صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the kind of snares, these are the kind of so- | It was a society to which kings were to be the phisms, the apostle apparently had in view, when he speaks of "weights, and the sin that doth so easily beset us."

Thanks be to God, my dear brethren, that though we are right, on the one hand, in saying that some among you, "have need to be taught again the first principles of the doctrine of Christ; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat," Heb. v. 12; thanks be to God, that you afford us, on the other hand, the consolation granted to our apostle, of seeing among you cultivated minds, geniuses conversant with the sublime mysteries of Christianity, and with the severest maximns of morality. Hence I should deem it an injustice to your discernment and knowledge, if, in the instructions I may give to-day, whether for the period of persecution, or for the ordinary conduct of life, I should enlarge on those truths which properly belong to young converts. What? in a church cherished by God in so dear a manner: what! in a church which enjoys a ministry like yours, is it necessary to affirin, that people are unworthy of the Christian name, when, during the period of persecution, they anticipate, if I may so speak, every wish of the persecutors, when they carry in their bosoms, formularies which abjure their religion; when they attend all the services of superstition; when they enjoy, in consequence of their apostacy, not only their own property, but the property of those "who have gone with Jesus Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach?" What! in a church like this, would it be requisite to preach, that men are unworthy of the Christian name, who, in the time of ecclesiastical repose, deliberately live in habits of fornication and adultery; who, in the face of heaven and earth, entice their neighbour's wife, who wallow in wickedness, who are ever disposed either to give or to receive "the wages of unrighteousness?" Oh! my very dear brethren, these are not plausible pretences; these are not subtle snares; they are the sensible sophisms, the broad snares which deceive those only who are resolved to be deceived. There are, however, subtle snares, which deceive the most established Christians. To these the apostle has immediate reference when he exhorts us to "lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us." On this shall turn chiefly the explication we shall give of the terms. What are those peculiar kinds of temptations? What are the precautions we must take to resist them? These are the two leading subjects of this discourse; to these subjects I will venture to solicit the continuation of the attention with which you have designed to favour me.

I. Let us begin with the temptations, to which we are exposed in the time of ecclesiastical tribulation.

nursing-fathers, and queens the nursing-mothers. It is a society, whose prosperity should have no end, which should realize this prediction: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished," Isa. li. 6. It is a society, whose prosperity made the prophets exclaim, "Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God," Isa. lii. 9, 10. To say all in one word, it is a society built upon the rock, and of which Jesus Christ has said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Matt. xvi. 18. What is the conformity between these promises and the event! or if you please, what likeness is there between the portrait and the original! Does not hell prevail against the church, when her enemies exile her pastors, scatter her flock, suppress her worship, and burn her sanctuaries? Do all nations see the salvation of God, the arm of the Lord made bare, to effectuate distinguished events in behalf of this society; when they are given up to the fury of their tyrants; when Pilate and Herod are confederated to destroy them; when they obtain over them daily new victories? Do the waste places of Jerusalem sing, when the ways of Zion mourn, "when her priests sigh," and when "her virgins are afflicted?" Does her salvation remain for ever, when the church has scareely breathed in one place, before she is agitated in another; when she has scarcely survived one calamity, before she is overtaken with another; when the beast causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, bond and free, to receive his mark in their hand, or in their forehead? Rev. xiii. 16. Are kings nursing-fathers to the church, and queens nursing-mothers, when they snatch the children from her breasts; when they populate the deserts with fugitives; and cause the dead bodies of her witnesses to lie in the streets of the great city, which is called Sodom and Egypt? Rev. xi. 8.

It is against this first device of Satan, St. Paul would fortify the Hebrews in the words of my text. Hear his admonitions and instructions; have you forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children; my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him? For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he, whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons," Heb. xii. 5-8.

1. The devil would sometimes inspire us with sentiments of unbelief respecting the truth of the promises God has given the church. It I have no need to arm you with any other seems a difficult task, to reconcile the magnifi-shield against the sentiments of unbelief, with cence of those promises with the deluge of calamities which have inundated it in periods of persecution. What is this church, according to the prophets? It is a society, which was to be completely irradiated with the glory of God.

which some of you are assailed on viewing the calamities of the church. Ecclesiastical persecutions are paternal chastisements, which God inflicts upon her members. I would ask our brethren, who complain of the length of


the persecution, and are ever saying, Alas! | snare with which he assails the church in tri what, always in exile, always in the galleys? I bulation, he endeavours, I say, to destroy by [SER. LXXXIII. would ask them, as they seem astonished, and distrust. "I am weak," says a man who dis are bold enough to complain of their dura- courages himself by temptations of this nation, whether they have profited by these af- ture; "I am weak: I shall not have constancy flictions? God, in chastising the church, is de- to sustain the miseries inseparably attendant sirous of correcting the abuse you have made on those who devote themselves to voluntary of prosperity. Have you profited by this chas- exile, by going into places where the truth is tisement? Have you learned to make a right professed; nor fortitude to endure the tortures use of prosperity? God, in chastising the church, inflicted on those who avow it in places where is desirous to correct the indifference you have it is persecuted. I am weak; I have not entertained for public worship. Have you pro- courage to lead a languishing life in unfited by this chastisement? Have you learned known nations, to beg my bread with my chilto sacrifice your dearest interests to attend his dren, and to hear my poverty sometimes reworship? And if you have made those sacri- proached by those to whom the cause for which fices, have you learned to worship with affec- I suffer ought to render it venerable. I am tions correspondent to the sacrifices you have weak: I shall never have constancy to endure made for him? God, in chastising the church, the stink of dungeons, the weight of the oar, is desirous to correct the strong attachment and all the terrific apparatus of martyrdom."" you have conceived for this world. Have you profited by this chastisement? Called to choose between riches and salvation, have you ever preferred the salvation of your souls, to exterior happiness?


ed, and pronounce upon yourselves beforehand the sentence which the gospel has pronounced You say, I am weak! say rather I am wickagainst persons of this description. You are (provided their intentions are really sincere) the promises of those strong consolations, weak! But is it not to the weak that are made which enable them to say, "When I am weak, then I am strong," 2 Cor. vii. 10. You are weak! But is it not said to the weak, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that may be able to bear it? 1 Cor. x. 13. You are weak! But is it not the weak to whom God has realized the truth of his magnificent promises? I will not refer you to those marvellous ages, when men, women, and children, sustained the most terrific tortures with a courage more than human. I will not adduce here the example of those saints, enumerated in the chapter, preceding my text; of saints who were stoned, who were killed with the sword, who were tortured, who were fettered, and who displayed more constancy in suffering, than their persecutors and hangmen, in the infliction of torments. But go to those myriads of exiles, who have inundated England, Germany, and these provinces, all of whom are protestant nations; those myriads of exiles,

[ocr errors]

Broussons, those Marolles, and such a multitude of our martyrs, who have sealed the evangelical doctrine with their blood, who have ascended the scaffold, not only with resignation, but with joy, with transports, with songs of triumph, exclaiming, amid their sufferings, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," Phil. i. 13. "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ," 2 Cor. ii. 14. "Blessed be the Lord, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight," Ps. cxliv. 1. Were not those venerable men naturally weak as you? And with the help of God, may not you become strong as they? Are you weak! It is still added, say rather, I am wicked, and blush for your impiety.

4. There are yet more plausible insinuations, and more subtle snares; and consequently, the more likely to entangle those who are defective in precautions of defence. The enemy of our salvation sometimes borrows weapons from conscience, in order to give it mortal wounds. The advice we give to the persecuted, is that of Jesus Christ; "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me,' Matt. xvi. 24. "Come out of Babylon, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues," Rev. xviii. 4. To this duty, they oppose other duties; and family duties in particular. What would become of my father, should I leave him in his old age? What would become of my children should I forsake them in their infancy? They allege the duties of benevolence. What would become of so many poor people who procure bread in my employment? So many starving families, who subsist on my alms? So many people in perplexity, who are guided by my advice? What would become of these, if, neglecting their happiness, I should solely seek my own? They allege the duties of zeal. What would become of religion in this place, in which it was once so flourishing, if all those who know the truth should obey the command, "Come out of Babylon."

terior service? And though external worship be required, must it always be presented in the presence of a multitude? May not private devotion be a substitute for public worship? And may we not offer to God in the closet, the devotion which the calamity of the time does not allow us to offer in temples consecrated to his glory, and perform in our families the offices of piety which tyrants prevent our performing in numerous assemblies?

(1.) I answer; what are the private devotions performed in places in which the truth is persecuted! Ridiculous devotions; many of those who perform them being divided between Christ and Belial, between true and idolatrous adoration. In the morning, before the altar of false gods; in the evening, before the altar of the Supreme Jehovah. In the morning, denying Jesus Christ in public; in the evening confessing him in private. In the morning making a parade of error; in the evening, pretending to acknowledge the truth. Devotions in which they are in continual alarms; in which they are obliged to conceal themselves from their enemies, from many of their friends, and to say in secret, who sees me? who hears me? who suspects me? Devotions in which they are afraid of false brethren, afraid of the walls, or afraid of themselves!

(2.) The inward disposition, you say constitutes the essence of religion. I ask, what sort of inward disposition is that of the Christians whom we attack? Show us now, this religion which consists wholly of inward dispositions; this worship in spirit and in truth. What! this gross ignorance a necessary consequence of privation of the ministry, those absurd notions of our mysteries, those vague ideas of morality; is this the inward religion, is this "the worship in spirit and in truth?" What! this abhorrence they entertain of the communion of the persecutor, who they know scarcely possesses the first principles of the persecuted? Is this the inward religion, is this the " worship in spirit and in truth?" What! this kind of deism, and deism certainly of the worst kind, Let us, my brethren, unmask this snare of which we see maintained by the persons in the devil. He places these last duties before question! Is this the inward religion, is this your eyes, in order that you may neglect the the "worship in spirit and in truth?" What! first, without which all others are detestable this tranquillity with which they enjoy not in the sight of God our sovereign Judge; who only the riches they have preserved at the exwhenever he places us in a situation in which pense of their soul; but the riches of these we cannot practise a virtue without commit- who have sacrificed the whole of their properting a crime, prohibits that virtue. God as- ty for the sake of the gospel? Is this the insumes to himself the government of the world, ward religion, is this the "worship in spirit and he will not lay it on your shoulders; he and in truth?" What! this participation in the still asserts the same language he once ad-pleasures of the age, at a period when they dressed to St. Paul, when that prince under the pretence of obedience to a precept, had violated an express prohibition. "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams," 1 Sam. xv. 22. 5. But is it public worship; (and this is a fifth snare, a fifth insinuation; and a fifth class of those "sins which so easily beset us;")-is it public worship which constitutes the essence 6. I will add but one illusion more, and that of religion? Does not true devotion wholly is the illusion of security. If we offend, say consist in worshipping in Spirit, and in truth? the persons we attack;—if we offend in subMay we not retain religion secretly in our mitting to the pressure of the times, we do it heart, though we apparently suspend the ex- I through weakness, and weakness is an object

VOL. II.-37

ought to weep: those frantic joys, if I may so speak, over the ruins of our temples, after renouncing the doctrines there professed? Is this the inward religion, is this the "worship in spirit and in truth?" What! those marriages they contract, in which it is stipulated, in case of issue, they shall be baptized by the ministers of error, and educated in their religion? Is this the inward religion, is this the " worship in spirit and in truth?"


of divine clemency. It is not possible, that a merciful God, a God who "knows whereof we are made," a God who has formed us with the attachment we have for our property, our relatives, and our lives; it is not possible that this God should condemn us to eternal misery, because we have not had the fortitude to sacrifice the whole. A double shield, my brethren, shall cover you against this temptation, if you have prudence to use it; a double reflection shall defend you against this last illusion.

First, the positive declarations of our Scriptures. God is merciful, it is true; but he is an arbitrator of the terms on which his mercy is offered: or, as it is written, he extends mercy to whom he pleases; and God who extends mercy to whom he pleases, declares that he will show no mercy to those who refuse to honour his truth. He declares, that "he will deny those before his Father, who deny him before men," Matt. x. 33. He declares, that "he who loveth father or mother more than him, of him," Matt. x. 37. He declares, that "they not worthy who receive the mark of the beast, or worship his image, shall be cast alive into the lake of fire, burning with brimstone," Rev. xix. 20. He declares, that he will class in the great day, "the fearful;" that is, those who have not had courage to confess their religion, with the "unbelieving," with "the abominable," with "the murderers," with "the whoremongers," with "the sorcerers," with "the idolaters," with "the liars." He declares, that "the fearful shall," in common with others, be cast into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death," Rev. xxi. S.

The second reflection, which should be a shield for repelling this illusion of the devil, arises from the nature of the crime itself, accounted a mere infirmity. Four characters contribute to the atrocity of a crime. is not committed in a moment of surprise, in 1. When it which we are taken unawares. persist in it not only for a few hours, or days, 2. When we but live in it for whole years. 3. When during those years of criminality, we have all the opportunities we could reasonably ask of emancipation. 4. When this crime not only captivates the solitary offender, but draws a great number more into the same perdition. These four characters all associate with the crime in question, the crime reckoned a weakness, and obstinately classed among the infirmities of nature. have not resolution to enlarge upon this subject, But I and to prove, that our unhappy brethren are in such imminent danger of destruction. And the expiration of my time is a subordinate inducement to proceed to other subjects.

II. Were it possible for the discourses introduced into this pulpit to be finished pieces, in which we were allowed to exhaust the subjects; were you capable of paying the same attention to exercises, which turn on spiritual subjects, you bestow on business or pleasure, I would present you with a new scheme of arguments; I would reduce, to different classes, the temptations which Satan employs to obstruct you in the course. But we should never promise ourselves the completion of a subject in the scanty limits to which we are prescribed.

I shall take a shorter course, harmonizing the extent and importance of the remaining subject

with the brevity of my time. I shall proceed
to give a portrait of the life common to persons
who attain the utmost age God has assigned to
close of life, tracing to you, in each period it is
presumed he shall pass, the various temptations
I shall conduct him from infancy to the
which assail him; and by which it is impossible
he should fall, if he keep in view the apostle's
exhortation, "Let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which doth so easily beset us." Let
to profit, carefully apply to himself those traits
every one who hears this sermon with a view
which have the nearest resemblance to his state.
Hence I would presume every one of you to be
the man who shall attain the age of eighty
years: these are the temptations he will find in
his course.

arms of the nurse, when you fall under the care
of weak and indulgent people; who will, through
1. Scarcely will you be liberated from the
a cruel complaisance, take as much pains to
they ought to take for their subjugation. At
cherish the corrupt propensities of nature, as
this early period they will sow in your heart
awful seeds, which will produce an increase of
thirty, sixty, or an hundred-fold. They will
make a jest of your faults, they will applaud
your vices, and so avail themselves of your ten-
der age, to give a thousand and a thousand
wounds to your innocence, that all your appli-
cation will scarcely heal, when you shall be
capable of application. If you do not avail
yourselves of the first sentiments of piety and
reason, to resist so far as the weakness of child-
hood will permit, those dangerous snares, you
road of vice before your situation is perceived.
will find yourselves very far advanced in the
snares, new temptations, occur.
mencement of reflection, you will discover ex-
2. Is infancy succeeded by youth? Fresh
On the com-
principles grossly opposed to the law of God.
isting, in your constitution and temperature,
the soul, perhaps in the body. In the tempera-
Perhaps the evil may have its principal seat in
ture of the soul, you will find principles of en-
vy, principles of vanity, or principles of avarice.
In the temperature of the body, you will find
principles of anger, principles of impurity, or
principles of indolence. If you are not aware
of this class of temptations, you will readily
suffer yourselves to be carried away by your
propensity, and you will obey it without re-
with innocence, what the rest of the world can-
morse; you will invest it with privilege to do
not do without a crime. You must expect to
find in your temperature principles which will
dispense with virtue, and to be captivated by
world, and which you will daily hear from the
mouths of your companions in dissipation.
maxims which too much predominate in the
These maxims are, that youth is the age of
pleasure; that it is unbecoming a young man to
be grave, serious, devout, and scrupulous; that
now we ought to excuse not only games, plea-
sure, and the theatres, but even debauchery,
drunkenness, luxury, and profaneness, that
swearing gives a young man an air of chivalry
becoming his age, and debauchery an air of
gallantry which does him credit in the world.
tions: reject the sin which so easily destroys you,
if you should relax in one single instance.
Caution yourselves against this class of tempta-


think, my son, that you may never survive | render him most useful? Is it not to determine those years you devote to the world, think that the small-pox, a fever, a single quarrel, or one act of debauchery, may snatch away your life. Think, though you should run your full course, you will never have such flexible organs, so retentive a memory, so ready a conception, as you have to-day; and consequently, you will never have such a facility for forming habits of holiness. Think how you will one day lament to have lost so precious an opportunity. Consecrate your early life to duty, dispose your heart, at this period, to ensure salvation. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, in which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them," Eccles. xii..

3. After having considered the period of youth, we proceed to maturer age. A new stage, fresh snares, more temptations. What profession can you choose, which the spirit of the world has not infected with its venom; and which has not, so to speak, its peculiar morality? The peculiar morality of a soldier, whose duty is to defend society, to maintain religion, to repress licentiousness, to oppose rapine by force: and to deduce, from so many dangers, which open the way of death, motives to render the account which Heaven will require: but it is a profession in which a man thinks himself authorized to insult society, to despise religion, to foment licentiousness, to lend his arm, to sacrifice his life, to sell his person for the most ambitious designs, the most iniquitous conquests, and sanguinary enterprises of sovereigns.

on the choice of a text, not by the caprice of the people, which on this point is often weak, and mostly partial, but by the immediate wants of the flock? Is it not to pay the same attention to a dying man, born of an obscure family, stretched on a couch of grass, and unknown to the rest of the world, as to him who possesses a distinguished name, who abounds in wealth, who provides the most splendid coffin and magnificent funeral? Is it not to "cry aloud, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, to show the people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins; to know no man after the flesh;" and when he ascends this pulpit, to reprove vice with firmness, however exalted may be the situation of the offender? But what is the morality of a pastor? "Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O Lord; for we cannot answer thee one of a thousand." Caution yourselves against this class of temptations. The world is neither your legislator, nor your judge; Jesus Christ, and not the world, is the sovereign arbitrator. It is the morality of Jesus Christ, and not the maxims of men, which you should follow.

4. Having reviewed human life in infancy, youth, and manhood, I proceed to consider it in old age; in that old age, which seems so distant, but which is, in fact, within a few years; in that old age. which seems, in some sort, at the distance of eternity, but which advances with astonishing rapidity. A new state, fresh snares, more temptations occur: infirmities, troubles, and cares, arrive with age. The less there remains on earth to defend, the more men are resolved not to let it go. The love of life hav

The peculiar morality of the statesman and magistrate, whose profession is to preserve the oppressed, to weigh with calmness a long detailing predominated for fifty or sixty years, someof causes and consequences, to avail himself of the dignity to which he is elevated to afford examples of virtue; but it is a profession in which he thinks himself entitled to become inaccessible to the injured, to weary them out with mortifying reserves, with insupportable delays, and to dispense with labour and application, abandoning himself to dissipation and vice.

The peculiar morality of the lawyer, whose duty is to restrict his ministry to truth and justice, never to plead for a cause which has not the appearance of equity, and to be the advocate of those who are inadequate to reward his services: but it is a profession in which a man thinks himself authorized to maintain both falsehood and truth, to support iniquity and falsehood, and to direct his efforts to the celebrity he may acquire, or the remuneration he may receive.

The peculiar morality of the merchant, whose duty is to detest short weights and false measures, to pay the revenue, and to be satisfied with a moderate profit: but a profession in which he thinks himself authorized to indulge those very vices he ought in particular to avoid.

The peculiar morality of the minister. What is the vocation of a minister? Is it not to devote himself entirely to virtue? Is it not to set a pattern to all the church? Is it not to visit the hospitals, and houses of affliction, and to alleviate, as far as he can, the pressure of their calamities? Is it not to direct his studies, not to subjects by which he may acquire celebrity for learning and eloquence, but to those which may

times unites and attaches itself, so to speak, yet more closely to the short period, which they think is still promised. It is so rooted and intrenched in the heart, as to be immoveable by all our sermons on eternity. They look on all who witness the calamities they suffer, as though they were the cause: it seems as though they were reproached for having lived so long, and they make them atone for this imaginary fault, as though they were really guilty. The thoughts of death they put away with the greater care, as it approaches nearer, it being impossible to avoid the idea, without these efforts to remove it. They call to their aid amusements, which would scarcely be excusable in the age of infancy: thus they lose the precious remains of life,-granted by the longsuffering of God, as they have lost the long course of years, of which nothing now remains but the recollection.

Be on your guard, aged men, against this class of temptations, and against these illusions, which will easily beset you, unless the whole of your strength be collected for precaution and defence. Let prayer be joined to vigilance: let those hands, trembling and enfeebled with the weight of years, be raised to heaven: let that voice, scarcely capable of articulating accents, be addressed to God: entreat him, who succoured you in the weakness of infancy, in the vigour of youth, in the bustle of riper age, still to sustain you, when the hand of time is heavy upon your head.

Hitherto, my dear brethren, I have address

« السابقةمتابعة »