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GALATIANS vi. 9.
due Season we skall reap, if we faint not.
HE Text, and other like Paf
sages of Scripture, are founded T
in this known Truth, That God
does not ordinarily dispense the #X264
Rewards and Punishments due to Virtue and Vice in this Life; but that he has appointed another Time and Place, how far distant we know not, in which all Accounts shall be set right, and every Man receive according to his Works. What Force the Objects of Sense have upon the Minds of Men, how far they outweigh the distant Hopes of Religion, is Matter of daily Experience. The World pays presently; but the
Language of Religion is-We shall reap, if we faint not. It
be thought perhaps, that it would have been better for the Cause of Religion, if the Rewards of it had been immediate, and more nearly related to our Senses; and, the Cafe being otherwise, proves in fact a great Prejudice to Virtue. But, if we can take leave of our Imaginations a little, and attend to Reason, we shall see, that this Dispensation of Providence was ordained in Wisdom. Were the Case otherwife ; were Men to receive a due Recompence of Reward in this world for the Good they do, there would be no Reason why they should grow weary in well-doing, no Cause for their fainting under the Work, which would so abundantly and immediately repay all their Labour and Pains.
It is natural for Men, when they have before their Eyes flagrant Instances of Wickedness and Impiety, to make a secret Demand upon God in their own Hearts, for Justice against such notorious Offenders. If their Demands are not answered, (and they rarely are) but the Wicked continue to flourish, and the Good to suffer under their Oppreffion ; they, rightly judging that they were mistaken in their Expectations, and not
rightly judging where to charge the Mistake, are apt to conclude, that they have cleansed their Hearts in vain, and in vain have they washed their Hands in Innocency.
Whenever the Hopes and Expectations are raised beyond all Probability of being anfwered in the Event, they can yield nothing but Uneasiness, Anger and Indignation against the Course of Things in the World: And yet,
who is to blame? Not he that appointed this natural Order, but he who understood it so little, as to expect from it, what it was never intended to produce. Would you pity the Husbandman, should you see him lamenting his Misfortune, because he could not reap in Spring, when all the World knows the Time of Harvest is not till Summer ? The Case is the same in all other Instances : If Men anticipate the Reward of their Labour by the Eagerness and Impatience of their Hopes, they will be disappointed indeed; but not because their Labour is in vain, which in due Time will bring its Reward, but because their expectations are vain and unreasonable, and outrun the Order of Nature, which cannot be transgressed.
You see then of what Consequence it is to us rightly to balance our Expectations, and
to adjust them to that natural Course and Order of Things, which Providence has'eltablished in the World. We may easily lose the Fruit of our well-grounded Hopes, by giving ourselves up to the Delusion of false
If we grow fick of our Work, because our untimely Wilhes are disappointed, we shall forfeit the Reward, which patient Continuance in well-doing would, in the natural Course of Things, bring with it. And this I take to be the Foundation and Ground of the Apostle's Exhortation in the Text, Let us not be weary in well-doing : For in due Seafon we shall reap, if we faint not.
It is no uncommon Thing, I know, to press Men to a virtuous Behaviour, in Prospect of the Rewards which such a Behaviour is entitled to in this World; and there is, as well Experience, as Scripture, to justify the so doing: For, if Peace and Tranquillity of Mind here, and Hopes full of Comfort with respect to hereafter, are Ingredients in human Happiness; and surely they are the greatest ! these are to be had, and only to be had, from a Conscience void of Offence towards God and towards Man. But this Argument is so little concerned with the external Good and Evil of the World, that it is
applicable to Men of all Fortunes and Conditions. Thus we preach to the Prince, and thus we preach to the meanest of his Şubjects: One cannot enjoy his Greatness, nor the other bear his Distress, without those Supports, which Innocence and Virtue can only administer. The Pleasures of Life arę a joyless Fruition to a Mind sick of Guilt; and the Evils of it are too sharp to be endured by a wounded Spirit.
Thus far we tread safely in promising a present Reward to Virtue; we exceed not the Order appointed by God, who, if he has given us fome Desires, which, in our present State of Degeneracy, often prove Temptations to Iniquity, has given us also so much Reason and Understanding, that we cannot be wicked and happy in ourselves at the same Time: How much farther than this we may go, shall presently be confidered. But if Men, when they hear of an Happiness due as the Reward of Virtue in this Life, will conceive Hopes of obtaining Honour, Power, and Riches from God in Recom, pence of their Obedience, they raise an Expectation which was never yet generally answered, and, I suppose, for very good Reasons, never will; and whilst they pursue VOL. III.