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guished their zeal by taking as much pains to envenom controversies, as they ought to have taken to conciliate them; and when they ought to serve true religion by aggravating the errors of opposite religions. On these principles, such as took the words of the text in the first sense taxed the other side with subverting the whole doctrine of free justification; for, said they, if the pardon here granted to the sinner be an effect of her love to Jesus Christ, what become of all the passages of Scripture, which say, that grace, and grace alone, obtains the remission of sin? They of the opposite sentiment accused the others with subverting all the grounds of morality; for, said they, if this woman's love to Jesus Christ be only an effect of pardon, it clearly follows, that she had been pardoned before she exercised love: but if this be the case, what become of all the passages of the gospel, which make loving God a part of the essence of that faith without which there is no forgiveness? Do you not see, my brethren, in this way of disputing, that unhappy spirit of party, which defends the truth with the arms of falsehood; the spirit that has caused so many ravages in the church, and which is one of the strongest objections that the enemy of mankind can oppose against a reunion of religious sentiments, so much desired by all good men? What then, may it not be affirmed in a very sound sense, that we love God before we obtain the pardon of our sins? Have we not declaimed against the doctrine of such divines as have advanced that attrition alone, that is to say, a fear of hell without any degree of love to God was sufficient to open the gates of heaven to a penitent? Recourse to the Saviour of the world, such a recourse as makes the essence of faith, ought it to have no other motive than that of desiring to enjoy the benefits of his sacrifice? Should it not be animated with love to his perfections? But on the other hand, may it not also be said, in a sense most pure, and most evangelically accurate, that true love to God is an effect of the pardon we obtain of him? This love is never more ardent, than when it is kindled at the flame of that which is testified in our absolution. Is our zeal for the service of God ever more fervent than when it is produced by a felt recon-esteem was his considering himself in the conciliation to him? Are the praises we sing to dition of the first debtor, of whom only a little his glory ever more pure, than when they rise gratitude was required, because he had been out of such motives as animate glorified saints, released from an obligation to pay only a small when we can say with them, "unto him that and inconsiderable sum: but that this woman loved us, and washed us from our sins in his considered herself in the condition of the other own blood, be glory, and dominion?" Rev. i. debtor, who had been forgiven "five hundred 5. Do different views of this text deserve so pence;" and that therefore she thought herself much wormwood and gall? obliged to give her creditor the highest marks of esteem. Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven." On this account she hath loved much; and has given me all these proofs of affection which are so far superior to those, which I have received at your table, "for he, to whom little is forgiven, loveth little."
But what is the opinion of the Saviour of the world, and what would he answer to the question proposed? Was the pardon granted to the sinner the cause of her love, or the effect of it? Which of the two ideas ought to prevail in our minds, that in the parable, or that in the application of it? The opinion most generally received in our churches is, that the love of this woman ought to be considered as the effect of her pardon, and this appears to us the most likely, and supported by the best evi dence: for the reason on which this opinion is grounded, seems to us unanswerable. There is neither a critical remark, nor a change of VOL. II.-7
version, that can elude the force and evidence of it: "a creditor had two debtors, he forgave the one five hundred pence, and the other fifty, the first will love him most." Undoubtedly this love is the effect, and not the cause of the acquittance of the debt. On the contrary, the reason on which the second opinion is founded may be easily answered. It is grounded on this expression, " Her sins are forgiven, for she loved much." The original reading is capable of another sense. Instead of translating "for she loved much," the words may be rendered without any violence to the Greek text, "her sins are forgiven, and because of that," or "on account of that she loved much." There are many examples of the original term being taken in this sense. We omit quotations and proofs only to avoid prolixity.
We must then suppose, that the tears now shed by this woman were not the first, which she had shed at the remembrance of her sins. She had already performed several penitential exercises under a sense of forgiveness, and the repetition of these exercises proceeded both from a sense of gratitude for the sentence pronounced in her favour, and from a desire of receiving a ratification of it. On this account we have not assigned the fear of punishment as a cause of the grief of this penitent, as we ought to have done had we supposed that she had not already obtained forgiveness. Our supposition supported by our comment on the words of the text, in my opinion, throw great light on the whole passage. The Pharisee is offended because Jesus Christ suffered a woman of bad character to give him so many tokens of her esteem. Jesus Christ makes at the same time an apology both for himself and for the penitent. He tells the Pharisee, that the great esteem of this woman proceeds from a sense of the great favours, which she had received from him: that the Pharisee thought he had given sufficient proof of his regard for Jesus Christ by receiving him into his house, without any extraordinary demonstrations of zeal, without giving him "water to wash his feet, oil to anoint his head," or "a kiss" in token of friendship; and that what prevented him from giving greater marks of
At length, Jesus Christ turns himself towards heart; the man, who assures you, that, after a the penitent, and, affected at her weeping thousand diligent and accurate investigations, afresh, repeats his assurances of forgiveness, he finds impenetrable depths of deception in the and appeases that sorrow, which the remem- heart; the man, who, from the difficulty of his brance of her crimes excited in her heart, own examinations derives arguments to engage though she no longer dreaded punishment. you not to be satisfied with a superficial know"Go," says he, "thy sins are forgiven thee. . . ledge of your conscience, but to carry the light Go in peace." of the gospel into the darkest recesses of your heart; the man, who advises you over and over again, that if you content yourselves with a slight knowledge of yourselves, you must be subject to ten thousand illusions, that you will take the semblance of repentance for repentance itself, that you will think yourselves "rich and increased with goods," while you are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Rev. iii. 17. Is this the rigid casuist, who offends and irritates you?
Perhaps, it is the man, who tells you that, in order to assure yourselves that you are in a state of grace, you must love God with an esteem of preference, which will engage you to obey him before all his creatures; the man, who, judging by innumerable evidences that you prefer "serving the creature more than the Creator," Rom. i. 25; concludes from this sad phenomenon that you have reason to tremble: the man, who advises you to spend at least one week in recollection and retirement before you partake of the Lord's Supper; the man, who would have you purify your hands from the blood of your brethren, and your heart burning with hatred and vengeance, and on that account placed in a catalogue of murderers' hearts, according to the spirit of the gospel: the man, who forbids you to come to the Lord's Supper while your wicked courses are only suspended instead of being reformed, and while your cruel exactions are only delayed instead of being entirely left off? Perhaps this is the man! Is this the rigid casuist, who offends and irritates you?
Or, probably, it is the man, who has attended you three, four, or half a dozen times in fits of sickness, who then saw you covered with tears, every time acknowledging your sins, and always calling heaven and earth to witness your sincere intention to reform, and to change your conduct, but who has always seen you immediately on your recovery return to your former course of life, as if you had never shed a tear, never put up a prayer, never made a resolution, never appealed to heaven to attest your sincerity: the man, who concludes from such sad events as these that the resolutions of sick and dying people ought always to be considered as extremely suspicious; the man, who tells you that during all his long and constant attendance on the sick he has seldom seen one converted on a sick-bed, (for our parts, my brethren, we are mournful guarantees of this awful fact,) the man alarmed at these frightful examples, and slow to publish the grace of God to dying people of a certain class; I say, probably, this is the man, who offends you! Is not this the cruel casuist, who provokes you?
What! Is it the man, who sees the sentence of death written in your face, and your house of clay just going to sink, to whom you appear more like a skeleton than a living body, and who fears every morning lest some messenger should inform him that you was found dead in
Ye rigid casuists, who render the path of life strait, and difficult, ye, whose terrifying maxims are planted like briars and thorns in the road of paradise; ye messengers of terror and vengeance, like the dreadful angels who with flaming swords kept guilty men from attempting to return to the garden of Eden; ye who denounce only hell and damnation; come hither and receive instruction. and learn how to preach, and how to write, and how to speak in your pulpits to your auditors, and how to comfort on a dying bed a man, whose soul hovers on his lips, and is just departing. See the Saviour of the world; behold with what ease and indulgence he receives this penitent. Scarcely had she begun to weep, scarcely had she touched the feet of Jesus Christ with a little ointment, but he crowned her repentance, became her apologist, pardoned during one moment of repentance the excesses of a whole life, and condescended to acknowledge for a member of "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," this woman, and what kind of a woman? A woman guilty perhaps of prostitution, perhaps of adultery, certainly of impurity and fornication. After this do you violently declaim against conversion, under pretence that it is not effected precisely at such time as you think fit to appoint? Do you yet refuse to publish pardon and forgiveness to that sinner, who indeed has spent his whole life in sin, but who a few moments before he expires puts on all the appearance of true repentance, covers himself with sorrow, and dissolves himself in tears, like the penitent in the text, and assures you that he embraces with the utmost fervour the feet of the Redeemer of mankind?
Do I deceive myself, my brethren? I think I see the audience quicken their attention. This last reflection seems to suit the taste of most of my hearers. I think, I perceive some reaching the right hand of fellowship to me, and congratulating me for publicly adjuring this day of gloomy and melancholy morality, more likely to drive sinners to despair than to reclaim them.
How, my brethren, have we preached to you so many years, and you after all so little acquainted with us as to imagine that we have proposed this reflection with any other design than that of showing you the folly of it? Or rather are you so little acquainted with your religion, with the spirit of the gospel in general, and with that of my text in particular, as to derive consequences diametrically opposite to the design of the inspired writers? And where, pray, are these barbarous men? Where are these messengers of vengeance and terror? Where are the casuists, whose maxims render the road to eternal life inaccessible. Who are the men, who thus excite your anger and indignation? What! Is it the man, who has spent fifty or sixty years in examining the human
your bed, who fears all this from your own complaints? What am I saying? From your own complexion, from the alarms of your friends, and from the terrors of your own family; the man, who is shocked to see that all this makes no impression upon you, but that you live a life of dissipation and security, which would be unpardonable in a man, whose firm health might seem to promise him a long life; the man, who cries to you, "awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light," Eph. i. 11; improve the remainder of life, the breath, which, though it leaves thee to totter, prevents thy falling down dead. Is this the man, the rigid casuist who offends and irritates you? Such maxims, such discourses, such books, such sermons, are they systems of morality, which confound you, and drive you to despair?
After all, where are the sinners whom these casuists have driven to despair? Where are those tormented and distracted consciences? For my part, I see nothing, turn my eyes which way I will, but a deep sleep. I see nothing but security, lethargy, insensibility. How is it possible that the history of our text, that the language of Jesus Christ, "Woman, thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace," that the voice of eternal truth should incline you to raise objections full of error and illusion? Is there no difference between your case and that of this penitent woman, none between Jesus Christ and your casuists? Is there any thing in which they agree? The casuist conversing with this penitent was a prophet, a prophet! he was a God, who "searched the reins and the hearts," who saw the bottom of her soul, and who penetrated through all the veils, with which a frail human heart is covered, and beheld the truth of her conversion and the genuineness of her grief: but you, my brethren, you have no such casuists, and we can judge only by external performances, which ascertain your state only on condition that they proceed from your heart. Our penitent lay prostrate at the feet of the Lord of religion, who could save her, if he pleased, by extraordinary means, and who could deliver her from death and hell by a singular effort of power, not to be repeated: but your casuists are servants, who act by commission, under express directions and orders, and who have no right to announce peace till you answer the description given in the royal instrument. Such ministers, whatever assurances of grace and pardon they affect to give, ought never to calm your consciences till you have exactly conformed to the orders of their and your sovereign master. Our penitent came to ask pardon in a free and voluntary manner, while she was in perfect health, all her actions were unconstrained and spontaneous; but you wait till death hales you to the tribunal of God, you loiter till the fear of eternal flames fright you away from such pleasures as you continue to love, and to which you would most likely return again, did not God spare you the shame by not giving you an opportunity. The penitent of our text did all she could in her circumstances to express the truth of her repentance, there was no sacrifice so dear that she did not offer, no victim so valuable that she did not stab, if I may use such an expression, with the
knife of repentance, no passion so inveterate that she did not eradicate, no marks of love for her Saviour so tender that she did not with all liberality express. Behold her eyes flowing with tears over the feet of Jesus Christ, behold her hair dishevelled, her perfumes poured out, behold all the character of sincerity, which we have observed in our first paper. Is there any one mark of a true conversion which she does bear? But you, how many reserves, how many artifices have you? How many actions of your lives, which we must not be allowed to state to you in their true point of light? How many tempers in your hearts, which must not yet be touched? Here, it is an enemy, the bare sound of whose name would increase your fever, and hasten your death. There, it is an iniquitous acquisition, which you reserve for your son to enable him to take your name with greater honour, and to support with more dignity that vain parade, or rather that dust and smoke in which you have all your life involved yourself. Our penitent never deceived Jesus Christ: but you, you have deceived your casuist a thousand and a thousand times. Our penitent wept over the odious parts of her life, and, far from being too proud to confess her sins, gloried in her confession while she blushed for her crimes: but your eyes, on the contrary, your eyes are yet dry, and it is Jesus Christ, who is weeping at your feet, it is he who is shedding tears over you, as formerly over Jerusalem, it is he who is saying, G that "thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!" Luke xix. 42; Ps. lxxxi. 13. It is not then to you, but it is to your kind of repentance, that sentences of absolution ought to be refused. The repentance of the unchaste woman was exactly conformable to the covenant of grace, to the genius of the gospel, and to the end of the mission of Jesus Christ. Hence from the mouth of the Saviour of the world proceeded, in spite of her former libertinism, in spite of the cruel censure of the Pharisee, and in spite of the murmuring of the guests, these comfortable words, "Woman, thy sins are forgiven thee. Woman, thy faith hath saved thee. Go, depart in peace."
Here, my brethren, the evangelist finishes the history of the penitent woman! and here we will finish this discourse. There is, however, one circumstance, which St. Luke has omitted, and which, if I may venture to say so, I wish he had recorded in the most severe and circumstantial manner. What were the future sentiments of this woman after the courageous steps she had taken at her setting out? What emotions did absolution produce in her soul? What effects in her conscience did this language of the Saviour of the world cause, "Woman, thy sins are forgiven-thy faith hath saved thee-go in peace?" But there is nothing in this silence that ought to surprise us. Her joy was not a circumstance that came under the notice of the historian. In the heart of this frail woman, converted and reconciled to God, lay this mystery concealed. There was that "peace of God, which passeth all understanding, that joy unspeakable and full of glory, that white stone, and that new name, which
May you receive it, my brethren, that you may know it! May the grief of a lively and bitter repentance wound your hearts, that mercy may heal and comfort them, and fill them with pleasure and joy! God grant us this grace! To him be honour and glory for Amen.
no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." | governing a state, regulating a large and extensive commerce, and of arranging a variety of systems, should entertain notions seemingly incompatible with the very least degree of intelligence. On the other hand, we know not how to comprehend, that a course of action, which is the natural effect of such notions, can subsist without them.
THE VANITY OF ATTEMPTING TO
PROVERBS xxi. 30.
There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.
How mean and despicable soever the human heart since the fall may be, there are always found in it some principles of grandeur and elevation. Like such superb edifices as time has demolished, it discovers even in its ruins some vestiges of its primitive splendour. Whatever presents itself to man under the idea of great and noble, strikes and dazzles him: whatever presents itself to him under the idea of low and servile, shocks and disgusts him. Accordingly one of the most formidable methods of attacking religion is to exhibit it as a contrivance fit for narrow geniuses and mean souls. One of the most proper means to establish irreligion is to represent it as suited to great and generous minds. To rise above vulgar ideas, to shake off the yoke of conscience, to derive felicity and glory from self, to make fortune, victory, Providence, and deity itself yield to human will, these are pretensions, which have, I know not what in them, to flatter that foolish pride, which an erroneous mind confounds with true magnanimity. We propose to-day, my brethren, to combat these dangerous prejudices, to dissipate all such appearances of grandeur and elevation, and to make you feel the extravagance of all those, who have the audacity to attempt to oppose Almighty God. The Wise Man calls us to this meditation in the words of the text. "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord."
Follow us a moment, my brethren, into these labyrinths of the human heart, or rather let us endeavour to know ourselves, and to reconcile ourselves to ourselves, and let each of us put a few questions to himself.
I, who have some idea of the perfections of God, and who cannot doubt whether he knows the most secret thoughts of my heart, can I promise myself to impose on him in his temple by a painted outside, by a grave deportment, and by a mournful countenance, while my understanding and my affections take no part in religious exercises, while my ideas are confused, and while my passions promise me an immediate indemnity for the violence I have offered them during the few moments of this seeming devotion? But, if I have not this thought, how is it then that I think to obtain the favour of God by exercises of this kind?
I, who was educated in the Christian church, can I imagine that God has less dominion over me when the air is calm, the heavens serene, and the earth firm under my feet, than when the clouds are thick and black, the thunder rolls in the air, the lightning flashes, and the earth seems to open under my feet? But, if I have not adopted this opinion, how comes it to pass that I commit the greatest crimes without remorse in the first period, and in the second reproach myself for the most pardonable of all my frailties?
I, who am surrounded with the dying and the dead; I, who feel myself dying every day: I, who carry death in my face, who feel it in my veins, who, when I lay on a sick bed a few months ago, and thought myself come to the last moment of life, felt the most violent remorse; I, who would have then given the whole world, had the whole world been at my disposal, to have been delivered from sin, can I persuade myself that I shall live here always? Can I even persuade myself that I shall live much longer? Or if I could, that when death shall present itself to me, I shall be exempt from remorse, and that the crimes, which now make the pleasure of my life, will not be the poison of my dying bed? But, if I be incapable of adopting opinions so opposite to what I know by feeling and experience, what am I doing? How is it possible for me to live as if I thought myself immortal, as if I had made a covenant with death and were at agreement with the grave, as if I had stifled for ever the feel
Perhaps you will accuse us (and we will enter on the subject by examining this objection,) perhaps you will accuse us of creating phantoms to combat. Perhaps you will defy us to find among the different classes of idiots, whom society cherishes in its bosom, any one who has carried his extravagance so far as to presume to oppose God, or to pretend to constrain him by superior knowledge or power. My brethren, one of the most difficult sub-ings of my conscience, as if I were sure of dicjects in the study of the human heart is, when tating myself the decree of divine justice conman leads a certain course of life, to deter- cerning my own eternal state? mine whether he has adopted the extravagant principles on which his conduct is founded, and without which his conduct is the most palpable folly. Take which side we will, whether that he acts on principles, or without them, the case will appear extremely difficult. On the one hand, we can hardly persuade ourselves that an intelligent creature, who is capable of
And, not to multiply examples, of which the extravagance of the human mind would furnish a great number, I, whose views are so short, whose knowledge is so confined, whose faculties are so frail, and whose power is so limited, can I promise myself success in opposing the designs of that God, who says in his word, "My counsel shall stand, and I will
do all my pleasure?" Isa. xlvi. 10. Can I promise myself to subdue a God "great in counsel, and mighty in work," Jer. xxxii. 19, and to constrain him by superior power? But, if I have not adopted such extravagant thoughts, what mean the obstacles which I oppose against his will? What signify my plans of felicity, which are diametrically opposite to those which he has traced for me in his word? Why do I not direct all my intentions and actions to incorporate in my interest him, whose will is productive and efficient? Why do I not found my system of living on this principle of the Wise Man, "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord."
My brethren, explain to us these enigmas, discover yourselves to yourselves, and reconcile yourselves with yourselves. O miserable man! What kind of madness animates thee? Is it that of having conceived these extravagant thoughts, which are alone capable of varnishing over thy conduct? Or is it that of acting without thought, which is a sort of raving madness, for even erroneous opinions might seem to thee to apologize for thine actions? O "heart of man, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know thee!" Jer.
However, the knowledge of this heart so difficult to be known, is not entirely unattainable, it is even essential to our happiness. How should we correct ourselves without knowing ourselves? How should we acquire real wisdom without knowing precisely what our folly is, and by what means to get rid of it? It should seem we ought to search for a solution of these difficulties in the artifices of our own passions. The passions not only disguise exterior objects, but they disguise even our own thoughts, they persuade us that we do not think what we do think, and in this manner they confirm us in the most extravagant notions, the absurdity of which we could not help seeing were we dispassionate and cool. The work therefore to which we ought most seriously to apply ourselves, is to take off such coverings as our passions throw over our opinions, and which prevent our seeing that we think as we do; to this important work I shall address myself in the remaining part of this discourse.
I. We will consider our text in regard to worldly grandeur. We sometimes see those, who are called grandees in the world, resist God, pretend to compel him by superior force, or by greater knowledge. And whom do we intend to characterize? Is it a Pharaoh, who boldly demands, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" Is it a Sennacherib, who uttered this insolent language, “Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, the Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Who are they amongst all the gods of those lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" Is it a Nebuchadnezzar, to whom the prophet puts this mortifying question, "How art thou fallen from heaven, thou day star, thou son of the morning? Thou who didst weaken the nations, hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into hea ven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north, I will be like the Most High," Isa. xxxvi. is. 20. and chap. xiv. 12—14.
Is it a Nero, who could hear without trembling those blasphemous eulogies, "If the fates had no other methods of placing Nero on the throne than those civil wars, which deluged Rome with blood, ye gods, we are content; the most atrocious crimes, the most sanguinary executions are agreeable at this price. Lift up your eyes, Cesar, and choose your place among the immortal gods, take the thunder of Jupiter, and succeed the father of gods and men. Mount the chariot of the sun, and give the world light, all the gods will count it felicity and glory to submit to thy laws, and to give up their place and their power to thee."
But nature produces few such monsters. Our age has too much knowledge, and our manners are too refined to suffer such plain and open declarations. Yet how often is grandeur even now in our times a patent for insolence against God! What, for example, is that perpetual parade of the great, and that vain ostentation, with which they dazzle the eyes of their dependants, and of which they avail themselves to rob God of the hearts of men? What is that haughty confidence, which they place in their forces, after they have guarded their cities, built forts, and filled their treasuries, they live in security, even though they have provoked God by acts of the most crying injustice, by the most barbarous executions, and by the most execrable blasphemies! Whence that immoderate avidity of praise, which makes them nourish themselves with the incense of a vile flatterer, and live on the titles of immortals, invincibles, arbiters of peace and war? Whence that contempt of religion, and that spirit of impiety and profaneness, which usually reigns in the hearts of princes? Whence that dominion which some of them exercise over conscience, and those laws, which they dare to give mankind to serve God against their own convictions, to form
A modern philosopher has founded on this principle the whole of his system on the difference between right and wrong. He says, justice consists in affirming that a thing is what it is, and injustice in denying it. He explains this thought by another, that is, that we affirm and deny not only by words, but also by actions, and that the second manner of affirming or denying is more express and decisive than the first. I will not examine whether this philosopher has not carried his principles too far: but I am going to prove by the actions of men that they pretend to oppose God, and that they set four obstacles against his will, their grandeur, their policy, their pleasures, and their stoical obstinacy. I am going to prove at the same time to worldly politicians and grandees, to voluptuous and stoical people, that to undertake to resist God is the height of extravagance. "There is no wisdom nor understand-ideas of him, which they think injurious to his ing, nor counsel against the Lord." majesty, to perform a worship, which they