Page images

blant foever Virtue and Vice may be, there are certain Notes and Characters, whereby we may diftinguish them, not only in our Thoughts, but in our Practice ; and that, therefore, to avoid the Appearance of Evil, it is highly expedient and necessary, that we endeavour to express this Difference in the whole Conduct of our Lives, as fully, and significantly as we possibly can ; but, if all this will not do to conciliate the good Opinion of a perverse World, the Apostle's Advice will then come in to our Comfort and Relief : Sanctify the Lord in your Hearts, and be always ready to give an Answer to every Man, that asketh you a Reason of the Hope that is in you, with Meekness and Fear : Having a good Conscience, that, whereas they Speak Evil of you, as of Evil-doers, they may be aMamed, that falsely accuse your good Conversation in Christ; and others, by your good Works, which they behold, may glorify God in the Day of Visitation.

Of the Defire of Righteousness.

LESSED are they which do hunger and

thirst after Righteousness, for they shall be filled, is one of the happy Sentences of our Saviour's Sermon upon the Mount, and may be a proper Argument for the Conclusion of this work. By Righteousness here, we are to understand the Whore Duty of Man, in all Relations and Capacities; or that Integrity of Obedience, and universal Regard to all God's Commandments, which thofe, that endeavour to serve him in Sincerity and Truth, are ready, on all Occafions, to express, both in their Temper of Mind, and outward Behaviour : And to bunger and thirst after this Righteousness implies an ardent and intense Defire of it ; such a Desire, as will not be satisfied without it ; such a Desire, as puts Men upon trying all possible Means, and

using their utmost Endeavours to attain it.

'Tisc an earnest Appetite and Intention of Mind to grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Sa+ viour Jesus Chrift; to follow his Example, and to be counted worthy of the Inberitance of the Saints in Light. 'Tis a fincere Endeavour to mortify all the Remains of Sin in us, to get the perfect Maftery of our Affections and Passions, and to bring them under an intire Subjection to the Law of God ; to increase daily in all Christian Virtues ; and to walk in every Thing, as it becomes the Professors of a most holy Religion. 'Tis a fer vent Breathing after greater Degrees of Charity, Humility, Parience, and all other Graces ; for. getting tbose Things, that are bebind, the Pitch of Goodness we have already attained ; and reaching forth unto those Things, that are before, that Perfection in Piety and Virtue, which alone can satisfy a generous Christian ; and pressing towards the Mark of the Prize of the high Calling of God in Chrift Jefus : A Weaning our Hearts from the World, and fixing them upon that happy State, where we shall fin no more, but be eftablished for ever in consummate Righteousness. In short, 'tis such an eager and importunate, such a fincere and efficacious Desire for all this, as the Man, who is almost famished with Hunger, and parched up with Drought, has for that Meat and Drink, with which, if he be not foon supplied, he knows he must unavoidably perish.

This is the full Force of the Metaphor, and proper Import of the Duty; and the Reward annexed to it, though comprized in these few Words, they fhall be filled, is, in itself, of an adequate Extent. For, 1. They Mall be filled with the Righteousness they desire. 2. They fall be filled with Comfort and Satisfaction of Mind bere ; and, 3. They fall be filled with all imaginable Happiness bereafter.

[ocr errors]

Y 3

1. The

[ocr errors]

1. The great Design of God, from the Begin. ning of the World, was, that all Mankind might serve him in Holiness and Righteousness, and be accordingly rewarded by him; and, to effect this, he, in his infinite Wisdom, has contrived many wonderful Ways. He has imprinted the Law of Righteousness upon the Hearts and Consciences of Men; he hath bound it up with their Reason and Understanding ; he hath sent his Son into the World to promote the Practice of it, both by his Instruction and Example ; by his Holy Spirit he begins the good work, where it is not, and cherishes it, where it is begun; and, in short, he hath omitted no Methods of engaging us ; all that Promises and Threatenings, that kind Intreaties and vehement Expostulations can do, he hath not left unattempted ; and, after all this, it would be incongruous to think, that he will refuse the Gift of Righteousness and Sanctification to such, as heartily desire and endeavour it. We cannot say so with Respect to the Blessings of this present Life : The Race, as the wise Man observes, is not always to the Swift, nor the Battle to the Strong, nor Bread to the Wise, nor Riches to Men of Understanding, nor yet Favour to Men of Skill; but Time and Chance happen to them all. Though Art and Induftry do naturally tend to make Men rich, yet they are often blasted in the Event. Experience is a standing Evidence of this, that neither Fraud nor Honesty, Righteousness nor Unrighteousness, the most likely Endeavours, nor the most diligent Application can effectually command the Things of this World : But it is not so with the Blessings that are better worth enjoying. There is no Defear in the Endeavours after Righteousness. A Man cannot be disappointed, who labours to be virtuous. The Love and Desire of the Thing does naturally enforce the Practice, and the Practice

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

brings on the Habit, and the Habit is continually strengthened by the Influence of God's Holy Spirit, till it be finally confirmed and rewarded in Glory. God may refuse, and refuse, in Kindness, to hear the Prayers even of a good Man, when he prays for temporal Blessings; but he never refuses (at least he never does it in Mercy) to grant Requests for Spiritual ; upon which Presumption it is, that Solomon founds this Exhortation : If thou criest after Knowledge, and liftest up thy Voice for Understanding ; if thou seekest ber, as Silver, and searcheft for ber, as for hid Treasures; then shalt thou understand the Fear of the Lord, and find the Knowledge of God; then halt thou understand Righteousness, and Judgment, and Equity, and every good Path.

2. He fall be filled with Comfort and Satisfaction here. The Progress and Proficiency he makes in the Ways of Righteousness will fill him with a spiritual Joy, far exceeding the Pleasure, which any Thing else in this World can afford. For God has fo adapted Religion to the Mind of Man, that, though there be Labour in the Undertaking, yet there is always a Relish that goes along with it. The conquering of an evil Habit, or a strong Temptation, is like the conquering of a powerful Enemy, difficult to perform, but what, when accomplished, fills him with mighty Joy and Tri.umph. Every Grace he obtains, every sinful Inclination he subdues, every good Action he performs, is no less, than a new Conveyance to him of eternal Glory, a new Assurance of his Right and Title; and this, being what is congenial to his Soul, must be intirely agreeable to all his Faculties. But we have not Time to follow the righteous Man through all the pleasurable Perceptions of his Life ; and shall therefore chuse to consider him only, as he is drawing to the Period of it : When, if ever, he will rightly understand the in


[ocr errors]

eftimable Price of a quiet Conscience, of a satisfia ed Mind, and of an Hope full of Glory and Immortality : When, if ever, he will find That, which was always a continual Feast, then a sovereign Cordial, and Food of Angels ; for never certainly is Peace and Comfort more feasonable, than at this Inftant.

What an unspeakable Satisfaction then must it be to a dying Man, when, if he looks backward, he sees a Life well spent ; if forward, he has before him a bright Prospect of immortal Glory. When he can say, with King Hezekiah, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I walked before thee in Truth, and with a perfekt Heart; or, with the great Apostle, even when within View of his Diffolution, I have fought a good Fight, I have finished my Course, I have kept the Faith ; benceforth there is laid up for me a Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, fall give me at that Day. It must needs, I say, be an unspeakable and inconceivable Satisfaction for a Man in his laft Hour, when all are fad about him, and concerned for him ; then to consider, that there is a better State, and that he has a Title to it ; that, when his earthly Tabernacle shall be dissolved, he has a Building with God, an Heuse not made with Hands, eternal in the Heavens ; that, when he shall cease to converse with Men, he shall dwell with God, and converse with Angels ; in a Word, that he is to leave nothing but Vanities and Shadows behind him, and that he has the solid and real Happiness of a whole Eternity before him. What a mild and unterrifying Thing is Death to such a Man as this, and with what Serenity and Chearfulness does he entertain its Summons ! He can smile in the Physician's Face, when he hears him pronounce his Sickness desperate ; can receive his Sentence without Trembling, and, if his Senses hold out


« PreviousContinue »