Imatges de pàgina

of the trumpet, the Lord descended upon the mount in fire, and the smoke thereof afcended as the smoke of a furnace.” The people trem. bled and itoed at a distance, left the Lord should brcak forth upon, and consume them. But when the blessed Saviour, the humble and gracious Redeemer came upon earth, to visit and inftruét mankind, to make the covenant of peace, his doctrine was like himself, mild, gentle, and persuasive, full of grace, meekness, and condescension : he doth not terrify and alarm his hearers with the threats of

pua nidhment, but allures them by the hopes of a glorious though diftant reward: addresses his followers in a manner the most easy and familiar, appeals to their reason, gratifies their felf-love, and endeavours to convince them that the happiness which they were all in search of, was only to be obtained by obedience; that it did not consist in those things to which their false ideas had confined it, but on the other hand in those humble virtues, that patience, piety and resignation, which they had been fo song used to contemn and despise. Elefjed, says he, are the poor in /piril, for i heirs is the kingdom of God.

Eore we proceed to the illustration of these words, it may not be improper previously to remark, that the formon on the mount is a standing teitimony, a kind of living witness against those of our modern enthusiasts, who would separate religion from morality; who are for strengthening and supporting the noble edifice of the gospel, by undermining the


foundations of it; those who assert t?iat the moral is not the Christian preacher, and that no discourses from the pulpit have any merit but such as are stuffed with unintelligible fophiftry, and the extravagant sallies of a heated imagination. Our Saviour's own sermon, we fee, was of a different kind, and contains no. thing but simple plain morality, morality indeed of a more refined and exalted nature than had ever been preached to the Gentile world, but such as at the same time had nothing in it visicnary or romantic, hut full of divine truths, adapted to every understanding, and intelligible to the meanest capacity. That preacher, therefore, who best explains the truths which he delivered, and illustrates those rules and doctrines which he establi:hed, has the beit claim to applauie, and the faireít title to universal esteem and approbation.

I would delire our Methodists to obferre, that in our bleiled Saviour's fermon on the mount there is no mention made of predeti. nation, election, reprobation, justification by faith alcne; no doétrine of affiralce, regene. ration and fanctification, (the common topics of our popular faints and apoitles); nothing but plain simple precepts of morality, intelli gible to every mind, and suited to every capacity. The beít fermons, therefore, one should naturally imagine, are those which moft resemble liis, which enforce his dodirines, explain his tenets, and illufirate those truths which he has himself laid down and inculcated. Whatever therefore these refiners on the wisdom of

their Redeemer may think proper to assert, I am satisfied, for my own part, with the model of Jesus Christ, and shall content myself with humbly endeavouring to imitate him, till they can furnith me with a better example. I shall therefore proceed to consider the true meaning and intent of our Saviour's declaration exprefl. cd in the text, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

As our Saviour came down from heaven to inftruet an ignorant, and reform a licentious world, his first and most necessary business was to remove their prejudices, confute their errors, and correct the many false notions which they had contracted, both with regard to their duty and their happiness also: the first virtue therefore which he recommends is (that which was probably the least practised amongst them) the virtue of humility. The time of Christ's appearance on carth was the very time when human pride seemed as it were in the zenith and meridian of its power, when false philosophy had infatuated the minds of men, and filled them with the most ridiculous ideas of their own consequence and importance; when the proud, the haughty, and the rich in spirit, were deemed the greatest as well as the happient of mankind : at such a time the doctrine which our Lord here inculcates, in proportion as it was necessary, must have been equally difguftful aiso, as it tended to overthrow their darling tenets, to thwart their designs, and to mortity their self-love. In opposition notwithstanding to all their obftinate prejudices and


pre-possessions, he declares, contrary to the general and received opinion, that the true happiness of man consisted in poverty of spirit, in humility, patience, and resignation; not in abundance, but content; not in the gratification of our own will, but in implicit fubmiffion to the divine; not in the resentment and return of injuries, but in the patient abiding and charitable forgiveness of them. Blefjed, says he, are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

By the poor in spirit, we are not to suppose our Saviour meant to characterise those mean and fordid minds, who, according to the common acceptation of this term, were strangers to generosity, charity, and benevolence, the slaves of avarice and self-love: these, he knew and taught, were so far from the kingdom of God, that he deemed it impossible for them ever to enter into it.

By the poor in spirit, he could not be understood to mean the timid and daftardly, the mean and fearful coward, who startles at every blaft of fortune, and finks beneath every opposition: he doth not mean to point out those who are just and honest only from the dread of being detected; or virtuous and religious, not from principle and conviction, but from the fear of punilhment: this is a poverty of spirit, which, as it is beneath thè dignity of our nature, can never 'be acceptable to the divine author of it.

Description of “ The poor in spirit.” By the poor in spirit, our Saviour undoubtedly meant all those, who, conscious of that weak


nefs which is inherent to our nature, and satis. fied how little real merit the best of us can pretend to, always entertain a modest diffidence and distrust of their own abilities, which naturally produces a meek and humble behaviour; to their fuperiors ever lowly and respectful, to their equals kind and benevolent, to their inferiors condescending; juít and candid. in the acknowledgment of their own faults and follies, yet willing to palliate, pass over, and forgive those of others; not assuming merit which they have not, or boasting, like the proud and vain, of those good qualities and perfections which they have; not ambitious of popular applause, or solicitous to obtain the praises of a capricious multitude, but contented with the filent approbation of a good conscience, and the secret solemn testimony of an honest and an upright heart.

But above all, by the poor in fpirit, is un. doubtedly meant the patient sufferer, he who hath fortitude enough to bear the evils of life without murmuring or repining at them; who submits with humble piety and resignation to the decrees of Providence, whose greatness of foul enables him to support injuries and oppression without resenting and returning them.

Such is undoubtedly the true spirit of Chriftianity; a spirit which breathes thro' every page of the gospel, which infpired every word and directed every action of our blessed Redeemer. That virtue which he recommends to others he never failed himself to practise. Learn of me, says he, for I am meek and lowly. there was in this world a person who, in the


If ever

« AnteriorContinua »