« AnteriorContinuar »
kind, yea, all other holy tempers, are inferior to this, and rise in value, only as they approach nearer and nearer to it. Here then is the great object of Christian Zeal. Let every true believer in Christ, apply, with all fervency of spirit, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that his heart may be more and more enlarged in love to God and to all mankind. This one thing let him do: let him “press on to this prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
III. It remains only to draw some practical Inferences from the preceding Observations.
1. And first, if Zeal, true Christian Zeal, be nothing but the flame of love, then hatred, in every kind and degree, then every sort of bitterness toward them that oppose us, is so far from deserving the name of Zeal, that it is directly opposite to it. If Zeal be only fervent love, then it stands at the utmost distance from prejudice, jealousy, evil-surmising ; seeing “ love thinketh no evil.” Then bigotry of every sort, and, above all, the spirit of persecution, are totally inconsistent with it. Let not, therefore, any of these unholy tempers screen themselves under that sacred name. As all these are the works of the devil, let them appear in their own shape, and no longer under that specious disguise, deceive the unwary children of God.
2. Secondly: If lowliness be a property of Zeal, then pride is inconsistent with it. It is true, some degree of pride may remain, after the love of God is shed abroad in the heart : as this is one of the last evils that is rooted out, when God creates all things new. But it cannot reign, nor retain any considerable power, where fervent love is found. Yea, were we to give way to it but a little, it would damp that holy fervour ; and if we did not immediately fly back to Christ, would utterly quench the Spirit.
3. Thirdly: if meekness be an inseparable property of Zeal, what shall we say of those, who call their Anger by that name? Why, that they mistake the truth totally; that they, in the fullest sense, put darkness for light, and light for darkness. We cannot be too watchful against this delu
sion, because it spreads over the whole Christian world. Almost in all places, Zeal and Anger pass for equivalent terms: and exceedingly few persons are convinced, that there is any difference between them. How commonly do we hear it said, “See how zealous the man is !” Nay, he cannot be zealous: that is impossible; for he is in a passion : and passion is as inconsistent with Zeal, as light with darkness, or heaven with hell.
It were well that this point were thoroughly understood. Let us consider it a little farther. We frequently observe one that bears the character of a religious man, vehemently angry at his neighbour. Perhaps he calls his brother Raca, or Thou fool: he brings a railing accusation against him. You mildly admonish him of his warmth. He answers, It is my Zeal! No: it is your sin; and unless you repent of it, it will sink you lower than the grave. There is much such Zeal as this in the bottomless pit. Thence all Zeal of this kind comes. And thither it will go, and you with it, unless you are saved from it, before you go hence.
4. Fourthly: If patience, contentedness, and resignation, are the properties of Zeal, then murmuring, fretfulness, discontent, impatience, are wholly inconsistent with it. And yet how ignorant are mankind of this! How often do we see men fretting at the ungodly, or telling you, They are out of patience with such or such things, and terming all this their Zeal! O spare no pains to undeceive them! If it be possible, shew them what zeal is : and convince them that all murmuring, or fretting at sin, is a species of sin, and has no resemblance of, or connexion with the true Zeal of the Gospel.
5. Fifthly: If the object of Zeal be that which is good, then fervor for any evil thing is not Christian Zeal. I instance in idolatry, worshipping of angels, saints, images, the cross. Although, therefore, a man were so earnestly attached to any kind of idolatrous worship, that he would even “give his body to be burned,” rather than refrain from it, call this bigotry or superstition, if you please, but call it not Zeal; that is quite another thing.
From the same premises it follows, that fervor for indifferent things, is not Christian Zeal. But how exceedingly common is this mistake too! Indeed one would think, that men of understanding could not be capable of such weakness. But, alas! the history of all ages proves the contrary. Who were men of stronger understanding than Bishop Ridley, and Bishop Hooper? And how warmly did these, and other great men of that age, dispute about the Sacerdotal Vestments! How eager was the contention for almost a hundred years, for and against wearing a Surplice ! O shame to man! I would as soon bave disputed about a straw, or a barley-corn! And this, indeed, shall be called Zeal! And why was it not rather called wisdom, or holiness?
6. It follows also, from the same premises, That fervor for opinions is not Christian Zeal. But how few are sensible of this! And how innumerable are the mischiefs, which even this species of false Zeal has occasioned in the Christian world! How many thousands of lives have been cast away by those who were zealous for the Romish opinions! How many of the excellent ones of the earth have been cut off by zealots, for the senseless opinion of transubstantiation ! But does not every unprejudiced person see, that this Zeal is earthly, sensual, and devilish. And that it stands at the utmost contrariety to that Zeal, which is here recommended by the Apostle ?
What an excess of charity is it then which our great Poet expresses, in his Poem on the Last Day. Where he talks of meeting in heaven,
66 Those who hy mutual wounds expir'd,
By Zeal for their distinct persuasions fir'd.” Zeal indeed! What manner of zeal was this, which led them to cut one another's throats? Those who were fired with this spirit, and died therein, will, undoubtedly, have their portion, not in heaven; (only love is there,) but in the “ fire that never shall be quenched.”
7. Lastly: If true Zeal be always proportioned to the degree of goodness which is in its object, then should it rise VOL. X.
higher and higher according to the scale mentioned above; according to the comparative value of the several parts of religion. For instance, all that truly fear God should be zealous for the Church; both for the catholic or universal Church, and for that part of it whereof they are members. This is not the appointment of men, but of God. He saw,
not good for man to be alone,” even in this sense, but that the whole body of his children should be “knit together, and strengthened, by that which every joint supplieth.” At the same time they should be more zealous for the ordinances of God; for public and private prayer, for hearing and reading the Word of God, and for fasting, and the Lord's Supper. But they should be more zealous for works of mercy, than even for works of piety. Yet ought they to be more zealous still, for all holy tempers, lowliness, meekness, resignation : but most zealous of all, for that which is the sum and perfection of religion, the Love of God and Man.
8. It remains only, to make a close and honest application of these things to our own souls. We all know the general truth, That “it is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing." Let us now, every one of us, apply it to his own soul in particular.'
9. Those indeed who are still dead in trespasses and sins, have neither part nor lot in this matter : nor those that live in any open sin, such as drunkenness, sabbath-breaking, or profane swearing. These have nothing to do with Zeal: they have no business at all even to take the word in their mouths. It is utter folly and impertinence for any to talk of Zeal for God, while he is doing the works of the devil. But if you have renounced the devil and all his works, and have settled it in your heart, I will “worship the Lord my God, and him only will I serve," then beware of being neither cold nor hot: then be zealous for God. You may begin at the lowest step. Be zealous for the Church; more especially, for that particular branch thereof, wherein your lot is cast. Study the welfare of this, and carefully observe all the rules of it, for conscience' sake. But, in the mean
time, take heed that you do not neglect any of the ordinances of God; for the sake of which, in a great measure, the Church itself was constituted : so that it would be highly absurd, to talk of Zeal for the Church, if you were not more zealous for them. But are you more zealous for works of mercy, than even for works of piety? Do you follow the example of your Lord, and prefer mercy even before sacrifice? Do you use all diligence in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting them that are sick and in prison ? And, above all, do you use every mean in your power to save souls from death? If, as you have time,
you do good unto all men,” though “especially to them that are of the household of faith,” your Zeal for the Church is pleasing to God: but if not, if you are not “ careful to maintain good works,” what have you to do with the Church ? If you have not compassion on your fellow-servants,” neither will your Lord have pity on yoụ. Bring no more vain oblations." All
All yoựr service is “ an abomination to the Lord.”
10. Are you better instructed than to put asunder what God has joined: Than to separate works of piety from works of mercy ?
Are you uniformly zealous of both ? So far you walk acceptably to God: that is, if you continually bear in mind, that God " searcheth the heart and reins :” that he is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth :" that consequently no outward works are acceptable to him, unless they spring from holy tempers, without which no man can have a place in the kingdom of Christ and God.
11. But of all holy tempers, and above all others, see that you be most zealous for Love. Count all things loss in comparison of this, the Love of God and all mankind. It is most sure, that if you give all your goods to feed the poor, yea, and your body to be burned, and have not humble, gentle, patient Love, it profiteth you nothing. O let this be deeply engraven upon your heart: all is nothing without Love. 12. Take then the whole of religion together, just as