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Our reason is not ours. While we possess it, we are subject to distractions, to absence of thought, to suspension of intelligence, which render us entirely incapable of reflection; and, what is still more mortifying to human nature, they whose geniuses are the most transcendent and sublime, sometimes become either melancholy or mad; like Nebuchadnezzar they sink into beasts and browse like them on the herbage of the field.
Our health is not ours. The catalogue of those infirmities which destroy it (I speak of those which we know, and which mankind by a study of five or six thousand years have discovered), makes whole volumes. A catalogue of those which are unknown, would probably make yet larger volumes.
Our life is not ours. Winds, waves, heat, cold, aliments, vegetables, animals, nature, and each of its component parts, conspire to deprive us of it. Not one of those who have entered this church, can demonstrate that he shall go out of it alive. Not one of those who compose this assembly, even of the youngest and strongest, can assure himself of one year, one day, one hour, one moment of life. None of us liveth to himself; for, if we live we are the Lord's.
Farther, 'No man dieth to himself. If we die, we are the Lord's.' How absolute soever the dominion of one man over another may be, there is a moment in which both are on a level; that moment comes when we die. Death delivers a slave from the power of a tyrant, under whose rigour he has spent his life in groans. Death terminates all the relations that subsist between men in this life, But the relation of dependance, which subsists between the Creator and his creatures, is an eternal relation. That world into which we enter when we die, is a part of his empire, and is as subject to his laws as that into which we entered when we were born. During this life, the Supreme Governor has riches and poverty, glory and ignominy, cruel tyrants and clement princes, rains and droughts, raging tempests and refreshing breezes, air wholesome and air infected, famine and plenty, victories and defeats, to render us happy or miserable. After death, he has absolution and condemnation, a tribunal of justice and a tribunal of mercy, angels and devils, a river of pleasure and a lake burning with fire and brimstone,' hell with its horrors and heaven with its happiness, to render us happy or miserable as he pleases.
These reflections are not quite sufficient to make us feel all our dependance. Our vanity is mortified, when we remember, that what we enjoy is not ours: but it is sometimes, as it were, indemnified by observing the great means that God employs to deprive us of our enjoyments. God has, in general, excluded this extravagant motive to pride. He has attached our felicity to one fibre, to one caprice, to one grain of sand, to objects the least likely, and seemingly the least capable, of influencing our destiny.
On what is the high idea of yourself founded? On your genius? And what is necessary to reduce the finest genius to that
state of melancholy or madness, of which I just now spoke! Must the earth quake? Must the sea overflow its banks? Must the heavens kindle into lightning and resound in thunder? Must the elements clash, and the powers of nature be shaken? No; there needs nothing but the displacing of one little fibre in your brain!
On what is the high idea of yourself founded? On that self-complacence which fortune, rank, and pleasing objects, that surround you, seem to contribute to excite? And what is necessary to dissipate your selfcomplacence? Must the earth tremble? Must the sea overflow its banks? Must heaven arm itself with thunder and lightning? Must all nature be shaken? No; one caprice is sufficient. An appearance, under which an object presents itself to us, or rather, a colour, that our imagination lends it, banishes selfcomplacence, and lo! the man just now elated with so much joy is fixed in a black, a deep despair!
On what is the lofty idea of yourself founded? On your health? But what is necessary to deprive you of your health? Earthquakes? Armies? Inundations? Must nature return to its chaotic state? No; one grain of sand is sufficient! That grain of sand, which in another position was next to nothing to you, and was really nothing to your felicity, becomes in its present position, a punishment, a martyrdom, a hell!
People sometimes speculate on the nature of those torments, which divine justice reserves for the wicked. They are less concerned to avoid the pains of hell, than to discover wherein they consist. They ask, what fuel can supply a fire that will never be extinguished. Vain researches! The principle in my text is sufficient to give me frightful ideas of hell. We are in a state of entire dependance on the Supreme Being; and to repeat it again, one single grain of sand, which is nothing in itself, may become in the hands of the Supreme Being, a punishment, a martyrdom, a hell, in regard to us. What dependance! Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's.' This is the primitive condition of a Christian.
II. Our text points out the engagements of a Christian. Let us abridge our reflections. Remark the state in which Jesus Christ found us; what he performed to deliver us from it; and under what conditions we enter on and enjoy this deliverance.
1. In what state did Jesus Christ find us, when he came into our world? I am sorry to say the affected delicacy of the world, which increases as its irregularities multiply, obliges me to suppress part of a metaphorical deseription, that the Holy Spirit has given us in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite,' says he to the church. When thou wast born no eye pitied thee, to do any thing unto thee, but thou wast cast out in the open air, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, and I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee,
and entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine,' ver. 3, &c.
Could our freedom have been procured by a few emotions of benevolence, or by an act of supreme power? In order to deliver us from them; to terminate our sorrows he must carour griefs, it was necessary for him to bear ry them (according to the language of a prophet), to deliver us from the strokes of divine justice he must be 'stricken and smitten of God,' Isa. liii. 4. I am aware that one of the most deplorable infirmities of the human mind, is to become insensible to the most affecting objects by becoming familiar with them. The glorified saints, we know, by contemplating the sufferings of the Saviour of the world, behold objects that excite eter
Let us leave the metaphor, and let us confine our attention to the meaning. When Jesus Christ came into the world, in what state did he find us? Descended from a long train of ancestors in rebellion against the laws of God, fluctuating in our ideas, ignorant of our origin and end, blinded by our prejudices, infatuated by our passions, having no hope, and being without God in the world,' Eph. ii. 12, condemned to die, and reserved for eternal flames. From this state Jesus Christ delivered us and brought us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God,' Rom. viii. 21, in order to enable us to par-nal adorations of the mercy of him, 'who ticipate the felicity of the blessed God, by making us partakers of the divine nature,' 2 Pet. i. 4. By a deliverance so glorious, does not the Deliverer obtain peculiar rights over
loved them, and washed them from their
Christian, and fix thine eyes on the mercy-
Remark, farther, on what conditions Jesus Christ has freed you from your miseries, and you will perceive, that 'ye are not your What means the morality that Jesus Christ enjoined in his gospel? What vows were made for each of you at your baptism? What hast thou promised at the Lord's table? In one word, to what authority didst thou submit by embracing the gospel? Didst thou to Jesus Christ, Lord! I will be partly say thine, and partly mine own? To thee I will submit the opinions of my mind; but the ir- nishing, I had almost said, the incredible Revolve in thy meditation the astoregular dispositions of my heart I will reserve history of thy Saviour's love. Go to Bethto myself. I will consent to renounce my lehem, and behold him 'who upholdeth all vengeance but thou shalt allow me to retain things by the word of his power' (I use the my Delilah, and my Drusilla. For thee I language of an apostle), him, who thought will quit the world and dissipating pleasures: it no usurpation of the rights of the Deity to but thou shalt indulge the visionary and be ' equal with God;' behold him humbling capricious flow of my humour. On a Chris- himself,' (I use here the words of St. Paul, tian festival I will rise into transports of Heb. i. 3; Phil. ii. 6. His words are more devotion; my countenance shall emit rays of emphatical still.) Behold him annihilated ;“ a divine flame; my eyes shall sparkle with for, although the child, who was born in a seraphic fire; 'my heart and my flesh shall stable, and laid in a manger, was a real being, cry out for the living God,' Ps. lxxxiv. 2; yet he may seem to be annihilated in regard but, when I return to the world, I will sink to the degrading circumstances, which veiled into the spirit of the men of it; I will adopt and concealed his natural dignity: behold their maxims, share their pleasures, immerse him annihilated by 'taking upon him the myself in their conversation; and thus I will form of a servant. Follow him through the be alternately cold and hot,' Rev. iii. 15, a whole course of his life; he went about Christian and a heathen, an angel and a devil. doing good,' Acts x. 38, and expose himself Is this your idea of Christianity? Undoubt in every place to inconveniences and miseedly it is that, which many of our hearers ries, through the abundance of his benehave formed; and which they take too much volence and love. Pass to Gethsemane; bepains to prove, by the whole course of their hold his agony; see him as the Redeemer of conversation. But this is not the idea which mankind contending with the Judge of the the inspired writers have given us of Chris- whole earth; an agony in which Jesus resisttianity; it is not that which, after their ex-ed with only prayers and supplications, ample, we have given you. Him only I acknowledge for a true Christian, who is 'not his own,' at least, who continually endeavours to eradicate the remains of sin, that resist the empire of Jesus Christ. Him alone I acknowledge for a true Christian, who can say with St. Paul, although not in the same degree, yet with equal sincerity, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,' Gal. xi. 20.
Consider, thirdly, what it cost Jesus Christ to deliver you from your wretched state.
strong crying and tears,' Heb. v. 7; an agony, preparatory to an event still more terrible, the bare idea of which terrified and troubled him, made his sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground,' Luke xxii. 44, and produced this prayer, so fruitful in controversies in the schools, and so penetrating and affecting, so fruitful in motives to obedience, devotion, and gratitude, in truly Christian hearts; 'O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,”
Messias exinaniendus, at ei nihil supersit. i. e, quas Videtur hic alludere ad Dan. ix. 26. Ubi dicitur in nihilum sit redigendus, Poli Synops, in loc.
belong to the master, who distributes them; who distributes them only for our good; who knows afflictions by experience; whose love inclines him to terminate our sufferings; and who continues them from the same principle of love, that inclines him to terminate them, when we shall have derived those advantages from them, for which they were sent. During the persecutions of the church, it is delightful to belong to a guardian, who can curb our persecutors, and control ever tyrant; who uses them for the execution of his own counsels; and who will break them in pieces with the rod of iron, when they can no longer contribute to the sanctifying of his servants.
Under a sense of our infirmities, when we are terrified with the purity of that morality, the equity of which we are obliged to own, even while we tremble at its severity, it is delightful to belong to a Judge, who does not exact his rights with the utmost rigour; who 'knoweth our frame,' Psa. ciii. 14, who pities our infirmities; and who assureth us, that he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax,' Matt. xii. 20.
When our passions are intoxicated in those fatal moments, in which the desire of possessing the objects of our passions wholly occupies our hearts, and we consider them as our paradise, our gods, it is delightful, however incapable we may be of attending to it, to belong to a Lord who restrains and controls
Matt. xxvi. 44. Go yet farther, Christian! and, after thou hast seen all the sufferings, which Jesus Christ endured in going from the garden to the cross; ascend Calvary with him stop on the summit of the hill, and on that theatre behold the most astonishing of all the works of Almighty God. See this Jesus, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person,' Heb. i. 3, see him stripped, fastened to an accursed tree, confounded with two thieves, nailed to the wood, surrounded with executioners and tormentors, having lost, during this dreadful period, that sight of the comfortable presence of his Father, which constituted all his joy, and being driven to exclaim, My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me? Matt. xxvii. 40. But behold him, amidst all these painful sufferings, firmly supporting his patience by his love, resolutely enduring all these punishments from those motives of benevolence, which first engaged him to submit to them, ever occupied with the prospect of saving those poor mortals, for whose sake he descended into this world, fixing his eyes on that world of believers, which his cross would subdue to his government, according to his own saying,I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,' John xii. 32. Can we help feeling the force of that motive, which the Scripture proposes in so many places, and so very emphatically in these words, 'The love of Christ constraineth us,' 2 Cor. v. 14, that is to say, en-us, because he loves us; and who refuses to gages and attaches us closely to him? The love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.' Yea 'the love of Christ forceth us,' when we think what he has done for us. III. My third article, which should treat of the inclination of a Christian, is naturally contained in the second, that is, in that which treats of his engagements. To devote ourselves to a master, who has carried his love to us so far; to devote ourselves to him by fear and force; to submit to his laws, because he has the power of precipitating those into hell, who have the audacity to break them; to obey him on this principle only, this is a disposition of mind as detestable as disobedience itself, as hateful as open rebellion. The same arguments which prove that a Christian is not his own by engagement, prove that he is not his own by inclination. When, therefore, we shall have proved that this state is his felicity also, we shall have finished the plan of this discourse.
IV. Can it be difficult to persuade you on this article? Stretch your imaginations. Find, if you can, any circumstance in life, in which it would be happier to reject Christianity than to submit to it.
Amidst all the disorders and confusions, and (so to speak) amidst the universal chaos of the present world, it is delightful to belong to the Governor, who first formed the world, and who has assured us, that he will display the same power in renewing it, which he displayed in creating it.
In the calamities of life, it is delightful to
grant us what we so eagerly desire, because we would either preclude those terrible regrets, which penitents feel after the commission of great sins, or those more terrible torments, that are inseparable from final impenitence.
Under a recollection of our rebellions, it is delightful to belong to a parent, who will receive us favourably when we implore his clemency; who sweetens the bitterness of our remorse; who is touched with our regrets; who wipes away the tears, that the remembrance of our backslidings makes us shed; who 'spareth us, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,' Mal. iii. 17.
In that empty void, into which we are of ten conducted, while we seem to enjoy the most solid establishments, the most exquisite pleasures, and the most brilliant honours, it is delightful to belong to a patron, who reserves for us objects far better suited to our original excellence, and to the immensity of our desires. To live to Jesus Christ then, is the felicity of a Christian.
But, if it be a felicity to belong to Jesus Christ while we live, it is a felicity incomparably greater to belong to him when we die. We will conclude this meditation with this article, and it is an article, that I would endeavour above all others to impress on your hearts, and to engage you to take home to your houses. But, unhappily, the subject of this article is one of those, which generally make* the least impression on the minds of Christians. I know a great many Christians, who
The regimen of the verb must be determined here by
The subject makes; or those subjects make.'
logic reathir than syntax. See Sutcliffe's Grammar, Baldwin's edition, page 110.
the sword' indifferently, Rom. xiii. 4, like another Levi, against his brother, and against his friend, and to merit the praise that was given to that holy man. He said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children,' Deut. xxiii. 19. He ought to involve his eyes in a thick mist, through which it would be impossible for him to distinguish from the rest of the crowd, persons for whom nature so powerfully pleads.
by menaces, and to corrupt them by promises; and judges have been known to prostrate their souls before these tyrants, and to pay the same devoted deference to maxims of ty ranny, that is due to nothing but an authority tempered with equity. A judge on his tribunal ought to fear none but him whose sword is committed to him. He ought to be not only a defender of truth, he ought also to become a martyr for it, and confirm it with his blood, were his blood necessary to confirm it.
'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," Matt. xi. 15. There is a primitive justice essential to moral beings: a justice independent of the will of any Superior Being; because there are certain primitive and essential} relations between moral beings, which belong to their nature. As, when you suppose a square, you suppose a being that has four sides; as, when you suppose a body, you suppose a being, from which extent is inseparable, and independent of any positive will of a Superior Being; so when you suppose a benefit, you suppose an equity, a justice, a fitness, in gratitude, because there is an essential relation between gratitude and benefit; and the same may be said of every moral obligation.
2. A judge sells truth,' when he suffers himself to be dazzled with the false glare of the language of him who pleads against justice. Some counsellors have the front to affirm a maxim, and to reduce it to practice, in direct opposition to the oaths they took when they were invested with their character. The maxim I mean is this; as the business of a judge is to distinguish truth from falsehood, so the business of a counsellor is, not only to place the rectitude of a cause in a clear light, but also to attribute to it all that can be invented by a man expert in giving sophistry the colours of demonstration and evidence. To suffer himself to be misled by the ignes fatui of eloquence, or to put on the air of being convinced, either to spare himself the trouble of discussing a truth, which the artifice of the pleader envelopes in obscurity; or to reward the orator in part for the pleasure he has afforded him by the vivacity and politeness of his harangue: each of these is a sale of truth, a sacrificing of the rights of widows and orphans, to a propriety of gesture, a tour of expression, a figure of rhetoric. 3. A judge sells truth, when he yields to the troublesome assiduity of an indefatigable solicitor. The practice of soliciting the judges is not the less irregular for being authorized by custom. When people avail themselves of that access to judges, which, in other cases belongs to their reputation, their titles, or their birth, they lay snares for their innorence. A client ought not to address his judges, except in the person of him, to whom he has committed his cause, imparted his grounds of action, and left the making of the most of them. To regard solicitations instead of reproving them; to suffer himself to be carried away with the talk of a man, whom the avidity of gaining his cause inflames, inspires subtle inventions, and dictates emphatical expressions, is, again, to sell truth.'
4. A judge sells truth, when he receives presents. Thou shalt not take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous,' Deut. xvi. 19. God gave this precept to the Jews.
The more perfect an intelligent being is, the more intelligence is detached from prejudices; the clearer the ideas of an intelligent mind are, the more fully will it perceive the opposition and the relation, the justice and the injustice, that essentially belong to the nature of moral beings. In like manner, the more perfection an intelligence has, the more does it surmount irregular motions of the passions; and the more it approves justice, the more will it disapprove injustice; the more it is inclined to favour what right, the more will it be induced to avoid what is wrong.
5. A judge makes a sale of truth, when he is terrified at the power of an oppressor. It has been often seen in the most august bodies, that suffrages have been constrained by the tyranny of some, and sold by the timidity of others. Tyrants have been known to attend, either in their own persons, or in those of their emissaries, in the very assemblies which were convened on purpose to maintain the rights of the people, and to check the progress of tyranny. Tyrants have been seen to endeavour to direct opinions by signs of their hands, and by motions of their eyes; they have been known to intimidate judges
God is an intelligence, who possesses all perfections; his ideas are perfect images of objects; and on the model of his all objects were formed. He sees, with perfect exactness, the essential relations of justice and injustice. He is necessarily inclined, though without constraint, and by the nature of his perfections, to approve justice, and to disapprove injustice; to display his attributes in procuring happiness to the good, and misery to the
In the present economy, a part of the reasons of which we discover, while some of the reasons of it are hidden in darkness, God does not immediately ditsinguish the cause that is founded on equity, from that which is grounded on iniquitous principles. This office he has deposited in the hands of judges; be has intrusted them with his power; he has committed his sword to them; he has placed them on his tribunal; and said to them, 'Ye are gods,' Ps. lxxxii. G. But the more august the tribunal, the more inviolable the power, the more formidable the sword, the more sacred the office, the more rigorous will their punishments be, who, in any of the ways we have mentioned, betray the interests of that truth and justice with which they are intrusted. Some judges have defiled the tribunal of the Judge of all the earth,' Gen. xviii. .
on which they were elevated. Into the bow-those who offered to draw them out of the els of the innocent they have thrust that abysses into which they had plunged themsword which was given them to maintain selves. Represent to yourselves this orator maorder, and to transfix those who subvert it. king remonstrances, that would now-a-days That supreme power, which God gave them, pass for firebrands of sedition, and saying to they have employed to war against that God his countrymen, Will ye then eternally walk himself who vested them with it, and him they backward and forward in your public places, have braved with insolence and pride. 'I saw asking one another, what news? Is Philip under the sun the place of judgment, that dead? says one. No, replies another; but he wickedness was there; and the place of right- is extremely ill. Ah! what does the death of eousness, that iniquity was there; and I said Philip signify to you, gentlemen? No soonin mine heart, God shall judge the righteous er would Heaven have delivered you from and the wicked. If thou seest the oppression him, than ye yourselves would create another of the poor, and the violent perverting of Philip."* Imagine you hear this orator blamjudgment and justice in a province, marvel ing the Athenians for the greatness of their not at the matter; for He, that is higher enemy: For my part, gentlemen, I protest than the highest, regardeth it, and there be I could not help venerating Philip, and tremhigher than they. Be wise now therefore, bling at him, if his conquests proceeded from Oye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the his own valour, and from the justice of his earth. Buy the truth, and sell it not,' Eccl. arms; but whoever closely examines the true iii. 16; v. 3; Ps. ii. 10. cause of the fame of his exploits, will find it in our faults; his glory originates in our shame.'t Represent to yourselves this orator plunging a dagger into the hearts of the perfidious Athenians, even of them, who indulged him with their attention, and loaded him with their applause. War, immortal war, with every one who dares here to plead for Philip. You must absolutely despair of conquering your enemies without, while you suffer them to have such eager advocates within. Yet you are arrived at this pitch of, what shall I call it? imprudence, or ignorance. I am often ready to think, an evil genius possesses you. You have brought yourselves to give these miserable, these perfidious wretches a hearing, some of whom dare not disown the character I give them. It is not enough to hear them, whether it be envy, or malice, or an itch for satire, or whatever be the motive, you order them to mount the rostrum, and taste a kind of pleasure as often as their outrageous railleries and cruel calumnies rend in pieces reputations the best established, and attack virtue the most respectable.'t Such an orator, my brethren, merits the highest praise. With whatever chastisements God may correct a people, he has not determined their destruction, while he preserves men, who are able to show them in this manner, the means of preventing it.
V. This precept of Solomon, Sell not the truth,' regards the politician, who, by a timid circumspection, uses an artful concealment, when he ought to probe state wounds to the bottom, and to discover the real authors of its miseries, and the true causes of its decline. In these circumstances, it is not enough to mourn over public calamities in secret; they must be spoken of with firmness and courage; the statesman must be the mouth and the voice of all those oppressed people, whose only resources are prayers and tears; he must discover the fatal intrigues that are whispered in corners against his country; unveil the mysterious springs of the conduct of him, who, under pretence of public benefit, seeks only his own private emolument; he must publish the shame of him, who is animated with no other desire, than that of building his own house on the ruins of church and state; he must arouse him from his indolence, who deliberates by his own fire-side, when imminent dangers require him to adopt bold, vigorous, and effectual measures; he must, without scruple, sacrifice him, who himself sacrifices to his own avarice or ambition, whole societies; he must fully persuade other senators, that, if the misfortunes of the times require the death of any, it must be that of him who kindled the fire, and not of him who is ready to shed the last drop of his blood to extinguish it. To keep fair with all, on these occasions, and by a timid silence, to avoid incurring the displeasure of those who convulse the state, and of those who cry for vengeance against them, is a conduct not only unworthy of a Christian, but unworthy of a good patriot. Silence then is an atrocious crime, and to suppress truth is to sell it, to betray it.
VI. Finally, the last order of persons, in terested in the words of my text, consists of pastors of the church. And who can be more strictly engaged not to sell truth than the ministers of the God of truth? A pastor should have this precept in full view in our public assemblies, in his private visits, and particularly when he attends dying people.
1. In our public assemblies all is consecratHow does an orator merit applause, my ed to truth. Our churches are houses of the brethren, when, being called to give his suf- living and true God. These pillars are pilfrage for the public good, he speaks with that lars of truth,' 1 Tim. iii. 15. The word, that fire, which the love of his country kindles, we are bound to announce to you, 'is truth,' and knows no law but equity, and the safety John xvii. 17. Wo be to us, if any human of the people! With this noble freedom the consideration be capable of making us disheathens debated; their intrepidity astonish-guise that truth, the heralds of which we ought es only those who are destitute of courage to imitate them. Represent to yourselves Demosthenes speaking to his masters and judges, and endeavouring to save them in spite of themselves, and in spite of the punishments which they sometimes inflicted on
to be; or if the fear of showing you a disagreeable light, induces us to put it under a bushel!' True, there are some mortifying
* Prem. Philipiq.