« السابقةمتابعة »
7 modesty, or, may I say, with that bashfulness the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” 2 which proves that it is not a spirit of self-suffi- Cor. v. 11. I know, the surest method to ciency that reproves our neighbour, but that it strengthen our virtue is to distrust ourselves, is because we interest ourselves in his happi- according to this expression. "Let him that ness, and are jealous of his glory.
thinketh” he standeth take heed lest he fall,” 1 IV. Our fourth maxim is, that an action Cor. x. 12. good in itself may become criminal by being However, it is certain, some fears of God extended beyond its proper limits. It was said proceed rather from the irregularity of the of a fine genius of the last age, that he never imagination, than from a wise and well directquitted a beautiful thought till he had entirely ed piety. Fear of the judgment of God is disfigured it. The observation was perfectly sometimes a passion, which has this in common just in regard to the author to whom it was with all other passions, it loves to employ itself applied; the impetuosity of his imagination about what favours, cherishes, and supports it; made him overstrain the most sensible things it is reluctant to approach what would diminhe advanced, so that what was truth, when he ish, defeat, and destroy it. Extremes of vice began to propose it, became an error in his touch extremes of virtue, so that we have no mouth by the extreme to which he carried it. sooner passed over the bounds of virtue, than In like manner, in regard to a certain order of we are entangled in the irregularities of vice. Christians, virtue becomes vice in their prac- V. We said in the fifth place, that each tice, because they extend it beyond proper ought to ponder his path with regard to that bounds. Their holiness ought always to be degree of holiness at which the mercy of God restrained, and after they have been exhorted has enabled him to arrive. An action good to righteousness and wisdom, it is necessary to in itself when it is performed by a man arrivsay to them with the Wise Man, “Be not ed at a certain degree of holiness, becomes righteous overmuch, neither make thyself over- criminal, when it is done by him who has only wise," Eccles. vii. 17; an idea adopted by St. an inferior degree. There never was an opinPaul, Rom. xii. 3.
ion more absurd and more dangerous than "Be not righteous overmuch, neither make that of some mystics, known by the name of thyself over-wise" in regard to the mysteries Molinists. They affirmed, that when the soul of religion. As people sometimes lose their was lodged at I know not what distance from lives by diving, so sometimes people become the body; that when it was in, I know not unbelievers by believing too much. It is not what state which they called abandonment, it uncommon to see Christians so eager to eluci- partook no more of the irregularities of the date the difficulties of the book of Revelation, body which it animated, so that the most imas not to perceive clearly the doctrine of evan- pure actions of the body. could not defile it, begelical morality
cause it knew how to detach itself from the body. "Be not righteous overmuch, neither make What kind of extravagance can one imathyself over-wise" in regard to charity. The gine, of which poor mankind hath not given laws of equity march before those of charity; an example? Yet the apostle determines this or rather, the laws of charity are founded on point with so much precision, that one would those of equity. To neglect to support a think it was impossible to mistake it. “Unto family and to satisfy creditors, under pretence the pure, all things are pure; but unto them of relieving the poor, is not charity, and giving that are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is alms; but it is rapine, robbery, and iniquity. pure,” Titus i. 15. I recollect the sense which
“ Be not righteous overmuch, neither make a celebrated bishop in the isle of Cyprus gave thyself over-wise" in regard to closet devotion. these words in the first ages of the church. I So to give one's self up to the devotion of the speak of Spiridion. A traveller, exhausted closet, as to lose sight of what we owe to with the fatigue of his journey, waited on him society; to be so delighted with praying to God on a day which the church had set apart for as not to hear the petitions of the indigent; to fasting. Spiridion instantly ordered some redevote so much time to meditation as to reserve freshment for him, and invited him by his own none for an oppressed person who requires our example to eat. No, I must not eat, said the assistance, for a widow who beseeches us to stranger, because I am a Christian. And bepity the cries of her hungry children; this is cause you are a Christian, replied the bishop not piety, this is vision, this is enthusiasm, this to him, you may eat without scruple; agreeais sophistn of zeal, if I may express myself so. bly to the decision of an apostle,“ Unto the
“Be not righteous overmuch, neither make pure all things are pure." We cannot be igthyself over-wise” in regard to distrusting norant of the shameful abuse which some have yourselves, and fearing the judgments of God. made of this maxim. We know some have I know, the greatest saints have reason to extended it even to the most essential articles tremble, when they consider themselves in of positive law, which no one can violate withsome points of light. I know Jobs and Davids out sin. We know particularly the insolence have exclaimed, "If I should justify myself, with which some place themselves in the list mine own mouth shall condemn me. If thou, of those pure persons, of whom the apostle Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who speaks, although their gross ignorance and shall stand?” Job ix. 20; Ps. cxxx. 3. I know, novel divinity may justly place them in the opone of the most powerful motives which the posite class. But the abuse of a maxim ought inspired writers have used, to animate the not to prevent the lawful use of it. There are hearts of men with piety, is fear, according to some things which are criminal or lawful, acthis exclamation of Solomon, “Happy is the cording to the degree of knowledge and holiman that feareth alway,” Prov. xxviii. 14; and ness of him who performs them.
“ Unto the according to this idea of St. Paul, “ Knowing 'pure all things are pure; but unto them that
are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.” | sin; they slew oxen, they killed sheep, they Would you then know how far to carry your gave themselves up to unbridled intemperscruples in regard to some steps? Examine ance, and they said, “Let us eat and drink, sincerely, and with rectitude, to what degree for to-morrow we shall die.” you are pure in this respect. I mean, exam- This is precisely the maxim of our liberine sincerely and uprightly, whether you be tines. Youth is the season for pleasure, and so far advanced in Christianity, as not to en- we should improve it; opportunities of enjoydanger your faith and holiness by this step. ment are rare; we should be enemies to our
Do you inquire whether you may, without selves not to avail ourselves of them. Would scruple, read a work intended to sap the foun- not one say, on hearing this language, that an dation of Christianity? Examine yourself. A old man, going out of the world, must needs man arrived at a certain degree of know- regret that he did not give himself up to plealedge is confirmed in the faith, even by the ob- sure in his youth. Would not one suppose jections which are proposed to him to engage that the sick, in beds of infirmity and pain, him to renounce his religion. “Unto the pure must needs reproach themselves for not spendall things are pure." If you answer this de- ing their health, and strength in luxury and scription, read without scruple Lucretius, Spi- debauchery? Would not one imagine, that noza, and all the other enemies of religion. the despair of the damned through all eternity, The darkness with which they pretend to co- will proceed from their recollecting that they ver it, will only advance its splendour in your checked their passions in this world? eyes. The blows which they gave it, will On the contrary, what will poison the years only serve to convince you that it is invulnera- of your old age, should you arrive at it; what ble. But if you be yet a child in understand will aggravate the pains, and envenom the ing, as an apostle speaks, such books may be disquietudes inseparable from old age, will be dangerous to you; poison without an antidote, the abuse you made of your youth. will convey itself into your vitals, and destroy So in sickness, reproaches and remorse will all the powers of your soul.
rise out of a recollection of crimes committed Would you know whether you may, with when you was well, and will change your out scruple, mix with the world? Examine death-bed into an anticipated hell. Then, yourself. “ Unto the pure all things are pure.” thou miserable wretch, who makest thy belly A man arrived at a certain degree of holiness, thy God, the remembrance of days and nights derives, from an intercourse with the world, consumed in drunkenness, will aggravate every only pity for the world. Examples of vice pain which thine intemperate life has brought serve only to confirm him in virtue. If you upon thee. Then, thou miserable man, who answer this description, go into the world with incessantly renderest an idolatrous worship to out scruple; but if your virtue be yet weak, thy gold, saying to it, in acts of supreme if intercourse with the world disconcert the adoration, “ Thou art my confidence," then frame of your mind, if the pleasures of the will the rust of it be a witness against thee, world captivate your imagination, and leave and eat thy flesh, as it were with fire. Then, impressions which you cannot efface; if, after unhappy man, whose equipages, retinue, and you have passed a few hours in the world, palaces, are the fruits of oppression and inyou find it follows you, even when you wish justice, then “the hire of the labourers which to get rid of it, then what can you do so pro- have reaped down thy fields, which is of thee per as to retreat from an enemy dangerous to kept back by fraud, will cry, and the cries of virtue “Unto the pure all things are pure; the reapers will enter into the ears of the Lord but unto them that are defiled, nothing is of Sabaoth;" then “the stone shall cry out of pure."
the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall VI. In fine, if we wish our ways should be answer it.” Then, miserable wretch, thou established, let us weigh them with the differ- who makest “the members of Christ the mement judgments which we ourselves form con- bers of a harlot;" then, that Drusilla, who cerning them. The meaning of the maxims, now fascinates thine eyes, who seems to thee the substance of what we daily hear in the to unite in her person all manner of accomworld, and which the writings of libertines plishments; that Drusilla who makest thee forhave rendered famous, that youth is the sea- get what thou owest to the world and the son for pleasure, and that we should make the church, to thy children, thy family, thy God, most of it; that fit opportunities should not and thy soul, that Drusilla will appear to thee be let slip, because they so seldom happen, as the centre of all horrors; then she, who and that not to avail ourselves of them, would always appeared to thee as a goddess, will bediscover ignorance of one's self; the substance come as dreadful as a fury; then, like that of this sophism (shall I say of infirmity or im- abominable man, of whom the holy Scriptures piety?) is not new. If some of you urge this speak, who carried his brutality so far as to now, so did the Jews in the time of Isaiah. offer violence to a sister, whose honour ought This prophet was ordered to inform them, that to have been to him as dear as his own life; they had sinned to the utmost bounds of the then will “ the hatred wherewith thou hatest patience of God; that there remained only her, be greater than the love wherewith thou one method of proventing their total ruin, that hadst loved her,” 2 Sam. xiii. 15. was fasting, mourning, baldness, and girding The same in regard to the damned; wbat with sackcloth; in a word, exercises of lively will give weight to the chains of darkness with and genuine repentance. These profane peo- which they will be loaded, what will augment ple, from the very same principle on which the the voracity of that worm which will devour prophet grounded the necessity of their con- them, and the activity of the flames which will version, drew arguments to embolden them in consume them in a future state, will be the
9 reproaches of their own consciences for the cool examination of the whole business of it. headlong impetuosity of their passions in this We should recollect ourselves every night, world.
and never finish a day, without examining deMy brethren, the best direction we can fol- liberately how we have employed it. Before low for the establishment of our ways, is fre- we go out of our houses, each should ask himquently to set the judgment which we shall self, Whither am I going? In what company one day form of them, against that which we shall I be? What temptations will assault me? now form. Let us often think of our death- What opportunities of doing good offer to me? bed. Let us often realize that terrible mo- When we return to our houses, each should ment, which will close time, and open eternity. ask himself; Where have I been! What has Let us often put this question to ourselves, my conversation in company been? Did I avail What judgment shall I form of that kind of myself of every opportunity of doing good life which I now lead, when a burning fever My brethren, how invincible soever our de consumes my blood, when unsuccessful reme- pravity may appear, how deeply rooted soever dies, when useless cares, when a pale physician, it may be, how powerful soever tyrannical hawhen a weeping family, when all around, shall bits may be over us, we should make rapid announce to me the approach of death? what advances in the road of virtue, were we often should I then think of those continual dissipa- to enter into ourselves; on the contrary, while tions which consume the most of my time; we act, and determine, and give ourselves up what of those puerile amusements, which take without reflection and examination, it is inup all my attention; wbat of these anxious possible our conduct should answer our calling. fears, which fill all the capacity of my soul; My brethren, shall I tell you all my heart what of these criminal pleasures, which infatu- | This meditation troubles me, it terrifies me, it ate me what judgment shall I make of all these confounds me. I have been forming the most things, in that terrible day, when the powers ardent desires for the success of this discourse; of the heavens shall be shaken, when the foun- and yet I can hardly entertain a hope that you dations of the earth shall shake, when the will relish it. I have been exhorting you with earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, all the power and ardour of which I
am capawhen the elements shall melt with fervent heat, ble; and, if you will forgive me for saying so, when the great white throne shall appear, with the zeal which I ought to have for your when the judge shall sit, and the books bé salvation; I have been exhorting you not to be opened, in which all my actions, words, and discouraged at the number and the difficulties thoughts are registered?
of the duties which the Wise Man prescribes If we follow these maxims, we shall see all to you; but, I am afraid, I know you too well objects with new eyes; we shall tremble at to promise myself that you will acquit yoursome ways which we now approve; we shall selves with that holy resolution and courage discover gulfs in the road, in which we walk which the nature of the duties necessarily deat present without suspicion of danger.
mands. I said at the beginning, my brethren, and I May God work in you, and in me, more repeat it again, in finishing this exercise, the than I can ask or think! God grant us intellitest we have been explaining includes a volu- gent minds, that we may act like intelligent minous subject, more proper to make the mat- souls! May that God, who has set before us ter of a large treatise than of a single sermon. life and death, heaven and hell, boundless feliThe reflections, which we have been making, city and endless misery, may he so direct our are only a slight sketch of the maxims with steps, that we may arrive at that happiness which the Wise Man intended to inspire us. which is the object of our wishes, and which All we have said will be entirely useless, un- ought to be the object of our care! God grant less you enlarge by frequent meditation the us this grace! To Him be honour and glory narrow bounds in which we have been obliged for ever.
Amen. to include the subject.
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy ways shall be established.” Who weighs, who
SERMON LIII. calculates, who connects and separates, before he believes and judges, before he esteems and
THE NECESSITY OF PROGRESSIVE acts? The least probability persuades us; the
RELIGION least object, that sparkles in our eyes, dazzles us; the least appearance of pleasure excites, fascinates, and fixes us. We determine ques
1 CORINTHIANS, ix. 26, 27. tions on which our eternal destiny depends, with a levity and precipitancy, which we should I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight 1, be ashamed of in cases of the least importance
not as one that beateth the air. But I keep in temporal affairs. Accordingly, the manner under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest in which we act, perfectly agrees with the in- that, by any means, when I have preached to attention with which we determine the reason others, I myself should be a cast-away. of acting. We generally spend lise in a way My BRETHREN, very unbecoming intelligent beings, to whom That was a fine culogium, which was made God has given a power of reflecting: and more on one of the most famous generals of antiquity. like creatures destitute of intelligence, and It was said of him, that he thought there was wholly incapable of reflection.
"nothing done, while there remained any thing In order to obey the precept of the Wise to do.” To embrace such a system of war and Man, we should collect our thoughts every politics, was to open a wide field of painful morning, and never begin a day without a labour: but Cesar aspired to be a hero, and
there was no way of obtaining his end, except Roman people---bread and public shows. It
of St. Paul, “I fight, not as one that beateth
You must live by rule, you him, “I have fought a good fight, I have must eat when you are not hungry, you must finished my course, I have kept the faith. abstain from agreeable foods, you must habituHenceforth there is laid up for me a crown of ate yourself to suffer heat and cold; in one righteousness, which the Lord the righteous word, you must give yourself up entirely to a Judge shall give me at that day, and not to physician.”+ By these means the combatants me only, but unto all them that love his appear- acquired such health and strength, that they ing,” 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
could bend with the greatest case such bows as Let us first make a general remark on the horses could hardly bend; hence the “health of expressions of the text; they are a manifest al- a champion” was a common proverbi to .exlusion to the games which were celebrated press a strong hale state. As this regimen was among the heathens. Fable, or history, tells exact, it was painful and trying. It was neus, that Pelops invented them, that Hercules cessary not only to surmount irregular desires, and Atreus brought them to perfection, that but all those exercises must be positively pracIphitus restored them; all which signify very lised which were essential to victorious comlittle to us. What is certain is, that these batants: it was not sufficient to observe them a games were celebrated with great pomp. They little while, they must be wrought by long prewere so solemn among the Greeks, that they paration into habits, without which the agility made use of them to mark memorable events and vigour acquired by repeated labours would and public eras, that of consuls at Rome, of be lost; witness that famous champion, who, archons at Athens, of priestesses as Argos. after he had often and gloriously succeeded, They passed from Greece to Italy, and were
* Eustat. in Homer. Iliad. so much in vague at Rome, that an ancient
† Epict. cap. 36. Voi, Plat. de legibus, lib. 8. author said, two things were necessary to the Hor. Art. Poet. Julian de Laud. Const. Orat. i.
was shamefully conquered, because he had ne- | should not then have a right to determine that glected the regimen for six months, during the apostle had his eye on such services here. which time a domestic affair had obliged him For our parts, we think, he intended all acts to reside at Athens.* This is the third allusion of repentance prescribed in Scripture, and exwhich our apostle makes in the text, “I keep emplified by the saints; as silence, retirement, under my body, and bring it into subjection." fasting, abstinence from criminal pleasures, and
Let us observe, by the way, that these expressions of our apostle have been abused to 4. Further, there were persons who presided absurd though devotional purposes; and, to over the pagan games. They were called heomit others, it was an abuse of these expressions ralds. The name given them in the Greek which produced the extravagant sect of the language is precisely the same which in our Flagellants. All Italy in the thirteenth cen-language is rendered preacher. Their office tury was seized with a panic, which ended in was expressed by a word which signifies to the birth of this sect. The next century, the preach. It consisted in proclaiming the game, Germans being afflicted with a plague, it filled directing the combatants, encouraging the all Germany, and the folly of Henry III: king weak, animating the valiant, exposing the prize of France, joined to that mean complaisance to public view, and giving it to the victor. "This which induces courtiers to go into all the ca- is the fourth allusion of our apostle, “lest when prices of their masters, introduced it into that I have preached to others.” The original word kingdom, and into that kingdom it went with which wo have translated preached, is the very so much fury, that Charles, cardinal of Lor- word which is used to describe the office of such raine, actually killed himself by adhering too as presided at the games; and St. Paul, by using closely to its maxims during a rigorous win- this term, gives us a beautiful idea of the apos
tleship, and, in general of the gospel ministry. What a wide field opens here to our medita- What is the office of a minister of the gospel? tion, were it necessary to show the absurdity We publish the race, we describe the good of such devotions!
works, which God hath before ordained, that We might show, that they owe their origin we should walk in them;" we animate you by to Paganism. Plutarch says, that in the city often saying, “ run with patience the race that of Lacedæmon, they were sometimes pursued is set before you:” we lift up to public view the even to death in honour of Diana.Ş Herodotus prize, and in the name of God we cry, "so run speaks to the same purpose concerning the fes- that you may obtain." Happy if you all attend tival of the great goddess in Egypt. || In like to this voice, and if, while a few are eagerly manner Philostratus speaks of the devotions and constantly running the race set before them, performed in honour of the Scythian Diana. I others do not run more eagerly across the space, Thus also Apuleius concerning the priests of like those unhappy people just now mentioned, the goddess of Syria;** and thus authors more who were wounded with iron spikes, or drowncredible, I mean the writers of the Book of ed in the waves. Kings, concerning the priests of Baal.
5. In fine, The last remark we make on paWe might show the weakness of the argu- gan games regards the different destiny of the ments on which such practices are founded; as combatants. The conquered derived no advanfabulous miracles, and, among many others, a tages from their pains; but the victors were coletter brought by an angel from heaven to Je- vered with honours and advantages; they were rusalem, which declared, that the blessed vir- distinguished in all public assemblies; they gin having implored pardon for the guilty, God were called by the high sounding name of had replied, that their pardon should be granted Olympian; they were crowned with great ceon condition they whipped themselves in this remony; statues were erected to their honour, manner.fi
and breaches were made in the walls of cities We might produce the weighty reasons to admit them with the greater pomp. This is which many of the Roman communion, and the fifth allusion which the apostle here makes among others Gerson and De Thou, urged to the games, "Jest I should be a cast-away." against such practices, and the testimonies of A cast-away; the heathens applied this word to our Scriptures, which expressly forbid them; such combatants as entered the lists but did not but we will content ourselves with observing, obtain the prize. that the words of our text have nothing that Such were the games celebrated through all can serve even for a plausible pretence for these Greece, and in particular at the city of Phisuperstitions. We said St. Paul alluded to the lippi, where St. Paul wrote this epistle, and in regimen observed by combatants; combatants that of Corinth to which it is addressed. The observed that kind of life, which was most pro- believer is a stranger on earth, he sees there a per to fit them for their profession; in like man- thousand delights of which he does not partake. ner, St. Paul observed what fitted him for liis. The eyes of Paul at Philippi, more properly his Were it possible to prove that mortifications and cars (for St. Paul hardly attended public amusemacerations were necessary to this purpose, we ments,) were struck with the fame and mag
nificence of these games. The Corinthians * Baudelot de Dairval. Hist. de Ptolomee Auletes, p. 61. were in the same condition. How hard is it to Hospinian. Hist. Monach. Boileau. Hist. des Flagel- pleasures of the inhabitants! St. Paul strength
live in a country and to be excluded from the De Thou, Hist. liv. 59.
ens the Corinthians and himself against these 6 Plutarch Vit. Lycurg.
temptations; he rises from sensual to spiritual ! Eutrop. liv. ii. ch. 41.
pleasures, and says, he has also an area, a race, 5 De Vit. Apollon. lib. vi. c. 20. ** L'Ane d'Or, liv. viii.
a crown, a triumph. "I therefore so run, not # Bosius Anal. under the year 1319.
as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beat