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Our reason is not ours. While we possess it, we are subject to distractions, to absence of thought, to suspension of intelligence, which render us entirely incapable of reflection; and, what is still more mortifying to human nature, they whose geniuses are the most transcendent and sublime, sometimes become either melancholy or mad; like Nebuchadnezzar they sink into beasts and browse like them on the herbage of the field.
Our health is not ours. The catalogue of those infirmities which destroy it (I speak of those which we know, and which mankind by a study of five or six thousand years have discovered), makes whole volumes. A catalogue of those which are unknown, would probably make yet larger volumes.
Our life is not ours. Winds, waves, heat, cold, aliments, vegetables, animals, nature, and each of its component parts, conspire to deprive us of it. Not one of those who have entered this church, can demonstrate that he shall go out of it alive. Not one of those who compose this assembly, even of the youngest and strongest, can assure himself of one year, one day, one hour, one moment of life. None of us liveth to himself; for, if we live we are the Lord's..
Farther, 'No man dieth to himself. If we die, we are the Lord's. How absolute soever the dominion of one man over another may be, there is a moment in which both are on a level; that moment comes when we die. Death delivers a slave from the power of a tyrant, under whose rigour he has spent his life in groans. Death terminates all the relations that subsist between men in this life, But the relation of dependance, which subsists between the Creator and his creatures, is an eternal relation. That world into which we enter when we die, is a part of his empire, and is as subject to his laws as that into which we entered when we were born. During this life, the Supreme Governor has riches and poverty, glory and ignominy, cruel tyrants and clement princes, rains and droughts, raging tempests and refreshing breezes, air wholesome and air infected, famine and plenty, victories and defeats, to render us happy or miserable. After death, he has absolution and condemnation, a tribunal of justice and a tribunal of mercy, angels and devils, a river of pleasure and a lake burning with fire and brimstone,' hell with its horrors and heaven with its happiness, to render us happy or miserable as he pleases.
These reflections are not quite sufficient to make us feel all our dependance. Our vanity is mortified, when we remember, that what we enjoy is not ours: but it is sometimes, as it were, indemnified by observing the great means that God employs to deprive us of our enjoyments. God has, in general, excluded this extravagant motive to pride. He has attached our felicity to one fibre, to one caprice, to one grain of sand, to objects the least likely, and seemingly the least capable, of influencing our destiny.
On what is the high idea of yourself founded? On your genius? And what is necessary to reduce the finest genius to that
state of melancholy or madness, of which I just now spoke! Must the earth quake? Must the sea overflow its banks? Must the heavens kindle into lightning and resound in thunder? Must the elements clash, and the powers of nature be shaken? No; there needs nothing but the displacing of one little fibre in your brain!
On what is the high idea of yourself founded? On that self-complacence which fortune, rank, and pleasing objects, that surround you, seem to contribute to excite? And what is necessary to dissipate your selfcomplacence? Must the earth tremble? Must the sea overflow its banks? Must heaven arm itself with thunder and lightning? Must all nature be shaken? No; one caprice is sufficient. An appearance, under which an object presents itself to us, or rather, a colour, that our imagination lends it, banishes selfcomplacence, and lo! the man just now elated with so much joy is fixed in a black, a deep despair!
On what is the lofty idea of yourself founded? On your health? But what is necessary to deprive you of your health? Earthquakes? Armies? Inundations? Must nature return to its chaotic state? No; one grain of sand is sufficient! That grain of sand, which in another position was next to nothing to you, and was really nothing to your felicity, becomes in its present position, a punishment, a martyrdom, a hell!
People sometimes speculate on the nature of those torments, which divine justice reserves for the wicked. They are less concerned to avoid the pains of hell, than to discover wherein they consist. They ask, what fuel can supply a fire that will never be extinguished. Vain researches! The principle in my text is sufficient to give me frightful ideas of hell. We are in a state of entire dependance on the Supreme Being; and to repeat it again, one single grain of sand, which is nothing in itself, may become in the hands of the Supreme Being, a punishment, a martyrdom, a hell, in regard to us. What dependance! Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's.' This is the primitive condition of a Christian.
II. Our text points out the engagements of a Christian. Let us abridge our reflec tions. Remark the state in which Jesus Christ found us; what he performed to deliver us from it; and under what conditions we enter on and enjoy this deliverance.
1. In what state did Jesus Christ find us, when he came into our world? I am sorry to say the affected delicacy of the world, which increases as its irregularities multiply, obliges me to suppress part of a metaphorical description, that the Holy Spirit has given us in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. "Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite,' says he to the church. When thou wast born no eye pitied thee, to do any thing unto thee, but thou wast cast out in the open air, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, and I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee,
to Paul; yea, those of king Agbarus to Jesus Christ, and of Jesus Christ to king Agbarus. We are shocked at hearing the fathers compare the pretented sybilline oracles to the inspired prophecies; attribute an equal authority to them; cite them with the same confidence; and thus expose Christianity to the objections of its enemies. And would to God we ourselves had never seen among us celebrated divines derive, from the visions of enthusiasts, arguments to uphold the truth! Mere human prudence is sufficient to perceive the injustice of this method. The pious frauds of the primitive ages are now the most powerful objections that the enemies of religion can oppose against it. They have excited suspicions about the real monuments of the church, by producing the spurious writings which an indiscreet zeal had propagated for its glory; and those unworthy artifices have much oftener shaken believers than reclaimed infidels.
God anciently forbade the Jews to offer him in sacrifice the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog,' Deut xxiii. 18. Will he suffer Christianity to be established as the religion of Mohammed is propagated? Will Jesus Christ call Belial to his aid? Shail light apply to the powers of darkness to spread the glory of its rays? And do we not always sin against this precept of Solomon, Sell not the truth,' when we part with truth even to obtain truth itself?
III. We put apostates, and time-servers, or Nicodemites, in the third class of those who 'sell the truth.'
1. Apostates, But we need not halt to attack an order of men against which every thing becomes a pursuing minister of the vengeance of Heaven. The idea they leave in the community they quit; the contempt of that which embraces them; the odious character they acquire; the horrors of their own consciences; the thundering language of our Scriptures; the dreadful examples of Judas and Julian, of Hymeneus, Philetus, and Spira; the fires and flames of hell: these are arguments against apostacy; these are the gains of those who sell the truth' in this manner.
2. But there is another order of men to whom we would show the justice of the precept of Solomon; they are persons who sell the truth,' through the fear of those punishments which persecutors inflict on them who have courage to hang out the bloody flag; I mean time-servers, Nicodemites. You know them, my brethren: would to God the misfortunes of the times had not given us an opportunity of knowing them so well! They are the imitators of that timid disciple who admired Jesus Christ, who was fully convinced of the truth of his doctrine, stricken with the glory of his miracles, penetrated with the divinity of his mission, and his proselyte in his heart; but who, for fear of the Jews,' John vii. 13, durst not venture to make an open profession of the truth, and, as the evangelist remarks, 'went to Jesus by night,' chap. iii. 2. Thus our modern Nicodemites. They are shocked at superstition,
• Vid. Blondel des Sibilles. Liv. i. chap. v. x. xiv.
they thoroughly know the truth, they form a multitude of ardent wishes for the prosperity of the church, and desire, they say, to see the soldiers of Jesus Christ openly march with their banners displayed, and to list themselves under them the first: but they only pretend, that in time of persecution, when they cannot make an open profession without ruining their families, sacrificing their fortunes, and fleeing their country, it is allowable to yield to the times, to disguise their Christianity, and to be antichristian without, provided they be Christians within. 1. But, if their pretences be well-grounded, what mean these express decisions of our Scriptures? Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven: but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life, for my sake, shall find it. Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels, Matt. x. 32; Mark viii. 38.
2. If there be any ground for the pleas of temporizers, why do the scriptures set before us the examples of those believers who walked in paths of tribulation, and followed Jesus Christ with heroical firmness in steps of crucifixion and martyrdom? Why record the example of the three children of Israel, who chose rather to be cast into a fiery furnace, than to fall down before a statue, set up by an idolatrous king? Dan. iii. 19. Why that of the martyrs, who suffered under the barbarous Antiochus, and the courage of that mother, who, after she had seven times suf fered death, so to apeak, by seeing each of her seven sons put to death, suffered an eighth, by imitating their example, and by crowning their martyrdom with her own? Why that cloud of witnesses, who through faith were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, wandered about in sheep skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented?' Heb. xi. 37.
3. If the pretences of time-servers be wellgrounded, what was the design of the purest actions of the primitive church; of those councils which were held on account of such as had the weakness to cast a grain of incense into the fire that burned on the altar of an idol? Why those rigorous canons which were made against them; those severe penalties that were inflicted on them; those delays of their absolution, which continued till near the last moments of their lives?
If these pretences be allowable, what is the use of all the promises which are made to confessors and martyrs; the white gar ments, that are reserved for them; the palms of victory which are to be put in their hands: the crowns of glory that are prepared for them; the reiterated declarations of the
author and finisher of their faith, 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne. Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown,' Rev. iii. 11. 21.
4. If these pretences be reasonable, would God have afforded such miraculous assistance to his servants the martyrs, in the time of their martyrdom? It was in the suffering of martyrdom that St. Peter saw an angel, who opened the prison-doors to him, Acts xii. 7. In suffering martyrdom, Paul and Silas felt the prison, that confined them, shake, and their chains loosen and fall off, ver. 14. In suffering martyrdom, St. Stephen saw the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,' chap. xvi. 26; and viii. 56. In the suffering of martyrdom Barlaam, sang this song, Blessed be the Lord, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight,' Ps. cxliv. 1.* It was during their martyrdom, that Perpetua and Felicitas saw a ladder studded with swords, daggers, and instruments of punishment that reached up to heaven, at the top of which stood Jesus Christ encouraging them. And you, my brethren, in participating the sufferings of primitive believers, have you not partaken of their consolations? Sometimes Providence opened ways of escape in spite of the vigilance of your enemies. Sometimes powerful protections, which literally fulfilled the promise of the gospel, that he who should quit any temporal advantage for the sake of it, should receive a hundredfold, even in this life. Sometimes deliverances, which seemed perfectly miraculous. Sometimes a firmness equal to the most cruel tortures; an heroical courage, that astonished, yea, that wearied out your executioners. Sometimes transporting joys, which enabled you to say, When we are weak, then are we strong. We are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. We glory in tribulations also.' So many reflections, so many arguments, which subvert the pretences of Nicodemites; and which prove that with the greatest reason, we place them among those who betray the truth.
But, great God! to what am I doomed this day? Who are these time-servers, who are these Nicodemites, whose condemnation we are denouncing? How many of my auditors have near relations, enveloped in this misery? Where is there a family of our exiles, to which the words of a prophet may not be applied; My flesh is in Babylon, and my blood among the inhabitants of Chaldea, Jer. li. 35. Ah! shame of the reformation! Ah! fatal memoir! just cause of perpetual grief! Thou Rome! who insultest and gloriest over us, do not pretend to confound us with the sight of galleys filled by thee with protestant slaves, whose miseries thou dost aggravate with reiterated blows, with galling chains, with pouring vinegar into their wounds! Do not pretend to confound us by showing us gloomy and filthy dungeons, inaccessible to every ray of light, the horror of which thou dost augment by leaving the bodies of the dead in those dens
Bazil. Tom. i. 449. Homil. 18. Edit. de Paris, 1638.
Tertul. de anima. Cap. Iv.
of the living: these horrid holes have been changed into delightful spots, by the influences of that grace which God has 'shed abroad in the hearts' of the prisoners, Rom. v. 5, and by the songs of triumph which they have incessantly sung to his glory. Do not pretend to confound us by showing us our houses demolished, our families dispersed, our fugitive flocks driven to wander over the face of the whole world. These objects are our glory, and thy insults are our praise. Wouldest thou cover us with confusion? Show us, show us the souls which thou hast taken from us. Reproach us, not that thou hast extirpated heresy; but that thou hast caused us to renounce religion: not that thou hast made martyrs; but that thou hast made Protestants apostates from the truth.
This is our tender part. Here it is that no sorrow is like our sorrow. On this account tears run down the wall of the daughter of Zion like a river, day and night,' Lam. ii. 18. What shall I say to you, my brethren, to comfort you under your just complaints? Had you lost your fortunes, I would tell you, a Christian's treasure is in heaven. Had you been banished from your country only, I would tell you, a faithful soul finds its God in desert wildernesses, in dreary solitudes, and in the most distant climes. Had you lost only your churches, I would tell you, the favour of God is not confined to places and to walls. But, you weeping consorts; who show me your husbands separated from Jesus Christ, by an abjuration of thirty years; what shall I say to you? What shall I tell you, ye tender mothers! who show me your children lying at the foot of the altar of an idol?
O God! are thy compassions exhausted? Has religion, that source of endless joy, no consolation to assuage our grief? These deserters of the truth are our friends, our brethren, other parts of ourselves. Moreover, they are both apostates and martyrs: apostates, by their fall; martyrs, by their desire, although feeble, of rising again: apostates, by the fears that retain them; martyrs, by the emotions that urge them: apostates, by the superstitious practices which they are constrained to perform; martyrs, by the secret sighs and tears which they address to heaven. O may the martyr obtain mercy for the apostate! May their frailty excuse their fall! May their repentance expiate their idolatry! or rather, May the blood of Jesus Christ, covering apostacy, frailty, and the imperfection of repentance itself, disarm thy justice, and excite thy compassion!
IV. We have put judges in the fourth class of those to whom the text must be addressed, 'Sell not the truth.'
1. A judge sells truth, if he be partial to him whose cause is unjust, on account of his connexions with him. When a judge ascends the judgment-seat he ought entirely to forget all the connexions of friendship, and of blood. He ought to guard against himself, lest the impressions that connexions have made on his heart, should alter the judgment of his mind, and should make him turn the scale in favour of those with whom he is united by tender ties. He ought to 'bear
by menaces, and to corrupt them by promises; and judges have been known to prostrate their souls before these tyrants, and to pay the same devoted deference to maxims of ty ranny, that is due to nothing but an authority tempered with equity. A judge on his tribunal ought to fear none but him whose sword is committed to him. He ought to be not only a defender of truth, he ought also to become a martyr for it, and confirm it with his blood, were his blood necessary to confirm it.
the sword' indifferently, Rom. xiii. 4, like another Levi, against his brother, and against his friend, and to merit the praise that was given to that holy man. He said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children,' Deut. xxiii. 19. He ought to involve his eyes in a thick mist, through which it would be impossible for him to distinguish from the rest of the crowd, persons for whom nature so powerfully pleads. 2. A judge sells truth,' when he suffers himself to be dazzled with the false glare of 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," the language of him who pleads against jus- Matt. xi. 15. There is a primitive justice esfice. Some counsellors have the front to af-sential to moral beings; a justice indepenfirm a maxim, and to reduce it to practice, in dent of the will of any Superior Being; bedirect opposition to the oaths they took when cause there are certain primitive and essential they were invested with their character. The relations between moral beings, which belong maxim I mean is this; as the business of a to their nature. As, when you suppose a judge is to distinguish truth from falsehood, square, you suppose a being that has four so the business of a counsellor is, not only to sides; as, when you suppose a body, you place the rectitude of a cause in a clear light, suppose a being, from which extent is insepabut also to attribute to it all that can be in- rable, and independent of any positive will of vented by a man expert in giving sophistry a Superior Being; so when you suppose a the colours of demonstration and evidence. benefit, you suppose an equity, a justice, a To suffer himself to be misled by the ignes fitness, in gratitude, because there is an esfatui of eloquence, or to put on the air of be-sential relation between gratitude and benefit; ing convinced, either to spare himself the and the same may be said of every moral obtrouble of discussing a truth, which the arti- ligation. fice of the pleader envelopes in obscurity; or to reward the orator in part for the pleasure he has afforded him by the vivacity and politeness of his harangue: each of these is a sale of truth, a sacrificing of the rights of widows and orphans, to a propriety of gesture, a tour of expression, a figure of rhetoric. 3. A judge sells truth, when he yields to the troublesome assiduity of an indefatigable solicitor. The practice of soliciting the judges is not the less irregular for being authorized by custom. When people avail themselves of that access to judges, which, in other cases belongs to their reputation, their titles, or their birth, they lay snares for their innorence. A client ought not to address his judges, except in the person of him, to whom he has committed his cause, imparted his grounds of action, and left the making of the most of them. To regard solicitations instead of reproving them; to suffer himself to be carried away with the talk of a man, whom the avidity of gaining his cause inflames, inspires subtle inventions, and dictates emphatical expressions, is, again, to sell truth.'
4. A judge sells truth, when he receives presents. Thou shalt not take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous,' Deut. xvi. 19. God gave this precept to the Jews.
5. A judge makes a sale of truth, when he is terrified at the power of an oppressor. It has been often seen in the most august bodies, that suffrages have been constrained by the tyranny of some, and sold by the timidity of others. Tyrants have been known to attend, either in their own persons, or in those of their emissaries, in the very assemblies which were convened on purpose to maintain the rights of the people, and to check the progress of tyranny. Tyrants have been seen to endeavour to direct opinions by signs of their hands, and by notions of their eyes; they have been known to intimidate judges
The more perfect an intelligent being is, the more intelligence is detached from prejudices; the clearer the ideas of an intelligent mind are, the more fully will it perceive the opposition and the relation, the justice and the injustice, that essentially belong to the nature of moral beings. In like manner, the more perfection an intelligence has, the more does it surmount irregular motions of the passions; and the more it approves jus tice, the more will it disapprove injustice; the more it is inclined to favour what is right, the more will it be induced to avoid what is wrong.
God is an intelligence, who possesses all perfections; his ideas are perfect images of objects; and on the model of his all objects were formed. He sees, with perfect exactness, the essential relations of justice and injustice. He is necessarily inclined, though without constraint, and by the nature of his perfections, to approve justice, and to disapprove injustice; to display his attributes in procuring happiness to the good, and misery to the wicked.
In the present economy, a part of the rea sons of which we discover, while some of the reasons of it are hidden in darkness, God does not immediately ditsinguish the cause that is founded on equity, from that which is grounded on iniquitous principles. This office he has deposited in the hands of judges; he has intrusted them with his power; he has committed his sword to them; he has placed them on his tribunal; and said to them, 'Ye are gods,' Ps. lxxxii. 6. But the more august the tribunal, the more inviolable the power, the more formidable the sword, the more sa cred the office, the more rigorous will their punishments be, who, in any of the ways we have mentioned, betray the interests of that truth and justice with which they are intrust ed. Some judges have defiled the tribunal of the Judge of all the earth,' Gen. xviii. 25,
on which they were elevated. Into the bow-those who offered to draw them out of the els of the innocent they have thrust that abysses into which they had plunged themsword which was given them to maintain selves. Represent to yourselves this orator muorder, and to transfix those who subvert it. king remonstrances, that would now-a-days That supreme power, which God gave them, pass for firebrands of sedition, and saying to they have employed to war against that God his countrymen, Will ye then eternally walk himself who vested them with it, and him they backward and forward in your public places, have braved with insolence and pride. 'I saw asking one another, what news? Is Philip under the sun the place of judgment, that dead? says one. No, replies another; but he wickedness was there; and the place of right- is extremely ill. Ah! what does the death of eousness, that iniquity was there; and I said Philip signify to you, gentlemen? No soonin mine heart, God shall judge the righteous er would Heaven have delivered you from and the wicked. If thou seest the oppression him, than ye yourselves would create another of the poor, and the violent perverting of Philip.* Imagine you hear this orator blamjudgment and justice in a province, marvel ing the Athenians for the greatness of their not at the matter; for He, that is higher enemy: For my part, gentlemen, I protest than the highest, regardeth it, and there be I could not help venerating Philip, and tremhigher than they. Be wise now therefore, bling at him, if his conquests proceeded from O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the his own valour, and from the justice of his earth. Buy the truth, and sell it not,' Eccl. arms; but whoever closely examines the true iii. 16; v. 3; Ps. ii. 10. cause of the fame of his exploits, will find it in our faults; his glory originates in our shame.'t Represent to yourselves this orator plunging a dagger into the hearts of the perfidious Athenians, even of them, who indulged him with their attention, and loaded him with their applause. War, immortal war, with every one who dares here to plead for Philip. You must absolutely despair of conquering your enemies without, while you suffer them to have such eager advocates within. Yet you are arrived at this pitch of, what shall I call it? imprudence, or ignorance. I am often ready to think, an evil genius possesses you. You have brought yourselves to give these miserable, these perfidious wretches a hearing, some of whom dare not disown the character I give them. It is not enough to hear them, whether it be envy, or malice, or an itch for satire, or whatever be the motive, you order them to mount the rostrum, and taste a kind of pleasure as often as their outrageous railleries and cruel calumnies rend in pieces reputations the best established, and attack virtue the most respectable.'t Such an orator, my brethren, merits the highest praise. With whatever chastisements God may correct a people, he has not determined their destruction, while he preserves men, who are able to show them in this manner, the means of preventing it.
V. This precept of Solomon, Sell not the truth,' regards the politician, who, by a timid circumspection, uses an artful concealment, when he ought to probe state wounds to the bottom, and to discover the real authors of its miseries, and the true causes of its decline. In these circumstances, it is not enough to mourn over public calamities in secret; they must be spoken of with firmness and courage; the statesman must be the mouth and the voice of all those oppressed people, whose only resources are prayers and tears; he must discover the fatal intrigues that are whispered in corners against his country; unveil the mysterious springs of the conduct of him, who, under pretence of public benefit, seeks only his own private emolument; he must publish the shame of him, who is animated with no other desire, than that of building his own house on the ruins of church and state; he must arouse him from his indolence, who deliberates by his own fire-side, when imminent dangers require him to adopt bold, vigorous, and effectual measures; he must, without scruple, sacrifice him, who himself sacrifices to his own avarice or ambition, whole societies; he must fully persuade other senators, that, if the misfortunes of the times require the death of any, it must be that of him who kindled the fire, and not of him who is ready to shed the last drop of his blood to extinguish it. To keep fair with all, on these occasions, and by a timid silence, to avoid incurring the displeasure of those who convulse the state, and of those who cry for vengeance against them, is a conduct not only unworthy of a Christian, but unworthy of a good patriot. Silence then is an atrocious crime, and to suppress truth is to sell it, to betray it.
VI. Finally, the last order of persons, in terested in the words of my text, consists of pastors of the church. And who can be more strictly engaged not to sell truth than the ministers of the God of truth? A pastor should have this precept in full view in our public assemblies, in his private visits, and particularly when he attends dying people.
1. In our public assemblies all is consecratHow does an orator merit applause, my ed to truth. Our churches are houses of the brethren, when, being called to give his suf- living and true God. These pillars are pilfrage for the public good, he speaks with that lars of truth,' 1 Tim. iii. 15. The word, that fire, which the love of his country kindles, we are bound to announce to you, 'is truth,' and knows no law but equity, and the safety John xvii. 17. Wo be to us, if any human of the people! With this noble freedom the consideration be capable of making us disheathens debated; their intrepidity astonish-guise that truth, the heralds of which we ought es only those who are destitute of courage to to be; or if the fear of showing you a disimitate them. Represent to yourselves De- agreeable light, induces us to put it under a mosthenes speaking to his masters and bushel!' True, there are some mortifying judges, and endeavouring to save them in spite of themselves, and in spite of the punishments which they sometimes inflicted on
* Prem. Philipiq.
+ Trois Phil.