« EdellinenJatka »
From the example of the patriarchs, he adduces, first, that of Abel. An ancient tradition of the Jews informs us, that the subject of dispute, between him and Cain, turned on the doctrine of future rewards. Cain maintained that none were to be expected in a future life: Abel supported the contrary proposition. The former of those brothers supplied argument by violence; unable to convince Abel, he as. --sassinated him. It is from this tradition that some of our learned think we ought to understand those words of the apostle, who being dead yet speaketh, They translate, We have still extant a tradition, that he died for this faith ; namely, the doctrine of a future state."
He cites the example of Enoch, who was so power, fully persuaded of a life to come, as to obtain a translation, exempting him from the painful path which others must travel to glory ; I would say, from tasting the horrors of death.
He adduces the example of Noah, who not only escaped the calamities of the deluge, but became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. What is this heritage of righteousness by faith? It is, according to the style of the sacred authors, eternal life. Hence the many parallel explications we find in other places; as in the first chapter of this epistle. Are not the angels all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation? That, also, in the second chapter of the catholic epistle of St. James, God hath chosen the poor of this world to be heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him.
He further alleges the example of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob and of Joseph. The confidence which the patriarchs reposed in the promise of an earthly Canaan, proves that they expected a heavenly inheritance ; because they continued faithful followers of God, though they never inherited the terrestrial country, which was apparently promised to them, but continued to be, strangers and sojourners,
I am, says Abraham to the Egyptians, a stranger among you. And Jacob to Pharaoh, The days of my pilgrimage....or the time of my life, during which period I have been a stranger and a sojourner :....the days of my pilgrimage, are not equal to those of my fathers, St. Paul's remark on these expressions of the patriarchs is worthy of regard. They that say such things declare plainly, that they seek a country, And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned ; but now they seek a betier country; that is un heavenly, Heb. xi. 14, 15, 16. That is to say, those holy men could but consider two sorts of countries as their own, either the land of their fathers, or the land of Canaan, of which God had promised to give them possession. They had not this notion of the land of Canaan, seeing they considered themselves as strangers and sojourners so... seeing that Abraham there possessed only so much land, as was sufficient for a sepulchre ;....seeing Jo. seph's sole happiness, in this view, was to command his children to carry up his bones, when they went to possess it. They could no longer consider Chaldea, in which their fathers were born, as their country ; in that case, they would have returned on finding themselves strangers in the land of Canaan. Hence it is evident from their conduct that they still sought a country, a better than their fathers, and a better than their children expected to possess ; They showed that they expected a better, that is un heavenly.
St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews the example of Moses : for if the faith of Moses merely respected terrestrial glory, why should he (as the Jews say,) have cast to the ground, and trampled on the crown Thermutis had placed on his head? Why should he on coming to years, as says the apostle, have refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He fur. ther, according to the sanie apostle, esteemed the reproach of Christ greuter riches than the treasures of
Egypt. This expression may be taken in a double sense. By the reproach of Christ, we may understand the cross he so frequently inculcated on his disciples. By the reproach of Christ, we may likewise understand the bondage which oppressed the Jews in the time of Moses. The word Christ, signifies anointed, and men favoured of God are frequently called his anointed, because of the grace they had received; of which the holy oil, poured on some extraordinary personages by his command, was a figure. So God has said by the Psalmist, louch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm, Psa. cv. 15. So the .prophet Habakkuk, Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed, Hab. iii. 13. Which-sense soever we may adopt, the afflictions of Moses prove, according to St. Paul, that he had respect unto the recompence of the reward, Heb. xi. 26. As no motive but the hope of glory can induce christians to bear the reproach of Christ their head; so no other consideration could have induced a preference in Moses, of the sufferings of the Israelites to the enjoyments of a crown.
In short, St. Paul adduces to the Hebrews a great number of martyrs; who sacrificed their lives for their religion. In this class is the venerable Eleazer; who died under the strokes of his executioners, 2 Maccab. vi. It is probably in allusion to this case when the apostle says, they were tortured. The Greek word signifies they were extended in torture : it is designed to express the situation of persons executed in this
In this class is Zechariah, who was slain between the temple and the altar, by the command of Joash. To him the apostle probably alludes when he says, they were stoned. In this class is Isaiah, whom Manassah executed with a saw, if we may credit an apocryphal book quoted by Origen. To him the. apostle probably alludes when he says, they were: sawn asunder. In this class were Micah, John the Baptist, and St. James, since the time of the Macca
bees. In all probability the apostle had them in view when he says, they were slain with the sword. This is sufficient to illustrate what St. Paul has said in the chapter preceding our text, respecting the faithful, whom he adduces as models. It is evident, that those illustrious examples were admirably calculated to make deep impressions on the minds of the Hebrews, and to animate them to sacrifice their lives for their religion, if called to suffer. But I would improve the precious moments of attention you may yet deign to give, having destined them to investigate the impression, which the examples of those illustrious saints must naturally make on our minds, and to press the exhortation, Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
I have too high an opinion of my hearers, not to persuade myself, that they cannot contemplate those illustrious models, without correspondent impresa sions; but I think enough has been said to foresee an objection which most of you will make, should I devote the rest of the hour to enforce those high examples. You will say, they are too distinguished for our imitation. The personages, from whom they are derived, were extraordinary men, with whom we have no claims of competition. They were saints, we are sinners. Hence, the more amiable these exa amples appear, the less you conceive yourselves obligated to make them the model of your life. I would wish to go to the source of this evil : hence, instead of confining myself to an eulogium on those sacred characters, I would prove, that they were men like you, in order that you may be saints like them. There is between them and you a similarity of na. ture....a similarity of vocation....a similarity of temptations....a similarity of motives....a similarity of assistance. The sole difference between you is, that they had a sincere determination to prefer their salvation and duty to every other consideration :
whereas you prefer a thousand things to your salvas tion. This is the awful difference I would now remove, in order to disclose the perfect parallel between you and those illustrious characters.
I. There is between those saints and you a simi larity of nature; I mean they had the same principles of natural depravity. “There is, I grant, much confusion respecting some 'notions termed in the schools, Original Sin. It has too often happened, in opposing this doctrine to certain blasphemous objections against the divine justice, that they have strengthened the objections they endeavoured to ob. viate. On the other hand, it is extremely astonishing that there should be any divines so unacquainted with human nature, as to deny our being all born with those principles of depravity. Two considerations will demonstrate the fallacy of this notion.
1. Man, circumscribed in knowledge, and expos. ed to strong temptations, which cannot be supported without a vast chain of abstract truth, is very liable to entertain this notion. I say not that it is impossible to avoid it ; but that he is very liable to enter. tain this notion. It
It may be avoided; because, in the hour of temptation, he may turn his views to those motives which would enable him to obtain the victory. He is, however, very liable to fall; be. cause powerful temptation engrosses so large a proportion of the mental capacity, that it is difficult for a man thus prepossessed to pay proper attention to the motives which would enable him to conquer.
2. Not only are we all born with a general propensity to vice; but we are all likewise born with a propensity to some particular vice, Let a man pay attention to children in the early years of life, and he will be convinced of the fact; he will see that one is born with a propensity to anger, another to vanity, and so with regard to the other vices. These propensities sometimes proceed from the temperature