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117 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 God would not be more merciful, if he grants and reprobation in the schools destroy this pro- fourscore years to a wicked man to repent in, position, that if I perish, my destruction pro- than if he took him away suddenly on the comceeds alone from myself? My God, remove this mission of his first sin. difficulty, and lay open to me this important He has given this answer expressly in the truth. I suppose, my brethren, you have pre text, and in many other parallel passages, where sented this question, and that God answers in he clearly tells us, that after what he has done the following manner: The frailty of your to save us, there are no difficulties insurmountminds renders this matter incomprehensible to able in our salvation, except such as we choose you. It is impossible for men finite as you are to put there. For if the divine decrees force to comprehend the whole extent of my decrees, men to sin, and offer violence to their liberty, and to see in a clear and distinct manner the the proposition in the text would be utterly influence they have on the destiny of man: But false, and the prophet could not say on the I who formed them perfectly understand them. part of God, “o Israel, thou hast destroyed I am truth itself, as I am wisdom. I do de- ihyself.” clare to you then, that none of my decrees offer As the first way of removing our difficulties violence to my creatures, and that your destruc- is absolutely impossible, the second is fully tion can proceed from none but yourselves. open. God has not thought proper to give us As to the rest, you shall one day perfectly a distinct idea of the connexion between his understand what you now understand only in decrees and the liberty of sinners: but he has part, and then you shall see with your own openly declared that they do not clash together. eyes what you now see only with mine. Cease Let us make no more vain efforts to explain then to anticipate a period, which my wisdom mysteries, a clear demonstration of which God defers, and laying aside this speculation attend has reserved for another life: but let us attend you to practice, fully persuaded that you are to that law, which he has required us to obey placed between reward and punishment, and in the present state. may have a part in which you please. Is it But men will run counter to the declarations not true, my brethren, that if God had answer of God in Scripture. “ Things that are reed in this manner, it would be carrying, I do vealed, which belong unto us and our children not say rashness, but insolence to the highest for ever,” we leave, and we lay our rash hands degree to object against the testimony, or to secret things, which belong unto the Lord desire more light into this subject at present our God.” We lay aside charity, moderation, Now, my brethren, we pretend that God has mutual patience, duties clearly revealed, powergiven this answer, and in a manner infinitely fully pressed home, and repeated with the utmore clear than we have stated it.
most fervour, and we set ourselves the task of He has given this answer in those pathetical removing insuperable difficulties, to read and expostulations, in those powerful applications, turn over the book of God's decrees. We and in those exhortations, which he employs to regulate and arrange the decrees of God, we reclaim the greatest sinners. Now if the de- elevate our pretended discoveries into articles crees of God forced sinners, if they did violence essential to salvation and religion, and at length to their liberty, would the equity of God allow we generate doubts and fears, which distress us him to call men out of bondage, while he him on a death-bed, and oblige us to undergo the self confined them in chains
intolerable punishment of trying to reconcile God has given this answer by tender com- doctrines, the clearing of which is beyond the plaints concerning the depravity of mankind; capacity of all mankind. yea, by tears of love shed for their miseries. No, no: it was not thy decree, O my God, “O that my people had hearkened unto me! that dug hell, and kindled the “devouring fire,” O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least the “smoke of which ascendeth up for ever in this thy day, the things which belong unto and ever!" In vain the sinner searches in a dethy peace!" Ps. Ixxxi. 14, Luke xix. 42. Now cree of reprobation for what comes only from if the decrees of God force sinners, if they his own depravity. Thou dost not say to thy offer violence to their liberty, I am not afraid creatures, yield, yield miserable wretches to to say, this sort of language would be a sport my sovereign will, which first impels you to unworthy of the divine majesty.
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; eternity. Thou reachest out thy charitable that “he hath no pleasure in the death of the arms, thou appliest to us motives the most wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way proper to affect intelligent minds. Thou openand live;” that he is not willing that any should est the gates of heaven to us, and if we be lost perish, but that all should come to repentance. amidst so many means of being saved, “to thee Now if the decrees of God force sinners, and belongeth righteousness, and to us shame and do violence to their liberty, contrary propositions confusion of face. “O Israel, thou hast deare true; it would be proper to say, God will stroyed thyself." not have all men to be saved, he will not have IÍ. You will see the evidence of this propothe sinner come to repentance, he is determined sition much better, my brethren, if you attend the sinner shall die.
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 inankind, as a fatal present
given in anger. The duties required seem to degrades the dignity of human nature? By no them vast valleys to fill up, and huge moun- means, the gospel proposes to elevate us to the tains to level, and attributing insuperable dif- highest dignity that we are capable of attaining. ficulties to religion, which are creatures only But what then does it mean by requiring us to of their own cowardice and malice, they can- be humble? It means, that we should not estinot comprehend how men can be punished for mate ourselves by such titles and riches, such not performing such impossible conditions. Let dignities and exterior things, as we have in us examine this religion; nothing more is ne- common with men like Caligula, Nero, Heliocessary to remove this odious objection. gabalus, and other monsters of nature, scourges
1. Observe the first character of evangelical of society. Does religion require mortification? morality, how clearly it is revealed. · Let heresy It does, it even describes it by the most painful attack the truths of our mysteries. If demon- emblems. It requires us to cut off a right strative arguments cannot be produced, pro- hand, to pluck out a right eye, to tear asunder bable ones may; if the doctrines cannot be ex- all the ties of flesh and blood, nature and selfpunged from the letter of Scripture, at least love. But what does it mean by prescribing they may be disguised; if they cannot be ren- such mortification as this? Must we literally dered contemptible, they may for a while be hate ourselves, and must we take as much pains made difficult to understand: but propositions hereafter to make ourselves miserable as we that concern moral virtues are placed in a light have taken hitherto to make ourselves happy? so clear, that, far from extinguishing it, nothing No, my brethren, on the contrary, no doctrine can diminish its brightness. Religion clearly has ever carried self-love, properly explained, requires a magistrate to be equitable and a so far. The Christian doctrine of mortificasubject obedient; a father tender, and a son tion means, that by a few momentary acts dutiful; a husband affectionate, and a wife of self-denial we should free ourselves from faithful; a master gentle, and a servant diligent; eternal misery, and that by contemning “tema pastor vigilant, and a flock teachable. Re poral things which are seen" we should obtain ligion clearly requires us to exercise moderation" things which are not seen, but which are in prosperity, and patience in adversity. Re- eternal." ligion clearly requires us to be wholly attentive 4. But, say you, this perfection required by to the divine majesty, when we are at the foot the gospel, is it within our reach? Is it not of his throne, and never to lose sight of him this religion which exhorts us to be “perfect as after our devotions are finished. Religion God is perfect?” Is not this the religion that clearly requires us to perform all the duties of exhorts us to be “holy as God is holy: Does our calling through the whole course of life, not this religion require us to be “ renewed and wholly to renounce the world when we after the image of him that created us?” Income to die. Except some extraordinary cases, deed it does, my brethren: yet this law, severe (and would to God, my brethren, we had ar- as it may seem, has a fourth character exactly rived at such a degree of perfection as rendered according to our just wishes, that is, it has a it necessary for us to examine what conduct character of proportion. As we see in the docwe ought to observe in some circumstances, trines of religion, that although they open a which the law seems not to have fully explain- vast field to the most sublime geniuses, yet ed!) I say, except such cases, all others are they accommodate themselves to the most conregulated in a manner so clear, distinct, and tracted minds, so in regard to the moral parts intelligible, that we not only cannot invent of religion, though the most eminent saints are any difficulties, but that, except a few idiots, required to make more progress, yet the first nobody has ever pretended to invent any. efforts of novices are acceptable services, pro
2. The next character of Christian morality í vided they are sincerely disposed to persevere. is dignity of principle. Why did God give us Jesus Christ, our great lawgiver, “knoweth laws. Because he loves us, and because he our frame, and remembereth that we are dust; would have us to love him. Why does he he will not break a bruised reed, and smoking require us to bear the cross? Because he loves flax he will not quench:” and the rule by which us, because he would have us love him, and he will judge us, will not be so much taken because infatuation with creatures is incom- from the infinite rights acquired over us by patible with this twofold love. Why does he creation and redemption as from our frailty, require us to deny ourselves? Because he loves and the efforts we shall have made to surus, and because he would have us love him, mount it. because it is impossible for him to love us and 5. Power of motive is another character of yet to permit our ill-directed self-love to hurry evangelical morality. In this life we are anius blindly into a gulf of misery, because it is mated, I will not say only by gratitude, equity, impossible if we love him to love ourselves in and reason, motives too noble to actuate most a manner so inglorious to him. How pleasant men: but by motives interesting to our pasis it to submit to bonds, which the love of God sions, and proper to inflame them, if they be imposes on us! How delightful is it to yield to well and thoroughly understood. obligations, when the love of God supports us You have ambition. But how do you mean under the weight of them!
to gratify it? By a palace, a dress, a few ser3. The third character of Christian morality vants, a few horses in your carriages? False is the justice of its dominions. All its claims idea of grandeur, fanciful elevation! I see in a are founded on reason and equity. Examine course of Christian virtue an ambition well the laws of religion one by one, and you will directed. To approach God, to be like God, find they all bear this character. Does religion to be made a “partaker of the divine nature; prescribe humility! It does; but what is this this is true grandeur, this is substantial glory. humility? Is it a virtue that shocks reason, and You are avaricious, hence perpetual care,
hence anxious fears, hence never ending move- man to become an assassin, a murderer, a ments. But how can your avarice bear to slanderer, a plunderer of the fortune, and a think of all the vicissitudes that may affect destroyer of the life of his neighbour, or, what your fortune! In a course of Christian virtue is worse than either, a murderer of his reputaI see an avarice well directed. The gospel tion and honour. Kad such a proposition been promises a fortune beyond vicissitude, and di- advanced, it would not be the more probable rects us to a faithful correspondent, who will for that, and nothing ought to induce us to return us for one grain thirty, for another sixty, spare it. Monsters of nature! who, after you for another a hundred fold.
have taken pains to eradicate from your hearts You are voluptuous, and you refine sensual such fibres of nature as sin seems to have left, enjoyments, tickle your appetite, and sleep in would you attempt to exculpate yourselves a bed of down! I see in a course of virtue a you who, after you have rendered yourselves "joy unspeakable and full of glory, a peace in every instance unlike God, would carry that passeth all understanding, pleasures your madness so far as to render God like boundless in prospect, and delicious in enjoy- yourselves by accusing him of creating you ment, pleasures greater than the liveliest ima with dispositions, which oblige you to dip your gination can conceive, and more beautiful than hands in innocent blood, to build your houses the most eloquent lips can describe.
with the spoils of widows and orphans, and to Such is religion, my brethren. What a fund commit crimes subversive of society? Cease of stupidity, negligence, and corruption, must to affirm, these are natural dispositions. No, a man have to resist it? Is this the religion they are acquired dispositions. That part of we must oppose in order to be damned? “O religion which prohibits your excesses, is practiIsrael, thou hast destroyed thyself.”
cable by you without the supernatural aid necesIII. Well, well, we grant, say you, we are sary to a thorough conversion. stupid not to avail ourselves of such advanta- 2. When we speak of natural depravity, we ges as religion sets before us, we are negligent, confound the pure virtue that religion inspires we are depraved: but all this depravity, neg- with other virtues, which constitution, educaligence, and stupidity, are natural to us; we tion, and motives of worldly honour, are suffibring these dispositions into the world with us, cient to enable us to practise. I grant, you we did not make ourselves; in a word, we are cannot practise such virtues as have the love naturally inclined to evil, and incapable of do- of God for their principle, order for their moing good. This religion teaches, of this we tives, and perfection for their end: but you are convinced by our own feelings, and the ex- may at least acknowledge your natural depraperience of all mankind confirins it.
vity, and exclaim,“ O wretched man that I am, This is the third difficulty concerning the who shall deliver me from the body of this proposition in the text, and it is taken from death? You may at least exclaim with the the condition of human nature. In answer to magician mentioned by a poet, I see and apthis, I say, that the objection implies four vague prove of the best things, though I practise the notions of human depravity, each erroneous, worst. You may do more, you may practise and all removable by a clear explication of some superficial virtues, which the very heathe subject.
thens, not in covenant with God, exemplified. 1. When we speak of our natural impotence You may be cautious like Ulysses, temperate to practise virtue, we confound it with an in- like Scipio, chaste like Polemon, wise like Sosurmountable necessity to commit the greatest crates. If then you neglect this sort of virtue, crimes. We may be in the first case without and if your negligence ruin you,“your destrucbeing in the second. We may be sick, and in- tion is of yourselves.” capable of procuring medicines to restore 3. When we speak of natural depravity, we health, without being invincibly impelled to confound that of a man born a pagan with only aggravate our condition by taking poison for the light of reason with that of a Christian, food, and a dagger for physic. A man may be born and educated among Christians, and in a pit without ability to get out, and yet not amidst all the advantages of revelation. This be invincibly compelled to throw himself into vague way of talking is a consequence of the a chasm beneath him, deeper and darker, and miserable custom of taking detached passages more terrible still. In like manner, we may of Scripture, considering them only in thembe so enslaved by depravity as not to be able selves without any regard to connexion of time, to part with any thing to relieve the poor, and place, or circumstance, and applying them inyet not so as to be absolutely compelled to rob discriminately to their own imaginations and them of the alms bestowed on them by others, systems. The inspired writers give us dreadand so of the rest.
ful descriptions of the state of believers before It seems to me, my brethren, that this dis- their being called to Christianity: they call tinction has not been attended to in discourses this state " a night, a death, a nothing," in reof human depravity: Let people allege this gard to the practice of virtue, and certainly impotence to exculpate themselves for not the state of a man now living without religion practising virtue, with all my heart: but to under the gospel economy may be properly allege it in excuse of odious crimes practised described in the same manner: but I affirm, every day freely, willingly, and of set purpose, that these expressions must be taken in a very is to form such an idea of natural depravity different sense. “This night, this death, this as no divine has ever given, and such as can nothing," if I may be allowed to speak so, have never be given with the least appearance of different degrees. The degrees in regard to a truth. No sermon, no body of divinity, no native pagan are greater than those in regard council, no synod ever said that human de- to a native Christian. What then, my brepravity was so great as absolutely to force a thren, do you reckon for nothing all the care
taken of you in your infancy, all the instruc- ner cold with heat, heat with cold, wet with tions given you in your childhood by your dry, dry with wet, and disconcerted the beaupious fathers and mothers, all the lessons they tiful order of creation, which constituted the procured others to give you, all the tutors who happiness of creatures; when we cast our eyes have given you information! What! agreea- on the maladies caused by sin, the vicissitudes ble books put into your hands, exhortations, occasioned by it, the dominion of death over directions, and sermons, addressed to you, you all creatures, which it has established; when reckon all these things for nothing! What! we see ourselves stretched on a sick bed, cold, you make no account of the visits of your pale, dying, amidst sorrows and tears, fears pastors, when you thought yourselves dying, and pains, waiting to be torn from a world of the proper discourses they directed to you we idolize; then we detest sin, and groan under concerning your past negligence, of your own the weight of its chains. Should that Spirit, resolutions and vows! I ask, do you reckon who knocks to-day at the door of our hearts, say all this for nothing? All these efforts have to us, open, sinner, I will restore nature to its been attended with no good effect: but you are beauty, the air shall be serene, and all the eleas ambitious, as worldly, as envious, as covet- ments in harmony, I will confirm your health, ous, as eager in pursuit of lasciviousness, as reanimate your enfeebled frame, lengthen your ever the heathens were, and you never blush, life, and banish for ever from your houses death, nor ever feel remorse, and all under pretence that death which stains all your rooms with that the gospel teaches us we are frail, and can blood: Ah! every heart would burn with ardour do nothing without the assistance of God! to possess this assistance, and every one of my
4. In fine, my brethren, when we speak of hearers would make these walls echo with, the depravity of nature, we confine the con- Come, Holy Spirit, come and dry up our tears dition of a man, to whom God has given only by putting an end to our maladies. exterior revelation, with the condition of him But when we are told, that sin has degraded to whom God offers supernatural aid to assist us from our natural dignity; that it has loaded him against his natural frailty, which prevents us with chains of depravity; that man, a creahis living up to external revelation. Does he ture formed on the model of the divine perfecnot offer you this assistance? Does not the tions, and required to receive no other laws holy Scripture teach you in a hundred places than those of order, is become the sport of unthat it is your own fault if you be deprived worthy passions, which move him as they of it?
please, which say to him, go and he goeth, Recollect only the famous words of St. come and he cometh, which debase and vilify James, which were lately explained to you in him at pleasure, we are not affected with this pulpit with the greatest clearness, and these mortifying truths, but we glory in our pressed home with the utmost pathos.*' “If shame! any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Slaves of sin! Captives under a heavier that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraid yoke than that of Pharaoh, in furnace more eth not, and it shall be given him.” God gives cruel than that of Egypt! Behold your Delito all men liberally, to all without exception, verer! He comes to-day to break your bonds and they who are deprived of this wisdom and set you free. The assistance of grace is ought to blame none but themselves, not God, set before you. What am I saying? An who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not. abundant measure is already communicated to
True, to obtain it, we must ask with a de- you. Already you know your misery. Alsign to profit by it; we must ask it "nothing ready you are seeking relief from it. Avai] wavering,” that is, not divided between the yourselves of this. Ask for this succour, and hope and the fear of obtaining it: we must not if it be refused you, ask again, and never be like those “double-minded men, who are cease asking till you have obtained it. unstable in all their ways," who seem by ask- Recollect, that the truths we have been ing wisdom to esteem virtue, but who discover preaching are the most mortifying of religion, by the abuse they make of that wisdom they and the most proper to humble us.
It was have, that virtue is supremely hateful to them. voluntarily, that we so often rebelled against We must not resemble the "waves of the sea" God. Freely, alas! freely, and without comwhich seem to offer the spectator on a shore a pulsion we have, some of us, denied the truths treasure, but which presently drown him in of religion, and others given mortal wounds to gulfs from which he cannot possibly free him- the majesty of its laws. Ah! Are there any self. Did God set this wisdom before us at a tears too bitter, is there any remorse too cutprice too high? Ought we to find fault with ting, any cavern in the earth too deep, to expihim for refusing to bestow it, while we refuse ate the guilt of such a frightful character! to apply it to that moral use which justice re- Remember, the truths we have been teachquires? Can we desire God to bestow his grace ing are full of consolation. This part of my on such as ask for it only to insult him? text, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself,"
0! 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 He does not know, pardon this expression, he charms.
is a stranger to that point of honour, which When we are told that sin has subverted often engages us to turn away for ever from nature, infected the air, confounded in a man- those who have treated us with contempt. He,
he hiinself, the great, the mighty God does not * This remark indicates a generous temper in Saurin, think it beneath him, not unworthy of his to speak handsomely of his colleagues.
glorious majesty, yet to entreat us to return
to him and be happy. O "mercy," that Lord. I acknowledge my transgression, and "roacheth 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 Above all, think, think, my brethren, that may rejoice.” the truth we have been preaching will be- But as David gives us such proper models come one of the most cruel torments of the of penitential expressions of grief for our own damned. Devouring flame, kindled by divine sins, so he furnishes us with others as just for vengeance in hell, I have no need of your lamenting the sins of others. You have heard light; smoke ascending up for ever and ever, the text, “rivers of waters run down mine 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 the psalm from which the text is taken, and damned, I have no need to know your weight, you will find that our prophet shed three sorts to enable me to form lamentable ideas of the of tears for the sins of others. The first were punishments of the reprobate, the truth in my tears of zeal: the second flowed from love: text is sufficient to make me conceive your the third from self-interest. This is a kind of horror. Being lost, it will be remembered penitence, which I propose to-day to your emuthat there was a time when destruction might | lation. 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 In the second place, I will enumerate the gospel powerful, and the duties of it practica- miseries, into which a sinner plunges himself ble. It will be compelled to acquiesce in this by his obstinate perseverance in sin, and I will terrible truth, “thou hast destroyed thyself.” endeavour to convince you, that it is impossiA condemned soul will incessantly be its own ble for a good man to see this without shedtormentor, and will continually say, I am the ding tears of pity and love. author of my own punishment, I might have In the third place, I shall show you, if I perbeen saved, I opened and entered this horrible ceive your attention continue, the disorders gulf of myself.
which sinners cause in society, in our cities Inculcate all these great truths, Christians, and families, and you will perceive, that it is let them affect you, let them persuade you, impossible for a good man to see the prosperity let them compel you. God grant you the of society every day endangered and damaged grace! To him be honour and glory for ever. by its enemies without shedding tears of selfAmen.
Almighty God, whose “tender mercies are
over all thy works," but whose adorable ProSERMON LXVIII.
vidence 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 THE GRIEF OF THE RIGHTEOUS FOR that happy society in which conformity to thy THE MISCONDUCT OF THE WICKED. laws is the highest happiness and glory!
I. David shed over sinners of his time, tears
of zeal. Thus be expresses himself in the Riders of waters run down mine eyes, because psalm from which we have taken the text, they keep not thy law.
“My zeal hath consumed me, because mine Few people are such novices in religion as enemies have forgotten thy words.” But not to know, that sinners ought not to be what is zeal? How many people, to exculpate troubled for their own sins; but it is but here themselves for not feeling this sacred flame, and there a man, wbo enters so much into the ridicule it as a phantom, the mark of an enthuspirit of religion as to understand how far siast? However, there is no disposition more the sins of others ought to trouble us. David real and sensible. The word zeal is vague and was a model of both these kinds of penitential metaphorical, it signifies fire, heat, warmth, grief.
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! precise. His sin was always before him, and imbittered In a vague sense, zeal is put less for a partiall the pleasures of life. You know the lan- cular virtue, than for a general vigour and guage
of his grief. “ Have mercy on me, o vivacity pervading all the powers of the soul Lord, for I am weak, my bones are vexed. of a zealous man. Zeal is opposed to lukeMine iniquities are gone over mine head: as warmness, and lukewarmness is not a particaa heavy burden they are too heavy for me. lar vice, but a dulness, an indolence that acOut of the depths have I cried unto thee, O companies and enfeebles all the exercises of