« السابقةمتابعة »
robbed, walk in the statutes of life without | sight of those objects which he has set before committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he you, in order that you may be enabled to surshall not die. None of his sins that he hath mount them. committed, shall be mentioned unto him," A Christian is supported in his course by Ezek. xxxiii. 14–16.
the very nature of the difficulties which occur. A second sort of people, who ought to de- These are many, and we shall have occasion rive serious instruction from the words of my to enumerate them in a subsequent discourse. text, is those visionaries; who, while engaged But, with discerning Christians, all these things in the habit of hating their neighbours, of for- may promote the end they seem to oppose, and nication, of revenge, or in one or the other of realize the words of St. Paul, that “all things those vices, of which the Scripture says, "they work together for good to them that love God,” that do such things shall not inherit the king- Rom. viii. 28. One of those difficulties, for dom of God,” fancy themselves to be in a state instance, to which a Christian is exposed in his of grace, and believe they shall ever abide in race, is adversity; but adversity is so far from that state, provided they never doubt of the obstructing him in his course, as to become an work. People of this character,—whether it ; additional motive to pursue it with delight; and be that they have fallen into the hands of An- to assist him in taking an unreluctant fight totinomian guides, one of the greatest plagues wards the skies. Another difficulty is proswith which justice punishes the crimes of men, perity; but prosperity assists him to estimate and one of the most awful pests of the church; the goodness of God, and induces him to inor whether it be the effect of those passions, fer, that if his happiness here be so abundant, which, in general, so fascinate the mind, as to what must it be in the mansions of felicity, prevent their seeing the most evident truths seeing he already enjoys so much in these opposed to their system; but people of this abodes of misery. Another of those difficulties class presumptuously apply to themselves the is health; which, by invigorating the body, doctrine of the inamissibility of grace, at the strengthens the propensity to sin; but health, time when we display the arm of God ready by invigorating the body, strengthens him also to pour the thunder of its vengeance upon their for the service of God. So it is with every heads. But know, once for all, it is not to obstruction. you that the inamissibility of grace belongs. A Christian is supported in his course, by Whether a true saint may fall, or whether he those unspeakable joys which he finds in the may not fall, it is the same thing with regard advancement of his progress; by “the peace to you; and your corruption will gain nothing which passeth all understanding;” by the seby the decision: for if the true saint may fall, -renity of justification; by an anticipated resurI have cause to conclude that you are already rection; by a foretaste of paradise and glory, fallen; since, notwithstanding the regeneration which descend into his soul, before he himself you pretend to have received, you now have is exalted to heaven. no marks of real saints; and if a real saint A Christian is supported in his course (as we cannot fall, I have cause to conclude that you have already intimated in this sermon,) by the were deluded in the notions you had formed consideration even of those torments, to which of yourselves with regard to conversion. I he would be exposed if he should come short. have reason to believe that you never were The patriarch Noah trembled, no doubt, on true saints, because I see with my own eyes, seeing the cataracts of heaven let loose, and that you no longer sustain the character. Here the fountains of the great deep broke open, is the abridgement of the controversy. Here is and the angry God execute his threatening, a decision of the question between us. But if “I will destroy man whom I have created, it do not agree with your systems, preserve from off the face of the earth; both man and those systems carefully; preserve them to the beast, for it repenteth me that I have made great day, when the Lord shall render unto them,” Gen. vi. 7. But this fear apprised him every man according to his works; and endea- of his privilege, being exempt in the ark from vour, -endeavour in the presence of the Judge the universal desolation; which induced him to of all the earth, to defend your depravity by abide in his refuge. your opinions.
A Christian is supported in his course by There is yet a third class of people, who supernatural aid, which raise him above the ought to make serious reflections on the doc- powers of nature; which enable him to say, trine of perseverance. It is those who carry is when I am weak, then I am strong;” and to the consequences to an extreme; who, from a exclaim in the midst of conflicts, "blessed be notion that they must endure to the end of God which always causest us to triumph in their course to be saved, persuade themselves Christ,” 2 Cor. ii. 14. “I can do all things that they cannot be assured of their salvation through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. till they come to that period. It is not to min-iv. 13. isters who maintain so detestablo a notion, that A Christian is supported in his course by the this article is addressed. It is not to captious, confidence he has of succeeding in the work but to tender minds, and those tender minds in which he is engaged, and of holding out to who are divided between the exalted ideas the end. And where is the man in social life, they entertain of duty, and the fears of devia- who can have the like assurance with regard tion. Fear, holy souls; but sanctify your fear. to the things of this world? Where is the gen. Entertain exalted views of your duty; but let eral, who can assure himself of success by the those exalted views be a sure test that you will dispositions he may make to obtain the vicnever deviate; and, while you never lose sight tory? Where is the statesman, who can assure of the difficulties with which the race Christ himself of warding off every blow which threathas set before you is accompanied, never lose' ens the nation' The Christian,-the Christian
alone has this superior assurance. I fear no- of an ancient philosopher respecting governthing but your heart; answer me with your ment. The principles, on which he established heart; answer me with your sincerity, and I his system of politics, have appeared admirawill answer you for all the rest.
ble, and the consequences he has deduced, have A Christian is supported in his course, above appeared like streams pure as their source. all, by the grandeur of the salvation with God, in creating men, says this philosopher, which he is to be crowned. What shall I say, gave them all means of preservation from the my dear brethren, on the grandeur of this sal- miseries which seem appendant to their condivation? That I have not the secret of com- tion: and they have but themselves to blame if pressing into the last words of a discourse, all they neglected to profit by them. His bounty the traits of an object, the immensity of which has supplied them with resources, to terminate shall absorb our thoughts and reflections to all the evils into which they fell by choice. Let eternity?
them return to the practice of truth and virtue, With such vast support, shalt thou, timo- from which they have deviated, and they shall rous soul, still be agitated with those distressing find that felicity to which nothing but virtue fears which discourage wicked men from en- and truth can conduct society. Let the states tering on the course prescribed by Jesus Christ elect a sovereign like the God who governed to his disciples? “Fear not, thou worm Ja- in the age of innocence; let them obey the cob, for I am with thee. Thy Redeemer is the laws of God. Let kings and subjects enter Holy One of Israel. They that are for us, are into the same views of making each other mumore than all they that are against us," 2 tually happy. The whole world has admired Kings, vi. 16. “When thou passest through this fine notion; but they have only admired the waters, they shall not overflow thee: when it: and regard it merely as a system. The thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not princes and the people, to whom this philosobe burned,” Isa. xliii. 2. To this adorable pher wrote, are as yet unborn; hence we comDeity, who opens to us so fine a course, who monly say, the republic of Plato, when we wish affords us such abundant means for its comple- to express a beautiful chimera. I blush to tion, be honour, glory, empire, and magnifi- avow it, but truth extorts it from me, that this cence, now and ever. Amen.
is the notion most men entertain of religion. They make its very beauty an argument for its
neglect, and their own weakness an apology SERMON LXXXIII. for the repugnance they feel in submitting to
its laws: this is precisely the temper we pro
pose to attack. We will prove, by evident ON THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS. facts, and by experience, which is consequently
above all exception, that however elevated
above the condition of man the scheme of reHEBREWs xii. 1.
ligion may appear, it is a scheme which may
be followed, seeing it has been followed alWherefore, seeing we are also compassed about ready. with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay
To this point we shall direct the subsequent aside every weight, and the sin which doth so part of our discourse on the text we have read. easily beset us; and let us run with patience the We have divided it into three parts;—distinrace that is set before us.
guished duties,—excellent models,—and wise There are few persons so very depraved, as precautions. Of distinguished duties, " let us not to admire the line of life prescribed by re- run with patience the race that is set before ligion; but there are few sufficiently virtuous us," we have treated in our first discourse.. to follow it, or even to consider it in any other Of wise precautions, “let us lay aside every light than as a grand scheme captivating to an weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset enlightened mind, but to which it is impossible us," we hope to treat in a succeeding sermon. to conform. To inquire, as soon as we are ca- of excellent models, "seeing we also are compable of reflection, what is the Being who gave passed about with so great a cloud of witnessus birth, to yield to a world of arguments es,” we shall speak to-day. Happy, if struck which attest his existence and perfections; to with so many heroic actions, about to be set join the consort of creation which publishes before your eyes, you may be led to follow his glory; to devote one's self to him to whom them, and to augment this cloud of witnesses, we are indebted for all our comforts; and on of whom the Holy Spirit himself has not diswhom all our hopes depend; to make continual dained to make the eulogium. Happy, if we efforts to pierce those veils which conceal him may say of you, as we now say of them, by from our view, to seek a more concise and sure faith they repelled the wisdom of this world; way of knowing him than that of nature; to by faith they triumphed over the charms of receive revelation with avidity; to adore the concupiscence; by faith they endured the most characters of divine perfections which it traces; cruel torments; by faith they conquered the to take them for a rule of life; to sigh on de- celestial Jerusalem, which was the vast reward viation from those models of perfection, and of all their conflicts. Amen. repair, by revigorated efforts of virtue, what- “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed ever faults one may have committed against about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us virtue, is the line of life prescribed by religion. run with patience the race which is set before And who so far depraved, as not to admire it us.” What is this cloud, or multitude, of But who is so virtuous as to follow it, or even which the apostle speaks? The answer is not to believe that it can be followed? We look equivocal, they are the faithful enumerated in upon it, for the most part, as we do the notions the preceding chapter. Of what were they
witnesses? of that important truth, with, we shall be rewarded by his equity, or by his which he would impress the minds of the He- love. Faith thus taken in its vaguest and brews, and which alone was capable of sup- most extended view, ought to be restricted to porting the expectation of martyrdom, that those particular circumstances in which it was God " is the rewarder of all them that dili- exercised, and according to the particular kind gently seek him;” that how great soever the of promises which it embraced, or, not losing sacrifices may be we make for him, we shall sight of obedience, in regard to those particube amply recompensed by his equity, or by his lar kinds of sacrifice which God requires us to love: the faithful have witnessed this, not only make. One man is called to march at the by their professions, but by their conduct; head of armies to defend an oppressed nation. some by sacrifices which cost the most to flesh God promises to reward his courage with vicand blood; some by abandoning their riches; tory. The man believes, he fights, he conothers by devoting their lives. Happily this quers. The object of his faith in this particueleventh chapter of the Epistle to the He- lar circumstance, is the promise I have menbrews, is clearly known even to the less in- tioned; I am right then in defining faith as St. structed of our hearers; this may supply our Paul, when he says, “Faith is the substance weakness, and the brevity of these exercises of things hoped for, the evidence of things not in making an analysis. We shall however run seen,” Heb. xi. 1. It is that disposition of over it, remarking whatever may most contri- heart, in approaching God, which enables us bute to illustrate the subject.
to believe, that he “is the rewarder of them The first thing which not a little surprises that diligently seek him.” By faith the man us, is, that St. Paul has equally brought to- of whom I spoke obtained the victory. gether, as models, men who seem to have been But I will adduce the case of another, callnot only of very different, but of very oppo-ed to suffer martyrdom for religion The par. site conduct. How could he class Samson, ticular objects of his faith in the case I have the slave of a prostitute: how could he class supposed, are the promises of salvation. I am Rahab, of whom it is doubtful at least, whe- right in defining faith as it is defined by St. ther she did not practice the most infamous of Paul, when he says, “ Faith is the substance all professions: how could he put those two of things hoped for, the evidence of things persons on a parallel with Joseph, who has not seen.” It is that disposition of mind which been held up to all ages, not only as a model, enables him in approaching God, to believe but as the martyr for chastity? How could he that “he is the rewarder of all them that diliplace Jepthah, the oppressor of Ephraim, gently seek him.” By faith the man of whom whom we deem worthy of censure for the most I spoke obtained salvation. distinguished action of all his life; I would say You perceive, I flatter myself, in the first the devotion of his only daughter, whether in case I have adduced, that if the general persacrifice or celibacy, a question not to be ex- suasion this man had, that God " is the reamined here; how could he class this man in warder of all them that diligently seek him," a rank with Abraham, who was ready to immo- did not embrace for its object all the promises late his son at the divine command; with of salvation, nor induce him to make all the Abraham the most humane of conquerors, who sacrifices his salvation required; he is worthy made this magnanimous reply to the officers however of imitation in this instance, his faith of an alliance he had received, “I have list having embraced the particular promise which up my hand unto the Lord, the most high had been given him: and it is evident, if I do God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I not know any thing of this man's life, except will not take from thee a thread even to a that his faith having been sufficiently strong shoe-latchet, and I will not take any thing for a particular sacrifice, I may presume what that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have I cannot prove, it would have been adequate made Abraham rich:” Gen. xiv. 22, 23. How for every other sacrifice required by his salvacould he put Gideon, who availed himself of tion. the spoils of Midian by the supernatural aids The doctrine discussed being considered, not of Heaven, to make an ephod, and to turn only obviates the difficulty proposed, but satisaway the Ísraelites from the worship of the fies the scruple which may be made concerntrue God, on a scale with Moses, who “pre- ing some of the saints whose example is proferred affliction with the people of God, to the posed as a pattern by St. Paul. pleasures of sin which are but for a season?" Do you ask, why St. Paul arranges in the Heb. xi. 25. I have too much reason to be same class, and proposes as equal models, perconvinced, that many of my hearers would sonages so distinguished by virtue, and others wish to follow models of this description. I by vice? I answer, that whatever distance have too much reason to be ced, that there might have been between the different many would delight in a faith like that of personages, they are all worthy of imitation Samson, like that of Jepthah, like that of in regard to what is excellent in those instanGideon. Without adopting or rejecting the ces to which the apostle refers. solutions usually given of this difficulty, here But if you ask whether the faith which inis what may be replied.
duced Samson, Jepthah, and Gideon, to make You should keep in view, the design of St. some particular sacrifices for God, prompted Paul in placing this group of personages be- them to make every sacrifice which their salfore the Hebrews. He would animate them vation required? we answer, that whatever fawith that faith, which as we expressed our-vourable presumption charity ought to inspire, selves relying on the apostle's principles; that no man is authorised to answer the question faith which persuades us, that how great so- in the affirmative; for seeing some are found ever the sacrifices may be we make for God, who have performed the first miracles of faith
without performing the second, we ought not " became heir of the righteousness which is by to be confident that those doubtful characters faith.” What is this “ heritage of righteousperformed the second because they ably per- ness by faith.”. It is, according to the style of formed the first.
the sacred authors, eternal life. Hence the But if you exclaim against this opinion, I many parallel explications we find in other plawill add, not only that Jesus Christ has af- ces; as in the first chapter of this epistle. firmed he will say to many in the great day, “Are not the angels all ministering spirits, who had miraculous faith, “ I know you not;" sent forth to minister to them who shall be but we have proof that many of those, whose heirs of salvation?” That, also, in the second example the apostle has adduced in the ele- chapter of the catholic Epistle of St. James, venth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, "God hath chosen the poor of this world to were detestable characters, notwithstanding be heirs of the kingdom, which he hath pro their endowment of miraculous faith. Here mised to them that love him." is our proof: St. Paul has arranged in the class He farther alleges the example of Abraham, of those whose faith he extols, all the Israel- of Isaac, of Jacob, and of Joseph. The confiites who passed through the Red Sea. Now, dence which the patriarchs reposed in the proit is evident that a vast proportion of these mise of an earthly Canaan, proves that they were detestable men; then, draw yourselves expected a heavenly inheritance; because they the consequence. And here you have the rea- continued faithful followers of God, though Bon of St. Paul's having happily proposed to they never inherited the terrestrial country, the Hebrews, the examples of the miracles which was apparently promised to them, but achieved by the faith of those whom I call continued to be “strangers and sojourners.” doubtful characters. Those miracles were ad- “I am,” says Abraham to the Egyptians, mirably calculated to encourage the minds of stranger among you.” And Jacob to Pharaoh, the Hebrews, and to imbolden their purposes “The days of my pilgrimage,”-or the time of of making distinguished sacrifices for religion: my life, during which period I have been a but you have the reason, also, of his not being stranger and a sojourner:-“the days of my pilsatisfied with merely setting before them those grimage are not equal to those of my
fathers.” examples. You have the reason of his not St. Paul's remark on these expressions of the being satisfied with setting before him the ex- patriarchs is worthy of regard. They that ample of a faith, concerning which the Scrip- say such things declare plainly that they seek & tures are silent, if it had only particular promi- country. And truly, if they had been mindful ses for its object; he sets before them the ex- of that country from whence they come out, ample of those saints, whose faith had parti- they might have had opportunity to have recularly in view the promises of eternal felici- turned; but now they seek a better country; that ty. But were there, indeed, among those is, an heavenly,” Heb. xi. 14–16. That is to saints enumerated by the apostle, men, whose say, those holy men could but consider two sorts faith had, for its object, the promises of eter- of countries as their own, either the land of nal felicity? Did the obscurity of the dispen- their fathers, or the land of Canaan, of which sation, in which they lived, permit them to God had promised to give them possession. pierce the veil which still concealed from their | They had not this notion of the land of Canaan, view a happier life than what they enjoyed on seeing they considered themselves as earth? Let us not doubt it, my brethren: to gers and sojourners;”—seeing that Abraham avoid one extreme, let us not fall into the op- there possessed only so much land as was suffiposite one. St. Paul has proved it, not only cient for a sepulchre;-seeing Joseph's sole hapby his own authority, but also by the nature piness, in this view, was to command his chilof the case, and by the imony of the Jews dren to carry up his bones, when they went to of his own age.
possess it. They could no longer consider ChalFrom the example of the patriarchs, he ad- dea, in which their fathers were born, as their duces, first, that of Abel. An ancient tradi- country: in that case, they would have returned tion of the Jews informs us, that the subject on finding themselves strangers in the land of of dispute, between him and Cain, turned on Canaan. Hence it is evident from their conthe doctrine of future rewards. Cain main- duct, that they still sought their country; a tained that none were to be expected in a fu- country better than their fathers', and a better ture life; Abel supported the contrary propo- than their children expected to possess; “ They sition. The former of those brothers supplied showed that they expected a better, that is, an argument by violence; unable to convince Abel, heavenly habitation." he assassinated him. It is from this tradition St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews the example that some of our learned think we ought to of Moses: for if the faith of Moses merely reunderstand those words of the apostle, “who spected terrestrial glory, why should he (as the being dead yet speaketh.” They translate, Jews say) have cast to the ground, and tram"We have still extant a tradition, that he died pled on the crown that Thermutis had placed for his faith; namely, the doctrine of a future on his head? Why should he on coming to state."
years, as says the apostle, have "refused to be He cites the example of Enoch, who was so called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." He farpowerfully persuaded of a life to come, as to ther, according to the same epistle, "esteemed obtain a translation, exempting him from the the reproach of Christ greater riches than the painful path which others must travel to glo- treasures of Egypt. This expression may be ry; I would say, from tasting the horrors of taken in a double sense. By " the reproach of death.
Christ," we may understand the cross he so He adduces the example of Noah, who not frequently inculcated on his disciples. By the only escaped the calamities of the deluge, but reproach of Christ, we may likewise understand
281 the bondage which oppressed the Jews in the conceive yourselves obligated to make them the time of Moses. The word Christ, signifies model of your life. I would wish to go to the anointed, and men favoured of God are fre- source of this evil: hence, instead of confining quently called his anointed, because of the grace myself to an eulogium on those sacred characthey had received; of which the holy oil, poured ters, I would prove, that they were men like on some extraordinary personages by his com- you, in order that you shall be saints like them. mand, was a figure. So God has said by the There is between them and you a similarity of psalmist, “Touch not mine anointed, and do nature similarity of vocation-a similarity my prophets no harm,” Ps. cv. 15. So the of temptations-a similarity of motivega siprophet Habakkuk, “Thou wentest forth for milarity of assistance. The sole difference bethe salvation of thy people, even for salvation tween you is, that they had a sincere determi. with thine anointed,” Hab. iii. 13. Which nation to prefer their salvation and duty to sense soever we may adopt, the afflictions of every other consideration: whereas we prefer & Moses prove, according to St. Paul, “that he thousand and a thousand things to our salvation. had respect unto the recompense of the re- This is the awful difference I would now reward,” Heb. xi. 26. As no molive but the hope move, in order to disclose the perfect parallel of glory can induce Christians to bear the re- between you and those illustrious characters. proach of Christ their head; so no other consi- I. There is between those saints and you a deration could have induced a preference in similarity of nature; I would say, they had the Moses, of the sufferings of the Israelites to the same principles of natural depravity. There is, enjoyments of a crown.
Igrant, much confusion respecting certain theo In short, St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews a ries which are termed in the schools, Original great number of martyrs, who sacrificed their Sin. It has too often happened, in opposing lives for their religion. In this class is the ver this doctrine to certain blasphemous objections nerable Eleazar; who died under the strokes of against the divine justice, that they have his executioners, 2 Maccab. vi. It is probably strengthened the objections they endeavoured in allusion to this case when the apostle says, to obviate. On the other hand, it is extremely “they were tortured.". The Greek word sig- astonishing that there should be any divines so nifies they were extended in torture; and it is unacquainted with human nature, as to deny designed to express the situation of persons exe- our being all born with those principles of decuted in this cruel way. In this class is Zecha- pravity. Two considerations will demonstrate riah, who was slain between the temple and the ihe fallacy of this notion. altar, by the command of Joash. To him the 1. Man, circumscribed in knowledge, and apostle properly alludes when he says, “they exposed to strong contests, which cannot be were stoned.” In this class is Isaiah, whom supported without a vast chain of abstract Manasseh executed with a saw, if we may credit truths, is very liable to shrink in the contest. an apocryphal book quoted by Origen. To him I say not that it is impossible to avoid it; but the apostle probably alludes when he says, that he is very liable to shrink. It may be "they were sawn asunder.” In this class were avoided;
because, in the warmth of disputation, Micah, John the Baptist, and St. James, since by an effort of genius, he might possibly turn the time of the Maccabees. In all probability his views to those arguments which would enthe apostle had them in view when he says, sure his triumph. He is, however, very liable “they were slain with the sword.” This is to shrink; because warm debates engross so sufficient to illustrate what St. Paul has said in large a proportion of the mental capacity, that the chapter preceding our text, respecting the it is difficult for a man thus prepossessed to pay faithful, whom he adduces as models. It is proper attention to the motives which would evident, that those illustrious examples were ad- enable him to conquer. mirably calculated to make deep impressions on 2. We are not only all born with a general the minds of the Hebrews, and to animate them propensity to vice: but we are all likewise born to sacrifice their lives for their religion, if called with a propensity to some particular vice. Let to suffer. But I would improve the precious a man pay attention to children in the early moments of attention you may yet deign to years of life, and he will be convinced of the give, having destined them to investigate the fact: he will see that one is born with a proimpression, which the examples of those illus- pensity to anger, another to vanity, and so with trious saints must naturally make on our minds, regard to the other vices. These propensities and to press the exhortation. “Wherefore, sometimes proceed from the temperature of our seeing we also are compassed about with so bodies. It is natural, that persons born with a great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with pa- phlegmatic constitution, and whose spirits flow tience the race that is set before us."
with difficulty, should be inclined to insensiI have too high an opinion of my hearers, not bility, to indolence, and effeminacy. It is nato persuade myself, that they cannot contem- tural also for persons born with a gay and vola. plate those illustrious models, without corres- tile temperature, to be inclined to pleasure, and ponding impressions; but I think enough has anger. But these dispositions are sometimes been said to force an objection which most of found in the essence of the soul. For, why are you will make, should I devote the rest of the some men born jealous, and ambitious? Why hour to enforce those high examples. You will have they peculiar propensities which have no say, they are fine examples; but too high for connexion with the body, if there be not, in the our imitation. The personages, from whom essence of the soul, principles which impel some they are derived, were extraordinary men, with to one, and some to another vice? whom we have no claims of competition. They This being granted, I affirm, that there is were saints, we are sinners. Hence, the more between those distinguished saints, namely, anniable these examples appear, the less you I those venerable personages enumerated by St.