Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

the doctrines taught by the apostles, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.

The christian of a large and liberal mind will not receive doctrines, as the commandments of men ; nor, on the other hand, will he cavil and object against them, to shew his superiority to the opinions of men. The latter discovers as much pride and selfconceit, as the former discovers indolence and carelessness ; and it is difficult to say, which is most inconsistent with an open and generous soul.

3. The enlarged mind yields an unreserved submission to the divine government.

To the man, whose views are contracted within himself, the ways of God are subjects of daily complaint. As he has no higher aim than his own worldly interest, so he has no higher wish, than to find that providence makes him its favourite. Dis. appointments vex him, poverty mortifies him, the prosperity of others torments him ; for he sees no reason, why they should be more happy, and more successful than himself.

The man of an enlarged heart contemplates the ways of God on a more extensive scale. 'He does not consider himself as the only object of the divine care, nor the present life as the only term of his existence, nor this world as made and governed merely for his use. He looks up to God as a Be. ing of unsearchable wisdom and unbounded goodness, whose government extends to all creatures, and whose designs reach forward to the remotest ages of futurity. He believes that there is a secret connexion in all God's dispensations, and feels himself incompetent to judge what will best promote the general interest, or even his own. He considers, that the temporary evils which he suffers, may be productive of lasting good to others ; that the worldly prosperity, which he sometimes desires, might, if granted, operate to the prejudie

of many; and that his present afflictions may, in ways unknown and unsuspected, turn to his own eternal benefit. He therefore acquiesces in all the allotments of providence, and rejoices that his interests are in better hands than his own.

4. The enlarged christian is of a humble mind.

The man of a narrow, illiberal heart, thinks highly of his own worth, is tenacious of his own opin. ions, and devoted to his own interest. Vainly puffed up with a fleshly mind, he assumes airs of importance, magnifies his own works, and depreciates the virtues of others. But the man of enlarged and liberal sentiments thinks soberly, speaks modestly and walks humbly. He considers himself as only a single being in the immense creation of God. Contemplating the infinity of the Creator, the extent and variety of his works, and the countless myriads of superiour intelligences, which wait around him, he sinks into nothing in his own estimation. Yea; when he recollects the many instances of eminent virtue and wisdom, which have appeared among the human race, he dares not exalt himself above his fellow mortals; but is rather disposed to think others better than himself. From an enlarged view of the Creator and his works, the pious Psalmist was led to the most abasing thoughts of man. “O Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory above the heavens? When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars, which thou hast ordained. What is man, that thou art mindful of him ; and the Son of man, that thou visitest him?"

Influenced by this spirit of humility, the christian reveres the word of revelation, and receives with submission its heavenly instructions. Every high thing within him, which exalts itself against the knowledge of God is brought low, and every

thought is captivated to the obedience of Christ. He values the counsels of his friends, and listens to their faithful reproofs ; and is ever ready, on conviction, to change his sentiments, and amend his conduct; to retract his errors and confess his faults.

5. The enlarged heart is a benevolent heart.

“We are poor,” says the apostle, “yet make many rich; we have nothing, yet possess all things our heart is enlarged.”

He, whose feelings are contracted within himself, views with indifference the misfortunes of a neighbour, he rather watches to make some advantage from them, than studies how to relieve them. But the enlarged christian considers all men as his fellow creatures, partakers of the same nature, and subject to the same sensations with himself. From what he suffers, he realizes what they suffer in similar circumstances. It is one of his highest pleasures to abate the miseries, and advance the happiness of those around him. Every act of beneficence to the needy returns back to himself, bringing the reward of homefelt satisfaction.

His goodness is not confined to friends and favourites, to this religious sect or that political party; but extends to all as there is opportunity. Like the good Samaritan, he can shew mercy to the distressed, though they are of another nation, and of a different religion yea, though, in time past, they have been his enemies.

He can do good to those from whom he expects no recompense ; for he looks for his recompense in the gratification of his own benevolence, and in the approbation of his God.

Among his fellow christians he maintains an oblig. ing 'candour. Conscious of imperfection in himyself, he looks for perfection in none; and sensible of his need of candour from his brethren, he shews

that they may expect it from him. He will not hastily condemn them for every error in sentiment, or renounce communion with them for every diversity of usage ; but wherein he finds them agreeing with him, he will walk by the same rule; and wherein they are differently minded, he prays that God will reveal even this unto them.

He will not resent every inadvertent action or expression, though it may seem exceptionable ; but will make allowance for the common infirmities of human nature, and for the peculiar weaknesses and temptations of particular persons.

Real injuries he can forgive on moderate terms. And knowing how forward selflove is to magnify the injuries which it receives, and to palliate those which it commits, he is careful, in cases of variance, not to state too high the conditions of peace. .

He can sacrifice his own interest to the superior happiness of his fellow men, like saint Paul, who sought not his own profit, but the profit of many that they might be saved.

He does not view as lost all the blessings, which are dispersed among the human race, nor wish to grasp them with his own hands. He desires the happiness of all men, and with pleasure beholds his fellow creatures rejoicing under the smiles of prov. idence. His neighbour's fruitful field and plentiful harvest, peaceful mansion and contented aspect, refresh and cheer his heart. He takes a sensible share in the blessings, which they enjoy, and is happy in their prosperity.

He readily acknowledges the kindnesses which are done him. He can more easily forgive an injury, than forget a favour. Injuries, he knows, may proceed from accident, inadvertence, or transient passion, without settled malice or deliberate intention ; but favours are usually the effects of a kind and friendly disposition ; and the smallest kind

ness done with good will, is rather to be acknow. ledged, than the greatest injury done by accident, is to be resented. The enlarged mind 'marks this difference ; and while it passes over many injuries without serious resentment, it will let no favour stand unnoticed.

The man of enlarged views cultivates a good opinion of mankind. When he thinks most favoura. bly of them, he best enjoys himself. Their virtues he had rather notice than their failings. For the former he gives them full credit ; the latter he wishes to extenuate and excuse.

Perverse as mankind are, he finds, that, while he acts well himself, he can, for the most part, live peaceably with them. And bad as the world is, he, in the course of his business, meets more honest men than knaves; and is oftener treated with justice, than defrauded of his rights.

If he is sometimes defamed, yet while he provides things honest in the sight of all men, his char. acter is generally safe. He is oftener commended for worthy actions, than slandered for suspected faults.

How much soever some complain of their neighbours, every man finds it better to live in society, than in solitude. No man chooses to retire from the world, and confine himself to a hermitage. Every one therefore must be presumed to receive more good than evil from those around him.

The man of a large and liberal mind, thus viewing the state of the world, and the dispositions of mankind, embraces in the arms of his benevolence the whole human race, and those especially with whom he has intercourse and connexion : He does good as he has opportunity; and the good which he receives, he thankfully remembers and cheerfully requites.

« ForrigeFortsæt »