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thing but an unintentional curiosity. It proceeds from an affection apparently lawful. A little worldly complaisance mixes with it. The mind by little and little turns to its object; the heart softens and dissolves. Means to please are sought. Inquietude follows and presses. Sight kindles desire. Desire engages to see. Certain vague wishes, at first not perceived, form themselves in the soul. Hence criminal familiarities, scandalous intrigues, continual agitations, and all the other consequences of a passion, fatal, restless, and unsatisfied, whether it be gratified or not."*
So true is what we have affirmed, that, by neglecting the least virtues, we acquire a habit of neglecting others of the greatest importance. So true is it, that we prepare ourselves to practise the greatest crimes, by practising what are called little sins. We conclude, then, that exactness in performing little duties cherishes tenderness of conscience. This is our first reflection.
rality in some cases may deserve censure, although they are not censured at Rome, except for what merits applause; these casuists, I say, have decided the question differently, and I cannot help submitting to their reasons. I have more hope of a man who attends public worship, though he derive no advantage from it, than of him who has resolved for ever to absent himself. I have more hope of a man who performs only the most superficial parts of the laws of benevolence, than of him who resolves to violate these, and all the rest I have more hope of him who suspends the exercise of his passions only the day be fore and the day after his participation of the Lord's Supper, than of him who excommunicates himself and his whole family for ever. I have more reason to hope for him who, hav ing made great sacrifices for the doctrines of religion, violates the precepts of it, than for him who both violates the precepts and abjures the doctrines. Not that I affirm, either that it is sufficient to perform small duties while we persist in a neglect of great obligations, or that the performance of the former is not detestable when we perform them care. lessly and hypocritically. This I think is the key of the passages just now quoted. These small duties are remains of spiritual life in such as practise them; dying remains, I allow, but precious remains, however; and the state of these people is preferable to the condition of the other persons in question, whom death has enveloped in its dismal shade. Preserve, carefully, preserve these precious remains, whatever just grounds of fear of your salvation may accompany them. Do not extinguish this wick, though it only smokes, Matt. Perhaps an idea of the sacrifices which you have made for the doctrines of religion, may incline you at last to submit to the precepts of it. Perhaps self-examination, superficial as it is, preparatory to the Lord's Supper, may at some time or other lead you into reflections more deep and serious. Possibly, the sermons which now you attend only to satisfy some transient emotions of conscience, may in the end arouse your consciences effectually.
II. We affirm, in the second place, that small duties are sources of re-conversion after great falls. Some passages of Scripture have occasioned a difficult case of conscience, which is this: Is the practise of little duties altogether useless to those who neglect great ones; and, all things considered, would it not be better for a man who neglects the important obligations, to omit the performance of small duties, than practice the last, while he neglects the first? This question rises out of these passages. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? saith the Lord. I am full of the burnt-offering of rams, and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination unto me, the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with,' Isa. i. 11-13, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,' Prov. xv. 8 1 spake not unto your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice,' Jer. vii. 22, 23. He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man; be that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he had cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol,' Isa. lxvi. 3. 'Unto the wicked, saith God, What hast thou to do to declare thy statutes, or that thou shouldest take thy covenant in thy mouth? Ps. 1 16. These passages, which might be easily multiplied, seem to determine the question that was just now proposed, and to establish the opinion of those who affirm, that men ought either to leave off the practice of small duties, if they determine to neglect great obligations, or to perform great obligations if they continue to practise small duties. There are, however, some celebrated casuists whose mo
*Flechier. Panegyr. de St. Bernard.
III. Small duties compensate by their repetition, for what is wanting to their importance. We are not called every day to make great sacrifices to order; we are seldom required to set up the standard of the cross in barbarous climes, to sound the gospel to the ends of the world, and to accomplish the promises made to Jesus Christ, that he should have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession,' Ps. ii. 8. Seldom are we called to dare executioners, to triumph in cruel sufferings and death, to confess Christ amidst fires and flames. We are rarely called to the great actions that make heroes; to die for our neighbours; to sacrifice ourselves for the public good; and to devote ourselves for
If we are seldom required to perform great duties, thanks be to God we are seldom tempt ed to commit great crimes, to deceive a friend.
to betray a trust, to reveal a state-secret, to make a sale of justice, to perplex truth, or to persecute innocence. But in what moment of each day do we not meet with opportunities to commit little sins, and to perform duties of comparatively small importance?
IV. Our third reflection leads us to a fourth. Little duties have sometimes characters more evident of real love to God, than the most important duties. If hypocrisy, if false ideas of religion, sometimes produce little duties, it must be allowed, that secular motives, interest, and vain-glory, sometimes give birth to great exploits. Pride without any mixture of love to order, is sometimes sufficient to engage us to make those great sacrifices of which we just now spoke. Sometimes nothing but an extreme and refined attachment to virtue can animate us to perform little duties. There is sometimes more genuine benevolence in accepting such tokens of gratitude as a poor man gives for a favour conferred on him than in conferring the favour itself. There is sometimes more humility in receiving the praise from a man whose esteem flatters our vanity Do you prosper? What a source of little a little, than in refusing to hear it. After all, duties is prosperity, if we sincerely love vir- though the love of God differs in many respects tue? And what a source of little sins, if we from mere worldly esteem, yet there are some are not always guarded against temptations to resemblances. We often think ourselves oblivice? Now a little air of self-sufficiency in-ged to render considerable services to people clines to solitude, then a little eagerness to for whom we have no great regard; but it is shine impels to society. Here a little necessa- only for such as we hold in the highest venery expense must be incurred, there another ration that we feel certain little attachments, expense must be avoided. Here something certain little attentions, certain solicitudes, is due to rank, and must be observed, there which indeed are called little in the usual rank would be disgraced, and something must phrase, but which are strong demonstrations be omitted. of the tender sentiments of the soul. It is just the same with divine love. But this is one of those truths of sentiment and experience, which each of you may understand better by consulting the history of his own life, and by watching the motions of his own heart, than by attending to our syllogisms and discussions.
Are you confined at home? You have little inconveniencies to suffer, litle perverse humours to bear with, little provocations to impatience to resist, little disgusts to endure.
Are you in company? You have a few captious tempers to manage, idle reports to discountenance, a few pernicious maxims to combat, profane actions to censure; sometimes you are obliged to resist iniquity boldly, and at other times to affect to tolerate it, in order to obtain an opportunity to oppose it on a future opportunity with greater probability of success.
turn, for what is wanting to constitute their importance?
Are you in adversity, under misfortunes, or sickness? How many miserable comforters! How many disgustful remedies! What intolerable wearinesses! So many articles, so many occasions to perform little duties, and to commit little sins.
Opportunities to commit little sins return every day, I may almost say, every moment Perhaps you may imagine God cannot, withof every day. A little sin is a little poison, out dehasing his Majesty, cast his eyes on slow indeed, but continually insinuating itself those ins.guificant actions which we are recominto the soul, till by degrees it issues in death. mending to you. But undeceive yourselves. A man who does not watch against little sins, What could be less considerable than those is liable to provoke God as often as an occa- two mites which the poor widow in the gospel sion to commit them presents itself. On the cast into the treasury? Mark xii. 42. Yet contrary, a man who makes conscience of we know what Jesus Christ thought of that practising little duties as well as great ones, action. What service less considerable could finds every day, and every moment, oppor- be rendered Jesus Christ just before his death, tunities of giving God proofs of his love. He than to pour ointment on his head? The has only a religion of times and circumstances, apostles had indignation within themselves at which is sometimes justly suspected, but a re this unseasonable ceremony, chap xiv. 13, &c. ligion of influence that diffuses itself into eve- They were angry with the woman for divertry part of his life. There is not a moment in ing the attention of Jesus Christ from those which he does not make some progress in his great objects with which his whole soul had heavenly course. By his attention to every been filled. But he reproved them, 'Why little duty, he discharges the greatest of all trouble ye the woman?' said he; she has perduties, that which St. Paul prescribes to all formed an action worthy of emulation. VeChristians. Whether ye eat or drink, or rily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,' shall be preached throughout the whole 1 Cor. x. 31. He is an exact imitator of Je- world, this also that she hath done shall be sus Christ, the author and finisher of his spoken of, for a memorial of her. What can faith, who went about doing good, Heb, xi. be less considerable in itself than a cup of 2, like him he can say, I have set the Lord cold water? Yet Jesus Christ promises to realways before me; because he is at my rightward even this with eternal life, when it is hand I shall never be moved,' Ps. xvi. 8. given from a principle of real piety. We Had I not reason to affirm, that little duties said before, my brethren, and allow us to recompensate, by the frequency of their re- peat it again, in a religion of love, whatever
proceeds from a principle of love has an intrinsic value.
I unite now the subjects of both the discourses, which I have addressed to you, on the words of my text, and, by collecting both into one point of view, I ask, What idea ought you to form of a religion which exhibits a morality so pure and complete? What idea of the preaching of those ministers, who are called to instruct you in it? What idea of the engagements of such disciples as profess to submit to the discipline of it?
the things which belong unto your everlasting peace,' Luke xlx. 42, and to give you such directions as you may follow, as far as can be in the tumult of the world, whither either your inclinations or your necessities call you?
My brethren, while I was meditating on my text two methods of discussing it presented themselves to my mind.
Following the first of these plans, I divided my discourse into three parts, according to the three parts, that is, the three different herbs mentioned in the text. Each of these parts I subdivided into three more. First, I examined the force, the signification, the derivation of the original term, aud I inquired whether the word were rightly rendered mint. I quoted various opinions on this subject, for interpre ters are very much divided about it. Accord ing to the Ethiopic version, Jesus Christ spoke of hyssop; and according to other versions, some other plant. Secondly, I examined the nature, the uses, the properties of the herb, to which I had restored the true name, and here
What idea ought you to form of a religion that prescribes a morality so pure and complete? The Christian religion requires each of us to form, as well as he can, just notions of primitive law: to observe all the consequences, and to place each virtue that proceeds from primitive right, in its just order; to give the first rank to those virtues which immediately proceed from it, and the second to those which proceed from it mediately and remotely. Christianity requires us to regulate our application to each virtue, by the place which each occupies in this scale; to set no bounds to the loving of that God, whose perfections are infinite; to entertain only a limited esteem for finite creatures; to engage our senses in devout exercises, but to take care that they are held under government by our minds; to sing the praises of the Lord with our voices, but animated with our affections; in short to look towards heaven, but to let inward fervour produce the emotion, determine the direction, and fix the eye.
How amiable would society be, if they who compose it were all followers of this religion! How happy would it be to make treaties, to form alliances, to unite ourselves, by the most affectionate and indissoluble ties, to men inviolably attached to this religion! Had not God shaken nature, and subverted kingdoms, or, in the language of a prophet, had he not shaken the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land,' Hag. ii 6, to establish this religion in the world, yet it ought to be held in the highest estimation for its own intrinsic worth. How can we help being filled with indignation at those abominable men, who in spite of all the demonstrations of the divine origin of this religion, place their glory in weakening its empire over the heart!
2. But if you form such noble ideas of a religion, the morality of which is so extensive and so pure, what ideas ought you to form of the preaching of those who are appointed to instruct you in it? Which way, think you, ought they to bend their force? What kind of questions ought they to propose in the Christian pulpit? Under what point of view ought they to consider the texts, which make the matter of their discourses? Are they required to excite your astonishment by flights of imagination, or to gratify your curiosity by a display of their profound erudition? Does not their office rather require them to employ all the times you allow them to free you from your prejudices, to take off those scales from your eyes, which prevent your perceiving
heaped up a great number of passages from Aristotle, Pliny, Solmus, Salmasius, and many other authors, who have rendered themselves famous by this kind of erudition. Thirdly having studied mint as a critic and as a naturalist, I proceeded at length to examine it as a divine. I inquired why God demanded tithe of this herb. Perhaps thought I, here may be some mystery in this affair. I say perhaps, for I acknowledge myself a mere novice in this science, as in a great many others. However, there may be some mysteries in this of fering. I was certain, if imagination supplied the place of reason, and flights of faney were put instead of facts, it would not be impossi bie to find mysteries here. If this herb be sweet, said I, it may represent the sweetness of merey; if it be bitter, it may signify the bitterness of justice. If Jesus Christ meant hyssop as some think, it was that very herb of which the famous bunch was made, that was dipped in the blood of sparrows at the purification of lepers. What mysteries! What I had done with mint under the first head, I did over again under the second article anise, and the same over again under the third head cummin. This was my first plan of discussion.
The second method was that which I have chosen. In the former discourse on this text, we endeavoured to convince you that you were under an indispensable obligation to perform the great duties of religion. In this we have been endeavouring to obtain your regard to the little duties of religion; to engage you to submit to the laws of God, even in things of the least importance; and thus, to give you a complete chain of Christian vir
My brethren, God forbid that our discourses, which ought always to be animated with a spirit of benevolence, should at any time degenerate into a satire, and that we should enjoy a malicious pleasure in exploding the method of those who entertain ideas different from ours on the best method of preach.
ing. I grant birth, education, and a course of
3. Finally, What idea ought you to form of the engagements of such disciples as pro fess to give themselves up to this religion, the morality of which we have been describing? Where are the Christians who have this complete chain of the virtues of Christianity? Where shall we find Christians, who, after they have performed with all due attention, the great duties, hold themselves bound by an inviolable law not to neglect the least? Alas! we are always complaining of the weight of the yoke of the Lord! We are perpetually
exclaiming, like the profane Jews mentioned by Malachi, Behold what a weariness it is!' chap. i. 13. We dispute the ground with God! It should seem he has set too high a price on heaven. We are always ready to curtail his requisitions. What! say we, cannot he be contented with this? will he not be
Ah! my dear brethren, let us open our eyes to our interest: let us obey the laws of God without reserve: let us observe alike the most important virtues which he has prescribed to us, and those which are least important. We ought to do so, not only because he is our master, but because he is our father, because he proposes no other end but that of rendering us happy: and because so much as we retrench our duties, so much we diminish our happiness. To this God, whose love is always in union with justice, be honour and glory, dominion and majesty, both now and for ever. Amen.
THE DOOM OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED.
IT is a subject deserving the most profound reflections, my brethren, that the most irregular being, I mean the devil, is at the same time the most miserable, and that the most holy Being, he who is holy by excellence, is at the same time the most happy, and thus unites in his own essence supreme holiness with sovereign happiness. Satan, who began his audacious projects in heaven the 'habitation of holiness,' 2 Chron. xxx. 27; Satan, who rebelled against God amidst the most noble displays of his magnificence, and who is still a'murderer' and a liar,' John viii. 44; Satan is in the depth of misery. He was hurled down from a pinnacle of glory, expelled for ever from the society of the blessed, and there is a lake of fire' prepared for him and his angels, Matt. xxv. 41. God is the most holy Being. Indeed, the terms virtue and holiness are very equivocal when applied to an independent Being, whose authority is absolute, who has no law but his own wisdom, no rules of rectitude but his own volitions. Yet, order, whatever is sublime in what we mortals call holiness, virtue, justice, eminently dwells in the Deity, and forms one grand and glorious object of the admiration and praise of the
REVELATION xxi. 7, 8.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
purest intelligences, who incessantly make it the matter of the songs which they sing in his honour, and who cry day and night one to another, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty. O Lord, thou king of saints, who shall not fear thee and glorify thy name? For thou art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee,' Rev. xv. 3, 4. This Being, so holy, so just; this Being who is the source of holiness, justice, and virtue; this Being possesses at the same time the highest possible happiness. He is, in the language of Scripture, the happy God," and as I said before, he unites in his own esssence supreme holiness with supreme happiness.
What boundless objects of contemplation would this reflection open to our view, my brethren, were it necessary to pursue it? Consider it only in one point of light. The destination of these two beings so different, is, if I may be permitted to say so, the rule of the destination of all intelligent beings All things
considered, the more we partake of the impurity of Satan, the more we partake of his misery. It would be absurd to suppose, that in the time of the restitution of all things,' Acts iii. 21, which will soon arrive, and justify Providence against the innumerable censures passed upon it, it would be absurd to suppose, that if we have appropriated the irregularities of the impure spirit we should not at that time partake of his misery; and it would be absurd to suppose, that we can partake of the virtues of the holy Being, without participating his felicity and glory.
Each part of these propositions is contained in the words of my text. He that overcometh,' he who in this world of obstacles to virtue shall take the holiness of God for his rule, as far as it is allowable for frail creatures to regulate themselves by an example so perfect and sublime, he that overcometh' shall have no bounds set to his happiness. He shall inherit all things,' he shall enter into the family of God himself. I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars,' of what order soever they be, and all those who do the works of the devil,' shall be placed in a condition like his, 'shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
We invite you to day to meditate on these truths, and in order to reduce the subject to the size of a single sermon, we will only insist on such articles of the morality of St. John as are least known and most disputed. We will distinguish in this system such virtues to be practised, and such vices to be avoided, as are most opposite to those prejudices which the world usually forms concerning the final doom of mankind.
I. The first prejudice which we intend to attack is, that, A life spent in ease and idleness is not incompatible with salvation, if it be free from great crimes. Against which, we oppose this part of our text, He that cometh shall inherit.' In order to inherit,' we must overcome. Here vigilance, action, and motion, are supposed.
II. The second prejudice is, that, A just God will not impute to his creatures sins of infirmity and constitution, though his creatures should be subject to them during the whole course of their lives. Against which we oppose these words of the apostle, The fearful and whoremongers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.'
idolaters.' Idolaters are considered among the most criminal of mankind
IV. The fourth prejudice is, that, Religions are indifferent. The mercy of God extends to
those who live in the mist erroneous communions. Against which we oppose the wor
V. The last prejudice is, that, None but the vulgar ought to be afraid of committing certain crimes. Kings will be judged by a particular law: the greatness of the motive that inclined them to manage some affairs of state will plead their excuse, and secure them from divine vengeance. Against this we oppose these words, abominable,' poisoners,* and all liars,' which three words include almost all those abominations which are called illustrious crimes. However, the abominable, the poisoners, and all the liars, shall have, as well as the fearful, the unbelieving, the unclean, and the idolaters, their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.'
I. Let us begin with the first prejudice. A life spent in ease and idleness is not incompatible with salvation, if it be free from great crimes. St. John takes away this unjust pretext, by considering salvation as a prize to be obtained by conquest. He who overcometh,' implies vigilance, activity, and motion. Two considerations will place the meaning of our apostle in the clearest light. We take the first from the nature of evangelical virtues, and the second from the nature of those vices which are forbidden in the gospel.
1. The nature of evangelical virtues demands vigilance, action, and motion. It is im possible, to exercise these virtues under the influence of effeminacy, idleness, and ease. Let us examine a few of these virtues.
What is the love of God? It is that disposition of the soul which inclines us to adore his perfections, to admire with the highest joy his glorious attributes, and to desire with the utmost ardour to be closely united to him as to our supreme good; but this disposition cannot be exercised, cannot be acquired, without vigilance, action, and motion. We must meditate on that sovereign power which formed this universe by a single volition, and by a single volition determined its doom. We must meditate on that supreme wisdom which reover-gulates all the works of supreme power, combining causes with effects, and means with ends, and which by this infinite combination has always adjusted, and continues to arrange and direct all the works which we behold, and others without number which lie beyond the utmost stretch of our imagination. We must meditate on that perfect justice which is engraven on all the productions of the Creator, on all the conduct of providence, and remarkably on the consciences of mankind, which continually accuse or excuse' their actions, Rom. ii. 15. Conscience is either tortured
III. The third prejudice is, that, Specula with remorse or involved in delight, according tive errors cannot be attended with any fatal | as we have been attached to virtue, or have consequences, provided we live uprightly, as it violated it. We must meditate on that infiis called, and discharge our social duties.nite goodness which is over all his works,' Against which we oppose this word, the un- Ps. cxlv. 9. We must not only consider this believing. The unbelieving are put into the palace where God has lodged man, a palace of class of the miserable. delights before the entrance of sin, but which,
* Poisoners. quanturi. Vencficis, Incantatoribus. Qui malis magiæ artibus utuntur. The French bibles read empoisonneurs, poisoners.