Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Stop. The objection made to our doctrine demonstrates the truth of it. The ambition of the monarch, communicated to his subjects, will there produce all the fatal effects of ambition. Despotical power, which enslaved the judgments of all to the absolute will of one, will cause the judgments of all to resist the will of one. That deceitful policy, which took neighboring states by surprize, will inspire them with distrust and precaution. Troops hurried on by rashness will find out that rashness is the high road to defeat. Toleration disallowed will disaffect the hearts of faithful subjects, and industry will flee to foreign climes. The violation of edicts will destroy confidence in all the public instruments of government. An insatiable avidity of territorial acquisitions, of possessing forts, cities, provinces, and kingdoms without number, will require more attention and greater expence

nation can furnish. A state in this condition will sink under the weight of its own grandeur, it will be attenuated by being expanded, and, if I may use such an expression, impoverished by its abundance. Each passion put in motion will give a shock peculiar to itself, and all together will unite in one general blow fatal to the edifice, which they had erected. A prince by becoming an object of the admiration of the world, becomes at the sametime an object of jealousy, suspicion and terror. Hence come civil commotions and foreign wars. Hence the forming of leagues, and deep-concerted plots. Hence mortality, scarcity and famine. Hence heaven and earth in concert against a state, that seemed to defy both earth and heaven. Hence an eternal example to justify providence in all future ages, and to demonstrate to the most obstinate the doctrine of the text, that only rectitude can procure substantial glory.

Thus, we think, we have sufficiently established our prophet's proposition: and we will finish the arguinents, by which we have supported it, by giving you the character of that author,* who hath taken the greatest pains to subyert it. He was one of those inconsistent men, whom the finest genius cannot preserye from self-contradiction, and wbose opposite qualities will always leave us in doubt, whether to place them in one extreme, or in ano. ther diametrically opposite. On the one hand, he was a great philosopher, and knew how to distinguish truth from falshood, for he could see at once a connection of principles, and a train of consequences : on the other hand, he was a great sophister, always endeavoring to confound truth with falshood, to wrest principles, and to force consequences. In one view, admirably learned, and of fine parts, having profited much by the labors of others, and more by the exercise of his own great sense: in another view, ignorant, or affecting to be ignorant of the most common things, advancing arguments, which had been a thousand times refuted, and starting objections, which the greatest novice in the schools durst nat have mentioned without blushing. On the one hand, attacking the greatest men, opening a wild field for them to labor in, leading them into devious and rugged paths, and, if not going beyond them, giving them a world of pains to keep pace with him; on the other hand quoting the meanest genuisses, offering a profusion of incense to them, blotting his writings with names, that had never been pronounced by learned lips. On the one hand, free, at least in appearance, from every disposition contrary to the spirit of the gospel, chaste in his manners, grave in his conversation, temperate in his diet, and austere in his usual course of life: on the other, employing all the acuteness of his genius to oppose good morals, and to attack chastity, modesty, and all other christian virtues. Sometimes appealing to a tribunal of the most rigid orthodoxy, deriving arguments from the purest sources, and quoting divines of the most unsuspected soundness in the faith: at other times travelling in the high road of heretics, reviving the objections of ancient heresiarchs, forging them new armor, and uniting in one body the errors of past ages with those of the present time. O that this man, who was endowed with so many talents, may have been forgiven by God for the bad use he made of them! May that Jesus, whom he so often attacked, have expiated his crimes! But, though charity constrains us to hope and wish for his salvation, the honor of our holy religion obliges us publicly to declare that he abused his own understanding, to protest before heaven and earth that we disown him as a member of our reformed churches, and that we shall always consider a part of his writings as a scandal to good men, and as a pest of the church.

* Mr. Bayle.

We return to our prophet Let us employ a few moments on reflecting on the truths we have heard. Thanks be to God, my brethren, we have better means of knowing the righteousness, that exalts a nation, and more motives to practise it, than all the nations, of whose glory we have been hearing: They had only a superficial, debased, confused knowledge of the virtues, which constitute substantial grandeur: and, as they held errors in religion, they must necessarily have erred in civil polity. God, glory be to his name! hath placed at the head of our councils the most perfect legislator, that ever held the reins' of government in the world. This legislator is Jesus Christ. His kingdom indeed, is not of this world, but the rules he has given us to arrive at that are proper to render us happy in the present state. When he says, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you, Matt: vi. 33. he gives the command, and makes the promise to whole nations as well as to individuals.

Who ever carried so far as this divine legislator ideas of the virtues, of which we have been treating in several parts of this discourse, and by practising which nations are exalted? Whoever formed such notions of that benevolence, that love of social good, that generosity to enemies, that contempt of life, that wisdom, that veneration for noble exploits, that docility and frugality, that devotedness to public use, that distance from false glory, that magnanimity, and all the other virtues which render antiquity venerable to us? Who ever gave şuch wise instructions to kings and subjects, magistrates and people, lawyers and merchants, soldiers and statesmen, the world and the church ? We know these virtues better than any other people in the world. We are able to carry our glory far beyond Egyptians and Persians, Assyrians and Medes, Lacedemonians, Athenians, and Romans; if not that sort of glory, which glares and dazzles, at least that, which makes tranquil and happy, and procures a felicity far more agreeable than all the pageantry of heroism and worldly splendor. Christians, let not these be mere speculations to

Let us endeavor to reduce them to practice. Never let us suffer our political principles to clash with the principles of our religion. Far from us, and far from us for ever be the abominable maxims of that pernicious Florentine,* who gave statesmen such fatal lessons as these: A prince, who would maintain his dignity, ought to learn not to be virtuous, when affairs of state require him to practise vice; he ought to be frugal with his own private fortune, and liberal with public money; he ought never to keep his word to his own disadvantage; he ought not so much to aspire at virtue as at the semblance of it ; he ought to be apparently merciful, faithful, sincere and religious, but really the direct opposite ; that he cannot possibly practise what are accounted virtues in other men, because necessity of state will often oblige him to act contrary to charity, humanity, and religion, he ought to yield to the various changes of fortune, to do right as often as he can, but not to scruple doing wrong when need requires. I say again, far from us be these abominable maxims ! Let us obey the precepts of Jesus Christ, and by so doing let us draw down blessings on this nation more pure and perfect than those, which we now enjoy.

* Michiável. Princ. xv. xvi. xvii.

US.

The blessings we now enjoy, and which providence bestowed on us so abundantly a few days ago,* should inspire us with lasting gratitude ; however, my brethren, they are not, they ought not to be the full accomplishment of our wishes. Such laurels as we aspire at are not gathered in fields of battle. The path to that eminence, to which we travel, is not covered with human gore. The acclamations we love are not excited by wars, and rumors of wars, the clangor of arms, and the shoutings of armed men.

Were our pleasure, though not of the purest sort, perfect in its own kind, we should experience a rise in happiness! But can we enjoy our victories without mourning for the iniseries, which procured them! Our triumphs indeed abase and confound our enemies, and make them lick the dust;

* At the battle of Ramilies, May 23, 1706.

VOL. IV.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »