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robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed, shall be mentioned unto him," Ezek. xxxiii. 14-16.
A second sort of people, who ought to derive serious instruction from the words of my text, is those visionaries; who, while engaged in the habit of hating their neighbours, of fornication, of revenge, or in one or the other of those vices, of which the Scripture says, "they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," fancy themselves to be in a state of grace, and believe they shall ever abide in that state, provided they never doubt of the work. People of this character,-whether it be that they have fallen into the hands of Antinomian guides, one of the greatest plagues with which justice punishes the crimes of men, and one of the most awful pests of the church; or whether it be the effect of those passions, which, in general, so fascinate the mind, as to prevent their seeing the most evident truths opposed to their system; but people of this class presumptuously apply to themselves the doctrine of the inamissibility of grace, at the time when we display the arm of God ready to pour the thunder of its vengeance upon their heads. But know, once for all, it is not to you that the inamissibility of grace belongs. Whether a true saint may fall, or whether he may not fall, it is the same thing with regard to you; and your corruption will gain nothing by the decision: for if the true saint may fall, I have cause to conclude that you are already fallen; since, notwithstanding the regeneration you pretend to have received, you now have no marks of real saints; and if a real saint cannot fall, I have cause to conclude that you were deluded in the notions you had formed of yourselves with regard to conversion. I have reason to believe that you never were true saints, because I see with my own eyes, that you no longer sustain the character. Here is the abridgement of the controversy. Here is a decision of the question between us. But if it do not agree with your systems, preserve those systems carefully; preserve them to the great day, when the Lord shall render unto every man according to his works; and endea vour, endeavour in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, to defend your depravity by your opinions.
There is yet a third class of people, who ought to make serious reflections on the doctrine of perseverance. It is those who carry the consequences to an extreme; who, from a notion that they must endure to the end of their course to be saved, persuade themselves that they cannot be assured of their salvation till they come to that period. It is not to ministers who maintain so detestable a notion, that this article is addressed. It is not to captious, but to tender minds, and those tender minds who are divided between the exalted ideas they entertain of duty, and the fears of deviation. Fear, holy souls; but sanctify your fear. Entertain exalted views of your duty; but let those exalted views be a sure test that you will never deviate; and, while you never lose sight of the difficulties with which the race Christ has set before you is accompanied, never lose
sight of those objects which he has set before you, in order that you may be enabled to surmount them.
A Christian is supported in his course by the very nature of the difficulties which occur. These are many, and we shall have occasion to enumerate them in a subsequent discourse. But, with discerning Christians, all these things may promote the end they seem to oppose, and realize the words of St. Paul, that "all things work together for good to them that love God," Rom. viii. 28. One of those difficulties, for instance, to which a Christian is exposed in his race, is adversity; but adversity is so far from obstructing him in his course, as to become an additional motive to pursue it with delight; and to assist him in taking an unreluctant flight towards the skies. Another difficulty is prosperity; but prosperity assists him to estimate the goodness of God, and induces him to infer, that if his happiness here be so abundant, what must it be in the mansions of felicity, seeing he already enjoys so much in these abodes of misery. Another of those difficulties is health; which, by invigorating the body, strengthens the propensity to sin; but health, by invigorating the body, strengthens him also for the service of God. So it is with every obstruction.
A Christian is supported in his course, by those unspeakable joys which he finds in the advancement of his progress; by "the peace which passeth all understanding;" by the serenity of justification; by an anticipated resurrection; by a foretaste of paradise and glory, which descend into his soul, before he himself is exalted to heaven.
A Christian is supported in his course (as we have already intimated in this sermon,) by the consideration even of those torments, to which he would be exposed if he should come short. The patriarch Noah trembled, no doubt, on seeing the cataracts of heaven let loose, and the fountains of the great deep broke open, and the angry God execute his threatening, "I will destroy man whom I have created, from off the face of the earth; both man and beast, for it repenteth me that I have made them," Gen. vi. 7. But this fear apprised him of his privilege, being exempt in the ark from the universal desolation; which induced him to abide in his refuge.
A Christian is supported in his course by supernatural aid, which raise him above the powers of nature; which enable him to say, "when I am weak, then I am strong;" and to exclaim in the midst of conflicts, "blessed be God which always causest us to triumph in Christ," 2 Cor. ii. 14. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," Phil. iv. 13.
A Christian is supported in his course by the confidence he has of succeeding in the work in which he is engaged, and of holding out to the end. And where is the man in social life, who can have the like assurance with regard to the things of this world? Where is the general, who can assure himself of success by the dispositions he may make to obtain the victory? Where is the statesman, who can assure himself of warding off every blow which threatens the nation? The Christian,-the Christian
alone has this superior assurance. I fear nothing but your heart; answer me with your heart; answer me with your sincerity, and I will answer you for all the rest.
A Christian is supported in his course, above all, by the grandeur of the salvation with which he is to be crowned. What shall I say, my dear brethren, on the grandeur of this salvation? That I have not the secret of compressing into the last words of a discourse, all the traits of an object, the immensity of which shall absorb our thoughts and reflections to all eternity?
With such vast support, shalt thou, timorous soul, still be agitated with those distressing fears which discourage wicked men from entering on the course prescribed by Jesus Christ to his disciples? "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, for I am with thee. Thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. They that are for us, are more than all they that are against us," 2 Kings, vi. 16. "When thou passest through the waters, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned," Isa. xliii. 2. To this adorable Deity, who opens to us so fine a course, who affords us such abundant means for its completion, be honour, glory, empire, and magnificence, now and ever. Amen.
of an ancient philosopher respecting government. The principles, on which he established his system of politics, have appeared admirable, and the consequences he has deduced, have appeared like streams pure as their source. God, in creating men, says this philosopher, gave them all means of preservation from the miseries which seem appendant to their condition: and they have but themselves to blame if they neglected to profit by them. His bounty has supplied them with resources, to terminate the evils into which they fell by choice. Let them return to the practice of truth and virtue, from which they have deviated, and they shall find that felicity to which nothing but virtue and truth can conduct society. Let the states elect a sovereign like the God who governed in the age of innocence; let them obey the laws of God. Let kings and subjects enter into the same views of making each other mutually happy. The whole world has admired this fine notion; but they have only admired it: and regard it merely as a system. The princes and the people, to whom this philosopher wrote, are as yet unborn; hence we commonly say, the republic of Plato, when we wish to express a beautiful chimera. I blush to avow it, but truth extorts it from me, that this is the notion most men entertain of religion. They make its very beauty an argument for its neglect, and their own weakness an apology for the repugnance they feel in submitting to its laws: this is precisely the temper we propose to attack. We will prove, by evident
ON THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS. facts, and by experience, which is consequently
HEBREWS xii. 1.
Wherefore, seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
THERE are few persons so very depraved, as not to admire the line of life prescribed by religion; but there are few sufficiently virtuous to follow it, or even to consider it in any other light than as a grand scheme captivating to an enlightened mind, but to which it is impossible to conform. To inquire, as soon as we are capable of reflection, what is the Being who gave us birth, to yield to a world of arguments which attest his existence and perfections; to join the consort of creation which publishes his glory; to devote one's self to him to whom we are indebted for all our comforts; and on whom all our hopes depend; to make continual efforts to pierce those veils which conceal him from our view, to seek a more concise and sure way of knowing him than that of nature; to receive revelation with avidity; to adore the characters of divine perfections which it traces; to take them for a rule of life; to sigh on deviation from those models of perfection, and repair, by revigorated efforts of virtue, whatever faults one may have committed against virtue, is the line of life prescribed by religion. And who so far depraved, as not to admire it? But who is so virtuous as to follow it, or even to believe that it can be followed? We look upon it, for the most part, as we do the notions
above all exception, that however elevated above the condition of man the scheme of religion may appear, it is a scheme which may be followed, seeing it has been followed already.
To this point we shall direct the subsequent part of our discourse on the text we have read. We have divided it into three parts;-distinguished duties,-excellent models,-and wise precautions. Of distinguished duties, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us," we have treated in our first discourse. Of wise precautions, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,' we hope to treat in a succeeding sermon. Of excellent models, "seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses," we shall speak to-day. Happy, if struck with so many heroic actions, about to be set before your eyes, you may be led to follow them, and to augment this cloud of witnesses, of whom the Holy Spirit himself has not disdained to make the eulogium. Happy, if we may say of you, as we now say of them, by faith they repelled the wisdom of this world; by faith they triumphed over the charms of concupiscence; by faith they endured the most cruel torments; by faith they conquered the celestial Jerusalem, which was the vast reward of all their conflicts. Amen.
"Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race which is set before us." What is this cloud, or multitude, of which the apostle speaks? The answer is not equivocal, they are the faithful enumerated in the preceding chapter. Of what were they
witnesses? Of that important truth, with which he would impress the minds of the Hebrews, and which alone was capable of supporting the expectation of martyrdom, that God is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him;" that how great soever the sacrifices may be we make for him, we shall be amply recompensed by his equity, or by his love: the faithful have witnessed this, not only by their professions, but by their conduct; some by sacrifices which cost the most to flesh and blood; some by abandoning their riches; others by devoting their lives. Happily this eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is clearly known even to the less instructed of our hearers; this may supply our weakness, and the brevity of these exercises in making an analysis. We shall however run over it, remarking whatever may most contribute to illustrate the subject.
we shall be rewarded by his equity, or by his love. Faith thus taken in its vaguest and most extended view, ought to be restricted to those particular circumstances in which it was exercised, and according to the particular kind of promises which it embraced, or, not losing sight of obedience, in regard to those particular kinds of sacrifice which God requires us to make. One man is called to march at the head of armies to defend an oppressed nation. God promises to reward his courage with victory. The man believes, he fights, he conquers. The object of his faith in this particular circumstance, is the promise I have mentioned; I am right then in defining faith as St. Paul, when he says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Heb. xi. 1. It is that disposition of heart, in approaching God, which enables us to believe, that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." By faith the man of whom I spoke obtained the victory.
But I will adduce the case of another, call
ticular objects of his faith in the case I have
You perceive, I flatter myself, in the first case I have adduced, that if the general persuasion this man had, that God is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him," did not embrace for its object all the promises of salvation, nor induce him to make all the sacrifices his salvation required; he is worthy however of imitation in this instance, his faith having embraced the particular promise which had been given him: and it is evident, if I do not know any thing of this man's life, except that his faith having been sufficiently strong for a particular sacrifice, I may presume what I cannot prove, it would have been adequate for every other sacrifice required by his salvation.
The first thing which not a little surprises us, is, that St. Paul has equally brought together, as models, men who seem to have been not only of very different, but of very oppo-ed to suffer martyrdom for religion The parsite conduct. How could he class Samson, the slave of a prostitute: how could he class Rahab, of whom it is doubtful at least, whether she did not practice the most infamous of all professions: how could he put those two persons on a parallel with Joseph, who has been held up to all ages, not only as a model, but as the martyr for chastity? How could he place Jepthah, the oppressor of Ephraim, whom we deem worthy of censure for the most distinguished action of all his life; I would say the devotion of his only daughter, whether in sacrifice or celibacy, a question not to be examined here; how could he class this man in a rank with Abraham, who was ready to immolate his son at the divine command; with Abraham the most humane of conquerors, who made this magnanimous reply to the officers of an alliance he had received, "I have lift up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from thee a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abraham rich?" Gen. xiv. 22, 23. How could he put Gideon, who availed himself of the spoils of Midian by the supernatural aids of Heaven, to make an ephod, and to turn away the Israelites from the worship of the true God, on a scale with Moses, who "preferred affliction with the people of God, to the pleasures of sin which are but for a season?" Heb. xi. 25. I have too much reason to be convinced, that many of my hearers would wish to follow models of this description. I have too much reason to be convinced, that many would delight in a faith like that of Samson, like that of Jepthah, like that of Gideon. Without adopting or rejecting the solutions usually given of this difficulty, here is what may be replied.
The doctrine discussed being considered, not only obviates the difficulty proposed, but satisfies the scruple which may be made concerning some of the saints whose example is proposed as a pattern by St. Paul.
Do you ask, why St. Paul arranges in the same class, and proposes as equal models, personages so distinguished by virtue, and others by vice? I answer, that whatever distance there might have been between the different personages, they are all worthy of imitation in regard to what is excellent in those instances to which the apostle refers.
But if you ask whether the faith which induced Samson, Jepthah, and Gideon, to make some particular sacrifices for God, prompted them to make every sacrifice which their salvation required? we answer, that whatever fa
You should keep in view, the design of St. Paul in placing this group of personages before the Hebrews. He would animate them with that faith, which as we expressed our-vourable presumption charity ought to inspire, selves relying on the apostle's principles; that faith which persuades us, that how great soever the sacrifices may be we make for God,
no man is authorised to answer the question in the affirmative; for seeing some are found who have performed the first miracles of faith
without performing the second, we ought not to be confident that those doubtful characters performed the second because they ably performed the first.
But if you exclaim against this opinion, I will add, not only that Jesus Christ has affirmed he will say to many in the great day, who had miraculous faith, "I know you not;" but we have proof that many of those, whose example the apostle has adduced in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, were detestable characters, notwithstanding their endowment of miraculous faith. Here is our proof: St. Paul has arranged in the class of those whose faith he extols, all the Israelites who passed through the Red Sea. Now, it is evident that a vast proportion of these were detestable men; then, draw yourselves the consequence. And here you have the reason of St. Paul's having happily proposed to the Hebrews, the examples of the miracles achieved by the faith of those whom I call doubtful characters. Those miracles were admirably calculated to encourage the minds of the Hebrews, and to imbolden their purposes of making distinguished sacrifices for religion: but you have the reason, also, of his not being satisfied with merely setting before them those examples. You have the reason of his not being satisfied with setting before him the example of a faith, concerning which the Scriptures are silent, if it had only particular promises for its object; he sets before them the example of those saints, whose faith had particularly in view the promises of eternal felicity. But were there, indeed, among those saints enumerated by the apostle, men, whose faith had, for its object, the promises of eternal felicity? Did the obscurity of the dispensation, in which they lived, permit them to pierce the veil which still concealed from their view a happier life than what they enjoyed on earth? Let us not doubt it, my brethren: to avoid one extreme, let us not fall into the opposite one. St. Paul has proved it, not only by his own authority, but also by the nature of the case, and by the testimony of the Jews of his own age.
From the example of the patriarchs, he adduces, first, that of Abel. An ancient tradition of the Jews informs us, that the subject of dispute, between him and Cain, turned on the doctrine of future rewards. Cain maintained that none were to be expected in a future life; Abel supported the contrary proposition. The former of those brothers supplied argument by violence; unable to convince Abel, he assassinated him. It is from this tradition that some of our learned think we ought to understand those words of the apostle, "who being dead yet speaketh." They translate, "We have still extant a tradition, that he died for his faith; namely, the doctrine of a future state."
He cites the example of Enoch, who was so powerfully persuaded of a life to come, as to obtain a translation, exempting him from the painful path which others must travel to glory; I would say, from tasting the horrors of death.
He adduces the example of Noah, who not only escaped the calamities of the deluge, but
"became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." What is this heritage of righteousness by faith." It is, according to the style of the sacred authors, eternal life. Hence the many parallel explications we find in other places; as in the first chapter of this epistle. "Are not the angels all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" That, also, in the second chapter of the catholic Epistle of St. James, "God hath chosen the poor of this world to be heirs of the kingdom, which he hath pro mised to them that love him."
He farther alleges the example of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and of Joseph. The confidence which the patriarchs reposed in the promise of an earthly Canaan, proves that they expected a heavenly inheritance; because they continued faithful followers of God, though they never inherited the terrestrial country, which was apparently promised to them, but continued to be strangers and sojourners." "I am," says Abraham to the Egyptians, stranger among you." And Jacob to Pharaoh, "The days of my pilgrimage," or the time of my life, during which period I have been a stranger and a sojourner:-" the days of my pilgrimage are not equal to those of my fathers." St. Paul's remark on these expressions of the patriarchs is worthy of regard. "They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they come out, they might have had opportunity to have returned; but now they seek a better country; that is, an heavenly," Heb. xi. 14-16. That is to say, those holy men could but consider two sorts of countries as their own, either the land of their fathers, or the land of Canaan, of which God had promised to give them possession. They had not this notion of the land of Canaan, seeing they considered themselves as "strangers and sojourners;"-seeing that Abraham there possessed only so much land as was sufficient for a sepulchre;-seeing Joseph's sole happiness, in this view, was to command his children to carry up his bones, when they went to possess it. They could no longer consider Chaldea, in which their fathers were born, as their country: in that case, they would have returned on finding themselves strangers in the land of Canaan. Hence it is evident from their conduct, that they still sought their country; a country better than their fathers', and a better than their children expected to possess; "They showed that they expected a better, that is, an heavenly habitation."
St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews the example of Moses: for if the faith of Moses merely respected terrestrial glory, why should he (as the Jews say) have cast to the ground, and trampled on the crown that Thermutis had placed on his head? Why should he on coming to years, as says the apostle, have "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." He farther, according to the same epistle, "esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. This expression may be taken in a double sense. By "the reproach of Christ," we may understand the cross he so frequently inculcated on his disciples. By the reproach of Christ, we may likewise understand
the bondage which oppressed the Jews in the time of Moses. The word Christ, signifies anointed, and men favoured of God are frequently called his anointed, because of the grace they had received; of which the holy oil, poured on some extraordinary personages by his command, was a figure. So God has said by the psalmist, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm," Ps. cv. 15. So the prophet Habakkuk, "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed," Hab. iii. 13. Which sense soever we may adopt, the afflictions of Moses prove, according to St. Paul, "that he had respect unto the recompense of the reward," Heb. xi. 26. As no motive but the hope of glory can induce Christians to bear the reproach of Christ their head; so no other consideration could have induced a preference in Moses, of the sufferings of the Israelites to the enjoyments of a crown.
In short, St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews a great number of martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for their religion. In this class is the venerable Eleazar; who died under the strokes of his executioners, 2 Maccab. vi. It is probably in allusion to this case when the apostle says, "they were tortured." The Greek word signifies they were extended in torture; and it is designed to express the situation of persons executed in this cruel way. In this class is Zechariah, who was slain between the temple and the altar, by the command of Joash. To him the apostle properly alludes when he says, they were stoned." In this class is Isaiah, whom Manasseh executed with a saw, if we may credit an apocryphal book quoted by Origen. To him the apostle probably alludes when he says, "they were sawn asunder." In this class were Micah, John the Baptist, and St. James, since the time of the Maccabees. In all probability the apostle had them in view when he says, "they were slain with the sword." This is sufficient to illustrate what St. Paul has said in the chapter preceding our text, respecting the faithful, whom he adduces as models. It is evident, that those illustrious examples were admirably calculated to make deep impressions on the minds of the Hebrews, and to animate them to sacrifice their lives for their religion, if called to suffer. But I would improve the precious moments of attention you may yet deign to give, having destined them to investigate the impression, which the examples of those illustrious saints must naturally make on our minds, and to press the exhortation. "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
conceive yourselves obligated to make them the
1. Man, circumscribed in knowledge, and exposed to strong contests, which cannot be supported without a vast chain of abstract truths, is very liable to shrink in the contest. I say not that it is impossible to avoid it; but that he is very liable to shrink. It may be avoided; because, in the warmth of disputation, by an effort of genius, he might possibly turn his views to those arguments which would ensure his triumph. He is, however, very liable to shrink; because warm debates engross so large a proportion of the mental capacity, that it is difficult for a man thus prepossessed to pay proper attention to the motives which would enable him to conquer.
2. We are not only all born with a general propensity to vice: but we are all likewise born with a propensity to some particular vice. Let a man pay attention to children in the early years of life, and he will be convinced of the fact: he will see that one is born with a propensity to anger, another to vanity, and so with regard to the other vices. These propensities sometimes proceed from the temperature of our bodies. It is natural, that persons born with a phlegmatic constitution, and whose spirits flow with difficulty, should be inclined to insensiI have too high an opinion of my hearers, not bility, to indolence, and effeminacy. It is nato persuade myself, that they cannot contem-tural also for persons born with a gay and volaplate those illustrious models, without corresponding impressions; but I think enough has been said to force an objection which most of you will make, should I devote the rest of the hour to enforce those high examples. You will say, they are fine examples; but too high for our imitation. The personages, from whom they are derived, were extraordinary men, with whom we have no claims of competition. They were saints, we are sinners. Hence, the more amiable these examples appear, the less you VOL. II.-36
tile temperature, to be inclined to pleasure, and anger. But these dispositions are sometimes found in the essence of the soul. For, why are some men born jealous, and ambitious? Why have they peculiar propensities which have no connexion with the body, if there be not, in the essence of the soul, principles which impel some to one, and some to another vice?
This being granted, I affirm, that there is between those distinguished saints, namely, those venerable personages enumerated by St.