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republic, and more so to Cæsar himself. But, in order to be saved, it is necessary to succeed, and there is no other way of obtaining salvation, except that laid down by this great general, think nothing done, while there is any thing to do. Behold, in the words of our text, behold a man, who perfectly knew the way to heaven, a man most sincerely aspiring to salvation. What doth he to succeed? What we have said; he accounted all he had done nothing, while there remained any thing more to do. After he had carried virtue to its highest pitch, after he had made the most rapid progress, and obtained the most splendid triumphs in the road of salvation, still he ran, still he fought, he undertook new mortifications, always fearing lest lukewarmness and indolence should frustrate his aim of obtaining the prize, which had always been an object of his hope; I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast1 away.
St. Paul lives no more. This valiant champion hath already conquered. But you, you christians are yet alive; like him the race is open before you, and to you now, as well as to him formerly, a voice from heaven crieth, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, Rev. iii. 21. Happy, if animated by his example, you share with him a prize, which loses nothing of its excellence by the number of those, who partake of it! Happy, if you be able one day to say with him, I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that
day and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing! 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
Let us first make one general remark on the expressions of the text; they are a manifest allusion to the games, which were celebrated among the heathens. Fable, or history, tells us that Pelops invented them, that Hercules and Atreus brought them to perfection, that Iphitus restored them: all which signify very little to us. What is certain is, that these games are celebrated with great pomp. They were so solemn among the Greeks, that they made use of them to mark memorable events, and public eras, that of consuls at Rome, of archons at Athens, of priestesses at Argos. They passed from Greece to Italy, and were so much in vogue at Rome, that an ancient author said, two things were necessary to the Roman people, bread and public shews. It is needless to repeat here what learned men have collected on this subject, we will remark only what may serve to elucidate our text, all the ideas of which are borrowed from these exercises.
1. In these games the most remarkable object was the course. The ground, on which the games were celebrated, was marked out with great exactness. In some places lines were drawn, and the place of combat railed, and when he who ran went beyond the line, he ran to no purpose It was dangerous to ramble, especially in some places, as in Greece, where the space was bounded on one side by the river Alpheus, and on the other by a sort of chevaux de frise: as at Rome, where before the construction of the circus, which was afterwards built on purpose for spectacles of this sort, an area was chosen, on one side of which was a chevaux de frise, and on the other the Tiber, so that the combatant could not pass the bounds 2 s
prescribed to him without exposing himself to the danger either of being wounded by the spikes, or drowned in the waves. This is the first emblem, which our apostle uses here; I run, alluding to the course in general; I do not run uncertainly, in allusion to such combatants as, by passing the boundaries, lost the fruit of their labor.
2. Among other games were those of wrestling and boxing. Address in these combats consisted in not aiming any blow, which did not strike the adversary. He, who had not this address, was said to beat the air, to signify laboring in vain. This is the second allusion of St. Paul, I fight, not as one that beateth the air.
3. The combatants observed a particular regimen, to render themselves more active and vigorous. The time, the quantity, and the nature of their aliments were prescribed, and they punctually complied with the rules. They laid aside every thing likely to enervate them. "Would you obtain a prize in the Olympick game? said a pagan philosopher, a noble design! But consider the preparations, and consequences. You must live by rule, you must eat when you are not hungry, you must abstain from agreeable foods, you must habituate yourself to suffer heat and cold, in one word, you must give yourself up entirely to a physician." By these means the coinbatants acquired such health and strength, that they could bend with the greatest ease such bows, as horses could hardly bend; hence the health of a champion was a common proverb to express a strong hale state. As this regimen was exact, it was painful and trying. It was necessary not only to surmount irregular desires, but all those exercises must be positively practised, which were essential to victorious combatants: It was not sufficient to observe them a little
while, they must be wrought by long preparations into habits, without which the agility and vigor acquired by repeated labors would be lost; witness that famous champion, who, after he had often and gloriously succeeded, was shamefully conquered, because he had neglected the regimen for six months, during which time a domestic affair had obliged him to reside at Athens. This is the third allusion, which our apostle makes in the text, I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.
Let us observe by the way that these expres sions of our apostle have been abused to absurd though devotional purposes, and, to omit others, it was an abuse of these expressions, which produced the extravagant sect of the Flagellants. All Italy in the thirteenth century was seized with a panic, which ended in the birth of this sect. The next century, the Germans being afflicted with a plague, it filled all Germany; and the folly of Henry III. king of France, joined to that mean complacence, which induces courtiers to go into all the caprices of their masters, introduced it into that kingdom, and into that kingdom it went with so much fury, that Charles, Cardinal of Lorrain, actually killed himself by adhering too closely to its maxims during a rigorous winter.
What a wide field opens here to our meditation, were it necessary to shew the absurdity of such devotions!
We might shew, that they owe their origin to paganism. Plutarch says, that, in the city of Lacedemon, they were sometimes pursued even to death in honor of Diana. Herodotus speaks to the same purpose concerning the festival of the great goddess in Egypt. In like manner Philostratus speaks of the devotions performed in honor of Scythian
Diana. Thus also Apuleius concerning the priests of the goddess of Syria; and thus authors more credible, I mean the writers of the book of Kings, concerning the priests of Baal.
We might shew the weakness of the arguments, on which practices are founded; as fabulous miracles, and, among many others, a letter brought by an angel from heaven to Jerusalem, which declared that, the blessed virgin having implored pardon for the guilty, God had replied, that their pardon should be granted on condition they whipped. themselves in this manner.
We might produce the weighty reasons, which many of the Roman communion, and among others Gerson, and De Thou, urged against such practices, and the testimonies of our scriptures, which expressly forbid them: but we will content ourselves with observing, that the words of our text have nothing that can serve even for a plausible pretence for these superstitions. We said, St. Paul alluded to the regimen observed by combatants; combatants observed that kind of life, which was most proper to fit them for their profession; in like manner St. Paul observed what fitted him for his. Were it possible to prove, that mortification and macerations were necessary to this purpose, we should not then have a right to determine that the apostle had his eye on such services here. For our parts, we think, he intended all acts of repentance prescribed in scripture, and exemplified by the saints; as silence, retirement, fasting, abstinence from criminal pleasures, and so on.
4. Further, there were persons, who presided over the pagan games. They were called heralds. The name given them in the Greek language is precisely the same which in our language is render
ed preacher. Their office was expressed by a