Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

He have no purposes unknown to man, which this system only can fulfil? He certainly may; and as certainly has done that which best suited His high and holy intentions. He has left us free to follow good or evil : He has acted (to adopt a homely similitude) like a master who, to prove the loyalty of his servant, places, as if accidentally and carelessly, some valuable property in his way. You ask, why does he thus expose his servant to temptation ? Precisely to ascertain the extent of his fidelity. Has He not a right to prove it-a just necessity to know in whom he confides the charge of his person and possessions ? Thus then God has acted with us. He would prove if we are faithful in the station which we hold--if we can resist the attraction of forbidden pleasures, for the example and benefit of our fellow men. Like the master, He rejoices to find us true; and loves better that our truth should spring from love, than from a meritless coercion. And if but one servant is found faithful out of many, will not the master infinitely prize that servant—will he not point him out in triumph, and say, “I have found my servant David-him “who might offend, and hath not offended "-"who might have done evil, and hath not done it.” Or again, "hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth-a perfect and an upright man-one that feareth God and escheweth evil ?”

But it may be said, that he who thus covertly gives a person liberty to rob him, distrusts that person ; and if God act thus, it is clear that He distrusts His creatures. Yet reflect in how much freedom He leaves us, and it will also be clear what a large confidence He shews. He exposes us to certain temptations by way of proof; but He trusts us with all in the most perfect confidence. And since God, in His right as a master, had the full power of trying us; and, in His goodness, that of trusting us He desires, at one and the same time, to prove and to confide; leaving to us the entire government of all. Observe, in fact, that the use and the abuse of Grace—the acquisition or privation of His glory —the gain or the loss of our eternal interests, are in our own hands. Observe also the delicacy of the proceeding. As we need the Grace of God to perform works necessary for eternal life, so we want liberty to make them our own. And, in order that liberty may not be overshadowed by Grace, its aid is extended to us by subtle excitements apart from all constraint. Grace directs—leads our liberty, and without it, liberty could not go on.

It urges it, and without that impulsion, it could not advance.

Grace now foreruns, now accompanies, now follows, virtuous actions ; but NEVER without our active labour. It assists our liberty with an efficacy so temperate, that it is often to be imagined rather than felt. A good thought will arise so unexpectedly; a holy feeling will assist and second you so simply and naturally, that unless faith be dominant, you will take that for nature, which is the work of Grace—that for a casual occurrence, which is the insinuating Spirit of the Lord. Where this Spirit is, there also is liberty ; and without this Spirit, no one can be free. With it we possess what the Apostle calls the liberty of children, immediately opposed to the slavery of sin ; and to which superhuman enfranchisement we arrive by the proper use of the human. He who uses it well, may see in Joseph how it succeeds, but they who use it ill, may find its fatal end in the murderer Cain. “ Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

177

SERMON XIII.

FAMILY AGGRANDISEMENT.

“ And he said unto her, What wilt thou ? She saith unto him, Grant

that these my two sons may sit, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left in thy kingdom.”—Matt. xx. 21,

If the overweening fondness of maternal solicitude ever sought for family aggrandisement by honest and honourable measures, it was, doubtless, in the instance of Salome, the mother of St. James and St. John. She desired to elevate her children from the cottage to the throne; from being the comrades of a few poor fishermen, to be the equals of princes and the favoured counsellors of a crowned head. She was ambitious that the objects of her maternal affection should sit on the right hand and on the left of her blessed Lord; should be exalted to the prime station in that temporal kingdom, which mistakingly she imagined that Christ had come to erect. But to facilitate an object of such magnitude, she had not recourse to unworthy arts, as occurs too frequently in similar pursuits. She forged no calumnies to depreciate the other Apostles ; she intrigued not, she flattered not. She neither proffered an alluring bribe, nor uttered a crafty insinuation. And only, after the continued and laborious service of her childrenafter nights and days of vigils and fastings—after exposure to the inclemencies of the seasons, to the gibes and cruelties of the Jews—barefooted, shattered in mind and body, then only, did she without disguise, without equivocation, and when the rest of our Lord's immediate followers were present to object, then only did she seek the fulfilment of her wishes. She had herself, it is probable, out of love to her Saviour, neglected the occupations of her home-separated herself from her husband—and forgotten all the various claims of affection and the gratifications of repose, and the interchange of neighbourly kindness. It was on such grounds alone, that she ventured to solicit the advancement of her sons, "the one to the right hand, and the other to the left," of their Omnipotent Master.

But, notwithstanding all the exertions that they had made or all that they might yet make, so far was Christ from testifying approbation at the ambitious request, that He rejected it with marks of dissatisfaction. “Ye know not what

Foolish, inconsiderate woman! thy wishes speak the pride and vanity of a mother's heart ; thy conception of my kingdom is low, and gross,

and carnal; thou art grievously ignorant of the nature of what thou hast required !

ye ask.”

« PoprzedniaDalej »