« EelmineJätka »
rigour; if he waited only for the first offence his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. we commit, to plunge us into the abyss reserved When I say to the righteous, that he shall for the wicked? Where would be the Jobs, surely live: if he trust to his righteousness, and the Moseses, the Davids, and all those distin- commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not guished offenders, whose memory the Holy be remembered; but for his iniquity that he Spirit has immortalized, to comfort us under hath committed he shall die,” Ezek. iii. xviij. our falls? One of the greatest motives to com- xxxiii. 12, 13. Such is the morality of our ply with a law is the lenity of the legislator: 1 Scriptures. Such is the vocation of the faithwill cite on this subject a passage of Justin ful. It is not enough that we keep, for a few Martyr.* “How could Plato,” says he, "cen- years, the commandments of God; we must sure Homer for ascribing to the Gods placa- continue to keep them. It is not enough that bility by the oblation of victims' Those who we triumph for awhile over the old man, we have this hope, are the very persons who en- must triumph to the end; and if we have wandeavour to recover themselves by repentance dered by weakness for a season, we must steadand reformation: whereas, when they consider fastly return to piety and religion. the Deity as an inexorable being, they abandon 2. Consider on what principle the Scripture the reins to corrupt propensities, having no characters founded their assurance of salvation. expectation of effect from repentance." Was it on some speculative notions On some
Distinguish then the virtue we enforce from confused systems No: it has been on the one of the principal means of its acquisition. principle of persevering in the profession of If you ask me what is perseverance? I answer, their religion, and in the practice of virtue. I it is that disposition of mind which enables us, will adduce but one example, which seems to as I have more than once affirmed, and which me above all exception: it is he, who, of all the is still necessary to repeat; it is that disposi- sacred authors, has furnished us with the most tion of mind which enables us, all things con- conclusive arguments on the doctrine of assusidered, to give God the preference over every rance of salvation, and the inamissibility of sensible object, that divine love may predomi- grace; I would say, the example of St. Paul. nate in our heart over every other love. If He never doubted but that he should always you ask me, what are the surest means of ac- persevere in piety, and in the profession of requiring that disposition? I say, it is to watch ligion. The love of God was so deeply rooted against every temptation to which you may be in the heart of this apostle, as to remove all exposed. I say, in order to preserve the habit scruple on that head. When, however, St. of Christianity, you must use your utmost en- Paul, by abstraction of mind, considered himdeavours never to do any thing incompatible self as having lost the disposition which we with its design.
shall call the habit of Christianity;-when he II. Having removed the ambiguity of the term considered himself as falling under the tempperseverance, we shall prove in the second arti- tations which exposed him to the flesh, to hell, cle that we cannot be saved without this virtue. and the world;—what did he expect consider
1. The passage we have explained is not ing his state in this point of view? What did solitary. It is a passage which coincides with he expect after the acquisition of so much knowmany other texts of Scripture. The truth, re- ledge; after preaching so many excellent sersulting from the sense here given, is not a truth mons; after writing so many excellent and substantiated solely by the text. It is an ex- catholic epistles; after working so many miraplanation which a great number of express cles; after achieving so many labours; after entexts establish beyond the possibility of doubt. countering so many dangers; after enduring so Weigh the following: “Let him that standeth many sufferings to exalt the glory of Christ; take heed lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12. “Thou after setting so high an example to the church standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but What did he expect after all this? Paradiso? fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, The crown of righteousness? No: he expected take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold, hell and damnation. Did he expect that his therefore, the goodness and the severity of God: past virtues would obtain the remission of his on them which fall severity; but towards the present defects. No: he expected that his past goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: virtues would aggravato his present faults. “I otherwise thou also shalt be cut off,” Rom. xi. count not myself to have apprehended,” Phil. 20—22. “I have heard the voice of the words iii. 13. “But I keep under my body, and of this people, which they have spoken unto bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, thee: they have well said all that they have when I have preached unto others, I myself spoken. O that there were such a heart in should be a cast-away,” 1 Cor. ix. 27. In what them, that they would fear me, that it might situation did he place himself to lay hold of be well with them, and their children for ever," the crown of righteousness, and to obtain the Deut. v. 28, 29. “He that endureth unto the prize! He placed himself at the close of his end shall be saved,” Matt. x. 22. “Hold that course. It was at the termination of life, that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy this athletic man exclaimed, “I have fought a crown," Rev. iii. 11. “Thou son of man, say good fight, I have finished my course, I have unto the children of thy people, the righteous- kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for ness of the righteous shall not deliver him in me a crown of righteousness,” 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. the day of his transgression: as for the wicked 3. Consider what have been the sentiments ness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in of the most distinguished Scripture characters, the day that he turneth from his wickedness; when they recollect themselves in those awful neither shall the righteous be able to live for moments, in which, after they had so far of
fended against divine love as to suppose the * Ad Græcos exhort. p. 28. Ed. Colon. habit lost, or when their piety was so far
eclipsed as to suppose it was vanished. Did the inamissibility of your faith, and sure pledges they oppose their past virtues to their present of your salvation. But, my brethren, was this faults. Hear those holy men: “O Lord, heal indeed the system of those saints of whom we me; for my bones are vexed: my soul is also have spoken? They were not more convinced sore vexed," Ps. vi. 2. “Mine iniquities are of this principle, that a sincerely good man gone over my head, as a heavy burden: they cannot fall from grace, than of this which fol. are too heavy for ine,” Ps. xxxviii. “I ac- lows: that a man who cannot fall from grace, knowledge my transgression, and my sin is cannot fall from piety. They have trembled ever before me," Ps. li. 3—11. “Make me to on doing an action contrary to piety; fearing hear joy and gladness, that the bones which lest the habit was lost. thou hast broken may rejoice. Cast me not 5. In a word, our last proof of the necesaway from thy presence; restore me unto the sity of perseverance is founded on the necessity joy of thy salvation. Will the Lord cast off of progressive religion. It is a proposition alfor ever? And will he be favourable no more? ready established on other occasions, that there Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his is no precise point of virtue, at which we are promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgot allowed to stop. If a man should take for his ten to be gracious Hath he in anger shut up model one of the faithful, whose piety is least his tender mercies!" Ps. lxx. 8–10. What of all suspected: if a man should propose to ideas do these words excite in your minds Is himself so fine a model, and there restrict his it the presumptuous confidence which some attainment, saying, I will go so far, and no men, unhappily called Christians, evince after farther: such a one would have mistaken nocommitting the foulest offences? Are these the tions of religion. The Christian model is Jesentiments merely of an individual, who by a sus Christ. Perfection is the sole object of a simple emotion of generosity and gratitude, re- Christian; and, the weaker he feels himself in proaches himself for having insulted his bene- its acquisition, the more should he redouble factor? Or are they sorrows arising in the soul his exertions to approach it. Every period of from the fears of being deprived of those fa- life has its task assigned. The duties of youth vours in future? Magnanimous sentiments, will not dispense with those of riper age; and doubtless are found in the characters of those the duties of riper age will not dispense with distinguished saints. A repentance, founded those of retiring life. “ Be ye perfect as your solely on the fear of hell, can never obtain a Father who is in heaven is perfect,” Mait. v. pardon: it may do well enough for a disciple 48. This is the command of Jesus Christ. of Loyola; but not for a disciple of Jesus “ Be perfect," 2 Cor. xiii. 11. This is the preChrist. It is respect for order; it is the love cept of St. Paul. What do you infer from this of God; it is sorrow for having offended a be- principle? If we are condemned for not having we sincerely love, which is the basis of true ing advanced, what shall we be for having repentance. It is fully apparent that the ex. backslidden? If we are condemned for not pressions you have heard, are the language of having carried virtuous attainments to a more à soul persuaded of this truth, that we cannot eminent degree, what shall we be for having deobtain salvation without persevering till death based them to a degree so far below the standard? in the habit of holiness, which it fears to have III. But a doctrine of our churches seems to lost. They are the language of a soul, which frustrate all our endeavours to prompt you to reproaches itself, not only for a deviation from perseverance, and to warn you ihat salvation order, but which fears, lest it should have for- is reserved solely for those who do persevere. feited its salvation.
It is this. We fully believe, that the most il4. Consider the absurdities, arising from the lustrious saints were guilty of offences, directopinion we attack. The commencement of a ly opposed to Christianity; but we profess to life, sincerely consecrated to the service of God, believe, that it was impossible they should lose is a sufficient barrier against all the fears aris- the habit. We conceive indeed the propriety ing from crimes with which it may in the issue of exhorting them not to commit those faults be defiled. The children of God can never which it is impossible they should commit. fall from grace. And none but the children But why exhort them not to lose a habit which of God can be sincerely consecrated to him in they cannot lose? Where is the propriety of the early period of life. On this principle, 1 alarming them with a destruction on the brink will frame you a system of religion the most of which grace shall make them perfect This relaxed, accommodating, and easy, even at is the difficulty we wish to solve; and this is the bar of corruption the inost obstinate and the design of our third head. inveterate. Consecrate sincerely to God a sin But I would indeed wish to illustrate the gle hour of life. Distinguish by some virtue subject without reviving the controversies it the sincerity of that early period. Then write has excited. I would wish conformably to the with a pen of iron on a tablet of marble and views of a Christian (from which especially a brass, that, In such a day, and in such an gospel minister should never deviate.) to assohour, I had the marks of a true child of God. ciate as far as the subject will admit, peace After that, plunge headlong into vice; run un- and truth. If the wish is not chimerical, we bridled with the children of this world to the cannot, I think, better succeed, than by availsame excess of riot: give yourself no concern ing ourselves of a point unanimously allowed about your passions; if the horrors of this by the divines divided on this subject, in order state should excite any doubts of your salva- to harmonize what seems calculated still to dition, comfort yourself against the anathemas vide them. of legal preachers; comfort yourself against It is a received maxim in every system, I remorse of conscience, by casting your eyes on would say, in every system of those who are this tablet of brass and marble;-monuments of divided on the doctrine of the inamissibility of
grace; that, to preserve the habit of holiness, IV. Three classes of people have consewithout which they unanimously agree, we quences to deduce from the doctrine we have cannot be saved, we must use all the means now advanced. We first address ourselves to prescribed in the sacred Scripture to preserve those who seem least of all interested; I would so valuable a disposition. Divines, whom dif- say, those who have no cause to fear falling ference of opinion has irritated against one from grace; not because they are established, another, reciprocally accuse their brethren of but because they never entertained the sincere weakening this principle; but there is not one resolutions of conversion. If people of this among them who does not sincerely embrace description would pay serious attention to their it, and complain of the reproach, when charged state; if they would read the Scriptures with with having rejected it. Those who exclaim recollection; if they would listen to our seragainst the doctrine of the inamissibility of mons with a real, not a vague and superficial grace, are so far from rejecting it, that they design of reducing them to practice, I think pretend to be the only persons who establish it the doctrine we have delivered would rouse upon a sure foundation; and maintain that it them from their indolence; I think it would cannot exist in systems opposed to the first. hinder them from going so intensely into the They say, that the doctrine of the inamissibili- world, on withdrawing from devotion, as not ty of grace is so far from opposing this princi- to hear the voice of their conscience. What! ple, that it constitutes its foundation. And the people of whom we speak should say, who among the advocates for this doctrine, What! Christians of the first class; what! those ever affirmed that we can preserve the grace distinguished saints who have devoted the of perseverance, if we frequent the haunts of whole of their life to duty; what! those who infamy; if we keep company with persons who have "wrought out their salvation with fear tempt us to adultery and voluptuousness, and and trembling;” can they promise themselves so with regard to other virtues. This then is nothing from past efforts. What are all the a principle such as I would seek. It is a prin- sacrifices they have made for Christianity useciple inculcated by every system, that in order less, unless they persevere in piety; and, for to retain the habit of holiness, without which having failed to run only a few steps of their it is impossible to be saved, we must use all course, will they fail of obtaining the prize the means pointed out in the sacred Scriptures promised to those only who finish the whole for the preservation of such an individual tem- And I, miserable wretch, who am so far from per of mind.
being the first of saints, that I am the chief of This being granted, it is requisite in every sinners;—1, who am so far from having run system, to represent the calamities we incur the race which Christ has set before his disciby losing the habit of holiness, because it is ples, as to have put it far away;—1, who have the dread of incurring the calamities conse- been so far from working out my salvation, as quent on our fall, which the Scriptures point to have laboured only by slander, by calumny, out as the most usual and powerful preserva- by perjury, by blasphemy, by fornication, by tives from apostacy. Hence they exhort us to adultery, by drunkenness;—1, who have done "work out our salvation with fear and trem- nothing but obstruct the work, yet I am combling." Hence they make one part of a good posed, I am tranquil! Whence proceeds this man's happiness to consist in fearing always. peace? Does it not proceed solely from this Hence they require us rejoice with trembling. circumstance, that, my sins having constrained Each of you may collect a variety of parallel the Deity to prepare the sentence of my eterpassages.
nal condemnation, he has (among the calamiOur divines, to illustrate this subject, have ties prepared for me by his justice,) the fatal sometimes employed a comparison, which, in condescension to make me become sensible of my opinion, is well calculated to answer their my misery, lest I should anticipate my condempurpose. It is that of a wise man at the top nation, by the dreadful torments which the of a tower, who has all the necessary means certainty of being damned would excite in my of preserving himself from falling into the soul. Oh, dreadful calm! fatal peace! tranabyss open to his view. We may properly quillity to which despair itself is perferable, if say, it is impossible such a man should fall
. there be any thing preferable in despair! Oh! Why? Because, being a prudent man, and rather, thou sword of divine vengeance, branhaving all the necessary means, it is impossi- dish before my eyes all thy terrors! Array ble his prudence should not prompt him to in battle against me all the terrors of the avail himself of their support. But in what mighty God, as in the awful day of judgment; consists one part of this means of safety? It and striking my soul with the greatness of my is the faculty suggested by his prudence, of misery, give me, at least, if there be time, to knowing, and never forgetting the risk he emancipate myself! If there be yet time? And, runs, should he neglect the means of safety. if there be not time, why do you yet breathe Thus fear, so circumstanced, is one part of his Why are there still open to you the gates of safety, and his safety is inseparable from his this temple? Why is the gospel still preached, fear. The application of this comparison is if it is not that you may be recollected; if it easy; every one may make it without difficulty. is not that you may renounce the principles of It is sufficient, not indeed to remove all the your past folly; if it is not that you may yield difficulties of which the loss of grace is suscep- to calls of grace, which publish to you the tible; but to answer the objection I have made consoling declarations of the merciful God? of its being useless, on a supposition of the “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt impossibility of falling from grace, to warn a surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that real Christian of the calamities he may incur, which is lawful and right; if the wicked reshould he lose his habit of piety.
store the pledge, give again that he hath
robbed, walk in the statutes of life without sight of those objects which he has set before committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he you, in order that you may be enabled to surshall not die. None of his sins that he hath mount them. committed, shall be mentioned unto him," A Christian is supported in his course by Ezek. xxxiii. 14–16.
the very nature of the difficulties which occur. A second sort of people, who ought to de- These are many, and we shall have occasion rive serious instruction from the words of my to enumerate them in a subsequent discourse. text, is those visionaries; who, while engaged But, with discerning Christians, all these things in the habit of hating their neighbours, of for- may promote the end they seem to oppose, and nication, of revenge, or in one or the other of realize the words of St. Paul, that “all things those vices, of which the Scripture says, "they work together for good to them that love God," that do such things shall not inherit the king- Rom. viii. 28. One of those difficulties, for dom of God," fancy themselves to be in a state instance, to which a Christian is exposed in his of grace, and believe they shall ever abide in race, is adversity; but adversity is so far from that state, provided they never doubt of the obstructing him in his course, as to become an work. People of this character,—whether it ; additional motive to pursue it with delight; and be that they have fallen into the hands of An- to assist him in taking an unreluctant flight totinomian guides, one of the greatest plagues wards the skies. Another difficulty is proswith which justice punishes the crimes of men, perity; but prosperity assists him to estimate and one of the most awful pests of the church; the goodness of God, and induces him to inor whether it be the effect of those passions, fer, that if his happiness here be so abundant, which, in general, so fascinate the mind, as to what must it be in the mansions of felicity, prevent their seeing the most evident truths seeing he already enjoys so much in these opposed to their system; but people of this abodes of misery. Another of those difficulties class presumptuously apply to themselves the is health; which, by invigorating the body, doctrine of the inamissibility of grace, at the strengthens the propensity to sin; but health, time when we display the arm of God ready by invigorating the body, strengthens him also to pour the thunder of its vengeance upon their for the service of God. So it is with every heads. But know, once for all, it is not to obstruction. you that the inamissibility of grace belongs. A Christian is supported in his course, by Whether a true saint may fall, or whether he those unspeakable joys which he finds in the may not fall, it is the same thing with regard advancement of his progress; by“ the peace to you; and your corruption will gain nothing which passeth all understanding;" by the seby the decision: for if the true saint may fall, renity of justification; by an anticipated resurI have cause to conclude that you are already rection; by a foretaste of paradise and glory, fallen; since, notwithstanding the regeneration which descend into his soul, before he himself you pretend to have received, you now have is exalted to heaven. no marks of real saints; and if a real saint A Christian is supported in his course (as we cannot fall, I have cause to conclude that you have already intimated in this sermon,) by the were deluded in the notions you had formed consideration even of those torments, to which of yourselves with regard to conversion. I he would be exposed if he should come short. have reason to believe that you never were The patriarch Noah trembled, no doubt, on true saints, because I see with my own eyes, seeing the cataracts of heaven let loose, and that you no longer sustain the character. Here the fountains of the great deep broke open, is the abridgement of the controversy. Here is and the angry God execute his threatening, a decision of the question between us. But if “I will destroy man whom I have created, it do not agree with your systems, preserve from off the face of the earth; both man and those systems carefully; preserve them to the beast, for it repenteth me that I have made great day, when the Lord shall render unto them," Gen. vi. 7. But this fear apprised him every man according to his works; and endea- of his privilege, being exempt in the ark from vour, -endeavour in the presence of the Judge the universal desolation; which induced him to of all the earth, to defend your depravity by abide in his refuge. your opinions.
A Christian is supported in his course by There is yet a third class of people, who supernatural aid, which raise him above the ought to make serious reflections on the doc- powers of nature; which enable him to say, trine of perseverance. It is those who carry is when I am weak, then I am strong;” and to the consequences to an extreme; who, from a exclaim in the midst of conflicts, “ blessed be notion that they must enduro to the end of God which always causest us to triumph in their course to be saved, persuade themselves Christ,” 2 Cor. ii. 14. “I can do all things that they cannot be assured of their salvation through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. till they come to that period. It is not to min-iv. 13. isters who maintain so detestablo a notion, that A Christian is supported in his course by the this article is addressed. It is not to captious, confidence he has of succeeding in the work but to tender minds, and those tender minds in which he is engaged, and of holding out to who are divided between the exalted ideas the end. And where is the man in social life, they entertain of duty, and the fears of devia- who can have the like assurance with regard tion. Fear, holy souls; but sanctify your fear. to the things of this world? Where is the gen. Entertain exalted views of your duty; but let eral, who can assure himself of success by the those exalted views be a sure test that you will dispositions he may make to obtain the vicnever deviate; and, while you never lose sight tory? Where is the statesman, who can assure of the difficulties with which the race Christ himself of warding off every blow which threathas set before you is accompanied, never lose' ens the nation? The Christian,—the Christian
alone has this superior assurance. I fear no- of an ancient philosopher respecting governthing but your heart; answer me with your ment. The principles, on which he established heart; answer me with your sincerity, and I his system of politics, have appeared admirawill answer you for all the rest.
ble, and the consequences he has deduced, have A Christian is supported in his course, above appeared like streams pure as their source. all, by the grandeur of the salvation with God, in creating men, says this philosopher, which he is to be crowned. What shall I say, I gave them all means of preservation from the my dear brethren, on the grandeur of this sal- miseries which seem appendant to their condivation? That I have not the secret of com- tion: and they have but themselves to blame if pressing into the last words of a discourse, all ) they neglected to profit by them. His bounty the traits of an object, the immensity of which has supplied them with resources, to terminate shall absorb our thoughts and reflections to all the evils into which they fell by choice. Let eternity?
them return to the practice of truth and virtue, With such vast support, shalt thou, timo- from which they have deviated, and they shall rous soul, still be agitated with those distressing find that felicity to which nothing but virtue fears which discourage wicked men from en- and truth can conduct society. Let the states tering on the course prescribed by Jesus Christ elect a sovereign like the God who governed to his disciples? “Fear not, thou worm Ja- in the age of innocence; let them obey the cob, for I am with thee. Thy Redeemer is the laws of God. Let kings and subjects enter Holy One of Israel. They that are for us, are into the same views of making each other mumore than all they that are against us," 2 tually happy. The whole world has admired Kings, vi. 16. “When thou passest through this fine notion; but they have only admired the waters, they shall not overflow thee: when it: and regard it merely as a system. The thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not princes and the people, to whom this philosobe burned,” Isa. xliii. 2. To this adorable pher wrote, are as yet unborn; hence we comDeity, who opens to us so fine a course, who monly say, the republic of Plato, when we wish affords us such abundant means for its comple- to express a beautiful chimera. I blush to tion, be honour, glory, empire, and magnifi- avow it, but truth extorts it from me, that this cence, now and ever. Amen.
is the notion most men entertain of religion. They make its very beauty an argument for its
neglect, and their own weakness an apology SERMON LXXXIII. for the repugnance they feel in submitting to
its laws: this is precisely the temper we proON THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS. facts, and by experience, which is consequently
pose to attack. We will prove, by evident above all exception, that however elevated
above the condition of man the scheme of reHEBREWs xii. 1.
ligion may appear, it is a scheme which may
be followed, seeing it has been followed alWherefore, seeing we are also compassed about ready.
with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay To this point we shall direct the subsequent aside every weight, and the sin which doth so part of our discourse on the text we have read. easily beset us; and let us run with patience the | We have divided it into three parts;-distinrace that is set before us.
guished duties, -excellent models,—and wise There are few persons so very depraved, as precautions. Of distinguished duties, " let us not to admire the line of life prescribed by re run with patience the race that is set before ligion; but there are few sufficiently virtuous us," we have treated in our first discourse. to follow it, or even to consider it in any other of wise precautions, "let us lay aside every
ght than as a grand scheme captivating to an weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset enlightened mind, but to which it is impossible us,' we hope to treat in a succeeding sermon. to conform. To inquire, as soon as we are ca- Of excellent models, "seeing we also are compable of reflection, what is the Being who gave passed about with so great a cloud of witnessus birth, to yield to a world of arguments es,” we shall speak to-day. Happy, if struck which attest his existence and perfections; to with so many heroic actions, about to be set join the consort of creation which publishes before your eyes, you may be led to follow his glory; to devote one's self to him to whom them, and to augment this cloud of witnesses, we are indebted for all our comforts; and on of whom the Holy Spirit himself has not diswhom all our hopes depend; to make continual dained to make the eulogium. Happy, if we efforts to pierce those veils which conceal him may say of you, as we now say of them, by from our view, to seek a more concise and sure faith they repelled the wisdom of this world; way of knowing him than that of nature; to by faith they triumphed over the charms of receive revelation with avidity; to adore the concupiscence; by faith they endured the most characters of divine perfections which it traces; cruel torments; by faith they conquered the to take them for a rule of life; to sigh on de- celestial Jerusalem, which was the vast reward viation from those models of perfection, and of all their conflicts. Amen. repair, by revigorated efforts of virtue, what “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed ever faults one may have committed against about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us virtue, is the line of life prescribed by religion. run with patience the race which is set before And who so far depraved, as not to admire it? us." What is this cloud, or multitude, of But who is so virtuous as to follow it, or even which the apostle speaks? The answer is not to believe that it can be followed? We look equivocal, they are the faithful enumerated in upon it, for the most part, as we do the notions the preceding chapter. Of what were they