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God. Would you see this hardiness represented in the most insolent language? Would you see how far men have been able to carry their extravagance on this article. Hear one of the most admired of the ancient philosophers, but the least worthy of admiration. Hear what an idea he gives of his wise man. “ There are neither walls nor towers, which battering rams cannot subvert : but there are no machines that can shake the soul of a wise man. Do not compare him to the walls of Babylon, which Alexander knew how to destroy ; nor to those of Carthage and Numantia, which human power subverted. Do not compare him either to the citadel or to the capital, where the marks of enemies attempting to render themselves masters of them are yet to be seen. Arrows shot at the sun never reach him. Sacrileges committed in the temples of the deity, by breaking in pieces the symbols, and by subyerting the edifices, never affect him. What am I saying, the gods themselves may be buried in the ruins of their own temples : but the wise man never can; or, could he be overwhelmed, he could suffer no damage. Jupiter hath nothing more than the wise man, except his immortality. But the wise man, in his turn hath this superiority, that he is perfectly happy during the short space of this life. In this he is as much greater than Jupiter as it is more glorious to compress all happiness into a narrow space than to diffuse it through one more considerable, and to possess as much felicity in one single instant as the greatest of the gods enjoy in eternity.”
Who would believe, my brethren, that men, who were formerly the admiration of the world had been able to oppose such crude and fanciful ideas against all the evidences of their depravity and dependence? Who could conceive, that they
seriously set these against sickness, poverty, pain, conscience, death, the grave, the punishment of hell, and the majesty of God?
Are there any of this extravagant sect yet subsisting? Hath Zeno any disciples now? Are there any who yet follow and revere the doctrine of the portico ? Yes, my brethren, there are yet people, who under another name maintain the same sentiments. I know not whence the evil comes, whether from the air we breathe in these provinces, or from our diet, or from any other cause; I cannot tell whether dullness of fancy produce in us what excessive vivacity produces in other countries; but it should seem, we have as many of this sort among us as there are in other places. We have people, who affect an unshaken firmness, who glory in preserving their tranquillity under all the extremes of fortune ; people who behold the king of terrors with intrepidity, and who laugh at the horrors of death, alike immoveable in the hearing of the most alarming truths, the most terrible descriptions of futurity, censures the most sharp, and threatnings the most dreadful. And whence do they derive this calm intrepidity ? From vows addressed to heaven? No. Is it from the progress they have made in religion? Not at all. Is it from the clearness of a close, connected, and evident system? Nothing of all this. Whence then do they derive these sentiments ? From I know not what secret pride, from I know not what absurd gravity, from I know not what infernal inflexibility, from a sort of stoical, or shall I rather call it brutal philosophy, which they have revived. We ingenuously acknowledge, that a sight of people of this character always excites emulation in us, at least it leads us to deplore the inefficacy of religion in some people's minds. Truth with all its brightness, virtue
with all its graces, religion with its evidences, eternity with its demonstrations, celestial felicity with its pomp, all these things can hardly hold some trembling christians steady to their profession, who yet seem to adhere to Jesus Christ : while these men without light, without proofs, without demonstration, without certainty, yea without hope discover a tranquillity, which we should congratulate ourselves for producing even after we have spent twenty or thirty years in the ministry.,
But how fair soever this exterior may seem, how insurmountable soever this difficulty may appear, how strong soever it may seem to prevent the judgments of God, and to dispose of the terrors, which they naturally excite in the conscience, it is an effort of wickedness easily defeated, and although this fourth way seems to surpass the three others in wisdom, yet it actually goes beyond them all in absurdity and extravagance.
Do we impose on people of this kind ? Let them tell us on what their tranquillity is founded. Allowing the circumstances, in which we now are, there can be only two ways of acquiring tranquillity in prospect of death. The first is, to prove that religion is a human contrivance ; that all we propose concerning a future state, a heaven and a hell, and concerning the means of escaping the last and enjoying the first is either exaggerated or imaginary. The second is, to bring full proof that we have performed the duties, to which religion hath annexed a promise of freedom from misery, and the possession of eternal felicity. In which class shall I place the man I have been describing ?
He would complain of injustice should I put him in the first class. He always professed himself a christian. He hath all his life long been present at public worship, and hath partaken of our sacraments. In any case, if he be an infidel, he is a mere idiot. Distracted with the cares of life, he hath never made such enquiries as are absolutely necessary to refute the system of religion, even supposing the system could be refuted; and I pledge myself, let him take which side he will, to silence him, whether he undertake to attack religion, or to defend it, so grossly ignorant is he of every thing that belongs to the subject. i.
Hath he then obtained satisfaction by the second method ? A man, who hath set his heart entirely at ease, because he can give full proof that he hath performed the duties, to which the gospel hath annexed a promise of exemption from future misery, and a possession of endless felicity ; such a man is truly happy; he hath arrived at the highest degree of felicity, that can possibly be obtained in this valley of tears; for his tranquillity is that joy unspeakable and full of glory, of which our scripture speaks. It is that peace of God, which passeth all understanding. It is the white stone, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it. But is this the condition of the man, whom I have been describing?
On what conditions does religion promise eternal life to a statesman? On condition that he always set before your eyes that king, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice, Prov. viii. 15. on condition that he doth not regard the appearance of persons; on condition that he take no bribes, which God declares blind the eyes. You have not performed this condition, you are intoxicated with your own grandeur, you are inaccessible to the cries of widows and orphans, you are flexible to presents, though you know they are given you to be returned in actions disguised under
the fair names of impartiality and equity. And are you in a state of tranquillity?
On what condition does the gospel promise eternal felicity to a counsellor ? On condition that he perform the oath administered to him when he entered on his profession, an oath in which he called God to witness that he would never plead any but just causes. You have not performed this condic tion, you have been known to take either side of a cause, yea both, when your interest required it, you have been seen exercising your talents in varnishing over such causes as you durst not state in their true point of light, and straining every nerve to mislead the judges. And you are in a state of tranquillity, and will be so the day you die.
On what condition does religion promise eternal happiness to a man in possession of property unjustly acquired ? On condition of his making restitution. You are in this case, I mean in the case of him, who holds such property, for the stone crieth out of the walls of your houses, and the beam out of the timber witnesseth against you. The hire of the laborers, which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts, Hab. ii. 11. Jam. v. 4. You have not made restitution, you will not even suffer us to utter this frightful word, restitution; you are going to transmit this accursed patrimony to your children; and you too are tranquil and easy! What! Are you also a philosopher? are you also a stoic ? Extravagant stoicism, senseless philosophy, absurd tranquillity! Is it thus you pretend to oppose Almighty God! There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.
Let us conclude. The most reasonable part, that an intelligent creature can take, is to submit