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study whereof, we may not only divert them, but improve and cultivate them : the histories of ages past, or relations concerning foreign countries, wherein the manners of men are described, and their actions reported, may afford us useful pleasure and pastime; thereby we may learn as much, and understand the world as well, as by the most curious inquiry into the present actions of men; there we may observe, we may scan, we may tax the proceedings of whom we please, without any danger or offence: there are extant numberless books, wherein the wisest and most ingenious of men have laid open their hearts, and exposed their most secret cogitations unto us; in pursuing them we may sufficiently busy ourselves, and let our idle hours pass gratefully; we may meddle with ourselves, studying our own dispositions, examining our principles and purposes, reflecting on our thoughts, words, and actions ; striving thoroughly to understand ourselves; to do this we have an unquestionable right, and by it we shall obtain vast benefit, much greater than we can hope to get by puddering in the designs or doings of others. Pragmaticalness then, as it is very dangerous and troublesome, so it is perfectly needless; it is a kind of idleness, but of all idleness the most unreasonable: it is at least worse than idleness in St. Gregory Nazianzen's opinion. For, 'I had rather,' said he, ‘be idle more than I should, than over-busy.'* Other considerations might be added; but these, I hope, may be sufficient to restrain this practice, so unprofitable and uneasy to ourselves, and, for the most part, so injurious and troublesome to others.
Now the God of peace make us perfect in every good word and work, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for SERMON XXIII.
'Αργος είναι μάλλον του δέοντος, και περίεργος δέχομαι.-Greg. Νaz. Or.
MATTHEW, CHAP. XXII.-VERSE 37.
Previous observations on the occasion of this text; the crafty design which produced it; the defeat of that design by our Saviour; the extent and excellence of the great duty inculcated in it: plan of the discourse is, first, to explain the nature of this love so commanded us; then to show the means of attaining it; lastly, to propound some inducements to the purchase and practice of it.
I. Love in general defined : its chief properties all shown in some sort to agree well with that love which we owe to God, according to the tenor of the law in the text, and in the degree therein expressed; for even of this divine love the chief properties may be conceived to be as follow.
1. A right apprehension and firm persuasion concerning God, and consequently a high esteem of him as most excellent in himself, and most beneficial to us : this topic enlarged on. 2. An earnest desire of obtaining a propriety in him; of possessing him; of approaching him; and of being, as far as may be, united to him: this illustrated by examples from Scripture, 3. Coherent with this is a third property, viz. a great satisfaction and delight in the enjoyment of God; in the sense of having such a propriety in him; in the partaking of those emanations of favor and beneficence from him ; and consequently in the instruments that convey, and the means that conduce to such enjoyment : this enlarged on. 4. The sensation of much displeasure and regret in being deprived of such enjoyment; in
the absence or distance of God from us; in the loss or lessening of his favor, &c. 5. Another property of this love is, to bear the highest good-will towards God, in those interests and concerns, which out of his abundant goodness and condescension he considers as his own: this topic enlarged on.
The nature of this love being explained, if we perceive that we practice the particular duties thereby recommended, we may to our comfort infer that we are proportionably endued with it; if not, we ought with remorse and sorrow to suspect that we abide in a state of disaffection or indifference towards God. If we find the former good disposition, we should strive to cherish and improve it; if the second bad one, we should, as we would avoid misery and ruin, endeavor to remove it.
II. To the effecting which purposes certain means conducive thereto are propounded : some, which may remove obstacles; others, which may immediately promote the duty.
Of the first kind are those which follow.
1. The destroying all loves opposite to the love of God; extinguishing all affection to things odious and offensive to him; mortifying all corrupt, perverse, and unholy desires. 2. If we would obtain this excellent grace, we must restrain our affections towards all other things, however innocent or indifferent in their nature : instance of the rich young man in the gospel : character of St. Paul in this respect, &c. 3. To this may be added the freeing of our hearts from immoderate affection to ourselves ; that is, from any conceit of ourselves, from any high confidence in what we may have within us or about us : this topic enlarged on.
These are the chief obstacles, the removing of which co duces to the begetting and increasing the love of God in us; especially if we add those positive instruments which are more immediately and directly subservient to the production of it:
1. Attentive consideration of the divine perfections, with an endeavor to obtain a right and clear apprehension of them.
2. Consideration of God's works of nature, of providence, and of grace.
3. Serious regard and reflexion on the peculiar benefits by the divine goodness vouchsafed to ourselves.
4. An earnest resolution and endeavor to perform his commandments, although on the inferior considerations of reason.
5. Assiduous prayer, that he in mercy would please to bestow his love on us, by his grace working in us. Conclusion.
OF THE LOVE OF GOD.
MATTHEW, CHAP. XXII.-VERSE 37.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart.
This text is produced by our Saviour out of Moses's law in answer to a question, wherewith a learned pharisee thought to pose or puzzle him; the question was, Which was the great and first commandment in the law ? a question which, it seems, had been examined, and determined among the doctors, in the schools of those days, (for in St. Luke, to the like question intimated by our Saviour, another lawyer readily yields the same answer, and is therefore commended by our Saviour, with a recte respondisti, thou hast answered rightly;') so that had our Saviour answered otherwise, he had, we may suppose, been taxed of ignorance and unskilfulness, perhaps also of error and heterodoxy; to convict him of which seems to have been the design of this Jewish trier or tempter (for he is said to ask Teipá2wv avròr, trying, or tempting him.) But our Saviour defeats his captious intent, by answering, not only according to truth and the reason of the thing, but agreeably to the doctrine then current, and as the lawyer himself out of his memory and learning would have resolved it: and no wonder, since common sense dictates that the law enjoining sincere and intire love toward God is necessarily the first and chief, or the most fundamental law of all religion ; for that whosoever doth believe the being of God, according to the most common notion that name