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with whom he must temporize to obtain it, suspend his first habits of life. He accomplishes the object of his wishes. The office, with which he is invest: ed, requires application. Distraction becomes an indispensible duty. The corruption of his heart, but slightly extinguished, rekindles by so much dissipation. After having been sometime without the study of truths, once his favourite concern, he be. comes habituated not to think of them at all. He loses his recollection of them. He is exhausted in the professional duties he has acquired with so much solicitude. He must have a temporary recess from business. i: The study of truth, and the practice of virtue, should now be resumed. But he must have a little recreation, a little company, a little, wine. Meanwhile age approaches, and death is far advance ed. And when he is to enter on the work of salva. tion? Happy he, my brethren, who seeks no rela. tions in life, but those to which he is called by du. ty! Happy he, who in retirement, and if you please, in the abscurity of mediocrity, far from grandeur and from courts, makes salvation, if not his sole, yet his principal concern. Excessive anxieties, and selfish pursuits are weights which retard exceedingly the christian in his course, Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. This is St. Paul's idea in the words of my text: and it is the first remark requisite for its illustration.
The second turns upon the situation in which the Hebrews were placed, to whom the advice is given. These Hebrews, like ourselves, were christians. They were called, as we are called, to run the race of virtue, without which no man can obtain the prize promised by the Gospel. In this view, they requir. ed the same instructions with ourselves,
But 'the christians to whom this epistle was ad. dressed, lived, as was observed in our first discourse, in an age of persecution. They were daily on the
eve of martyrdom. For that the apostle prepares them throughout the whole of this epistle. To that he especially disposes them in the words which im mediately follow those I have discussed. Consider diligently, says he, adducing, the author and finisher of our fuith, who so nobly ran the career of martyr. dom; consider diligently him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary, and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin, Heb. xii. 3, 4. What does he mean by their not having yet resisted unto blood ? Here is still a reference to the games of the heathen : not indeed to the pleasures of the course as in the words of my text, but to the Olympian games, in which the wrestlers sometimes received a mortal blow. And this idea necessarily includes that of martyrdom. But the flesh, so circumstanced, is very evasive.
evasive. What excuses will it not make ra ther than acquiesce in the proposition! Must I die for religion ? Must I be stretched on the rack ? Must I be hung in chains on a gibbet ? Must I mount a pile of faggots ? St. Paul has therefore doubled the idea in my text. He was desirous to strengthen the Hebrews with a twofold class of arguments; viz. those required against the temptations common to all christians; and those peculiar to the afflictive circums stances in which they were placed by Providence. It was proper to press this double idea. This is our second remark for the illustration of the text. : The third turns on the progress the Hebrews had already made in the christian religion. The nature of this progress determines farther, the very character of the advice they required, and the precise meaning of those expressions, Laying aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us. We never give to a man, who has already made a proficiency in an art or science, the instructions we would give to a pupil. We never warn a mariner, who has traversed the seas for many years, not to strike against
a rock which lifts its summit to the clouds, and is perceived by all who have eyes. We never caution a'soldier, become grey with service, not to be surprise ed by the maneuvres of an enemy, which might de ceive those who are entering on the first campaign. There were men among the Hebrews-to whom the apostle wrote, who, according to his own remark, had need to be taught again the principles of the doctrine of Christ, that is, the first elements of chris. tianity, We find many among the catechumens, who, according to an expression he uses, had need of milk, and were unable to digest strong meat, Heb. v. 12. But we ought not to conceive the same idea of all the Hebrews. : The progress many of them had made in religion, superseded, with regard to them, the instructions we might give to those entering on the course. I cannot think, that those He: brews, who in former days had been enlightened ;.. those Hebrews, who had endured a great fight of affictions ;....
those Hebrews, who, according to the force of the Greek term, used in the tenth chapter of this epistle, had been exposed on the theatre of the world, by affliction, and by becoming a gazing-stock ; those Hebrews, who had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, Heb. xi. 33, 34.... I cannot think that they had need of precautions against the gross temptations, by which satan seduces those who have only an external acquaintance with christianity. The principal design of the apostle in the words of my text, is, to fortify them against those subtle snares, and plausible pretences, which sometimes induced christians to relapse, who seemed the most established. These are the kind of snares, these are the kind of sophisms the apostle apparently had in view, when he speaks of weights, and of the sin that doth so easi. ly beset us.
Thanks be to God, my dear brethren, that though we are right, on the one hand, in saying of some among you, that they huve need to be taught again
the first principles of the doctrine of Christ'; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat, Heb. v. 12.... Thanks be to God that
af ford us, on the other hand, the consolation granted to our apostle, of seeing among you, cultivated minds, geniuses conversant with the sublime mysteries of christianity, and with the severest maxims of morality.' Hence I should deem it an insult to your discernment and knowledge, if, in the instructions I may give to-day, whether for the period of persecution, or for the ordinary conduct of life, I should enlarge on those truths which belong to young converts. What! in a church cherished by God in so dear a manner : what! in a church which enjoys a ministry like yours, is it necessary to affirm, that people are unworthy of the christian name, when, during the period of persecution, they anticipate, if 1 may so speak, every wish of the persecutors, when they carry in their bosom formularies which abjure their religion ; when they attend all the services of superstition; when they enjoy, in consequence of their apostacy, not only their own property, but the property of those who have gone with Jesus Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach? What! in a church like this, would it be requisite to preach, that men are unworthy of the christian name, who in the time of ecclesiastical repose, deliberately live in habits of fornication or adultery : who in the face of heaven and earth entice their neighbour's wife, who wallow in wickedness, who are ever disposed either to give or to receive the wages of unrighteousness ? Oh! my very dear brethren, these are not plausible pretences; these are not subtle snares; they are the sensible sophisms, the broad snares which deceive those only who are resolved to be deceived. There are, however, subtle snares, which deceive the most established christians To these the apostle has immediate reference when he exhorts us to lay aside oycry, weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us:
On this shall turn chiefly the explication we shall give of the terms. What are those peculiar kinds of temptations? What are the précautions we must take to resist them !.... These are the two leading subjects of this discourse; to these subjects I will venture to solicit the continuation of the attention with which you have deigned to favour me.js
I. Let us begin with the temptations, to which we are exposed in the time of ecclesiastical tribulation. 2.1. The devil would sometimes inspire us with sentiments of unbelief respecting the truth of the promises: God has given the church. It seems a diffiz cult task, to reconcile the magnificence of those promises with the deldge of calamities which have inundated it in periods of persecution. What is this thurch according to the prophets. It is a society, which was to be completely irradiated with the glosy of God. It is a society, whose prosperity was to have no end, which should realize this prediction'; Lift upbyour eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath ; for the beavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the eartb shall wax old like a garment; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolisbed, Isa. li. 6. ! i It is a society, to whom kings should be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers, Isa. xlix. 23. It is a society, whose prosperity made the prophets exclaim, Break forrb intal joy , sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem : for sbe. Lord batb comforted bis people, he bath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord bath made bare bis boly arm in the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God, Isa. lii. 9, 10. To say all in one word, it is: a society built upon the rock, and of which Jesus Christ hath said, the gates of bell shall not prevail against it, Matt. xvi. 18. What is the conformity between these promises and the event! or if you please, what likeness is there between the portrait and the original! Does not hell prevail