Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

phane uses. Let the native of these provinces give a part of his patrimony: and let the refugee give a part of what he has saved from the fury of the ocean when his vessel was dashed to pieces, and with a part of these remnants let him kindle a fire to offer sacrifices to that God, who saved him from perishing by shipwreck.

My brethren, I know not what emotions of joy penetrate and transport me. I know not what emotions of my heart promise me, that this discourse will be attended with more success than all we have addressed to you. Ye stewards of our charity, ask boldly. Come into our houses ye blessed of the Lord, and receive alms of a people, who will contribute with joy, yea even with gratitude and thanks.

But, my brethren, we are not yet content with you. Should you exceed all our expectations; should you give all your fortune, should you leave no poor hereafter among you, all this would not. satisfy me. I speak not only for the interest of the poor, but for your own interest; we wish you to give your charity with the same view. In giving your alms, give your minds, give your hearts. Commit to Jesus Christ not only a little portion of your property, but your bodies, your souls, your salvation, that so you may be able to say in the agonies of death, I know whom I have trusted, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that, which I have committed unto him, against that day, 2 Tim. i. 12. God grant us this grace. To him be honor and glory for ever.

SERMON X.

CHRISTIAN HEROISM.

Proverbs xvi. 32.

He, that ruleth his spirit, is better than he, that taketh a city.

WER

ERE we to judge of these words by the first impressions they make on the mind, we should place them among such hyperbolical propositions as imagination forms to color and exceed truth. The mind on some occasions is so struck as to magnify the object in contemplation. The more susceptible people are of lively impressions, the more subject they are to declamation and hyperbole. We find these maxims sometimes necessary in explaining the sacred authors. Were we to adhere scrupulously to their words, we should often mistake their meaning, and extend their thoughts beyond due bounds. The people of the east seldom express themselves with precision. A cloud intercepting a few rays of light is the sun darkened: A meteor in the air is the powers of the heavens shaken: Jonah in the belly of the fish, is a man down at the bottom of the mountains: thunder is the voice of Jehovah, powerful and full of majesty, dividing flames of fire, breaking cedars of Lebanon, making Syrians skip, and stripping forests bare: a swarın of insects is a nation set in battle array, marching every one on his ways, not break

ing their ranks, besieging a city, having the teeth of a lion, and the cheek teeth of a great lion, Joel i. 6. and ii. 7. 9.

If we be ever authorized to solve a difficult text by examining the licence of hyperbolical style: if ever it be necessary to reduce hyperbole to precision, is it not so now in explaining the text before us, He, that ruleth his spirit is better than he, that taketh a city? What justness can there be in comparing a man, who by reflection corrects his passions, with an hero, who, in virtue of concerted plans, great fatigues, spending days and nights on horseback, surmounting difficulties, enduring heats and colds, braving a variety of dangers, at last arrives, by marching through a shower of shot darkening the air, to cut through a squadron, to scale a wall, and to hoist his flag in a conquered city?

But however just this commentary may appear, you will make no use of it here, unless you place christianity in the exercise of easy virtues, and after the example of most men accommodate religion to your passions, instead of reforming your passions by religion. Endeavor to form principles, resist fashion and custom, eradicate prejudice, undertake the conquest of yourself, carry fire and sword into the most sensible part of your soul, enter the lists with your darling sin, mortify your members which are upon earth, rise above flesh and blood, nature, and self-love, and, to say all in one word, endeavor to rule your spirit; and you will find, that Soloman hath rigorously observed the Jaws of precision, that he hath spoken the language of logic and not of oratory, and that there is not a shadow of hyperbole, or exaggeration in this proposition, He, that ruleth his spirit, is better than he, that taketh a city.

But to what period shall we refer the explication of the text? We will make meditation supply the place of experience, and we will establish a truth, which the greatest part of you have not experienced, and which perhaps you never will experience. This is the design of this discourse. Our subject is true heroism, the real hero.

I enter into the matter. The word heroism is borrowed of the heathens. They called those men heroes, whom a remainder of modesty and religion prevented their putting into the number of their gods, but who for the glory of their exploits were too great to be enrolled among mere men. Let us purify this idea. The man, of whom Solomon speaks, he, who ruleth his spirit, ought not to be confounded with the rest of mankind; he is a man transformed by grace, one who, to use the language of scripture, is a partaker of the divine nature. We are going to speak of this man, and we will first describe him, and next set forth his magnanimity, or, to keep to the text, we will first explain what it is to rule the spirit, and, secondly, we will prove that he, that ruleth his spirit, is better than he, that taketh a city. If we proceed further, it will only be to add a few reflections tending to convince you, that you are called to heroism; that there is no middle way in religion; that you must of necessity either bear the shame and infamy of being mean and dastardly souls, or be crowned with the glory of heroes.

I. Let us first explain the words of the text, to rule the spirit. Few words are more equivocal in the sacred language than this which our interpreters have rendered spirit. It is put in different places for the thoughts of the mind, the passions of the heart, the emotions of sense, phantoms of ima

gination, and illusions of concupiscence. We will not trouble you with grammatical dissertations. In our idiom, to rule the spirit, (and this is precisely the idea of Solomon) to rule the spirit is never to suffer ones-self to be prejudiced by false ideas, always to see things in their true point of view, to regulate our hatred and our love, our desires and our inactivity, exactly according to the knowledge we have obtained after mature deliberation, that objects are worthy of our esteem, or deserve our aversion, that they are worth obtaining or proper to be neglected.

But, as this manner of speaking, to rule the spirit, supposes exercise, pains, labors, and resistance, we ought not to confine ourselves to the general idea which we have given. We consider man in three points of light; in regard to his natural dispositions; in regard to the objects that surround him; and in regard to the habits which he hath contracted.

1. Consider the natural dispositions of man. Man, as soon as he is in the world, finds himself the slave of his heart, instead of being master of it. I mean, that instead of a natural facility to admit only what is true, and to love only what is amiable, he feels I know not what interior power, which disposes him to truth and virtue, and conciliates him to vice and falsehood.

I am not going to agitate the famous question of free-will, nor to enter the lists with those, who are noted in the church for the heresy of denying the doctrine of human depravity; nor will I repeat all the arguments good and bad, which are alledged against it. If there be a subject, in which we ought to have no implicit faith, either in those who deny, or in those who affirm; if there be a subject, in the discussion of which they who embrace the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »