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rocity or uncleanness of their natures. Idleness will rob and plunder and run in debt; avarice will cheat: error will persecute the truth which it hates; ambition, to raise itself, must reduce other men; malice must gratify itself with lying and defamation; and revenge must live, like a vulture, upon blood.
When we see these things, we are to consider, that the wicked who disturb the world are themselves in a very perilous situation ; which is abundantly described in the psalm from whence the text is taken. It is observed of them,
First, that they are all weak and mortal like ourselves that they shall soon be cut down like the grass and withered even as the green herb. We are all under one common sentence of death; and no man hath in this respect any pre-eminence above another. However great and powerful a sinner may be in his wickedness, he must be cut down and withered. When we lament our own mortality, we may lament his; and so long as we can lament his fate, we shall be more patient towards his failings.
But the condition of his life, while it last, is not such as it may appear to be from some partial circumstances: it is unhappy and ensnaring,
snaring, in its best estate. If we find a man's ill humour troublesome to us, we may be assured it is much more troublesome to himself. He who giveth light, must first be illuminated: he who troubleth others, must first be troubled himself. The sea is agitated by the wind, before the ship is tossed about and endangered by it; so the people who disturb mankind are like the troubled sea, which can never rest, but casteth up mire and dirt, and defiles its own waves with the foulness of its own bottom.
The temporary success of a wicked man is a snare to him. His prosperity, while it lasts, is not a blessing, as to good men, but a temptation and a curse. Therefore it is said, in the book of Proverbs, the prosperity of fools shall destroy them*: it shall beget a blind confidence and presumption, which shall lead them on from one ruinous step to another. It shall furnish them with all the means and instruments of corruption, and bring them into captivity to the worst of passions: in which miserable condition, they may be so absurd as to be proud of themselves: but certainly they are no objects of envy to us. They may despise our lot; but we have all the reason in the world to pity them;
* Prov. i. 32.
and so long as we are under the influence of pity, we shall not be disturbed with anger.
We are farther to consider, that evil doers are not only mortal, but worse. The man who is executed is more miserable than he who dieth in the course of nature. Besides the evil of mortality, the evil of vengeance awaits a bad man; and while he is whetting the weapon of malice, a sword of judgment, which he doth not see, is hanging over him, ready to drop upon his head. The eye of God is upon his ways, though not in his thoughts; and when the measure of his sins is filled up, he shall be rooted out. While he is counselling for himself, or against better men, the Lord, who sees what he is upon, and that his day is coming, is represented as laughing his confidence to scorn: knowing, that instead of prevailing against the just, he is sharpening a sword which will be turned against himself, and go through his own heart. "I myself," saith the Psalmist, "have "seen the ungodly in great power, and flourish
ing like a green bay-tree. I went by and lo "he was gone; I sought him but his place "could no where be found." His power is at an end; he can trouble us no longer; he is gone, as if he had never been.
Such is the real lot of evil men, under the flattering
flattering appearances of their temporary successes; therefore, "grieve not thyself at him, "whose way doth prosper; against the man "who doeth after evil counsels-wicked doers "shall be rooted out; and they that patiently "abide the Lord, those shall inherit the land.”
From which words we learn, that our peace will be farther promoted by a consideration of the promises made to the godly: who have this assurance, that all things work together for good to them that love God: that the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous; not to secure them absolutely from trouble, but to exercise them therewith, and then to deliver them out of it. Some men seem to be sent into the world for the trial of others. They answer the end of winds and storms, which purge the atmosphere of its vapours; and, by agitating the roots of trees and plants, make them grow the faster. Of such we are to remember, that as the weather is under God's direction, so are they under the restraints of his power. He permits them to go to certain lengths for purposes known to himself: but they can go no farther.
Enemies answer so many purposes, that they are in some degree necessary to every good man. The army stationed in an enemies country is vigilant; which, at home, where there is no dan
ger, would be dissolute. So, in private life, a man's enemies oblige him to live more prudently and virtuously; that no advantage may be given to those who will be glad to take it. His enemies may be farther necessary, for the punishment of his sins. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him. Whence the inference is natural; that his life may be less peaceable, because his ways want to be corrected. The conscience of David, in his troubles, put this interpretation upon the curses of Shemei. Thus ill men be of use to drive us back to our may duty, as wild beasts drive man from the woods and the forests into the safety of civil society. And if God, when such things happen, will be pleased to accept of the railings and reproaches of an enemy towards the pardon of our sins; we should be thankful for them. There would be no absurdity (and, supposing them to come from the impenitent, no want of charity) in praying for more of them.
There are virtues of forbearance and fortitude, which cannot be called into action, but by the provocations. of the injurious; and the more unjust they are, the less we ought to be offended for here, we are to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; and to consider,
* Prov. xvi. 7.