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ment to come. His soul was amazed; his heart trembled; his knees smote one against another.
Amazing effects, my brethren, of conscience! evident argument of the vanity of those gods, which idolatry adores, after it has given them form! Jupiter and Mercury, it is true, had their altars in the temples of the heathens; but the God of heaven and earth has his tribunal in the heart: and, while idolatry presents its incense to sacrilegious and incestuous deities, the God of heaven and earth, reveals his terrors to the conscience, and there loudly condemns both incest and sacrilege.
Secondly, consider Felix, as a prince; and you will find in this second office, a second cause of his fear. When we perceive the great men of the earth devoid of every principle of religion, and even ridiculing those very truths which are the objects of our faith; we feel that faith to waver. They excite a certain suspicion in the mind, that our sentiments are only prejudices; which have become rooted in man, brought up in the obscurity of humble life. Here is the apology of religion. The Caligulas, the Neros, those potentates of the universe, have trembled in their turn as well as the meanest of their subjects. This independence of mind, so conspicuous among libertines, is consequently an art,-not of disengaging themselves from prejudices,—but of shutting their eyes against the light, and of extinguishing the purest sentiments of the heart. Felix, educated in a court, fraught with the maxims of the great, instantly ridicules the apostle's preaching. St. Paul, undismayed, attacks him, and finds a conscience concealed in his bosom: the very dignity of Felix is constrained to aid our apostle, by adding weight to his ministry. He demolishes the edifice of Felix's pride. He shows, that if a great nation was dependent on his pleasure, he himself was dependent on a sovereign, in whose presence the kings of the earth are as nothing. He proves that dignities are so very far from exempting men from the judgment of God; that, for this very reason, their account becomes the more weighty, riches being a trust which Heaven has committed to the great: and "where much is given, much is required." He makes him feel this awful truth, that princes are responsible, not only for their own souls, but also for those of their subjects; their good or bad example influencing, for the most part, the people committed to their care.
See then Felix in one moment deprived of his tribunal. The judge became a party. He saw himself rich and in need of nothing; and yet he was "blind, and naked, and poor." He heard a voice from the God of the whole earth, saying unto him, "Thou profane and wicked prince, remove the diadem, and take off the crown. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more," Ezek. xxi. 25, 26. Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord," Obad. 4. Neither the dignity of governor, nor the favour of Cesar, nor all the glory of empire shall deliver thee out of my hand.
Thirdly, I restrict myself, my brethren, as much as possible, in order to execute without VOL. II.-38
exceeding my limits, the plan I have conceived; and proceed to consider Felix as an avaricious man; to find in this disposition a farther cause of his fear. Felix was avaricious, and St. Paul instantly transported him into a world, in which avarice shall receive its appropriate and most severe punishment. For you know that the grand test by which we shall be judged is charity. "I was hungry, and ye gave me meat;" and of all the obstructions of charity, covetousness is the most obstinate and insurmountable.
This unhappy propensity renders us insensi ble of our neighbour's necessities. It magnifies the estimate of our wants: it diminishes the wants of others. It persuades us that we have need of all, that others have need of no thing. Felix began to perceive the iniquity of this passion, and to feel that he was guilty of double idolatry. Idolatry in morality, idolatry in religion. Idolatry in having offered incense to gods, who were not the makers of heaven and earth; idolatry in having offered incense to mammon. For, the Scriptures teach, and experience confirms, "that covetousness is idolatry." The covetous man is not a worshipper of the true God. Gold and silver are the divinities he adores. His heart is with his treasure. Here then is the portrait of Felix;a portrait drawn by St. Paul in the presence of Felix; and which reminded this prince of innumerable prohibitions, innumerable frauds, innumerable extortions; of the widow and the orphan he had oppressed. Here is the cause of Felix's fears. According to an expression of St. James, the "rust of his gold and silver began to witness against him, and to eat his flesh as with fire," James v. 3.
Fourthly, consider Felix as a voluptuous man. Here is the final cause of his fear. Without repeating all we have said on the depravity of this passion, let one remark suffice; that, if the torments of hell are terrific to all, they must especially be so to the voluptuous. The voluptuous man never restricts his sensual gratification; his soul dies on the slightest approach of pain. What a terrific impression must not the thought of judgment make on such a character! Shall I, accustomed to indulgence and pleasure, become a prey to the worm that dieth not, and fuel to the fire which is not quenched! Shall I, who avoid pain with so much caution, be condemned to eternal torments! Shall I have neither delicious meats, nor voluptuous delights! This body, my idol, which I habituate to so much delicacy, shall it be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, whose smoke ascendeth up for ever and ever!" And this effeminate habit I have of refining on pleasure, will it render me only the more sensible of my destruction and anguish!
Such are the traits of Felix's character; such are the causes of Felix's fear. Happy, if his fear had produced that "godly sorrow, and that repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." Happy, if the fear of hell had induced him to avoid its torments. But, ah no! he feared, and yet persisted, in the causes of his fear. He trembled, yet said to St. Paul, "Go thy way for this time." This is our last reflection.
III. How preposterous, my brethren, is the
sinner! What absurdities does he cherish in his heart! For, in short, had the doctrines St. Paul preached to Felix been the productions of his brain;-had the idea, which he gave him of rectitude and injustice, been a prejudice;-had the thought of a future judgment been a chimera, whence proceeded the fears of Felix? Why was he so weak as to admit this panic of terror? If, on the contrary, Paul had truth and argument on his side, why did Felix send him away? Such are the contradictions of the sinner. He wishes; he revolts; he denies; he grants; he trembles, and says, "Go thy way for this time." Speak to him concerning the truths of religion; open hell to his view, and you will see him affected, devout, and appalled; follow him in life, and you will find that these truths have no influence whatever on his conduct.
But are we not mistaken concerning Felix? Did not the speech of St. Paul make a deeper impression upon him than we seem to allow? He sent the apostle away, it is true, but it was "for this time only." And who can censure this delay? We cannot be always recollected and retired. The infirmities of human nature require relaxation and repose. Felix could afterward recall him. "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee."
But who has told
I will reform in future! me, that I shall even desire to be converted? Do not habits become confirmed in proportion as they are indulged? And is not an inveterate evil very difficult to cure? If I cannot bear the excision of a slight gangrene, how shall I sustain the operation when the wound is deep? I will reform in future! But who has told me, that I shall live to a future period? Does not death advance every moment with gigantic strides? Does he not assail the prince in his palace, and the peasant in his cottage? Does he not send before him monitors and messengers; acute pains, which wholly absorb the soul;-deliriums, that render reason of no avail;-deadly stupors, which benumb the brightest and most piercing geniuses? what is still more awful, does he not daily come without either warning or messenger? Does he not snatch away this man without allowing him time to be acquainted with the essentials of religion; and that man, without the restitution of riches ill-acquired; and the other, before he is reconciled to his enemy?
Instead of saying, "Go thy way for this time," we should say, stay for this time. Stay, while the Holy Spirit is knocking at the door of my heart; stay, while my conscience is alarmed; stay, while I yet live; "while it is called to-day." The arguments confound my conscience: no matter. Thy hand is heavy upon me:" no matter still. Cut, strike, consume; provided it procure my salvation.
But, however criminal this delay may be, we seem desirous to excuse it. "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." It was Felix's business then which induced him to put off the apostle. Unhappy business! Awful occupation! It seems an enviable situation, my brethren, to be placed at the head of a province; to speak in the language of majesty; to decide on the fortunes of a numerous people; and in all cases to be the ultimate judge. But those situations, so happy and so dazzling in appearance, are in the main dangerous to the conscience! Those innumerable concerns, this noise and bustle, entirely dissipate the soul. While so much engaged on earth, we cannot be mindful of heaven. When we have no leisure, we say to St. Paul, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
It pains me, I confess, my brethren, in entering on this head of my discourse, that I should exhibit to you in the person of Felix, the portrait of whom? Of wicked men? Alas! of nearly the whole of this assembly; most of whom seem to us living in negligence and vice, running with the children of this world to the same excess of riot." One would suppose, that they had already made their choice, having embraced one or the other of these notions, either that religion is a phantom, or that, all things considered, it is better to endure the torments of hell, than to be restricted to the practice of virtue. Ono; that is not their notion. Ask the worst among them. Ask whether they have renounced their salvation? You will not find an individual who will say, that he has renounced it. Ask them again, whether they think it attainable by following this way of life? They will answer, No. Ask them afterward, how they reconcile things so opposite, as their life, and their hope? They will answer, that they are resolved to reform, and by and by they will enter on the work. Happy he, who, amid the tumult of the They will say, as Felix said to St. Paul, "Go most active life, has hours consecrated to rethy way for this time; when I have a conve- flection, to the examination of his conscience, nient season, I will call for thee." Nothing and to ensure the "one thing needful!" Or is less wise than this delay. At a future pe- rather, happy he, who, in the repose of the riod I will reform. But who has assured me, middle classes of society,-placed between inthat at a future period I shall have opportuni-digence and affluence,-far from the courts of ties of conversion? Who has assured me that God will continue to call me, and that another Paul shall thunder in my ears?
I will reform at a future period! But who has told me, that God at a future period will accompany his word with the powerful aids of grace While Paul may plant and Apollos may water, is it not God who gives the increase? How then can I flatter myself, that the Holy Spirit will continue to knock at the door of my heart, after I shall have so frequently obstructed his admission?
the great,-having neither poverty nor riches according to Agur's wish, can in retirement and quietness see life sweetly glide away, and make salvation, if not the sole, yet his principal concern!
Felix not only preferred his business to his salvation, but he mentions it with evasive disdain. "When I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."-"When I have a convenient season!" Might we not thence infer, that the truths discussed by St. Paul were not of serious importance? Might we not infer,
that the soul of Felix was created for the go- the sermon you have heard, that St. Paul had vernment of Judea; and that the grand doc-addressed this assembly. Suppose, instead of trines of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come, ought to serve at most but to pass away the time, or merely to engross one's leisure? "When I have a convenient
Ah! unhappy Felix, what hast thou to do of such vast importance? Is it to execute the imperial commission? But art thou not a subject of the King of kings, in whose presence Cesar himself is but a worm of earth?" Has not God given thee a soul to improve, virtues to acquire, and an eternal kingdom to conquer Was it to immerse thyself in sensual pleasures? But how canst thou taste those pleasures, after the terrific portrait of a future judgment, which has been exhibited to thy view? Does not the voice of St. Paul perpetually resound in thy ears; and, like a fury obstinately attending thy steps, does it not disturb thy indolence and voluptuous delight.
We suspend here the course of our meditation, to close with a few reflections on the truths we have delivered. We have affirmed in the body of this discourse, and with the greatest propriety, that we should commence the application with regard to ourselves. St. Paul here communicates an important lesson to all ministers of the gospel. His sincerity, his courage, his constancy, are perfect models; on which every faithful pastor should form himself. Let us follow, my most honoured brethren, this illustrious model. "Let us be followers of him, even as he was of Christ." Like him, let us never temporize with the sinner. Like him, let us speak of righteousness to the covetous; of temperance to the voluptuous; of a future judgment to the great of this world, and to all those whom objects less terrific are incapable to alarm. Let us never say, "peace, peace, when there is no peace." Let us thunder, let us expostulate, let us shoot against them the arrows of the Almighty's wrath; not fearing the Felixes and Drusillas Here is our vocation. Here is the charge which God now delivers to every one who has the honour of succeeding Paul in the order of the ministry.
of our age.
But how shall we discharge the duty? What murmuring would not a similar liberty excite among our hearers? If we should address you as St. Paul addressed Felix; if we should declare war against you individually; if we should únmask the many mysteries of iniquity in which you are involved; if we should rend the veil which covers so many dishonourable practices; you would interrupt us; you would retaliate on our weakness and infirmities; you would say, "Go thy way for this time;" carry elsewhere a ministry so disgustful and revolting. Well! we will accomodate ourselves to your taste. We will pay all deference to your arguments, and respect even a false delicacy. But if we exercise this indulgence towards you, permit us to expect the same in return, and to make for the moment this chimerical supposition. You know the character of St. Paul; at least you ought to know it. If you are unacquainted with it, the discourse he delivered in the presence of Felix is sufficient to delineate its excellence. Suppose, instead of
what we have now advanced, this apostle had preached, and filled the place in which we now stand. Suppose that St. Paul, that sincere preacher, that man, who, before Felix and Drusilla, "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. Suppose he had preached to-day before the multitude now present: let us speak ingenuously. What sort of application would he have made? What subject would he have discussed? What vices would he have reproved? What estimate would he have formed of most of your lives? What judgment would he have entertained concerning this worldly spirit, which captivates so great a multitude? What would he have said of that insatiable avarice in the acquisition of wealth, which actuates the general mass; which makes us like the grave, incessantly crying, Give, give, and never says, It is enough? What would he have said concerning the indifference about religion said to be found among many of us, as though the sacrifices, formerly made for our reformation, had been the last efforts of expiring religion, which no longer leaves the slightest trace upon the mind? What would he have said of those infamous debaucheries apparently sanctified by a frantic custom, and which ought not to be named among Christians Extend the supposition. It is St. Paul who delivers those admonitions. It is Paul himself who expands to your view the hell he opened before Felix and Drusilla: who conjures you by the awful glory of the God, who will judge the living and the dead, to reform your lives, and assume a conduct correspondent to the Christian name you have the honour to bear.
To the ministry of the apostle, we will join exhortations, entreaties, and fervent prayers. We conjure you by the mercies of that God who took his Son from his own bosom and gave him for you, and by the value of your salvation, to yield a ministry so pathetic.
Be mindful of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." Observe this equity in your dealings; never indulge the propensity to unlawful gain. "Render to Cesar the things that are Cesar's," Mark_xii. 17. Respect the rights of the sovereign. Pay "tribute to whom tribute is due," Rom. xiii. 7. Let the indigence and obscurity of your labourers and lowest artists be respectable in your sight; recollecting that the "little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked," Ps. xxxvii. 16. Do not narrow the rules of rectitude; keep in view, that God did not send you into the world to live for yourselves. To live solely for ourselves is a maxim altogether unbecoming a Christian; and to intrench ourselves in hoards of gold and silver, placed above the vicissitudes of human life, is a conduct the most incompatible with that religion whose sole characteristic is compassion and benevolence.
Observe also this temperance. Exclude luxury from every avenue of your heart. Renounce
* In Pratt's Gleanings, we have an account of dancing rooms in Holland, where ruined girls dance under the lash of a superior. To these, and other shameful establishments, Saurin seems to refer in several of his sermons.
Enter seriously into these reflections. And, since each of the duties we have just prescribed requires time and labour, avoid dissipation and excess of business. My brethren, it is here that we would redouble our zeal, and would yet find the way to your hearts. We will not enter the detail of your engagements; we will not turn over the pages of your account. We will not visit your counting-houses. We will not even put the question, whether your business is always lawful; whether the rights of the sovereign and the individual are punctually discharged. We will suppose that all is fair on these points. But consider only that the most innocent engagements become criminal, when pursued with excessive application, and preferred to the work of salvation.
all unlawful pleasures, and every criminal in- | Jews converted, the elements dissolved, the trigue. Caution your conduct, especially in heavens folded up as a garment, the foundathis licentious place, in which the facility of tions of the earth shaken, and its fashion passvice is a continual temptation to its charms. ed away. Let your chastity be apparent in your dress, in your furniture, in your conversation. "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt," Col. iv. 6. According to St. Peter's advice, "Let not the adorning of women be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price," 1 Pet. iii. 3, 4. Recollect, that the law of God is spiritual; that there is an impurity of the mind, an adultery of the heart; that certain desires to please, certain disguised emotions, certain lascivious airs, and certain attempts to wound the virtue of others (though we may apparently observe the most rigid rules of decorum,) may be as heinous before God as the most glaring faults into which a man may have been reluctantly precipitated by his passions, and in which the will may have had the less concern.
Keep constantly in view, "the judgment to come." Think, Ŏ think, that an invisible eye watches over all your actions. Think that they are all registered in a faithful journal which shall be produced before the universe, in the great day, when Jesus Christ shall descend in glory from heaven.
This maxim belongs to you, merchants, dealers, tradesmen. You see, at this period, the poverty and wretchedness which assail an infinite number of families. The soldier languishes in the midst of war without employment, and he is in some sort obliged to beg his bread. The nobleman, far from his means -a thousand times more unhappy than the peasant has no industry to procure his bread. The learned man is even a burden; and the productions of the greatest geniuses, so far. from receiving remuneration, are not even noticed.
My dear brethren, be not ingenious to enfeeble conviction by accounting the object re- Amidst such a series of calamities, you alone mote. The trumpet is ready to sound, the have means for the acquisition of riches. A books are about to be opened, and the throne government mild and lenient, a commerce is already prepared. The views of the soul vast and productive, opens, if I may so speak, are circumscribed, like the sight of the body. all the avenues of fortune. The eastern and The narrow circle of surrounding objects en- western world seem to concur in the augmengrosses nearly the whole of our attention; and tation of your wealth. You live not only retards the extension of thought to superior with ease, but elegance. Your houses are concerns. The reality of a judgment com- sumptuously furnished, your tables deliciously prises so many amazing revolutions in the uni- served: and after the enjoyment of these adverse, that we cannot regard the design as vantages, you transmit them to posterity; even ready for execution. We cannot conceive the after death you still taste and enjoy them in face of nature to change with such rapidity; the persons of your children. But it would and that those awful revolutions which must have been a thousand times better that you precede the advent of the Son of God, may should have lived to augment the number of occur in a few ages. But let us not be deceiv- the wretched; if you permit these favours of ed. I grant you are right in the principle, but Heaven to frustrate your salvation; and put you err in the consequence. There is nothing off the apostle, saying, as to unhappy Felix, in the most distant occurrence of this period" When I have seen a convenient season, Í which can flatter security. If the judgment be remote with regard to the world, it is near with respect to you. It is not necessary, with regard to you, for the face of nature to be changed, the Jews to be called into the covenant, the sound of the gospel to go to the end of the earth, the moon to be turned to darkness, the stars to fall from heaven, the elements to melt with fervent heat, the heavens to pass away with a great noise, and the earth to be dissolved. There is only wanting a deficiency of humours in your body; only a little blood out of its place; only some fibre disorganized; only an inflammation in the head, a little diminution or augmentation of heat or cold in the brain; and behold your sentence is pronounced. Behold, with regard to you, the world overturned, the sun darkened, the moon become bloody, the gospel preached, the
will recall thee. Go thy way for this time." I have payments to meet, I have orders to write.
Let us seclude ourselves from bustle and tumult. Let us seek retirement, recollection and silence. And may the death which is at hand, expressing myself with a prophet, induce us to "make haste and not delay returning to the testimonies of the Lord," Ps. cxix. 59, 60.
My brethren, you are not sufficiently impressed with this thought. But we,-we, to whom God has committed the superintendance of a great people;-we, if I may so speak, who are called to exercise our ministry in a world of dead and dying men, who see lopped off in succession every member of a numerous flock; we are alarmed, when we consider the delays which predominate in the conduct of
most Christians. We never ascend the pulpit, but it seems that we address you for the last time. It seems that we should exhaust the whole of religion, to pluck our heroes from the world, and never let them go till we have intrusted them in the arms of Jesus Christ. It seems that we should bid you an eternal farewell; that we are stretched on our bed of death, and that you are in a similar situation.
Yes, Christians, this is the only moment on which we can reckon. It is, perhaps, the only acceptable time. It is, perhaps, the last day of our visitation. Let us improve a period so precious. Let us no longer say,—by and by
at another time; but let us-to-day-this moment-even now. Let the pastor say, I have been insipid in my sermons, and remiss in my conduct; having been more solicitous, during the exercise of my ministry, to advance my family, than to build up the Lord's house. I will preach hereafter with fervour and with zeal. I will be vigilant, sober, rigorous, and disinterested. Let the miser say, I have riches ill acquired. I will purge my house with illicit wealth. I will overturn the altar of Mammon, and erect another to the Supreme Jehovah. Let the prodigal say, I will extinguish the unhappy fires by which I am consumed, and kindle in my bosom the flame of divine love. Ah, unhappy passions, which war against my soul; sordid attachments; irregular propensities; emotions of concupiscence; law in the members; I will know you no more. I will make with you an eternal divorce, I will from this moment open my heart to the Eternal Wisdom, who condescends to ask it.
If we are in this happy disposition, if we thus become regenerate, we shall enjoy from this moment foretastes of the glory, which God has prepared. From this moment, the truths of religion, so far from casting discouragement and terror on the soul, shall heighten its consolation and joy; from this moment, heaven shall open on this audience, paradise shall descend into your heart, and the Holy Spirit shall come and dwell there. He will bring that peace, and those joys, which pass all understanding. And, commencing our felicity on earth, he will give us the earnest of his consummation. God grant us the grace! To him, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory, now and ever.
thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord your God, and also with him that is not here this day (for ye know that we have dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the nations which ye passed by. And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) lest there should be among you man or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord your God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of mine heart.
My brethren, this sabbath is a covenant-day between God and us. This is the design of our sacraments; and the particular design of the holy supper we have celebrated in the morning service. So our catechists teach; so our children understand; and among the less instructed of this assembly there is scarcely one, if we should ask him what is a sacrament, but would answer, "it is a symbol of the covenant between God and Christians."
This being understood, we cannot observe without astonishment the slight attention, most men pay to an institution, of which they seem to entertain such exalted notions. The tendency would not be happy in conciliating your attention to the discourse, were I to commence by a humiliating portrait of the manners of the age; in which some of you would have occasion to recognise your own character. But the fact is certain, and I appeal to your consciences. Do we take the same precaution in contracting a covenant with God in the eucharist, which is exercised in a treaty on which the prosperity of the state, or domestic happiness depends? When the latter is in question, we confer with experienced men, we weigh the terms, and investigate with all possible sagacity, what is stipulated to us, and what we stipulate in return. But when we come to renew the high covenant, in which the immortal God conde scends to be our God, in which we devote ourselves to him, we deem the slightest examination every way sufficient. We frequently even repel with indignation a judicious man, who would venture, by way of caution, to ask, "What are you going to do? What engage
ON THE COVENANT OF GOD WITH ments are you about to form? What calamities
DEUT. xxix. 10-19.
Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from thy hewer of wood, unto the drawer of thy water: that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: that he may establish thee to-day, for a people unto himself: and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath been unto
are you about to bring on yourselves?"
One grand cause of this defect, proceeds, it is presumed, from our having for the most part, inadequate notions of what is called contracting, or renewing, our covenant with God. We commonly confound the terms, by vague or confused notions: hence one of the best remedies we can apply to an evil so general, is to explain their import with precision. Having searched from Genesis to Revelation, for the happiest text affording a system complete and clear on the subject, I have fixed on the words you have heard. They are part of the discourse Moses addressed to the Israelites, when he arrived on the frontiers of the promised