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think contrary to his express commands, and to profess a religion directly opposite to what they themselves believe to be the true religion of Jesus Christ? Whence are all these dispositions, and what are all these actions? My brethren, open the folds of the human heart, take off the coverings under which the turpitude is concealed, penetrate into the principles of men's actions, and you will find that to oppose God, to pretend to control him by a superior power is not a disposition of mind so rare as you might at first sight have imagined. You see the great worldling makes his opulence, his titles, his grandeur, his navy, his army, a force to set against Almighty God. But what is such a man? An idiot. What are his titles and grandeurs, his navies and armies, and all his opulence? What is all this? A little chaff, a little dust, a nothing in the presence of the omnipotent God.
I recollect here a piece of instruction which a king one day gave his courtiers. They were calling him Lord of earth and sea. The monarch put on his robes, and caused himself to be carried to the sea-shore. There he sat on the beach, and said to the waves, "The land on which I sit is mine, and you, sea, you are under my dominion, I command you to respect your king, and to come no farther." The waves, deaf to his voice, came rolling forward, the first wetted his feet, the second seemed to threaten to carry him away. "There," said the king to his courtiers, "see what a lord I am of earth and sea." Great lesson to all worldly potentates! Insignificant man, put on thy crown, dazzle thyself first with the glitter of it, and then try to beguile the eyes of others, deck thyself in thy royal robes, try thy strength, show us the extent of thy power, say to winds and waves, to fortune, and sickness, and death, I command you to stop, and to respect your king.
O think of the glorious attributes, the sublime ideas, the deep counsels, and the abundant power of that God whom thou opposest. "He stretched out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud. He meteth out heaven with a span, and comprehendeth the dust of the earth in a measure. He weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers. Behold all nations are as the drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. All things before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. He bringeth princes to nothing, he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity," Job xxvi. 7, 8. 11, 12; and Isa. xl. 12. 22.
for them to that very Being whom thou pretendest to resist. It is his breath that animates thee, his arm upholds thee, his earth supports thee, his food nourishes thee, and it his air which thou borrowest to breathe.
Think what mortal blows of just vengeance God has given to some insolent creatures, who presumptuously oppose his majesty. So perished Antiochus, who, in the language of the book of Maccabees, a "little afore thought he might command the waves of the sea, and weigh the high mountains in a balance, was now cast on the ground, so that the worms rose up out of his body, his flesh fell away, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to all his army," 2 Mac. ix. 8-10. So perished Herod: "His bowels were consumed with an inward fire. His entrails were full of ulcers. The stench of his breath infected his room, and drove away all his family." So perished Maximinus, of whom Lactantius gives this frightful account: "The wound gained his vitals, there vermin engendered, the palace and the city were infected, his body putrefied, the more his sores were cleansed, the more innumerable were the swarms of vermin that proceeded from them, of which his entrails were an inexhaustible source."*
Think of thine end. Look through the deceitful splendour that covers thee. See the weakness of thine organs, behold thy hands already shaking, thy knees already trembling, thy head, all crowned and glittering as it is, bending towards that earth from which it was taken, and to which it will presently return. Imagine thyself dying, cold, pale, groaning, and vainly calling to thine assistance thy courtiers, thy sceptre, and thy crown. Is this the immortal man? This the arm that ruled the fate of whole nations? Is this the potentate, whose looks made the world tremble? Oh! how eloquent is humility, my brethren, to him who is willing to hear it! Oh! how sufficient in motives is the school of humility to him who is willing to be taught there! How, how can a creature so mean, so vile, so limited, so frail, so momentary as man, how can he possibly oppose Almighty God? How can he resist his
wer? "Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? But thou shalt be a man and no god in the hand of him that slayeth thee," Ezek. xxvii. 9.
15. 17. 23.
Think of thy soul, thou wilt find nothing there but infirmity and ignorance. Thou art confined as a man, and more confined still as a great man, for grandeur usually contracts the limits of knowledge and improvement.
Think of the author of those advantages which swell thee with pride. Thou art indebted
II. Worldly policy is a second obstacle, which some men set against the laws of heaven, and by which they discover a disposition to resist God, and to compel him by superior force. Had the man, of whom I speak, other ideas, he would lay down as first principles and grounds of action-that the wisest maxims of state are those of religion-that the best we can do for society is to render God propitious-and that the happiest people are they "whose God is the Lord." When councils were held to deliberate on peace or war, such a man would do from religious principle what was anciently done at Rome from the mere dictates of natural justice. It would be examined not only whether it would be advantageous to make war in the present conjuncture, but whether it were just; whether it proceeded from an insa
⚫ Lactant. libro de mortib. persecutor. C. xxxiii..
tiable desire of dominion and wealth, or from the right, which all mankind have to guard and defend themselves. When the question was, Whether any one should be invested with magisterial authority, such a man would examine with as much care the religious principles as the political virtues of the candidate for power; he would not consider whether he were able to practise crimes of state, which have been long successful, but whether he inviolably respected the laws of religion, the exercise of which sooner or later must necessarily crown its adherents with prosperity and victory. Never would he assist in placing at the head of a political body a blasphemer or an atheist.
O" pillar of a cloud!" O" wisdom that is from above!" Animate, for ever animate, the conductors of this people, preside in their councils, march at the head of their armies, sanctify their reflections, and engrave for ever on their souls this maxim of my text, that "there is no wisdom nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord," James iii. 17.
But when we see men pursue a conduct directly opposite to this, when we see men always forget that they are Christians, when they deliberate on the public good, and lay aside, if I may be allowed to speak so, faith, conscience, and the gospel, at the door of the council room; when we see a certain disdainful air, a look of affected pity put on at the proposals of such as wish to direct the public good by the principles of religion; when we see people of this character pretend by their prudence to avert public calamities; have we not a right to say of such men, that they resist God, and pretend to compel him with superior power?
But what are such men? Idiots. With your pernicious maxims you banish religion and piety, and by so doing deprive yourselves of all the advantages which you might have derived from the inclinations of a people well disposed to be religious and good. Should the people live by the rules of religion, they would pay taxes with fidelity, obey their governors with respect, generously prefer the public good before private interest, and so establish such a correspondence between subject and sovereign as can alone render states prosperous and happy: but while they see that their masters wander out of this right road, they act towards you as you do towards God, they employ their power to resist your authority, and their knowledge and address to elude your laws.
III. Our third article concerns the voluptu ous. One of the most inviolable laws of God is, that felicity should be the reward of virtue, and misery the punishment of vice. What does a voluptuous man oppose against the execution of this law? Noise, company, diversions, refinements of lasciviousness. In these he intrenches himself, and defies us to force him thence. While the catechumen is studiously employing himself to clear away the difficulties, and to determine the important questions, on which all his future hopes depend; while the believer is striving against the stream, and endeavouring to subdue his own passions; while the penitent feels and bows under the weighty remembrance of his sins; while the martyr falls a victim to the rage of his persecutors; the voluptuary feels a joy, which he thinks unalterable, and creates a kind of fool's paradise, in which he pretends to brave God, and to be happy in spite of him, whose sovereign command condemns him to misery. Absurd tranquillity! Senseless security! I appeal to reason, I appeal to old age, I appeal to death, I appeal to judgment.
What a system is that of the voluptuary, when it is examined at the bar of reason! There he is taught, that he owes his existence to a Supreme Being, and that he is under infinite obligations to him; there he is made to feel that he had no assurance of living four days, that within fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, he will be taken out of this world, and that at the end of this term there will be before him noth
With these pernicious maxims you render social interest a chimera. You consider a public body as a being, permanent, and in a manner eternal, which ought to employ itself about what concerns it as a public body: but you never recollect that this public body is composed of only individuals, one of whom has only a few years, and another only a few months to live in this world, so that the real interesting but death, eternity, and hell. He knows nothing against this, he agrees to all this, he inwardly feels demonstrations of all this: but instead of trying to avoid the evil day, he tries to forget it: and, as if the existence of beings depended on the attention we paid to them, he imagines he has annihilated these dreadful objects, because he has found the art of obliterating them from his memory.
of such as compose this body has no relation to the duration of the body, a duration which individuals cannot expect, and which regards them only to the end of their own days. You labour to promote a general interest, in which individuals have only a very small share, and you act against the true interest of each, which consists not in consolidating a world that he is just quitting, but in learning to pass through it with dignity, and to leave it with ease.
With these pernicious maxims you keep memorable catastrophes out of sight, those terrible subversions of wicked societies; as the history of the old world, that of Sodom and Gomorrah, that of the kingdom of Judah, that of the ten tribes, that of Babylon, that of the
What a system is that of the voluptuary, when it is examined at the tribunal of conscience! For, in fact, whatever efforts may be employed to drown the voice of conscience, it sometimes roars, and will be heard. Even a depraved conscience has a kind of periodical power, it cannot be always intoxicated with worldly pleasure. Belshazzar, on a certain fes
tival day, was sitting at table with his court. In order to insult the God of Israel, he ordered the sacred vessels, which his father had brought away from the temple of Jerusalem, to be brought into company, that he and his "princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein, and praise the gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone." All on a sudden "his countenance changes, and his thoughts trouble him; so that the joints of his loins are loosed, and his knees smite one against another," Dan. v. 2. 4. 6; thus proving the truth of what the Wise Man observes, that "the wicked flee when no man pursueth," Prov. xxviii. 1. Unhappy king! What is the occasion of all this terror and fear? Dost thou see a sword hanging over thee by a single thread, and ready to fall on thee, and cut thee asunder? Have thine enemies, who are besieging the capital, found a way into it? Does the earth reel under thy feet? Is hell opening to thine eyes? Do the infernal furies surround thee, and cause the serpents on their heads to hiss in thine ears? No: but a "hand is writing over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall," ver. 5. fear from that hand? You are not acquainted And what have you to with the characters. Perhaps the writing is an encomium on thee. Perhaps it is an oracle, foretelling thee some new acquisition of splendour and glory. Why, of two senses, of which the writing is capable, dost thou imagine the worst? My brethren, behold the solution of this difficulty. man's hand are not alone; the finger of God These fingers of a accompanies them. The subject is not only written on the wall of the royal palace; but it is also inscribed on the heart of the king. His eyes could not read the characters, but his conscience knew how to explain them. Ah! miserable hypocrite! cease calling for astrologers; leave off consulting magicians and Chaldeans. Listen to your own heart. The expositor is within thee, and thy conscience will tell thee more than all the wise men in thy kingdom.
What a system is that of a voluptuary considered in the decline of life! A voluptuous man, when his organs are become feeble, and his faculties worn out, finds he has outlived his felicity, yet he looks after the gods, of which time has despoiled him, and in vain expects that voluptuousness can rid him of the painful reflections which torment and excruciate him.
THE VANITY OF ATTEMPTING
What a system is that of a voluptuary considered in regard to death and future punishment! These certainly, ought to alarm all that expect them: but they ought above all to terrify a voluptuous man. the sensibility of such a man? What will be What will be his despair, when he shall pass from a bed of down to all-pervading pain, from pleasure to eternal fire, from excessive lasciviousness to chains of darkness, from the company of those who ministered to his voluptousness, to that of the executioners of divine vengeance.
IV. In fine, a stoical obstinacy is the fourth obstacle, which some place against the purposes of God. Would you see this hardiness represented in the most insolent language? Would you see how far men have been able to carry their extravagance on this article?
Hear one of the most admired of the ancient philosophers, but the least worthy of admira[SER. LIX. tion. Hear what an idea he gives of his wise man: "There are neither walls nor towers, which battering rams cannot subvert; but there are no machines that can shake the soul of a wise man. the walls of Babylon, which Alexander knew how to destroy; nor to those of Carthage and Do not compare him to Numantia, which human power subverted. Do not compare him either to the citadel or the capital, where the marks of enemies attempting to render themselves masters of them are yet to be seen. reach him. Sacrileges committed in the temples of the Deity, by breaking in pieces the Arrows shot at the sun never symbols, and by subverting the edifices, never affect him. What am I saying? the gods themselves may be buried in the ruins of their own temples; but the wise man never can; or, could he be overwhelmed, he could suffer no damage. Jupiter hath nothing more than the wise man, except his immortality. But the wise man, in his turn, hath this superiority, that he is perfectly happy during the short er than Jupiter, as it is more glorious to comspace of this life. In this he is as much greatpress all happiness into a narrow space than to diffuse it through one more considerable, and to possess as much felicity in one single instant, as the greatest of the gods enjoys in eternity."
world, had been able to oppose such crude who were formerly the admiration of the Who would believe, my brethren, that men, and fanciful ideas against all the evidences of their depravity and dependence? Who could conceive, that they seriously set these against sickness, poverty, pain, conscience, death, the grave, the punishment of hell, and the majesty of God?
subsisting? Hath Zeno any disciples now?
it " But is this the condition of the man
On what conditions does religion promise
On what condition does the gospel promise eternal felicity to a counsellor? On condition that he perform the oath administered to him when he entered on his profession, an oath You in which he called God to witness that he would never plead any but just causes. have not performed this condition, you have been known to take either side of a cause, yea both, when your interest required it; you have been seen exercising your talents in varnishing over such causes as you durst not state in their true point of light, and straining every nerve to mislead the judges. And you are in a state of tranquillity, and will be so the day you die.
TO OPPOSE GOD.
rather call it brutal philosophy, which they have revived. We ingenuously acknowledge that the sight of people of this character always excites emulation in us, at least it leads us to deplore the inefficacy of religion in some people's minds. Truth with all its brightness, virtue with its graces, religion with its evidences, eternity with its demonstrations, celestial felicity with its pomp, all these things can hardly hold some trembling Christians steady to their profession, who yet seem to adhere to Jesus Christ: while these men without light, without proofs, without demonstration, without certainty, yea without hope discover a tranquillity, which we should congratulate ourselves for producing, even after we have spent twenty or thirty years in the ministry.
But how fair soever this exterior may seem, how insurmountable soever this difficulty may appear, how strong soever it may seem to prevent the judgments of God, and to dispose of the terrors which they naturally excite in the conscience, it is an effort of wickedness easily defeated; and although this fourth way seems to surpass the three others in wisdom, yet it actually goes beyond them all in absurdity and extravagance.
Do we impose on people of this kind? Let them tell us on what their tranquillity is founded. Allowing the circumstances in which we now are, there can be only two ways of acquiring tranquillity in prospect of death. The first is, to prove that religion is a human contrivance; that all we propose concerning a future state, a heaven and a hell, and concerning the means of escaping the last and enjoying the first, is either exaggerated or imaginary. The second is, to bring full proof that we have performed the duties, to which religion has annexed a promise of freedom from misery, and the possession of eternal felicity. In which class shall I place the man I have been describing?
He would complain of injustice should I put him in the first class. He always professed himself a Christian. He has all his life long been present at public worship, and has parIn any case, if he taken of our sacraments. be an infidel, he is a mere idiot. Distracted with the cares of life, he has never made such inquiries as are absolutely necessary to refute the system of religion, even supposing the system could be refuted; and I pledge myelf, let him take which side he will, to silence him, whether he undertake to attack religion, or to defend it, so grossly ignorant is he of every thing that belongs to the subject.
Has he then obtained satisfaction by the second method? A man, who has set his heart entirely at ease, because he can give full proof that he has performed the duties to which the gospel has annexed a promise of exemption from future misery, and a possession of endless felicity; such a man is truly happy; he has arrived at the highest degree of felicity that can possibly be obtained in this valley of tears; for his tranquillity is that "joy unspeakable and full of glory," of which our scripture speaks. It is that "peace of God, which passeth all understanding." It is the "white stone, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth VOL. II.-8
On what condition does religion promise eternal happiness to a man in possession of property unjustly acquired? On condition of his making restitution. You are, in this case, I mean in the case of him who holds such property, for "the stone crieth out of the walls of your houses, and the beam out of the timber witnesses against you. The hire of the labourers which have reaped down your fields, You which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts," Hab. ii. 11; Jam. v. 4. have not made restitution; you will not even suffer us to utter this frightful word, Restitution; you are going to transmit this accursed patrimony to your children, and you too are tranquil and easy! What! are you also a philosopher? Are you also a stoic? Extravagant stoicism, senseless philosophy, absurd tranquil"There is no wisdom, nor unlity! Is it thus you pretend to oppose Almighty God! derstanding, nor counsel against the Lord." Let us conclude. The most reasonable part, Happy, if it were as easy that an intelligent creature can take, is to submit to his Creator. to affect our hearts, as it is to convince our judgments of this article! Happy, if the heart never appealed from the dictates of reason, and if the passions had no distinct and separate system! A system the more dangerous, because reason is present only in a few moments of our attention; whereas the other, on the contrary, always carries us away when we follow the suggestions of our passions, that is in the usual course of our lives.
My brethren, let us act like intelligent creatures, let us form a just idea of sin, let us always have before our eyes this image, which the Wise Man has given us, and which is so
proper to demonstrate to us the extravagance of it. Let us remember, that a sinner is an idiot, who attempts to resist God, who opposes his laws, and who undertakes to counteract him by superior skill or force. Let us seek in a reconciliation to God those succours of which our silly pride offers us only an appearance. But you love grandeur, you are struck with the courage of a man, who opposes God, and who pretends to resist and triumph over him. Well, consider the path we open to you in this point of light. This Almighty God is armed against THERE are few people in the world, who do you, his anger is ready to crush you to atoms, not form in their minds agreeable plans of haphis thunder roars, his lightnings flash in your piness, made up of future, flattering prospects, eyes, his fire is kindled, and his justice requires which have no foundation, except in their own your destruction: but there is an art of disarm- fancies. This disposition of mind, which is so ing God. This was the skill of Jacob, who general among mankind, is also one of the prinwept, and prayed, and said, "I will not let cipal causes of their immoderate desire to live. thee go, except thou bless me," Gen. xxxii. 26. Some have questioned, whether any mortal This was the wisdom of Moses, who stood in were ever so happy as to choose to live his life the breach to turn away the wrath of heaven, over again, on condition of passing through all of that Moses to whom God said, "Let me the events through which he had gone from his alone, that I may consume this people," Exod. birth to his last hour. Without investigating xxxii. 10; but Moses said, "O forgive their sin, this problem, I venture to affirm that mankind and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book would be much less attached to the world, if which thou hast written," ver. 32. This is the they did not flatter themselves with the hope art which Jesus Christ taught us, "the king- of enjoying more pleasure than they had hidom of heaven suffereth violence, and the vio- therto experienced. A child fancies, that as lent take it by force," Matt. xi. 12. These are soon as he shall arrive at a certain stature, he powerful weapons, which God will not oppose. shall enjoy more pleasure than he has enjoyed These are arms always effectual. This was the in his childhood, and this is pardonable in a method which the Lord formerly taught his child. The youth persuades himself that men, people by the ministry of Isaiah, "Who would who are what they call settled in the world, are set briars and thorns against me in battle? I incomparably more happy than young people would go through them, I would burn them can be at his age. While we think ourselves together. O, let him take hold of my strength, condemned to live single, solitude seems intolehe may make peace with me, and he shall make rable; and when we have associated ourselves peace with me," Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. Let us not with others, we regret the happy days we spent make a vain parade before God of fanciful great- in the tranquillity of solitude. Thus we go on ness, let us rather appear in our own insignifi- from fancy to fancy, and from one chimera to cance, let us show ourselves as we are, "poor, another, till death arrives, subverts all our miserable, blind, and naked." Let us not pre-imaginary projects of happiness, and makes us tend to surprise him with the wisdom of our know by our own experience what the expecounsels; but let us endeavour to move his com-rience of others might have fully taught us long passion, by acknowledging our uncertainty, before, that the whole world is vanity; that our darkness, our ignorance, our superficial every state, all ages, and all conditions, have thoughts on the government of the world, and inconveniences peculiar to themselves, and one on that of our families. Let us not appear be- which is common to them all, I mean a chafore him intoxicated with pleasure, but morti- racter of disproportion to our hearts; so that by fied, contrite, bowed down under the weight of changing our situation we often do no more our sins, prostrate in the dust, and wounded than change our kind of infelicity. with sincere repentance. Let us not resist him with a brutal security, but let us lay before him our timidity, our doubts, and our fears. Let us conjure him, by the sad objects of our frailty and insignificance to pity our condition. These are invincible arms, these are impenetrable shields, this is the infallible art of prevailing with Almighty God. May he deign to teach us how to exercise it! May he condescend to crown our efforts with success! Amen! To him be honour and glory both now and for ever! Amen.
IMAGINARY SCHEMES OF HAPPI-
ECCLESIASTES i. 9.
The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.
Of this vanity I would endeavour to-day to convince you, my brethren, and I dedicate this discourse to the destruction of imaginary schemes of happiness. "The thing that hath been, is that which shall be: and that which is done, is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." It is not unjust to reason thus; as I have hitherto found nothing but vanity in all the enjoyments of the world, which I singled out for myself as most likely to make me happy, this experience of what has been shall guide me in my expectations of what