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in the night preceding a day destined to a complication of crimes, saying to yourself, perhaps I shall see the day devoted to so dreadful a purpose: but perhaps this very night "my soul shall be required:" what delight can you take in a tour of pleasure, when it actually engrosses the time you have devoted to search your conscience, to examine your state, to prepare for death, to make restitution for so many frauds, so many extortions, so many dissipations? What satisfaction can you take, saying to yourself, perhaps I shall see the day devoted to so great a work, but perhaps it will never come?
ed you, merely concerning the dangers peculiar | What repose can you enjoy in a criminal into each age. What would you not say now, trigue, saying to yourself, perhaps God will if we should enter into a detail of those which pardon me after having brought this intrigue occur in every situation of life? We find, in to an issue: but perhaps, also, during the every age, temptations of adversity, tempta- course of the crime, he will pronounce the sentions of prosperity, temptations of health, temp-tence it deserves. What repose can you enjoy tations of sickness, temptations of company, and temptations of solitude: and who is able fully to enumerate all the sins which so easily beset us in the various ages of life? How should one be rich without pride, and poor without complaint? How may one fill the middle rank of fortune, without the disgust naturally consequent on a station, which has nothing emulous and animating; which can be endured by those only, who discover the evils from which they are sheltered, and the dangers from which they are freed? How can one enjoy health without indulging in the dissipations of life, without immersion into its cares, or indulging in its pleasures? How can one be sick, without admitting complaint against that gracious Providence, which distributes both good and evil? How can one be in solitude, without being captivated with reveries and corrupt propensities How can one be in company, without receiving the poison which is there respired, without receiving a conformity to every surrounding object? How see one's self obscure in the world, and unknown to our fellow-creatures, without indulging that anxiety, which is less exercised in the world for the love of virtue, than to avoid the odium consequent on an open violation of its laws? How can one enjoy reputation without ostentation, and blending some grains of incense with what we receive of others? Every where snares, every where dangers, beset us!
From the truths we have delivered, there necessarily arises an objection, by which you are struck, and many of you, perhaps, already discouraged. What! are we always to be thinking about religion, being in constant danger of losing it, should we suffer it to escape our minds? What! must we always watch, always pray, always fight? Yes, my brethren, always, at all times. On seeing the temptations of youth, you should guard against those of riper age. On seeing the temptations of solitude, you should guard against those of company. On seeing the temptations of adversity, you should guard against those of prosperity. On seeing the temptations of health, you should guard against those of sickness. And on seeing the temptations of sickness, you should guard against those of death. Yes; always watching, always fighting, always praying.
I do not say, if you should happen to relax a moment from the work; I do not say, if you should happen to fall by some of the temptations to which you are exposed from the world, that you are lost without resource, that you should instantly go from sin to punishment, from the abuse of time to an unhappy eternity. Perhaps God will grant you a day, or a year, for repentance; but perhaps he will not. Perhaps you may repent; but perhaps you may not. Perhaps you may be saved; but perhaps not. Perhaps hell-perhaps heaven. What repose can you enjoy in so awful an alternative? What delight can you enjoy in certain vices, the perpetration of which requires time?
Ah! my brethren, have you any proper idea of the shortness of life: have you any proper idea of the eternity which follows, when you start the objection, What! always pray, always fight, always watch? This life, the whole of which we exhort you to devote to your salvation; this life, of which you say; always-always; this is the life, on the shortness of which you make so many exaggerated declamations: I mistake, the shortness of which can scarcely be exaggerated. This life, of which you say, when we exhort you to devote it entirely to your salvation; this life of which you say, What! always-always; this life, which is but a vapour dissipated in the air; this life, which passes with the swiftness of a weaver's shuttle; this life, which like a flower blooms in the morning, and withers at night: this life, which like a dream amuses the fancy for a night, and of which not a vestige remains at the dawn of day:-this is the life which is but like a thought. And eternity, concerning which you regret to be always employed; that abyss, that gulf, are those mountainous heaps of years, of ages, of millions and oceans of ages, of which language the most expressive, images the most sublime, geniuses the most acute, orators the most eloquent, I have almost said, the most audacious, can give you but imperfect notions.
What do I
Ah! life of fourscore years! A long duration in the estimation of the heart, when employed in wrestling against the flesh; but a short period when compared with eternity. Ah! life of fourscore years, spent wholly in watchfulness, prayer, and warfare; but thou art well spent when we obtain the prize of a blissful immortality! My brethren, my dear brethren, who can live but fourscore years,say? Who among us can expect to see the age of fourscore years? Christians, who are already arrived at thirty, others at forty, others at fifty, and another already at fourscore years. My dear brethren, some of you must die in thirty, some of you in twenty, some of you in ten years, and some in a single day. My dear brethren, let us consecrate to eternity the remnant of our days of vanity. Let us return to the testimonies of the Lord, if we have had the misfortune to deviate. Let us enter on the race of salvation, if we have had the presumption to defer our entrance into it to the present period. Let us run with patience the race, if we have already made a progress; and let the
thought, the attracting, the ravishing thought
SAINT PAUL'S DISCOURSE BEFORE
ACTS xxiv. 24, 25.
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered; Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
person of St. Paul. He preached Jesus Christ,
We find here three considerations which claim attention. An enlightened preacher, who discovers a very peculiar discernment in the selection of his subjects. A conscience appalled, and confounded on the recollection of its crimes, and of that awful judgment where they must be weighed. We find, in fact, a sinner alarmed, but not converted; a sinner who desires to be saved, but delays his conversion; a case, alas! but of too common occurrence. You perceive already, my brethren, the subject of this discourse; I. That St. Paul reason
temperance, and judgment to come; II. That Felix trembled; III. That he sent the apostle away: three considerations which shall divide this discourse. May it produce on your hearts, on the hearts of Christians, the same effects St. Paul produced on the soul of this heathen; but may it have a happier influence on your lives. Amen.
My brethren, though the kingdom of the righteous be not of this world, they present, however, amidst their meanness, marks of dignity and power. They resemble Jesus Christ.ed before Felix and Drusilla, of righteousness, He humbled himself so far as to take the form of a servant, but frequently exercised the rights of a sovereign. From the abyss of humiliation to which he condescended, emanations of the godhead were seen to proceed. Lord of nature, he commanded the winds and seas. He bade the storms and tempests subside. He restored health to the sick, and life to the dead. He imposed silence on the Rabbins: he embarrassed Pilate on the throne; and disposed of paradise, at the moment he himself was pierced with the nails, and fixed on the cross. Behold the portrait of believers! "They are dead. Their life is hid with Christ in God," Col. iii. 3. "If they had hope only in this life, they were of all men most miserable," 1 Cor. xv. 19. Nevertheless, they discover I know not what superiority of birth. Their glory is not so concealed, but we sometimes perceive its lustre; just as the children of a king, when unknown and in a distant province, betray in their conversation and carriage indications of illustrious descent.
We might illustrate this truth by numerous instances. Let us attend to that in our text. There we shall discover that association of humility and grandeur, of reproach and glory, which constitutes the condition of the faithful while on earth. Behold St. Paul, a Christian, an apostle, a saint. See him hurried from tribunal to tribunal, from province to province; sometimes before the Romans, sometimes before the Jews, sometimes before the high-priest of the synagogue, and sometimes before the procurator of Cesar. See him conducted from Jerusalem to Cesarea, and summoned to appear before Felix. In all these traits, do you not recognise the Christian walking in the narrow way, the way of tribulation, marked by his Master's feet? But consider him nearer still. Examine his discourse, look at his countenance; there you will see a fortitude, a courage, and a dignity, which constrains you to acknowledge that there was something really grand in the
I. Paul preached before Felix and Drusilla, "on righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." This is the first object of discussion. Before, however, we proceed farther with our remarks, we must first sketch the character of this Felix, and this Drusilla, which will serve as a basis to the first proposition.
After the sceptre was departed from Judah, and the Jewish nation subjugated by Pompey, the Roman emperors governed the country by procurators. Claudius filled the imperial throne while St. Paul was at Cesarea. This emperor had received a servile education from his grandmother Lucia, and from his mother Antonia; and, having been brought up in obsequious meanness, evinced, on his elevation to the empire, marks of the inadequate care which had been bestowed on his infancy. He had neither courage nor dignity of mind. He who was raised to sway the Roman sceptre, and consequently to govern the civilized world, abandoned his judgment to his freed-men, and gave them a complete ascendancy over his mind. Felix was one of those freed-men. "He exercised," and these are the words of a Roman historian (Tacitus,) "he exercised in Judea, the imperial functions with a mercenary soul." Voluptuousness and avarice were the predominant vices of his heart. proof of his avarice immediately after our text, where, it is said, he sent for Paul,-not to hear him concerning the truth of the gospel which this apostle had preached with so much power;-not to inquire whether this religion, against which the Jews had raised the standard, was contrary to the interest of the state;→→
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but because he hoped to have received money | class of men. He might have discussed some for his liberation. Here is the effect of avarice. of those subjects which would have flattered Josephus recites an instance of his voluptu- the governor. He might have discoursed on ousness. It is his marriage with Drusilla. She the dignity of princes, and on the relation they was a Jewess, as is remarked in our text. King have to the Supreme Being. He might have Azizus, her former husband, was a heathen; said, that the magistrate beareth not the and in order to gain her affections, he had con- sword in vain," Rom. xiii. 4. That the Deity formed to the most rigorous ceremonies of Ju- himself has said, "ye are gods, and ye are all the daism. Felix saw her, and became enamoured children of the most High," Ps. lxxxii. 6. But of her beauty. He conceived for her a violent all this adulation, all this finesse, were unknown passion; and, in defiance of the sacred ties to our apostle. He sought the passions of Fewhich had united her to a husband, he resolv-lix in their source. He forced the sinner in his ed to become master of her person. His addresses were received. Drusilla violated her former engagements, preferring to contract with Felix an illegitimate marriage, to an adherence to the chaste ties which united her to Azizus. Felix the Roman, Felix the procurator of Judea, and the favourite of Cesar, appeared to her a noble acquisition. It is indeed a truth, we may here observe, that grandeur and fortune are charms which mortals find the greatest difficulty to resist; and against which the purest virtue has need to be armed with all its constancy. Recollect those two characters of Felix and Drusilla. St. Paul, before those two personages, treated concerning "the faith in Christ" that is, concerning the Christian religion, of which Jesus Christ is the sum and substance, the author and the end: and from the numerous doctrines of Christianity, he selected "righteousness, temperance, and judg-ine the discourses delivered in his presence; ment to come."
Here is, my brethren, an admirable text; but a text selected with discretion. Fully to comprehend it, recollect the character we have given of Felix. He was covetous, luxurious, and governor of Judea. St. Paul selected three subjects, correspondent to these characteristics. Addressing an avaricious man, he treated of righteousness. Addressing the governor of Judea, one of those persons who think themselves independent, and responsible to none but themselves for their conduct, he treated of "judgment to come."
My brethren, when a man preaches for popularity, instead of seeking the glory of Christ, he seeks his own; he selects subjects calculated to display his talents, and flatter his audience. Does he preach before a professed infidel, he will expatiate on morality; and be ashamed to pronounce the venerable words-covenant-satisfaction. Does he address an Antinomian audience, who would be offended were he to enforce the practical duties of religion; he makes every thing proceed from election, reprobation and the irresistibility of grace. Does he preach in the presence of a profligate court, he will enlarge on the liberty of the gospel, and the clemency of God. He has the art,-(a most detestable art, but too well understood in all ages of the church,) he has the art of uniting his interests and his ministry. A political preacher endeavours to accommodate his preaching to his passions. Minister of Christ, and minister of his own interests, to express myself with this apostle, he "makes a gain of godliness:" on this principle had Felix expressed a desire to understand the gospel, St. Paul had a favourable opportunity of paying his court in a delicate manner. The Christian religion has a favourable aspect towards every
last retreat. He boldly attacked the governor with" the sword of the Spirit," and with "the hammer of the word." Before the object of his passion, and the subject of his crime, before Drusilla, he treated of "temperance." When Felix sent for him to satiate his avarice, he talked of "righteousness." While the governor was in his highest period of splendour, he discoursed "of a judgment to come."
Preachers of the court, confessors to princes, pests of the public, who are the chief promoters of the present persecution, and the cause of our calamities! Ó that I could animate you by the example of St. Paul: and make you blush for your degeneracy and turpitude! My brethren, you know a prince;-and would to God we knew him less! but let us respect the lustre of a diadem; let us venerate the Lord's anointed in the person of our enemy. Exam
read the sermons pompously entitled, "Sermons preached before the king;" and see those other publications, dedicated to-The perpetual conqueror, whose battles were so many victories-terrible in war-adorable in peace. You will there find nothing but flattery and applause. Who ever struck in his presence, at ambition and luxury? Who ever ventured there to maintain the rights of the widow and the orphan? Who, on the contrary, has not magnified the greatest crimes into virtues; and, by a species of idolatry before unknown, made Jesus Christ himself subservient to the vanity of a mortal man?
Oh! but St. Paul would have preached in a different manner! Before Felix, before Drusilla, he would have said that, "fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. In the midst of an idolatrous people, he would have painted, in the liveliest colours, innocence oppressed, the faith of edicts violated, the Rhine overflowing with blood, the Palatinate still smoking, and buried in its own ashes. I check myself; we again repeat it; let us respect the sacred grandeur of kings, and let us deplore their grandeur, which exposes them to the dangerous poison of adulation and flattery.
This suggests an important reflection; a reflection concerning the necessity which should induce sovereigns to have ecclesiastics about their persons, who would address them with frankness, and prompt them to the recollection of their duty. Grandeur, power, and applause, (we are obliged to make the observations in our pulpits, in places where decorum requires attention; for we are of no consideration in the bustle of a splendid court;) grandeur, power, and applause, are charms against which it is very difficult for the human mind to retain
its superiority. Amid so many dangers, if a man | not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's have no guide but himself, no preacher but his conscience; if, instead of attending to the sober dictates of truth, he is surrounded with flatterers, how can he resist so many attractions? And, if he do not resist, how can he be saved? For in fact, the same laws are given to the high and the low; to the rich and the poor; to the sovereign and the subject.
wife," Luke iii. 12-14. You are not higher than Felix, neither are we in chains like St. Paul. But though we were yet more deeply abased; and though the character we sustain seemed to you yet more vile; and though to the rank of Jewish governor, you should superadd, that of Roman emperor, and sovereign of the world; despising all this vain parade, we would maintain the majesty of our Master. So St. Paul conducted himself before Felix and Drusilla. "He reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come."
In society, there is a gradation of rank. One is king, another is a subject; one tramples a carpet of purple and gold under his feet, another leads a languishing life, begging a precarious pittance of bread: one is drawn in a su- But who can here supply the brevity of the perb carriage, another wades through the dirt. historian, and report the whole of what the But before the judgment-seat of Christ, all apostle said to Felix on these important points? these distinctions will be no more. There will It seems to me, that I hear him enforcing those then be no respect of persons. The same no-important truths he has left us in his works, thing is our origin; the same dust is our end; and placing in the fullest lustre those divine the same Creator gave us being; the same Sa- maxims interspersed in our Scriptures. "He viour accomplished our redemption; and the reasoned of righteousness." There he mainsame tribunal must decide our eternal destiny. tained the rights of the widow and the orphan. How very important is it, when a man is ele- There he demonstrated, that kings and magisvated to dignities, inaccessible, so to speak, to trates are established to maintain the rights of reflections of this nature,-how very impor- the people, and not to indulge their own catant is it to have a faithful friend, a minister price; that the design of supreme authority is of Christ, a St. Paul, fully enlightened in the to make the whole happy by the vigilance of knowledge of the truth, and bold enough to one, and not to gratify one at the expense of declare it to others! all; that it is meanness of mind to oppress the wretched who have no defence but cries and tears; that nothing is so unworthy of an enlightened man as that ferocity, with which some are inspired by dignity; and which obstructs their respect for human nature, when undisguised by worldly pomp; that nothing is so noble as goodness and grandeur, associated in the same character; that this is the highest felicity; that in some sort it transforms the soul into the image of God; who, from the high abodes of majesty in which he dwells surrounded with angels and cherubim, deigns to look down on this mean world which we inhabit, and "leaves not himself without witness, doing good to all."
The commission is arduous to execute. It is difficult in the ordinary course of life to give advice to equals. The repugnance which men evince on being told of their faults, occasions their being seldom cautioned. How much more difficult then to speak impartially to those, in whose presence our minds are mostly assailed with intimidating bashfulness, and who hold our life and fortune in their hands?
It behoves, notwithstanding, the ministers of Christ to maintain the dignity of their character. Never had orators a finer field for commanding attention. Never were subjects susceptible of a more grave and manly eloquence, than those which they discuss. They have motives the most powerful to press, and passions the most impetuous to move. They have an eternity of glory to promise, and an eternity of misery to denounce. They are ambassadors of a Potentate, in whose presence, all the kings of the earth are but "as the small dust of the balance." Behold St. Paul, fully impressed with the grandeur of his mission. He forgot the grandeur of Felix. He did more; he made him forget himself. He made him receive admonition with reverence. "He reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
Ministers of Jesus Christ, here is our tutor, who prepares us for the sanctuary. And you, Christians, here is our apology. You complain when we interfere with the shameful secrets of your vice; consider St. Paul. He is the model God has set before us. He requires us to speak with freedom and force; to exhort "in season and out of season;" to thunder in our pulpits; to go even to your houses, and disturb that fatal security which the sinner enjoys in the commission of his crimes. He requires us to say, to the revenue-officers, "exact no more than that which is appointed;" to the soldiers, "do violence to no man, and be content with your wages;" to Herod, "it is
"He reasoned of temperance." There, he would paint the licentious effects of voluptuousness. There he would demonstrate how opposite this propensity is to the spirit of the gospel; which every where enjoins retirement, mortification, and self-denial. He would show how it degrades the finest characters, who have suffered it to predominate. Intemperance renders the mind incapable of reflection. It debases the courage. It debilitates the mind. It softens the soul. He would demonstrate the meanness of a man called to preside over a great people, who exposes his foibles to public view: not having resolution to conceal, much less to vanquish them. With Drusilla, he would make human motives supply the defects of divine; with Felix, he would make divine motives supply the defects of human. He would make this impudent woman feel that nothing on earth is more odious than a woman destitute of honour; that modesty is an appendage of the sex; that an attachment, uncemented by virtue, cannot long subsist; that those who receive illicit favours, are the first, according to the fine remark of a sacred historian, to detest the indulgence: "The hatred wherewith Amnon, son of David, hated his sister, after the gratification of his brutal passion, was
ST. PAUL'S DISCOURSE BEFORE
greater than the love wherewith he had loved her," 2 Sam. xiii. 15. He would make Felix perceive, that however the depravity of the age might seem to tolerate a criminal intercourse among persons of the other sex, with God, who has called us all to equal purity, the crime was not less heinous.
"He reasoned," in short, "of judgment to
of these extraneous aids: behold him without any ornament but the truth he preached. What do I say, that he was destitute of extraneous aids? See him in a situation quite the reverse;a captive, loaded with irons, standing before his judge. Yet he made Felix tremble. Felix this confusion? Nothing is more worthy of trembled! Whence proceeded this fear, and your inquiry. Here we must stop for a moment: follow us while we trace this fear to its source. perfectly acquainted with a future judgment, Felix under different views: as a heathen, imWe shall consider the character of and the life to come: as a prince, or governor, feet: as an avaricious magistrate, loaded with accustomed to see every one humble at his extortions and crimes: in short, as a voluptuous man, who had never restricted the gratification of his senses. Felix's fears. These are so many reasons of
imperfectly acquainted with a future judgment, and the life to come: I say, imperfectly acFirst, we shall consider Felix as a heathen, quainted, and not as wholly ignorant, the heathens having the "work of the law written in their hearts," Rom. ii. 15. The force of habit had corrupted nature, but had not effaced its laws. They acknowledged a judgment to come, but their notions were confused concerning its nature.
But not to be precipitate in commending the such was the imperfection of his principles, apostle's preaching. Its encomiums will best when he heard this discourse of St. Paul. You Such were the principles of Felix; or rather, appear by attending to its effects on the mind may infer his fears from his character. Figure of Felix. St. Jerome wished concerning a preacher of his time, that the tears of his audi- the maxims of equity and righteousness inculence might compose the eulogy of his sermons.cated in the gospel. Figure to yourselves, a to yourselves a man, hearing for the first time, We shall find in the tears of Felix occasion to applaud the eloquence of our apostle. We shall find that his discourses were thunder and lightning in the congregation; as the Greeks used to say concerning one of their orators. While St. Paul preached, Felix felt I know not what agitations in his mind. The recollection of his past life; the sight of his present sins; Drusilla, the object of his passion and subject of his crime; the courage of St. Paul; all terrified him. His "heart burned," while that disciple of Jesus Christ expounded the Scriptures. The word of God was quick and powerful. The apostle, armed with the two-edged sword, dividing the soul, the joints, and the marrow, carried conviction to the heart. Felix trembled, adds our historian, Felix trembled! The fears of Felix are our second reflection.
II. What a surprising scene, my brethren, is here presented to your view? The governor trembled, and the captive spoke without dismay. The captive made the governor tremble. The governor shivered in presence of the captive. It would not be surprising, brethren, if we should make an impression on your hearts (and we should do so indeed, if our ministry is not, as usual, a sound of empty words:) it would not be surprising if we should make some impression on the hearts of our hearers. This sanctuary, these solemnities, these groans, this silence, these arguments, these efforts,all aid our ministry, and unite to convince and persuade you. But here is an orator destitute
man who heard corrected the immorality of
acquired by custom.