« السابقةمتابعة »
by his loss, and derives advantage from his relapse. He says, that object was fatal to my innocence; I must no more look upon it; that company drew me into this sin; I must instantly withdraw; it was in the court of Caiaphas I disowned my Saviour, I must shun that place. In fine, adequately to comprehend the nature of St. Peter's repentance, we must discover all the effects a sight of his sin produced in his soul. Here I would have my hearers suspend the effects of fatigue; they are incapable of attention, too far prolonged, though we discuss the most interesting truths of religion. I would, authorized by custom, add another text to that I have read. It occurs in the Gospel according to St. John. Jesus said to Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: He saith unto him, feed my lambs." What has been said of lawful love,-that those whose hearts are united, never differ with the object of their affection, but it tends to augment the flame, may be said of divine love. This is obvious from the text we have cited; Jesus Christ and St. Peter alternately retaliated, for the eclipses their love had sustained.
It is true, the apostle replied only to part of the question of Jesus Christ. He was asked, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" On all other occasions, he would frankly have replied, "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee more than these." Ah, Lord! I well know the allusion of thy words; I fully perceive that thou wouldst humble me, by the recollection of the promise I have made, and which I have basely violated; "Though all men should be offended with thee, yet will I never be offended." I am fully impressed with the mortifying history thou wouldst retrace. I am the least of all my brethren: there is not one to whom I can dare to give myself the preference.
If St. Peter replied with humility, he replied also with sincerity and zeal. If we wish a believer to be humble, we never wish him to be vain. If we do not require him to say, "I am conscious of being so established in grace, as never to be shaken;" we wish at least, that he should feel the cheering and reviving flame of divine love, when its embers are most concealed in the ashes. We wish him not to make an ostentatious display of piety, but to evidence the tender attachment he has for God, even when, through weakness, he has happened to offend him. This was the disposition of St. Peter, and his humility implied no defect of love. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" "Lord! I can presume nothing of myself, the past makes me tremble for the future; the example of distinguished saints, and mine still more, humbles and abases my soul. Perhaps, like Job, I shall curse the day of my birth; perhaps, like David, I shall become guilty of murder and treason; perhaps, I shall deny thee again; perhaps, I shall be so vile, as to repeat these awful words, which will, to me, be a subject of everlasting regret, "I know not the man, I am not one of his disciples;" and if thou wilt condemn me, thou hast only to crush a worm, on whom no dependance can be placed. After all, Lord! amid
so many defects, so many offences, I feel that I love thee still; I feel that strong temptations can never eradicate a love, which is graven on my heart; I feel, when thy perfections are discussed, that they affect, penetrate, and fill my soul; I feel delighted that my Redeemer is invested with such abundant glory and strength; when thy gospel is preached, I feel my heart burn within me; and I admire and adore the God, who has revealed a scheme of salvation so grand, so noble, so sublime. I feel, notwithstanding this awful deviation, inconceivable sorrow, and inconceivable shame, which, to me, is an evident test, that the God I offend, is in reality, the God I love."
Can it be imagined, that St. Peter's avowal of his weakness, rendered his love less estimable to his Master? Can it be conceived, that Jesus Christ is less delicate in his attachment than man? Knowing the fidelity of a friend, having a thousand satisfactory tests of his attachment, do you cease to love him, when he has committed a fault, for which he is wounded the first? "The Lord knoweth whereof we are made." Our faults, howsoever glaring (if followed by repentance,) though they may suspend, for a period, the influence of his love, can neither change its nature, nor restrict its duration. St. Peter had no sooner said to his Master, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee," than he was re-established in his ministry by his prompt reply," Feed my sheep."
O how worthily did this apostle repair the offence he had given the church, by his devotion to its interests. Methinks I see him gathering, on the day of Pentecost, the souls which, perhaps, he had caused to stray! Methinks I seem to hear those pathetic addresses proceed from his mouth, which, like streams of lightning, enkindle every thing in their course; softening those very souls, which the cross of Christ was unable to move; extorting from them this language, highly expressive of compunction, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Methinks I see him flying from Pontus to Galatia, from Galatia to Bithynia, from Bithynia to Cappadocia, from Cappadocia to every province of Asia, from Asia to Rome, leaving all his course strewed with the wreck of Satan's power; with trophies of temples demolished, of idols dethroned, of pagans converted, correspondent consequences a ministry, which, at its first commencement, had converted eight thousand men. Methinks I see him led from tribunal to tribunal, sometimes before the Jews, and sometimes before the Romans, every where loaded with the reproach of Christ, every where confessing his name; finally fixed on a cross, and saying, as he died for the Redeemer, who had died for him, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."
seen (while in France) Jesus Christ delivered | fice to your net. Ascribe not to your courage
again into the hands of thieves, and hearing the interrogation, "You, also, are not you his disciples" have answered as our apostle, "I know not the man, I am not one of his disciples." O! seek the eyes of Jesus Christ: see the looks he gives, hear what they say: Cowardly souls, are these the fine promises you made in time of peace? Is this the example you have set before the church? Was it not enough...? But why do I open wounds, which the mercy of God has closed? Why do I recall the recollection of a crime, which so many tears, so many torrents of blood, so many sacrifices, have effaced? It is, indeed, less with a view that I name it now, to reproach the fault, than to remind you of the vows you made, when, all bathed in tears, you implored forgiveness; less to overwhelm you with a sight of your sin, than to comfort you with that divine mercy, which has done it all away.
a felicity which, perhaps, is solely due to the favourable circumstances in which you may have been providentially placed. Remember St. Peter. He reposed the utmost confidence in his zeal; and, the first trial he made of his strength, he was convinced of his weakness. Had God smitten the shepherd in the midst of you, perhaps the sheep would have been scattered. Had you, as so many others, seen galleys equipped, dungeons opened, gibbets erected, fagots kindled, executioners armed, racks prepared, perhaps you would likewise have denied the Saviour.
Do I impose on my hearers? Do you judge by what we do in the time of peace, of what we should do in the time of tribulation? Let each here sound the depth of his own heart, and let him support, if possible, the dignity of Jesus Christ. How frequently, amid a slanderous multitude, who have said to us, "Are not you his disciples? Are not you attached to those, who make it a point of conscience not to mention the faults of your neighbours?" How often have we replied, by a guilty silence, "I know him not, I am not one of his disciples." How often in licentious company, when asked, “Are not you of that class? Are not you one of those, who restrict their appetites, moderate their pasasions, and mortify the flesh?" How often have we answered, "I know him not, I am not one of his disciples." How often when led away with the enemies of righteousness, who have said, "Are not you one of that company? Are not you one of those who pique themselves on primitive virtue?" How often have we answered by a cowardly conduct, "I know him not, I am not one of his disciples."
In defiance of all the composure and apathy with which we daily commit this sort of sins, conscience sometimes awakes and enforces reformation. One of those happy occasions is just at hand. A crowded audience is expected here on Wednesday next. A trumpet is blown in Zion; a solemn assembly is convoked; a fast is proclaimed. But shall I tell you, my brethren? After excepting the small number who will then afflict their righteous soul, and no doubt, redouble their devotion; after excepting the small number, and after examining the nature of our solemn humiliations, that I am less afraid of your sins, than of your fasts for national reform?
Before the great God;-before the Holy One Israel, whose love of holiness is infinite as himself, we shall appear on Wednesday next, with minds still immersed in the cares, and agitated with the pleasures of the preceding day; we shall appear with dissipation, with a heart neither touched, nor broken, nor contrite: we shall each appear, and say, "I have sinned;" or in other words, "I have made my house a scene of voluptuousness, a seat of slander, a haunt of infamy: I have trampled my brethren under my feet, and this opulence, with which God has invested me to support, I have employed to oppress the wretched: I have amassed exorbitant gains on the right hand, and the left; I have sacrificed friend, pupil, widow, orphan; I have sacrificed every thing to my private interest, the only god I worship and adore." On this great God, who discovers the most latent
Who can ascertain the extent of mercy? Who can find language sufficiently strong, and figures sufficiently pure, noble, and sublime, for its adequate illustration? To what sinner did it ever prohibit access? What wounded and contrite conscience was ever repulsed at its bar? This immensity of mercy has forgiven Nebuchadnezzar and Manasseh, the one monster in nature, the other a monster in religion. It has forgiven St. Paul for persecution, and St. Peter for apostacy. It has forgiven you, who have imitated this weak disciple; it has readmitted you into the fellowship of the church, who had so basely abandoned it. Happy those apostate protestants, if Jesus Christ should deign to cast his eyes upon them, as he has on you. Happy if, on quitting the court of Caiaphas, in which they have, like our apostle, denied their Master, they should weep like you.
O God! if we are permitted to address thee, though but "dust and ashes," is it for the confirmation, or the confusion of our faith, that, on this subject, thou seemest inexorable; and a subject on which we will never cease to pray. On this head, has the mighty God "forgotten to have compassion?" No! I cannot persuade my self that God has for ever abandoned so large a portion of his church. No! I cannot persuade myself that God has ceased to watch over the consciences of those our unhappy brethren, whom Satan has so long detained in security and slumber. No! I cannot persuade myself, that God should permit so many children to perish for the sins of their fathers; and to be for ever separated from the church, to which they materially belong. Let our part be done, and God's shall surely be accomplished. Let us be afflicted for the affliction of Joseph. Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Let the calamities of the church be ever on our mind. They are ever before the eyes of God; they excite him to jealousy; they cause him to emerge from that cloud, in which he has so long been concealed for the exclusion of our prayers.
I address myself to you, my brethren, whose characters have never been defiled with so foul a blot: offer not incense to your drag, nor sacri
Shiloh, and this sacred temple in which he deigns to dwell with men.
My brethren, are we yet spared to sound the alarm, to thunder? And shall we not adopt a new mode of celebrating this fast, and endeavour to execute it?
foldings of the heart, whose "sword divides asunder the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow;" in whose presence "all things," the mind and heart, the secret thoughts, the concealed crimes, the dark designs, "all things are naked and manifest;"-on this great God we presume to impose by the exterior, by the tinsel of devotion, by covering ourselves with sackcloth and ashes, by bowing the neck to the yoke, and afflicting the soul for a single day; even, if we should put on sackcloth and ashes; if we should bow the neck to the yoke, and afflict the soul for a single day. But this very exterior, of which God says, "Is this the fast I have chosen? Callest thou this a fast, a day agreeable to the Lord?" Isaiah lviii. 5. This mere exterior is not even found among us: we have only to open our eyes to admit the propriety of the charge.
Before this great God, whose power is infinite, and who seems to have displayed it of late years, solely to punish the crimes of men, and to strike all Europe with terror and death, with horror and despair;-before this God we shall presume to ask, not to be involved in the general destruction: we shall presume to offer up this prayer, while each is resolved to insult him, to devour one another, to adhere to our criminal connexions, to persevere in our unlawful gains. Am I then extravagant in saying, that, when I reflect on the nature of our solemn humiliations, I am less afraid of our sins, than of fasts we celebrate for national reform?
Not that this sort of fasts are always unavailing; the mercy of God sometimes gives them effect, and endeavours in some sort to overlook our hypocrisy. "When he slew them, then they sought him, and remembered that God was their rock. Nevertheless, they did flatter with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues, for their heart was not right with him. But he being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and many a time turned away his anger," "Ps. lxxviii. 34-38. God has not only acted on these principles with regard to his ancient people, but even with regard to us. On the approach of death, when we have sought the Lord by solemn prayer, "When we have remembered our rock, when we have flattered with our mouth, and lied with our tongues," promising reformation, he has had compassion upon us, and has retarded our destruction. On that account we still live. On that account these hearers are still present in this temple, and the wicked among them have been precipitated into the gulf of Gehenna. But how long, think you, can this sort of fasts produce the effects for which they have hitherto availed? Weigh the words which follow the above quotation. "When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that he forsook the tabernacle in Shiloh, the tent he had planted among men. And he delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand," verse 59-62.
Holland! Holland! here is the sentence of thy destiny. God, after regarding our humiliations for a certain time, after "remembering that we are but flesh," after enduring the prayers of deceitful tongues, and the promises of feigned lips, he will finally hear the cry of our sins, he will abhor Israel, he will abandon his pavilion in
And you, our senators and governors! who have appointed this solemnity, let us apprize you also of its appropriate duties. Come on Wednesday next: like modern Jehoshaphats, prostrate, at the footstool of God's throne, the dignities with which you are invested; and for which you must give so solemn an account. Come, and let all your glory consist in humiliation and repentance. Come, and surrender into his Omnipotent hands, the reins of this republic, and swear that you will henceforth govern it by no maxims but his laws. And may God grant, may God indeed grant you, to set so laudable an example before his church; and, having inspired you with the noble resolution, may he crown it with effect!
Ministers of Jesus Christ, whom Providence calls on Wednesday next to administer the word, your task is obviously great. With what a charge are you intrusted! On you principally devolves the duty of alarming and abasing the wicked. On you principally devolves the duty of stopping the torrent of iniquity, which is followed by these awful calamities. On you principally devolves the duty of quenching the flames of celestial vengeance, enkindled against our sins. "Who is sufficient for these things?" But use your efforts, and expect the rest from the blessing of God. Speak as ministers ought to speak on like occasions. "Cry aloud, lift up your voice like a trumpet, show Jacob his transgressions, and Israel his sins." If you testify the truth, what matter if they murmur against your discourses. And may God, on this solemn occasion, "teach your hands to war, and your fingers to fight." May God inspire you with magnanimity of mind correspondent to the mission with which you are invested.
And you, Christian people, what will you do on Wednesday next? It is not only your presence in this temple,-it is not only hymns and prayers, supplications, and tears, which we solicit,-a fast should be signalized by more distinguished marks of conversion and repentance: these are restitution, these are mutual reconciliation, these are a profusion of charities, these are a diligent search for the indigent, who are expiring as much through shame as want. Here, here, my dear brethren, is what we require. And let me obtain this request! Let me even expire in this pulpit, in endeavouring to add some degree of energy to your devotion, and effect to your fast! Our prayers shall supply our weakness. O Almighty God! O God! who makest "judgment thy strange work," let our prayers appease thy indignation! Resist not a concourse of people, assembled to besiege the throne of thy grace, and to move thy bowels of paternal compassion! When our nobles, our pastors, our heads of houses, our children, when all our people, when all shall be assembled on Wednesday next in this house, with eyes bathed in tears, with hearts rent, for having offended so good and gracious a God,-when each shall
cry from the ashes of our repentance, "Have mercy upon me, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, and blot out my transgressions." Deign thou also to be present, O great God, and "Holy one of Israel." Deign thou also to be present with the goodness, the love, the bowels of compassion, which thou hast for poor penitent sinners! Hear, O Lord, hear, O Lord, and pardon! Amen.
ON THE NATURE OF THE UNPAR- we are persuaded better things of you." The disposition is worthy of our wishes. May it be the effect of this discourse, and the fruit of our ministry!
To have been enlightened,-to have tasted the heavenly gift,-to have been partakers of the Holy Ghost,-to have tasted the good word of God, and felt the powers of the world to come,-and to fall away in defiance of so much grace, such are the odious traits employed by the apostle to degrade a crime, the nature of which we proceed to define. The awful characteristics in the portrait, and the superadded conclusion, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, fully apprize us, that he here speaks of the foulest of all offences; and, at the same time, gives us a limited notion of its nature.
Some have thought, that the surest way to obtain a just idea of the sin, was to represent it by every atrocious circumstance. They have collected all the characteristics, which could add aggravation to the crime: they have said, that a man who has known the truth, who has despised, hated, and opposed it, neither through fear of punishment, nor hope of reward, offered by tyrants to apostacy, but from a principle of malice, is the identical person of whom the apostle speaks; and that in this monstrous association of light, conviction, opposition, and unconquerable abhorrence of the truth, this awful crime consists.
HEBREWS vi. 4—6.
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come: if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.
"How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." On a different occasion, there would have been nothing surprising in the fears of Jacob. Had God revealed himself to this patriarch in the awful glory of avenging wrath, and surrounded with devouring fire, "with darkness and with tempest;" it would have been surprising that a man, that a sinner, and a believer of the earlier ages of the church, should have been vanquished at the sight. But, at a period when God approached him with the tenderest marks of love; when he erected a miraculous ladder between heaven and earth, causing the angels to ascend and descend for the protection of his servant; when he addressed him in these consolatory words, "Behold I am with thee, I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and I will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee;" that Jacob should tremble in such a moment, is what we cannot conceive without astonishment. What! is the gate of heaven dreadful; and is the house of God an object calculated to strike terror into the mind?
says he, "for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance."
St. Paul, after having pronounced these terrific words, adds; "Behold we are persuaded better things of you." Happy apostle, who, while pronouncing the sentence of celestial vengeance, could flatter himself that it would not fall on any of his audience. But we, my brethren, how shall we say to you? "Beloved,
My brethren, Jacob's fear unquestionably proceeded from the presence of God, from the singularity of the vision, and the peculiar scenery of the discovery, which had struck his imagination. But let us farther extend our thoughts. Yes, the gate of heaven is terrible, and the house of God is dreadful! and his favours should impress solemnity on the heart. Distinguished favours give occasion to distinguished crimes; and from places the most exalted have occurred the greatest falls. St. Paul, in the words of my text, places each of the Hebrews, whom he addressed, in the situation of Jacob. He exhibits a portrait of the prodigies achieved in their favour, since their conversion to Christianity; the miracles which had struck their senses; the knowledge which had irradiated their minds; and the impressions which had been made on their hearts. He opens to them the gate of heaven; but, at the same time, requires that they should exclaim, "How dreadful is this place!" From this profusion of grace, he draws motives for salutary fear. "It is impossible,"
Others, proceeding farther, have searched ancient and modern history, for persons, in whom those characteristics associate; that, superadding example to description, they might exhibit a complete portrait of the sin, into whose nature we shall now inquire. They have selected two striking examples. The first is that of the emperor Julian, the unworthy nephew of Constantine the Great, designated in history under the odious appellation of apostate, who, after having been bred in the bosom of the church, and after having officiated with his brother, as reader (do not be surprised, my brethren, that the nephew of an emperor should wish to be a reader in the church, the first Christians had higher ideas than we of the sacred functions,) after, I say, having sustained this office, abandoned the faith, persecuted the church, endeavoured to refute Christianity, assumed the character of chief pontiff, carried himself to that excess as to wish to efface the impression of baptism by the blood of victims, and if we may credit a tradition reported by Theodoret, died blaspheming against Jesus Christ.*
Hist. Eccles. lib. iii. cap. 3.
The import of the expressions is no way diffi
cant, his fears occasioned his baseness, and he | had the weakness to make a public renunciation of our communion. But scarcely had he made the abjuration ere he was abandoned to the horrors of melancholy. The anguish of his mind was fatal to the body; and as one endeavoured to convince him of the boundless mercy of God, "I know it," he exclaimed, "I know that God is merciful; but this mercy belongs not to me, to me who have denied the truth. I have sinned against the Holy Ghost; I already feel the horrors of the damned. My terrors are insupportable. Who will deliver my soul from this body? Who will open for her the caverns of the abyss? Who will chase her into the darkest abodes of hell? I am damned without resource. I consider God no longer as my Father, but as my enemy. I detest him; (is it possible that a Christian mouth should open with the like blasphemies!) I detest him as such. I am impatient to join the curses of the demons in hell, whose pains and horrors I already feel."*
The second example is that of the most sin-nary method of defaming his character. Ungular Venetian, whose memory seems handed able to destroy the force of the miracle, they down to posterity solely to excite horror, and maintained that it proceeded from an impure for ever to intimidate those who renounce the source, and that it was by the power of the truth. His name is Francis Spierra. He had devil Jesus Christ healed this afflicted class of tasted the doctrine of the Reformation, and men. This was the occasion on which he propublished his sentiments; but on being cited nounced the words we have recited. before the pope's nuncio, and menaced with the loss of his head, if he did not instantly re-cult to comprehend. Who is the Son of Man? And who is the Holy Ghost? And what is it to speak against the one and the other? The Son of man is Jesus Christ revealed in human form. Without staying here to refute a mistake of the learned Grotius, who pretends because the article does not precede the word, it is not to be understood of our Saviour, but of men in general. To confirm the sense here attached to the term, we shall only observe, that St. Luke, chap. xii. 8, after calling our Saviour "the Son of man," immediately adds, "Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him:" where it evidently follows, that by "the Son of man," Jesus Christ must be understood. And though the expression may elsewhere have other significations, they have no connexion with our subject.
In the course of this sermon, we shall endeavour to draw, from their method, whatever may most contribute to your instruction. But, first of all, we deem it our duty to make some previous observations, and to derive the light from its source. In the discussion of a sin, solitary in its nature, the Scriptures having excluded none from salvation, but those who are guilty of this offence, it is of the last importance to review all those passages, which, it is presumed, have reference to the crime: we must inquire in what they differ, and in what they agree, drawing, from this association of light, that instruction, which cannot be derived from any other source.
By the Holy Ghost, must be understood the third person in the adorable Trinity; considered not only as God, but as Author of the miracles achieved for the confirmation of the gospel. Hence, to "speak against the Son of man," was to outrage the Lord Jesus; to render his doctrine suspected; to call his mission in question; and particularly to be offended at the humiliations which surrounded it on earth. Such was their conduct who said, "Is not this the carpenter's son? Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? A gluttonous man, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." To speak against the Holy Ghost, was maliciously to reject a doctrine, when he who delivered it, confirmed the truth of it by so distinguished and evident a miracle as healing a demoniac; and to ascribe those miracles to the devil, which, they were assured, had God alone for their author. Here, I conceive, is all the light we can derive from the text. And as many persons determine the sense of the text, not so much by the letter as the reputation of the interpreter, we must apprize them, that we have derived this explanation not only from the writings of our most celebrated commentators who have espoused it, but also from the works of the most celebrated of the fathersI mean Chrysostom. The following is the substance of his paraphrase on the text in St. Matthew:-" You have called me a deceiver, and an enemy of God; I forgive this reproach. Having some cause to stumble at the flesh with which I am clothed, you might not know who I am. But can you be ignorant that the casting out of demons, is the work of the Holy Ghost? For this cause, he who says, that I do these miracles by Beelzebub, shall not obtain remission."
The task will not exceed our limits, there being at most but four texts, in which, it is presumed, the Scriptures speak of this sin. The first is in the gospels where mention is made of speaking or blaspheming against the Holy Ghost: "I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosover speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come." This text, which Augustine deems the most difficult in the Scriptures, will become intelligible, if we examine the occasion and weigh the words.
Such is the comment of Chrysostom, to whom we add the remark of an author, worthy of superior confidence; it is St. Mark, who said he hath an unclean spirit." Hence it is subjoins these words: "Because the Pharisees inferred that the Pharisees, by ascribing the
The occasion is obvious to understand. Jesus had just cured a demoniac. The Pharisees had attested the fact, and could not deny its divine authority: their eyes decided in favour of Jesus Christ. But they had recourse to an extraordi
Our author thought himself justified in reciting this sad case, there being thousands in France who had renounced the reformed religion.