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The statesman must subdue the temptations of his profession, the soldier must vanquish the temptations of his, the merchant of his, and so of the rest. All situations require action. In all situations there are temptations to be conquered, and in all situations we must overcome them. We must get above the temptations of health, those of sickness, and those of death. He that overcometh shall inherit all things.
I am well aware, that to preach this gospel is, in the opinion of some, to teach a severe morality, to mark out a discouraging course, to invite to unequal combats. This morality, however, will seem severe only to lukewarm christians. This course will appear discouraging only to soft and indolent souls. These combats will seem unequal only to such as have no true courage, listless and dastardly souls. A real christian will be so inflamed with the love of his God, he will be attracted by so many powerful and comfortable motives, above all, he will be animated with a desire so strong to obtain a victory, which infallibly follows the combat, that nothing will appear severe, nothing discouraging, nothing unequal in the course of obtaining it. What dominion over his heart will not that yoice obtain, which, proceeding from the mouth of the author and finisher of his faith, addresses him, and says, he that overcometh shall inherit all things ! Heb. xii. 2.
Christian soul, dost thou complain of the battle? But in order to conquer you must fight. The glorified saints were once warriors, and are now conquerors. Flesh, blood, earth and hell were their enemies. Faith and love, hope and all other christian virtues were their armor. The clouds were their triumphal chariots. Angels, thousands of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, Rev. v. 11. who wait continually before God, were their witnesses. The approbation of the Son of God, this rapturous declaration, well done, good and faithful servant, Matt. xxv. 23. well done, faithful confessor, thou hast nobly endured the cross; well done, martyr for morality, thou hast caused concupiscence to yield to the commandments of God; these extatical declarations were their crown. Jesus Christ is their rewarder; and joys unspeakable and full of glory, peace of soul, tranquillity of conscience, rivers of pleasures, fulness of joy at God's right hand for evermore, the city that hath foundations, Jerusalem which is above, the heavenly country, new heavens and a new earth, the society of angels, perfect knowledge, refined virtues, ineffable sensations, sacred flames, God himself; Lo! these are the recompence, these their great reward. He that overcometh shall inherit all things, I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
II. The second prejudice which we are endeavoring to remove, is this, A just God cannot impute to his creatures sins of infirmity, and constitution, though his creatures should be subject to them during the whole course of their lives. Against this we oppose these words of the apostle, the fearful and the unclean*. The most frequent excuse for impurity is constitution. A certain constitutional turn is generally considered as ground of justification, and it is eagerly maintained, lest we should be obliged to be holy for want of excuses to sin, and lest the deceitful pleasures of sin should be imbittered by remorse.
Yet the Πορνοις Our translation renders it, whoremongers the old French bibles palliards Mr. Saurin more accurately inepursmi. . unclean.
unclean shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. As to fearfulness, or timidity, what is there in us, that can be more properly called human frailty, than this? Let us hear St. John. Whom does he mean by the fearful? I fear, we shall find several classes of these in religion. There are many sorts of the fearful, who shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
For example, a man, who hears the name of God blasphemed, religion opposed, good manners attacked, but who hath not the courage to confess Jesus Christ, to say, I am a christian, and to manifest his indignation against such odious discourses, such a man is fearful, he shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God. A man, who sees his neighbor wounded by calumny and slander, but who hath not courage to reprove the slanderer, though in his soul he detests him, such a man is one of the fearful, who shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God. A magistrate, who hath received from God the sword for the protection of oppressed widows and orphans, but who terrified with the rank of the oppressor, sacrifices to him the rights of widows and orphans, such a man is fearful, he shall have no part in the inheritance of the children of God.
But, though these notions of fearfulness are just, and though the proposition of our text is true in all these senses, it is clear, I think, by the circumstances in which St. John wrote the revelation, by the persecutions which he foretold, by the exhortations which he addressed to believers to surmount them, and by many other considerations, that the holy man had particularly, and perhaps only, that fearfulness in view, which induces some to deny that truth for fear of persecution, of which they were thoroughly persuaded. Of this sort of fearful persons, he affirms, they shall hare their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
There is, I acknowledge, an equivocalness in the terms, or rather in the proposition, which may render this article obscure, and those which follow more so.
When it is said, that the fearful, the unvelieving, and the abominable, that murderers and poisoners shall have their part.in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, we are not to understand either such as have once committed any one of these crimes, or such as have lived some time in the practice of any one of them : but have afterwards repented. Were we to condemn to eternal flames all such persons as these, alas! who could escape? Not Moses; he was sometimes unbelieving. Not St. Peter ; he was sometimes fearful. Not David; he committed murder, was guilty of lying, abomination and impurity. Not any of you, my brethren; there is not one of you, whose conscience does not reproach him with having done some act of fearfulness, unbelief, and impurity. Heaven forbid, we should have to reproach any
with forming the act into a habit !
St. John speaks then, in this place of those only, who live in a habit of these vices. But, I repeat it again, although this evil habit may originate in human frailty, yet it is certainly that sort of fearfulness which we have been explaining; it is that fearfulness, with which tyrants inspire such as ought to confess the truth. Ask those of our brethren, for whom we utter the deepest sighs, and shed the bitterest tears, what prevents their giving glory to God by yielding to the exhortations, which we have so long addressed to them, and
which we daily continue to address to them. They tell you it is human frailty. Ask that head of a family, why he doth not flee to some place, where he might enjoy such a public worship as he approves, and partake of the sacraments, for which he pines. Human frailty makes him fear he cannot live without his dear children. Ask that lady, who is in some sort mistress of her destiny, having neither family nor connection, and being loaded with silver and gold; ask her why she doth not avail herself of her independence to render homage to her religion. Human frailty makes her fear, she cannot undergo the fatigue of a voyage, or bear the air of a foreign climate, or share the contempt generally cast on their refugees, who do not carry along wich them reputations, riches, and honors. Ask that apostate, what obliges him to receive the mark of the image of the beast on his forehead, Rev. xii. 16. Human frailty makes him fear prisons, dungeons and gallies. Yet what saith St. John of this fearfulness inseparable from human frailty ? He saith, it excludes people from the inheritance of the children of God. The life of a christian is a continual warfare. Fearfulness is the most indefensible disposition in a soldier. Fearfulness in war is one of the vices, that nobody dares avow; worldly honor either entirely eradicates it, or animates sol. diers to subdue it. Want of courage is equally odious in religion. A timid christian is no more fit to fight under the standard of the lion of the tribe of Judah, Rev. v. 5. than a worldling under that of an earthly hero, The fearful shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
After this, my brethren, shall we plead our frailty? Shall we draw arguments for lukewarmness from what ought to invigorate us ? Shall we cherish our indifference by such passages as these? The