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Many and great are the evils that lodge within the heart of man, and they come forth abundantly both by the tongue and by the hand, yet the heart is not emptied of them ; yea, the more it vent them outwardly, the more they increase within. Well might he that knew the heart so well, call it an evil trea
We find the prophet Ezekiel in his 8th chap. led by the Lord in vision to Jerusalem, to view the sins of the Jews that remained in time of the Captivity; when he had shewed him one abomination, he caused him to dig through the wall, to enter and discover more, and so directed him several times, from one place to another, and still said, I will shew thee yet greater abominations. Thus is it with those whom the Lord leads into an examination of their own hearts (for men are usually strangers to themselves); by the light of his word and Spirit going before them, he lets them see heaps of abominations in every room, and the vilest in the most retired and darkest corners: and truly, should he leave them there, they would despair of remedy. No, he makes this discovery on purpose that they should sue to him for help. Do so, then, as many as have taken any notice of the evils of your own hearts : tell the Lord they are his own works. He formed the heart of man within him, and they are his own choice too: My son, give me thy heart. Entreat him to redress all those abuses wherewith Satan and sin have filled it, and then, to take possession of it himself, for therein consists its happiness. This is, or should be, a main end of our resortings to his house and service. Wrong not yourselves so far as to turn these serious exercises of religion into an idle diver
tisement. What a happiness were it, if, every
time you come to his solemn worship, some of your strongest sins did receive a new wound, and some of your weakest graces a new strength!
JAMES III. 17.
But the Wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then
peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with
out hypocrisy. God doth know, that in the day that ye shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil, Gen. iii. 5, was the first hissing of that old serpent, by which he poisoned mankind in the root. Man not contented with the impression of God's image in which he was created, lost it by catching at a shadow: climbing higher than his station, he fell far below it: seeking to be more than man, to become as God, he made himself less than man. He lodged not a night in honour, but became as the beasts that perish, Psalm xlix. 12. Ever since, nature's best wisdom is full of impurity, turbulency and distemper; nor can any thing rectify it, but a wisdom from above, that both cleanseth and composeth the soul : it is first pure, and then peaceable.
This epistle, as some that follow, is called general, both by reason of the dispersion of the parties to whom it is addressed, and the universality of the subject which it treats : containing a great number (if not all) of the necessary directions and comforts of a Christian's life, both from the active and passive part of it. It is evident that the apostle's main desigp is, to arm the dispersed Jews against all kinds of temptations, both those of affliction, in chapter i. 2, and sinful temptations, verse 19. And having discoursed of two special means of strengthening them
against both, speaking to God in prayer, and hearing God speak in his word, in the two last verses of that 1st chap. he recommends, as chief duties of religion, and sure evidences of integrity. in religion, first, meekness and moderation chiefly in their speeches, and then charity and purity in their actions; insisting largely upon the latter, in the 2d chapter, and upon the former, the ruling of the tongue in his 3d chapter, and here towards the end of it he shews the true opposite spring of miscarriage in speech and action, and of right ordering and regulating of both. Evil conversation, strifes and envyings, are the fruits of a base wisdom that is earthly, sensual and devilish, ver. 15; but purity, meekness and mercy, are the proper effects and certain signs of heavenly wisdom.
The wisdom that is from above, is first pure ; its gentleness can agree with any thing except impurity : then it is peaceable; it offends no body, except purity offend them : it is not raging and boisterous. It is not only pure, being void of that mire and dirt which the wicked are said to cast out like the sea, Isa. lvii. 20, but peaceable likewise ; not swelling and restless like the sea, as is there said of the wicked. Nor is it only peaceable negatively, not offending, but as the word bears, espruixen, pacific, disposed to make and seek peace; and as it readily offends none, so is it not easily offended. It is gentle and moderate, ETTIEIXMS ; and if offended, EUTELSns, easily intreated to forgive: and as it easily passeth by men's offences, so it doth not pass by, but looks upon their distresses and wants, as full of compassion, as it is free from unruly and distempered passions. Nor rests it in an affecting sympathy; its mercy is helpful, full of mercy and good fruits : and it both forgives and pities and gives : without partiality, and without hypocrisy [adrarpaq και ανυποκρί/G]. The word αδιακρίλG may as well bear another sense, no less suiting both with his wisdom and these its other qualities; that is, not taking upon it a censorious discerning and judging of others. They that have most of this wisdom are least rigid to those who have less of it. I know no better evidence of strength in grace, than to bear much with those that are weak in it. And, lastly, as it spares the infirmities of others, so it makes not false and vain shows of its own excellencies; it is without hypocrisy. This denies two things, both dissimulation and ostentation. The art of dissembling or hypocritecraft is no part of this wisdom; and for the other, ostentation, surely the air of applause is too light a purchase for solid wisdom. The works of this wisdom may be seen, yea they should be seen, and may possibly be now and then commended ; but they should not be done for that low end, either to be seen or to be commended. Surely, no, being of so noble extraction ; this having descended from heaven, will be little careful for the estimation of those that are of the earth, and are but too often of the earth, earthly.
The due order of handling these particulars more fully cannot well be missed : doubtless the subject, wisdom from above, requires our first consideration, next, the excellent qualities that are attributed to it, and lastly, their order is to be considered; the rather because so clearly expressed first pure, then peaceable, &c.
Wisdom from above. There be two things in that: there is the general term of wisdom common to divers sorts of wisdom, though most eminently and truly belonging to this best wisdom. Then there is the birth or original of this wisdom, serving as its difference to specify and distinguish it from all the rest-wisdom from above. Wisdom in the general is a very plausible word among men. Who is there that would not willingly pass for wise? Yea often those that are least of all such, are most desirous to be accounted such ; and where this fails them, they usually make up that want in their own conceit, and strong opinion. Nor do men only thus love the reputation of wisdom, but they naturally desire to be wise, as they do to be happy; yet through corrupt nature's blindness, they