Изображения страниц

far does the world, a court, or business become a young man? We shall elucidate this question by the following considerations. 1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace. He must be a novice in the world indeed, who doth not know the solidity of this maxim. He must have reflected very little on the turbulent condition of courtiers, and of all such as are elevated to any superior rank in the world. He must have paid very little attention to the snares, which are every where set to disturb their tranquillity; to the envies and jealousies, which are excited against them; to the plots, which are formed against their happiness; to the reverses of fortune, to which they are exposed; to the treachery of such friends as surround them, and to the endless vicissitudes, which they experience. In general, a man must be indifferent to peace, at least, he must know but little in what it consists, to seek it in pomp and worldly grandeur. I forgive a young man of fifteen or twenty for making such a mistake. At that time of life young men deserve pity; their eyes are too childish not to be dazzled by a false glare; they have not then learnt to know appearances from realities by their own experience, or by the experience of others. They do not then know, that happiness consists in a private condition, a moderate revenue, a few tried friends, a chosen circle, a few relations, business enough to preserve vigor of mind without fatiguing it, a wisely directed solitude, moderate studies, in a word, in a happy mediocrity. My brethren, independence is the blessing, which deserves first of all to be chosen by us, should God leave to our choice the kind of life, which we ought to follow; or if he did not frequently intend by placing us on earth more to exercise our patience than to consummate our feli

city. O delicious independence, O inestimable mediocrity, I prefer you before the most glorious sceptre, the best established throne, the most brilliant crown! What are those eminent posts, of which the greatest part of mankind are so fond? They are golden chains, splendid punishments, brilliant prisons and dungeons. Happy he, who having received from providence blessings sufficient for his rank, easy with his fortune, far from courts and grandeurs, waits with tranquillity for death; and, while he enjoys the innocent pleasures of life, knows how to make eternity his grand study, and his principal occupation!

2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience. Here it is, that men usually abandon themselves to their passions, because here it is, that they are gratified with the utmost ease. Here it is, that man is tempted to consider himself as a being of a particular kind, and infinitely superior to those, who crawl among the vulgar. It is here, where each learns to play the tyrant in his turn; and where the courtier indemnifies himself for the slayish mortifications, to which his prince reduces him by enslaving all his dependents. Here it is, that secret intrigues, underhand practices, bloody designs, dark and criminal plots are formed, of which innocence is usually the victim. Here it is, that the most pernicious maxims are in the greatest credit, and the most scandalous examples in the highest reputation. Here it is, that every disposition of mind changes, if not its nature, at least its appearance, by the false coloring, with which all are disguised. Here it is, that every one breathes the venom of flattery, and that every

one loves to receive it. Here, imagination prostrates itself before frivolous deities, and unworthy idols receive such supreme homage as is due to none but the sovereign God. Here it is, that the soul is affected with many a seducing image, the troublesome remembrance of which often wholly engrosses the mind, especially when we wish to nourish it with such meditations as are suited to immortal intelligences. Here a confused noise, an infallible consequence of living in the tumult of the world, gets possession of the mind, and renders it extremely difficult to relish that silent retirement, that abstraction of thought, which are absolutely necessary to self-examination, and to the study of our own hearts. Here it is, that men are carried away in spite of themselves by a torrent of vicious examples, which, being thought, and called by every body about them illustrious, authorise the most criminal actions, and insensibly destroy that tenderness of conscience, and dread of sin, which are very powerful motives to keep us in the practice of virtue. These general maxims admit of some exception in regard to Chimham. He saw in the person of his king, the virtues of a pastor, and the excellences of a prophet. David's court was an advantageous school for him on many accounts but yet was it altogether exempt from all the dangers we have mentioned? O Chimham, Chimham, I will not detain thee in the port, when providence calls thee to set sail! But that sea, with the dangers of which thou art going to engage, hath many, many rocks, and among them, alas! there have been innumerable shipwrecks.

3. A wise man will never enter a court or accept of an eminent post, without fixed resolutions to surmount the temptations, with which they are accompanied, and without using proper measures to

succeed in his design. Far from us for ever be, my brethren, that disposition of mind, which by fixing the eye upon the prince, makes us lose sight of him, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice! Prov. viii. 15. Far from us be such an avidity to make our fortunes as to engage us to forget that we have souls to save, and an eternal interest to pursue! Far from us be that desire of elevating ourselves in this world, which debaseth the dignity of our nature, and inclines us to practices unworthy of men, whom the God of heaven and earth hath called into his family! Those holy men, who are proposed to us for examples, have been sometimes at court, and they have sometimes exercised the highest offices of state: but they have always made it an inviolable law to set before their eyes that God, in the presence of whom all nations are as a drop of a bucket, and as the small dust of the balance, Isa. xl. 15. Moses was at court: but it was with that heroical firmness, with that noble pride, with that magnanimity which became him, whom the Lord of hosts had chosen for his messenger, and placed at the head of his people. Moses was at court: but it was to say to Pharaoh, Let my people go that they may serve me. Let my people go. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs. They shall come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants. Let my people go, or the hand of the Lord shall be upon thy cattle, upon thy horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep, and there shall be a very grievous murrain, Exod. vii. 16. viii. 2. and ix. 3. Nathan was at court: but it was to say to David, Thou art the man, wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in

his sight? 2 Sam. xii. 7. 9. Elijah was at court: but it was to resist Ahab, who said to him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? No, replied he, I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim, 1 Kings xviii. 17. 18. Micaiah was at court: but it was to resist the progress of an ambitious prince, and to say to him, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, chap. xxii. 17. Jehu was at court: but it was to mortify Joram, who asked him, Is it peace? What peace, replied he, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many? 2 Kings ix. 22. John the Baptist was at court: but he went thither to tell Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife, Mark vi. 18.

Some of these holy men have filled the highest posts, and discharged the most important offices of state: but they have done so with that integrity of mind, and with that piety and fervor of heart, which would seem incompatible with worldly grandeur, were we not informed, that to the pure, all things are pure, and that God knows how to preserve the piety of his elect amidst the greatest dangers, when zeal for his glory engageth them to expose themselves for his sake. Samuel discharged important offices, he occupied an eminent post: but he could render a faithful account of his administration, and ventured to face the people with this noble appeal, Behold, here I am, witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? 1 Sam. xii. 3. 4. And what is more than all this, and what we wish to inculcate more

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »