That it is a mere slander upon Christians to say, “They teach men to do evil that good may come:" 3. That if any, in fact, do this; either teach men to do evil that good may come, or do so themselves; their damnation is just. This is peculiarly applicable to those who tell lies in order to do good thereby. It follows, that officious lies, as well as all others, are an abomination to the God of truth. Therefore, there is no absurdity, however strange it may sound, in that saying of the ancient father, “I would not tell wilful lie, to save the souls of the whole world."

4. The second thing which is implied in the character of“ an Israelite indeed," is sincerity. As veracity is opposite to lying, so sincerity is to cunning. But it is not opposite to wisdom, or discretion, which are well consistent with it. But what is the difference between wisdom and cunning? Are they not almost, if not quite the same thing ?" By no means. The difference between them is exceeding great. Wisdom is the faculty of discerning the best ends, and the fittest means of attaining them. The end of every rational creature is God: the enjoying him in time and in eternity. The best, indeed the only means of attaining this end, is, “the faith that worketh by love." True prudence, in the general sense of the word, is the same thing with wisdom. Discretion is but another name for prudence ;-if it be not rather a part of it; as it is sometimes referred to our outward behaviour ;-and means, the ordering our words and actions right. On the contrary, cựnning (so it is usually termed among common men, but policy among the great) is in plain terms, neither better nor worse than the art of deceiving. If, therefore, it be any wisdom at all, it is “the wisdom from beneath;” springing from the bottomless pit, and leading down to the place from whence it came.

[ocr errors]

5. The two great means which cunning uses in order to deceive, are, simulation, and dissimulation. Simulation is, the seeming to be what we are not; dissimulation, the seeming not to be what we are ; according to the old verse, Quod non est, simulo : dissimuloque quod est. Both the one and the other we commonly term, the hanging out of false colours. Innumerable are the shapes that simulation puts on in order to deceive. And almost as many are used by dissimulation for the same purpose. But the man of sincerity shuns them, and always appears exactly what he is.

6. "But suppose we are engaged with artful men, may we not use silence or reserve, especially if they ask insidious questions, without falling under the imputation of cunning ?" Undoubtedly we may: nay, we ought on many occasions, either wholly to keep silence, or to speak with more or less reserve, as circumstances may require. To say nothing at all, is, in many cases, consistent with the highest sincerity. And so it is, to speak with reserve, to say only a part, perhaps a small part of what we know. But were we to pretend it to be the whole, this would be contrary to sincerity.

7. A more difficult question than this, is, "may we not speak the truth in order to deceive? Like him, of old, who broke out into that exclamation, applauding his own ingenuity, Hoc ego mihi puto palmarium, ut vera dicendo cos ambos fallam. This I take to be my master piece, to deceive them both, by speaking the truth.?”

I answer ; a heathen might pique himself upon this; but a Christian could not. For although this is not contrary to veracity, yet it certainly is to sincerity. It is, therefore, the most excellent way, if we judge it proper to speak at all, to put away both simulation and dissimulation, and to speak the naked truth from our heart.

8. Perhaps this is properly termed, simplicity. It goes a little farther than sincerity itself

. It implies not only, first, The speaking no known falsehood; and, secondly, The not designedly deceiving any one; bat thirdly, The speaking plainly and artlessly to every one when we speak at all: the speaking as little children, in a childlike, though not a childish manner. Does not this utterly exclude the using any compliments ? a vile word, the very sound of which I abhor: quite agreeing with our poct :

" It never was good day,

Since lowly fawning was called compliment." I advise men of sincerity and simplicity never to take that silly word into their mouths; but labour to keep at the utmost distance both from the name and the thing. 9. Not long before that remarkable time,

“When statesmen sent a prelate cross the seas,

By long famed act of pains and penalties," several bishops attacked bishop Atterbury at once, then bishop of Rochester, and asked ; "My lord, why will you not suffer your servants to deny you, when you do not care to see company ? It is not a lie for them to say, your lordship is not at home. For it deceives no one. Every one knows it means only, your lordship is busy.” He replied, “My lords, if it is (which I doubt) consistent with sincerity, yet I am sure it is not consistent with that simplicity which becomes a Christian bishop.”

“When

[ocr errors]

10. But to return. The sincerity and simplicity of him in whom is no guile, have likewise an influence on his whole behaviour: they give a colour to his whole outward conversation ; which, though it be far remote from every thing of clownishness and ill-breeding, of roughness and surliness; yet is plain and artless, and free from all disguise ; being the very picture of his heart. The truth and love which continually reign there, produce an open front, and a serene countenance; such as leave no pretence to say, with that arrogant king of Castile, God made man, he left one capital defect: he ought to have set a window in his breast;"—for he opens a window in his own breast, by the whole tenor of his words and actions.

11. This then is real, genuine, solid virtue. Not truth alone, nor conformity to truth. This is a property of real virtue; not the essence of it. Not love alone : though this comes nearer the mark : for love, in one sense, “is the fulfilling of the law.” No: truth and love united together, are the essence of virtue or holiness. God indispensably requires "truth in the inward parts," influencing all our words and.. actions. Yet truth itself, separate from love, is nothing in his sight. But let the humble, gentle, patient love of all mankind, be fixed on its right foundation, namely, the love of God springing from faith, from a full conviction that God hath given his only Son to die for my sins; and then the whole will resolve into that grand conclusion, worthy of all men to be received : “ Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love."

SERMON XCVI.- On Charity.

“ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledges and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing," 1 Cor. xiii, 1–3.

We know, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," and is therefore true and right concerning all things. But we know, likewise, that there are some Scriptures which more immediately commend themselves to every man's conscience. In this rank we may place the passage before us: there are scarce any that object to it. On the contrary, the generality of men very readily appeal to it. Nothing is more common than to find even those who deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures, yet affirming, “ this is my religion: that which is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Corinthians." Nay, even a Jew, Dr. Nunes, a Spanish physician, then settled at Savannah, in Georgia, used to say, with great earnestness, “ That Paul of Tarsus was one of the finest writers I have ever read. I wish the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians were wrote in letters of gold. And I wish every Jew were to carry it with him wherever he went. He judged, (and herein he certainly judged right,) that this single chapter contained the whole of true religion. It contains "whatsoever things are

just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely: if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” it is all contained in this.

In order to see this in the clearest light, we may consider,
I. What the charity here spoken of is :

II. What those things are which are usually put in the place of it. We may then,

III. Observe, that neither of them, nor all of them put together, can supply the want of it.

I. i. We are first, to consider, what this charity is ? What is the nature, and what are the properties of it?

St. Paul's word is Ayamn, exactly answering to the plain English word love. And accordingly it is so rendered in all the old translations of the Bible. So it stood in William Tindal's Bible, which I suppose was the first English translation of the whole Bible. So it was also in the Bible published by the authority of king Henry VIII. So it was likewise, in all the editions of the Bible that were successively published in England during the reign of king Edward VI., queen Elizabeth, and king James I. Nay, so it is found in the Bibles of king Charles the First's reign: I believe, to the period of it. The first Bibles I have seen, wherein the word was changed, were those printed by Roger Daniel and John Field, printers to the parliament, in the year 1649. Hence it seems probable that the alteration was made during the sitting of the long parliament: probably it was then that the Latin word charity was put in place of the English word love. It was in an unhappy hour this alteration was made: the ill effects of it remain to this day; and these may be observed, not only among the poor

and illiterate ;-not only thousands of common men and women, no more under-'. stand the word charity, than hey do the original Greek ;-but the same miserable mistake has diffused itself among men of education and learning. Thousands of these are misled thereby, and imagine that the charity treated of in this chapter refers chiefly, if not wholly, to outward actions, and to mean little more than almsgiving! I have heard many sermons preached upon this chapter; particularly before the University of Oxford. And I never heard more than one, wherein the meaning of it was not totally misrepresented. But had the old and proper word love been retained, there would have been no room for misrepresentation.

2. But what kind of love is that whereof the apostle is speaking throughout the chapter ? Many persons of eminent learning and piety apprehend that it is the love of God. But from reading the whole chapter numberless times, and considering it in every light, I am thoroughly persuaded that what St. Paul is here directly speaking of is the love of our neighbour. I believe whoever carefully weighs the whole tenor of his discourse, will be fully convinced of this. But it must be allowed to be such a love of our neighbour, as can only spring froni a love of God. And whence does this love of God flow ? Only from that faith which is of the operation of God; which whoever has, has a direct evidence that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” When this is particularly applied to his heart, so that he can say, with humble boldness, “ the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me;" then, and not till then, " the love of God is shed abroad in his heart." And this love sweetly

« AnteriorContinuar »