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THE GOODNESS OF God.
As the sun sends forth a benign and gentle influence on the seed of plants, that it may invite forth the active and plastick power from its recess and secrecy, that by rising into the tallness and dimensions of a tree, it may still receive a greater and more refreshing influence from its foster father, the prince of all the bodies of light; and in all these emanations the sun itself receives no advantage but the honour of doing benefits : so doth the Almighty Father of all the creatures. He at first sends forth His blessings upon us, that we by using them aright should make ourselves capable of greater ; while the giving glory to God, and doing homage to Him, are nothing for His advantage, but only for ours ; our duties towards Him being like vapours ascending from the earth, not at all to refresh the region of the clouds, but to return back in a fruitful and refreshing shower; and God created us, not that we can increase His felicity, but that He might have a subject receptive of felicity from Him.
Does not God send His angels to keep thee in all thy ways ? are not they ministering spirits sent forth to wait upon thee as thy guard ? art not thou kept from drowning, from fracture of bones, from madness, from deformities, by the riches of the divine goodness ? Tell the joints of thy body, doest thou want a finger? and if thou doest not understand how great a blessing that is, do but remember how ill thou canst spare the use of it when thou hast but a thorn in it. The very privative blessings, the blessings of immunity, safeguard, and integrity which we all enjoy, deserve a thanksgiving of a whole life. If God should send a cancer upon thy face, or a wolf into thy breast, if he should spread a crust of leprosy upon thy skin, what wouldst thou give to be but as now thou art.- Bishop Taylor.
DIVINE WISDOM. We can often discover evident marks of God's wisdom; some general uses of the world are very discernible, and how that many parts thereof do contribute to them, we may easily observe: and seeing the whole is compacted in a decent, and constant order, we have reason to deem the like of the rest. Our incapacity to discover all doth not argue defect, but excess of the Maker's wisdom; not too little in itself, but too great perfection in the work, in respect of our capacity. The most to us observable piece of the universe is the earth, upon which we dwell; which that it was designed for the accommodation of living creatures, that are upon it, and principally of man, we cannot be ignorant or doubtful, if we be not so negligent, or stupid, as to let pass unobserved those innumerable signs and arguments that show it. If we look upon the frame of the animals themselves, what a number of admirable contrivances in each of them do appear for the sustenance, for the safety, for the pleasure, for the propagation, for grace and ornament, for all imaginable convenience, suitable to the kind and station of each ! If we look about them, what variety and abundance of convenient provisions offer themselves even to a careless view, answerable to all their needs, and all their desires ! Wholesome and pleasant food to maintain their life ; yea to gratify all their senses ; fit shelter from offence, and safe refuge from dangers : all these things provided in sufficient plenty and commodiously disposed for such a vast number of creatures; not the least, most silly, weak or contemptible creature, but we may see some care hath been had for its nourishment and comfort: what wonderful instincts are they endued with for procuring and distinguishing of their food, for guarding themselves and their young from danger! But for man especially, a most liberal provision hath been made to supply all his needs; to please all his appetites; to exercise, with profit and satisfaction, all his faculties; to content (I might say) his utmost curiosity : all things about him do minister (or may do so, if he will use the natural powers and instruments given him) to his preservation, ease, and delight. The bowels of the earth yield him treasures of metals and minerals; quarries of stone, and coal serviceable to him for various uses. The vilest and commonest stones he treadeth upon are not unprofitable; the surface of the earth, what variety of delicate fruits, herbs, and grains doth it afford to nourish our bodies, and cheer our spirits, and please our tastes, and remedy our diseases ! How many fragrant flowers, most beautiful and goodly in colour and shape, for the comfort of our smell, and delight of our eyes! Neither can our ears complain, since every wood hath a quire of natural musicians to entertain them with their sprightful melody! Every wood, did I say? yes, too, the woods adorned with stately trees yield pleasant spectacles to our sight, shelter from offences of weather and sun, fuel for our fires, materials for our buildings (our houses and shipping) and other needful utensils. Even the barren mountains send us down fresh streams of water, so necessary for the support of our lives, so profitable for the fructification of our grounds, so commodious for conveyance and maintaining of intercourse among us. Even the wide seas themselves serve us many ways : they are commodious for our traffic and commerce : they supply the bottles of heaven with water to refresh the earth : they are inexhaustible cisterns, from whence our springs and rivers are derived : they yield stores of good fish, and other conveniences of life. The very rude and disorderly winds do us no little service in brushing and cleansing the air for our health ; in driving forward our ships ; in scattering and spreading about the clouds, those clouds which drop fatness upon our grounds. As for our subjects the animals, 'tis not possible to reckon the manifold utilities we receive from them: how many ways they supply our needs, with pleasant food and convenient clothing: how they ease our labour ; and how they promote even our sport and recreation. And are we not, not only very stupid, but very ungrateful, if we do not discern abundance of wisdom and goodness in the contrivance and ordering of all these things, so as thus to conspire for our good ?Barrow.
THE OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD. God is everywhere present, that we may always bear the sense of Him in our minds ; indeed, how can we forget Him That doth every moment remember our frame, and remember our wants and necessities, and doth not forget our work and labour of love ? What a mighty favour do we count it, if a king doth think of us, or admit us into his presence; and shall we not think it a won. derful mercy that the King of Glory, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, is never absent from us, and is pleased always to take notice of us? The sick man receives comfort if a friend do visit him; and should not our souls rejoice, our weak, our sinful souls, that God doth always look upon them, and takes their concerns into consideration ? If a prince vouchsafes a favourable look to a servant, he thinks himself happy; and shall not we count ourselves so, when our God never turns away His eyes from us? Behold how the vulgar run to see a king pass by. Our God not only passes by us, but this mighty God remains with us always, every moment encircles us with the beams of His Majesty ; and shall we not stand amazed at His brightness : Nay, look how men hasten to see a monster, some unknown African beast; and shall not our hearts leap to think that an incomprehensible Beauty is continually about us? The queen of Sheba comes from afar to behold the Jewish king in his glory, and when she sees him, wonders; we every day behold a far greater, and far more splendid monarch; and do we make nothing of it? How! shall not we work to do Him service that works all our blessings for us? How can we deal worse with a man that hates us, than by not looking on him when he meets us? Is God our enemy, that we care not for beholding Him in secret, when He stands before us in our closets ? The glory of God surrounds us, penetrates our souls and bodies more than the sumbeam doth the crystal stone; and shall not we tremble when we are alone, at so great a Majesty ? The presence of God's wisdom provides for us, and sees that we may want nothing, is always busy about us, either to direct or to reward us; nay, God doth not trust His angels with this province, but Himself watches over us, every moment, every hour, and like a nurse He carries us in His everlasting arms. Have we such a constant Benefactor continually about us, and are not we concerned more at His presence ?-Horneck.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
The saints of God living in the Church of Christ, are in communion with all the saints departed out of this life and admitted to the presence of God. Jerusalem is sometimes taken for the Church on earth, sometimes for that part of the Church which is in heaven, to show that as both are represented by one, so both are but one city of God. Wherefore thus doth the apostle speak to such as are called to the Christian faith: “Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant.” (Heb. xii. 22, 23.) Indeed, the communion of saints in the Church of Christ with those which are departed, is demonstrated by their communion with the saints alive. For if I have communion with a saint of God, as such, while he liveth here, I must still have communion with him when he is departed hence ; because the foundation of that communion cannot be removed by death. The mystical union between Christ and His Church, the spiritual conjunction of the members to the Head, is the true foundation of that communion which one member had with another, all the members living and increasing by the same influence which they receive from Him. But death, which is nothing else but the separation of the soul from the body, maketh no separation in the mystical union, no breach of the spiritual conjunction; and consequently there must continue the same communion, because there remaineth the same foundation. Indeed, the saint departed, before his death had some communion with the hypocrite, as hearing the word, professing the faith, receiving the sacraments together; which being in things only external, as they were common to