Изображения страниц

than all this, is what he subjoins, of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it to you. To which the people replied, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand. Nehemiah was elevated to high offices, he was even a favorite of his king: but he availed himself of his elevation to procure the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restitution of divine worship in the temple. When the idolatrous prince put this question to him, Why is thy countenance sad? He replied, Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my father's sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Nehem. ii. 2. 3. Daniel filled a high office, even in an idolatrous court: but there he continued his humble diet; he would not hold his office at the expence of his conscience; amidst the tumult of the world he knew how to manage his affairs so as to find time to understand by books the number of the years predicted by the prophets to attend to the condition of Jerusalem to make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. Is there any one of you, my brethren, so much master of himself? Have you courage enough to resist so many enemies? Are you able to withstand so many temptations, and to escape all these dangers? Go then, not only to the courts of Davids, but to those of the most profligate princes. Go, shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, go, be the salt of the earth, rise, not only to the great offices of state, but ascend a throne, take the government and reign.

4. The evils, which imbitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and, (what may seem a paradox,) the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not

to discourage those from occupying the highest offices, who are capable of doing great good to society and the church.

The first part of this proposition is indisputable. The difficulties, which belong to the lives of courtiers, and of all persons elevated to eminent posts, ought not to discourage those, who are able to benefit society and the church. It is clear, I think, to all, who know the first principles of christianity, that the design of God in placing us in this world was not to enable us to follow that kind of life, which is the most conformable to our inclinations, though such a kind of life should have nothing in it contrary to the laws of God. God intended to exercise us in a painful state of approbation. I allow, virtue has charms of its own, and often brings its reward along with it in this world: but also it often requires us to mortify our dearest passions, and our strongest inclinations. How often, by the heavy afflictions in which piety involves us, is that celebrated expression of an apostle verified, If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable? 1 Cor. xv. 19. A good man will consult, when he is choosing a course of life, (and you will have spent this hour well, my brethren, if you retain only this maxim, and reduce it to practice.) A good man, when he is choosing a course of life, will consult, not what will render his family most illustrious, not what will be most likely to transmit his name to posterity, not what will most advance his fortune, and will best gratify his own inclinations, but what will be most useful to society and religion. Do not say, the pleasures of a court are insipid, the life of a courtier is intolerable, perpetual consultations are burdensome, a multitude of business is tiresome, ceremonies disgust me, splendid titles give

[ocr errors]

me pain: I like a tranquil life, I prefer obscurity and quiet, I love to cultivate my garden, and to spend much of my time in reading and retirement. Noble efforts of devotion indeed, to choose temporal tranquillity as the chief end of your studies and actions? And pray, what benefit do religion and the state derive from your reading your books and cultivating your flowers? What is it a question between God and you, whether the course of life, that he prescribes to you, be disagreeable to you, whether perpetual consultations be troublesome, whether much business fatigues, whether ceremonies disgust, and whether titles be unsatisfying to you? Is this the dispute between God and you? Is the question what kind of life you prefer? Do you' suppose, if God had left to the martyrs the choice of what course they would have taken through life, they would have chosen that, to which God called them? Would they have preferred before every other path that, in which they were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, would they have wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted and tormented? Heb. xi. 37. You say, you shall become a martyr, if you execute the elevated office, to which you are called. Very well, God calls you to this martyrdom. The first part of our proposition is indisputable. The disagreeable in the lives of courtiers and of all other persons elevated to eminent posts, ought not to deter any man from accepting an office, when it is probable he may by discharging it well do great good to society in general, and to the church in particular.

I go further, and I maintain the second part of the proposition. The snares which are thick set in high life, and which endanger our salvation, ought not to deter us from accepting high offices, when we 2 A


can do good to society and the church by executing them. There is some difficulty in this subject, we will endeavor to explain it. Our principal concern is to be saved. Our highest engagement is to avoid every thing, that would endanger our salvation. Our first exercise should be diffidence, distrust of ourselves. The son of Sirach hath taught us, that he, who loveth danger, shall perish therein, Eccles. iii. 26. What law, then, can oblige us to pursue a course of life, which, all assure us, is almost impassable to men, who would walk in the way of salvation? Is it not presumption, is it not tempting God to expose one's self in this manner?

I reply, it is presumption, it is a tempting of God, to expose one's self to danger, when no good will come of it. For example, you know by experience, that if gaming were innocent in itself, it is, however, dangerous to you, that always, when you allow yourself to game, you receive some injury, you either play with an avidity of gain too great, or you loose all patience with the loss of your money, or some way or other, your mind is always disconcerted. Leave off gaming then. What good do you do to society at large, or to the church in particular by your gaming? Were it probable, that in future you should always escape unhurt, even a probability of suffering is enough to deter you, and you cannot expose yourself without a presumptuous tempting of God. Again, you know by sad experience, that the company you keep is fatal to you, that always, when you are in it, you violate the laws of piety, charity, and modesty. Quit this company then, What good is. done to the state and the church by your frequenting this company? Were it probable, that in future you should receive no damage, the bare probability that you might, ought to induce you to

[ocr errors]

avoid it. In like manner, you are convinced that your opponent, who is, as well as yourself, a candidate for a certain office, will execute it as well as you would. The office is dangerous, and you fear you have not virtue enough to execute it with safety to your salvation. Renounce your pretensions then. Choose a way of life less dangerous.

Let us go a step further. It is rash, it is tempting God to expose ourselves to difficulties, which cannot possibly be surmounted. A pretence of doing good to the state and the church will not alter the case. A court is pestiferous. A king, who ought to maintain order, lives only to subvert it; he consults no law but his passions, and his will is his only reason. You may, perhaps, moderate his passions, if not wholly regulate them; you may, perhaps, if not wholly terminate the misfortunes of his reign, yet diminish them. But how must you procure this advantage? You must rise into an opportunity to do good by becoming yourself an instrument of his extortions, by passing encomiums on his guilty pleasures, by disgracing yourself to become the panegyrist of his tyranny. In such a case, it would be best to quit the court, to give up the favor of such a prince, to obey the divine laws, and to leave the government of the world to God. It must be granted, that, when crimes are necessary to public good, it is not you who are appointed to commit them, this is not your calling, O my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly mine honor be not thou united, Gen. xlix. 6. But, when temptations are surmountable, when God offers to assist us to surmount them, when nothing but our own idleness can prevent our conquering, and when we are able, by exposing ourselves to danger, to serve society and the church, I affirm, that we are then called to expose ourselves,

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »