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it not your desire of sparkling and shining in to renounce that criminal intrigue which the world?
makes the conversation of all companies, and Thus our brethren, who resist all the ex- gives just offence to all good men ? hortations that have been addressed to them My brethren, would you always take right for many years, to engage them to follow Je- steps? Never take one without first examinsus Christ without the camp,' reply, that ing the motive which engages you to take it. were they to obey these exhortations, all the Let the glory of God be the great end of all seeds of truth now remaining in the land of our actions ; 'whether we eat or drink, or their nativity would perish, and that the rem- whatsoever we do, let us do all to the glory nants of the reformation would be entirely ex- of God,' 1 Cor. x. 31. A motive so noble and tirpated. Diligently to preserve even rem- so worthy of that holy calling with which God nants of the reformation, and seeds of truth, is has honoured us, will sanctify all our steps, certainly an action good in itself; but is this will give worth to our virtues, and will raise the motive which animates you when you re- those into virtuous actions, which seem to sist all our exhortations! Is it not love of the have the least connexion with virtue. A bustpresent world? Is it not the same motive that ling trade, a sprightly conversation, a wellanimated Demas ? Is it not because you have matched union, a sober recreation, a domestic neither courage enough to sacrifice for Jesus ainusement, all become virtues in a man aniChrist what he requires, nor zeal enough to mated with the glory of God; on the contrary, profess your religion at the expense of your virtue itself, the most ardent zeal for truth, the fortunes and dignities? Thus again they who most generous charities, the most fervent are immersed in worldly care tell us, that were prayers, knowledge the most profound, and sathey to think much about dying, society could crifices the least suspicious, become vices in a not subsist, arts would languish, sciences de- man not animated with this motive. cay, and so on. I deny this principle. I affirm, II. Let us ponder our steps in regard to the society would be incomparably more flourish- circumstances which accompany them. An acing were each member of it to think continu- tion, good or innocent in itself, may become ally of death. In such a case each would con- criminal in certain circumstances. This maxsult his own ability, before he determined im is a clue to many cases of conscience in what employment he would follow, and then which we choose to blind ourselves. We obwe should see none elected to public offices ex- stinately consider our actions in a certain abcept such as were capable of discharging them; stracted light, never realized, and we do not we should see the gospel preached only by attend to circumstances which change the nasuch as have abilities for preaching; we should ture of the action. We think we strike a see armies commanded only by men of experi- casuist dumb, when we ask him, what is there ence, and who possessed that superiority of ge- criminal in the action you reprove ? Hear the nius which is necessary to command them. morality of the inspired writers. Then the magistrate, having always death It is allowable to attach ourselves to a pious and judgment before his eyes, would think prince, and to push for port. Yet when Baronly of the public good. Then the judge, hay- zillai had arrived at a certain age, he thought ing his eye fixed only on the Judge of all man- it his duty to flee from court, and to quit his kind, would regard the sacred trust commit- prince, and he said to David, who invited him ted to him, and would not consider his rank to court, • I am this day fourscore years old, only as an opportunity of making his family, and can I discern between good and evil? Can accumulating riches, and behaving with arro- thy servant taste what I eat, or what I drink? gance. Then the pastor, all taken up with Can I hear any more the voice of singing men, the duties of that important ministry which and singing women ? Let thy servant, I pray God has committed to him, would exercise it thee, turn back again, that I may die mine only to comfort the afflicted, to visit the sick, own city, and be buried by the grave of my to repress vice, to advance the kingdom of that father and of my mother.' 2 Sam. xix. 35. 37.1 Jesus whose minister he has the honour to be, It is allowable to erect houses proportional and not officiously to intrude into families to to our fortunes and rank. Yet the buildings direct them, to tyrannize over consciences, to of the Israelites drew upon them the most make a parade of gists, and to keep alive a mortifying censures, and the most rigorous spirit of party.
chastisements, after their return from captivity. Bat, not to carry these reflections any fur- This was, because, while their minds were all ther, you say, society could not subsist, sciences employed about their own edifices, they took would languish, and arts decay, if men thought no thought about rebuilding the temple. Is much about dying. Very well. I agree. But I it time for you,' said the prophet Haggai, · Is ask, is this the motive which animates you when it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled you turn away your eyes from this object? Is it | houses, and this house lie waste?" chap. i. 4. fear lest the arts should decay, science lan- It is allowable, sometimes, to join in good guish, society disperse? Is it this fear which company, and to taste the pleasures of the takeeps you from thinking of death? Is it not ble and society; yet Isaiah reproached the rather because an idea of this king of terrors' | Jews of his time in the most cutting manner, disconcerts the whole system of your con. for giving themselves up to these pleasures, at science, stupified by a long habit of sin; be- a time when recent crimes, and approaching cause it urges you to restore that accursed ac- calamities should have engaged them to acts quisition, which is the fund that supports your of repentance. “In that day did the Lord God pageantry and pride; because it requires you of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth ; and action criminal : So I conclude, from the pasbehold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and sage just now quoted from Haggai. Dissipakilling sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine. tions, amusements, festivals, ill become men, And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord who ought to be grieved for the afflictions of of hosts ; surely this iniquity shall not be purg- Joseph;' or, to speak more clearly, less still ed from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of become miserable people whom the wrath of hosts,' Isa. xxii. 12, &c.
God pursues, and who, being themselves as It is allowable to eat any thing, without re- firebrands' hardly plucked out of the burngard to the Levitical law. Yet St. Paul de ing,' are yet exposed the flames of tribulaclares, “If meat make my brother to offend, I tion, one in the person of his father, another in will eat no flesh while the world standcth,' those of his children, and all in a million of 1 Cor. viii. 13.
their brethren. How many circumstances of this kind might Age, again, is another circumstance convert. I add? Let us retain what we have heard, ing an innocent to a criminal action. This I and let us make these the basis of a few max- conclude from the example of Barzillai. Let ims.
a young man, just entering into trade, be all The case of scandal is a circumstance which attention and diligence to make his fortune; he makes a lawful action criminal. I infer this should be so: but that an old man, that a man from the example of St. Paul just now men- on the brink of the grave, and who has alreationed. What is scandal? Of many defini- dy attained the age which God has marked tions I confine myself to one.
for the life of man, that sueh a man should be A scandalous or offensive action is that which all fire and flame for the success of his trade, must naturally make a spectator of it commit just as he was the first day he entered on it; a fault. By this touchstone examine some ac- that he should, so to speak, direct his last sigh tions, which you think allowable, because you towards money and the increase of his trade, consider them in themselves, and you will soon is the shame of human nature; it is a mark of perceive that you ought to abstain from them. reprobation, which ought to alarm all that By this rule, it is not a question only, when it bear it. is agitated as a case of conscience, Is gaming Let a young man in the heat of his blood, a criminal or innocent ? The question is not youth yet a novice in the world, and who may only, what gaming is to you, who can afford to promise himself, with some appearance of play without injuring your family or fortune ; truth, to live a few years in the world, somethe question is, whether you ought to engage times lay aside that gravity, which, however, another to play with you, who will ruin his. so well becomes men whose eyes are fixed on When a case of conscience is made of this ques- the great objects of religion ; let him, I say, I tion-Can I, without wounding my innocence, forgive him; but that an old man, whom long allow myself certain freedoms in conversation experience should have rendered wise, that he The question is not only whether you can per- should be fond of pleasure, that he should mit yourself to do so without defiling your in- make a serious affair of distinguishing himnocence, but whether you can do so without self by the elegance of his table, that he should wounding the innocence of your neighbour, go every day to carry his skeleton, wan and totwho will infer from the liberties you take, tering, into company employed in the amusethat you have no regard to modesty, and who ments of youth ; this is the shame of human perhaps may avail himself of the license you nature, this is a mark of reprobation, which give him.
ought to terrify all that bear it. Another circumstance, which makes a law- III. Would we have all our ways establishful action criminal, is taken from the passage ed? Let us examine the manners that accomof Isaiah just now mentioned. I fear suppress- pany them. An action good in itself, yea, more, ing a sense of present sins and of approaching the most essential duties of religion become calamities. I wish, when we have had the criminal, when they are not performed with weakness to commit such sins as suspend the proper dispositions. One of the most essential communion of a soul with its God, I wish we duties of religion is to assist the poor; yet this had the wisdom to lay aside for some time, not duty will become a crime, if it be performed only criminal, but even lawful pleasures. I with haughtiness, hardness, and constraint. It wish, instead of going into company, even the is not enough to assist the poor; the duty must most regular, we had the wisdom to retire. I be done with such circumspection, humanity, wish, instead of relishing then the most lawful and joy, as the apostle speaks of, when he says, recreations, we had the wisdom to mourn for God loveth a cheerful giver,' 2 Cor. ix. 7. our offending a God whose law ought to be ex- Another most essential duty of religion is to tremely respected by us. To take the oppo- interest one's self in the happiness of our neighsite course then, to allow one's self pleasure, bour; and if he turn aside from the path of innocent indeed in happier times, is to discover salvation, to bring him back again. Thou very little sense of that God whose commands shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and we have just now violated; it is to discover not suffer sin upon him :' thus God spoke by that we have very little regard for our salva- his servant Moses, Lev. xix. 17. • Exhort one tion, at a time when we have so many just another daily: this is a precept of St. Paul, causes of doubting whether our hope to be Heb. iii. 13. To this may be added the declasaved be well grounded.
ration of St. James : 'If any of you do err from The afflicted state of the church is another the truth, and one convert him, let him know, circumstance, which may make an innocent that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, , selves, and fearing the judgments of God. 1 and hide a multitude of sins,' chap. v. 19, 20. know, the greatest saints have reason to tremBut this duty would become a crime, were we ble, when they consider themselves in some to rebuke a neighbour with bitterness, were points of light. I know Jobs and Davids have the reproof more satire than exhortation, were exclaimed, “If I should justify myself, mine we to assume airs of haughtiness, and discover own mouth shall condemn me. If thou, Lord, that we intended less to censure the vices of shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shali others, than to display our own imaginary stand?' Job ix. 20 ; Ps. cxxx. 3. I know, one excellencies. It is not enough to rebuke a of the most powerful motives which the inspineighbour ; it must be done with all those char- red writers have used, to animate the hearts of itable concomitants, which are so proper to men with piety, is fear, according to this exclamake the most bitter censures palatable; it mation of Solomon, ‘Happy is the man that must be done with that modesty, or, may I say, feareth alway,' Prov. xxviii. 14; and accordwith that bashfulness which proves that it is ing to this idea of St. Paul, *Knowing the ternot a spirit of self-sufficiency that reproves our ror of the Lord, we persuade men,' 2 Cor. V. neighbour, but that it is because we interest 11. I know, the surest method to strengthen ourselves in his happiness, and are jealous of our virtue is to distrust ourselves, according to his glory.
this expression. "Let him that thinketh he IV. Our fourth maxim is, that an action good standeth take heed lest he fall,' 1 Cor. x. 12. in itself may become criminal by being extend. However, it is certain, some fears of God ed beyond its proper limits. It was said of a proceed rather from the irregularity of the fine genius of the last age, that he never quitted imagination, than from a wise and well directa beautiful thought till he had entirely disfigu- ed piety. Fear of the judgments of God is red it. The observation was perfectly just in sometimes a passion, which has this in common regard to the author to whom it was applied; with all other passions, it loves to employ itself the impetuosity of his imagination made him about what favours, cherishes, and supports it; overstrain the most sensible things he advanced, it is reluctant to approach what would diminso that what was truth, when he began to pro- ish, defeat, and destroy it. Extremes of vice pose it, became an error in his mouth by the touch extremes of virtue, so that we have no extreme to which he carried it. In like man- suoner passed over the bounds of virtue, than der, in regard to a certain order of Christians, we are entangled in the irregularities of vice. virtue becomes vice in their practice, because V. We said in the fifth place, that each ought they extend it beyond proper bounds. Their to ponder his path with regard to that degree holiness ought always to be restrained, and of holiness at which the mercy of God has enaafter they have been exhorted to righteousness bled him to arrive. An action good in itself and wisdom, it is necessary to say to them with when it is performed by a man arrived at a the Wise Man, “Be not righteous overmuch, certain degree of holiness, becomes criminal, neither make thyself over-wise,' Eccles. vii. when it is done by him who has only an infe17; an idea adopted by St. Paul, Rom. xii. 3. rior degree. There never was an opinion more
• Be not righteous overmuch, neither make absurd and more dangerous than that of some thyself over-wise' in regard to the mysteries of mystics, known by the name of Molinists. religion. As people sometimes lose their lives They affirmed, that when the soul was lodged by diving, so sometimes people become unbe- at I know not what distance from the body, lievers by believing too much. It is not uncom- that when it was in I know not what state mon to see Christians so eager to elucidate the which they called abandonment, it partook no difficulties of the book of Revelation, as not to more of the irregularities of the body which it perceive clearly the doctrine of evangelical animated, so that the most impure actions of morality.
the body could not defile it, because it knew * Be not righteous overmuch, neither make how to detach itself from the body. thyself over-wise' in regard to charity. The What kind of extravagance can one ima. laws of equity march before those of charity; gine, of which poor mankind hath not given or rather, the laws of charity are founded on an example? Yet the apostle determines this those of equity. To neglect to support a point with so much precision, that one would family and to satisfy creditors, under pretence think it was impossible to mistake it. • Unto of relieving the poor, is not charity, and giving the pure, all things are pure; but unto them alms ; but it is rapine, robbery, and iniquity. that are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is
• Be not righteous overmuch, neither make pure,' Titus i. 15. I recollect the sense which thyself over-wise' in regard to closet devotion. à celebrated bishop in the isle of Cyprus gave So to give one's self up to the devotion of the these words in the first ages of the church. closet, as to lose sight of what we owe to speak of Spiridion. A traveller, exhausted society; to be so delighted with praying to God with the fatigue of his journey, waited on him as not to hear the petitions of the indigent; to on a day which the church had set apart for devote so much time to meditation as to reserve fasting. Spiridion instantly ordered some renone for an oppressed person who requires our freshment for him, and invited him by his own assistance, for a widow who beseeches us to example to eat. No, I must not eat, said the pity the cries of her hungry children; this is stranger, because I am a Christian. And benot piety, this is vision, this is enthusiasm, this cause you are a Christian, replied the bishop is sophism of zeal, if I may express myself so. to him, you may eat without scruple, agreea
"Be not righteous overmuch, neither make bly to the decision of an apostle, Unto the thyself over-wise’ in regard to distrusting your- pure all things are pure.' We cannot be ig
norant of the shameful abuse which some have be let slip, because they so seldom happen, made of this maxim. We know some have and that not to avail ourselves of them, would extended it even to the most essential articles discover ignorance of one's self; the substance of positive law, which no one can violate with- of this sophism (shall I say of infirmity or imout sin. We know particularly the insolence piety?) is not new. If some of you urge this with which some place themselves in the list now, so did the Jews in the time of Isaiah. of those pure persons, of whom the apostle This prophet was ordered to inform them, that speaks, although their gross ignorance and no- they had sinned to the utmost bounds of the vel divinity may 'justly place them in the op- patience of God; that there remained only posite class. But the abuse of a maxim ought one method of preventing their total ruin, that not to prevent the lawful use of it. There are was fasting, mourning, baldness, and girding some things which are criminal or lawful, ac- with sackcloth ; in a word,
exercises of lively cording to the degree of knowledge and holi- and genuine repentance. These profane peoness of him who performs them.Unto the ple, from the very same principle on which the pure all things are pure ; bat unto them that prophet grounded the necessity of their conare defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.' version, drew arguments to embolden them in Would you then know how far to carry your sin; they slew oxen, they killed sheep, they scruples in regard to some steps ? Examine gave themselves up to unbridled intempersincerely, and with rectitude, to what degree ance, and they said, 'Let us eat and drink, for you are pure in this respect. I mean, exam- to-morrow we shall die.' ine sincerely and uprightly, whether you be This is precisely the maxim of our liber60 far advanced in Christianity, as not to en- tines. Youth is the season for pleasure, and danger your faith and holiness by this step. we should improve it; opportunities of enjoy
Do you inquire whether you may, without ment are rare; we should be enemies to our. scruple, read a work intended to sap the foun- selves not to avail ourselves of them. Would dation of Christianity? Examine yourself. not one say, on hearing this language, that an A man arrived at a certain degree of know- old man, going out of the world, must needs ledge is confirmed in the faith, even by the ob- regret that he did not give himself up to pleajections which are proposed to him to engage sure in his youth. Would not one suppose him to renounce his religion. Unto the pure that the sick, in beds of infirmity and pain, all things are pure. If you answer this de- must needs reproach themselves for not spend. scription, read without scruple Lucretius, Spi- ing their health and strength in luxury and noza, and all the other enemies of religion. debauchery? Would not one imagine, that The darkness with which they pretend to co- the despair of the damned through all eterniver it, will only advance its splendour in your ty, will proceed from their recollecting that eyes. The blows which they gave it, will they checked their passions in this world? only serve to convince you that it is invulnera- On the contrary, what will poison the years ble. But if you be yet a child in understand- of your old age, should you arrive at it; what ing, as an apostle speaks, such books may be will aggravate the pains, and envenom the dangerous to you; poison without an antidote, disquietudes inseparable from old age, will be will convey itself into your vitals, and destroy the abuse you made of your youth. all the powers of your soul.
So in sickness, reproaches and remorse will Would you know whether you may, with rise out of a recollection of crimes committed out scruple, mix with the world? Examine when you was well, and will change your yourself. 'Unto the pure all things are pure.' death-bed into an anticipated hell. Then, A man arrived at a certain degree of holiness, thou miserable wretch, who makest thy belly derives, from an intercourse with the world, thy God, the remembrance days and nights only pity for the world. Examples of vice consumed in drunkenness, will aggravate eveserve only to confirm him in virtue. If you ry pain which thine intemperate life has answer this description, go into the world with brought upon thee. Then, thou miserable out scruple; but if your virtue be yet weak, man, who incessantly renderest an idolatrous if intercourse with the world disconcert the worship to thy gold, saying to it, in acts of frame of your mind, if the pleasures of the supreme adoration, • Thou art my confidence;' world captivate your imagination, and leave then will the rust of it be a witness against impressions which you cannot esface; if, after thee, and eat thy flesh, as it were with fire. you have passed a few hours in the world, Then, unhappy man, whose equipages, retiyou find it follows you, even when you wish nue, and palaces, are the fruits of oppression to get rid of it, then what can you do so pro- and injustice, then the hire of the labourers per as to retreat from an enemy dangerous to which have reaped down thy fields, which is of virtue? · Unto the pure all things are pure ; thee kept back by fraud, will cry, and the but unto them that are defiled, nothing is pure.' cries of the reapers will enter into the ears of
VI. In fine, if we wish our ways should be the Lord of Sabaoth ;' then the stone shall established, let us weigh them with the differ- cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the ent judgments which we ourselves form con- timber shall answer it.' Then, miserable cerning them. The meaning of the maxims, wretch, thou who makest “the members of the substance of what we daily hear in the Christ the members of a harlot;' then, that world, and which the writings of libertines Drusilla, who now fascinates thine eyes, have rendered famous, that youth is the sea- who seems to thee to unite in her person all son for pleasure, and that we should make the manner of accomplishments; that Drusilla most of it; that fit opportunities should not who makest thee forget what thou owest to
the world and the church, to thy children, thy , he believes and judges, before he esteems and family, thy God, and thy soul, that Drusilla acts? The least probability persuades us; will appear to thee as the centre of all horrors; the least object, that sparkles in our eyes, dazthen she, who always appeared to thee as a zles us ; the least appearance of pleasure exgoddess, will become as dreadful as a fury; cites, fascinates, and fixes us. We determine then, like that abominable man, of whom the questions on which our eternal destiny depends, holy Scriptures speak, who carried his brutali- with a levity and precipitancy, which we ty so far as to offer violence to a sister, whose should be ashamed of in cases of the least imhonour ought to have been to him as dear as portance in temporal affairs.
Accordingly, his own life; then will. the hatred wherewith the manner in which we act, persectły agrees thou hatest her, be greater than the love where with the inattention with which we determine with thou hadst loved her,' 2 Sam. xiii. 15. the reason of acting. We generally spend life
The same in regard to the damned; what in a way very unbecoming intelligent beings, will give weight to the chains of darkness with to whom God has given a power of reflecting : which they will be loaded, what will augment and more like creatures destitute of intelli. the voracity of that worm which will devour gence, and wholly incapable of reflection. them, and the activity of the flames which will In order to obey the precept of the Wise consume them in a future state, will be the Man, we should collect our thoughts every reproaches of their own consciences for the head- | morning, and never begin a day without a long impetuosity of their passions in this world. cool examination of the whole business of it.
My brethren, the best direction we can We should recollect ourselves every night, follow for the establishment of our ways, is and never finish a day, without examining defrequently to set the judgment which we shall liberately how we have employed it. Before one day form of them, against that which we we go out of our houses, each should ask himnow form. Let us often think of our death- self, Whither am I going? In what compabed. Let us often realize that terrible mo- ny shall I be? What temptations will asment, which will close time, and open eterni- sault me? What opportunities of doing ty. Let us often put this question to our- good offer to me? When we return to our selves, What judgment shall I form of that houses, each should ask himself, Where have I kind of life which I now lead, when a burning been? What has my conversation in compafever consumes my blood, when unsuccessful ny been? Did I avail myself of every opporremedies, when useless cares, when a pale tunity of doing good? physician, when a weeping family, when all My brethren, how invincible soever our dearound, shall announce to me the approach of pravity may appear, how deeply rooted soever death? what should I then think of those con- it may be, how powerful soever tyrannical hatimual dissipations which consume the most of my bits may be over us, we should make rapid time; what of those puerile amusements, which advances in the road of virtue, were we often take up all my attention; what of these anx. to enter into ourselves; on the contrary, while ious fears, which fill all the capacity of my soul; we act, and determine, and give ourselves what of these criminal pleasures, which infat- up without reflection and examination, it is uate me? whatjudgment shall I make of all these impossible our conduct should answer our things, in that terrible day, when the powers calling of the heavens shall be shaken, when the foun- My bretbren, shall I tell you all my heart? dations of the earth shall shake, when the earth This meditation troubles me, it terrifies me, it shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, when confounds me. I have been forming the most the elements shall melt with fervent heat, ardent desires for the success of this discourse; when the great white throne shall appear, and yet I can hardly entertain a hope that you when the judge shall sit, and the books be will relish it. I have been exhorting you with opened, in which all my actions, words, and all the power and ardour of which I am capathoughts are registered?
ble; and, if you will forgive me for saying so, If we follow these maxims, we shall see all with the zeal which I ought to have for your objects with new eyes; we shall tremble at salvation; I have been exhorting you not to some ways which we now approve ; we shall be discouraged at the number and the difficul. discover gulfs in the road, in which we walk at ties of the duties which the Wise Man prepresent without suspicion of danger.
scribes to you; but, I am afraid, I know you I said at the beginning, my brethren, and I too well to promise myself that you will acquit repeat it again, in finishing this exercise, the yourselves with that holy resolution and cou. text we have been explaining includes a volu- rage which the nature of the duties necessarily minous subject, more proper to make the mat- demands. ter of a large treatise than of a single sermon. May God work in you, and in 'me, more The reflections, which we have been making, than I can ask or think! God grant us intelliare only a slight sketch of the maxims with gent minds, that we may act like intelligent which the Wise Man intended to inspire us. souls! May that God, who has set before us All we have said will be entirely useless, un- life and death, heaven and hell, boundless Teliless you enlarge by frequent meditation the city and endless misery, may he so direct our narrow bounds in which we have been obligent steps, that we may arrive at that happiness to include the subject.
which is the object of our wishes, and which Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy ought to be the object of our care! God grant ways shall be established.Who weighs, who us this grace! To Him be honour and glory. calculates, who connects and separates, before for ever. Amen.