Page images

observe all the consequences; and to place each virtue, that proceeds from primitive right, in its just order ; to give the first rank to those virtues, which immediately proceed from it, and the second to those, which proceed from it mediately, and remotely. Christianity requires us to regulate our application to each virtue by the place, which each occupies in this scale; to set no bounds to the loving of that God, whose perfections are infinite; to entertain only a limited esteem for finite creatures; to engage our senses in devout exercises, but to take care that they are held under government by our minds; to sing the praises of the Lord with our voices, but animated with our affections; in short, to look toward heaven, but to let inward fervor produce the emotion, determine the direction, and fix the eye.

How amiable would society be, if they, who compose it, were all followers of this religion ! How happy would it be to make treaties, to form alliances, to unite ourselves by the most affectionate and indissoluble ties to men inviolably attached to this religion! Had not God skaken nature and subverted kingdoms, or, in the language of a prophet, had he not shaken the heavens, and the earth, and the seu, and the dry land, Hag. ii. 6. to establish this religion in the world, yet it ought to be held in the highest estimation for its own intrinsic worth. How can we help being filled with indignation at those abominable men, who, in spite of all the demonstrations of the divine origin of this religion, place their glory in weakening its einpire over the heart !

2. But if you form such noble ideas of a religion, the morality of which is so extensive and so pure, what ideas ought you to form of the preaching of those, who are appointed to instruct you in it ?

Which way, think you, ought they to bend their force? What kind of questions ought they to propose in the christian pulpit ? Under what point of view ought they to cousider the texts, which make the matter of their discourses ? Are they required to excite your astonishment by flights of imagination, or to gratify your curiosity by a display of their profound erudition? Does not their office rather require them to employ all the times you allow them, to frec you from your prejudices, to take off those scales from your eyes, which prevent your perceiving the things which belong unto your everlasting peace, Luke xix. 42. and to give you such die rections as you may follow, as far as can be in the tumult of the world, whither either your inclinations or your necessities call you ?

My brethren, while I was meditating on my text, two methods of discussing it presented themselves to my mind.

Following the first of these plans, I divided my discourse into three parts, according to the three parts, that is, the three different herbs mentioned in the text. Each of these parts I subdivided into three inore. First, I examined the force, the signification, and the derivation of the original term, and I inquired whether the word were rightly rendered mint. I quoted various opinions on this subject, for interpreters are very much divided about it. According to the Ethiopick version Jesus Christ spoke of hyssop, and according to other versions some other plant. Secondly, I examined the nature, the uses, the properties of the herb, to which I had restored the true name, and here I heaped up a great number of passages from Aristotle, Pliny, Solinus, Salmasius, and many other authors who have rendered themselves famous. by this kind of erudition. Thirdly, having studied mint as a critic, and as a naturalist, I proceeded at length to exainine it as a divine. I inquired why God demanded tithe of this herb. Perhaps, thought I, here may be some mystery in this affair. I say perhaps, for I acknowledge myself a mere novice in this science, as in a great many others. How. ever, there may be some mysteries in this offering. I was certain, if imagination supplied the place of reason, and flights of fancy were put instead of facts, it would not be impossible to find mysteries here. If this herb be sweet, said I, it may represent the sweetness of mercy; if it be bitter, it may signify the bitterness of justice. If Jesus Christ meant hyssop, as some think, it was that very herb, of which the famous bunch was made, that was dipped in the blood of sparrows at the purification of lepers. What mysteries! What I had done with mint under the first head, I did over again under the second article anise, and the same over again under the third head cummin. This was my first plan of discussion.

The second method was that which I have chosen. In a former discourse on this text we endeavored to convince you, that you were under an indispensible obligation to perform the great duties of religion. In this we have been endeavoring to obtain your regard to the little duties of religion ; to engage you to submit to the laws of God even in things of the least importance; and thus to give you a complete chain of christian virtues.

My brethren, God forbid, that our discourses; which ought always to be animated with a spirit of benevolence, should at any time degenerate into satire, and that we should enjoy a malicious pleasure in exploding the method of those, who entertain ideas different from ours on the best manner of preaching. I grant, birth, education, and a course

of study have a great deal of influence over us in this respect. But, in the name of God, do not condemn us for treating you like rational creatures, for addressing to you, as to intelligent beings, the words of an apostle, We speak as to wise men, judge ye what we say, 1 Cor. x. 15. Judge what are the obligations of the ministers of a religion, the morality of which is so extensive and pure.

3. Finally, what idea ought you to form of the engagements of such disciples as profess to give themselves up to this religion, the morality of which we have been describing? Where are the christians, who have this complete chain of the virtues of christianity ? Where shall we find christians, who, after they have performed, with all due attention, the great duties, hold themselves bound by an inviolable law not to neglect the least? Alas! We are always complaining of the weight of the yoke of the Lord ! We are perpetually exclaiming, like the profane Jews mentioned by Malachi, Behold whataweariness it is ! chap. i. 13. We dispute the ground with God! It should seem, he hath set too high a price on heaven! We are always ready to curtail his reqnisitions. What! say ye, cannot he be contented with this ? Will he not be satisfied with that?

Ah! My dear brethren! Let us open our eyes to our interest. Let us obey the laws of God without reserve.

Let us observe alike the most important virtues which he hath prescribed to us, and those which are least important. We ought to do so, not only because he is our master, but because he is our father, because he proposes no other end but that of rendering us happy, and because so much as we retrench our duties so much we diminish our happiness. To this God, whose love is always in union with justice, be honor and glory, dominion and majesty, both now and for ever. Amen..

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »