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in. But our folly and self-ignorance abuse us: it is not our part to choose what we should be, but to be what we are, to His glory who gives us to be such. Be thy condition never so mean, yet, thy conscience towards God, if it be within thee, will find itself work in that. If it be little that is intrusted to thee, in regard of thy outward condition, or any other way, be thou faithful in that little, as our Saviour speaks, and thy reward shall not be little: He shall make thee ruler over much. Matt. xxv. 23.
Observe, 3. As a corrupt mind debaseth the best and most excellent callings and actions, so the lowest are raised above themselves, and ennobled by a spiritual mind. Magistrates or ministers, though their calling and employments be high, may have low intentions, and draw down their high calling to those low intentions; they may seek themselves, and their own selfish ends, and neglect God. And a sincere Christian may elevate his low calling by this conscience towards God, observing His will, and intending His glory in it. An eagle may fly high, and yet have its eye down upon some carrion on the earth: even so, a man may be standing on the earth, and on some low part of it, and yet have his eye upon heaven, and be contemplating it. That which men cannot at all see in one another, is the very thing that is most considerable in their actions, namely, the principle whence they flow, and the end to which they tend. This is the form and life of actions,-that by which they are earthly or heavenly. Whatsoever be the matter of them, the spiritual mind hath that alchemy indeed, of turning base metals into gold, -earthly employments into heavenly. The handy-work of an artisan or servant who regards God, and eyes Him even in that work, is much holier than the prayer of a hypocrite ? and a servant's enduring the private wrongs and harshness of a froward master, bearing it patiently for conscience towards God, is more acceptable to God, than the sufferings of such as may endure much for a a public good cause, without a good and upright heart.
This habitude and posture of the heart towards God, the
Apostle St. Paul presses much upon Servants, Eph. vi. 8, as being very needful to allay the hard labour and harsh usage of many of them. This is the way to make all easy, to undergo it for God. There is no pill so bitter, but respect and love to God will sweeten it. And this is a very great refreshment and comfort to Christians in the mean estate of servants or other labouring men, that they may offer up their hardship and bodily labour as a sacrifice to God, and say, Lord, this is the station wherein Thou hast set me in this world, and I desire to serve Thee in it. What I do is for Thee, and what I suffer I desire to bear patiently and cheerfully for Thy sake, in submission and obedience to Thy will. For conscience.] In this there is, 1. A reverential compli
A ance with God's disposal, both in allotting to them that condition of life, and in particularly choosing their master for them; though possibly not the mildest and pleasantest, yet the fittest for their good. There is much in firmly believing this, and in heartily submitting to it; for we would, naturally, rather carve for ourselves, and shape our own estate to our mind, which is a most foolish, yea, an impious presumption : as if we were wiser than He who hath done it, and as if there were not as much, and, it may be, more possibility of true contentment in a mean, than in a far higher condition! The master's mind is often more toiled than the servant's body. But if our condition be appointed us, at least we would have a voice in some qualifications and circumstances of it; as in this, if a man must serve, he would wish willingly that God would allot him a meek, gentle master. And so, in other things, if we must be sick, we would be well accommodated, and not want helps ; but to have sickness, and want means and friends for our help, this we cannot think of without horror. But this submission to God is never right, till all that concerris us be given up into His hand, to do with it, and with every article and circumstance of it, as seems good in His eyes. 2. In this conscience, there is a religious and observant respect to the rule which God hath set men to walk by in that condition ; so that their
obedience depends not upon any external inducement, failing when that fails, but flows from an inward impression of the law of God upon the heart. Thus, a servant's obedience and patience will not be pinned to the goodness and equity of his master, but when that fails, will subsist upon its own inward ground; and so, generally in all other estates. This is the thing that makes sure and constant walking; makes a man step even in the ways of God. When a man's obedience springs from that unfailing, unchanging reason, the command of God, it is a natural motion, and therefore keeps on, and rather grows than abates; but they who are moved by things outward, must often fail, because those things are not constant in their moving; as, for instance, when a people are much acted on by the spirit of their rulers, as the Jews when they had good kings. 3. In this conscience, there is a tender care of the glory of God and the adornment of religion, which the Apostle premised before these particular duties, as a thing to be specially regarded in them. The honour of our Lord's name, is that which we should set up as the mark to aim all our actions at. But alas ! either we think not on it, or our hearts slip out, and start from their aim, like bows of deceit, as the word is, Psal. lxxvii. 57. 4. There is the comfortable persuasion of God's approbation and acceptance, (as it is expressed in the following verse, of which somewhat before,) and the hope of that reward He hath promised, as it is, Col. iii. 24. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ. No less than the inheritance ! So then, such servants as these, are sons and heirs of God, coheirs with Christ. Thus he that is a servant, may be in a far more excellent state than his master. The servant may hope for, and aim at a kingdom, while the master is embracing a dunghill. And such a one will think highly of God's free grace, and the looking ever to that inheritance, makes him go cheerfully through all pains and troubles here, as light and momentary, and not worth the naming in comparison of that glory that shall be revealed. In the mean time, the best and
328 COMMENTARY UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER.
most easy condition of the sons of God, cannot satisfy them, nor stay their sighs and groans, waiting and longing for that day of their full redemption. Rom. viii. 16. 23.
Now this is the great rule, not only for servants, but for all the servants of God in what state soever, to set the Lord always before them, Psal. xvi. 8, and to study with St. Paul, to have a conscience void of offence towards God and man, Acts xxiv. 16; to eye, and to apply constantly to their actions and their inward thoughts, the command of God; to walk by that rule abroad, and at home in their houses, and in the several ways of their calling ; (as an exact workman is ever and anon laying his rule to his work, and squaring it ;) and for the conscience they have towards God, to do and suffer His will cheerfully in every thing, being content that He choose their condition and their trials for them; only desirous to be assured, that He hath chosen them for His own, and given them a right to the glorious liberty of the sons of God, Rom. viii. 21; still endeavouring to walk in that way which leads to it, overlooking this moment, and all things in it, accounting it a very indifferent matter what is their outward state here, provided they may be happy in eternity. Whether we be high or low here, bond or free, it imports little, seeing that all these differences will be so quickly at an end, and there shall not be so much as any track or footstep of them left. With particular men, it is so in their graves ; you may distinguish the greater from the less by their tombs, but by their dust you cannot: and with the whole world it shall be so in the end. All monuments and palaces, as well as cottages shall be made fire, as our Apostle tells us.
The elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth, and all the works therein, shall be burnt up. 2 Pet. üi. 10.
END OF VOL. I.
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