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ever so much faith, and be our faith ever so strong, it will never save us from hell, unless it now save us from all unholy tempers; from pride, passion, impatience; from all arrogance of spirit, all haughtiness and over bearing; from wrath, anger, bitterness; from discontent, murmuring, fretfulness, peevishness. We are of all men most inexcusable, if having been so frequently guarded against that strong delusion, we still, while we indulge any of these tempers, bless ourselves, and dream we are in the way to heaven!
8. Fourthly : “ Although I give all my goods to the poor ;”--though I divide all my real, and all my personal estate into small portions ;(so the original word properly signifies ;) and diligently bestow it on those who, I have reason to believe, are the most proper objects ;-yet if I am proud, passionate, or discontented ; if I give way to any of these tempers; whatever good I may do to others, I do none to my own soul. Oh how pitiable a case is this ! Who would not grieve, that these beneficent men should lose all their labour! It is true, many of them have a reward in this world, if not before, yet after their death. They have costly and pompous funerals. They have marble monuments of the most exquisite workmanship. They have epitaphs wrote in the most elegant strain, which extol their virtues to the skies. Perhaps they have yearly orations spoken over them, to transmit their memory to all generations. So have many founders of religious houses, of colleges, alms houses, and most charitable institutions. And it is not an allowed rule, that none can exceed in the praise of the founder of his house, college, or hospital. But still what a poor reward is this ! Will it add to their comfort or to their misery, suppose (which must be the case, if they did not die in faith) that they are in the hands of the devil and his angels! What insults, what cutting reproaches, would these occasion, from their infernal companions! Oh that they were wise! that all those who are zealous of good works, would put them in their proper place; would not imagine, they can supply the want of holy tempers; but take care that they may spring from them!
9. How exceeding strange must this sound in the ears of most of those who are, by the courtesy of England, called Christians! But stranger still is that assertion of the apostle, which comes in the last place: “ Although I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." Although rather than deny the faith, rather than commit a known sin, or omit a known duty, I voluntarily submit to a cruel death ; " deliver up my body to be burned;" yet if I am under the power of pride, or anger, or fretfulnesss,—"it profiteth me nothing."
10. Perhaps this may be illustrated by an example. We have a remarkable account in the tracts of Dr. Geddes : (a civilian, who was envoy from queen Anne to the court of Portugal, in the latter end of her reign.) He was present at one of those auto da fés, (acts of faith,) wherein the Roman inquisitors burned heretics alive.
One of the persons who was then brought out for execution, having been confined in the dungeons of the inquisition, had not seen the sun for many years. It proved a bright sun-shiny day. Looking up, he cried out in surprise, “ Oh how can any one who sees that glorious luminary, worship any but the God that made it !" A friar standing by, ordered them to run an iron gag through his lips, that he might speak no more. Now what did that poor man fee' within when this order was executed? If he said in his heart, though he could not utter it with his lips, " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" undoubtedly the angels of God were ready to carry his soul into Abraham's bosom. But if, instead of this, he cherished the resentment in his heart, which he could not express with his tongue, although his body was consumed by the flames,
I will not say his soul went to paradise. 11. The sum of all that has been observed is this: whatever I speak, whatever I know, whatever I believe, whatever I do, whatever I suffer; if I have not the faith that worketh by love; that produces love to God and all mankind; I am not in the narrow way which leadeth to life; but in the broad road that leadeth to destruction. In other words : whatever eloquence I have; whatever natural or supernatural knowledge; whatever faith I have received from God; whatever works I do, whether of piety or mercy; whatever sufferings I undergo for conscience' sake, even though I resist unto blood : all these things put together, however applauded of men, will avail nothing before God, unless I am meek and lowly in heart, and can say in all things, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt!"
12. We conclude from the whole, (and it can never be too much inculcated, because all the world votes on the other side,) that true religion, in the very essence of it, is nothing short of holy tempers. Consequently all other religion, whatever name it bears, whether Pagan, Mohammedan, Jewish, or Christian; and whether Popish or Protestant, Lutheran or Reformed; without these, is lighter than vanity itself.
13. Let every man, therefore, that has a soul to be saved, see that he secure this one point. With all his eloquence, his knowledge, his faith, works, and sufferings, let him hold fast this one thing needful." He that through the power of faith, endureth to the end in humble, gentle, patient love; he, and he alone, shall, through the merits of Christ," inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world."
SERMON XCVII.-On Zeal.
" It is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing," Gal. iv, 18.
1. THERE are few subjects in the whole compass of religion, that are of greater importance than this. For without zeal it is impossible, eithe to make any considerable progress in religion ourselves, or to do considerable service to our neighbour, whether in temporal or spiritual things. And yet nothing has done more disservice to religion, or more mischief to mankind, than a sort of zeal, which has for several ages prevailed, both in Pagan, Mohammedan, and Christian nations. Insomuch that it may truly be said, pride, covetousness, ambition, revenge, have in all parts of the world slain their thousands; but zeal its ten thousands. Terrible instances of this have occurred in ancient times, in the most civilized heathen nations. To this chiefly were owing the inhuman persecutions of the primitive Christians; and, in later ages, the no less inhuman persecutions of the Protestants, by the church of Rome. It was zeal that kindled fires in our nation, during the reign
of bloody queen Mary. It was zeal that soon after made so many provinces of France a field of blood. It was zeal that murdered so many thousand unresisting Protestants, in the never to be forgotten massacre of Paris. It was zeal that occasioned the still more horrid massacre in Ireland; the like whereof, both with regard to the number of the murdered, and the shocking circumstances wherewith many of those murders were perpetrated, I verily believe never occurred before, since the world began. As to the other parts of Europe, an eminent German writer has taken immense pains, to search both the records, in various places, and the most authentic histories, in order to gain some competent knowledge of the blood whicia nas been shed since the reformation. And computes, that partly by private persecution, partly by religious wars in the course of forty years, reckoning from the year 1520, above forty millions of persons have been destroyed !
2. But is it not possible to distinguish right zeal from wrong? Undoubtedly it is possible. But it is difficult : such is the deceitfulness of the human heart. So skilfully do the passions justify themselves. And there are exceeding few treatises on the subject; at least in the English language. To this day I have seen or heard of only one sermon; and that was wrote above a hundred years ago, by Dr. Sprat, then bishop of Rochester, so that it is now exceeding scarce.
3. I would gladly cast in my mite, by God's assistance, towards the clearing up this important question, in order to enable well meaning men, who are desirous of pleasing God, to distinguish true Christian zeal from its various counterfeits. And this is more necessary at this time than it has been for many years. Sixty years ago there seemed to be scarce any such thing as religious zeal left in the nation. People in general were wonderfully cool and undisturbed about that trifle, religion. But since then, it is easy to observe, there has been a very considerable alteration. Many thousands, almost in every part of the nation, have felt a real desire to save their souls. And I am persuaded there is at this day more religious zeal in England, than there has been for a century past.
4. But has this zeal been of the rightor the wrong kind? Probably both the one and the other. Let us see if we cannot separate these, that we may avoid the latter, and cleave to the former. In order to this I would first inquire,
I. What is the nature of true Christian zeal ?
I. And, first, What is the nature of zeal in general, and of true Christian zeal in particular ?
1. The original word, in its primary signification, means heat; such as the heat of boiling water. When it is figuratively applied to the mind, it means any warm emotion or affection. Sometimes it is taken
So we render it, Acts v, 17, where we read, “The high priest, and all that were with him, were filled with envy:" Ethnoanoan Inhou: (although it might as well be rendered, were filled with zeal.) Sometimes, it is taken for anger and indignation ; sometimes, for vehement desire. And when any of our passions are strongly moved on a religious account, whether for any thing good, or against anything which we conceive to be evil, this we term, religious zeal.
2. But it is not all that is called religious zeal, which is worthy of that name. It is not properly religious or Christian zeal, if it be not joined with charity. A fine writer, (bishop Sprat,) carries the matter farther still. “ It has been affirmed,” says that great man," no zeal is right, which is not charitable, but is mostly so. Charity, or love, is not only one ingredient, but the chief ingredient in its composition.” May we not go farther still ? May we not say, that true zeal not mostly charitable, but wholly so ? That is, if we take charity in St. Paul's sense, for love; the love of God and our neighbour. For it is a certain truth, (although little understood in the world,) that Christian zeal is all love. It is nothing else. The love of God and man fills up its whole nature.
3. Yet it is not every degree of that love, to which this appellation is given. There
may be some love, a small degree of it, where there is no zeal. But it is properly, love in a higher degree. It is fervent lore. True Christian zeal is no other than the flame of love. This is the nature, the inmost essence of it.
II. 1. From hence it follows, that the properties of love, are the properties of zeal also. Now one of the chief properties of love, is humility : “love is not puffed up." Accordingly this is a property of truc zeal: humility is inseparable from it. As is the degree of zeal, such is the degree of humility: they must rise and fall together. The same love which fills a man with zeal for God, makes him little, and poor, and vile in his own eyes.
2. Another of the properties of love is meekness : consequently it is one of the properties of zeal. It teaches us to be meek, as well as lowly: to be equally superior to anger or pride. Like as the wax melteth at the fire, so before this sacred flame, all turbulent passions melt away, and leave the soul unruffled and serene.
3. Yet another property of love, and consequently of zeal, is unwearied patience: for love endureth all things.” It arms the soul with entire resignation to all the disposals of divine providence, and teaches us to say, in every occurrence, “ It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” It enables us, in whatever station, therewith to be content: to repine at nothing; to murmur at nothing; "but in every thing to give thanks.”
4. There is a fourth property of Christian zeal; which deserves to be more particularly considered. This we learn from the very words of the apostle, “ It is good to be zealously affected” (not to have transient touches of zeal, but a steady rooted disposition)" in a good thing :") in that which is good : for the proper object of zeal, is good in general: that is, every thing that is good, really such, in the sight of God.
5. But what is good in the sight of God? What is that religion, wherewith God is always well pleased ? How do the parts of this rise one above another? And what is the comparative value of them?
This is a point exceeding little considered, and, therefore, little understood. Positive divinity, many have some knowledge of. But few know any thing of comparative divinity. I never saw but one tract wrote upon this head : a sketch of which it may be of use to subjoin.
In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne, which is erected in the inmost soul: namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival. In a circle near the throne, are all holy tempers; long suffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, VOL. II.
temperance : and if any other were comprised in "the mind which was in Christ Jesus." In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men. By these we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that all these are real means of grace, although this is not commonly adverted to. Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety: reading and hearing the word, public, family, private prayer, receiving the Lord's supper, fasting or abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in one body the church, dispersed all over the earth; a little emblem of which, of the church universal, we have in every particular Christian congregation.
6. This is that religion which our Lord has established upon earth, ever since the descent of the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost. This is the entire, connected system of Christianity: and thus the several parts of it rise one above another, from that lowest point, the assembling ourselves together, to the highest, love enthroned in the heart. And hence it is easy to learn he comparative value of every branch of religion. Hence also we learn a fifth property of true zeal. That as it is always exercised, ev xane', that which is good, so it is always proportioned to that good, to the degree of goodness that is in its object.
7. For example. Every Christian ought, undoubtedly, to be zealous for the church, bearing a strong affection to it, and earnestly desiring its prosperity and increase. He ought to be thus zealous, as for the church universal, praying for it continually, so especially for that particular church or Christian society, whereof he himself is a member. For this he ought to wrestle with God in prayer ; meantime using every means in his power, to enlarge its borders, and to strengthen his brethren, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.
8. But he should be more zealous for the ordinances of Christ, than for the church itself: for prayer in public and private; for the Lord's supper; for reading, hearing, and meditating on his word; and for the much neglected duty of fasting. These he should earnestly recommend ; first, by his example ; and then by advice, by argument, persuasion, and exhortation, as often as occasion offers.
9. Thus should he show his zeal for works of piety; but much more for works of mercy; seeing “God will have mercy and not sacrifice:" that is, rather than sacrifice. Whenever, therefore, one interferes with the other, works of mercy are to be preferred. Even reading, hearing, prayer, are to be omitted, or to be postponed, " at charity's almighty call,” when we are called to relieve the distress of our neighbour, whether in body or soul.
10. But as zealous as we are for all good works, we should still be more zealous for holy tempers : for planting and promoting both in our souls, and in all we have any intercourse with, lowliness of mind, meekness, gentleness, long suffering, contentedness, resignation unto the will of God, deadness to the world and the things of the world, as the only means of being truly alive to God. For these proofs and fruits of living faith we cannot be too zealous. We should “talk of them as we sit in our house,” and “when we walk by the way," and “when we lie down," and " when we rise up." We should make them