« السابقةمتابعة »
throned in both the kingdoms of Judah and If the nature of the thing cannot convince Israel! How often have we alleged, that in the you, that the multitude continue through netime of Jesus Christ the church was described gligence in the profession of that religion in as a "little flock,” Luke xii. 32; that heathens which they were born, experience may here and Jews were all in league against Chris- supply the place of reasoning. There is an tianity at first, and that the gospel had only a infinite variety of geniuses among mankind. small number of disciples! How often have Propose to an assembly a question, that no we retorted, that for whole centuries there was system has yet decided, and you will find, as no trace, no shadow of the opinions of modern it is usually said, as many opinions as heads. Rome! But we will not apply ourselves to It is certain, if mankind were attached to a this controversy to-day by fixing your atten- religion only because they had studied it, we tion on the sophisms of foreigners; perhaps we should find a great number of people forsake might divert your eyes from your own; by that in which they had been brought up, for it showing you our triumphs over the vain at- is impossible, that a whole society should unite tacks made on us by the enemies of the refor. in one point of error, or rather, it is clear, to a mation, perhaps we might turn away your at- demonstration, that as truth has certain chartention from other more dangerous wounds, acters superior to falsehood, the temples of which the reformed themselves aim at the idols would be instantly deserted, erroneous heart of religion. When I say the multitude sects would be soon abandoned, the religion of is a bad guide in matters of faith, I mean, that Jesus Christ, the only one worthy of being the manner in which most men adhere to truth, embraced, the only one that deserves disciples, is not by principles which ought to attach them would be the only one embraced, and would to it, but by a spirit of negligence and preju- alone be received by all sincere disciples of dice.
truth. It is no small work to examine the truth, Do not think, my brethren, that this reflecwhen we arrive at an age capable of discus- tion concerning that spirit of negligence, which sion. The fundamental points of religion, I retains most men in a profession of their own grant, lie in the Scriptures clear and perspicu- religion, regards only such communions as lay ous, and within the comprehension of all who down their own infallibility for a fundamental choose to attend to them: but when we pass article of faith, and which prescribe ignorance from infancy to manhood, and arrive at an and blind submission as a first principle to age in which reason seems mature, we find their partisans, for it is but too easy to prove, ourselves covered with a veil, which either that the same spirit of negligence reigns in all hides objects from us, or disfigures them. The communities. Hence it comes to pass, that in public discourses we have heard in favour of general so few Christians can render a reason The sect, in which we were educated, the inve- for their faith. Hence it is that people are terate hatred we have for all others, who hold usually better furnished with arguments to opprinciples opposite to ours, the frightful por- pose such societies as surround them, than with traits that are drawn before our eyes of the those which establish the fundamental truths of perils we must encounter, if we depart from Christianity. If then you follow the direction the way we have been brought up in, the im- of the multitude in the study of religion, you pressions made upon us by the examples and will be conducted by a spirit of negligence, decisions of our parents, and masters, and teach- prejudice will be held for proof, education for ers, the bad taste of those who had the care of argument, and the decisions of your parents and our education, and who prevented our acquir- teachers for infallible oracles of truth. ing that most noble disposition, without which II. The multitude is a bad guide in regard it is impossible ever to be a true philosopher, to that worship, which God requires of us; they or a real Christian, I mean that of suspending defile it with a spirit of superstition. Superour judgment on subjects not sufficiently pro- stition is a disposition of mind that inclines us ved; from all this arise clouds that render the to regulate all parts of divine worship, not by truth inaccessible, and which the world can- just notions of the Supreme Being, nor by his not dissipate. We do not say, that natural ta- relation to us, nor by what he has condescended lents, or supernatural assistance are wanting; to reveal, but by our own fancies. A superwe are fully convinced that God will never stitious man entertains fantastical ideas of God, give up to final error any man who does all in and renders to him capricious worships; he not his power to understand the truth. But the unfrequently takes himself for a model of God: world are incapable of this work. Why? Be- he thinks that what most resembles himself, cause all the world, except a few, hate labour however mean and contemptible, approaches and meditation in regard to the subjects which nearest to perfection. We affirm, this disposirespect another life; because all the world tion is almost universal. would choose rather to attach themselves to It would be needless to prove this to you, what regards their temporal interests than to my brethren, in regard to erroneous commuthe great interest of eternal happiness: because nities. Were superstition banished from the all the world like better to suppose the princi- world, we should not see men, who are made ples imbibed in their childhood true, than to in the image of God, disgrace their nature by impose on themselves the task of weighing prostrating themselves before idols, and marthem anew in the balance of a sound and severe mosets, so as to render religious honours to reason: because all the world have an invinci-half a block of wood or stone, the other half of ble aversion to suppose, that when they are ar- which they apply to the meanest purposes: we rived at manhood they have almost lost their should not see a crowd of idolaters performing time in some respects, and that when they leave a ceremonial, in which conviction of mind has school they begin to be capable of instruction. I no part, and which is all external and material,
we should not see a concourse of people receive 1. Consider mankind in regard to the masing with respect, as the precious blood of the ters who govern them. Here I congratulate Saviour of the world, a few drops of putrefied myself on the happiness of speaking to a free water, which the warmth of the sun has pro- people, among whom it is not reputed a crime duced by fermentation in the trunk of a decayed to praise what is praise-worthy, and to blame tree: we should not see pilgrims in procession what deserves blame, and where we may freely mangling their flesh in the streets, dragging trace the characters of some men of whom prualong heavy loads, howling in the highways, dence requires us not to “speak evil, no not in and taking such absurd practices for that re- thought, no not in the bedchamber, lest a bird pentance, which breaks the heart, and trans- of the air should carry the voice, and that forms and renews the life. You will easily which hath wings should tell the matter,' grant all this, for I have observed, it is often Eccles. X. 20. Is it in the palaces of the great less difficult to inspire you with horror for that humility reigns, humility which so well these practices, than to excite compassion in becomes creatures, who, though crowned and you for such as perform them.
enthroned, are yet infirm, criminal, dying creaBut you ought to be informed, that there tures, and who, in a few days, will become are other superstitions less gross, and therefore food for worms, yea, perhaps victims in the more dangerous. Among us we do not put a flames of hell? Is it in the palaces of the great, worship absolutely foreign to the purpose in that uprightness, good faith, and sincerity reign? the place of that which God has commanded Yet without these society is nothing but a banand exemplified to us, but we make an esti- ditti, treaties are only snares, and laws cobmate of the several parts of true worship. webs, which, to use a well known expression, These estimates are regulated by opinions catch only weak insects, while the fierce and formed through prejudice or passion. What carnivorous break through. Is it in the palabest agrees with our inclinations we consider ces of the great that gratitude reigns, that as the essence of religion, and what would lawful tribute due to every motion made to thwart and condemn them we think circum- procure our happiness. Is it there that the stantial.
services of a faithful subject, the labours of We make a scruple of not attending a ser an indefatigable merchant, the perils of an inmon, not keeping a festival, not receiving the trepid soldiery, blood shed and to be shed, are Lord's Supper, but we make none of neglect- estimated and rewarded? Is it there that the ing to visit a prisoner, to comfort the sick, to cries of the wretched are heard, tears of the plead for the oppressed. We observe a strict oppressed wiped away, the claims of truth exdecency in our religious assemblies while our amined and granted? Is it in the palaces of ministers address prayer to God, but we take the great that benevolence reigns, that benevono pains to accompany him with our minds lence without which a man is only a wild beast! and hearts, to unite our ejaculations with his Is it there that the “ young ravens which cry" to besiege the throne of grace. We think it a are heard and fed? Ps. cxlvii
. 9. Is it there duty to join our voices with those of a whole that they attend to the bitter complaints of an congregation, and to fill our places of worship indigent man, ready to die with hunger, and with the praises of our Creator, but we do not who asks for no more than will just keep him think ourselves obliged to understand the sense alive? Are the palaces of the great seats of of the psalm, that is sung with so much fervour, piety and devotion? Is it there that schemes and, in the language of an apostle, to "sing are formed for the reformation of manners? Is with understanding,” I. Cor. xiv. 15. We it there that they are “grieved for the affliction lay aside innocent occupations the day before of Joseph,” Amos vi. 6: and “take pleasure in we receive the Lord's Supper, but no sooner in dust and stones of Zion?” Ps. cii. 14. Is it do-we return from this ordinance than we allow there that we hear the praises of the Creator? the most criminal pleasures, and enter upon do they celebrate the compassion of the Rethe most scandalous intrigues. Who make deemer of mankind these mistakes my brethren? Is it the few What ideas are e: cited in our minds by the “Be not conformed to this world,” in regard names of such as Caligula, Nero, Dioclesian, to the worship that God requires of you, the Decius, names detestable in all ages. What multitude perform it in a spirit of superstition. ideas could we excite in your minds, were we
III. Neither are the many a better guide in to weigh in a just balance the virtues of such regard to morality. Here, my brethren, we heroes as have been rendered famous by the are going more particularly to describe that encomiums given them? You would be asclass of inankind, among which we live, and of tonished to see that these men, who have been which we ourselves are a part. Indeed, the called the delights of mankind, have often deportraits we are going to draw will not be served execration, and ought to be considered Aattering to them, for justice requires, that we with horror. But I purposely forbear, and should describe men as they are, not as they will not put in this list all that ought to be pretend to be. In order to exactness let us placed there, that is to say, all those who have consider them separately and apart. First, In had sovereign power, except a very few, who regard to the masters who govern them. Se in comparison are next to none, and who are, condly, In regard to the professions, which they as it were, lost in the crowd among the rest. exercise. Thirdly, In regard to some maxims And yet the elevation of kings makes their generally received. Fourthly, In regard to crimes more communicable, and their examthe splendid actions which they celebrate. ples more contagious; their sins become a filthy And lastly, In regard to certain decisive occa- vapour infecting the air, and shedding their sions, that, like touchstones, discover their malignant influence all over our cities and faprinciples and motives.
milies, lightning, and thundering, and disturbe
ing the world. Accordingly, you see in gene- but by what will most benefit the people ral, that what the king is in his kingdom, the among whom he exercises his ministry; it is to governor is in his province; what the governor take as much care of a dying person in an obis in his province, the nobleman is in his do- scure family, lying on a bed of straw, lost in main; what the nobleman is in his domain, the oblivion and silence, as of him, who with an master is in his family. The multitude is a illustrious name lives amidst silver and gold, bad guide, mankind are a dangerous model, and for whom the most magnificent and pompconsidered in regard to the masters who govern ous funeral honours will be prepared, it is to them.
"cry aloud, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, 2. Consider the many in regard to divers and show the people their transgressions, and professions. What is the profession of a sol- the house of Israel their sins," Isa. lviii
. l; dier, particularly of an officer of rank in the Mic. iii. 8; and 2 Cor. v. 16; “it is to know army. It is to defend society, to maintain re no man after the flesh" when he ascends the ligion, to be a parent to the soldiery, to bridle pulpit, boldly to reprove vice, how eminent sothe licentiousness of arms, to oppose power ever the seat of it may be. What is the usual against injustice, to derive from all the views conduct of a minister. O God! “Enof death that lie open before him, motives to ter not into judgment with thy servants, for prepare his accounts to produce before his we cannot answer one complaint of a thouJudge. But what is the conduct of a soldier? | sand!” Ps. cxliii. 2; Job ix. 3. Is it not to brave society? Is it not to trample 3. Consider the multitude in regard to some upon religion? Is it not to set examples of de- general maxims which they adopt, and hold as bauchery, licentiousness, and vengeance? Is it rules and approved axioms. Have you read not to let out his abilities, and to sacrifice his in the gospel the following maxims Charity life to the most ambitious designs, and to the begins at home. Youth is a time of pleasure. most bloody enterprises of princes? Is it not to It is allowable to kill time. We should not accustom himself to ideas of death and judg: pretend to be saints. Slander is the salt of ment till he laughs at both, to stifle all remorse, conversation. We must do as other people do. and to extirpate all the fears, which such ob- It is unworthy of a man of honour to pocket jects naturally excite in the consciences of an affront. A gentleman ought to avenge himother men?
self. Ambition is the vice of great souls. ProWhat is the profession of a judge? It is to vided we commit no great crimes, we suffihave no regard to the appearances of men, it is ciently answer our calling. Impurity is an into be affable to all who appeal to authority, to tolerable vice in a woman, but it is pardonable study with application the nature of a cause in a man. It would be easy to enlarge this which he is obliged to decide, it is patiently to catalogue. Which of these maxims, pray, go through the most fatiguing details of proofs does not sap some of the first principles and objections. But what is often the conduct of the religion of Jesus Christ? Yet which of of a judge? Is it not to be struck with the ex- these maxims is not received in society as a terior difference of two parties appearing before fundamental rule of action, which we should be him? Is it not to be inaccessible to the poor, accounted singular and petulent to condemn? to invent cruel reserves, and intolerable delays? 4. Consider the multitude in regard to cerIs it not to grovel in ignorance, and to hate tain actions, of which they lavish praise and write study and labour?
encomiums. We do not mean to speak at What is the profession of a man learned in present of such crimes as the depravity of the the law? It is to devote his service only to world sometimes celebrates under the notions truth and justice, to plead only a good cause, of heroical actions. Our reflections are of anto assist even those who cannot reward his la- other kind. It is pretty clear, that depravity bours. What is the conduct of counsel? Is it is general, and piety in the possession of a very not to support both the true and the false, and few, when persons of a superficial knowledge to maintain by turns both justice and iniquity? are praised for the depth of their understandIs it not to adjust bis efforts to his own glory, ing, and when such as perform very small and or to his client's ability to pay?
inconsiderable actions of virtue are considered What is the profession of a merchant? It is as the wonders of the world. Sometimes I to detest false weights and measures, to pay hear the world exclaim, What benevolence! his dues, and never to found his fortune on What liberality! What generosity! I inquire falsehood, fraud, and perjury. But what is for the evidences of these virtues, on which the conduct of a merchant 'Is it not to use such lavish encomiums are bestowed; I expect false weights and measures? Is it not to cheat / to find another St. Paul, who, "wished himthe state of its dues. Is it not to indulge an self accursed for his brethren,” Rom. ix. 3. I insatiable avidity? Is it not to enrich himself hope to meet with another Moses, praying to by telling untruths, by practising frauds, by be“ blotted out of the book” of life rather taking false oaths:
than see his nation perish, Exod. xxxii. 32. What is the profession of a minister? It is But no; this boasted generosity and charity is to devote himself wholly to truth and virtue, that of a man, who distributed to the poor on to set the whole church an example, to search one solemn occasion, once in his life, such a into hospitals, and cottages, to relieve the mise- sum of money as he expends every day in prories of the sick and the poor; it is to determine digality and superfluity. It is that of a man, himself in his studies, not by what will acquire who bestows on all the members of Jesus Christ him reputation for learning
and eloquence, but almost as much as he does on the walls of a by what will be most useful to the people over room, or the harness of a horse. I hear the whom he is set; it is to regulate his choice of world exclaim in some circumstances, What subjects, not by what will make himself shine, l friendship! What tenderness! I inquire for
this tender, zealous, generous friend. I expect | actions appear to us mere creatures of imagi-
. I hear the world exclaiming in certain them; in short, all are in disorder in the case circumstances, What virtue! What purity! before us. Almost every person that dies is What a mother of a family! Again I look for canonized. If the light of Christianity had the object of these encomiums. I hope to see not abolished deification, we should have filled such a woman as Solomon imagined, a mother heaven with saints, and heroes, and deified of a family, who makes her house a house of souls. Each house of mourning echoes with God, and her children patterns of piety. But the praises of the dead, none of his looks tono; Í meet with a woman, who indeed does wards heaven are forgotten, not a sigh, not an not defile the nuptial bed, who only does not ejaculation has escaped notice. The funeral : outlive her income, and teaches her children convoys of persons the most worldly, whose only the little course of domestic economy. hearts had been the most hardened in sin, are All these actions are praiseworthy. All these all uttering orations in praise of the dead. For examples ought to be imitated. But is there our parts, my brethren, we, who have seen a any ground for exclaiming as if virtue had great number of sick people, and attended been carried to its highest pitch? Are these many in their dying hours, we freely grant, then such great efforts of religion? Alas! my that the salvation of many of them is probable. brethren, complete characters must needs bei We have hardly seen one, of whose salvation very scarce in the world, since the world is in we quite despair; but how seldom have we raptures on account of these imperfect virtues; been inclined to say, while we saw such people there must needs be a great dearth of wise expire uttering the language of the most emimen in the world, since there is so much boast- nent saints in Scripture, “Let us die the death ing of one man, who takes only one step in of these righteous" people, and “let our last the path of wisdom.
end be like theirs!” Numb. xxiii. 10. I will 5. Consider mankind in regard to certain give you a short list of general mistakes on this decisive occasions, which, like touchstones, dis- subject. cover their hearts. We do not know ourselves, The first mistake is this. Most sick people we forın false ideas of ourselves, when our vir- are ingenuous to disguise the danger of their tues have not been brought to the test. We illness. Be not conformed to this world.imagine we incline to be patient, clement, and Whenever a dangerous illness attacks you, be charitable, in cases where we are not tried, aware of your condition, and let each say to where neither our fortune, nor our reputation; himself, I have not long to live, at least this nor our honour are affected: but the moment may be my last illness. My brethren, this supa stroke is aimed at any of these, the counte- position is never unseasonable, we are in little nance changes, the brain ferments, the mouth danger of being deceived by thinking death at foams, and we breathe nothing but hatred and hand, for the numberless accidents to which vengeance. Nothing is more common among we are exposed justify the thought. Is there us than to talk highly of justice, to detest and any thing extravagant, pray, in affirming that censure iniquity, and to engage ourselves in sickness added to all these accidents, renders violably to follow such rules of equity as are the near approach of death highly probable? marked out in the divine law. Let any man The second mistake is this. Most dying bring an action against us, with reason or people put off the regulation of their temporal without, and all these ideas vanish, we in- affairs ioo long. Be not conformed to this stantly become familiar with the very vices to world. You should take patterns from better which we thought we had an invincible aver- models, both for reasons of affection, and reasion. We disguise our cause, we suppress un sons of prudence. True affection to a family favourable circumstances, we impose on our engages a man to preclude in favour of his counsel, we try to take even the judges by sur- heirs such troubles and divisions as are the inprise, we pretend to make great matters of the separable consequences of an undivided or perimportance of our rank, the worth of our plexed estate. "Prudence, too, will foresee, names, the credit of our families, the tone of that while our minds are all occupied about our voices, and all this we wish to incorporate temporal affairs, a thousand ideas will intrude in our cause. A disinterested spirit is always to disturb our devotion. Do not wait till the the subject of our utmost admiration and last moment to settle your affairs, to make your praise. A generous man is the admiration of will, to dispose of your family, and be not so all mankind, his noble actions unite all hearts, weak as to imagine that the discharge of these and every man is eager to give such actions necessary duties will hasten your death. Emtheir dignity and praise; but no sooner have ploy yourselves wholly about the state of your we a little business to do, in which we have no souls, and let each say to himself, since I have kind of interest, but disinterestedness appears been in the world I have hardly devoted ono odious to us, and magnanimity seems to us whole day to devotion: since I have been a inore proper for a hero of a romance than for a member of the church I have been exercised man living and acting in society, and generous about affairs which interest the whole society;
but now that I am come to the end of my life, | abyss of eternal misery, respect our conduct, now that I am passing out of this world, now and condescend to submit to our instruction. that I am going where I shall have no more To these I add one mistake more. Most dyportion for ever in any thing done under the ing people trust too much to their ministers, and sun, disturb me no more, ye worldly ideas; thou take too little pains themselves to form such fashion of this world passing away, appear no dispositions as a dying bed requires. “Be not more in my sight: ye wild fowls, interrupt my conformed to this world.” It is not enough to sacrifice no more.
have external help to die well, we ourselves The third mistake is this. Most dying peo- must concur in this great work, we must, by ple delay sending for their ministers till the profound meditation, by frequent reflections, last moment. They would have us do violence and by fervent prayers, support ourselves under to the laws of nature, they set us to exhort this last attack, and thus put the last hand to trunks, to instruct carcasses, to prepare skin the work of our salvation. It is true, the inand bones for eternity. “Be not conformed to firmities of your bodies will affect your minds, this world.”. Why should ye delay? Is there and will often interrupt your religious exercises: any thing odious in our ministry? We do not but no matter, God does not require of a dying bring death along with us, we do not hasten its person connected meditations, accurate reflec approach: if we denounce the judgments of God tions, precise and formal prayers, for one sigh, against you, it is not with a design to terrify one tear, one ejaculation of your soul to God, you, but to free you from them, and to "pull one serious wish rising from the bottom of your you out of the fire,” Jude 23.
heart will be highly esteemed by the Lord, and To these I add a fourth mistake. Most dy- will draw down new favours upon you. ing people think it a duty to tell their pastors To conclude. The multitude is a bad guide of excellent sentiments, which indeed they have in regard to faith, in regard to manners, and in not, and they are afraid to discover their defects. regard to departing out of this life. A man When death makes his formidable appearance who desires to be saved, should be always upon before them, they think religion requires them his guard lest he should be rolled down the torto say, they are quite willing to die. We de- rent: he ought to compile in his closet, or rather sire, say they, to depart, when alas! all their in his conscience, a religion apart, such as is, desires are to make a tabernacle in the world, not that of the children of the world, but that for it is good, they think, to be there. They of the disciples of wisdom. “Be not conformed tremble at the coming of Christ, and yet they to this world.” cry, “ Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Ah! I finish with two reflections. I address the “Be not conformed to this world,” open thy first to those who derive from this discourse no heart that it may be known, discover the mala- consequences to direct their actions: and the dies of thy soul, that we may apply such reme- second to such as refer it to its true design. dies as are proper. Do not imagine you will First. I address myself to you who do not acquire such sentiments and emotions as saints draw any consequences from this discourse to of the first order had by talking their language; regulate your actions. You have seen a porbut imbibe their principles in your mind, and trait of the multitude. I suppose you acknowtheir tempers in your heart, before you make ledge the likeness, and acquiesce in the judguse of their language.
ment we have made. It seems, too many proofs The fifth mistake is this. Most dying people and demonstrations establish this proposition, speak to their ministers only in the presence of the multitude is a bad guide. Now you may a great number of attendants, and most attend follow which example you please. You may ants interfere in what ministers say on those make your choice between the maxims of Jesus occasions. “Be not conformed to this world.” | Christ and the maxims of the world. But we Two reasons may convince you of the necessity have a right to require one thing of you, which of being alone. The first regards the pastor. you cannot refuse us, without injustice; that is, Surrounding attendants divert his attention that granting the genius of the multitude, when from the sick person. The second regards the you are told you are destroying yourselves, you sick person himself
. Would it be just or kind do not pretend to have refuted us by replying, to give him directions in public? What! would we conduct ourselves as the world does, and you have us in the presence of a husband lay every body does what you condemn in us. open the intrigues of an immodest wife, and Thanks be to God your proposition is not endeavour to bring her to repent of her lasci- strictly true! Thanks be to God, the rule has viousness by convicting her of her crimes? some exceptions! There are many regenerate Would you have us reprove the head of a fa- souls, hidden perhaps from the eyes of men, but mily for the iniquity that has disgraced his long visible to God. There are even some saints, life, in the presence of his son? Would you have who shine in the sight of the whole world, and us exhort a dying man to make restitution of who, to use the expression of Jesus Christ, are his ill-gotten wealth in the presence of a hun- a "city set on a hill,” Matt. v. 14. What then, gry heir, who already gluts his eyes, and sa- you never cast your eyes on the most illustrious tiates his soul with hopes of succession? Were objects in this world! Do you reckon for nowe casuists after the Roman fashion, did we thing what alone merits observation in society, compel consciences to reveal secrets to us, and what constitutes the true glory of iv Have which ought to be confessed to God alone, did you no value for men for whose sake the world we interfere with your families and properties, subsists, and society is preserved? there would be some ground for your scruples: However, your proposition is indisputable in but while we desire nothing but to exonerate a general sense, and we are obliged to allow it, your consciences, and to awake your souls to a for our whole discourse tends to elucidate and sense of danger before they be plunged into an I establish the point. Alloge this proposition, but