« 上一頁繼續 »
glory and my unspeakable comfort.' Such will be the sentiments of the man whose single aim is to obtain the approbation of God. He will continue firm and unshaken amidst the greatest sufferings ; whilst the bypocrite, like the base multitude who followed Christ only for the loaves, will be offended, and fall off, when a day of trouble comes. I shall only add, in the
5th and last place, That this divine principle will make a man easy and satisfied, whatever be his outward condition in the world. He knows that his lot is appointed by God, and his only anxiety is to perform that part which hath been assigned to him; being fully assured that God, who is no respecter of persons, will graciously accept bis sincere endeavours to please him, whether his station be high or low, whether his circumstances be rich or poor. His only concern is, that Christ may be magnified in bis body. Like a determined traveller, be takes the road as he finds it, and makes no complaints, provided it lead him to the end of his journey.
These are some of the advantages which would flow from a sincere and steady desire of pleasing God, and him only. But to set these advanges in a more striking light, let us a little examine the opposite principle, and take a view of the man whose great aim is to obtain the approbation of his fellow-creatures. Consider, then,
1st. To what a drudgery he subjects himself, and what a strange and inconsistent part he must act. He makes himself the servant of every man, whose censure be fears, or whose praise he covets. He renounceth his own will and reason: and to whom? Not to God, who requires nothing but what is holy, just, and good; but to creatures like himself, ignorant, perverse, and capricious. He who is resolved to please men, must follow them through all their jarring inconsistent humours. He
must undo to-morrow what he does to-day; he must assume a different appearance in every company; he must be the servant of servants, contemptible in the sight of God, and often despised by those very men whose approbation he courts. For it is to be observed, that respect and esteem are sooner found by an honest indifference about them, than by an anxious pursuit of them. They who are satisfied with the approbation of their heavenly Father, who seeth them in secret, are for the most part rewarded by him openly, according to what the wise man saith, “ When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with bim.” Whereas it holds almost universally true, that men lose respect in proportion as they are observed to court it with anxiety, and sink thereby into greater contempt than otherwise they would have done. But,
2dly. Let us suppose that they obtain what they covet so earnestly. How trivial is the acquisition! “Verily," saith our Lord concerning men-pleasers, “they have their reward,” Ah! poor reward! to obtain the favour and friendship of dying men, instead of the approbation of God, and the testimony of a good conscience; to remember, in hell, that they were well spoken of on earth, and that the sentence of their Judge was the first thing that undeceived their fellow-creatures as to their true character. This is the whole amount of their gain, even supposing that they succeed in their pursuit. But I must now add, in the
3d place, That this is only a supposition; for so great is the difficulty of pleasing men, that, after all your pains, it is ten thousand to one but you shall fail in the attempt. The very number of those whom you would please, renders it almost impossible to succeed in it.
We cannot at one time observe all who observe us,
and expect to be pleased by us. We are like a person who has but a few pieces of money in his pocket, and a crowd of beggars about him. If, according to his best judgment, he divides the whole among the most needy, that he may please God, he is sure of attaining his end ; but if he attempts to manage so as to please them, be will be miserably disappointed. For though the few that shared of his bounty may possibly be satisfied with their proportion; yet the rest, who got nothing, will revile, and perhaps curse him as penurious and unmerciful. Besides, the different parties and interfering interests of men, make it impossible to please all. If, in any case, you join with one party, the other, of course, will be offended; if you keep yourself disengaged from either side, you will probably incur the resentment of both; or, if you think to keep the good-will of both by trimming, making each believe that you are on their side, besides the baseness of the practice, which must set a man at irreconcilable variance with himself, you must live in a perpetual fear of discovery; and when you are detected, both will hate you worse than they do each other. Nay, in the
4th place, Should you give up the idea of obtaining universal favour, and content yourselves with pleasing a few; yet such is the mutability of men's tempers, that your success, even in this limited attempt, is very precarious. For how variable is the mind of man? ever shifting about, and alternately pleased and displeased with the same thing. When you have spent the best of your days in building upon this sand, one blast shall throw down the laborious fabric in a moment. For difficult as it is to gain the favour of men, it is still more difficult to preserve it, or to regain it when it is lost. Serve them as submissively as you can, yet some cross
accident, some failure in gratifying their unreasonable expectations, may suddenly turu all your honours into disgrace, and leave you to complain, as cardinal Wolsey did, "Had I served God as faithfully as man, he would not thus have forsaken me in my old age.' Nay, the perverseness of many is so great, that they require contradictions ere they will be pleased. If John come fasting, they say, “ he hath a devil :" If Christ come eating and drinking, they say, “ Behold a man glattonous and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” If your judgment and practice be accommodated to your superiors, some will call you supple and temporising: if it be otherwise, you will perhaps be reproached as discontented and seditious.
Thus, you see, that it is impossible to please all men, or even any considerable number of them at one time. Nor have we cause to wonder at this, when we consider, that our blessed Saviour himself, notwithstanding his perfect innocence and wisdom, was more reviled than any man. Can you do more to deserve the favour of men than Christ did? or can you expect to please those who are displeased with God himself? For is not God daily displeasing men in the course of his Provi. dence? and what is there that they quarrel with more bitterly than with his word? In fine, how can we expect to please any number of our fellow-creatures when we cannot even please ourselves constantly? And for the truth of this, I appeal to your own experience. You must be singular indeed, if you never fall out with yourselves; I mean singularly inattentive (to give it no harsher name) for with the best I am sure there is too often just cause for it. If then we are not able to preserve our own esteem at all times, how can we expect to preserve the approbation of other men?
And now what is your judgment upon the whole? Is not man-pleasing both a mean and fruitless attempt? Is it wise to have for your aim a thing so disquieting, and so very precarious ? Is it not by far the wiser course to seek the approbation of God, who trieth your hearts, whom you please most effectually when you pursue your own best interest? He is not variable in his affections, like men. Whom he loves, he loves onto the end. “Nei. ther death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from his love, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Let me then address you in the words of this same Apostle on another occasion, “Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men.” Remember what our Lord said to his disciples while he was on earth; 6 One is your Master, even Christ." To bim you owe all your homage ; him only you are bound to please. And is not his favour a sufficient portion? Did he suffer, and bleed, and die, that your bearts might be his, and will you
refuse him that which he hath so dearly bought? Where can you find a better Master, or one that you can be so certain of pleasing, if you apply yourselves to it? He requires no contradictory or impracticable services. He hath left you in no uncertainty about your duty. You need not say, " Wherewith shall we come before the Lord? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, and what he requires of you,” even in his written word, which be hath given to be “ a lamp to your feet and a light unto your paths.” He makes also the most gracious allowances for your infirmities. The willing mind is accepted by him; and although through weakness you fall short of your own good purposes, yet he will say