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reproaches of their own consciences for the headlong impetuosity of their passions in this world.
My brethren, the best direction we can follow for the establishment of our ways, is frequently to set the judgment which we shall one day form of them, against that which we now form. Let us often think of our deathbed. Let us often realize that terrible moment, which will close time, and open eternity. Let us often put this question to ourselves, What judgment shall I form of that kind of life which I now lead, when a burning fever consumes my blood, when unsuccessful remedies, when useless cares, when a pale physician, when a weeping family, when all around, shall announce to me the approach of death? what should I then think of those continual dissipations which consume the most of my time; what of those puerile amusements, which take up all my attention; what of these anxious fears, which fill all the capacity of my soul; what of these criminal pleasures, which infatuate me? what judgment shall I make of all these things, in that terrible day, when the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, when the foundations of the earth shall shake, when the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, when the elements shall melt with fervent heat, when the great white throne shall appear, when the judge shall sit, and the books be opened, in which all my actions, words, and thoughts are registered?
If we follow these maxims, we shall see all objects with new eyes; we shall tremble at some ways which we now approve; we shall discover gulfs in the road, in which we walk at present without suspicion of danger.
I said at the beginning, my brethren, and I repeat it again, in finishing this exercise, the text we have been explaining includes a voluminous subject, more proper to make the matter of a large treatise than of a single sermon. The reflections, which we have been making, are only a slight sketch of the maxims with which the Wise Man intended to inspire us. All we have said will be entirely useless, unless you enlarge by frequent meditation the narrow bounds in which we have been obliged to include the subject.
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy ways shall be established." Who weighs, who calculates, who connects and separates, before he believes and judges, before he esteems and acts? The least probability persuades us; the least object, that sparkles in our eyes, dazzles us; the least appearance of pleasure excites, fascinates, and fixes us. We determine questions on which our eternal destiny depends, with a levity and precipitancy, which we should be ashamed of in cases of the least importance in temporal affairs. Accordingly, the manner in which we act, perfectly agrees with the inattention with which we determine the reason of acting. We generally spend life in a way very unbecoming intelligent beings, to whom God has given a power of reflecting: and more like creatures destitute of intelligence, and wholly incapable of reflection.
In order to obey the precept of the Wise Man, we should collect our thoughts every morning, and never begin a day without a VOL. II.-2
cool examination of the whole business of it. We should recollect ourselves every night, and never finish a day, without examining deliberately how we have employed it. Before we go out of our houses, each should ask himself, Whither am I going? In what company shall I be? What temptations will assault me? What opportunities of doing good offer to me? When we return to our houses, each should ask himself; Where have I been? What has my conversation in company been? Did I avail myself of every opportunity of doing good?
My brethren, how invincible soever our depravity may appear, how deeply rooted soever it may be, how powerful soever tyrannical habits may be over us, we should make rapid advances in the road of virtue, were we often to enter into ourselves; on the contrary, while we act, and determine, and give ourselves up without reflection and examination, it is impossible our conduct should answer our calling.
My brethren, shall I tell you all my heart? This meditation troubles me, it terrifies me, it confounds me. I have been forming the most ardent desires for the success of this discourse; and yet I can hardly entertain a hope that you will relish it. I have been exhorting you with all the power and ardour of which I am capable; and, if you will forgive me for saying so, with the zeal which I ought to have for your salvation; I have been exhorting you not to be discouraged at the number and the difficulties of the duties which the Wise Man prescribes to you; but, I am afraid, I know you too well to promise myself that you will acquit your selves with that holy resolution and courage which the nature of the duties necessarily de
May God work in you, and in me, more than I can ask or think! God grant us intelligent minds, that we may act like intelligent souls! May that God, who has set before us life and death, heaven and hell, boundless felicity and endless misery, may he so direct our steps, that we may arrive at that happiness which is the object of our wishes, and which ought to be the object of our care! God grant us this grace! To Him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE NECESSITY OF PROGRESSIVE RELIGION.
1 CORINTHIANS, ix. 26, 27.
therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.
THAT was a fine eulogium, which was made on one of the most famous generals of antiquity. It was said of him, that he thought there was "nothing done, while there remained any thing to do." To embrace such a system of war and politics, was to open a wide field of painful labour: but Cesar aspired to be a hero, and
there was no way of obtaining his end, except | Roman people-bread and public shows. It
St. Paul lives no more. This valiant champion has already conquered. But you, you Christians, are yet alive; like him, the race is open before you, and to you now, as well as to him formerly, a voice from heaven cries, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne," Rev. iii. 21. Happy, if animated by his example, you share with him a prize, which loses nothing of its excellence, by the number of those who partake of it! Happy, if you be able one day to say with him, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing," 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
Let us first make a general remark on the expressions of the text; they are a manifest allusion to the games which were celebrated among the heathens. Fable, or history, tells us, that Pelops invented them, that Hercules and Atreus brought them to perfection, that Iphitus restored them; all which signify very little to us. What is certain is, that these games were celebrated with great pomp. They were so solemn among the Greeks, that they made use of them to mark memorable events and public eras, that of consuls at Rome, of archons at Athens, of priestesses as Argos. They passed from Greece to Italy, and were so much in vague at Rome, that an ancient author said, two things were necessary to the
1. In these games the most remarkable objects was the course. The ground, on which the games were celebrated, was marked out with great exactness. In some places lines were drawn, and the place of combat railed, and when he who ran went beyond the line, he ran to no purpose. It was dangerous to ramble, especially in some places, as in Greece, where the space was bounded on one side by the river Alpheus, and on the other by a sort of chevaux de frise, as at Rome; where before the construction of the circus, which was afterward built on purpose for spectacles of this sort, an area was chosen, on one side of which was a chevaux de frise, and on the other the Tiber, so that the combatant could not pass the bounds prescribed to him without exposing himself to the danger either of being wounded by the spikes, or drowned in the waves. This is the first emblem, which our apostle uses here; "I run," alluding to the course in general; "I do not run uncertainly," in allusion to such combatants as, by passing the boundaries, lost the fruit of their labour.
2. Among other games were those of wrestling and boxing. Address in these combats consisted in not aiming any blow which did not strike the adversary. He who had not this address, was said to "beat the air;" and hence came the proverb "to beat the air," to signify labouring in vain.* This is the second allusion of St. Paul, "I fight, not as one that beateth the air."
3. The combatants observed a particular regimen, to render themselves more active and vigorous. The time, the quantity, and the nature of their aliments were prescribed, and they punctually complied with the rules. They laid aside every thing likely to enervate them. "Would you obtain a prize in the Olympic games?" said a pagan philosopher, "a noble design! But consider the preparations and consequences. You must live by rule, you must eat when you are not hungry, you must abstain from agreeable foods, you must habituate yourself to suffer heat and cold; in one word, you must give yourself up entirely to a physician." By these means the combatants acquired such health and strength, that they could bend with the greatest ease such bows as horses could hardly bend; hence the "health of a champion" was a common proverb to express a strong hale state. As this regimen was exact, it was painful and trying. It was necessary not only to surmount irregular desires, but all those exercises must be positively practised which were essential to victorious combatants: it was not sufficient to observe them a little while, they must be wrought by long preparation into habits, without which the agility and vigour acquired by repeated labours would be lost; witness that famous champion, who, after he had often and gloriously succeeded,
Eustat. in Homer. Iliad.
was shamefully conquered, because he had neglected the regimen for six months, during which time a domestic affair had obliged him to reside at Athens.* This is the third allusion which our apostle makes in the text, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection."
Let us observe, by the way, that these expressions of our apostle have been abused to absurd though devotional purposes; and, to omit others, it was an abuse of these expressions which produced the extravagant sect of the Flagellants. All Italy in the thirteenth century was seized with a panic, which ended in the birth of this sect. The next century, the Germans being afflicted with a plague, it filled all Germany, and the folly of Henry III. king of France, joined to that mean complaisance which induces courtiers to go into all the caprices of their masters, introduced it into that kingdom, and into that kingdom it went with so much fury, that Charles, cardinal of Lorraine, actually killed himself by adhering too closely to its maxims during a rigorous winter.t
4. Further, there were persons who presided over the pagan games. They were called heralds. The name given them in the Greek language is precisely the same which in our language is rendered preacher. Their office was expressed by a word which signifies to preach. It consisted in proclaiming the game, directing the combatants, encouraging the weak, animating the valiant, exposing the prize to public view, and giving it to the victor. This is the fourth allusion of our apostle, "lest when I have preached to others." The original word which we have translated preached, is the very word which is used to describe the office of such as presided at the games; and St. Paul, by using this term, gives us a beautiful idea of the apostleship, and, in general of the gospel ministry. What is the office of a minister of the gospel? We publish the race, we describe the "good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them;" we animate you by often saying, "run with patience the race that is set before you:" we lift up to public view the prize, and in the name of God we cry, "so run that you may obtain." Happy if you all attend to this voice, and if, while a few are eagerly and constantly running the race set before them, others do not run more eagerly across the space, like those unhappy people just now mentioned, who were wounded with iron spikes, or drowned in the waves.
We might show, that they owe their origin to Paganism. Plutarch says, that in the city of Lacedæmon, they were sometimes pursued even to death in honour of Diana.§ Herodotus speaks to the same purpose concerning the festival of the great goddess in Egypt. In like manner Philostratus speaks of the devotions performed in honour of the Scythian Diana. Thus also Apuleius concerning the priests of the goddess of Syria;** and thus authors more credible, I mean the writers of the Book of Kings, concerning the priests of Baal.
5. In fine, The last remark we make on pagan games regards the different destiny of the combatants. The conquered derived no advantages from their pains; but the victors were co
We might show the weakness of the arguments on which such practices are founded; as fabulous miracles, and, among many others, a letter brought by an angel from heaven to Je-vered with honours and advantages; they were rusalem, which declared, that the blessed vir- distinguished in all public assemblies; they gin having implored pardon for the guilty, God were called by the high sounding name of had replied, that their pardon should be granted Olympian; they were crowned with great ceon condition they whipped themselves in this remony; statues were erected to their honour, manner.tt and breaches were made in the walls of cities to admit them with the greater pomp. This is the fifth allusion which the apostle here makes to the games, "lest I should be a cast-away." A cast-away; the heathens applied this word to such combatants as entered the lists but did not obtain the prize.
What a wide field opens here to our meditation, were it necessary to show the absurdity of such devotions!
We might produce the weighty reasons which many of the Roman communion, and among others Gerson and De Thou, urged against such practices, and the testimonies of our Scriptures, which expressly forbid them; but we will content ourselves with observing, that the words of our text have nothing that can serve even for a plausible pretence for these zuperstitions. We said St. Paul alluded to the regimen observed by combatants; combatants observed that kind of life, which was most proper to fit them for their profession; in like manner, St. Paul observed what fitted him for his. Were it possible to prove that mortifications and macerations were necessary to this purpose, we
* Baudelot de Dairval. Hist. de Ptolomee Auletes, p. 61. Hospinian. Hist. Monach. Boileau. Hist. des
should not then have a right to determine that the apostle had his eye on such services here. For our parts, we think, he intended all acts of repentance prescribed in Scripture, and exemplified by the saints; as silence, retirement, fasting, abstinence from criminal pleasures, and so on.
Such were the games celebrated through all Greece, and in particular at the city of Philippi, where St. Paul wrote this epistle, and in that of Corinth to which it is addressed. The believer is a stranger on earth, he sees there a thousand delights of which he does not partake. The eyes of Paul at Philippi, more properly his ears (for St. Paul hardly attended public amusements,) were struck with the fame and magnificence of these games. The Corinthians were in the same condition. How hard is it to Flagel-pleasures of the inhabitants! St. Paul strengthlive in a country and to be excluded from the
ens the Corinthians and himself against these temptations; he rises from sensual to spiritual pleasures, and says, he has also an area, a race, a crown, a triumph. "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beat
eth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away."
maintained error. Why? Because he thought it was truth, and respected it accordingly. He persecuted, because he loved; he was mad, because he was zealous; zeal, as I said just now, misguided, but zeal, however; a criminal indiscretion indeed, but an indiscretion, which in a moral abstraction, may be considered as a virtue.
Let us now justify this disposition of our apostle, and let us prove this general truth, that there is no point fixed, at which a Christian may stop; that each portion of life has its task; that to what degree soever we have carried our sanctification, unless we carry it further, go on and persevere, we should act contrary to the spirit and temper of the gospel. This is the principal design of this discourse.
1. Let us first examine the example of St. Paul. St. Paul did not think that if he lived hereafter in indolence without endeavouring to make new advances, he had any right to expect the benefits of the gospel: no Christian, therefore, living in indolence, and making no new advances, ought to flatter himself that he is entitled to the blessings of the gospel. In order to perceive this consequence, form a just notion of the virtue of our apostle, and consider Paul as a zealot, Paul as a proselyte, Paul as an apostle, and Paul as a martyr, and you will allow he was a great character, a Christian of the highest order; and that if, with all his eminent virtues, he thought himself obliged to acquire yet more eminent virtue, every Christian ought to form the same idea of his own duty.
We have explained the terms and allusions of the apostle. His meaning is sufficiently clear. "I keep under my body," and so on, does not mean, as some interpreters have it, I halt between hope of salvation, and fear of de- Consider Paul as a proselyte. A man edustruction; an interpretation directly opposite to cated in opinions opposite to Christianity, inthat assurance which St. Paul expresses in ma- fatuated with popular errors, prejudiced with ny parts of his epistles, and particularly in this ideas of a temporal Messiah, accustomed to famous passage which we have elsewhere ex- consider Jesus Christ as an impostor, and his plained, "I am persuaded that neither death, religion as a plot concerted by knaves, this nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor pow-man changes his ideas, and his whole system ers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor of religion, and worships the crucified Jesus, height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall who was "to the Jew a stumbling block, and be able to separate us from the love of God," to the Greek foolishness," 1 Cor. i. 23. The Rom. viii. 38, 39. But "I keep under my first lesson from heaven persuades him, the first body;" and the rest means, whatever progress knock at the door of his heart opens it, his I have made in a career of virtue, all my past conversion is affected in a moment. "I went efforts would be useless, should I spend the rest not up to Jerusalem," said he; "I conferred of my life in idleness and indifference, and I not with flesh and blood," Gal. i. 16, 17. could not expect, even by the assistance of What a fund of virtue instantly had this man grace, to arrive at glory. in his heart! Of all characters in life there are few so respectable as that of a real proselyte. A man who changes his religion on pure principles, has a greatness of soul above common men. I venture to advance this general maxim, that a man who changes his religion, must be consummate either in virtue or vice. If he be insincere, he is a wretch; if he be not a wretch, he is a hero. He is a hero if his virtue be sincere, if he makes generous efforts to correct errors imbibed in his earliest youth, if he can see without trembling that path of tribulation which is generally opened to such as forsake their religion, and if he can bear all the suppositions which are generally made against them who renounce the profession of their ancestors; if, I say, he can do all this, he is a hero. On the contrary, none but a wretch can embark in such an undertaking, if he be destitute of the dispositions necessary to success. When such a man forsakes his former profession of religion, there is reason to suppose that human motives have done what love of truth could not do; and that he embraces his new religion, not because it appears to him more worthy of his attention and respect, but because it is more suitable to his interest. Now to embrace a religion for worldly interest is almost the highest pitch of wickedness. Our maxim admits of very few exceptions, and most proselytes are either men of eminent virtue or abandoned wretches; and as we are happy to acknowledge there are several of the first kind in this age, so with sorrow we are obliged to allow, that there are a great number of the latter. Let St. Paul be judged by the utmost rigour of this maxim. He was a hero in Christianity. The principle that engaged him to embrace the gospel, diffused itself through all his life, and every one of his actions verified the sincerity of his conversion.
Consider Paul as a zealot. Perhaps you may be surprised at our passing an encomium on this part of his life. Certainly we shall not undertake to make an apology for that cruel and barbarous zeal which made use of fire and blood, and which put racks for arguments, and gibbets for demonstrations. But the purest life has its blots, and the most generous heart its frailties. In that fatal necessity of imperfection which is imposed on all mankind, there are some defiled streams, so to speak, which flow from pure springs; some people, and the apostle was one, who sin from an excess of virtue. What idea then must we form of this man, and what shall we say of his virtues, since his vices were effects of such an excellent cause? This odious part of his life, which he wished to bury in oblivion, that barbarity and madness, that industry to inflame the synagogue, and to stir up all the world, all this, strictly speaking, and properly explained, was worthy of praise. He
St. Paul was born for great things; he it was whom God chose for an apostle to the Gentiles. He did not stop in the porch of the Lord's house, he quickly passed into the holy place; he was only a very short time a catechumen in the school of Christ; he soon became a master, a minister, an apostle; and in all these
eminent offices he carried virtue to a higher pitch than it had ever been carried before him, and perhaps beyond what it will ever be practised after him. In effect, what qualities ought a minister of the gospel to possess which St. Paul did not possess in the highest degree? it assiduity?" Ye remember, brethren," said he, our labour and travel, for labouring night and day we preached unto you the gospel of God," 1 Thess. ii. 9. Is it gentleness? "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children. You know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God," chap. ii. 7. 11, 12. Is it prudence? "Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are without law as without law, that I might gain them that are without law. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some," 2 Cor. ix. 20. 22. Is it charity? "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren," Rom. ix. 3. "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you," 2 Cor. xii. 15. Is it courage? He resisted St. Peter, and "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed," Gal. ii. 11. "He reasoned of righteousness, temper-peril, ance, and judgment to come, before Felix and Drusilla," Acts xxiv. 25. Is it disinterestedness in regard to the world? "We sought not glory of men, neither of you, nor yet of others. We speak the gospel not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts," 1 Thess. ii. 6. 4. Is it zeal? "His spirit was stirred in him at Athens, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry," Acts xvii. 16. Then, like the prophet of old, he became " very jealous for the Lord of hosts," 1 Kings xix. 10. Is it to support the honour of his ministry? "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ," 1 Cor. iv. 1. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us," 2 Cor. v. 20. "It were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void," 1 Cor. ix. 15. Jesus Christ was the model, by which St. Paul formed himself; "be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ," chap. xi. 1. When students turn their attention to the Christian ministry, models of such as have distinguished themselves in this office are proposed to their imitation. The imagination of one, the judgment of another, the gravity of a third, and the learning of a fourth are set before them, and from good originals very often we receive bad copies. St. Paul chose his pattern. His master, his model, his original, his all, was Jesus Christ; and he copied every stroke of his original, "be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
ministry before him at first, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name sake," Acts ix. 16. Show him how great things he must suffer for my name sake! What a motive to engage a man to undertake an office! Now-a-days, in order to give a great idea of a church, it is said, it has such and such advantages, so much in cash, so much in small tithes, and so much in great tithes. St. Paul saw the ministry only as a path full of thorns and briars, and he experienced, through all the course of his life, the truth of that idea which was given him of his office. Hear the catalogue of his sufferings. "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness," 2 Cor. xi. 24-27. Good God! What a salary for a minister; hunger, thirst, fastings, nakedness, persecution, death! In our case, we can die but once, and virtue considers the proximity of the crown of righteousness, which being suspended immediately over the head of the martyr, supports him under the pains of martyrdom; but the ministry of St. Paul was a perpetual martyrdom; his life was a continual death. "I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death. For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men," 1 Cor. iv. 9.
Here we finish the eulogium of our apostle, and, by uniting the parts of this slight sketch, we obtain a just portrait of the man. Do you know a greater than St. Paul? Can you conceive virtue in a more eminent degree? Behold a man fired with zeal, making what he thought the cause of God his own cause, God's enemies his enemies, the interest of God the interest of himself. Behold a man, who turns his attention to truth, and, the moment he discovers it, embraces, and openly avows it. Behold a man who, not content to be an ordinary Christian, and to save himself alone, aspiring at the glory of carrying through the whole world for public advantage, that light which had illuminated himself." Behold a man preaching, writing; what am I saying? Behold a man suffering, dying, and sealing with his own blood the truths he taught. An ardent zealot, a sincere convert, an accomplished minister, a bleeding martyr, learned in his errors, and, if I may be allowed to speak so, regular in his mistakes, and virtuous even in his crimes. Show me in the modern or primitive church a greater character than St. Paul. Let any man produce a Christian who had more reason to be satisfied with himself, and who had more right to pretend that he had discharged all his duties. Yet this very man, this Paul, "forgat those things which were behind!" This very Paul was pressing forward!" This is the man who feared he should "be a cast-away!" And you, "smoking flax," you "bruised reed," you, who have hardly taken root in the Christian
But, though it is always commendable to discharge this holy office well, yet it is particularly so in some circumstances; and our apostle was in such, for he officiated when the whole world was enraged against Christians. Consider him then on the stage of martyrdom. What would now be our glory was then his disgrace; assiduity, gentleness, zeal, and all the other virtues just now mentioned, drew" upon him the most envenomed jealousy, accusations the most atrocious, and persecutions the most cruel. It was in this light, God set the