« ForrigeFortsæt »
It is necessary here to remove two or three objections out of the
that may seem to attend this exhortation of the apostle.
The first is this : If a good name be so valuable a thing, why should there be such a woe denounced by our Saviour against those that have the good word of all men : Luke vi. 26. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you ; for so did their fathers to the fulse prophets.
I. Answer. That the design of our Saviour is to shew, that no man in a degenerate and corrupt age, can attain the high esteem and hearty good word of all persons in the world, but those who are time servers and hypocrites, who can suit themselves to every company, and comply with every change of the times; who can profess to be religious, and yet indulge themselves or others in the practice of their secret iniquities; such were the false prophets of old. Such a person as this may for a short season get all men to speak well of him : The drunkards will commend him, for he can get drunk as well as they, and the swearer, for he can join with them in swearing; and the men of piety may be deceived in him, and give him a good report, for his tongue is tipped with religious language, and he seems to be a saint; but in reality he is an universal hypocrite, and true to nothing. Our Lord Jesus hates and censures such a character as this is, and this is the design of his reproof. Again,
II. Let it be noted, that this sort of sinners can hold the good word of all men but for a very short time. The drunkards, the profane, and the lewd, may caress' a man for a season who complies with their vices; yet when they hear that he pretends to be religious among persons of piety, they will speak evil of him in abundance, and brand him for an hypocrite, which is a more loathsome name; and his pious acquaintance, whon they shall find out his practice of secret wickedness, they will justly fix the same odious character upon him : Thus he who before had the good word of all men, shall then be loaded with public scandal and infamy. I add further,
III. That a good report signifies a good character and honourable reputation among all wise and good men, upon the account of valuable qualities, and the exercise of virtue and goodness ; and where a man manages his affairs with an excellent conduct in this respect, and keeps himself without a blemish, he
a will command some degree of esteem and reverence from the viler part of the world : His good name will be general, though perhaps not universal; and if the wicked world finds occasion
; to speak evil of him in any thing, it is only in the matters of
his God, and his exemplary practice of piety. This thought introduces
The second objection, riz. if a good name amongst men be so desirable, why does our Saviour say, Mat. v. 11, 12. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall speak all manner of eril against you, falsely for my sake ; then rejoice ye, and be ei. ceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.
Answer. It is supposed that the evil which men speak of you is false; for so our Saviour expresseth it, when they shall speak all manner of evil against you, falsely for my suke. They shall scandalize you as being ill men, merely because you are christians; and throw upon you many odiums, which your practice has never deserved, on purpose to expose the christian religion. The apostle Peter agrees with our Lord Jesus Christ in the sanie design ; 1 Pet. iii. 16. Keep a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you as eril-doers, They may be ashamed while they falsely accuse your good conversation in Jesus Christ.
Now when it appears to be pure hatred of God and of goodness, of Christ and his gospel, for which you are reproached, then you have cause to rejoice, because Christ is on your side : So he was reproached in the days of his flesh, so the prophets that went before him, and the apostles that succeeded him; 1 Pet. iv, 14, The Spirit of God and of glory resteth upon you, for on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Happy are ye, for Christ and you are joined together in the same cause: and you who have glorified him on earth, shall be glorified together with him in heaven.
The third objection is this; if praise amongst men be law. ful to be sought, how comes it to pass that there are so many reproofs given to those who seek the praise of men? How can these scriptures be reconciled with some others that are cited before to encourage actions worthy of praise! How often does our Saviour severely rebuke the pharisees for this practice, that they do their good works to be seen of men? Mat. vi. 2, 5, 16. John v. 44.
Answer. It is evident that these bopocrites whom our Saviour reproves, neglected all inward piety before God, and practised the outward forms of godliness merely to gain the praise of men, they loved and ralued it more than the praise of God; John xii. 43. They received'honour of one another, and had no concern about that superior blessing, that divine esteem and approbation which God only can bestow, and which only would stand thern in stead hereafter. Where the praise of God is inconsistent with the praise of men, there it is evident we must despise the censures or the praises of the world, and seek the divine
approbation only: But where these two benefits may be happily conjoined, we are not bound to separate them. God never requires us to seek infamy and reproach, or to abandon that honour that belongs to truth and goodness.
But that I may more effectually guard every christian against all the dangers and temptations that may attend a good name, and honour in the world, I would conclude the discourse with thiese four advices :
I. Make not the praise of men your chief aim or design in any thing you do: But let it be your first and chiefest care to approve yourselves to God and your own consciences. Do those actions that are worthy of praise ; and whether the world acknowledge it or no, your souls will find inward peace, your labour of love shall not be forgotten of God, he is faithful who hath promised; Heb. x. 23.
II. If you are so happy as to obtain the esteem of men, set a guard upon your soul, lest pride and vanity take occasion to arise and shew themselves. Slave a care lest Satan the tempter gain an advantage against you by the fruits of your virtue and the eminence of your graces. Pride is such a cursed twining weed, it will sometimes root itself in virtue and honour, it will grow up to an equal height, and make its supporters wither and die.
III. Let all the honour you acquire among men, be improved to the honour of your God and Saviour. If you make your own applause your great end, Jesus will say to you another day, as he did once to the pharisees, Verily I say unto you, ye have your reward; Mat. vi. 2, 5, 16. The praise of men will be your whole recompence, and there is nothing more remains for you. Whensoever therefore you receive applause from the world, make the world know that it was not the man but the christian that practised the virtue, and gained the praise. Not I, but the grace of God, which was with me; I Cor. xv. 10. If
you 80 manage all your laudable actions, that Jesus Christ and his name may gain some honour by them, this shall turn to your praise and glory in the day of Christ, as well as to the praise of God your Saviour.
IV. When the providence of God and his grace have fayoured you so far as to gain a good character in the world, have a care of every thing that may impeach your honour, or sully your reputation. Remember the lesson that Solomon teaches you from so contemptible a thing as a dead fly; a few of them will cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour; so does a little folly disgrace a man who is in reputation for wisdom and honour; Eccl. x. 1. The blemish that arises from one base or foolish action will darken a bright character, and cancel the honour that has cost ths labour of many years to acquire ; And the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will suffer much by it also, it those persons once descend to folly and disgrace, who have risen high before in the regions of wisdom and public esteem.
Happy those christians who walk closely with God to the end of life, and keep their garments unspotted! When they die, they leave a perfumed name behind them to the churches, and to the families to which they have belonged; and perhaps they bequeath a lasting honour to religion as long as the world shall stand.
Such has been the character of some of the saints in ancient ages of the world, such in the elder and later days of christianity: The brightness and savour of their good name abides to this day amongst us, as an ornament to religion, and a rich perfume to the gospel of our Lord Jesus To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
HYMN FOR SERMON XXX.
Christian Morality, viz. Courage and Honour.
DO I believe what Jesus saith,
And think bis gospel true ?
· Aod practise virtue too.
Arm me with heavenly zeal,
And works of praise fulfil.
If men shall see my virtue shine,
And spread my name abroad ;
My Saviour and my God!
Their lips proclaim thy grace ;
And ovo their borrow'd rays,
Holy Fortitude, or Remedies against Fear.
1 Cor. xvi. 13.-Stand Fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. In the first ages of christianity, the professors of the gospel had great need of divine courage, that they might stand the many shocks of opposition, reproach and violence. The Corinthian heathens, though they were a polite and learned people, yet they were blind and obstinate in their own superstitions and idolatry, and rooted in the profane and vicious customs of their ancestors. It required a large stock of holy fortitude, to profess and practise a new religion among them, that ran counter to all their former opinions, and their manners. Therefore St. Paul, who planted the gospel in that city, calls upon his converts to shake off cowardice and fear, to stand firm and unmoved in the profession of their faith, to behave like men of war, like heroes, in the practice of christianity, and to exert all their strength of soul in this glorious work. Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men,
It is true, we live not in a heathen country, among lewd and barbarous superstitions : The land where our lot is cast, is honoured with the christian name, and professes the religion of Jesus : yet let me tell you, infidelity is a growing temptation of this age, the gospel of Christ hath plentiful ridicule thrown upon it, by many of our neighbours that go under the name of chris- . tians, and we may sometimes be called to put on courage for the defence of this gospel.
But besides this, there are many things occuring in the divine life, that require us to put on this holy fortitude of soul. The very nature of men is so corrupt and vicious, their hearts are so averse to the holy precepts of christianity, the multitude of sinners is so exceeding great in every nation, even where the gospel is professed, the customs of this world are so contrary to the rules of the gospel, and the malice and rage of Satan with his evil angels, is so constant and so violent against the religion and the name of Christ, that it is true at all times, as well as in the
primitive age, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; 2 Tim. iii. 12. When we become soldiers of Christ, and resolve to be religious in good earnest, we must