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we can account for, and then we shali be prepared for Judgment, whenever it
3. It becomes those who must be judged, to judge themselves, and to take a frequent and impartial account of their own Lives and Actions. This is no more than every Steward does, who casts up his Books, and adjusts his Accounts himself, before he presents them to his Lord. The truth is, it is impossible for any man, who knows he shall be judged, not to be very solicitous to know what his Judgment shall be ; and this everý man may in a great measure know, who impartially examines his own Conscience ; for so St. John tells us, If our beart, or Conscience, condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knowető all things: büt if our heart .condemn us not, then bave we confidence towards GOD, 1 John 3. 20, 21. • So that if our Lives have been innocent and virtuous, and such as a well-inform'd Conscience approves, this will give infinite Peace and Satiffaction to us, and fill us with Divine Joys, with a Plerophory of Hope and Assurance; but if we should not find things fowell, though upon such a ftri& Examination our Confciences hould be very quarrelfome and uneafy, and threaten the Vengeance of God against us, yet it is much mord defirable to hear our Conscienceschide and condemn us, than to hear our final Sentence from the mouth of our Judge, Goye cursed into evera lafting fire prepared for the devil and bis angels: The Judgment of Confcience is not final; for Conscience is rather our Monitor than our fudge ; 'ië tells us what will be, if we do not take care to prevent it, not what certainly is, and shall be ;
and therefore we have this advantage by the Rebukes and Censures of Conscience, to know what is amiss, and what we must correct and amend.
Nay, a frequent Examination of our felves would keep a perpetual Watch and Guard upon our Lives: After our greatest care and caution, a great many things will be hastily done and said, which we cannot reconcile with the Rules of Prudence, and Decency, and strict Virtue ; but he who frequently calls himself to an account, and observes all these Defects, which it may be other men are never sensible of, will attain an habitual Caution and Watchfulness, and improve into great Exactness of Conversation, and all the Graces and Beauties of Virtue: Some of the Philosophers thought it a very good Rule to call themselves to an account every Night for what they had done that day, which would make us reverence our selves and our own Consciences; but there is much more reason to do fo,when we remember that God observes all our Actions and will judge us for them : The Judgment of our Consciences, as I observed to you before, is a Natural Presage of God's Judgment; for there is no other reason why our Consciences should judge us, but that God will; and then the reason is ver ry strong also, that if God will judge us,wecught to judge our selves; for this is the proper Office and Ministry of Conscience in subordination to the Judgment of God.
II. Let us keep our Eye perpetually on a Future Judgment, for the direction and government of our Lives; for this will furnish us with such
Principles of Action, as cannot be so well learnt any other way.
1. As first, it teaches us above all things to take care to approve our felves to God, which is the only Principle of true Religion, and universal Obedience; Nothing is an Ad of Religion, but as it respects God, and is referred wholly to him; to perform all the Ads of Worship, though with never so great Pomp and Ceremony, and external Appearances of Devotion; to do never so many good A&ions, to be seen and to be prais'd by men, or to serve fome Secular Interest by it, is not Religion: But some men, if they meet with what they expected, have their Reward, all that they deserve, and all that they proposed to themselves : Their Religion is a Courtfhip to Men, not theWorship of God. And this Principle will reach but a little way, only to fome External and popular Acts, and is calculated only for the prosperous Times of Religion, when it is in Fashion and Reputation, and will give men Credit, and raise their Fortunes in the World. But those who are Religious, and do good for God's sake, to approve themselves to him, have a steady and universal Principle of Righteousness, which is as certain and immutable as God is; and if God will certainly judge us, if we muft receive our final Doom and Sentence from his mouth, I know not whom we are concerned to please, but him; I am sure none in opposition to him. As for instance; the Censures of the World are a great Temptation to moft men; when instead of Praise and Honour, ·an unfashionable Virtue meets with Infamy, and Reproach , and Publick Scorn: But St. Paul's
Answer will fit all such Cases; It is required in Stewards, that a Man be found faithful; but with me it is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of Man's Judgment; be that judgeth me is the Lord, 1 Cor. 4.2, 3, 4. While we can approve our selves to God, that in fimplicity and godly sincerity we bave our conversation in this world, the different Judgments of Men ought to be despised: Whatever Sentence they pronounce,can have no effect, for they are not our Judges, but must be judged themselves: And if we can appeal to God, who is our Judge, all the rest is but Pageantry and Childrens Sport, a Ludicrous Imitation of Judgment, which sometimes ends Comically enough, when their parents or Masters happen to see them; the Judge and Jury are Whipt, and the Condemned Innocent escapes: But what will it avail us, when we come before God's Tribunal, that we have been not only absolved, but praised, admired, applauded by Men, who are incompetent, ignorant, or partial Judges ?
So that if God be our Judge, we have nothing else to do, but to approve our selves to him; we have but one Master to please,and he more easily pleased too, than Men commonly are, who are never all of a Mind, and therefore can never all be pleased; and seldom continue long of the same Mind, and therefore cannot always be pleased : OurSaviour himselfexperienced this Inconftancy, when the loudest Hofannahs in three or four days time were changed into Crucify him.
So little regard is there to be had to the good or bad Opinion of Men; no Wise Man will be contented to stand or fall by it; and whoever makes this the Principle of his Actions, can never be a good man long: But he who approves himself to GOD, will like Religion never the worse for being reproached ; will be contented with the private Applause of his own Conscience, to shelter him against the most outragious Obloquies; will take as great care of the frame and disposition of his Mind, as of his outward Actions, because tho men cannot fee his Heart, God does; will be as devout in his Closet as at Church; will fast without any external show and appearance of Fasting, and give Alms without the sound of a Trumpet, with such secrecy, as if it were possible to conceal it from himself, that bis left band shall not know wbat his right band does; for he is not concerned that men should know any thing of this, and nothing is so secret but God knows it, and his father which seeth in secret, fall reward him openly, 6. Matth. I, &c.
2. As we must approve our selves to God who is our Judge, so we must fetch the Reasons and Motives of Obedience from a Future Judgment, for those Rewards God has promised to bestow at that day on good men, and those Punishments he will inflict upon the wicked: These, as far as concerns Rewards and Punishments, are the only Gospel-Motives of Obedience; I say, as fas as concerns Rewards and Punishments, because there are other Gospel-Motives of Obedience, besides Rewards and Punishments ; such as the great Love of God in giving his Son for us, the great Love of Christ in giving himself a Sacrifice for us, which is a powerful Obligation on us to live to him who died for us: And the powerful Affiftances of the Holy Spirit to work in us both to will and