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described, nor forgotten : the soul is brought into some strait, out of which it seems impossible to escape, that it may feel its own insufficiency, and depend only and wholly upon the sufficiency of God: in other words, that it may be convinced of the truth of the principle, on which it is to be be saved ; of which principle the world knows nothing, and it is lost for want of it. We have a great pattern of this in the history of the children of Israel, when they were brought out of Egypt: the Church of God was led forth in a direction toward the Red Sea. The waters were before them; the Egyptians were behind them : if they went forward, they were drowned ; if they went backward, they were slain : they could do nothing but stand still; they did so ; and they saw the salvation of God *. It is not a time to learn these lessons when the evil is upon us: they must have been learned before, or we shall not be able to stand in the evil day.
That God brings good men into difficulties out of which he alone can save them, is a doctrine which none but good men can understand or believe. And let them never be discouraged ; such trouble is no sign that God has forsaken them; it is a sign that God hath adopted them for his children, and will save them at last. One of the greatest favourites of heaven, the patriarch Jacob, was exercised with these trials; but under them all God was present to his faith, redeeming him from all evil; and whenever we are in extremity, let his words be a lesson to us.-L have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.
NOTE 1.–Page 393.
The Poet in his Elegy on an unfortunate Lady who killed her. self for love (I believe incestuous) thus blends his praises with bis Jamentations.
First, it is made questionable whether it can be any crime in hea. ven to act the part of a Roman, and the lady is celebrated for think. ing greatly and dying bravely : that as she soared above vulgar passion in the practice of incest, her ambition was sanctified by the example of aspiring to angels and gods, that is devils ; for he can allude to nothing but the fall of Lucifer, whose fall is called a glorious one. The poet, seeming to think himself in possession of St. Peter's keys, makes no doubt but that the pure spirit of this self-murdress (who made Lucifer her pattern) is gone to heaven, its congenial place. Yet such is the consistency of a poet's logic, that he prays heaven that the lasting lustre, the great sentiments, and the heroic death of this woman, may be sent as a curse, and a sudden vengeance on the posterity of those who crossed her de. sires. So are they all to perish ; that is, they are to indulge the passion of angels and gods, and die an honourable Roman death, receive the protection of angels' wings over their graves, and con. secrate the unconsecrated ground in which self-murderers are buried ! .
Our studies of late have encouraged a sort of religion which has no devotion in it; while it affects superior rationality, it leaves us there, and so we are destitute of that divine comfort without which the soul of a Christian cannot weather the storms of life.
Want of employment renders the mind stagnant, vapid, and by degrees noxious to itself.
If the affections are violently set upon any thing in this world, whether fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes insupportable. Therefore the moral is this: “ Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Lunacy, though sometimes accidental or natural, is generally artificial : ungovernable appetites fill the vessels with gross bu. mours, and if they settle in the head, they generate disorders in the 'mind. I do not suppose there ever was a well-governed mind in’an ungoverned body: and mortification being now totally out of fashion in the world and exploded in religion (so far have we unbappily carried on reformation, there is more self-indulgence than there used to be, and consequently the mind becomes distempered, and when vice co-operates, and inflamed passions are disappointed, lunacy succeeds, and ends in suicide. This is often the progress: the world is full of disappointment: he who would bear it well must reduce his passions, and he who would do this must mortify his body. There is no other course. I have heard it observed in a Roman Catholic country, “ that the fulness which intemperance breeds in the gentry is brought down by the meagre days of the week; and if that is not sufficient, when the Lent comes round, that it is sure to bring them into good order, good principles, resignation to the will of God in all things, and trust in his protection.” God permits the troubles of the righteous, whose disappointments are productive of future good to pious men, and they then often live. Faith holds out a light in the darkest night of vexation, and hope raises the dejected spirit. They are not the passions of good people that lead to suicide, but of the proud, the vain, and irreligious ; who take their comfort from this world, and it forsakes them.
Temperance is the next preservative : and to open the mind to some faithful friend, especially to a spiritual counsellor. When the mind is filled with some bad subject and overloaded, it must be relieved, as the body is when it is too full of bad blood.
Vanity and ungoverned passions breed extravagance ; extravagance soon leads to distress and poverty : to remedy which they ily to gaming for a poor chance of mending their broken affairs, which becoming still worse by this dreadful expedient, desperation ensues, and self.murder is the end.
The doctrine of reprobation terrifies some ill-informed minds, who taking the notion of absolute unconditional predestination in
a wrong sense, are driven to despair, and give themselves up as objects devoted to destruction ; a most vyhappy delusion, to remove which would require a discourse of itself; but here I can only touch upon it.
NOTE 2, Page 394.
Ignorant and ill designing people tell us, that suicide is no where forbidden in the Scripture. If it be not expressly forbid. den, it is because it is not supposed, as being a thing to which there is no temptation; for no nian hateth his own flesh; be is in danger of loving it over much ; when a man is forbidden to murder for robbery or revenge, to commit adultery, and to covet his neighbours' goods, there is the temptation of gaining or gratifying; and therefore there is something to be forbidden : but how strangely would it sound, if it were inserted into the commande ments, “ thou shalt not put out thine own eyes !” It would look as if the commandments were given for the benefit of fools and madmen; to whom no commandments can be of any service : and they that can argue in such a manner are surely no better,
NOTE 3, Page 395.
When a man is surrounded with danger, and knoweth not in his distress which way to torn himself; it may sound like foolishness to bid him sit still, but it is good doctrine, even the doctrine of God bimself, by the prophet Isaiah, (xxx. 7.) their strength, says he, is to sit still : and it is very true; for when it comes to this, God is their strength; and in that case tbey are sure to be delivered. There are situations, under which nothing can preserve the servants of God, but the faith and patience with which they wait upon him.
BECAUSE SENTENCE AGAINST AN EVIL WORK IS
NOT EXECUTED SPEEDILY, THEREFORE THE HEART OF THE SONS OF MEN IS FULLY SET IN THEH TO DO EVIL. ECCLES. viii. ll. '
If it were executed speedily-for instance, if every man who committed a theft were immediately to lose the use of his right hand, there would be no such thing as theft in the world : but the honesty produced by such a measure would be of little value, because it would be the effect of force; there would be no principle in it but that of fear; which is the principle of a slave; the same with that which keeps brute beasts in order. The works of men can be good or bad only so far as they are the works of the will, which is at liberty to chuse between good and evil. True religion assists the will of man, and works with it, but does not destroy it. Therefore sentence is not executed speedily against an evil work; but the punishment of it is generally suspended for a time, and the decrees of God in that respect are left to the contemplation of faith, which sees things as yet invisible. In some cases punishment is deferred for so long a time, that men persuade themselves it will never be executed :