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tians, who fled on account of the martyrdom of Stephen. Certain it is these christians were strangers, and probably exiles for religion. Now people of this character have special motives to govern their passions.
Strangers are generally very little beloved in the place of their exile. Although rational people treat them with hospitality ; though nature inspires some with respect for the wretched of every character; though piety animates some with veneration for people firm in their religious sentiments; yet, it must be allowed, the bulk of the people usually see them with other eyes; they envy them the air they breathe, and the earth they walk on; they consider them as so many usurpers of their rights; and they think, that as much as exiles partake of the benefits of government, and the liberty of trade, so much they retrench from the portion of the natives.
Beside, the people commonly judge of merit by fortune, and as fortune and banishment seldom go together, popular prejudice seldom runs high in favor of exiles. Jealousy views them with a suspicious eye, malice imputes crimes to them, injustice accuses them for public calamities we will not enlarge. Let an inviolable fidelity to the state, an unsuspected love to government, an unreserved conformity to religion silence accusation, and compel, so to speak, an esteem that is not natural and free. Moreover, religious exiles have given up a great deal for conscience, and they must choose either to loose the reward of their former labors, or to persevere. A man who hath only taken a few easy steps in religion, if he let loose his passions, may be supposed rational in this, his life is all of a piece. He considers present interest as the supreme good, and he employs himself wholly in advancing his present interest, he lays down a principle, he infers a consequence, and he makes sin produce all possible advantage. An abominable principle certainly, but a uniform train of principle and consequence; a fatal advantage in a future state, but a real advantage in the present: but such a stranger as we have described, a man banished his country for religion, if he continues to gratify fleshly passions, is a contradictory creature, a sort of idiot, who is at one and the same time a martyr to vice and a martyr to virtue. He hath the fatal secret of rendering both time and eternity wretched, of arming against himself heaven and earth. God and satan, paradise and hell. On the one hand, for the sake of religion he quits every thing dear, and renounces the pleasure of his native soil, the society of his friends, family connections, and every prospect of preferment and fortune; thus he is a martyr for virtue, by this he renders the present life inconvenient, and arms against himself the world, satan, and hell. On the other hand, he stabs the practical part of religion, violates all the sacred laws of austerity, retirement, humility, patience and love, all which religion most earnestly recommends; by so doing he becomes a martyr for sin, renders futurity miserable, and arms against himself God, heaven and eternity. The same God who forbad superstition and idolatry, enjoined all the virtues we have enumerated, and pro. hibited every opposite vice. If men be determined to be damned, better go the broad than the narrow way. Who but a madman would attempt to go to hell, by encountering the difficulties, that lie in the way to heaven.
2. The believers, to whom Peter wrote, were strangers as christians, and therefore strangers because believers. What is the fundamental maxim
of the christian religion? Jesus Christ told Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world, John xviii. 36. This is the maxim of a christian, the first great leading principle, his kingdom is not of this world: his happiness and misery, his elevation and depression depend on nothing in this world.
This first principle is the ground of the apostle's exhortation. The passions destroy this maxim by supposing the world capable of making us happy or miserable. Revenge supposes our honor to depend on the world, on the opinion of those idiots, who have determined that a man of honor ought to revenge an affront. Ambition supposes our elevation to depend on the world, that is, on the dignities which ambitious men idolize. Avarice supposes our riches depend on this world, on gold, silver, and estates.
These are not the ideas of a christian. His honor is not of this world, it depends on the ideas of God, who is a just dispenser of glory. His elevation is not of this world, it depends on thrones and crowns which God prepares. His riches are not in this world, they depend on treasures in heaven, where thieves do not break through and steal, Matt. vi. 20. It is allowable for a man educated in these great principles, but whose infirmity prevents his thinking on them; it is indeed allowable for a man, who cannot always bend his mind to reflection, meditation, and elevation above the world; it is indeed allowable for such a man sometimes to unbend his mind, to amuse himself with cultivating a tulip, or embellishing his head with a crown : but that this tulip, that this crown should seriously occupy such a man; that they should take up the principal attention of a christian, who hath such refined ideas and such glorious hopes, this, this is entirely incompatible.
3. In fine we are strangers and pilgrims by ne. cessity of nature as mortal men. If this life were eternal, it would be a question, whether it were more advantageous to a man to gratify his passions than to subdue them; whether the tranquillity, the equanimity, the calm of a man perfectly free, and entirely master of himself, would not be preferable to the troubles, conflicts and turbulence of a man in bondage to his passions. Passing this question, we will grant, that were this life eternal, prudence and self-love well understood would require some indulgence of passion. In this case there would be an immense distance between the rich and the poor, and riches should be acquired ; there would be an immense distance between the high and the low; and elevation should be sought; there would be an immense distance between him who mortified his senses, and him who gratified them, and sensual pleasures would be requisite.
But death, death renders all these things alike; at least, it makes so little difference between the one and the other that it is hardly discernible. The most sensible motive therefore to abate the passions is death. The tomb is the best course of morality, Study avarice in the coffin of a miser ; this is the man, who accumulated heap upon heap, riches upon riches, see, a few boards inclose him, and a few square inches of earth contain him. Study ambition in the grave of that enterprizing man; see his noble designs, his extensive projects, his boundless expedients are all shattered and sunk in this fatal gulf of human projects. Approach the tomb of the proud man, and there investigate pride ; see the mouth that pronounceth lofty expressions condemned to eternal silence, the piercing eyes that convulsed the world with fear covered with a midnight gloom the formidable arm, that distributed the des
tinies of mankind, without motion and life. Go to the tomb of the nobleman, and there study qua. lity ; behold his magnificent titles his royal ancestors, his flattering inscriptions, his learned
genealogies are all gone, or going to be lost with himself in the same dust. Study voluptuousness at the grave of the voluptuous ; see, his senses are destroyed, his organs broken to pieces, his bones scattered at the grave's mouth, and the whole temple of sensual pleasure subverted from its foundations.
Here we finish this discourse. There is a great difference between this and other subjects of dis, cussion. When we treat of a point of doctrine, it is sufficient that you hear it, and remember the consequences drawn from it. When we explain a difficult text, it is enough that you understand it, and recollect it. When we press home a particular duty of morality, it is sufficient that you apply it to the particular circumstance to which it belongs.
But what regards the passions is of universal and perpetual use. We always carry the principles of these passions within us, and we should always have assistance at hand to subdue them. Always sarrounded with objects of our passions, we should always be guarded against them. We should remember these things, when we see the benefits of fortune, to free ourselves from immoderate attachment to them; before human grandeur to despise it; before sensual objects to subdue them; before our enemy to forgive him ; before friends, children, and families to hold ourselves disengaged from them. We should always examine in what part of ourselves the passions hold their throne, whether in the mind, the senses, the imagination, or the heart. We should always examine whether they have depraved the heart, defiled the imagination, pervert. ed the senses, or blinded the mind. We should