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prehend it, but from his disuse of them. This is a moral obstacle.
met with two sorts of obstacles to the conversion of these beings; physical obstacles, and moral obstacles; and he opposed to each sort of these obstacles a superior power; but a power suitable to the nature of each. The superiority of that, which he opposed to physical obstacles, necessarily produced its effect, without which it would not have been a superior, but an inferior, power. To moral obstacles he opposed a power suitable to moral obstacles; if it did not produce its effect, it was not because it had not in itself superior influence; God was not to be blamed, but they, to whom it was applied.
Our remark is, particularly, a key to our text. The means which God employs to irradiate our minds, and to sanctify our hearts are superior to those which the world employs to deceive and to deprave us; if that superiority, which is always influential on believers, be destitute of influence on obstinate sinners, it is no less superior in its own nature. The unsuccessfulness of the means with the last proceeds solely from their own obstinacy and malice. 'What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?' 'Ye have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." This, I think, is the substance of the meaning of the apostle.
It cannot be fairly said, that the power applied to physical resistance is greater than the resistance, unless it necessarily prevail over it but it is very different with that power, which is applied to moral resistance. Those who have attended to what has been said, easily perceive the reason of the difference, without our detaining you in explaining it.
Why do we not use the same fair reasoning on religious subjects, which we profess to use on all other subjects? Does religion authorise us to place that to the account of God which proceeds solely from the free obstinacy and voluntary malice of mankind? Jesus Christ did not descend to this world to convert irrational beings, but intelligent creatures: he found two sorts of obstacles in the way of their conversion, obstacles merely physical, and obstacles merely moral. Obstacles merely physical are those which would have prevented our discovering the plan of redemption, if he had not revealed it; and of the same kind are those, which our natural constitution, being disconcerted by sin, opposes against the end, which our Saviour proposes, of rendering us holy. Jesus Christ has surmounted these obstacles by the light of revelation, and by the aid of his Holy Spirit.
But he found also other obstacles merely moral. Such were those which he met with in the Pharisees, and which hindered those execrable men from yielding to the power of his miracles. Such are those still of all erroneous and wicked men, whose errors and vices proceed from similar principles. The superiority of the means, which Jesus Christ uses to reclaim them, does not depend on the success of those means: they fail, it is evident, through the power of those merely moral obstacles, which a voluntary malice, and a free obstinacy, oppose against them. This remark, as I said before, elucidates one of the most obscure articles of Christianity. It accounts for the conduct of God towards his creatures, and for the language which his servants used on his behalf. The omnipotence of God is more than sufficient to convince the most obstinate minds, and to change the most obdurate hearts, and yet he declares, although he has displayed only some degree of it, that he has employed all the means he could to convert the last, and to convince the first. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard?' Isa. v. 4. Acts of omnipotence might have been done, in order to have forced it to produce good grapes, and to have annihilated its unhappy fertility in producing wild grapes. But no, his vineyard, as he says, was the house of Israel. The house of Israel consisted of intelligent beings, not of irrational beings. God applied to these beings means suitable, not to irrational, but to intelligent beings. He
But, as it is only the general sense, it requires to be particularly developed, and I ought to investigate the subject by justifying three propositions, which are included in it, and which I shall have occasion to apply to the Christian religion.
I. Truth has a light superior to all the glimmerings of falsehood.
II. Motives to virtue are stronger than motives to vice.
III. The Holy Spirit, who opens the eyes of a Christian, to show him the light of the truth, and who touches his heart, in order to make him feel the power of motives to virtue, is infinitely more powerful than Satan, who seduces mankind by falsehood and vice.
Each of these propositions would require a whole discourse; l'intend, however, plain them all in the remaining part of this: the more brevity I am obliged to observe, the more attention you ought to give.
1. Truth has a light superior to all the glimmerings of error. Some men, I grant, are as tenacious of error, as others are of truth. False religions have disciples, who seem to be as sincerely attached to them, as believers are to true religion: and if Jesus Christ has his martyrs, Satan also has his.
Yet I affirm, that the persuasion of a man, who deceives himself, is never equal to that of a man who does not deceive himself. How similar soever that impression may appear, which falsehood makes on the mind of him who is seduced by it, to that which truth makes on the mind of him who is enlightened by it; there is always this grand difference, the force of truth is irresistible, whereas it is always possible to resist that of error.
The force of a known truth is irresistible. There are, it is granted, some truths, there are even infinite numbers, which lie beyond the stretch of my capacity: and there may also be obstacles, that hinder my knowledge
of a truth proportional to the extent of my mind. There may, indeed, be many distractions, which may cause me to lose sight of the proofs that establish a truth; and there may be many passions in me, which may induce me to wish it could not be proved, and which, by urging me to employ the whole capacity of my mind in considering objections against it, leave me no part of my perception to attend to what establishes it. Yet all these cannot diminish the light which is essential to truth; none of these can prevent a known truth from carrying away the consent in an invincible manner. As a cloud, that conceals the sun, does not diminish the splendour which is essential to that globe of fire; so all the obstacles, which prevent my knowledge of a truth, that lies within the reach of my capacity, cannot prevent my receiving the evidence of it, in spite of myself, as soon as I become attentive to it. It does not depend on me to believe, that from the addition of two to two there results the number four. It is just the same with the truths of philosophy; the same with the truths of religion, and the same with all the known truths in the world. To speak strictly, the knowledge of a truth, and the belief of a truth, is one and the same operation of the mind. Mental liberty does not consist in believing, or in not believing a known truth; it consists in giving, or in not giving, that attention to a truth which is requisite in order to obtain the knowledge of it. Merit, and demerit (allow me these expressions, and take them in a good sense,) merit and demerit do not consist in believing, or in disbelieving, a known truth; for neither of these depend upon us; they consist in reaisting, or in not resisting, the obstacles which prevent the knowledge of it. We conclude, then, that the force of a known truth is irresistible.
It is not the same with error. How strong soever the prejudices may be that plead for it, it is always possible to resist it. Never was a man deceived in an invincible manner. There is no error so specious, in regard to which a man, whose mental powers are in a good state, and not depraved by a long habit of precipitation, cannot suspend his judg
I do not say, that every man is always capable of unravelling a sophism: but it is one thing not to be able to unravel a sophism, and it is another to be invincibly carried away with its evidence. Nor do I affirm, that a man will always find it easy to suspend his judgment. What there is of the plausible in some errors; our natural abhorrence of labour; the authority of our seducers; the interest of our passions in being seduced; each of these separately, all these together, will render it sometimes extremely difficult to us to suspend our judgments, and will hurry us on to rash conclusions. It belongs to human frailty to prefer an easy faith above a laborious discussion; and we rather choose to believe we have found the truth, than submit to the trouble of looking for it. It is certain however, when we compare what passed in our minds, when we yielded to a truth, with what passed there when we
suffered ourselves to be seduced by an error, we perceive, that in the latter case our acquiescence proceeded from an abuse of our reason; whereas in the former it came from our fair and proper use of it. Truth, then, has a light superior to the glimmerings of error. There is, therefore, something greater in a man whom truth irradiates, than there is in a man whom falsehood blinds.
Let us abridge our subject. Let us apply what we have said of truth in general to the truths of religion in particular. To enter more fully into the design of our text, let us make no difficulty of retiring from it to a certain point, and leaving Ebion, Cerinthus, and Simon the sorcerer, whom, probably, St. John had in view, let us stop at a famous modern controversy. Let us attend to the contest between a believer of ravelation and a skeptic, and we shall see the superior evidence of that principle of truth, which enlightens the first, above the principle of error, which blinds the last. What a superiority has a believer over a skeptic? What a superiority at the tribunal of authority! at the tribunal of interest! at the tribunal of history! at the tribunal of conscience! at the tribunal of reason! at the tribunal of skepticism itself! From each of these it may be truly pronounced, Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.'
1. The believer is superior at the tribuna! of authority. The skeptic objects against the believer, the examples of some few nations, who, it is said, live with religion; and those of some philosophers, whose pretended atheism has rendered them famous. believer replies to the skeptic, by urging his well-grounded suspicions in regard to those historians, and travellers, who have published such examples; and, opposing authority against authority, in favour of the grand leading principles of religion, he alleges the unanimous consent of the whole known world
2. At the tribunal of interest. The skeptic resists the believer, by arguing the constraint which religion continually puts on mankind: the pleasure of pursuing every wish, without being terrified with the idea of a formidable witness of our actions, or a future account of our conduct. The believer resists the skeptic, by arguing the benefit of society, which would entirely be subverted, if infidels could effect their dreadful design of demolishing those bulwarks, which religion builds. He urges the interest of each individual, who in those periods of life, in which he is disgusted with the world; in those, in which he is exposed to catastrophes of glory and fortune; above all, in the period of death, has no refuge from despair, if the hopes, that religion affords, be groundless.
3. At the tribunal of history. The skeptic objects to the believer the impossibility of obtaining demonstration, properly so called, of distant facts. The believer urges on the infidel his own acquiescence in the evidence of events, as ancient as those, the distance of which is objected; and, turning his own weapons against him, he demonstrates
to him, that reasons, still stronger than those, which constrain the skeptic to admit other events, such as number of witnesses, unanimity of historians, sacrifices made to certify the testimony, and a thousand more similar proofs, ought to engage him to believe the facts on which religion is founded.
4. At the tribunal of conscience. The infidel opposes his own experience to the belever, and boasts of having shaken off the yoke of this tyrant. The believer replies, by relating the experiences of the most celebrated skeptics, and, using the infidel himself for a demonstration of the truths, which he pretends to subvert, reproaches him with fecling, in spite of himself, the remorse of that conscience, from which he affects to have freed himself; he proves that it awakes when lightnings flash, when thunders roll in the air, when the messengers of death approach to execute their terrible ministry.
5. At the tribunal of reason. The skeptic objects to the believer, that religion demands the sacrifice of reason of its disciples; that it reveals abstruse doctrines, and incomprehensible mysteries? and that it requires all to receive its decisions with an entire submission. The believer opposes the infidel, by arguing the infallibility of the intelligence who revealed these doctrines to us. He proves to him, that the best use that can be made of reason, is to renounce it in the sense in which revelation require its renunciation, so that reason never walks a path so safe, nor is ever elevated to a degree of honour so eminent, as when ceasing to see with its own eyes, it sees only with the eyes of the infallible God.
6. The believer triumphs over the infidel at the tribunal of skepticism itself One single degree of probability in the system of The believer, in our opinion, disconcerts and confounds the system of the skeptic; at least it ought to embitter all the fancied sweets of infidelity. What satisfaction can a man of sense find in that boasted independence, which the system of infidelity procures, if there be the least shadow of a probability of its plunging him into endless misery? But this very man, who finds the evidences of religion too weak to induce a man of sense to control his passions, during the momentary duration of this life, this very man finds the system of infidelity so evident, that it engages him to dare that eternity of misery which religion denounces against the impenitent. What a contrast! The obstinate skeptic * falls into a credulity that would be unpardonable in a child. These fiery globes, that revolve over our heads with so much pomp and glory; these heavens that declare the glory of God, Ps. xix. 1; that firmament, which shows his handy-work; these successions of seasons; that symmetry of body; these faculties of mind; the martyrs, who at tested the truth of the facts on which religion is founded; the miracles, that confirm the facts; that harmony, between the prophicies and their accomplishment; and all the other numerous arguments, that establish the doctrine of the existence of God, and of the truth of revelation; all these, he pretends, cannot prove enough to engage him to ren
der homage to a Supreme Being: and the few difficulties, which he objects to us; a few rash conjectures; a system of doubts and uncertainties, seem to him sufficiently conclusive to engage him to brave that adorable Being, and to expose himself to all the miseries that attend those who affront him.
We conclude, then, that our first proposition is sufficiently justified. Truth in general, the truths of religion in particular, have a light superior to all the glimmerings of error. Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.'
II. We said, in the second place, motives to virtue are superior to motives to vice. This proposition is a necessary consequence of the first. Every motive to vice supposes that in some cases, it is more advantageous to a man to abandon himself to vice than to cleave inviolably to virtue: this is a falsehood; this is even a falsehood of the grossest kind. In what case can a creature promise himself more happiness in rebelling against his Creator, than in submitting to his authority? In what case can we hope for more happiness in pleasing Satan than in pleasing God?
What I affirmed of all known truth, that its force is irresistible, I affirm on the same principle, of all motives to virtue: the most hardened sinners cannot resist them if they attend to them, nor is there any other way of becoming insensible to them, than that of turning the eyes away from them. Dissipation is the usual cause of our irregularities. The principal, I had almost said, the only secret of Satan, in his abominable plan of hu-man destruction, is to dissipate and to stun mankind; the noise of company, the din of amusements, the bustle of business; it does not signify if it be but a noise, it will always produce its effect; it will always divide the capacity of the mind, it will prevent him, in whose ears it sounds, from thinking and rereflecting, from pursuing an argument and from attending to the weight of conclusive evidence.
And really, where is the man so blind as to digest the falsehoods which motives vice imply? Where is the wretch so resolute as to reason in this manner?
I love to be esteemed; I will therefore devote myself wholly to the acquisition of the esteem of those men who, like me, will shortly be devoured with worms; whose ashes, like mine, will be shortly confounded with the dust of the earth: but I will not take the least pains to obtain the approbation of those noble intelligencies, those sublime geniuses, those angels and seraphims, who incessantly surround the throne of God; I will not give myself a moment's concern about obtaining a share of those praises, which the great God will one day bestow, in rich abundance before heaven and earth, on them who have been faithful to him.
I love honour; I will therefore apply myself wholly to make the world say of me. That man has an excellent taste for dress his table is delicately served; the noble blood of his family was never debased by ignoble alliances; nobody can offend him
with impunity; he must always be approached world. It seems to us that as many deed with respect but I will never give myself grees of power as we add to those which any trouble to force them to say of me, that God has given the tempter, so many apoloman fears God; he prefers his duty above all gies we acquire for our frailties; and that the other things; he thinks there is more magna- more power the enemy has, with whom we nimity in giving an affront than in revenging are at war, the more excusable we are for it; to be holy, in his opinion, is better than suffering ourselves to be conquered, and for to be noble in the world's esteem, and so on. yielding to superior force. Do we revolve I am very fond of pleasure; I will there- any black design in our minds? It is the defore give myself wholly to the gratification of vil who inspires us with it. Do we lay a my senses; to the leading of a voluptuous train for executing any criminal intrigue? It life; a feast shall be succeeded by an amuse- is the devil who invented it. Do we forget ment, and an amusement shall conduct to de- our prayers, our promises, our protestations? bauchery; this round I intend perpetually to It is the devil who effaced them from our pursue but I will never stir one step to ob- memory. My brethren, do you know who is Lain that 'fulness of joy,' which is 'at God's the most terrible tempter. Our own cupidity. right hand,' that 'river of pleasures,' with Do you know what devil is the most formidawhich they, who put their trust under the ble? It is self. shadow of his wings, are abundantly satisfied,' Ps. xvi. 11, and xxxvi. 7, 8.
But, passing reflections of this kind, and taking, in its plain and obvious meaning, a truth which the holy Scriptures in a great many places attest, that is, that the devil continually endeavours to destroy mankind; I repeat my third proposition, The Holy Spirit, who watches to save us, is infinitely more powerful than the devil, who seeks to destroy us.
I hate constraint and trouble; I will therefore divert my attention wholly from all penitential exercises; and particularly from imprisonment, banishment, racks, and stakes: but I will brave the chains of darkness, with their galling weight; the devils, with their fury; hell, with its flames; I am at a point, I consent to curse eternally the day of my birth; eternally to consider annihilation as an invaluable good; to seek death for ever without finding it; for ever to blaspheme my Creator; eternally to hear the howlings of the damned; to howl eternally with them; like them, to be for ever and ever the object of that condemning sentence, Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,' Matt. xxv. 41. I ask again, Where is the wretch hardened enough to digest these propositions? Yet these are the motives to vice. Is not the developing of these sufficient to discover, that they ought to yeld to virtue, and to prove in our second sense, that Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world?'
But, how active soever the light of religion may be, prejudices often cover its brightness from us; how superior soever motives to virtue may be to motives to vice, our passions invigorate motives to vice, and enervate those to virtue. Were we even free from innate dispositions to sin, we should be hurried into it by an external enemy, who studies our inclinations, adapts himself to our taste, avails himself of our frailties, manages circumstances, and who, according to the expression of an apostle, walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,' 1 Pet. v. 8. This enemy is Satan.
III. But the Holy Spirit, who opens our eyes (and this is my third proposition), the Holy Spirit, who opens our eyes to show us the light of truth, and who touches our hearts to make us feel the force of virtuous motives, is infinitely more powerful than Satan.
I do not pretend to agitate here the indissoluble question concerning the power of the devil over sublunary beings, and particularly over man: what I should advance on this subject would not be very agreeable to my bearers. We are naturally inclined to attribute too much to the devil, and we easily persunde ourselves that we are in an enchant
The power of Satan is a borrowed power. This mischievous spirit cannot move without the permission of God; yea, he is only a minister of his will. This appears in the history of Job. Jealous of the prosperity, more still of the virtue of that holy man, he thought he could corrupt his virtue by touching his prosperity. But he could not execute one of his designs farther than, by God loosing his rein, allowed him to execute it. The power of the Spirit of God is a power proper and essential to him who exercises it.
Because the power of the devil is a borrowed power, it is a limited power, and although we are incapable of determining its bounds, yet we may reasonably believe they are narrow. Jehovah will not give his glory to any other,' Isa. xlii. 8; least of all will he give it to such an unworthy being as the devil.
The power of the Spirit of God is a boundless power. He acts on exterior beings to make them concur in our salvation. He acts on our blood and humours, to stir them to motion, or to reduce them to a calm. He acts on our spirits, I mean on those subtile particles which,with inconceivable rapidity, convey themselves into the divers organs of our bodies, and have an extensive influence over our faculties. He acts on our memories, to impress them with some objects, and to efface others. He acts immediately on the substance of our souls; he produces ideas; he excites sensations; he suspends the natural effects of their union to the body. He sometimes, by this suspension, renders a martyr insensible to the action of the flames that consume him; and teaches him to say even amidst the most cruel torments, 'I glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience, or proof (this is a metaphor taken from gold, which is proved by the fire that purifies it), and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto me,' Rom. y. 3—5.
1 As the power of Satan is limited in its de-, this enemy. Nothing but a fund of obstinacy grees, so is it also in its duration. Recollect and malice could have induced you to resist a visiou of St. John. I saw,' said he, 'an the superior means which God has employed angel come down from heaven, having the to save you. You are that vineyard, of key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain which the prophet said, 'My well-beloved in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, he fenced it, and built a tower, and planted it and bound him a thousand years, and cast with the choicest vine; and he looked that it him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, should bring forth grapes, and it brought and set a seal upon him that he should de- forth wild grapes,' Isa. v. 1-3; and as you ceive the nations no more.' Rev. xx. 1-3. are the original of this portrait, you are also Without making any vain attempts to fix the object of the following threatening, the sense of this vision, let us be content to And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, I will derive this instruction from it, that the power tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I of the devil is limited in its duration, as well will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall as in its degrees. There are periods in be eaten up, and break down the wall therewhich Satan is bound with the chain of the of, and it shall be trodden down, and I will lay superior power of the Holy Ghost. There it waste, I will also command the clouds, that are times in which he is shut up in a prison, they rain no rain upon it,' ver. 5, 6. sealed with the seal of the decrees of God; a seal that no created power can open.
The power of the Spirit of God is without limits in its periods as it is in its degrees. Christian the worse thy times are, the more ready will this spirit be to succour thee, if thou implore his aid. Art thou near some violent operation? Does an object fatal to thine innocence fill thee with fear and dread? 'Do the sorrows of death compass thee? Do the pains of hell get hold on thee? Call upon the name of the Lord;' say, 'O Lord! I beseech thee, deliver my soul,' Ps. cxvi. 3, 4. He will hear thy voice, and thy supplications; and, by the mighty action of his Spirit, he will deliver thy soul from death, thine eyes from tears, and thy feet from falling,' ver. 1. 8.
But the text ought to fill you with joy and consolation, if you be of those who have overcome the world. What pleasure does it afford a believer to remember his combats with the world and his conquests over it! What unspeakable pleasure, to be able to say to himself, 'In my youth my vigorous con constitution seemed to threaten to drive me to the utmost excesses; in my mature age, I walked in some slippery paths, which made me almost despair of preserving my candour and innocence; here, a certain company an absolute authority over my mind. and used it only to seduce me; there, an inveterate enemy put my resolution to the severest trial, and exhausted almost all my patience; here, false teachers, who were so dexterous in the art of enveloping the truth, that the most piercing eyes could scarcely discern it, had well nigh beguiled me; there, violent persecutors endeavoured to force me to an open abjuration of religion. Thanks be to God! I have resisted all these efforts; and, although Satan has sometimes succeeded in his designs, and has made me totter, he has always failed in his main purpose, of making me fall finally, and of tearing me for ever from the communion of Jesus Christ.'
How invincible soever the hatred of Satan to us may appear, it cannot equal the love of God for us; whatever desire the devil may have to destroy us, it cannot compare with that which the Holy Spirit has to save us. It would be easy to enlarge these articles, and to increase their number; but our time is nearly elapsed. What success can Satan have against a Spirit armed with so much power, and animated with so much love? Surely, there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel. Ye have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.'
My brethren, the age for which God has reserved us has a great resemblance to that of that of the apostles. Satan is as indefatigable now in his attempts to destroy mankind as he was then. We also have our Simons, who call themselves 'the great power
The victories you have obtained, my berthren, are pledges of others which you will yet obtain. Come again, next Lord's day, and renew your strength at the table of Jesus Christ. Come, and promise him anew, that you will be always faithful to that religion, the light of which shines in your eyes with so much glory. Come, and protest to him, that you will give yourselves wholly up to those powerful motives to virtue which
of God.' We have men like Ebion and Ce-his gospel affords. Come, and devote your rinthus and if the ministers of Jesus Christ selves entirely to that Spirit which he has conquer the world, the world also conquers given you. Having done these things, fear some of the ministers of Christ. nothing; let your courage redouble, as your dangers increase.
All the attacks, which Satan has made on your faith to this day, should prepare you for the greatest and most formidable attack of all; ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin,' Heb. xii. 4. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,' 1 Cor. xv. 26. The approaches of death are called an agony,' that is, the combat by excellence. Then Satan will attack you with cutting griefs, with doubts and remorse. He will represent to you a deplorable family,
In which class, my brethren, must you be placed? In that of the disciples of false Christs, or in that of the disciples of the true Saviour? In the class of those whom the world conquers, or in the class of those who have conquered the world? On a clear answer to this question depends the consequence you must draw from the words of the
If you be of those who are overcome by the world, the text should alarm and confound you. You have put arms into the hands of