Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

of our bodies. It is natural, that persons born with a phlegmatic. constitution, and whose spirits, flow with difficulty, should be inclined to insensibility, to indolence, and effeminacy. It is natural also for persons born with a gay and volatile temperament, to be inclined to pleasure, and anger. But these dispositions are sometimes found in the essence of the soul. For, why are some men born jealous, and ambitious ? Why have they peculiar propensi. ties that have no connexion with the body, if there be not, in the essence of the soul, principles which impel some to one, and some to another vice?

This being granted, I affirm, that there is between those distinguished saints, namely those venerable personages enumerated by St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews.... that there is, between them and us, a similarity of nature. They had principles of depravity in common with us. The sole difference between them and us is, that they counteracted, and endeavoured to eradicate, those principles; whereas we suffer them to predominate, and superadd the force of habit to the infirmity of nature.

1. That those distinguished men were born with an understanding circumscribed as ours, requires no proof. Seeing that they have resisted the temptations into which our limited understanding has permitted us to fall; it evidently follows that the difference between them and us is, that when the objects of temptations were presented, they endea: voured to turn and fix their thoughts on the motives which enabled them to triumph ; but we suffer those objects entirely to engross the capacity of our souls,

2.. Those distinguished men were born, as we are, with certain propensities to some particular. vices. There were in the disposition of their bodies, and in the essence of their souls, às in ours, certain seeds, which prompted some to one vice, and some to another. The history of those saints is too concise to

state this truth in all its lustre; but it is so far known as to be evident to a certain degree. Moses was naturally of a warm temper: witness his remonstrances with God when commanded to speak to Pharaoh : witness his indignation when he broke both the tables of the law; and when he struck the rock twice. David was born with a lascivious disposition : witness his intercourse with Bathsheba. He was born with a vindictive temper: witness the hasty resolution he formed against Nabal, and accompanied with an oath so unbecoming a saint. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertaineth unto him by the morning light, either man or beast, i Sam. xxv. 22. What we have said of David, and of Moses, we might confirm by other saints. Hence, if the love of God was predominant, in the soul of those illustrious saints, over corruption, while corruption in us so frequently predominates over the love of God;....if they ran with patience the race set before ihem; whilst we are so frequently interrupted in the course :....it was not because those saints were not born with the same principles of depravity which prompt us to particular sins; but because we abandon ourselves to those principles, and make no efforts to oppose them: whereas they struggled hard lest they should commit the crimes, to which they were inclined by nature.

II. There is between those illustrious saints and us, a similarity of vocation. Does this article require proof? Can you be so little acquainted with religion, as to suppose that they were called to make a constant progress in holiness, but that you are call. ed only to a certain degree of virtue? That they were called to give victorious effect to the love of God over depravity, and that you are called to permit depravity to predominate over the love of God? That they were called to a habit, and a constant ha

bit of piety, but that God merely requires you to do a few virtuous actions, to acquire a temporary habit of holiness, and that he then allows you to lay it aside ? Is not the law equal ? Are not you called to be holy as they were holy? Is it not said to you, as well as to them, Be ye perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect, Matt. v. 48. The abridgment of the law, and the prophets....is it not of the same force with regard to you, as to them, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind ? Mat. xxii. 37.

I am fully aware, that there is a difference between the effects of the love which God requires of you, and which he required of them : but that does not suppose any change in the efficient cause. The efficient cause must be the same, how diversified soever the effects may be: and if you are not called to make similar sacrifices, you are called to be ready to do so, should they be required. You are not called, like Abraham, to immolate in sacrifice to God your only son ; but you are called to have the same radical attachment and preference, which induced him to sacrifice his son, if required by your Maker. And if you have not this profound attachment, or at least, if you do not daily endeavour to obtain it, deceive not yourselves, my brethren, you can have no hope of salvation. You are not called, like Moses, to sacrifice a crown for religion, but you are called to have the same preference and esteem for God which he had, provided a crown were offered. : If you have not this preference of affection ; at least, if you do not endeavour to obtain it, deceive not yourselves, my brethren ; you can have no hope of salvation. The difference, between those illustrious saints and us, is not in the variety of vocation in which Providence has called us, but in the manner of our obedience. They understood their vocation, and were obedient; but we overlook it, or take as much pains to disguise it, as they did to know it ;

and when they constrain us to know it, and our conscience is constrained to discover its duty, we vio: late in practice those very maxims, we have been obliged to acknowledge in theory.

* III. Human depravity has not only innumerable subtleties, but we even urge them. Sometimes, in order to 'excuse our deviations from those illustrious saints, we allege the superiority of their temptations over those, to which Providence has exposed us; and sometimes, on the contrary, the superiority of the temptations, to which Heaven exposes us, over those to which they were exposed. Be it so; but after you have proved that they did not resist any temptation which we would not have resisted had we been in their situation ; I will prove, that we are not exposed to any such violent temptations over which they have not obtained the same victories which are required of us. What are the violent temptations with which you are captivated, and the violence of which you are accustomed to allege, in order to excuse your frequent falls ?

Are they temptations of poverty ?.... How difficult is it, when we want means tơ supply the pressing calls of nature, not to be exercised with anxiety ! How difficult is it, when we expect to perish with hunger to believe ourselves the favourites of that Providence which feeds the fowls of heaven, and clothe the lilies of the field, Matt. vi. 26, 28. And when we are stripped of every comfort, an ordinary consequence of poverty, to find in communion with Gòd a compensation for the friends of whom we may be deprived. The saints, magnified as models by St. Paul, have vanquished this temptation. See Job, that holy man, and once the richest man of all the East, possessing seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and servants without number :....see him stripped of all his wealth, end saying in that deplorable situation, Shall we re.

ceive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil? Job ii. 10. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord, Job i. 21. See David wandering from wilderness to wilderness; when my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up, Psalm xxvii. 10.

Are they temptations of prosperity ?.... The temptations of prosperity are incomparably more danger, ous than those of adversity : at least, the objects of adversity remind us of our indigence and inability ; and removing the means of gratification, the passions become either şubdued or mo: tịfied. But prospe. rity presents us with a flattering portrait of our. selves; it prompts us to aspire at independence, and strengthens all our corrupt propensities by the facility of gratification. The saints, proposed as models by the Holy Spirit, have vanquished those temptations. See Abraham surrounded with riches; be. hold him ever mindful of that divine injunction, Walk before me, and be thou perfect, Gen. xvii. 1. See Job.... see him ever employing his wealth for him from whom he received it! See him preventing the abuse his children might have made of his opu. lence, rising early in the morning after their feasts, and offering sacrifice on their account, it may be (said he) my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts, Job i, 5. Şee David on the throne ....see him making a sacred use of his power. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way,

he shall serve me. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all the wicked doers from the city of the Lord, Psalm ci. 6.... 8. See him laudably employed in resuming those pleasures retarded by the affairs of state. When he could not be so recollected by day, he was the more devout at night. He contemplated the marvels of his Makery displayed by the night. Thus he expressed his sera

« EdellinenJatka »