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are ready to be slain ; if thou sayesi, behold, we knew it not, doch not he that pondereth the heart consider? That is, if there are any persons drawn out to death, and ready to be slain by sinful oppression, and that thou had a just and reasonable power in thine hand to preserve them, it is not thy duty to stand still or hide thyself, and say, behold I knew it not. He that lets the ox or the ass of his neigbbour go astray or sink under a burden, and passeth away regardless as though he did not know it, is under the censure of the word of God; and much more do we deserve the censure, if we abandon our fellow-creatures of human nature to perish, when we are able to save them. The all-wise and almighty God considers it, and he will not approve of such meanness of spirit, and such a shameful defect of christian charity.
V. It is a work which calls for courage to admonish our brethren when they depart from the ways of righteousness, and to reprove sin among those with whom we converse. The law of God requires it; Lev. xix. 17. Thon shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. It is expressed as though a neglect of reproof, where it is a duty, looks like a sort of hatred, or want of love. But for the most part it is want of courage forbids it. Let it be done with holy boldness; but without wrath and resentment, or selfish revenge ; let it be expressed and managed with all love and gentleness, with all humility and compassion, and with a becoming exereise of those lovely characters of moderation and meekness, which I have elsewhere described.
Nathan the prophet ingeniously reproved David the king for his adultery and murder. And we should learn the most artful and obliging methods, and the softest language of reproof, that we may practise it with more courage, security, and success; and the more secret it is, it will generally be most successful. If at any time we are called by most evident providence, to give an open rebuke in the face of the world, together with courage, we must put on all wisdom and humility, lest we publish our own conceit and pride, and provoke wrath without hope of success. When we rebuke the profane and impious wretch, for the most glaring iniquity, we should use our best prudence in distinguishing proper seasons, lest we cast a pearl before swine, and it become useless, and be trodden under foot; Mat. vii. 6.
Sometimes it it is hard to know what is our duty in this respect but thus far in general it may be said, This should be done whensoever there is a great and evident probability of doing service to God and souls by it: Whengoever a vindication of the Dame of God and his honour requires it, or when there is any
just hope of doing good to men; there is indeed a time to keep silence in this case, and there is a time to speak. O may the word and Spirit and providence of God join together to give us direction in this difficult duty, and courage to perform it!
VI. Reformation of all kinds, whether in families or churches, in cities, or nations, demands a good degree of resolution and courage. It is a brave and daring enterprize, to stem the torrent of the age we live in, and to atteinpt to change the vicious customs of a city or nation. We must have a soul inspired with zeal for piety and goodness, if we would contest the point with the guilty, and cover thein with deserved shame, or bring them to deserved punishment. Blessed be God there are societies formed in our age for this glorious purpose! May everlasting success attend their zeal, and may their heads be covered with divine protection in every hour of danger!
We have need of courage to stand up for truth and purity in the church of Christ, when it is over-run with corrupt doctrines, wicked heresies, superstitions, and false worship. We must use our endeavour to root out these evil weeds by all the sacred influences of reason and scripture ; not by rage and violence, not by fraud and falsehood, not by slander and scandalous language, not by calling in the power of the magistrate and the sword of the state to assist us; Christ hath not allowed his followers such weapons as these against superstition and heresy; The sword of the Spirit is the word of God; Eph. vi. 17. The weapons of our warfare are not carna? ; 2 Cor. x. 4.
And when we have endeavoured to reform the offenders by all christian methods, and find no success, we must dare to separate ourselves from the many and the mighty, who will not be reformed. This was the glorious practice of our fathers, the protestants and the puritans, in the several seasons of their reformation, when they were called to oppose the greater or the lesser corruptions of the christian church.
If our kindred or families are fallen into any foolish, vain, or sinsul practices, or any civil society to which we belong hath departed from the rules of justice or truth, it belongs to a christian to become a public good, by using his influence, as far as it goes, toward the rectifying of every disorder. He should put on a divine fortitude, whensoever providence calls him to attempt a reformation amongst them. There is need of a noble spirit and a pious bravery, to rise up against any foolish or vicious customs, to combat any rooted principles or habits of error or iniquity, and to oppose any number of persons that are engaged in an evil course. Moses forbids us io. follow a multitude to do evil; Ex. xxiii. 2. . And there are seasons when we may be called to oppose a multitude of evil-doces :- And though no man stand by us,
yet we are bound to stand by the cause of God and goodness. So divine a cause deserves and demands such divine courage.
How glorious was the character of Caleb and Joshua, who spoke well of the land of promise, and encouraged the armies of Israel while all the rest of the spies which were sent brought an evil report upon the good land: Num. xiii. 31, 32. The people believed the evil report, and spoke of stoning Joshua and Caleb. But the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle, and God himself gave a testimony from heaven to the sacred courage and honour of these Jewish heroes. What a brave spirit dwelt in Elijah, who attempted to reform Israel from idolatry! He would not fall down and worship Baal, though he thought he had been left alone, the only worshipper of the true God in the nation; 1 Kings xix. 14.
VII. There are some other, and very common occasions for the exercise of sacred courage, which attend persons especially in the lower ranks of life: As for instance; when a servant is called by providence to speak the truth, and yet he dare not do it without offending his master : When a poor man is required to bear witness in some important concern, and his rich neighbour frowns and looks sour upon him: When a person of an inferior character is tempted to join with the mighty in some unjust and dishonourable practices, and while his superiors invite him to it, liis conscience forbids his compliance. It is a noble act of christian courage, in such instances as these, to follow truthi, equity, and conscience, wheresoever they lead, in opposition to all the allure. ments, the frowns, and the threatenings of persons in an higher station. Let those who fall under such a temptation remember, there is an higher than the highest, and the great God, the Lord of heaven and earth, is the patron of truth and righteousness, the guardian of innocence, and the dreadful avenger of deceit and lying
I might add other instances of a kindred nature in common life, wherein christian fortitude is greatly necessary, especially in this corrupt and degenerate age: As when a trader must look poverty in the face, and meet approaching ruin in his outward circumstances, unless he make some inroad upon his honesty, and practise falsehood and deceit. But if the case be thus, if a christian sees himself sinking in the world, by the frowns of providence, he must dare to sink rather thau cheat his neighbour, and save himself by any base and dishonest methods. A man of religion and honour must stand firm to his word, must follow strict equity in all things, and neither enter into any methods of fraud, nor of violence, to retrieve his decaying circumstances. O how many little knavish contrivances do persons often practise to secure a good bargain to themselves, and sometimes they support their dying credit in the world at the expence and loss of their innocent neighbour! They borrow what they know they are not able to pay: They draw up false accounts of their own estate : They impose upon the credulous with words of a double meaning, or with downright lies: They almost forget they are christians, for fear lest they should be undone, and practise the things at which an heathen would have blushed and started, because they have not courage enough to be honest and poor.
VIII. Christians have need of holy fortitude, to venture their lives at the demand of providence, and expose themselves to violence, and to a bloody death. Sometimes they are called to this glorious service in the cause of God and his church : So were many of the prophets, the apostles, and primitive christians, as well as the martyrs of later ages. Sometimes in the cause of our country, divine providence calls us to expose our blood, and to assist or guard the nation against invasions from abroad, or tumults at home, and to quell the rage of a brutal multitude. In a just and necessary war for our country, or in a defence of our natural or religious rights, we may tight with christian courage, when we have well surveyed the justice of our cause, and find it approved of God. And there are seasons when we may be called to venture our lives for our christian brethren; 1 John iii. 15.
But perhaps some of these things may come as naturally also under the head of passive valour and courage : And indeed the most active valour of the greatest heroes is built upon that which is passive. It is on this account they dare venture to expose their flesh to wounds, their names to reproach, or their bodies to death, because they can bear the wounds, the reproaches, or death itself with a noble serenity and fortitude of soul. All the active boldness in the world is but rashness and folly where such a hardiness and patience are utterly wanting. Of this passive valour I shall mention but two particular cascs wherein christians must exert themselves.
I. When we are called to bear sickness, pain, shame, losses, disappointments, all the sorrowful changes of life, or death itself from the mere hand of God. This is to be done with a steadiness of spirit, with a firmness of soul, with christian fortitude, with a sacred and serene calin upon all our powers and passions, without fretting or yexing, or inward disquietude. It is a sign of a weak mind to be overset with every blast of wind. If thou faintest in the day of adversity, thy strength is but small; Prov. xxiv. 10. We must not indeed despise the chastening of the Almighty, nor must we faint when we are rebuked of him; Heb. xii. 5.
Let the men of this world that know not Christ, that are not acquainted with the gospel, and have not felt the powers of the world to come, let them fret and grow peevish at every disappointment that falls upon them in their earthly comforts, or when their flesh is visited with sore pains : But it does not become a a christian to be sour and fretful under the afflicting hand of God, for it is the hand of his heavenly Father. To be overwhelmed and almost distracted with the crosses we meet with in the world, is not becoming the character of a child of God, one that is high born, that has his birth from heaven, and his family there ; it is a shame for him to grow wild with impatience, or to run into desperate courses for relief. This is not courage,
mere coward, ice of soul, to put an end to our own life in order to escape from our sorrows. The wisest among the heathens reproved it as a meanness of spirit ; and surely it is much more unbecoming the religion of Christ, and that divine fortitude that every christian should be endued with. We are not to be affrighted, though the mountains should be turned upside down, and cast into the midst of the sea.
The Lord of hosts is our shield and defence, he is a rock above all the waves, and if our feet are fixed upon this rock, what need have we for terror? The name of the God of Jacob, in the xlvi. Psalm, is a match for all our foes, and a sovereiga remedy for all our fears.
Christian courage appears also upon a bed of sickness, when, at the call of God, we look death in the face with a chearful soul. When all our friends stand around us, and every one, by the lamentable air that sits in their faces, gives us notice of our approaching dissolution, then to look upon death with a serene countenance, and not be affrighted, but venture boldly into the invisible world ; this is a glorious fortitude derived from the grace of faith.
II. Another instance of passive valour is, when we bear persecutions of all sorts from the hand of men with a holy courage, for the sake of God. When we can be plundered of our possessions in this world, and stripped of all our comforts, and yet be easy. Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, says the apostle to the Hebrews; chapter x. verses 33, 34. and ye endured the great fight of afflictions with chearfulness, knowing that in heaten ye have a better and more enduring substance. In Heb. xi. Terse 36. when the apostle speaks of the ancient Jewish saints, they had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented: but they were men above this world, of whom the world was not worthy: They had a