« السابقةمتابعة »
kings, O Lemuel, to drink wine, nor for princes | strong drink, lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted." How would these maxims be received at some of your courts? They were not very pleasing at that of Saul; David was, therefore, censured by him and his courtiers for proposing them. Hear how he expressed himself in this psalm. "O Lord! remove from me reproach and contempt. Princes did sit and speak against me, because thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. The proud have had me greatly in derision; yet have I not declined from thy law," Psa. cxix. 22, 23. 51.
a dagger into their bosoms; that to be so absorbed in forming public treatises, and in the prosperity of the states, as to lose sight of the interests of religion, is equal to placing hope in the present life, and renouncing all expectation of a life to come; that to render one's self inaccessible to the solicitations of widows and orphans, while we fill offices created for their service, is to usurp honours for the sake of emoluments; that to suffer the publication of
scandalous books, and the practice of public debauchery, under pretence of toleration and liberty, is to arm God against a state, though states subsist only by his protection. Let us not repeat forgotten grievances, let us not, by multiplying these objects, run the hazard of increasing the number of arguments which justify our proposition. "To speak of the testimo
II. Let us pass to the second article, and consider the magnanimity of such as expose themselves to this martyrdom. This is naturally included in the former remark, concerning the executioners who inflict the punish-nies of God before kings," is to expose one's ment. My brethren it is impossible to speak self to a charge of rebellion, and to such punof the testimonies of God before the tyrants in ishments as ought to be reserved for real inquestion, without being accused either of a cendiaries and rebels. spirit of rebellion, aversion to social pleasures, or rusticity and pedantry; three dispositions which the great seldom forgive.
2. As the great men of the world would have us respect their rank, so they are equally jealous of their pleasures; and most men forming maxims of pleasure more or less lax, according as their rank is more or less eminent, licentiousness grows along with credit and fortune. A man who made a scruple of being absent from an exercise of religion, when he could hardly provide bread for the day, has not even attended the Lord's supper since he became master of a thousand a year. A man whose conscience would not suffer him to frequent some companies, when he walked afoot, is become a subscriber to public gaming houses now he keeps a carriage. A man who would have blushed at immodest language in private life, keeps, without scruple, a prostitute, now he is become a public man. Lift your eyes a little higher, lift them above metaphorical kings, and look at kings properly so called. Adultery, incest, and other abominations, more fit for beasts than men? what am I saying? abominations to which beasts never abandon themselves, and of which men only are capable, are not these abominations considered as sports But, though the great men of the world do in the palaces of some princes? This is what not always assume the place of God with so I said, licentiousness increases with credit and much brutal insolence, yet they do assume it. fortune. The maxims which men form conThough they do not say to their inferiors in so cerning pleasures, are more or less loose acmany words, Obey us rather than God, yet do cording as their rank is more or less eminent. they not say it in effect? Is it possible to op- In general, that detachment from the world pose their fancy with impunity? Is it safe to which religion proposes to produce in our establish the rights of God in their presence? hearts, that spirit of repentance with which it What success had Elijah at the court of Ahab? aims to inspire us, those images of death which Micaiah at that of Jehosaphat? John the Bap-it perpetually sets before us, those plans of fetist at that of Herod' licity disengaged from matter, to which it invites us; all these ideas are tasteless to the great; we cannot propose them amidst their intoxicating pleasures without being considered as enemies of pleasure, as scourges to society.
The martyr for morality is sometimes taxed with a spirit of rebellion. Perhaps you might have thought I spoke extravagantly, when I affirmed, that most men consider themselves as kings in regard to their inferiors. I venture, however, to affirm a greater paradox still; that is, they consider themselves as gods, and demand such homage to be paid to their fancied divinity as is due to none but to the true God. I grant great men do not all assume the place of God with equal arrogance. There are not many Pharaohs who adopt this brutal language, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" Exod. v. 2. There are but few Sennacheribs, who are so extravagant as to say to the people of God, "Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?" Isa. xxxvi. 18, 19.
We need not go back to remote times. What success have we had among you, when we have undertaken to allege the rights of God in some circumstances? For example, when we have endeavoured to convince you, that to aspire at the office of a judge, without talents essential to the discharge of it, is to incur the guilt of all the unjust sentences that may be pronounced; that to stupify the under-pear great in the world; it is called politeness, standing by debauchery, to drown reason in or good-breeding. This science consists in intemperance, to dissipate the spirits by sensual adopting, at least in feigning to adopt, all the pleasures, when going to determine questions passions and prejudices of the great, in taking which regard the lives and fortunes of mankind, such forms as they like, in regulating ideas of is to rob men of their property, and to plunge right and wrong by their caprice, in condemn
3. When we speak of the testimonies of God before the great, we are taxed with rusticity and pedantry. There is, among men, a misnamed science, without which we cannot ap
this duty. You have heard, that it consists in urging the rights of God before great men; and, though it be at the hazard of all the comforts and pleasures of life, in professing to respect the moral part of religion. We do not mean an unseasonable and indiscreet manner of doing so. The duty of confessing Jesus Christ before tyrants, in regard to his doctrines, has its bounds; and so has that of confessing his morality. There was more enthusiasm than true zeal in such ancient confessors as voluntarily presented themselves before persecutors, and intrigued for the glory of martyrdo:n. So, in regard to the present subject, in our opinion, it is not requisite we should intrude into the company of the great to reprove them, when we have reason to believe our rebukes would be injurious to ourselves, and contribute nothing to the glory of religion. All the actions of a Christian should be directed by prudence. We only expect you should never blush for the precepts of your great Lawgiver, never contribute, by mean adulation, or profound silence, to the violation of them; in short, that you would openly profess to fear God always when your profession is likely to convince a sinner, or to convert a saint.
This duty carries its own evidence along with it. Let us here compare the doctrines of religion with the precepts of it. The precepts of religion are as essential as the doctrines; and religion will as certainly sink if the morality be subverted, as if the theology be undermined. Moreover, doctrines are absolutely useless without morality, and the doctrines of religion are only proposed to us as grounds of the duties of it. The first doctrine of religion, the foundation of all the rest, is, that there is only one God; but why does God require us to admit the doctrine of his unity? It is that we may not divide supreme love, the character of supreme adoration, between the Supreme Being and creatures; for on this subject it is said, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." Now, were I to deny this second proposition, we ought not to divide between God and any creature that love which is the essence of supreme adoration, should I be a less odious apostate than if I denied the first? One of the most essential points of our divinity is, that there is a future state. But why does God re
There is another kind of suffering, longer and more fatiguing, and therefore more difficult. It is a profession, a detail, a trade of suffering, if I may express myself so. To see one's self called to live among men whom we are al-quire us to believe a future state? It is that ways obliged to contradict upon subjects for we should regard the present life as the least which they discover the greatest sensibility; to considerable period of our duration. If then I be excluded from all their pleasures; never to deny this practical proposition, the present life be admitted into their company, except when is the least considerable part of our duration, they are under afflictions and restraints; to am I an apostate less odious than if I deny this hear one's looks and habits turned into ridi- proposition of speculation, there is a future cule, as they said of the prophet Elisha, "He state? We say the same of all other doctrines. is a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins," 2 Kings i. 8: What a punishment! Men who have withstood all the terrors of racks and dungeons, have yielded to the violence of this kind of persecution and martyrdom. We will not be insensible of the frailty of our auditors, and therefore, we will omit a discussion of the acute and horrid pains of this kind of martyrdom.
If it be the duty of a Christian to confess the doctrines of religion, and if a simple genuflexion, and the offering of one grain of incense, be acts of denial of these truths of speculation, I ask, are not one act of adulation, one smile of approbation, one gesture of acquiescence, also acts of denial in regard to practical truths? Most certainly. In times of persecution it was necessary to lift up the standard of Jesus Christ, to confess him before Herod and Pilate, and before all who took these persecutors of the church for their examples. In like manner,
IV. We are to treat, fourthly, of the obligation of speaking of the testimonies of God before kings. We ground this on the nature of
ing what they condemn, and in approving what they approve. In one word, politeness, in the style of the great, is that suppleness which keeps a man always prepared to change his system of morality and religion according to their fancies. Not to have this disposition, to have invariable ideas, and invariable objects of pursuit, to be inconvertible in religion, to have the laws of God always before our eyes, or, as the Scripture speaks, to "walk before him," is in the style of people of the world, to have no breeding, to be a bad courtier, to be possessed with that kind of folly which renders it proper for us, though not to be confined with lunatics, yet to be banished from the company of people of birth and quality, as they call themselves, and to be stationed in closets and cells.
III. Thus we have seen both the executioners who punish morality with martyrdom, and the magnanimity which exposes a man to the punishment: and these are sufficient to expose our third article, the horrors, that accompany it. I have no ideas sufficiently great of the bulk of my auditors, to engage me to be very exact in expounding this third article. I fear, were I to enlarge on this part of my subject, I should raise insurmountable obstacles to the end which I should propose in opening the subject. Forgive an opinion so inglorious to your piety, but too well adjusted to the imperfections of it. We dare not form such a plan for you as Jesus Christ formed for St. Paul, when speaking of this new proselyte to Ananias, he told him, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake," Acts ix. 16. Martyrdom for doctrines, I grant, seems at first more shocking than martyrdom for morality; but, taken altogether, it is perhaps less insupportable. To die for religion is not always the worst thing in the calling of a Christian. Virtue wakes up into vigour in these circumstances, and renders itself invincible by its efforts. Even worldly honours sometimes come to embolden. That kind of heroism which is attributed to a man making such a splendid sacrifice, supports under exquisite torments.
while the church enjoys the most profound peace, if innocence be oppressed, if we see modesty attacked, if we hear the sophisms of sin, we must learn to say, each in his proper sphere, I am a Christian, I hate calumny, abhor oppression, I detest profaneness and licentiousness, and so on.
The further you carry this comparison of martyrdom for doctrines with martyrdom for duties, the more fully will you perceive, that the same reasons which establish the necessity of the first, confirm that of the last, and that apostates from morality are no less odious than those from divinity. Let us for a moment examine what makes the first martyrdom necessary, I mean that for doctrines. Some reasons regard the believers themselves. Our attachment to the religion of Jesus Christ may be doubtful to ourselves, before we suffer for it. Martyrdom is a trial of this attachment. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you," 1 Pet. iv. 12. Some regard the spectators, in whose presence God calls his children to suffer for religion. Christians have made more disciples to the true religion, by suffering persecution, than tyrants have taken from it by persecuting. This is a second view of martyrdom. A martyr may say, with his divine Master, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me," John xii. 32. Some of these reasons regard the honour of religion, for which God calls us to suffer. What can be more glorious for it than that peace, and joy, and firmness, with which it i spires its martyrs How ravishing is this religion, when it supports its disciples under the most cruel persecutions! How truly great does it appear, when it indemnifies them for the loss of fortune, rank, and life; when it makes them see, through a shower of stones, the object of their hope, and impels them to exclaim with St. Stephen, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!" Acts vii. 56. This is a third view of martyrdom, and it would be as easy to increase the list as it is to make the application. Let us apply to martyrdom for duties, what we have said concerning martyrdom for doctrines, and we shall be obliged to conclude, that the same reasons establish the necessity of both.
Let us not pass lightly over this article. If there be a martyrdom of morality, how many apostles have we among us? How often have we denied our holy religion? How often, when it has been jeeringly said to us, "Thou also wast with Jesus," have we sneakingly replied, "I know not what thou sayest?"
V. We come to our last article, the crown of moral martyrdom. Here a new order of objects present themselves to our meditation. Pardon me, if I cannot help deploring the loss or the suspension of that voice with which for three and twenty years I have announced the testimonies of God, so as to be clearly heard at the remotest parts of this numerous auditory. However, I will try to present to you at least a few of the truths which I dare not undertake to speak of in their utmost extent.
speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed," finds a rich reward, first in the ideas which a sound reason gives him of shame and glory; secondly, in the testimony of his own conscience; thirdly, in the approbation of good people; and lastly, in the prerogatives of martyrdom. These, if I may so express myself, are four jewels of his crown.
1. Notions of shame and glory are not arbitrary, they are founded on the essence of those things to which they are related; on these relations they depend, and not on the caprice of different understandings. My first relation is that which I have to God, it is the relation of a creature to his Creator. The duty of this relation is that of the most profound submission. My glory is to discharge this duty, and it is my shame to violate it. My second relation is that which I have to men, a relation between beings formed in the same image, subject to the same God, and exposed to the same miseries. The duty of this relation is that of treating men as I wish they would treat me; or, to use the words of Jesus Christ, "of doing to them whatsoever I would they should do to me," Matt. vii. 12. It is my glory to discharge this duty, and my shame to violate it; and so of the rest. These ideas are not arbitrary, they are founded in the nature of things. No mortal, no potentate has a right to change them. If, then, the great regard me with disdain, when I answer to my relations, and discharge the duties of them, I will not be ashamed. The contempt which this conduct brings upon me, falls back upon my despiser, because shame is a necessary consequence of violating these duties, and because glory is a necessary consequence of practising them.
2. The martyrdom of morality is rewarded by the testimony of conscience, and by the ineffable joys with which the heart is overwhelmed. While the tribunals of the great condemn the Christian, an inward judge absolves him; and the decrees of the former are reversed by the latter. "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience. I suffer; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know on whom I have believed," 2 Cor. i. 12; 2 Tim. i. 12.
The martyrdom of morality! A man who can say to God, as our prophet said, "I will
3. The moral martyr is rewarded by the approbation of good people. Indeed, suffrages will never be unanimous. There will always be in the world two opposite systems, one of virtue, another of sin. The partisans of a system of sin will always condemn the friends of virtue as the friends of virtue will always condemn the partisans of sin. You cannot be considered in the same light by two such different classes of judges. What the first account infamous, the last call glory; and the last will cover you with glory for what the first call your shame. If you be obliged to choose one of the two parties to judge you, can you possibly hesitate a moment on which to fix your choice? The prophet indemnified himself by an intercourse with the people of God, for the injury done him by the great. "I am," said he, "a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts," Ps. cxix. 33. Suffer me to sanctify here the profane praise which Lucan gave Pompey;* "The gods are
* Victrex Causa Deis Placuit; sed Victa Catoni.
for Cesar, but Cato is for Pompey." Yes, the approbation of Cato is preferable to that of the gods! I mean those imaginary gods, who frequently usurp the rights of the true God.
In fine, the martyr for morality is rewarded THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF A by the prerogatives of martyrdom. It would be inconvenient, in the close of a sermon, to discuss a question that would require a whole discourse; I mean that concerning degrees of glory, but that, if there be degrees of glory, the highest will be bestowed on martyrs, will admit of no dispute. This, I think, may be proved from many passages of Scripture. St. John seems to have taken pains to establish this doctrine in the Revelation: "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessel of a potter shall they be broken into shivers," chap. ii. 26, 27. This regards martyrs, and this seems to promise them pre-eminence. "Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God," chap. iii. 11, 12. This regards martyrs, and this seems to promise them pre-eminence. "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God," chap. vii. 13-15. This regards martyrs, and this also seems to promise them pre-eminence.
1 SAMUEL iii. 12, 13.
In that day, I will perform against Eli, all things which I have spoken concerning his house; when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not.
THESE words are part of a discourse which God addressed to young Samuel in a vision, the whole history of which is well known to us all. We intend to fix our chief attention on the misery of a parent, who neglects the education of his children: but before we consider the subject in this point of view, we will make three remarks tending to elucidate the history. The crimes of the sons of Eli, the indulgence of the unhappy father, and the punishment of that indulgence, demand our attention.
Observe the crimes of the sons of Eli. They supported their debaucheries by the victims which the people brought to the tabernacle to be offered in sacrifice. The law assigned them the shoulders and the breasts of all the beasts sacrificed for peace-offerings: but, not content with these, they seized the portions which God had appointed to such as brought the offerings, and which he had commanded them to eat in his presence, to signify their communion with him. They drew these portions with fleshhooks out of the caldrons, in which they were boiling. Sometimes they took them raw, that they might have an opportunity of preparing them to their taste; and thus by serving themselves before God, they discovered a contempt for those just and charitable ends which God had in view, when he ordained that his ministers should live on a part of the sacrifices.God, by providing a table for the priests in his own house, intended to make it appear, that they had the honour of being his domestics, and, so to speak, that they lived on his revenue. This was a benevolent design. God also, by appointing the priests to eat after they had sacrificed, intended to make them understand that he was their sovereign, and the principal object of all the ceremonies performed in his palace. These were just views.
Christians, perhaps your minds are offended at the gospel of this day. Perhaps you are terrified at the career which we have been opening to you. Perhaps you are inwardly murmuring at this double martyrdom. Ah! rather behold "the great cloud of witnesses" with which you are compassed about, and congratulate yourselves that you fight under the same standard, and aspire at the same crown. Above all, "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself;" and who, as the same apostle Paul speaks, not only endured the cross," but also "despised the shame." Hark! he speaks to you from the goal, and in this animating language addresses you, "If any man hear my voice, I will come in to him. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 20, 21. Happy you, if you be accessible to such noble motives! Happy we, if we be able to say to God, in that solemn day in which he will render to every one according to his works, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest; I have not hid thy righte-age to Almighty God, were drawn thither by ousness within my heart, I have declared thy the abominable desire of gratifying the inclinafaithfulness and thy salvation, I have not con- tions of his unworthy ministers. Such were cealed thy loving kindness! Withhold not the crimes of the sons of Eli. thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord!" God grant us this grace. Amen.
The excesses of the table generally prepare the way for debauchery; and the sons of Eli having admitted the first, had fallen into the last, so that they abused "the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation," chap. ii. 22; and to such a degree had they carried these enormities that the people, who had been used to frequent the holy place only for the purpose of rendering hom
Let us observe next the indulgence of the parent. He did not wholly neglect to correct his
sons, for the reproofs he gave them are record- | violent death of Eli; all these events are fully ed in the second chapter. "Why do ye such things" said he to them, "for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Do not so my sons, for it is no good report that I hear." To perform a duty of such importance with so much indifference, was equal to an encouragement of the sin. Eli made use of petitions and exhortations, when he ought to have applied sharp reproofs, and alarming threatenings. He censured and rebuked, when he ought to have anathematized and thundered: accordingly, after the Holy Spirit had related the reproofs which Eli, in the words just now cited, addressed to his sons, he tells us in the text, by a seeming contradiction, but in words full of truth and good sense, that Eli "restrained them not."
Observe thirdly what terrible punishments this criminal indulgence drew down upon the guilty father, the profligate sons, and even the whole people under their direction. A prophet had before denounced these judgments against Eli, in order to engage him to prevent the repetition of the crimes, and the infliction of the punishments. "Wherefore honourest thou thy sons above me?" said the man of God. "I said, indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but behold the days come that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel. And the man of thine, whom shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart. And this shall be a sign unto thee, thy two sons, Hophni and Phinehas in one day shall both of them die," chap. ii. 29, &c.
These threatenings were accomplished in all their rigour. The arm is in Scripture an emblem of strength, and when the prophet threatened Eli, that the Lord would cut off his arm, and the arm of his father's house, he meant to foretell that the family of this priest should fall into decay. Hophni and Phinehas perished in battle wh the Philistines conquered the Israelites. Ahitub and Ichabod, the sons of Phinehas, lived only a few years after the death of their father. If we believe a tradition of the Jews, this threatening was accomplished many ages after it was uttered. We are told in the Talmud, that there was at Jerusalem a family, in which no one outlived the eighteenth year of his age; and that a famous Rabbi found by inquiring into the origin of that family, that it descended from Eli. A rival, Zadok, was made high priest instead of Abiathar, a descendant of Eli. We are able to prove by very exact registers that the high priesthood continued in the family of Zadok not only from the building of the temple to the destruction of it, that is to say for the space of four hundred years, but even to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. The rest of the misfortunes of Eli, the victory obtained by the Philistines, the taking of the ark, the confusion which brought on the labour and the death of the wife of Phinehas, who expired, "saying, name the child Ichabod, for the glory is departed from Israel," chap. iv. 19, &c. the
I hasten to the chief design of this discourse. The extreme rigour which God used towards Eli, and the terrible judgments with which he punished the indulgence of this unhappy parent, seemed to offend some who have not attended to the great guilt of a parent, who neglects to devote his children to God by a holy education. I am going to endeavour to remove this offence, and, in order to do so, I shall not confine myself to my text, but shall treat of the subject at large, and show you, as our time will allow, first, the crimes and miseries of a parent, who neglects the education of his family; and secondly, the means of preventing them. We will direct our reflections so that they may instruct not only heads of families, but all our hearers, and so that what we shall say on the education of children, by calling to mind the faults committed in our own, may enable us to correct them.
To neglect the education of our children is to be ungrateful to God, whose wonderful power created and preserved them. With what marvellous care does a kind Providence watch over the formation of our infants, and adjust all the different parts of their bodies?
With what marvellous care does a kind Providence provide for their first wants: for at first they are like those idols, of which the prophet speaks, "they have eyes and see not, they have ears and hear not, they have feet and cannot walk." Frail, infirm, and incapable of providing for their wants, they find a sufficient supply in those feelings of humanity and tenderness with which nature inspires all human kind. Who can help admiring that, at a time when infants have nothing that can please, God enables them to move the compassion of their parents, and to call them to their succour by a language more eloquent and more pathetic than the best studied discourses?
With what marvellous care does a kind Providence preserve them amidst a multitude of accidents which seem to conspire together to snatch them away in their tenderest infancy, and in all their succeeding years. Who but a Being almighty and all-merciful could preserve a machine so brittle, at a time when the least shock would be sufficient to destroy it.
With what astonishing care does a kind Providence provide for those wants, which old age incapacitates us to supply? Who can shut his eyes against all these wonders without sinking into the deepest stupidity, and without exposing himself to the greatest misery?
To neglect the education of our children is to refuse to retrench that depravity which we communicated to them. Suppose the Scriptures had not spoken expressly on the subject of original depravity, yet it would argue great stupidity to question it. As soon as infants discover any signs of reason, they discover signs of depravity, and their malice appears as their ideas unfold themselves. Sin in them is a fire at first concealed, next emitting a few sparks, and at last bursting into a great blaze, unless it be prevented in time. Whence do they derive so great an infection? Can we doubt it, my brethren? They derive it from us, and by communicating our nature we communicate our