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witnesses? Of that important truth, with which he would impress the minds of the Hebrews, and which alone was capable of supporting the expectation of martyrdom, that God is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him;" that how great soever the sacrifices may be we make for him, we shall be amply recompensed by his equity, or by his love: the faithful have witnessed this, not only by their professions, but by their conduct; some by sacrifices which cost the most to flesh and blood; some by abandoning their riches; others by devoting their lives. Happily this eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is clearly known even to the less instructed of our hearers; this may supply our weakness, and the brevity of these exercises in making an analysis. We shall however run over it, remarking whatever may most contribute to illustrate the subject.
we shall be rewarded by his equity, or by his love. Faith thus taken in its vaguest and most extended view, ought to be restricted to those particular circumstances in which it was exercised, and according to the particular kind of promises which it embraced, or, not losing sight of obedience, in regard to those particular kinds of sacrifice which God requires us to make. One man is called to march at the head of armies to defend an oppressed nation. God promises to reward his courage with victory. The man believes, he fights, he conquers. The object of his faith in this particular circumstance, is the promise I have mentioned; I am right then in defining faith as St. Paul, when he says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Heb. xi. 1. It is that disposition of heart, in approaching God, which enables us to believe, that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." By faith the man of whom I spoke obtained the victory.
But I will adduce the case of another, called to suffer martyrdom for religion The particular objects of his faith in the case I have supposed, are the promises of salvation. I am right in defining faith as it is defined by St. Paul, when he says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is that disposition of mind which enables him in approaching God, to believe that "he is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him." By faith the man of whom I spoke obtained salvation.
The first thing which not a little surprises us, is, that St. Paul has equally brought together, as models, men who seem to have been not only of very different, but of very opposite conduct. How could he class Samson, the slave of a prostitute: how could he class Rahab, of whom it is doubtful at least, whether she did not practice the most infamous of all professions: how could he put those two persons on a parallel with Joseph, who has been held up to all ages, not only as a model, but as the martyr for chastity? How could he place Jepthah, the oppressor of Ephraim, whom we deem worthy of censure for the most 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 lift 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 of Heaven, to make an ephod, and to turn away the Israelites from the worship of the true God, on a scale with Moses, who "pre-ing ferred affliction with the people of God, to the pleasures of sin which are but for a season?" Heb. xi. 25. I have too much reason to be convinced, that many of my hearers would wish to follow models of this description. I have too much reason to be convinced, that many would delight in a faith like that of Samson, like that of Jepthah, like that of Gideon. Without adopting or rejecting the solutions usually given of this difficulty, here is what may be replied.
You should keep in view, the design of St. Paul in placing this group of personages before the Hebrews. He would animate them with 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
The doctrine discussed being considered, not only obviates the difficulty proposed, but satisfies the scruple which may be made concern
some of the saints whose example is proposed as a pattern by St. Paul.
Do you ask, why St. Paul arranges in the same class, and proposes as equal models, personages so distinguished by virtue, and others by vice? I answer, that whatever distance there might have been between the different personages, they are all worthy of imitation in regard to what is excellent in those instances to which the apostle refers.
But if you ask whether the faith which induced Samson, Jepthah, and Gideon, to make some particular sacrifices for God, prompted them to make every sacrifice which their salvation required? we answer, that whatever fa
without performing the second, we ought not to be confident that those doubtful characters performed the second because they ably performed the first.
But if you exclaim against this opinion, I will add, not only that Jesus Christ has affirmed he will say to many in the great day," who had miraculous faith, “I know you not," but we have proof that many of those, whose example the apostle has adduced in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, were detestable characters, notwithstanding their endowment of miraculous faith. Here is our proof: St. Paul has arranged in the class of those whose faith he extols, all the Israelites who passed through the Red Sea. Now, it is evident that a vast proportion of these were detestable men; then, draw yourselves the consequence. And here you have the reason of St. Paul's having happily proposed to the Hebrews, the examples of the miracles achieved by the faith of those whom I call doubtful characters. Those miracles were admirably calculated to encourage the minds of the Hebrews, and to imbolden their purposes of making distinguished sacrifices for religion: but you have the reason, also, of his not being satisfied with merely setting before them those examples. You have the reason of his not being satisfied with setting before him the example of a faith, concerning which the Scriptures are silent, if it had only particular promises for its object; he sets before them the example of those saints, whose faith had particularly in view the promises of eternal felicity. But were there, indeed, among those saints enumerated by the apostle, men, whose faith had, for its object, the promises of eternal felicity? Did the obscurity of the dispensation, in which they lived, permit them to pierce the veil which still concealed from their view a happier life than what they enjoyed on earth? Let us not doubt it, my brethren: to avoid one extreme, let us not fall into the opposite one. St. Paul has proved it, not only by his own authority, but also by the nature of the case, and by the testimony of the Jews of his own age.
From the example of the patriarchs, he adduces, first, that of Abel. An ancient tradition of the Jews informs us, that the subject of dispute, between him and Cain, turned on the doctrine of future rewards. Cain maintained that none were to be expected in a future life; Abel supported the contrary proposition. The former of those brothers supplied argument by violence; unable to convince Abel, he assassinated him. It is from this tradition that some of our learned think we ought to understand those words of the apostle," who being dead yet speaketh." They translate, "We have still extant a tradition, that he died for his faith; namely, the doctrine of a future state."
became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." What is this heritage of righteousness by faith." It is, according to the style of the sacred authors, eternal life. Hence the many parallel explications we find in other pla ces; as in the first chapter of this epistle. Are not the angels all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" That, also, in the second chapter of the catholic Epistle of St. James, "God hath chosen the poor of this world to be heirs of the kingdom, which he hath pro mised to them that love him."
He cites the example of Enoch, who was so powerfully persuaded of a life to come, as to obtain a translation, exempting him from the painful path which others must travel to glory; I would say, from tasting the horrors of death.
He adduces the example of Noah, who not only escaped the calamities of the deluge, but
He farther alleges the example of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and of Joseph. The confidence which the patriarchs reposed in the promise of an earthly Canaan, proves that they expected a heavenly inheritance; because they continued faithful followers of God, though they never inherited the terrestrial country, which was apparently promised to them, but continued to be "strangers and sojourners." "I am," says Abraham to the Egyptians, stranger among you." And Jacob to Pharaoh, "The days of my pilgrimage," or the time of my life, during which period I have been a stranger and a sojourner:-"the days of my pilgrimage are not equal to those of my fathers." St. Paul's remark on these expressions of the patriarchs is worthy of regard. "They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they come out, they might have had opportunity to have returned; but now they seek a better country; that is, an heavenly," Heb. xi. 14-16. That is to say, those holy men could but consider two sorts of countries as their own, either the land of their fathers, or the land of Canaan, of which God had promised to give them possession. They had not this notion of the land of Canaan, seeing they considered themselves as "strangers and sojourners;"-seeing that Abraham there possessed only so much land as was sufficient for a sepulchre;-seeing Joseph's sole happiness, in this view, was to command his children to carry up his bones, when they went to possess it. They could no longer consider Chaldea, in which their fathers were born, as their country: in that case, they would have returned on finding themselves strangers in the land of Canaan. Hence it is evident from their conduct, that they still sought their country; a country better than their fathers', and a better than their children expected to possess; "They showed that they expected a better, that is, an heavenly habitation."
St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews the example of Moses: for if the faith of Moses merely respected terrestrial glory, why should he (as the Jews say) have cast to the ground, and trampled on the crown that Thermutis had placed on his head? Why should he on coming to years, as says the apostle, have "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." He farther, according to the same epistle, "esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. This expression may be taken in a double sense. By "the reproach of Christ," we may understand the cross he so frequently inculcated on his disciples. By the reproach of Christ, we may likewise understand
the bondage which oppressed the Jews in the time of Moses. The word Christ, signifies anointed, and men favoured of God are frequently called his anointed, because of the grace they had received; of which the holy oil, poured on some extraordinary personages by his command, was a figure. So God has said by the psalmist, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm," Ps. cv. 15. So the prophet Habakkuk, "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed," Hab. iii. 13. Which sense soever we may adopt, the afflictions of Moses prove, according to St. Paul, "that he had respect unto the recompense of the reward," Heb. xi. 26. As no motive but the hope of glory can induce Christians to bear the reproach of Christ their head; so no other consideration could have induced a preference in Moses, of the sufferings of the Israelites to the enjoyments of a crown.
In short, St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews a great number of martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for their religion. In this class is the venerable Eleazar; who died under the strokes of his executioners, 2 Maccab. vi. It is probably in allusion to this case when the apostle says, "they were tortured." The Greek word signifies they were extended in torture; and it is designed to express the situation of persons executed in this cruel way. In this class is Zechariah, who was slain between the temple and the altar, by the command of Joash. To him the apostle properly alludes when he says, "they were stoned." In this class is Isaiah, whom Manasseh executed with a saw, if we may credit an apocryphal book quoted by Origen. To him the apostle probably alludes when he says, "they were sawn asunder." In this class were Micah, John the Baptist, and St. James, since the time of the Maccabees. In all probability the apostle had them in view when he says, "they were slain with the sword." This is sufficient to illustrate what St. Paul has said in the chapter preceding our text, respecting the faithful, whom he adduces as models. It is evident, that those illustrious examples were admirably calculated to make deep impressions on the minds of the Hebrews, and to animate them to sacrifice their lives for their religion, if called to suffer. But I would improve the precious moments of attention you may yet deign to give, having destined them to investigate the impression, which the examples of those illustrious saints must naturally make on our minds, and to press the exhortation. "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
conceive yourselves obligated to make them the
1. Man, circumscribed in knowledge, and exposed to strong contests, which cannot be supported without a vast chain of abstract truths, is very liable to shrink the contest. I say not that it is impossible to avoid it; but that he is very liable to shrink. It may be avoided; because, in the warmth of disputation, by an effort of genius, he might possibly turn his views to those arguments which would ensure his triumph. He is, however, very liable to shrink; because warm debates engross so large a proportion of the mental capacity, that it is difficult for a man thus prepossessed to pay proper attention to the motives which would enable him to conquer.
2. We are not only all born with a general propensity to vice: but we are all likewise born with a propensity to some particular vice. Let a man pay attention to children in the early years of life, and he will be convinced of the fact: he will see that one is born with a propensity to anger, another to vanity, and so with regard to the other vices. These propensities sometimes proceed from the temperature of our bodies. It is natural, that persons born with a phlegmatic constitution, and whose spirits flow with difficulty, should be inclined to insensibility, to indolence, and effeminacy. It is na
plate those illustrious models, without corresponding impressions; but I think enough has been said to force an objection which most of you will make, should I devote the rest of the hour to enforce those high examples. You will say, they are fine examples; but too high for our imitation. The personages, from whom they are derived, were extraordinary men, with whom we have no claims of competition. They were saints, we are sinners, Hence, the more amiable these examples appear, the less you VOL. II.-36
I have too high an opinion of my hearers, not to persuade myself, that they cannot contem-tural also for persons born with a gay and volatile temperature, to be inclined to pleasure, and anger. But these dispositions are sometimes found in the essence of the soul. For, why are some men born jealous, and ambitious? Why have they peculiar propensities which have no connexion with the body, if there be not, in the essence of the soul, principles which impel some to one, and some to another vice?
This being granted, I affirm, that there is between those distinguished saints, namely, those venerable personages enumerated by St.
Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews,-that there is, between them and us, "a similarity of nature." They had principles of depravity in common with us. The sole difference between them and us is, that they counteracted, and endeavoured to eradicate those principles; whereas we suffer them to predominate and superadd the force of habit to the infirmity of nature.
1. That those distinguished men were born with an understanding circumscribed as ours, requires no proof. Seeing they have resisted the temptations into which our limited understanding has permitted us to fall; it evidently follows, that the difference between them and us is, that when the objects of temptation were presented, they endeavoured to turn, and fix their thoughts on the motives which enabled them to triumph; but we suffer those objects entirely to engross the capacity of our souls.
aside? Is not the law equal? Are not you called to be holy as they were holy? Is it not said to you, as well as to them, "Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," Matt. v. 48. The abridgement of the law, and the prophets,-is it not of the same force with regard to you, as to them, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind?" Matt. xxii. 37. I am fully aware, that there is a difference between the effects of the love which God requires of you, and which he required of them: but that diversity of effects does not suppose any change in the efficient cause. The efficient cause must be the same, how diversified soever the effects may be: and if you are not called to make similar sacrifices, you are called to be ready to do so, should they be required. You are not called, like Abraham, to immolate in sacrifice to God your only son; but you are 3. Those distinguished men were born, as we called to have the same radical attachment and are, with certain propensities to some particular preference, which induced him to sacrifice his vices. There were in the disposition of their son, if required by your maker. And if you bodies, and in the essence of their souls, as in have not this profound attachment, or at least, ours, certain seeds, which prompted some to if you do not daily endeavour to obtain it, deone vice, and some to another. The history of ceive not yourselves, my brethren, you can those saints is too concise to state this truth in have no hope of salvation. You are not callall its lustre; but it is so far known as to be evi-ed, like Moses, to sacrifice a crown for religion, dent to a certain degree. Moses was naturally but you are called to have the same preference of an uncouth and warm temper; witness his and esteem for God which he had, provided a remonstrances with God when commanded to crown were offered. If you have not this prespeak to Pharaoh: witness his indignation when ference of affection; at least, if you do not enhe broke both the tables of the law; and when deavour to obtain it, deceive not yourselves, he struck the rock twice. David was born with my brethren, you can have no hopes of salvaa lascivious disposition: witness his intercourse tion. The difference between those illustrious with Bathsheba. He was born with a vindic- saints and us, is not in the variety of vocation tive temper: witness the hasty resolution he in which Providence has called us, but in the formed against Nabal, and accompanied with manner of our obedience. They understood an oath so unbecoming a saint. "So and more their vocation, and were obedient; but we, we also do God unto the enemies of David, if I overlook it, or take as much pains to disguise leave of all that pertaineth unto him by the it, as they did to know it; and when we are morning light, either man or beast," 1 Sam. constrained to know it, and our conscience is XXV. 22. What we have said of David, and of constrained to discover its duty, we violate in Moses, we might confirm by other saints. practice those very maxims we have been Hence, if the love of God was predominant, in obliged to acknowledge in theory. the soul of those illustrious saints, over concupiscence, while concupiscence in us so frequently predominates over the love of God:if they "ran with patience the race set before them;" whilst we are so frequently interrupted in the course:-it was not because those saints were not born with the same principles of depravity which prompt us to particular sins, but because we abandon ourselves to those principles, and make no efforts to oppose them! whereas they struggled hard lest they should commit the crimes, to which they were inclined by nature.
III. Human depravity has not only innumerable subtleties, but we even urge them. Sometimes, in order to excuse our deviations from those illustrious saints, we allege the superiority of their temptations over those, to which Providence has exposed us; and sometimes, on the contrary, the superiority of their temptations over those, to which Heaven exposes us, over those to which it exposed them. Be it so; but after you have proved that they did not resist any temptation which we would not have resisted had we been in their situation; I will prove that we are not exposed to any such violent temptations over which they have not obtained the same victories which are required of us. What are the violent temptations with which you are captivated, and whose violence you are accustomed to allege, in order to excuse your falls?
II. There is between those illustrious saints and us a similarity of vocation. Does this article require proof? Can you be so little acquainted with religion, as to suppose that they were called to make a constant progress in holiness, but that you are called only to a certain degree of virtue? That they were called to give victorious effect to the love of God over depravity, and that you are called to permit depravity to predominate over the love of God? That they were called to a habit, and a constant habit of piety, but that God merely requires you to do a few virtuous actions, to acquire a temporary habit of holiness, and then allows you to lay it
Are they temptations of poverty?-How difficult is it, when we want means to supply the pressing calls of nature not to be exercised with anxiety! How difficult is it, when we expect to perish with hunger, to believe ourselves the favourites of that Providence which "feeds the fowls of heaven, and clothes the lilies of the fields," Matt. vi. 26. 28. And when we
are stripped of every comfort, an ordinary con- | for forty tedious years in the wilderness, having sequence of poverty, to find in communion to war with nature and the elements, with with God a compensation for those base friends hunger and with thirst, with his enemies, and who suffer us to starve! The saints magnified with his own people; and, what was harder as models by St. Paul, have vanquished this still, having sometimes to contend with God temptation. See Job, that holy man, and once himself, who was frequently on the point of the richest man of all the East, possessing exterminating the Israelites, committed to the seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, care of this afflicted leader. But Moses trifive hundred yoke of oxen, and servants with- umphed over a vast course of difficulties; ever out number:-see him stripped of all his wealth, returning to duty, when the force of temptaand saying in that deplorable situation, "Shall tion, for the moment, had induced him to deviwe receive good at the hand of the Lord and ate; ever full of affection for that people, and shall we not receive evil?" Job ii. 10. "The ever employing in their behalf, the influence he Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, had over the bowels of a compassionate God. blessed be the name of the Lord," Job i. 21. See David wandering from wilderness to wilderness, and saying, "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up," Ps. xxvii. 10.
Are there temptations arising from persecution?-Nature shrinks not only at the idea of suffering, but also at the ingenious means which executioners have invented to extort abnegations. The saints, whom St. Paul adduces as models, have vanquished this class of temptations. Look only at the conduct of those noble martyrs, to whom he is desirous of calling the attention of the Hebrews. Look at the tragic but instructive history of that family, mentioned in the seventh chapter of the second Book of Maccabees. The barbarous Antioch, says the historian, seized on a mother and her seven sons, and resolved, by whips and scourges, to force them to eat swine's flesh. The eldest of the seven boldly asserted his readiness to die for his religion. The king, enraged with an
commanded the iron-pans, and brazen chaldrons, to be heated, and him who first spake to be flayed alive; his tongue cut out; the extremities of his limbs to be cut off, in presence of his mother and brethren; and his body to be roasted while yet alive, in one of the burning pans. O my God! what a sight for the persons so tenderly united to this martyr! But this scene, very far from shaking their constancy, contributed to its support. They animated one another to an heroic death; affirming that God would sustain their minds, and assuage their anguish. The second of those brothers, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and sixth, sustained the same sufferings, and with the same support, in presence of their mother. What idea do you form of this woman, you timorous mothers, who hear me to-day? In what language, think you, did she address her sons? Do you think that nature triumphed over grace; that, after having offered to God six of her sons, she made efforts, at least to save the seventh, that he might afford her consolation for the loss sustained in the other six? No, says the historian, she exhorted him to die like a martyr: Antioch compelled her to present the seventh that she might prevent his death. But she said, "O my son, have pity upon me, that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age, and endured the troubles of education. I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and know the author of thy being. Fear not this tormentor; but, being worthy of thy brethren, take thy death, that I may receive thee again in mercy with thy brethren."
Are they temptations arising from the length of the course, which seems to have no end, and which always requires fresh exercise of piety? It is incomparably more easy to make a hasty sacrifice for religion, than to do it daily by degrees. Virtue is animated on great occasions, and collects the whole of its resources and strength; but how few have the resolution to sustain a long career. The saints, whom St. Perhaps the historian has embellished his Paul adduces as models, have vanquished this heroes; perhaps he has been more ambitious to kind of temptation. See Moses,-behold him | astonish than to instruct; and to flatter the por
Are they temptations of prosperity? The temptations of prosperity are incomparably more dangerous than those of adversity; at least, the objects of adversity remind us of our indigence and inability; and removing the means of gratification, the passions become either subdued, or restrained and mortified. But prosperity ever presents us with a flattering portrait of ourselves; it prompts us to aspire at independence, and strengthens all our corrupt propensities by the facility of gratification. The saints, proposed as models by the Holy Spirit, have vanquished those temptations.-ger, See Abraham surrounded with riches; behold him ever mindful of that divine injunction, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect," Gen. xvii. 1. See Job,-see him ever employing his wealth for him from whom he received it! See him preventing the abuse his children might have made of his opulence, rising early in the morning after their feasts, and offering sacrifice on their account; "It may be," said he, "my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts," Job i. 5. See David on the throne, see him making a sacred use of his power. "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all the wicked doers from the city of the Lord," Ps. ci. 6-8. See him laudably employed in resuming those pleasures of piety retarded by the affairs of state. What he could not do in the vicissitudes of the day, he reserved for the shades of night. He contemplated the marvels of his Maker, displayed by the night. Thus he expressed his sentiments, "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars, which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Ps. viii. 3, 4.