« PreviousContinue »
but who may sometimes see occasion to be displeased with us : so he will always, upon that account, be feared by us. This I look upon as the chief occasion of one man's having so much power and influence over another.
But how comes this under the notion of a talent received from God, and so to be improved for him? Why, because it is he, and he alone, that kindles and blows up the sparks of pure love and affection in us, and that by the breathings of his own Spirit. It was the Lord that gave Joseph favour in the sight of the “keeper of the prison," and who brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the “ prince of the eunuchs." And so of all others in the world: for we are told elsewhere, that as “God fashioneth the hearts of men, so he turneth them which way soever he will.” Insomuch that I can never see any express their love to me, but I must express my thankfulness to God for it; nor can I feel in myself any warmth of affection towards others, without considering it as a talent hid in my breast, which I am obliged in duty to improve for him, by stirring up their affections unto him whose affections himself hath stirred up towards me. And this will be the more easy to effect, if I take care, in the first place, to express the zeal and sincerity of my own love to God, by making him the chief object of my esteem and adoration; and manifest my aversion to the sins they are guilty of, by representing them as most loathsome and abominable, as well as most dangerous and damnable. For, wherever there is a true and cordial affection to any person, it is apt to bias those that are under the influence of it, to choose the same objects for their love or aversion, that such a person does, that is, to love what he loves, and to hate what he hates. This, therefore, is the first thing to be done, to stir up the affections of others to love and serve God.
Another way of my improving the affections of others to this end, is by setting them a good example; for commonly what a friend doth, be it good or bad, is pleasing to us, because we look not at the goodness of the thing that is done, but at the loveliness of the person that doth it. And if the vices of a friend seem amiable, how much more will his virtues shine ? For this reason, therefore, whensoever I perceive any person to show a respect for, or affection to me, I shall always look upon it as an opportunity put into my hands to serve and glorify my great Creator, and shall look upon it as a call from heaven, as much as if I heard the Almighty say to me, I desire to have this person love me, and therefore have I made him to love thee: do thou but set before him an example of goodness and virtue, and his love to thy person shall induce and engage him to direct his actions according to it. This, therefore, is the rule that I fully resolve to guide myself by, with relation to those who are pleased to allow me a share in their esteem and affection, which I hope to improve to their advantage in the end; that as they love me, and I love them now, so we may all love God, and God love us to all eternity.
RESOLUTION V. Whatsoever comes from God, being a talent to be improved to him, I cannot but think good thoughts to be as precious talents, as it is possible a creature can be blessed with. But let me esteem them as I will, I am sure my Master will reckon them amongst the talents he entrusts me with, and for which he will call me to an account; and, therefore, I ought not to neglect them. The Scripture tells me, “I am not sufficient of myself to think any thing as of myself, but that my sufficiency is of God.” And if I be not sufficient to think any thing, much less am I able of myself to think of that which is good; forasmuch as to good thoughts there must always be supposed a special concurrence of God's Spirit; whereas to other thoughts there is only the general concurrence of his presence. Seeing, therefore, they come from God, how must I lay them out for him ? Why, by sublimating good thoughts unto good affections. Does God vouchsafe to send down into my heart a thought of himself? I am to send up this thought to him again, in the fiery chariot of love, desire, and joy. Doth he dart into my soul a thought of holiness and purity? I am to dwell and meditate upon it till it break out into a flame of love and affection for him. Doth he raise up in my spirit a thought of sin, and show me the ugliness and deformity of it? I must let it work its desired effect, by making it as loathsome and detestable as that thought represents it to be.
But good thoughts must not only be improved to produce good affections in my heart, but likewise good actions in my life. So that the thoughts of God should not only make me more taken with his beauty, but more active for his glory; and the thoughts of sin should not only damp my affection for it, but likewise deter and restrain me from the commission of it.
And thus every good thought that God puts into my heart, instead of slipping out, as it does with some others without regard, will be cherished and improved to the producing of good actions : these actions will entitle me to the blessing of God, and that to the kingdom of glory.
RESOLUTION VI. Every thing that flows from God to his servants, coming under the notion of talents, to be improved for himself, I am sure afflictions, as well as other mercies, must needs be reckoned amongst those talents God is pleased to vouchsafe. Indeed it is a talent, without which I should be apt to forget the improvement of all the rest; and which, if well improved, itself will “ work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It is the non-improvement of an affliction that makes it a curse; whereas, if improved, it is as great a blessing as any God is pleased to scatter amongst the children of men. And therefore it is, that God most frequently entrusteth this precious talent with his own peculiar people : “ You only have I known of all the families of the earth ; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities.” Those that God know the best, with them will he entrust the most, if not of other talents yet be sure of this, which is so useful and necessary to bring us to the knowledge of ourselves and our Creator, that without it we should be apt to forget both.
It is this that shows us the folly and pride of presumption, as well as the vanity and emptiness of all worldly enjoyments; and deters us from incensing and provoking him, from whom all our happiness as well as our afflictions flow. Let, therefore, what crosses or calamities soever befall me, I am still resolved to bear them all, not only with a patient resignation to the divine will, but even to comfort and rejoice myself in them as the greatest blessings. For instance, am I seized with pain and sickness? I shall look upon it as a message from God, sent on purpose to put me in mind of death, and to convince me of the necessity of being always prepared for it by a good life, which a state of uninterrupted health is apt to make us unmindful of. Do I sustain any losses or crosses? The true use of this is, to make me sensible of the fickleness and inconstancy of this world's blessings, which we can no sooner cast our eyes upon, but they immediately “ take to themselves wings, and fly away from us." And so all other afflictions God sees fit to lay upon me may, in like manner, be some way or other improved for my happiness.
But, besides the particular improvements of particular chastisements, the general improvement of all is the increasing of my love and affection for that God who brings these afflictions upon me. For how runs the mittimus, whereby he is pleased to send me to the dungeon of afflictions? “ Deliver such a one to Satan to be buffeted” in the flesh: “ that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” By this it appears that the furnace of afflictions, which, God is pleased at any time to throw me into, is not heated at the fire of his wrath, but at the flames of his affection to me. The consideration whereof, as it should more inflame my love to him, so shall it likewise engage me to express a greater degree of gratitude towards him, when he singles me out, not only to suffer from him, but for him too. For this is an honour indeed peculiar to the saints of God, which if he should ever be pleased to prefer me to, I shall look upon it as upon other afflictions, to be improved for his glory, the good of others, and the everlasting comfort of my own soul.
Thus have I reckoned up the talents God hath or may put into my hands to be improved to his glory. May the same divine Being that entrusteth me with them, and inspired me with these good resolutions concerning them, enable me, by his grace, to make a due use of them, and carefully to put in practice what I have thus religiously resolved upon.
184.-JOHN LOCKE AND WILLIAM PENN.
BANCROFT. [GEORGE BANCROFT, the present Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States to Great Britain, was born in Massachusetts in 1800. The work by which he is principally known as an author is his · History of the Colonization of the United States.' The following extract is from that work.]
Penn, despairing of relief in Europe, bent the whole energy of his mind to accomplish the establishment of a free government in the New World. For that “ heavenly end," he was prepared by the severe discipline of life, and the love, without dissimulation, which formed the basis of his character. The sentiment of cheerful humanity was irre. pressibly strong in his bosom; as with John Elliot and Roger Williams, benevolence gushed prodigally from his ever-flowing heart; and when, in his late old age, his intellect was impaired, and his reason prostrated by apoplexy, his sweetness of disposition rose serenely over the clouds of disease. Possessing an extraordinary greatness of mind, vast conceptions, remarkable for their universality and precision, and “surpassing in speculative endowments ;" conversant with men, and books, and governments, with various languages, and the forms of political combinations, as they existed in England and France, in Holland, and the principalities and free cities of Germany, he yet sought the source of wisdom in his own soul. Humane by nature and by suffering; familiar with the royal family; intimate with Sunderland and Sidney; acquainted with Russell, Halifax, Shaftesbury, and Buckingham; as a member of the Royal Society, the peer of Newton and the great scholars of his age-he valued the promptings of a free mind more than the awards of learning, and reverenced the single minded sincerity of the Nottingham Shepherd more than the authority of colleges and the wisdom of philosophers. And now, being in the meridian of life, but a year older than was Locke, when, twelve years before, he had framed a constitution for Carolina, the Quaker legislator was come to the New World to lay the foundations of states. Would he imitate the vaunted system of the great philosopher ? Locke, like William Penn, was tolerant; both loved freedom; both cherished truth in sincerity. But Locke kindled the torch of liberty at the fires of tradition; Penn at the living light in the soul. Locke sought truth through the senses and the outward world; Penn looked inward to the divine revelations in every mind. Locke compared the soul to a sheet of white paper, just as Hobbes had compared it to a slate, on which time and chance might scrawl their experience; to Penn, the soul was an organ which instinctively breathes divine harmonies, like those musical instruments which are so curiously and so perfectly framed, that, when once set in motion, they of themselves give forth all the melodies designed by the artist that made them. To Locke, “ Conscience is nothing else than our own opinion of our own actions;" to Penn, it is the image of God, and his oracle in the soul. Locke, who never was a father, esteemed “ the duty of parents to preserve their