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truth from error, who cannot believe, because they have not heard, who cannot "hear without a preacher," and to whom, alas! no preacher is sent? Rom. x. 14.
gentleness, if they discover, that it is not the fruit of our care to reward what in them is worthy of reward, but of a natural inclination, which we have not the courage to resist, and But you, happy fathers, you, mothers, fa- which makes us yield more to the motions of vourites of heaven, who assemble your children | our animal machine, than to the dictates of around you "as a hen gathereth her chickens reason? On the other hand, what good can under her wings," Matt. xxiii. 37; can you they derive from our severity, if they see, that neglect a duty, which is impracticable to others? it proceeds from humour and caprice more than That tyrants and persecutors should display from our hatred to sin, and our desire to free their fury by making havoc of our children, them from it? If our eyes sparkle, if we take and by offering them to the devil, is, I allow, a high tone of voice, if our mouths froth, when extremely shocking, but there is nothing in it we chastise them, what good can come of such very wonderful: but that Christian fathers and chastisements? mothers should conspire together in such a tragical design would be a spectacle incomparably more shocking, and the horror of which the blackest colours are unable to portray.
How forcible soever the motives, which we have alleged, may be, I fear they will be ineffectual, and such as will not influence the greatest part of you. It must be allowed, that, if there be any case, to which the words of our Saviour are applicable, it is this of which we are speaking, "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," Matt. vii. 14.
A reformation of the false ideas which you form on the education of children, is, so to speak, the first step which you ought to take in the road set before you this day. No, it is not such vague instructions as you give your children, such superficial pains as you take to make them virtuous, such general exhortations as you address to them, is it not all this, that constitutes such a religious education as God requires you to give them. Entertain notions more rational, and remember the few maxims, which I am going to propose to you as the conclusion of this discourse.
First maxim. Delays, always dangerous in cases of practical religion, are peculiarly fatal in the case of education. As soon as children see the light, and begin to think and reason, we should endeavour to form them to piety. Let us place the fear of God in these young hearts, before the world can get possession of them, before the power of habit be united to that of constitution. Let us avail ourselves of the flexibility of their organs, the fidelity of their memories, and the facility of their conceptions, to render their duty pleasing to them by the ease with which they are taught to discharge it.
Second marim. Although the end of the divers methods of educating children ought to be the same, yet it should be varied according to their different characters. Let us study our children with as much application as we have studied ourselves. Both these studies are attended with difficulties; and as self-love often prevents our knowing ourselves, so a natural fondness for our children renders it extremely difficult for us to discover their propensities.
Third maxim. A procedure, wise in itself, and proper to inspire children with virtue, may sometimes be rendered useless by symptoms of passion, with which it is accompanied. We cannot educate them well without a prudent mixture of severity and gentleness. But on the one hand, what success can we expect from
Fourth maxim. The best means of procuring a good education lose all their force, unless they be supported by the examples of such as employ them. Example is also a great motive, and it is especially such to youth. Children know how to imitate before they can speak, before they can reason, and, so to speak, before they are born. In their mothers' wombs, at the breasts of their nurses, they receive impressions from exterior objects, and take the form of all that strikes them. What success, miserable mother, can you expect from your exhortations to piety, while your children see you yourself all taken up with the world, and its amusements and pleasures; passing a great part of your life in gaming, and in forming criminal intrigues, which, far from hiding from your family, you expose to the sight of all mankind? What success can you expect from your exhortations to your children, you wretched father, when they hear you blaspheme your Creator, and see you living in debauchery, drowning your reason in wine, and gluttony, and so on?
Fifth maxim. A liberty, innocent when it is taken before men, becomes criminal, when it is taken before tender minds, not yet formed. What circumspection, what vigilance, I had almost said, what niceties does this maxim engage us to observe? Certain words spoken, as it were, into the air, certain imperceptible allusions, certain smiles, escaping before a child, and which he has not been taught to suspect, are sometimes snares more fatal to his innocence than the most profane discourses, yea, they are often more dangerous than the most pernicious examples, for them he has been taught to abhor.
Sixth maxim. The indefatigable pains, which we ought always to take in educating our children, ought to be redoubled on these decisive events which influences both the present life, and the future state. For example, the kind of life to which we devote them, is one of these decisive events. A good father regulates his views in this respect, not according to a rash determination made when the child was in the cradle, but according to observations deliberately made on the abilities and manners of the child.
Companions too are to be considered as deciding on the future condition of a child. A good father with this view will choose such societies as will second his own endeavours, he will remember the maxim of St. Paul, “Evil communications corrupt good manners," 1 Cor. xv. 33; for he knows, that a dissolute compan
ion has often eradicated from the heart of a
youth all the good seeds which a pious family had sown there.
ROMANS xii. 2.
Be not conformed to this world.
Or all the discourses delivered in this pulpit those which deserve the greatest deference, and usually obtain the least, are such as treat of general mistakes. What subjects require a
Above all, marriage is one of these decisive steps in life. A good father of a family, unites his children to others by the two bonds of virtue and religion. How can an intimate union be formed with a person of impious principles, without familiarizing the virtuous by degrees with impiety, without losing by little and little that horror which impiety would inspire, and without imbibing by degrees the same spirit? So necessary is a bond of virtue. That of re-greater deference? Our design in treating of ligion is no less so, for the crime which drew the most cutting reproofs upon the Israelites after the captivity, and which brought upon them the greatest judgments, was that of contracting marriages with women not in the covenant. Are such marriages less odious now, when by a profane mixture people unite "light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the temple of God and idols?" 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. Are such marriages less hateful now, when, by a horrible partition, the children, if there be any, are mutually ceded before hand, and in cold blood disposed of thus: the sons shall be taught the truth, the daughters shall be educated in error, the boys shall be for heaven, the girls for hell, a son for God, a daughter for the devil.
them, is to dissipate those illusions, with which the whole world is familiar, which are authorized by the multitude, and which, like epidemical diseases, inflicted sometimes by Providence on public bodies, involve the state, the church, and individuals. Yet are any discourses less respected than such as these? To attack general mistakes is to excite the displeasure of all who favour them, to disgust a whole auditory, and to acquire the most odious of all titles, I mean that of public censor. A preacher is then obliged to choose either never to attack such mistakes as the multitude think fit to authorize, or to announce the advantages which he may promise himself, if he adapt his subjects to the taste of his auditors, and touch their disorders only so far as to accommodate their crimes to their consciences.
Let us not hesitate what part to take. St. Paul determines us by his example. I am going, to-day, in imitation of this apostle to guard you against the rocks, where the many are shipwrecked. He exhorts us, in the words of the text, not to take "the world for a model!" "the world," that is, the crowd, the multitude, society at large. But what society has he in view? Is it that of ancient Rome, which he describes as extremely depraved in the beginning of this epistle? Does he say nothing of our world, our cities and provinces? We are going to examine this, and I fear I shall be able to prove to you, that our multitude is a dangerous guide to show us the way to heaven; and, to confine ourselves to a few articles. I shall prove that they are bad guides to direct us, first, in regard to faith; secondly, in regard to the worship which God requires of us;thirdly, in regard to morality; and lastly, in regard to the hour of death. In these four views, I shall enforce the words of our text, "Be not conformed to this world." This is the whole plan of this discourse.
Seventh maxim. The best means for the education of children must be accompanied with fervent prayer. If you have paid any attention to the maxims we have proposed, I shall not be surprised to hear you exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?" 2 Cor. ii. 16. But, if it be the fear of not succeeding in educating your children, which dictates this language, and not that indolence, which tries to get rid of the labour, be you fully persuaded, that the grace of God will triumph over your great infirmities. Let us address to him the most fervent prayers for the happiness of those children, who are so dear to us, and let us believe that they will return in benedictions upon them. Let each parent collect together all his piety, and then let him give himself up to the tenderest emotions towards his children. O God! who didst present thyself to us last Lord's day under the amiable idea of a parent "pitying them that fear thee as a father pitieth his children," Ps. ciii. 13. O God! who thyself lovest thy Son with infinite tenderness and vehemence: O God! author of the tender affections, which unite me to the children thou hast given me, bless the pains I take in their education: disobedient, children, my God, I disown. I. The multitude is a bad guide to direct our Let me see them die in infancy, rather than go faith. We will not introduce here the famous along with the torrent of general immorality, controversy on this question, whether a great and "run" with the children of the world to number form a presumption in favour of any their "excess of riot," 1 Pet. iv. 4. I pray religion, or whether universality be a certain evifor their sanctification with an ardour a thou- dence of the true Christian church? How often sand times more vehement than I desire their has this question been debated and determined! fortune: and the first of all my wishes is to be How often have we proved against one commuable to present them to thee on that great day,nity, which displays the number of its professors when thou wilt pronounce the doom of all mankind, and to say to thee then, "Lord, behold, here am I, and the children thou hast given me." May God excite such prayers, and answer them! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
with so much parade, that if the pretence were well-founded, it would operate in favour of paganism, for pagans were always more numerous than Christians! How often have we told them, that in divers periods of the ancient church idolatry and idolaters have been en
If the nature of the thing cannot convince you, that the multitude continue through negligence in the profession of that religion in which they were born, experience may here supply the place of reasoning. There is an infinite variety of geniuses among mankind. Propose to an assembly a question, that no system has yet decided, and you will find, as it is usually said, as many opinions as heads.
throned in both the kingdoms of Judah and Israel! How often have we alleged, that in the time of Jesus Christ the church was described as a "little flock," Luke xii. 32; that heathens and Jews were all in league against Christianity at first, and that the gospel had only a small number of disciples! How often have we retorted, that for whole centuries there was no trace, no shadow of the opinions of modern Rome! But we will not apply ourselves to this controversy to-day by fixing your attention on the sophisms of foreigners; perhaps we might divert your eyes from your own; by showing you our triumphs over the vain attacks made on us by the enemies of the refor-in one point of error, or rather, it is clear, to a mation, perhaps we might turn away your attention from other more dangerous wounds, which the reformed themselves aim at the heart of religion. When I say the multitude is a bad guide in matters of faith, I mean, that the manner in which most men adhere to truth, is not by principles which ought to attach them to it, but by a spirit of negligence and prejudice.
It is no small work to examine the truth, when we arrive at an age capable of discussion. The fundamental points of religion, I grant, lie in the Scriptures clear and perspicuous, and within the comprehension of all who choose to attend to them: but when we pass from infancy to manhood, and arrive at an age in which reason seems mature, we find ourselves covered with a veil, which either hides objects from us, or disfigures them. The public discourses we have heard in favour of the sect, in which we were educated, the inveterate hatred we have for all others, who hold principles opposite to ours, the frightful portraits that are drawn before our eyes of the perils we must encounter, if we depart from the way we have been brought up in, the impressions made upon us by the examples and decisions of our parents, and masters, and teachers, the bad taste of those who had the care of our education, and who prevented our acquiring that most noble disposition, without which it is impossible ever to be a true philosopher, or a real Christian, I mean that of suspending our judgment on subjects not sufficiently proved; from all this arise clouds that render the truth inaccessible, and which the world cannot dissipate. We do not say, that natural talents, or supernatural assistance are wanting; we are fully convinced that God will never give up to final error any man who does all in his power to understand the truth. But the world are incapable of this work. Why? Because all the world, except a few, hate labour and meditation in regard to the subjects which respect another life; because all the world would choose rather to attach themselves to what regards their temporal interests than to the great interest of eternal happiness: because all the world like better to suppose the principles imbibed in their childhood true, than to impose on themselves the task of weighing them anew in the balance of a sound and severe reason: because all the world have an invincible aversion to suppose, that when they are arrived at manhood they have almost lost their time in some respects, and that when they leave school they begin to be capable of instruction.
It is certain, if mankind were attached to a religion only because they had studied it, we should find a great number of people forsake that in which they had been brought up, for it is impossible, that a whole society should unite demonstration, that as truth has certain characters superior to falsehood, the temples of idols would be instantly deserted, erroneous sects would be soon abandoned, the religion of Jesus Christ, the only one worthy of being embraced, the only one that deserves disciples, would be the only one embraced, and would alone be received by all sincere disciples of truth.
Do not think, my brethren, that this reflection concerning that spirit of negligence, which retains most men in a profession of their own religion, regards only such communions as lay down their own infallibility for a fundamental article of faith, and which prescribe ignorance and blind submission as a first principle to their partisans, for it is but too easy to prove, that the same spirit of negligence reigns in all communities. Hence it comes to pass, that in general so few Christians can render a reason for their faith. Hence it is that people are usually better furnished with arguments to oppose such societies as surround them, than with those which establish the fundamental truths of Christianity. If then you follow the direction of the multitude in the study of religion, you will be conducted by a spirit of negligence, prejudice will be held for proof, education for argument, and the decisions of your parents and teachers for infallible oracles of truth.
II. The multitude is a bad guide in regard to that worship, which God requires of us; they defile it with a spirit of superstition. Superstition is a disposition of mind that inclines us to regulate all parts of divine worship, not by just notions of the Supreme Being, nor by his relation to us, nor by what he has condescended to reveal, but by our own fancies. A superstitious man entertains fantastical ideas of God, and renders to him capricious worships; he not unfrequently takes himself for a model of God: he thinks that what most resembles himself, however mean and contemptible, approaches nearest to perfection. We affirm, this disposition is almost universal.
It would be needless to prove this to you, my brethren, in regard to erroneous communities. Were superstition banished from the world, we should not see men, who are made in the image of God, disgrace their nature by prostrating themselves before idols, and marmosets, so as to render religious honours to half a block of wood or stone, the other half of which they apply to the meanest purposes: we should not see a crowd of idolaters performing a ceremonial, in which conviction of mind has no part, and which is all external and material,
we should not see a concourse of people receiving with respect, as the precious blood of the Saviour of the world, a few drops of putrefied water, which the warmth of the sun has produced by fermentation in the trunk of a decayed tree: we should not see pilgrims in procession mangling their flesh in the streets, dragging along heavy loads, howling in the highways, and taking such absurd practices for that repentance, which breaks the heart, and transforms and renews the life. You will easily grant all this, for I have observed, it is often less difficult to inspire you with horror for these practices, than to excite compassion in you for such as perform them.
But you ought to be informed, that there are other superstitions less gross, and therefore more dangerous. Among us we do not put a worship absolutely foreign to the purpose in the place of that which God has commanded and exemplified to us, but we make an estimate of the several parts of true worship. These estimates are regulated by opinions formed through prejudice or passion. What best agrees with our inclinations we consider as the essence of religion, and what would thwart and condemn them we think circumstantial.
We make a scruple of not attending a sermon, not keeping a festival, not receiving the Lord's Supper, but we make none of neglecting to visit a prisoner, to comfort the sick, to plead for the oppressed. We observe a strict decency in our religious assemblies while our ministers address prayer to God, but we take no pains to accompany him with our minds and hearts, to unite our ejaculations with his to besiege the throne of grace. We think it a duty to join our voices with those of a whole congregation, and to fill our places of worship with the praises of our Creator, but we do not think ourselves obliged to understand the sense of the psalm, that is sung with so much fervour, and, in the language of an apostle, to "sing with understanding," 1. Cor. xiv. 15. We lay aside innocent occupations the day before we receive the Lord's Supper, but no sooner do we return from this ordinance than we allow the most criminal pleasures, and enter upon the most scandalous intrigues. Who make these mistakes my brethren? Is it the few? "Be not conformed to this world," in regard to the worship that God requires of you, the multitude perform it in a spirit of superstition. III. Neither are the many a better guide in regard to morality. Here, my brethren, we are going more particularly to describe that class of mankind, among which we live, and of which we ourselves are a part. Indeed, the portraits we are going to draw will not be flattering to them, for justice requires, that we should describe men as they are, not as they pretend to be. In order to exactness let us consider them separately and apart. First, In regard to the masters who govern them. Secondly, In regard to the professions, which they exercise. Thirdly, In regard to some maxims generally received. Fourthly, In regard to the splendid actions which they celebrate. And lastly, In regard to certain decisive occasions, that, like touchstones, discover their principles and motives.
1. Consider mankind in regard to the masters who govern them. Here I congratulate myself on the happiness of speaking to a free people, among whom it is not reputed a crime to praise what is praise-worthy, and to blame what deserves blame, and where we may freely trace the characters of some men of whom prudence requires us not to "speak evil, no not in thought, no not in the bedchamber, lest a bird of the air should carry the voice, and that which hath wings should tell the matter,' Eccles. x. 20. Is it in the palaces of the great that humility reigns, humility which so well becomes creatures, who, though crowned and enthroned, are yet infirm, criminal, dying creatures, and who, in a few days, will become food for worms, yea, perhaps victims in the flames of hell? Is it in the palaces of the great, that uprightness, good faith, and sincerity reign? Yet without these society is nothing but a banditti, treaties are only snares, and laws cobwebs, which, to use a well known expression, catch only weak insects, while the fierce and carnivorous break through. Is it in the palaces of the great that gratitude reigns, that lawful tribute due to every motion made to procure our happiness? Is it there that the services of a faithful subject, the labours of an indefatigable merchant, the perils of an intrepid soldiery, blood shed and to be shed, are estimated and rewarded? Is it there that the cries of the wretched are heard, tears of the oppressed wiped away, the claims of truth examined and granted? Is it in the palaces of the great that benevolence reigns, that benevolence without which a man is only a wild beast! Is it there that the " young ravens which cry" are heard and fed? Ps. cxlvii. 9. Is it there that they attend to the bitter complaints of an indigent man, ready to die with hunger, and who asks for no more than will just keep him alive? Are the palaces of the great seats of piety and devotion? Is it there that schemes are formed for the reformation of manners? Is it there that they are "grieved for the affliction of Joseph," Amos vi. 6: and "take pleasure in in dust and stones of Zion?" Ps. cii. 14. Is it there that we hear the praises of the Creator? do they celebrate the compassion of the Redeemer of mankind?
What ideas are excited in our minds by the names of such as Caligula, Nero, Dioclesian, Decius, names detestable in all ages? What ideas could we excite in your minds, were we to weigh in a just balance the virtues of such heroes as have been rendered famous by the encomiums given them? You would be astonished to see that these men, who have been called the delights of mankind, have often deserved execration, and ought to be considered with horror. But I purposely forbear, and will not put in this list all that ought to be placed there, that is to say, all those who have had sovereign power, except a very few, who in comparison are next to none, and who are, as it were, lost in the crowd among the rest. And yet the elevation of kings makes their crimes more communicable, and their examples more contagious; their sins become a filthy vapour infecting the air, and shedding their malignant influence all over our cities and families, lightning, and thundering, and disturb
ing the world. Accordingly, you see in gene- but by what will most benefit the people ral, that what the king is in his kingdom, the among whom he exercises his ministry; it is to governor is in his province; what the governor take as much care of a dying person in an obis in his province, the nobleman is in his do- scure family, lying on a bed of straw, lost in main; what the nobleman is in his domain, the oblivion and silence, as of him, who with an master is in his family. The multitude is a illustrious name lives amidst silver and gold, bad guide, mankind are a dangerous model, and for whom the most magnificent and pompconsidered in regard to the masters who governous funeral honours will be prepared, it is to them.
2. Consider the many in regard to divers professions. What is the profession of a soldier, particularly of an officer of rank in the army? It is to defend society, to maintain religion, to be a parent to the soldiery, to bridle the licentiousness of arms, to oppose power against injustice, to derive from all the views of death that lie open before him, motives to prepare his accounts to produce before his Judge. But what is the conduct of a soldier? Is it not to brave society? Is it not to trample upon religion? Is it not to set examples of debauchery, licentiousness, and vengeance? Is it not to let out his abilities, and to sacrifice his life to the most ambitious designs, and to the most bloody enterprises of princes? Is it not to accustom himself to ideas of death and judgment till he laughs at both, to stifle all remorse, and to extirpate all the fears, which such objects naturally excite in the consciences of other men?
What is the profession of a judge? It is to have no regard to the appearances of men, it is to be affable to all who appeal to authority, to study with application the nature of a cause which he is obliged to decide, it is patiently to go through the most fatiguing details of proofs and objections. But what is often the conduct of a judge? Is it not to be struck with the exterior difference of two parties appearing before him? Is it not to be inaccessible to the poor, to invent cruel reserves, and intolerable delays? Is it not to grovel in ignorance, and to hate study and labour?
What is the profession of a man learned in
What is the profession of a merchant? It is
What is the profession of a minister? It is
cry aloud, to lift up his voice like a trumpet,
in a man.
3. Consider the multitude in regard to some general maxims which they adopt, and hold as rules and approved axioms. Have you read in the gospel the following maxims? Charity begins at home. Youth is a time of pleasure. Slander is the salt of It is allowable to kill time. We should not pretend to be saints. conversation. We must do as other people do. It is unworthy of a man of honour to pocket an affront. A gentleman ought to avenge himself. Ambition is the vice of great souls. Provided we commit no great crimes, we sufficiently answer our calling. Impurity is an inIt would be easy to enlarge this tolerable vice in a woman, but it is pardonable catalogue. Which of these maxims, pray, does not sap some of the first principles of the religion of Jesus Christ? Yet which of these maxims is not received in society as a fundamental rule of action, which we should be 4. Consider the multitude in regard to ceraccounted singular and petulent to condemn? We do not mean to speak at tain actions, of which they lavish praise and write present of such crimes as the depravity of the world sometimes celebrates under the notions of heroical actions. Our reflections are of another kind. It is pretty clear, that depravity is general, and piety in the possession of a very few, when persons of a superficial knowledge are praised for the depth of their understandinconsiderable actions of virtue are considered ing, and when such as perform very small and as the wonders of the world. Sometimes I hear the world exclaim, What benevolence! What liberality! What generosity! I inquire for the evidences of these virtues, on which such lavish encomiums are bestowed; I expect to find another St. Paul, who, "wished himself accursed for his brethren," Rom. ix. 3. I hope to meet with another Moses, praying to than see his nation perish, Exod. xxxii. 32. be" blotted out of the book" of life rather But no; this boasted generosity and charity is that of a man, who distributed to the poor on one solemn occasion, once in his life, such a sun of money as he expends every day in prodigality and superfluity. It is that of a man, who bestows on all the members of Jesus Christ almost as much as he does on the walls of a room, or the harness of a horse. I hear the world exclaim in some circumstances, What friendship! What tenderness! I inquire for