« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
of doing good to us by these unpleasant instruments ? Can we rejoice under the mercy by joys of believing at the same time, when we groan under the affliction by the passion of sense ? ' Do we observe the design of cure, when we feel the pain and the smart? Are we patient under the evil, being supported by expectation of the good which is promised to followa? This is the proper work of faith, and its best indication.
Plutarch tells, that when the cowards of Lacedemon depicted upon their shields the most terrible beasts they could imagine, their design was to affright their enemies that they might not come to a close fight; they would fain have made their enemies afraid, because themselves were so: which when Lacon espied, he painted upon a great shield, nothing but a little fly for his device, and to them who said he did it that he might not be noted in the battle, he answered, 'yea, but I mean to come so near the enemy, that he shall see the little fly.'—This is our case : our afflictions seem to us like gorgons' heads, lions and tigers, things terrible in picture, but intolerable in their fury; but if we come near and consider them in all the circumstances, they are nothing but a fly upon a shield, they cannot hurt us; and they ought not to affright us, if we remember that they are conducted by God, that they are the effect of his care, and the impress of his love, that they are the method and order of a blessing, that they are sanctified and eased by a promise ; and that a present ease, it may be, would prove a future infelicity. If our faith did rely upon the promise, all this were nothing; but our want of faith does cause all the excess of trouble s. For the question is not whether or no we be afflicted, whether we be sick, or crossed in our designs, or deprived of our children, this we feel and mourn for;- but the question is, whether all this may not, or be not intended to, bring good to us ? Not whether God smiles or no, but to what purpose
a Si qua latent, meliora puta.-Or. M. i. 502.
• The cowurds of Lacedemon] Plutarch does not mention these cowards ; he merely states, that a Lacedemonian ( Lacon) painted a fly upon his shield. -Λάκων επί της ασπίδος μυϊαν έχων επίσημον, και ταύτην ου μείζω της αληθινής, ας καταγελώντές τινες έλεγον υπέρ του λανθάνειν τούτο πεποιήκει, “Ινα μεν ούν (είπε) φανεράς ώ· ούτω γαρ τούς πολεμίοις πλησίον προσέρχομαι ώστε το επίσημον ήλίκον εστίν υπ' αυτών öpãoja..-Lacon. Apoph. Xyland. t. ii. pag. 234. D. (J. R. P.)
e Panam, Phaeton, pro munere poscis.
he smiles ? not whether this be not evil, but whether this evil will not bring good to us? If we do believe, why are we without comfort and without patience? If we do not believe it, where is our faith?
And why do any of us come to the holy communion, if we do not believe it will be for our good ? but if we do think it will, why do we not think so of our cross ? for the promise is that every thing shall. Cannot the rod of God do good as well as the bread of God? and is not he as good in his discipline as in his provision ? is not he the same in his school as at his table? is not his physic as wholesome as his food ? It is not reason, but plainly our want of faith, that makes us think otherwise. Faith is the great magazine of all the graces, and all the comforts of a Christian : and, therefore, the devil endeavours to corrupt the truth of it, by intermingling errors, the sincerity of it by hypocrisy, the ingenuity of it by interest, the comforts of it by doubting, the confidence of it by objections and secular experiences, and present considerations; by adherence to human confidences, and little sanctuaries, and the pleasures of the world, and the fallibilities of men. When Xerxes had a great army to conduct, and great successes to desire, and various contingencies to expect,- he left off to sacrifice to his country gods, forsook Jupiter and the sun: and, in Lydia, espying a goodly platan-tree, tall, and straight, and spread, he encamped all his army in the fields about it, hung up bracelets and coronets upon the branches, and, with costly offerings, made his petitions to the beauteous tree: and when he marched away, he left a guard upon his god, lest any thing should do injury to the plant, of which he begged to be defended from all injury. By such follies as these does the devil endeavour to deflower our holy faith and confidences in God; we trust in man, who cannot trust himself; we rely upon riches, that rely upon nothing; for they have no stabiliment, and they have no foundation, but are like atoms in the air; the things themselves can bear no weight, and the foundation cannot bear them. In our afflictions, we look for comfort from wine
d Herodotus does not say, that Xerxes made any prtitions to the plane tree.- εύgs (ο Ξέρξης) πλατάνιστον, την, κάλλεος είνεκα, δωρησάμενος κόσμω χρυσέω, και pusledovm & Spána a Javára dvdpo śmitpétas, &c. — Polym. c. 31. Schweigh. vol. iii. pag. 191. (J. R. P.)
or company, from a friend that talks well, or from any thing that brings us present ease, but, in the mean time, we look not into the promises of God, which are the storehouses of comfort: and, like the dogs at Hippocrene, we lick the waterdrops that fall upon the ground, and take no notice of the fountain and the full vessels. These things are so necessary to be considered, in order to our preparation to the communion, as they are necessary to be reduced to practice, in order to a Christian conversation. For the holy communion is the summary and compendium of the religion and duty of a whole life; and as faith cannot be holy, material, and acceptable, without it contain in it a real trust in the promises of God, --so neither can it be a sufficient disposition to the receiving the divine mysteries, unless upon this ground, it be holy, acceptable, and material.
3. That faith which is a worthy preparatory to the holy communion, must be the actual principle and effective of a good life; a faith in the threatenings and in the commandments of God. Who can pretend to be a Christian, and yet not believe those words of St. Paulo ? “ Follow after peace, with all men, and holiness ;-without which, no man shall see God.” And yet if we do believe it, what do we think will become of us, who neither 'follow peace nor holiness,' but follow our anger, and pursue our lust? If we do believe this, we had need look about us, and live at another rate than men commonly do. But we still remain peevish and angry, malicious, and implacable, apt to quarrel, and hard to be reconciled, lovers of money and lovers of pleasures, but careless of holiness and religion; as if they were things fit only to be talked on, and to be the subject of theological discourses, but not the rule of our lives, and the matter of our care. It is expressly said by St. Paul'; “ He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.”—Now if we observe what crowds of people, in great cities, come to the holy communion; good and bad, penitent and impenitent, the covetous and the proud, the crafty merchant from yesterday's fraud, and the wanton fool from his last night's lust,—we may easily perceive, that not many men believe these words. He that says to me, * Drink
not this, for it is poison,'hath given me a law and an affrightment, and I dare not disobey him, if I believe him; and if we did believe St. Paul, I suppose we should as little dare to be damned, as to be poisoned. Our blessed Saviours told - us, that “ with what measures we mete to others, it shall be measured to us again ;” but who almost believes this, and considers what it means? Will
be content, that God should despise you as you despise your brother? that he should be as soon angry with you, as you are with him ? that he should strike you as hastily, and as seldom pardon you, and never bear with your infirmities, and as seldom interpret fairly what you say or do, and be revenged as frequently as you would be? And what think we of these sayings", "Into the heavenly Jerusalem there shall, in no wise, enter any thing that defileth, or profaneth; neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie?” Do men believe God, and yet, doing these things, hope to be saved for all these terrible sayings ? "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, &c. of which I tell you before, that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of Godi.” Certainly if we did believe that these things are spoken in earnest, we should not account fornication such a decent crime, so fashionable and harmless; or make such a may-game of the fearful lectures of damnation. For, if these words be true, will men leave their sins, or are they resolved to suffer damnation, as being less troublesome than to quit their vain mistresses ? surely that is not it; but they have some little subterfuges and illusions to trust to. They say, 'they will rely upon God's mercy.' Well they may; if,“ in well doing, they commit their souls to him as to a faithful Creator:” but will they make God their enemy, and then trust in him, while he remains so? That will prove an intolerable experiment; for so said God, when he caused his name to be proclaimed to the host of Israel; “ The Lord God merciful and gracious :” he caused to be added, "and that will by no means quit the guilty.” By no means? No, by no means ; let us believe that as well as the other. For the passion of our Redeemer, the intercession of our high priest, the sacraments of the church, the body
& Matt. vii. 2.
h Rev. xxi. 27.
i Gal. v. 21.
and blood of Christ, the mercies of God, the saying, 'Lord, Lord,' the privileges of Christians, and the absolution of the priest, none of all this, and all this together, shall do him no good that remains guilty; that is, who is impenitent, and does not forsake his sin. If we had faith we should believe this, and should not dare to come to the holy communion with an actual guiltiness of many crimes, and in confidence of pardon, against all the truth of divine revelations, and, therefore, without faith.
But then here we may consider, that no man, in this case, can hope to be excused from the necessities of a holy life, upon pretence of being saved by his faith. For if the case be thus, these men have it not. For he that believes in God, believes his words, and they are very terrible to all evil persons; for “ in Christ Jesus nothing can avail but a new creature, nothing but keeping the commandments of God, nothing but faith working by charity,” they are the words of God. Wicked men, therefore, can never hope to be saved by their faith, or by their faith to be worthy communicants, for they have it not. Who then can?
He only, by his faith, is worthily disposed to the communion, and by his faith can be saved,- who, by his faith, lives a life of grace, whose faith is to him a magazine of holy principles, whose faith endears obedience, and is the nurse of a holy hope, and the mother of a never-failing charity. He shall be saved by his faith, who by his faith is more than conqueror, who resists the devil, and makes him fly, and gives laws to his passions, and makes them obedient: who, by his faith, overcomes the world, and removes mountains, the mountains of pride and vanity, ambition, and secular designs,- and whose faith casteth out devils, the devil of lust, and the devil of intemperance, the spirit that appears like a goat, and the spirit that comes in the shape of a swine : he whose faith opens the blind man's eyes, and makes him to see the things of God, and cures the lame hypocrite, and makes him to walk uprightly. “For these signs shall follow them that believe," said our blessed Saviourk; and by these, as by the wedding garment, we are fitted to this heavenly supper of the king. In short, for whatever end faith is
* Mark, xvi. 17, 18.