« ZurückWeiter »
without detriment to the Strength and Soundness of
the Patient; Or, that this Spreading proves no great Malignity ever to have been
in such a Disease at all. For, as Rivers, when penn'd up in a narrow Course, are deep and strong, and eat away their Banks, to force a Channel which they did not find; but when enlarged, they glide away in shallow Streams: So this Disease, say They, when rank and fierce, enters deep, gnaws away the kindly Flesh, seizes the Vitals, and penetrates the very Bones and Marrow; but, when of a more favourable and gentle kind, it diffuses and loses it self; is rather a Scurf, than a formed Leprosy: And, though some Defacing, yet escapes the Censure and Shame of the Law.
Now this Account, to Me, appears not unfitly to figure the Condition of Mankind, in relation to Sins of Infirmity, and Sins of Presumption. The Former we are full of, and the Frailty of Human Nature exposes us to frequent Commissions of them. The Latter, though but Few, though but One; yet, if of a grievous kind, does yet contribute more to the Sickness and Danger of the Soul, to the Hardening of the Conscience, to the Scandalizing our Brethren, to the Reproach of our Religion, than the daily, hourly Failings, in point of strict Duty, consequent upon the Weakness of corrupt Nature. These do not destroy the Peace of our Minds; they are pitiable and excusable; incident to Good People ; and, provided we lament, and pray, and strive the best we can, against them, they do not cut us off from Christ. But the Other give deep and deadly Wounds, because they argue a Mind violently bent, and a profligate Sense in the Person indulging them. In One Case, the Righteous falls Seven times a day, and yet rises 2
; but, in the other, the deliberately Wicked falls Schief. The reason is, Because the Former is
surprised, and would stand better if he could; But the Latter might stand, and will not. He sees the Precipice, and knows the Danger, and casts himself down headlong, and will not be withheld froin his own Destruction. So that, though Both have their Spots, yet the One is the Spot of Children, and the Other of Lepers. Concerning which having already spoken so largely, I think it time to proceed to my
II. Second Head. Under which I proposed to consider, The Manner of this Leper's Address to Christ for a Cure ; and, in agreement to, and pursuance of, that Pattern, how it will become Us to apply for the Forgiveness of Our Sins.
Now, in the Descriptions given of this matter, we find First, manifest Tokens of the Man's Concern for his present Misery, and earnest Desires to be released from it; expressed by coming to meet Jesus and beseeching bim, Mark i. 40. Luke v. 12. Secondly, Great Reverence, in that he is said here to have Worshipped him; and, in the parallel places, to have done That in a manner the most obsequious and lowly; for they tell us, he did it by kneeling down: nay, and not content with that, he added Prostration too ; for St. Luke relates, that he fell on his face before him. We may discover, Thirdly, a firm and undoubted 3. Persuasion of Christ's Ability to grant his Request; consequently, that he thought his Power Divine, and that too a Power, of which he had the free Exercise and Disposal. This Assurance is declared in terms the most significant that can be. He says not, if thou wilt pray to God on my behalf, he will hear thee, and cleanse me; but, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. The Difficulty that appeared to Him, was not, Whether Christ had so great a Power as this came to; but, Whether he would condescend to exert it upon His account: and there
fore, in great Humility, which is the Fourth 4. Qualification remarkable in this Address, he re
commends the matter to his Consideration; as being satisfied, that he was Master of his own Favours, and best knew when to grant, and when to refuse. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Thus, not pressing his Petition with an indecent and clamorous Importunity, but referring himself entirely to His Wisdom and Goodness, to determine what should become of It, and Him.
In proportion to the several Parts of this Example, it is necessary,
1. First, That Forgiveness should be a Blesing of our own Seeking, and that it be sought in a very affectionate and importunate manner too. not to imagine, God will thrust this Favour upon
He hath already shewed himself gracious and condescending, even to Astonishment, in ordaining such Methods for our Redemption; in providing himself a Lamb, the Son of his Love, who takes away the Sin of the world, by the sacrifice of his own Blood. He hath brought Salvation home to our doors, published a Gospel of Reconciliation and Peace, used all Inducements and Indearments, possible for a Rational Creature to be acted upon by, to reclaim, to woe, to win us, to gain our Acceptance of our own Happiness. And all the part left Us, is, to be prevailed upon to accept. But then we must accept, as becomes such a Gift; with great Thankfulness, and godly Zeal. The Condition is, Ask, and ye shall have; and, pray, remember, this is a Condition, propounded not only to Creatures, but Criminals. Criminals, convict not only by the Laws, which Interest, as well as Duty, bound them to obey ; but by the fad Reproaches of their own guilty Consciences.
If this then be the Case of You, and Me, and every Man breathing; Let us turn our Eyes upon the
the EPIPHANY. wretched Malefactors, on whom Verdict and Sentence are passing, and see what Nature, and Love of Life, prompt Them to do. Look upon their Tears, listen to their piercing Cries and Groans, observe their bended Knets and wringing Hands, their doleful Accents and Obteftations; And let us learn from These, at once to beg, and how to beg, a Pardon. Imitate, at least, Their Sorrows, and their Supplications; Be not sullen and impenetrable, but remember, thou hast a Judge armed with Thunder, to deal with. Consider, Thy Offences are more and greater, the Sentence due to Thee more dreadful, the Punishment more insupportable ; The Chain of thy Sins, wherewith thou art tyed and bound, a heavier Load, than any Irons of an earthly Malefactor. Let not then Nature out-do Reason and Grace. Let not a short perishing Life excite stronger Passions, than a future and eternal one. Let not the Pains of a Moment, and the Scandal of a Gibbet, be deprecated with more moving Concern, than the Torments of Hell, and everlasting Shame and Contempt. A Deliverance from These deserves all thy Application ; If These be not averted, Thou art undone for ever ; They hang over thy Head, and cannot be averted but by Prayer ; by coming with this Leper, and worshipping, and beseeching. O kiss the Son therefore, lest he be angry, aud so ye perish from the right way: Ye have already kindled his wrath, O serve and approach him with Reverence. Which is the
2. Second Qualification, taken notice of in this Address to our Blessed Lord, and expressed by this Person's worshipping, kneeling down, and falling on bis face, before Luke v. 12. Christ. Now these are bodily Actions, meant for so many Significations of a mind full of respect. And, in truth, such outward Testimonies of Zeal are so far from needing to be proved law
Matth, viii. 2
ful, that they, in a manner, prove themselves necessary. For, it is so natural with the Body, to conform it self to the present Posture of the Soul, when the Impressions there are all as vigorous and lively; that every Part does, as it were mechanically, conspire to speak the Resentments within. by Speech, the Countenance by its Air and Form, and every Limnb by Gestures, fuited to its Capacity and the present Occasion. So that They, who cry down, or are manifestly void of, such outward Signs of Devotion, stand in need of all our Charity, to believe that their Spirits are so sensibly, so powerfully, affected within, as they would have us think them. We can discern the same Impressions of Joy and Grief, and Love and Fear, in common Cases, upon Them, as upon our Selves, or other People. Why should they then remain, to all Appearance, unmoved and stupid, in Occasions of infinitely higher Concern to them? Why should not Grace, and the so much boasted Spirit, provoke the same Demonstrations of an inward Affection, that Nature plainly does? This, sure, is very
hard to conceive. And harder yet it is to say, why those Bodies, which share in the Redemption, should not come in for a share of the Devotions, that seek it. Away, my Brethren, away with such senseless Irreverence ! How can you expect, God will grant a Blessing, for which you shew no manner of Sollicitude? Would you behave your selves so unconcernedly, before an Earthly Judge? If therefore no Marks of Respect or Passion would be esteemed too much for such a Tribunal; do, I beseech you, as our adnirable Liturgy exhorts you every Day to do, and as the
Leper here sets you a Pattern, O come
and worship, and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
3. As little Question can there be made, Thirdly, whether we be not obliged to capy after this Exam
Psal. xiv. 6.