« ForrigeFortsæt »
watchful eye over him, that he was kept from gross sins, and was brought up in all the forms of godliness, and in the observance of the moral law. Now Christ, considered merely as a man, loved the law of God so well, that he could not but take pleasure in a person that performed it, so far as that obedience reached. Virtue, in the mere outward part of it, will command respect even from the vile and the wicked: much more will the good and pious man pay honour to the practice of it. There is something amiable in sobriety, temperance, charity, justice, truth, and sincerity, though they may not proceed from the divinest principle of love to God rooted in the heart.
4. He had given some diligence in seeking after eternal life, and had a great concern about his soul. He came running to ask a question of the biggest importance, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? He was convinced there was a heaven and a hell, and he was willing to do something here to obtain happiness hereafter. He did not come with a design to put curious and ensnaring questions, as the Sadducees did; Mat. xxii. 23. but he seems to have an honest design to know the way to heaven and happiness, for he went away sorrowful when he could not comply with the demands of Christ. Though he thought he had practised a great deal of religion, yet he was willing to receive further instructions; What lack I yet? Is there any other precépt to be performed, in order to entitle me to life eternal? Now our Saviour loves to see conscience awakened, to see the springs of religion opened and beginning to flow: A divine teacher conceives some hope of a man that is willing to be taught, and ready to learn, and therefore he loves him. This youth thought himself righteous, yet he did not think himself all-wise; and therefore submits to farther instructions. Now it is a pleasure to communicate knowledge to those that long to receive it; and we pity them heartily when they do not comply with the necessary duties that are revealed to them, through the charms of some strong temptation.
5. Add to all this, that he had many civil advantages by reason of his riches, his authority, and his power. He was wealthy, and he was a ruler among the people; which things, though they cannot in themselves make any person amiable, yet when they are added to the former good qualities, they render them all more lovely and more valuable; and that because they are so seldom joined together. Dr. Goodman remarks very ingeniously here," that his concern about his soul, was not a sick-bed meditation, for he was in health; nor a melancholy qualm of old age, for he was young: nor was it the effect of his being discontented and out of humour with the world, for he was rich and prosVOL. 1.
perous." It is seldom that we see a man in the prime of his days, possessing large treasures and dominions in this world, that will seek after the things of another; or that will shew due respect to his fellow-creatures, or practise so much as the form of godliness that when all these meet together, as they did in this young man, they conspire to make him lovely in the eyes of every beholder. But alas! this unhappy youth, furnished, as he was with all these virtues, and these advantages, which our Lord beheld in him, and for which he loved him, yet he lost heaven for the love of this world. He refused to accept the proposals of Christ; he went away sorrowfnl, for he had large possessions. And this naturally leads me to the third head.
[If this sermon be too long, it may be divided here.]
III. Some remarks upon this mixed character; upon the folly, the guilt, and misery of a man so lovely, and so beloved of Christ.
1st Remark. How much good and evil may be mingled in the same person? what lovely qualities were found in this young man and yet there was found in him a carnal mind in love with this world, and in a state of secret enmity to God. Our nature at first was a glorious composition of all that was good. How has sin ruined human nature from its primitive glory, and mingled a large measure of evil in its very frame! and yet how has restraining grace kept our nature from losing every thing that is good and valuable, and from becoming universally monstrous and loathsome!
Let us take a survey of the world, and see what a mixture there is of amiable and hateful qualities amongst the children of men. There is beauty and comeliness; there is vigour and vivacity; there is good-humour and compassion; there is wit and judgment, and industry, even amongst those that are profligate and abandoned to many vices. There is sobriety, and love, and honesty, and justice, and decency amongst men that know not God, and believe not the gospel of our Lord Jesus. There are very few of the sons and daughters of Adam, but are possessed of something good and agreeable, either by nature or acquirement; therefore, when there is a necessary occasion to mention the vices of any man, I should not speak evil of him in the gross, nor heap reproaches on him by wholesale. It is very disingenuous to talk scandal in superlatives, as though every man who was a sinner, was a perfect villain, the very worst of men, all over hateful and abominable.
How sharply should our own thoughts reprove us, when we give our pride and malice a loose, to ravage over all the character of our neighbours, and deny all that is good concerning them,
because they have something in them that is criminal and worthy of blame! Thus our judgment is abused by our passions; and sometimes this folly reigns in us to such a degree that we can hardly allow a man to be wise or ingenious, to have a grain of good sense, or good humour, that is not of our profession, or our party, in matters of church or state. Let us look back upon our conduct, and blush to think that we should indulge such prejudices, such a sinful partiality.
2d Remark. A man that has not true grace, nor holiness, may be the just object of our love for we find several instances and several degrees of love were paid by Christ, the wisest and best of men, to a youth of a covetous and carnal temper! one who preferred earth to heaven, and valued his present possessions above those eternal treasures that Christ had promised him.
I confess, under the Old Testament, in the cxxxix. Psalm, ver. 21, 22. David appeals to God, do not I hate them, that hate thee? and adds, I hate them with a perfect hatred. But this need not be construed to signify any malice in his heart against them, as a private person; but his design to fight against them, and suppress them, as a soldier, and a king, because they appeared publicly against God; for he adds, I am grieved at those that rise up against thee, I count them mine enemies. Besides, these persons were of so abandoned a character, that they seem to have had nothing good in them; and he might justly hate them, considered merely as sinners, in the same sense that we must hate ourselves, so far as we are sinful. I might add to all this, that they were cruel and bloody with regard to men, and they spoke wickedly against God, and were God's professed enemies, ver. 19. and 20. After all, it was much more allowable in David the Jew in the heat of his zeal, to talk thus, than it can be for us, christians; while we read the words of our Saviour, Mat. v. 43, 44, 45. We have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust: While we consider also in what a divine manner our Lord Jesus has exemplified his own precept, and has loved many of his enemies, so as to die for them; and manifested so much natural affection, even for the young sinner in my text, because there were some good qualities found in him.
I will not say therefore within myself concerning any man,
"I hate him utterly, and abhor him in all respects, because he has not true holiness :" but I will look upon him, and consider whether there may not be some accomplishment in him, some moral virtue, some valuable talent, some natural or acquired excellency; and I will not neglect to pay due esteem to every deserving quality, wheresoever I find it. It is a piece of honour due to God our Creator, to observe the various signatures of his wisdom, that he has impressed upon his creatures, and the overflowing treasures of his goodness, which he has distributed among the works of his hands.`
Thus I may very justly love a man, for whom, in the vulgar sense, I have no charity; that is, such a one as I believe to be in a state of sin and death, and have no present hope of his salvation. How could holy parents fulfil their duties of affection to their wicked children? or pious children pay due respect to sinful parents? How could a believer fulfil the law of love to an unbelieving brother, or a dearer relative, if we ought to admit of no love to persons that are in a state of enmity to God? How can we be followers of God as dear children, if we are not kind to the unthankful, and to the evil; Luke vi. 37. To those who have nothing of serious religion in them; Gal. vi. 10. "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
As God has a peculiar love for his own children, for those who are renewed, and sanctified, and formed into his likeness; so ought we to love all the saints with a peculiar kind of affection, and take special delight in them, we should express a love of intimate fellowship unto them; a love of divine friendship, of spiritual pleasure, and hearty communion; rejoicing together with them in God our common Father, in Christ Jesus our common Head, and in the hope of our common Salvation; and we should ever be ready, in the first place, to assist and support them, and supply their wants according to the calls of providence. But sinners also must have some share in our love.
3d Remark. How different is the special love of God, from the natural love of man! God seeth not as man seeth; he appoints not persons to eternal life, because of some agreeable accomplishments which they possess in this life. Jesus Christ himself, considered as God, did not bestow his special and saving love upon that young Israelite, whom, as man, he could not help loving. So Samuel was sent to chuse a king for the Jews, among the sons of Jesse; 1 Sam. xvi. 6. When he saw Eliab appear, he looked on him, and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before him; but the Lord said to Samuel, ver. 7. Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him." Old Jesse, it may be, was ready to look upon
his eldest son too, being pleased with his tall and comely figure, and to say within himself, " It is a pity that Eliab was not made a king." But David was God's beloved.
If the question were put to us, Who are the persons that are fit to stand in the court of God above, to be the inhabitants and ornaments of heaven? We should be ready to say, the beautiful and the ingenious, the souls of a sweet disposition, and the persons of graceful behaviour. We are tempted to think that the well-born, the wise, the affable, and the well-accomplished, should all be made saints, and the favourites of God; but he sees with other eyes, he determines his special love by other principles, and makes another sort of distinction by his sovereign saving grace, unguided and unallured by the merit of man. 1 Cor. i. 26, 27, 28, 29. "Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen : yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.'
What would become of the morose, the rough natural tempers, if God loved none but such as were lovely in our eyes? What would become of all the deformed and the most uncomely pieces of human nature; the clownish, and the weak, and base things of this world, if God should chuse none but the fair, and the well-bred, the well-figured, and the honourable? If this were the rule of his conduct, what dismal distinction would light upon thousands, and some good men too, who must wear in their faces, in this world, the dreadful sentence of their damnation in the next? But the great and sovereign God acts by other measures; he lays down to himself divine rules, that are to us unknown, and must be for ever unsearchable.
Some, who are endowed with native excellencies, he adorns with heavenly graces, and they shine as jewels set in rings of gold: Others, who have scarce any thing in them amiable by nature, are the objects of divine love, and made vessels of grace; though these do never make so charming an appearance among men. Moses the meek and obliging, Jonah the rough and the peevish, were both beloved of God; for he made saints and prophets of them. Abraham the rich, and Sarah the beautiful; Peter the poor fisherman, and Paul the man of mean aspect, and contemptible figure; were all beloved of God, and made heirs of eternal Life. The conduct of the great God, in this matter, is so various, and his reasons so sublime and impenetrable, that it is in vain for us to attempt to trace out his rules of action.