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EOS OF PREACHERS.
to the motives that produce it. Sometimes it | curiosity, and to contrast it with that which is is ignorance, which makes people sincerely employed only to give that clear knowledge, crawl in the thickest darkness, amidst the finest and full demonstration of the great truths of In the second class, it would be necessary to opportunities of obtaining light. Sometimes it religion of which they are capable. is obstinacy, which impels people to maintain, for ever to maintain, what they have once af- contrast discourses of simple speculation tendfirmed. Sometimes it is pride, that will not ing only to exercise the mind with such pracacknowledge a mistake. Sometimes it is in- tical discourses as tend to sanctify the heart, terest, which fixes them in a communion that to regulate the life, to render the child obediopens a path to riches and grandeurs, benefices ent to his parent, and the parent kind and equiand mitres, an archiepiscopal throne and a tri- table to his child, the subject submissive to the ple crown. Always, it is negligence of the laws of his rulers, and the ruler attentive to great salvation, which deserves all our pains, the happiness of the subjects, the rich charitavigilance the most exact, and sacrifices the ble, and the poor humble and patient. most difficult.
My brethren, let us acknowledge the favour
It is not the limit prescribed to this sermon,
I appeal here to those, who have some ideas of remnants of divisions yet amongst us. How can I, without rekindling a fire hid under embers, and which we have done all in our power entirely to extinguish, show the vanity of different classes of divers doctrines of wood, hay, and stubble?
In a first class, it would be necessary to expose a ministry spent in questions of mere VOL. II.-13
In the third class, I should be obliged to consider some productions of disordered minds, fancies attributed to the Spirit of God, charging religion with the tinsel of the marvellous, more proper to divert children than to satisfy inquisitive minds, and to contrast these with the productions of men who never set a step without the light of the gospel in their hands and infallible truth for their guide.
In a fourth class, we ought to contrast those miserable sophisms which pretend to support truth with the arms of error, and include without scruple whatever favours, and whatever seems to favour the cause to be maintained, with clear ideas, close reasonings, and natural conclusions, such as a preacher brings, who knows how to weigh in a just balance truth and falsehood, probability and proof, conjecture and demonstration.
In the fifth class, I should have to lay open the superficial ideas, sometimes low and vulgar, of a man without either elevation or penecourses of such happy geniuses as soar up to tration, and to contrast them with the disGod, even to the inaccessible God.
All these dissimilitudes it would be my duty to show: but I will not proceed, and I make a sacrifice to charity of all the details which the subject would bear. I will not even describe the miseries which are denounced against such as build hay and stubble on the foundation of the gospel, nor the unhappiness of those, who shall be found at last to have preferred such doctrines before the "gold, silver, and precious stones," of which the apostle speaks. Let them weigh this expression of the holy man, the first think of the account they must give "he shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Let of their ministry, and the second of the use they have made of their time, and of their superstitious docility.
I would rather offer you objects more attracting, and urge motives more tender. We told you at the beginning of this discourse that your duties, Christian people, have a close connexion with ours, and we may add, our destiWhat will be the destiny of such as shall nation is closely connected with yours. have built on the foundations of Christianity "gold, silver, and precious stones?" What will be the destiny of those, who shall have exercised such a ministry? What will be the destiny of such as have incorporated themselves with it? Ah! my brethren, I place my hapswer this question. I congratulate myself for piness and glory in not being able fully to annot being able to find images lively enough to represent the pomp, with which I hope, my
most beloved auditors, you will one day be
The first is "Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith," Heb. xii. 2. I see this divine leader presenting himself before his father with his wounds, his cross, and his blood, and saying, "Father, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," John xvii. 4, 5. Having glorified the head, glorify the members, save my people. Then will the eternal Father crown such just and holy petitions with success. Then will be accomplished in regard to Jesus Christ this magnificent promise, "Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession," Ps. ii. 8. Such as oppose thine empire govern "with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel:" but enter thou unto thy kingdom with thy subjects, thy saints, thy well beloved, and share with them thy glorious inheritance.
The second leaders are prophets, evangelists, and apostles, appearing before God with the conquests they made, the nations they converted, the persecutions they endured for the love of God and his gospel. Then will the promises made to these holy men be accomplished, "they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel," Daniel xii. 4; Matt. xix. 28.
The third will be such ministers as have been "followers of the apostles even as they also were of Christ." I think I see these ministers humbled for their faults, convinced of their frailty, imploring the divine mercy for the blemishes of their ministry: but yet with that humble confidence which the compassion of God allows, and saying, behold us, the doctrine we have preached, the minds we have informed, the wanderers we have reclaimed, and with the hearts which we have had the honour of animating with thy love. What, in that great day, what will be your destiny, Christian people? Will yours be the hearts which we shall have animated with divine love, or those from which we never could banish the love of the world? Shall you be among the backsliders whom we shall have reclaimed, or among such as shall have persisted in sin? Shall yours be the minds we have enlightened,
or among those who shall have lain in darkness and ignorance?
Ah! My brethren, the first of our wishes, the most affectionate of our prayers, our secret meditations, our public discourses, whatever we undertake, whatever we are, we consecrate to prepare you for that great day. "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? Ye are our glory and our joy," 1 Thess. ii. 19, 20. To God be honour and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD.
ROMANS xi. 3.
O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
ONE of the principal causes of the depravity of mankind is, that they form mean ideas of God. The idea of the God we adore, and the notion of the morality we ought to practise, are two things closely connected together. If we consider God as a being elevated, great and sublime, our morality will be great, sublime, and elevated too. If, on the contrary, we consider God as a being whose designs are narrow, whose power is limited, and whose plans are partial, we shall practise a morality adapted to such an imaginary God.
My brethren, there are two very different ways of forming this sublime idea, which has such an influence over religion and morality.
The magnificence of God may be understood by what is known of God, by the things that are made, by the brilliancy of the sun, by the extent of the firmament, and by all the various creatures which we behold; and judging of the workman by the work, we shall exclaim in sight of so many wonderful works, “O Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Thou hast set thy glory above the heavens. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou visitest him?" Rom. i. 19, 20; Ps. lviii. 1, &c.
But there is another way to know the magnificence of God, a way less accessible indeed, but more noble, and even more plain to the man, the eyes of whose understanding are enlightened, Eph. i. 18, that is, to judge of God, not by the things that are seen, but by the things that are not seen, not by what we know, but by what we do not know. In this sublime way the soul loses itself in a depth of divine magnificence, like the seraphims, covers its face before the majesty of God, and exclaims with the prophet, verily thou art a God that hidest thyself," Isa. xlv. 15. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us, and to our children for ever," Deut. xxix. 29. It is on this obscure side, that we propose to show you the Deity to-day.
Darkness will serve us for light, and the im
THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD.
In order to enter into the mind of the apostle,
This is what we will endeavour to prove.
four different views, to open to you four great
1. The first mirror in which we contemplate
O how long, how infinitely extended is this
But though it be absurd to argue against the existence of God from the eminence of his perfections, yet it is the wisdom of man to derive from this subject inferences humbling to his proud and infatuated reason. We detest the design of the writer just now mentioned, but we approve of a part of the definition which our atheist gives of God. Far from pretending that such a definition degrades the object of our worship from his supreme rank in the scale of beings, it inclines us to pay him the most profound homage of which creatures are capable, and to lay down our feeble reason before his infinite excellence.
without being moved himself, his will consti- | will." All creatures in the universe owe their tutes his power, and his power is confounded existence to a single act of his will, and a thouwith his will, without all, within all, beyond sand new worlds wait only for such an act to all, before all, and after all."* spring from nothing and to shine with glory. "God is above all," all being subject to his power. "Within all," all being an emanation of his will. "Before all, after all." Stretch thine imagination, frail but haughty creature, try the utmost efforts of thy genius, elevate thy meditations, collect thy thoughts, see whether thou canst attain to comprehend an existence without beginning, a duration without succession, a presence without circumference, an immobility without place, and agility without motion, and many other attributes which the mind can conceive, but which language is too imperfect to express. See, weigh, calculate, "It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? Deeper than hell, what canst thou know? Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the AImighty unto perfection?" Job ix. 7, 8. Let us then exclaim on the border of this abyss, "O the depth!"
Yes, "God is a being who exists through infinite ages; and yet is not capable of past or to The vast number of ages which the rapidity of time has carried away, are as present to him as this very indivisible moment, and the most distant futurity does not conceal any remote event from his eyes. He unites in II. The second way that leads us to the one single instant, the past, the present, and Creator, and at the same time the second abyss all periods to come. He is by excellence, "I in which our reason is lost, is the works of naam that I am." 99 He loses nothing by ages ture. The study of nature is easy, and all the spent, he acquires nothing by succession. Yes, works of nature have a bright and luminous "God fills all without being in any place. side. In the style of a prophet, "the heavens Ascend up into heaven, he is there. Make have a voice, which declare the glory of God:" your bed in hell, behold he is there. Take the and, as an apostle expresses it," creation is a wings of the morning, and dwell in the utter- visible image of the invisible things of God:" most part of the sea, even there shall his hand yet there is also a dark obscure side. What a lead you. Say, surely the darkness shall cover prodigious variety of creatures are there beme, even the night shall be light about you," yond the sphere of our senses! How many Ps. cxxxix. 8, &c. Yet he has no place, and thousands, how many ten thousand times ten the quality by which our bodies are enclosed in thousand spirits called angels, archangels, chethese walls, and adjusted with the particles of rubim, seraphim, thrones, dominions, princiair that surround us, cannot agree with his spi- palities, and powers," of all which we know rituality. "God pervades all without mo- not either the properties, the operations, the tion." The quickness of lightning, which in number, or the employment! What a prodian instant passes from east to west, cannot gious multitude of stars and suns, and revolvequal the rapidity with which his intelli- ing worlds, in comparison of which our earth gence ascends to the highest heavens, descends is nothing but a point, and of all which we to the deepest abysses, and visits in a moment know neither the variety, the glory, nor the apall parts of the universe. Yet he is immovea-pointment! How many things are there on ble, and does not quit one place to be present in another, but abides with his disciples on earth, while he is in heaven, in the centre of felicity and glory. "His will constitutes his power, and his power does not differ from his * The book from which our author quoted the above passage, is entitled Ampitheatrum aeternae providentiae-adversus atheos, &c. Lyons. 1615. 8vo.
thor Vanini was a Neapolitan, born in 1585. He was educated at Rome, and ordained a priest at Padua. He travelled into many countries, and was persecuted in most, In 1614 he was imprisoned in England for fortyuine days. After his enlargement he became a monk in morality. He found, however, powerful patrons. Mareschal Bassompiere made him his chaplain, and his famous Ampitheatre was approved by four persons, a doctor of divinity, the vicar general of Lyons, the king's proctor, and the lieutenant general of Lyons, in which they affiron "that having read the book, there was nothing in it contrary to the Roman Catholic faith," one example of the ignorance or carelessness, with which licensers of the press discharge their office, and consequently one argument among thousands for the freedom of the press. This unfortunate man was condemned at Thoulouse to be burnt
Guienne. From the convent he was banished for his im
to death, which sentence was executed Feb. 19, 1619. The execution of this cruel sentence, cast into logical form, runs thus; Vanini denied the being of a God-the parliament of Thoulouse burnt Vanini-therefore there
is a God.
earth, plants, minerals, and animals, into the nature and use of which the industry of man could never penetrate! Why so much treasure hid in the depths of the sea? Why such vast countries, such impenetrable forests, and such uninhabited climes as have never been surveyed, and the whole of which perhaps will never be discovered? What is the use of some insects, and some monsters, which seem to be a burden to nature, and made only to disfigure it? Why does the Creator deprive man of many rich productions that would be of the greatest advantage to him, while he abandons them to beasts of the field or fishes of the sea, which derive no benefit from them? Whence the power of the loadstone, and the ebbing and came rivers, fountains, winds, and tempests, flowing of the tides? Philosopher! reply, or rather avow your ignorance, and acknowledge how deep the ways of your Creator are.
But it is but little to humble man to detect his ignorance on these subjects. It is not astonishing that he should err in paths so sublime, and it is more glorious to him to have attempted these impracticable roads, than shame
ful to have done so without success. There when we occupy the chair of a professor, when are other objects more proper to humble hu- we make it a law to answer every question, it man reason. Objects in appearance less sub-is easy to talk, and, as the Wise Man expresses ject to difficulty absorb the mind of man, when- it, to "find a great deal to say.' "There is an ever he attempts thoroughly to investigate art, which is called maintaining a thesis, and them. Let him consider himself, and he will this art is very properly named, for it does not lose himself in meditating on his own essence. consist in weighing and solving difficulties, or What is man? What is that soul which thinks in acknowledging our ignorance; but in perand reflects What constitutes the union of a sisting to affirm our own position, and obstispirit with a portion of matter? What is that nately to defend it. But when we retire to matter to which a spirit is united? So many our studies, coolly meditate, and endeavour to questions, so many abysses, so many unfathom- satisfy ourselves, if we have any accuracy of able depths in the ways of the Creator. thought, we reason in another manner. ry sincere and ingenuous man must acknowledge that solidity, weight, light, and extent, are subjects, on which many very curious, and very finely imagined things have been said, but which to this day leave the mind almost in as much uncertainty as before. Thus the sublime genius, this author of so many volumes, this consummate philosopher cannot explain what a grain of dust is, so that one atom, one single atom, is a rock fatal to all his philosophy, against it all his science is dashed, shipwrecked, and lost.
What is the soul of man? In what does its essence consist? Is it the power of displaying his faculties? But then this consequence would follow, that a soul may have the essence of a soul, without having ever thought, reasoned, or reflected, provided it has the power of doing so. Is it the act of thinking? But then it would follow, that a spirit, when it ceases to think, ceases to be a spirit, which seems contrary to experience. What then is a soul? Is it a collection of successive thoughts? But how can such and such thoughts, not one of which apart is essential to a soul, constitute Let us conclude that nature, this mirror dethe essence of it when they are joined together? scriptive of God, is dark and obscure. This is Is it something distinct from all these? Give emphatically expressed by two inspired writers, us, if it be possible, a clear idea of this subject. the apostle Paul and holy Job. The first says, What is a soul? Is it a substance immaterial," God hath made all nations of men, the earth, indivisible, different from body, and which cannot be enveloped in its ruins? Certainly: but when we give you this notion, we rather tell you what the soul is not, than what it is. You will say, you remove false notions, but you give us no true and positive ideas; you tell us indeed that spirit is not body, but you do not explain what spirit is, and we demand an idea clear, real, and adequate.
As I confound myself by considering the nature of my soul, so I am perplexed again when I examine the union of this soul with this body. Let us be informed, by what miracle a substance without extension and without parts, can be united to a substance material and extended? What connexion is there between willing to move and motion? What relation has a trace on the brain to an idea of the mind? How does the soul go in search of ideas before ideas present themselves? If ideas present themselves, what occasion for search? To have recourse to the power of God is wise, I grant, if we avail ourselves of this answer to avoid our ignorance; but if we use it to cover that, if we pretend to explain every thing by saying God is omnipotent, and can do all these things, we certainly deceive ourselves. It is to say, I know nothing, in philosophical terms, and when, it should seem, we affect to say, I perfectly understand it.
In fine, I demand an explication of the human body. What am I saying? the human body! I take the smallest particle of it; I take only one atom, one little grain of dust, and I give it to be examined by all the schools, and all the universities in the world. This atom has extent, it may be divided, it is capable of motion, it reflects light, and every one of these properties furnishes a thousand and a thousand questions, which the greatest philosophers can
My brethren, when we are in the schools,
the appointed seasons, and the bounds of men's habitation, that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him,” Acts xvii. 26. 29. "This is both a passable road to God, and an unfathomable abyss." "That they might seek the Lord;" this is a way leading to God. "That they might find him by feeling after him;" this is the abyss. In like manner Job describes in lively colours the multitude and variety of the works of the Creator, and finishes by acknowledging, that all we know is nothing in comparison of what we are ignorant of. "He stretched out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He hath compassed the waters with bounds. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power. By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent." Yet "these are only part of his ways!" Job xxvi. 7, &c. Weigh these expressions well. This firmament, this earth, these waters, these pillars of heaven, this boundless space, the sun with its light, heaven with its stars, the earth with its plants, the sea with its fish, these, "lo, these are only parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him!" The glorious extent of his power who can understand! Let us then, placed as we are on the borders of the works of nature, humbly exclaim, "O the depth!"
III. Providence is the third path to God, and affords us new motives to adore his perfections: but which also confounds the mind, and makes
* Eccles. vii. 29. The English translation of this text is, man has sought out many inventions. The French Bible reads, Ont cherche beaucoup de descours, that is, mankind has found out a great many questions to ask, and a great many sophisms to affirm on this subject; or in other words, a great deal to say concerning the original rectitude of man. The original vague terms are rendered by some critics, Ipse se infinites miseuerit quaestionibus.