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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 this controversy to-day by fixing your attention on the sophisms of foreigners; perhaps we might divert your eyes from your own; by showing you our triumphs over the vain attacks made on us by the enemies of the reformation, perhaps we might turn away your attention from other more dangerous wounds, which the reformed themselves aim at the heart of religion. When I say the multitude is a bad guide in matters of faith, I mean, that the manner in which most men adhere to truth, is not by principles which ought to attach them to it, but by a spirit of negligence and preju
It is no small work to examine the truth, when we arrive at an age capable of discussion. The fundamental points of religion, I grant, lie in the Scriptures clear and perspicuous, and within the comprehension of all who choose to attend to them: but when we pass from infancy to manhood, and arrive at an age in which reason seems mature, we find ourselves covered with a veil, which either hides objects from us, or disfigures them. The public discourses we have heard in favour of the sect, in which we were educated, the inveterate hatred we have for all others, who hold principles opposite to ours, the frightful portraits that are drawn before our eyes of the perils we must encounter, if we depart from the way we have been brought up in, the impressions made upon us by the examples and decisions of our parents, and masters, and teachers, the bad taste of those who had the care of our education, and who prevented our acquiring that most noble disposition, without which it is impossible ever to be a true philosopher, or a real Christian, I mean that of suspending our judgment on subjects not sufficiently proved; from all this arise clouds that render the truth inaccessible, and which the world cannot dissipate. We do not say, that natural talents, or supernatural assistance are wanting; we are fully convinced that God will never give up to final error any man who does all in his power to understand the truth. But the world are incapable of this work. Why? Because all the world, except a few, hate labour and meditation in regard to the subjects which respect another life; because all the world would choose rather to attach themselves to what regards their temporal interests than to the great interest of eternal happiness: because all the world like better to suppose the principles imbibed in their childhood true, than to impose on themselves the task of weighing them anew in the balance of a sound and severe reason: because all the world have an invinci- | ble aversion to suppose, that when they are arrived at manhood they have almost lost their time in some respects, and that when they leave school they begin to be capable of instruction.
It is certain, if mankind were attached to a religion only because they had studied it, we should find a great number of people forsake that in which they had been brought up, for it is impossible, that a whole society should unite in one point of error, or rather, it is clear, to a demonstration, that as truth has certain characters superior to falsehood, the temples of idols would be instantly deserted, erroneous sects would be soon abandoned, the religion of Jesus Christ, the only one worthy of being embraced, the only one that deserves disciples, would be the only one embraced, and would alone be received by all sincere disciples of
Do not think, my brethren, that this reflection concerning that spirit of negligence, which retains most men in a profession of their own religion, regards only such communions as lay down their own infallibility for a fundamental article of faith, and which prescribe ignorance and blind submission as a first principle to their partisans, for it is but too easy to prove, that the same spirit of negligence reigns in all communities. Hence it comes to pass, that in general so few Christians can render a reason for their faith. Hence it is that people are usually better furnished with arguments to oppose such societies as surround them, than with those which establish the fundamental truths of Christianity. If then you follow the direction of the multitude in the study of religion, you will be conducted by a spirit of negligence, prejudice will be held for proof, education for argument, and the decisions of your parents and teachers for infallible oracles of truth.
II. The multitude is a bad guide in regard to that worship, which God requires of us; they defile it with a spirit of superstition. Superstition is a disposition of mind that inclines us to regulate all parts of divine worship, not by just notions of the Supreme Being, nor by his relation to us, nor by what he has condescended to reveal, but by our own fancies. A superstitious man entertains fantastical ideas of God, and renders to him capricious worships; he not unfrequently takes himself for a model of God: he thinks that what most resembles himself, however mean and contemptible, approaches nearest to perfection. We affirm, this disposition is almost universal.
It would be needless to prove this to you, my brethren, in regard to erroneous communities. Were superstition banished from the world, we should not see men, who are made in the image of God, disgrace their nature by prostrating themselves before idols, and marmosets, so as to render religious honours to half a block of wood or stone, the other half of which they apply to the meanest purposes: we should not see a crowd of idolaters performing a ceremonial, in which conviction of mind has no part, and which is all external and material,
we should not see a concourse of people receiving with respect, as the precious blood of the Saviour of the world, a few drops of putrefied water, which the warmth of the sun has produced by fermentation in the trunk of a decayed tree: we should not see pilgrims in procession mangling their flesh in the streets, dragging along heavy loads, howling in the highways, and taking such absurd practices for that repentance, which breaks the heart, and transforms and renews the life. You will easily grant all this, for I have observed, it is often less difficult to inspire you with horror for these practices, than to excite compassion in you for such as perform them.
But you ought to be informed, that there are other superstitions less gross, and therefore more dangerous. Among us we do not put a worship absolutely foreign to the purpose in the place of that which God has commanded and exemplified to us, but we make an estimate of the several parts of true worship. These estimates are regulated by opinions formed through prejudice or passion. What best agrees with our inclinations we consider as the essence of religion, and what would thwart and condemn them we think circumstantial.
1. Consider mankind in regard to the masters who govern them. Here I congratulate myself on the happiness of speaking to a free people, among whom it is not reputed a crime to praise what is praise-worthy, and to blame what deserves blame, and where we may freely trace the characters of some men of whom prudence requires us not to "speak evil, no not in thought, no not in the bedchamber, lest a bird of the air should carry the voice, and that which hath wings should tell the matter,' Eccles. x. 20. Is it in the palaces of the great that humility reigns, humility which so well becomes creatures, who, though crowned and enthroned, are yet infirm, criminal, dying creatures, and who, in a few days, will become food for worms, yea, perhaps victims in the flames of hell? Is it in the palaces of the great, that uprightness, good faith, and sincerity reign? Yet without these society is nothing but a banditti, treaties are only snares, and laws cobwebs, which, to use a well known expression, catch only weak insects, while the fierce and carnivorous break through. Is it in the palaces of the great that gratitude reigns, that lawful tribute due to every motion made to procure our happiness? Is it there that the services of a faithful subject, the labours of an indefatigable merchant, the perils of an intrepid soldiery, blood shed and to be shed, are estimated and rewarded? Is it there that the cries of the wretched are heard, tears of the oppressed wiped away, the claims of truth examined and granted? Is it in the palaces of the great that benevolence reigns, that benevolence without which a man is only a wild beast! Is it there that the "young ravens which cry" are heard and fed? Ps. cxlvii. 9. Is it there that they attend to the bitter complaints of an indigent man, ready to die with hunger, and who asks for no more than will just keep him alive? Are the palaces of the great seats of piety and devotion? Is it there that schemes are formed for the reformation of manners? Is it there that they are "grieved for the affliction of Joseph," Amos vi. 6: and "take pleasure in in dust and stones of Zion?" Ps. cii. 14. Is it there that we hear the praises of the Creator? do they celebrate the compassion of the Redeemer of mankind?
We make a scruple of not attending a sermon, not keeping a festival, not receiving the Lord's Supper, but we make none of neglecting to visit a prisoner, to comfort the sick, to plead for the oppressed. We observe a strict decency in our religious assemblies while our ministers address prayer to God, but we take no pains to accompany him with our minds and hearts, to unite our ejaculations with his to besiege the throne of grace. We think it a duty to join our voices with those of a whole congregation, and to fill our places of worship with the praises of our Creator, but we do not think ourselves obliged to understand the sense of the psalm, that is sung with so much fervour, and, in the language of an apostle, to " 'sing with understanding," 1. Cor. xiv. 15. We lay aside innocent occupations the day before we receive the Lord's Supper, but no sooner do-we return from this ordinance than we allow the most criminal pleasures, and enter upon the most scandalous intrigues. Who make these mistakes my brethren? Is it the few? "Be not conformed to this world," in regard to the worship that God requires of you, the multitude perform it a spirit of superstition. III. Neither are the many a better guide in regard to morality. Here, my brethren, we are going more particularly to describe that class of inankind, among which we live, and of which we ourselves are a part. Indeed, the portraits we are going to draw will not be flattering to them, for justice requires, that we should describe men as they are, not as they pretend to be. In order to exactness let us consider them separately and apart. First, In regard to the masters who govern them. Secondly, In regard to the professions, which they exercise. Thirdly, In regard to some maxims generally received. Fourthly, In regard to the splendid actions which they celebrate. And lastly, In regard to certain decisive occasions, that, like touchstones, discover their principles and motives.
What ideas are excited in our minds by the names of such as Caligula, Nero, Dioclesian, Decius, names detestable in all ages? What ideas could we excite in your minds, were we to weigh in a just balance the virtues of such heroes as have been rendered famous by the encomiums given them? You would be astonished to see that these men, who have been called the delights of mankind, have often deserved execration, and ought to be considered with horror. But I purposely forbear, and will not put in this list all that ought to be placed there, that is to say, all those who have had sovereign power, except a very few, who in comparison are next to none, and who are, as it were, lost in the crowd among the rest. And yet the elevation of kings makes their crimes more communicable, and their examples more contagious; their sins become a filthy vapour infecting the air, and shedding their malignant influence all over our cities and families, lightning, and thundering, and disturb
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 governous funeral honours will be prepared, it is to them. cry aloud, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, and show the people their transgressions, and the house of Israel their sins," Isa. lviii. 1; Mic. iii. 8; and 2 Cor. v. 16; "it is to know no man after the flesh" when he ascends the pulpit, boldly to reprove vice, how eminent soever the seat of it may be. What is the usual conduct of a minister?. O God!" Enter not into judgment with thy servants, for we cannot answer one complaint of a thousand!" Ps. cxliii. 2; Job ix. 3.
2. Consider the many in regard to divers professions. What is the profession of a soldier, particularly of an officer of rank in the army? It is to defend society, to maintain religion, to be a parent to the soldiery, to bridle the licentiousness of arms, to oppose power against injustice, to derive from all the views of death that lie open before him, motives to prepare his accounts to produce before his Judge. But what is the conduct of a soldier? Is it not to brave society? Is it not to trample upon religion? Is it not to set examples of debauchery, licentiousness, and vengeance? Is it not to let out his abilities, and to sacrifice his life to the most ambitious designs, and to the most bloody enterprises of princes? Is it not to accustom himself to ideas of death and judgment till he laughs at both, to stifle all remorse, and to extirpate all the fears, which such objects naturally excite in the consciences of
What is the profession of a judge? It is to have no regard to the appearances of men, it is to be affable to all who appeal to authority, to study with application the nature of a cause which he is obliged to decide, it is patiently to go through the most fatiguing details of proofs and objections. But what is often the conduct of a judge? Is it not to be struck with the exterior difference of two parties appearing before him? Is it not to be inaccessible to the poor, to invent cruel reserves, and intolerable delays? Is it not to grovel in ignorance, and to hate study and labour?
What is the profession of a man learned in the law? It is to devote his service only to truth and justice, to plead only a good cause, to assist even those who cannot reward his labours. What is the conduct of counsel? Is it not to support both the true and the false, and to maintain by turns both justice and iniquity? Is it not to adjust his efforts to his own glory, or to his client's ability to pay?
What is the profession of a merchant? It is to detest false weights and measures, to pay his dues, and never to found his fortune on falsehood, fraud, and perjury. But what is the conduct of a merchant? Is it not to use false weights and measures? Is it not to cheat the state of its dues? Is it not to indulge an insatiable avidity? Is it not to enrich himself by telling untruths, by practising frauds, by taking false oaths?
What is the profession of a minister? It is to devote himself wholly to truth and virtue, to set the whole church an example, to search into hospitals, and cottages, to relieve the miseries of the sick and the poor; it is to determine himself in his studies, not by what will acquire him reputation for learning and eloquence, but by what will be most useful to the people over whom he is set; it is to regulate his choice of subjects, not by what will make himself shine,
3. Consider the multitude in regard to some general maxims which they adopt, and hold as rules and approved axioms. Have you read in the gospel the following maxims? Charity begins at home. Youth is a time of pleasure. It is allowable to kill time. We should not pretend to be saints. Slander is the salt of conversation. We must do as other people do. It is unworthy of a man of honour to pocket an affront. A gentleman ought to avenge himself. Ambition is the vice of great souls. Provided we commit no great crimes, we sufficiently answer our calling. Impurity is an intolerable vice in a woman, but it is pardonable in a man. It would be easy to enlarge this catalogue. Which of these maxims, pray, does not sap some of the first principles of the religion of Jesus Christ? Yet which of these maxims is not received in society as a fundamental rule of action, which we should be accounted singular and petulent to condemn?
4. Consider the multitude in regard to certain actions, of which they lavish praise and write encomiums. We do not mean to speak at present of such crimes as the depravity of the world sometimes celebrates under the notions of heroical actions. Our reflections are of another kind. It is pretty clear, that depravity is general, and piety in the possession of a very few, when persons of a superficial knowledge are praised for the depth of their understanding, and when such as perform very small and inconsiderable actions of virtue are considered as the wonders of the world. Sometimes I hear the world exclaim, What benevolence! What liberality! What generosity! I inquire for the evidences of these virtues, on which such lavish encomiums are bestowed; I expect to find another St. Paul, who, "wished himself accursed for his brethren," Rom. ix. 3. I hope to meet with another Moses, praying to be "blotted out of the book" of life rather than see his nation perish, Exod. xxxii. 32. But no; this boasted generosity and charity is that of a man, who distributed to the poor on one solemn occasion, once in his life, such a sum of money as he expends every day in prodigality and superfluity. It is that of a man, who bestows on all the members of Jesus Christ almost as much as he does on the walls of a room, or the harness of a horse. I hear the world exclaim in some circumstances, What friendship! What tenderness! I inquire for
this tender, zealous, generous friend. I expect actions appear to us mere creatures of imagito find such an original as I have seen describ-nation. O how little does the multitude deed in books, though I have never met with serve consideration in regard to manners! such a one in society. I hope at least to see IV. No more ought they to be imitated in one example of a friend saying to a dying man, regard to the manner, in which they quit the appoint me your executor, and leave me your world. Here I foresee, my brethren, you will children to bring up, and your widow to pro- all side with one another against our doctrine, vide for. But no, I find nothing but the friend- and that we shall be obliged to blame both pership of a man, who by improving the fortune sons and things about dying people; such as of another, attracts the chief advantage to him- are dying, such as surround them, such as visit self. 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; I 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 be 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 give you a short list of general mistakes on this subject.
The first mistake is this. Most sick people are ingenuous to disguise the danger of their illness. Be not conformed to this world.Whenever a dangerous illness attacks you, be aware of your condition, and let each say to himself, I have not long to live, at least this may be my last illness. My brethren, this supposition is never unseasonable, we are in little danger of being deceived by thinking death at hand, for the numberless accidents to which we are exposed justify the thought. Is there any thing extravagant, pray, in affirming that sickness added to all these accidents, renders the near approach of death highly probable?
The second mistake is this. Most dying people put off the regulation of their temporal affairs too long. Be not conformed to this world. You should take patterns from better models, both for reasons of affection, and reasons of prudence. True affection to a family engages a man to preclude in favour of his heirs such troubles and divisions as are the inseparable consequences of an undivided or perplexed estate. Prudence, too, will foresee, that while our minds are all occupied about temporal affairs, a thousand ideas will intrude to disturb our devotion. Do not wait till the last moment to settle your affairs, to make your will, to dispose of your family, and be not so weak as to imagine that the discharge of these necessary duties will hasten your death. Employ yourselves wholly about the state of your souls, and let each say to himself, since I have been in the world I have hardly devoted one whole day to devotion: since I have been a member of the church I have been exercised about affairs which interest the whole society;
5. Consider mankind in regard to certain decisive occasions, which, like touchstones, discover their hearts. We do not know ourselves, we form false ideas of ourselves, when our virtues have not been brought to the test. We imagine we incline to be patient, clement, and charitable, in cases where we are not tried, where neither our fortune, nor our reputation; nor our honour are affected: but the moment a stroke is aimed at any of these, the countenance changes, the brain ferments, the mouth foams, and we breathe nothing but hatred and vengeance. Nothing is more common among us than to talk highly of justice, to detest and censure iniquity, and to engage ourselves inviolably to follow such rules of equity as are marked out in the divine law. Let any man bring an action against us, with reason or without, and all these ideas vanish, we instantly become familiar with the very vices to which we thought we had an invincible aversion. We disguise our cause, we suppress unfavourable circumstances, we impose on our counsel, we try to take even the judges by surprise, we pretend to make great matters of the importance of our rank, the worth of our names, the credit of our families, the tone of our voices, and all this we wish to incorporate in our cause. A disinterested spirit is always the subject of our utmost admiration and praise. A generous man is the admiration of all mankind, his noble actions unite all hearts, and every man is eager to give such actions their dignity and praise; but no sooner have we a little business to do, in which we have no kind of interest, but disinterestedness appears odious to us, and magnanimity seems to us more proper for a hero of a romance than for a man living and acting in society, and generous
but now that I am come to the end of my life, now that I am passing out of this world, now that I am going where I shall have no more portion for ever in any thing done under the sun, disturb me no more, ye worldly ideas; thou fashion of this world passing away, appear no more in my sight: ye wild fowls, interrupt my sacrifice no more.
The third mistake is this. Most dying people delay sending for their ministers till the last moment. They would have us do violence to the laws of nature, they set us to exhort trunks, to instruct carcasses, to prepare skin and bones for eternity. "Be not conformed to this world." Why should ye delay? Is there any thing odious in our ministry? We do not bring death along with us, we do not hasten its approach: if we denounce the judgments of God against you, it is not with a design to terrify you, but to free you from them, and to "pull you out of the fire," Jude 23.
To these I add a fourth mistake. Most dying people think it a duty to tell their pastors of excellent sentiments, which indeed they have not, and they are afraid to discover their defects. When death makes his formidable appearance before them, they think religion requires them to say, they are quite willing to die. We desire, say they, to depart, when alas! all their desires are to make a tabernacle in the world, for it is good, they think, to be there. They tremble at the coming of Christ, and yet they cry, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." Ah! "Be not conformed to this world," open thy heart that it may be known, discover the maladies of thy soul, that we may apply such remedies as are proper. Do not imagine you will acquire such sentiments and emotions as saints of the first order had by talking their language; but imbibe their principles in your mind, and their tempers in your heart, before you make use of their language.
The fifth mistake is this. Most dying people speak to their ministers only in the presence of a great number of attendants, and most attendants interfere in what ministers say on those occasions. "Be not conformed to this world." Two reasons may convince you of the necessity of being alone. The first regards the pastor. Surrounding attendants divert his attention from the sick person. The second regards the sick person himself. Would it be just or kind to give him directions in public? What! would you have us in the presence of a husband lay open the intrigues of an immodest wife, and endeavour to bring her to repent of her lasciviousness by convicting her of her crimes? Would you have us reprove the head of a family for the iniquity that has disgraced his long life, in the presence of his son? Would you have us exhort a dying man to make restitution of his ill-gotten wealth in the presence of a hungry heir, who already gluts his eyes, and satiates his soul with hopes of succession? Were we casuists after the Roman fashion, did we compel consciences to reveal secrets to us, which ought to be confessed to God alone, did we interfere with your families and properties, there would be some ground for your scruples: but while we desire nothing but to exonerate your consciences, and to awake your souls to a sense of danger before they be plunged into an VOL. II.-5
abyss of eternal misery, respect our conduct, and condescend to submit to our instruction.
To these I add one mistake more. Most dying people trust too much to their ministers, and take too little pains themselves to form such dispositions as a dying bed requires. "Be not conformed to this world." It is not enough to have external help to die well, we ourselves must concur in this great work, we must, by profound meditation, by frequent reflections, and by fervent prayers, support ourselves under this last attack, and thus put the last hand to the work of our salvation. It is true, the infirmities of your bodies will affect your minds, and will often interrupt your religious exercises: but no matter, God does not require of a dying person connected meditations, accurate reflec tions, precise and formal prayers, for one sigh, one tear, one ejaculation of your soul to God, one serious wish rising from the bottom of your heart will be highly esteemed by the Lord, and will draw down new favours upon you.
To conclude. The multitude is a bad guide in regard to faith, in regard to manners, and in regard to departing out of this life. A man who desires to be saved, should be always upon his guard lest he should be rolled down the torrent: he ought to compile in his closet, or rather in his conscience, a religion apart, such as is, not that of the children of the world, but that of the disciples of wisdom. "Be not conformed to this world."
I finish with two reflections. I address the first to those who derive from this discourse no consequences to direct their actions: and the second to such as refer it to its true design.
First. I address myself to you who do not draw any consequences from this discourse to regulate your actions. You have seen a portrait of the multitude. I suppose you acknowledge the likeness, and acquiesce in the judg ment we have made. It seems, too many proofs and demonstrations establish this proposition, the multitude is a bad guide. Now you may follow which example you please. You may make your choice between the maxims of Jesus Christ and the maxims of the world. But we have a right to require one thing of you, which you cannot refuse us, without injustice; that is, that granting the genius of the multitude, when you are told you are destroying yourselves, you do not pretend to have refuted us by replying, we conduct ourselves as the world does, and every body does what you condemn in us. Thanks be to God your proposition is not strictly true! Thanks be to God, the rule has some exceptions! There are many regenerate souls, hidden perhaps from the eyes of men, but visible to God. There are even some saints, who shine in the sight of the whole world, and who, to use the expression of Jesus Christ, are a “city set on a hill," Matt. v. 14. What then, you never cast your eyes on the most illustrious objects in this world! Do you reckon for nothing what alone merits observation in society, and what constitutes the true glory of it? Have you no value for men for whose sake the world subsists, and society is preserved?
However, your proposition is indisputable in a general sense, and we are obliged to allow it, for our whole discourse tends to elucidate and establish the point. Allege this proposition, but