« AnteriorContinua »
taught, the virtues I have practised, the miracles I have wrought, prove my Divinity: that I am the true Redeemer they expect, and no impostor.
Yet, to confound their obdurate hearts, or at least to soften them, I will give farther proofs that I come from God : for the Holy Ghost, and even you, shall bear testimony of me: When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father ; he mall testify of me : and je also Mall bear wit befs. Yet this testimony of the apostles was nothing but an invincible patience in afflictions: for immediately our Saviour declares, that all the world shall conspire against them : that they shall be dragʻd to tribunals, laugh’d at as fools; tormented as criminals ; reviled as nufances to nature, and publick enemies to heaven. Yet, by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, they shall subdue their enemies by their doctrine, or their patience, and either overcome them by suffering the utmost effects of their rage with joy, or by dying with courage. No doubt but this fortitude of the apostles was an invincible demonstration of Christ's Divinity. For how could weak men, without a divine support, overcome a confederacy so universal against them? How could they break through so many oppositions, and endure such cruel, fuch unheard of torments, without an interior fpirit, that either suspended the operation of sense, or buoyed up the imbecility of nature ? So that at once the Holy Ghost, according to Christ's prediction, gave testimony of our Saviour, by strengthening the apostles to support, and thereby conquering persecutions.
What our Saviour foretold the apostles, St. Paul has declared to all Christians : Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jefus, joall suffer persecution, 2 Tim, iii. 12, And those, who behave
themselves, in the midst of pressures, as the blessed apostles did, not only testify they believe in Chrift; but also, that they sincerely love him. They exercise all those virtues Christ commands, and fy those vices he forbids.
A true patient, that suffers for Christ on racks and wheels, acknowledges his Master's power to support him : he adores his justice in the very tormentor's rage, and his goodness in their fury: if God strikes him with the leprosy of Job, he kisses the hand that strikes him: if he deprives him of an estate, he sits down as content in poverty, as he was in abundance. Tho' he feels no consolation from within, and nothing but dissatisfaction from without, he bows to God's appointment, and adores his providence. And tho' his pains are exceslive, he confesses his sins deserve greater : and at the same time a patient Christian not only gives a testimony of his faith in Christ, but of his love. For who will suffer for Christ, unless he believes he is able to reward his courage, or punish his cowardice? Who will for his fake exchange prefent pleasures for the most sensible torments, unless he loves him ; or who can lay aside all the sentiments of nature, without the supply of fupernatural grace ?
Let us then, dear readers, if providence so ordains, give this testimony of our belief and of our love, not by preaching, as the apostles, but by suffering all calamities with patience. Follow rather the light of faith, than the faint glimmering of reason ; and let grace triumph over the repugnance of nature. God is omnipotent ; he can release you from those misfortunes that oppress you. He is merciful, and therefore has no greater passion, no stronger inclination, than to ease the distress'd. If therefore he does not, you must conclude he Hooks upon those things as good, which you esteem evils ; and that it is a greater favour to leave you happily miserable, than to make you miserably happy
It is strange that the world should immediately raise all its forces against the apostles ; and that passion should caft all men into fo desperate a blindness, as to persuade themselves they pleased God by murdering his creatures, and obeyed his commands by violating those of nature. But the time cometb, that whosoever killeth you, Aball think that be doth God service, John xvi. 2. Was their conduct irregular? their lives scandalous? their doctrine destructive to human society, or inconsistent with government? no: they preached up fanctity, and practised it. They taught love to our neighbour, obedience to magistrates, and charity to all mankind. They shewed them the danger they walked in ; a heaven above to reward virtue ; a hell below to punish vice. They pointed out the way to avoid this, and to arrive to that. Indeed they divulged a new religion ; but then they confirma ed it with fo frequent miracles, that the most rational did conclude it came from heaven ; and the most obftinate could not with any colour of reason accuse it of imposture. What ground was here for such rage ? what cause for such hatred against the apostles, so inveterate, so universal ? how could they think it meritorious to destroy those men, whose lives were innocent, and whose religion was stamp'd with all the marks of a divine approbation ?
Alas! the world was hardened in crimes it had no mind to leave; inured to the worship of deities, that abetted impiety, and allowed all abominations. Men loved not to hear of a religion that restrained their ancient liberties, that confined their understandings to the belief of abstruse myfteries above reason, and their wills to the practice
of morality, contrary to the bent of nature. These Pre-engagements presented every thing in a false light. Their wills blinded their understandings ; and, tho' they could not hinder them from doubts, they diverted them from an aflent to the doctrine proposed by the apostles, and from a serious examination of the motives. Whence their ignorance was merely affected, their zeal for their old religion criminal, and their conscience wickedly
So that, tho' they thought to please God by perfecuting his ministers, they really offended him.
How many Christians imitate these Jews and Pagans ! They affect an ignorance of their duty, that they may dispense with the practice of it, without scruple. They fear to look into a spiritual book, left they should be disabused of their error ; and will not ask advice, left it should abridge their liberty. Hence they frame consciences a-lamode, that is, erroneous : they act upon false principles, and suppose they lie under no mistake, because they will not take the pains to discover it. Hence fometimes they fancy they execute God's commands, whilst they transgress them: that they comply with those of the church, whilst they break them. They take great fins for small imperfections, and often persuade themselves those offences at most are only venial, which, notwithstanding, unrepented, will plunge them into hell. An inveterate rancour against their neighbour, passes for a just resentment ; a natural antipathy, for a mere indifference; the most malicious detraction, for pleasantry; dangerous diversions, for innocent recreations. And you will see many confound criminal amours with friendship, and indecent liberties with the blameless name of familiarity : and upon this erroneous ground, they lull their consciences asleep ; approach the throne of
out confessing these transgressions; and then profane the holy sacrament of Christ's body and blood without remorse. Nay, like the Jews, they think, they do God service, whilst they abuse his holy Ordinances.
Whence comes this strange conduct, this deplorable blindness ? From an affected ignorance ; from a conscience guided by delusive principles ; from a corrupt judgment and a debauch'd heart. They doubt whether such an action be lawful; if it either flatters their inclination, or suits with their interest, they neither ask counsel of fcripture nor of reason ; for they are afraid to find (what they have no mind to know) that it is sinful : in the mean time, they do it, first without remorse, and in process of time without scruple; and then suppose it no sin, because an acquired habit has wore out the doubt ; and they repeat the action without reluctancy. But they lie under a mistake : the first criminal negligence influences all the subsequent actions, and renders them no less sinful than the first.
We must, therefore, pray to God every day to pardon our ignorance ; and, in all our doubts, have recourse to those, whom God has set over us for our guides. Rely not upon your own judgment: self-love will more easily bend it to what is pleasing, than to what is true. Our Saviour would not tell St. Paul what he was to do, nor leave him to his own conduct; but fent him to Ananias for instruction, to teach us, that all men are unfit to be their own masters, and improper cafuifts in their own concerns. Give me therefore, O Lord, a docile understanding, rather prepared to learn than to dispute ; and a sincere heart, ready to comply with all those duties, that are incumbent on my profession.