« السابقةمتابعة »
think contrary to his express commands, and for them to that very Being whom thou preto profess a religion directly opposite to what tendest to resist. It is his breath that animates they themselves believe to be the true religion thee, his arm upholds thee, his earth supports of Jesus Christ. Whence are all these disposi- thee, his food nourishes thee, and it his air tions, and what are all these actions My bre- which thou borrowest to breathe. thren, open the folds of the human heart, take Think what mortal blows of just vengeance off the coverings under which the turpitude is God has given to some insolent creatures, who concealed, penetrate into the principles of presumptuously oppose his majesty. So pemen's actions, and you will find that to oppose rished Antiochus, who, in the language of the God, to pretend to control him by a superior book of Maccabees, a " little afore thought he power is not a disposition of mind so rare as might command the waves of the sea, and you might at first sight have imagined. You weigh the high mountains in a balance, was see the great worldling makes his opulence, now cast on the ground, so that the worms his titles, his grandeur, his navy, his army, a rose up out of his body, his flesh fell away, force to set against Almighty God. But what and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to is such a man? An idiot. What are his titles all his army,” 2 Mac. ix. 8—10. So perished and grandeurs, his navies and armies, and all Herod: “ His bowels were consumed with an his opulence? What is all this? A little chaff, inward fire. His entrails were full of ulcers. a little dust, a nothing in the presence of the The stench of his breath infected his room, and omnipotent God.
drove away all his family.” So perished MaxI recollect here a piece of instruction which iminus, of whom Lactantius gives this frighta king one day gave his courtiers. They were ful account: “ The wound gained his vitals, calling him Lord of earth and sea. The mo- there vermin engendered, the palace and the narch put on his robes, and caused himself to city were infected, his body putrefied, the more be carried to the sea-shore. There he sat on his sores were cleansed, the inore innumerable the beach, and said to the waves, “ The land were the swarms of vermin that proceeded on which I sit is mine, and you, sea, you are from them, of which his entrails were an inunder my dominion, I command you to respect exhaustible source."'* your king, and to come no farther.” The Think of thine end. Look through the dewaves, deaf to his voice, came rolling forward, ceitful splendour that covers thee. See the the first wetted his feet, the second seemed to weakness of thine organs, behold thy hands threaten to carry him away. “ There," said already shaking, thy knees already trembling, the king to his courtiers, * see what a lord I thy head, all crowned and glittering as it is, am of earth and sea." Great lesson to all bending towards that earth from which it was worldly potentates! Insignificant man, put on taken, and to which it will presently return. thy crown, dazzle thyself first with the glitter Imagine thyself dying, cold, pale, groaning, of it, and then try to beguile the eyes of and vainly calling to thine assistance thy courothers, deck thyself in thy royal robes, try thy tiers, thy sceptre, and thy crown. Is this the strength, show us the extent of thy power, say immortal man. This the arm that ruled the to winds and waves, to fortune, and sickness, fate of whole nations. Is this the potentate, and death, I command you to stop, and to re- whose looks made the world tremble? Oh! spect your king.
how eloquent is humility, my brethren, to him O think of the glorious attributes, the sub- who is willing to hear it! Oh! how sufficient in lime ideas, the deep counsels, and the abun- motives is the school of humility to him who dant power of that God whom thou opposest. is willing to be taught there! How, how can a “ He stretched out the north over the empty creature so mean, so vile, so limited, so frail, place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. so momentary as man, how can he possibly opHe bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds. pose Almighty God? How can he resist his The pillars of heaven tremble, and are asto- power? “Wilt thou yet say before him that nished at his reproof. He divideth the sea slayeth thee, I am God? But thou shalt be a with his power, and by his understanding he man and no god in the hand of him that slaysmiteth through the proud. He meteth out eth thee,” Ezek. xxvii. 9. heaven with a span, and comprehendeth the II. Worldly policy is a second obstacle, which dust of the earth in a measure. He weigheth some men set against the laws of heaven, and the mountains in scales, and the hills in a ba- by which they discover a disposition to resist lance. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, God, and to compel him by superior force. and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers. Had the man, of whom I speak, other ideas, he Behold all nations are as the drop of a bucket, would lay down as first principles and grounds and are counted as the small dust of the ba- of action that the wisest maxims of state are lance. All things before him are as nothing, those of religion—that the best we can do for and they are counted to him less than nothing, society is to render God propitious—and that and vanity. He bringeth princes to nothing, the happiest people are they “ whose God is he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity," the Lord.” When councils were held to deliJob xxvi. 7, 8. 11, 12; and Isa. xl. 12. 22. berate on peace or war, such a man would do 15. 17. 23.
from religious principle what was anciently Think of thy soul, thou wilt find nothing done at Rome from the mere dictates of natuthere but infirmity and ignorance. Thou art ral justice. It would be examined not only confined as a mar, and more confined still as a whether it would be advantageous to make great man, for grandeur usually contracts the war in the present conjuncture, but whether it limits of knowledge and improvement. were just; whether it proceeded from an insa
Think of the author of those advantages which swell thee with pride. Thou art indebted • Lactant. libro de mortib. persecutor. C. xxxii..
tiable desire of dominion and wealth, or from seven eastern churches, and that of many others, the right, which all mankind have to guard whose sad but edifying ruins should always be and defend themselves. When the question before our eyes. was, Whether any one should be invested with With these pernicious maxims, for the sake magisterial authority, such a man would ex- of a few trifling directions which you give soamine with as much care the religious princi- ciety for maxims of state, you deprive us of ples as the political virtues of the candidate the powerful protection of a God, who would for power; he would not consider whether himself sit at the helm; you raise his justicé he were able to practise crimes of state, which against us, you put into his hands thunder and have been long successful, but whether he in- lightning to destroy us, and, instead of being violably respected the laws of religion, the ex our parents and guides, you are disturbers of ercise of which sooner or later must neces- the state, and the most implacable enemies of sarily crown its adherents with prosperity and sound civil polity. victory. Never would he assist in placing at O“pillar of a cloud!” O “wisdom that is the head of a political body a blasphemer or from above!” Animate, for ever animate, the an atheist.
conductors of this people, preside in their counBut when we see men pursue a conduct di- cils, march at the head of their armies, sanctify rectly opposite to this, when we see men always their reflections, and engrave for ever on their forget that they are Christians, when they de- souls this maxim of my text, that “there is no liberate on the public good, and lay aside, if I wisdom nor understanding, nor counsel against may be allowed to speak so, faith, conscience, the Lord,” James iii. 17. and the gospel, at the door of the council III. Our third article concerns the voluptu room; when we see a certain disdainful air, a One of the most inviolable laws of God look of affected pity put on at the proposals is, that felicity should be the reward of virtue, of such as wish to direct the public good by the and misery the punishment of vice. What principles of religion; when we see people of does a voluptuous man oppose against the exethis character pretend by their prudence to cution of this law.. Noise, company, diveravert public calamities; have we not a right to sions, refinements of lasciviousness. In these say of such men, that they resist God, and he intrenches himself, and defies us to force pretend to compel him with superior power? him thence. While the catechumen is studi
But what are such men? Idiots. With ously employing himself to clear away the difyour pernicious maxims you banish religion and ficulties, and to determine the important quespiety, and by so doing deprive yourselves of all tions, on which all his future hopes depend; the advantages which you might have derived while the believer is striving against the stream, from the inclinations of a people well disposed to and endeavouring to subdue his own pasbe religious and good. Should the people live sions; while the penitent feels and bows unby the rules of religion, they would pay taxes der the weighty remembrance of his sins; with fidelity, obey their governors with respect, while the martyr falls a victim to the rage of generously prefer the public good before private his persecutors; the voluptuary feels a joy, interest, and so establish such a correspondence which he thinks unalterable, and creates a between subject and sovereign as can alone kind of fool's paradise, in which he pretends render states prosperous and happy: but while to brave God, and to be happy in spite of him, they see that their masters wander out of this whose sovereign command condemns him to right road, they act towards you as you do to- misery, Absurd tranquillity! Senseless secuwards God, they employ their power to resist rity! I appeal to reason, I appeal to old age, your authority, and their knowledge and ad- I appeal to death, I appeal to judgment. dress to elude your laws.
What a system is that of the voluptuary, With these pernicious maxims you render when it is examined at the bar of reason! There social interest a chimera. You consider a pub- he is taught, that he owes his existence to a lic body as a being, permanent, and in a man- Supreme Being, and that he is under infinite ner eternal, which ought to employ itself about obligations to him; there he is made to feel what concerns it as a public body: but you that he had no assurance of living four days, never recollect that this public body is com- that within fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, he posed of only individuals, one of whom has will be taken out of this world, and that at the only a few years, and another only a few months end of this term there will be before him nothto live in this world, so that the real interesting but death, eternity, and hell. He knows of such as compose this body has no relation nothing against this, he agrees to all this, he to the duration of the body, a duration which inwardly feels demonstrations of all this: but individuals cannot expect, and which regards instead of trying to avoid the evil day, he tries them only to the end of their own days. You to forget it: and, as if the existence of beings labour to promote a general interest, in which depended on the attention we paid to them, he individuals have only a very small share, and imagines he has annihilated" these dreadful you act against the true interest of each, which objects, because he has found the art of obliconsists not in consolidating a world that he is terating them from his memory. just quitting, but in learning to pass through it What a system is that of the voluptuary, with dignity, and to leave it with ease.
when it is examined at the triburial of conWith these pernicious maxims you keep me- science! For, in fact, whatever efforts may be morable catastrophes out of sight, those terri- employed to drown the voice of conscience, ble subversions of wicked societies; as the his-it soinetimes roars, and will be heard. Even a tory of the old world, that of Sodom and Go- depraved conscience has a kind of periodical morrah, that of the kingdom of Judah, that power, cannot be always intoxicated with of the ten tribes, that of Babylon, that of the worldly pleasure. Belshazzar, on a certain fes
tival day, was sitting at table with his court. Hear one of the most admired of the ancient In order to insult the God of Israel, he ordered philosophers, but the least worthy of admirathe sacred vessels, which his father had brought tion. Hear what an idea he gives of his wise away from the temple of Jerusalem, to be man: “There are neither walls nor towers, brought into company, that he and his "prin- which battering rams cannot subvert; but ces, his wives and his concubines, might drink there are no machines that can shake the therein, and praise the gods of gold and of sil- soul of a wise man. Do not compare him to ver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” the walls of Babylon, which Alexander knew All on a sudden “his countenance changes, how to destroy; nor to those of Carthage and and his thoughts trouble him; so that the Numantia, which human power subverted. Do joints of his loins are loosed, and his knees not compare him either to the citadel or the smite one against another,” Dan. v. 2. 4. 6; capital, where the marks of enemies attemptthus proving the truth of what the Wise Man ing to render themselves masters of them are observes, that “the wicked flee when no man yet to be seen. Arrows shot at the sun never pursueth,” Prov. xxviii. 1. Unhappy king! reach him. Sacrileges committed in the temWhat is the occasion of all this terror and fear? ples of the Deity, by breaking in pieces the Dost thou see a sword hanging over thee by a symbols, and by subverting the edifices, never single thread, and ready to fall on thee, and cut affect him. What am I saying the gods themthee asunder? Have thine enemies, who are selves may be buried in the ruins of their own besieging the capital, found a way into it? Does temples; but the wise man never can; or, the earth reel under thy feet? Is hell opening could he be overwhelmed, he could suffer no to thine eyes? Do the infernal furies surround damage. Jupiter hath nothing more than the thee, and cause the serpents on their heads to wise man, except his immortality. But the hiss in thine ears. No: but a “hand is writing wise man, in his turn, hath this superiority, over against the candlestick upon the plaster that he is perfectly happy during the short of the wall,” ver. 5. And what have you to space of this life. In this he is as much greatfear from that band? You are not acquainted er than Jupiter, as it is more glorious to comwith the characters. Perhaps the writing is press all happiness into a narrow space than an encomium on thee. Perhaps it is an oracle, to diffuse it through one more considerable, foretelling thee some new acquisition of splen- and to possess as much felicity in one single dour and glory. Why, of two senses, of instant, as the greatest of the gods enjoys in which the writing is capable, dost thou ima- eternity.” gine the worst? My brethren, behold the so Who would believe, my brethren, that men, lution of this difficulty. These fingers of a who were formerly the admiration of the man's hand are not alone; the finger of God world, had been able to oppose such crude accompanies them. The subject is not only and fanciful ideas against all the evidences of written on the wall of the royal palace; but it their depravity and dependence? Who could is also inscribed on the heart of the king. His conceive, that they seriously set these against eyes could not read the characters, but his con- sickness, poverty, pain, conscience, death, the science knew how to explain them. Ah! mi- grave, the punishment of hell, and the majesty serable hypocrite! cease calling for astrologers; of God? leave off consulting magicians and Chaldeans. Are there any of this extraordinary sect yet Listen to your own heart. The expositor is subsisting? Hath Zeno any disciples now? within thee, and thy conscience will tell thee Are there any who yet follow and revere the more than all the wise men in thy kingdom. doctrine of the portico? Yes, my brethren,
What a system is that of a voluptuary con- there are yet people, who, under another sidered in the decline of life! A voluptuous name, maintain the same sentiments. I know man, when his organs are become feeble, and not whence the evil comes, whether from the his faculties worn out, finds he has outlived air we breathe in these provinces, or from our his felicity, yet he looks after the gods, of diet, or from any other cause. I cannot tell which time has despoiled him, and in vain ex- whether dulness of fancy produce in us what pects that voluptuousness can rid him of the excessive vivacity produces in other countries, painful reflections which torment and excru- but it should seem, we have as many of this ciate him.
sort among us as there are in other places. What a system is that of a voluptuary consi- We have people who affect an unshaken firmdered in regard to death and future punish- ness, who glory in preserving their tranquillity ment! These certainly, ought to alarm all under all extremes of fortune; people who béthat expect them: but they ought above all hold the king of terrors with intrepidity, and to terrify a voluptuous man. What will be who laugh at the horrors of death, alike imthe sensibility of such a man? What will be moveable in the hearing of the most alarming his despair, when he shall pass from a bed of truths, the most terrible descriptions of futurity, down to all-pervading pain, from pleasure to censures the most sharp, and threatenings the eternal fire, from excessive lasciviousness to most dreadful. And whence do they derive chains of darkness, from the company of those this calm intrepidity? From vows addressed to who ministered to bis voluptousness, to that heaven? No. Is it from the progress they have of the executioners of divine vengeance. made in religion? Not at all. Is it from the
IV. In fine, a stoical obstinacy is the fourth clearness of a close, connected, and evident obstacle, which some place against the pur- system? Nothing of all this. Whence then poses of God. Would you see this hardiness do they derive these sentiments? From I know represented in the most insolent languages not what secret pride, from I know not what Would you see how far men have been able absurd gravity, from I kuow not what infernal to carry their extravagance on this article: 1inflexibility, from a sort of stoical, or shall I
rather call it brutal philosophy, which they have it ” But is this the condition of the man revived. We ingenuously acknowledge that the whom I have been describing? sight of people of this character always excites On what conditions does religion promise emulation in us, at least it leads us to deplore eternal life to a statesman? On condition that the inefficacy of religion in some people's he always sets before his eyes that King," by minds. Truth with all its brightness, virtue whom kings reign, and princes decree juistice,” with its graces, religion with its evidences, Prov. viii. 15; on condition that he does not eternity with its demonstrations, celestial feli- regard the appearance of persons; on condicity with its pomp, all these things can hardly tion that he take no bribes, which God dehold some trembling Christians steady to their clares “blind the eyes.” You have not perprofession, who yet seem to adhere to Jesus formed this condition, you are intoxicated Christ: while these men without light, with- with your own grandeur, you are inaccessible out proofs, without demonstration, without to the cries of widows and orphans, you are certainty, yea without hope discover a tran- flexible to presents, though you know they quillity, which we should congratulate our are given you to be returned in actions disselves for producing, even after we have spent guised under the fair names of impartiality and twenty or thirty years in the ministry. equity. And are you in a state of tranquillity?
But how fair soever this exterior may seem, On what condition does the gospel promise how insurmountable soever this difficulty may eternal felicity to a counsellor?" On condiappear, how strong soever it may seem to pre- tion that he perform the oath administered to vent the judgments of God, and to dispose him when he entered on his profession, an oath of the terrors which they naturally excite in in which he called God to witness that he the conscience, it is an effort of wickedness would never plead any but just causes. You easily defeated; and although this fourth way have not performed this condition, you have seems to surpass the three others in wisdom, been known to take either side of a cause, yea yet it actually goes beyond them all in absur- both, when your interest required it; you have dity and extravagance.
been seen exercising your talents in varnishing Do we impose on people of this kind? Let over such causes as you durst not state in their them tell us on what their tranquillity is found true point of light, and straining every nerve ed. Allowing the circumstances in which we to mislead the judges. And you are in a now are, there can be only two ways of ac- state of tranquillity, and will be so the day quiring tranquillity in prospect of death. The you die. first is, to prove that religion is a human con On what condition does religion promise trivance; that all we propose concerning a fu- eternal happiness to a man in possession of ture state, a heaven and a hell, and concerning property unjustly acquired? On condition of the means of escaping the last and enjoying his making restitution. You are, the first, is either exaggerated or imaginary. I mean in the case of him who holds such proThe second is, to bring full proof that we have perty, for “the stone crieth out of the walls of performed the duties, to which religion has your houses, and the beam out of the timber annexed a promise of freedom from misery, witnesses against you. The hire of the laand the possession of eternal felicity. In which bourers which have reaped down your fields, class shall I place the man I have been de- which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, scribing
and the cries are entered into the ears of the He would complain of injustice should I put Lord of Hosts,” Hab. ii. 11; Jam. v. 4. You him in the first class. He always professed have not made restitution; you will not even himself a Christian. He has all his life long suffer us to utter this frightful word, Restitubeen present at public worship, and has par- tion; you are going to transmit this accursed taken of our sacraments. In any case, if he patrimony to your children, and you too are be an infidel, he is a mere idiot. Distracted tranquil and easy! What! are you also a phiwith the cares of life, he has never made such losopher? Are you also a stoic Extravagant inquiries as are absolutely necessary to refute stoicism, senseless philosophy, absurd tranquilthe system of religion, even supposing the lity! Is it thus you pretend to oppose Alsystem could be refuted; and I pledge myelf, mighty God! “ There is no wisdom, nor unlet him take which side he will, to silence him, derstanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” whether he undertake to attack religion, or to Let us conclude. The most reasonable part, defend it, so grossly ignorani is he of every that an intelligent creature can take, is to subthing that belongs to the subject.
mit to bis Creator. Happy, if it were as easy Has he then obtained satisfaction by the se- to affect our hearts, as it is to convince our cond method? A man, who has set his heart judgments of this article! Happy, if the heart entirely at ease, because he can give full proof never appealed from the dictates of reason, that he has performed the duties to which the and if the passions had no distinct and separate gospel has annexed a promise of exemption system! A system the more dangerous, befrorn future misery, and a possession of endless cause reason is present only in a few moments felicity; such a man is truly happy; he has ar- of our attention; whereas the other, on the rived at the highest degree of felicity that can contrary, always carries us away when we folpossibly be obtained in this valley of tears; for low the suggestions of our passions, that is in his tranquillity is that “joy unspeakable and the usual course of our lives. full of glory," of which our scripture speaks. My brethren, let us act like intelligent creaIt is that "peace of God, which passeth all un- tures, let us form a just idea of sin, let us alderstanding.” It is the " white stone, which ways have before our eyes this image, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth I 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
SERMON LX. idiot, who attempts to resist God, who opposes his laws, and who undertakes to counteract
IMAGINARY SCHEMES OF HAPPI. him by superior skill or force. Let us seek in a reconciliation to God those succours of which
NESS. our silly pride offers us only an appearance. But you love grandeur, you are struck with the
Ecclesiastes i. 9. courage of a man, who opposes God, and who The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; pretends to resist and triumph over him. Well, and that which is done, is that which shall be consider the path we open to you in this point done; and there is no new thing under the sun. 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 be 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 of this vanity I would endeavour to-day to with a brutal security, but let us lay before him convince you, my brethren, and I dedicate this our timidity, our doubts, and our fears. Let discourse to the destruction of imaginary us conjure him, by the sad objects of our frailty schemes of happiness. “The thing that hath and insignificance to pity our condition. These been, is that which shall be: and that which is are invincible arms, these are impenetrable done, is that which shall be done: and there is shields, this is the infallible art of prevailing no new thing under the sun.” It is not unjust with Almighty God. May he deign to teach to reason thus; as I have hitherto found nothing us how to exercise it! May he condescend to but vanity in all the enjoyınents of the world, crown our efforts with success! Amen! To which I singled out for myself as most likely to him be honour and glory both now and for ever! make me happy, this experience of what has Amen.
been shall guide me in my expectations of what