صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

God would not be more merciful, if he grants fourscore years to a wicked man to repent in, than if he took him away suddenly on the commission of his first sin.

He has given this answer expressly in the text, and in many other parallel passages, where he clearly tells us, that after what he has done to save us, there are no difficulties insurmountable in our salvation, except such as we choose to put there. For if the divine decrees force men to sin, and offer violence to their liberty, the proposition in the text would be utterly false, and the prophet could not say on the part of God, "O'Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself."

hast made of my soul before I had a being, | sinners, if they offer violence to their liberty, force my will? do what they call predestination and reprobation in the schools destroy this proposition, that if I perish, my destruction proceeds alone from myself? My God, remove this difficulty, and lay open to me this important truth. I suppose, my brethren, you have presented this question, and that God answers in the following manner: The frailty of your minds renders this matter incomprehensible to you. It is impossible for men finite as you are to comprehend the whole extent of my decrees, and to see in a clear and distinct manner the influence they have on the destiny of man: But I who formed them perfectly understand them. I am truth itself, as I am wisdom. I do declare to you then, that none of my decrees offer violence to my creatures, and that your destruction can proceed from none but yourselves. As to the rest, you shall one day perfectly understand what you now understand only in part, and then you shall see with your own eyes what you now see only with mine. Cease then to anticipate a period, which my wisdom defers, and laying aside this speculation attend you to practice, fully persuaded that you are placed between reward and punishment, and may have a part in which you please. Is it not true, my brethren, that if God had answered in this manner, it would be carrying, I do not say rashness, but insolence to the highest degree to object against the testimony, or to desire more light into this subject at present? Now, my brethren, we pretend that God has given this answer, and in a manner infinitely more clear than we have stated it.

He has given this answer in those pathetical expostulations, in those powerful applications, and in those exhortations, which he employs to reclaim the greatest sinners. Now if the decrees of God forced sinners, if they did violence to their liberty, would the equity of God allow him to call men out of bondage, while he himself confined them in chains?

God has given this answer by tender complaints concerning the depravity of mankind; yea, by tears of love shed for their miseries. "O that my people had hearkened unto me! O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" Ps. lxxxi. 14, Luke xix. 42. Now if the decrees of God force sinners, if they offer violence to their liberty, I am not afraid to say, this sort of language would be a sport unworthy of the divine majesty.

As the first way of removing our difficulties is absolutely impossible, the second is fully open. God has not thought proper to give us a distinct idea of the connexion between his decrees and the liberty of sinners: but he has openly declared that they do not clash together. Let us make no more vain efforts to explain mysteries, a clear demonstration of which God has reserved for another life: but let us attend to that law, which he has required us to obey in the present state.

But men will run counter to the declarations of God in Scripture. "Things that are revealed, which belong unto us and our children for ever," we leave, and we lay our rash hands on "secret things, which belong unto the Lord our God." We lay aside charity, moderation, mutual patience, duties clearly revealed, powerfully pressed home, and repeated with the utmost fervour, and we set ourselves the task of removing insuperable difficulties, to read and turn over the book of God's decrees. We regulate and arrange the decrees of God, we elevate our pretended discoveries into articles essential to salvation and religion, and at length we generate doubts and fears, which distress us on a death-bed, and oblige us to undergo the intolerable punishment of trying to reconcile doctrines, the clearing of which is beyond the capacity of all mankind.

No, no: it was not thy decree, O my God, that dug hell, and kindled the "devouring fire," the "smoke of which ascendeth up for ever and ever!" In vain the sinner searches in a decree of reprobation for what comes only from his own depravity. Thou dost not say to thy creatures, yield, yield miserable wretches to my sovereign will, which first impels you to sin, in order to compel you to suffer that punHe has given this answer by express assu-ishment, which I have decreed for you from all rances, that he would have all men to be saved; that "he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live;" that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Now if the decrees of God force sinners, and do violence to their liberty, contrary propositions are true; it would be proper to say, God will not have all men to be saved, he will not have the sinner come to repentance, he is determined the sinner shall die.

eternity. Thou reachest out thy charitable arms, thou appliest to us motives the most proper to affect intelligent minds. Thou openest the gates of heaven to us, and if we be lost amidst so many means of being saved, "to thee belongeth righteousness, and to us shame and confusion of face. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself."

II. You will see the evidence of this proposition much better, my brethren, if you attend to the discussion of the second class of difficulHe has published this answer by giving us ties, to which the subject is liable. They are high ideas of his mercy; when he prolongs the taken from the nature of religion. There are time of his patience and long-suffering, he calls men so stupid, or rather so wicked, as to conit "riches of goodness, forbearance, and long-sider religion, that rich present which God in suffering." Now if the decrees of God force his great love made mankind, as a fatal present

given in anger. The duties required seem to them vast valleys to fill up, and huge mountains to level, and attributing insuperable difficulties to religion, which are creatures only of their own cowardice and malice, they cannot comprehend how men can be punished for not performing such impossible conditions. Let us examine this religion; nothing more is necessary to remove this odious objection.

1. Observe the first character of evangelical morality, how clearly it is revealed. Let heresy attack the truths of our mysteries. If demonstrative arguments cannot be produced, probable ones may; if the doctrines cannot be expunged from the letter of Scripture, at least they may be disguised; if they cannot be rendered contemptible, they may for a while be made difficult to understand: but propositions that concern moral virtues are placed in a light so clear, that, far from extinguishing it, nothing can diminish its brightness. Religion clearly requires a magistrate to be equitable and a subject obedient; a father tender, and a son dutiful; a husband affectionate, and a wife faithful; a master gentle, and a servant diligent; a pastor vigilant, and a flock teachable. Religion clearly requires us to exercise moderation in prosperity, and patience in adversity. Religion clearly requires us to be wholly attentive to the divine majesty, when we are at the foot of his throne, and never to lose sight of him after our devotions are finished. Religion clearly requires us to perform all the duties of our calling through the whole course of life, and wholly to renounce the world when we come to die. Except some extraordinary cases, (and would to God, my brethren, we had arrived at such a degree of perfection as rendered it necessary for us to examine what conduct we ought to observe in some circumstances, which the law seems not to have fully explained!) I say, except such cases, all others are regulated in a manner so clear, distinct, and intelligible, that we not only cannot invent any difficulties, but that, except a few idiots, nobody has ever pretended to invent any.

2. The next character of Christian morality is dignity of principle. Why did God give us laws? Because he loves us, and because he would have us to love him. Why does he require us to bear the cross? Because he loves us, because he would have us love him, and because infatuation with creatures is incompatible with this twofold love. Why does he require us to deny ourselves? Because he loves us, and because he would have us love him, because it is impossible for him to love us and yet to permit our ill-directed self-love to hurry us blindly into a gulf of misery, because it is impossible if we love him to love ourselves in a manner so inglorious to him. How pleasant is it to submit to bonds, which the love of God imposes on us! How delightful is it to yield to obligations, when the love of God supports us under the weight of them!

3. The third character of Christian morality is the justice of its dominions. All its claims are founded on reason and equity. Examine the laws of religion one by one, and you will find they all bear this character. Does religion prescribe humility? It does; but what is this humility? Is it a virtue that shocks reason, and

degrades the dignity of human nature? By no means, the gospel proposes to elevate us to the highest dignity that we are capable of attaining. But what then does it mean by requiring us to be humble? It means, that we should not estimate ourselves by such titles and riches, such dignities and exterior things, as we have in common with men like Caligula, Nero, Heliogabalus, and other monsters of nature, scourges of society. Does religion require mortification? It does, it even describes it by the most painful emblems. It requires us to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, to tear asunder all the ties of flesh and blood, nature and selflove. But what does it mean by prescribing such mortification as this? Must we literally hate ourselves, and must we take as much pains hereafter to make ourselves miserable as we have taken hitherto to make ourselves happy? No, my brethren, on the contrary, no doctrine has ever carried self-love, properly explained, so far. The Christian doctrine of mortification means, that by a few momentary acts of self-denial we should free ourselves from eternal misery, and that by contemning "temporal things which are seen" we should obtain things which are not seen, but which are eternal."

[ocr errors]


4. But, say you, this perfection required by the gospel, is it within our reach? Is it not this religion which exhorts us to be "perfect as God is perfect?" Is not this the religion that exhorts us to be "holy as God is holy?" Does not this religion require us to be "renewed after the image of him that created us?” deed it does, my brethren: yet this law, severe as it may seem, has a fourth character exactly according to our just wishes, that is, it has a character of proportion. As we see in the doctrines of religion, that although they open a vast field to the most sublime geniuses, yet they accommodate themselves to the most contracted minds, so in regard to the moral parts of religion, though the most eminent saints are required to make more progress, yet the first efforts of novices are acceptable services, provided they are sincerely disposed to persevere. Jesus Christ, our great lawgiver, "knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust; he will not break a bruised reed, and smoking flax he will not quench:" and the rule by which he will judge us, will not be so much taken from the infinite rights acquired over us by creation and redemption as from our frailty, and the efforts we shall have made to surmount it.

5. Power of motive is another character of evangelical morality. In this life we are animated, I will not say only by gratitude, equity, and reason, motives too noble to actuate most men: but by motives interesting to our passions, and proper to inflame them, if they be well and thoroughly understood.

You have ambition. But how do you mean to gratify it? By a palace, a dress, a few servants, a few horses in your carriages? False idea of grandeur, fanciful elevation! I see in a course of Christian virtue an ambition well directed. To approach God, to be like God, to be made a "partaker of the divine nature;" this is true grandeur, this is substantial glory.

You are avaricious, hence perpetual care,

hence anxious fears, hence never ending movements. But how can your avarice bear to think of all the vicissitudes that may affect your fortune? In a course of Christian virtue I see an avarice well directed. The gospel promises a fortune beyond vicissitude, and directs us to a faithful correspondent, who will return us for one grain thirty, for another sixty, for another a hundred fold.

man to become an assassin, a murderer, a slanderer, a plunderer of the fortune, and a destroyer of the life of his neighbour, or, what is worse than either, a murderer of his reputation and honour. Had such a proposition been advanced, it would not be the more probable for that, and nothing ought to induce us to spare it. Monsters of nature! who, after you have taken pains to eradicate from your hearts such fibres of nature as sin seems to have left, would you attempt to exculpate yourselves? you who, after you have rendered yourselves in every instance unlike God, would carry your madness so far as to render God like yourselves by accusing him of creating you with dispositions, which oblige you to dip your hands in innocent blood, to build your houses with the spoils of widows and orphans, and to commit crimes subversive of society? Cease to affirm, these are natural dispositions. No, they are acquired dispositions. That part of "Oreligion which prohibits your excesses, is practicable by you without the supernatural aid necessary to a thorough conversion.

You are voluptuous, and you refine sensual enjoyments, tickle your appetite, and sleep in a bed of down! I see in a course of virtue a "joy unspeakable and full of glory, a peace that passeth all understanding," pleasures boundless in prospect, and delicious in enjoyment, pleasures greater than the liveliest imagination can conceive, and more beautiful than the most eloquent lips can describe.

Such is religion, my brethren. What a fund of stupidity, negligence, and corruption, must a man have to resist it? Is this the religion we must oppose in order to be damned? Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself."

III. Well, well, we grant, say you, we are stupid not to avail ourselves of such advantages as religion sets before us, we are negligent, we are depraved: but all this depravity, negligence, and stupidity, are natural to us; we bring these dispositions into the world with us, we did not make ourselves; in a word, we are naturally inclined to evil, and incapable of doing good. This religion teaches, of this we are convinced by our own feelings, and the experience of all mankind confirms it.

This is the third difficulty concerning the proposition in the text, and it is taken from the condition of human nature. In answer to this, I say, that the objection implies four vague notions of human depravity, each erroneous, and all removable by a clear explication of the subject.

1. When we speak of our natural impotence to practise virtue, we confound it with an insurmountable necessity to commit the greatest crimes. We may be in the first case without being in the second. We may be sick, and incapable of procuring medicines to restore health, without being invincibly impelled to aggravate our condition by taking poison for food, and a dagger for physic. A man may be in a pit without ability to get out, and yet not be invincibly compelled to throw himself into a chasm beneath him, deeper and darker, and more terrible still. In like manner, we may be so enslaved by depravity as not to be able to part with any thing to relieve the poor, and yet not so as to be absolutely compelled to rob them of the alms bestowed on them by others, and so of the rest.

It seems to me, my brethren, that this distinction has not been attended to in discourses of human depravity. Let people allege this impotence to exculpate themselves for not practising virtue, with all my heart: but to allege it in excuse of odious crimes practised every day freely, willingly, and of set purpose, is to form such an idea of natural depravity as no divine has ever given, and such as can never be given with the least appearance of truth. No sermon, no body of divinity, no council, no synod ever said that human depravity was so great as absolutely to force a

2. When we speak of natural depravity, we confound the pure virtue that religion inspires with other virtues, which constitution, education, and motives of worldly honour, are sufficient to enable us to practise. I grant, you cannot practise such virtues as have the love of God for their principle, order for their motives, and perfection for their end: but you may at least acknowledge your natural depravity, and exclaim, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" You may at least exclaim with the magician mentioned by a poet, I see and approve of the best things, though I practise the worst. You may do more, you may practise some superficial virtues, which the very heathens, not in covenant with God, exemplified. You may be cautious like Ulysses, temperate like Scipio, chaste like Polemon, wise like Socrates. If then you neglect this sort of virtue, and if your negligence ruin you, "your destruction is of yourselves."

3. When we speak of natural depravity, we confound that of a man born a pagan with only the light of reason with that of a Christian, born and educated among Christians, and amidst all the advantages of revelation. This vague way of talking is a consequence of the miserable custom of taking detached passages of Scripture, considering them only in themselves without any regard to connexion of time, place, or circumstance, and applying them indiscriminately to their own imaginations and systems. The inspired writers give us dreadful descriptions of the state of believers before their being called to Christianity: they call this state" a night, a death, a nothing," in regard to the practice of virtue, and certainly the state of a man now living without religion under the gospel economy may be properly described in the same manner: but I affirm, that these expressions must be taken in a very different sense. "This night, this death, this nothing," if I may be allowed to speak so, have different degrees. The degrees in regard to a native pagan are greater than those in regard to a native Christian. What then, my brethren, do you reckon for nothing all the care

ner cold with heat, heat with cold, wet with dry, dry with wet, and disconcerted the beautiful order of creation, which constituted the happiness of creatures; when we cast our eyes on the maladies caused by sin, the vicissitudes occasioned by it, the dominion of death over all creatures, which it has established; when we see ourselves stretched on a sick bed, cold, pale, dying, amidst sorrows and tears, fears and pains, waiting to be torn from a world we idolize; then we detest sin, and groan under the weight of its chains. Should that Spirit, who knocks to-day at the door of our hearts, say to us, open, sinner, I will restore nature to its beauty, the air shall be serene, and all the ele

taken of you in your infancy, all the instructions given you in your childhood by your pious fathers and mothers, all the lessons they procured others to give you, all the tutors who have given you information! What! agreeable books put into your hands, exhortations, directions, and sermons, addressed to you, you reckon all these things for nothing! What! you make no account of the visits of your pastors, when you thought yourselves dying, of the proper discourses they directed to you concerning your past negligence, of your own resolutions and vows! I ask, do you reckon all this for nothing? All these efforts have been attended with no good effect: but you are as ambitious, as worldly, as envious, as covet-ments in harmony, I will confirm your health, ous, as eager in pursuit of lasciviousness, as ever the heathens were, and you never blush, nor ever feel remorse, and all under pretence that the gospel teaches us we are frail, and can do nothing without the assistance of God!

4. In fine, my brethren, when we speak of the depravity of nature, we confine the condition of a man, to whom God has given only exterior revelation, with the condition of him to whom God offers supernatural aid to assist him against his natural frailty, which prevents his living up to external revelation. Does he not offer you this assistance? Does not the holy Scripture teach you in a hundred places that it is your own fault if you be deprived of it?

Recollect only the famous words of St. James, which were lately explained to you in this pulpit with the greatest clearness, and pressed home with the utmost pathos. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." God gives to all men liberally, to all without exception, and they who are deprived of this wisdom ought to blame none but themselves, not God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not. True, to obtain it, we must ask with a design to profit by it; we must ask it "nothing wavering," that is, not divided between the hope and the fear of obtaining it: we must not be like those "double-minded men, who are unstable in all their ways," who seem by asking wisdom to esteem virtue, but who discover by the abuse they make of that wisdom they have, that virtue is supremely hateful to them. We must not resemble the "waves of the sea" which seem to offer the spectator on a shore a treasure, but which presently drown him in gulfs from which he cannot possibly free himself. Did God set this wisdom before us at a price too high? Ought we to find fault with him for refusing to bestow it, while we refuse to apply it to that moral use which justice requires? Can we desire God to bestow his grace on such as ask for it only to insult him?

reanimate your enfeebled frame, lengthen your life, and banish for ever from your houses death, that death which stains all your rooms with blood: Ah! every heart would burn with ardour to possess this assistance, and every one of my hearers would make these walls echo with, Come, Holy Spirit, come and dry up our tears by putting an end to our maladies.

But when we are told, that sin has degraded us from our natural dignity; that it has loaded us with chains of depravity; that man, a creature formed on the model of the divine perfections, and required to receive no other laws than those of order, is become the sport of unworthy passions, which move him as they please, which say to him, go and he goeth, come and he cometh, which debase and vilify him at pleasure, we are not affected with these mortifying truths, but we glory in our shame!

Slaves of sin! Captives under a heavier yoke than that of Pharaoh, in a furnace more cruel than that of Egypt! Behold your Deliverer! He comes to-day to break your bonds and set you free. The assistance of grace is set before you. What am I saying? An abundant measure is already communicated to you. Already you know your misery. Already you are seeking relief from it. Avail yourselves of this. Ask for this succour, and if it be refused you, ask again, and never cease asking till you have obtained it.

Recollect, that the truths we have been preaching are the most mortifying of religion, and the most proper to humble us. It was voluntarily, that we so often rebelled against God. Freely, alas! freely, and without compulsion we have, some of us, denied the truths of religion, and others given mortal wounds to the majesty of its laws. Ah! Are there any tears too bitter, is there any remorse too cutting, any cavern in the earth too deep, to expiate the guilt of such a frightful character!

Remember, the truths we have been teaching are full of consolation. This part of my text, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself," O! that we were properly affected with the is connected with the other part, “but in me greatness of our depravity, and the shame of is thine help." God yet entreats us not to deour slavery! But our condition, all scanda-stroy ourselves. God has not yet given us up. lous and horrible as it is, seems to us all full of charms.

When we are told that sin has subverted nature, infected the air, confounded in a man

*This remark indicates a generous temper in Saurin, to speak handsomely of his colleagues.

He does not know, pardon this expression, he is a stranger to that point of honour, which often engages us to turn away for ever from those who have treated us with contempt. He, he himself, the great, the mighty God does not think it beneath him, not unworthy of his glorious majesty, yet to entreat us to return

to him and be happy. O "mercy," that Lord. I acknowledge my transgression, and "reacheth to the heavens!" O " faithfulness, my sin is ever before me. Deliver me from reaching unto the clouds!" What consolations blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salflow from you to a soul afraid of having ex-vation. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvahausted you! tion, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice."

But as David gives us such proper models of penitential expressions of grief for our own sins, so he furnishes us with others as just for lamenting the sins of others. You have heard the text, "rivers of waters run down mine

the psalm from which the text is taken, and you will find that our prophet shed three sorts of tears for the sins of others. The first were tears of zeal: the second flowed from love: the third from self-interest. This is a kind of penitence, which I propose to-day to your emulation.

Above all, think, think, my brethren, that the truth we have been preaching will become one of the most cruel torments of the damned. Devouring flame, kindled by divine vengeance in hell, I have no need of your light; smoke ascending up for ever and ever, I have no need to be struck with your black-eyes, because they keep not thy law." Read ness; chains of darkness that weigh down the damned, I have no need to know your weight, to enable me to form lamentable ideas of the punishments of the reprobate, the truth in my text is sufficient to make me conceive your horror. Being lost, it will be remembered that there was a time when destruction might have been prevented. One of you will recol- In the first place, I will describe the insults lect the education God gave you, another the which a sinner offers to God, and will endeasermon he addressed to you, a third the sick-vour to show you, that it is impossible for a ness he sent to reform you: conscience will be good man to see his God affronted in this manobliged to do homage to an avenging God, it ner without being extremely grieved, and will be forced to allow, that the aid of the shedding tears of zeal. Spirit of God was mighty, the motives of the gospel powerful, and the duties of it practicable. It will be compelled to acquiesce in this terrible truth, "thou hast destroyed thyself." A condemned soul will incessantly be its own tormentor, and will continually say, I am the author of my own punishment, I might have been saved, I opened and entered this horrible gulf of myself.

Inculcate all these great truths, Christians, let them affect you, let them persuade you, let them compel you. God grant you the grace! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.




Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because

they keep not thy law.

FEW people are such novices in religion as not to know, that sinners ought not to be troubled for their own sins; but it is but here and there a man, who enters so much into the spirit of religion as to understand how far the sins of others ought to trouble us. David was a model of both these kinds of penitential grief.

In the second place, I will enumerate the miseries, into which a sinner plunges himself by his obstinate perseverance in sin, and I will endeavour to convince you, that it is impossi ble for a good man to see this without shedding tears of pity and love.

In the third place, I shall show you, if I perceive your attention continue, the disorders which sinners cause in society, in our cities and families, and you will perceive, that it is impossible for a good man to see the prosperity of society every day endangered and damaged by its enemies without shedding tears of self


Almighty God, whose "tender mercies are over all thy works," but whose adorable Providence condemns us to wander in a valley of tears; O condescend, "to put our tears into thy bottle," and to gather us in due time to that happy society in which conformity to thy laws is the highest happiness and glory! Amen.

I. David shed over sinners of his time, tears of zeal. Thus he expresses himself in the psalm from which we have taken the text, "My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words." But what is zeal? How many people, to exculpate themselves for not feeling this sacred flame, ridicule it as a phantom, the mark of an enthusiast? However, there is no disposition more real and sensible. The word zeal is vague and metaphorical, it signifies fire, heat, warmth, and applied to intelligent beings, it means the Repentance for his own sins is immortalized activity and vehemence of their desires, hence, in his penitential psalms: and would to God, in common style, it is attributed to all the pasinstead of that fatal security, and that unmean- sions indifferently, good and bad: but it is ing levity, which most of us discover, even af-most commonly applied to religion, and there ter we have grossly offended God, would to has two meanings, the one vague, the other God, we had the sentiments of this penitent! His sin was always before him, and imbittered all the pleasures of life. You know the language of his grief. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak, my bones are vexed. Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O VOL. II.-16


In a vague sense, zeal is put less for a particular virtue, than for a general vigour and vivacity pervading all the powers of the soul of a zealous man. Zeal is opposed to lukewarmness, and lukewarmness is not a particular vice, but a dulness, an indolence that accompanies and enfeebles all the exercises of

« السابقةمتابعة »