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you have consulted, or the maxims of policy? | this is a subject already decided rather than a whether it is a barrier you have pretended to question of investigation. put to the war, to the pestilence, and famine; or whether you have put one to injustice, to hatred, to fornication, and to fraud, the causes of those calamities!
2. One calamity is the forerunner of greater calamities, when instead of humiliation on the reception of the warnings God sends by his servants, we turn those warnings into contempt. By this sign, the author of the second Book of Chronicles wished the Jews to understand that their impiety had attained its height. "The Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because he had compassion on his people: but they mocked the messengers of God; they despised his word, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, so that there was no remedy," xxxvii. 15, 16.
My brethren, it is your duty to inquire how far you are affected by this doctrine. It is your duty to examine whether your present desolating calamities are characterized as harbingers of greater evils. Do you discover a teachable disposition towards the messengers of God who would open your eyes to see the effects of his indignation; or, do you revolt against their word? Do you love to be reproved and corrected, or do you resemble the incorrigible man of whom the prophet says, "thou hatest instruction," Ps. 1. 17. What a humiliating subject, my brethren, what an awful touchstone of our misery!
4. Not wishful to multiply remarks, but to comprise the whole in a single thought, one plague is the forerunner of greater plagues when it fails in producing the reformation of those manners it was sent to chastise. Weigh those awful words in the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus. "If ye will not hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I will walk contrary also unto you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins." The force of these words depends on those which proceed. We there find a gradation of calamities whose highest period extends to the total destruction of the people against whom they were denounced. "If you will not hearken," Moses had said in behalf of God, verse 14, "I will even appoint over you terror, the consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you, and ye shall flee when none pursueth you." Immediately he adds, "If ye will not for all this hearken," and these words occur at the eighteenth verse, "If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then will I punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass. And if ye walk contrary to me, I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. And I will send the wild beast against you, and they shall rob you of your children, and make you few in number, and your highways shall be desolate." Then he denounces a new train of calamities, after which the words I have cited immediately follow. things, but will walk contrary unto me, then "If ye will not be reformed by all these will I also walk contrary unto you in fury, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcase upon the carcases of your idols. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuary unto desolation."
3. One calamity is the forerunner of greater calamities, when the anguish it excites proceeds more from the loss of our perishable riches than from sentiments of the insults offered to God. This sign, the prophet Hosea gave to the inhabitants of Samaria, "Though I have redeemed them," says he, speaking for God, "they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds." It was for corn and wine, that they cut themselves when they assembled together; or as might be better rendered, when they assembled for devotion.* Examine again, or rather censure a subject which presents the mind with a question less for inquiry than for the admission of a fact already decided. We would interrupt our business; we would suspend our Make, my brethren, the most serious reflecpleasures; we would shed our tears; we would tions on these words of God to his ancient celebrate fasts on the recollection of our people. If in the strictest sense, they are incrimes, provided we could be assured that applicable to you, it is because your present caGod would remit the punishment? We "cut lamities require less than sevenfold more to efourselves; we assemble to-day for wine and fectuate your total extermination. Do I exagwheat;" because commerce is obstructed; be-gerate the subject? Are your sea-banks able cause our repose is interrupted in defiance of precaution; because the thunderbolts fallen on the heads of our neighbours threaten us, and our friends, our brethren, and our children; or is it because that those paternal regards of God are obscured, which should constitute our highest felicity, and all our joys? I say again,
*The original word is so translated in the French bibles, Ps. lvi. 7; lix. 4. The French version, in regard to the former phrase, They cut themselves, seems to harmonize better with the scope of the passage than the English, They rebel, because it follows, Though I had bound and strengthened their arms, meaning their wounded arms.
to sustain sevenfold greater shocks than they have already received? Are your cattle able to sustain sevenfold heavier strokes? Is your depression? Is there then so wide a distance commerce able to sustain a sevenfold greater between your present calamities, and your total ruin?
IV. Let us proceed to other subjects. Hitherto, my dear brethren, we have endeavoured to open your eyes, and fix them steadfastly on dark and afflictive objects; we have solicited your attention but for bitter reproaches, and terrific menaces. We have sought the way
anew, giving them a form according to his pleasure." Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." The foundation of these hopes is stronger than all that we can ask.
to your hearts, but to excite terror and alarm. | ter's house; see him mar, and form his vessels The close of this day's devotion shall be more conformable to prayers we offer for you, to the goodness of the God we worship, and to the character of our ministry. We will no longer open your eyes but to fix them on objects of consolation; we will no longer solicit your attention to hear predictions of misery: we will seek access to your hearts solely to augment your peace and consolation. "Hear the rod, and who hath appointed it;" and amid the whole of your calamities, know what are your resources, and what are your hopes. This is our fourth part.
In particular, we found our hope on the love which God has uniformly cherished for this republic. Has not God established it by a series of miracles, and has he not preserved it by a series of miracles still greater? Has he not at all times surrounded it as with a wall of fire, and been himself the buckler on the most pressing occasions? Has he not inverted the laws of nature, and of the elements for its defence?
One of the most notorious crimes of which a nation can be guilty when Heaven calls them to repentance, is that charged on the Jews in Jeremiah's time. The circumstance is remarkable. It occurs in the sixteenth chapter of this prophet's revelations. His mission was on the eve of their approaching ruin: its object was to save by fear the men whom a long course of prosperity could not We found our hopes on the abundant merinstruct. He discharged those high duties cies with which God has loaded us during the with the firmness and magnanimity which the time of visitation. With the one hand he grandeur of God was calculated to inspire, abases, with the other he exalts. With the one whose minister he had the glory to be. "Be-hand he brings the pestilence to our gates, and cause your fathers have forsaken me," he said with the other he obstructs it from entering; in the name of the Lord, "and have walked from desolating our cities, and attacking our after other gods, and have served them, and persons. have worshipped before them; and because ye have done worse than your fathers, therefore will I cast you out of this land, into a land which neither ye, nor your fathers know," ver. 11-13.
We found our hope on the resources he has still left the state to recover, and to re-establish itself in all the extent of its glory and prosperity. We found our hopes also on the solemnities of this day; on the abundance of tears which will be shed in the presence of God, on the many prayers which will be offered to heaven, and on the numerous purposes of conversion, which will be formed. Frustrate not these hopes by a superficial devotion, by forgetfulness of promises, and violation of vows. Your happiness is in your own hands. "Return ye now every one from his evil way, and amend your doings." Here is the law, here is the condition. This law is general; this condition concerns you all.
Lest the apprehension of ruin without resource should drive them to despair, God made to Jeremiah a farther communication; he honoured him with a vision saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words." The prophet obeyed; he went to the potter's house; the workman was busy at the wheel. He formed a vase, which was marred in his hand; he made it anew, and gave it a form according to his pleasure. This emblem God explained to the prophet, saying, Go, and speak these Yes, this law concerns you; this condition is words to the house of Israel. "O house of imposed on all. High and mighty lords: it is Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? required of you this day to lay a new foundasaith the Lord. Behold as the clay is in the tion for the security of this people: Return ye potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house then, my lords, from your evil ways and be of Israel. At what instant I shall speak con- converted. In vain shall you have proclaimed cerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom a fast, if you set not the fairest example of deto pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy cency in its celebration. In vain shall you it: if that nation against whom I have pro- have commanded pastors to preach against the nounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of corruption which predominates among us, if the evil that I thought to do unto them. Re- you lend not an arm to suppress it; if you sufturn ye now every one from his evil way, and fer profaneness and infidelity to lift their head amend your ways." What effects might not with impunity; if you suffer the laws of chasthis mission have produced? But the incorri-tity to be violated in the face of the sun, and gible depravity of the people was proof against this additional overture of grace; those abominable men, deriving arguments of obduracy even from the desperate situation of their nation, replied to the prophet, "There is no hope, we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil neart," xviii. 1—12.
houses of infamy to be open as those of temples consecrated to the glory of God; if you suffer public routs and sports to subsist in all their fury; if you abandon the reins to mammon, to establish its maxims, and communicate its poison, if possible, to all our towns and provinces. Have compassion, then, on the calamities of our country. Be impressed with Revolting at those awful dispositions, we its sighs. Place her under the immediate proare, my brethren, invested with the same com-tection of Almighty God. May he deign, in mission as Jeremiah. God has said to us as clothing you with his grandeur and power, to well as to this prophet, "Go down to the pot- clothe you also with holiness and equity. May VOL. II.-45
a Moses, who knows how to stay the arm of God, and to say, O Lord, pardon this people; "and if not, blot me, pray thee, out of thy book," Exod. xxxii. 32. O how glorious to be in a republic, if I may venture so to speak, the stay of the state, and the cause of its existence! May he who has chosen you to those exalted duties, assist you to discharge them with fidelity. May he purify all your yet remaining defects and imperfections! May he make you the salt of the earth, and enable you to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation, and cause you to find in the delights which piety shall afford, the first rewards of all the advantages it procures.
he deign to give you the Spirit of Esdras, of Nehemiah, of Josiah, of Hezekiah, princes distinguished in the sacred Scriptures, who brought their nation back to reformation and | piety, and thereby to happiness and glory. This law concerns you, this condition, pastors, is imposed on you. "Return from your evil ways and amend." The ministry with which God has invested you; this ministry, at all times weighty and difficult, is particularly so in this age of contradiction and universal depravity. You are appointed to censure the vices of the people, and every one is enraged against you, the moment you cast an eye on his particular crimes. They will treat you as enemies when you tell them the truth. No matter. Force your hearers to respect you. This law concerns us all, this condition is Testify to them by your generosity and disin-imposed on each. "Let us return from our terestedness, that you are ready to make every evil ways, and amend." Why would we delay sacrifice to sustain the glory of your ministry. conversion? Why would we delay disarming Give them as many examples as precepts; and the wrath of heaven till overwhelmed with then ascend the pulpit with a mind confident its vengeance? Why should we delay our supand firm. You have the same right over the plications till God shall "cover himself with people, as the Isaiahs, as the Micahs, and as a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass through?" the Jeremiahs, had over Israel and Judah. Lam. iii. 44. Why should we delay till wholly You can say like them, the Lord has spoken. enveloped in the threatened calamities? To And may the God who has invested you with say all in a single word, why should we delay the sacred office you fill, may he grant you the till Holland becomes as Provence, and the talents requisite for its faithful discharge; may Hague as Marseilles? he assist you by the most intimate communications in the closet, to bear the crosses laid upon you by the public; may he deign to accept the purity of your intentions, to have compassion on your weakness, and enable you to redouble your efforts by the blessings he shall shed on your work!
Ah! what word is that we have just pronounced? what horrors does it not oblige us to retrace? O consuming fire, God of vengeance, animate our souls; and may the piercing and awful ideas of thy judgments, induce us to avert the blow. O dreadful times, where death enters our houses with the air we breathe, and This law concerns you, this condition is im- with the food we eat; every one shuns himself posed on you, rebellious men: on you sinners, as death; the father fears the breath of his son, who have excelled in the most awful courses and the son the breath of his father. O dreadof vice, in fighting, in hatred, in brutality, in ful times, already come on so many victims, profaneness, in insolence, and every other and perhaps ready to come on us, exhibit the crime which confounds the human kind with calamities in all their horrors! I look on mydemons. It is you, chiefly you who have up-self as stretched on my dying bed, and abanlifted the arm of vengeance which pursues us; it is you who have dug those pits which are under our feet. But "return from your evil ways, and amend." Let your reformation have some proportion to your profligacy, and your repentance to your crimes. And may the God who can of these stones raise up children unto Abraham, and make to rush from the hardest rocks fountains of living water, may he deign to display on you the invincible power he has over the heart: may he penetrate the abyss of your souls, and strike them in places the most tender and susceptible of anguish, of shame, and of repentance!
This law concerns you, it is imposed on you believers; and believers even of the first class. How pure soever your virtues may be, they are still mixed with imperfections: how firm soever the fabric of your piety may be, it still requires support; and how sincere soever your endeavours may be, they must still be repeated. It is on you that the salvation of the nation devolves. It is your piety, your fervour, and your zeal, which must for the future sustain this tottering republic. May there be ten righteous persons in our Sodom, lest it be consumed by fire from heaven: may there still be
doned by my dearest friends; I look on my children as entreating me to help them; I am terrified by their approach, I am appalled by their embraces, and receive the contagion by their last adieu!
My brethren, the throne of mercy is yet accessible. The devotion of so many saints who have besieged it to-day, have opened it to us. Let us approach it with broken and contrite hearts. Let us approach it with promises of conversion, and oaths of fidelity. Let us approach it with ardent prayers for the salvation of this republic; for the prosperity of the church; for the peace of Europe; and for the salvation of those victims, which the divine justice is ready to sacrifice. Let us prostrate before God as David at the sight of the destroying angel, and may we like that prince succeed in staying the awful executions. May this year, hitherto filled with alarms, with horror, and carnage, close with hope and consolation. May this day, which has been a day of fasting, humiliation, and repentance, produce the solemnities of joy and thanksgiving. God grant us the grace. To whom be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN
1 COR. xii. 9.
We know in part.
prehensible absurdities, and of difficulties which
The whole of these propositions, my brethren, claim the most careful investigation. If Heaven shall succeed our efforts, we shall have a new class of arguments for the support of our faith. We shall have a new motive to console ourselves within the limits God has prescribed to our knowledge, and await with ardour and patience, the happy period, till "that which is perfect shall come;" till that THE systems of pagan theology have, in general, affected an air of mystery; they have "which is in part shall be done away;" till evaded the light of fair investigation; and, fa-"we shall behold the Lord with open face, Amen. voured by I know not what charm of sancti- and be changed into glory by his Spirit." So fied obscurity, they have given full effect to er- be it. ror and immorality. On this subject, the enemies of Christianity have had the presumption to confound it with the pagan superstition. They have said, that it has, according to our own confession, impenetrable mysteries; that it is wishful to evade investigation and research; and that they have but to remove the veil to discover its weakness. It is our design to expose the injustice of this reproach by investigating all the cases, in which mysteries can excite any doubts concerning the doctrines they contain, and to demonstrate on this head, as on every other, that the religion of Jesus Christ is superior to every other religion in the world. It is solely in this point of view, that we proceed to contemplate this avowal of our apostle, and in all its principal bearings. "We know in part."
There are chiefly four cases in which mysteries render a religion doubtful.
I. When they so conceal the origin of a redigion, that we cannot examine whether it has proceeded from the spirit of error, or from the spirit of truth. For example, Mahomet secluded himself from his followers; he affected to hold conversations with God, concealed from the public, and he has refused to adduce the evidence. In this view, there is nothing mysterious in the Christian religion; it permits you to trace its origin, and to weigh the authenticity of its proofs.
1. Mysteries should render a religion doubt-
For example, you should require Maho-
If ask the followers of Mahomet, how you II. Mysteries should render a religion doubtful, when they imply an absurdity. For example, the Roman Catholic religion establishes they know that the Alcoran was really transone doctrine which avowedly revolts common mitted by the prophet, they will confess that sense, and annihilates every motive of credi- he knew neither how to read nor write; and bility. But the mysteries of our faith have no- that the name of prophet is often assumed by thing which originated in the human mind, men ignorant of letters: but they will add, and which our frail reason can in equity reject. that he conversed for twenty years with the III. Mysteries should render a religion doubt- angel Gabriel; that this celestial spirit revealful, when they tend to promote a practice con-ed to him, from time to time, certain passages trary to virtue, and to purity of morals. For example, the pagan theology had mysteries of iniquity; and under the sanction of religious concealment, it favoured practices the most enormous, and the foulest of vices. But the mysteries of the gospel, are "mysteries of god-you wish to penetrate farther, and to trace the liness," 1 Tim. iii. 15.
IV. In a word, mysteries should render a religion doubtful, when we find a system less encumbered with difficulties than the one we attack: but when the difficulties of the system we propose, surpass those of our religion, then it ought still to have the preference. For example, the system of infidelity and of atheism, is exempt from the difficulties of Christianity; but, its whole mass is a fertile source of incom
of the Alcoran; that Mahomet dictated to his disciplest the subjects of his revelation; that they carefully collected whatever dropped from his lips; and that the collection so made constitutes the subject of the Alcoran. But, if
book to its source, you will find that after the were preserved merely on fugitive scrolls, or in death of Mahomet, his pretended revelations, the recollection of those who had heard him; that his successor, wishful to associate the scat
* See the Alcoran, chap. on the lin. of Joach; chap. on on the nocturnal journey; chap. on the Creator; chap, gratifications; chap. on Jonah; chap. on thunder; chap. on the spider.
See Maraccio on the Alcoran, page 36.
tered limbs in one body, made the collection | whose good and evil are equal; in what he says more with presumption than precision; that concerning Jesus Christ's escape from crucifixthis collection was a subject of long debate ion, having so far deceived the Jews that they among the Mahometans, some contending that crucified another in his place, who very much the prince had omitted many revelations of the resembled him.* prophet; and others, that he had adopted some which were doubtful and spurious. You will find, that those disputes were appeased solely by the authority of the prince under whom they originated, and by the permanent injunctions of those who succeeded him on the throne. Consequently, it is very doubtful, whether the impostures of Mahomet really proceeded from himself, or were imputed to him by his followers.
Some even of Mahomet's disciples affirm, that of the three parts which compose the Alcoran, but one is the genuine production of the prophet. Hence, when you show them any absurdity in the book, they will reply, that it ought to be classed among the two spurious parts which they reject.
But if you ask us how we know that the books, containing the fundamentals of our faith, were composed by the holy men to whom they are ascribed, we readily offer to submit them to the severest tests of criticism. Let them produce a book whose antiquity is the least disputed, and the most unanimously acknowledged to be the production of the author whose name it bears; let them adduce the evidences of its authenticity; and we will adduce the same evidences in favour of the canon of our gospels.
You will find a book replete with fabulous tales. Witness what he says of God having raised a mountain, which covered the Israelites with its shadow. Witness the dialogue he imagined between God and Abraham. Witness the puerile proofs he adduces of the innocence of Joseph. Witness the history of the seven sleepers. Witness what he asserts that all the devils were subject to Solomon.‡ Witness the ridiculous fable of the ant that commanded an army of ants, and addressed them with an articulate voice. Witness the notions he gives us of paradise and hell. Whereas, if you require of Christians the characteristic authorities of their books, they adduce sublime doctrines, a pure morality, prophecies punctually accomplished, and at the predicted period, a scheme of happiness the most noble and the most assortable with the wants of man that ever entered the mind of the most celebrated philosophers.
stones, and the trees saluted him, saying, Peace, peace be to the ambassador of God.** They will tell you, that the sheep obeyed his voice; that an angel having assumed the figure of a dragon, became his guardian. They will tell you, that two men of enormous stature grasped him in their hands, and placed him on the top of a high mountain, opened his bowels, and took from his heart a black drop, the only evil Satan possessed in his heart: having afterward restored him to his place, they affixed their seal to the fact.ff Fabulous tales, adduced without proofs, and deservedly rejected by the more enlightened followers of Mahomet.
If you ask the sectarians of Mahomet what signs God has wrought in favour of their religion, they will tell you, that his mother bore him without pain; that the idols fell at his birth; that the sacred fires of Persia were extinguished; that the waters in lake Sava diminished; that the palace of Chosroes fell to the ground. They will tell you, that Mahomet If you ask the followers of Mahomet to himself performed a great number of miracles, show you in the Alcoran, some characteristics that he made water proceed from his fingers; of its divine authenticity, they will extol it to that he cut the moon, and made a part of it the skies, and tell you "that it is an un-fall into his lap. They will tell you, that the created work; the truth by way of excellence; the miracle of miracles; superior to the resurrection of the dead; promised by Moses and the apostles; intelligible to God alone; worthy to be received of all intelligent beings, and constituted their rule of conduct." But when you come to investigate the work of which they have spoken in such extravagant terms, you will find a book destitute of instruction, except what its author had borrowed from the books of the Old and New Testament; concerning the unity of God; the reality of future judgment; the certainty of the life to come; and those various maxims, that "we must not give alms in ostentation; that God loveth a cheerful giver, that all things are possible to him;" and that "he searches the heart." You will find a book in many places directly opposed to the maxims of the sacred authors, even when it extols the Deity, as in the laws it prescribes respecting divorce; in the permission of a new marriage granted to repudiated women; in the liberty of having as many wives as we please, a liberty of which Mahomet availed himself; in what he recounts of Pharaoh's conversion; of Jesus Christ's speaking in the cradle with the same facility as a man of thirty or of fifty years of age; in what he advances concerning a middle place between heaven and hell, where those must dwell who have done neither good nor evil, and those
* See Joseph of St. Maria on the expedition to the East Indies.
Maraccio on the Alcoran, chap. vi.
But, if you require of the Christians miracles in favour of their religion, they will produce them without number. Miracles wrought in the most public places, and in presence of the people; miracles, the power of which was communicated to many of those who embraced Christianity; miracles admitted by Zosimen, by Porphyry, by Julian, and by the greatest enemies of the gospel; miracles which demonstrate to us the truth by every test of which remote facts are susceptible; miracles sealed by the blood of innumerable martyrs, and rendered in some sort still visible to us by the con
Chap. on women. + Preface, page 14.
** Maraccio, preface, page 14. col. 2.