« Prev Thirdly, for Thy Actions. Next »

Thirdly, for thy Actions.

1. Do no evil, though thou mightest; for God will not suffer the least sin, without bitter repentance, to escape 127unpunished. Leave not undone any good that thou canst. But do nothing without a calling, nor anything in thy calling, till thou hast first taken counsel at God’s word (1 Sam. xxx. 8) of its lawfulness, and pray for his blessings upon thy endeavour; and then do it in the name of God, with cheerfulness of heart, committing the success to him, in whose power it is to bless with his grace whatsoever business is intended to his glory.

2. When thou art tempted to do an evil work (1 Cor. vii. 4), remember that Satan is where his business is, Let not the child of God he the instrument of so base a slave; hate the work, if thou abhorrest the author. Ask thy conscience these two questions—Would I have another to do this to me? (Matt. vii. 12)—What shall I answer Christ in the day of my accounts, if, contrary to my knowledge and conscience, I shall do this wickedness, and sin against him? (Luke xvi. 2; 2 Cor. vi. 2; v. 10;) and remember with Joseph (Gen. xxxix. 9, 11, &c), that though no man seeth, yet God seeth all. Fly, therefore, with Joseph, from all sins, as well those that are secret in the sight of God, as those that are manifest in the eyes of men. For God, as he is just, without speedy repentance will bring the secret sins, as he did David’s, to the open light, before all Israel, and before the sun (2 Sam. xii. 12.) Be therefore as much afraid of secret sins as of open shame (Luke viii. 17; xii. 2.) And so avoid all in general, as that thou dost not allow to thyself any one particular or darling sin, which the corruption of thy nature could best agree withal (Prov. v. 8; vi. 27;) for the crafty devil can hold a man’s soul as fast by one as by many sins; and faster by that one which pleases thee, than by all those which begin to be abominable to thee. And as thou desirest to avoid a sin, so be careful to shun the occasion.

3. In affecting good actions, which are within the compass of thy calling, distrust not God’s providence, though thou seest the means either wanting or weak 128(Judges vii. 7.) And if means offer themselves, be sure that they be lawful; and having gotten lawful means, take heed that thou rely not more upon them than upon God himself. Labour, in a lawful calling, is God’s ordinary means by which he blesseth his children with outward things. Pray, therefore, for God’s blessing upon his own means. In earthly business bear an heavenly mind: do thou thy best endeavour, and commit the whole success to the fore-ordaining wisdom of Almighty God. Never think to thrive by those means which God hath accursed. That will not in the end prove gain which is gotten with the loss of thy soul (Matt. xvi. 26.) In all, therefore, both actions and means, endeavour, with Paul, to have always a clear conscience towards God and towards men (Acts xxiv. 16.)

Look to yourselves what conscience ye have;

For conscience shall damn, and conscience shall save.

4. Love all good things for God’s sake, but God for his own sake. Whilst thou holdest God thy friend, thou needst not fear who is thy enemy (Psal. cxviii. 6, 7; Rom. viii. 31; Prov. xvi. 7:) for either God will make thy enemy to become thy friend, or will bridle him that he cannot hurt thee (Gen. xxxii. 3, &c.; xxxi. 7.) No man is overthrown by his enemy, unless that first his sin hath prevailed over him, and God hath left him to himself (Num. xiv. 42, 43, &c.) He that would therefore be safe from the fear of his enemies, and live still in the favour of his God (Psal. xxxvii. 11, 12, 13), let him redeem the folly of the time past with serious repentance, look to the time present with religious diligence, and take heed to the time to come with careful providence.

5. Give every man the honour due to his place, but honour a man more for his goodness than for his greatness. And of whomsoever thou hast received a benefit, unto him, as God shall enable thee, remember to be thankful: acknowledge it lovingly to men, and pray for him heartily to God. And count every blessing received from 129God as a pledge of his eternal love, and a spur to a godly life.

6. Be not proud for any external worldly goods, nor for any internal spiritual gifts. Not for external goods; because, as they came lately, so they will shortly be gone again; their loss, therefore, is the less to be grieved at. Not for any internal gifts: for as God gave them, so will he likewise take them away; if, forgetting the Giver, thou shalt abuse his gifts, to puff up thy heart with a pride of thy own worth, and contemn others, for whose good Almighty God bestowed those gifts upon thee. Hast thou any one virtue that moves thee to be self-conceited? thou hast twenty vices that may better vilify thee in thine own eyes.

Be the same in the sight of God, who beholds thy heart, that thou seemest to be in the eyes of men, that see thy face. Content not thyself with an outward good name, when thy conscience shall inwardly tell thee it is undeserved, and therefore none of thine. A deserved good name for anything but for godliness, lasts little, and is less worth. In all the holy Scriptures, I never read of a hypocrite’s repentance; and no wonder, for whereas after sin conversion is left as a means to cure all other sinners, what means remain to recover him who has converted conversion itself into sin? Woe, therefore, to the soul that is not, and yet still seemeth religious!

7. Mark the fearful ends of notorious evil men, to abhor their wicked actions: mark the life of the godly, that thou mayest imitate it, and his blessed end, that it may comfort thee (Num. xxiii. 10; Psalm 37:35,36,37.) Obey thy betters, observe the wise, accompany the honest, and love the religious. And seeing the corrupt nature of man is prone to hypocrisy, beware that thou use not the exercises of religion as matters of course and custom, without care and conscience to grow more holy and devout thereby. Observe, therefore, how, by the continual use of God’s means, thou feelest thy 130special corruptions weakened, and thy sanctification more and more increased; and make no more shew of holiness outwardly to the world, than thou hast in the sight of God inwardly in thine heart (Isa. li. 5, 6; Matt. xxiii. 27, 28; Psal. li. 5, 6.)

8. Endeavour to rule those who live under thine authority rather by love than by fear: for to rule by love is easy and safe, but tyranny is ever accompanied with care and terror. Oppression will force the oppressed to take any advantage to shake off the yoke that they are not able to bear: neither will God’s justice suffer to continue long the sway that is grounded on tyranny. Remember, that though by human ordinance they serve thee, yet by a more peculiar right they are God’s servants (1 Pet. ii. 13;) yea, now being Christians, not as thy servants, but above servants, brethren beloved in the Lord (Philem. ver. 16; 1 Cor. ix. 5.) Rule, therefore, over Christians (being a Christian) in love and mercy, like Christ thy Master.

9. Remember, that of all actions none makes a magistrate more like God, whose vicegerent he is, than doing justice justly. For the due execution whereof—

First, Have ever an open ear to the just complaints of unjust dealings.

Secondly, So lend one ear to the accuser, as that thou keep the other for the accused: for he that decrees for either part before both be heard, the decree may be just, but himself is unjust.

Thirdly, In hearing both parts, incline not to the right hand of affection, nor to the left of hatred; as to believe arguments of persuasion for a friend, before arguments concluding for a foe.

Fourthly, Deny not justice, which is regia mensura, to the meanest subject; but let the cause of the poor and needy come in equal balance with the rich and mighty. If thou perceivest on the one side in a cause, the high hills of cunning advantage, powerful combination, and violent prosecution, and on the other side, the low valleys 131of poverty, and simplicity, and desolation, prepare thy way, as God doth, to judgment, by raising valleys, and taking down hills (Luke iii. 4, 5; Isa. xl. 3), equalling inequality, that so thou mayest lay the foundation of thy sentence upon an even ground. In matters of right and wrong between party and party, let thy conscience be careful rather, jus dicere, to pronounce the law that is made secundum allegata et probata, than jus dare, to make a law of thine own (2 Chron. xix. 10), upon the authority of sic volo, sic jubeo, fearing that fearful malediction, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark.” (Deut. xxvii. 17; Hab. v. 1.) In trials of life and death, let judges, like Elohim, in justice remember mercy; and so cast the severe eye of justice upon the fact, as that they look with the pitiful eye of mercy upon the malefactor, wresting the favour of life where grace promises amendment: but if justice requires that one, rather than unity, must perish, and that a rotten member must be cut off, to save the whole body from putrifying, fiat justitia. But whilst thou art pronouncing the sentence of judgment on another, remember that thine own judgment hangs over thy head. In all causes, therefore, judge aright; for thou shalt be sure to find a righteous Judge, before whom thou must shortly appear to be judged thyself;—at what time thou mayest leave to thy friend this for thine epitaph:

Nuper eram judex, jam judicis ante tribunal

Subsistens, paveo: judicor ipse modo.

Many, I know not upon what grounds, seem to be much aggrieved with the laws of the land. But wiser men may answer them with the apostle, Nos scimus bonam esse legem, modo judex eâ legitime utatur, “We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” (1 Tim. i. 8.) And he shall be unto me a righteous judge, whose heart neither corruption of bribes, fear of foes, nor favour of friends, can withdraw from the conscionable practice of these precepts. And to that rare and venerable 132judge I say with Jehoshaphat, “Be of good courage, and do justice, and the Lord will be with thee.” (2 Chron. xix. 11.)

10. Lastly, Make not an occupation of any recreation. The longest use of pleasure is but short; but the pains of pleasure abused are eternal. Use, therefore, lawful recreation so far as it makes thee the fitter in body and mind to do more cheerfully the service of God and the duties of thy calling (Prov. xxi. 17; Phil. iv. 8.) Thy work is great, thy time is but short; and he who will recompense every man according to his works standeth at the door (Rev. xxii. 12.) Think how much work is behind, how slow thou hast wrought in the time which is past, and what a reckoning thou shouldst make, if thy Master should call thee this day to thy accounts (James v. 9.) Be therefore careful henceforth to make the most advantage of thy short time that remains, as a man would of an old lease that was near expiring: And when thou disposest to recreate thyself, remember how small a time is allotted for thy life; and that therefore much of that is not to be consumed in idleness, sports, plays, and toyish vanities, seeing the whole is but a short while, though it be all spent in doing the best good that thou canst: for a man was not created for sports, plays, and recreation, but zealously to serve God, and conscionably to serve his neighbour in his vocation, and by both to ascertain himself of eternal salvation. Esteem, therefore, the loss of time one of the greatest losses (Eph. v. 16.) Redeem it carefully, to spend it wisely; that when that time cometh that thou mayest be no longer a steward on earth (Luke xvi. 2), thy Master may welcome thee with an Euge bone serve, and give thee a better heaven, where thou shalt joyfully enjoy thy Master’s joy for evermore (Matt. xxv. 21.)

« Prev Thirdly, for Thy Actions. Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |