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can invent of misery and ignominy. Once the church filled the highest post in Egypt in the persons of Joseph and his family; and afterward it was loaded with Egyptian fetters in the persons of this patriarch's descendants: one while leading a languishing life in a desert; another time attaining the height of its wishes by seeing the waters of Jordan divide to give a passage, by entering the land of promise, beho ing the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of trumpets, by overshadowing with an awful fear the minds of Hittites and Perizzites, Jebusites and Amorites, Canaanites and Amalekites: sometimes torn from this very country, to which a train of miracles had opened an access, led into captivity by Sennacheribs and Nebuchadnezzars, and leaving Jerusalem and its temple a heap of ruins; at other times re-established by Cyrus, and other princes like him, reassembling fugitives who had been scattered over the face of the whole earth, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and readorning the temple: now exposed to the most cruel torments, that such as Nero and Domitian, Trajan, Dioclesian, and Decius could invent; then rising from ruin by the liberal aid of Constantine and Theodosius, and princes, who like them, became patrons of the cause. Of this article, as of the former, I affirm, uniformity produced variety; the same principle that produced the happy days of the triumphs of the church, gave birth also to the calamitous times, which caused so many tears.
Let us reason in regard to the church in general, as we reason in regard to each private member of it. Do you think (I speak now to each individual), there is a dungeon so deep, a chain so heavy, a misery so great, a malady so desperate, from which God cannot deliver you, were your deliverance suitable to the eminence of his perfections? Is there, think you, any condition so noble that he cannot elevate you to it, any title so desirable that he cannot grace you with it, any treasure too immense for him to bestow, would the law of proportion, his invariable rule, permit him? Or dost thou really think, God takes pleasure in imbittering thy life, in taking away thy children, in tarnishing thy glory, in subverting thine establishments, in crushing thy house, and in precipitating thee from the highest human grandeur to the lowest and most mortifying station? Do you think God takes pleasure in seeing a poor wretch stretched on a bed of infirmity, and tormented with the gout or the stone? Has he any delight in hearing an agonized mortal exhale his life in sighs and groans? Why then does he at any time reduce us to these dismal extremities? Order requires God, who intends to save you, to employ those means, which are most likely to conduct you to salvation, or, if you refuse to profit by them, to harden you under them. He wills your salvation, and therefore he removes all your obstacles to salvation. He takes away a child, because it is become an idol; he tarnishes grandeur, because it dazzles and infatuates its possessors; he subverts palaces, because they make men forget graves, their last homes; he precipitates men from pinnacles of earthly glory, because they make them reasons for vanity
and insolence; he involves his creatures in pain and torture, because these alone make men feel their diminutiveness, their dependance, their nullity. As order requires God, who wills your salvation, to employ the most proper means to conduct you to it; so the same order requires him to punish contempt of it. It is right, that the blackest ingratitude, and the most invincible obduracy, should be punished with extreme ills. It is just, if God be not glorified in your conversion, he should be in your destruction.
Let us reason in regard to the church in general, as we do in regard to the individuals who compose it. A change in the condition of the church, does not argue any change in the attributes of God. Is his arm shortened, since he elevated to a throne those illustrious potentates, who elevated truth and piety along with themselves? Is his hand shortened since he ingulfed Pharaoh in the waves? since he obliged Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a beast? Since he sent a destroying angel to slay the army of Sennacherib? Since he struck the soul of Belshazzar with terror, by writing with a miraculous hand on the very walls of his profane festal room the sentence of his condemnation? The same eminence of perfections, which engages him sometimes to make all concur to the prosperity of his church, engages him at other times to unite all adversities against it.
II. We have considered Jesus Christ in the economy of time, now let us consider him in the economy of eternity. We shall see in this, as in the former, that harmony of perfections, that uniformity of government, which made our apostle say, 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
The same principle, that formed his plan of human government in the economy of time. will form a plan altogether different in that of eternity. The same principle of propor tion, which inclines him to confine our facul ties within a narrow circle during this life. will incline him infinitely to extend the sphere of them in a future state.
The same principle which induces him now to communicate himself to us in a small degree, will then induce him to communicate himself to us in a far more eminent degree.
The same principle, that inclines him now to assemble us in material buildings, to cherish our devotion by exercises savouring of the frailty of our state, by the singing of psalms, and by the participation of sacraments, will incline him hereafter to cherish it by means more noble, more sublime, better suited to the dignity of our origin, and to the price of our redemption.
The same principle, which inclines him to involve us now in indigence, misery, contempt, sickness, and death, will then induce him to free us from all these ills, and to introduce us into that happy state, where there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying,' and where all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes,' Rev. xxi. 4 Proportion requires, that intelligent creatures should be some time in a state of probation, and this is the nature of the present dispensation: but the same law of proportion requires also, that after intelligent creatures have
been some time in a state of trial, and have | answered the end of their being placed in such a state, there should be a state of retribution in an eternal economy. The same principle, then, that inclines Jesus Christ to adopt the plan of his present government, will incline him to adopt a different plan in a future state. There is, therefore, a harmony of perfections, a uniformity of action in all the varieties of the two economies. economy of time. then, as well as in the In the economy of eternity, Jesus Christ is the
But who can exhaust this profound subject in the time prescribed for a single sermon? Our time is nearly elapsed, and I must leave you, my brethren, to enlarge on such conclusions as I shall just mention. the same; he pursues one plan of governinent, God is always arising from one invariable principle. By this truth let us regulate our faith, our morality, and our ideas of our future destiny.
1. Our faith. I will venture to affirm, that one chief cause of the weakness of our faith is our inattention to this harmony of perfections, this uniformity of government in God. We generally consider the perfections of God and his actions separately, and independent of those infinite relations, which the last have to the first. Hence, when God displays what we call his justice, he seems to us to cease to be kind, and when he displays what we call goodness, he seems to suspend his rigid justice. Hence it seems to us, his attributes perpetually clash, so that he cannot exercise one without doing violence to another. Hence we sometimes fear God without loving him, and at other times love him without fearing him Hence we imagine, so to speak, many different gods in one deity, and are ignorant whether the good God will favour us with his benefits, or the just God will punish us with his avenging strokes.
it is the character of a Christian, and would to God it were the character of all my hearaction. We often see him perform actions, ers. A Christian has only one principle of which seem to have no relation; however, they all proceed from the same principle. The same motive, that carries him to churcli, engages him to go to court; he goes into the army on the same principle, that induces him ges him to perform acts of repentance and to visit an hospital; the motive, which engamortification, inclines him to make one in a of things, require him sometimes to perform party of pleasure; because if order, or fitness mortifying actions, it also requires him at other times to take some recreation because as order requires him sometimes to visit the his country by war; because if order calls sick, it requires him at other times to defend him sometimes to church, it calls him at other times to court; and so of the rest. walking with God, setting the Lord always ture-style this disposition of mind is called In Scripbefore us,' Gen. v. 24; Ps. xvi. 8. Glorious character of a Christian, always uniform, and like himself! He does nothing, if I may be allowed to speak so, but arrange his actions differently, as his circumstances vary.
regulate that of your future destiny. There 3. Finally, this idea of God is very proper to is, as we have been proving in this discourse, economies of time and eternity. But, we one principle of order, that governs both the have elsewhere observed, there are two sorts of order; there is an absolute and a relative order. Relative order, or fitness, considered in itself, and independently of its relation to another economy, is a real disorder. In virtue of this relative order, we may live happily here awhile in the practice of sin: but, as this kind of order is a violent state, it cannot be of long duration. If therefore you judgment must be regulated not by an idea would judge of your eternal destiny, your of relative order, which will soon end: but by that of real, absolute order, which must have an eternal duration; and in virtue of which vice must be punished with misery, and virtue must have a recompense of felicity.
False ideas! more tolerable in people involved in pagan regions of darkness and shadows of death than in such as live where the light of the gospel shines with so much splendour. Let us adore only one God, and let us acknowledge in him only one perfection, that is to say, a harmony, which results from all his perfections. When he displays what we call his bounty, let us adore what we call his justice; and when he displays what we call his justice, let us adore what we call his goodness. Let us allow, that the exercise of one attribute is no way injurious to another. If this idea be impressed upon our minds, our faith will never be shaken, at least it will never be destroyed by the vicissitudes of the world, or by those of the church. Why? Because we should be fully convinced, that the vicissitudes of both proceed from the same cause, I mean the immutability of that God, who says by the mouth of one of his prophets, I, the Lord, change not,' Mal. iii. 6.
selves, and let each ask; What will my conPut these questions sometimes to yourdition be in a state of absolute fitness? I, who have devoted my whole life to counteract the great design of religion, to misrepresent its nature, to check its progress, to enervate its arguments, to subvert its dominion, nitude, along with them, who have turned shall I shine then as a star of the first magmany to righteousness, or shall I partake of the punishment of the tempter and his infamous legions? I, who tremble at the thought of giving any thing away; I, who enrich myself at the private expense of individuals, and at the public expense of my country, at 2. But, when I began this discourse, I be- children, shall I share in a future state the the expense of my friends, and even of my sought God, that, by considering this subject, felicity of that generous society, which we might be changed into the same image breathes benevolence only, and which consiby his Spirit, and this petition I address to ders the happiness of others as its own; of him again for you. God has only one princi- that society, which is happy in the persons ple of his actions, that is, proportion, order, of all, who participate their felicity; or shall fitness of things. Let love of order be the principle of all your actions, my dear brethren,ties, which seek pleasure in the miseries I share the misery of those infernal socie
Do we wish for a full assurance of a claim to eternal happiness? Let us then by our conduct form an inseparable relation between our eternal felicity and the invariable perfections of that God who changes not; let us spare no pains to arrive at that happy state; let us address to God our most fervent prayers to engage him to bless the efforts which we make to enjoy it; and after we have seriously engaged in this great work, let us fear nothing. The same principle, which induced God to restore Isaac to Abraham, to raise as it were that dear child by a kind of resurrection from his father's knife, the same principle that engaged him to elevate David from the condition of a simple shepherd to the rank of a king; let us say more, the same principle, which engaged him to open the gates of heaven to the author be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
of others, and so become mutually self-tor-, and finisher of our faith,' Heb. xii. 2, after the consummation of the work, for which he came; the same principle will incline him to un'old the gates of heaven to us, when we shall have finished the work for which we were born. Our felicity will be founded on the Rock of ages; it will be incorporated with the essence of an unchangeable God; we shall stand fast in perilous times, and when the world, the whole world tumbles into ruins, we shall exclaim with the highest joy, My God hou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands They perish but thou shalt endure. The all shall wax old like a garment: but thou art the same. and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall cont nue and their seed shall be established be ore thee. Ps. cii. 24, &c. God grant this may be our happy lot! To him
THE NECESSITY OF UNIVERSAL OBEDIENCE.
JAMES ii. 10.
Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.
WERE I obliged to give a title to the epistle, from which I have taken my text, to distinguish it from the other books of our sacred canon, I would call it the paradors of St. James. It should seem, the apostle had no other design in writing than that of surprising his readers by unheard of propositions. In the first chapter he subverts that notion of religion, which is generally receiv cd both in the world and the church. To adore the God of heaven and earth, to receive his revelation, to acknowledge his Mes. siah, to partake of his sacraments, to burn with zeal for his worship, this is usually called religion. No, says St. James, this is not religion; at most this is only a small part of it: Religion consists in visiting the father less and widows in their affliction, and in keeping himself unspotted from the world,' ver. 27. In the second chapter he seems to take pains to efface the grand character of a Christian, and of Christianity itself, and to destroy this fundamental truth of the gospel, that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,' Rom. iii. 28. No,' says he, man is not justified by faith only; Abraham our father was justified by works, chap. ii. 24, 21, and all Christians are justified by works. In another place, St. James seems to place all religion in some minute and comparatively inconsiderable articles, or, what comes to much the same, to teach, that the omission of some comparatively small duty renders the most pure and solid piety of no
account. Levity of conversation is one of these articles. How different, my brethren! is the morality of the Scriptures from the morality of the world! We often bear high encomiums of some people in company. Observe that man, say they, what a pattern of piety is he! The church doors are hardly open before he rushes into his seat with cagerness and transport. In approaching the Lord s table he discovers by every look and gesture a heart all inflamed with divine love. When his shepherds were smitten, and the sheep scattered, the most difficult sacrifices became eas to him. Country, family, titles, riches, he left all with pleasure for the sake of following the bloody steps of Jesus Christ in his sufferings. He can be reproved for no more than one little inadvertence, that is, he has a levity of conversation. But what says St. James of this man, who seems to have a right of precedence in a catalogue of saints? What does he say of this man, so diligent to attend public worship, so fervent at the Lord's supper, so zealous for religion? He says, this man has no religion at all; If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain,' chap. i. 26.
But without attending to all the paradoxes of St. James, let us attend to this in our text. Here is a principle that seems more likely to produce despair in our hearts than to promote virtue a principle which seems to aim at no less than the exclusion of the greatest saints
on earth from heaven, and to oblige Moses, Elias, David, Paul, and other such eminent men to exclaim, Who then can be saved!' Matt. xix. 25. This principle is, that to sin against one article of the divine laws is to render one's self guilty of a breach of them all. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guiltyof all.' That you may the better enter into the spirit of our text, we have three sorts of reflections to propose to you. By the first we intend to fix the meaning of our apostle's proposition, and to clear it from all obscurity Our second class of reflections will be applied to enforce the sense that we shall give the text. The last will characterize those sinners who live in this dreadful state, who, by habitually offending in one point, render themselves guilty of an universal subversion of the whole law of God; and here we shall direct you how to use the text as a touchstone to discover the truth or falsehood of your faith, the sincerity or hypocrisy of your obedience.
I. Let us fix the sense of our apostle's proposition, and for this purpose let us answer two questions. 1. What kind of sin had St. James in view when he said, Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point? 2. How did he mean, that, by 'offending in one point, the offender was guilty of violating the whole law?'
The meaning of the first depends partly on what precedes the text. The apostle had been endeavouring to inspire Christians with charity; not with that partial charity, which inclines us to pity and relieve the miseries of a few distressed neighbours, but with that universal love, which induces all the disciples of Christ to consider one another as brethren, and which, because all are united to God, unites all to one another, and teaches each to consider all as one compact body, of which love is the bond.
The apostle enters into this subject by this exhortation, My brethren! have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect to persons,' chap. ii. 1. These words are rather difficult: but one of the following senses, I think, must be given to them. 1. Instead of translating, have not the faith, we may read, judge not of faith by appearance of persons; that is to say, Do not judge what faith Christians have in Jesus Christ, whom God has elevated to the highest glory, by the rank, which they occupy in civil society, by their attendants, and equipage, and habits. A man who makes a very mean and contemptible appearance, a man all in rags, is often a better Christian than he whose Christianity, so to speak, is all set off with splendour, and grandeur, and fortune
Or rather, have not faith in the Lord of Glory by showing a partial regard for the appearance of persons; that is to say, Do not imagine yourselves believers, while you regard the appearance of persons. Do not imagine, that true faith is compatible with that meanness of soul, which makes people susceptible of very deep impressions of esteem at seeing a parade of human grandeur; do not suppose, that the soul of a good man
must necessarily prostrate itself before pomp, and annihilate itself in the presence of great men; while he turns with disdain from the poor infinitely greater for their piety than others for their pomp. A Christian believing in Jesus Christ glorified, a Christian persuaded that Jesus, his head, is elevated to the highest degree of glory, and hoping that he shall be shortly exalted to some degree with him; a Christian, in whose mind such ideas are formed, ought not to entertain very high notions of earthly things, he ought to esteem that in man, which constitutes his real greatness, that immortality, which is a part of his essence, those hopes of eternal glory, at which he aspires, those efforts, which he is making towards bearing the image of his Creator: such qualities deserve esteem, and not the empty advantages of fortune.
The apostle, having established this general maxim, applies it to a particular case; but there are some difficulties in his manner of stating the case, as well as in the maxim to which he applies it. If there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? What assembly had the apostle in view here?
Some think, he spoke of an assembly of Judges, and by respect, or appearance of persons, a spirit of partiality. They say, these words of St. James are synonymous to those of God to Jewish judges by Moses, 'Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour,' Lev. xix. 15. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment: but ye shall hear the small as well as the great,' Deut. i. 16, 17. They confirm this opinion by quoting a canon of the Jews, which enacts, that when two persons of unequal rank appear together in the Sanhedrin, one shall not be allowed to sit, while the other stands; but both shall either sit together, or stand together, to avoid every shadow of partiality.
But, perhaps, our apostle spoke also of religious assemblies, and intended to inform primitive Christians, that where the distinctions of princes and subjects, magistrates and people, were not known, there the rich would affect state, aspire to chief places, and gratify their senseless vanity by placing the poor on their footstools, in order to make them feel their indigence and meanness. However the apostle might mean, whether he spoke of juridical assemblies, or of religious conventions; of partial judgments, or of improper distinctions in the church, it is plain, he intended to preclude that veneration, which, in little souls, riches obtain for their possessors, and that disdain which poverty excites in such minds for those whom providence has exposed to it.
Among many reasons, by which he enforces his exhortation, that, which immediately precedes the text is taken from charity, or
benevolence. If ye fulfil the royal law, ac-, kind do not answer the black description
It should seem at first, from the connexion
2. We ought not to number momentary faults among the offences, of which it is said, Whosoever commits one is guilty of a violation of the whole law. Where is the regenerate man, where is the saint, where is the saint of the highest order, who can assure himself, he shall never fall into some sins? Where is the faith so firm as to promise never to tremble at the sight of racks, stakes, and gibbets? Where is that Christian heroisin, which can render a man invulnerable to some fiery darts, with which the enemy of our salvation sometimes assaults us; and (what is still more unattainable by human firmness), where is that Christian heroism which can render a man invulnerable to some darts of voluptuousness, which strike the tenderest parts of nature, and excite those passions which are at the same time the most turbulent and the most agree ble? A believ er falls into such sins only in those sad moments in which he is surprised unawares and in which he loses in a manner the power of reflecting and thinking. If there remain any liberty of judgment amidst the frenzy, he employs it to recall his reason, which is fleeing; and to arouse his virtue, that sleeps in spite of all his efforts. All chained as he is by the enemy, he makes efforts, weak indeed, but yet earnest, to disengage himself. The pleasures of sin, even when he most enjoys them, and while he sa crifices his piety and innocence to them, are embittered by the inward remorse that rises in his regenerate soul. While he delivers himself up to the temptation and the tempter. he complains, O wretched man that I um who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Rom. vii. 24. When the charm has spent its force, when his fascinated eyes recover their sight, and he sees objects again in their true point of light, then conscience reclaims its rights; then he detests what he
But in what light does he place this viola-, tion of the precept of love: He considers it as a sin committed with full consent, preceded by a judgment of the mind, accompanied with mature deliberation, and, to a certain degree, approved by him who commits it. All these ideas are contained in these words, "Ye have respect to persons, ye are partial in yourselves, ye are judges of evil thoughts, ye have despised the poor.' What the apos-, tle affirms of love in particular, he affirnis of all sins committed with the same dispositions. Every sin committed with full consent, preceded by a judgment of the mind, accompanied with mature deliberation; every sin that conscience is made to approve during the commission of it; every such sin is included in this maxim of our apostle, whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.'
In this manner divest the text of one vague notion, to which it may seem to have given occasion. We acquit the apostle of the charge of preaching a melancholy, cruel morality, and we affirm, for the comfort of weak and timorous minds, that we ought not to place among the sins here intended, either inomentary faults, daily frailties, or involuntary passions.
1. By daily frailties I mean those imper-just before admired; then the cause of his joy becomes the cause of his sorrow and ter ror; and he prefers the pain. anguish, and torture of repentance, before the most alluring attractives of sin.
3. We will venture one step farther. We affirm, that gusts of involuntary passions ought not to be included in the number of sins of which St. James says, Whosoever offend eth in one point, he is guilty of all. God places us in this world as in a state of trial We are all born with some passions, which it is our duty to attack, and mortify; but from which we shall never be able to free ourselves entirely. The soul of one is united to
fections of piety, which are inseparable from