Page images

A prince by becoming an object of the admiration of the world, becomes at the same time an object of jealousy, suspicion and terror. Hence some civil commotions and foreign wars. Hence the forming of leagues and deep con certed plots. Hence mortality, scarcity, and famine. Hence heaven ad earth in concert against a state that seemed to defy both earth and heaven, Hence an eternal example to justify Providence in all future ages, and to demonstrate to the most obstinate the doctrine of the text, that only rectitude can procure substantial glory.

fatal to the edifice which they had erected.use he made of them! May that Jesus whom, e so often attacked, have expiated his crimes! But, though charity constrains us to hope and wish for his salvation, the honour of our holy religion obliges us publicly to declare that he abused is own understanding; to protest, betore heaven and earth, that we disown him as a member of our reformed churches, and that we shall always consi ier a part of his writings as a sca dal to good men, and as a pest of the church.

We return to our prophet. Let us employ a few moments in reflecting on the truths we have heard. Thanks be to God, my brethren, we have better means of knowing the righ fin-teousness that exalts a nation, and more motives to practise it, than all the nations of whose glory we have been hearing. They had only a superficial, debased, confused knowledge of the virtues which constitute substan


Thus we think, we have sufficiently established our prophet's proposition; and we will ish the arguments by which we have supported it, by giving you the character of that author who has taken the greatest pains to subvert it." He was one of those inconsistent men whom the finest genius cannot preserve from self-tial grandeur; and, as they held errors in recontradiction, and whose opposite qualities will ligion, they must necessarily have erred in cialways leave us in doubt whether to place vil polity. God, glory be to his name! has them in one extreme, or in another diametri- placed at the head of our councils the most cally opposite. On the one hand, he was a perfect legislator that ever held the reins of great philosopher, and knew how to distinguish government in the world. This Legislator is truth from falsehood, for he could see at once Jesus Christ. His kingdom, indeed, is not of a connexion of principles, and a train of con- this world; but the rules he has given us to sequences: on the other hand, he was a great arrive at that. are proper to render us happy sophister, always endeavouring to confound in the present state. When he says, seek ye truth with falsehood, to wrest principles, and first the kingdom of God, and his righteousto force consequences. In one view admira- ness, and all other things shall be added to you," bly learned and of fine parts, having profited Matt. vi. 33, he gives the command, and much by the labours of others, and more by makes the promise to whole nations, as well the exercise of his own great sense: in another as to individuals. view, ignorant, or affecting to be ignorant of the most common things, advancing arguments which had been a thousand times refuted, and starting objections which the greatest novice in the schools durst not have mentioned without blushing. On the one hand, at tacking the greatest men, opening a wide field for them to labour in, leading them into devious and rugged paths, and, if not going beyond them, giving them a world of pains to keep pace with him on the other hand, quoting the meanest geniuses, offering a profusion of incense to them, blotting his writings with names that had never been pronounced by learned lips. On the one hand, free, at least in appearance, from every disposition contrary to the spirit of the gospel, chaste in his manners, grave in his conversation, temperate in his diet, and austere in his usual course of life; on the other, employing all the acuteness of his genius to oppose good morals, and to attack chastity, modesty, and all other Christian virtues. Sometimes appealing to a tribunal of the most rigid orthodoxy, deriving arguments from the purest sources, and quoting divines of the most unsuspected soundness in the faith at other times, travelling in the high road of heretics, reviving the objections of ancient heresiarchs, forging them new armour, and uniting in one body the errors of past ages with those of the present time. O that this man, who was endowed with so many talents,may have been forgiven by God for the bad

Who ever carried so far as this divine legislator ideas of the virtues of which we have been treating in several parts of this discourse, and by practising which nations are exalted.' Who ever formed such just notions of that benevolence, that love of social good, that generosity to enemies, that contempt of life, that wisdom, that veneration for noble exploits, that docility and frugality, that devotedness to public use, that distance from false glory, that magnanimity, and all the other virtues which render antiquity venerable to us? Who ever gave such wise instruction to kings and subjects, magistrates and people, lawyers and merchants, soldiers and statesmen, the world and the church? We know these virtues better than any other people in the world. We are able to carry our glory far beyond Egyptians and Persians, Assyrians and Medes, Lacedæmonians, Athenians, and Romans; it not that sort of glory which glares and dazzles, at least that which makes tranquil and happy, and procures a felicity far more agreeable than all the pageantry of heroism and worldly splendour.

* Mr. Boyle.

Christians, let not these be mere speculations to us. Let us endeavour to reduce them to practice. Never let us suffer our political principles to clash with the principles of our religion. Far from us, and far from us for ever be the abominable maxims of that pernicious Florentine, who gave statesmen such fatal lessons as these! A prince who would

» Machiavel. Prince, xv. xvi. rvî.

[ocr errors]

maintain his dignity, ought to learn not to be virtuous, when affairs of state require him to practise vice: he ought to be frugal with his own private fortune, and liberal with public money; he ought never to keep his word to his own disadvantage; he ought not so much to aspire at virtue as at the sembla ce of it; he ought to be apparently merciful, faithful, sincere, and religious, but really the direct opposite; that he cannot possibly practise what are accounted virtues in other men, because necessity of state will often oblige him to act contrary to charity, humanity, and religion; he ought to yield to the various changes of fortune, to de right as often as he can, but not to scruple doing wrong when need requires. I say again far from us be these abominable maxims! Let us obey the precepts of Jesus Christ, and by so doing let us draw down blessings on this nation more pure and perfect than those which we now enjoy.

Christians, if our joy be mixed, it is because our righteousness is mixed. Let us not search for our misfortunes in any other cause. Let us do, when any thing is wanting to complete our joy, what the ancient people of God did, whenever they were conquered. The congregation was assembled, the ephod was put on, the oracle was consulted, inquisition was made from tribe to tribe, from family to family, from house to house, from person to person, who it was, whose sin had caused the loss of the victory, or the loss of a regiment; and when he was discovered, he was put to death. Joshua, after he had met with a repulse before Ai, and had lost thirty-six men, rent his garments, and lay on his face upon the ea th, before the ark of the Lord. In like manner, let us, my brethren, at the remembrance of infected countries, fields of battle covered with carcasses, rivers of blood dying the soil, confused heaps of dead and dying fellow-creatures, new globes of fire flying in the air, let us examine ourselves. Happy if, as in the case just now mentioned, only one crimi

innocent persons! Alas! we are obliged, on the contrary, to lament, that there is hardly one innocent among thousands of the guilty.

Where is the Achan who imbitters the glorious and immortal victories which God grants to Israel? What tribe, what family, what

The blessings we now enjoy, and which Providence bestowed on us so abundantly a few days ago, should inspire us with lasting gratitude; however, my brethren, they are not, they ought not, to be the full accomplishment of our wishes. Such laurels as we as-nal could be found among many thousands of pire at are not gathered in fields of battle. The path to that eminence to which we travel, is not covered with human gore. The acclamations we love are not excited by wars and rumours of wars, the clangour of arms, and the shouting of armed men. Were our pleasure, though not of the pur-house shall be taken? Is it the magistrate? est sort, perfect in its own kind, we should ex- Is it the people? Is it the pastor? Is it the perience a rise in happiness! But can we en- flock? Is it the merchant? Is it the soldier? joy our victories without mourning for the An! my brethren! do you not hear the oracle miseries which procured them! Our triumphs of the Lord answering from the terrible tribuindeed abase and confound our enemies, and nal erected in your own consciences? It is the make them lick the dust; yet these very tri- magistrate; it is the people; it is the pastor; umphs present one dark side to us. Witness it is the flock; it is the merchant; it is the the many wounds which I should make a point soldier. of not opening, were it not a relief to mourners to hear of their sufferings, were it not equitable to declare to those whose sorrows have procured our joy, that we remember them, that we are concerned for them, that we sympathize with them, that we are not so taken up with public joy as to forget private wo. Witness, I say, so many desolate houses among us. Witness this mourning in which so many of us appear to-day. Witness these affection ate Jose hs, who lament the death of their parents. Witness these Marys and Marthas weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. Witness these distressed Davids, who weep as they go, and exclaim, O Absalom my son! my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee! O Absalom my son, my son!' 2 Sam. xviii. 33. Witness these Rachels, who make Rama echo with their cries, resusing to e comforted, because their children are not,' Jer. xaxi. 15.

It is that magistrate, who, being required to have always before his eyes that God by whom kings reign, and that throne before which the greatest monarchs of the world must be judged, is dazzled with his own grandeur, governed by a worldly policy, and has more, at heart to enforce the observation of his own

capricious orders than those rules of eternal rectitude which secure the safety and happiness of a nation,

It is that people who, instead of considering the felicity of that nation whose God is the Lord,' are attempting to be happy independently of God; choosing rather to sacrifice to blind chance than to him, who is the happy God, and who alone dispenses prosperous and adverse circumstances.

It is that minister who, instead of confining his attention to the discharge of all the duties of his office, performs only such parts as acquire him a popular reputation, neglecting private duties, such as friendly and affectionate remonstrances, paternal advice, private charities, secret visits, which characterize the true ministers of the gospel.

It is that congregation which, instead of regarding the word dispensed by us as the word of God, licentiously turns all public ministra

My dear brethren, on whom the hand of God is heavy, ye sorrowful Naomis, ye melancholy Maras, with whom the Almighty has dealt very bitterly, Ruth i. 20, we share your griefs, we mix our tears with yours, we feel all the blows that strike you. O fatal victory!

At the battle of Ramilies, May 23, 1706

O bloody glory! you are not fruits of rightcousness.

tions into ridicule, and under pretence of ingenuity and freedom of thought, encourages infidelity and irreligion; or, at best, imagines that religion consists more in hearing and knowing than in practice and obedience.

It is that soldier who, though he is always at war with death, marching through fires and flames, hearing nothing but the sound of warlike instruments crying to him with a loud voice, Remember you must die, yet frames a morality of his own, and imagines that his profession, so proper in itself to incline him to obey the maxims of the gospel, serves to free him from all obligation to obedience. Ah! this it is, which obscures our brightest | To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.

triumphs; this stains our laurels with blood; this excites lamentations, and mixes them with our songs of praise. Let us scatter these dark clouds. Let us purify our righteousness in order to purify our happiness. Let religion be the bridle, the r le, the soul of all our councils, and so may it procure us unalterable peace, and unmixed pleasure! or rather, as there is no such pleasure on earth, as imperfection is a character essential to human affairs, let us elevate our hearts and minds to nobler objects, let us sigh after happier periods, and let each of us seek true glory in the enjoyment of God. God grant us this grace!



2 SAMUEL Xix. 32-39.

Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old, and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man. And the king said unto Barzillai, come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem. And Barzillai said unto the king, how long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? I am this day fourscore years old; and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat, or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my Lord the king? Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the kingz and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother; but behold thy servant Chimham, let him go over with my lord the king, and do to him what shall seem good unto thee. And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee; and whatsoever thou shalt require of me that will I do for thee. And all the people went over Jordan ; and when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned unto his own place.

WE propose to examine to-day, my breth

ren, how far business, the world, a court, are fit for a young man, and how far they agree with a man in the decline of life. It is a prejudice too common in the world, that there are two ways to heaven, one way for young men, and another way for men in years. Youth is considered as a sort of title to licentiousness, and the most criminal pleasures. Virtue is usually regarded as proper for those who cannot practise vice with a good grace. God forbid such a pernicious maxim should be countenanced in this pulpit! Let us not deceive ourselves, my brethren, the precepts of the moral law are eternal, and fitted to all ages of life. At fifteen, at twenty, at thirty, at forty, at fourscore years of age, what the apostle affirms is true, they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,' Gal. v. 21. These things are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such

like.' There is no dispensation in these cases on account of age At any age they that do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.'

It is, however, clear, that circumstances sometimes change the nature of moral actions; that an action is innocent, when done in some circumstances, which ceases to be so when it is done in different circumstances; and, to come to the design mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, it is clear, that business, the world, a court, to a certain degree. suit a young man, and that they are unfit for a man in the decline of life.

Each part of this proposition, my brethren, is contained in the text, as we are going to show you. Barzillai, by committing his son to king David, and by allowing Chimham to avail himself of the favour of his his prince, teaches us how far business, the world, and a court, become a young man. Barzillai, by wi-hing only to retreat into retirement and silence himself, teaches us how far a court, the world, and business, become an old man; or rather

he teaches us, that they do not become him at all, and that there is a certain time of life when the wise man takes leave of the world. 1. We suppose Barzillai was a good man, and that his example sufficiently proves it. Indeed this man is very little known. I recollect only three places in Scripture where he is spoken of. The first is in the seventeenth chapter of the second book of Samuel There we are told, that Barzillai 'was of the tribe of Gilead, of the city of Rogelim,' ver. 27, and that he was one of those who brought refreshments to David and his court, when he fled from his barbarous son. This passage tells us how he became so dear to David. The second is our text. The third is in the first book of Kings, where David gives this commission to his son Solomon. Show kindness unto the Sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother,' chap. ii. 7. This passage gives us reason to conjecture, or rather it proves, that Chimham was the son of Barzillai; for the commission given by David, when he was dying, to Solomon, certainly refers to these words of our text, Behold thy servant Chimham, let him go over with my lord the king, and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.' Thus, all we know of Barzillai contributes to persuade us that he was a good man; that his example sufficiently proves it; that as he consented that his son should go into the world, and even into the most pompous and dangerous part of it, he thought it might be innocently done. A good father would not have consented that his son should enter on a course of life criminal in itself. If we have deceived ourselves in our notion of Barzillai, it will not affect the nature of our reflections. Our question is this, How far does the world, a court, or business, become a young man? We shall elucidate this question by the following considerations: 1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace. He must be a novice in the world indeed who does not ficnow the solidity of this maxim. He must have reflected very little on the turbulent condition of courtiers, and of all such as are elevated to any superior rank in the world, He must have paid very little attention to the snares which are every where set to disturb their tranquillity; to the envies and jealousies which are excited against them; to the plots which are formed against their happiness; to the reverses of fortune to which they are exposed; to the treachery of such friends as surround them, and to the endless vicissitudes which they experience. In general, a man must be indifferent to peace, at least he must know but little in what it consists, to seek it in pomp and worldly grandeur. I forgive a young man of fifteen or twenty for making such a mistake. At that time of life, young men deserve pity; their eyes are too childish not to be dazzled by a false glare; they have nothen learnt to know appearances from realities by their own experience, or by the experience of others. They do not know that

[ocr errors]

happiness consists in a private condition, a moderate revenue, a few tried friends, a chosen circle, a few relations, business enongh to preserve vigour of mind without fatiguing it, a wisely diricted solitude, moderate studies, in a word, in a happy mediocrity. My brethren, independence is the blessing which deserves to be first of all chosen by us, should God leave to our choice the kind of life which we ought to follow; or if he did not frequently intend by placing us on earth more to exercise our patience than to consummate our felicity. O delicious independence, O inestimable mediocrity! I prefer you before the most glorious sceptre, the best established throne, the most brilliant crown! What are those eminent posts of which the greatest part of mankind are so fond? They are golden chains, splendid punishments, brilliant prisons and dungeons. Happy he, who, having received from Providence blessings sufficient for his rank, easy with his fortune, far from courts and grandeurs, waits with tranquillity for death; and while he enjoys the innocent pleasures of life, knows how to make eternity his grand study, and his principal occupation.

2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that, generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience. Here it is that men usually abandon themselves to their passions, because here it is that they are gratified with the utmost ease. Here it is that man is tempted to consider himself as a being of a particular kind, and infinitely superior to those who crawl among the vulgar. It is here where each learns to play the tyrant in his turn, and where the courtier indemnifies himself for the slavish mortifications to which his prince reduces him, by enslaving all his dependants. Here it is that secret intrigues, underhand practices, bloody designs, dark and criminal plots are formed, of which innocence is usually the victim. Here it is that the most pernicious maxims are in the greatest credit, and the most scandalous examples in the highest reputation. Here it is that every disposition of mind changes, if not its nature,at least its appearance, by the false colouring with which all are disguised. Here it is that every one breathes the venom of flattery, and that every one loves to receive it. Here imagination prostrates itself before frivolous deities, and unworthy idols receive such supreme homage as is due to none but the sovereign God. Here it is that the soul is affected with many a seducing image, the troublesome remembrance of which often wholly engrosses the mind, especially when we wish to nourish it with such meditations as are suited to immortal intelligences. Here a confused noise, an infallible consequence of living in the tumult of the world, gets possession of the mind, and renders it extremely difficult to relish that silent retirement, that abstraction of thought, which are absolutely necessary to self-examination, and to the study of our own hearts. Here it is that men are carried away in spite of themselves by a torrent of vicious exam

ments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim,' 1 Kings xviii. 17, 18. Micaiah was at court; but it was to resist the projects of an ambitious prince, and to say to him, 'I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, chap. xxii. 17. Jehu was at court; but it was to mortify Joram, who asked him, 'Is it peace? What peace," replied he, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many? 2 Kings ix. 22. John the Baptist was at court; but he went thither to tell Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife,' Mark vi. 18.


ples, which, being thought, and called by every body about them illustrious, authorize the ⚫ most criminal actions, and insensibly destroy that tenderness of conscience and dread of sin which are very powerful motives to keep us in the practice of virtue. These general maxims admit of some exception in regard to Chimham. He saw, in the person of his king, the virtues of a pastor, and the excellence of a prophet. David's court was an advantageous school for him on many accounts; but yet was it altogether exempt from all the dangers we have mentioned? O Chimham, Chimham, I will not detain thee in the port, when Providence calls thee to set sail! But that sea with the dangers of which thou art going to engage, has many, many rocks, and among them, alas! there have been innumerable shipwrecks.

Some of these holy men have filled the highest posts, and discharged the most important offices of state; but they have done so with that integrity of mind, and with that pi3 A wise man will never enter a court, or ety and fervour of heart, which would seem accept of an eminent post, without fixed re- incompatible with worldly grandeur, were we solutions to surmount the temptations with not informed, that to the pure all things are which they are accompanied, and without pure, and that God knows how to preserve using proper measures to succeed in his design. the piety of his elect amidst the greatest danFar from us for ever be, my brethren, that dis-gers, when zeal for his glory engages them to position of mind, which, by fixing the eye expose themselves for his sake. Samuel disupon the prince, makes us lose sight of him, charged important offices, he occupied an emiby whom kings reign, and princes decree jus- nent post; but he could render a faithful actice!' Prov. viii. 15. Far from us be such count of his administration, and ventured to an avidity to make our fortunes as to engage face the people with this noble appeal, 'Beus to forget that we have souls to save, and hold here I am, witness against me before the an eternal interest to pursue! Far from us be Lord, and before his anointed; whose ox that desire of elevating ourselves in this have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? world, which debases the dignity of our na- or whom have I defrauded? whom have I opture, and inclines us to practices unworthy of pressed?' 1 Sam. xii. 3, 4. And what is more men whom the God of heaven and earth bas than all this, and what we wish to inculcate called into his family? Those holy men who more than all this, is what he subjoins, ⚫ of are proposed to us for examples, have been whose hand have I received any bribe to blind sometimes at court; and they have sometimes mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it filled the highest offices of state, but they have you.' To which the people replied, 'Thou always made it an inviolable law to set before hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neitheir eyes that God, in the presence of whom ther hast thou taken ought of any man's hand." 'all nations are a drop of a bucket, and as Nehemiah was elevated to high offices, he was the small dust of the balance,' Isa. xl. 15. even a favourite of the king; but he availed Moses was at court; but it was with that he- himself of his elevation to procure the reroical firmness, with that noble pride, with building of Jerusalem, and the restitution of that magnanimity, which became him whom divine worship in the temple. When the ido the Lord of hosts had chosen for his messenger, latrous prince put this question to him, Why and placed at the head of his people. Moses is thy countenance sad? He replied, 'Why was at court; but it was to say to Pharaoh, should not my countenance be sad, when the Let my people go that they may serve me. city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth Let my people go. And if thou refuse to waste and the gates thereof are consumed with let them go, behold, I will smite all thy bor fire?' Nehem. ii. 2, 3. Daniel filled a high ofders with frogs. They shall come into thine fice, even in an idolatrous court; but there he house, and into thy bed-chamber, and upon continued his humble diet; he would not hold thy bed, and into the house of thy servants. his office at the expense of his conscience; Let my people go, or the hand of the Lord amidst the tumult of the world he knew how shall be upon thy cattle, upon thy horses, upon to manage his affairs so as to find time to unthe asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and derstand by books the number of the years' upon the sheep, and there shall be a very predicted by the prophets, to attend to the grievous murrain,' Exod. vii. 16; viii. 2; and condition of Jerusalem, to make supplication ix. 3. Nathan was at court; but it was to with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes." Is say to David,Thou art the man; wherefore there any one of you, my brethren, so much hast thou despised the commandment of the master of himself? Have you courage enough Lord to do evil in his sight?' 2 Sam. xii. 7. to resist so many enemies? Are you able to 9. Elijah was at court; but it was to resist withstand so many temptations, and to escape Ahab, who said to him, Art thou he that all these dangers? Go then, not only to the troubleth Israel?" No, replied he, I have courts of Davids, but to those of the most pronot troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's fligate princes. Go shine as lights in the house, in that ye have forsaken the command-midst of a crooked and perverse nation;' go.



[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »