« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
heart dictates; but the heart having no witness, gives itself up to irregular passions. It is only owing to a superfluity of depravity within, that the tongue renders it visible. If then our reputation be dear to us, if we have at heart the edification of our neighbors, if we wish to assure our hearts that we are upright in the sight of God, who continually sees, and thoroughly knows us, let our conversation be a constant and irreproachable witness.
Lastly. The judgment of God should be a prevalent motive with us. You have heard it from the mouth of Jesus Christ. You will be required to give an account in the day of judgment for every idle word. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned, Matt. xii. 36, 37. We judge of our conversations only by the impressions they make on our minds, and as they seem to us only as sounds lost in the air, we persuade ourselves they cannot materially affect our eternal state. But let us believe eternal truth; by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Dreadful thought! For which of us can recollect all the vain words he has uttered the last ten years? They are gone along with the revolutions of time, they ex, pired the moment they were born. Yet they are all, all registered in a faithful memory, they are all, all writen in a book, they will be all one day brought to our remembrance, they will be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, and will contribute in that day to fix our eternal doom. O Lord! enter not into judgment with thy servant! O God! cleanse thou me from secret faults! Psal. cxliii, 2. and xix. 13. These are three motives to animate us to practise the duty under consideration. We will add three rules to help us the more easily to discharge it.
1. If we would learn to season our conversation, we must choose our company. This is often disputed, however, we affirm, conformity of manners is the bond of this commerce. Seldom does a man pass his life with a slanderer without calumniating. Few people keep company with libertines unless they be profligate themselves. Example carries us away in spite of ourselves. A pagan poet advanced this maxim, and St. Paul by quoting hath consecrated it. Evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Cor. xv. 33. Let us begin a reformation of our conversation by selecting our companions. Let us break with the enemies of God. Let us dread the contagion of poison, and avoid the manufacturers of it. As there is no sinner so obstinate as not to be moved by an intercourse with good men, so there is no virtue so well established as not to be endangered by an intimacy with the wicked.
2. A second great secret in conversation is the art of silence. To talk a great deal, and to reflect on all that is said, are two things incompatible, and certainly we cannot speak wisely if we speak without reflection. The book of Ecclesiasticus advises us to make a door and a bar for the mouth, chap. xxviii. 25. The fool, said the wise man, is full of words, Eccles. x. 14. I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle, Psal. xxxix. 1. An ancient hermit abused this maxim, for, after he had heard the first verse of the thirty-ninth psalm, he refused to hear the second, saying the first was lesson sufficient for him. The reader of this verse to him asked him many years after whether he had learnt to reduce this lesson to practice. Nineteen years replied the hermit, have I been trying, and have hardly attained the practice. But there was some reason in the conduct of this her
mit, though he carried the matter to excess. In order to speak well, we must speak but little, remembering always the maxim of St. James, If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain, chap. i. 26.
In fine, the great rule to govern the tongue is to govern the heart. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, Prov. iv. 23. In vain do ye strive to prevent effects, unless you remove the cause. It is in vain to purify the streams, while the spring continues polluted. It is in vain to attempt a few forced actions, like those mentioned by the Psalmist, whose words were softer than oil, when war was in their heart, Psal. Iv. 21. It is extremely difficult to act long under constraint. The heart insensibly guides the tongue. Would you avoid rash judging, obscenity, calumny, fawning, all the vices, of which we have shewn the enormity? Begin with your own heart. There establish the love of God. Love piety, respect virtue, and, talk as you will, you cannot but speak well.
Let us feel these motives, my brethren. Let us obey these rules. Let us practise these duties. Let us blush for having so long lived in the neglect of them. Henceforth let us dedicate our voices to the praise of our Creator. Let us praise God. To praise God is the noblest of all employments. To praise God is the incessant employment of all the angels in heaven. To praise God must be our eternal exercise. Let us this instant, on the spot, begin, to reduce this new plan of conversation to practice. Let us cry, with blessed spirits, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts, and let these first fruits of holy conversation consecrate all the remainder of life. God grant us this grace. To Father, Son, and Spirit, be honor and glory for ever! Amen.
Give alms of such things as you have.
UR churches are houses of God; places where in Inhe deed, his omnipresence cannot be confined, heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, the whole universe is the theatre of his liberality. It is, however, in his churches, that he affords the most distinguishing proofs of his presence, and opens his most magnificent treasures. Hence Solomon, after he had erected that superb place described in the first book of kings, addressed this prayer to God. May thine eyes be opened toward this house night and day, even toward the place, of which thou hast said, My name shall be there. When thy people Israel shall pray toward this place, when they are smitten down before the enemy, when heaven is shut, and there is no rain, when there be in the land famine, pestilence, and blasting, when they pray towards this place, when they spread forth their hands towards this house, then hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling-place, I Kings viii. 27, 29, &c. Let us not imagine all these prerogatives were confined to the temple of Jerusalem. They are in our churches. Always 2 G
when we assemble in this place, we conduct you to the tribunal of God, and say to you, in the language of eternal wisdom, Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, buy wine and milk without money and without price, Isa. Iv. 1.
To-day, Christians, this house changes its appearance. It is no more a superb palace, the seat of riches and abundance. It is an alms-house. It is, if I may be allowed to say so, a general hospital, in which are assembled all those poor, all those indigent widows, and destitute orphans, all those famished old people, who were born in your provinces, or who, through the calamities of the times, have been driven to your coasts, and permitted to reside here. What a sight! To-day God takes the place of man, and man that of God. God asks and man answers. God begs and man bestows. God set before us heaven, grace, and glory, and from his high abode, where he dwells among the praises of the blessed, he solicits your charity, and says to you by our mouth, Give alms of such things as you have.
What opportunity more proper can we have to preach charity to you? For several weeks these arches have resounded with the greatest benevolence, that was ever heard of* Your preachers have fixed your attention on that great sacrifice, by which men are reconciled to God, so that if we be so hap py to-day as to touch your hearts, there will be a harmony between love and charity, between the Creator and the creature. The heavens will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the heavens, Hos. ji. 22. Heaven will say to the faithful soul, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world, John i. 29. and the faithful soul, properly affected with gratitude, will reply, O God, my good
*The Weeks of Lent.