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be the 'salt of the earth;' rise, not only to the great offices of state, but ascend a throne, take the government and reign.
the sword;' would they have wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented?' Heb. xi. 37. You say, you shall become a martyr, if you execute the elevated office to which you are called. Very well, God calls you to this martyrdom. The first part of our proposition is indisputable. The disagreeables in the lives of courtiers, and of all other persons elevated to eminent posts, ought not to deter any man from accepting an office, when it is probable he may, by discharging it well, do great good to society in general, and to the church in particular.
4. The evils which imbitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and (what may seem a paradox) the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not to discourage those from occupying the highest offices who are capable of doing great good to society and the church.
The first part of this proposition is indisputable. The difficulties which belong to the lives of courtiers, and of all persons elevated to eminent posts, ought not to discourage those who are able to benefit society and the church. It is clear, I think, to all who know the first principles of Christianity, that the design of God in placing us in the world, was not to enable us to follow that kind of life which is the most conformable to our inclinations, though such a kind of life should have nothing in it contrary to the laws of God. God intended to exercise us in a painful state of probation. I allow, virtue has charms of its own, and often brings its reward along with it in this world; but also it often requires us to mortify our dearest passions, and our strongest inclinatior.s. How often, by the heavy afflictions in which piety involves us, is that celebrated expression of an apostle verified, 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,' 1 Cor. xv 19. A good man will consult, when he is choosing a course of life (and you will have I reply, it is presumption, it is a tempting spent this hour well, my brethren, if you re- of God, to expose one's self to danger, when tain only this maxim, and reduce it to prac- no good will come of it. For example, you tice,) a good man, when he is choosing a course know by experience, that if gaming were inof life, will consult not what will render his innocent in itself, it is, however, dangerous to family most illustrious, not what will be most you; that always, when you allow yourself likely to transmit his name to posterity, not to game, you receive some injury, you either what will most advance his fortune, and will play with an avidity of gain too great, or you best gratify his own inclinations, but what will lose all patience with the loss of your money, be most useful to society and religion. Do or, some way or other, your mind is always not say the pleasures of a court are insipid, disconcerted. Leave off gaming then. What the life of a courtier is intolerable, perpetual good do you do to society at large, or to the consultations are burdensome, a multitude of church in particular, by gaming? Were it business is tiresome; ceremonies disgust me; probable, that in future you should always splendid titles give me pain; I like a tranquil escape unhurt, even a probability of suffering life, I prefer obscurity and quiet, I love to cul- is enough to deter you, and you cannot extivate my garden, and to spend much of my pose yourself without a presumptuous tempttime in reading and retirement. Noble effort ing of God. Again, you know, by sad expeof devotion, indeed! to choose temporal tran- rience, that the company you keep, is fatal to quillity as the chief end of your studies and you; that always, when you are in it, you actions! And, pray, what benefit do religion violate the laws of piety, charity, and modesty. and the state derive from your reading your Quit this company then. What good is done books and cultivating your flowers? What! to the state and the church by your frequentis it a question between God and you, whether ing this company. Were it probable that in the course of life that he prescribes to you be future you should receive no damage, the bare disagreeable, whether perpetual consultations probability that you might, ought to induce be troublesome, whether much business fa- you to avoid it. In like manner, you are tigue, whether ceremonies disgust, and whe-convinced, that your opponent, who is, as ther titles be unsatisfying? Is this the dispute well as yourself, a candidate for a certain office, between God and you? Is the question what will execute it as well as you would. The kind of life you prefer? Do you suppose, it office is dangerous, and you fear you have not God had left to the martyrs the choice of what virtue enough to execute it with safety to course they would have taken through life, your salvation. Renounce your pretensions they would have chosen that to which God then. Choose a way of life less dangerous. called them? Would they have preferred, before every other path, that in which they were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with
Let us go a step farther. It is rash, it is tempting God to expose ourselves to difficulties which cannot possibly be surmounted. A
I go farther, and I maintain the second part of the proposition. The snares, which are thick set in high life, and which endanger our salvation, ought not to deter us from accepting high offices, when we can do good to society and the church by executing them. There is some difficulty in this subject, we will endeavour to explain it. Our principal concern is to be saved. Our highest engagement is to avoid every thing that would endanger our salvation. Our first exercise should be diffidence, distrust of ourselves. The son of Sirach has taught us, that he, who loveth danger shall perish therein,' Eccles. iii. 26. What law, then, can oblige us to pursue a course of life, which all assure us is almost impassable to men who would walk in the way of salvation? Is it not presumption, is it not tempting God to expose one's self in this manner?
of a court. You are certain that, if the small number of virtuous men, who fill high offices, were to retire from public business, the state would be abandoned to injustice and oppression, and become the prey of tyrants. You are one of these virtuous characters. You ought then to fill this post, and the difficulties you meet with cannot dispense with your obBligation. I repeat it again, it does not belong to us to choose the way in which it shall be the pleasure of God to save us. It is not our business to single out a particular virtue, and insist on such a course of life as shall exercise it: whether it be a noisy or a silent path, whether it be a frequented or a solitary way, whether it be the practice of public or private virtue. But, say you, I cannot help, while I execute this office, my impatience; I am obliged to give audience to a man who torments ine with tedious and confused harangues in a course of business; I wish to eradicate this evil, and to get rid of this trial of my pa ience, by quitting my place. No, do not get rid of this man; do not quit your place: but take pains with yourself to correct your impatience; try to cool your blood, and regulate your spirits. It is by the way of patience that God will save you. But I shall not have courage to plead all alone for rectitude. I shall have the weakness to sacrifice it, if it should happen at any time not to be supported by others. I will eradicate this evil, and avoid the temptation by quitting my employment. No. Do not quit an employment in which your fluence may be serviceable to the interests of virtue; but take pains with your own heart, and subdue it to the service of rectitude, that you may be able to plead for virtue without a second. But I shall certainly sink under temptation, unless God afford me extraordinary support. Well, ask for extraordinary support then; you have a right to expect it, because the place you fill renders it necessary for the glory of God. Let us finish this article, and let us form a clear notion of what we mean by a calling. That place, in which it is probable, all things considered, we can do most good, is the place to which Providence calls us. To fill that is our calling. This estab lishes our fourth maxim, that the evils which imbitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, the danger of perishing by the ills which accompany human grandeurs, ought not to deter from occupying them such persons as have it in their power to render signal services to the state and the church.
pretence of doing good to the state and the
But, when temptations are surmountable. when God offers to assist us to surmount them, when nothing but our own idleness can prevent our conquering, and when we are able, by exposing ourselves to danger, to serve society and the church; I affirm, that we are then called to expose ourselves, and to meet, resist, and surmount all difficuties. I affirm, in such a case, it is our duty not to avoid, but to approach difficulties, and to take pains to surmount them. A minister of the gospel has more difficulty in his way of salvation than a private person. A private Christian, in general, is responsible only for his own soul; but a minister of the gospel is accountable for the souls of all whom God has committed to his care. Every part of his office is a source of difficulties and trials. If he have great abilities, I fear he will become vain; if he have not, I fear he will envy his superiors. If he be set in some conspicuous place, I fear his feeble eyes will be dazzled with his situation; if he live in obscurity, I fear he will sink into indifference. If he be appointed to speak to the great, I fear he will become pliant and mean; if he be confined to people of ordinary rank, I fear he will become indifferent to their souls, and not take sufficient pains to procure the salvation of them. Snares and temptations every where! Who is sufficient for these things? But what! must a man then bury his talents lest he should abuse them? No. This is not to choose the way by which it is the pleasure of God to save us. It does not belong to us to choose what kind of virtue he shall think fit to exercise. The duty of a Christian is, not to omit the acquisition of knowledge, but to endeavour not to be puffed up with it. It is not to avoid conspicuous places, but to guard against being infatuated with them. It is not to flee from the notice of the great, but to watch against servility and meanly cringing in their presence.
In like manner, you are sure you may be very useful to religion and society by filling a high office. You are aware of the intrigues
Thus we have made a few reflections serving to determine how far the honours and affairs of a court suit a young man. Let us proceed to show that they are improper for an old man. This is the principal design of the text. 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 the dry 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 king; and why should the king recompense 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.' This is the subject of our second part.
Were it proper for me, my brethren, to make a digression from the principal object of our present attention, could not deny myself the pleasure of making an observation of an. other kind Before I spoke of Barzillat, who modestly refused human grandeur. I should speak of the gratitude of David, who, to his praise be it spoken, made him the offer. This latter example deserves consideration, my brethren, were it only for its singularity. Gratitude is very rare among princ s, it is not a virtue at court. Devote yourselves, poor courtiers! I say, devote yourselves sincerely and heartily to earthly princes, devote to them your rest, your fortune, your lives; be lavish of your blood in their service; for their security and glory expose yourselves in the most desperate undertakings, attempt the most bloody sieges and battles; what will you find princes after all your services? Ingrates. Do not expect to meet with a Da id eager to give you substantial proofs of his gratitude, to say to you, 'Come over with me, and I will feed you with me in Jerusalem; to perpetuate his goodness, to transmit it to your posterity and to say to his successor, Show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai, and let them be of those that eat at thy table. How often do partiality and intrigue prevail, in the distribution of royal avours, over reason and equity? How often are the children of those, who, with a generous courage sacrificed their lives for the public good, oliged to beg their bread. How often have they urged in vain the meritorious services of their parents; how often have they without success pro tuced blood yet warm shed for the public safety? How often have they in vain demanded that subsistence from charity, which they had a right to expect from equity? David, distinguished among all believers, distinguishes himself also among all kings Come over Jordan with me,' said he to Barzillai, and I will feed you with me in Jerusalem.'
proceeds from three causes; the insensibility of old age, the misfortune of old age, and the nearness of old age to death. I am fourscore years of age; can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?" This is the insensibility of old age, and the first cause of his refusal.
Why, should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? This is the misfortune of old age, and the second cause of his refusal.
How long have I to live? I pray thee let thy servant return, and let me die in mine own city, and be burie by my father and my mother.' This is the nearness of old age to death, and this is the third cause of his refusal. These are three sources of many reflections.
1. The insensibility of old age is the first cause of the refusal of Barzillai. I am this day fourscore years of age; can I discern between good and evil? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?' This insensibility may proceed either from a principle of wisdom, or from constitution. It may proceed. first, from wisdom. A man, who has experienced the vanity of human grandeur; a man who has often asked himself, of what use is this kind of life? what good comes of this pomp and pleasure? a man, who by frequently reflecting on all he sees and hears, has formed a just notion of man, and of his real wants; a man, whose reiterated meditations have purified his taste, and formed in him a habit of employing himself about things of importance; such a man does not entertain a very high idea of the privilege of living with the great, of eating at their tables, and of participating their pleasures. Only such pleasures as have God immediately for their object, and eternity for their end, can always satisfy. Such pleasures are approved by reason, ripened by age, and such pleasures are satisfactory at all times, and in all stages of life. All other pleasures are fatiguing, and in the end extremely disgustful. Can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? Why should the king recompense me with such a reward?'
A king thus offering grandeurs from a principle of gratitude is an uncommon sight. It is, perhaps, a sight more unusual than that of a man refusing them from a principle of wise moderation. 'How long have I to live,' | replies good Barzillai, ⚫ 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 to my lord the king? 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.' His refusal
But there is also a constitutional insensibility. The sen-es, which transmit pleasures to us, become blunt, and pleasures are blunted with them. Indeed, we sometimes see old people, to the shame of human nature, pretending to rise above the ruins of a decaying body, and trying to support the inconveniences of old age by the pleasures of youth. We sometimes see men, whose relaxed and trembling hands are too feeble to hold a box of dice or a hand of cards, supported by others, and gaming with a part of themselves, as they cannot do so with the whole. We have seen some, who, not being able to go themselves to a play, have caused themselves to be carried thither, exposing their extravagance on a theatre, intended for the exhibition of other scenes, and so acting a real tragedy along with a fictitious one. We have seen some, who having bodies decaying with diseases contracted by youthful passions, or, to use an
emphatical expression of an apostle, having, that is, his legs and feet bow themselves; received within themselves that recompense his grinders,' that is, his teeth, 'cease to perof their error which was meet,' covered with form their functions, because they are few; wounds brought upon themselves by their de those that look out of the windows,' that is, baucheries; we have seen them trying to di- the eyes, are darkened; the doors,' that is, vert the pain of reflecting on the cause of their the ears, shall be shut in the streets; the decline by the absurd method of gazing still daughters of music,' that is, the organs of on the very objects which were first fatal to speech, shall be brought low; the almond their innocence, and by glutting their imagi- tree shall flourish,' that is, the head shall be. nations, now their senses can relish no more. come white with age; the silver cord,' that We have seen men dedicate the last moments is, the spinal marrow, shall be broken; the of life to the god of pleasure, just as they grasshopper,' that is, the stomach, shall be a sacrificed their youth and manhood to the burden; the golden bowl, the brain, shall same deity. We have seen old men, who, too be broken; the pitcher, that is, the lungs, dim-sighted themselves to see the glitter of broken at the fountain; and the wheel,' diamonds and jewels, have taken a pleasure in the heart, shall be broken at the cistern.' A exposing the brilliancy of them to the eyes sad, but natural description, my brethren, of of others; who, not having a body to adorn, the infirmities of old age. A condition very have ornamented a skeleton, and who, lest they unfit for the world and pleasure, for business should be taken for dead corpses, have decked and a court. How long have I to live, that themselves with trinkets fit only for people in I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? the vigour of life. However, these shameful I am this day fourscore years old, and can I phenomena do not destroy our reflection. It discern between good and evil? can thy seris always true, that pleasure loses its point at vant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I a certain age. If the old men, of whom we hear any more the voice of singing men and have been speaking, yet love pleasure, it is singing women?' not taste that tempts them. Like the inhabitants of the most abominable city that ever disgraced the world, they weary themselves, though they were some time ago struck blind, to find the door, the door of Lot, towards which their brutal passions had given a direction to their bodies, before they lost their sight. They act thus, because, though musical entertainments no more delight their ears, yet they keep them from hearing the cries of conscience, which would rend them asunder. They act thus, because, though they have only a confused sight of the charms of worldly objects, yet these objects serve, like a wall, to keep out of sight a future world, a glimmer ing of which would confound and distract them. However, the irregularity of the heart of an old man does not alter the infirmities of his body. It is always true, that at a certain time of life,we acquire a constitutional, organical insensibility. Isaac, that good old man, arrives at a very advanced age, but his eyes are become dim, he cannot distinguish one of his children from another, he mistakes the hands of Jacob for those of Esau, 'the voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.' He cannot distinguish vension from goat's flesh. He confers that benediction on the youngest which he intended for the eldest. If nature grants to a few of mankind the privilege of a very long life, the pri vilege is sold, and a part of the pleasure of living must be given for the purchase; objects of pleasure must retire, and senses to be pleased with these objects not unfrequently retire first. Before this earthly house falls by its own frailty, to use an expression of the Wise Man, the years arrive in which we are obliged to say, we have no pleasure.' Eccles, xii. 1, &c. Then, according to the description of the same author, the sun, the moon, the stars, are darkened, and the clouds return not after the rain. The keepers of his house,' that is, the hands, tremble; his strong men,
2. The infirmities of old age are a second reason of the refusal of Barzillai. Why should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? Certainly an old man ought to be treated with the greatest respect and veneration. The Scripture gives us a precept, which humanity, to say nothing of religion, should induce us to obey: Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man,' Lev. xix. 32. What can claim our patient attention so much as a man stooping under the weight of age and infirmities? What duty can be more indispensable than that of rendering to the infirmities of old age such assistance as these old people once rendered to the helplessness of our intancy? Particularly, what can be more venerable than an old man, who has spent his youth in procuring those benefits to society which his old age now hardly suffers him to enjoy? What more just than to respect a soldier grown gray in his arms, whose venerable silver head has been preserved by miracle? Who more worthy of esteem than an ancient magistrate, whose life has been devoted to the felicity of the state? What more respectable than an old minister of the gospel, whose spirits have been exhausted in studying and preaching the truth? To people of this character the words of the Wise Man belong, the hoary head is a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness,' Prov. xvi. 31.
Whatever idea Barzillai formed of the equity and benevolence of David, he did justice to himself. He well knew that a man of eighty would be a burden to this good king. Why should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? A man at this time of life too strikingly exhibits human infirmities to give pleasure in circles of company, where such mortifying ideas are either quite forgotten, or slightly remembered. The tokens of death, which an old man carries about with him, excite reflections too dismal to contribute to the.
pleasure of a company, which endeavour to sweeten life by innocent recreations, or by others which concupiscence adds to those of religion, Involuntary complaints and sighs but ill accord with musical instruments and the vocal melody of gay assemblies. Pressing infirmities, continual fears and cares, the anticipated dying of a man of fourscore, ill assort with sumptuous tables. The last years of my life, all heavy, dull, and frozen, disconcert a festival celebrated by people full of fire, vivacity, and vigour. Barzillai felt his frailty, and, though he was fully convinced that David had a fund of goodness sufficient to bear with him, yet he would not abuse his politeness. 'How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? Why should the king recompense me with such a reward? Why should thy servant be yet a burden to my lord the king?
Wo be to him who has rendered worldly pleasures necessary to himself in old age He will not find a David every where to offer them to him. Here, my brethren, I fear sinning against my own principles; I fear being accused of wanting such veneration for the aged as I just now said was their due; I fear I shall be taxed with despising the ancients, so worthy of our attention and regard. However, I must mention a few reflections tending to justify the conduct of Barzillai, and to unfold the spirit and sense of the text. these reflections, too, for other reasons; in geI must make neral for the benefit of this whole assembly; for your sakes, in particular, our aged hearers, that you may be induced, by the idea of a world that avoids you, to return to God, who opens his arms to receive you; for your sakes, also, young people, that you may be prevailed on to amass pleasures in your youth which will remain with you in old age. Wo be to him, I say, who renders worldly pleasures necessary to his old age! Happy, on the contrary, he who has laid up treasure for time to come! Happy the man who has prepared for himself pleasures for a time when the pleasures of the world are insipid, and when he himself is intolerable to those who enjoy them! Happy he who, instead of pining after the circles of the gay and the great, has no other desire than that of making his court to the King of kings! Happy he who, instead of attempting to please himself with the voices of singing men and singing women,' delights himself with pious books and holy meditations! Happy the man who, when he becomes a burden to society, knows, like Barzillai, how to relish the pleasure of retirement and solitude! Happy he who, instead of pursuing a fleeting phantom of felicity and glory, knows how to direct his sighs to the bosom of that God in whom substantial glory and true felicity dwell, objects which never elude his search! Happy he whose eyes, however weakened by age, are not become too dim-sighted to see the gate of header of the universe, and his age alone renders Ven! Happy the man whose faultering voice him famous. The most obscure life becomes and feeble hands can yet address this prayer conspicuous, when it is drawn out to this to God, and say with a prophet, Cast me not length. It is spoken of as a prodigy, it is
THE LIVES OF COURTIERS.
off in the time of old age, forsake me not 427 when my strength faileth, Ps. lxxix. 9.
in his mind the nearness of old age to death. 3. In fine, my brethren, Barzillai revolved This was the principal cause of his refusal. How long have I to live? These words imply prospect, how long have I yet to live? I a retrospect, how long have I lived? and a am this day fourscore years years old. 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 my mother.' This was a very reasonable request, my brethren, both in regard to the principle laid down, and the consequence derived from it. The principle is, that there is very little distance between old age and death. So little, that the good enough for him to pass over Jordan with the old man thought that there was but just time funeral. How long have I to live? I am king, to return back, and to prepare for his this day fourscore years old. I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die Let thy servant in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and my mother. Was ever principle better founded? to overset and break the frame of a man of How little is necessary puff of wind! this age? What is necessary? A vapour! A
and let us not behold this spectacle without Let us pause here a moment, my brethren, fourscore years appears to me a most abunreflecting on the vanity of this life. A life of dant source of reflections on human frailty. True it is, that diseases which consume us, sudden deaths, which cry to us, children of men, return,' and which cut off numbers before they have lived half their days, fires, shipwrecks, assassinations, epidemical diseases, all these are very proper to teach us wha little account we ought to make of the present life. accidents happen, we generally take care to But, how frequently soever these sad harden ourselves against any apprehensions of danger from them, by considering them as extraordinary events, by hoping we shall escape them, and by flattering ourselves that we shall arrive at a good old age.
age! But how many years will elapse beWell! you are to arrive at this good old fore you do arrive at it? No, no, I repeat it again, nothing is more proper to discover our frailty. Should a thousand uncommon circumstances concur, should a vigorous constitution, a wise and cautious course of action, and a proper choice of diet, unite to preserve you to this age; should you escape water and fire, and thieves, and earthquakes, the frailty of infancy, the impetuosity of youth, and the infirmities of advanced age; should you by a kind of miracle arrive at the utmost limits prescribed to mankind, what then? Must extends to a century. When a man has lived you not presently die? The longest life seldom a hundred years in the world, he is the won