Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

suits. 'Tis not the Difficulty only, but the great Uncertainty, of compassing the Prize they aim at, For thus the numberless Disappointments of our Expectations demonstrate, that it is. And thus our own Reason will tell us it must needs be ; Where the Advantage aimed at, hath many Seekers; Where there is not enough in the Thing fought to satisfy All; Where, of those Pretenders, the Gain of One must be the Loss of Another: And consequently, Where every Candidate finds it necessary for his Interest, to out-strip, or otherwise hinder, every other Body from making good Their Point, in order to securing and carrying his own.

Such is Condition even of the Best of those Things, which we can suppose the Corruptible Crown, in this Scripture, capable of being applied to. The Riches, the Honours, and the Pleasures of this Life, The Happiness and Rewards of Another, manifestly, intended by the Incorruptible Crown, are what some of my former Discourses have rendred needless to endeavour, and their inconceivable Excellence make it impossible to give, a full or worthy Representation of. Let it suffice therefore at present to observe, that the Apostle sets These in direct opposition to, and that they are, in every Particular alrcady touched upon, just the Reverse of, the Other A Crown indeed; As that denotes the highest Honour, the greatest Affluence, the firmest Security : The only Crown, whose Splendor does not deceive with false Ideas; as having no weight of Cares to make it burthensom, no Dangers to allay its Glory, but all bright, and massive, and stable.

This Crown, besides its own Value, is the more worth our striving for, because not, like all others, peculiar to some One, exclusive of the rest, who contend for, and aspire after it ; but capable of being attained by every one that seeks it ; sufficient to answer, nay infinitely to exceed, the largest wishes and Expectations of them all ; and so far from leffening the Fruition to our selves, by having Partners in the Bliss ; that, as no single person's Endeavours shall suffer Disappointment, who seeks it regularly; so the more zealousy each labours to promote the Happiness of his Brethren, the more effectually he establishes, and the larger Addition he thereby makes to, his Own. This, again, is a Happiness, not only exquisite in Degree, and in its Nature pure, and satisfactory, and truly excellent ; but, for its Duration everlasting, always growing, always fresh ; liable to no interruption, no abatement, no decay; a Joy that no Man can, a Joy that God, who givesit, never will, take from us.

Supposing therefore, that the Enjoyments of this World really had, (as alas ! they are very far from having,) all that we fondly fancy to be in them; yet even so, 'tis plain, This ought to have the Preference in our Esteem and Endeavours. And it is not easy to think of a more powerful Incitement, to quicken our Pursuits after Heavenly Things, than the putting us in mind, how we usually behave our felves, when we have earthly Advantages in view. For, What excuse can be found for that Folly, which overlooks and nights a Treasure certainly attainable, real, and perfect, and ever enduring ; and lays out the whole of our Time and Pains, upon Shadows and Bubbles, Things in comparison empty and imaginary, often fought in vain, deceitful when found, not worth our keeping when we have them, and not possible to be kept long, though we would never so fain?

Would Men but allow themselves to think at all, and to act as becomes their Character ; they must needs be made sensible, what difference there is, between these two Objects of their Desires and Labours.


Such Men, I mean, as St. Paul was heretofore, and I ought to presume my self now, treating with ; Christians, who stedfastly believe the Gospel, and therefore can be under no reasonable Doubt, concerning either the Certainty, or the Excellency, of the Prize, which God hath prepared for them that love, and seek it, in the manner he hath directed. And what that manner is, we shall find no great difficulty to learn, if we will but attend to the Methods the Apostle here prescribes, and declares himself to have practised, upon this Occafion. Which therefore I proposed, for my Second Head of Discourse.

Now, First, By comparing the Christian's Duty to a Race, the Apostle, no doubt, intended to insinuate, what Vigour first ; what Regularity next ; what Perseverance lastly, is expected from us. The Crown here aimed at, is like those of the Olympick Games in this respect, that it is bestowed in the quality of a Reward. A Distinction to them, who have signalized themselves, by performing the known Conditions of obtaining it. And a Reward too, that supposes all who seek it, to understand it a Compensation sufficient, for all the Toil and Hardships such Conditions are known to engage them in. In this Persuasion is founded the Encouragement to our undertaking the Course. A Persuasion, which would naturally banish Indifference and Carelesness, by the glorious Prospect of the End we have in view ; and represents all Sloth, as certain to be, not only unsuccessful, but extremely foolish and scandalous. And, in regard the Prize is given by the Master of the Race ; this shews us the Equity of our submitting to His Terms, the necessity of running in the Way He hath chalked out for us, and not making to our selves Paths of our own devising. For here too, it is not the Swiftness of the Motion alone, but keeping to the true Ground, that must make us Winners at last.


Once more. This Resemblance teaches us the Obligation we are under, to hold on our Course with Resolution ; since nothing less than conjing up to the Goal can crown our Endeavours ; and He that gives out, oris beaten off, at the Last Heat, loses the Benefit of all his Labours and Successes in the Former, as effectually, as if he had never put in for the Prize at all.

1. How happy would it be for us, if the Importance of this Metaphor were considered, as it ought to be ? Men would not then (in the Prophet Isaiah's Expression) spend their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not. They would not make Religion a thing by the by, and allow it so few, so very few, even of their leisure Hours ; so many fewer, than they give, even to the Diversions and Impertinences of the World. They would not suffer the Pains and Expence they are content to be at, upon the Occasions, nay upon the Vanities of Life, so greatly to exceed those poor droppings, which are so hardly extorted, from an overgrown Treasure, to Works of Piety and Charity. In a Word, They would not appear fo extremely sollicitous about Trifles, so prudent Managers in Affairs of little Consequence ; and so wretchedly cold and careless, stupid and unthinking, in their Main, their Eternal, their Only Concern. For, did they reflect at all, their own Example would reproach them into better Sense. Their very Pleasures would awaken a remembrance of their Duty; and every Race expose the Absurdity, of exerting all their Powers to win a poor despicable Prize ; and of fitting still with their Hands folded, when engaged in a Course, whose End and Prize is an immortal Crown of Glory.

2. Well were it likewise, if Men attended to this Figure, so as to convince themselves, that it is the


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Master's and Judge's part to prescribe, and the Runner's to submit and comply with, the Rules of the Race. For, from want of such Reflection it is, no doubt, that the Face of the Christian World is so deformed with pernicious Errors, wild Enthusiasms, and frivolous Superstitions: That the Religion of so many is compounded of monstrous Absurdities, suited to each Person's Complexion, or Passion, or Humour, or Interest : that Scripture is distorted and racked, to make it speak the Sense of private Spirits, or of differing Parties : and, that the Belief and Practice of so many, (who fally pretend to be framed upon one common Model, while they indeed are at as wide a distance, as the Fancies they spring out of, or the Conveniences they serve) are no longer the Gospel of Jesus Christ ; but the Dictates of daring Wretches, who presume to pervert it. Such Men, for the fincere Milk of the Word, obtrude the Poison of false Glosses ; and do not build up the Temple of the Lord, but erect new Schemes, and set them upon sandy Foundations of their own.

3. But especially, Well it were, if a remembrance of our Life being a Race, would encourage the Stedfaftness and Perseverance, even of those, who have in good measure escaped the Pollutions of the World, detected the cunning craftiness of Them who lie in wait to deceive, and have begun to run well. For, how Many of Them, who set out most commendably, do feel, (how few indeed do not feel) their Zeal by degrees languish and grow cold ; and, and though hot at hand, yet quickly abate of their Speed, in this Spiritual Race? There is therefore great occasion for keeping up our Resolution and Vigour, by remembring, that nothing less than running the whole Course can entitle us to the Prize. Great need, often to take our felves afide, and see what Progress we have made, and whereabouts we are; what length


« ZurückWeiter »