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BE IT Remembered, that on the 3d day of May, in the forty-fifth year 
of the independence of the United States of America, A. D. 1821, S. Potter 
Sf Co. of the said district, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, 
the right whereof they claim as proprietors in the words following- to wit: 

Sermons of Samuel Stanhope Smith, D. D. late president of Princeton 
college, JSTew Jersey. To which is prejixed a brie/memoir of his Life and 

In conformity to the act of the congress of the United States, entitled 
" An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of 
maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, du- 
ring the times therein mentioned." And also to the act, entitled, " An act 
supplementary to an act entitled, " An act for the encouragement of learn- 
insT, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and 
proprietors of such'copies during the times therein.mentioned," and extend- 
ing the benefits thereof lo the arts of designing, engraving, and etching his- 
torical and other prints." 

Clerk of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 


Sermon I. History of the Golden Calf, - - . - 3 

II. Patriotism, 19 

III. On the Being of God, - - - - - - 39 

IV. On Divine Providence, - - - - - 51 

V. On Christian vigilance and preparation for death, - 67 

VI. The promised seed of the woman: or, the power of 
evil destroyed by Jesus Christ, - - - - 80 

VII. Trust in God, 9^. 

VIII. On Devotion, 108 

IX. Immortality clearly revealed, - - - - 123 

X. The progress of Vice, ----- 137 

XI. History of Moses, ------ 153 

XII. The love of God in giving his son for the redemp- 
tion of the world, - - - - - -166 

XIII. On the Nativity, 181 

XIV. Life of the Patriarch Abraham, - - - 193 

XV. On Reading, 236 

XVI. On Fashionable amusements, _ - - 253 

XVII. On Fashionable amusements, No. II. - - 265 

XVIII. The Imperfection of our Knowledge, - - 281 

XIX. The History of Moses, 299 

XX. On the fear of xMan, 313 

XXI. The excuses for not entering at present on a reli- 
gious life, vain and absurd, - - - - 326 

XXII. On a wrong Conscience, ... - 339 
XXni. Dangers of a wrong Conscience, - - - 353 

XXIV. The perfection of christian morals, - - 367 

XXV. The christian passover, or dispositions proper for 

the Lord's table, 387 



And all the people brake off the golden ear rings which were in their 
ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received them at their hand, 
and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf; 
and they said, these be thy Gods O Israel, which brought thee up out of 
the land of Egypt. — Exod. xxxii. 3,4. 

There is in the human heart a strange perversity and 
disposition to forget God our maker, which, if it were 
not so common, not to say universal, would be almost 
incredible. The richest mercies of divine providence, 
which, at the moment, perhaps, have awakened all the 
powers of gratitude, soon escape from the remembrance 
of men; and the most awful displays of the majesty and 
justice of God, when they are past, speedily cease to 
leave behind them any traces of those deep impressions 
which once appeared as if they could never be effaced. 
The idolatry of Israel at the very base of Mount Sinai, 
affords a striking exemplification of these remarks. 
They had seen the mountain inveloped with clouds, 
convulsed with thunders, and all on flame widi light-, while God, from the midst of these tremendous 
tokens of his presence, proclaimed to the trembling na- 


4 History of the Golden Calf'. 

tion that holy law, the fundamental principle of which 
is the unity of the divine nature, and the crime of idola- 
try. Yet, hardly were these dreadful signals from hea- 
ven past, when they relapsed into the idolatrous habits 
of Egypt, and their early prejudices in favour of a visi- 
ble God. Moses had not yet been forty days in the 
summit of the mountain, (along with Joshua his friend, 
and the future commander of his armies) receiving the 
details of the moral, civil and religious laws by which 
Israel was to be governed, when they had already erect- 
ed an idol, and were dancing round it with a frantic joy, 
after the example of the pagan nations, and, particular- 
ly, of their Egyptian masters in the worship of Apis their 
principal god. Their leader was absent beyond the peri- 
od which they had fixed for his return; his word no lon- 
ger instructed, his presence no longer controuled them; 
little susceptible as yet of those spiritual ideas which 
Moses endeavoured to impart to them of the divine na- 
ture, the grossness of their minds, and the prejudices 
of early habits and examples, demanded some visible 
symbol of the Deity on which they might fix their reve- 
rence, and which their imagination might animate 
with a divine intelligence, and invest with a mysterious 
power. They besieged Aaron with their clamours to 
give them Gods who might go before them, Aaron, 
through weakness, yielded to their importunity or their 
menaces: or, perhaps, not yet sufficiently instructed in 
the spirituality of that new law which prohibited every 
material representation of the Infinite and Eternal Mind 
who cannot be imaged by any visible form, thought he 
was not departing far from his duty by offering to the 
senses of a gross people some object which might at- 

History of the Golden Calf. % 

tract and fix their devotion.* He, not less than the 
body of the nation, had the principles of his religion, 
in a great measure, yet to learn from Moses, who was 
the sole interpreter to them of the will of God. He 
seems to have forgotten that all visible symbols, in- 
stead of elevating the mind of a gross people, in a holy 
and spiritual devotion, to the Supreme Deity, soon at- 
tach its veneration to tiiemselvcs. He forgot that great 
and reasonable, and immutable command which forbad 
him to make any image of the Deity, or the likeness of 
any thing in heaven or on earth, to be worshipped for 
him; and this under the most rigorous denunciations. 
He accordingly called for the golden ornaments of the 
people, he framed the mould of a calf, or a small ox, 
for the original term may signify either, and cast in it 
that detestable image which awakened the just displea- 
sure of Almighty God, and kindled even an unholy an- 
ger in the breast of the meekest man upon earth. After 
he took it from the rough mould, he perfected the figure 
and all the nicer lineaments by the tool of the engra- 
ver. — Moses, at the command of God, descended from 
the mountain, (along with Joshua,) to arrest the grow- 
ing spirit of idolatry, and that dangerous defection from 
his laws which had so soon sprung up in the camp of 
Israel. When he saw the base idol, its altar, and its 
deluded votaries shouting and leaping round it with 
that wild frenzy which only became the scenes of riot 
and debauchery; bereft for a moment of his usual 

* The word translated Gods in this passage is Elohim, in the plural 
number, indeed, but the same which is translated Lord in the fifth verse; 
and which is usually employed, before the publication of the name Jeho- 
vah, to signify the God of Israel- 

6 History of the Golden Calf. 

moderation, for the sacred writers impartially record 
their own faults, he forgot even the awful presence of 
God, and the majesty of that holy law the tables of 
which he was bearing in his hands; he dashed the ta- 
bles to the earth and broke them to pieces, and he spoke 
unadvisedly with his lips. Moses had nursed this peo- 
ple as a father his children, he had redeemed them 
from bondage, he had made them a nation, he had ex- 
posed himself to dangers, and submitted to toils for 
them, he had instructed them, protected them, comfort- 
ed them in their trials, and was guiding them to perpetu- 
al habitations; yet with vile ingratitude, they so soon 
forgot his admonitions and himself. God had displayed 
in their behalf the most astonishing wonders, he had 
promulgated to them his holy law in the midst of the 
most dreadful tokens of his power, and his justice, yet 
with monstrous impiety, they so soon violated that law, 
and transferred his glory to the image of a brute! Mo- 
ses, whose soul was all enlightened with the beauties of 
divine truth, and inflamed with a dutiful and holy zeal 
for the glory of God who had deigned to honour him 
with such familiar intercourse, was struck with horror 
at their act, and knew not how to pardon the baseness 
of their crime. — Although his zeal, at first, partook too 
much of the impatience and weakness of humanity, yet 
the crime was of so high and dangerous a nature, tend- 
ing to overturn the whole system of government which 
he was so anxiously labouring to establish, that, in his 
most cool and deliberate moments, he determined that 
it was necessary to inflict an exemplary public justice 
on such an act of treason and rebellion. It was not a 
civil offence, which could be brought before the ordi- 

History of the Golden Calf. 7 

nary tribunals of the ancients established in their res- 
pective tribes; it was the revolt of a great part of the 
nation against the fundamental principle of the govern- 
ment, which was a theocracy; of a nation constantly 
under arms in the midst of hostile regions, and subject- 
ed to military discipline. Moses therefore resolved on 
a military execution, and three thousand men* perish- 
ed for their fault. These were but a small proportion 
of those who were embarked in the treason: but they 
were sufficient for a terrible example to all those who 
were disposed to disobedience and mutiny. And every 
mind that reflects dispassionately on the state of that 
people, will be convinced that such an example was 
necessary. Subjected to new laws, and to a dicipline 
different from that of all other nations, grown up in 
habits and prejudices opposed to that better order of 
things under which they were now placed, submitting 
reluctantly to institutions too pure for their gross minds, 
with arms in their hands, they were peculiarly liable to 
be misled by the artifices of those designing men, who 
were ever read)' to excite them to revolt, unless they 
saw the terrors of divine providence, or the sword of 
military vengeance, continually suspended over the 
heads of jhe offenders. On this occasion Moses called 
for volunteers from the army, whose pious zeal, and 
whose ardent patriotism would dispose them to execute 
the sentence. The sons of Levi presented themselves 
to their general, who ordered them to gird on their 
swords, to pass through the camp from gate to gate, and 
to kill every man his brother, his friend, his neighbour; 

* Voltaire, to af gfravate the pretended cruelty »f Meses, Bays 30,000, 

8 History of the Golden Calf. 

that is, whomsoever of the idolaters he should meet in 
his course; for every IsraeHte was neij^hbour and broth- 
er to every other. The order amounted to this, — let 
no considerations of private sympathies, or of your so- 
cial feelings on this great and interesting occasion, ar- 
rest the course of public justice. The orders being 
given, the culprits would naturally flee and endeavour 
to conceal themselves; — but few were met by the band 
of volunteers who traversed the camp, and three thou- 
sand only, of the vast multitude involved in this trans- 
gression, fell victims to the just vengeance of the law. 
This punishment, to inattentive or uninformed readers, 
seems severe, and it has often served as a subject of 
declamation to the ignorant or designing enemies of re- 
ligion, who have not considered that the sin of aban- 
doning the worship of the true God involved in it also, 
such was the constitution of their government, tne crime 
of rebellion against their supreme executive and legis- 
lative power, and that a nation encamped^ though it en- 
joved also its civil tribunals, was necessarily subject to 
military law. This punishment was entirely equivalent 
in its nature, although different in the mode of execu- 
tion, to one which frequently took place in the Roman 
legions, in the case of mutiny, and was stiled by them 
decimation. Every tenth man was drawn by lot, and 
ordered for execution. It is probable that, in the pun- 
ishment inflicted by Moses, still a smaller proportion 
than every tenth man suffered death. And it has this 
analogy with the Roman that it was wholly accidental 
which of the offenders fell under the sword of military 
justice. This awful and salutary example being given 
to the trembling and astonished nation, Moses cast the 

History of the Golden Calf. 9 

golden calf into the fire, and reduced it to a fine powder, 
and mixing it with the streani of Horeb, which still fol- 
lowed them, it formed, in this way, a most bitier and 
nauseous draught, which he compelled the remainder of 
the rebels to drink. 

The just displeasure of Almighty God, however, was 
still ready to break forth against an impious generation. 
Moses, penetrated with the most deep and poignant 
grief, and remembering his character of intercessor with 
God, as well as of legislator of the nation, again retired 
to his holy obscurity, and entered that awful cloud, which 
still covered the top of the mountain. There he poured out 
the most fervent supplications to heaven in behalf of an 
offending people. Oh! Lord! if thou wilt forgive them! 
(a curt form of expression for, I beseech thee to pardon 
them;) and if not ^ blot me I pray thee out of the book which 
thou hast written! This is a prayer which has given rise to 
much critical discussion. Some have carried their ideas 
to such a pitch of extravagance as to imagine that Mo- 
ses prayed to be blotted out of the book of eternal life; — 
and have asserted that it is even a reasonable test of 
genuine piety and zeal for the glory of God, and the 
interests of religion in the world, to be willing, if neces- 
sary, to suffer eternal damnation to promote them. 
These wild visions of a heated brain it would not be 
necessary to refute, even if we could give no other in- 
terpretation to the words. But they evidently imply a 
prayer that, if God did not spare his people, he w ould 
then blot out his servant Moses, also, from among the 
living, — that God would take him out of this miserable 
life; as all his glory, his pleasures and his hopes, — 
all the objects for which he could desire to live, would 

10 History of the Golden Calf. 

then be at end. — The people of Israel preserved regis- 
ters and genealogies of all their citizens, and records of 
the actions of all their public men, for the information 
both of the present and future generations. Hence, to 
express the knowledge which God possessed of men, 
and their transactions, it became an easy and familiar 
figure to say that they were recorded by him in a book. — 
to be blotted out of the book written by him, is to be 
taken from life, to be blotted from the records of the 
living.* The importunate prayer of this great inter- 
cessor, the type of him who is intercessor for the sins of 
the world, was successful; God promised to suspend 
the dreadful execution of his justice. But, that they 
might not grow secure and presumptuous, he threatens 
still to bear it in remembrance in their future crimes. 
Now go and lead the people to the place of which I have 
spoken to thee; nevertheless^ in the day when I visit, I 
will visit their sin upon them. I will visit upon them this 

Having presented to you, with great brevity, the his- 
tory of this extraordinary transaction, I proceed to an- 
swer some inquiries which arise out of it, to reply to 
some objections which have been made to this part of 
the sacred writings, and to propose some pious and 
practical reflections which may be suggested by the 
whole view we shall have taken of the subjc^ct. — in the 
first place, then, what could have tempted the people of 
Israel, or what could have so sunk and degraded the 
human mind in any nation, as to induce it to offer to a 
vile and senseless ox, that worsiiip which is due only to 
the Infinite and Eternal Spirit who made the heavens 

* See Isaiah v. 3. 

History of the Golden Calf, 11 

and the earth, and who fills the universe with his pre- 
sence? — Israel probably borrowed this idolatry from 
Ea^ypt where the supreme deity was worshipped under 
the form of a living ox. This ox, which was denomi- 
nated Apis, was required by their laws to possess cer- 
tain qualities very rare and difficult to be found in that 
species. And when the beast with the requisite cha- 
racters was discovered, he was introduced into the tem- 
ple amidst the highest exultations of the deluded peo- 
ple, and there nourished and served with the most 
profound veneration. Animals of various kinds, and 
even vegetables were adored in Egypt. Do you ask 
farther, whence could spring this monstrous debasement 
of reason? It was the natural oft'spring of ignorance and 
superstition combined with the peculiar customs of the 
country. Ignorance, whose conceptions are all gross 
and material, demanded, to aid its devotion, sensible 
images, which should stand as representations of the attri- 
butes and perfections of the Deity: superstition soon 
transferred to these images themselves, the veneration 
which was due only to the Creator. I said it was the 
offspring of ignorance and superstition combined with 
the peculiar customs of the country. Egypt was the 
region of hieroglyphic, in which, before the general use 
of alphabetical writing, all moral, political, and theolo- 
gical science, and even the properties of the divine mind, 
were represented by sensible objects, by animals, by 
vegetables, by mathematical figures, whose properties 
were supposed to bear the greatest analogy to the ideas 
for which they stood as the signs. Among these, the 
ox seems to have been chosen, for his strength, and for 
his utility, particularly in agriculture, to be the hiero- 

VOL. II. c 

12 History of the Golden Calf. 

glyphic, or representative image of the power and the 
beneficent providence of God. 1 he iinage, at first, was 
innocent, and employed merely as a sign, as, in sym- 
bolical pictures, to this day, we see the lion employed 
as the emblem of strength and courage, the cock of 
vigilance, the pillar of stability. But superstition seiz- 
ing, abused it, as it is prone to abuse all sensible images 
in divine worship; and the Apis became the sovereign 
Deity in Egypt. The Israelites received the supersti- 
tions of their masters, and in spite of all the wonders 
which were displayed before their eyes, and all the 
lights which were poured upon their minds from hea- 
ven, they were continually prone to return to their for- 
mer habits, and their former errors. Ah! how hard is 
it for a fallen nature, for a degraded reason and a cor- 
rupted heart, ro receive the pure and spiritual lights of 
truth! How many ages has the light of revelation been 
combating with the darkness of Paganism; and with 
what difficulty, at last, has it established those noble 
and sublime ideas of the divine nature which every 
where prevail in the Christian world, in the room of 
those gross conceptions which, in the ancient and Hea- 
then world, raised it but little above the human; which 
often sunk it, indeed, below the brutal! This conside- 
ration may lessen, in some degree, our m onder at the 
stupidity, the perverseness, and the crimes of Israel. 

M. Voltaire, whose historical accuracy has never been 
much esteemed, and whose wit is certainly much supe- 
rior to his science, has proposed tv\ o objections to the 
history of the golden calf, one which he thinks plausi- 
ble at least, another which he esteems irrefragable. But, 
like most objections against the sacred writings, a little 

History of the Golden Caff. 13 

attention, and a little knowledge are, sufficient to resolve 
them. He asserts, and this is his plausible objection, 
that it was impossible for a band of poor and fugitive 
slaves in the wilderness, to find gold sufficient for the 
casting even of a small ox. The philosopher of Fer- 
ney forgot the size and weight of the golden ornaments 
worn by all classes of people in those rich countries — 
he forgot that the host of Israel consisted of near three 
millions of persons — and that they came loaded with 
wealth, which they either borrowed, or seized, as the 
reward of their long and cruel servitude in Egvpt. — He 
says farther, and this is his irrefragable argument, that 
the story of Moses reducing the golden calf to a fine 
powder, rendered potable with water, is a falsehood and 
absurdity, because the thing was impossible. Yes, pro- 
fane wits! it is such an absurdity as you often impute to 
the Bible, it rests in your own ignorance; — you publish 
your ravings, and then think you have demolished the 
authority of the sacred scriptures. He says, with tri- 
umph, there is no human art which can reduce gold to 
such a powdjr. Voltaire, before he denounced Moses 
with such arrogance, should have examined more accu- 
rately the sphere of his own knowlege. Voltaire lived 
in the infancy of chemistry, and he was surely no che- 
mist or he would have known that two very common sub- 
stances, (sulphur and the salt of tartar,) united in proper 
quantities, will operate this effect. As a natural historian 
he should have known that there is a substance, the 
natron, which grows commonly on the banks of the 
Nile, and with which Moses must have been well ac- 
quainted, which operates the same effect. This exam- 
ple shows the danger of resting too much weight on 

14 History of the Golden Calf. 

objections against the history or the doctrines of the 
scriptures merely because our knowledge of antiquities, 
or of nature, may not be sufficient to resolve them. If 
this objection had been proposed before chemical sci- 
ence had been sufficiently advanced to afford its solu- 
tion, vv'ould it not have affiDrdeda triumphant argument, 
in the opinion of certain enemies of religion, against the 
authority of the great and inspired legislator of the Jews? 
And yet we now see that it would have had its origin 
only in the ignorance of its author, and derived its weight 
entirely from the ignorance of his readers. 

But is it not strange, is it not unaccountable, if the 
people of Israel saw the tremendous tokens of the di- 
vine majesty upon Mount Sinai, if they heard the trum- 
pet, if they beheld the flames, if they felt the earthquakes 
which shook the mountain at the presence of its Maker, 
and, under the impression of all these terrors, offered 
their vows to heaven and confirmed their national cove- 
nant, that they should so soon relapse into idolatry, and 
violate that law which they had heard proclaimed by 
the voice of God? Does it not bring, with reflecting 
men, the reality of these miraculous histories into doubt? 
No, reflecting men who behold the corruption of the 
world, who see the thousand follies, crimes, enormities 
of the human heart every day, will know that there is 
no impiety of which it is not capable. Let me confirm 
this observation by our own example, do we not daily be- 
hold more magnificent spectaelesof divine power and wis- 
dom in the heavens and the earth, in the sun, the moon, 
and the stars, than Israel saw in all the terrors of the 
burning mountain? And yet, does not the yoo/ continue 
to say in his heart there is no God? Does he not pro- 

History of the Golden Calf. 15 

claim his being with a voice which reaches through the 
universe? and yet, do not you, with ungrateful Israel, 
forget him? Is not the law written on your heart by his 
own finger, confirmed by all the glorious evidences of 
his justice and his power in the works of creation which 
surround you? And yet, do you not thoughtlessly and 
impiously go, — do you not go with a bold profanity 
in the midst of all these wonders to violate it? — Do 
you say that the cases are not parallel? that the won- 
ders of creation have lost their effect by their familiari- 
ty? Take then, those more rare and awful displays of 
his justice and his terrible majesty, in which every 
heart appalled, confesses and feels his presence. Pressed 
under the hand of God have you at some times appre- 
hended the approach of death? Has pestilence invaded 
the city; and does every face gather blackness and des- 
pair? Can you forbear in these cases to acknowledge the 
hand of God which, by its terrible chastisements, would 
recall you to your duty? Have you not trembled? have 
you not sent your prayers to heaven? have you not con- 
firmed your duty by ten thousand vows? Have not 
crowded churches, and solemn assemblies, attested the 
universal conviction that God was present as upon Mount 
Sinai? But let him deliver you from death; let his mer- 
cy hear the prayers of the city and drive far from it the 
destroying plague; and do these awful impressions any 
longer remain upon the heart? Are the promises, the 
vows of aiHiction remembered in health? Alas! what 
scenes of dissipation have been known to pass almost 
over the graves which a few weeks before seemed to 
open to the terrified sight the mouth of the infernal 
abyss? Was Israel more forgetful, more impious even 

16 History of the Golden Calf, 

at the foot of the mountain of God? — No, my brethren, 
sinners may behold the most glorious or the most a\v- 
ful displays of the divine majesty and power; they may 
tremble, they may pray, they may bind themselves by 
the most sacred vows in the moments of their terror; 
yet hardly are these signals of heaven past till the un- 
sanctified heart returns to its former channels, the sin- 
ner to his lusts, the idolater to his Gods. 

If these reflections account for the crime of an un- 
grateful and undutiful nation, they do not however jus- 
tify it. The principles of this crime, alas! are deeply 
seated in human nature; but this, instead of being their 
apology, only presents to us a more dark and humilia- 
ting view of the human heart. It is a truth too often 
illustrated by melancholy experience, that the heart of 
the children of men is fully set in them to do evil. The 
conduct of the people of Israel,* is but a picture of the 
world. Do you not see mankind ungrateful like Israel 
for the beneficence of divine providence, rebellious like 
Israel against the authority and the laws of God, un- 
moved like Israel by the most awful displays of his pow- 
er, almost insensible to that sublime spectacle which the 
universe every where presents of the presence and the glo- 
ry of its Creator. But shall I refer you to the example of 
mankind? Hearer! do you not perceive the shameful truth 
jn your own heart; in your own heart, which is but an 
image of the world? Learn by acquaintance with your- 
selves, to observe and deplore the corruption of human 
nature. And, my brethren, when we see, in the history 

* It frequently shocks us the more by the details of forty years being 
crowded, in the narration, into a narrow compass, and seeming to press on 
one another in such close succession. 

History of the Golden Calf. IV 

of ungrateful Israel, so many subjects of reproach and 
condemnation, let us turn our thoughts inward and see, 
considering our superior lights and mercies, still great- 
er causes of humility and repentance in ourselves. 

This portion of the sacred history may suggest to us 
another reflection, of very serious import, on the nature 
and the guilt of that crime which drew on that people 
such an exemplary vengeance from their great legisla- 
tor, moved and guided by the authority of heaven. Not 
only was it a direct rebellion and revolt against God who 
acted as the immediate ruler of that nation by responses, 
by oracles, and by a particular providence; but it went to 
corrupt the principle of the national prosperity, and even 
the national existence, which was religion. When 
their religion w-as violated, and its authority denied, 
their laws were overturned, the foundations of the public 
virtue were destroyed, internal anarchy ensued, they 
became a prey to their foreign enemies. My brethren, 
a like providence is extended over all nations by gene- 
ral laws, of which Israel, by the particular dispensations 
exercised towards her, gives us only a more visible and 
strikino- example. It is still true as it was among them 
that righteousness exalteth a nation, and that sin w ill 
prove the calamity, and, finally^ the destruction of any 
people. Whatever, therefore, augments the general 
mass of vice in a nation, whatever tends to impair or 
undermine the public virtue, whatever denies, corrupts, 
or weakens the influence of religion, which is the only 
solid basis of the national morality, certainly and neces- 
sarily exposes a people to those calamities which are 
the sure indications, and the just eff"ects of the divine 
displeasure. If the hand of heaven is not seen among 

18 History of the Golden Calf. 

us so visibly lifted up, if its judgments are not announced 
by prophets, and executed by angels, if we must trace 
it through second causes, it is not less certain and aw- 
ful in its operations. The divine government over the 
people of Israel was the visible model of that secret do- 
minion which is extended over all the kingdoms of the 
earth. Immorality and irreligion are the grave of em- 
pires and of nations. If the judgments of God are de- 
layed; if they frequently appear for a moment and are 
suspended, yet will they fall at last with accumulated 
vengeance on the head of the guilty. He is continually 
saying by his providence, nevertheless^ when I visit, I 
will visit their sin upon them. Sins which now seem to 
be passed over, sins, the punishment of which is sus- 
pended, waiting for their repentance, shall be recorded 
in a book, they shall ail be remembered, at length, to 
aggravate the fearful and exterminating strokes of my 
justice. — Consider this all ye that forget God. The 
truth applies to individuals as well as to nations. The sus- 
pension is not the renunciation of judgment. The day 
of retribution will come. It will come with the greater 
terror both from having been delayed, and from not hav- 
ing been expected. Renounce your sins by repentance, 
yield your hearts to the grace of the Redeemer, seek 
your refuge beneath his cross. Amen! 


Delivered on the 2Sth of September, 1808, the Sunday 
preceding the annual commencement. 

If I forget thee O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget her cunning. If I 
do not remember thee, let m)' tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I 
prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. — Psalm, cxxxvii. 5, 6. 

Moses infused the whole force of religion into his 
political institutions; and along with the most profound 
respect for its public rites, incorporated the purest 
principles of patriotism in the system of education which 
he prescribed for the youth of his extraordinary repub- 
lic. Every consideration which could inspire them with 
the love of country, and make them glory in the naijie 
of Israel, was assiduously inculcated upon them from 
their earliest years. The book of their law, which enfi- 
braced in one code their political, civil, moral and cere: 
monial institutions, was carefully preserved, and con- 
tinually read in every family; they were required 
frequently to assemble at Jerusalem to hear it solemnly 
expounded by ministers peculiarly designated for this 
purpose; the chief fervor of the patriotic sentiment they 
directed towards the capital of their religion, and their 
country, in which was their temple, their altars, and the 
ark of the covenant which God had made with their fa- 
thers; they were taught to respect themselves as enjoy- 
ing the wisest laws, the purest, and sublimest concep- 
tions of God, and of human duty, of any nation upon 

VOL. 11. D 

2D Patriotism. 

earth; sprung from the same blood, they identified the 
ideas of country, and of kindred; and every Israelite, in 
his fellow citizen beheld his brother; their polity, their 
laws, their religion, and their common ancestry formed 
to them but one great and proud idea. 

It has been ignorantly objected as a reproach to Chris- 
tianity by its enemies, that the virtue of patriotism is no 
where prescribed among its moral precepts. On the 
contrary, we see throughout the Old Testament, the love 
of country, of the laws, institutions, religion, and people 
of Israel, which forms the true notion of patriotism, en- 
joined as a duty, or recommended as a perfection, in the 
whole system of the Mosaic legislation, in the writings 
of the prophets, and in the history of the pious and con- 
spicuous worthies of that favoured nation. If it is 
less directly inculcated in the discourses of Christ, and 
his apostles, it is because they were not addressing the 
people of any particular country, who had laws and a 
government of their own. Besides, all the world ^^ as 
at that moment sunk under a violent and unrelenting 
despotism; and discourses of that nature, would per- 
haps have tended only to tumult and insurrection. But 
our duties to our country, no less than those to our fami- 
lies, result from the whole spirit of that benevolence 
which is the fundamental principle of the gospel. 

This psalm seems to have been composed by some 
pious Jew, during the captivity of the nation at Babylon. 
The captives often wept at the remembrance of their 
country, always dear to them, but now more dear, since 
they were exiled from it. Being required by their ene- 
mies, in derision, to sing one of the songs of Zion, ac- 
companied, as they always were, with the melody of 

Patriotism* 31 

the harp; this profane insult served only to renew the 
recollection of their city, of their temple, and the wor- 
ship of Jehovah with increased tenderness. — If I forget 
thee O Jerusalem! says the devout and inspired poet, 
let my right hand forget her skill to touch this hallowed 
instrument, which should be employed only in the so- 
lemn worship of the king of Zion. Rather let it hang 
silent on the willows of Euphrates. Rather let my 
tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, which used to 
be vocal only in the high praises of our God. — These 
words contain a warm and patriotic effusion, expressive 
of the zeal of the sacred author, for the glory of Jerusa- 
lem, the capital of his beloved country, the centre of its 
religion, government, and laws. His heart was penetrat- 
ed with deep affliction for the desolations in which it had 
long lain. He was dissolved with grief at the mournful 
recollection of its past prosperity and his own happi- 
ness, when he came up with the assemblies of his kin- 
dred nation to worship in its holy temple. His grief 
was the irresistible impulse of a patriotic love of his 
country. It was all the expression of it which, in his 
humbled and exiled condition, he had it in his power 
to give. We see here a pure and sacred example of 
the spirit of patriotism expressed with peculiar fervor. 
This sentiment, so noble and honourable in itself, and 
recommended by so great and holy an authority, I pur- 
pose to make the subject of our reflections in the pre- 
sent discourse, in which I shall 

I. In the first place, explain the principle of patriot- 
ism, by which a good citizen is attached to his country; 
and in the next place, 

22 Patriotism, 

II. Illustrate the obligations that result from this re- 
lation; or point out the primary duties of a good citizen. 

I. True patriotism, the principle of so many other 
virtues, is a complicated and powerful affection, which 
attaches us to the region in which we have received our 
birth, to the people with whom we have become as- 
similated by common ideas, common manners, and com- 
mon interest, and to that form of government and sys- 
tem of laws which preside over our union, safety, and 
happiness; and serve to connect us in one great politi- 
cal body. Our country may not possess greater advan- 
tages of soil, of climate, of cultivation, it may not have 
arrived at a higher state of refinement in arts and man- 
ners than other portions of the earth; in the career of 
improvement, it may yet be even far behind. But 
being endeared to us by residence and habit, by being 
the scene of our early pleasures, and all our best enjoy- 
ments, and containing the objects of our dearest affec- 
tions, it blends itself with all the finest feelings of the 
heart, and holds us bound to it by the tenderest and the 
most numerous ties. The men of other nations may be 
no less worthy our esteem than our own countrymen; 
but we are best acquainted with human nature as it is 
exhibited in the manners and habits of the latter, and 
appears in them cast in the same mould with ourselves; 
we therefore mingle our affections more easily and cor- 
dially with theirs, and more easily enter with them into 
those benevolent and sympathetic feelings, which most 
closely and agreeably connect man with man. Many 
causes tend to throw the inhabitants of different nations 
at a distance from one another, and to impede the free 
course of those mutual sentiments, which so much en- 

Pafriotism. 23 

dear to us onr friends, and fellow citizens. A thou- 
sand nameless pleasures on the other hand, a thousand 
powerful interests, a thousand delicate sympadiies, serve 
to attach men to their native country, which, generally 
speaking, they cannot feel towards other portions of the 
world. And it seems to be the intention of the Su- 
preme Author of our being, by thus circumscribing our 
affections and our duties within a sphere to which our 
limited faculties can extend their operation with com- 
plete effect, more certainly to promote the happiness of 
the whole. 

The spirit of the gospel requires that we should be 
ready to comfort and assist human nature wherever it 
presents an object to our benevolence which needs our 
aid, and which we are able to relieve. But the entire 
mass of mankind forms a system too vast to be the di- 
rect and immediate end of our actions. This immense 
sphere is subdivided into many inferior circles; and 
when each man circumscribes his labours to j)romote 
the interests and improvement of one, the prosperity of 
the whole is the result of the well directed efforts of all. 
Country embraces, perhaps, the largest portion of man- 
kind which can be the direct object of our public affec- 
tions and actions. And, combining so many great and 
interesting ideas as it does, patriotism, next to our duty 
to heaven, forms the noblest and most powerful object 
and principle of action in a generous and virtuous 
breast. Still should it be so subordinate to the universal 
principle of philanthropy, as to check that contempt and 
aversion towards other nations which is apt to arise in 
contracted and ignorant minds; and above all, to repress 
that injustice to which the pernicious, and cruel pas- 

24 Patriotism* 

sions of ambition and avarice so often give birth. Let 
it be the study of every good citizen to promote the 
improvement, to seek the perfection, to defend the 
rights of his country. He may be permitted to indulge 
a generous pride in her glcry, but it should ever be 
with that liberal candour which is ready to acknowlege 
the merit of every other nation; with that rigid justice 
which will never lend his aid to infringe their sacred 
rights; with that philanthropy which never forgets that 
all nations are our brethren. 

It is but occasionally, however, that the patriotic prin- 
ciple becomes the immediate spring of action in the 
mass of citizens; when certain general operations of the 
state, or when some great crisis present its interests di- 
rectly to the view of the great body of the people, and call 
for their united exertions. The republic, like the world, is 
again divided into subordinate spheres, embracing each 
man's domestic circle. Here the father of the family 
should sit like a presiding angel, charged with its happi- 
ness. His ordinary duty is to promote the comfort and or- 
der of that narrow sphere, immediately entrusted to his 
care, and to make it move in harmony with the gene- 
ral system. By judiciously presiding over its welfare, 
he fulfils one of the most interesting duties which 
providence has assigned to man, and contributes in the 
most effectual manner to general good. The aggregate 
of happy families constitutes the happiness of the great 
community of the republic. At the same time, the love 
of country should hold such high and commanding in- 
fluence in his soul, that, to promote her interest, or hef 
glory, when she demanded his aid, he should be ready 
to consecrate his time, his talents, or his fortune, in hef 

Patriotism. 25 

defence; when endangered by the injustice of her ene- 
mies, he should be ready to devote his hfe. Such is 
the law, such is the generous impulse of true patriotism. 
The interests of each man must be dearer to himself 
than those of his neighbour; but the accumulated in- 
terests of a great nation, to which we are attached as 
members to the body, form a vast and complicated ob- 
ject of affection, fitted to rouse and engage all the best 
passions and powers of the soul; and to swallow up all 
private considerations, in great and noble minds. The 
love of country, called into high and vigorous action on 
great occasions, is the sublimest impulse of our nature. 
It has accordingly attracted the highest admiration of 
mankind in all ages, and formed the noblest subject to 
the pen of the historian, and the fancy of the poet. 

II. Having spoken of the principle of patriotism, I 
proceed briefly to illustrate the obligations which re- 
sult from it; or to point out some of the principal du- 
ties of a good citizen. 

These duties I shall embrace under two heads — 
virtue and piety; the former comprehending those du- 
ties which tend by a direct influence to the public 
prosperity; the latter, those which more indirectly or 
remotely contribute to the same end, by promoting good 
morals, and obtaining the favour of God, in whose 
hands are the destinies of nations. 

That virtue which is the basis of the prosperity and 
stability of free states, consists in public spirit, in in- 
dustry, frugality, temperance and justice. Justice and 
industry are the surest foundations of social order, and 
of the general prosperity. These virtues, when they 
form die distinguished character of a people, are among 

26 Patriotism. 

the most certain indications that effeminacy and disso- 
lution of manners, and the corrupting love of pleasure, 
which rot at heart the strength of nations, have not yet 
invaded them. And when united with temperance and 
frugality, their sister virtues, they produce a people 
firm, resolute and hardy, whose aims are not basely ab- 
sorbed within themselves; hut who have reserved the 
full energies of their souls for the defence and service 
of their country, when her exigencies require their aid. 
They are capable of enduring the most arduous self- 
denials, of making the noblest sacrifices to the safety or 
the glory of their country. Such a people is invincible. 

But, it is my purpose chiefly to make a few observa- 
tions on public spirit, which is the peculiar virtue of free 
governments, and which, indeed, in all others, would 
be useless or pernicious. A republic, forming but one 
political body, should be animated by one spirit — a fer- 
vent attachment to the common weal. As a wise and 
prudent self-love is continually studying the happiness 
and perfection of the individual; the perfection and 
happiness of the community, is the object of the patrio- 
tic principle. It aims at the public interest, in opposi- 
tion to all factious views; it is solicitous to preserve 
pure the sources of legislation and of justice; it is 
anxious to promote not only the more solid interests of 
the country, but its convenience and ornament; it is 
concerned to enlighten the nation, as the best mean of 
preserving its liberties; and, finally, it is prepared to 
defend with ardour, and at every hazard, the existence, 
the rights, and the true glory of the repubhc. 

It aims at the public interest in opposition to all fac- 
tious views. Faction is the bane of republican states. 

Patriotism, 27 

Its leaders are ever actuated by proud and ambitious, 
or by base and mercenary motives, and the ignorant and 
misled populace are unwillingly made the instruments 
of their own disgrace, and of the ruin of the state. No 
men hold the understanding and the interest of the peo- 
ple so cheap as those who play upon their credulity and 
their passions, to render them the tools of their own 
designs. The ancient republics have left an instructive 
and a dreadful lesson to posterity, if posterity would 
ever receive instruction from the errors and misfor- 
tunes of those who have preceded them. At the pe- 
riods-at which they seemed to have attained the summit 
of their glory, their liberties perished in the vortex of 
faction. The wretches who conduct and inflame these 
disorders, are always the pretended friends of the peo- 
ple. Always some popular watch- word is given out to 
their followers. And, although they should begin their 
career with patriotic motives, mistaking or disregarding 
at length the true interests of their country, their patri- 
otism forever ends in a criminal ambition of power. 
Having tasted the sweets of power precedently, they are 
unwilling to relinquish them; and to maintain the con- 
trol which they have once acquired, no means are 
deemed unlawful. The public good is sunk in indivi- 
dual interests; and, by degrees, the violence and bitter- 
ness of party feuds rise to that implacable degree that, 
for victory or vengeance, they will rather throw them- 
selves into the arms of an enemy than yield to the su- 
periority of a rival. Athens unhappily affords not the 
only example of a republic destroved by the corruptitig 
arts of a Philip, seconded by the blind credulity and ab- 
surd devotion of internal faction. 


28 Patriotism. 

If you would preserve the sources of the legislation, 
and the justice of the commonwealth pure, which is the 
next object of public spirit, it is of high importance 
that you should conscientiously exercise that portion of 
the general sovereignty entrusted to you by the constitu- 
tion in the public elections. The rights of suffrage are 
a sacred deposit committed to every citizen, to control 
the ambition, avarice, or caprice, of those who are in- 
vested with the temporary powers of legislation, which 
he should neither neglect to use to their proper end, 
nor exercise without the most scrupulous caution and 
the most serious reflection. That ground, so often, to 
the reproach of republics, made a scene of tumult and 
disorder, should be approached with reverence. In the 
primary assemblies of the people, may be said to origi- 
nate the laws on which the most sacred interests of life 
and property, and liberty and national prosperity depend. 
They ought to be regarded as grave and solemn con- 
ventions, whence clamor and passion, and party vio- 
lence ought to be banished; to which should be admit- 
ted only prudence, calm consideration, and enlightened 
discussion. When the best citizens desert the elec- 
tions, ignorance and low intrigue, and the partisans of 
dishonesty, who have always their motives to be active, 
acquire the direction of the popular voice. In a cor- 
rupted state of the commonwealth, when faction drives 
the wise, the prudent and discerning, from the assem- 
blies of the people, the elections exhibit the low scenes 
of brothel violence and riot, or become a stormy sea, 
agitated by adverse tempests, which never subside till 
they sink in the dead calm of despotism. The popu- 
lace, flattered and inflamed by their demagogues till 

Patriotism. 29 

they can no longer bear the mild control of the laws, 
will, with their own hands, prepare a master for them- 

I said, in the next place, that public spirit, imitating 
the private affection, is solicitous not only to increase 
and strengthen the more solid interests of the state, 
which consist in agriculture, commerce, the arts of 
peace, and the necessary means of defence in war, but to 
promote, likewise, its convenience and ornament. Nor 
is this contrary to another and acknowledged maxim of 
republican goveriniient which requires plainness and 
simplicity in the accommodations and manners of pri- 
vate citizens. At Athens, in the flourishing periods of 
that republic, while the houses of individuals were of 
the simplest structure, nothing: could exceed the ma- 
jesty of their temples, the convenience of their port, the 
beauty of their gymnasia and their academies, the ele- 
gance of their porticos and public walks, the multitude 
and perfection of their statues and paintings. In this 
capital of Grecian learning and elegance, all the arts 
were enlisted to give splendor to the city, to give ma- 
jesty to religion, and to reward the patriotism of her il- 
lustrious citizens. Each one, simple in his own habi- 
tation, frugal and temperate in his own enjoyments, was 
contented to reserve all his magnificence for his country. 
While he opened his own door by a simple latch, tem- 
ples, columns and statues, rose to the honor of their 
gods and their heroes; poetry and history were em- 
ployed to extol their praises in the public assemblies, 
and to consign them to immortality. Hence Athens 
enjoyed the double advantage of bestowing splendor on 
her citizens, without effeminating their manners, and of 

30 Patriotism, 

calling forth all the talents of the republic in her ser- 
vice, without corrupting them by the rewards she be- 
stowed. The love of glory and of country, nut avarice, 
became the ruling passion of her patriots. 

To this example might I point as a lesson to oiir 
country: perhaps I might point to it as her reproach, 
when ue reflect that the great Washington lies undis- 
tinguished by any monument or any trophy, covered 
by the simple turf on the margin of the Potomac. But 
Washington will find a monument in the heart of every 
good man; his trophies shall exist in the eternal page 
of history. 

But, besides the grand and noble works of public 
utility undertaken by the state, for its own aggrandize- 
ment or interest, it is greatly to be desired that the laws 
and customs of the country could invite the wealthy to 
voluntary expenses for the same end. If, instead of 
lavishing their wealth in ostentatious equipages and 
splendid decorations of their persons, in sumptuous 
palaces, and menial trains, which only attract envy, 
corrupt the public taste, and sink the rich in effeminat- 
ing pleasures, they v/ould employ it on works of public 
benefit, which procure a sincere and unenvied glory; 
on monuments, to reward illustrious merit; on libra- 
ries for the public use, in which to collect the wisdom 
and experience of ages; on institutions to diffuse the 
sacred light of philosophy and truth; on public ways 
by land or water; and even on gardens, galleries and 
walks, to promote the innocent and elegant amusements 
of the people, — it would be a noble and patriotic taste 
in expense, which would not deprave the heart, and 
would surround the generous author with a higher 

Patriotism. 31 

glory, and impart to him a sincerer transport than all 
the proud distinctions of rank, or all the voluptuous 
enjoyments of luxury. Such a taste introduced into 
society, would furnish the best remedy of the evils « 
which necessarily spring from the unequal distributions 
of fortune. Behold, then, a duty which the wealthy 
owe to the country which protects their fortune. Be- 
hold a duty which they owe to themselves, to their re- 
putation, to their fame, to their legitimate influence in 
the commonwealth. 

A genuine spirit of patriotism is still more concerned 
to establish and extend among die people the means of 
general and useful information. The ancient legislators 
made the education of the youth of the republic, so as 
to prepare them for discharging honorably the peculiar 
duties of citizens, much more an object of their political 
institutions than the moderns have done. By these it 
has been too much abandoned to ignorance and caprice, 
or to total neglect. An enlightened people cannot , 
easily be enslaved; and the extensive diff'usion of know- 
ledge through the mass of a nation,- greatly augments 
the sum of public happiness. I am not about to pro- 
pose any general plan of education for the state; but 
may be permitted to say, that it is what every great and 
free people owe to themselves, to make aniple provision 
foj> the cultivation of the sublimer sciences, and to af- 
ford a generous encouragement to the improvement of 
the liberal arts. Such was the noble idea cherished by 
the great father of his country, equally the friend of 
letters and of liberty. And it is of still greater impor- 
tance to provide for the common education of the citi- 
zens, and to carry a certain degree of useful, practical 

32 Patriotism. 

knowledge home to every man's door. All the youth 
of the republic should be taught to understand that con- 
stitution of government under which they live, and to 
_ be made acquainted with the outlines of those laws 
which guard their property and their lives, and preside 
over the piiblic peace and safety. No lecrislative care 
could contr-bute =iu)re to public order, and to the pre- 
servation of that con jtitution and those laws so neces- 
sary to the public liberty and happiness. The state, 
assuming the care of her children from their earliest 
years, should endeavour to render them worthy of her. 
Genuine public spirit, in the last place, is ever prepar- 
ed to defejid with ardor, and at every hazard, the exist- 
ence, the right, and the true glory of tl^e republic. 

In the ancient republics, every citizen, trained to 
arms, and hearing, from his infancy, the interests and 
the glory of his country continually sounded in his ears, 
tvas taught to hold life, and every thing that he pos- 
sessed, subject to her call. The same iiigh and gene- 
rbus sentiment nourished in the breast of every citizen, 
mini>]ed with his first ideas, and blended with his ear- 
liest habits, would form the stongest bulwark of the 
republic, and be to her insteadof ramparts and of armies. 
Closely connected ^with this principle is another indis- 
putable maxim of sound policy: That the republic, 
while she studiously represses a spirit of conquest and 
love of war, should always be preserved in a complete 
and active condition of defence. The love of peace 
becomes the humanity of a republic: it is in peace, 
when it can be preserved with honor and with safety, 
that she will enjoy the greatest happiness. But the am- 
bition and injustice which have constantly disturbed 

Patriotism. 33 

the world, have imposed it as a duty on every state to 
be always prepared to protect its own rights. A gov- 
ernment which adopts a feeble and timid policy, and 
resorts to cunning rather than to open and manly coun- 
sels, and depends for her defence on the contentions and 
rivalships of other nations rather than on the vigor o£ 
her own genius and the energy of her own arm, will be 
insulted and despised; and however she may escape, 
for a time, the common fate of a pusillanimous people, 
must change her policy, or become the victim of her 
own weakness. — Americans! if you would preserve 
yourselves from insult and aggression, present such a 
front of war on the land, and on the ocean, where you 
equally live, as will compel the most contemptuous and 
unjust of your enernies to respect you. Surrounded 
with your fortresses, both fixed and floating, you should 
resemble your own eagle, who, securely building his 
nest in the summit of his rocks, relies on his courage to 
defend his habitation and his offspring. Infatuated 
must you be, seeing, as you have seen, all the founda- 
tions of national faith overturned by the perfidy and 
crimes of the present age, oaths committed to the winds, 
treaties made with knavery to be torn by force, if you 
can any longer make useless appeals to the justice of 
nations who have no religion but ambition, or rely on 
parchment contracts, if your own courage does not im- 
press the seal, which your courage will defend. 

I will ask leave only to add further, in this place, that 
there are many works of public utility, too great for the 
enterprize of individuals, which true patriotism will not 
hesitate to make objects of national expense, or to fa- 
cilitate by aids from the national treasury. Such are har- 

34 Patriotism. 

bors for the reception and defence of our navy and our 
commerce, public ways by land and water, in order to 
connect more closely the distant parts of this extensive 
republic. Whatever adds to the national security, or 
promotes internal communication, contributes to na- 
tional wealth. And every public way which is improv- 
ed, every canal which is opened, every river which is 
rendered navigable, bestows augmented value upon the 
whole property of the nation. 

Politicians of narrow minds, who cannot comprehend 
a system of enlarged improvement, nor extend their 
view to remote results; and others of base spirits, the 
sycophants of a low popularity, who estimate national 
glory \)y farthings, continually sound in the ears of the 
people, that, though so rich in our resources, we are not 
competent to the expense of such works of improve- 
ment or defence. Let us examine this idea. It is true 
that money sent abroad for which there is no return, 
is a real and substantial loss to the nation. But the 
nation is never impoverished, but commonly much en- 
riched, by her works of interior improvement and de- 
fence. While money circulates at home, hands it may 
change; but in every hand, it equally composes part of 
the public wealth. Its value is even augmented in its 
passage. The strength and riches of a country, do not 
consist in the quantity of stagnant wealth which it con- 
tains, but in the active circulation into which it is put. 
One shilling is multiplied in its value in proportion to 
the number of hands it passes through in a day. The 
state is a gainer, then, while she quickens its progress, 
by every spring of industry which she sets in motion, 
by the very circulation she creates in providing for her 

Patriotism, 35 

own defence; by every facility which she gives to fo- 
reign and domestic communication; by every protection 
and assistance she affords to useful individual enier- 
prize; and even by the profit she may draw from every 
prudent application of the public revenue in aid of ob- 
jects of general and permanent utility. 

I have now spoken of the general obligations of vir- 
tue: another, and certainly one of the highest duties of 
a good citizen, is to cultivate in his own heart, and to 
diffuse, as far as possible, throughout society, a spirit of 
pure religion and devotion. As an immortal being, re- 
ligion is the most important concern of man: it is not 
less an object of his duty as a member of the civil state. 
An irreligious man is always a pernicious member of 
society. He contributes, what in him lies, to extend 
those principles, and create those manners which radi- 
cally corrupt the prosperity and stability of nations. 
The order of providence embraces empires as well as 
individuals; and although other nations are not subject 
to the theocracy of Israel, yet are they equally under the 
universal government of God; and it is not less true in 
this, than in any former age, that, righteousness exalteth 
a fiation, and that sin is the reproach^ and ulthnately^ the 
ruin of any people. By a certain and infallible order, 
vice leads to the dissolution of society, virtue promotes 
its strength, and prolongs its duration. But virtue, 
which does not rest on the basis of religion, cannot long 
preserve its influence over the public mind, and the na- 
tional manners. Nay, when impiety has infected the 
mass of any people, it is always seen connected with ex- 
treme licentiousness of morals: the passions are let loose 
from every curb. And, indeed, if there is no God; or, 


36 Patriotism. 

which in its effects is the same, if he is totally disre- 
garded and forgotten, if we are not endued with an im- 
mortal principle of life, if there is no judge, no tribunal, 
no future retribution, if we possess, in common with 
the brutes, only a sensual and perishable being, why 
submit to the painful and useless sacrifices of virtue? 
Why endeavour, by arduous self denials, to rise above 
our nature? If, after a few moments of mere animal 
sensation, we sink into the dust and again become no- 
• thing, why attempt to enoble that being which is to be 
no more? Why should the insensible clod aspire even 
to posthumous fame? Why not devour the present 
moment, and plunge into brutal and corrupting plea- 
sures, which alone would be worthy of a degraded na- 
ture, but which soon dissolve all the bands of civil 
society? Better were a false religion, than a total des- 
«rf titution of religious principle. Religion, at least, gives 
the stamp of a divine authority to those moral princi- 
ples on which society must be founded; it adds the 
sanctions of eternal justice to the feeble sanctions of 
human laws. It personifies the sublime idea of moral 
perfection in the Deity, so that, in the very acts of our 
worship, it serves to plant the seeds, and to strengthen 
the growth of every virtue in the heart. 

One of the first and highest duties, therefore, of a 
genuine friend of his country, is to promote the know- 
ledge and extend the practical influence of true religion. 
But, besides the natural connection of religion with vir- 
tue, and of virtue with public happiness, the analogy of 
divine providence, and the explicit declarations of the 
word of God, lead us to expect his peculiar blessing on 
national piety, and his peculiar judgments on national 

■Patriotism. 37 

dereliction of religion. 7 he natioii which will not serve 
thee^ saith the holy Psalmist, shall perish: And the pro- 
phet Isaiah proclaims, Open //<? the gates that the righ- 
teous nation^ which keepeth righteousness^ may enter in; 
for to such a people, salvation will God appoint for walls 
and bulwarks. And what are the denunciations which 
he hath pronounced upon iniquity, impiety and profii- 
gac}' of manners? Ah sinful nation! a people laden with 
iniquities! a seed of evil doers! children that are corrupt- 
ers! your country is desolate; your cities are burnt with 
fre; your land, strangers devour it in your presence. 
Such is the destiny, ultimately prepared in the order of 
divine providence, for every nation which forgets God. 
It is often delayed, indeed, or mitigated, for the sake of 
that sounder part who weep for the transgressions of their 
people, and who have not dej)arted from the rock of 
their salvation. Ye are the salt of the earth, said Christ 
to his disciples, for whom the world itself is preserved. 
And such is the influence of piety, that even five righ- 
teous persons would have saved the devoted city of 
Sodom. It is a salt that preserves; it is a leven that 
leveneth the whole mass; it is a powerful intercessor 
with the God of armies; the Judge of all the nations 
of the earth. The highest service, therefore, chris- 
tians, which you can render your country, is to pro- 
mote, by your piety and your zeal, that holy spirit 
among your compatriots and fellow citizens. The re- 
public founded on the basis of religion and virtue, will 
be immortal. For thus saith the Eternal, the fountain 
of truth: I will show mercy to thousands of generations of 
them that love me and keep my commandments. 

38 Patriotism. 

I might represent to you the security of that people 
whose God is the Lord, and the blessings which will be 
poured out to them from his benignant hand; I might 
depict, in strong colours, the ie^Lrful Judgments which a 
guilty nation is treasuring up for itself agai?2st the day 
of wrath; and the addition which every sinner and 
every sin is making to that mass of iniquity which must 
be brought into account in the day of retribution: but 
it is more than time to address myself to the peculiar 
duty of this day, and to which you will now indulge 
me to turn. 


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his 
handy work: Day unto day uttereth speech; night to night teacheth know- 
ledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. 
Their line is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the 
world. — Psalm xix. 1. 

The existence of God is the basis of all religion. 
Revelation does not prove but presuppose it. It is one 
of those primary and original principles which nature 
has taught to all mankind. For all men, those who 
reason least, as well as the profoundest philosophers, 
the most savage, as well as the most civilized, have ad- 
mitted this truth. 7 he invisible things of God, his ex- 
istence, his nature, his perfections, are clearly seen, being 
understood by the things that are made and do appear. 
They are visible to the whole human race, if they will 
reflect and inquire; so that those who deny his being, 
or who violate his law, remain without excuse. Such also 
is the proof which the Psalmist, in my text, gives of the 
existence of a supreme, infinite and eternal cause. The 
heavens enlightened with the glories of the sun; the 
firmament shining with innumerable stars; the day and 
the night, the harmonious vicissitudes of times and 
seasons, all demonstrate his being to the reasonable 
mind. There is no speech nor language, says our trans- 
lation, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone 
out into all the rvorld, and their words to the ends of the 
earth. The original is more beautiful: They use ?io 

40 On the Being of God. 

voice nor speech; silently they convey this truth to the 
heart: yet the laxvs and the instructions of the mute 
volume of nature, are gone out into all the world; they 
are seen, they are read, they are understood by all 

I purpose, then, to illustrate this elementary and in- 
teresting truth that there is a God, the creator, and the 
righteous governor of the universe, that I may prepare 
our hearts for those practical reflections which naturally 
arise to a serious and attentive mind out of the belief 
of this sublime doctrine. I say to illustrate this truth 
rather than to demonstrate it; for the idea of God is one 
that can hardly be said to wait the slow process of rea- 
soning and deduction; but forces itself irresistibly upon 
the mind from the contemplation of the works of nature, 
cither in ourselves or in the universe around us. It is 
an instantaneous and almost intuitive impression, con- 
genial with our nature, and that seems to form a part of 
our existence, till torn from it by vice, or the false re- 
finements of philosophy. Ingenious men have, indeed, 
attempted to demonstrate the existence and the perfec- 
tions of God by a train of abstract speculations, which 
it would be useless here to repeat; but it was only 
when they began to speculate that they began to doubt. 
The pride of human reason aspires, like the Deity him- 
self, to pierce at one glance through metaphysical truth; 
but it is too weak and limited in its powers, and its 
feebleness and blindness often leave it in the attempt 
involved in innumerable and inextricable errors. One 
principle appears clear: that an original and eternal 
Cause must exist, itself uncaused, unchanged, incapa- 
ble of succession, though the source of ail that partakes 

On the Being of God. 41 

of succession and change. The human mind, indeed, is 
lost and overwhelmed in the profundity of these ideas; 
yet constrained to admit them from the palpable ab- 
surdity of supposing an eternal succession of mutable 
beings. Simonides, when asked by the prince of Si- 
cily what God isj demanded, at first, one day to consi- 
der the subject; he then requested another, and another. 
At last, said he, the more I reflect, the more I am con- 
founded. The mysteries of eternity confound the 
mind. The mysteries of the divine existence are in- 
scrutable to our limited and imperfect reason. These 
difficulties have sometimes tempted the arrogant spirit 
of philosophy to deny his being; and sheltered vice from 
its ow^n reproaches, when the fool has dared to say in 
his heart, there is no God. The latter dreams of acci- 
dent or fate, in the room of a supreme intelligent 
Creator and Judge of the universe. The former is will- 
ing to encounter all the absurdities of an everlasting 
matter already organized from eternity, and everlasting 
revolutions in the heavens and the earth by the neces- 
sary and successive impulses of matter. Instead of 
making a Creating Mind the source of being, they make 
all mind, even the original and supreme, the result 
merely of material organization. Flying from difficulty, 
they plunge into absurdity; in avoiding what is incom- 
prehensible, they embrace what is contradictory. These 
metaphysical proofs of the being of a God, may serve 
to exercise ingenious minds, but they are too subtle to 
produce a strong conviction even in them, or to be al- 
ways clearly comprehended; and, being liable to be en- 
countered by rival subtleties, they are often more fit to 
perplex than to illuminate the understanding. Least of 

42 On the Being of God. 

all are they fit for popular instruction. Those are the 
best and strongest proofs which are equally applicable 
to all mankind, which all can comprehend, and which 
have been admitted by all from the beginning of the 
world. They are those to which the scriptures appeal, 
and which, in every nation, leave both the ignorant and 
the sinner without excuse. We find them in the struc- 
ture of nature; in our own consciousness; in the wishes 
and hopes of all good men. 

I. In the structure of nature, throughout which order 
and harmony, and fitness and beauty reign. Wher- 
ever we behold these perfections, we instinctively in- 
quire after a cause; and are led irresistibly to ascribe 
them to a cause intelligent and beneficent, as well as 
powerful. Did we see a temple, did we see a palace 
constructed with all the beautiful proportions of art, 
the various parts of which were perfectly fitted to their 
several ends; did we see even the meanest cottage in 
a desert, adapted to the habitation of man, could we 
persuade ourselves that they had risen by accident? 
Would we not recognize in them the hand of an artist; 
the plan and direction of a superintending reason? What 
we dare not pronounce, then, concerning the humblest 
work of human skill, can we believe of the glorious 
fabric of the universe? Contemplate the grandeur of 
its orbs, the harmony of their movements, the regularity 
of the seasons. Add to those beauties which strike the 
senses, the discoveries of modern science. Contem- 
plate in every star the solar center of another system of 
worlds which it enlightens and animates; and beyond 
them, countless myriads more buried from our view in 
the immeasurable depths of space. Descend from these 

On the Being of God, 43 

sublime objects to the earth which we inhabit; contem- 
plate the distribution of lands and waters; the atmos- 
phere which surrounds and vivifies the whole; the 
vapours of the ocean transferred to the mountains, and 
thence, after refreshing the surface of the fields, returned 
to the ocean again; the wonderful organization of ani- 
mals and plants; the adaptation of their parts to their 
various ends; the multiplicity and beneficence of their 
uses; and their powers of prolonging forever their res- 
pective kinds; and say, is all thi^ magnificent order, this 
admirable harmony the effect of chance? Are all these 
appearances of intelligence and design the fruits of a 
blind and fortuitous impulse? Impossible; the man 
must be stupid or perverse; disordered in his mind or 
sunk in profligacy, who can deny his Creator in the 
midst of that evidence which blazes upon him from the 
heavens and the earth. It is impossible, in a discourse 
like this, to pursue nature into her details; but every 
view which we can take of her works, from the sun in 
the firmament to the clod in the valley; from the cedar 
in Lebanon to the hyssop in the wall; from the whale 
that disports in the waves of the ocean to the micros- 
copic animalcule, so minute that even its drop is an 
ocean to it; from man, proud in his wisdom, to the 
heath in the wilderness that knoweth not when good 
Cometh — all declare the existence and the glory of God. 
They speak in mute accents, indeed, but they speak 
deeply to the heart. 

II. But, need we go farther than ourselves, who are 
only a small part of that universe which we behold for 
irresistible evidence of an intelligent, holy, just and 
merciful Creator? I speak not now of the human body, 


44 On the Being of God. 

so fearfully and wonderfully made^ which penetrated 
Galen with such profound sentiments of Deity; but of 
that intelhgent and conscious principle within, that in- 
dicates his wisdom, that attests his goodness, and even 
appeals to his justice against ourselves. 

Shall man possess intelligence and wisdom, and shall 
there not exist a supreme and intelligent Creator? 
Shall wisdom arise out of unconscious matter? Or 
shall it, throughout the vast extent of the universe, take 
birth by accident only in the human brain, just to ena- 
ble man to find fault with nature? Oh! folly! Oh! ex- 
travagance of error and vice! For, nothing but vice 
could so corrupt the lights of nature; could so pervert 
the plainest dictates of reason. 

But it is conscience which most powerfully attests at 
the bottom of the soul the existence of a just and holy 
God, the revvarder of virtue, the avenger of crimes. It 
has erected a tribunal in the breast of man that secretly 
points to a judge in the heavens, and derives from him 
all the majesty and authority of its decisions. Con- 
scious virtue looks up to him as its consolation, its 
hope, and the rewarder of its actions. — Conscious guilt 
trembles before him — when affliction overtakes it, or 
when death approaches, it announces his existence in 
thunder to the soul. Indeed, without the idea of God, 
virtue and guilt would be names without a meaning. 
From these internal feelings we derive the knowledge of 
a God holy and just as well as powerful and wise — of 
a moral governor as well as a supreme Creator. They 
perfect, if I may speak so, the idea of God, as well as 
the evidence of his existence. Omnipotence and in- 
telligence shine in all the works of naturej but holiness, 

On the Bemg of God. 4,5 

justice, goodness, are reflected back on him from our 
ov\n hearts. Here then is the true and complete no- 
tion of a divine being; here begins the true homage and 
worship of a reasonable soul. The effects of almighty 
power, and infinite wisdom, in the structure of the uni- 
verse may astonish and confound us; but in his moral 
attributes, his holiness and justice, his benignity and 
goodness, we find the foundation of religious awe, of 
filial confidence, of devout affection, of sanctity of life, 
of immortal hope. The proofs of a God of righteous- 
ness and truth we draw from within our own breasts; 
from these sentiments of probity and rectitude, of truth 
and justice which have been implanted tliere by the 
hand of nature and mingled with our being; from those 
eternal law s of virtue and goodness of which we are 
conscious, which form the glory of our nature, which 
we cannot cast off" without being condemned by our 
own sentence. As long as these laws maintain their 
dominion over my heart, or as long as I feel their ob- 
ligation, so long shall I feel an inward and intuitive con- 
viction that God exists. It is sin, it is corruption, it 
is profligacy only that can extinguish or impair this 
truth. 7 he fool saith in his heart there is no God. Self- 
love blinds the reason of sinners for a moment; the pas- 
sions drag it after them a reluctant captive; but when 
affliction, when disease, and the decline of nature, has 
quenched their fires and weakened their force, reason 
returns to its energy, and the fool, who, in his delirium 
had denied him, finds with dreadful conviction that there 
is a God 

III. Finally, we find a proof of the divine existence 
in the wishes and hopes of all good men. He is the 
consolation of virtue — virtue seeks in his approbation 

46 On the Being of God* 

its supreme reward. If, instead of being the childrea 
of a just and holy father who is in heaven, we were 
mere fortuitous excrescences from the earth, the sport 
of accident, or the miserable subjects of a rigorous des- 
tiny, to what would all morality be reduced but a base 
and worldly prudence? What restraint could be im- 
posed upon the passions? Would not he be the hap- 
piest man who could riot in the traiisient pleasures of 
sense widi the most unsatiated appetite? Society would 
be dissolved. Self would reign over all. Did not 
atheism precede the ruin of the Grecian states? Did 
it not accelerate the fall of Rome? Does it not forever 
augment the depravity of manners in which it has its 
birth? Is not utility, then, an argument of truth? Is it 
not from this, that is, from the interests of society, as 
well as from the instincts of nature, that all nations have 
acknowledged a Deity, and have cultivated his wor- 
ship? Ah! what would be the good man's recompence 
for all his labours, his self-denials, his arduous conflicts 
with himself, his generous sacrifices for others, if there 
were no God to approve, no immortality in v.'hich his 
ripened virtues would gather their reward? The victim 
of his own noble ardor £yid greatness of soul, might he 
not say in dying, like an ancient pagan philosopher, Ohf 
Virtue thou hast deceived me! What! the hopes of piety 
and virtue all deceitful ! W^hat! the same destiny to 
the righteous and the wicked! What! the same eternal 
night of oblivion equally cover the wretch who has been 
the pestilence of the earth, and him who has lived only 
for the blessing of mankind! No; impossible! To 
suppose it, is a crime against truth and reason, against 
human nature^ as well as against thee, O holy and 

Ofi the Being of God. 47 

merciful God! whose existence all thy works continually 
prnclaim. For, the heaveiis declare thy glory; day un- 
to day uttereth speech; mght unto night teacheth know- 
ledge; mute is their voice; silent is their praise; yet their 
line is gone out into all the earthy and their words to the 
end of the world. 

But why attempt to demonstrate a truth which is so 
obvious? Why prove that which no hearer denies? I 
arrest myself. I have designed only to suggest to your 
consideration a few of those ideas that should continu- 
ally recall to our minds the Creator of the universe, the 
Father of our spirits, and awaken^to him our holy and 
devout aspirations. 

Let me now deduce from this great doctrine, some 
useful and practical reflections. Is there a God? which 
all his works declare, which our own hearts attest? 
What a consolation to piety, to reason? The universe 
appears more glorious, enlightened by this idea; it 
becomes a more delightful habitation for good men. 
Every part is animated with life, is directed by wisdom, 
discovers a moral tendency and design. But if we saw 
in it only an immense fabric reared by a blind uncon- 
scious destiny, and in ourselves nothing but the wretch- 
ed children of necessity or chance, sprung into being, 
we know not by what power, shortly to be blotted out 
of it, we know not for what end, what gloom, what des- 
pair, must cover our state? Being would be joyless; 
affliction would press with tenfold weight upon its 
miserable victim, who could have no resource under it; 
this world would be the horrible dungeon of a despot; 
death would be still more terrible, because it would be 
without hope. But the good man looks up to die 

48 Cn the Being of God. 

heavens, and abroad upon the earth, and sees every- 
where an intelligent and animating spirit, an almighty 
and benignant power, a gracious and merciful parent. 
Is there, then, a God whom he adores and loves? 
Every blessing of life he tastes with greater sweetness as 
the gift of his Father who is in heaven. Is there a God 
who rules overall? Then affliction springeth not from 
the dust; it is not the hard and rigorous chain of a 
blind and inexorable tyrant; but the gentle chastise- 
ment of a parent, pointed to some good end, and tem- 
pered by his love. Is there a God! What a solace in 
suffering! Patience and resignation to the divine will 
is the greatest softening of all our sorrows. Are you in 
pain? I'ain loses its force in proportion as divine love 
inflames the heart. Are you in poverty? But have 
you not in God a treasure which the world, in its high- 
est prosperity, could not yield you, and which its most 
afflicting vicissitudes cannot take away? Are you left 
to weep over the graves of your dearest friends? But 
you grieve not as those who have no hope. And when 
you approach the awful term of life yourself, will not 
the light of his countenance be your support and con- 
solation? Equally present in heaven and on earth, the 
grave cannot divide you from him. The valley of the 
shadow of death grows light before you, when you feel 
the soul approaching to him. 

Again, is there a God? Contemplate his power, his 
wisdom, his benignity, as often as you look abroad upon 
the works of nature. Frequently retire into your own 
breast, and contemplate his moral attributes displayed 
there as in a new world. Worship him in his glorious 
temple of the universe; worship him in the assemblies 

On the Being of God. 49 

of his saints; adore him continually in yourretired medi- 
tations. Cultivate with him that sweet and ineffable 
communion which pious souls may enjoy with the Fa- 
ther of Spirits. Shall the highest enjoyments which we 
taste on earth arise from that sweet intercourse and 
sympathy of souls which takes place between those who 
sincerely love? And shall not communion with God, 
that spirit who is every where present, be a reality? 
Shall it not furnish to a good man his sublimest and his 
purest pleasures, as well as his most powerful motives 
to duty? O Deity! how delightful is thy influence 
which strengthens in the heart the principles of virtue, 
and assimilates man to his Creator who is holy! 

Is there a God? Remember that, existing every 
where, he is the witness of all your actions; he is inti- 
mate to all the thoughts and purposes of your soul. 
Consider yourself as always in the holy of holies, before 
the immediate image of the Divine Glory. As the gar- 
nients of the high priest were required to be clean, and 
his person to be pure, so let no crime dishonor your 
life; let no sin pollute your actions; let no impurity de- 
file your heart in that holy presence: for you are always 
before God. Regard the monitions of your own con- 
science as his voice, speaking to you profoundly at the 
bottom of your soul; let it continually say to you as it 
did to Jacob, surely God is in this place; this is no other 
than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven! 

Finally, is there a God! Tremble, O sinner! before 
his justice, while you may take refuge in his mercy. 
Although he conceals his terrors now, and forbears your 
crimes; yet will he shortly be revealed in flaming fire, 
taking vengeance on all those who do not acknowledge 

50 On the Being of God, 

or obey him. If you deny him, he also, O! tremen- 
dous destiny! will deny you, when seated on the throne 
of judgment. But ye rigiiteous, rejoice! You are not 
left as orphans and outcasts in nature; you have a father 
who is in heaven. He who turns the spheres, and pre- 
sides over all the movements of the universe, has taken 
you under his protection. No event happens but by 
his permission. He has formed you for virtue and 
happiness. Confide in him; he will more than fulfil all 
your prayers, your wishes, your hopes. H-s will shortly 
raise you above all the troubles of this world, and bring 
you, through the road of holiness, to his immortal glory. 
Oh God! whose existence the whole universe pro- 
claims, whom all nations adore, whose voice we con- 
tinually hear at the bottom of our hearts, never suffer 
us to forget thee, or to depart from thy laws! O lioly 
Spirit of truth! enlighten our minds more and more in 
this great truth! Let our hearts be thy temple! Let the 
holiness of our lives be thy perpetual worslup! /imen! 


> His kingdom ruleth over all. — Psalm cm. 19. 

The universal government of divihe providence, is 
a doctrine clearly established in the sacred scriptures, 
and the belief of it is of so great importance in the sys- 
tem of christian morals, that it is of the highest impor- 
tance to cultivate and cherish it. Men have risen in this, 
and in every age in which morals have greatly declined, 
who have denied a truth so consolatory to mankind, 
and endeavoured to account for the existence and the 
revolutions of the universe, merely by the eternal and 
necessary laws of matter. But it is the comfort of a 
good man to believe that a supreme and intelligent 
mind has given birth to the universe, and forever con- 
tinues to preside over the infinite variety of its bound- 
less operations. His kingdoin riileth over all. The 
words of the text need no explanation. They contain 
an assertion of the Almighty Power, and the universal 
government of the Creator over all his works. The 
Psalmist begins this sacred hymn with an elevated as- 
cription of praise to God, and with a recapitulation of 
various examples of the goodness of his providence; es- 
pecially to such as keep his covenantj and to those that 
remember his commandments to do them. He then lays 
down the general principle in the text; and concludes in 
a high strain of poetic praise, calling upon all nature to 
celebrate and bless the universal King. 


52 On Divine Providence, 

My purpose, in the following discourse, is, in the 
first place, to establish the truth of a divine pro\ ideuce 
over the world; and in the next place, to point out the 
practical and pious improvement which we ought to 
make of this beneficent doctrine. 

I. The belief of the universal government of Provi- 
dence, rests on the same principles with the belief of 
creation. The greatness, regularity, and beauty of the 
universe, the exact and admirable relations of its parts 
to one another, demonstrate that it has derived its origin 
from a wise and omnipotent Creator. The continuance 
of the same order and harmony, afford a similar and 
equal proof of his universal government. The revolu- 
tions of the heavens, the changes of the seasons, the 
regular vicissitudes of nature, are manifestly guided by 
the same hand by which they were at first established. 
By the same power are arranged all the moral changes 
of the world: and the rise and fall of empires, and the 
fortunes of individuals, however they may be traced to 
secondary and proximate causes, ought ultimately to be 
referred to the Divine will. 

Creation implies the dominion of Providence. The 
Creator, in giving existence to all things, imparted to 
them their respective powers, and fixed their mutual re- 
lations; and all the possible effects that could result 
from the infinite combination of powers which he him- 
self has formed, must have been understood by him 
from the beginning, and all those effects which have 
actually taken place must, consequently, have, in one 
view or another, been intended. Whether, therefore, 
we say, with certain writers, that the Creator originally 
endued all things with their respective powers, and im- 

On Divine Providence. 53 

parted to them all their changes, by which they con- 
tinue to operate in a certain train independently on his 
farther interposition; or say, with others, that the pre- 
servation and the changes of the world are in conse- 
quence of a continued exertion of his creating power, 
conducted, as by infinite wisdom they ought, according 
to fixed and uniform laws; on either supposition, we 
preserve the idea of a divine providence. Direction 
and design reign through the whole system of nature. 
His wisdom, from eternity, conceived the plan to which 
in time his power gave existence. All his works must 
have been present to the view and intention of the 
Deity from the beginning; for nothing can exist without 
him; and, in their successive development, he is con- 
tinually, present to all his works. 

But, perhaps, a deeper impression of this truth we 
derive from the sentiments of the heart than from the 
abstractions of reason; from feeling than from specula- 
tion. Even the belief which we have of the being of 
God, is more a sentiment than a deduction; an instanta- 
neous impression that forces itself irresistibly upon the 
mind from the contemplation of the universe, than an 
abstract conclusion pursued through a connected chain 
of anterior truths. Hence the people, in all countries, 
are not less, are perhaps even more, firmly persuaded 
of these doctrines than the philosophers. The impres- 
sions of nature are strong, and lead to certainty; the 
refinements of speculation often leave the mind entan- 
gled in scepticism. The one is the work of God, the 
other involved and deranged by being blended with the 
work of man. It partakes therefore of the frailty and 
imperfection of every thing that is human. 

54 0?i Divine Providence. 

To this powerful sentiment, not properly corrected 
and defined by reason, or enlightened by the spirit of 
revelation, is probably to be ascribed the belief of that 
nmllitiide of local deities who were supposed, by the 
ancient pagans, to people the heavens, and the earth, 
their forests, their rivers, and tneir seas, apd were pro- 
bably the fragments of a just original opinion. Con- 
scious of God in every place, but incapable of extending 
their views to one infinite and sole Cause and Governor 
of all things, they substituted for this grand idea, a 
crov\ d of inferior agents, whose existence and powers 
did not exceed their narrow comprehension. 

Hence, perhaps, the general consent and concurrence 
of all nations in this important doctrine: and this con- 
sent forms a new and solid argument of its truth. Our 
merciful Creator, knowing the imbecility of human rea- 
son, and how easily it is misled by prejudice, and de- 
ranged by passion, has not committed the great and 
radical principles of duty and conduct to its slow and 
dubious deductions; but hath worked them up, so to 
speak in the constitution of the human mind, or made 
them be the effect of immediate impressions from con- 
sidering the hature and state of things, which are there- 
fore universal. Being dictates of nature, they enforce 
a strong belief. They indicate the hand of God: and 
every principle which is common to mankind, may be 
considered as a dictate of nature, and therefore as the 
word of God, and as declaratory of some truth essential to 
their happiness or their safety. Has not the doctrine, 
then, of a divine providence over the world, composed 
an article in the belief of all nations? Has it not enter- 
ed into the philosophy of all sects, except, perhaps, of 

On Divine Providence. 55 

a few, the extravagance of whose opinions, or the cor- 
ruption of whose lives, have afforded a melancholy 
proof, at once, of the weakness of human reason, and 
the depravity of the human heart? Is it not attested by 
the festivals and lustrations, the auspices and prayers, 
the altars and the sacrifices of the pagan, as well as by 
the worship of the christian world? 

But the christian receives a more (Complete assur- 
ance of this truth from the sacred oracles of his religion. 
It is directly asserted, or inculcated by obvious conse- 
quence, in almost every page of the holy scriptures. 
The history of mankind, till the age of Moses, is the 
history of divine providence. Moses founded his insti- 
tutions entirely on this idea; and the nation of Israel 
presents to us a continued illustration of the govern- 
ment of God; a government that, equally exercised 
over all nations, is there alone rendered visible by the 
spirit of inspiration. The predictions, the promises, the 
denunciations of the prophets, constantly hold up to 
our view the absolute dominion of the providence of 
God over nations and individuals. We are not left, 
however, to derive this interesting truth by implication 
or deduction. It is every where directly proclaimed 
throughout the sacred writings, and the greatest of 
teachers hath extended its influence to the minutest 
events and the minutest objects in nature: The very 
hairs of your heacl^ saith he, are all numbered, and not a 
hair can fall to the ground xvithout your heavenly Father. 
The providence of God moves and regulates the whole 
system of the uni\erse. The progress and decline of 
empires, and the fortunes of individual men; the high- 
est orders of spirits, and the lowest combinations of 

56 On Divine Providence. 

matter; the minutest atoms and the greatest systems, 
are all equally subject to its inspection and government. 
God is forever present with us, and operates around us 
and within us. Such an idea of the universal govern- 
ment of God, presents a view to the pious mind the 
most sublime and interesting. It spreads over the uni- 
verse a face of solemnity that invites our devotion; and 
makes the ordinary events of life, that appear to others 
so trivial and indifferent, convey to a believer the most 
important lessons on the subjects of his dependence 
and his duty. God, who rules among the host of 
heaven and the inhabitants of the earth, orders every 
minute affair in the whole system of our acts. He is 
witness to the most secret movements of our hearts, and 
will shortly bring them into judgment. 

Objections have been raised against these ideas of 
divine providence, the consideration of which will lead 
us into farther views of the doctrine. It has been said 
to be unworthy of the Deity to suppose that he is 
obliged continually to exert a divine power for the pre- 
servation of his works, or that he should extend his at- 
tention and care to every atom that floats in the wind, 
or that falls to the earth. It would, indeed, be unwor- 
thy of God to imagine that the conduct of providence 
requires of him either the efforts of labour, or the pains 
of attention. These are ideas derived from human 
weakness. With infinite ease he sustains the immense 
frame of nature, inspects the minutest atoms, and the 
mostfleeting thoughts, and gives impulse and direction to 
its boundless movements. Some of the ancient schools 
taught that the Creator, having exhausted himself in one 
infinite effort, has, since the beginning of time, wrapped 

On Divine Providence. 5T 

himself up in indolent inaction. The gospel teaches 
us, on the other hand, that created beings, produced, at 
first, from nothing, cannot continue to exist but by the 
constant energy of the same cause that gave them birth. 
If it is lawful to judge, in any measure, of the divine 
from human nature, we might say, perhaps, that con- 
stant action is essential to the Deity, and forms a ne- 
cessary part of his supreme felicity. The power, there- 
fore, which created the universe, may reasonably be 
supposed to be continually exerted to preserve its ex- 
istence, and to conduct its operations. And its inva- 
riable laws, which have suggested to short-sighted 
man ideas of fate, of necessity, and even of chance, arc 
proofs of that intelligence from which they spring, and 
are invariable only because they are the result of infinite 

Another objection against a divine providence is 
founded on the disorders that exist in the world. This 
is an argument that would go to the denial of creation 
as well as of providence. But of disorders in the works 
of an infinite Being, we are wholly incompetent to 
judge. Our rash opinions have been compared by one 
of our greatest writers to the judgment of a fly alight- 
ing on the column of a magnificent temple, and pro* 
nouncing on the beauty and design of the whole from 
the seeming irregularities presented to his imperfect 
vision on the little portion of surface on which he sits. 
In the economy of the infinite Creator, we have reason 
to believe that no evils are permitted to exist which arc 
not subservient to a higher good; and what appears to 
be disorder, in the narrow sphere in which we are 
placed, would be seen to be harmonious and beautiful 

58 On Divine Providence, 

if it could be viewed in relation to the universal sys- 
tem. A few of those beneficial effects lie so near us 
that even our feeble sight is able to discern them. 
Does not the imbecility of childhood, for exaiiiple, 
serve to strengthen those sweet and delightful ties that 
connect together parents and their children? Do not the 
wants of mankind tend to cultivate their amiable sym- 
pathies, and contribute more closely to unite them in a 
humane and friendly intercourse? Regarding the world 
in general, can an evil be pointed out, of all that afflict 
the lot of man, that may n«)t be shown to have an use- 
ful tendency to improve his wisdom, his courage, his 
fortitude, his liumility, his benevolence, the perfection, 
and ultimately, the happiness of his nature? For, by 
strengthening his virtues, his capacities of happiness 
are enlarged, and it is continually rendered more inde- 
pendent on ail external circumstances. If it was right 
in the Creator to form a being so limited in his powers 
as man, he must derive his wisdom chiefly from expe- 
rience — experience, in an imperfect nature, must al- 
ways be mingled in a less or greater degree with error; 
and error can correct itself only by the evils which it 
draws after it. Perpetual pleasure and contentment in 
a being, constituted as man is, would lead to indolence 
and selfishness.. ..he is prompted, to the exertion of all 
the faculties of his nature, principally by the evils that 
surround him.. ..and exertion improves, at once, his 
powers, and his virtues. Many other instances we 
might produce to justify, even to our limited reason, the 
constitution and the ways of providence. How often 
do we see storms purify the atmosphere, and the pains 
and sufferings to which we are subject, correct the 

On Divine Providence. 59 

errors and vices to which we are exposed from the 
weakness and corruption of our nature*? How often do 
we see them stimulate to industry, create prudence, 
sharpen ingenuity, impr<jve knowkdge, chastise folly, 
promote wisdom, cultivate virtue? And, if we could 
extend our view to that endless chain of being of which 
man is only a single link. that universal system of 
which this world is an inconsiderable wheel. ...and to 
that eternal duration for which time is only a prepara- 
tory discipline, have we not reason to believe that innu- 
merable proofs of wisdom and of goodness would rise 
to view which are now concealed in the darkness of this 
terrestrial sphere, and the ignorance of our imperfect 
state. Do you ask why we were created with such 
weakness? Every creature might ask the same question. 
I must beg the indulgence of many of my hearers for 
introducing so many abstracted reflections into a dis- 
course intended for popular instruction. I designedly 
omit many others which a satisfactory elucidation of the 
subject might require. But trusting that you sincerely 
believe the doctrine of a divine and universal provi- 
dence, as it is revealed in the holy scriptures, I hasten, 

II. To point out the improvement which we ought 
to make of the doctrine, to strengthen in our hearts the 
principles of piety, and to promote our progress in all 
the habits of holy living. 

This doctrine presents to a good man a comfortable, 
and an instructive view of the universe. The ideas of 
fate and of chance in the governnjent of the world are 
equally gloomy. They leave man nothing to hope, and 
every thing to fear. And showing in nature neither 
Creator, Parent, nor Judge, lead him to despair, or give 


60 On Divine Providence. 

him up to the momen ary indiiljjence of his passions as 
his only remaining si;oof1. A sincere believer, on the 
other hand, looks upon the heavens and the earth with 
delight, and sees in them a glorious monument of in- 
finite intelligence and goodness. He beholds the Crea- 
tor present in all his works; and he feels himself con- 
tinually surrounded by the protection of a parent. Ideas 
of goodness and intelligence in the Creator, impress on 
the face of nature its principal charm; and are, to a vir- 
tuous mind, the most delightful subjects of his contem- 
plation. To all the comforts of life, the consciousness 
of the presence of God, adds their chief enjoyment; and 
if he suffers misfortunes, the remembrance that they are 
the inflictions of his heavenly Father, takes off the edge 
from suffering, and tends to reconcile him to his lot, 
while he believes, according to the divine promise, that 
all things shall work together for good to those who love 
Gody who are the called according to his purpose. In the 
revolutions of empires, in the calamities of nations, in 
the clouds that sometimes cover the church, in the dan- 
gers that threaten religion, in famine and pestilence, 
in the most dark and disastrous aspects of providence, 
where the human mind is confounded, and the ordinary 
spectator sees nothing but desolation and despair, he 
calmly confides in him whose kingdom ruleth over all, 
and whose providence will, by unsearchable ways, bring 
good ont of evil ^ and order out of co? fusion. 

In the next place, the belief of a divine providence 
affords a view of the world and of the train of events, 
full of pious instruction. They are all subject to the 
governnient of God; and being arranged by his power 
and wisdom, must contain, to a serious and attentive 

On Divine Providence. 61 

©bserver, many indications of the divine will, and of our 
duty. We shall be liable to mistake, indeed, in at- 
tempting to interpret too minutely the intentions of pro- 
vidence; yet frequently its combinations bear upon them 
such visible impressions, as cannot easily be mistaken 
by one who is concerned to understand his duty. He 
will often see in them the course of life which he ought 
to chuse; the object which he ought to pursue; the 
pursuit which he ought to relinquish; the duty which 
obviously arises out of the occasion; the service which 
he has it in his power to do for God, or for his fellow 
men, and often he may discern, as David did, in the 
chastisements of a righteous providence, the sins and 
errors of his past life. If it be asked how we shall know 
the duty required of us by the dispositions of providence? 
It is that which prudence will collect from a just com- 
parison of things, and a careful estimate of the circum- 
stances in which we are placed. Many persons seem to 
imagine a difference between that conduct which pru- 
dence and which providence points out; and that the 
latter often requires a sacrifice of prudential motives. 
Prudence consists in judging rightly of the ends which 
we ought to pursue, and the choice of those means 
which will most probably conduct to their attainment. 
These being all arranged and disposed by God in the 
order of his providence, the conduct which is indicated 
by this order is the same which a prudent man will 
pursue, who is, at the same time, animated by a holy 
zeal to discharge his duty. But prudence, as it is a 
worldly principle, leaves the ordination and the will of 
God too much out of view, and relies only on itself; 
using for its advantage the order of providence; but for- 

62 On Divine Providence, 

getting, in a degree, the great Disposer of all events: 
as it is a chrstian grace, it piously regards the divine 
will in all things, and pursues the course which they in- 
dicate in obedience to God. The one withdraws the 
heart from the supreme Creator; the other centers it on 
him, and, by a sacred reverence for his authority, con- 
trols the influence of those passions that often mislead 
the reason, and impose a false bias on the mind in judg- 
ing of duty. It adds diligence to wisdom in accom- 
plishing every good and useful end; imploring his aid 
whose blessing alone can give success, or make success 
redound to our own benefit or to his glory. 

In the next place, belief in a divine providence may 
well produce patience under affliction, and resignation 
under all the sufferings that distress our lot in life. He 
is the sovereign of the universe, and has a right to dis- 
pose of men, and to fix their respective conditions ac- 
cording to his pleasure. But he is our Father also, and 
doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. 
Every correction from his hand points to some merciful 
end. It is the chastisement of some sin, in order to 
lead us to repentance; it is the destruction of some idol 
that was withdrawing the heart from its supreme good; 
it is the trial of some grace, in order to strengthen and 
perfect it; it is designed to blast this world to our affec- 
tions, in order to prepare the soul for her heavenly 
destination. Affliction sprmgeth not from the dust. It 
is the minister of God; but it is his minister for good to 
those who study to learn the lessons which it conveys. 
Are your sufferings almost ready to crush your spirit, 
and seem to leave you nothing more to enjoy upon 
earth? Bow submissively before his awful sovereignty, 

On Divine Providence, 63 

as did his servant Job, when the Almis^hty addressed 
him from the midst of the terrible displays of his al- 
mighty power. Lord! I am vile! what shall I answer 
thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Has he 
broken your earthly fortunes? It is that you may seek a 
heavenly inheritance. Hath he snatched from you your 
beloved, perhaps your idolized infant; the partners or 
the pledges of your love? It is that you may transfer 
your love to him alone to whom it is due. It was he 
who gave, and it is he who, in his wisdom, hath taken 
his gift away. The language of faith on such aii occa- 
sion is the language of the aged and afflicted priest of 
God: It is the Lord! let him do what seemeth him good! 
Belief in the universal agency of divine providence 
will be, in the breast of a good man, the parent of 
pious trust in God. This spirit implies such confidence 
in his paternal care and goodness, as frees the mind 
from disquieting apprehensions concerning the future 
progress and events of life. If we are faithful, as be- 
comes the disciples of Christ, in the discharge of every 
duty of our respective callings and relations, his word 
has given us reason to expect that he will succeed our 
moderate and lawful hopes. Or if he deny the success 
which we most desire, it will be for some wise and 
good end which shall probably be fraught with greater 
blessings to ourselves; which shall, at least, be worthy 
his wisdom, and his fatherly kindness, and with which 
an humble and pious spirit ought to be contented. If 
he finds it necessary to chastise his children, whatever 
storms may vex the world, whatever clouds may in- 
volve their own lot, confidence in his wise, though, per- 
haps, mysterious providence, will impart to them pa- 

64 ^n Divine Providence, 

tience and fortitude in suffering, and sustain them in 
the midst of the most afflicted scenes: t/eUy though they 
walk through the valley of the shadow of deaths yet shall 
the ij fear no ill; he ivill be with them even there ^ and the 
rod and the staff i^i \\\t\x Shepherd will at once comfort 
and defend them. There is a sinful indolence and ne- 
glect of duty that is sometimes dignified with the name 
of trust in God, as if providence stood pledged for the 
success or comfortable provision of idle and lazy pie- 
tists, however wanting they maybe in industry, or im- 
prudent in the management of their affairs. This is not 
wisdom, but weakness; is not piety, but folly. The 
plan of providence is already laid by infinite wisdom, 
and is not to be altered to favour eidier the infirmity or 
presumption of foolish men. A pious and well-founded 
trust in God must be united with prudence and discre- 
tion in conduct, and with fidelity and industry, not in one 
or a few, but in all the duties that are incumbent upon 
us. This doctrine will furnish to a good man continual 
subjects of thankfulness and praise to Almighty God. 
From his benignity all our mercies flow. He giveth 
to all life and breath, and all things. And piety will 
look through every intermediate cause to him, and 
will recognize his hand in every blessing we enjoy; in 
a cup of cold water that comes to a disciple in the name 
of his Lord, as well as in all the splendor and prosperity 
that crowned the state of Solomon. We are, on all 
sides, surrounded with the abundant fruits of the divine 
goodness; and ever}^ moment comes to us laden with 
some proof of the beneficence and care of our heavenly 
Father. How many subjects of continual adoration 
have we to him who is the author of every good and 

On Divine Providence. 65 

perfect gift. Our existence, our preservation, our 
early advantages of instruction and example, our ad- 
mission into the bosom of the church, the means of 
grace that are applied, the hopes of immortality that are 
cultivated there, our privileges as christians, our liber- 
ties and interests as citizens, our domestic comforts, 
our social pleasures, all are the gifts of his providence: 
a grateful spirit will multiply them a thousand fold; 
piety is an habitual act of praise to God. i\.nd the con- 
templation of divine providence aftbrds perpetual food 
for this holy and heavenly disposition. Under these 
delightful impressions it was that the sacred writer com- 
posed this psalm of praise: " Oh! give thanks unto the 
Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever! 
Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me 
bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul ! and 
forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine ini- 
quities, who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth 
thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving 
kindness and tender mercies! The Lord hath prepared 
his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over 
all. Bless the Lord, ye his angels that excel in strength, 
that do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of 
his word! Bless the Lord all ye his hosts, ye ministers 
of his that do his pleasure! Bless the Lord all his 
works in all places of his dominions! Bless the Lord, 
O my soul!" 

Finally, this doctrine presents at every moment to 
our view one of the most powerful principles of univer- 
sal holiness in heart and life., ..the continual presence 
of God our maker.^ It is only when we forget this great 
and solemn truth that our passions and appetites, those 

66 On Divine Providence. 

principles of evil, obtain the ascendency over us.'' Our 
most secret sins, which endeavour to hide themselves 
even from our own view, cannot escape the view of 
God; and then consciousness of his inspection, brings 
them both to light and shame. A good man will blush 
and often be overwhelmed with confusion at ttiose evils 
to which no human being was witness, and of which 
he himself was hardly conscious when he remembers' 
the inspection of his Creator and his Judge. 
^^ The divine presence also, like a warm and genial 
sun, gives growth and vigor to all the graces of a sin- 
cere christian. To be seen and approved of God, is 
the most animating motive of duty. Holiness appears 
more beautiful and excellent when contemplated in his 
perfection: and the majesty of his presence adds un- 
speakable authority and force to his law. It weakens 
the strength of temptation. diminishes the influence 
of the world. ...and encourages the believer, in every 
conflict with the enemies of his salvation. ■'^Cultivate, 
then, the sense of the divine presence, that it may im- 
pose a restraint upon everj^ sinful tendency; that it may 
invigorate all the principles of good in your hearts; 
that it may comfort and cheer you in your pilgrimage; 
and that it may ripen and bring to perfection all those 
graces and habits of holy living that will qualify you 
for his immortal presence in the kingdom of heaven. 


Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the 
Son of Man cometh. — JIat. xxv. 13. 

As we are, in this world, only in a state of trial for an 
immortal existence. the period of our probation is 
short and infinitely uncertain. ...and the sentence of the 
Supreme Judge is eternal and irrevocable, the faithful 
improvement of time is to us a duty of the last import- 
ance. It is not less our interest than our duty, to stand 
always ready for that decisive moment which, at once, 
finishes our discipline, and fixes our destiny. This in- 
teresting truth is taught us in the beautiful parable from 
which my text is taken, and which is foimded on a known 
and familiar custom amona: the Jews. The follv of those 
who neglect, or postpone the cares of their salvation, 
and presume upon the continuance of life, is imaged by 
that of the foolish virgins who made no preparation to 
meet the bridegroom till the moment they were called 
to attend him. The tumult and confusion of these 
negligent servants at the approach of their Master, and 
their final exclusion from his presence, paint to us the 
consternation of sinners at the approach of death, and 
their terror and despair wlien God shall have closed 
against them the gates of mercy. fVatch, therefore, 
saith he, for ye know neither the day nor the hour where- 
in the Son of Man cometh. You have a work of infinite 

vol.. ir. R 

68 Oil Christian Vigilance. 

moment to accomplish. ...your everlasting state is sus- 
pended on your vigilance and fidelity. ...the uncertainty 
of life renders every instant of it precious, and gives an 
unspeakable energy to the exhortation of your Saviour 
to be always prepared for his appearance as your 
Judge. Time rolls away with a rapid and incessant 
current... .life is hastening to a close....ten thousand ac- 
cidents may accelerate its period. All beyond is im- 
mutable misery to the sinner. When mercy has exer- 
cised itself to its appointed limits, justice fixes its 
inexorable seal upon his state. These are the affecting 
ideas presented to us in this passage. Let us, then, 
consider, in the first place, the duty enjoined by our 
Saviour.. ..and secondly, the motive by which it is en- 
forced. The duty of vigilance, and the motives of vi- 
gilance will form the principal objects of the following 

I. This duty, then, implies an habitual expectation 
of the coming of our Lord. ...and habitual preparation 
to meet him. 

But, what do we mean by his coming? He is said to 
come at the end of the world to dissolve the present 
system of things, and to fix, by an irreversible judg- 
ment, the eternal destinies of mankind. But he is said 
also to come at death, when our probation is closed, and 
we enter on our eternal existence. It is this latter 
event chiefly which is intended in the parable; for then 
the season of trial and of hope is past to the guilty, and 
the destiny of every individual is sealed. A holy and 
christian vigilance, then, is opposed to that dangerous 
spirit of slumber, that profound forgetfulness of their lat- 
ter end, which has seized the greater part of the world. 

On Christian Vigilance. 69 

Sec their busy cares, their dreams of pleasure, the illu- 
sions, the agitations, the anxieties, the perpjtual whirl 
in which they live; and have they not forgotten that it 
is not their abiding place? Would not an admonition 
of death in the mid^t of their pleasures be deemed 
strangely unseasonable? Would not an image of death 
presented to them in its true form unnerve both busi- 
ness and pleasure? Therefore they study to exclude it 
from their thoughts. God is to them as though he did not 
exist.. ..the eternal world as though it were not a reality; 
and death itself is viewed merely as a contingency that 
may affect others, not as a solemnity that concerns 
themselves. Can it be the object of their desires, or the 
subject of their meditations, to be prepared to leave the 
world, when their only study is, how to accumulate it, 
how to enjoy it, how to establish themselves in it for- 
ever? Can it be their concern to be prepared for death, 
when it is their great endeavour to forget that they are 
to die? In opposition to this fatal oblivion, to these vain, 
excessive, and criminal pursuits, we are required to 
cultivate serious and habitual meditation on our latter 
end. Nothing like the idea of death quenches the 
guilty fires of the passions; or tends to rouse us from 
the security and slumber of sin, so hazardous to the 
soul. Nothing like the contemplation of our approach- 
ing dissolution, and of the judgment of God which 
then awaits us, tends to ripen in the heart the hopes 
and affections of heaven, and to engage us earnestly in 
the practice of every duty in which we would be found 
at our Master's coming. Continually, then, let it min- 
gle with all our employments to give them a wise di- 
rection.. ..with all our pleasures to sanctify them, and 

70 On Christian Vigilance. 

preserve them from the intoxication of excess. ...with all 
our devotions to animate them, and render them more 
fervent. Watch, to meditations of this kind, that is, 
seek opportunities to indulge them. ...Let every thing 
contribute to recall to your mind the frailty of our na- 
ture, the uncertainty of life, the speedy termination of 
all these mortal scenes, the supreme tribunal, the irre- 
vocable sentence of the Judge. Such serious views of 
life and of death, of time and of eternity, could not fail 
to awaken all the holy energies of the soul, ajid to pre- 
serve it in a state of constant expectation, and of de- 
vout and vigilant preparation for the coming of the 

Lord.. ..Of preparation for his coming this is the 

second duty implied in the text. But, how shall we 
be prepared to meet him like virgins girt for their 
office, and waiting, with tlieir lamp^ in order, for 
the coming of their Muster? By having made such a 
just estimate of the world, that we shall be always re- 
signed to the call that requires us to leave it; by having 
the affections supremely placed on heavenly things, by 
being ever vigilant over the state of the heart; by making 
a just estimate of the world. ...its vanity, its dangers, its 
transitory condition, so that the heart may not be un- 
duly attached to it. But when men have regarded it as 
their supreme portion... .when they are bound to it by 
all their senses, their interests, their most flattering ex- 
pectations, how hard is it at last to break the ties which 
connect them with it? With what reluctance they look 
forward to their final separation from it? They banish 
the idea of death from their minds; they endeavour to 
forget it. When, therefore, it arrives, it comes in all its 
terror, without being prepared for, without being ex- 

On Christian Vigilance. 71 

pected. Oh! horrible surprise! Dreadful tumult and 
confusion of soul! The world is perishing, and they 
have no other portion. The Judge is approaching, and 
they have never thought of their account! 

Cultivate, in the next place, the affections and the 
hopes of heaven. In proportion as these high and holy 
principles reign in the soul, the world loses its influence, 
and a pious man will expect, with pleasure, the mo- 
ment that will separate him from the frailties of the 
body, from the conflicts of the passions, from the 
doubts, the obscurities, the errors of reason, from the 
sins that mar his duties, from the griefs and troubles of 
time, from all the imperfections of a fallen and cor- 
rupted nature; that moment which will bring him 
nearer to God, and give him possession of his supreme 
good. In a word, if his happiness is in heaven, he will 
always be prepared to meet his Saviour with a pure and 
affectionate heart. Even the doubts and fears which 
hang over the grave.. ..the reluctance with which nature 
descends into it.. ..the secret apprehensions with which 
an imperfect soul must always appear in the presence 
of her Supreme Judge, will stimulate his diligence, and, 
by reanimating his devotions, and all his religious du- 
ties, will assist his preparations for a moment so deci- 
sive, so awful, and to a believer so glorious. 

III. Another, and most essential mean of preparation, 
is habitual visfilance over the state of the heart. The 
heart is the source of good and evil; on it the tempta- 
tions of the world make their impression. Ever be 
watchful, therefore, of its tendencies. If it is pure, 
death is no longer an enemy; the coming of Christ is 
no longer an object of terror, but of joy. It is not suf- 

72 On Christian Vigilance. 

ficient to shun gross and flagrant vices against which 
the heart revolts. Many are the evils to which it is se- 
cretly prone, which insinuate themselves under more 
plausible appearances, and more decent names, which 
however pollute the conscience; evils which the man- 
ners of the world justify, and which we easily slide into 
by imitation; evils to which we are strongly led by 
some prevalent propensity, and which, therefore, self- 
love is ever studious to vindicate, to palliate, to protect 
from our own censure; evils which spring from igno- 
rance, from prejudice, or even from false ideas of duty 
and religion. But, under whatever form sin is admitted, 
it corrupts the heart, and poisons tne fountain of peace. 
Under whatever flattering and illusive disguises it may 
be concealed now, it will disturb the tranquillity of your 
dying moments, and render the soul both unfit and un- 
willing to appear before her Judge. Therefore watch 
over the principles of your actions; bring them to the 
most rigorous test of the law of God, and the spirit of 
Christ. Nay, watch over the minutest elements of 
vice, the first tendencies to sin in the heart; for these, 
indulged, or even neglected, often grow up insensibly 
into crimes that inflict the deepest stain upon the con- 
science; and sink it, with regard to death, to judgment, 
and eternal things, into the most fatal lethargy. 

Watch, likewise, over the temptations which are con- 
tinually making upon it the most dangerous impressions; 
temptations that seduce by pleasure, that persuade by 
interest, that deter by difficulties, that insinuate them- 
selves under the cover of custom and fashion, that find 
advocates in our own hearts, that conquer even by our in- 
dolence. The heart is like a city besieged by numerous 

On Christian Vigilance. 73 

active and vigilant enemies. It is not sufficient that you 
defend it against their open assaults; you must watch 
their secret operations, their most disguised move- 
ments, their intrigues with traitors within; you must be 
continually on guard lest you be surprized. Learn 
especially to acquire an intimate knowledge of your- 
selves, of your weaknesses, of your predominant pas- 
sions, of those inclinations most favourable to the ene- 
mies of your virtue and your peace. Come not near 
the temptations w hich inflame them. Avoid the places, 
the occasions, the societies which awaken them. Learn 
a lesson of prudence and wisdom from the melancholy 
example of David, who, with all his sensibilities, did not 
shun the sight of the beauty which ensnared him, and 
filled the remnant of his life with shame and bitter re- 
pentance. Alas! how many, from the same cause, have 
often brought an indelible blot on their profession? 
have deeply wounded the peace of their own minds? 
and, above all, have prepared for themselves clouds and 
darkness, consternation and terror, when suddenly 
called, in the midst of their wanderings, to meet their 

Finally, be awake and watch to every duty. Not 
only flee from sin, not only shun temptation, but culti- 
vate every grace of the Spirit, every holy affection, 
every christian virtue. It is only when we fervently 
love the Saviour that we shall rejoice in his appearance; 
when we are in the actual habit of all pious and heaven- 
ly affections, that we shall meet his coming with alacri- 
ty; be ready to present to him the lights which he him- 
self hath kindled in the heart; and to enter along with 
him to the feast of immortal love. 

74 On Christian Figilancc. 

But if you watch not for his appearing, O careless 
and imprudent soul! he will come in an hour that you 
look not for him; and the consternation and dismay of 
that terrible and unprepared moment, shall be only the 
prelude to that eternal despair which shall seize you 
when he has shut against you the door of mercy. 

II. Listen, then, to the motives with which he urges 
upon you this duty. 

You know neither the day nor the hour -wherein the 
Son of Man cometh. The motives are the importance 
of his appearance; the uncertainty of the time of his 
appearance. The importance of his appearance, JVhen 
the Son of Man cometh: Cometh — for what end? To 
put a period to our probation; to fix, by his eternal 
judgment, our unchanging condition. Death is a se- 
rious, and to the greater part of mankind an awful 
moment: the close of this brief portion of our existence 
is filled with the most affecting and momentous consi- 
derations. Then ceases forever all that affects our 
senses, all that occupies our cares, all that interests our 
affections in the world. Our pursuits, our projects, our 
worldly hopes are buried with us in the tomb. The 
whole condition of our being is changed. Extinguished 
is the sweet light of life: amidst the sighs, the tears, the 
agonies of disconsolate or distracted friends, we look 
down into the dark and noisome chambers of the grave, 
and saij to corruption^ 7 hou art my father; and to the 
xoorm^ Thou art my mother and my sister. If these ideas 
are gloomy, considerations infinitely more important 
open upon us beyond the grave. There are the tribunal, 
the Judge, the everlasting destinies of saints and sin- 
ners; that tribunal from which there is no appeal; that 

Ofi Christian Vigilance. 75 

Judge whose eyes search as with flames of fire the most 
hidden recesses of the heart. On one hand yon behold 
the kingdom of the Redeemer, in all its glory, the habi- 
tation of righteous souls; on the other, the furnace of 
the wrath of God which burns with unquenchable fires, 
the chains of everlasting darkness prepared for the hope- 
less prisoners of justice. O my soul! how awful are 
these prospects to human frailty! But, perhaps, the 
chief terror that accompanies them to sinners, is the im- 
mutability of the decrees of the Supreme and Almighty- 
Judge. Imprudences, errors in life, we may correct; 
the destinies of eternity are U!|changeable. As the tree 
Jails, so shall it lie. When the bridegroom has entered, 
the door shall be shut. And though, afterw ards, the idle 
and foolish who are now perishing, knock and cry with 
importunity, the door, once shut, remains closed for- 
ever. What, do you ask, are then the treasures of 
infinite mercy exhausted? Will the miseries of his 
creatures no longer move the compassion of the Eternal? 
My brethren, compassion and mercy in the Most High 
have nothing in them in common with the sensibilities 
of human nature, which depend on physical tempera- 
ment. They move on eternal and immutable reasons. 
Let us not cavil with the decisions of eternity. Noxv is 
the accepted time; noxv is the day of salvation. And the 
divine goodness is vindicated, in bestowing and pro- 
longing to us this precious season, with all its calls, its 
instructions, its aids, its gracious influences, its secret 
adinonitions, its public ordinances. But if 3^ou have re- 
jected the grace of the Gospel, by that act, you submit 
your destiny to the holy, the inexorable justice of the 
law. Is it not then his immutable decree, Let the 


76 Oji Christian Vigilance. 

jilthy he filthy still? And is it not his unchangeable 
word, These shall go away into everlasting punishment? 
My brethren, let no false reasonings, let no vain sugges- 
tions of self-love deceive us: these shall go away into 
everlasting punishment. Oh! tremendous, unfathomable 
gulph! Away, fugitive ideas of time! Let my soul be 
occupied only with eternity. Boundless prospect! in- 
terminable revolution of ages! infinite idea in which I 
am lost! The mind cannot look with steadiness into 
its fearful abysses; yet, O careless soul ! will you dare 
to plunge into it without thought? Will you brave all 
the terrors with which it is filled to the guilty? Awake, 
then, to considerations so serious and interesting. This 
au ful moment demands all your solicitude. Heirs of 
eternity! the Judge is calling for you. Foolish virgins! 
the bridegroom is on his way; every instant you may 
hear that terrible cry. Behold he cojneth, go ye out to 
meet him. Watch^ therefore^ for ye know neither the day 
nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh. 

II. This is the second motive, the uncertainty of 

What is life but a vapour which every breath may 
dissipate? Is this a trite and common observation? Yes, 
my brethren; but shall we ever cease repeating what is 
so soon and so constantly forgotten? Great God! do 
thou speak with our words; speak to the heart; and no 
longer suffer to be forgotten a truth that so deeply con- 
cerns us! Frail mortals! then, is any period of years.... 
is any degree of health, of prosperity, of power, your 
security against death for a single instant? Alas! are 
you not surrounded with ten thousand invisible causes 
which are continually working for the grave? Shall I 

On Christian Vigilance. 77 

speak of accidents, of unwholesome atmospheres, of the 
contagion that flies unseen in the wind? Nay, may not 
an imprudence, an excess, an indigestion, a breath, 
bring us to our end? How often have men passed from 
their table to their tomb? Have they lain down at night 
to rise no more till the resurrection of the last day? 
Nay, how often have they dropt from the very midst of 
their crimes into thy hands, living and eternal Gotl? But, 
my brethren, let us question experience still . nearer. 
Do not your own griefs and sorrows speak to your 
hearts and attest the certainty of death, the uncertainty 
of life? Who of you has not mourned a parent, a child, 
a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister? or participated 
in the aiflictions of those who have recently lost these 
dear and tender connexions? \x. every period, from in- 
fancy to the ripest age, have they not been cut down by 
the spoiler Death; and taken at those moments when 
you, and perhaps they, least expected the fatal stroke? 
How many voices then call to you from the grave.... 
from the grave that contains those remains still so dear 
to you, and proclaim the uncertainty of life? Go, then, 
and converse in silence with the beloved dead; go and 
weep over the cold turf that embraces them. ...There re- 
collect that you are dust and ashes,. ..that they shall not 
return to you, but you are hastening to be united to 
them. Let these reflections take deep possession of 
your souls, till, filled with the views and the hopes of 
immortality, you will be waiting, and even longing for 
the appearance of your Saviour. fVhat I say to youy 
I say to all^ watch; for the Son of Man cometh at an hour 
when you look not for hun. What shall I add in the con- 
clusion of the whole subject. Time is short and rapid, 

78 On Christian Vigilanee. 

hastening to reunite itself with eternity, and demands 
to be diligently improved. Where are now so many 
ages that have passed away like a tale that was told, 
and left nothing real behind them, except the account 
which mortal beings have to render at the supreme tri- 
bunal? Where are the countless millions of men who 
were once busy on the face of the earth, but are now 
wrapt in the oblivion of ages? Where shall we shortly 
be? Forgotten upon earth, and remembered only in eter- 
nity. The grave is continually enlarging its maw, 
j[Lowth's Isaiah, ch. v. 10.] and down go into it to- 
gether the prince and the peasant, the hoary head, and 
the infant of a day. And we have no safety but in be- 
ing always ready. These reflections, at all seasons 
proper are peculiarly so at the period and conimence- 
Tnent of those great divisions into which time has been 
thrown. Another year, another century is now merged 
in the abyss of ages, and that on which we are just en- 
tered is rapidly hastening t > follow them. How many 
of our fellow mortals have gone, in the past year, to 
their great account, who began it with hopes as flatter- 
ing, and prospects of health as fair as we now can boast? 
Ah! how many shall never see the close of the present? 
And yet, are we secure because the event is not mark- 
ed with the same precision as the vicissitudes of day and 
night? My brethren, if God, in some audible manner, 
should announce to us that five, that two, that but one in 
this assembly should die within the year, what alarm, 
what solicitude would it create in every breast? What 
inquiries. Lord is it I? What self-examination, what 
prayer, what fervor in duty, what diligence to be pre- 
pared? But is it not almost equally certain that, within 

Cn Christian Vigilance. 79 

that period, some who hear me shall be called in 
their turn? Has a year ever passed which has not borne 
with it some victims of Death? And shall the bare pos- 
sibility of doubt vi'hich hangs upon it, reverse all your 
good purposes and resolutions, silence conscience, stifle 
your self-examination, suspend your prayers, quench 
your lamps, or leave them extinguished till the terrible 
moment in which your Lord himself shall call for you? 
Oh! the folly, the infatuation of the human heart. 
Great God! awaken us from this fatal lethargy in which 
the world is buried! speak deeply to our hearts! arouse 
us to the all-important cares of eternity, that, at thy com- 
ing, we may not be unprepared to meet thee. Amen! 


It shall bruise thy head....Gm. iii. 13. 

This is the consolation which the merciful and 
righteous Judge of man mingled along with his dread- 
ful denunciations on our fallen and wretched first pa- 
rents, to save them from sinking into absolute despair, 
and to sustain their minds in the prospect of the mise- 
ries which surrounded them, and the calamities which 
they had created. It looked far forward into time, and 
faintly revealed the Saviour who should destroy the 
power of evil, which now seemed to have obtained a 
complete and universal triumph over the works of God. 
No one can believe that such a solemn tribunal could 
have been erected in Paradise, and that its decrees 
could have been pronounced in such an awful tone by 
the Supreme Judge, merely to foretell that ordinary 
serpents should be crushed by the heel of man. No one 
can believe that so wise a legislator and historian as 
Moses could narrate such a circumstance with all this 
historical gravity, if it had no farther meaning. Such 
a supposition has been left only to those enemies of re- 
ligion, who, equally indecent and impious, hope to 
effect by ridicule what they have not been able to ac- 
complish by manly and solid argument. It is true that 
reference is made to the common fate of these reptiles 
in the sentence, but it is in order that it might be the 

The Promised Seed of the Woman. 81 

vehicle of a much more sublime and interesting truth. 
There is a strong tendency in human nature to €onvey 
instruction by symbolical representation; and these 
symbols may consist either in the pictures of objects in 
which some analogy is found to the instruction to be 
conveyed, or in the objects themselves from which such 
pictures are taken. This latter mode was especially 
adapted to the early stages of society, (before the arts 
of painting or writing were brought to a high degree of 
improvement) and to the eastern nations, whose imagi- 
tion has always been peculiarly fervid and glowing. 
God has been pleased frequently to accommodate his 
manner of instruction to this tendency of the human 
mind, and its strong susceptibility of sensible impres- 
sions. Such a symbol he gave to Noah after the de- 
luge. ...such a symbol he impressed upon the posterity 
of Abraham. ...such a symbol taught Jacob die neces- 
sity of perseverance and importunity in prayer by the 
wrestling of an angel with him during the whole 
night.. ..such a symbol we see in the yokes which Jere- 
miah was ordered to send to the neighbouring kings as 
an emblem of their approaching subjugation. ...such a 
symbol also was contained in the fate of the serpent. 
He was condemned to crawl upon his belly, and to 
lick the dust, that he might be a perpetual emblem to 
man of his degradation, of the grossness, the earthli- 
ness, and sensuality of his nature. He was destined 
likewise to be contmually crushed by the offspring of 
her to whom he had been the organ of seduction, that 
his daily catastrophe might be a perpetual figure of the 
final destruction of the power of evil by him who was 
emphatically styled the seed of the woman. Oii the 

82 The Promised Seed of the Woman. 

former part of this sentence it is asked, if the serpent 
has not always moved as he now does? What then 
could be the meaning or the propriety of the curse, 
upon thy belly thou shalt gd^ It is believed that this ani- 
mal was, originally, a much more noble creature than 
he is at present; that he moved upright, supported by 
wings, and that he touched the earth only by a few gy- 
rations of the tail. This opinion is rendered probable 
by the existence at present of a species in the heart of 
Arabia, which still move in the same manner, and 
whose splendid and flaming colours reflected in the 
sun, made them an inviting object even in Paradise, 
and give good ground to suppose that they are the fiery 
serpents which are said to have attacked the children of 
Israel in their journey through the desert. Such a ser- 
pent coming out of a globe v/as the Egyptian symbol 
of the Deity. And Archbishop Tennison has rendered 
it probable that the Seraphim, an order of angels, have 
derived their denomination from Saraph, the Hebrew 
name of serpent, from some resemblance which they 
bore to the form and splendor of this animal in the ap- 
pearances which they made as divine messengers to 
our first parents. As they were condemned to sink 
from this glorious form, and to crawl upon their belly, 
they were doomed also to be crushed by the foot of 
man, as the type of the final destruction of the power 
of evil, by him who was to spring from the being who 
was now the unhappy victim of his arts. 

Do you ask if this is not merely an agreeable fiction; 
the work of a fnnd and religious imagination, without 
any basis in scripture, in history, or the state of the 
world? And, if giving such a loose rein to fancy, is not 

The Promised Seed of the Woman. 83 

even injurious to the interests of rational piety? I con- 
fess, it would be injurious to relig-ion, and an unwar- 
rantable liberty with tlie w ord of God, if the interpreta- 
tion which I have given to this symbolical prediction 
did not rest upon a solid foundation. I propose, then, 

I. In the first place to support this interpretation by 
the evidence of history and fact. 

II. And, in the next place, to explain the import of 
a prophecy so full of consolation and hope, both to our 
first parents and to their posterity. 

I. To support this interpretation, the argument which 
has been already used will carry great authority to 
those who entertain a just respect for the sacred wri- 
tings. The literal application of the words, if that were 
suj)posed to express their whole meaning, would not be 
worthy of the solemnity of the divine judgment, nor the 
wisdom and majesty of the divine historian. But, that 
Adam understood it to relate to a future Saviour, ap- 
pears from the new name which he immediately gave 
his wife, signifying she shall be the mother of a living 
posterity, and from the whole current of ancient pro- 
phecy, which descends from him to the time of the 
Messiah, and from the traditions of all nations who 
ascend up nearest to the origin of time. God, doubt- 
less, in consoling the first man, and directing his faith 
to the true means of his salvation, illustrated to him 
more distinctly than Moses has done in his brief narra- 
tion, this curt and enigmatical prediction: and he, as a 
wise and pious man, imparted the tradition to his chil- 
dren, and through them to the numerous nations which 
sprung from him. No other reasonable and adequate 
account can be given of the uniformity of ancient tradi- 


84 The Promised Seed of the JFoman. 

tions among people the most remote from one an- 
other, and all concurring to foretell a heavenly messen- 
ger who was to come into the world. ...a divine prince 
who was to appear upon earth, under whose reign vice 
should cease, and expiation be made for the sins of 
men. This prince was to be born of a virgin, agreea- 
bly to the remarkable style of the text, that the seed of 
the xvoman should bruise the head of the serpent; and 
agreeable to the prediction of the inspired prophet, a 
vh'gin shall conceive and bear a son. Permit me to make 
a few references to history with relation to the whole 
Mosaic historical picture of the primitive age. They 
will be found not unimportant to the present subject. 
Afterwards, I will endeavour to be more practical. 

In the Roman poets, and particularly in the celebra- 
ted author of the Metamorphoses, you discover in the 
popular traditions which they recite concerning the 
creation, and the golden age, the evident wrecks of the 
sacred history. A famous Grecian historian, who has 
written the expedition of Alexander to India, informs us 
that this great captain sent one of his learned compa- 
nions* to consult an illustrious Braminf on the subject 
of their mythological opinions. In the report which he 
brought back from this distant region, you would think 
you were reading Moses but a litde disguised. The 
same accounts our christian missionaries have found in 
China, at the other extremity of the globe. Persia, 
Chaldea, Phoenicia, Arabia, Greece, every country pos'- 
sesses some traces in its mythologv which are perfectly 
analogous. Take as a type of all the rest, the tradition 

* Onesicritus. + Calanus. 

The Promised Seed of the TFoman. 85 

of Egypt. Ill the beginning of the world, say they, un- 
der the reign of Osiris, who was their second God, and 
apparently their first mortal, the earth was fertile and 
beautiful^ a?id men were innocent and happy. But Ty- 
phon^ who was their evil demon, and was represented 
under the form of a huge and dreadful serpent, slew 
Osiris,, and spread disorder^ misery and vice through the 
earth. In the end,, however,, Osiris shall live again,, and 
obtain a coinplete victory over the principle of evil. 
Who sees not in this fable the innocence and the fall of 
Adam; the fatal success of the serpent; and the final 
triumph of the seed of the woman? Nay, so nearly was 
the time and the place of the Saviour's appearance de- 
signated in these traditions, that, at the moment of his 
birth all nations were erect with the expectation of a 
divine personage, who was to bring the world to peace, 
and free it from crimes. The remotest East looked 
for him from the West; the extremities of the West ex- 
pected him from the East. The Magicians of Persia, or 
the sages of Arabia, immediately recognized his star, 
which appeared over the land of Judea. It is a remark- 
able fact, lately discovered in the sacred books, and the 
annals of the Chinese, that they style this expected Sa- 
viour " The beautiful man of the West." And about 
sixty-five years after the birth of Christ, fatigued wait- 
ing for the accomplishment of this traditionary predic- 
tion, one of their emperors sent a solemn embassy to 
inquire among the nations of western Asia if the Holy 
One had yet appeared. They proceeded as far as India, 
and, finding there the worship of the idol Foe recently 
established; and presuming that this was the God whom 

86 llie Promised Seed of the JVo77mn. 

they had been sent to discover, they ceased their pro- 
gress, and carried back the idols into China. 

The Sybiline verses deposited in the capitol at Rome, 
concerning which so much fruitless inquiry has been 
raised by learned men, had fixed this event with so 
much accuracy, that, a very few years before the ap- 
pearance of the Messiah, the greatest of the Roman poets 
speaks of it as an event just at hand, and though he ap- 
plies it in a strain of flattery to one of his patrons, on 
the birth of a son, he expresses himself in a style hard- 
ly unworthy of a Jewish prophet. Apollo was to be their 
incarnate God, the expiator of the sins of the world.* 
And thus proceeds the sublime poet.. ..The last time is 
arrived, sung by the Cumaean Sybil; and the m.ighty 
order of ages recommences. Now justice returns to the 
earth, and the innocence and happiness that reigned in 
the beginning of time. A new progeny descends from 
heaven. The iron age of vice shall cease, and the 
golden reign of peace and virtue shall overspread the 
world. Now let thy Apollo reign. The time is just 
at hand. Enter on thy great honors, dear offspring of 
heaven! O mighty Son of the Supreme Deity!" What 
suprizing predictions! What astonishing coincidence 
with the whole strain of Jewish prophecy! Is it not a 
proof that the traditions existed before these prophets 
themselves? That they were handed down from the 
father of the race, through the medium of wise and 
pious men in every nation? That they indicate the inter- 
pretation which Adam put on the gracious prediction, the 
consolatory promise in the text? The enemies of Chris- 
tianity, among whom we may particularise the celebrated 

* Hor. Ode 2(1, Book 1st. 

The Promiwd Seed of the JVoman. 87 

Bailly and Voltaire, have acknowledged the universality 
of these traditions, and their resemblance to the sacred 
history; but endeavour to account for them in every 
way except that which will reflect honor on the divine 
word. But the most extravagant of all accounts is that 
of a late writer,* who, with an ostentatious parade of 
profound, but most false learning, pretends to derive 
the history of the state of innocence, of the temptation, 
of the fall, and of the future peaceful reign of the Mes- 
siah, from a fanciful interpretation of the sphere of the 
zodiac, framed by the Egyptian astronomers, as if they 
meant no more than the succession of the four seasons 
of the year. Spring was the age of innocence.... winter 
of vice and misery. What will not the effrontery of 
infidelity propose and defend? If christians were oblig- 
ed, with such arguments and suppositions, to maintain 
the authenticity of the foundations of their faith, where 
would its insults, its triumphs end? 

Are you surprized, however, at such strong features 
of resemblance in the mythology of so many and such 
distant nations? They are evidently derived from the 
pious care of their common father, who instructed his 
immediate descendants in all that he knew of God, of 
the past history of his providence, and of the future 
hopes of faith. They were preserved in no inconsider- 
able degree of purity, till long after the age of Abraham, 
in different countries, by such pious patriarchs as Mel- 
chisedec, and Jethro, and Job, who were continually 
rising among them: and before they became entirely 
adulterated and obscured by fable, they were recorded 
by their learned men in books which are still revered 

* Volney's ruins of Palmyra. 

88 The Promised Seed of the Woman. 

by the nations as sacred. At length, however, the po- 
pular mind became overwhelmed by the mass of super- 
stitions which were added to the truth. An effect not 
unlike that which we have seen take place in the 
church since the purer light of Christianity arose. Do 
you ask what advantage then we enjoy over tho^e na- 
tions? We possess that fountain pure and uncorrupted 
from which it is manifest so many streams have flowed 
to them, and which have become more or less contami- 
nated in theic course. We possess that source of light 
from which so many rays were shot out into the sur- 
roundiniJ: darkness that covered the ancient world; and 
which broke forth with new effulgence on the nations at 
the period destined by sacred prophecy, and pointed 
out even by their own traditions; since which time their 
oracles and their expectations have ceased. Then was 
born that long promised Messiah. ...that chosen seed of 
the ruoman, who was to deliver mankind, by his righ- 
teousness, from the evils which she had contributed to 
bring upon them by her transgression. Jesus Christ, 
that precious seed, the Son also of the Most High God, 
appeared upon the earth as a Prince and a Saviour, to 
rescue it from the destructive power of sin. Thus it 
appears that Christ himself was the object of this early 
and consoling prophecy to our first parents. I have 
now arrived to that point which I proposed in the next 

II. To illustrate the import of the prediction, He shall 
bruise thy head. 

The whole is a prediction conveyed under natural 
symbols; and, in this symbolical language, the head al- 
ways implies power a?id dominion. He shall bruise thy 

The Promised Seed of the Woman. 89 

heady therefore, is to say, he shall break thy power, he 
shall destroy th}' dominion, and re[)air all the evils which 
thou hast introduced into the world. 

Wherein, then, are displayed the power and the evils 
of sin, that we may thence learn the office of the Sa- 
viour, the compassion of the Creator? It subjects us to 
the curse of the broken law; to the slavery of sin; to 
the most corrupt and gloomy errors of a base supersti- 
tion, to the miseries of the world; to the dominion of 
the grave. To the curse of the broken law; which 
consists in the alienation of God from the soul; in eter- 
nal separation from his presence, who is our life and 
our chief good; and in suffering his severe and ever- 
lasting displeasure. Jesus has removed this fearful 
curse, by beiyig made a curse for us. He is our Inter- 
cessor to restore us to the favour of our offended Maker 
and Judge; our Mediator to remove our distance; he is 
the divine victim who endured for us all the fires of 
divine justice. The whole storm of vengeance, if I 
may speak so, that we had incurred by our guilt, he 
has borne, and has conquered our enemy by sustaining 
it. Instead of the terrible denunciations which issued 
out of the mouth of an offended and inexorable Judge 
on fallen man, we hear nothing but the invitations, the 
promises, the hopes addressed by a merciful Saviour to 
man restored. By the fault of Adam, the curse of 
death hung over all his posterity; we were born heirs 
of perdition: by the merits and the perfect righteous- 
ness oi the glorious Redeemer, we now enter into exist- 
ence amidst the promises of forgiveness, amidst the 
consolations of mercy, amidst the hopes of salvation. 
They are profered to us in this precious Gospel, which 

90 The Promised Seed of the Woman, 

daily sounds in our ears; they are confirmed to us in the 
first moments of life by the sacred rite of baptism; the 
seal of their truth and gjrace is impressed upon our fore- 
head. Hear the benevolent voice of the Gospel: no in- 
fant is now condemned to eternal death for the original 
transgression; every man is answerable to the justice 
of heaven only for his actual crimes, omissions and im- 
perfections; and the guilt of these is obliterated to the 
penitent and believing by the same grace and merit 
which has removed the condemnation of the first. Be- 
hold, then, the verification of this divine and original 
promise! The infernal power of sin stood triumphing 
in the ruin he had created; he thought to have destroy- 
ed the work of God, and to have plunged man irre- 
trievably into the same misery with himself: but see 
his prey rescued from his grasp, and his dreadful power 
crushed by that glorious Seed; who, in the moment of 
her extremity, condescended to spring from that afflict- 
ed and miserable woman whom he had destined his 
first victim. 

Sin had obtained another victory over man in the 
corruption of his nature; it had enslaved him to his ap- 
petites and passions. The seed of the woman, the de- 
sire of all nations, the light of the world, vanquishes its 
power over the heart by a new creation, by renewing and 
sanctifying the sincere believer in all the habits of his 
soul. How does he eifect this important victory; this 
mighty change which converts man from being an ene- 
my, to become the friend of God; which raises him 
from the depths of sensuality and corruption to the pu- 
rity of a spiritual, of a holy celestial life? It is by the 
power of grace, by the influence of truth, by the agency 

The Promised Seed of the fFoman. 91 

of the Divine Spirit which gives that truth effect upon 
the heart. What is that grace then which possesses 
such a mighty and happy power? It consists in the 
proffers of mercy; in the hope of eternal hfe; and the 
means which Christ has instituted in his church to ena- 
ble us to attain our everlasting salvation. If man had 
been held under the rigor of the law, the hopelessness 
of his state would have hardened him in his crimes. 
But nriercy awakens his gratitude, and encourages his 
efforts; and gives such energy to a believer in his con- 
flicts against sin, as enables him, under the conduct of 
the Captain of his salvation, to subdue, at last, the ene- 
my which had enslaved him. Thus is the dominion of 
sin broken in the soul, the serpent's head is crushed by 
him who has brought the victorious light of truth, and 
the hopes of mercy, into a dark and guilty world, and 
who holds in his hands the residue of the Spirit, to im- 
part it to those who sincerely seek him. 

Another effect of the dominion which sin had srained 


over man by the fall, we behold in the innumerable af- 
flictions with which the world is filled. In these also 
we witness the sovereign and gracious power of him 
who has all rule and authority in heaven and on earth 
committed to him for the sake of the church. Not that 
he has exempted believers from pain and disease, and 
the thousand afflictions to which human nature is heir; 
but he has sanctified these evils to them; he has made 
them the means of delivering the soul from the sinful 
and corrupting influence under which it was held. He 
has taken the arms, if I may speak so, out of the hands 
of the destroyer, and converted them against hiipself. 


92 1 he Promised Seed of the Woman. 

But I can only touch at so many ideas as crowd upon 
the mind on this important subject. Christ also delivers 
the world from the darkness, the errors and delusions 
with which the enemy of God and man had covered 
the nations. He had erected his throne amidst the 
darkness of idolatry and superstition. Mankind had 
almost forgotten the true God, in the multitude of de- 
mons which were every where adored. And, under the 
influence of degrading superstitions, which fostered and 
licensed the passions, vice and impurity had grown to 
their height, when the Sun of Righteousness first lifted 
his beams upon the earth. He dispelled the darkness 
which formed the chains that bound and enslaved the 
human mind. The light of divine truth confounded 
the idols; their temples were deserted; and Satan was 
dethroned from his usurped dominion over the greater 
portion of the universe. Instead of the foolish or the 
abominable rites which were offered to him on innu- 
merable altars, men have learned to worship the only 
living and true God in spirit and in truth. Half his em- 
pire fell when idolatry was destroyed. Truth is gra- 
dually extending its omnipotent force: and divine pro- 
vidence is preparing those combinations of events which 
will carry peace and righteousness along with the truth 
to the extremities of the earth. Then will be effectually 
crushed the head of the serpent.. ..the power and king- 
dom of that wicked one so long established over the 
subject nations. 

But the victory of the Redeemer will not be com- 
pleted till he has broken the chains of death. Death 
has extended his power over all. And, if we were to 
look no farther than the grave, sin would seem to have 

The Promised Seed of the JVoman. 93 

gained an absolute and final triumph over both God and 
man. Christ entered into the grave that he might spoil 
that dreadful spoiler in his own dominions. By the 
cross, says the apostle, [Col. ii. 15.] he spoiled the 
principalities and powers of darkness, triumphing over 
them, and making a show of them openly. There it 
was that he inflicted on the serpent, the tempter and 
destroyer of mankind, that mortal wound which, even- 
tually, shall put an entire period to his life and his do- 
minion. And there it was, that in the dreadful conflict, 
the Saviour himself received that temporary wound 
which is intended in the prediction when it is said, 
Ihou shalt bruise his heel. He revived; but the enemy 
died. He rose again from the dead in the name of all 
his people, leading captivity captive; and the nations 
that now sleep in him, are waiting for his second com- 
ing, to rise with him to glory and immortality. Then 
shall cease forever the empire of death.. ..then shall 
finally be destroyed the power of evil.. ..the world, de- 
solated by sin, shall be repaired., ..there shall rise from 
its ruins new heavens and a nexv earthy wherein eternal 
righteousness and peace shall dwell.... Y^d^n shall flourish 
once more.... Paradise shall be planted again with ever- 
lasting beauty.. ..and innocence and felicity shall reign 
in it under the second Adam, which can never be lost 
or shaken by temptation. Such are the prospects of 
faith, and the early import of that promise, the con- 
solation of our first parents, and the hope of the church 
in every age. 

Christians! review the goodness and mercy of God 
from the first moment of our transgression.. ..the con- 
descension and love of the Redeemer. Let them awa- 

94 The Promised Seed of the IFoman. 

ken in your hearts unbounded thankfulness and praise, 
deeply feeling your unworthiness and guilt, let your faith 
earnestly embrace the promised and chosen seed as your 
advocate and intercessor with the Father; as the all- 
prevailing sacrifice for your sins; as the immovable 
rock on which are bottomed your immortal hopes. 
Behold the power and dominion of Satan destroyed by 
the Captain of your salvation. ...rejoice with all the re- 
deemed over the restoration of a ruined universe. ...and, 
to animate your own virtue and holiness, look forward 
to the everlasting habitations of purity and joy, where 
the glory of God shall continually shine upon them 
like the sun, and the emanations of his love form their 
interminable and boundless felicity. Amen! 


I will trust in the covert of thy wings.... P*. IxL 4. 

The frailty of man would often render him a misera- 
ble sport to the storms of life, if he had not a higher 
protection than his own arm, in which he is encouraged, 
and entitled to trust. When clouds and darkness begin 
to cover the heavens, and difficulties, and objects of 
distress and fear are every where multiplied in his path, 
his ignorance of the nature, the number, and the issue 
of the dangers and troubles which surround him, 
serves to augment his fears, and his distress, unless he 
has some guide on whose wisdom and experience he 
can rely. In all the calamities of the world which may 
fall upon a good man, in the midst of the darkest 
scenes in which he may be placed, in the deepest des- 
pondencies which may arise out of the consciousness of 
his own frailty, or his limited views of the issues of 
things, the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of 
God form an object of his tranquil and assured confi- 
dence and trust. An irreligious man is left to struggle 
with difficulties, and to combat with dangers, in his own 
strength; and when, after being delivered over from one 
conflict to another, he comes to sink into the land of 
shadows, he enters it under the tortures of terrible fore- 
bodings, or the anguish of the most afflicting doubts. 
But the pious man always has a refuge in the protection 
of heaven; even in the valley of the shadow of deaths 

96 Trust iH God. 

the crook and the staff of the great Shepherd of souls is 
his defence and his comfort. The sacred poet David, 
in this psalm, employs various interesting images to ex- 
press his security and consolation in God, under his 
severest afflictions. He had been banished from his 
throne and the capital of his kingdom; he was over- 
whelmed with the crime and ingratitude of a rebellious 
son; and with the many calamities which naturally press 
upon the decline of life. From the extremities of the 
land of Israel, whither he was driven fro7n the ends of 
the earthy as it is expressed in our version, he cried to 
God, his Saviour, and his confidence, and his consola- 
tions were renewed. Thou wilt lead me to the rock that 
is higher than I. Thou hast been a shelter for me^ and a 
strong tower from the enemy. The rock is an image 
drawn from the mountainous region of Palestine, in 
which elevated rocks and precipices were, in an age in 
which there were few artificial fortresses, the most se- 
cure, as well as the most natural means of defence. 
But his finest image is taken from religion,..../ will 
abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert 
of thy wings. To enter into this image, it is necessary 
to remember that the tabernacle constructed by Moses 
was to them instead of a temple; thence issued their 
oracles; and while the worship of God was maintained 
there in purity, a power went forth from within to con- 
found their enemies. There was the holy of holies, in 
which the Cherubim, with outstretched wings, over- 
shadowed the ark of the covenant, the depository of the 
law and the promises of God, and the seat of that ora- 
cular power, so tremendous to his enemies, so consola- 
tory to his friends. To this symbol of the Deity he 

Trust in God. 97 

seems to have a reference in this beautiful figure, In the 
covert of thy wings will I trust. The wings of the 
Cherubs were outstretched in the midst of the Sche- 
chinah, the splendid and visible emblem of the divine 
presence. There reposing his trust, there delighting 
to dwell in the affections and meditations of his heart, 
he would enjoy both the protection and the consolations 
of that holy sanctuary in his afflictions. Or if he had a 
reference to the protection which a parent bird affords 
her young, the image is still extremely beautiful. When 
danger threatens the young birds, timid and weak, they 
run to her for shelter, and couch coveting beneath the 
wings of their dame; they feel themselves secure. Such 
is the happy consequence of a rational and pious trust in 
the God of nature, in all the evils and calam^ities to 
which we may be exposed in the world. It is the high 
and the comfortable privilege of the people of God to 
trust in him: and the object of this discourse is, 

I. In the first place, to illustrate the nature of this 
duty; and, 

II. Secondly, to point out the encouragements which 
a christian enjoys to confide in God. 

I. A rational and pious trust in Almighty God, im- 
plies, as its foundation, a deep conviction of the univer- 
sal government of divine providence, of the wisdom of 
its plans, and the beneficence of its ends. If the evils 
of life were the result of blind and inflexible necessity, 
or of equally blind and capricious accident, our submis- 
sion must be dumb despair; or the indifference of 
gamesters on the happiness of life, who hope that one 
unfavourable cast may, in ordinary cases, be compen- 
sated by another that is more fortunate, but who have 

98 Trust in God. 

no resource within themselves in extreme affliction. 
But, when we believe that intelligence and goodness 
preside over the order of the universe, submission is the 
resignation and duty of a child who confides in a pa- 
rent's love, and is assured of his beneficent designs. If 
his father even smites with a rod of severe correction, it 
is part of a discipline equally gracious and wise. God 
will not suffer a good man to be crushed by his afflic- 
tions: but to the upright in hearty light shall arise in the 
midst of darkness^ by the consoling belief that all fhifigs 
shall work together Jbr good to those who love God. The 
tears which are shed, are tears of duty; the pains which 
are endured, are the pains of repentance; if the child 
weeps beneath the rod, still he appeals under the scourge 
to a father's protection, and throws himself on a father's 
compassion. A sincere and pious trust in God implies 
not only a belief in the w ise and beneficent order of pro- 
vidence, but a just estimate of the goods of this world. 
Conveniences, comforts they are, while divine provi- 
dence permits us to enjoy them; but they are not es- 
sential to the happiness of a good man, whose supreme 
portion is in God. But if pride, effeminacy or avarice, 
have rendered a certain fortune, a certain rank in socie- 
ty, certain indulgences, or a certain measure of homage 
and respect from the world absolutely necessary to our 
happiness, the foundation of divine trust is removed. 
Does confidence in the mercy and the promise of God 
imply that he will supply all the wants of vanity or sen- 
suality? Does it imply that we shall be exempted from 
anv of the afflictions incident to human nature? No, it 
implies only that we shall certainly possess, in our pil- 
grimage through life, whatever is necessary to a good 

Trust in God. 99 

man, who has not placed too high a value on the world, 
and who has all his passions and his appetites under 
perfect regulation and subjection: it implies that under 
affliction we shall be sustained by the secret aids of 
divine grace, and that afflictions themselves shall ulti- 
mately be numbered among our blessings: it implies, 
in a word, that whether in abundance or povert}'^, whe- 
ther in prosperity or suffering, the consciousness of 
virtue and the true dignity of human nature, the inward 
sense of the divine favour which is above all reward, 
and the certain and triumphant hope of immortality, 
will support the heart, and shed through it inefllible 
consolations, which the world in all its prosperity could 
not yield, nor shall all its sorrows be able to extinguish. 
Do you trust in God, then? At the appearance of every 
danger, under the pressure of every calamity, you will 
flee to the covert of his wings. There you will find a 
defence from the danger which you feared; or a solace 
in the calamities which you endure. Their shade will 
protect you from the intensity of the fires of affliction, 
and you will draw divine comforts from the ark of the 
covenant, from the law, the testimony, and the pro- 
mises, which they cover. Do you trust in God? You 
will not sink into despair like the men of the world 
when they have lost their chief good; when, like Micah, 
they exclaim. Our gods are taken axvay^ and what have 
we more! Your afflictions will be sanctified, and you 
will come forth out of the furnace seven times purified. 
By prayer and by faith, taking hold of the throne and 
the promise of God, you will be kept unmoved in this 
sea of troubles, and at length be enabled to mount above 
them all to the land of everlasting peace. 
VOL. ir. o 

100 Trust in God. 

As a pious trust in God rests, as its basis, on a firm 
belief in the wise and merciful agency of divine provi- 
dence over all things, it is necessary to correct an error 
on this subject, which is apt to insinuate itself into the 
minds even of some good men: it is the unreasonable 
expectation of some secret but immediate interpositions 
of heaven in their favour, independently on the esta- 
blished and universal laws of nature. Those have been 
fixed by infinite wisdom, and are, therefore, immutable: 
their operation is the agency of God, to whom all things 
from the beginning to the end of time are present as in 
one instant. Those laws are so constructed as to ac- 
complish the ends of his wisdom, of his justice, and his 
grace to every individual of the children of men. Shall 
an indolent man, then, expect from divine providence, 
the rewards of industry? Shall a vicious man pursue 
his inclinations, and say. If I am a chosen vessel of 
mercy, heaven will interpose to rescue me from destruc- 
tion? Are these results conformable to the course of 
nature, which is the will of God? Ah! unwise and 
foolish men! you shall both reap the fruits of your folly. 
Do you ask, then, if we should regard only these fixed 
laws, and look no farther than our own skill to take ad- 
vantage of them? This is the difference between good 
men and bad, between the faithful and the unbelieving; 
these terminate their view on second causes, those in 
the causes behold the agency of God, who sets in mo- 
tion their first springs, and holds in his hand their in- 
finite chain. 

II. Not only does this grace imply a firm belief in 
the wise and beneficent government of God over the 
universe, it is a just estimate of the things of time, but a 

Trust in God. 101 

confidence in his mercy and protection in every situa- 
tion in which we may be placed, and in every evil 
which may befall ourselves. The eyes of a pious man 
are continuaUy towards the Lord; and in health or in 
sickness, in abundance or in want, when success has 
raised him to power and influence, or when the arts of 
his enemies have prevailed against him, his reliance 
will be ever and only upon God. In one case, it will 
keep him humble, in the other it will render him tran- 
quil. God is infinite in perfection; therefore, though all 
the world should abandon him, his Creator and his Sa- 
viour will be to him an all-sufficient good. God is om- 
nipotent; therefore, in the greatest fury of the elements, 
in the convulsions of dissolving nature, his children and 
servants will be safe beneath the covert of his wings. 
Though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, 
saith the psalmist, yet will I fear no ill, for thou art with 
me. And, with the greatest majesty of description, he 
expresses his confidence in G )d in the most fearful 
commotions of the universe. God is our refuge and our 
strength, therefore will we not fear, though the earth be 
removed, and though the mountains be carried into the 
midst of the sea; though the waters the) enfroar and be 
troubled, and the mountains shake with its swellings, the 
Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. 
How noble and sublime is this language of confidence in 
God! How great and elevated are the sentiments which it 
inspires! They do not swell and elevate the heart in cir- 
cumstances of prosperity only, when the feeblest mind 
may feel itself elated; but they raise up piety from the 
deepest humiliations. Let me point you to great ex- 
amples for our encouragement and imitation. Abra- 

102 Trust in God. 

ham, though led on from pilgrimage to pilgrimage, 
wearied and disappointed in his expectation of that 
illustrious promise in which God had caused him to 
trust, still continued to hope against hope till he at length 
received its glorious accomplishment. Job, cast down 
from the state of a prince to a loathsome dunghill, co- 
vered with disease, robbed by one stroke of all his am- 
ple possessions, and by another of all his children, does 
he despair? does he repine? does he murmur? No; but 
, behold the firm, the sublime confidence of piety! 
t/ioiigh he slay me^ saith he, yet will I trust in him. It 
is thus that we should rest all our hopes on God, even 
in those moments when his mercy seems to have de- 

It is true, when calamities press us, and the world 
begins to wear those colours of gloom, in which afflic- 
tion and disappointment paint it, it is natural for a ten- 
der and sensible heart to turn its views to heaven, to 
pour itself out in ardent prayers to the Father of mer- 
cies, and to seek its happiness from him in proportion 
as all its earthly sources are dried up. But these fer- 
vent movements of the soul are only occasional in their 
exercise, and temporary in their duration. Trust in 
God is a more tranquil and habitual state of the mind. 
It rests upon him with a composed and steady assur- 
ance, which saves it from the troublesome agitations of 
the world: and in the midst of difficulties, the most 
overwhelming distresses, and apparent repulses from 
heaven, it demonstrates its power, in the perseverance 
and confidence of prayer. See, as an example, the 
happy importunity and the successful assurance of the 
woman of Canaan. If God defers to answer the peti- 

Trust in God. 103 

tioris of his children, it is to try their faith, to confirm 
their grace, and to make them feel their dependence 
upon him. It is not given to man to know the times 
and the seasons which are laid up in his ovyn breast. 
Therefore, saith the prophet, if the vision tarry^ wait for 
it. (Hab. ii. 3.) fFait on the Lord^ saith Solomon, and 
he shall save you. 

III. x\nother character of genuine trust in God, is 
diligence and fidelity in every duty. God has not, by 
any promise, charged himself with the care of the idle, 
the imprudent, or the vicious. Sometimes, indeed, he 
curiies them with undeserved prosperity. Curses, I 
say, for their enjoyments, from the use which they 
make of them, are far from proving blessings. But he 
sanctifies every event to those only who receive it with 
pious dispositions. All things^ saith he, shall work to- 
gether for good; but to whom? To those only who love 
God. All his ways are mercy and truth\ but to whom? 
T.0 those who keep his covenant and his testimonies; that 
is, to those who obey all his commandments. Trust in 
God on any other ground is presumption. It is the 
claim of sinners to the boon of his people. My brethren, 
we resemble children cast on a desert and dangerous 
shore; but still under the care of a wise and experienced 
parent. Amidst all their dangers they feel themselves 
secure in his wisdom and protection; but each must 
perform with alacrity the task which his father has as- 
signed to him for the safety and comfort of all. On no 
other terms can they be secure and happy. For what 
end, indeed, has the Creator given us laws, but that we 
might obey them? For what end has he endued us with 
powers, but that we might employ them in his service, 

104 Trust in God, 

which is the service of ourselves, and of one another? 
Genuine trust in God springs from a principle of piety 
in the heart, and tends in its turn to strengthen within 
us every pious disposition. To assist us in the progress 
of holiness, to encourage man to fulfil his duties, have 
been given those great and precious promises in which the 
Spirit of Truth hath caused us to hope. To this end are 
pointed all those rays of light which are continually 
breaking upon us from the bosom of the darkest clouds 
of affliction. Confidence in God, and piety to him, an 
enlightened confidence and fidelity in every duty are 
united together by eternal and indissoluble bonds. 

Let us now consider for a moment how litde this 
duty is understood, and how much it is violated by the 
indolent, the imprudent professor of religion, and by 
the impatient worldling. Hardly is there a greater con- 
tradiction than an idle christian; a greater reproach to 
religion than an idle professor of the gospel, who, un- 
der the pretence of devotion, of religious duties, of trust- 
ing providence, is negligent of his own affairs, indulges 
a base and degrading indolence of character, and does 
not fill up his time, and employ his talents, to the proper 
purposes of life. Would he have his Saviour rain 
manna on him from heaven, or bring his drink from the 
flinty rock? Would he have him work miracles for the 
encouragement of vices which would bring ruin on so- 
ciety? How often does imprudence charge its unhappy 
consequences upon providence! For example, do you 
neglect your children? Do you expose them to tempta- 
tion and to vice? Do ycu suffer them without instruc- 
tion, without the inspection of wisdom and experience, 
without a prudent and careful discipline, to frequent the 

Trust in God. 105 

scenes of dissipation, to associate even on the Lord's 
day only with those of equal inexperience and foily with 
themselves? And do you hope to preserve them from 
contagion while they are permitted continually to breathe 
an infected atmosphere? Is this trusting providence 
with their virtue and safety? No, it is the most im- 
prudent and unchristian dereliction of duty; and provi- 
dence, in giving effect to its own laws, will punish 
severely, and sometimes dreadfully, such mistaken and 
impious confidence. 

An evil directly contrary to the preceding is that im- 
patience for the world which is perpetually demanding, 
What shall we eat? what shall we drink? arid whej'ewithal 
shall we be clothed? Forever anxious about the future; 
plying with eagerness the means of success, they resign 
nothing to the supreme and all-directing will of God. 
Consider the lillies of the field how they grow. SolomoUy 
in all his glory ^ was not arrayed like one of them: and 
shall he not much more clothe you^ Q ye of little faith. 
Diligence is a virtue; anxiety is a vice. When we have 
used every proper mean to acquire success, or to ward 
off evil, trust in God for whatever is then necessary, is 
a high christian grace. But remember there is little 
which is really necessary. A pious mind should be so 
superior to the world as not to be solicitous when any 
of its goods are withheld, nor to repine when they are 
taken away. It should inhabit, if I may speak so, a 
sphere above the agitations of the world, solacing itself 
supremely in God, and the hope of immortality. This 
is the proper disposition for pious trust. What is ne- 
cessary we shall receive; what is withheld will not ren- 
der us unhappy; what is bestowed we shall enjoy with 

l66 Trust in God. 

thankfulness; what is taken away we shall resign with- 
out regret; what we suffer we shall endure with pa- 
tience, assured that from all the sufferings, the griefs, 
and changes of the world, we shall shortly find a secure 
and peaceful asylum in the bosom of God. Noble, and 
even sublime are the sentiments of an ancient stoic phi- 
losopher on this subject. " Lift thy view," saith he, 
" to that great Being; raise thy heart to thy God. Say 
to him, Lord! dispose of me at thy pleasure. Thy will 
shall be mine. I refuse nothing that seemeth good to 
thee. Raise me to public employment, or still leave 
me in a humble condition; let me be banished from my 
country, or let me find in it a peaceful habitation; be- 
stow on me riches, or leave me to struggle with pover- 
ty; whatever it may please thee to do, I accept it all, 
for thou best knowest what is good for me."* And 
who is this who speaks with such resignation; who re- 
poses such trust in heaven? Epictetus, a heathen; a 
roan who had received from nature a deformed person, 
who was reduced to extreme poverty, who was torn 
from his country and enslaved to a hard and cruel 
master. Yet, behold his admirable patience! Ah! shall 
a heathen teach us our duty! Let shame give vigor to 
the high and spiritual precepts of Jesus Christ. My 
brethren, I delight to quote such examples. They may 
serve to stimulate our faith, while they expand our 
charity. They show us the kingdom of God extended 
beyond the limits which our prejudices, perhaps, had 
fixed to it; and point out to us heathens, virtuous by 
the lights of nature or tradition, and redeemed, like the 
patriarchs of the old world, by a Saviour whom they 
had not yet known. 

''' Epictetus ID Arriao. 

Trust in God. 107 

Such, christians, and, if possible, more perfect still, 
be your confidence in the mercy, your submission to the 
will of your heavenly Father. Unite the patience of 
submission with the activity of duty. So estimate this 
world that your supreme care shall always be to obtain 
the kingdom of God, and to cultivate that righteous- 
ness which will prepare you for it, and lead you to it. 
He may not crown your industry with wealth; but you 
shall not want food and raiment, and it is impious to 
murmur for other wants. He may not raise you to honors 
and distinctions among men; but you shall have that 
honor which cometh from God. He may not exempt 
you from afflictions; but he will convert them into 
blessings. You must sink into the grave; but there he 
will hide you beneath the covert of his wings, till, at 
last, surmounting the ruins of death, and the dissolution 
of the universe, you shall rise to live for ever with the 
Lord. taste^ and see that the Lord is good: blessed w 
the man who trusteth in him! Amen! 



It is good for me to draw near to God....Ps. Ixxiii. 28. 

True devotion, to a pious mind, is a source at once 
of the greatest pleasure and the greatest use. It con- 
tributes to increase our comforts, to strengthen our vir- 
tue, and, in many ways, to mehorate our condition even 
in the present world. The scriptures are replete with 
promises to this effect. And every good man finds his 
peace and happiness promoted in proportion as he wor- 
ships God in spirit and in truth. This is the import of 
the declaration in the text, in which the acts of devo- 
tion are, by a just and natural figure, styled drawing 
near to God, For although he penetrates, pervades, 
and fills all things, yet, an undevout man does not dis- 
cern him. Ignorance and blindness seem to remove 
him to an infinite distance. Even piety is less sensible 
of his presence during the ordinary train of life, than 
when, in the immediate acts of a fervent worship, it 
brings this truth home to the bosom, and gives the sen- 
timent of his existence and perfection a more lively im- 
pression on the heart. Always equally near to God, in 
whom we live and move and have our being, devotion 
renders us sensible of his presence, and we seem to ap- 
proximate him in proportion as we perceive and feel 

The text is a reflection of experience. The psalmist 
had felt the influence of devotion in improving his vir- 

On Devotion. 109 

tue and augmentin^^ the satisfactions of life; and, in the 
numerous disasters that befel that pious prince, he had 
found it the greatest alleviation of all his afflictions. 
Every devout and judicious christian will be able him- 
self to verify the reflection of the sacred writer, from 
the tendency of devotion to strengthen the habits of 
piety and virtue. ...from the happy aspect which it has 
even on his temporal interests. ...from the direct and im- 
mediate pleasures it imparts to the heart.. .and from the 
relief it affords under the pressure of affliction. 

These are the truths which I mean to illustrate on 
this subject. But because they seem to be contradict- 
ed by the experience of those who perceive neither the 
benefits nor the pleasures of devotion, I shall strengthen 
the argument, in the next place, by pointing out the 
reasons why devotion is unprofitable and unpleasant to 
those who do not experience its comforts or its use. 

I. The benefits of devotion appear, 

I. In the first place, because it strengthens the habits 
of piety and virtue, which are the chief sources of hap- 
piness to a good man. 

How dctth it strengthen these habits? By impressing 
the mind with deep reverence of the majesty and holi- 
ness of God; by preserving it from temptation; and by 
being itself the animated exercise of every virtuous and 
pious disposition. 

I. When the devout mind is prostrate before the 
throne of God.... when it is overwhelmed with the infi- 
nity of his nature, and penetrated with the grandeur 
of his justice.... when it feels itself annihilated in the 
presence of him before whom the universe is nothing, 
what deep impression do these ideas give of the holi- 

no Cn Devotion, 

n^ss and the obligation of the divine law? Do they noX 
add force to every precept of duty? Do they not im- 
pose the most effectual restraint on every vice? The 
infinity of the divine nature spreads itself on all the per- 
fections of God. His holiness, his justice, his goodness 
and his truth, derive hence their greatest influence on 
the human mind. And the motives of reverence and 
love unite their force to procure obedience, and impress 
submission to his laws. Overwhelmed with his pre- 
sence and glory, is there a wish that revolts? is there a 
thought that wanders? is there an affection that solicits 
an improper object? Devotion is peculiarly fitted to 
call up these ideas, and to give theni their greatest effi- 
cacy. The mind suspended from worldly attentions is 
filled only with God. ...excited by the solemnity and fer- 
vour of the act, and by the greatness of the object be- 
fore it, it is capable of greater conceptions than usual. 
Collected within itself, and more conscious of its own 
movements, it seems more open also to the inspection 
of infinite justice. The fear combined with the love of 
God gives greater energy to the principles of piety and 
virtue in forming the heart. 

II. Devotion assists the progress of virtue by pre- 
serving the soul always vigilant against the access of 
vice. Penetrated with the justice and holiness of God 
while it is before his throne, the impression cannot 
speedily be lost. It passes with us into the world; it 
mingles with the business of life; it operates at once as 
a motive to virtue, and a check to temptation. The 
greatness of the object that fills the mind in devotion, 
rouses its powers; the fervor of its action makes it ca- 
pable of greater exertions in its conflicts with vice. The 

On Devotion. Ill 

holiness of the Divine Nature, and our interest in his 
favour, which, at those moments, we feel with the 
greatest force, render it more vigilant and attentive to 
every duty as it rises. Can an honest man pray for the 
improvement of virtue in his own heart, and then, with 
insincerity and falsehood, neglect the necessary means 
of its cultivation? Can he pray against the access of 
temptation, and then voluntarily throw himself in its 
way? Will not its deformity and its dangers be magni- 
fied while he contemplates them in the presence of God? 
Will not his resolution both to shun and to combat 
them be increased? Will not the grateful acknowledge- 
ment of mercies at the throne of grace, while it creates 
a higher estimate of their value, more effectually pre- 
serve them from abuse? Will not the penitent confes- 
sion of sin preserve him humble and dependent on the 
grace of God, which, while it animates his own dili- 
gence, will prove his most effectual aid to subdue it? 
Yes: by the power of devotion sin will be most vigor- 
ously resisted; its access will be most vigilantly remark- 
ed and repulsed; and its dominion will be gradually, 
indeed, but effectually subdued. 

III. Devotion, in the last place, strengthens virtue by 
being itself the animated exercise of every good and 
pious disposition. The love of God, and the love of 
man compose its spirit: and as every particular duty is, 
in succession, the subject of contemplation, or of peti- 
tion at the throne of grace, its principles are of course 
brought into action. Do we not believe, in praying for 
the increase of our faith? While we confess and de- 
plore our sins, are we not cultivating the spirit of re- 
pentance? In worshipping him who is the origin and 

112 On Devotion, 

sum of all that is beautiful and perfect, can we fail 
to be touched with the love of infinite beauty, and in- 
finite perfection? Love that prompts us to aspire after 
union and conformity with it? Love that assimilates us 
to the perfection we adore? The exercise of all the 
aifections of piety that, in succession, take possession 
of the heart in adoration, in prayer, and in praise, tends 
to strengthen virtue in its principles. This is true of 
every virtuous and holy emotion of the heart, even in 
the ordinary train of life. But, in the immediate acts of 
devotion, do we not perceive a warmth and vigor of 
soul, a liveliness and fervor of conception, that gives to 
every idea its most active force, and most assimilating 
influence. Habit at length confirms every affection, 
and fixes every principle. It makes them a part of our 
nature, and weaves them into the whole texture of the 
heart, and the whole conduct of life. Thus does de- 
votion tend to promote the virtue, and, in that, the hap- 
piness of every good man. Unspeakable and unfailing 
source of happiness! Philosophy has long sought its 
supreme satisfactions in virtue; in the moderation and 
the just direction of all the passions. This source de- 
votion improves to its greatest perfection. But it adds 
superior pleasures of its own, in die contemplation, the 
love, the enjoyment, shall I say? of infinite beauty, wis- 
dom and goodness. Is it not, in some degree, partici- 
pating the divine image. And can any source of hap- 
piness be superior to those heavenly affections that ren- 
der us like to God? Sincere worshipper of God! what 
sweet effusions of heart have you felt before his throne! 
What inexpressible happiness in contemplating, and 
being penetrated, as it were, with infinite perfection, 

On Devotion. 113 

in loving and being beloved! Cultivate the spirit of de- 
votion. Your improvement in virtue and the pleasures 
of piety, will often constrain you to repeat, " It is good 
for me to draw near to God." 

II. A devout man will be able to verify this reflec- 
tion, in the next place, from the happy aspect which tliis 
spirit has even on his temporal interests, and his enjoy- 
ment of the world. 

Does devotion, it will be demanded, contribute to ad- 
vance our earthly fortunes? Or does the promise of 
hearing prayer imply success and prosperity in all our 
worldly pursuits? The principles of piety do not re- 
verse the ordinary laws of nature. Both in physical and 
moral subjects, means are equally necessary to attain the 
end: and in both, perhaps, prayer, as a secondary 
mean, operates with equal success. It improves the 
habits of sobriety, temperance, and conscientious in- 
dustry, which are so favorable to fortune; and in some 
way, which we cannot explain, procures on our efforts 
the blessing of heaven: at least, the train of natural 
causes may have been so laid in the infinite foreknow- 
ledge of God, as to answer the prayers of his people in 
such a manner as to his wisdom seems best. The nar- 
row understanding of man, however, which is unable to 
embrace in one view the present and the future, cannot 
deteimine, in reference to the whole of his being, what 
is good for him. It becomes him to believe that the 
order of providence is merciful and wise, and to re- 
ceive with submission and with thankfulness, as the 
best answer of his faithful prayers, the portion which 
God bestows, whether it be large or small. It ought, 
however, to be remembered, that ample fortune or honors 

114 On Devotion. 

are not always the happiest state for a christian; nor do 
they afford him the best enjoyment of the world. How 
often do its anxieties overbalance its pleasures. How 
often do its doubts, its disappointments, and its pains, 
its envies, its jealousies and competitions disturb and 
canker all the happiness it is able to bestow? A devout 
mind, in submission to the will of God, feels that con- 
tentment that gives a relish even to the pittance of the 
poor. The enjoyment of life does not depend so much 
on the quantity of our possessions as on the habits of 
the mind, and its accommodation to its state. These 
ends are greatly promoted by a spirit of devotion, and 
by resignation to the wisdom and goodness of provi- 
dence with which it is always accompanied. Devotion 
adds, besides, many sweet satisfactions of its own to 
our worldly blessings that increase the enjoyment they 
afford. Do not the delightful emotions of heart which 
a good man feels at the throne of grace; the fervent 
contemplation of the divine glory; the consciousness of 
the favour of God; and the hopes of eternal life which 
appear more lively and certain when the soul is warmed 
and elevated by the spirit of devotion, spread serenity 
and satisfaction over the scenes of life, and bless the 
moderate portion he possesses? The mind, composed 
and sweetened by the power of religion, is freed from 
those agitations and miseries that spring from passions 
that are not well regulated, or are too much attached ta 
the world. Even the afflictions that are mingled in his 
lot are forgotten or relieved, in the presence of God, 
and converted to a pious and an useful purpose. And 
the penetrating and grateful eye of devotion discovers 
innumerable blessings in the minutest objects, that by a 

On Devotion. 115 

cold and unthankful mind are never observed. Life 
appears more richly replenished with mercies, when, in 
the presence of God, the divine goodness seems to 
transfuse itself through all: and a spirit of humble and 
grateful devotion really gives a good man the best en- 
joyment of the world. 

III. The pleasures also which devotion directly im- 
parts to the heart, confirm, to a devout man, the reflection 
of the sacred writer, That it is good for him to draw 
near to God. 

Christians! I must appeal to your own experience. 
This is the proper verification of every principle that 
depends on sentiment and feeling. What pleasures 
flow from the exercise; what pleasures are enjoyed in 
the object; what pleasures result from the effect of de- 

Is not this exercise the action of all the sweetest 
powers of the soul, adoration, wonder, confidence, 
hope, trust, gratitude, and love? what pleasing aston- 
ishment fills the mind, when, from the depth of human 
imperfection it surveys the boundless glories of God! 
What exquisite emotions of heart does a child of piety 
feel in the presence of his heavenly Father, while he 
recognizes his goodness, and reciprocates his love? 
With what tranquillity and security amidst weakness 
and dangers can he rely on the wisdom, the power, and 
the stable promise of the Saviour? What tears of joy- 
flow at the throne of grace on the recollection of for- 
given sin? What pleasures does hope shed through the 
soul when, from the foot of the throne, he looks up to 
the glory that is to be revealed! We want language to 
express these delightful sentiments and flowings of the 

VOL. 11. q 

116 Cn Devotion. 

heart. Do they not afford enjoyments the most pure, 
the most exquisite, and superior to the world? Cherish, 
believers! this heavenly source of joy. 

Do not many pleasures, likewise, arise in this act 
from the contemplation of the object of devotion? If 
beauty and greatness in the works of nature, if wisdom 
and goodness in the moral creation, afford the highest 
pleasures which we know among men, how much 
richer, more noble, and perfect, are these qualities in 
the Creator? His works are but shadows of his glory, 
addressed to the feebleness of sense. When devotion 
warms tmd elevates the soul, and faith is enabled to 
penetrate beyond the shadow to the substance, beyond 
the streams to the source, then are these enjoyments 
tasted in their highest jdegree. In him, moreover, you 
contemplate a Creator, a Parent, a Saviour, and, what 
comprehends all, a God. These ideas contain what- 
ever is most interesting to the human heart. In the 
tide of love that often fills it in his presence, the world 
and its enjoyments, at other times so precious, seem to 
be absorbed and lost, or to derive their only value from 
their relation to him. Is it not the nature of love to 
occupy the soul with one object, and to draw all its 
powers into one action? Then are we most happy: 
and, christians! have you ever been so blessed as in 
those moments when God was all in all? In devotion, 
also, much benefit and happiness result from its imme- 
diate effects. 

Is not its tendency to strengthen the habits of piety 
and virLue? Is it not indeed the epitome of religion? — 
piety collected, as it were, to its warm and active cen- 
tre? Devotion is the inward and the fervent action of 

On Devotion. 117 

every holy disposition. From the mount of prayer, 
therefore, we will return more conformed to the image 
of God. We shall descend into life more fitted to dis- 
charge its duties, and better prepared to endure its 
trials. It introduces into the affections that modera- 
tion, and that just direction which are most subservient 
at once to virtue and to self- enjoyment. Are not im- 
patient desires and turbulent passions calmed before the 
majesty of God? Are not relative attachments height- 
ened and endeared while we view one another in those 
interesting lights in which religion places us before the 
presence of God? Is not charity to human kind in- 
creased while we contemplate them all as children of 
one universal parent, and are imploring grace and ta- 
lents to enable us to serve them? Is it not an exercise 
peculiarly calculated to promote and cherish the flame 
of divine love? Yes, virtue, purity, holiness grow and 
flourish in the divine presence as under their proper 
sun. These qualities form the dignity and happiness 
of man: and every sincere and fervent act of devotion 
is a new gradation towards the final perfection and feli- 
city of human nature. 

IV. It is good, in the last place, to draw near to God, 
because it is a relief and comfort under the afflictions 
that spring out of the general order of providence in the 
world. Affliction is the certain portion, and, perhaps, 
the necessary medicine of a frail and depraved nature. 
But as no affliction, for the present, seemeth to be joy- 
ous, but grievous, it is an object of high consequence 
in life to find a proper and sufficient source of consola- 
tion under its pressure. This is furnished in general by 
religion, but especially by the power of devotion. The 

118 071 Devotion. 

glory of him whom we adore takes off the mind from 
the consideration of its own suffering: confidence in his 
paternal goodness enables us to view them in the light 
of eventual blessings: and the hope of eternal life, which 
is cherished at his throne, affords the best consolation 
under them by anticipating their glorious issue. Do 
we not find, in innumerable instances, superior pleasures 
lessen or absorb the sense of inferior pains? Devotion 
contains within itself sources of the highest enjoyment; 
it presents an object whose glories occupy all the pow- 
ers of the soul; it draws forth those delightful affections 
that suspend the pains of affliction, or even improve 
them into a spring of joy. They heighten the sensi- 
bility of the heart, and, assisting to detach it from the 
world, give its whole force to the pleasures of devotion. 
Christians! when, at the throne of grace, you are occu- 
pied in the contemplation of the divine nature; when 
you feel your soul penetrated with the love of God; 
when you are lost, as it were, and swallowed up in the 
admiration of his infinite glories, — how litde appear all 
those causes of suft'ering which the want of faith alone 
had magnified! Cherish devotion, therefore, into habit. 
Make it your constant resource under every affliction; 
it will prove to you the surest spring of consolation upon 
earth. Confidence, in the next place, in his paternal 
goodness, will enable you to view them in the light of 
eventual blessings. 

In the present moment, indeed, is it not a great re- 
lief to the heart to be able to disburthen itself by vent- 
ing its sorrows, and pouring its tears into the bosom of 
a father? But you have his promise, likewise, that "all 
things shall work together for good to those who love 

Ofi Devotion, 119 

God, to tliose who are the called according to his pur- 
pose." Is not a parent often more kind to a child in 
what he withholds than in what he bestows? Are not 
his chastisements designed to separate the affections 
from objects that would insnare and mislead them? 
Doth not a devout faith, in like manner, sometimes 
discern our greatest mercies in the afflictions we en- 
dure from the hand of God? Confident, at least, in 
the beneficence of all his designs, it serves to reconcile 
the mind to its portion, and often to make it acquiesce 
with patience in sufferings, the end of which it cannot 
immediately perceive. The humility that is cultivated 
in the presence of the majesty and holiness of God con- 
tributes to compose the soul to resignation. We are, 
through weakness, incapable of judging what is best 
for us; and, through guilt, timvorthy to be happy. How 
much more, we are ready to exclaim, do we deserve to 
suffer? Under this humiliating conviction, are not the 
mercies that remain in the midst of our afflictions, en- 
joyed with a gratitude and sensibility that greatly miti- 
gate the rigors of suffering? 

Are not all the preceding principles verified in the 
experience of a devout christian? In the moment you are 
enabled to say with sincerity, " Our Father who art in 
heaven!" do you not feel your heart more weaned from 
the corrupting pleasures of the world? Do you not per- 
ceive the force of temptation more broken? Do you not 
discover his mercy as well as justice in your afflictions? 
Yes, in affliction the devout soul adheres more closely 
to God as its portion and its hope. Devotion is ani- 
mated by the sensibility that grief awakens, and by 
having the heart withdrawn from every other object: 

120 071 Devotion, 

hence, it becomes a richer source of consolations. Phi- 
losophy has long considered suffering as the school of 
wisdom and of virtue. To the afflictions, indeed, that 
are in the world, we are, perhaps, chiefly indebted for 
the prudence, the goodness, and consequently the hap- 
piness that is in it. But devotion more effectually 
directs them to their proper end; and mingles with 
them, moreover, alleviations and comforts that can ne- 
ver be enjoyed by philosophy alone. 

Finally, the hope of eternal life, which is contemplat- 
ed by a devout mind as the end of all its sorrows upon 
earth, affords it the greatest relief under their pressure. 
The eye of faith looks forward to a period of rest and 
happiness which encourages the heart to wait, and 
strengthens it to suffer. They are intended by God as 
an useful discipline to prepare his children for the pos- 
session of that immortal inheritance: they relax the ties 
that hold us to the present world: they awaken the as- 
pirations of the heart after that holy and happy state 
where sin and sorrow obtain no admission: they culti- 
vate its affections for those pure enjoyments that reign 
there. When, therefore, we contemplate, at the throne 
of grace, the period of trial and affliction, do not the 
bright and immortal hopes that open on our faith, tend 
to lighten its weight, and to render the mind resigned 
and patient? Do not the blessings that result from af- 
fliction, by weakening the 'power of vice, and preparing 
us for the world to come, impart serenity to submission 
and cheerfulness to patience? Doth not the hope of 
the glory to be revealed, which affliction brings nearer 
to our view, even, sometimes, crown with joy the pains 
which are only hastening its possession? Under the 

On Devotion. 121 

pressure of grief, therefore, to what refuge can a good 
man resort, with so mucli certainty and comfort, as de- 
votion? Devotion kindles and enlightens the prospects 
of future happiness. Cultivate this spirit, then, be- 
lievers! as the sovereign remedy of all your sorrows. If 
misfortune hath frowned upon your hopes in this 
world, doth it not open to your view a more secure and 
blessed inheritance in the world to come? If your dear- 
est connexions are torn from you, do they not here 
seem to revive to your embrace while you look forward 
to a more permanent and happy union with them in 
heaven? If you suffer from the obloquy of tongues, do 
you not here behold your innocence vindicated before 
the Judge of all? If sickness or pain oppress you, do 
you not find relief and consolation when you remember 
that land where " God shall wipe away all tears from 
your eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither 
sorrow, nor crying, neither shall be any more pain; for 
the former things are passed away." (Rev. xxi. 4.) In 
pure and fervent devotion, an exquisite feeling is awak- 
ened that gives to all these ideas their greatest beauty, 
and their greatest force. In its holy fervors and its 
comfortable views, let every afflicted christian seek his 

Such, my brethren, are the benefits and pleasures of 
true devotion; of that devotion that touches and sancti- 
fies the heart, and is not wasted in cold and inanimate 
form. Forms are useful, principles of truth are neces- 
sary; but devotion ascends above them all, seizes the 
affections in their source, occupies, warms, dissolves 
and changes the heart. Shall 1 recapitulate its uses? 
It tends to strengthen the habits of piety and virtue, by 

122 On Devotion. 

impressing the mind with reverence for the majesty and 
holiness of God; by checking the influence of tempta- 
tion, and by being itself the animated exercise of every 
virtuous and pious disposition. It has a happy aspect 
on bur temj'oral interests by promoting good habits, 
and by procuring the blessing of heaven; and it gives 
a good man the best enjoyment of the world by creating 
contentment, serenity, hope, and by mingling with it the 
higher pleasures of religion. It imparts many pleasures 
directly to the heart in its exercises, in its object, and 
in its immediate effects; and, finally, it is the most cer- 
tain relief, and the highest comfort under every afflic- 
tion. Cultivate therefore the spirit of devotion: " My 
soul wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from 
him." (Ps. Ixii. 5.) " Trust in him at all times; ye peo- 
ple, pour out your hearts before him: God is a refuge 
for us." {lb. 8.) " They that wait upon the Lord shall 
renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings 
as eagles; they shall run and not be u eary; they shall 
walk and not faint." (Is. xl. 31.) So do thou be pleased, 
mt)st merciful Goc^, to dispose our hearts! for Christ's 
sake. Amen. 


Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord! to whom shall we go? thoU 
hast the words of eternal life. — John vi. 68. 

One of the most powerful principles and ardent de- 
sires in human nature is the desire of continued exist- 
ence: and mankind, in all ages, when their moral 
habits have not been extremely depraved, have discov- 
ered a pre-sentimsnt and a lively hope of a future 
state of being. Whether this has arisen from some 
deep impression on the heart by the hand of the Creator, 
or from any other cause, the fact is clearly established 
from the moral history of man. But it is not less clear 
that reason alone cannot furnish any satisfactory con- 
clusions on which the hope of immortality can rest; 
and the ideas which tradition, and the different religions 
of paganism afford concerning it, are infinitely vague 
and obscure. On this, as on many other subjects of 
the utmost importance to the duty and happiness of m.en, 
nature gives certain pointings to truth; reason, pursuing 
these feeble lights, draws from them probable rules of 
conduct, and probable hopes and encouragements that 
lead to duty; but certainty can be attained only from 
the spirit of inspiration. The doctrine of immortality, 
to which the gospel has given the strongest evidence, 
and on which, perhaps, it has imparted the clearest 
ideas that the human mind in the present state of ex- 
istence is capable of receiving, is infinitely precious to- 


124 Immortality clearly Bevealed. 

us, both as men and as sinners. It confirms the hope 
of being so dear to those who have not, by their vices, 
made it their interest not to be: it removes that anxious 
and painful uncertainty that rested on the close o( life to 
the best of men in the heathen world; it delivers the 
conscience of the penitent from those fearful forebodings 
that harrass the latter end of guilt: it opens to the pious 
the blessed prospect of unutterable, interminable felici- 
ty, rendered infinitely more precious by comparing it 
with the endless miseries of which we were heirs by 
sm, and from which we can be delivered only by hini 
who is the Author of eternal life. The hope of immor- 
tality, and the revelation of the way in which it is ob- 
tained through Jesus Christ, are among the most in- 
valuable fruits of the knowledge of the gospel. How- 
much do we owe to the Saviour, who has enlightened 
the shadow of death, and who has offered to man, and 
who alone is able to confer it, everlasting life and felicity 
on the pure in heart. Without the knowledge of this 
truth, how disconsolate would be human nature in the 
midst of its manifold afflictions! how fearful the ap- 
proach of death in the midst of our ignorance and ap- 
prehensions of that gloomy and terrible futurity which 
follows. To whom, then, shall we apply for instruc- 
tion or consolation on this interesting subject? Shall 
we look into our own breasts? They are covered with 
darkness, and agitated with doubt. Shall we ask of 
d)e phiIoso]ihers or the priests of antiquity? Alas! nei- 
ther the schools nor the temples can afford us any satis- 
faction. Jesus alone hath brought life and immortality 
to light. Such seem to have been the ideas of Simon, 
when our blessed Lord, after the defection of part of his 

Immortality clearly Revealed. 125 

disciples, asked those who remained if they also would 
go away. To whom shall xve go? saith he, thou hast the 
words of eternal life. This answer, worthy the zeal of 
the most fervent of the apostles, is full of instruction* 
Let us, in this discourse, consider its import, and those 
useful and practical lessons, which, in the course of 
the illustration, it may suggest for the regulation of 
our faith and conduct. It implies, then, 

I. That from no other teacher could they derive an) 
certain hope of immortality, or any knowledge of the 
means of attaining it; 

II. And, in the next place, that the revelation of this 
doctrine forms the ground of the most affectionate and 
inviolable attachment to the Saviour. 

I. In the first place, from no other teacher but from 
Christ could they derive any certain hope of immortali- 
ty, or any knowlege of the means of attaining it. To 
whom should they go for this end? They could apply 
only to the institutions of paganism, the schools of the 
philosophers, or the laws of Moses. From all these 
they must return unsatisfied and disappointed. They 
possessed no principles on which the mind, anxious to 
preserve her existence, and to look into futurit}^ could 
securely rest. The popular fables, under which the 
ideas of immortality were conveyed in the pagan tem- 
ples, were too absurd to satisfy a rational mind that 
sought for some solid ground to support her hopes. 
They resembled the empty and fleeting shadows of a 
dream, or the wild visions of a disordered fancy. The 
philosophers, perceiving the weakness and folly of the 
public superstition, set themselves with ardor to dis- 
cover some more reasonable foundations both of duty 

126 Immortality clearly Revealed. 

and of hope. But, it is a subject on which the human 
mind is soon lost. We can gain no principles on which 
to build a demonstration. We are not sufficiently ac- 
quainted with the nature of the soul, or of its connexion 
with the body, to trace its existence after that union is 
dissolved. The best criterion by which to determine 
what reason can do, is to examine what it has actually 
done in the wisest of men. The philosophers could 
not agree upon principles, it is no wonder then that 
they ended in the most contradictory conclusions. One 
made thought an attribute of matter, which was there- 
fore dissolved with the body. Another supposed that it 
was a discerpiion from the divine essence, into vrhich it 
is again refused at death. A third, but without any- 
other proof than tradition, imagined the soul to be an 
individual being, and separable from the body. But 
all equally rested their systems upon hypothesis, which 
left the mind a continual prey to uncertainty and doubt. 
The most moral of the philosop-hers, relying on the 
pointings of nature, on the suggestions of the heart, on 
the hopes of virtue, on the fears of guilt, on the tradi- 
tions of nations, on the general apprehensions of man- 
kind, accumulated probabilities, and endeavoured to 
fortify in their breasts this delightful hope, but proba- 
bility was all that they could attain. The best and most 
virtuous hoped; others were torn by the most cruel 
anxieties; but the great majority circumscribing their 
views within the sphere of this world, studied never to 
look beyond it. If to us reason seems more clearly to 
point out a future and immortal existence than it did to 
them, it is only because that, being nursed in the belief 
of this doctrine, on the authority of revelation, and ac- 

Immortality clearly Revealed, 127 

customed to admit the conclusion as an infallible truth, 
we are prone to ascribe to the principles that lead to- 
wards it, more evidence than they possess. The lights 
of revelation have given us a confidence in them which 
the wisest men of the pagan world would not repose. 
But why demonstrate the infirmity of reason upon this 
subject, when the greater part of those who profess to 
worship it, and who arrogate to themselves pre-emi- 
nently the title of philosophers, not only do not deny 
but glory in the fact. It is their boast and their tri- 
umph that they are to perish at death, and that having 
lived the life, they shall have the same end with the 
beast, and religion no more be able to persecute them 
with her self-denials and her terrors. 

Leaving, therefore, the doubts of the schools and the 
absurdities of the temples, should the twelve, like those 
false disciples who forsook their master when he preach- 
ed to them the high and spiritual doctrines of the cross, 
have returned to the law of Moses, in which they had 
been educated. It was doubtless a better guide; but 
all its future hopes were involved in shadows.. ..It was 
a system of carnal ordinances^ to use the language of the 
apostle, which only pointed to good things to come; to a 
purer and more heavenly dispensation; to that Messiah 
who was then their master and instructor. 

But had the institution of Moses been originally 
much clearer, it was now corrupted by the commenta- 
ries of the rabbins, and the vain traditions of the 
elders. They had obscured the glory of Moses: and 
though the doctrine of a future state was received 
among their tenets, it was so clouded by fable, and the 
way that leads to eternal life was so obstructed with 

128 Immortality clearly Revealed. 

frivolous, and burdensome, and useless rites, that the 
weary pilgrim knew not where to rest, and scarcely 
could discern whither he was going. Ye hypocrites! 
saith our Saviour, ye neither go into the kingdom of 
heaven yourselves^ neither suffer ye those who are enter- 
ing to go in. 

These faithful disciples, therefore, unable to derive 
either light or consolation from any other Master, ad- 
hered to the blessed Jesus with the most affectionate 
zeal as a teacher sent from God; and the only teacher of 
this sublime and interesting truth who deserved their 
confidence. To whom shall ive go? say thej'. Shall we 
go to the temples of pagmism, where we can find nd 
principle on which a rational mind can repose; where 
human reason has been prostrated by the most absurd 
superstitions; where men have placed upon the throne 
of God all the passions, and served them with all the 
vices? Shall we go to the vain schools which contend- 
ing philosophers have erected? They lead us only from 
doubt to doubt; they shock us by contradictions; they 
involve the mind in greater uncertainties than ever; 
they leave us nothing on which to stand but the weak 
grounds of conjecture that continually tremble under 
our feet, and threaten every moment to plunge us 
blindfold into the unknown and fearful abyss of eter- 
nity. Shall we, finally, go to the law of Moses, and, 
amidst its obscurities again submit to a yoke which nei- 
ther we nor our fathers were able to bear? No, blessed 
Saviour! we abandon all these imperfect and fallacious 
sources of hope, and cleave only to thee. We have 
heard thy gracious voice; we have seen thy divine 

Immortality clearly Revealed. 129 

works; we believe that thou art the anointed^ the Son of 
the living God; and that thou only hast the words of 
eternal Ufe. 

Christ taught them this doctrine, not by bringing to 
light new principles in our nature from which to reason; 
not by giving them more ingenuity and skill in the 
management of those which are known and common to 
mankind; but by stamping upon the truth a divine au- 
thority and sanction. 

If it had been an object of reason, it would probably 
have been left with other branches of science to have 
been discovered and perfected in the slow progress of 
human improvement. Perhaps the principles on which it 
rests, are not within the comprehension of the human un- 
derstanding, in its present state of knowledge. Perhaps 
there is no natural and necessary connexion between the 
mind of man, or indeed any created mind and immortali- 
ty. Or if there be, as we have lost our title to this bles- 
sing by the fall, and the consequent corruption of our na- 
ture, its restoration being an act of pure gratuity and 
mercy in God; the knowlegeof it must be a subject purely 
and exclusively of divine revelation. In each period of 
existence that is preparatory for a following and higher 
one, there may be ideas necessary to be known, to the 
investigations of which the mind in its first stage is not 
competent, and for which it must depend upon autho- 
rity. Thus, in childhood anci youth, how many truths 
are there which we must receive on the authority of pa- 
rents and instructors, before the understanding is ripe 
enough to discover them itself? Much more must the 
human mind, in the present state, be incompetent to 
form just ideas concerning a future and invisible con- 

130 Immortality clearly Revealed. 

dition of being, and must, therefore, depend for them 
upon a divine authority. Our first care, then, ought to 
be to establish the authority of that revelation that pro- 
fesses to be from God, and when that is done, it be- 
comes our duty, implicitly, to receive its instructions 
on all those subjects that must be acknowledged to be 
above the present reach of the human powers. The 
great object of our Saviour's mission into the world was 
to bring life and immortality to light, as the sublimest 
motive and reward of duty, and as the sweetest conso- 
lation of affliction; it was, by his power, and the sacri- 
fice of himself, to confer it on those whom he should 
redeem from guilt, and the original curse of our nature. 
The end of the gospel is to restore to man that immor- 
tality which he had lost by the fall; and to impart to him 
the knowledge of this inestimable mercy, which he had 
no other means of obtaining, having lost the very prin- 
ciples of life by his sin. When this truth shines with 
full lustre upon the mind from such a divine and infalli- 
ble source, it is pleasing then to compare it with the 
probabilities that nature had antecedently suggested, 
and to see all the tendencies, the desires and hopes of 
virtue confirmed with such glorious evidence. 

The discourses of our Saviour are full of this sublime 
and consoling doctrine. It is the spirit that animates 
his public instructions, his private conversations, and 
the whole of his mission upon earth. But the evidence 
of its reality and the proof of his own divine character, 
are the same. It consists in those works which no 
other man could do, A\hich were worthy of God, and 
indicated the power of God every where attending him. 
An evidence addressed, not to the speculative powers 

Immortality clearly Revealed. 131 

and doubt; but to their senses, which, therefore, be- 
came as clear to them as first principles: no less evi- 
dent than their own existence, or the existence of any 
of the objects of sense. But the greatest of his works, 
and the most unquestionable evidence of the doctrine, 
afterwards exhibited to the same disciples, was his own 
triumphant resurrection from the dead. He demon- 
strated his power over death by" breaking its chains: 
and, by that act, has given assurance to all the faithful 
that he will also restore their imprisoned dust from the 
grave, and re-animate it with life that shall never be 
extinguished. He has ascended to heaven in the name 
of his people, to prepare a place for them; and, in like 
manner as they have seen him ascend, will he come 
again and receive them to himself. And so strong was 
their persuasion of this precious truth, and so clear their 
conviction that it proceeded from a teacher sent from 
God, that, to attest both, they were continually ready 
to lay down their lives, thereby giving us the surest 
pledges of their own veracity, and of the certainty of 
that onmipotent control which Christ possessed over 
the whole system of nature. 

Not only has the Saviour announced to us this bless- 
ed hope, and confirmed it by his divine works, and, 
above all, by his own glorious resurrection from the 
dead, and ascension into heaven, but he has strengthen- 
ed the grounds both of our faith and our consolation, 
by showing on the cross the purchase of our salvation. 
A consideration of the highest importance to enable the 
soul with tranquillity and confidence to embrace the 
hopes of eternal life. Guilt is naturally timid and dis- 
trustful: and it could not rely with composure and 

VOL. ir. s; 

132 Immortality clearly Revealed. 

firmness on the promises of divine mercy, unless it 
could discern, at the same time, the expiation of its 
crimes, and the complete satisfaction of divine justice. 
But when the penitent believer beholds the spotless 
holiness, and the most rigorous justice of God magni- 
fied in the exhibition of the richest and most unmerit- 
ed grace; when he sees before him the price of his 
redemption in that heavenly sacrifice, there is no more 
room for distrust or doubt. He rests the hope of his 
immortal salvation on the immovable foundation of the 
merits as well as the promise of the Saviour. Jesus, 
\\ho hath purchased it, hath the words of eternal life. 

II. The language of the text implies, in the next 
place, the most affectionate and inviolable attach- 
ment to the Saviour, from this consideration, that 
he is the author of eternal life. In the idea of im- 
mortality are included the noblest prerogatives, and 
the highest felicities of our nature. What would 
human life be deprived of this blessed hope? A succes- 
sion of momentary sensations destined to be extinguish- 
ed in their birth. The most effectual motive of virtue 
would be taken from mankind. Their great object 
would be to increase the poignancy of their sensations 
while they lived; and the maxim would be as just as it 
would probably be universal, let its eat and drink, Jor 
to- morrow we die. Man would be a particle of animat- 
ed dust, made conscious, for an instant, of the pleasures 
of existence, only, that he might suffer the miseries of 
losing them for ever. To enjoy even his appetites and 
his senses, he must cease to think. To a reflecting 
mind, would not every pleasure be marred by the ap- 
prehension that we are, the next moment, to be blotted 

Immortality clearly Revealed. 133 

out of bein^? What a gloom would be spread upon 
the close of life, if we could persuade ourselves that 
we were to be no more! What affliction would pierce 
the bosom of surviving friends to think that all that 
they valued, and loved and cherished with so much 
tenderness, was going to vanish forever from their em- 
brace, to be dissolved into dust and air, and mingle 
again with the unconscious elements! Ah! what a cold 
philosophy, hostile to every fine and moral feeling 
which connects man with man, and absolute death to all 
the sweet and tender pleasures that unite the dearest 
friends, is that which annihilates the human soul; which 
represents the generations of men as successive bub- 
bles blown up upon the stream of existence, and con- 
tinually bursting and perishing, which takes from us all 
our purest joys and most delightful hopes, and degrades 
man, born to be immortal, into a corrupted mass of sen- 
suality, fit only to be the vile food of worm^! 

There are few, however, who can adopt these cold 
and immoral speculations with perfect tranquillity; or, 
who can calmly approach death with the cruel assur- 
ance in their hearts that they shall cease to be. The 
conscience of guilt, which had so often troubled their 
repose in life, becomes then more importunate and loud 
in its remonstrances and alarms. Without the lights of 
revelation to guide it, it knows not what to ho()e, or 
what to fear; it is agitated with the fiercest tempests; 
an eternal duration is before it: but ah! what is its 
destiny? — to be? — or not to be? — not to exist — or to 
exist in misery? It is plunging into a dark! dark! and 
horrible abyss! and, if the fears of guilt prevail, an 
abyss more horrible than the despair, dreadful as it is, 

134 Immortality clearly Revealed, 

of annihilation. Oh! in that moment, how invahiable 
the imniortal hopes of the gospel of Jesus! how pre- 
cious the lights of religion that should enable us to 
penetrate the veil of death; to contemplate, without an 
obscuring doubt, the boundless regions of eternity; and 
to behold all full of light, of glory and felicity to the 
pure and pious soul! 

With how much reason, then, did the apostles, by 
the mouth of Peter, profess their attachment to the 
Saviour and to his blessed gospel, in that fervent mter- 
rogation which expresses infinitely more than could be 
done by any simple declaration: to whom shall we go? 
Every where else reign doubt, and darkness and hope- 
less forebodings. Thou hast the words of eternal life; 
of that hope so dear to us, so anxiously sought by us. 
Jesus has given to existence its sweetest relish, by the 
hope of living for ever; he has taken away its terrors 
from the grave, by enlightening with his Holy Spirit 
those immortal habitations that lie beyond it; he has 
exalted and refined the moral ties that bind the world 
together, by the prospect of eternal unions with our 
virtuous and pious friends, in a state infinitely more 
pure and perfect than can exist upon earth; he has 
strengthened the motives of virtue by ihe exhibition of 
its higli and everlasting rewards; he has warranted the 
good man to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of 
glory in the prospect of endless and supreme felicity; 
he has pointed out the way in which the guilty, not- 
withstanding their offences, may attain eternal happi- 
ness; he is himself the way, the truth and the life; the 
power is solely in his hands to deliver his people from 
death, the wa^es of sin, and to confer on them life and 

Immortality clearly Revealed. 135 

immortality. Blessed Jesus! who shall not love, who 
shall not confide in thee above all others? To what 
other teacher, to what other lord shall we go? Thou 
hast the words of eternal life. There is no other solid 
foundation but thy promise and thy power, of that pre- 
cious hope without which existence would cease to be 
a blessing. 

My brethren, compare the dreary and horrible waste 
of annihilation with the hope of everlasting being; com- 
pare this land of affliction and mourning with those 
blessed regions mi which there shall be no more tears, 
neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any 
more pain; compare the endless miseries of guilt, of 
which we were heirs by sin, and that fearful gulph from 
which the smoke of its torments shall ascend for ever 
and ever, and that was destined to be our everlasting- 
prison, with those rivers of pleasure that flow at God's 
right hand, with tliat celestial Eden in which peace and 
joy eternally dwell, with that heavenly city which hath 
no need of the sun, or of the moon to shine in it, for 
the glory of the Lord doth enlighten it, and into its 
holy streets nothing that is impure shall ever enter, and 
say how much do you owe to the ever blessed Saviour 
of men, who hath purchased with his blood this great 
salvation, and who is invested with all power to bestow 
it on your faith and your virtue. Away with that sen- 
sual reason, that false and presumptuous philosophy, 
which would sink the nature of man to the level of the 
brutes; that would deprive piety of this sublime and 
precious hope in death; this consolation under the af- 
flictions of life; this high encouragement and reward of 
duty; and which, in depriving us of the chief pleasures 

1S6 Immortality clearly Revealed. 

of existence, at the same time, dissolves all the moral 
ties of the universe! Oh! gloomy habitation of the 
grave! if there is no prospect of happiness beyond it.... 
Oh! dreadful moment of dissolution! if we are to be 
torn for ever from the light of existence, and from all 
the sweet sentiments that unite us to friends, to being, 
and to God. More fearful still! if we are to be eter- 
nally abandoned to the distracting apprehensions of 
guilt, and to its tremendous punishment in hell. Saviour 
of men! Eternal Son of the Living God! thou art the 
rock of our salvation; we follow the lights of thy Holy 
Spirit; we forsake the darkness of a misguided philoso- 
phy that covers the mouth of an horrible pit; we re- 
nounce the vain and dangerous lessons of the world, 
which lead only to death; we confide in thee; we con- 
fide in no other but thee; for thou hast the words of 
eternal life! Amen! 


Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly; who 
standeth not in the way of sinners; who sitteth not in the seat of the scorn- 
ful. — Psalm i. 1. 

Of the social connexions of youth, none are more 
liazardoiis than intimacies formed with idle and vicious 
companions; and no temptations are commonly so fatal 
to their innocence as those which assail them in these 
societies. Pleasure is always the lure which is present- 
ed in them to their inexperience, by which they are at- 
tracted to folly, and finally conducted, by almost im- 
perceptible advances, to certain, and often to sudden 
destruction. Deceived by that harlot face of seductive 
gaiety which she is made to wear in the eyes of those 
who have not yet severely suffered by their indiscre- 
tions, they give themselves up to indulgences which, 
for a time, enchant the fancy and intoxicate the heart, 
and seldom are they awakened from their dreams of 
joy to sober reason and reflection, till roused by the 
disgrace and misery into which she has plunged them. 

It is rare, however, that youth arrive at once at this 
extreme iniquity. They do not immediately cast off 
the modesty and simplicity which usually forms one 
characteristic of this early period of life; their deference 
for age and experience; their regard to the counsels 
and the hopes of parents; and to the principles and ha- 
bits of their domestic education. But step by step, and 

158 The Progress of Vice. 

by almost insensible advances, they are attracted to the 
fatal precipice, whence thousands are precipitated into 
irremediable destruction. 

To indicate the gradual progress of vice, appears to 
have been one object in the intention of the sacred wri- 
ter, in the language of the text... Blessed is the mamvho 
ivalketh ?iot in the counsel of the ungodly; that is, who 
doth not form his conduct on the example, nor govern 
it by the maxims and advice of ungodly compani'^ns. 
Who standeth not., in the next place, in the way of sin- 
ners; who doth not voluntarily throw himself in the 
way to meet with them in framing their plans of folly, 
or associate himself with them in their criminal pur- 
suits. And, lastly, who sitteth not in the seat of the 
scornful; an expression probably designed to character- 
ize one who hath arrived at the consummation of his 
vicious course; so as to become, at length, a leader in 
iniquity, as well as an open advocate of its pernicious 
principles. A figure borrowed from professors in the 
public seminaries of instruction, who assume the seat 
or chair whence they pronounce their lectures to their 
disciples. In like manner, these adepts in impiety 
have arrived at the audacity of disseminating among 
their companions the maxims of irreligion, and openly 
or insidiously corrupting the moral principles of the 
youth whom they have unfortunately been able to se- 
duce into their dangerous purlieus. They mount into 
the seat of the scornful. 

Let us pursue this train of thought; and contemplate, 
first, the unsuspicious youth, beginning to be initiated 
in the paths of folly. You behold him listening with 
complacency to the counsels of his ungodly associates; 

The Progress of Vice, 139 

then inclining a favourable ear to their solicitations; 
and, at last, drinking in with avidity the false but spe- 
cious reasonings, by which they pretend to deliver him 
from the irksome restraints of religion, and to open the 
way to the pleasurable indulgence of all his passions. 
You see him, in the next place, after having overcome 
his first reluctances, freely mingling along with them in 
their criminal meetings and their profligate pursuits: 
and, at last, after he has become depraved in all his ha- 
bits of moral action, concluding his career in standing 
forth a bold and impious leader in the scenes of iniqui- 
ty, a scorner of religion, and an adept in the unhappy 
arts of seduction. 

I. To trace the natural progress of moral corruption 
in the society of vicious companions. 

II. And, afterwards, to address to the youth in this 
assembly an earnest dissuasive against forming these 
dangerous connexions, embrace the whole object and 
plan of the following discourse. 

If we observe a youth beginning to turn aside from 
the simplicity of his early manners, to follow the sug- 
gestions of thoughtless companions, or yield to the im- 
pulses of associates incautiously chosen, seldom does 
he proceed, in his first enterprizes, to actions which 
deeply wound his own sense of duty, or grossly oflend 
against public sentiment. He hesitates to rush into all 
their follies. He walks with caution amidst the snares 
which they lay for his innocence, till, acquiring confi- 
dence by time and by experiments of his own talents in 
iniquity, he ventures to lend an indulgent ear to the im- 
prudent recital of their criminal exploits, and, at length, 
to the insidious suggestion of principles, whose whole 


140 The Progress of Vice, 

aim is to corrupt the imagination and to inflame the pas- 
sions. In the meantime, his deceived heart flatters itself 
that he is still innocent, because he sees others farther 
advanced in their fatal career; and he has not yet risen to 
the foremost ranks of profligacy. Little aware that en- 
tertaining the temptations of sin, is the departure from 
virtue already begun; listening to the song of the Syren, 
is only the prelude to being drawn into the vortex of her 
charms, and at length absorbed by her whirpools, and 
dashed to pieces among her rocks. 

Let me ask, then, further, what is the avo\yed object, 
or the insidious tendency of the counsels of the ungodlyf 
Of all that is heard in their unhallowed meetings, of 
the solicitations which they employ, of the maxims 
which they sport, of the pictures they continually pre- 
sent to the fancy? Is it not first to inflame a vicious ap- 
petite, and then to justify its criminal indulgence? Is it 
not to inspire a disgust at the restraints of order, and 
the self denials of religion; and even at the necessary 
cares of your own improvement? Are not the serious 
offices of piety treated with derision, or represented to 
a depraved imagination in the most gloomy and un- 
pleasant colours, and as worthy only of the contemp- 
tuous slight of strong and generous minds? Are not the 
admonitions of prudence regarded as the dull rules of 
age that has long forgotten the true enjoyment of life? 
Are not prodigality and excess vaunted as proofs of a 
spirit becoming your years; scorning the sordid maxims 
of that cold and calculating period of life? Is not pride, 
revenge, and murder, if it be only perpetrated with a 
certain fashionable formality, justified under the im- 
posing plea of honor? Above all, is it not here that 

The Progress of Vice. 141 

you listen to the eternal justification of pleasure? 
and that it is studied, if possible, to merge you con- 
tinually in the delirium of her dalliances, or sink 
you in the pollution of her embrace? Nay, is it not 
here that Nature herself, a title by which they designate 
the infinite and adorable Author of all being, is boldly 
pronounced to be the accomplice of our lusts, by the 
appetites insinuated into the very structure of our frame, 
and the passions with which he has inflamed the human 
heart? Ah! how easily does this poison slide into the 
young mind, which is, alas! but too well predisposed 
to receive it! How fatally, but almost insensibly, does it 
corrupt every principle of moral action? 

If conscience sometimes raises its reproaching voice; 
if some veneration yet remains for the counsels of ex- 
perience, and the principles of a virtuous education; if 
religion, for a moment, makes its authority be felt, 
what do you hear in these profligate circles? That con- 
science is an idle terror.... that education is the mother 
of prejudices. ...that religion is only a system of craft to 
keep the world in awe. Away with these phantoms of 
superstition! The world is now grown wiser! 

Hardly is it possible that youth, with all its mexpe- 
rience, and with the warm current of pleasure circulat- 
ing in its veins, should escape the snares laid for it by 
these bold and artful deceivers, and come uncontami- 
nated from their society. Hardly is it possible that it 
should withstand the specious sophistry which has al- 
ready all the heart on its side. 

Can we persuade ourselves, however, that these 
fallacious reasonings do ever seriously impose them- 
selves for truth upon an ingenuous mind, even in 

142 The Progress of Vice* 

the earliest periods of youth? Is it by assailing the 
understanding that these seducers succeed in betraying 
into their toils their unthinking prey? Alas! this deep 
perversion of reason is the work of a heart already de- 
praved in all its affections. It has jielded, and perhaps 
slowly yielded, to the force of repeated solicitations, 
which the soft and easy temper of this age seldom has 
firmness enough to resist. It has been hurried along 
by the torrent of example which possesses such a 
mighty control over the sympathies of youth, or bewil- 
dered in the fascinations of pleasure which they continu- 
ally spread before the imagination. Often it falls be- 
neath the irresistible point of ridicule, which attacks 
youth by its most delicate sense of modesty and shame, 
and converts those precious sentiments, which were de- 
signed by our Creator to be the guardians of our early 
virtues, into ministers of sin. 

Ah! how hard is it for a young man to withstand the 
sneers of his companions! In how many profligate en- 
terprises will he not sometimes engage, merely to de- 
monstrate to those who know how to take advantage 
of this weakness, that he has the courage to be guilty? 
He is ashamed of the maiden modesty of his inexpe- 
rience and want of knowledge of the world. And, like 
men whose character in a party is yet doubtful, he is 
willing to go even farther than his seducers, in order to 
place himself at once beyond all the derisions to which 
ingenuous duty and his unpractised virtues might ex- 
pose him. 

By so many pernicious arts, and by taking advantage 
of so many natural, and even ingenuous feelings of the 
youthful heart, do vicious young men corrupt their 

The Progress of Vice, 143 

thoughtless and inconsiderate companions, till, forget- 
ting the admonitions of parental prudence, and the 
warnings of our holy religion, they proceed from walk- 
ing in the counsel of the ungodly ^ 

II. To standing in the way of sinners. 

Instead of shunning, as their duty and their safety 
demand, they are inclined to court their ensnaring so- 
ciety; to meet them in their wayward paths, and places 
of resort; and to associate themselves with them in 
their profligate pursuits. 

Let us contemplate the daring youth, who has ar- 
rived at length to be distinguished in the circles of dis- 
sipation, and remark his progress. The useful force of 
domestic habits may have impeded, for a time, his 
entrance into this disordered career; but, being 
initiated, he tears from his heart, one by one, the re- 
straints of his early education, his respect to the feel- 
ings and sentiments of his family, and even that modest 
and virtuous deference to public opinion, which is com- 
monly the last check to vice which a young man casts 
from him. He began with only the slightest depar- 
tures from the honorable paths of order; and probably, 
with only occasional intercourse with dissolute compa- 
nions. If you had suggested to him, at that period, the 
tendency and issue of his course, and the hazards grow- 
ing out of his present imprudent connections, if you 
had admonished him of the possibility of his becoming, 
in time, just such a man as he now is, would he not 
have regarded the suggestion as a cruel and unmerited 
reproach? an unjust and ungenerous suspicion? But 
allured, and led on insensibly, pausing at each step as 
he advanced, and familiarizing and justifying to him- 

144 The Progress of Vice. 

self the progress he has already made; invited by new 
scenes, urged by fresh solicitations, emboldened by the 
participation and example of others, and intoxicated 
with delight, he makes another step in this fatal career, 
and then another, and another. At each succeeding 
point, conscience, more and more polluted, loses its 
delicate sense of right and wrong, and is prepared to 
make the next step with less reluctance. Sins which 
had commenced with timidity and been prosecuted with 
caution, become at last bold and presumptuous. Fol- 
lies which had sought to escape the observation of the 
world, appear, at length, without blushing; and the offen- 
der, hardened by repeated and multiplied derelictions 
of duty, now glories in his shame. Having attained this 
elevation in his unhappy ascent, he is prepared to mount 
the last grade in the scale of iniquity; which is, 

III. To assume the seat of the scor?jful ;....2ind is 
hastening to precipitate himself into that awful gulph 
which Almighty God, in the righteous destinations 
of his providence, often opens in secret, before the 
secure and unapprehensive sinner. The sure and ter- 
rible characters of the consummation of his guilty 
career, he displays in his diligence to disseminate 
the principles of impiety, and to make religion and 
sober morals the constant objects of his licentious 
scoff. Ridicule is a weapon, in the hands of vice, of 
most dangerous force, employed against the modesty 
and sensibility of youth. And the more dangerous, 
because it often requires neither wit nor talents to em- 
ploy it with mischievous effect; but only a certain au- 
dacity in crime. " It is," says Rousseau, " the weapon 
which vice employs to weaken the ties of virtue." 

The Progress of Vice. 145 

And certainly it is that engine which adepts in iniquity 
most successfully wield in their attacks upon religion. 
What young man can continue to be the advocate and 
friend of sobriety, modesty, chastity and piety, when, 
among his familiar associates, they are made the perpe- 
tual objects of derision and scorn? Seldom, however, 
do these daring partisans of iniquity restrict themselves 
to the light gaieties of wit, or to amusing pleasantries, 
in their endeavours to wound the virtue or hasten the 
ruin of their young companions. Often, alas! do we 
see them employing their utmost efforts to eradicate 
from the breast the deepest foundations of religion, by 
the most impious blasphemies, and studying to make 
their inconsiderate friends participate in the guilt of 
their own destruction. That reverend name, which 
fills the heart of every good man with holy fear, and 
which strikes the highest angels in heaven with awe, is 
tossed from their tongues with the most indecent levity, 
and made the constant seasoning of their licentious 
mirth. That precious name which has been the hope 
of ages, is made the subject of jesting and scoff in the 
midst of their profane orgies. The horrible recital 
makes the blood involuntarily run back with coldness 
to the heart! Behold them in their scenes of profligate 
debauch, which, as yet, your innocence can hardly 
realize. Hear the language of hell burst from their lips 
in the midst of intemperance and riot! And do they not 
carry on their foreheads the fearful characters of their 
reprobation? Yet, O my God! let me recall this horri- 
ble denunciation, for thou art slow to anger, and of great 
mercy. And often have we not seen thine infinite grace 
reach even to the verge of the infernal Avorld to rescue 

146 The Progress ofj^ice. 

the most abandoned of mankind in the moment of sink- 
ing into perdition! But tremble, Oh! beloved youth! 
who art yet only entering on these hazardous scenes; 
tremble at the warning voice of the holy preacher, who 
was also the wisest of men, and thoroughly acquainted 
with human nature and all its avenues to ruin....^ com- 
panion of fools shall be destroyed. Yes, my young 
friends, destroyed will be all the fruits of an early happy 
education; destroyed will be the fond and anxious 
hopes of parents, who must thenceforward be left to 
tears and anguish; destroyed, in time, will be the manly 
and noble qualities of the soul, the vigor of the intel- 
lect, the strength of the memory, the purity of the affec- 
tions, the virtues of the heart: at length, when vice has 
completed its course, the symmetry and perfections of 
the body will be lost, diseases will begin to prey upon 
its strength and beauty. Then will be seen the stupid 
roll of the eye, the raw and scalded eyelids falling 
asunder upon the emaciated cheek, the frail and totter- 
ing limbs now moving with difficulty under the feeble 
remnants of its sins; and, finally, the most disgusting 
of all objects which ever present themselves to our view 
in the very dregs of human pollution; sensual and bru- 
tal desires still rioting in the breast, and stimulating the 
jaded fancy, whilst exhausted nature is impotent to 
carry the decayed sinner to the fulfilment of his wishes. 
Oh! what a painful, what a melancholy void of all that 
was once so promising and charming in youth! 

Having thus far traced the natural progress of vice in 
the society of ungodly companions, 

II. Suffer me, in the next place, to address a serious 
and earnest admonition to the amiable youth who hear 

The Progress of Vice. 147 

me, to guard their innocence and inexperience against 
the fatal hazards of imprudent associations; and, on all 
occasions, to employ the utmost circumspection in the 
choice of their friends and companions. 

Be not deceived^ evil communications corrupt good man. 
ners. He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but 
a companion of fools shall be destroyed. These are the 
infallible oracles of the Spirit of truth. If you frequent, 
unnecessarily, the society of the idle, the vicious, and 
profane, they will infect you with some taint of their 
own character. Sinful example, by familiarity, contri- 
butes to diminish that tenderness and delicate sensibili- 
ty of conscience which ingenuous youth ought always 
to cherish with regard ,to every appearance of evil. 

Examine the experience of those who have arrived 
at the summit of their licentious course. They entered 
this ensnaring society with a certain respect for religion; 
with a certain deference for the opinion of the Vv'orld, 
and for the counsels, the wishes, the hopes of their pa- 
rents. These dutiful sentiments began insensibly to be 
impaired. They met the eye of their parents, or of 
instructors who stood to them in the relation of parents, 
with less confidence. The advice or remonstrance 
which opposed their pleasures, became at last distaste- 
ful, and excited only their resentments. Virtue and 
order now appeared less amiable. Every restraint upon 
their actions was considered as austere and harsh. In 
the commencement of this career, they yielded to the 
solicitations of their companions with reluctance, and 
entered the scenes of dissipation with a hesitating re- 
serve; but, at every step, their past compliances embol- 
dened them to proceed to farther indulgences. Re- 

VOL. II. u 

148 The Progress of Vice, 

morse and shame, in the beginning, often followed their 
open and palpable violations of order; at length they 
become ashamed only of their modesty. They learn 
boldly to justify all their irregularities, and impelled 
from one shape of folly and excess to another, they 
leave themselves, at last, no interval for reflection. 

Having proceeded to this extreme, the light of divine 
truth is no longer suffered to enter the mind; the most 
solemn and interesting motives of religion no longer 
touch the heart; and they enjoy an imaginary triumph 
over the power of conscience, which has ceased to dis- 
turb their guilty repose. An imaginary triumph, indeed, 
it is, and short-lived it will be. The time is coming 
when justice will resume its righte;; when truth will 
force itself to be heard; when their sins will appear in 
dark and dismaying colours before the trembling con- 
science, the avenger of guilt, and fill it with deep and 
poignant anguish. Ah! unhappy man! the charm which 
now enchants you will shortly be dissolved in the sure 
and awful course of divine providence. It will be dis- 
solved by the calamities which so often press upon the 
close of a misspent life. It will be dissolved by the 
diseases and pains which sinful pleasures will have 
planted in a ruined constitution. Above all, it will be 
dissolved by the approach of death, and the near pros- 
pect of the eternal world, which is just about to receive 
the miserable remnants of a body and a soul which 
your vices have left. 

My young friends! suffer me seriously and earnestly 
to address you who are just ready to advance into the 
commerce of the world; whose passions are beginning 
to unfold, and who are daily exposed to those solicita- 

The Progress of Vice. 149 

tions to disorder which peculiarly assail your agje; if you 
would escape the destructive snares which surround 
those who voluntarily stand in the way of sinners^ and 
walk in the counsel of the ungodiy^ shun the first steps 
of folly. But, above all, abhorred be the society of 
those who study to impair the sentiments of duty in 
your hearts, and who spread temptation in your paths. 
Spurn the pernicious commerce of those who make re- 
ligion, its sacred duties, and its precious hopes, the 
constant subjects of their profane scoffs. Alas! so weak 
is human nature, so prone to error, so in love with de- 
lusion, that the best safei^uard of youth consists in flee- 
ing from temptation. How often, in company, in the 
moments of levity, have you found yourselves almost 
irresistibly impelled against the better sentiments of 
your minds? How often have you been led into excess 
from which, in retirement, your reason, your prudence, 
your principles would have restrained you? How often 
have the profligate and artful known how to take ad- 
vantage, in order to lead you into sin, of the very inge- 
nuousness of your hearts; which, under proper cultiva- 
tion, might have been made the happiest soil of virtue 
and religion? Alas! how many young persons have I 
seen, who once promised to be the comfort and pride 
of their parents, and blessings to society; who have 
been first led astray, and then ruined, not by criminal 
intentions, originally, but by imprudent associations. 

Ask of those who have been most distinguished in 
the annals of vice, and have grown old in iniquity, 
whose decrepid limbs, whose brutal appetites, and im- 
potent sensuality, exhibit the disgusting picture of all 
that is most loathsome in the conclusion of a profligate 

150 The Progress of Vice. 

life; where did they first lay aside the amiable simpli- 
city of their youth? Where did they learn, at length, 
boldly to trample on the laws of God, and even on the 
decencies of society? Was it not among companions 
whose example, whose persuasions, whose continual 
ridicule of religion, and sober morals, gradually effaced 
the impressions of their early education, and by almost 
imperceptible advances, led them, at last, to that gulph 
of vice and of foul ignominy into which they are fallen? 

Ah! beloved youth! beware of walking in the counsels 
of the ungodly^ or standing in the way of sinners! It 
commonly ends in mounting into the seat of the scorn- 
ful. If you have not actually formed connexions of this 
dangerous and insidious nature, shun them as the most 
destructive pestilence; knowing that they lead to the 
loss of all your virtues first, and ultimately to the per- 
dition of the soul. They promise you liberty, but are 
not they themselves the servants of sin? They profess 
to be your friends; but, can any solid friendship exist 
in the pursuits of sin? If you have formed, as I trust 
you have, the happy purpose of renouncing these haz- 
ardous intimacies, execute your resolution with prompti- 
tude and decision. Temporizing measures, in a case 
like this, are ruinous. He who deliberates, who hesi- 
tates, on the boundary line between virtue and vice, be- 
tween duty and pleasure, is lost. 

But, are they sinful companions alone which ought 
to be avoided by a virtuous )outh? Are not immoral 
and impious writers, of whom the abuse of genius, in 
this period of the arts, has furnished such an unhappy 
superfluity, no less to be dreaded? What a deluge has 
the press poured upon this age, of those writers who, 

The Progress of Vice, 151 

with all the graces of style, and the fascinations of wit, 
study only to weaken the restraints which religion im- 
poses upon the passions? We see a poignant and in- 
cessant ridicule levelled, not only against piety, but 
against all the moral ties of civil and domestic society. 
More baneful to the young mind than the most mortal 
infection is its familiarity with these seductive writers. 
Seldom, indeed, have youth been more exposed than 
at the present period, to imminent and fatal dangers, 
on every hand, from example, from books, from the 
general manners of the age. 

Ah! in what a loud and earnest tone do these afflict- 
ing truths call upon all guardians of youth, and espe- 
cially on all parents, to redouble their vigilance and 
inspection over those whom nature or the laws of so- 
ciety have committed to their protection! By diligence 
in forming their manners, and filling their minds with 
virtuous and with pious principles, by the sanctity of 
your example, and by faithfulness in every parental 
duty, arrest, if possible, the progress of the kingdom of 
darkness, and rescue these precious victims from ever- 
lasting death. 

But, in what tone shall I address those unhappy men, 
who are the deliberate corrupters of youth, blasphemers 
of the name of the Most High God, despisers of the 
sacred authority of religion, and ever prepared to insti- 
gate that dissipation which is already the reproach of 
our age; who, themselves enslaved to the lusts of the 
flesh, are labouring to extend the circle of our corrupted 
manners. If there be one such daring sinner in this 
assembly, to him let me solemnly announce this awful 
boding;.... The victims of your seductions shall perish; 

152 The Progress of Vice, 

but, from their tombs their indignant spirits will cry for 
vengeance on their destroyers. Does the blood of inno- 
cence lie heavy on the conscience of the murderer? 
Does it kindle a fire in his bosom, which he shall never 
be able to quench? Oh! what accumulated horrors, 
then, shall overwhelm that miserable wretch, on whom 
divine justice shall charge the perdition of so many im- 
mortal souls, and who shall forever see, in the place of 
torments, the victims of his guilty arts! 

Great God! who art terrible in thy judgments, as 
well as glorious in thy mercy, penetrate with convic- 
tion, and prostrate, in deep repentance, before thy 
throne, the bold and scoffing transgressor! Arrest, in 
the first moments of error, and save these precious 
youth, the hope of their parents and of thy church, 
from the counsels of the ungodly , and, finally, from the 
perdition of the impenitent scorner! Amen! 


It is a nig'ht to be much observed to the Lord, for bringing^ them out 
from the land of Egypt; this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all 
the children in their generations Exod. xii- 40. 

Moses, by numerous miracles, and by dreadful dis- 
plays of a divine power, had repeatedly humbled the 
pride of Pharoah; but, when the infliction was removed, 
that haughty king had as often returned to his crimes, 
and hardened his heart aorainst the sentiments of hu- 
manity and justice. The last terrible stroke, the death 
of the first-born throughout all the land of Egypt, had 
brought him more sincerely to listen to the terms pro- 
posed to him by the leaders of Israel. The whole na- 
tion of Egypt, trembling with apprehension, besieged 
the throne with entreaties that these destructive guests 
might be permitted to depart. And to hasten their de- 
parture, their ancient masters were willing to lend them, 
poor and enslaved as they were, every accommodation 
which could contribute to their convenience, their com- 
fort, or their ornament; so that they went out amply 
equipped for their march, and even loaded with wealth. 
The terrified Egyptians were willing to give them all 
that they asked, provided only that their own lives were 
spared. And in taking whatever was offered, the peo- 
ple of Israel were conscious of no dishonesty; inas- 
much as it was only the wages of their long and labo- 
rious services. But on the eve of their departure, and 

154 History of Moses. 

of that dreary night when the exterminating angel was 
filling all the families of Egypt with death and mourn- 
ing, and in the habitations of Israel was seen nothing 
but the tumult and hurry of preparation, Moses, by the 
order of God, instituted a solemn festival to be the me- 
morial of these great events to all generations. On the 
fourteenth of the month Abib, corresponding nearly to 
our March, and which was henceforward to be the 
commencement of their ecclesiastical years, as Tisri 
was of their civil, each family was to kill a lamb which 
had been selected on the tenth. The blood of the vic- 
tim was ordered to be sprinkled on the sides and on 
the top of the door, with an assurance that it should 
prove a protection to all in the house, from the fury of 
the destroying angel, who, on seeing this sacred sign, 
should pass it over in his career of vengeance. The 
sacrifice was to be roasted with fire, and then to be 
eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, the 
whole family standing round with their loins girt, with 
shoes on their feet, and with staves in their hands like 
men in haste, prepared to march. Of this sacred vic- 
tim not a bone was to be broken, and if after the festi- 
val any parts remained, they were to be consumed with 
fire. On this subject many reflections deserve to be 
made; many inquiries have been proposed. Why were 
the fragments ordered to be burnt? Probably because it 
was indecent that any thing consecrated to God should 
be left to corruption or exposed to the hazard of being 
afterwards seen or used without respect. The relation 
of the most trivial object to him surrounds it with a pe- 
culiar veneration. Why was it commanded that not a 
bone of this victim should be broken. Perhaps it was 

History of Moses. 155 

that, even in so small a circumstance, it might be the 
more perfect type of that great sacrifice which taketh 
away the sin of the world, of whom it was prophecied 
that, notwithstanding the custom of the Romans to break 
the legs of their crucified malefactors, yet of him, though 
destined to suffer along with such culprits, not a bone 
should be injured. Heaven has been pleased to de- 
scend to particulars so minute, and apparendy so tri- 
vial, to show with what clearness the spirit of prophecy 
looks through the most distant ages. Prophecy, and 
every type is a prophecy, seems to have selected this 
circumstance, though small, because it is combined 
in such a manner with so many others as to render it an 
important prediction, designating with much minute- 
ness the person of the suffering Saviour. It points to 
the manner of his dying, which was on the cross; it 
points to that custom of the Romans which has been 
already alluded to; it points to his being associated in 
his death with malefactors whose bones were actually 
broken, while his were suffered to remain unhurt: aston- 
ishing minuteness at the distance of seventeen hundred 
years! But there are other inquiries with regard to 
this paschal sacrifice which deserve a moment's atten- 
tion, without entering into such as relate to circum- 
stances more minute in their nature, or more obscure 
in their meaning. Why was it eaten with bitter herbs 
and with unleavened bread, and in the attitude of men 
already on their march? These were symbols of their 
affliction, and the hardships of their servitude in Egypt, 
and of the haste with which they were preparing to 
escape from the land of their slavery. All these rites 
composed a striking memorial to every following age, of 


156 History of Moses. 

the great and interesting occasion on which this festival 
was instituted. Its denomination is derived from the 
angel's passing over the tents of Israel when he went 
through the land of Egypt to destroy all the first-born. 
This chosen people, retired within their habitations, 
and resting under the protection of the blood of the 
lamb sprinkled on their doors, the emblem of the blood 
of the everlasting covenant, were secure from harm, 
and the voice of health and joy was heard in them, 
while nothing but the sounds of death and mourning 
re-echoed from all the palaces of their oppressors. Thus 
was tlie first passover celebrated, the model of that an- 
nual festival which was to keep up, to all future genera- 
tions, the memorial of the deliverance of the chosen 
people, and the church of God, from the slavery and 
persecutions of Egypt. 

Moses, who foreknew the eflect which this last stroke 
of the vengeance of heaven would produce upon their 
tyrants, had previously issued his orders to all the nation 
of Israel to be prepared at a moment to assemble under 
their proper leaders, and to enter on their march, as 
soon as the expected decree for this purpose should be 
received from the court. Pharaoh, with all Egypt, 
bleeding under the sword of divine justice, was now 
not only willing, but urgent for their departure. Hardly 
had the decree arrived, when they were already assem- 
bled on the plains of Rameses, loaded with the volun- 
tary spoils of the Egyptians. They were six hundred 
thousand men capable of bearing arms, besides women, 
children, and such as were above the military age. A 
prodigious increase since the period in which Jacob de- 
scended into Egypt with a family consisting only of 

History of Moses. 157 

seventy persons: yet is it not beyond the bounds of 
credibility, as the calculations made by many ingenious 
men have amply demonstrated. A whole nation moved 
at once.* Moses, by pursuing a nortiiern direction 
along the coasts of the Mediterranean, might have con- 
ducted them by a route, not very tedious, to the pro- 
mised land. But in that course they would have been 
compelled to encounter the armies of E_g}'pt behind, 
and the hostile nations of Palestine in front, before they 
themselves were disciplined and trained to the arts of 
war under the auspices of their great and heroic leader. 
Besides, Providence had other views. It designed mi- 
raculously to destroy the innumerable hosts of Pharaoh, 
and, thereby, to confirm the confidence of Israel in 
their heaven-inspired general. It designed afterwards 
to place them in a state of discipline and education in 
the wilderness, in order to prepare them for the recep- 
tion of those civil and religious institutions which God 
intended, by the ministry of Moses, to establish among 
theai when they should have acquired a country. 
Therefore Moses directed his course towards the East, 
so as to interpose between him and the deserts of Ara- 
bia, a narrow tongue of the Red Sea, in which the 
Egyptian armies were, by the agency of heaven, to be 
destroyed. Do you ask if the same supernatural aids 
might not have been granted to Israel on the nearer and 
more convenient route, to enable them to vanquish the 

* Althougfh I have adopted the usual language of commentators and 
critics with regard to the numbers of the people of Israel, yet I am dis- 
posed to believe that the sacred historian, in the 12th chapter of Exodus, 
means all of both sexes who had attained the age of puberty and were able 
to travel; which will greatly diminish the numbers of that multitude who 
came with Moses out of Egypt. 

158 History of Moses. 

mighty hosts of Egypt and of Palestine in battle? Yes; 
but is it not probable that, through pride and self-love, 
forgetting the aids of heaven, they would soon ascribe 
the victory to their own arms, and become more refrac- 
tory and disobedient to their lawgiver and protector 
than they afterwards proved? But when they saw the 
immense armies which threatened them with inevitable 
destruction, whelmed in the waves of the sea, the di- 
vine power, which accompanied the word of Moses, 
could no longer be denied or doubted. Touched with 
gratitude, suspended in astonishment, Moses would be 
to them in the room of God. Their humbled minds 
would be ready to receive his instructions, and to obey 
his commands with the more prompt submission. The 
most sublime and striking miracles, indeed, were neces- 
sary at this period to procure from them a voluntary 
and cheerful obedience to the dictates of reason, and 
the precepts of religion; as well as a patient acquies- 
cence in the will of their leader, under all the dangers 
and difficulties which they were called to encounter in 
this extraordinary march of a nation through a vast and 
barren wilderness. Consider a prodigious multitude of 
nearly two millions of souls, the greater part of com- 
mentators raise their numbers to three millions, just 
emerged from extreme slavery into liberty, without 
habits yet prepared to enjoy freedom, and prone to the 
impatience and excesses which usually accompany 
such a sudden transition. Consider how liable such a 
multitude is to be inflamed against their rulers at every 
attempt to restrain them within the reasonable bounds 
of subordination, at every hardship which arises in their 
way; and how many ardent and discontented spirits 

History of Moses, 159 

among them are ever ready to practise upon this weak- 
ness, and, on the slightest occasions, to throw them 
into a flame. Consider how difficult was the taslc to 
gratify so many humours, and to furnish such an im- 
mense host with every provision, and every accom- 
modation which they wanted in an arid and unfruitful 
country, and exposed, at the same time, to innumerable 
foes. Could so many millions of men, rather in a mul- 
titudinous than an organized state, be governed by 
reason alone, and by continual appeals to their own 
prudence and wisdom? For Moses had not yet time 
or opportunity to establish among them civil govern- 
ment or any effectual system of military subordination 
to procure submission to his orders. As yet obedience 
must flow purely from the conviction of their own 
minds: and how was that to be produced? By cool 
and deliberate reasoning on the subjects of their duty 
and their interest? Let the example of the populace 
of Paris in the first transports of their liberty; let that 
of the populace of London when scarcity and want 
awaken their discontents; let that of any multitude 
which has recently cast oflf the restraints of govern- 
ment, and is not yet accustomed to submit to a new 
order of things, answer this question. None rule in 
this state of things but those who are most furiously 
opposed to all rule; who are most hostile to every dic- 
tate of prudence and temperate reason. The nation of 
Israel, though chosen to be, hereafter, the depository 
of the oracles of God, partook of the same nature, and 
were impelled by the same passions, as the rest of 
mankind; and Moses frequently experienced the at- 
tempts of sedition against his authority. How then, I 

160 History of Moses, 

ask again, was that conviction to be impressed on the 
minds of such an immense populace which was to sup- 
ply the place of laWj, and of the established means of 
compulsion under an organized government? Could it 
be effected by less than the mighty power of God, so 
often displayed at the words of Moses, and so often re- 
peated when former impressions began to be effaced? 
That Moses was able to govern the people of Israel un- 
der such circumstances is one proof, not inconsiderable, 
of the reality of the illustrious miracles by which it was 
accomplished; and the necessity of such miracles vin- 
dicates the wisdom of God, who led their armies, not 
by the nearest and most practicable route, but through 
the sea, which was to be made the grave of the hosts of 

Having made these observations, which I thought 
necessary to the general illustration of the Mosaic his- 
tory, as well as to satisfy some inquiries, or to resolve 
some doubts, which might arise in the mind of a serious 
and reflecting hearer, let me return to the march of 
Israel by Succoth, and Etham, towards Pihahiroth, on 
the coast of the Red Sea. Strange to behold! God 
himself erects a banner for them, to go before them and 
guide them in their march. It had the appearance of 
a pillar of clouds in the day, and of a lofty and re- 
splendent flame during the night. Under such guidance 
and such protection, they could not but march securely, 
although Pharoah, repenting of the liberty which he 
had granted, and enraged at the loss of so many my- 
riads of slaves with all their property, which he was 
likely to sustain, determined to pursue them with all 
the forces of his kingdom. At Pihahiroth he overtook 

History of Moses. 161 

them, where their situation appeared to be the most 
hazardous in which an army could be placed. Envi- 
roned by steep mountains on the north and west, and 
by the sea on the east, the only passage bj which it 
seemed practicable to escape, and which lay towards 
the south, was already occupied by the forces of Egypt. 
Nothing seemed to await them but destruction by the 
sword or by famine. And here their illustrious leader 
experienced the first effects of that complaining and 
seditious spirit which, afterwards, so often tried and 
almost exhausted his patience. They boldly and inso- 
lently demanded. Because there were no graves in Egijpt^ 
hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? They 
basely added, because their spirits had been broken by 
slavery. Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians. 
Their fears had overcome their faith in the wisdom and 
power of Moses, though resting on so many wonders 
performed in the land of Egy]5t. Moses, all tranquil, 
and confiding in God, who had deigned to honor him 
with the most familiar intercourse, replied with his cha- 
racteristic dignity and mildness. Fear not. be still, and 
see the salvation of God: the Lord s/mll fight for you, and 
ye shall hold your peace. The sublime prophet waved 
his rod. A mighty wind from the east divided the 
waters, and laid bare the channels of the sea. The cloud 
which had hitherto conducted the army, removed, by 
the command of God, behind the camp, and covered 
Israel from the view of the Egyptians. At the ap- 
pointed signal, they proceed forward, and in the place 
where winds and waves had so often conflicted in 
dreadful storms, they securely march on the naked 
sands, the waters serving them on each side the pur- 

162 History of Moses, 

pose of impregnable ramparts. All night they continue 
their march. And, at the dawning of the day, the 
Egyptians, seeing their prey escaped, and being har- 
dened and rendered presumptuous by disappointment 
and rage, rush impetuously on into the deep uncovered 
bed of the sea. The angel of the Lord troubled their 
host and retarded their march, till the sea, returning in 
its strength, buried them all in its angry billows. No 
language can better describe this scene so magnificent 
and so awful, than the sublime song of Moses, sung 
by all Israel on the shore covered with the arms, the 
chariots, and the carcases of the myriads who had pe- 
rished in the waters. This song, which is, by many 
centuries,*^ the oldest morsel of poetry remaining in the 
world, and which is certainly one of the noblest efforts 
of poetic genius, presents to us a scene among the 
most awful and grand which have ever taken place in 
the history of man. The sea divided, and the march 
of a nation across its channels, laid bare by the power 
of God. The greatest monarch in the world, with mil- 
lions in arms and in his train, swallowed up by the en- 
raged billows; and millions on the shore celebrating 
this great event, and thundering to heaven their shouts 
of triumph and of praise. Of this noble song, listen only 
to a few extracts. With the loudest acclamation, with 
the highest transports of joy, every Israelite sung, " The 
Lord is my strength, and rny song, and he is become 
my salvation. Pharoah's chariots and his host hath he 
cast into the sea; the depths covered them; they sank 
to the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O Lord! is 

* Supposed to be about sev^en centuries and a half anterior to the Iliad 
of Homer. 

History of Moses. 163 

become glorious in power. With the blast of thy nos- 
trils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood 
upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in 
the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I 
will overtake, I will divide the spoil. Thou didst blow 
with thy wind; the sea covered them: they sank as lead 
in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, 
among the Gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holi- 
ness, fearful in praises, doing wonders!" Let us, my 
brethren, elevate our hearts with them, to extol and 
praise the glorious majesty of him who has ordained the 
laws of nature, and arrests them at his pleasure; who 
has formed the universe, and condescends to be called 
the Redeemer of his people. Let us place ourselves on 
the margin of the mighty flood, to behold and adore the 
wonders of Jehovah. 

Here we pause again in this interesting history, and 
conclude the present discourse with a few reflections 
on that portion of it which we have just reviewed. 

Many commentators and travellers have searched 
with great pains for natural causes of this division or 
recess of the sea, to take away the miraculous nature of 
this event, or to diminish the greatness of the wonder. 
But, after all their labours, still it remains one of the 
greatest miracles recorded in the sacred scriptures. 
And if a miracle, what is to be gained by attempting to 
diminish it, except it be to gratify the spirit of incre- 
dulity in approaching nearer to those who deny entirely 
the existence of every miraculous operation? Can any 
thing be great or difficult to him who rolls the planets 
in their orbits, and who daily lifts the ocean from its 
bed, and makes it again retire to its place? Is it not as 

VOL. ri. Y 

164 History of Moses, 

eas}' to Omnipotence to divide the tongue of the Egyp- 
tian sea, as to make its waters recede one hair's breadth 
from the natural course of its tides? Are there, then, 
any vestiges in the history of Egypt, of an event so 
marvellous? The greatest events of the ancient world 
have been sunk in the oblivion of time, and the undis- 
tinguishing ravages of barbarians; yet this is one of the 
few the memory of which has not been wholly lost. 
And, although it is not necessary to the truth of the 
sacred records, that they should always be supported 
by correspondent narrations in pagan story; yet it is a 
gratification to the inquisitive mind to be able to collect 
from antiquity collateral and undesigned vouchers to 
the facts of the scriptures. Artapanus, an ancient 
Greek writer,* and a heathen, who had examined the 
antiquities of Egypt within the country itself, found 
both at Memphis and Heliopolis, the tradition of this 
important event, but related in different ways in these 
two great cities. " Those of Memphis," says he, " re- 
late, that the leader of the Jews, being perfectly ac- 
quainted with the country, knew exactly the periods of 
the flux and reflux of the sea; and, that, taking advan- 
tage of an extraordinary ebb, he had led over his people 
on the land deserted by the waters, while the Egyptians, 
less skilled, and attempting to follow them, were swal- 
lowed up in the return of the flood. They of Helio- 
polis, on the other hand, say, that with a rod he struck 
the sea, which, retiring to a great distance, the Israelites 
were enabled to pass over dry; but the Egyptians, 
being dazzled and im.peded by fires till the waves 
returned upon them, all perished either by the waters, 

* Fragments of whose works are preserved by Eusebius 

History of Moses. 165 

or by fire." It is easy to conceive that traditions of 
the same event should vary from one another, and from 
the truth; but here is the substance of the fact preserved 
in the history of the country. 

It deserves to be remarked, in the next place, that 
the institution of the passover itself is a strong autlicn- 
tication of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and 
of that terrible infliction of heaven on the Egyptians, by 
which it was finally accomplished. An annual festival 
instituted for the celebration of any great and national 
event, purporting that it has been continued down from 
the commencement of the jera, and accompanied with 
an injunction as this was, when your children shall say, 
What mean ye by this service? ye shall say it is the hordes 
passover, who passed over the houses of the children of 
Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, is one of 
the most undoubted historical evidences of the exist- 
ence of the fact. For when could such an institution 
be introduced and received by a whole nation, saying, 
it has always been observed by us and by our fathers? 
No, the festival of the passover must have dated with 
the fact; and the fact must have taken place to have 
given existence to the rite. But the paschal lamb was 
a type of Christ, our passover, who was slain for us. 
What then are the spiritual instructions which it con- 
veys to us? 




God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso- 
ever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. — John 
lii, xvi. 

The benignity of the Creator shines with a resplen- 
dent evidence in all the works ofnature; and our own 
experience confirms the testimony given on this sub- 
ject by the whole universe. The care of his providence, 
the protection afforded to our infancy, our food, our 
raiment, our education, our friends, the innumerable 
and nameless blessings of every day, continually testify 
the benignity of our Father who is in heaven. Afflic- 
tions, themselves, under his wise and gracious direc- 
tion, are turned into blessings; recalling us, as they do, 
from the illusions of the world, and redeeming our 
frailty from error and vice. But, it is principally in the 
gospel that we behold the essential benignity and mer- 
cy of God displayed in its richest glory, and its widest 
extent. Not confining its view to the provisions of 
this mortal life, or to the limits of time, it extends its 
cares to eternity; it shows us the purchase, and plants 
in our hearts the seeds of immortal life. In estimating 
the mercy of the gospel, we are not to consider man- 

The love of God, s^c. 167 

kind as the pure, unfallen offspring of God, but as chil- 
dren degenerate, corrupted, lost; as children who had 
forfeited, by their guilt, all the privileges of their father's 
family, and were condemned to eternal death by the 
holy and immutable decrees of his justice. Still far- 
ther, to enter into just views of the benevolence and 
mercy, it ought to be remembered that the attributes of 
God are not mutable in their nature, or dependent on 
the exercise of sovereign will; that is, it does not belong 
to Deity itself to forego their claims. Infinite Holiness 
essentially abhors, Eternal Justice is essentially deter- 
mined to punish sin. They possess a nature as neces- 
sary, as immutable as God himself In extending his 
compassion, therefore, to the ruined race of man, the 
rights of his holy and unchangeable law, were inviola- 
bly to be maintained. Our guilt opposed apparently 
insuperable barriers to the overflowings of divine mer- 
cy. Mercy, if it could ever save the race, must pene- 
trate to the depths of our guilt; it must quench the 
flames of divine justice. Atonement must be made for 
transgression; satisfaction must be made to that law 
which cannot relinquish one jot, or one tittle of its 
claims till all be fulfilled. A mighty sacrifice must be 
offered for the sins of the world, which shall be com- 
mensurate with the deep atrocity of human guilt, 
and with the boundless glory of the offended Deity, and 
with the infinite and unchangeable rectitude and ho- 
liness of his law. In the full view of these sublime 
truths, of the greatness of this sacrifice, of the maligni- 
ty and depths of this guilt, of the riches of this mercy, 
our Saviour himself has said; God so laved the world 

168 The love of God, ^c. 

that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever 
believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting 

Suffer me then, christians, to direct your meditations 
for a few njonients on those astonishing manifestations 
of the love of God exhibited to us in this passage of 
sacred writ. A rich variety of the most interesting 
considerations are here accumulated together in this 
comprehensive proposition. I will, without art or stu- 
died arrangement, present them to you simply in the 
order in which they lie. You behold then, 

1. The unworthiness of the object on which he has 
deigned to fix his love — the woild sunk in the ruins 
of sin and buried in the depths of its moral corruptions. 

2. The grandeur, and the inestimable value of the 
sacrifice which he has made; he gave his only begotten 

3. The facility of the conditions of salvation now 
proposed to the weakness and imperfection of man; 
whosoever believeth on him shall not perish. And finally, 

4. The greatness and glory of the reward conferred, 
in his mercy, on the believing and penitent sinner; lie 
shall have everlasting life. 

1. The love of God is first magnified by the un- 
worthiness of the object to which it has deigned to 

When I look to the heavens which thou hast ordained, 
says the holy Psalmist, to the moon and the stars ivhich 
thy fingers have framed, those glorious spheres which 
astonish our weak minds, but which yet are not pure in 
thy sight, Lord! what is man, that thou art mindful of 

The love of God, ^c. 169 

him! or the Son of Man, that thou visitest him! Im- 
measurable distance! bi.tween an atom of dust and the 
infinite Creator! a worm of yesterday which perishes 
to-morrow, and the eternal Jehovah! What condescen- 
sion! what grace was it in him to stoop from the throne 
of his glory, to look down through the immeasurable or- 
der of angels, which encompass it with unceasing ado- 
rations, to regard the wretchedness and miseries of 
man! Yet, it is not so much the meanness of our na- 
ture which obstructs the boundless current o^ his love, 
who hears the young ravens when they cry, as its pol- 
lution and guilt. Ilis love, to flow to us, was obliged 
to surmount the barriers opposed to it by the claims of 
eternal justice, and by his ow^n glorious and infinite ab- 
horrence of sin. This it has done; and God commend- 
eth his love to us in that ivhile ice were yet tnenies Christ 
died for us. Who then can completely unfold this un- 
worthy object of the divine compassion.'' It is perhaps 
injpossible to portray it in colours which the impenitent 
who have never yet been made profoundly sensible of 
the depth of their guilt will recognize, or can compre- 
hend. The true penitent alone can understand them- 
Turn then your view inward upon yourselves, and, in the 
lamented evils which you daily deplore at the throne of 
grace, behold an affecting image of the world which the 
Son of God had descended to redeem. You will per- 
ceive in the profound sentiments of your own humility, 
the extent and the condescensions of that boundless 
love which has stooped to redeem us from the ruins of 
our guilt. Great God! could sinful dust and ashes thus 
attract thy merciful regards! When 1 contemplate thy 

170 The love of God, ^c. 

immaculate purity, thy awful holiness, I see, by their 
light, my own uuworthiness and imperfection in the 
deepest colours. Instead of being made the object of 
thy mercy, do I not rather deserve to be made the vie. 
tim of that justice whose flames forever consume the 
rebeUious angels who kept not their first estate! Oh! 
the condescensions of divine love! to reach such a guilty 
particle of earth! to penetrate the abyss of my crimes! 
to visit a world lying in iniquity! 

2. But, if the love of Pod is to be estimated from the 
unworthiness of man, is it not to be estimated much 
more highly, from the grandeur and the value of the sa- 
crifice which he has yielded for human guilt-, He gave 
his only begotten Son. Not the most perfect of men 
who are his sons by creation; not the most sublime of 
the prophets, who continually pointed the views of the 
ancient church to the future Messiah; not that priest 
only in whom terminated the long succession of the 
priests of Israel, who were by a peculiar relation the 
sons of God by designation; not that king, the end of 
all their royal race, from whose glory their typical 
crowns derived their greatest splendor; not the highest 
seraph which burns before his throne, and with the ra- 
pidity of Hghtning executes the orders of his will; but 
the Son of God by eminence, such as was no mortal, 
such as was no created being; not the highest angel 
among the thrones of heaven; but the Son nho lay in 
the bosom of the Father from eternity — thav eternal 
emanation of light and love, who co-existed with him 
before all ages — who partakes of the same t ( unsels? 
the same glory, the same essence — who has said of him- 

The love of God, SfC. 171 

be\i] I and my Father are o)ie— and of'whom David has 
pronounced, kt all the angels of God worshij) him. 
Such was the gift of divine love to the world — the sa- 
crifice which the mercy and compassion of God made 
to the salvation of man. But, alas! the powers of the 
human mind are inadequate to conceive, the language 
of mortals is impotent to express the grandeur of that 
victim which was offered up for human guilt, or the 
love of him who spared not his own Son, hut delivered 
him up for us all. Perfectly to comprehend that love, 
we should be able to embrace in our ideas the being of 
the supreme and incomprehensible Jehovah. We should 
be able to understand the eternal and ineffable union 
between the Father and the Son, which yet admits of 
that separation by which the Filial Deity could unite 
himself to the nature which he came to redeem; we 
should be able to measure infinity. The devout and 
pious soul absorbed in the boundlessness of its subject, 
and dissolved in unutterable feelings, can only sigh forth 
its astonishment, its gratitude, and its praise; Oh! the 
Jieighth, and the depth, the length, and the breadth, of 
the love of God which passeth knowledge! Behold the 
fruits, and the expressions of that love in the conde- 
scensions of the Saviour, in the veil with which he co- 
vered his glory, in the infirmities in which he deigned 
to enshrine it. Behold them in the ignominy of his 
birth, in the labour of his life, and above all in the dis- 
grace, the cruelties, and torments of the cross on which 
he offered up that mighty oblation for the sins of the 
world. God gave him up to the raging of his ene- 
mies, to shame, to torture, and the agonies of the most 

VOL. II, ' z 

1 12 The love of God, ^c 

cruel death, ^s a lamb he was led to'the slaughter; 
as a victim he expired under the sacrificing knife. But 
O blessed Jesus! shame, and torture, and death, as they 
could be inflicted by the hands of mortals, were the 
smallest portion of thy sufferings! The true fire which 
consumed thy soul was the fire of the holy indignation 
and wrath of God against sin! All its flames encom- 
passed thee on that dreadful altar! And, O my soul! 
who knows the terrors of his wrath when it awakes to 
seize upon the criminal, to avenge the violated justice of 
the divine law, either on the sinner himselfj or on his 
substitute and surety! They are seen only in the cross 
of Christ, and in the regions of despair — in the furnace 
of the tcrath of God, the dreadful fires of which, lighted 
up by .the first sin, will continue to burn forever and 
ever. Some image of it we may conceive from the least 
of its effects which are sometimes offered to our view 
in the present world. When one drop of that burning 
death falls upon the soul which may be seen in the 
haunted conscience of the murderer, what desolation 
does it create! Despair seizes him; terror pursues him 
wherever he goes; the torments of Hell seem already 
kindled in his bosom; endeavouring to flee from him- 
self he often hurries out of life by a horrible crime, and 
plunges into the gulf of eternal perdition as a painful 
relief from his present miseries! If such are the de- 
solations of soul produced by one drop of the devour- 
ing vengeance of Heaven, what, blessed Saviour of 
men! were the deluges which overwhelmed thee in the 
garden, and covered thee with thy own blood! What 
was the import of that fearful cry which consum- 

T}ieloveofGod,^c. 173 

mated the sacrifice for our sins upon the cross. Chris- 
tians! come celebrate with me, in silent, and unuttera- 
ble adorations, the infinite, the incomprehensible love 
of God which has given up to such avenging pains, 
his only begotten Son. 

3. Having contemplated the love of God in the atone" 
ment made for the sins of the world by Jesus Christ, 
let us regard it in the next place, in the gracious con- 
ditions of salvation now offered to the infirmity of hu- 
man nature. Whosoever believeth on him shall not pe- 
rish. If perfect hohness had been our only law, and 
the indispensible condition of our acceptance with God, 
we might still have despaired: we would still have 
been as far from the kingdom of heaven as if Christ 
had not died. But now the righteousness of the Re- 
deemer covers all the imperfections of the penitent; the 
merits of the Redeemer form the plea of the believer 
before the tribunal of divine justice; and the aids of his 
Holy Spirit enable the christian to commence a life of 
holiness which will always, indeed, be necessarily im- 
perfect in the present fallen state, but which is continu- 
ally approximating towards that pure and sublime 
standard which it will ultimately attain in the presence 
of God. 

Can any mistaken friend, or any well-meaning ene- 
my of the gospel, suppose that this easy condition of 
salvation is designed to exempt the believer in any de- 
gree, from the sacred obligation of virtue and morality.^ 
No, a sincere faith in Jesus Christ is, on the other 
hand, the most powerful principle of morals. For what 
are the objects'' what is the tendency of a living faith -^ 

1 74 The love of God, ^c. 

Does it not exhibit the evil of sin in such deep colours 
as are calculated to excite the abhorrence of every sin- 
cere mind? Does it not depict the terrors of the di- 
vine justice in such fearful examples as are calculated 
to create a holy fear of offending God? Does it not 
display the perfections of the Creator in such sublime 
and glorious lights as are fitted to inspire the most ar- 
dent love of holiness which is his most perfect image? 
Does it not offer the strongest motives to a sublime 
virtue by giving certainty to the hopes of immortahty? 
Does it not present in the Saviour himself all that 
can inflame the heart with the love of the most perfect 
goodness — all that can raise the soul in a sublime de- 
votion to God — all that can expand it in the most exten- 
sive charity and philanthropy to mankind? Such is 
the powerful moral influence of faith; such are the easy, 
and the delightful conditions of salvation which the 
mercy of God through Jesus Christ, has made in fa- 
vour of our present imbecility, has offered to our sin- 
cere repentance. 

Yes, delightful condition! and this is a new proof of 
his love to offended man, that he has made the means 
of regaining his lost immortality the source of his su- 
preme happiness upon earth. The whole road to hea- 
ven he has sown with the purest pleasures to a pious 
and virtuous mind. Guilt and fear would disturb the 
peace of the best men, if they had not a sure foundation 
of trust in the mercy of God. That trust, an assured 
faith creates, by offering to the heart a God reconciled 
through Jesus Chiist, and building the pleasures of im- 
mortal hope, on the righteousness of the Redeemer. 

The love of God, s^-c. 175 

Faith fills the breast with the serenity of a conscience 
at peace with God, and at peace with itself. It ena- 
bles a good man to taste all the lawful enjoyments of 
life with a purer relish in the presence of his heavenly 
Father, and elevates him above the influence of those 
unhallowed causes which create the deepest affliction 
to the men of the world. Faith opens to the penitent 
believer the gates of heaven, the prospects of immortal 
blessedness, and enables him, already to drink of those 
rivers of pleasure which flow at God's light hand. God 
magnifies his love not only by the gift of his Son, but 
in the graciousness of the condition of our salvation 
through him; for whosoever believeth on him shall not 
perish but have eternal life. 

4. Finally, we behold in this last reflection also 
the love of God magnified in the greatness of our sal- 
vation ? 

This part of the subject may be considered in two 
views — our dehverance trom eternal death — our posses- 
sion of everlasting fife. What sentiments of obhgation 
penetrate the heart, what transports of gratitude often 
break from the tongue towards those who have deliver- 
ed us from extreme suffering, or rescued us from im- 
minent danger! The full tide which anguish or appre- 
hension had collected in the heart, being now suffered 
freely to flow, rushes with a delightful effusion, not ea- 
sily to be expressed, towards our deliverer. We mag- 
nify our obligations, we want words to give utterance to 
our feelings and emotions. But, christians! what suf- 
ferings, or what dangers are to be compared to those 
infernal horrors to which man by sin is heir, on the 

176 The love of God, ^c. 

verge of which he stood, when God, by this divine sa- 
crifice, interposed his almighty power and his infinite 
mercy for the salvation of the redeemed sinner. It 
would require the colours of Hell, and the pencil of 
despair, to describe to you those mansions of hopeless 
misery — the chains of everlasting darkness — the lake 
that burneth with fire and brimstone; and to portray in 
. the midst the miserable prisoners of wrath, the smoke 
ofivhose torments ascendeth forever and ever. Contem- 
plate, my soul! the terrors which encompassed thee; 
the gulfs into which thou wast ready to be precipita- 
ted, that thy great salvation may teach thee to adore 
and magnify the love of thy Redeemer. Has his mer- 
cy plucked thee as a brand from the burning? Has 
almighty God sent his only begotten Son into the world 
that thou shouldst not j)erish? Praise him from the 
gates of death into which thou wast just entering; 
praise him from the mouth of the pit into which thou 
was just sinking. It is only when we see our danger, 
when we feel our misery, that we understand the full 
value of the Saviour's mercy. The penitent soul alone, 
delivered from the despair which was overwhelming her, 
and still trembling while she looks back to survey the 
fearful state from which she was drawn, can truly esti- 
mate the love of God. Dissolved in unbounded grati- 
tude, unable to express, unable to sustain the full tide 
of her joys, she pours her transports and her tears in- 
to the bosom of her Redeemer. 

But he has given his Son that whosoever believeth 
in him should not perish, but also, that he should have 
eternal life. This is the second reward of his great 

TheloveofGod,Scc. 177 

salvation; the second fruit of the divine love. Yes; he 
shall possess eternal hfe. The Redeemer has pur- 
chased it for' his people on the cross; he has as- 
sured it to them by his glorious resurrection; and 
he holds it in their name, and, as their head, till the 
general resurrection of the just. But eye hath not seen, 
nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of 
man to conceive, the things which God hath prepaied \ 

for them that love him. Before we can comprehend it 
fully we must be admitted to behold the Paradise of 
God; to taste the rivers of its pleasures, to pluck its im- 
mortal fruits; to bask in its peaceful regions, enlightened 
by the sun of righteousness; to mingle with those glori- 
ous spirits which burn before the throne of God; and 
be invested with the celestial bodies of the saints redeem- 
ed from the corruption of the grave, which shine as the 
stars in the kingdom of their Father forever and ever. 
This is true life; a life of perfect holiness, a hfe of im- 
mortal love, a life with God, and in God, who is the 
life of the universe. All the imperfections of morta- 
lity will be left behind, at the mouth of the grave; all 
the obscurities of ignorance, all the mistakes of er- 
ror, all the pains of uncertainty and doubt, shall be 
forever removed, and in thy light O God! sliall we see 
light. Truth shall be the eternal food of the soul. 
An expanded and excursive intellect shall be forever • 
gratified with the opening treasures of knowledge, 
and the endless wonders of the universe; for we shall 
know even as also we are known, and the heart, made 
perfect in bliss, shall be filled with the pure and celes- 
tial fires of a divine love. 

1 78 The love of God, SfC. 

Christians! you shall there have laid aside this hody 
oisin and death, for this cormptible must put on incor- 
ruption, and, like the eagle, who fixes his eye, and 
directs his flight to the sun, you shall mount on an 
immortal wing towards the boundless source of light, 
and truth and love. Amen! 


Behold! I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all peo- 
ple. — Luke ii. 10. 

These are the blessed words in which the advent of 
the Saviour, so long looked lor by almost all nations, 
was announced to the humble and pious shepherds of 
Judea, who were waiting for the hope and consolation 
of Israel. The remains of an original tradition diffu- 
sed through all the countries of the East, had raised an 
universal expectation, that about this time, some divine 
personage was to appear upon earth, who should rule 
the world in righteousness and peace; and who, put- 
ting an end to crimes, would restore the primitive age 
of innocence and happiness. This tradition, which 
flowed down with more or less clearness through all 
the branches of that original family from which the 
earth was peopled, after the deluge, was rendered more 
definite, and confirmed with greater evidence to the 
Jewish people than to other nations, by a long succes- 
sion of prophets. The period of the coming of this 
divine illuminator and prince, which had, at first, been 
left undetermined, had become fixed by the spirit of 
prophesy. And, at this moment, this great event was 
attracting the attention and the hopes of mankind, when 
its actual accomplishment was proclaimed by a voice 

VOL. II. A a 

18^ On the JVativity. 

from heaven in the skies of Judea. Behold! 1 bring 
you glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all peo- 
ple: for to you this day is born, in the city of David, a 
Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And an epoch sure- 
ly it was of the highest joy to the universe. At the birth 
of Jesus, was fulfilled the pious hopes of patriarchs and 
devout men for so many ages. Then appeared that 
Son of the virgin whom so many prophecies had fore- 
told; whom so many types had prefigured; for whose 
advent so many prayers had ascended to Heaven; and 
so many astonishing dispensations of divine providence 
had prepared the way. A supernatural star in the hea- 
vens was instantly understood by the pious shepherds, 
who followed its direction till they found the infant Sa- 
viour at Bethlehem. Angels proclaimed to them, while 
watching their flocks in the fields, the birth of him 
who was to pubhsh to the universe the glad tidings of 
salvation. Heaven began the acclamations of joy, 
which were soon to be communicated to the earth; 
and a multitude of the heavenly host were heard prais- 
ing God, and saying. Glory to God in the highest! On 
earth, peace, good ivill to men! And to the shepherds, 
the leader of this heavenly band announced glad tidings 
of great joy ivhich should be to all people: for unto you 
is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is 
Christ the Lord. 

What then were the subjects of joy with which that 
morning dawned upon the earth? With it a spiritual 
sun arose to enlighten the nations. It brought conso- 
lation to our manifold afflictions, the fruits of sin, and 
has given relief to the conscience oppressed with guilt. 

On the JSfativity. 183 

and ignorant of the way of reconciliation with God. It 
has shed light and comfort into the dark and awful 
mansions of the grave, and opened beyond them the 
prospects of a blessed and glorious immortality to the 
heirs of death. Let us review each of these ideas. 
And do thou, Sun of Righteousness! illuminate our 
minds with divine truth! warm our hearts with thy 
heavenly rays! That we may partake largely of the 
joy of the universe at thy rising! 

In the first place: That spiritual darkness in which 
the world had been involved for so many ages, was 
dispelled at the birth of Jesus Christ. Before thataera, 
God, in his proper nature and glory had not been known 
to the greater portion of mankind. The lights of that 
original revelation which he had given to the father of 
the race had been long extinguished, or buried under a 
mass of superstitions, the work at once of the fears and 
the corruptions of mankind. Men knew not whence 
they had sprung nor what was to be the final destina- 
tion of their being: they knew not him whom it was 
their first duty to worship, and as little did they under- 
stand the nature of that pure and spiritual worship 
which he requires. They looked round with stupid 
surprise or incurious indifference, on a world of which 
they understood neither the origin nor the end. Some 
regarded it as the gloomy empire of a blind and sense- 
less, but rigorous fate: and others, as the field of sport 
to a thousand fantastic and capricious deities. The 
most venial error of a frail reason was that which mis- 
took the sun, and the moon, and the host of heaven for 

184 On the Kativity. 

their Creator. But, when once the human mind had 
lost the true knowledge of God, it was soon overwhelm- 
ed with the most profound darkness, and sunk in the 
most deplorable corruptions. The glory of the incor- 
ruptible God it changed into an image made like to cor- 
ruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and 
creeping things. And to such sottishness of depravity 
did it at last arrive that, in its shameless deities it per- 
sonified almost all the vices of a depraved heart. The 
service of their temples was as impure as their divini- 
ties, and conformable to both were their profligate mo- 
rals. Decency forbids the recital here of scenes which 
often passed in the secret recesses of their most hallow- 
ed shrines. The apostle Paul draws a melancholy 
picture of heathen manners in his epistle to the Ro- 
mans; and by some of their own writers, the portrait 
is charged with colours hardly less dark. " The feeble 
glimmerings of the law of nature, saith the wisest philo- 
sopher and greatest orator of Rome, are now so ob- 
scured in the general depravity, that hardly can you dis- 
cern any more even a vestige of its primitive lights.^' 

Christians who have received their first notions of 
God, and impressions of duty under the light of the gos- 
pel, and who have been bred up and cultivated under its 
daily instructions, can scarcely conceive of the extreme 
debasement into which the human mind was sunk in 
its ideas of the divine nature, or of the depravation of 
morals which was the native consequence of this igno- 
rance and these errors. Happy in the illumination 
which shines around them, they seldom turn their eyes 
backward on the ages of darkness that they may learn, 

On the Kativity. 185 

by comparison, to estimate the unspeakable blessings 
which we now enjoy. But, go to the gloomy priests of 
Baal! See them, as they are decribed by the sacred 
writers cutting themselves with knives, and covered 
with their own blood before his cruel altars, depreca- 
ting the wrath of the idol with frantic howUngs. Go to 
the horrible shrines of Molock and of Saturn, and behold 
the agonies of infants offered as victims to these furious 
demons by their miserable parents, who daily sacrificed 
the feehngs of nature to a monstrous superstition. Let 
me then conduct you to a different, but not less immo- 
ral spectacle, in the groves of Venus, and of Thammuz, 
and of a thousand other impure deities, and disclose 
the scenes of dissolution that were perpetrated there — 
Let me point you to the intemperate revellings of Bac- 
chus, and the immodest rites of Pan. Even in the most 
magnificent and venerable of their temples, in which a 
pompous ceremonial amused rather than gave peace to 
the conscience, you may see the melancholy proofs of 
the corruption of human reason, of the most abject 
humiliation of human nature in the worship of shame- 
ful statues the representatives of dead men and women, 
who had been in hfe the examples of every vice; and 
in the worship still more degrading, if possible, of the 
vilest animals, and the most loathsome reptiles! From 
this dark and spiritual night which covered, not one 
people alone, but all nations, turn at length, to the 
blessed light of the gospel which arose on the earth 
with the birth of Christ — there contemplate God in 
his true glory, infinite, eternal, almighty, most holy, 
most just, most benevolent; the fountain of being, the 

1 86 On tfie JVativity. 

source of all mercy to mankind; behold there that pure 
worship of the heart, that virtuous and holy practice 
in the life which alone can find acceptance with him; 
behold that perfect law of love which emanating from 
him whose nature is love, is the firmest and the sweet- 
est bond of human society upon earth, and the sublim- 
est principle of the immortal unions and blessedness 
of heaven; and, finally, carry forward your view beyond 
the grave, the grave which, to a heathen, swallowed 
up all hope, and enter into the mansions of everlasting 
purity and blessedness, illuminated by the eternal Sun 
of Righteousness, and then say, what a subject of joy to 
the world was the incarnation and birth of our most 
blessed Saviour. Well may we join in the acclamations 
of the holy angels; Glory to God in the highest! on earth 
peace and good will to men! or with the evangelic pro- 
phet when rapt in vision, he was carried forvi^ard to 
the day of Christ — Arise, shine, for thy light is come^ 
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: for to! dark- 
ness hath covered the earth, and gross darkness the na- 
tions. But the Lord shall rise upon thee, and his glory 
shall be seen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall corne to 
thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. — 
Yes, at the birth of our Emanuel, that profound spiri- 
tual night which had so long rested on the nations be- 
gan to disappear; the idols of paganism, the idols of 
Egypt, saith Isaiah, were moved at his presence, all 
trembled on their bases; their altars were hastening to 
be extinguished; and their votaries fled from their fall- 
ing temples. The living and true God was every 
where acknowledged and adored; and his worship, dis- 

On the Nativity. 187 

encumbered of victims and altars, and the frivolous 
pomp of festivals and auguries and oracles, was, like 
his own nature, holy and pure; — his only altar a peni- 
tent and humble heart, — his only incense devout and 
benevolent, and heavenly affections. 

2. Not less reason of joy was there at the birth of 
Christ in the next place; when you contemplate him as 
that glorious High Priest, who came to take away sin by 
the sacrifice of himself, and thereby give peace to the 
conscience afflicted with the sense of its guilt, and op- 
pressed by its fears. Although men had lost the true 
knowledge of God, and of the way by which the sinner 
might return to his favour, and obtain his mercy, yet 
did the powerful voice of conscience often breakout from 
beneath the cloud of that ignorance, and make them se- 
cretly tremble at some unknown and terrible power, the 
avenger of crimes. Amidst the darkness in which they 
were involved, the fearful phantoms of guilt often rose up 
before their imagination, disturbed their pleasures, like 
that shadowy hand in the presence of Belshazzar, that 
wrote his condemnation on the wall, terrifying him in 
the midst of his licentious festival. They erected those 
phantoms into Gods that they might endeavour to ap- 
pease them by shocking rites. They raised their own 
vices to the seat of divinity that they might protect their 
indulgence by the examples of their Gods. — Yet could 
they not quiet the voice of nature in their breasts that 
condemned them. Above all when they came to look 
down into the abyss of the grave, and forward into the 
eternal world, they were often agitated with the most 
fearful apprehensions. They knew not, indeed, at 

188 On the JValivity. 

what they trembled; for they were ignorant of God 
and of the holiness of his law; yet were their apprehen- 
sions not the less afflicting. They knew not by what 
means to appease the offended powers which their 
fears created. On every side they turned, to every hor- 
rible expedient they had recourse. Thousands of rams 
bled at their altars, ten thousands of rivers of oil, and of 
blood flowed in their temples; at the shrines of their 
dreadful idols, they offered //leir^rs^ born; the fruit of 
their body for the sin of their soul. Yet did these mon- 
strous victims, instead of appeasing, serve only to in- 
crease their guilt, and their terrors. Their ordinary 
sacrifices, which were less horrible or less shameful, 
they continued through custom: a custom handed down, 
indeed, from the beginning of time, and having, at its 
institution, a most important meaning; but ignorant of 
the divine authority on which it rested, and of the 
great atonement to which it pointed, it yielded no solid 
repose to the conscience. Such was the state of man- 
kind in the ancient world, and such will it ever be, 
when men are left merely to the guidance of nature, 
and are not directed by that light which cometh down 
from Heaven. So far had they departed from God, 
that reason knew not how to lead them back to him. 
It knew not how the corruptions of our nature mig-ht 
be cured, nor where to find an atonement for sin. AH 
these obscurities have been removed, all these myste- 
ries have been enlightened, all these horrible perversions 
of nature have been taken away, and human reason 
restored to its proper exercise by the coming of the 
Saviour. By the Holy Spirit shed down on the apos- 

On tJie JVativity. 189 

ties, and on the church, by the great atonement which 
he has offered for sin and by his own glorious resurrec- 
tion and ascension into Heaven, he has given hope to 
those who were ready to perish, and opened a way lor 
penitent guilt, to the presence and the throne of God. 
He is himself the way, the truth and the life. When 
the Day Star arose, the fears of a boding conscience 
and of timid superstition which had afflicted the world, 
through such a long night of darkness, fled before it. 
Peace and Consolation were bestowed on true repent- 
ance; — and man, who from the beginning, had been 
condemned to death by the sentence of the violated law, 
and expelled from Paradise by the angel of justice was, 
if I may speak so, led back again to the tree of life, 
and the flaming sword, which guarded the entrance to 
it, was taken away by the Angel of mercy. 

Christians! this day invites you to rejoice with an- 
gels and with all saints at the birth of that glorious 
High Priest, who has repaired and magnified the ho- 
nour of the divine law; who has perfectly satisfied the 
claims of divine justice; who has opened the gates of 
eternal mercy, and sprinkled the mercy seat with the 
blood of the everlasting covenant; who has given effica 
cy to repentance by the sacrifice of himself, and con- 
solation to the penitent by making reconciliation for in- 
iquity and bringing in everlasting righteousness. 

What obligations are we not under to thee, bles- 
sed Saviour of men! who hast condescended to assume 
our nature, and to become our Prophet and instructor, 
our High Priest, and the sacrifice for our sins! 

But, christians! the humble and sincere penitent 

VOL. II. B b 

1 90 On the JS'atmty. 

alone can justly estimate the obligation laid upon us by 
these mercies. If you have seen in the true and strong 
colours of the divine law, the evil of sin while you 
have felt yourself condemned by its righteous sentence; 
if after these painful convictions, the light and peace 
and comfort of the gospel have been introduced into 
your soul; if you have seen the darkness of natural 
reason, the curse of the law, the oppression of guilt, 
the condemnation of d ath, all removed by the incar- 
nation and sacrifice of our great High Priest; your own 
experience, your convictions, and your consolations, 
will carry to your heart more powerfully than could the 
eloquence of an apostle that holy and ineffable joy 
which the coming of the Saviour hath prepared for all 
who trust in his name, and obey his gospel. 

As the birth of the Saviour has brought with it the 
only certain relief to the wounded conscience, it has 
furnished also the true consolation of all the calami- 
ties and soiTows of life. For under his most gracious 
economy and government, our sufferings are often con- 
verted into our greatest mercies; and these light qfflic' 
tions which are but for a moment, are made to work out 
for us afar more exceeding and eternal iveight ofglon^. 

3. Here you behold the last and highest blessing 
flowing from the advent of the long promised Messiah, 
in which this day calls us especially to rejoice; He 
came to bring life and immortality to light. 

What could nature, what could reason do to satisfy 
the mind on this interesting subject? It was unable to 
lift the veil of death and to look with a clear and steady 
view into the eternal world. The wisest of the heathens 

On the jyativity. 191 

knew not what either to fear or hope for, hereafter. 
Dark and gloomy, hideed, is the condition of man if he 
has no hope of prolonging his existence, in some after 
state of being. But despair rests upon the grave, when, 
in descending into its shadows, we at the same time 
enter on an awlul and unknown future, under all the 
distressing doubts of reason, and all the fearful ap- 
prehensions of conscious guilt. Before the Sun of 
Righteousness appeared, the world was covered with 
the victims and the trophies of death. It resembled the 
valley in Ezekiel's vision, filled only with the dry bones 
of the slain — his vivifying rajs have quickened them, 
and given them a new life. Yes, christians, a glorious 
light has visited you after the ages of darkness. You 
have received glad tidings of great joy. Christ has not 
only revealed immortality, but purchased it for ail who 
sincerely believe: not only promised to raise your sleep- 
ing dust, but confirmed your hope by his own resur- 
rection from the dead. The path to immortal life and 
blessedness now lies open to repentance, and to faith, 
to piety, and virtue. A heavenly light has scattered 
the profound darkness of the tomb; and all eternity, if 
I may speak so, lies before the view of faith in ravish- 
ing prospect. Blessed be God! and blessed be the in- 
fant of Bethlehem! immortality is now the end of all 
our pious hopes, the consolation of all our sorrows in 
time, the encouragement and the reward of all our 
most arduous duties. 

So many causes of joy to the world should fill our 
souls with a devout and holy triumph in the mercy of 
God. It is fit that we should rejoice with Heaven and 

192 On the JVativity. 

Earth at a nativity so astonishing and glorious, which 
was sung, in the beginning, by a great multitude of the 
heavenly host, and which will form a distinguished sub- 
ject among the songs of the redeemed in their ever- 
lasting habitations. But, in what manner, christians! 
ought the disciples of the humble and incarnate Sa- 
viour, the eternal Son of God most holy, to testify their 
joy upon such an occasion? By excesses, and disor- 
ders? by the licentiousness of mirth? by Saturnalian 
festivals and dissipations? This were a reproachful 
perversion of a spiritual blessing. The moderate and 
cheerful pleasures of society, religion does not blame. 
On the other hand, it assists us to enjoy them. But 
shall christians ever depart so far from the Spirit of 
their profession, as to introduce the orgies of heathen 
idols to do honour to Jehovah; to celebrate the bound- 
less grace of the ever blessed Saviour, who came to 
redeem the world from these vanities, to serve the living 
and true God? — Praise him by devoutly sending to his 
throne the incense of your holy and heavenly affec- 
tions. Praise him by the profound and lively sentiments 
of your humility and your gratitude. Praise him by the 
fervor of your zeal in his service, by your diligence in 
duty, by your increasing sanctification. Come with 
gladness along with the rejoicing shepherds, to offer 
him your homage in his humble manger. Unite your 
praises along with those of the Heavenly hosts who 
waited on this birth, — Glory to God in the highest! On 
Earth peace, good will to men! Amen. 


After these things the word of the Lord came to Abraham, in a vision; say- 
ing, fear notj Abraham; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward. 
Genesis, xv, 1. 

My Brethren, — Few subjects of hum an knowledge 
can be more interesting and instructive than an ac- 
quaintance with ancient manners, and especially with 
the private and domestic history of those pious and il- 
lustrious men who adorned the simplicity of the first 
ages, and became the conservators of the primitive 
lights of revelation to their posterity and the world. 
Among these great men there is none who has ap- 
peared with superior distinction, or whose fame and 
veneration have extended over a wider portion of the 
human race than Abraham. He was the father and 
founder of many nations who boast their origin from 
him. And, what is a much higher glory, he was the 
father of the ancient church, to whom was imparted 
by God, the covenant of his mercy to mankind, in its 
first and visible organization. 

Of the life of this eminent servant of God, I shall 
now present you with a very concise portrait. But 
being obliged to employ only the brief and scanty ma- 
terials furnished in the rapid narration of Moses, a few 
capital points alone in his history can be touched. 
They are such, however, as merit the attention, and 
invite the improvement of pious men in all ages, and 
serve to form a regular and connected character of 

J 94 Life of JJbraham, 

the patriarch, pnnce, and saint; and present it to us as 
a consistent whole. Except his birth, which was from 
a distinguished and opulent family in Chaldea, and his 
marriai2;e, nothing is related by the great historian, be- 
fore the seventy-fifth year of his age, when he migra- 
ted with his father, his nephew, and some others of 
his nearest connexions, from the place of his nativity 
to the territories of Canaan. 

At this period, idolatry, which had, hitherto, been 
restrained by the instructions and example of Noah, 
and the patiiarchs who had with him survived the de- 
luge, began to invade the nations. This second pro- 
genitor of the human race was now dead; and, at 
the close of three centuries and a half, manidnd had 
so far degenerated from iiis pious instructions, as al- 
ready to discover a strong tendency to that s[»ecies of 
idolatry which is the most natural error of reason, the 
worship of the sun: and of fire, as the purest emblem 
of the splendor, and the vivifying power of that hea- 
venly body. This seems to have been the reigning 
superstition of the native city of Abram, as is indica- 
ted by its name, Ur of the Chaldees: a denomination 
which is said, by those best acquainted with oriental 
literature, to signify the city of fire. 

This distant migration of so great a prince, appears 
to have been undertaken wholly by divine direction. 
God, in the incipient degeneracy of the nations, in order 
to preserve from utter extinction the truths originally 
imparted to the parents of the human race, and through 
them, to their posterity, determined to select a faith- 
ful family to be the depository of his holy laws, of the 

Life of Abraham. 195 

promises of his grace, of the worship of the sole and 
Supreme D« ily, and of the hopes of the future Mes- 
siah, the Saviour of the world. For this end was Abram 
required to leave his country and his people, that his 
family, no longer mingling with idolaters, might the 
more certainly, be preserved from the infection of 
their manners. Some of the Jewish rabbins, and even 
the author of the Vulgate version of the Scriptures, 
misled by the original meaning of the name of this 
Chaldean city, have given birth to the fable of the pa- 
triarch's being expelled from Ur, by the persecution of 
the idolaters; and, with difficulty, escaping tlie fire 
which had been prepared for him. And it is still 
a prayer in the Latin church, pronounced over the 
dying, " that God would deliver them from the fire of 
hell, as he delivered Abram from that of the Chalde- 
ans." This is plainly a rabbinical fancy, which has 
no other authority than a mistake founded on the 
name of the city. 

At the command of God, this illustrious pattern of a 
believer's duty and faith, forsook his native country, 
and those early friendships, and that habitual society, 
and the precious soil, so dear to every man, "And 
went out, not knowing whither he went." At an ad- 
vanced age, we see him breaking all those ties which 
take the deepest hold upon the human heart, and be- 
coming a voluntary exile in a strange land. The com- 
mand of God he implicitly obeyed, assured that, how-- 
ever the object of it might, for the present, be involved 
in obscurity, and the means of its accomplishment en- 
compassed with difficulties and doubts, whatever he 

196 Life of Abraham. 

required was wise and good, and whatever he " promi- 
sed, he was able to perform." 

Abram was now old; and his wife, as well as him- 
self, " was well stricken in years." Even in the 
prime of her age, she had never given him the joy of 
a father; yet was he required to rely on the divine pro- 
mise; that a posterity should spring from him, though 
now as good as dead, who should compose the future 
church of God; who should inherit regions at present 
possessed by powerful nations; and " become like the 
stars of Heaven for multitude." On what ground 
could the faith of this humble believer rest.'^ Simply 
on the word and faithfulness of Almighty God. 
" Against hope he believed in hope/' Glorious exam- 
ple of that faith which is the principle of a sinner's 
hope in the mercy of the Redeemer! which sustains 
the heart in the deepest afflictions, and inspires it with 
confidence in the darkest and most disastrous circum- 
stances of life; because God hath promised; and his 
promise " is an anchor of the soul, both sure and stead- 

Under the direction of the Divine Spirit, whose se- 
cret movements he followed, Abram advanced in his 
journey, and took up a temporary residence at Haran, 
a city on the confines of Canaan and Mesopotamia; 
the same which two thousand years afterwards, was 
rendered famous by the defeat and capture of a Roman 
army under the triumvir Crassus. Here his aged and 
venerable father ended his earthly pilgrimage; and 
Abram, after having, with filial piety, reverently depo- 
sited his remains, proceeded, by different migrations, 

• Uife of Abraham. 197 

through that land, which, by divine promise, was to 
become the inheritance of his. offspring. Being arri- 
ved at Bethel, his iirst care, according to his usual pie- 
ty, was to erect an altar to the most Higli God. 

This would seem to be a minute circumstance to be 
recorded with such solemnity in the history of so great 
a man. But, the legislator of Israel judged otherwise, 
and intended to convey to future ages, the sublime and 
instructive example of a great prince, who founded his 
domestic discipline upon religion, and w^as preparing 
this basis also for the government of that chosen na- 
tion, which was destined to rise from him: for no di- 
vine worship could be maintained in that age without 
the altar. And wherever the patriarch formed even a 
temporary residence, there we find his first solicitude 
to be for the erection of a structure so necessary for 
the religion of his family; and for the purposes of his 
civil intercourse, in his treaties and contracts, with in- 
dependent foreigners. 

But Abram being selected from the midst of idola- 
trous nations to be *' the father of the faithful,^' and 
the founder of a visible church in the world, the Divine 
wisdom deemed it requisite to prove the steadfastness 
of his own faith, by many arduous trials, that he might 
be rendered, to all ages, the more conspicuous and in- 
structive example of an humble, but persevering, and 
unshaken trust in God. 

He had come from a distant country to receive pos- 
session of an ample region, promised to him as an in- 
heritance for his posterity. And, in the plain of Mamre, 
the promise was again solemnly confirmed: though no 

VOL. II. c c 

198 Life of Abraham. • 

time was definitely prefixed for its accomplishment. 
Hitherto he was without an heir; and age and infirmi- 
ty creeping fast upon him, and on the wife whom he 
tenderly loved, every year seemed to place an event, 
which he so ardently desired, still farther beyond the 
reach of hope. Five and twenty years he continued 
in this painful suspense. Always expecting; and al- 
ways, when he thought he had arrived at the moment 
of attaining his highest wishes, struck back by some 
new obstacle. How firm and patient was the faith of 
this friend of God! 

In order to impose a new trial on the steadfastness 
of his hope, and to draw out the peculiar glory of his 
character into fuller light, shortly after his arrival in 
Canaan, where he had promised himself to find a se- 
cure rest to his cares, the land of his future heritage 
was afflicted with a grievous famine, and he was obli- 
ged to abandon it, and to seek a refuge in Egypt. Thus 
does it often please Almighty God, by afflictions, by 
disappointments, by bereavements, by blasting their 
favourite prospects, by covering their horizon with 
dark clouds, to prove and strengthen the graces of his 
own people. Through multiplied temptations they ap- 
proach, by degrees, the heavenly Canaan. 

Notwithstanding the great and sublime qualities of 
the patriarch, selected to be the head and example of 
all believers, still he was a man, and we are constrain- 
ed to lament, in the greatest of men, some proofs of the 
weakness of human nature. And the record of his 
imperfections, not less than of his virtues, stands as an 
evidence of the fidelity and sincerity of the sacred wri- 

Life of Abraham. 199 

ter. Moses was his historian, not his panegyrist. No- 
thing would have been more easy than to make a splen- 
did eulogium on such a character as Abram's, and en- 
tirely to sink his foibles in the lustre of his virtues: but 
we perceive only a simple and unadorned narrative, 
which bears, upon its face, the impression of truth. 
To escape the evils of the famine which raged in Ca- 
naan, he retired into Egypt, where his wealth, and the 
dignity of his character give him immediate access to 
the person of the prince. But, distrusting the incon- 
tinence of courts, because his wife, even at her age, 
was yet a woman of distinguished beauty, he suffered 
his apprehensions to overcome his integrity. lie in- 
structed her to conceal lier marriage, and to pass her- 
self, in what he supposed a licentious court, for his 
sister. He hazarded her honour to preserve his life. 
The same disguise he had practised in Palestine with 
the prince of Gerar. Literally, the declaration was 
true. She was the daughter of his father, but not of 
his mother; a connexion which, in that age, did not 
violate the laws of society. But, though true in terms, 
being used for the purpose of deception, it was an 
equivocation unworthy the piety and greatness of mind 
of this venerable patriarch. Many writers are found, 
who justify an equivocation of this nature, where either 
a great good is to be attained, or a great evil to be 
avoided by disguising, or even perverting the truth. 
Cut this morality is extremely lax; because it leaves 
to each man's self-love to decide on what occasions he 
may depart from the law of sincerity and candour. -I 
censure freely this action of so wise, and great, and 

200 Life of Abi'dham. 

good a man, and of so sacred a character, for the more 
sacred interests of piety and virtue. The honour, or 
the truth of revelation does not require the vindication 
of every step in the hfe of its prophets, its apostles, or 
its patriarchs. It is an error to suppose that every 
prophet is so raised above his species, as to be utterly 
exempted from all the weaknesses of human nature. 
No man was ever perfect, he only excepted who was 
also more than man. The history of the patriarchs 
is the history of good men, — but still of men, in which, 
if some blemishes appear, they are infinitely outweigh- 
ed by their virtues. 

There is an important and frequent mistake made 
by the readers of the sacred writings, which this blem- 
ish in the hfe of Abram leads me to remark, in con- 
founding the spirit of inspiration with the spirit of 
sanctification ; and supposing that the prophet to whom 
God is pleased to reveal his will, must be under the 
special and immediate direction of his Holy Spirit, in 
every action of life. Revelation is interposed only on 
those great occasions, or in those critical circumstan- 
ces, in which the order, or existence of the church is 
concerned: in all others, the prophet is permitted to 
follow the bent of his own genius, the impulse of his 
own temperament, the lights of his own mind, influen- 
ced, sometimes improperly, by the circumstances in 
which he is placed, operating upon the weakness of 
human nature. At the courts of Pharao, and Abime- 
lec, the great patriarch swerved, for a moment, from 
the rigid path of virtue, having his fortitude shaken by 
his very natural apprehensions from the injustice and 

Life of Abraham. 201 

incontinence of princes, united with the uncultivated 
manners of the age. His fears, however, were, in this 
instance, happily disappointed, by the excellent charac- 
ters of the sovereigns who then reigned in Gerar, and 
in Egypt. Influenced by a profound sense of religion, 
and respecting the sacredness of the marriage tie, they 
no sooner learned the holy relation in which Sarai 
stood to Abram, than mildly, but pathetically expostu- 
lating, they reproached him with a dissimulation which 
had nearly involved them in involuntary guilt, and him 
in the deepest misery and shame. Yet, convinced of 
his integrity, and observing also that he was under the 
peculiar care of Heaven, they recognised in him that 
exalted merit, which had been shaded by his unjust 
suspicions of them. 

It will not, I presume, be departing improperly from 
the object of this discourse, to answer an inquiry 
which naturally arises here; — whence is it that Abram, 
who had been called, from amidst the growing idola- 
try of the nations, to rear a church that should be the 
pure depository of uncorrupted truth, should find in those 
countries, which soon became the seats of the most 
impure superstitions, such eminent examples of piety 
and virtue.^ To reply correctly to this question, it is 
necessary to understand the state of the world at the 
present period. 

Idolatry was, as yet, only in the commencement of 
its dark and demoralising career. The pious precepts 
and example of Noah were still preserved by a recent 
tradition among his posterity, who, though already 
widely dispersed from one another, were not far re- 

202 Life of Abraham. 

moved from their common origin. Many pious families 
among ail the nations, so recently sprung from him, 
still preserved the spirit of this great preacher of right- 
eousness. At a much later period we find, in Arabia, 
Jethro and Job, pledges of other righteous men who 
existed in the various nations, in the same grade of de- 
scent from their postdiluvian ancestor. The invisible 
church of God, indeed, appears, in all ages, to have 
been more extensively diffused throughout the earth, 
than niany good men, entertaining very circumscribed 
views of the divine mercy, have been willing to admit. 
What a consolatory idea to true charity! The real 
friends of God shall be seen, at last, coming from the 
east, and the west, the north, and the south; even from 
those nations which have not been enhghtened by the 
glorious rays of the gospel; but who, like Abimelec, like 
Jethro, like Cornelius, have worshipped and served the 
living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, 
with the best lights which they enjoyed. The pious 
heart expands with this hope, and offers the grateful 
homage of its praise to him " who is the Saviour of all 
men, especially of those who believe." 

Will it be asked (if such is the extension of divine 
grace) why was this holy man called from the land of 
his nativity? why were not all nations left simply to the 
instructions of the light of nature, or of that which has 
been called the original and universal Revelation? — It 
was to preserve the church of God from a fatal corrup- 
tion in principles and manners, which was already be- 
gun, and threatened daily to extend more widely its 
baleful influence;— it was to preserve the precious light 

Life of Abraham. 2 OS 

of divine truth as in a sacred ark, the rays of which, 
feebly scattered over distant nations, were likely to be 
more and more obscured by the effects of time, and a 
growing idolatry;— it was that he might become the de- 
pository of the glorious promise of a Messiah, and re- 
store the knowledge of the living and true God, after it 
should have been nearly extinguished in the worship of 
demons;— and finally, it was to point the hopes of man- 
kind forward to the great sacrifice for sin, after they 
had been nearly lost in the sacrifices of a vain super- 

From Egypt the venerable patriarch returned, after 
the cessation of the famine in Palestine, to fix again 
his residence between Bethel and Eli. where he had 
formerly erected an altar to God. Here his first care 
was still to provide, in his own family, for the worship 
of Him whom all the earth ought continually to adore. 
And, after the example of Abram, it is the first duty and 
honour of every father of a family, to erect a domestic 
altar to the Creator of heaven and earth. And, per- 
haps, there is no means more effectual to impress upon 
their hearts those sentiments of piety and virtue which 
are so essential to their happiness, than daily bringing 
them with himself into the presence of his heavenly Fa- 
ther, and bowing along with them at the footstool df 
that Being of Beings. 

The wealth of Abram, as was usual in that age, 
consisted chiefly in herds, and flocks, and a numerous 
train of servants. In these articles of comfort, or of 
luxury, under the favourable providence of God, he had 
prospered to an extraordinary degree. His brother's 

204 Life of Abraham. 

son, whom he had taken under his protection, and into 
his friendship, and who had hitherto been his compan- 
ion in all his migrations, had been hardly less success- 
ful. Their flocks together covered extensive plains; 
and the masters, with their wives, composed, in a man- 
ner, but one family. There necessarily existed, how- 
ever, a difference of interests between them, which 
daily became more visible in proportion to the augmen- 
tation of their riches. These good men, notwithstand- 
ing, could always have lived together in the same har- 
mony which had hitherto subsisted: but it was not so 
with their servants and dependants. The mutual 
emulation of their shepherds, the partiality of these 
men to their own flocks, and perhaps their ofiicious 
zeal to recommend themselves to their respective lords, 
embroiled them in frequent disputes. Hardly would it 
have been necessary to rest on this portion of the pa- 
triach's history, but to remark the mildness, and amia- 
ble candour of his temper, so becoming the friend of 
God and man. " Let there be no strife," said the venera- 
ble saint, " between me and thee, and between my herd- 
men, and thy herdmen; for we are brethren.^' The 
contests of these men make it requisite for us to part; 
but the land is before thee; make thy selection out of the 
whole; "If thou wilt go to the right hand, then I will 
go to the left; and if thou wilt go to the left, then I wil 
turn to the right." — Amiable condescension! admirable 
greatness of mind! what sacrifices is he not willing to 
make to peace and fraternal concord.^ His age un- 
doubtedly claimed the precedence from the youth of his 
nephew ; for, was he not as a father to Lot.^ distinguished, 

Life of Abraham . 205 

likewise, by his intercourse wiih Heaven, was not the 
whole land his by the designation and promise of Him 
who is Lord both of Heaven and earth? All these pre- 
rogatives he yields to his love of peace; and is the first 
to propose those concessions, and contrive that plan of 
accommodation, which love only could dictate to a be- 
nevolent heart. 

Lot chose for his portion the fertile plains of Jordan, 
and fixed his residence in the city of Sodom. These 
plains were occupied by five cities, each subject to its 
respective king. For, in that age, so recently after the 
deluge, the general veneration of the people for the 
mild and equitable government of some ancestral head, 
had, every where, given birth to monarchical institu- 
tions, which accordingly took place in single cities, or 
in small districts. Sodom and its allies had rebelled 
against their superior lord, the king of Elam, who, in 
confederacy with three other princes reclaimed his 
royal rights. A decisive battle was fought in the plain 
of Siddim. The confederated princes were victorious; 
and after the conflict, they retired carrying with them 
an immense booty. Among the rest. Lot was taken 
with all his herds, and his vast wealth. News of his 
nephew's captivity being brought to Abram, he imme- 
diately selected three hundred and eighteen of his ser- 
vants, who, in a country filled with petty sovereigns, al- 
most constantly engaged in hostilities with each other, 
were all trained to arms, and with these, in conjunction 
with the trained servants of three neighbouring and 
wealthy lords, Aner, Eshcol, and Marnre, he followed 
the victors. The aged shepherd, grasping with ardour 


206 Life ofMraham. 

his buckler and his shield, divides his little army into 
three bands, and treading close upon the steps of the 
enemy, forces their camp at night, and pursues the fu- 
gitives to the borders of Damascus. By this prompt 
and vigorous stroke, he recovers his nephew, and all 
the booty which they had plundered from the cities of 
the plain. The king of Sodom, in a transport of grati- 
tude for the recovery of his captive citizens, with their 
property, offered him the whole spoil as a reward of his 
bravery. This the generous grandeur of Abram's soul 
refused. He conquered, not for himself, but tor virtue, 
and for justice. He took only a recompense for his al- 
lies; the rest he restored to the citizens who had been 

We behold, in these transactions of this illustrious 
patriarch, the union oithe greatest mildness of charac- 
ter, with the greatest courage; the greatest humility, 
with the greatest grandeur of soul; the greatest desire 
of tranquil life, with the greatest energy in action; the 
greatest love of peace, with the greatest decision in 

In his return from this splendid exploit, he was met 
by an extraordinary personage, whose name never ap- 
pears before' in the sacred record, and is never repeated, 
except in a single allusion in the book of Psalms, till he 
is introduced by the apostle as one of the most illustri- 
ous types of our blessed Saviour. Melchisedek, king 
of Salem, brought forth bread and wine to refresh the 
wearied victor in his march; and there it is said, he 
blessed Abram. With other kings the patriarch had 
conversed on an equal fooling; but to Melchisedek, who 

Life of Abraham. 207 

was not only king of Salem, but priest of the most high 
God, he paid an unusual homage, as being due to the 
sacred character which he bore; and Abram gave him 
tythes of all that the right of conquest had put in his 
power. The name of this prince, and of the city over 
which he reigned, taken together, signify the righteous 
khig of peace. The history of this event, as it is recor- 
ded by Moses, would lead us to regard him as one of 
the princes of the country, but a great and pious man, 
who had united the sacerdotal with the regal functions; 
and as being probably the sovereign of a city which 
stood on the same site on v. hich Jerusalem afterwards 
was built. The apostle, in speaking of the priestly of- 
fice of our Lord Jesus Christ, falls into a most anima- 
ted and rhetorical strain of eulogy; and appealing to a 
prediction of the holy psalmist concerning him, in the 
person of his type Melchisedek, proceeds in such a style 
of lofty figure, as seems hardly applicable to any mor- 
tal. — " Thou art a priest forever, after the order of 
Melchisedek." " This Melchisedek,'' the apostle adds, 
" without father, without mother, without descent, 
having neither beginning of days, nor end of hfe; but 
made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest con- 
tinually." — This is a description so highly wrought, in 
the fervour of pursuing an emblematical similitude of 
the divine Redeemer, that not a few of the most pious 
commentators have pronounced, that it can be applica- 
ble to no other than to him who is from everlasting to 
everlasting; and who is frequently found, in the sacred 
history, revealing himself visibly to the patriarchs and 
holy men of antiquity. But the simple narration of 

208 Uije ofMraham. 

Moses leading to a different conclusion, and the figured 
style of St. Paul being capable of a different interpreta- 
tion, I am disposed, with the greater number of writers, 
to consider this extraordinary prince and priest, as only 
an illustrious type of Christ: In the language of the 
apostle, " he was made like the son of God:" that is, he 
bears, in the manner in which he is introduced into the 
sacred history, a striking and typical resemblance to 
that eternal Priest who ever liveth to make intercession 
for us: For "he was without father, without mother, 
w^ithout descent." In the original, the latter phrase is 
without genealogy; which gives an obvious and natural 
interpretation to the two preceding. No genealogy of 
this sovereign pontiff has been preserved: perhaps did 
not exist, as was requisite in the Jewish priesthood to 
ascertain the right of succession. He appears, there- 
fore, without any designation of father or mother, as if 
inheriting from them. But being king, he assumes the 
pontifical functions in conjunction with the royal in his 
own dominion. The office begins, and is continued in 
him alone, as long as his dominion exists; which is ex- 
hibited to us without any fixed beginning or end of 
days. All these circumstances seem to be intention- 
ally recorded by the sacred historian, that this royal 
priest might become, by an easy figure, a more perfect 
type of him who possessed an underived and eternal 
priesthood in the heavens; infinitely superior to that of 
Aaron, and to the perishing rites of the Mosaic econo- 
my. All that was wanting to this eloquent apostle, for 
the illustration of his subject, was only a series of stri 
king and appropriate analogies. These he found in 

lAfe of Mirdmm, 209 

the history of the " king of righteousness and peace, 
the priest of the most high God," pointed out already 
by the allusion of the inspired and prophetic psalmist; 
of which, like a genuine orator, he makes a most beau- 
tiful and pertinent use; and to the Jews, one would 
think, equally affecting and convincing. 

After these interesting events, God appeared again 
to Abram, in a vision, to renew his assurances of mer- 
cy and protection; — "I am thy shield, and thy exceed- 
ing great reward/' But the holy man, almost impatient 
of so long delay in obtaining the promise, for which he 
had abandoned his native country, replies; — "Lord 
God! what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?'' 
and my domestic servant, Eliezur, sprung from a stran- 
ger of Damascus, alone appears to inherit the ample 
possessions which, by thy good providence, I have ac- 
cumulated round me. Although this address seems 
marked with a degree of impatience, little becoming the 
character of Abram, yet the Eternal, in compassion to 
the frailty of human nature without offence, deigns to 
repeat to him his former promise, with the addition of 
a posterity as numerous as the stars of heaven, who 
should, in future time, possess the whole land of Ca- 
naan, and hold in full and absolute property that ex- 
tensive region. Abram, though still called to " hope 
against hope, believed God,-" and that submissive, de- 
voted, and confiding mind, the source of all other vir- 
tues and graces, " was counted to him for righteous- 
ness." But here the good man proposes another re- 
quest, which, as it is usually interpreted, seems to im- 
ply some hesitancy and doubt in his mind, little ac- 

2 1 Life of Abraham. 

cording with the praises which have been bestowed on 
the faith of this patriarch: — " Lord God! whereby shall 
I know that I shall inherit it?" — In vindication of this 
request, it has been said, that the faith of the holiest 
of mortals, put to such painful and tedious proofs by 
repeated delays, might begin at last to faulter, and re- 
quire to be reassured. And might not Abram. in tlie 
humility of his soul, behoving, yet struggling with the 
natural infirmity and unbelief of the human heart, cry 
to God, as did long afterwards the disciple to our Sa- 
viour in the gospel; " I believe. Lord! help thoii my 
unbelief!" Oh! give me one more decisive and unques- 
tionable token of the accomplishment of this precious 

This, though plausible, does not appear to me to be 
the genuine interpretation of the passage. And, when 
I look forward to the transaction which immediately 
follows, I must conclude, with Mr. Saurin, that it has 
a very different meaning. God, who is the sovereign of 
nations, and who " determines to all the bounds of 
their habitation," had just promised to the patriarch, 
the possession of the land of Canaan, as an inheritance 
to his posterity. His reply indicates no hesitancy or 
distrust of the verily of the divine promise; but con- 
tains a request that he would now condescend to con- 
vey to him, by some visible and formal covenant, the 
exclusive title to that territory, which was hereafter to 
be the object olhope to his posterity, that it might be 
their encouragement and warrant, in the fulness of 
time, to take possession of it. " Whereby shall 1 know,'^ 
that is, " shall I be assured of my title to inherit it.^" 

Life of Abraham. 211 

And it is immediately added, " in the same day, the 
Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy 
seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, to 
the great river, the river Euphrates." in wliich ex- 
pressions we clearly perceive the form of the covenant 
conveying the title, and the boundaries of the posses- 
sion distinctly designated. To confirm this criticism, 
and indeed, to place it almost beyond question, we ob- 
serve rites employed by God, in the transaction with 
Abram, of the same nature with those which were uni- 
versally used, in periods of the most remote antiquity, 
among princes, in their covenants conveying the pro- 
perty of the soil or other territorial rights and privi 
leges. " Take me an heifer of three years old,^' saith 
he, " and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of 
three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. 
And he took unto him all these, and divided them in 
the midst, and laid each piece, one against another, 
but the birds he divided not. And when the fowls came 
down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.* 
And, when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell 
upon Abram, and lol a horror of great darkness fell 
upon him. And he said unto Abram, know of a surety, 
that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not 
theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them 
four hundred years: But, in the fourth gentration, they 
shall come hither again, for the iniquity of the Amor- 
ites is not yet full. And, it came to pass, that, when 

* This most insiguificaot, and unmeaning^ translation, is happily cor- 
rected by Bochart, who remarks an ambiguity io the original, which mis- 
led our translatorb. — "And th» iowis," viz. the turtle dove Lnd the young 
pigeon, *' Abram laid on the carcases, and he sat between the parts." 

212 Life of Abraham. 

the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoak- 
ing furnace, and a burning lamp (or lamp of fire) pass- 
ed between those pieces. In the same day/^ that is 
'- at that time, and by these rites, the Lord made a co- 
venant with Abram/' (viz. the covenant which has been 
just recited.) 

In this transaction we recognise one of the most an- 
cient forms of giving validity to covenants, or contracts, 
antecedently to the general knowledge and use of let- 
ters. It consisted in dividing a victim into two parts, 
and causing the contracting parties to pass between 
the halves.* In this covenant we see Abram sitting, 
and Jehovah passing between the severed parts of the 
victims, by his visible emblems, a smoking furnace, 
and a lamp of fire, the symbols of his presence. Thus, 
by a new engagement, in gracious condescension to 
the patriach's request, he confirms the promise of the 
land, or strengthens it by a new title, which he had be- 
fore repeatedly made to the father of the faithful. At 
the approach of Deity, a horror fell, as was natural, 
upon the mind of the holy patriarch. He was seized 
with a prophetic impulse: and foresaw the destinies of 
his posterity for four hundred years. 

* An example of a contract ratified in this way, we have in the 34th 
chapter of Jeremiah, 18th and 19th verses. And profane history furnishes 
us with numerous instances. Agamemnon, when he would most solemnly 
confirm his faith to Achilles, divided a victim with his sword, and holding 
the bloody weapon in his hand, passed between the parts. This ceremony 
was usually accompanied with an oath, sworn on the altar, or in the act of 
sacrificing; hence the common phrase among the Greeks for entering- into 
covenant, " to cut an oath." A contract, therefore, became a solemn act 
of religion; and implied an imprecation, that he who violated it, should be 
destroyed by the judgment of heaven, as that victim by the sacrificing- 

Life of Mraham, 213 

Abram had now been ten years in Palestine, and 
still the heir of his ample fortunes, which had been so 
long, and so frequently announced to his hopes did not 
appear. Affectionately attached to a wife, who, even at 
her advanced age, retained uncommon vestiges of her 
early beauty, he had not availed himself of a connex- 
ion with a second wife, which, in that age, was per- 
mitted to the best of men, from whom he might at 
length realize those anxious expectations wiiich had 
hitherto so painfully disappointed him. But Sarai, 
either more impatient for the honours, and the ex- 
pected blessings of the family, or generously regarding 
the sacrifices which her husband had so long, and so 
delicately made to her feelings, proposed to him of her 
own accord, to take to his bed one of those female at- 
tendants whom she had brought with her from the court 
of Pharao. Alas! Sarai! thou wast little acquainted 
with the human heart, or with the sensations which 
were to spring up in thy own breast, from this new 
and untried relation; and with the niultiplied vexations 
thou wast preparing for the best, and most afft^ction- 
ate of husbands. Hagar, for this was the name <>f the 
maid who was to enjoy this honour, when she found 
that she was likely to become a mother, could no lon- 
ger restrain that natural impulse in the female breast, 
especially in a woman raised from her humble con- 
dition to the bed of a prince, grew proud, and disco- 
vered evident and insulting symptoms of triumph over 
her mistress. The amiable wife who had hitherto been 
placid and unruffled in her temper, now became jea- 
lous and severe. Abram had the holy tranquiUity of 

VOL. II. E e 

2 \ 4 jL?/e of Abraham. 

his mind discomposed by her discontent, and the keen- 
ness of her reproaches. And Hagar, through the harsh- 
ness of her treatment, was obhged to flee from her 
presence. Ah! this mixture and opposition of affec- 
tions, and connexions in the same family, is ever hke- 
\y to be productive of the utmost infeUcity and disorder. 
This Egyptian handmaid, in her flight, was still the 
care of heaven, on account of her innocent, though 
hitherto unfortunate connexion with him, who had this 
honourable testimony given him that he was the 
" friend of God." An angel deigned to comfort her, 
who was to be the mother of nations; after which, he 
restored her back to her lord's protection, with a mind 
more humbled, and with juster sentiments of her duty. 
But in this appearance, it deserves to be particularly 
remarked, we discern that Almighty angel, who is so 
frequently perceived hereafter in the patriarchal his- 
tory: for, with a divine majesty and authority he an- 
nounces his promises and consolations; presenting to 
her, at the same time, a distant view of her posterity 
to future ages. — " I will multiply thy seed exceeding- 
ly: heboid thou art with child, and shall bear a son, and 
shall cafl his name Ishmael. And he will be a wild 
man; his hand will be against every man; and every 
man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the pre- 
sence of aU his brethren." A prediction which re- 
mains to this day, after the lapse of four thousand 
years, conspicuously verified in all its parts. Over the 
offspring of this illustrious patriarch, indeed, both by 
Hagar, and by Sarai, a peculiar providence seems 
ever to have presided. And during so long a period, 

lAfe of Abraham. 2\5 

in which all other nations have been so blended with 
one another, or so totally changed, that they can no 
lon2;er be found, the Arabians and the Jews remain 
the standing monuments of a singular providence exer- 
cised over those people, and of the authenticity of the 
sacred history. 

Great God! when encompassed with the monuments 
of thy omniscient spirit, not less than with the opera- 
tions of thy omnipotent power, may we ever be ready 
to yield our hearts to the mighty evidence of truth. 

My brethren: not only do we derive from this his- 
tory a demonstration of the truth of holy i*cripture, but 
we learn a lesson of high national importance from 
the answer of God to the request of Abram for a co- 
venanted title to the land of Canaan. Although that 
territory was, at this time, occupied by the posterity 
of one of the sons of Ham, contrary to the original al- 
lotment and distribution of the earth among the chil- 
dren of Noah, by which arrangement it fell into the 
.portion of the descendants of Shem, of which family 
Abram was; yet €4od, unwilling to annul a title acqui- 
red by long occupancy, and by many laborious im- 
provements made in the soil, till they should forfeit 
their right by their national crimes, delayed the ac- 
complishment of his promise to the patriarch, till after 
a period of four centuries, when it was foreseen that 
their impieties and sins would render them ripe for de- 
struction. For, says the Supreme Ruler and Judge, 
"their iniquity is not yet full." This proposition leads 
to a principle in the divine government over the na- 
tions, highly interesting to every people. In the pro- 

2\i5 Life of Abraham. 

gress of national vice there is a point which can never 
be exceeded without being followed by the most fatal 
calamities. For, in its current it dissolves the bands 
of civil society, and consumes the political body, by an 
internal and ruinous disease, convulsing it by faction, 
or preparing it for the domination of a foreign master, 
when human nature sinks into the lowest degradation 
and wretchedness. Yes, Almighty God! thou hast laid 
the wondrous and mysterious plan of thy providence, 
so as always to avenge, at length, the rights of thy vio- 
lated law, upon guilty nations, no less than on pro- 
fligate individuals! 

We have now followed Abram through twenty- 
four years of an interesting period of his life from the 
first appearance of God to him in Chaldea; since which 
time he had been a sojourner, with various fortune, in 
a foreign land. But he was at last arrived at the eve 
of that great event which was to form the solace of his 
future life, and of his grandeur and fame to all ages. 
The time of the birth of the child of promise was now 
definitely iixed, and the next year was to see him hap- 
py in that wonderful heir who was to be the progeni- 
tor of the future Messiah, the blessing of the whole 
earth. Abram fell on his face before the majesty of 
God, and the strong emotions of his joy broke forth in 
visible demonstrations of his inward pleasure. There- 
fore, says the Eternal, "Thou shalt call his name 
Isaac:" a name which signifies laughter or joy. Barnes 
in the early periods of society, are conmoniy drawn 
from the circumstances of time, place, character, or 
other peculiar relations. On this important occasion. 

iLife of Abraham. 211 

the names of both Abram and Sarai were changed, in 
commemoration of the prediction wliich was at the 
same time graciously renewed to them: that they 
should be the progenitors of numerous and mighty na- 
tions. Abram, which signifies gloiious father, received 
an addition, Abraham, the "glorious father of multi- 
tudes." And Sarai, my lady, was changed into Sarah, 
a general term for lady, or princess, to denote her fu- 
ture relation to the great people who were to spring 
from her. 

At this time also, the " covenant of grace,'' the true 
foundation of the sinner's hope, the basis of the church, 
and the fountain of all her precious truths, was invest- 
ed with its ritual form, and was confirmed by a visi- 
ble and sensible seal, which was to be transmitted to 
all his posterity, as a pledge of eternal life, to be 
bestowed on every one who believeth: A most conso- 
latory doctrine, which could, by no means, be certain- 
ly known to mankind, by the simple lights of nature; 
God had before, by a formal and explicit conveyance, 
the ceremonial of which has already been explained, 
ceded, and confirmed to the patriarch, and his poste- 
rity, the whole extent of the land of Canaan. This new 
covenant, therefore, cannot reasonably be supposed to 
be merely a repetition of the same grant. Its tenor 
is stated in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Ge- 
nesis; — " I will be a God, to thee, and to thy seed af- 
ter thee." And it is that which, by the whole nation 
and church of Israel, was ever styled, with peculiar 
emphasis, " the promise;" according to the very pre- 
cise and particular allusion of the apostle on the day 

218 Life of Jlhraham. 

of Pentecost; "for the pro;uise/' viz. of the Messiah, 
and the peculiar blessings of his grace, speaking to the 
believing Gentiles, " is to you, and to your children.'' 
Here, then was the visible church first instituted in the 
family of Abraham, with its initiating symbol, " the 
Sf'al of the righteousness, which is by faith," v^hen the 
venerable patriarch had attained almost his hundreth 

In pursuing the history of this eminent saint, we 
perceive him, in the next place, honoured to be the de- 
pository of the fearful judgment of God, ready to be exe- 
cuted on two most corrupted cities, as he had already 
been of his singular mercies to the church. 

Sodom and Gomorrah, situated in an extensive and 
fertile plain to the south of the river Jordan, and de- 
praved by their wealth, had abandoned themselves to 
all the excesses of an enormous licentiousness, and 
were now become ripe for those exterminating judg- 
ments which Almighty God, in some form or other, al- 
ways inflicts on extreme corruption of the public mo- 
rals in any nation. Three strangers appeared to Abra- 
ham, as he sat in the door of his tent about noon, ac- 
cording to the usage of his pastoral life. A benevolent 
hospitality prompted the good man to run to meet 
them, and press them to accept from him all the ac- 
commodations and comforts on their journey, which 
the kindness of his heart inclined him, and the good 
providence of God enabled him, to bestow. With the 
most amiable simplicity of primitive manners, he spread 
for them with his own hands, a rural repast, under the 
cover of the branching tree which extended its shade 

Life of Mraham. 2 1 9 

over the tent in which he resided. These strangers 
proved to be heavenly messengers; and one of them, 
by the extraordinary majesty of his appearance, at- 
tracted the profbiindest reverence of tlie patriarch. 
They conversed with him upon his approaching^; fe- 
licity, and the glorious " son of promise/^ whose 
birth was now determinately fixed to the f«jllowing 
year. Sarah, whom curiosity had drawn secretly to 
listen to their discourse, smiled at the improbability of 
the story, and was reproved for her incredulity. When 
they arose to depart, tw^o went towards Sodom, with 
the gracious purpose of rescuing Lot fron) the ap- 
proaching ruin of that devoted city. The third, who 
now assumes to himself the title of Jehovah, still pro- 
longing his discourse with the holy man who is wor- 
thy to partake of the councils of heaven, reveals to 
him the fearful judgments decreed against that ini- 
quitous city, and the other cities of the plain, parta- 
kers of her guilt, and now immediately impending. 
Abraham, filled with compassion for these miserable 
people, presumes to intercede for them. T*io where, 
perhaps, can we find an example of equal humility, 
tenderness, fervenc)', and perseverance, and yet sub- 
mission, in prayer. In condescension to this faithful 
intercession, the Eternal engages, if only ten right- 
eous persons could be found among so many thou- 
sands of reasonable beings, the creatures of God, who 
worshipped him--ten who were not dissolute, profligate, 
abandoned, he would suspend his judgments. Oh! horri- 
ble receptacles of vice, where those unnatural crimes, 
which indicate the last stage of degeneracy among any 

220 Life ofMraham. 

people, were universal! For the purposes of the vilest spe- 
cies of lust, which still bears their detested name, the So- 
domites sought to drag from the house of Lot, those di- 
vine heralds who had entered it under the guise of stran- 
gers. Provoked with the enormity of their wickedness, 
the heavenly guests smote the criminals with blindness, 
and urged, with the greater earnestness, the retreat of 
Lot and his family, from the ruin impending over such 
a seat of iniquity. Hardly had the good man made 
his escape from the descending flames, when sudden- 
ly, the whole territory was involved in a tremendous 
conflagration. Sheets of fire descending from hea- 
ven, kindled the sulphurous and bituminous substances, 
with which the earth in that region was impregnated, 
when, in a moment, the whole abyss below burst forth 
in a dreadfiil volcano. Abraham, from afar, beheld 
the columns of smoke and flame ascending to the skies. 
Lot was escaping for his life. But the imprudent wife 
of Lot, either foolishly lingering about the purlieus of 
her former pleasures, or turning, with a vain curiosi- 
ty, to listen to the shrieks of the perishing, and the 
thunders, and earthquakes which convulsed that burn- 
ing vortex, the image of hell, was caught in the pesti- 
lential vapour, and fixed to the soil a motionless sta- 
tue, impregnated with the salts with which the atmos- 
phere was surcharged.* In the same instant these 

» This appears to be the proper explanation of that expression, transla- 
terl in our version of the Scriptures, "a pillar of salt," to the great amuse- 
ment of certain infidel writers. The original word for pillar, in this trans- 
lation, signifies a fixture, or immovable object of any kind. And the pro- 
bability is, that an extremely subtle, hot, and saline vapour issuing from 
the volcano of Sodom, arrested the unhappy woman, as she delayed too 

Life of Abraham. 22\ 

guilty cities sunk down, amidst inexpressible horrors, 
into the flaming caverns of the earth; and the river 
Jordan, which formerly watered their fertile and beau- 
tiful plains, pouring its waves after them, into the tre- 
mendous chasm, filled it up with an extensive lake * 

Here we cannot forbear pausing a moment, to re- 
flect on the fearful catastrophe of those soft, voluptuous 
people, lost in the delirious dreams, and the mad pur- 
suits of sensuality. Roused by the united fires of hea- 
ven, and the exploding bowels of the earth, from their 
morning slumbers, which had succeeded their mid- 
night debauches, see them now, embraced in the bo- 
som of devouring flames; for the soft music to which 
they had danced, listen to the thunders which rend the 
firmament over their heads: — for the lascivious songs 
at which they were melting and dying away in sensu- 

near the flames, and penetrating' her whole frame, fixed her motionless and 
rigid to the spot, by means of those salts with which it was copiously im- 
pregnated. And there are not a few examples, in the histories of different 
countries, of persons who have been thus fixed as statues by the force of 
subterranean or volcanic vapours. Aventinus, according to Heidegger, 
tom. 2, exercit. 8 No. 33 in his annak of the Boii, an ancient people of 
Gaul, informs us of more than fifty peasants, occupied in milking their 
cattle during an earthquake, who were, in this manner, peneti'ated by 
a pestilential vapour, and converted into statues, abundantly impregna- 
ted with salts. [See also, Kircher, Mundus Subter. tom. 2, lib. 8 sect. 
2, cap 2.] 

* We have here, apparently, the just and natural account of the de- 
struction of the cities of the plain; and of the origin of that great lake 
which has been called the Dead Sea, on account of a sluggish and 
bituminous oil with which, in many places, it is covered; or of a cer- 
tain vapour said to be exhaled from it, which blasts vegetation near 
its shores, and is mortal to all the volatile tribes flying too near its 

VOL. 11. Ff 

222 Life ofMraham. 

al transports, hear the shrieks of despair, with which 
they are sinking down to hell! Ah! how many thought- 
less mortals, though not overwhelmed with their tre- 
mendous ruin, are, in a more silent and unobserved 
manner, continually descending, from the midst of their 
guilty pleasures, to the " blackness of darkness, where 
their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched!" 

After this great event, and a few circumstances of 
less importance, in the patriarch^s history, the next 
year, according to the prediction of the angel, crowned 
his faith, and accomplished his most flattering hopes. 
Sarah gave him, in her old age, and amidst transports 
of delight, the long expected child of promise, the heir 
of his ample fortunes, and the future blessing of the 
world. The joyful mother, having nourished this pre- 
cious infant from her own breast during the appointed 
time, weaned him at length, with all that magnificent 
hospitality, and those festive demonstrations which be- 
came their exalted rank. 

Hagar seeing the flattering prospects which she had 
entertained with regard to her own son disappointed, 
by the intervention of a more favoured heir, and deep- 
ly resenting the former jealous and cruel treatment of 
her mistress, had encouraged Ishmael, who was now 
about sixteen years of age, to express, by his insults, 
all her own angry passions. And Sarah saw him, on 
this joyous occasion, persecuting, by indecent mock- 
eries, her beloved child. This mark of insolence and 
contempt could no longer be endured by a mistress, and 
still less by a mother, who lavished the virgin affec- 
tions of her age, on this extraordinary iniant. She in- 

Life of Abraham. ^^3 

sisted on the expulsion of a handmaid raised above her 
duty in consequence of her unexpected elevation, and 
her long, and tender relation to Abraham. The good 
man afflicted by domestic jealousies and dissentions 
and pressed by a conflict of duties and atfections, was 
obliged at length to yield to the torrent of his wife's 
resentment. A divine monition encouraged his com- 
phance; and to console the patriarch's grief, the assu- 
rance was repeated to him of making of Ishmael a 
mighty nation. 

Some circumstances of apparent cruelty in the be- 
ginning, attend the dismission of this poor woman and 
her son. They are, however, more apparent than real. 
Her first difficulties arose from her inexperience. Her 
son vsras already of an age sufficient to procure them 
game in a thinly populated country And the wan- 
dering life she was obliged to lead in the desert, con- 
veys, to an agricultural and commercial people, ideas 
infinitely more formidable than to the northern Arab, 
to whom it is the most desirable condition of exist- 
ence. Ishmael soon became an expert archer. And 
Abraham, shortly afterwards, appears to have extend- 
ed to the mother and the son, a protection, which only 
the rapid course of the narration, has not given time to 
the historian to relate. That he entertained a strong 
and tender attachment to this outcast son is apparent, 
by the earnestness of his supplication to God, at the 
time when Isaac was exclusively announced to be his 
heir; — "Oh! that Ishmael might live before thee!" 
And Ishmael, after the death of his lather, discovers a 
respect to his memory, and a cordiality with his brother, 

224! Life of Mraham, 

in paying the last duties to his horoured remains, which 
could not be expected from an exiled and abandoned 
child. And we cannot avoid remarking, that he testi- 
fied the most profound veneration for the religious pre- 
cepts of his father, and transmitted to his posterity that 
painful symbol of the covenant which is retained by 
them, to this day, among their characteristic dis- 

In the progress of this biographical sketch, we are 
now arrived at a trial of the patriarch's faith infinitely 
more severe than all which he had yet experienced, 
enjoined by God as the final test of his obedience, and 
to complete his unrivalled right to the title of " Father 
of the faithful.'' At the same time, it appears to have 
been the purpose of Almighty God^ by this new expe- 
riment, to reward the holy man with the clearest reve- 
lation ever made to any of the ancient saints, of the 
future Messiah, who should " take away the sin of the 
world by the sacrifice of himself" The son of pro- 
mise was daily increasing in every manly accomplish- 
ment, in every filial duty, and in every divine grace. 
And Abraham's life flowed on in such an equal and 
tranquil tenor of prosperity and happiness, that it has 
afforded no materials to the historian, till this beloved 
youth, according to the annals of Josephus, had at- 
tained his twenty-fifth year; or, according to other 
writers, his seventeeth. What an interesting period 
of life! Habit, added to parental tenderness, and aid- 
ed by the daily disclosure of some new excellence 
of character, or proof of dutiful zeal, had had time 
to wind itself in a thousand folds about the heart of 

Life of Abraham. 225 

a father; when, like a stroke of thunder upon all his 
joys, and his prospects, he received this extraordinary, 
and almost incredible command from Heaven: — 
" Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou 
lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer 
him there for a burnt offering, upon one of the moun- 
tains which I will tell thee of" Although this com- 
mand appeared to violate all the laws of nature, and 
the dearest affections of the human heart; yet, certain 
of the reality of the divine impression by which it was 
indicated to him, he hesitated not; but, though all the 
father rose up in his breast to resist it; and though it 
"seemed to put a final period to his hopes, and to con- 
tradict the promise of God himself; yet confiding in 
that omnipotent wisdom which can unravel all difficul- 
ties, and accomplish his own word in opposition to the 
most unpromising events, " he rose up early in the 
morning, and saddled his ass," according to the sim- 
plicity of the age, " and took two of his young men 
with him, and Isaac his son; and he clave the wood for 
the burnt offering, and rose up and went to the place of 
which God had told him. Then, on the third day, 
Abraham hftedup his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 
And Abraham said to his young men, abide you here 
with the ass, and 1, and the lad will go yonder, and wor- 
ship." — This command, which was evidently intended 
to prove, to the utmost, the strength of the patriarch^s 
faith, rendered the trial more severe to his heart by the 
distance of the place of sacrifice, and the time that in- 
tervened before the execution. For three days the 
awful transaction was continually before his mind, and 

226 Life of .Hhaham. 

he was obliged to struggle with his parental emotions. 
But his piety and faith rendered him superior in this 
painful conflict. ' He took the wood for a burnt of- 
fering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the 
fire in his hand, and a knife, and they went both of 
them together." Here the beautiful simplicity of the 
narration of Moses cannot fail to arrest our attention, 
and awaken the deepest sensibilities of the heart. As 
they went " Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and 
said, my father! and he said, here am I my son. And 
he said, behold the fire and the wood for a burnt offer- 
ing; but, where is the lamb.'^'^ Proposed in all the sim- 
plicity of innocence, how must this question have gone 
to the heart of a father! Nothing but the heart can 
interpret it. — Abraham, covering, as well as he was 
able, his deep emotions, replied, with apparent tran- 
quillity, " God, my son, will provide himself a lamb." 
Together they reared the altar, they disposed the wood 
in order, and every thing was prepared for the sacrifice. 
At last, the afflicted father, labouring with the divine 
secret with which his bosom was loaded, was obliged 
to disclose the dreadful purpose of his soul. And to a 
young man in the prime and vigour of life, who could 
easily have repelled, or eluded the feeble arm of age, it 
became necessary to demonstrate the divine authority 
under which he was acting, to procure a calm and pa- 
tient submission to the stroke. And we cannot but 
behold with wonder, the pious resignation of that 
amiable youth. You hear from him no complaint; no 
effort is made to escape; he tranquilly submits to be 
bound an unresisting sacrifice upon the altar. In this 

Life of Abraham. 221 

moment was tried all the fortitude of Abraham's soul. 
His darling son was before him, prepared, in all the 
loveliness of innocence, and meekness of submission, 
to die by his father's hand. Love, admiration, pity, a 
thousand emotions struggled in the parent's bosom. 
But imperious duty conmianded. And as he raised 
in his hand the sacrificing knife, he felt all the pangs 
which the death of this precious victim could make him 
feel. His obedience was now complete. God, in his 
mercy, pitied his faithful servant; and in the act to 
strike, he was arrested by a voice from heaven: — 
"Abraham! Abraham! — lay not thine hand upon the 
lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know 
that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld 
thy son, thine only son from me!'" — But what words 
can express the triumphs of Abraham's soul in this 
instant? With unutterable emotions the ravished pa- 
triarch looks on his son, and then on Heaven; on 
Heaven and then on his son; and bows in silent devo- 
tion before the throne of the Eternal! Aram, providen- 
tially presented to him at that moment, he offered in 
sacrifice to God: and the Almighty Jehovah again 
swore by himself, that, " in his seed all the nations of 
the earth should be blessed." Sublime behever! thou 
hast received again thy son from the dead' And, in re- 
ward of thy faith, thou hast seen in him the great sacri- 
fice for the sins of the world. Honoured to be the or- 
gan of divine mercy to the nations, thou hast also been 
made to understand, by thy own feelings, the infinite 
love of God in the redemption of mankind! 

On this interesting transaction several inquiries have 

228 Life of Abraham. 

been raised which go deeply to affect the foundations 
of our holy religion. Two only, of principal impor- 
tance, I shall consider at present; and, for the sake of 
the serious hearer, who is candidly searching for the 
truth, I shall study to give them as clear, and, at the 
same time, as brief a solution as is in my power. 

Can Abraham be justified in yielding obedience to a 
command which appears directly to contradict one of 
the most obvious and indispensible laws of the moral 
world? Can the command itself be justified on any 
principles of reason, and shown to be consistent with 
the moral attributes of the Creator? 

With regard to the former of these questions, the so- 
lution of it depends upon the answer we may give to 
another. — Can God, by any immediate and supernatu- 
ral communication, impart his wdl to the mind of man, 
so as to leave no doubt that the Creator hath spoken? 
And does not the clear and explicit indication of the 
divine will impose on every reasonable mind the most 
absolute obligation? Wherever it is known, is it not 
the supreme principle of duty? But, do you say, that, 
in this instance, the act of Abraham was opposed by 
another and incontrovertible exposition of the will of 
God, in that inviolable law of nature which unites the 
parent with his child? To this reflection, I may be 
permitted to reply that human reason can, but very im- 
perfectly, judge, in all cases, of the limits of the laws 
of nature. It finds itself continually baffled and con- 
founded by appearances in the moral, as well as in the 
physical world. Although thosejlaws form, in all ordi- 
nary circumstances, a clear and adequate rule of hu_ 


Life of Mraham. 229 

man duty; yet, in extraordinary cases, it is impossible 
to pronounce, with certainty, what moditicaiions may 
be made in them by the inlinite wisdom of the Deity. 
What then was the duty of a good man situated as 
Abraham was? Here is a direct and explicit command 
from God, the authority of wliich 1 cannot doubt. But 
nature revolts from the act, and, to my apprehension, 
opposes to it another prescription ofliis most holy wdl, 
— my God! conscious of the blindness of my own 
mind, the imperfection of my reason, I know not what 
modifications thou mayest, at any time, make in thy 
own laws; what blessings, which 1 cannot discern, may 
be couched under a requisition so severe. Sure of 
thy command, however painful, I address myself to 
obey it. Lord! 1 follow where thou leadest, yielding 
my frail reason to thy sovereign wisdom; and confiding 
that thy infinite goodness will never suffer me to be led 
into involuntary sin. Such would naturally be the rea- 
sonings of piety, humility, and faith. And under their 
influence, this severe act of obedience became an in- 
violable duty. 

But, as evidently appears from the event, it was not 
the purpose of God to permit his faithful servant to vio- 
late those parental laws which he himself hath deposi- 
ted in the human breast. It was necessary, however, 
to conceal the final issue of this transaction from the 
holy man, that he might proceed to the utmost point 
in the execution of it, which could be done, without 
involving him in the guilt of parricide. And thus far it 
was requisite that he should advance, in order to fulfil 
the design of Heaven, which app(^ars to have been, to 

VOL. II. ci g 

^30 Life ofMraham. 

convey to him, m this action, the clearest prediction of 
the death of the future Messiah, which was ever made 
to any patriarch or prophet, and, at the same time, the 
fullest discovery of the love of God in giving his son for 
the redemption of the world. In order to understand 
how such important and various information should be 
imparted, in this extraordinary manner, to the mind of 
Abraham, or to justify this interpretation of the act, it 
will be necessary to recur in our reflections to the pri- 
mitive modes of imparting instruction, and recording 
events, by means of symbolic characters, which took 
place in the earliest ages of the world; especially in the 
eastern nations, and before the general use of alphabe- 
tic writing- Pictures were the first and natural sym- 
bols of all those objects of thought which could be 
sketched by the pencil. But after society became far- 
ther advanced, and intellectual, and moral ideas were 
multiplied, which are incapable of being depicted to the 
eye, they were found to be susceptible of a certain figu- 
rative representation, by the analogies they were sup- 
posed to bear to particular qualities of sensible objects. 
Hence arose the whole hieroglyphic art, which attained 
its chief perfection in Egypt. At length, the lively ge- 
nius, and strong imagination of the East, added another 
improvement to the powers of emblematic representa- 
tion, by substituting actions, on important occasions, 
instead of pictures, or writing, which may be regarded 
as a dramatic exhibition of thought. This species of 
drama, or animated hieroglyphic came, in time, into 
very familiar use. And the histories of oriental anti- 
quity furnish many striking examples of it. It was em- 

lAfeofMraham. 231 

ployed especially by the Hebrew prophets to announce 
their solemn denunciations with the most impressive 
and picturesque effect. Isaiah walked naked, that is, 
stripped of his exterior garments, through the streets of 
Jerusalem, to be a sign to the people of their approach- 
ing calamities; and especially of the slavery and naked- 
ness to which they should be reduced. Jeremiah sent 
yokes to the neighbouring kings of Palestine, as symbols 
of their cruel and predicted subjugation. And another 
prophet dug all night under the city wall, and carried 
out his household furniture with haste and trembling, to 
indicate the straitness of the siege by which the inhabi- 
tants should be distressed. On the same principles in 
human nature, fables, and parables have been made ve- 
hicles of instruction. A similar hieroglyphic picture 
may be discerned in every type. Nor is the christian 
church wholly without examples of the same kind, in 
the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper. But 
the most expressive of all symbols, the most instructive 
and impressive of all typical actions, was this parental 
sacrifice on Mount Moriah. 

The way is now prepared to explain the purpose of 
God in this extraordinary command, in conformity to 
the state of improvement and manners in that age. 
The obedience of Abraham is to be regarded as a pro- 
phetic action,* under the direction of the Spirit of God, 
in which was represented, by the liveliest emblem 
which the whole range of human nature could afford, 
the future sacrifice of Abraham's greater son. So lively 
was the emblem, that our Saviour says, with regard to 

* See an excellent dissertation on this subject in Warburton's Divin.e 
Legation of Moses. Vol. 2. p. 66, &c. 

232 Lije of Abraham, 

this patriarch, above all the other prophets; — " He re- 
joiced that he might see my day; and he saw it, and 
was glad." Isaac was a type of the suffering Redeem- 
er, who was offered on the same mount for the sins of 
the world; — who suffered under the hand of a father 
who loved him; and who, like this precious and fihal 
victim, suffered with his own consent, and " laid down 
his life of himself" 

But more, as I have already suggested, appears to 
have been intended in this symbolical sacrifice, than 
merely a representation of the death of Christ. It was 
designed to convey to the mind of the holy patriarch, 
as far as human nature is capable of receiving the sub- 
lime impression, some conception of the infinite love 
of God, "• who spared not his own Son, but delivered 
him up for us all." And how could a stronger image 
be conveyed into the heart of man.? All the father 
yearned over his beloved Isaac. He felt all the mel- 
tings of parental love in the most tender, and anguished 
situation in which a father ever was placed. Hence 
we perceive the wisdom of not suffering the good man 
to anticipate his son's deliverance from the altar, or to 
hope the smallest relaxation in the divine command till 
the full force of these emotions had occupied his whole 
soul. The action was designed to make him under- 
stand the gospel mystery, and to anticipate this most 
precious science by so many ages. And^ without call- 
ing up, in the father's bosom, all the tenderness, the 
anguish; and conflicts of parental affection, this trans- 
cendent revelation of the death of the Saviour, and of 
the infinite love of God manifested on that altar, could 

lAfe of Abraham. 2 33 

not have been imparted to the soul of the prophetic pa- 
triarch. The divine mind, indeed, cannot suffer sucli 
paroxysms of emotion as a human parent; but was it 
not all necessary in a mortal to convey to his heart, any 
adequate idea of the gospel sacrifice; and of the love 
of God in giving his Son for the redemption of the 

Such appears to have been the gracious purpose of 
Almighty God in this astonishing transaction. In it 
was made the clearest revelation, which any prophet 
had ever attained, of the Messiah's age. And, in the 
view which has now been given of the subject, every 
objection which has been urged with any plausible ap- 
pearance of reason against the morality of this portion 
of the sacred history, has, I presume, been satisfacto- 
rily removed. 

Waving all other reflections on that interesting scene 
which we have just reviewed, I shall detain the pious 
hearer but a moment longer, to contemplate that illus- 
trious victim which was ready to be offered oa Mount 
Moriah, the type of one infinitely more glorious, which 
was actually offered, on the same Mount, for the sin 
of the world. In the conflicts of a parent's love on that 
overwhelming moment, may we not learn to estimate 
the love of the Eternal Father, " who spared not his 
own Son, but dehvered him up for us all.^" But alas! 
what mortal love can convey an adequate image of that 
heavenly benevolence " which embraced us in Christ 
Jesus before the world was.? — Oh! the height, and the 
depth, the length, and the breadth of the love ot God, 
which passeth knowledge!" And, let the frequent 

285 Itfe of Abraham, 

meditation of this grace, although we can never extend 
our conceptions to its infinite sphere, confirm our hum- 
ble trust and hope in the mercy ol' God, and dissolve 
our hearts in the warm effusions of thankfulness before 
his throne. Abraham! father of behevers! what a taste 
had you of the love of God, when you had received 
again your son from the dead! What transports of 
gratitude! What ecstacies of dutiful zeal to him who 
taught you thus to estimate his love to a world perish- 
ing in its iniquities! — Believers! do you see the meek 
and obedient son of Abraham yield himself, without a 
struggle, to the sacrificing knife? Contemplate with 
wonder, him who established the universe on its firm 
foundations, who suffered himself to be " lead as a 
lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep, before her shea- 
rers, is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Jesus! 
Creator! we adore thine infinite condescention, " who 
being in the form of God, didst become man;" and, 
" being found in fashion as a man, didst humble thyself 
unto death, even the death of the cross;" — offering thy- 
self a voluntary oblation for our offences! Christians! 
let his " love constrain us, because we thus judge, that, 
if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died 
for all, that they who live, should not, henceforth, live 
unto tliemselves, but to him who died for them, and 
rose again." Amen. 


^'Till I come, give attendance to reading." — ITim. 

iv. 13. 

My brethren: This precept we find among the direc- 
tions given by the most eminent of the apostles to 
" Timothy his son in the faith/' prescribing to him the 
best means of quahfying himself to discharge the high 
and sacred functions of the ministry of the gospel. 
But, I presume that we may, without using an impro- 
per liberty with the holy scriptures, give it a more gene- 
ral extention, and derive from it a useful admonition, 
not only to those who are preparing themselves, here- 
after, to serve their country, or the church of Christ in 
the most conspicuous and important stations, but to all, 
even in the humblest spheres in society, who enjoy the 
means, or the leisure to improve, or usefully to amuse 
their minds by books. 

In no age have these instruments of knowledge, and 
of the noblest intellectual pleasures, been multiphed to 
so great a degree, nor has a taste for reading been so 
universally diffused among all classes, as in the present. 
This great avenue to information, which formerly was 
accessible only to a few, is now laid open to all. The 
sacred scriptures, which, not long since, were a trea- 
sure as Fare as it is precious, may be found, at present, 
in almost every cottage. The principles of morals and 
religion, and of almost every art, have been explained 
in so simple and perspicuous a method, as to be 

2^ On Reading. 

brought within the reach of the most comiilon under 
standings. Language, formerly uncouth and obscure, 
has, of late, been so happily cultivated, and the embel- 
hshments of style have been so richly spread over the 
works of genius and of fancy, that we resort to libra- 
ries, not for improvement only, but for many of our 
most refined and exquisite pleasures. — Like all other 
pleasures, however, they ought to be enjoyed with cau- 
tion, and pursued under the direction of a sound rea- 
son, otherwise, they are in danger of becoming perni- 

Few there are, who have received an education 
somewhat above the common standard, who do not de- 
vote a large portion of their leisure to the cultivation 
of liberal knowledge, and the enjoyment of the pleasures 
of fine writing. This prevalent taste, within certain 
limits, is attended with many advantages which bestow 
on the present age a distinguished superiority over the 
ages which have preceded it. It increases the gene- 
ral mass of intellectual improvement in society: and 
the refinement of sentiment and feeling to which it 
gives birth, when not carried to excess, is favoura- 
ble to all the humane and social virtues. But it is 
accompanied also with its dangers. Genius is not al- 
ways associated with piety or virtue. And, unhappily, 
there are, at all times, vain, licentious, or mercenary 
writers, who study, by impairing the principles, by cor- 
rupting the imagination, or inflaming the pagsions of 
their readers, to extort a shameful praise, or derive a 
dishonest profit from their vices. In proportion, then, 
as a selected and well digested course of reading is 

On Readins;. 2S7 


friendly to piety, and to the improvement of the mind, 
both in knowledge, and in virtue, so that which is pur- 
sued without choice, or plan, which is superficial, fri- 
volous, or immoral, is liable to dangerous abuse, and is 
usually followed by pernicious consequences. 

In applying the precept of the apostle in that general 
view which I purpose, to take of it, I shall consider, 

1. In the first place, the objects which we ought 
chiefly to have in view in reading, by which our choice 
of books should be regulated. 

2. And, in the next place, the means by which we 
may hope to derive the greatest improvement from this 

The mind is chiefly formed by the sentiments and 
manners of those with whom it is habitually conversant; 
its health and vigour is affected by that moral and in- 
tellectual atmosphere with which it is surrounded, and 
which it customarily breathes. In your books yow 
may find your instructors and friends; and your libra- 
ries, if you are addicted to reading, may, like a health- 
ful, or infectious air, impart life and beauty to the soul, 
or debilitate and corrupt it by mortal disease. The 
authors with which you are most familiar, will natural- 
ly furnish the principal sources of your information, 
and contribute, in a great measure, to give their own 
direction to your habits of thinking. If, then, they 
are selected with wisdom, they will, along with the il- 
lumination which they shed over the mind, tend to in- 
troduce purity and harmony into the affections, and to 
settle on a firm basis our principles of piety and virtue. 

Whatever advantage there is in conveying instruction 
VOL. II. H h 

238 On Reading. 

by example above the coldness of speculation, by the 
beauty of an interesting narration, by the vivacity with 
which its images strike, or the authority with which 
they arrest the mind, we may possess in a well selected 
course of reading. We have it in our power continu- 
ally to assemble round us the venerable dead who, in 
every age, have contributed to enlighten and adorn the 
world; and may constantly enjoy the society of the 
wisest and most virtuous men of every nation. Most 
imprudent, then, must he be, who, having leisure to 
read, with such a selection in his power, will waste his 
time on whatever writers accident may throw in his 
way, or the giddy fashion of the day, often guided by 
ignorance, may happen to recommend. 

Still more does this consideration merit the attention 
jof those whose opportunities for cultivating an acquain- 
tance with books are circumscribed by their more ne- 
cessary avocations, that these precious moments may 
not be worse than lost by introducing only error or fol- 
ly into the mind. The prolific labours of the press, in 
our age, which have so abundantly brought forth the 
offspring both of truth and error, of inanity and wisdom, 
have, however, enabled almost every person, in the 
busiest, or the humblest circles of society, to contract 
an intimacy with a few, at least, of the most wise and 
virtuous minds who have ever lived, and to draw light 
and knowledge from their fountain, the aids of piety 
and virtue from their instruction and example. 

But, by what criterion shall we regulate our choice 
•f books, so as to derive from them the greatest profit.'* 

On Reading. 239 

Solid and useful information should be the supreme 
end, and, therefore, the first care of all who have lei- 
sure to cultivate their minds by reading. To know 
our Creator, and his glorious works; thoroughly to un- 
derstand our duties and our hopes, our origin, our pre- 
sent state, and our immortal destination, are surely 
among the primary concerns of mankind. Those 
works, then, ought, in the first place, to be chiefly 
sought by us which present to the mind the most use- 
ful and important truths, and exhibit them to the un- 
derstanding and the heart in the clearest and most im- 
pressive lights. If we can find the useful combined 
with the agreeable, and solidity of thought embellished 
with the pleasing colours of the imagination, true wis- 
dom does not forbid to unite utility with delight. Nor 
is even agreeable fiction to be discarded, when genius, 
under the direction of virtue, has been able happily to 
employ it to exhibit nature to advantage; to awaken in 
the breast sympathies favourable to piety and virtue; 
and, by laying open the genuine springs of human ac- 
tion, to display the heart to itself. . 

Nothing can be to us of equal importance with our 
eternal existence, our duties here, and our prospects 
beyond the grave. Those writings, then, should stand 
with us in the highest place of honour and respect, 
which illustrate, with the greatest evidence, our moral 
relations, both with our Creator and our fellow men; 
which tend to establish most firmly the foundations of 
our holy religion; which discriminate its genuine spirit 
from all fallacious resemblances of it; and which awa- 
ken and cherish in the heart the blessed hopes of im- 

24>0 On Reading. 

mortality. Can any writings, then, he placed in com- 
petition with the sacred scriptures, those fountains of 
celestial wisdom? They have ever formed the favourite, 
and the daily study of the wisest, and thel^est of men. 
Here we behold the glory of God reflected in its true 
light — here we learn the perfect law of liberty and truth 
— here we contemplate the way of salvation traced out 
by the spirit of inspiration — here the veil which covers 
the eternal world is lifted up to the eye of faith, and the 
believei' discerns beyond it, in ravishing prospect, the 
interminable career of the future glory and perfection 
of his being. 

Such is the tenor of those writings which chiefly and 
primarily demand our attention. But the inquiries of 
a good man, who enjoys the means of improving his 
understanding, and indulging his taste, may wefl be 
permitted a more extensive range. Many other sour- 
ces there are whence he may enrich the mind, and 
render it more capable of fulfilling the exalted duties of 
a reasonable being, by strengthening its faculties, and 
enlarging the sphere of its powers. Such are those 
works which make us acquainted with man by retra- 
cing his history; which promote the knowledge of our- 
selves by laying open the various springs of action in the 
heart; or which assist us to form juster conceptions of 
God by unfolding the wonderful structure of his works. 
In the first we perceive the origin and progress of 
society; the revolutions of empires; the moral causes 
which govern the prosperity or dechne of nations. We 
return back upon the mighty stream of time, and be- 
come spectators of that astonishing current which is 

On Reading. 241 

continually bearing on its bosom, men and nations into 
the gulf of oblivion ; a spectacle calculated to teach us 
the most important lessons of wisdom, as they succes- 
sively appear, and disappear to our sight. We become 
acquainted with those illustrious men who, by their ta- 
lents, have enlightened, or, by their virtues, have bene- 
fited the world. We behold the manners of various 
people, their civil usages, their religious rites, the pro- 
gress and decay of the arts, and that vast concatenation 
of causes which exercise a constant, invisible, but un- 
controllable dominion over human affairs. — All are full 
of instruction to a contemplative mind; and, to the se- 
rious Christian, replete with subjects of devout reflec- 

Not less estimable are those writers who, by their 
attentive and discriminating observation of human na- 
ture, are able to make us acquainted with ourselves; 
who turn our view on the nature, the dignity, and end 
of those faculties with which God has endowed us; who 
study to purge the mind of its prejudices, while they 
introduce in their room the most solid and useful prin- 
ciples of truth; above all, who conduct us' into the re- 
cesses of our own hearts, and enable us to detect those 
innumerable deceits and windings by which we so 
often escape from ourselves; who portray vice- in all its 
odious features, while they divest it of its imposing 
disguises, and depict piety and virtue in that beautiful 
simpUcity, and that charming glow of feeling, which 
carry with them a deep conviction to the soul, that this 
was the genuine state of unfallen nature, and this is the 
true gloiy of our nature redeemed. 

2i2 Oil Readiu";. 


From works of the last description, we leani to pe- 
netrate, in some degree, the various and admirable 
structure oi nature, and, from contemplation of its wis- 
dom, its beauty, and its harmony, the immensity of its 
compass, and the omnipotence of its powers^ we rise, 
amidst the emotions of astonishment and rapture to the 
worship of the supreme and adorable Creator. The 
earth, which is " filled with the goodness of the Lord,^' 
is covered with beauty as with a robe. The heavens 
display a grandeur, and a glory, which overwhelm the 
serious and contemplative mind. Inimitable design, 
incomprehensible wisdom, almighty power, appear 
equally in the largest systems, the limits of which the 
eye, assisted by all the wonderful mechanism of art, 
can hardly reach; and in the minutest insect, which the 
powers of vision, magnified millions of times, can 
scarcely discern. — All tend to inspire a spirit of devo- 
tion, and to strengthen in the heart, the true principle of 
morals, by profoundly impressing it with the love and 
the fear of Almighty God, 

I add, if some authors, willing to recommend religion 
and virtue by a more pleasing power, address them- 
selves at once to the imagination and the heart by the 
charms of poetry;— if they depict the actions of illustri- 
ous men that we may imitate, while we admire them — 
if they portray the crimes of the vicious in dark and de- 
testable colours, only that we may abhor them — if they 
paint the beauties of nature so as to raise the soul to its 
adorable Author — if they touch our sympathies for vir- 
tuous distress — if they dress in the charms of numbers, 
or animate with the spirit of the Muse, the precepts of 

On Reading. 243 

morality, or the sublime scenes of religion—these wri- 
ters deserve, in their turn, to be made the friends of 
your retirement, the companions of your closets. 

Such are the general characters of those writings, 
which, in the first place, deserve your studious atten- 
tion, if you are so happy as to enjoy leisure from other 
and more necessary avocations for reading. I speak 
not here of professional studies, the regulation of these 
belongs to another place, but of those writings only 
from which every class of readers may profitably seek 
the improvement of their minds, and the cultivation of 
their hearts. Hitherto I have said nothing of writings 
designed chiefly for amusement — of those fictitious and 
dramatic histories intended to depict human life and 
manners, and to promote the elegant entertainment of 
our leisure, which are, at present, sought after with so 
much avidity by the crowd of fashionable readers. 
Like all other amusements, they may, to a certain de- 
gree, be lawfully mingled along with our more solid 
and useful pursuits. But, when they consume the 
greater portion of that time which we may happily en- 
joy to devote to the improvement of the mind, they be- 
come pernicious. They are a species of mental luxu- 
ry, which indulged to excess, debilitates its powers, and 
corrupts its taste. A few works there certainly are of 
this kind, in which an elegant fancy, united with cor- 
rect judgment, has been consecrated to the service of 
virtue, which may be read with advantage, as well as 
with pleasure. They are so few, however, mixed in 
the mass along with a much greater number of a dif- 
ferent character, that the selection ought to be made 

244 On Reading, 

with peculiar caution. And it can be safely made, 
only after the mind has been already richly furnished 
with soHd principles of truth, which will render it capa- 
ble of detecting the illusions of the imagination, and the 
passions, which, in these works, are too often strength- 
ened by false but plausible reasonings, and by the vo- 
luptuous images which they present to the fancy. In 
Ithe feast of reason, if I may be permitted this image, 
the fancy should be suffered to come in with her lus- 
cious sweets, and exhilirating wines, only after the 
solidity of the first part of the repast has prepared the 
appetite to receive no injury from them. Even the 
best works of this kind, when too frequently resorted 
to for amusement, are attended with danger to all youth, 
especially of that sex whose vivid imagination, and 
whose quick and tender sensibilities, require to be pre- 
served under the habitual restraints of a cool and 
sound judgment, rather than awakened by the eSJ^uisite 
powers of ingenious fancy. They are apt to impress 
a frivolous character upon the heart, to create romantic 
views of life, and to inspire visionary expectations, 
which prepare for them afterwards many painful dis- 
appointments. They contribute to strengthen passions 
always dangerous to virtue; and make them famihar 
with ideas which should hardly ever be suffered to in- 
trude into breasts where only the purest images should 
be admitted. And too often they w aste the amiable 
sensibilities of nature on low and trivial objects, while 
the miseries of human life can hardly excite its ex- 
hausted sympathy, and the duties of humanity and 
real charity remain neglected. Accustomed to the 

On Reading, 243 

high wrought beauties of fiction, the mind is apt to be 
disgusted with the plainness and siniphcity of truth. 
The taste becomes sickly; the necessary duties of do- 
mestic life appear burthensome and dull; and many 
benevolent, but less elegant offices of friendship offend 
its delicacy. In the purest and most correct of these 
works, too often we find every picture exaggerated 
/under the pencil of fancy, and almost all the objects of 
real hfe appear disguised under false colours. 

What shall we say, then, of that numerous class of 
these productions which are not designed to elucidate, 
or enforce any important moral; which lead you only 
into a world of chimeras; and which employ all the 
powers of ingenious fiction, and the colours of a warm 
imagination to embellish trifles, and to relieve the 
weight of time, to those who are oppressed by too much 
leisure.'^ But what shall we say of that more perni- 
cious class, which is rapidly gaining a dangerous and 
fashionable currency, in which, to strengthen the li- 
centious passions, to destroy all the fences of virtue, 
and to weaken our respect for whatever is esteemed 
venerable and sacred, is the manifest, or concealed ob- 
ject of the authors? What shall we say? They are 
impiously endeavouring to prostrate the public morals, 
to impair or destroy the influence of religion, and thus 
to dissolve the strongest bands of civil society, and over- 
turn the surest foundations of human happiness. If 
they can corrupt the rising generation, above all, if they 
can taint the female mind, the fatal work is accomplish- 

VOL. II. I i 

^46 On Reading. 

Long have the enemies of religion employed against 
it all the powers of reason, research, and learning: but 
they have found its friends more wise, learned, and 
enlightened, than themselves; who, possessing at the 
same time, the advantage of defending truth, have been 
enabled, in every serious conflict, to foil their antago- 
nists, and turn against them their own weapons. Dis- 
pairing of this ground they have resorted to one which 
promises greater success. They attack our faith by 
our passions, and endeavour to corrupt and pervert rea- 
son through the imagination and the heart. On the 
side of vice and irreligion, they studiously enlist the 
pleasures, the prejudices, the wishes of the young, and 
of that sex especially, which possesses the most pow- 
erful influence over the manners of society. But as 
their delicacy, and their quick perceptions of proprie- 
ty and decency, would revolt at gross immorality, and 
a bold and avowed impiety, proposed to them in open 
day, these writers often find it necessary artfully to dis- 
guise their insidious design. With vice they teach 
their unwary readers to be pleased in the character of 
some profligate hero, by associating his crime with 
many agreeable and generous qualities; the friends of 
religion they endeavour to exhibit in false lights, or in 
combinations fitted only to attract contempt or ridicule. 
Here a loose wish is guardedly insinuated; there a sneer 
is dexterously pointed against some religious or moral 
principle, which education had taught them to respect; 
reverence for the objects of religion is gradually im- 
paired; — the foundations of virtue are insensibly under- 
mined; — vice is invested with seducing charms, and 

On Reading. 24^1 

painted to the imagination in all that beauty and glow 
of colouring, which awakened passion knows so well 
how to throw over its most dangerous images. If by 
all these arts, they can corrupt the virtue of the sex, 
or impair those nice and delicate feelings of honour 
and propriety, or those religious principles, which are 
its surest guardians, the public morals, and the whole 
order of society are hastening to decline. And does 
not the present rage for these writings give the justest 
reason to apprehend, that the age has fallen into the 
snare which has been laid for it.'^ 

If works of imagination, calculated chiefly for amuse- 
ment, should not be indiscriminately read, but should 
be selected under the strictest guards of prudence and 
virtue, others there are, which ought to be rigorously 
proscribed from the closets and the shelves of every 
friend of rehgion, or of the purity of the public man- 
ners. Such are all those writings which are profess- 
edly aimed against good morals, — which labour to un- 
dermine the estabhshed foundations of piety; or, which 
first awakening criminal desires in the heart, study af- 
terwards to destroy every restraint upon their indul- 
gence. Unhappy youth! who go to these impure foun- 
tains to draw from them a fatal contagion! if you 
should ever indulge your curiosity in examining these 
receptacles of impiety and vice, postpone it, at least till 
time and reflection have matured, and given stabihty 
to your principles. Alas! would you unseasonably seek 
your pleasure in the midst of infection.? Would you 
amuse yourself with tasting poison ? Would you grati- 

\ fy your palate with a luscious draught, when death is in 

Vthe bottom of the bowl? 

248 On Reading. 

Not less scrupulously to be avoided are all those 
writings, which are designed to impair your beUef in 
the divine authority of the sacred Scriptures, unless you 
enjoy the leisure, and possess the talents and the means 
necessary to examine the question of the truth of reve- 
lation in its utmost extent. A momentous question it 
is, and merits the profoundest investigation, which the 
most wise and enlightened men can bestow upon it. 
But nothing can be more hazardous to virtuous princi- 
ple, and to good morals, than to fill the mind with ob- 
jections against religion, when either you have not the 
means, or you refuse to take the necessary pains, fair- 
ly to examine its evidence. If you possess the requi- 
site qualification for investigating this important sub- 
ject, it is a sacred duty which you owe to yourself and 
to God, to enter into the inquiry with sincerity and can- 
dour. But, if not, why should you studiously collect 
the objections of ignorance and impiety only to afflict 
your own soul with perplexity and doubt? Why should 
you weaken the force of that law, which is the most ef- 
fectual guardian of individual virtue, and of the peace 
and order of the world.^ Why should you rob the heart 
of the consoling hope of an immortal existence? Why 
should you break from the passions the salutary re- 
straints of religion, and thereby render yourself unwor- 
thy of that immortality for which you will then have 
ceased to hope? Why, in order to cherish those doubts 
which can only protect the short-lived pleasures of sin, 
will you incur the dreadful hazard of everlasting per- 

On Reading. 249 


II. Having made these observations on the proper 
choice of books, and tlie nature of that course of read- 
ing, which a due attention to the injunction of the sa- 
cred writer may be supposed to requiie; let me, in the 
conclusion, add to them a very few observations, which 
the brevity of your time will permit, on the best means 
of deriving from them the greatest profit. It will be 
requisite to conduct your reading with a certain method; 
— always to accompany it with due reflection; and to 
make it your principal object, not so much to knov^r 
what others have thought and written, as to strengthen 
and enlarge the powers of your own minds, and to 
confirm in your hearts the principles of piety and vir- 

In the first place, it is requisite to conduct your rea- 
ding in some method. The contents of books heaped 
together in a confused mass in the mind is little to be 
preferred to absolute ignorance. Principles are first to 
be acquired, before vve proceed to those consequences, 
or results, which chiefly are dignified with the name 
of science. Let us endeavour first to make ourselves 
acquainted with those subjects of knowledge which are 
most solid and useful: vve may afterwards add with ad- 
vantage, the embelHshments of polite literature. We 
seldom return back, with pleasure, or with profit, from 
the ornamental to the sohd; from those subjects which 
are dressed out in the elegant and pleasing colours of 
the imagination, if they have occupied our first and 
chief attention; to such as require, in order to their 
elucidation or comprehension, all the energies of thought 
and understanding. Let the elegant amusements of 

250 On Reading. 

literature, which ought always, however, to be capa- 
ble of some useful application, fill up those intervals 
of life, when the mind, fatigued by graver studies, or 
more important duties, has gained a title to unbend 

Our reading, in the next place, should ever be ac- 
companied with due reflection. 

The vanity of reading many books frequently rather 
mars than assists improvement. Such rapid and suc- 
cessive impressions, when they are not fixed by serious 
meditation, tend to efface one another. Too many 
readers have an avidity of impressions, without collec- 
ting and laying up the materials of true wisdom. They 
hasten from book to book; impatient to see the con- 
clusion of every story, the unravelling of every plot, 
their minds become merely the passive subjects of suc- 
cessive and transient emotions. Gratifying only a 
vague and useless curiosity; giving themselves up to a 
succession of barren agitations, their reading is nothing 
but a species of mental luxury, which effeminates the 
vigour of the soul, while it refines, in some degree, its 
tastes and enjoyments. 

Many there are who read through vanity, and mere- 
ly to be able to quote the names and titles of so ma- 
ny authors; and many only to collect the materials of 
a superficial, and, what is called a sentimental conver- 
sation, than which, nothing is usually a more frivo- 
lous exercise of ingenuity, and frequently nothing more 
corrupting to the heart. 

It is not sufficient, however, to read only the best 
authors, and those which afford the most useful infor- 

On Reading. 261 

matioD, and the most solid wisdom, unless we can ap- 
propriate, and make it our own by profound reflection. 
If the subject be of a moral and practical nature, let 
us employ it to cultivate the habits, and to strengthen 
the foundations of piety and virtue, by confirming in 
our minds the principles of religion, which are the 
surest basis of morality; and by yielding our hearts to 
the virtuous and pious emotions, which they are calcu- 
lated to inspire. If the subject be of a speculative 
nature, let us examine the justness of our author's 
principles, learn to test the accuracy of his facts, and 
the conclusiveness of his reasonings: by exercise, and 
by reflection, strengthen our own powers, and thus 
acquire, at length, a title even to judge our masters. 
Many there are, who devour books, who have never 
learned to think. Their knowledge lies in a confused 
and indigested mass in their minds, to which they 
have never given that clearness and order, which will 
enable them to produce it with facility and effect, for 
any useful and valuable purpose. If we would turn 
our reading to the best account, let us endeavour, 
by reflection, by conversation, and by writing, to ar- 
range our ideas on all subjects in the most perfect or- 
der, and to acquire the entire possession and mastery 
of them. By meditation, and by mutual communica- 
tion, knowledge is increased, ideas acquire definite- 
ness and precision, and are disposed, at length, in that 
happy and perspicuous arrangement which puts them 
most completely under our own command. For this 
end, it is requisite, often to interchange reading with 
proper seasons of retirement and reflection; and fre- 

232 On Reading. 

quently, by a friendly intercourse with others, to eli- 
cit that comparison of thought which is one of the 
best means of correcting false, and improving imper- 
fect conceptions; of increasing our stock of useful 
truths, and facilitating the communication of them to 

Finally, in reading, let it be our chief sohcitude, not 
so much to know what others have thought and writ- 
ten, as to strengthen and enlarge the powers of our 
own minds, and to confirm in our hearts the princi- 
ples of virtue and piety. — Let it not only present to us 
the observations which others have made on men and 
manners, but let it be used so as to enable us more 
profoundly to enter into the springs of action in the 
human heart, and to discriminate the characters of 
men. Let it, at the same time, lay open before us 
the immense volume of nature, and teach us to read 
it. Above all, let it open to us the avenues into our 
own breasts, and enable us to penetrate into their 
most concealed recesses. To know ourselves is the 
first and most important science; as the truest wisdom 
is that which is practical, and consists in fulfilling all 
the active duties which result from our relations 
both to God and to mankind. That knowledge is 
worse than vain, it becomes a fountain of iniquity, 
which does not contribute to strengthen all the pi- 
ous dispositions, all the virtuous tendencies of the 
soul. " If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do 


I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore en- 
joy pleasure: and behold this also is vanity. I said of laughter it is mad: and 
of mirth what doth it? — Eccles. ii. 1,2. 

It was the great inquiry among the sages of antiqui- 
ty, wherever science had made any progress; what is 
the chief good? Where is the supreme happiness of 
man to be focmd? While some affirmed that it is pla- 
ced only in temperance and virtue, and a complete 
command over all our appetites and passions; others 
conceived that it consists in a free indulgence in every 
sensual enjoyment. Solomon, though an illustrious, 
and otherwise, a wise and excellent prince, yet misled 
by his passions, which had long been cherished 
amidst the splendors of a luxurious court, was tempted 
practically to put to the proof the truth and justness 
of those principles which seek for happiness in the ex- 
cesses, or the refinements of the world's joys. But his 
disappointed experience at length pronounced of them, 
— they are vanity and madness. I said of laughter, 
that is, of those high and constant scenes of amuse- 
ment which create an obhvion of God, and of the se- 
rious duties of life, it is mad: and of mirth, or those 
continual levities and frivolities which dissipate the 
heart, what doth it? what is its value when the account 
of life is made up ? 

The world has, hitherto, become little wiser for the 

VOL. II. K k 


254 On Fashionable Amusements. 

experimental lessons of the king of Israel. If we en- 
ter the circles of fashion, and frame our estimate of 
human life from them, would it not seem as if God 
had bestowed the noblest faculties on man, merely to 
enable him to diversify his pleasures? Rehgion, in- 
deed, teaches another lesson. But the passions, which 
have fashion, and general example on their^side, often 
render her instructions vain. One simple question un- 
does all her reasonings; — Is not amusement, is not 
pleasure lawful? True, there is a degree, there is a 
time, there are connexions, in which every pleasure, de- 
manded by simple nature, may be innocently enjoyed. 
But under this limited and modified concession, the vo- 
taries of fashion plead its innocence at all times, and 
in every degree. They dissipate the inestimable trea- 
sures of time, if not in absolute vice, at least in the per- 
petual vicissitudes of frivolity and folly. — And the me- 
lancholy issue will be found in the experience of all 
those who make the same proof of it which was made 
by Solomon, to be vanity and madness. A wise and 
good man will indulge himself in such pleasurable 
amusements only, as are permitted by reason and con- 
science enlightened by the word of God. The solemn 
considerations which religion, which the serious duties 
of life, which the prospects of eternity, which the in- 
spection and judgment of Almighty God, continually 
offer to the pious mind, will mingle themselves with all 
his joys to regulate thenj, and to preserve them within 
the chaste and temperate bounds of innocence. 

In pursuing the design of the royal preacher, I shall 
demonstrate, in the first place, the unreasonableness 

On Fashionable Amusements. 255 

and folly, or, to employ his own language, the vanity 
and madness of those perpetual scenes of dissipation 
and amusement aimed to be kept up by the lashiona- 

ble world. 

But, because true piety does not absolutely proscribe 
the amusements of society, I shall endeavour, in the 
next place, to assign their proper bounds; and to show 
at what point they become sinful. 

^Vhen 1 speak on this occasion, of the excessive 
pursuit of pleasure, I would not be understood to em- 
brace in my view those scenes of gross sensuality which 
violate the laws of decency, and sink into a resemblance 
of the brutes the nobler nature of man; 1 mean not 
those loose associations in which every thing serious 
is treated with indecent levity, and the most sacred 
subjects are introduced, like the holy vessels of the 
temple into the impious feast of JBelshazzar, only to 
give additional zest to their profane mirth. I would 
not hold up to the view of an assembly of christians 
those actions which are done of them in secret, which 
disdain the bounds that religion, that reason, that mo- 
desty, that nature, corrupted as it is, prescribes to indul- 
gence. I would fix your attention at this moment, on 
those amusements, chiefly, which wear the face of de- 
cency, which are recommended by fashion, and are sin* 
ful not s'^ much by the nature of the pleasures, sought 
in them, as by their constancy, thereby usurping the 
place which God should hold in the heart of a depen- 
dent creature, which the interests of society, and sympa- 
thies of humanity should hold in the heart of a man, and 
which the cultivation, and improvement of his own na- 
ture should hold in the heart of a reasonable being. 

256 On Fashionable Amusements. 

That perpetual succession of amusements, and that 
dissipation of time, which, too strikingly mark the 
character of fashionable life, is incongruous with the 
actual state of the world; it is unworthy the reasonable 
powers, and high destinies of our nature; — it is incon- 
sistent with the true enjoyment of pleasure itself; — 
but, above all, it does not accord with the spirit of the 
gospel which we have received from God as our rule 
of life; nor with the pious hopes and consolations of the 
soul at death. 

1. If we consider, in the first place, the actual state 
of the world, and the evils which afflict the lot of hu- 
man life, we must be forcibly struck with the incon- 
gruousness of that continual succession of amusements 
marked by the sacred writer, to the scenes of sorrow 
and distress which on every hand, so obviously meet 
the view, and address their claims to the heart of cha- 
rity. Alas! doth the child of sorrow often utter in sighs 
to himself, the misfortunes, that prey upon my life, and 
waste my heart in hopeless grief, attract no attention 
from those joyous circles carried perpetually round in 
the thoughtless whirl of dissipation! Ah! little do they 
think how the sting, which rankles in the bosom of pe- 
nury and wretchedness, is poisoned by the proud neglect 
of supercilious wealth, and the inconsiderate gayeties 
of unthinking pleasure. Ah! little do they reflect what 
miseries, a few moments of sympathy abstracted from 
this riot of the senses, or a few mites, saved from the 
wastes of luxury, or the ostentation of vanity might 
relieve! Could we, my brethren, with the eye of Hea- 

On Fashionable Amusements, 251 

ven, survey the world under one comprehensive view 
what a contrast would it present to us of deep affliction 
and unreflecting joy? On one hand, the miserable 
victims of misfortune, or of guilt, assailing with bursting 
groans, or with smothered sighs, the dull ears of plea- 
sure; on the other, assemblies and routes, anmsements 
and parties, from which sympathy, reflection, thought, 
seem to be banished. Here, thousands perishing by dis- 
ease, by want, or by crimes, and thousands sinking under 
silent and unutterable griefs which consume the heart 
in secret; and there, thousands exulting in thoughtless 
levity, dancing over the graves of the dead, or drown- 
ing the last groans of the dying in revelry and mirth! 
If these melancholy contrasts, so deeply affecting to the 
benevolent mind, could be presented in full prospect be- 
fore the most dissipated youth, would it not arrest his ca- 
reer, and mingle an unusual share of reflection with all 
his projects of pleasure? Would he not here behold, as 
in a mirror, the frailty of his nature, and his own mani- 
fold obligations to divine providence which has distin- 
guished him from his suffering brethren? Would it not 
awaken in his bosom those emotions of charity and be- 
nevolence, which so seldom find place amidst the frivo- 
lities which make up the vacuity of the fashionable dis- 
sipation of time? Look on the calamities of the world 
and learn to feel your fraternity with the most afflicted 
of your brethren. Look; and contemplate the uncer- 
tain lot of human life. Look again , and let your sym- 
pathy turn your views to that immortal being where all 
must stand equally before the same impartial tribunal. 
What then? shall we renounce all those pleasurable 

258 On Fashionable Amusements. 

amusements, all those light gayeties which seem so al- 
lowable in the season of youth? No; but surely even 
youth should be temperate in its pleasures; the levity 
of youth should often give place to serious reflection on 
the state of human life; the circulation of amusement 
should be often suspended to listen to the calls of huma- 
nity; the expenses of useless amusement should be con- 
secrated to the higher and nobler offices of beneficence 
and charity. 

2. When amusements, in the next place, follovv one 
another in too quick succession, do they form such a 
plan of life, not only as religion, but as calm and sober 
reason would prescribe? Considered in reference to the 
great duties of life, and the interests of our eternal being 
what do they exhibit, but the thoughtless impulses of fol- 
ly, which overbear reflection? but the frivolous drama of 
fashion that is halting to pass away forever? Reasona- 
ble and immortal beings, have we not been formed to act 
a part becoming the noble powers with which our Crea- 
tor has endued us, and corresponding widi the sublime 
theatre of his glory in which he has placed us, and wor- 
thy the high destination for which the present is inten- 
ded only as a previous discipHne? Will a hfe compo- 
sed of these light occupations correspond with the great 
and holy ends of our existence? Will it bear our own 
sober retrospect when we come to collect our thoughts 
in the presence of Almighty God! Ah! wifl it bear 
the scrutinizing review of a dying hour, when con- 
science, in the prospect of the last tribunal, demands its 
account of life? 

Behold, then brethren, the cares which ought su. 
premely to occupy life in fulfilling the high relations 

Chi FasJmnahle Amusements. -59 

which we hold to God, and to the soul; in cultivating 
those intellectual powers which unite us with angels; 
in invigorating and expanding those pure and sublime 
affections which aJly us to God himself. Ah! what a 
derehction of God, of our duties, of ourselves; what an 
abuse of the powers of a divine nature, to merge them 
all in the giddy whirl of fashionable dissipation! Pow- 
ers that ought to be consecrated to the glory of God, 
and to the noblest interests of an immortal nature, shall 
they all end in an idle round of visits, of parties, of 
play; of insipid pleasantries; of licentious jests; oi scan- 
dals, perhaps, grown vapid by repetition? Are they 
all sunk in the low ambition to shine in the frivolous 
circle; to be foremost in all its changes; to refine on the 
softnesses of pleasure; to perform trifles with a grace, 
to dress and laugh in style; and to be only the first ac- 
tors in the comedy of the world? Surely the plea- 
sures of a reasonable mind ought to be more elevated; 
the joys of the heirs of heaven ought to be more se- 

3. I might add that this toiling pursuit of amuse- 
ment is inconsistent with its own aim, the possession 
of sincere happiness. 

Pleasure is then only tasted with its true relish when 
it succeeds to useful employment, and is designed to 
refresh the labors of duty, which alone can form the so- 
lid basis of rational enjoyment. Pleasure that does 
not wait the natural returns of appetite, is insipid. 
When desire is forever anticipated, its gratifications 
become vapid and poor. The cloyed senses no long- 
er yield those exquisite delights which are prepared 

^60 On Fashionable Amusements. 

for them by virtuous employment, and by the rational 
abstinences of rehgion. How often does her toihng 
votary rise fatigued and languid from the dissipations 
of the night; vsdien like a tired slave he is obliged to 
rouse his jaded appetites by artificial provocatives till 
the povirers of enjoyment become oppressed. But not 
to urge this consideration farther: 

4. Suffer me to ask, in the next place, is the reso- 
lution in the text, to prove the enjoyments of mirth and 
pleasure; a resolution so often ranked among the harm- 
less purposes, and innocent gayeties of youth, consis- 
tent with the spirit, and the duties of the gospel, which, 
as christians, you acknowledge to be the rule of life, 
and on which you profess finally to rest your hope of 
salvation? What is the first view which the holy scrip- 
tures present to us of human nature? The first du- 
ties which they require of man? In every page of that 
sacred volume, human nature is exhibited as fallen 
and corrupt. The gospel is a system of reconcilia- 
tion between guilty sinners and their offended Crea- 
tor. The first duties to which it calls them are re- 
pentance, self-denial, humility, the mortification of the 
flesh, with its affections and lusts. But alas! what 
correspondence do we find between these humihating 
views, these mortifying duties, and that life which 
is nourished only by indulgence, fed on ostentation 
and vanity? What relation between the self-denials 
of a penitent soul, and that pleasurable life which 
denies nothing to the enjoyments of sense, and the 
caprices of fancy? Between the state of sinful mor- 
tals who are hastening to the tribunal of God, and 

On Fashionable Amusements. 2QI 

must soon be actors in eternal scenes, and those 
perpetual calls of pleasure which indicate a mind en- 
tirely at ease, unimpressed with the solemnity ofit3 
state, and the seriousness of its prospects. 

In this discipline of probation in which we have been 
placed by Almighty God, for a higher state of being, 
does not the gospel, and does not reason, require fre- 
quent retreat, meditation, and prayer, in order to break 
the force of the passions, which attach us to this world? 
But what room for self recollection, for retreat, for 
prayer can you find in the scenes which are hardly 
ever intermitted except from fatigue? What attractions 
has retirement for those who have no recources with- 
in their own breasts? who study to live perpetually out 
of themselves? who fear no society so much as that of 
their own thoughts? 

Does not the gospel, further require that we should 
refer all our actions to the will of God as their rule; to 
the glory of God as their end? But, alas! in this vain 
life which knows no other rule nor end of action but its 
own pleasure, where do we perceive these characters of 
a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ? Here is its hap- 
piness — here are its hopes — here are all the joys it 
knows of existence. 

If this constant succession of pleasurable forms is in- 
consistent with the spirit, and the prescriptions of the 
gospel, the great law of our duty, let us, in the next 
place, consider what aspect it will have on our prepa- 
rations for death. This most interesting event cannot 
be far distant from any of you, my dear brethren, and 
it may be near very near to the youngest and most 

VOL. II. I. 1 

262 On Fashionable Amusements. 

thoughtless person in this assembly. Let me intreat 
you then to put tliis question to your own hearts — If 
you saw the king of terrors actually approaching, and 
already taking his fearful aim at your life — are these 
the employments in which you would be willing to be 
found? Would you in the bravery and hardihood of 
your spirit still exclaim — Live joy! strike tyrant! strike 
when thou wilt, still thou shalt find me in the bosom of 
my pleasures. Ah! would it not be esteemed the 
language of madness.^ Would not vanity of vani- 
ties in that moment be seen written in the colours 
of death, on all this drama of folly? Votary of plea- 
sure! let nothing deceive you. Whether you perceive 
it or not, the arrow of this dreadful archer has already 
left the fatal string, winged at your heart, and on its point 
is borne everlasting life, or everlasting death. What in- 
fluence, then will these unchastised scenes possess on 
the tranquillity of your last moments? Will you find 
in them that peace of mind which flows from a hum- 
ble and sincere faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his pro- 
mises, and the all prevalent efficacy of his atonement 
and intercession? Will they present to you those con- 
solations which arise from the review of a well-spent 
life. Let us make the serious inquiry. — What have 
you done for God? What for eternity? What for the 
interests of religion? What for the benefit of mankind? 
What examples do you leave for the instruction of the 
coming age? What good works press round the depart- 
ing spirit and accompany it to the presence of Almigh 
ty God? Ah! you will find that when you thought you 
were pursuing only innocent pastime, and at worst, do 

On Fashionable Amusements. S6S 

jiig nothing, you were wasting that precious time which 
should have been the purchase of eternity: you were 
preparing the soul to descend at last into the bed of 
death, weighed down beneath the load of its trifles. 
Once more, then, let me ask — Can those amuse- 
ments be innocent in which the interests of eternity 
are so fatally neglected? in which circling round and 
round in the dizzy vortex of pleasure you never look 
down to the dark unflHhomable gulf beneath, into 
which the eddy is absorbing you ? 

But if, at the approach of death, you can derive 
no consolation from a review of those false joys which 
have supplanted the duties of rehgion, can you hope to 
obtain it at that awful period from the prevalence of 
prayer? Ah! can you hope in the tumults of that 
moment, to approach to God in the holy confidence of 
that duty, who have all your life, been a stranger at 
the throne of grace? What! shall we presume to 
waste the precious, the merciful seasons of life in the 
pursuits of folly, and then dare to hope, in the last 
extremity, to propitiate the righteous Judge of the 
universe by cries extorted by the fears of death? Mis- 
taken soul! Are the cries of fear, prayer; — prayer, 
which can only be the fruit of faith, of love, of re- 
pentance, of humble and affectionate trust in the Re- 
deemer of the world? Are the importunities of a 
despairing sinner prayer? The most impenitent will 
often shed the bitterest tears, will often utter the most 
piercing cries in the moment of perishing. Oh! 'tis a 
dangerous, 'tis a fearful rehance! By so many consider- 
ations is this eager and unintermitted pursuit of the plea- 

264 On Fashionable Amusements. 

sures of the world, of the real value of which, the sacred 
writer in the text, had studied practically to satisfy him- 
self, condemned by the sentence both of reason, and re- 
ligion — It is inconsistent with the real state of the world, 
and its innumerable afflictions — with the elevated pow- 
ers, and immortal hopes of human nature, — with the 
serious duties of life, — with true pleasure itself — with 
the penitent and mortified spirit of the Gospel, — with 
the awful solemnity of death, — and with the religious 
peace and comfort of the soul in dying. Amen ! 


I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore 
enjoy pleasure; and behold this also is vanity. I said of laughter it is mad; 
and oi mirth, what doth il?—Ecclea. xi. 1, 2. 

In the preceding discourse, I have endeavoured to 
exhibit the irratiouahty and folly, or, in the language of 
the sacred writer the vanity of those perpetual scenes 
of amusement and dissipation aimed to be kept up in 
the fashionable world. 

But, because religion is not an enemy to the tempe-' 
rate enjoyments of society, I shall now attempt, ac- 
cording to my original proposition, to point out the li- 
mitations she prescribes to the pleasures she permits. 
The prince of Israel had made a full experiment of 
them, and, in the conclusion, he pronounces that they 
are vanity. In his deep conviction o/ their folly he 
saith of laughter, it is mad: and of mirth he exclaims, 
in the chagrin of disappointment, w at d th it? 

Man, as a moral, social ^nd reasonable being, stands 
in high relations to God; imd owes to h mself, and to 
his family, and to human society, the ini}.o;tnnt duiles; 
— relations and duties which embrace a wide compass; 
and in their full extent, necessarily occupy the great- 
est portion of a virtuous lii'e. After these have been 
faithfully fulfilled; what proportion of our time will re- 
main for indolent indulgence, or for pursuits which 
have no other aim than pleasure? Amusement is law- 

^66 On Fashionable Amusements. 

ful; it might, perhaps by a hberal construction and in 
a temperate degree be embraced among our duties. But, 
when compared with the higher, and more imperious 
obHgations which fill up the Hfe of a good man, it is law- 
ful only as a relaxation from the severer claims of useful 
employment; never as an ultimate pursuit. It should on- 
ly be yielded to repair the fatigues of duty in order to 
restore nature by a gentle refreshment, while we are 
preparing to renew its useful labours. Such are the 
decisions of reason. Let us then, enlightened also by 
the spirit of the gospel, enter a little more into details 
on this subject, that, by more precise principles, ac- 
companied with appropriate examples, we may better 
discriminate those important boundaries which sepa- 
rate the innocent from the unlawful. 

1, And, in the first place, it may be laid down as a 
general principle of morals, that no pleasures can be 
innocent which, in their consequences naturally tend 
to corrupt the heart. I speak not here of the grosser 
acts of Hcentiousness, and profligacy, but of those in- 
centives to the imagination and the passions, so often 
introduced into scenes which, more indirectly indeed, 
but with too certain an influence lead to the corruption 
of manners. In this view let us contemplate both our 
public amusements, and our private and social parties. 
And, leaving out of our consideration those dissipated 
and tumultuous assemblages of the high vulgar, or the 
low vulgar, which are drawn together for the purposes 
of idleness and vice, let us turn our attention to those 
which plead the more elegant and plausible pretences 
of employing the talents of ingenuity and wit, in order 

On fashionable Jlmusements. 267 

to cultivate the public taste, and soften, and refine the 
public manners. And, if we candidly acknowledge the 
actual state of these amusements, are they consistent 
with the pure, and holy genius of the gospel, if you must 
frequently witness in them indecent representations; if 
your ears must frequently be tainted with indelicate 
wit; if you must often be present at scenes which call 
a blush into the face of modesty, or, in which modesty, 
alas! having lost by degrees, its delicate and lovely sen- 
sibility, has, at length, ceased to blush? Does it be- 
come the purity, or the benevolence of a disciple of 
the blessed Redeemer, to encourage those artists who 
devote life, which should be employed in useful and 
rational occupations, only to nourish the incentives of 
the passions; who degrade themselves for the enter- 
tainment of others; who, by their profession, cast them- 
selves out of virtuous society: and, by the same causes 
which destroy their respectability among men, impair 
the foundation of their hopes from Almighty God? 

Descending from public scenes to those social par- 
ties which fashion has invented for agreeably passing 
the time; and, leaving out of our consideration, at pre- 
sent, the ordinary amusement of tearing to pieces the 
reputation of your acquaintance, or hanging them up 
to writhe on the points of ridicule; let me ask if you 
find any greater innocence, and there can hardly be a 
greater crime, in those too frequent conversations, in 
which the most serious subjects are treated^ith inde- 
cent levity; in which the double entendre, and the in- 
delicate sallies of a wit, affect to cover the grossest 
ideas with only a thin veil; in which the irregularities 

268 On Fashionable Amusements. 

and disorders of a licentious youth, instead of calling 
forth a strong and virtuous indignation, are made the 
subjects of pleasantry and mirth? in that rage for deep 
play, without which certain parties cannot exist? In 
the waste of time, and the risk of fortune, which should 
be employed in the nobler uses of justice and benevo- 
lence? In the unholy passions which agitate the breast, 
and disturb the harmony of those who commit their 
happiness daily to be distracted in the vibrations of 
chance ? 

But, not to confine our view too long to particu- 
lar examples, suffer me to pronounce as a general 
maxim of christian morals, that few very expensive 
amusements can justly be esteemed consistent with 
perfect innocence. What then? are you not masters 
of your own fortune; and accountable only to your- 
selves for its employment? By no means; you are ac- 
countable to the Almighty Father of the universe^ who 
hath made you stewards of his bounty for the general 
happiness of his human family. But are you not free? 
and who shall judge you for freely pursuing your own 
enjoyments? Yes; but, are you not men? and has not 
humanity the first claim on the superfluities of your 
fortune? For what end has divine providence so min- 
gled, in the order of the world, affluence and want, 
prosperity, and suffering, but to connect mankind 
more strongly together by the interesting ties of mu- 
tual dependence and charity? Surrounded as we are 
by misery, is it consistent with the spirit of humanity 
more than with the precepts of religion, to dissipate in 
vain ostentation, or in costly pleasures, what might 

On Fashionable Amusements. 269 

carry consolation to the hearts of so many unhappy 
sufferers, and bring home the purest satisfactions to 
your own bosoms? Can you innocently waste in vain 
shew, can you piously hazard at play, or lavish on 
your own indulgence, what might light up the cottage 
with joy, and cheer the receptacles of wretchedness 
and disease; what might instruct the ignorant, and re- 
claim the vicious; what might carry the glad tidings of 
salvation, along with the light of divine truth, to the re- 
motest regions of darkness, and the savage habitations 
of cruelty ? 

This reasoning, I am aware, still leaves the bounda- 
ry line between the innocent and the culpable loo in- 
definitely traced. It is impossible, perhaps, to mark 
it with entire precision in language. It varies, in a 
certain degree, with the different situations of men in 
society. And under this uncertainty, alas! our unhal- 
lowed rage for pleasure often seeks to find a shelter for 
its own indulgence. We may lay down general prin- 
ciples of conduct but, in their details, the particular 
application must often be left to the integrity of every 
hearer's reason and conscience. True christian cha- 
rity will always be disposed to circumscribe the sphere 
of indulgence within very restricted limits, that it may 
proportionally enlarge the sphere of its virtuous and 
pious beneficence. 

The amusements of fashion are not always, indeed, 
to be called to too rigid an account. A certain indul- 
gence in them may not only be lawful, but, in some 
cases, may even be amiable, by introducing a certain 
charm of softness and humanity into the character of 

VOL. II. M m 

210 On Fashionable Amusements. 

piety, which might otherwise be deemed austere. But 
when we consider the numerous duties which are to 
be fulfilled in the short and uncertain term of life, if 
we are faithful to God, to society, to those who depend 
upon us, or to ourselves, Ah! what portion of it can be 
innocently devoted to the purposes of mere amuse- 

I would not affect to be a severe censor of the pub- 
lic, or of individual manners. I ask only the verdict of 
your own hearts. Can they be innocent who make the 
variety of their amusements, which ought lo form the 
gentle relaxation and refreshment of our duties^ al- 
most the business of life.^ who esteem life insipid 
without them .^ who can seldom enjoy their own reflec- 
tions, or retreat with satisfaction from the scenes of 
the world to the intimacy and friendship of their own 
hearts.^ wlio seek to live perpetually out of themselves.-^ 
who make party succeed to party? who pass incessant- 
ly, from one company, and one scene to another? who 
carry the pleasures of the day into the night, and the 
repose of the night into the day? And when pleasure 
and duty come into any collision, are ever ready to 
postpone the duty to a more convenient season? 

In order to determine the innocence of our plea- 
sures, how many inquiries are first to be made? Have 
all the offices of piety and devotion been discharged? 
Have all the duties of life been fulfilled? Are your fa- 
mihes instructed? Are your children educated? Are 
the functions of your offices, of your professions, of 
your employments, whatever they may be, faithfully 
acquitted? Can then those amusements, or pastimes, 

On Fashionable Amusements. ^'^^ 

be exculpated from the charge of crinrinality which 
usurp the place of God, of the soul, of eternity, ot oui 
families, of the church, of our country, of justice ol 
charity, of that sympathetic concern which every ha- 
man being should feel lor the general interests of hu- 
man nature? Let us examine all our pleasures, or 
amusements by this rule, measure them by this scale, 
weigh them in this balance, and if they can bear these 
inquiries, and answer to these tests, indulge in them 
in the name of God-indulge in them as under the 
eye of God, with a pious reference to his final tribunal. 
But are there not certain forms of pleasure which have 
taken such hold of your imagination and your heart, 
that you feel yourself ungratified, and discontented, 
when you are not able to command them? Do they 
not, I address myself to those who are governed by 
some rati .nal solicitude about their duty; do they not 
often intrude upon those sacred retirements, which 
you would consecrate exclusively to God? Do they 
Hot, like the impure birds, which disturbed the sacri- 
fice' of Abraham, interrupt your pious meditations, and 
distract the mind in the most holy offices of devotion r^ 
If you appear before God, with the assembly ot his 
worshipners, are not your thoughts, in spite of your- 
self often starting aside from the solemnity of your 
immediate duties, and idly straying perhaps, among the 
scenes of your last, or anticipating the plans of your 
next amusements? Ah! can pleasure any longer be in- 
nocent which has thus enslaved the imagination? 
which pursues you into the sanctuary of God? which 

212 On Fashionable Amusements, 

distracts and disturbs your devotion at the very foot of 
the throne of the heavenly grace? 

All those indulgences likewise must we condemnj 
the obvious tendency of which is to lead others into 
vice. JVo 7nan liveth to himself. Jill are members one of 
another. The moral character of society is chiefly form- 
ed by the powerful influence of mutual sympathy and 
example. What though you may find apologies to yout 
own hearts, in your wealth, and leisure, for your inju- 
dicious expenses, or your waste of time. '^ yet, if they 
contribute to form, or to nourish in society an injurious 
extravagance, or a hurtful dissipation, is it not mani- 
festly a sin against the pubhc manners.^ 

If your estate can bear the risks of gaming; if the 
strength of your head exempts you from the disgrace 
of intemperance so frequently incurred in those convi- 
vial meetings, which, by a false courtesy, are called so- 
cial parties; yet when you perceive so m^ny examples 
of their pernicious effects, do you not. by assisting the 
corrupted current, grievously sin against the order of 
society, and the great law of christian charity .-^ Will 
not a good man likewise, sedulously shun those indul- 
gences which he has found by experience to threaten 
his own virtue, by insiduously drawing him, on certain 
occasions to the very verge of crime. ^ To another, 
whose appetites are differently poised, the same scenes 
might be attended with no hazard. But your habits, 
your propensities, your associations, surround them 
with danger to you. Such is the infirmity of most 
men with regard to particular sins which more easily 
beset them , that the security of their virtue consists in 

Oil Fashionable Jimusements. 273 

fleeing from their temptations, and declining certain 
situations which seize too powerfully on the imagina- 
tion, or the senses. Therefore are we taught by our 
blessed Saviour continually to address this prayer to 
our Father in Heaven; lead us not into temptation; and 
by the same authority enjoined, to ivatch and pray that 
ye enter not into temptation. 

If those pleasurable pursuits, the obvious tendency 
of which is to lead others into sin, or expose our own 
virtue to too strong temptations, are to be esteeme(| 
criminal, much more to be suspected and avoided are 
those which tend to efface the serious impressions and 
purposes of duty, or the salutary convictions of sin, 
which have, at any time, been wrought in the heart by 
the word, or providence, or Spirit of Christ. Few per- 
sons have lived under the light of the gospel, who have 
not, at some times, felt their hearts deeply touched by 
the exhibition, in the ordinances of the church, of the 
mercies or the judgments of Almighty God; and who 
have not, in consequence, fbimed many puiposes of 
repentance, many resolutions of duty, and who have 
not raised to Heaven many ardent aspirations, for the 
requisite grace to enable them to fulfil the whole will 
of God. But have you found any enemies more hostile 
to these blessed emotions of the Divine Spirit, than the 
amusements and pleasures of the world .^ Ah! how 
hardly do pleasure and repentance inhabit in the same 
heart.'' Behold, then an infallible criterion by which 
to estimate the safety of our confoi mity to the man- 
ners of the world Do you come from its scenes as 
deeply impressed with the importance of divine things. 

214' On Fashionable Amusements. 

as vividly awake to the purposes of duty; as warmly 
penetrated with the affections of rehgion; with as hve- 
ly a rehsh for the exercises of devotion? Or do you 
find the warmth of your pious affections subsiding: the 
fervor of your religious zeal by degrees languishing: 
and your heart settling in a peaceful calm without hav- 
ing its peace fixed upon the rock of ages? Ch-istian! 
you have advanced upon forbidden ground! Arrest your 
steps, lest you provoke the Holy One of Israel to depart 
from you. 

But what shall we say to those who deliberately en- 
ter into plans of dissipation, tochace away the anxious 
thoughts of futurity? and there are not wanting exam- 
ples of this horrible profanity, for the purpose of quench- 
ing their convictions, and restoring to their hearts that 
guilty peace, which had been mercifully disquieted by 
the Divine Spirit? Can we speak to such unhappy 
souls a milder language than that in which the Holy 
apostle has already addressed them? Ofhoiv much sorer 
punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who 
hath trodden underfoot the Son of God; and hath count- 
ed the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, 
an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the spirit of 
grace? — Will you say then, go to now, I will prove thee 
with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure? Ah no! Behold this 
also is vanity! I have said of laughter, it is mad, and of 
mirth, what doth it? 

And now, christians! in the conclusion of this dis- 
course, may I not confidently appeal to your own hearts, 
to your experience, to the most obvious dictates of 
reason, as well as to the holy scriptures, for the just- 

On Fashionable Amusements. 215 

ness of those principles which have now heen urged 
upon this subject? Will you answer me that the prin- 
ciples, thougli apparently reasonable, yet, in the extent 
which has been given them, and the conclusions which 
have been drawn from them, effectively take away 
what, at first, they seemed to concede: and, in their 
practical application, prohibit all the best enjoyments 
of life. No, my young friends, examine them: they pro- 
hibit those only which are excessive in their degree; 
which are criminal in their object: or, by the passions 
they excite, are evidently dangerous to the purity and 
simplicity of your hearts. But, when the labors of duty 
shall have entitled you to repose, and the seriousness of 
useful employment shall demand a space in which to 
unbend the mind; how many pleasures are there in the 
cheerful intercourse of society, in harmless amuse- 
ments which interfere with no duty; in books calcula- 
ted chiefly to please and cultivate a chaste imagina- 
tion, by presenting to it only the charming pictures of 
taste and virtue, which religion not only permits, but 
assists the pious man to enjoy. All nature ministers 
to the pleasures of piety. The heavens which lift the 
soul to God in a subhme devotion, — the earth which 
displays the varied goodness of the Creator, — the ver- 
dant field, the running stream, a flower, a plant, yields 
a more exquisite sensation to a pure mind than all the 
thoughtless dissipations of fashionable folly. And what 
an additionable charm does cultivated society yield the 
virtuous mind, when the sincerity of truth, the senti- 
ments of an exalted reason, and the mutual affections 
of a divine charity reign in it.'^ 

276 On Fashionable Amusements. 

Religion not only approves but augments all the in- 
nocent enjoyments derived from the senses, the imagi- 
nation, society; and it possesses others which are still 
superior, springing from its own divine nature, richly 
to indemnify you for every sacrifice which it requires. 
Taste these with a heart purified by divine grace, and 
animated with the love of God our heavenly Father, 
and you will never have reason to complain that piety 
has narrowed the sphere of your comforts. The en- 
trance on a religious life is indeed attended with its 
pains, as is every improvement in our imperfect and 
depraved nature, either in its intellectual powers, or 
its moral habits. But let the first oppositions be sur- 
mounted, all then is a smooth and delightful path. The 
works of nature in which the glory of God is display- 
ed, afford a boundless theatre in which the pious soul 
may expatiate with pleasures perpetually new. The 
redemption of the world by Jesus Christ yields to a 
sincere penitent a joy past all understanding. And 
with the sweetest effusions of heart does a child of 
God, at the throne of grace, pour out his soul into the 
bosom of his gracious Creator; sometimes ingratitude 
for his multiplied mercies; sometimes in humble acqui- 
escence in the dispositions of his holy will; and some- 
times in fervent thankfulness as his supreme protector 
in all the vicissitudes of life. What pure joys arise 
from the love of him who is perfect and essential love! 
What ineffable consolations from the believing hope of 
a blessed and glorious immortahty! A hope which ex- 
i%lts the soul above all the afflictions of the world; and 

On Fashionable Amusements. 211 

at length enlightens and comforts the shadows of the 

Come blessed consolations! and take possession of 
my whole soul! I will never regret the false joys I for- 
sake for you. Virtue can need few of those subsidiary 
aids to the enjoyment of existence which the world af- 

But, will youth reply that these pleasures are not 
adapted to its tastes? that fashion justifies, and that 
your age requires certain excesses which are not to 
be measured by the rigid rules of religion? Youth is 
the season of joy. Age which corrects the imprudent 
ardor of the passions, and tempers them by experience, 
will be time enough for reflections so serious. Reflec- 
tion would mar the enjoyments of the young, and cast 
an unseasonable gloom over all the innocent gayeties 
of hfe. Oh! mistaken votaries of pleasure! Religion 
which is replete with delights of the purest and noblest 
kind, drawn from its own bosom, is not an enemy to 
all the moderate, and well regulated enjoyments of the 
young; which are, in truth, those only which are sin- 
cere and real. But, were it much more void of all that 
you alFect to call pleasure, are not its duties indispen- 
sable? Is youth a title of exemption from all the most 
sacred laws of our being? And is not the first law of 
the moral nature of man, and the first dictate of the 
virtuous and ingenuous soul; to love tlie Lord our God, 
with all the heart, ivith all tJie soul, with all the strength, 
and with all the mind? Still do you repeat, it is difficult 
for a young man, in all the fervor of his blood, and 
encompassed with all the blandishments of the imagi- 

VOL. II. N n 

278 On Fashionable Amusements. 

nation, entirely to subdue his passions. It belongs only 
to the coolness and experience of age to be always 
prudent. I will wait till time has, in some measure, 
subdued this impetuosity; till the force of the passions 
is somewhat subsided, and the world begins to lose its 
charms. But, if time should already have extinguished 
your passions, where would be the virtue of subduing 
them? If the impotence of years has already taken 
from you the power of enjoying them, where is the 
virtue of sacrificing them to your duty? Let me en- 
treat you likewise to bear in mind, that true piety is 
not the natural fruit of imbecihty and decay; nor is it 
the spontaneous growth of time in an impure heart. 
It is the fruit only of the operation of the Holy Spirit, 
inspiring and giving effect to our own most assiduous 
attentions to our duty. The whole soul, with all its 
active powers, must be employed in working out our 
salvation. It is the law of Christ; Strive to enter into the 
strait gate. You have, my dear brethren, an immortal 
prize to gain. And what an amiable spectacle both to 
God and man, is a youth, in that period of life when 
the impulses of pleasure are the strongest, who is able, 
by divine grace, to impose a law upon himself, and to 
hold the rein of reason and conscience with a firm 
hand, overall the movements of appetite; — who is able 
to say to God, — my Creator! my age, indeed, conti- 
nually impels me to the pursuit of false joys, compan- 
ions solicit, appetites provoke, opportunities invite, 
even pubhc opinion is indulgent; but to thee I sacrifice 
them all! And that sacrifice is thetlearer to my heart, 
as it is the offering of love and duty to thee, to whom I 
owe my existence,, my happiness, my eternal salvation! 

On Fashionable Amusements. 279 

Do you still repeat that the gravity of years is best 
adapted to the seriousness of devotion; and you will wait 
the approach of that cool and sedate age before you ap- 
ply yourself to cares too incompatible with the vivacit)' 
of youth. Oh! unwise, and most commonly fatal error! 
Not to speak of the enfeebled powers, and languid af- 
fections of advanced age, which render that season 
most unfavourable to this radical change of character; 
not to mention the increasing force of habit, or the 
strength of passions which attach the sensualist to the 
world, and become even more inveterate by time, af- 
ter he has lost the power of enjoying them; how know 
you that the future, which you too presumptuously pro- 
mise yourself will ever be indulged you by the forbear- 
ance of God, so long offended by your sins? — Does not 
death stand ready every moment to cut asunder the 
thread of an abused life, and carry the reluctant spirit 
to its decisive reckoning? Seriously, then, ask your 
heart if, at this moment, he should do his dreadful of- 
fice upon you, what answer are you prepared to make 
at the tribunal of Beaven, not for transient and occa- 
sional starts of folly, in which you might have been 
surprised by the suddenness of temptation; but for days 
and months, and years, deliberately wasted in idleness 
and vanity? Would you be willing to meet at the bar 
of God only the itnages of those pleasures which you 
now esteem to be innocent pastimes? Instead of the 
good works which follow the righteous to their 
judgment, and crown them with glory and honor; 
would you not see in that mirth and laughter here con- 
demned by the sportive king of Israel, only the spectres 

28Q On Fashionable Amusements. 

of murdered time — terrible witnesses— impartial judges, 
pronouncing in your own breasts the fearful sentence 
of the justice of Heaven? 

Ah! children of folly! who say go to now, I will prove 
thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure; remember, at 
the last you will say with the king reformed, it is mad; 
and in the end you will exclaim what doth it? Be as- 
sured, and may the Divine Spirit impress the convic- 
tion on your hearts! Thoughtless pleasures are the 
gulf of time. The splendor and gayety which surround 
them and intoxicate the heart, are only preparing its 
more certain perdition. You resemble the bewildered 
insect which flutters with delight, and bounds in secu- 
rity about the brilliant taper, at once attracted and daz- 
zled by the flame into which it will shortly plunge to 
its destruction. Oh! sinful pleasure! Is this the termi- 
nation of your fatal joys! Ahuighty God! raise our souls 
to purer delights, and to sublimer hopes, through Je- 
sus Christ our Lord! Amen! 


For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. 1 Cor. 13. 9. 

The pride of man, unwilling to confess his mortify- 
ing ignorance, often supplies by presumption his de- 
ficiencies. For, when true science has not furnished 
him with principles which, in their consequences, lead 
to the results of truth, he is prone to have recourse to 
bold conjectures, and fancies that he is unfolding the 
works of God, and the secrets of nature, when he is 
only weaving a web out of his own brain to involve 
them in greater obscurity; or substituting his own pre- 
judices for the dictates of divine truth. Too often, he 
is ready with extreme arrogance, to impose on man- 
kind his visions for the infallible prescriptions of wis- 
dom, and to denounce every deviation from the absurd 
orthodoxy of his own creed. 

The pride of pretended knowledge and of spiritual 
gifts had inspired many vain men in the Corinthian 
church with the factious idea of placing themselves at 
the head of separate parties, which they had ambitious- 
ly formed in that holy society, within which no factions 
ought ever to have been known. In their overbearing 
contentions for superiority, they forgot the exercise of 
that meekness and charity which is of higher price in 
the sight of God, than the most splendid talents, or the 
most admired spiritual gifts. The apostle, in order to 
repress their vain confidence in those fancied powers, 
on which they had erected such criminal hopes, de- 

282 Imperfection 

iijonstrates, with great beauty and force of language, 
the preference which is due to charity above know- 
ledge; to the virtues and graces of the heart, above all 
those merely intellectual attainments to which the wi- 
sest of men can arrive in the present life. These os- 
tentatious talents, from their imperfection, shall neces- 
sarily cease; but that divine charity, which compre- 
hends the love of God, and the love of man, shall en- 
dure forever. Transferred from the church on earth, 
it shall flourish in the temple, above, and prove the 
eternal bond of union among all holy and happy spirits. 
— PropJiecies, tongues, knowledge, all shall vanish away; 
for we know only in part. The most distinguished ac- 
quisitions in human science are comparative darkness. 
They resemble the first faint rays of the dawn, which, 
while they obscurely sketch the images of things, often 
serve at the same time, to exhibit them under ftilse ap- 

He adds, and we prophecy in part. Prophecy is em- 
ployed in the sacred scriptures, with great latitude of 
meaning; being used to signify, not only the prediction 
of future events, but all illustrations of holy writ, — all 
psalms and hymns sung in divine worship, and gene- 
rally, all instructions addressed to the people in the 
name of God. and founded on revelations made by his 
Holy Spirit.* When the apostle, therefore, pronounces 
that we know only in part, it implies, that few objects 

* This leads to the true design of those institutions among the people of 
Israel styled the schools of the prophets: they were schools of theology, and 
sacred learning; of eloquence, poetry and music, employed in the worship 
of God. 

Of our Knowledge. 283 

in the compass of nature come within the range of the 
human faculties; and of these few, owing to the imbe- 
cihty of the mind, the greater part are necessarily, but 
imperfectly understood. And, when it is added, we 
prophecy in part, he conveys this impHcation farther 
than our understanding even of revealed truth is liable 
to many errors, arising from the narrowness of our 
information, and still more, perhaps, from the sinful 
bias of the heart: 

Your attention therefore, my christian brethren, is, 
first requested to a few reflections on the general im- 
perfection of human knowledge, and 

II. Afterwards, to some pious practical lessons which 
we may derive from this humiliating truth. On both 
these subjects, my observations shall be circumscribed 
within a verry narrow compass. 

The slightest inspection into the immense field of 
nature must convince us, that nothing is understood 
by us of its vast and complicated system, besides the 
sensible quahties of the few objects which are nearest 
to us in situation. But, of the boundless extent of 
the universe, its innumerable worlds, and endless varie- 
ty of being; and of God the Almighty author of all, 
what can be known by man who, in the estimate of 
infinite wisdom, is less than nothing and vanity.'^ Above 
all, — with regard to a future state of existence, and the 
lawful hopes of piety and virtue beyond this life, or the 
just apprehensions of conscious guilt, reason can form 
only anxious conjectures, or fearful anticipations. 

If mankind, in the present age appears to reason 
with more clearness, consistency, and probability, upon 

284 Imperfection 

these important subjects, than the ancient heathen 
who were left to the guidance solely of their natural 
powers, is it not because the general turn of thinking 
both among philosophers, and the great mass of man- 
kind has received a better direction from the lights of 
revelation. Principles have been received as natural 
dictates of the understanding which have been imbibed 
only from the fountain of Christianity, or have insensi- 
bly taken possession of the mind by its sympathy with 
public opinion. For we have found that, when reason 
deserts these heavenly lights, or shakes off these useful 
prepossessions, it becomes immediately bewildered in 
doubt, and involved in perplexing mists out of the dark- 
ness of which it is never able again to trace any clear 
and plain path, till it returns to the author of truth. 

Of some objects the sublimity raises them so far 
above the ken of the human intellect, that they can pre- 
sent to it no distinct lineaments of others, the remote- 
ness from the sphere of sense, — the complication of all 
with the infinite and inscrutable plans of the Divine 
mind, continually baffle the efforts of the wisest under- 
standings to explain, or comprehend. Of the existence 
of an omnipotent and all wise Creator we can no lon- 
ger doubt, when we contemplate the grandeur, the regu- 
larity, and beauty of the works of nature; with the 
evident characters of intelligence and design impres- 
sed on every part of the universal system. But what 
adequate conceptions are we able to form of greatness 
without bounds, — of eternity without succession, — of 
the wisdom which conceived the plan, and regulates 
the movements of the whole, of the power which, in the 

Of our Knowledge . 2 85 

beginning, said to the dark and infinite void; — let light 
be, and the fight, and the universe existed at the wordo 

When we descend to those things which are most 
palpable to sense, is it not merely the surface which 
we discern? Can we analyze into its primary elements 
the air which we breathe? Can we tefi how an herb 
vegetates, or how the frost is congealed? Can we 
explain the essence of that thinking principle within us^ 
or unfold its mysterious union with the body? On 
every subject, are there not ten thousand inquiries 
which no science can resolve, but which must remain 
to be explained only in some future period of our ex- 
istence. Man in his present state of being is evidently 
destined for action, rather than for speculation. His 
knowledge is, therefore, almost exclusively limited to 
the few ideas which are requisite to enable him to im- 
prove the habitation in which he is placed by his Crea- 
tor, and to discharge usefully those practical duties 
which, as a reasonable being, he owes to himself, and to 
God; and, as connected with his fefiow men, for their 
mutual happiness, he owes to society. At the same 
time, he is evidently endowed with powers calculated 
for a much higher and more ample sphere of improv- 
ment, and which point his hopes forward to a more il- 
lustrious scene of their development and exercise in 
the future progress of his being. 

2. In the next place, the infinite combinations of all 
events, with the universal system of things, render it 
impossible for minds so fiseble as ours, always to form 
a perfect judgment concerning the rectitude of the 
moral government of God, or in every case, to reconcile 

VOL. II. o 

286 Imperfection 

the fact before our eyes, with our imperfect views of 
his wisdom and goodness. What estimate can a child 
frame of the pohcy of nations, or even of that domestic 
discipline, under the restraints of which he at once is 
cultivated, and repines? What judgment can an unlet- 
tered man form of those great principles of social order, 
which embrace the various relations of individuals in 
society, and the still more extended relations of the 
great communities of the world to one another? To 
that uninstructed man, or that child, how many things 
appear inexplicable for want of comprehending the 
reference of each to one another, or to the whole? 
But, with regard to the infinite plans of Jehovah, — to 
the boundless compass of things, and to the eternal 
progression of ages, all the parts of which are intimate- 
ly linked together, and dependent upon one another, 
are we not less than children in the judgments which 
we are able to form of them? And is not this the 
proper answer to all the objections which have ]5een 
raised against religion from the existence of physical, 
or of moral evil in the works of God; and from the ap- 
parent inequalities which are found in the distributions 
of divine providence? To be able satisfactorily to re- 
solve them, we ought perfectly to understand our own 
nature, and all its destinations; we ought to understand 
all the purposes of heaven concerning man both in this 
world, and the world to come; we ought to understand 
the relations of the present to future periods of our ex- 
istence; of the infancy to the maturity of our being; of 
time to eternity. 

Of our Knowledge. 287 

But if God hath imparted to us a revelation of his 
will, to aid our imperfect reason on all points affecting 
our duty, our spiritual interests and eternal hopes; 
why should any subject, either necessary, or useful to 
human nature still remain covered with obscurities and 
doubts^ To this, perhaps too presumptuous inquiry, 
let me reply; that the visible order of the universe, 
and all the arrangements of divine providence, render 
it. evident that Almighty God acts with a sovereign con- 
trol over the whole system of things in the moral, as in 
the natural world, and bestows, or withholds the illu- 
minations of his Holy Spirit in that measure which 
seemeth good to him. But, though imparted , or limited 
according to his sovereign good pleasure; still, are they 
yielded in that degree which is wisely accommodated to 
our present state of discipline and trial; in which, while 
we must be engaged in the active scenes of life, and 
are pernjitted to taste its lawful pleasures, we are com- 
manded to live above them, habitually looking up to a 
higher and better world as oui' fuial habitation. In 
which, while we are placed in the midst of temptation, 
and in the very theatre of the passions, we are com- 
manded incessantly to combat them. In which we are 
required to cultivate our whole nature by the strenu- 
ous and continued exertion of all its faculties; and, in 
the midst of many conflicts to strengthen its virtues, 
gradually carrying them forward towards their ultimate 

It is in vain to ask why this order has been establish- 
ed.^ It is plainly the appointment of divine providence. 
But, that we may not be overcome by our manifold 

288 imperfection 

trials, it hatb pleased God to afford such a measure of 
light, as, if faithfully improved, is sufficient for all the 
ends of piety and virtue. If the light is only like the 
obscure dawning of the morning, it is because this faint 
discovery of spiritual and eternal things is best adapted 
to our present condition of being. Were the majesty 
of God, and the glories of the heavenly world, dis- 
played with an overpowering illumination on the mind, 
there could be no liberty of choice, and no proper pro- 
bation of faith, or of virtue. It is the proof of a heart 
piously and properly disposed, to be willing to admit 
the feeblest rays of truth, and to govern the life by its 
dictates. It appears, therefore, conformable to the di- 
vine wisdom to impart to mankind only that degree of 
illumination, which will afford to a fair and candid 
inquirer after the path of eternal hfe, a reasonable 
ground of faith on all subjects connected with our es- 
sential duties: but will still leave to much uncertainty 
and doubt, those who are not willing to receive the truth, 
in a pure heart, and obey it, in the love of it. He 
would not take from us the merit of a voluntary obedi- 
ence, by exhibiting spiritual objects in too strong a 
light. Above all, he would not unfit us for the duties 
and employments of the present world, by presenting 
with too dazzling an effulgence the glories of the world 
to come. Our knowledge, therefore, is limited accor- 
ding to the imperfection of our nature, and the trials by 
which he prepares it for a higher state of being. 

But I add, and it deserves our most serious considera- 
tion, that not only does God, in his wisdom, deny to 
mankind those degrees of ilhmiination concerning 

Of our Kuwwkdge, 2 89 

spiritual and, especially, celestial objects, to which they 
aspire; but the very order of nature renders us incapa- 
ble of receiving them. We have no organs fitted to 
admit ideas which exclusively belong to that world 
which awaits the next remove of the pious soul; no 
powers capable of embracing the principles of so sub- 
lime a knowledge. Can the infant be made to take in 
conceptions belonging only to the period of manhood? 
Can the worm that lodges itself beneath the earth, and 
inhabits perpetual darkness, be made to conceive of 
the lustre of the sun, or feel one transport from all the 
beautiful and splendid colouring of nature.^ What then 
can mortals conceive of an immortal being? Worms 
of the dust, and heirs of corruption, of that celestial 
and incorruptible world which the glory of the invisi- 
ble God doth enlighten? While we continue in these 
dark and cumbrous bodies, no revelation could render 
them comprehensible by our imperfect faculties. If 
all the splendors of heaven were to shine around us, 
they would shine in vain to our profound obscurity. 
This corruptible must put on incorrupiion; this mortal 
must put on iminortality before we shall be able to 
take in the scenes of an incorruptible and immortal 
existence. If then Almighty God, by placing man in 
such a probationary condition as we experience in this 
world, has denied him all that knowledge of his future 
existence to which he ambitiously aspires, it is not less 
true that the very laws of our nature, render this know- 
ledge to us, at pi'esent, impossible. We must be con- 
tented to know only in part. The perfect maturity of 
our heavenly and eternal being; those bodies of celes- 

2d0 Imperfection 

tial light; those souls partaking of a divine nature; those 
habitations of angels and of perfect spirits, illuminated 
by the glories of the sun of righteousness, transcend 
all ideas of sense, and can receive no illustration from 
any of its images. 

ir. But, to what purpose is it to present to your view 
these truths, so humbling to human nature, unless we 
can derive from them useful and practical lessons of 

To these reflections let us turn our attention, and 
endeavour to make the consciousness of the great im- 
perfection of our knov\^ledge subservient to our improv- 
ment in true wisdom. 

From the view which has just been presented of 
the narrow and obscure sphere of human reason, evi- 
dently appears the folly of those objections most strenu- 
ously urged against our holy religion, by men who vaun- 
tingly have assumed to themselves the first honors in the 
schools of philosophy. The gospel they affect to con- 
demn because it embraces mysteries. Oh! the pre- 
sumption and folly of human ignorance! What is there 
in the whole compass of nature which is not a mystery.^ 
What is there in our own existence, which does not 
transcend the powers ot" the human intellect to explain.^ 
Do you say, it is impossible to conceive of the eternal 
co-existence, and union of three infinite Intelligences in 
one Deity; the Creator, the Saviour and Ruler of the 
world ; and of the exertion of the whole power of the 
Godhead in the operations of each.-^ And in your own 
nature, can you comprehend how reason, affection, and 
volition co-exist in the same simple essence? And 

Of our Knowledge . 291 

how the whole energy of the soul is put forth continu- 
ally in each act of these several faculties? Do you 
complain that it is impossible to conceive of the resur- 
rection of the same body after it has been dissolved, 
and mingled with the substance of a thousand different 
bodies? And can you conceive how a thousand dif- 
ferent bodies have been combined to form its original 
germ; or how they are afterwards concocted for its 
nutriment, and gradual increase? If nothing is to be 
received but what we clearly, in every part of it, un- 
derstand, what is there which must not be discarded 
from science as well as from religion? Do you de- 
mand again, of what benefit to the moral discipline of 
mankind can be the revelation of principles, or facts 
above the faculty of reason distinctly to explain or com- 
prehend? I answer of much. The precious facts of the 
gospel; that the Son of the eternal Father has assumed 
our nature; that, by the sacrifice of himself, he has 
taken away the sins of the world; that he will come 
again, at the last day, to judge the quick and the dead, 
when all shall come forth from their graves, some to 
the resurrection of life, and others to the resurrection of 
condemnation, may be received as the positive dictates 
of divine truth; duties of the greatest importance to our 
eternal salvation may arise out of them; yet may we 
not be able to comprehend how God could unite him- 
self to man; how a vicarious substitution could be ac- 
cepted in the room of the sinner, who alone is guilty; 
or how the dead shall be raised. Many other inquiries 
may be involved in each of these facts, which although 
the basis of our most essential obligations, as christians. 

292 Imjyerfection 

must remain unresolved, till we are admitted to con- 
template them with the regenerated powers of immor- 
telity. Let me illustrate this observation by an exam- 
ple drawn from natural religion. Are not the being 
and perfections of the Eternal and Sell-Existent Mind, 
as much above the comprehension of human reason as 
any fact or principle in the system of revealed truth? 
Are there not ten thousand questions concerning his 
nature and the government of his providence over the 
world, which cannot be resolved, ten thousand difficul- 
ties which cannot be explained? And yet, is not the 
fact of the being of God, the Creator, and Ruler of the 
universe, the true basis of all moraUty, and all reli- 

How vain and unwise is man to pretend to make 
his short line the measure of infinity! To reject what 
God is pleased to reveal, because he discloses only 
part of his ways? Proud man! how little art thou 
sensible of thy own weakness, and the narrow limits 
within which the Almighty hath circumscribed thy 
intellectual range. Ignorance is always presumptuous. 
Knowing but httle it boldly concludes that nothing 
more is to be known. If children were to measure the 
domestic government of their parents by their own im- 
mature reason, what rash and wild conclusions must 
they necessarily form? How prone would they be to 
pronounce folly on the sagest experience of age. OW 
less than children! then, what know you of the spiritu- 
al and eternal world? What know you of the infinite 
system and relations of the universe -^ What know you 
of the unsearchable plans, the unfathomable depths of 

of our Knowledge. S 93 

divine wisdom ? Yet, will you dare to pronounce upon 
them your bold decisions, and reject the most palpable 
evidences of revelation, because its doctrines do not, 
in all things, comport with your narrow views, and the 
plans which your presumption would prescribe to the 
wisdom of the Supreme Creating Mind? Impious phi- 
losophers! behold the follies lately committed by you in 
the first nation of Europe; the ridiculous and mon- 
strous systems which, sometimes with childish versatili- 
ty, and often with horrible extravagance, you have alter- 
nately built and destroyed, under the pretence of exten- 
ding the happiness, and refounding the liberties of hu- 
man nature. In what have they issued? In throwing 
the world into convulsions, and plunging your unhappy 
country into the damnation of despotism. Ah! said 
our Saviour to the Jews, if, when I tell you of earthly 
things, you believe not; how shall you believe if I tell you 
of heavenly things? 

If the powers of the human mind are so feeble, and 
the sphere of clear and certain knowledge is circum- 
scribed within such narrow limits, with what profound 
humility and gratitude should we be prepared to receive 
those precious and subhme truths which God hath been 
pleased to reveal to mankind through Jesus Christ our 
Lord, and to submit our hearts to their blessed influ- 
ence!— God forbid, that, because our reason is weak, 
we should indiscriminately, and hastily embrace any 
pretences to a divine revelation which may be offered 
to our faith. It is, in the first place our duty to ex- 
amine, with scrupulous caution, the evidences which it 
proposes of its authenticity; the operations of omnipo- 

VOL. li. P P 

294 Imperfection 

tence by which it is confirmed; the prophecies which, 
in their development, should afford continually new and 
increasing testimonies in its favour; the sanctity of the 
doctrine it promulgates, which should be worthy of 
him whose nature is holy. But when on fair, candid, 
and faithful examination, we find sufficient grounds 
to assure us that God hath spoken, the mysteries which 
accompany his word, and which ought to be expected 
whenever God speaks of himself, and of the eternal 
world, should form no objection in our feeble minds 
against the truth. We are bound, with all humility, 
to submit our wisdom to the wisdom of God. If some 
of the doctrines of the sacred scriptures, and some of 
the dispensations of divine providence, have their 
springs still hidden in the depths of eternity, a good 
man will wait, with faith and patience, for that mature 
period of his existence when they shall stand all reveal- 
ed in the light of heaven. In the mean time, as far as the 
present faculties of our nature are competent to the 
task, he will strive, by profound study of those holy 
writings, by all the aids of human wisdom which the 
degree of his cultivation will enable him to employ; by 
devout and serious meditation ; by fervent prayer to the 
Father of lights, to attain, if possible, to some dawnings 
of that celestial day which will open its full splendors 
on the holy soul only in the eternal habitations of the 

3. Let me derive from this subject, in the next place, 
a reflection already suggested by the blessed apostle, on 
the superioiity of the virtues and the graces of the heart, 
to the highest endowments of the understanding, the 

Of our Knmvledge. 295 

benevolence of the gospel to the utmost splendor of 
intellectual talents. Though I speak with the tongues 
of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am he- 
come as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And 
though 1 have the gifts of prophecy, and understand all 
mysteries, and allknowledge, and though 1 have all faith, 
so that 1 could remove mountains and have not charity, 
I am nothing. Charity never faileth: but whether there 
be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, 
they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall 
vanish away. Knowledge and gifts, the grace of faith, 
and the powers of miracles themselves, are only means 
to create or to nourish in our hearts, the love of God, 
and the love of man; in a word, that charity, meekness, 
and benevolence, which is the perfection of our moral 
nature, and the consummation of the moral law. All 
that we call wisdom here, which is little more than 
specious error, shall vanish away. Of no attainments, 
however, are men more apt to be vain than of the little 
distinctions of genius, and knowledge, which, along 
with power and wealth, possess almost the exclusive 
admiration of mankind. But, in the esteem of God, 
the wit of the most ingenious, the wisdom of the most 
sage of the human race, are nothing more than infan- 
tine ignorance, and, with so many other objects which 
dazzle and delude the world with their false splendors, 
are hasting to perish forever. Of all the gifts and gra- 
ces cultivated, if I may speak so, in the garden of God 
upon earth, none shall be transplanted into the para- 
dise above but charity; but that divine love which 
unites us with God, and with all being. 

296 Imperfection 

Finally, if on earth, it is a certain and necessary law 
of our nature that we know only in part, and must con- 
tinue ever to contend with ignorance and error, the 
gospel affords to a sincere believer an unspeakable con- 
solation, in carrying his view forward to the future 
state of his being, and the perfection of his nature in 
heaven, where shall be opened to him according to the 
promise of his Saviour, the clear and eternal fountains 
of truth. For, ivhen that ivhich is perfect is come, then 
that li'hich is in part shall be done away. And we shall 
know even as also ive are known. The desire of know- 
ledge is one of the strongest propensities of our nature; 
and, among the chief felicities of heaven may justly be 
reckoned the complete gratification of this principle. 
There, we have reason to believe, the works of nature 
will be laid open to the curious and admiring view of 
all those who have been redeemed from the earth by the 
blood of the Lamb, and the study of them facilitated by 
the assistance of superior spirits. There those divine 
truths, and those celestial objects, which here are co- 
vered with the veil of sense, or faintly disclosed by the 
glimmering lights of faith, shall be beheld in all their 
glory. What now are seen through a glass darkly, shall 
then be contemplated /ace to face. Escaped from this 
world of shadows, christians! the w^orld of realities 
shall open on your views, and the feeble dawnings of 
faith be converted into the meridian splendors of the 
Sun of Righteousness. Oh! how desirable the moment 
when you shall emerge from this region of clouds, to 
the serene skies of the heavenly Canaan? With many 
painful efforts have you sought to know your Creator, 

Of our Knowledge. 297 

and to comprehend that infinite perfection, which 
seemed to you, as to the Sicihan philosopher,* only 
the more to elude your grasp as you thought you were 
just seizing the subhme conception, and left you more 
profoundly lost in its unfathomable abyss. Often and 
fruitlessly have you not studied to understand how evil 
could exist in the works of God, infinitely wise and 
good; to comprehend the union of Deity with the im- 
perfect nature of man for the expiation of human guilt; 
and how often, to raise your ideas to some faint con- 
ception of the future glories and felicities of the saints 
in heaven; but ah! you could only complain of the im- 
becility of your minds, the narrowness of your con- 
ceptions? Yet with this precious hope be consoled, 
that, when that which is perfect is come, then that which 
is in part shall be done away; and the mysteries of the 
divine existence, the mysteries of divine providence, 
the njysteries of redemption, the mysteries of the cross, 
the mysteries of the resurrection, the mysteries of eter-^ 
nity, shall stand all revealed, and shine in their full 
glory on the view of the believer redeemed from the 
corruptions of the grave, and the imperfections of this 
mortal nature. 

Is it not with reason, then, that we often hear the 
dying christian, as these scenes begin to open on his 
soul, exclaim. Oh! when shall these remaining shadows 
flee away, when shall these tears be forever dried from 
my eyes! When shall I walk no more by faith, but 
by sight! When shall all that is in part be done away.-^ 
Ah! when shall I see my blessed Saviour face to face, 

* Simooides. 

298 Imperfection, &c. 

who will penetrate all my being with his love! When 
shall I behold God who will deign to unite himself to 
me, and dissolve my soul with the joys of his presence! 
Ah! when shall faith and hope be converted into vision 
and fruition! When shall I ascend to the mansions of 
perfect knowledge, and perfect love! Lord Jesus! 
Come quickly. Amen. 


And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three 
score and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters, &c. 
Ex. 15. 27. 

In the sandy and arid deserts of Arabia, the greatest 
evil with which travellers have to contend, is the defect 
of water; and the caravans which, for the purposes ei- 
ther of commerce or devotion, pass through that coun- 
try, are obliged to carry with them on the backs of 
camels, this necessary of life, rendered there still more 
necessary by the nature of the region. The calamity 
of extreme thirst soon began to be experienced by the 
people of Israel after they entered the desert. Ever 
ready, at the appearance of each new difficulty, to 
murmur and rebel against the illustrious leader who 
was conducting them in the name of God, they showed 
their discontent on this subject in loud complaints, first 
at the waters of Marah, and afterwards, in the country 
of Rephidim, at the foot of the mountain of Horeb. In 
both places, their necessities were supphed by a mira- 
cle. In the former, the waters, which were rendered 
bitter and nauseous, by tlie nitre with which that re- 
gion is impregnated, were sweetened by casting in- 
to them the branch of a pecuhar tree, directed by 
God. In the latter, Moses, by divine command, brought 
a stream from the heart of a flinty rock, which accor- 
ding to the suggestion of the apostle seems to have fol- 

300 History of Moses. 

lowed them through all their migrations in the desert. 
Travellers of the best credit have related that the waters 
of Marah have returned to their original bitterness, but 
that the channels in the rock of Horeb which the streams 
that then issued from it, had worn to themselves in a 
course of forty years, are still plainly discernible. As 
miracles w^ere never operated by God, except in cases 
in which the necessity was apparent and strong; where- 
ever natural fountains could be discovered in the de- 
sert, there the hosts of Israel made temporary encamp- 
ments. It was with this view that, parting from Ma- 
rah, they encamped at Elim where were twelve wells 
of water, and three score and ten palm trees. The 
original is ambiguous, and may well signify a grove or 
forest of palms, in the shade of which the people might 
repose and refresh themselves in that sultry climate. 
This meaning of the terms is the more probable, as it 
corresponds with a passage in the historian Strabo, who 
says that " at five days journey* from Jericho is a 
forest of palm trees, which is held in high veneration 
in all that country on account of the rich fountains of 
w^ater which are found there .'^ Tacitus and Plutarch 
have manifest reference to this part of the Mosaic his- 
tory, when they say that "" the Jewish nation, ready to 
perish with thirst (in the deserts of Jlrabia) were pre- 
served by discovering a living fountain of water." (Ta- 
cit, hist. lib. 5 — Plutarch Symposiac. Tom 2. lib. 4.) 
Decamping from Elim they came into the desert of 
Lin, a name derived from its proximity to the mountain 

* Probably on one of the smftest of their animals used for tavelling-. 

History of Moses. 30 1 

of Sinai, (and which is carefully to be distinguished 
from that of Zin, another part of the desert which lies 
between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and ex- 
tends towards the North East, to the borders of the 
Dead Sea.) Here this people, always distrustful through 
ignorance, of that merciful providence which conduc- 
ted and preserved them; and, through the debasement 
of their servitude in Egypt, always devoted to their ap- 
petite, raised a new clamour;, and almost excited an in- 
surrection against their illustrious prophet and prince, 
for want of the leeks, the onions, and the flesh-pots of 
Egypt, beside which, when they were exhausted with 
labour, they had glutted their hunger. Moses had de- 
livered them from bondage, he had divided before them 
the Red Sea, he was conducting them in full march 
towards the land promised to their fathers; but at the 
first inconvenience which they suffer, all these services 
are forgotten; and they are ready for rebellion. What 
a picture of human nature! The greatest benefits are 
obliterated by the slightest contradiction to our incli- 
nations, our humours, our imaginary interests. Though 
a man has served his country with fidelity, with in- 
tegrity, with the most splendid reputation, with the 
highest success; though his fellow citizens should 
have confessed that they owe every thing to his wis- 
dom, his priidence, or his courage; yet, in the inso- 
lence of their prosperity, let him once thwart their 
will, and all his merits are in an instant covered with 
ingratitude. Clamour, sedition, faction, inflaming a 
giddy and unthinking multitude, w-ho delight in change, 
aud who hate the superiority even of their benefactors, 

VOL. II. Q q 

30^ History of Moses. 

will treat hiru with indignity and count him for an ene- 
my. Such is ever the humour of a populace; at one 
moment they will deify their favourite, at another de- 
stroy him: make Christ a king, or cry out, away with 
him! crucify him! 

The people of Israel now complained for want of 
the provisions to which they had heen accustomed in 
Egypt. And probably they had become apprehensive 
also of famine, as the magazines which they had 
brought up with them from Goshen were nearly ex- 
pended. Their discontents, it is said,* where inflamed 
by that mixed multitude which followed them, compo- 
sed partly of Egyptians, and partly of a mixed race 
between the I&raelites and the Egyptians, who had 
lived more in the habits of Egypt, and who were less 
concerned for the interests of Israel, than for their own 
appetites. The people wept, complained, reproached, 
threatened. Moses, in all his distresses, and his exigen- 
cies, had ever his recourse to God. And God, on this 
occasion condescended to promise them meat and 
bread even to satiety. The meat was only a tempora- 
ry provision, but the bread was to be continued daily 
through the whole course of their peregrinations in the 
desert. And indeed, without such miraculous aid, how 
could a nation, in their circumstances, consisting of 
more than two millions of men, without husbandry, 
without commerce, without revenues, have been sub- 
sisted in that parched and unfruitful wilderness. For 
bread, a small, white granulated substance, of the size 

"•Num. !i, 4, wiiicli scorns tnbe a narration of the same, or a simiiaj 

History of Moses. 30 j 

of coriander seed, was concocted in the atmosphere^ 
and fell with the dew in great abundance, about the 
encampments of the Israelites. This they called Man- 
na, from its resemblance probably to that natural gum 
which bears the same name * When the sun was risen 
upon it with a fervent heat, it soon melted; and was 
resolved again into air. But i^hen preserved in the 
shade it contracted a hardness which rendered it fit to 
be ground in mills, or bruised in mortars, into a species 
of meal, which when baked, had the taste of cakes 
kneaded with honey, or with fresh oil. But, in order 
to make them feel their dependence more absolutely on 
that particular providence which supplied their wants, 
they were obliged to collect each morning the food of 
the following day. It' they attempted to preserve it lon- 
ger, it became putrid and unfit for use. Two remar- 
kable exceptions from this general fact, however, ren= 
der the miracle more conspicuous, and clearly discri- 
' minate it from the operation of every natural cause. 
The first is that on the sixth day of the week, they al- 
ways gathered a double portion of Manna, that they might 
have no worldly occupation on the Sabbath, but might 
devote that day exclusively to the duties of devotion 
and benevolence. The second is that Moses was com- 
manded to fill a vessel with this miraculous grain, which 
should be laid up in the side of the Ark of the Cove- 
nant, and preserved in the most Holy place in the 
Tabernacle, to be a memorial to future generations, of 
that heavenly bread on which their fathers were nour- 
ished in the desert. Both the one and the other, was 

* Critics are very much divided about the derivation of this term. 

304 History of Moses. 

preserved from the ordinary law of corruption tt« 
which this food was subjected. Thus was God, in the 
continual displays of his mighty power, and his paternal 
care over that people, forever present to their view. 
They were hitherto, a refractory and murmuring nation: 
but he intended by a painful discipline in the wilder- 
ness, by alternate chastisements and blessings to render 
them, at length, a people worthy to be the depositary of 
his laws, and the seed of that spiritual kingdom which 
is, eventually, to be extended over all the world. Being 
thus supplied with bread, their provision of meat, con- 
sisted of an immense flight of quails,* which, accor- 
ding to the narration in the eleventh chapter of the 
book of Numbers, continued during the full term of a 
month. And it is not improbable that this repast was 
often furnished to them at the same season of the year^, 
while they remained in the wilderness, though spoken 
of only twice;! as the water of the rock of Horeb, 
though mentioned only once in the history, is said by 
the apostle, to have followed them in their various en- 
campments. This event so extraordinary to us is, per- 
haps, to be ascribed partly to natural causes, and partly 
to divine and supernatural direction. It is thus de- 
scribed. There went forth a wind from the Lord, and 

* The original term is arabiguous, or not perfectly understood. Bochart, 
whose opinion is of the greatest weight on every subject relating to an- 
cient oriental literature, maintains by many arguments almost irrefraga^ 
ble, that it signifies quails, agreeably to our translation. 

f Exod. 16th. and Num. 11th. If, indeed, these be not relations of the 
same event. 

History of Moses. 305 

brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the 
camp, as it wre a day's journey on this side, and a 
day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, 
and, as it were, two cubits high upon the face of the earth* 
And the people stood up, ^c. and gathered the quails. 

The quail, in these regions, is a bird of passage. It 
is produced in incredible numbers on the southern 
coasts of the Mediterranean, and in the countries bor- 
dering on the Red Sea. In the beginning of the 
spring, according to the testimony of many respectable 
writers, they pour themselves in clouds on the shores of 
Greece and Italy, and migrate in this manner about 
one month. Pliny, the natural historian, relates that, 
fatigued with their flight across the sea, they often fall 
in great numbers on board of vessels, and clinging to 
the sails, render them unmanageable. Gesner the 
naturalist informs us that, in the South of Italy, you 
may frequently take an hundred thousand, at this sea- 
son in the compass of five thousand paces. But Jose- 
phus assures us that the Arabian Gulf is that part of 
the world where these birds abound in the greatest 
numbers, whence they spread themselves, in immense 
flocks, over the deserts of Arabia. Miracles, I have 
said, are never employed where they are not necessary. 
And the miracle, in this instance, seems not to consist 
in the sudden multiplication of this species of birds 
beyond what was natural, but in the direction of the 
winds which assembled them, at that moment, in such 
numbers round the camp of Israel. Fatigued with 
their flight during the day, they had sunk, in the even- 

3Utj Histwy of Moses. 

ing, to within two cubits from the surface of the earth, 
so that they were easily taken. In this manner they 
were extended to the distance of several leagues about 
the encampment. But while God gives them meat, 
displeased with their murmurs, he punishes them in 
the very gift which he bestows. And, while the flesh 
was between their teeth, the Lord smote them ivith a great 
plague: and in Kibroth — Hataavah they buried the peo- 
ple who lusted, that is, whose appetites had overborne 
their sense of duty. Perhaps, that very appetite was 
made the instrument of their punishment, and they per- 
ished by the effects of their own gluttony.* 

Israel had now but one short march to make before 
they arrived at the base of that sacred mount from the 
summit of which Jehovah promulged his law in thun- 
der. But it would be imposing too much on your at- 
tention in the present duty to enter, at this time, on a 
scene so awful and important. I reserve it, therefore, 
for a future occasion; and conclude this discourse with 
a few spiritual and practical reflections on those par- 
ticulars of the Mosaic history which have been just re- 

And, in the first place, that heavenly bread on which 
the Israehtes were sustained in the desert, is an image 
of the bread of life by which the church, which is now 
in the wilderness, is nourished, during her earthly pil- 
grimage. Those wonderous streams which followed 
and refreshed them in their parched journey, are lively 

* I consider the recital in the 1 1th of Num. as a repetition of that in 
the 16th ofExod. with the addition of some circumstances omitted iu 

Histcyry oj Moses. 307 

emblems of the grace and consolations of the gospel. 
/ would not have you ignorant, saith the apostle, that 
our fathers did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did 
all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of 
that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock 
was Christ. Jesus saith .^ I am the bread of life; he that 
Cometh to me shall never hunger, and lie thcd believeth 
on me shall never thirst. Your fathers did eat Manna 
in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which 
Cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat iliereof 
and not die. Jlnd the bread ivhich I will give is my 
flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. What 
can be more just and expressive than these images? 
The world is not our resting place; we are looking 
beyond it to aland of promise in the heavenly Canaan. 
The world, by the sin of man, has been rendered only 
a vast desert, in which there is no durable habitation, 
no solid provision, no complete happiness for an im- 
mortal soul. It is to us, however, as the desert was to 
Israel, a state of discipline for a better country, in 
which we must hve in the constant exercise of faith 
in God, and in which we must derive all our spiritual 
supplies immediately from him. And does he not fol- 
low us continually with the refreshing streams of his 
grace, the merciful influences of his Holy Spirit, and 
the ordinances of his church, which, like the waters of 
the rock of Horeb, sustain our spirits, and comfort our 
hearts in this weary pilgrimage.'^ And art not thou, 
blessed Saviour! who hast given thyself for us, the life 
of our souls, the precious Manna, the bread of life 
which came down from Heaven! Daily we should 

308 History of Moses. 

nourish our souls with this spiritual food, and refresh 
them with this spiritual drink, that we may grow up, 
in spiritual health and vigor, to everlasting life. 

In the next place, we have in the conduct of Moses 
in the communication of this bounty of Heaven to Is- 
rael, a lamentable example of human frailty, and of the 
righteous severity of God mingled with his mercy. 
No human character is, in all points, perfect. Moses, 
notwithstanding the intimacy of his communion with 
Him in whom all glory and perfection dwells, and con- 
trary to the natural meekness of his own temper, and 
the habitual government which he had acquired over 
his passions, was surprized into a paroxysm of anger. 
Who is secure from error, when that sublime prophet, 
that holy man chosen to lead the armies, and the 
church of Israel, was tempted to speak unadvisedly 
with his lips? God, compassionating the distress of 
this great people, now ready with their numerous flocks 
and herds to perish with thirst, resolved once more to 
demonstrate the particular care of his providence over 
them, and to display the glory of that merciful power 
which he had so often exerted for their salvation. For 
this purpose he commanded Moses to speak to the 
rock of Horeb in his name and it should pour forth a 
copious supply of water.* This great and good man, 
deeply offended at their unreasonable complaints, their 
mutinous spirit, and their impious distrust of that 

* Perhaps it was by assembling together all the subterraneous streams 
within the mountain of Horeb, which had been accustomed to seek differ- 
ent passaj^es to the sea, and.bringinf them out by one channel at this fa- 
mous rock. 

History of Moses. 309 

providence which had so often appeared in their be- 
half, forgot for a moment, in his displeasure against 
them, the holy veneration and awe due to the eternal 
and self-existent Jehovah. Hear now ye rebels, saith 
he, must we fetch you water out of this rock? And 
Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote 
the rock twice. In this action, and in these words, you 
perceive the unhallowed passions of the Legislator 
prevaihng over those sentiments of patience, of humili- 
ty and of piety, which alone should have filled his breast, 
and which, ordinarily, did eminently distinguish his 
character. But mark and tremble at the severe but 
righteous decree of God both against him, and against 
Aaron, for this ebullition of petulant and unguarded 
temper. They were doomed to die in the wilderness, 
and though they conducted Israel, were condemned 
themselves never to enter into the promised land. Be- 
cause ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of 
the children of Israel, therefore, ye shall not bnng this 
congregation into the land which I have given them. That 
is, because your faith in my glory and my presence has 
not been sufficient to quell all your passions, and to 
honor me by a profound reverence and humility in the 
eyes of the nation of Israel,* therefore, shall you fall 
in the wilderness with this whole generation which is 
unworthy to inherit the land of promise. They fall by 
their crimes; but in you, on account of the intimacy of 

* All the commentators most improbably interpret this passage as if Mo- 
ses and Aaron doubted the accomplishment of this miracle, although God 
commanded them to bring water out of the rock. The reproach rests on 
this ground, that their faith in the majesty and presence of God did not 
overcome the irritation of their minds against Israel. 

VOL. ir. R r 

310 History of Moses. 

your communications with Heaven, even foibles are 
crimes. You shall exhibit a great example of my jus- 
tice, that others may fear, and learn from your fate the 
veneration due to my holy name. 

Besides other instructions conveyed in this narration, 
my brethren, do we not discern in it the fidelity and 
impartidHty of the sacred writers.^ They present to 
us, without concealment or palliation, their own errors 
and vices, and the punishments inflicted on them by 
God. In this conduct do we see any thing like the 
vanity and affectation of imposture? Do we not see in it 
the simplicity and fairness of truth .'^ God makes use 
of men as the medium for conveying his holy revela- 
tions to the world; but still they are men; still those 
frailties and imperfections adhere to them which neces- 
sarily belong to human nature in its present state. But 
do I say this to extenuate the sense of our errors, or 
our crimes, because some of them may be common to 
us with the best of men? No, but only to present to 
you a humiliating view of our nature; that, while we 
penitently confess before God our personal sins, we 
may also humbly deplore the universal depravity of 
that great family to which we belong. It aggravates, 
in some measure, the sense of our own corruptions, 
to remember, at the same time, before the throne of 
divine mercy, the corruption of our whole degenerate 

Observe, finally, and observe with awe and self ap- 
plication, the judgments of Heaven inflicted on those 
murmuring and rebellious Israelites in the very enjoy- 
ment of the mercies which they abused. The whole 

History of Moses. 311 

congregation were not equally culpable. But that part 
of them who, for the sake of a gross and sensual appe- 
tite, began and fomented the discontents, and carried 
the sedition to the greatest height, were smitten with 
death while greedily devouring the delicacies which 
they had demanded. While the flesh ivas between their 
teeth, tJie anger oftlw Lord was kindled against thenij 
and they perished. Ah! how often is intemperance 
made its own punishment by undermining the consti- 
tution, by destroying the health, by depraving the heart, 
by sinking men into insignificance and disgrace, by 
cutting short their days, and by opening to them, in a 
premature death, only a gulf of everlasting despair! 
Alas! how often, like these sensual Israelites, we know 
not the consequences of our own wishes, we solicitous- 
ly pursue our own ruin, we pray for blessings, which, 
by our use of them will prove our greatest curse! Are 
you anxious to be connected with a person whom you 
love? How often does that connexion prove the bane 
of all your future happiness!- Do you pine for children.'^ 
How often may their misconduct pierce your heart 
through with many sorrows! Or, if virtuous, how often 
may the misfortunes and miseries of the world falling 
upon them be more bitter than death to yourselves! 
Do you eagerly thirst after riches, and hasten to ac- 
cumulate a fortune.'* Ah! how often is it only to fall 
from the height of prosperity with greater misery! 
How often has wealth corrupted the heart, put a stop 
to every mental improvement, embitter death, and rob- 
bed the soul, at length, of its eternal inheritance! If 
Israel had waited upon God, all their w ants in his 

312 History of Moses. 

good time would have been supplied: but they were 
impatient, they never distrusted their own goodness, 
or the wisdom of their own request, they followed the 
impulse of their appetites, and were ruined. My breth- 
ren, let us resign ourselves to God. Confiding in his 
providence, contented with his will, we shall always be 
happy, if our desires are bounded by our duty. God*! 
teach us that true wisdom which cometh from above! 



The fear of mancauseth asnare. Prov. xxix, 35. 

Respect to public opinion is an indication of a 
modest and ingenuous mind. It is, to a certain degree^ 
favourable to virtue. Men seldom approve of the sin- 
ful passions of others unless they contribute, at the 
same time, to promote or encourage the indulgence of 
their own. In all other cases, the vices of individuals, 
being contrary to the good order and interests of socie- 
ty, are the objects of reproach and condemnation. And 
sinners are often restrained from open and gross vice, 
through fear of public opinion, when reason and reli- 
gion would both be ineffectual. But there is a sinful 
fear of man against which the maxim in the text is 
aimed, which has a pernicious influence upon all, but 
especially on the younger part of society, in destroying, 
or making them disguise their respect for religion; and 
withholding them from repentance, and a real change 
ofhfe. Society is subdivided into innumerable small 
circles in which men are thrown together as inclination, 
or accident, has happened to connect them. These 
circles frame to themselves ideas of religion, that is, of 
virtue and vice, of innocent and of unlawful pleasure 
according to the manners and characters of the per- 
sons who compose them. All viriue and all professions 
and appearances of piety which go above their standard 
are the subjects of suspicion, of ridicule, of misrepre- 

314 On the fear of Man. 

sentation and censure. In associations of youth, espe- 
cially, where warm passions concur with inexperience 
to mislead them, mutual opinion, and the mutual fear 
of ridicule and scorn push them on to excesses of 
Avhich, in private, or if left to themselves they would 
not have been guilty. 

Easiness of temper frequently subjects persons of 
feeble minds to a dangerous influence from sinners 
more practised and more hardy than themselves; and 
frequently a cringing deference to wealth and power 
leads men, against their own convictions of justice, of 
humanity, of duty, to imitate their crimes with their 
manners. A disposition to court power and distinction, 
whether it is derived from prince or from people, is 
exposed to great temptations, and too often tends to 
corrupt the mind, by hypocrisy, by falsehood, by dis- 
ingenuous arts, by a vile subserviency to their passions. 

There is a deference to the opinions of the world 
which is just and prudent, there is a respect to its man- 
ners and customs which a benevolent and pious man 
ought to pay, from a principle of humility, and from 
a desire of doing good. But that fear of the world 
which leads us to accommodate our religion to its man- 
ners, to profess a religion which we esteem false, or to 
disguise our veneration for that which is true; which 
tempts us to decline from the service of God; which 
shows that we are governed by a supreme regard to 
the world; which affects to think, to speak, to act in all 
points like the world, is that sinful fear which causeth 
a snare. It is attended with a twofold danger — it with- 
holds men from duty; it tempts them to sin. 

On the fear of Man. 315 

I. It withholds men from duty. What is necessary 
to the faithful discharge of our duty? Does it not re- 
quire a profound and habitual impression on the heart 
of the existence and perfection of God; of our depen- 
dence on him as our Creator; of our obligations to him 
as our Saviour; of his holy and continual inspection of 
all our thoughts and actions, as our Judge? Does it 
not require, in order to overcome the temptations and 
oppositions of sin, a heart inflamed with the love of 
God; a pious taste and habit of the soul which sets the 
Lord always before us and gives to his law, and his 
glory an ascendency above all the objects of love or of 
fear in the universe? But if, because God is invisible, 
he is therefore out of mind; if a criminal regard to the 
sentiments and manners of men bears sway in the 
heart over the principles of piety, have you in that case, 
sufficient courage always to obey your own convictions 
of duty ? — Although open and flagrant vice is generally 
condemned in the world, yet the world does not per- 
mit you to rise above the standard of its own virtue. 
Therefore, vital piety, strict hoHness of hfe they do not 
easily endure. Because it condemns themselves, they 
speak of it with reproach, they load it with contempt, 
they impute to it secret and dishonourable motives. If, 
then, convinced by the reflections of reason, if, impres- 
sed by some affecting dispensation of providence, if 
touched by some tender and interesting exposition of 
divine truth in the w'ord of God, you have been pene- 
trated with a conviction of your dangerous state, you 
have begun to enter into yourselves, and to perceive 
the vanity of all things out of God, if you are persuaded 

316 On the fear of Man. 

that a reasonable soul was made only for him, that he 
is the true center of its felicity, and you have almost 
formed the pious resolution to devote yourself to him, 
to break your idle and criminal connexions and to 
change entirely your manners, Ah! are not all these 
wise reflections extinguished, these good purposes bro- 
ken in the beginning, by the fear of man '^ You dread 
the observation, the remarks of your campanions, their 
conjectures concerning your motives, the sneers by 
which they will revenge themselves for your having 
forsaken their party. Thus your convictions of duty, 
and your purposes of amendment are quenched time 
after time, and you sacrifice your soul to a word, to a 
look, to a sentiment of your fellow sinners; perhaps 
even to your own unfounded fancies of what they will 
think or say. For, not unfrequently it happens that 
young persons, all of whom are partially persuaded of 
their duty, but, mutually afraid of each others senti- 
ments, become advocates and examples of vice, by this 
common mistake, against the better principles and 
wishes of their own hearts. 

Do we not daily see many other pernicious effects 
result from this principle.^ Is a man fallen into a train 
of expense which is injurious to his affairs.'^ Though 
he feels his embarrassments; though, perhaps, he sees 
his ruin before him, why cannot he retrench his luxu- 
ries, and descend to that honourable frugality which is 
now his first duty.'^ He fears what those who have 
moved in the same circle will think and say: — he 
dreads the loss of a certain respect which they attach 
only to ideas of fortune! Is a woman involved in a 

OntJiefearofMan. 317 

circle of dissipation, of amusement, of idle visits? Is 
her family neglected? is her duty forgotten? Does 
she feel the painful void v^^hich is created in the heart 
from running perpetually round the same insipid frivo- 
hties? Does she ardently wish to return to herself, 
and to such rational and useful engagements as will 
satisfy the heart, while they acquit her duty ? But what 
keeps her still a slave to vanity? The reverence which 
she pays to fashion;— the apprehension of what will be 
said of her in society. And to these vain ideas she 
sacrifices her ease and peace of mind, the sense of her 
own true dignity and honor, the education, and the or- 
der of her household. 

What is that frenzied honor which commits so ma- 
ny murders, or exposes itself in so many ridiculous or 
cruel encounters, but the fear of an absurd opinion? 

Has not the fear of man sometimes corrupted the 
tribunals of justice? In seasons of pubhc faction and 
violence how frequently and how lamentably do we see 
them tainted by the spirit of party? And alas, does it 
not often mount into this sacred place, and, in the name 
of God, speak only the language of men? Respecting 
the false delicacy of a carnal taste, does it not often 
substitute the vain decorations of human eloquence for 
the simplicity of the gospel? Does it not too often 
withhold, or soften the truth to the ears of those whom 
it is solicitous to please, rather than to profit, in the 
sacred offices of religion? Oh enormity! Oh horrible 
perversion of duty! before the throne of the Supreme 
Judge, in the presence of him who searcheth the heart, 
we consult the interests of our own vanity, instead of 


318 On the fear of Man. 

opening our hearts only to the impressions of divine 
truth, and consecrating all our powers to the glory of 
his holy name! 

If the fear of man often corrupts the principles of 
duty, and withholds us from the faithful discharge of it, 
it is not less frequently, perhaps, 

11. A temptation to open and actual sin. What is 
the character of the world .^ What are its opinion and 
its fashions? Do we see reigning in it the spirit of 
piety, the law of hohness.-" Although vices of a cer- 
tain kind are proscribed there: yet is not virtue, be- 
yond a certain degree, equally proscribed? Is not every 
sin which is consistent with that degree, both practiced 
and approved? — If then you court their sentiments, and 
are soHcitous to stand well in their good opinion, will 
you not be afraid of the appearances, will you not be 
ready to smother the principles of a fervent and genu- 
ine piety .-^ — Are there not circles in which vice is a 
recommendation? Profane wit, levities on the subject 
of religion, intemperance, debauch, meet with applause, 
and elevate a man, who is called a good companion, to 
distinction. — If you are once embarked in such asso- 
ciations, does not sympathy draw you on? Will not 
mutual instigation stimulate you to many excesses? 
Have you resolution to oppose their manners? Will 
you dare to listen to the better sentiments of your own 
hearts, or to attend to the voice of truth, though it speaks 
ever so loudly to you in the name of God? Would you 
not be ashamed before them to be seen iu a serious office 
of devotion, as if you had been detected in a disgrace- 
ful act? Yes, my brethren, unhappily the multitude of 

Oil the fear of Man. 3 1 9 

sinners takes away the shaniefulness of sin, and casts 
the shame upon piet}'. All, delighted to find in the ex- 
ample of others, an excuse or justification of their own 
sins, encourage their crimes, by smiles, and marks of 
open approbation, which their hearts in secret do not 
avow. But, the mutual fear of each other's sentiments, 
or at least, the mutual desire of each other's favour and 
applause, urge on all in the career of sin. 

Besides the slavery, especially of the young, to opini- 
on, to fashion, to the universal sympathy with vice, do 
we not see men frequently led into sin by a certain 
weakness or basene&s of mind which cannot rely upon 
itself, and the consciousness of its own rectitude, but 
stoops to unworthy compliances in order to court the 
favour of power and station ? Nor less base and crimin- 
al, generally, are the hunters of popularity. Hypocri- 
sy, falsehood, violence, are the usual arts by which the 
ignorant are deceived and inflamed. And the man who 
will first stoop to be their slave, that he may afterwards 
become their master; — who will descend to all the 
cunning, or assume all the turbulence, necessary to 
, become a favourite, can rarely possess that high integ- 
rity of mind which is united with the independence, 
and the self-respect of virtue. They are crimes of a 
different nature, but they are equally crimes, which 
flow from an unworthy complaisance to rank and pow- 
er, and from a base subserviency to popular clamour. 
Ambition to gain the smiles, and dread of the power, 
of the one, and of the other, are equally enemies to in- 
tegrity, and often to humanity. Was it not the fear of 
man which betrayed Jeremiah to the clamours ol'the 

620 On the fear of Man. 

Jewish nation? Was it not the same motive which 
impelled Herod to sacrifice John the baptist whom he, 
at the same time, venerated and esteemed? Was it 
not this which tempted Peter to deny the Lord of Hfe, 
and Pilate to crucify him, after he had again and again 
pronounced him innocent? Then Sanctify the Lord 
in your hearts; let him be your fear, and let him alone 
be your dread. Fear God, and have no other fear; 
then will you be preserved from the degrading and cor- 
rupting influence of the fear of man. A decent rever- 
ence I have said is to be shown to the opinion of the 
world; a decent respect, and even accommodation to 
its manners: but this, in order to render it either just 
or safe, should always be regulated by a supreme re- 
gard to him who is infinite in power and wisdom, and 
is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. 

In whatever way, then, the fear of man may mani- 
fest itself, whether it be in such a conformity to the 
sentiments, the manners, and fashions of the world as 
will lead you to cover, and study to extinguish your 
respect for religion; — in such apprehensions of the 
power and displeasure of men as will tempt you to de- 
cline from your duty; — in such associations with sin- 
ners as will bear you .along with the stream of their 
manners, and take from you the courage and the incli- 
nation to resist them, let us contemplate, a moment 
its guilt, its weakness and its folly. 

What! will you make worms of the dust, whose 
breath is in their nostrils, who are perishing from the 
first moment in which they begin to exist, the arbiters 
of your duty to God? And wherefcre? Do you dread 

On the fear of Man, 321 

their power; but, cannot the omnipotence of God crush 
you in an instant? Are you intimidated from obeying 
your conscience by the shame of their sneers or their 
disdain? but, is not the most terrible destiny of sinners 
that of them the Son of man shall be ashamed? Is it 
not to awake to shame and everlasting contempt from 
God? Is it their presence which gives their sentiments 
such a powerful influence over your hearts? but, is not 
God, your witness and your judge, every where pre- 
sent? Does he not penetrate your bosom, and surround 
your path? Can you flee from his Spirit, or escape 
his observation? Will you plead, in extenuation of 
your guilt, the force of temptation? What! are you 
menaced with chains, imprisonments, flames, which 
could not shake the constancy of the first christians? 
NO) a smile, an air of ridicule, a sarcastic xpression> 
a word, a look, subdues your soul, overcomes the force 
of your better principles, aind sets at nought your Crea- 
tor and Redeemer. Is not this crime aggravated by 
ingratitude? What have you that you have not re- 
ceived from him whose commandments you dare to 
despise, for the breath of miserable mortals? Is not 
his the earth, and all that it contains; — your soul, and 
all your powers, and sources of enjoyments? And is 
your benefactor forgotten in the midst of sinners whose 
friendship lasts no longer than you are necessary to 
their pleasures, or their interests? Do you set the 
blessed Saviour, his condescensions, his love, his inesti- 
mable grace, below a vain sentiment, a breath of sin- 
ners who trample on his precious blood? Should not a 
sense of the infinite majesty of God, his goodness and 

322 On the fear of Man. 

mercy, continually absorb our minds, and annihilate 
that ^m\ty influence which would make us ashamed of 
our duty, or weaken its principles in our hearts? — 
Great God! what are sinners! what are worms of the 
dust, that before them we should be ashamed of thee! 
Is it not a proof of disgraceful weakness and imbe- 
cility of mind thus to submit our duty, our honor, our 
highest interests, to the sentiment and opinion of others? 
It is noble to be able to rest upon ourselves, and the ap- 
probation of our own conscience, in the discharge of 
our duty; but we are degraded in feeling the ascendant 
of another, especially, when it is only the ascendant of 
vice. Are you governed by a veneration for fortune 
or for station? Do you assume a vanity from being 
noticed by persons who enjoy these advantages, from 
being admitted in some iiieasure to their circle, from 
adopting their fashions, from imitating their manners? 
Nay, do you affect a levity and superiority to the pre- 
judices of religion, which goes even beyond them, in 
order more effectually to recommend yourselves? Does 
not this sacrifice of your convictions, of your indepen- 
dence, sink you in your own esteem? And, however, 
willing they may be to be flattered, it will sink you 
even in the esteem of those whom you court. — The 
father of the great Constantine, though a pagan, has 
given us an instructive lesson upon this subject. He 
had in his army many christian officers. On a certain 
occasion he called them together and demanded of 
them an avowal of their religion. All supposed it was 
to purge his army of christians, and to leave none be- 
hind but such as adored his own Gods. Those whose 

On the fear of Man . 323 

minds, as well as whose principles, were weak, thought 
to flatter the emperor, and to recommend themselves 
to his regard by disguising, or denying their rehgion: 
those who preferred the integrity of their conscience 
even to imperial favour, openly confessed the name of 
their Saviour. Contrary to universal expectation, that 
wise emperor dismissed from his service all that weak 
and degenerate crowd who had been willing to sacrifice 
their conscience through flattery, or through fear of 
him; and retained near him, and even advanced to hon- 
or^ those only who had ventured to incur the risk of his 
displeasure; with this just remark, so full of wisdom. 
If men are not faithful to their God, how can I count 
upon their fidelity to me? Might such dereliction of 
duty and conscience always meet with its merited re- 
ward! But whether or not, those who hope to gain 
the good opinion of others by flattering them with the 
sacrifice of their religion, or their virtue, more frequent- 
ly meet with their secret contempt. And such weak- 
ness well deserves it. Wealthy vice indeed, too often 
has its dependents, its expectants, its parasites, who 
are ambitious to sacrifice to it their religious duties. 
Fashion acquires its pernicious influence, by this as- 
cendency which a few obtain over the minds of many; 
and then which the many obtain over one another. 
How hard is it, against the stream of fashion, or of 
general example, to fulfil our duty and to manifest our 
love and reverence for religion! How much harder 
to break from the manners of the world and to dare to 
be singular for a good conscience! But from no cause 
are young persons more in danger; from none do they 

S2 4 On the fear of Man, 

meet with more obstacles in entering on a religious 
life than from companions and associates in iniquity. 
Not only do they give boldness and confidence to one 
another in a sinful course; not only do they instigate 
one another by continually new projects; but when any 
among them are beginning to return to better senti' 
ments, a thousand difficulties are opposed to their re' 
formation. I speak not merely of the force of habit, 
of the temptations, of the solicitations which they must 
encounter, but of that unholy influence which all have 
obtained over the mind of each by the force of opinion. 
Do you not dread the ridicule, do you not dread the 
scoffs of your companions.'^ Are you not afraid of 
their hints, their looks, their cold and distant contempt.^ 
Do you not apprehend their obloquy, and that, going 
back into your life, they will recall all your former er- 
rors, foibles, and vices, only to compare them with your 
present religious profession, and to charge you with 
hypocrisy? — Alas! this sinful fear of companions and 
associates has often checked the rising purposes of re- 
pentance and reformation in the breasts of young per- 
sons; and, even after they have begun to make some 
progress towards a change of life, has drawn them 
back again into their unhappy courses of folly and sin. 
Do these remarks, my young friends, meet the expe- 
rience of any of you.-* Let me beseech you to lay se- 
riously to heart the dangers of your state, and resolute- 
ly to break from the snares in which you are entangled. 
Fulfil your duty, and the most idle, or the most profli- 
gate of your companions, though they will endeavour, 
at first, to shake your purpose, or to take revenge on 

OnthefearofMan. 325 

you for forsaking their party, will afterwards respect 
you, and even envy the felicity of your change. But, 
were not this the case, will you sacrifice your honor, 
your duty, your soul, to a sentiment of vain and foolish 
mortals? Will you put your peace of conscience, and 
your everlasting hopes, in competition with the idle 
conversation, the empty mirth of sinners? Look up to 
the majesty of God, the awfulness of his tribunal, the 
solemnity and the near approach of an eternal exis- 
tence, and how will the grandeur of these ideas, and 
their infinite interest to us, annihilate the fear of man 
which causeth a snare/ O God! elevate our souls above 
the world, above both its pleasures and its fears, and 
fill them only with thee! Amen! 

VOL. II. T t 




And they all, with one consent, began to make excuse. Lvke xiv, 18 

One of the most common and fatal errors of man- 
kind, is their apparent indifference to the cares of their 
salvation; and when urged to a serious and imme- 
diate concern for this most necessary and indispensa- 
ble of all obligations, they are ever ready to oppose to 
the command of Christ, some unreasonable excuse, 
drawn from the business or engagements of the world; 
and for tlie madness of neglect, they are always solici- 
tous to find some apology to their own hearts. The 
importance of the duty they acknowledge; the neces- 
sity of all the offices of piety they do not deny; but 
having at present, their whole souls engaged in the in- 
terests and pursuits of the world, they study to post- 
pone their entrance on a religious course of life, as a 
sick man puts off the nauseous draught that is to re- 
store him to life. Their pleasures, and the gratifica- 
tion of their imperious appetites, they cannot yet re- 
solve to forego. And though the most urgent calls are 
continually sounded in their ears from the word of 
God; though eternity presses for their care; and though 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd. S27 

religion holds out to them on the one hand, the terrors 
of eternal death, and on the other, the glorious hopes 
of immortal life, loith one consent they begin to make 
excuse. Not that they renounce the hope of the fu- 
ture felicity of heaven, not that they do not acknow- 
ledge the authority of the gospel, and believe the death 
of a sinner to be the most dreadful of all evils; they do 
not profess to abandon, they only postpone, with infinite 
folly, the cares of their everlasting peace. With the 
presumption natural to health, and the false images of 
passion, they securely count upon life; and, with tlie 
error no less natural to self-love, they presume that 
time will nurse in their hearts the dispositions of duty. 
Contented with these delusive hopes, they tranquilly 
rest in their dangerous security, confiding in the de- 
ceitful promises of the future. 

Various are the excuses which men oppose to their 
entering immediately on religious duties. Youth op- 
poses its thoughtless age, its ardent passions, and its 
sanguine hopes: advanced life opposes its importunate 
interests: and even reason, conviction, and the best in- 
clinations to duty often oppose the difficulties of reli- 

1 . Youth opposes, as I have said, its age, its passions 
and its hopes. It is, say the young, the season of levi- 
ty and joy. The young are prone to depict to their 
fancy, the gravity of wisdom, the sedateness of reflec- 
tion, the solenmity of religion, do not belong to their 
years. Meditations on death would throw an unsea- 
sonable gloom over gayeties which, at this period, are 
innocent and lawful; and the melancholy temper of re- 

328 Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd. 

pentance, of retreat, and of prayer, they think would 
poison Hfe to them before they had begun to enjoy it. 
Lislen to the secret reflections of a vivacious youth. 
Shall I yield the spring of life to an eternal gloom, and 
instead ofhving in pleasure, vpaste my powers of enjoy- 
ment in painful self-denials, in mortifying penances, in 
perpetual sacrifices; shall I not rather wait till time 
has somewhat mellowed my spirits, till business has 
tempered my vivacity, till the decencies of society, 
which are exacted of riper years, produce a state of 
manners more adapted to the serious character of re- 
ligion; or, perhaps, till old age, having withdrawn me 
from the gayeties of the world, leave me nothing to think 
on but the world to come? Let me expect, at least, 
some season more favourable than the present. Now 
it is impossible, and I must yield to the torrent which 
bears me along. Alas! upon how many false ideas 
does this apology turn! It pictures to the young fancy 
that there are no high enjoyments in religion.'* What 
then! must all the pleasures of life expire in levity, in 
thoughtlessness, in dissipation, in those folhes which 
are forever springing out of the high and uncorrected 
flow of animal spirits.^ Is happiness to be found only 
in the indulgence of passions which, by their excesses, 
so often destroy their own peace. ^ Are there no enjoy- 
ments in the tranquil and pure affections of religion, 
in the tender and delightful sensibilities of a benevolent 
heart, in the calm dignity of virtue, in the contempla- 
tion of the glory and the supreme excellence of the uni- 
verse, in the consciousness of the favour of God, in the 
subhme hopes of an immortal existence.^ True it is, a 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd, 329 

change of heart and of hfe must begin in repentance; 
but is there not a satisfaction in becoming superior to 
our errors, in renouncing our sins? in the ingenuous- 
ness of a pious and Wrtuous grief for our manifold of- 
fences? in subduing tliose passions which degrade, and 
in the end, destroy the sublimity and perfection of our 
being? Nay, how amiable, how dignified, how happy 
would be a youth consecrated to God. already unfold- 
ing all the most excellent affections of human nature, 
and blossoming, if I may speak so, for immortahty and 
the sublime felicities of heaven! 

But, were it otherwise, were religion as gloomy as 
it is imaged by the foohsh world, yet is it not most ne- 
cessary? are not all who die in their sins, whether in 
early or in advanced Hfe, the certain heirs of misery^ 
Do you then plead your age for not devoting yourselves 
to the service of Almighty God? Will you wait till time 
shall predispose you for the graver duties of religion? 
This, this is the folly which is daily destroying the ge- 
nerations of your equals in age. What assurance have 
you that death will not surprise you, as it has done the 
greater part of mankind, in the midst of their career? 
Look upon the state of the world; contemplate the 
destinies of men; what terrible and instructive exam- 
ples do they present to your view! How many are dai- 
ly cut off while forming resolutions like yours, which 
heaven will never permit them to fulfil! Oh! how often 
does the earliest youth perish like a tender and lovely 
flower plucked by the recreant spoiler before it is fully 
blown! What then becomes of all your abortive pur- 
poses of repentance and of duty? Perishing without 

330 Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd. 

fruit, the memory of them shall follow you to the state 
of retribution, only to fill the soul with a vain and eter- 
nal regret. 

Be it, however, that death should not surprise you, 
that you have yet many years to live, does time destroy 
the power of sin in the heart, or weaken the attach- 
ments of men to this vain world? On the other hand, 
does it not add the force of habit to the predominance 
of inclination? If it should put an end to certain youth- 
ful irregularities, yet has not experience rendered it al- 
most proverbial, that the habits of worldliness become 
by time only more deeply rooted in the heart? The cal- 
lousness of age, and the custom of sinning, even blunts 
those convictions which, in youth, frequently mingle 
themselves along with its irregularities and crimes, and 
which serve to impose some restraint upon their in- 

Do you repeat to me again, I cannot sacrifice my 
first and happiest years? This is the season of joy. 
When its relish is blunted, when the world becomes 
more indifferent, I will then yield to the obedience of 
Almighty God. What! the refuse of your days? Oh! 
impiety! Oh! ingratitude! To whom do you owe your 
being? To whom do you owe the powers and the means 
of pleasure which you abuse? Is it not to God? And 
shall the fruits of his bounty be turned against himself? 
Ungrateful youth! will you give to the world, to your 
appetites, to the demons of vice, the first fruits of your 
strength, the finest spirit of hfe, and to your Creator 
and Redeemer only its useless dregs? Ah! when life is 
coming to its terrible period, when all the illusions of 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd. 331 

falsehood shall be ended, what remorse are you trea- 
suring up for your last hours! what fuel are you prepa- 
ring to kindle the eternal fires of conscience! 

2. You admit, perhaps, the truth of all that has been 
said, the importance of early piety, the hazard of delay, 
the base ingratitude of sinful pleasure; but you add, 
the force of certain passions, which have acquired an 
imperious ascendency in my heart, absolutely precludes 
my present return to virtue and to God. I feel, and I 
lament my cliains, but I find it impossible to break 
them. When this passion, which governs me, says 
one, shall have subsided, when I shall have ended this 
engagement in which I am too far involved to retreat, 
I will begin seriously to think of my eternal state, and 
to put in practice the many good resolutions I have 
formed. All this specious verbiage is only a new, and 
not less dangerous, illusion than the former. Whenev- 
er you plead the imperious and uncontrollable force of 
passion, it is only an apology to your own heart, for 
your want of fidelity and sincerity in your duty. Your 
destiny is placed by God, with the aids of his grace, in 
your own power; if you are only faithful to yourself* 
and to him, there is no passion which you ought not, 
and which you may not subdue. But when will these 
engagements end of which you complain? When will 
your passions subside? If those which at present oc- 
cupy you were extinguished, would not others instant- 
ly burst forth from their ashes. 

Beheve it, no state is more hazardous than this of 
resolving and postponing, and re-resolving only to post- 
pone again. Yet is this the fatal error of a great. 

332 Excuses, &c. Vam and Absurd. 

shall I not say of the greater jDortion of the hearers of 
the gospel. Who is so hardy as to say, I am resolved 
never to repent? Who is so wise as to resolve on im- 
mediate repentance? And, at last, how often does death 
step in between their delusive purposes, and the ac- 
complishment of them? How often, did 1 say? Alas! 
how seldom do men see the end of their designs! — 
Among all those on whose death-beds we are called to 
attend, how few have expected and prepared for this 
greatest of all changes? How few have not bitterly to 
lament their abortive resolutions, their fatal delays? If 
you wait till your passions give you leave to return, 
you never will return. 

But, although your passions should not adhere to you 
in all their vivacity till your last hour, vvill you be any 
nearer a sincere and real conversion to God by your 
listless resolutions? Is not the power of sin continual- 
ly growing stronger? Is it not extending its roots wi- 
der, and striking them deeper into the whole mass of 
your being? If they should be blunted, at length, by 
their own excesses, still the soul, absorbed and sunk in 
sensuality, would be incapable of the pure sentiments, 
the refined and spiritual enjoyments of real piety. If 
they should cease at last, only because you are fa- 
tigued, or the powers of nature are already exhausted 
in their vile pursuits, the soul that stagnates in vice is, 
if I may speak so, still farther from virtue than it was 
in the very tempest of the passions. 

What is the progress of the sinner during these dan- 
gerous delays? Mark it, and tremble at the fatal issue. 
At first, he ventures on sin with timidity, always en- 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Msurd. 333 

deavouring to appease conscience by certain restraints 
put upon liiuiseir, even in his indulgences, by certain 
appearatices of innocence, mingled vvitti his crimes. 
He proceeds, by hesitating steps, to doubtful actions; 
and finally by a bolder course, to known and acknow- 
ledged sins. Deliberate and wiliid guilt is at first fol- 
lowed by severe compunction, and it is repeated only 
after long intervals have made it be, in some measure, 
forgotten; but familiarized, at length, with crime, his 
falls become more frequent; he hardens hiinselt against 
the admonitions and reproaches of his own heart; vice 
grows to be a habit. Appetite imperiously demands 
its indulgences, reason is employed only to excuse or 
justify them, conscience is silenced. Having long re- 
sisted every divine admonition, he is, at last, abandon- 
ed of God. Such is the monstrous progression of sin 
when it is completed. Oh! unthinking youth! know 
that every delay in the purposes of repentance, is one 
step in this fatal progression; and, while you are led 
captive by Satan at his will, there is no safety but in 
speedily breaking the chains by which you are en- 

3. If youth opposes its passions to the calls of reli 
gion, does not a more advanced age oppose its interests, 
which have incorporated themselves with all its plans 
and all its feelings? See the worldly minded man, en- 
gaged in the infinite and anxious pursuits of gain, 
which so occupy all his thoughts that he can no longer 
resolve to suspend or moderate them, that he may seek 
first the kingdom of God, the righteousness thereof. He 
does not, indeed, ultimately renounce the hope of hea- 

VOL. IL V u 

334 Excuses, &LC. Vain mid Absurd. 

yen; nothing, perhaps, would be more terrible to him 
than the idea of dying impenitent; but boldly or thought- 
lessly presuming upon life, he still protracts the period 
of devoting himself in earnest to the momentous cares 
of his eternal inheritance. Your present engagements, 
you say, require all your attention; your present em- 
barrassments perplex and agitate your mind, and leave 
it no time for reflection, but the first leisure you can 
redeem fi-om the world, you will devote to your soul 
and to God. Oh! fallacious promise! which has al- 
ready deceived its thousands. Will you ever enjoy 
this leisure which you vainly promise your heart? as 
soon as one plan of profit is accomplished or defeated, 
will you not be ready with new ardor, to embark in 
another.-^ Have you been unfortunate.'* The loss must 
be repaired. Flave you been successful.'^ The gain at 
the same time whets the lustful appetite, and furnishes 
you with new means of enlarging your enterprizes. 
The demands of the world increase with your age, in- 
crease with your growing families, increase with your 
projects, increase with your misfortunes, increase with 
your success. Are you able to fix any point at which 
you will ever say it is enough? No; forever you must 
have the same plausible pretence for postponing the 
care of your salvation ; forever you will have the same 
excuse for neglect, to offer to God and to your own 

But, if satiated with gain, you should, at length, 
retire to enjoy in tranquillity the precious fruits of your 
industry, would you carry into your retirement disposi- 
tions more favoui'able to the views of religion? Not to 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd, 335 

^peak again of the effects of protracted time and habit 
when men, who have been active in the pursuits ot 
gain, subside into love of retreat, is it not usually uni- 
ted with an indolence of mind the most opposite to the 
lively sensibihties, to the arduous duties, to the deep 
compunctions, to the spiritual conflicts, in which all 
the ener-ies of the soul are to be engaged in the exer- 
cises of piety and devotion. 

4. But finally, although you should become fatigued 
or disgusted at length, with the fruitless pursuits or sin- 
ful gratifications of corrupted passions; although you 
should be convinced, at last, of the vanity of the world, 
and the infinite importance of your eternal interests; 
though urged by your own hearts to enter publicly on 
the profession of a religious life, still will not a new^ 
excuse arise out of the difficulties which religion itself 
opposes to the infirmities of human nature? 

Such a conspicuous change, will attract upon you 
the mahgnant observation, the invidious remarks of 
the world. That world which is prone to ascribe all 
pretences to piety, and to superior regularity of man- 
ners, to a canting hypocrisy, and to rake up against you 
the errors of your life to reproach your present zeal, 
and you have not courage to support the ridicule ol" the 
world, or make yourself the subject of its general con- 
versation, of its malignant inquiries, perhaps ol its 
falsehoods and slanders. You hesitate, you balance 
upon this interesting subject. You have seen others 
make shipwreck of the faith, enter with a certain os- 
tentatious zeal on a pious course, and then shamefully 
fall back again into the vices they had pretended to 

336 Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd. 

have forsaken. You have feared lest your good pur- 
poses might be only a temporary lervour; lest you 
might not be able to support the gravity, the dignity, 
the purity of the profession of the gospel, and thereby 
afford a subject for the profane mirth of sinners, and 
bring a reproach on the holy cause which you had too 
hastily espoused. You have before^ perhaps, been the 
subject of transient awakenings; you have been 
urged to secret prayer, to meditation, to pious 
reading. You have been almost persuaded to be a 
christian; and to make a public avowal of your 
change; but your convictions of duty and of sin liave 
been lost; you have ceased your devotional exercises; 
new temptations have arisen; and you have plunged 
again into the follies of the world. Again your serious- 
ness has revived, and your thougl)tlessness returned; 
and now you dare no longer trust your own heart. 
Humble and penitent soul! are you for these causes 
restrained from devoting yourself to the service of your 
Redeemer, and making a conspicuous profession of 
his holy name? Have you considered the dishonours 
you do him, by refusing the duties which he imposes, 
and putting no discrimination between yourself and the 
world which is his enemy .^ Does he not demand this 
example of you. "^ if you are weak, is not his grace suf- 
ficient for those who trust in it? If your heart is filled 
with his glory, will you fear the vain opinions or the 
contempt of tlie woilci? If you are impresst;d with the 
awful sacredness of your obligations, with the infinite 
love of your Redeeuier, can you ever fear being left of 

Excuses, &c. Vain and Absurd, 337 

God, thus to dishonour his holy name? Banish, then, 
every vain excuse. Lay it to heart that your duty is 
urgent, your danger is imminent. From your very 
dangers derive new courage for exertion, and new 
strength for perseverance. Would the perishing ma- 
riner count the dangers between him and a distant 
shore to which he might escape? Would he yield him- 
self without a struggle to his fate, because it was 
doubtful whether he should be able to bear up against 
the winds and the waves? Would he not, on the con- 
trary, put forth all his strength to meet and combat 
the difficulties before him? And when ready to faint 
with fatigue, would not the yawning abyss only make 
him redouble his efforts? Look up then to the judg- 
ment of God; survey that eternal world on which we 
press; assemble round you all the awful and all the 
glorious motives of religion? and, will not every vain 
excuse vanish before them? 

Christians! can we now express in language too 
strong, the folly and the guih of these excuses by which 
men decUne their most urgent duty, and hazard their 
eternal peace? What is it you postpone? Your own 
happiness. What is it you seek to avoid? The service 
of God, which is perfect freedom; the protection and 
favour of Almighty God, the best and the only security 
against every danger seen and unseen whirh can as- 
sail you; the love of God, the undecaying fountain of 
the purest and the subliinest felicity. And for what do 
you make these tremendous sacrifices? For follies that 
are unworthy ot a reasonable being; f*>r pleasures 
which degrade human nature, and disqualify it lor all 

338 Excuses, &c. Vain and Msurd. 

the highest and noblest ends of our being; for passions 
which ally us to the inferior brutes; for vile and mo- 
mentary interests which perish from our hands while 
we are grasping thetn. Ah! sinner, should not the 
deep and aggravated colours of this guilt fill you with 
shame, and strike you with horror? Let reason de- 
cide; let conscience pronounce, and you will tremble 
at your crime. You stand on a tremendous precipice! 
over a fearful abyss! There may be but this moment 
of escape. While you are saying at some future time; 
God may pronounce his fearful decree that your time 
shall be no longer. Ah! thoughtless soul! your duty 
you may postpone, but can you postpone the arrest of 
the king of terrors.^ When your hour is come, will 
death let go his prisoner, only to give you time to repair 
so many fatal errors.^ Let me then repeat again and 
again the calls, the admonitions, the denunciations of 
the Spirit of Truth; let me sound io your ears once 
more this gracious, and yet this awful invitation — be- 
hold nbw, perhaps noiv only, is the accepted time; be- 
hold now is the day of salvation. Amen. 


Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. Heb. x. 22. 

Conscience is that power within us which makes 
us sensible of the obUgations of duty; and which in ex- 
amining our actions by the law of God, pronounces on 
each the verdict of right or wrong. This divine law, 
as it is laid down in his holy word, or is collected by 
reason from the indications of nature, is, on the great 
points of conduct, clear and unambiguous; but, as it is 
interpreted by men, it is often variable and uncertain, 
and leaves us no sure rule of duty. If the heart is pure, 
the judgments of conscience will be sound and con- 
formed to truth; but if the heart is corrupted, it, in the 
same degree vitiates the judgments of the mind on the 
subject of duty. And these false judgments cover and 
protect sin in the conduct of life and augment the cor- 
ruption from which they flow. A wrong conscience 
justifies sin, and, by covering it in the heart, pollutes 
our devotions, and renders every offering impure which 
we bring into the temple of God. — Therefore, the 
apostle, in directing christians how they may pay to 
God a spiritual and acceptable worship, exhorts them 
to draw near with a true heart; and, farther, to have 
the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their 
bodies wasJied ivith pure water. The expression is re- 
markable, and deserves your particular attention — It 
contains an evident allusion to the sacred rite of bap- 

340 On a wrong Conscience. 

tism, the emblem of a divine purity. The washing of 
the body, and sprinkling of the heirt bein^ types ot the 
same sanctity and perfection of the soul, derived from 
the ancient service of the temple, in which the wash- 
ing, and especially the sprinkling, of its sacred vessels 
was the symbol of their holiness to the Lord. 

\\ hat, then, is the import of this expression, the 
heart sprinkled from an evil conscience! The heart is 
not only a general term comprehending all the princi- 
ples of conduct, but is frequently taken for the con- 
science itself Freeing the language, then, of the figure 
it implies, having the soul purified from the conscious- 
ness of guilt, by having the heart, the fountain of con- 
duct, regenerated, sanctified, and united to Christ, ft 
implies more, that the conscience itf^elf should not be 
perverted in its judgments of what is right and wrong, 
so as to call good evil, and evil good, thereby becoming 
ignorant of its guilt, and covering its pollutions in the 
presence of God. An evil conscience, then may be 
taken in two senses, either as that consciousness of 
known and voluntary guilt which disquiets and harras- 
ses the sinner, and which prevents his approaching, or 
destroys his comfort at the throne of grace; or as that 
false idea of virtue and vice, of innocence and crime, 
which mistakes the true nature of duty, and renders 
the heart no longer sensible of the guilt of its sins. It 
is called an evil conscience because it nourishes and 
protects so many unrepented evils in the heart, and 
thereby keeps the sinner buried in the most danger- 
ous security, while he dishonors God, and is continu- 
ally violating his most holy law. It is in the latter 

On a nyrong Conscience. 8U 

sense alone that 1 now mean to consider it, and to 
make it the subject of the present discourse. Let me, 

I. In the first place, point out the nature, and the 
causes of a wrong conscience; 

II. And, secondly, demonstrate its dangers. 

I. A w^'-oiig conscience is a habit of judging errone* 
ous!y concerning duty and sin, virtue and vice, inno- 
cence and criminaHty in conduct. Many are the forms 
under which it shows itself and the degrees to which 
it arrives. In its highest and most culpable degree it 
is seen in the inventors or disciples of those false and 
atrocious systems of impiety which annihilate religion, 
and hardly consider man as an accountable being — or, 
accountable only to himself or to society; every thing 
is lawful, by their system, which his passions vindicate, 
and which can elude or defy the public tribunals. At 
first, indeed, the force of nature will 'ong resist these 
monstrous conclusions— the principles, which he calls 
the prejudices of education, will long struggle against 
opinions wjiich overturn all morality as well as piety — 
the compunctions of a better, but expiring, conscience, 
will continue for a time to agitate and harrass the sin- 
ner; but the refinements and deceptions of a false rea- 
son enable him at length to adopt the most destructive 
errors with a fatal tranquillity. 

A wrong conscience may be formed, on the other 
hand, by a false or defective religious education. One 
becomes rigorous and austere in his ideas of moral 
conduct — another, relaxed and indulgent to excess — 
One values only the devotional and speculative part of 


342 On a wrong Conscience. 

religion; another only the duties of humanity and socia- 
bility — One flames to himself a narrow and gloomy 
standard of penance and self-denial — another beheves 
that self-denial can form no part of the duties enjoined 
by a merciful God — Paul, educated a Pharisee, es- 
teemed persecution a duty, and veiily thought with 
himself tluit he ought to do many things contrary to tJw 
name of Jesus of JVazareth. Gallio cared far none of 
these things; and esteemed all zeal for religious practi- 
ces and opinions superfluous, or enthusiastic. Every 
careless hearer of the gospel has framed to himself in 
one degree or another, a false conscience. Would you 
have a proof of it.^ What is it that keeps him in peace.'^ 
If he saw his sins in their true light, would he not trem- 
ble.'* Could he possess any tranquillity in his soul till, 
by a sincere repentance he had renounced them; till, 
by a lively faith, he had submitted his heart to the law 
of Christ.'* He confesses, perhaps, that he is a sinner? 
He is even afraid to handle the sacramental memorials 
of his Saviour's love, which are appropriated only to 
his true disciples. Yet, has he not, on each of his ac- 
tions in particular, some principles which satisfy his 
conscience, and make him contented with himself? 
He acknowledges the general truth that he is guilty; 
but in the detail of his actions he finds some vindica- 
tion, some palliation, some excuse, for every one of 
them, that stifles compunction, and still maintains the 
dangerous security in which he lives. Each man by 
degrees frames a law for his own conduct, with which, 
allowing for some secret and transient uneasinesses of 
heart, he is, upon the whole, satisfied — And this law 

Oil a wrong Conscience. 34S' 

is usually some softening, some interpretation of the 
law of God in favour of his own ruling inclinations. 
This indeed is a natural consequence of our self-love, 
of our desire to preserve a degree of self-respect, and 
of our perpetual study to unite the enjoyment of our 
passions with the peace of our minds. No man can 
consent to live in a state of continual warfare with 
himself, exposed daily to the hitterness of remorse, the 
humiliations of self-reproach, the apprehensions of a 
judgment to come. He must renounce his sins by re- 
pentance, or he must find some covering or palliation 
for them. If he does not explicitly avow principles 
inconsistent with the strictness of the divine law, he 
endeavours to forget the holiness of its requisitions, and 
then the passions frame their own rules, and easily 
bribe the verdict, or the connivance of conscience. It 
is true, men cannot all at once arrive at this tranquilli- 
ty in sinning — many alarms they suffer, many strug- 
gles they are obliged to maintain with their own con- 
victions; but, by repeated efforts, they are able at length 
so far to bias conscience, as, if they cannot procure its 
approbation, at least to make it silent. A wrong con- 
science then is an habitual judgment of our actions on 
principles different from those of truth, of reason, and 
the word of God, by a standard framed by a vain and 
false philosophy, growing out of a vicious education, 
or a lax interpretation of the divine law, accommoda- 
ted to our own character, pursuits, and wishes. 

2. What, then, are the causes of this wrong stan- 
dard framed by men for the government and the judg- 
ment of their actions? They might be greatly diversi- 

344 On a wrong Conscience. 

fied and amplified in the detail. They might be drawn 
for example, from ignorance, which, leaving the mind 
unenlightened by truth, gives opportunity to sinful 
passions to root, and defend themselves in the heart — • 
They might be drawn from general custom and ex- 
ample, which, at once, strengthen the temptations, and 
give plausibility to the principles ol" vice — They might 
be drawn from a false education, which is almost equal- 
ly dangerous, whether, on one hand, it narrows the 
mind by superstition, or, on the other, lays it open to 
libertinism — They njight be drawn from the subtlety 
and refinements of a vain and proud reason, which 
esteems itself able to illuminate every subject; for in a 
mind so weak as man's, the extreme refinements of 
reason almost always lead to error; and, in experience, 
it has been found that there is no principle so absurd, 
or so immoral, that it may not be plausibly vindicaledy 
and even has not. at some period or other, been avowed 
by ingenious men. 

But, without going into such a wide field, we may 
find the more general and practical causes of a wrong 
conscience in the inchnations — and the interests of 
inen. And these, indeed, give the principal efficacy 
to those other causes, which have been just enuniera- 
ted. — Our inclinations — Whatever ive desire, says saint 
Augustine, is good; whatever we love, he adds, is esteem- 
ed holy — Such an influence has the heart over the de- 
terminations of the understanding. At first, perhaps, 
we may not dare to rank our favourite pursuit in the 
class of duties, or of virtues — we may only consider 
it as desirable, as agieeable, as useful or convenient. 

On a ivrong Conscience. 345 

but. by meditating upon it — by inflaming our desires 
for it — by keeping it constantly before the mind, such 
is the connexion between the ideas of beauty and vir- 
tue, of what is pleasing, and what is right, we come, at 
length, to make a thousand apologies for it, — to see a 
thousand reasons to justify it — to persuade ourselves 
that it is innocent. Is there any thing so unjust — is 
there any thing so impure — is there anv thing so im- 
pious, which may not be, which has not been vindica- 
ted in this manner.^ Hence, says the Psalmist, has 
proceeded the most monstrous conclusion which has 
ever been formed by the human mind, in the ultimate 
progression of vice. The fool hath said in his heart, 
there is no Ond. The heart wished it — the heart de- 
sired to be free from all restraint in the indulgence of 
its passions — it could not associate the idea of God 
with its corruptions — its corruptions it would enjoy, — 
it pronounced i' ere is no God. lleason would long 
remonstrate again^'t the horror of such a conclusicn; 
but the heart was the advocate, and the heart never 
continues to plead in vain. — Take any vice to which 
it is strongly attached — wh^it a tendency is there to 
think, to reasjn, to decide only according to this domi- 
nant inclination.'^ to see nothing but what favours it.'^ 
to exclude from the mind, and turn aside the view 
from every consideration which would bring its inno- 
cence and lawfulness into doubt.'^ And, by continually 
searching only for reasons to justify what we love, 
what is there w^hich we may not come at length to ap- 
prove.-^ Can that be guilty which -^o strongly recom- 
mends itself by its pleasures.'^ Can such a small de- 

346 On a luion^ Conscience. 


parfure from the divine law, if it be a departure, de- 
serve eternal death from a merciful God? The heart 
judges it to be impossible — then pursues its objects 
with new ardor — and resigns itself to a fatal security. 
Place on one side, the feeble emotions, the faint re- 
monstrances of duty and virtue in an unrenewed mind, 
on the otlier, the impetuous desires, the imposing 
charms of pleasure, that fascination by which it dazzles 
and blinds the mind while its tumults fill the heart, and, 
would it not be a miracle if conscience should judge 
impartially between them? Yes, in these cases, the 
conscience too often makes its rules only in favour of 
the heart. 

If pleasure contributes to form a wrong conscience, 
not less frequently, perhaps, does interest. By interest, 
1 mean, whatever besides pleasure is peculiarly at- 
tached to ourselves — whatever our pride, our vanity, 
our rivalships, our resentments, our avarice, our am- 
bition, may represent as necessary, or important to us. 
What intrigues for power, what frauds in speculation, 
what unfairness in commerce, what insincerity to 
friends, what insidiousness to rivals, what malignity to 
enemies, what injustice, what hardness, what illiberali- 
ty, what selfishness, may not conscience be made to 
justify, or to excuse, when our own interests are ba- 
lanced against those of others? Place interest out of 
the question, and we will, perhaps, judge fairly on all 
the points of duty that may arise on any of these sub- 
jects — our decisions will coincide with those of the 
divine law. Thus before we entered into the world, 
and before our interests became so entangled with 

On a wrong Conscience. 347 

those of others, had we not fixed in our mind a most 
exact standard of justice? of propriety? of good con- 
duct? But, since we have entered into the business, 
the intrigues, the colhsions of the world, is not every 
thing changed? How often have we found that our 
former laws do not apply? Do we not feel a thousand 
reasons for relaxing their strictness, with regard to 
ourselves? We flatter ourselves that we would make a 
good use of the privileges or exemptions which we 
claim; but which would certainly be abused if they 
were common. 

Let men answer sincerely and candidly: I speak 
Hot here of those who have been taught always to 
judge right by that wisdom which is from above, dwel- 
ling in their breasts, but of the world in general — when 
is it that their decisions on the subjects of integrity, 
benevolence, charity, candor, meekness, and of virtue 
and duty universally, are exact and conformable to the 
word of God? Is it not when their own interests and 
feelings are not concerned? Is it not when they judge 
for their neighbours? Is there not, with regard to 
others, frequently even a rigor in their decisions which 
seems designed to balance, or to cover the relaxation 
which they yield to themselves? Let a man of the 
world, for example, pass sentence on a professor of 
religion — with what severity, at the same time, perhaps, 
with what truth, will he judge his actions? But, for 
the same, possibly for much greater errors in conduct, 
with what indulgence does he judge himself? with 
what tranquillity does conscience sleep in his breast? 
Wherefore? Is it because the same duties are not 

3 48 On a wrong Conscience. 

required of him by God? No, he only appli«^s a dif- 
ferent standard of judging to himself and to the friend 
of religion. Ah! conscience is riglit when it does not 
touch our inclinations, our interests, our self; but when 
these are affected, they combine to warp and bias its 

If you would draw near to Gud, saith the apostle, 
have your heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, that 
you may offer him a holy sacrifice, and meet from him 
a gracious acceptance — but, if the conscience is wrong, 
it covers in his presence, not indeed from his sight, 
but from our own, innumerable evils which defile the 
soul, and cause our prayers to be rejected. 

Reserving till another occasion the illustration of the 
dangers of a wrong and treacherous conscience, 1 con- 
clude this discourse with some reflections which sug- 
gest themselves from what has been already said. 

My brethren, we cannot forbear to lament the fre- 
quency, 1 had almost said the universality of this evil. 
Are the professors of religion, the disciples of Jesus 
themselves, wholly exempted from it.^ At various 
periods of the church, a bigotted and nustaken zeal 
for rites and opinions, which they misconstrued into a 
zeal for God, inflamed the different sects against one 
another with unchristian resentments — but in this 
lukewarm age, do not the errors of the conscience 
manifest themselves chiefly by that low standard of 
religion, which prevails among christians and with 
which they are contented in practice.^ Do we see 
reigning in our christian assemblies that fervent de- 
votion, which is due to the glory, the wisdom, the pow- 

On a ivrong Conscience. 349 

er, the goodness of the Creator — which becomes peni- 
tent sinners worshipping under the sense of redeeming 
love? Do we see reigning in the life and conversation 
of christians, that sanctity, that purity, that abstraction 
from the world, that submission to the will of God, that 
charity, that candor, that brotherly-love, that active 
benevolence, which should distinguish the followers of 
so holy a master, and which were the glory of his 
primitive disciples? Yet who is making an effort to 
change the lamentable state of the church, to rekindle 
its zeal, to reform its errors'* Instead of raising our- 
selves to the genuine standard of the gospel, are we 
not endeavouring to bring it down to the state of our 
own hearts and manners? Have we not framed to 
ourselves a false conscience, which if it does not ap- 
prove, is, at least contented with a formality and cold- 
ness, which are hastening to extinguish among us the 
last sparks of the spiritual hfe? 

What shall we say then of the mass of the hearers 
of the gospel? If they do not make a visible profes- 
sion of religion, yet, do they not live in a fatal securi- 
ty? Although they dare not say they are holy, yet, 
are they not saying peace to themselves in the midst 
of their iniquities? And, my brethren, when Hfe is 
vanishing, when death is approaching, when God is 
the witness of their actions, when the tribunal awaits 
them, when the gospel is sounding in their ears, when 
eternity demands their cares, could they thus possess 
their souls in quiet, and hear without emotion, calls so 
loud and interesting to mortals and to sinners, if they 
had not already a corrupted conscience, and depreciated 

YOL. IL Y y 

350 On a wrong Conscience. 

the holiness of the divine law, the purity and the ma- 
jesty of the divine perfection? Can a little self-indul- 
gence, they secretly ask, deserve everlasting perdition? 
Can actions which appear so innocent, so pleasing to 
me, be so fearfully condenmed by God? Can God 
himself be inexorable? Will not repentance always 
be in my power? Ah! sinners! these are suggestions 
of an evil, a depraved conscience. You have bribed 
this judge to speak the language of the heart — you have 
lulled asleep this watchful guardian of the soul — it is 
held by the enchantments of prosperity and pleasure. 
But this charm must soon be dissolved. And, great 
God! what will be its awakening? The dreadful call 
of death — the thunders that surround the tribunal of 
heaven. Merciful Father! before this fatal period ar- 
rives, awaken these sinners from their profound and 
mortal sleep! penetrate with conviction the secure soul! 
shed thy holy light upon the dark and misguided con- 

There are certain circumstances in life in which 
men are more exposed than in others, to those vices 
which create a false conscience, and endanger their 
eternal peace, which therefore demand in them an ex- 
traordinary vigilance and guard. It has often been 
said that a man is made by the situations into which he 
is thrown. To what crimes have not the prospects of 
ambition opened the minds of men, who, in private 
life would have been virtuous citizens? To what li- 
centiousness has not flattery often seduced a sensible 
heart, which might have been the greatest ornament 
of a virtuous and retired circle? To what frauds have 

On a wrons: Conscience. 351 


uot straightened circumstances sometimes invited men 
who had, in better fortune, supported the fairest repu- 
tation of integrity and honor? The extremes of pover- 
ty and wealth offer the greatest temptations to corrupt 
and pervert the conscience. The wants, the humiha- 
tions, the pressures of tlie one — the effeminacy, the 
luxury, the ambition, the intrigues, the passions, the 
pleasures, of the other. Even long continued pros- 
perity is apt to enfeeble conscience, and to blunt its 
keen and delicate sensibilities to duty, while it makes 
man forget himself On whatever side your danger 
threatens you, there christian! set your principal guard 
— there chiefly distrust the reasonings and conclusions 
of your own minds. Know the treachery of the heart, 
and its power over the jufigments ot conscience; shun, 
as far as possible, the temptations which are peculiar 
to your state — the societies, the conversations, the ob- 
jects which strengthen them, and where it is* impossible 
to shun them, stand with the law of God in your hand 
to measure every action by its spirit. Would you pre- 
serve conscience always upright in its decisions, and 
faithful in its admonitions.^ Meditate on the divine law, 
bring yourselves often to your own bar, possess your 
minds with the infinite danger of being deceived, re- 
member that, although the judge within you should 
sleep, or be deceived, there is one in heaven who never 
slumbers nor sleeps, and whose judgments never can 
err. Implore from him the light, and aids of his most 
holy spirit to teach you always what is truth, to keep 
you always in the perfect way whicJi ends in eternal 

352 On a wrong Conscience. 

And now to the king eternal, immortal, and invisi- 
ble, the only wise God, be honor, and glory, as it was 
hi the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world 
without end! AxMEn. 


I verily thought with myself thai I ought to do many things contrary to 
the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Ads. xxvi. 9. 

The example of Paul before his conversion, de- 
monstrates the dangerous influence of a wrong con- 
science. It covers the greatest sins from the censure 
of our own minds; it often converts even a zeal for 
religion, into pernicious crimes. Educated among the 
strictest, and also the most austere sect of the Jews, 
he had, together with their prejudices and their bigo- 
try, deeply imbibed their intolerant spirit. He perse- 
cuted with fury the meek and harmless christians, and 
made the Blessed Saviour himself, the object of his 
exterminating rage, till, arrested by a light and a voice 
from heaven, he received, along with the truth, that 
mild and benevolent spirit which became the gospel of 
which he was now to be an apostle. All the errors of 
his conscience were rectified by that celestial light 
which, at the same time, created his heart anew. If 
religious error could mislead this great man to such 
atrocious acts, what corruptions, what crimes may not 
the passions, may not self-love, may not false reasoning 
impose upon us, as innocent; or excuse as small and 
pardonable offences against Almighty God ? There is 
scarcely any evil which a perverted conscience may 
not, and, at some time or other, has not, been made to 

354 On a tm^ong Conscience. 

justify; and when it sins in security, it sins almost ir- 
reclaiuiably. In a former discourse 1 have illustrated 
the nature of a wrong conscience, and the causes 
which create it; I am now, from a melancholy example 
in the history of the apostle's Hfe, to point out its dan- 

It is dangerous — because it may be made to give its 
sanction to the greatest crimes — It is dangerous, be- 
cause it sins without apprehension — It is dangerous, 
because it destroys the most effectual means of refor- 

I. In the first place, conscience may be so perverted 
as to justify the greatest crimes. Conscience is the 
light of the soul; when well-informed, it points out with 
clearness the path of duty — but, if the light that is in 
thee be darkness, hoiv greal is that darkness. Men, un- 
less they have arrived at tlie ultimate stage of vice and 
profligacy, rarely study to corrupt the lights of the mind 
universally on all the subjects of duty, and moral ti'uth. 
They have favourite indulgences which tliey wish to 
pursue, particular aversions which they desire to grati- 
fy, predominant inclinations which they ar? solicitous 
to reconcile vvith their sentiments of rectitude. On 
these they b«^stovv the chief pains to bias the judgments 
of the mind. And, to what conclusion may they not 
arrive! what errors, what faults, what crimes, may 
they not cover, and sometimes even invest with the 
colours of duty? Let me be more particular, and ren- 
der these ideas, if possible, palpable to every under- 
standing. Let a man, for example, once embark in 
the projects of ambition. W hat duties is he not capa- 

On a tvrong Conscience. 355 

ble of violating? What iniquities is he not capable of 
committing? What sentiments of humanity, when 
they stand in his way, will he not remorselessly ex- 
tinguish? Retrace the history of this passion from 
Nimrod to Cromwell, from the atrocious conquerors 
who have desolated the earth, to those petty leaders of 
^faction whom we see among ourselves, and do we not 
perceive an eternal repetition of the same intrigues, 
deceits, treacheries, falsehoods, violence, injustice? 
Do these crimes think you, outrage conscience? No, 
they have brought conscience to be of the |)arty of 
their ambition. What is that, indeed, which is called 
the hardening of sinners? Is it not that the custom 
and practice of sinning overbear the authority of con- 
science? Is it merely that they silence its awful voice? 

Is it that they are able wholly to extinguish it? No 

but conscience, by degress, comes over to the side of 
their passions — they sin in tranquillity, and, therefore^ 
they sin with the greater boldness. 

On the other hand, let conscience be bought over by 
avarice, and the avidity of gain, what hardness, what 
griping, what frauds, what usuries, will it not sanction? 
It will oppress the dependent, it will wring the hearts 
of the poor, it will feed itself on the tears of the widow 
and the orphan. And, to give another example, if 
pride and revenge can draw conscience to their side, 
do they not easily imagine their most vindictive resent- 
ments to be just? They embroil society — they destroy 
the peace of their own breast, and of the world, in the 
whirlwind of the passions — and, at last glut themselves 
with the miseries, and even the blood of their enemies! 

'^>56 On a im'om Conscience. 


O thou false honor! which art nothing more than re- 
venge justified by a wrong conscience, with what cool 
dehberate villainy, canst thou look on murder, and on 
the tears, the distractions, the horrors, which thy cru- 
elty has created? When these passions do not proceed 
to such horrible extremes, under what false pretences 
will they not vindicate the murder of character and 
reputation — the violation of that precious treasure 
which is more dear to an honest mind than life itself? 
Malicious slander, cruel insinuations, bitter invectives, 
ridicule, contempt, a thousand secret ill offices, are but 
ordinary faults. Society is filled with private and ma- 
lignant whispers — the public is agitated with virulent 
and groundless scandal against the greatest and most 
virtuous characters in the nation. Yet have these 
crimestheir pretended justification? You would strip 
the mask from a hyprccrite who enjoys a reputation 
which he does not merit, you would guard your fellow 
citizens against imaginary evils, which the spirit of 
party never fails to impute to its rivals. Shall I go 
through other passions, through other appetites, and 
show how, under the protection of a perverted con- 
science, hcentious pleasure, intemperance, dissipation, 
idleness, justify, or colour over with specious apologies, 
their innumerable evils? Shall I again represent the 
bigotry, the animosities, the persecutions to which mis- 
taken ideas of religion have given rise? Paul attempt- 
ed to exterminate the church of Christ under the full 
persuasion that he was rendering service to God. The 
greatest crime which was ever perpetrated among men, 
sprung from the same source. A wrong conscience pol- 

On a wrong Conscience. 357 

luted the heart with the blood of her Creator. Shall I, 
after such a crime, mention the inferior ones of sub- 
stituting the form, for the power of goodlines, of neglec- 
ting the iveightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, 
and truth, while the whole of religion is placed in ex- 
terior services and rites — of separating devotion from 
morals, or morals from devotion. Are there not those, 
who, by the performance of certain religious duties, think 
themselves acquitted for the want of kindness, and 
charity to their fellow men.'' Do we not see the sabbath 
violated without remorse, under the pretence of ne- 
cessary business, or of necessary relaxation.'' Do we 
not see baptism scrupulously solicited for children, 
while conscience, satisfied with the external rite, forgets 
the duties which the act imposes? On the other hand, 
do we not see the holy table of the Lord as scrupu- 
lously shunned, that men may enjoy their sins in peace, 
as if they were comparatively innocent, as long as they 
have not violated the most sacred of vows? But, it 
were endless to attempt to enumerate all the errors 
and crimes of a conscience bl nded by sin, the hypoc- 
risy, the pride, the vanity, the impure desires, the crimi- 
nal attachments, the unjust gains, the deceits, the ' 
treacheries, the cruelties, the refined slanders, the ob- 
lique injuries, which it covers and justifies. It is, 
says St. Bernard, like a dark and fathomless gulf, 
filled with every filthy and impure reptile. 

A wrong, and ill-informed, and perverted con- 
science, then, is dangerous, because it may be made 
to justify even the greatest sins — It is dangerous, 

VOL. II, z z 

358 Chi a wrong Conscience, 

II. In the next place, because it sins without ap- 

A peaceful self-approving conscience, resting upon 
truth and virtue, yields a good man a felicity next to 
that of heaven: but a conscience at peace in its sins, 
is, perhaps, the most deplorable state in this world. 
Where shall we find an adequate image of it.*^ It is 
an intoxicated man sleeping at the summit of a mast 
in the midst of a tempest, which he does not perceive 
— it is a thoughtless child stumbling blindfold on the 
edge of a giddy and tremendous precipice, from which 
he is shortly to be dashed in pieces. The law of God 
denounces indignation and wrath, tribulation and an- 
guish, on every soul of man that doeth evil — the jus- 
tice of God is ready to execute the sentence — death is 
in ambush before the sinner unperceived — a thousand 
arrows from the king of terrors, prepared to pierce 
him are flying round him — a thousand messengers are 
ready to bring him to the tribunal — yet a wrong con- 
science, nourished by prosperity, blinded by passion, 
misled by the wandering lights of a false reason, is say- 
ing peace! peace! though sudden destruction is coming 
upon him, though the tempest is gathering round him, 
and he shall not escape. He is in the most imminent 
danger, yet is he not apprehensive of his situation. He 
sins boldly, because he sins securely; and his security- 
is the seal of his perdition. When a wrong conscience 
flatters him in his errors, and makes him taste the plea- 
sures of tranquillity in the midst of his guilt, he neither 
is acquainted with his sins, nor has a motive to re- 
nounce them. Infinitely better, though not so pleasant 

On a wrons: Conscience. 359 


in the present enjoyment, is a conscience at war with 
his peace — a conscience reproaching, but enhghtened 
— a conscience harassing him continually, in the midst 
of his guilty pleasures and his worldly plans. Such a 
conscience contains some principles to lead him back 
to his duty, and to repentance. If he is the enemy of 
God, yet he is conscious of his state, and finds a voice 
within that is forever urgmg him to return to the foun- 
tain of his hfe — if he is enslaved by his passions, yet, 
there is a sentiment in his heart, which continually re- 
sists their dominion, and recalls him to the liberty of 
the sons of God. A holy light still shines in the soul 
in the midst of those convictions which distress him, 
but, when conscience is at peace in its sins, that light 
is extinguished, and the soul becomes a prey to its own 
vices and corruptions. 

III. This is the last danger of a wrong conscience, 
it destroys the most effectual means of reformation. 

An enlightened conscience is the voice of God in the 
breast, still pointing out the path of duty — still check- 
ing the career of vice — still pressing on the heart the 
motives of repentance. It is the last and most pre- 
cious mean of grace, which God bestows to bring 
men back to himself" from the dangerous errors of their 
ways. But if conscience has ceased to speak, what is 
there to warn, what is there to restrain, what is there 
to recall the sinner.^ If it is so perverted as to flatter 
where it ought to condemn his vices, to reconcile him 
to himself when he is at enmity with God, and to im- 
press tlie stamp of innocence on sinful desires and pur- 
suits, what access is there for conviction.^ Whatprin- 

360 On a wrong Conscience. 

ciple upon which the motives of reformation can take 
hold? Exhortations, remonstances, reproofs, the me- 
naces of the divine law, are all in vain — ihey touch 
not the soul that is already satisfied with itself — they 
glance, if I may speak so, from the shield with which 
a false conscience covers a deceived heart. Speak to 
him of duty — his heart has already marked out a law 
of duty to itself, and he attends to no other — warn him 
of the guilt, and the dangers of an impenitent state, he 
hears in his heart nothing but the whispers of inno- 
cence — lay open before him the way of salvation — He 
is hastening to go down to the gates of death with a 
lie in his right hand. A more fearful judgment can- 
not be inflicted, in the righteous displeasure of almigh- 
ty God, on an individual, or a nation, than insensibility, 
or perverseness, and error of conscience. When he 
had prepared for Jerusalem and Israel the most ter- 
rible and certain perdition, what is the indication of it.^ 
what are the means which infallibly conducted them 
to it — hear ye, indeed, saith tlie prophet, but understand 
not; see ye, indeed, but perceive not; make the heart of 
this people fat, make tlieir ears heavy, and shid their 
eyes — which are so many figures to express this de- 
plorable state of-th.e conscience. It is a general truth, 
ivhom God is tvilling to destroy he first infatuates. He 
suffers their own errors and mistakes to ruin them. 

But, while a right conscience is not absolutely ex- 
tinguished — while it still speaks truth at the bottom of 
the heart, there is lett the hope, and the means of re- 
formation. Even in the midst of its vices and (jissolu- 
t.ons, when the soul seems to be absorbed by them, 

On a wrons: Conscience. S61 


and borne irresistibly down their current, there is still 
something within which checks its course — the word, 
and the providence of God have some hold on which to 
fasten, in order to draw it at length from the gulf of 
its passions and its crimes. Some remonstrance from 
the divine word, some stroke of divine providence may, 
at last rouse it, reanimate it by new light, reinvigorate 
all its energies' and give it the victory through Jesus 
Christ. Among a thousand examples to illustrate this 
truth, none is more instructive or interesting than 
that of the illustrious St, Augustine. Educated with 
pious care by his mother Monica, the impetuosity of 
his passions was such that they long overbore his bet- 
ter principles, and he appeared to be lost in the disso- 
lute pleasures, first of Carthage, and afterwards of 
Rome. Led at length, by curiosity*to hear St. Ambrose, 
the most celebrated preacher of his age, the truth fas- 
tened on the heart of Augustine, roused the sleeping 
embers of his conscience, and recalled all the pious 
instructions and principles of his earlier days — he be- 
came a triumphant believer, and has been honoured 
by God, to become one of the most distinguished fath- 
ers of the church. In his confessions, those admirable 
models of penitence and christian humility, with what 
energy does he speak on this subject? "Yes Lord! saitli 
he, if was an enlightened conscience which saved me, 
which drew me from the profound abyss of my iniqui- 
ty — my conscience, though guilty, was always a just 
judge of itself, and declared for thee, against my own 
sins — this it was that restored me to thee!" Behold 
my brethren, in St. Augustine, the methods of divine 

362 On a wrong Conscience. 

grace — behold the vaUie of a conscience enlightened 
by truth! Christian parents! be not discouraged by 
the present unpromising effects of your labours — Be 
reanimated by this great example to impart holy prin- 
ciples, to give pious examples to your children. The 
precious seed, though long buried, may rise at length, 
and produce the unexpected fruits of a glorious har- 

Such are the advantages of a right, such are the 
dangers of a wrong conscience. 

Let me now conclude with a few of those reflections, 
and admonitions, proportioned to your time, which the 
train of this illustration must have suggested. 

It is often asked on this subject, if a mistaken con- 
science does not excuse error — if invincible error does 
not take away guilt — if we ought not always to follow 
the dictates of conscience, whether well or ill informed.^ 
The doctrine of conscience is complicated; and to 
elucidate it thoi*oughly would require a much greater 
detail, and the solution of a much greater number of 
questions, than this place will allow. I will merely 
state a few general maxims, leaving your own reflec- 
tion to apply and detail them. Invincible ignorance, 
where it is truly invincible, and has not been induced by 
previous neglect, or previous vice, does excuse error. 
But men often mistake on this subject. Error is not 
pardonable if we have neglected the proper season, 
the proper opportunities, the proper means of informa- 
tion, although circumstances should arise, in conse- 
quence of that neglect, to render it afterwards invinci- 
ble. Error is not pardonable, if our vices, our passions, 

On a ivi'ong Conscience. 363 

our self-love have so biassed reason that the light of 
truth can no longer reach the mind. Such immoral 
causes of wrong reasoning, and consequently of a 
wrong conscience, may, in the just judgment of God, 
become invincible, but never excusable. But may we 
ever violate the dictates of conscience ? Whatever is not 
of faith, saith the apostle, that is, is not accompanied 
with a clear and full belief of its rectitude, is sin. A man 
also is guilty of sin if he violates the law of God, though 
fully persuaded of the innocence of his actions— by his 
own vice therefore he may be brought into such a state 
that whether he acts with or against his conscience, he 
sins. Crimes, the result of a mistaken, but well meant 
education, are more easily than others entitled topardon: 
therefore, says Paul, / obtained mercy, though I perse- 
cuted the church of Christ, because I did it ignorantly, 
in unbelief And, on this ground, the Saviour himself 
prays for his murderers — Father, forgive them, for they 
know not what they do! But crimes springing from 
errors grafted originally on our own vices, merit no in- 
dulo-ence. The cause, and the effect both concur to 
augment their guilt — this was the crime of Balaam, 
who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and taught 
Balak to cast a stumbling block before Israel — But 
the highest and most consummate degree of guilt, is 
violating at the same time the clear Hghts of con- 
science, of the Spirit, and the law of God— This was the 
crime of Judas. And crimes approaching to it we too 
often see in those impious and virulent enemies of the 
gospel, who, not only renounce its laws, but oppose 

364 On a wron^ Conscience 


with bitterness and malignity its holy spirit wherever 
it appears. 

If these ideas are just, with what caution should we 
trust our hearts! with what care should we examine 
our consciences! with what scrupulous inquiry should 
we try, on all subjects, if their decisions are in con- 
formity with the will of God! Beware of trusting those 
vague and general sanctions of innocence which your 
hearts are apt to give to your ordinary actions, or your 
favourite pursuits. While men enjoy health and pros- 
perity, seldom are they willing to enter deeply into their 
own breasts — they cannot endure the trouble of search- 
ing them to the bottom, nor the humiliations, and 
compunctions of seeing that they are sinners — they re- 
gard the heart with a transient glance, they shut their 
eyes against the views of their corruptions — by giving 
way to the agitations of business or amusement, they 
endeavour to forget them — they hope the best, and 
march on in security amidst all the calls, the remon- 
strances, the denunciations of the word of God, and 
even of their own consciences which now and then 
raise a feeble and a warning voice from the bottom of 
their hearts. Oh! that God would convince every care- 
less hearer in this assembly of the infinite danger of 
flattering his soul with a deceitful peace which God 
himself has not spoken! Oh! the horror of being sur- 
prised by a midnight call! of perishing m the midst of 
your vain hopes! Be honest to your soul, and to God. 
Let conscience give a faithful and enhghtened decision 
on your duties, and your sins, on your hopes, and your 
fears. Enlighten it, not by your own fallacious rea- 

On a wrong Conscience . 365 

soning, not by the depraved wishes of a heart still devo- 
ted to its sins, but by the word and the spirit of God. 
Yield yourself to its authority, encourage the full ener- 
gy of its denunciations, till it bring you a willing and 
humbled penitent to the footstool of divine mercy. But 
do you ask, how shall we prevent or rectify the errors 
of a wrong conscience.^ how shall we escape dangers 
to which vve are exposed both from the frailty, and the 
corruption of our nature.? My brethren, the whole art 
consists in diligence, fidelity, and prayer — Be diligent 
to search the scriptures, and to learn the will of God 
our maker, from every aid which he has given to ena- 
ble us to understand it — Be faithful and honest, that is 
be ivilling to hear the trutli that condemns yourselves. 
Conscience will commonly speak clearly, and speak 
truly to those who, in the simplicity of their hearts, 
are resolved to obey it. Add fervent, humble, and 
sincere prayer to the Father of lights, and the Father 
of mercies. He is ready to impart his holy spirit to 
them that ask him. Commit yourselves to him and 
he will guide you surely. But, be serious, be in ear- 
nest in this important concern. Flatter not yourselves 
because you have bribed the verdict of the judge in 
your breast, that, therefore, you have obtained the ap- 
probation of the Supreme Judge. Hope not to carry 
even your own approbation to iiis bar. The approach 
of death, when it is too late to change, will awaken 
you to juster ideas, and a severer judgment of your- 
selves. Listen to the word of divine truth which is 
daily brought to your ears. Listen to those small whis- 
pers of conscience which you now endeavour to drown. 

VOL. II. 3 A 

$66 On a wrong Conscieme, 

Hear their warnings before God in judgment has made 
them cease to speak. Let not the hght that surrounds 
you only blind your eyes, and harden ^our hearts. 
Great God! shall these ministrations of thy blessed 
word, intended for the salvation of sinners, only seal 
their more terrible perdition? Hast thou made their 
ears heavy, and shut their eyes, and, in thy wrath given 
them a deceived heart.'* Father of mercies! consign 
them not so fearful a doom! Shed thy light upon their 
hearts! awake, arouse the sleeping conscience! make 
it speak with energy! make it effectually speak for 
thee! Amen! 


Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, what- 
soever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things 
are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, 
if there be any praise, think of these things. Phil, iv, 8. 

In this comprehensive passage the great apostle of 
the Gentiles obviously designs to exhibit under a sin- 
gle view a beautiful epitome of christian morals. He 
had, in the progress of the epistle, recommended to 
his Philippian converts many of the virtues and graces 
of the gospel in detached exhortations. Here he ap- 
pears studious to embrace the whole in a brief sum- 
mary, and to depict, at a single stroke of his pencil, a 
full portrait of christian manners. He had always, in 
all his discourses, and his epistles to the churches, 
laid at the foundation of the christian system, repent- 
ance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus 
Christ. And in all his practical instructions, in which 
these principles are not definitely stated, their exist- 
ence is ever presupposed. But his immediate pur- 
pose in this place, is to recommend the gospel to the 
world by its excellent moral influence, and to derive a 
testimony in its favour, from the amiable and holy ex^ 
ample of its disciples. Its morals compose the body, 
and visible part of this divine religion, and form, to the 
eye of the world, the beauty of holiness. 

368 The perfection of Christian Morals. 

We perceive the holy apostles, ever solicitous to re 
commend the doctrine of" God their Saviour to the ac- 
ceptance of mankind by the purity and excellence of 
its moral system. And the concurrent voice of evan- 
gelic history bears testimony to the exemplary simpli- 
city, innocence, and charity of the primitive chris- 
tians; and gives us reason to believe that, to this cause 
not less than to the eloquence of its first ministers, are 
we to ascribe its rapid triumphs over the opinions, and 
manners of the world. And it seems to have been 
particularly in the view of Saint Paul, in the text, not 
so much to press upon his christian converts the fun- 
damental and distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, 
as to inculcate those useful and amiable virtues which, 
being more obvious to the senses of mankind, are cal- 
culated, most immediately, to win their way to the 
heart. Thus would they adorn the profession of God 
their Saviour; and others, beholding their good works 
be led thereby to give glory to God. 

In the passage which I have chosen as the subject 
of our present meditations, he urges upon the Philip- 
pian saints, the cultivation of truth, of honor, of justice, 
of purity, of amiable manners, of virtuous reputation, 
that the nascent cause of Christianity might thence de- 
rive the most effectual recommendation to the esteem 
of mankind. 

The virtues here inculcated by the sacred writer, 
and the arrangement which he has given them will 
form the subject, and the order of the following dis- 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 369 

Whatsoever things are true, expresses the first fea- 
ture in that divine portrait of christian perfection ex- 
hibited by the apostle. 

Next to the great question concerning the chief 
good: truth, constituted the subject of supreme inquiry 
and disquisition among the ancient sages. 

The excellence of this principle which awakened 
so powerfully their anxious investigations, is its sub- 
serviency to virtue, and to public happiness. The 
science which illuminates the mind, contributes, at the 
same time, to rectify, and strengthen the dictates of 
conscience, and to confirm the control of reason over 
all the plans of life. The apostle, in this precept, 
therefore, may be regarded as enjoining every disciple 
of the faith earnestly to establish for himselt the sound- 
est principles of truth, on the subjects of his duty, of 
the nature and worship of Almighty God, and of his 
everlasting interests and hopes. 

In these researches, christians, it is of the utmost 
importance to be deeply convinced that a sincere love of 
truth is the most certain mean of arriving at the pos- 
session of it. It inspires an energy of character which 
refuses no labour in order to attain it; and begets a 
fairness and candor of heart, on all moral questions 
which is congenial with its simple and upright dictates. 
It covers no secret bias in opposition to the truth, but 
is ever willing to admit without disguise, its purest and 
holiest lights, even when they are found to thwart our 
favourite inclinations. Cut, because the most clear 
and resplendent mirror of truth is held out by our bles- 
sed Saviour in the sacred scriptures, it is peculiarly in= 

370 TTie perfection of Christian Morals, 

cumbent on every believer, to apply himself to the 
study of these divine volumes with humble and assidu- 
ous zeal, enlightened and animated by the spirit of a 
prayerful faith. For, in them are found all those pre- 
cious doctrines most important for man to know. 
And the holy fervor of prayer purifies the perceptions 
of the soul, and strengthens the illumination of the 
divine word. 

But, as the apostle, in this passage, appears to have 
in his view chiefly those social virtues which eminently 
contributed to recommend the gospel to the esteem of 
the world, and which at that period, in the decline of 
manners throughout the Roman empire, were greatly 
impaired, the love of truth is probably intended, further, 
to embrace that open and sincere temper which is the 
basis of mutual confidence, and holds, almost the first 
honors in the moral intercourse of mankind. Sinceri- 
ty and candor are the offspring and the image of an 
ingenuous character of soul. And an inflexible adhe- 
rence to the dictates of truth, in all circumstances, is 
the evidence of a firmness of mind which is not easily 
shaken by any weak and unmanly fear, or tempted to 
decHne from the path of righteousness by any enfee- 
bling seductions of pleasure. Vice alone studies to wrap 
itself up in the folds of dissinmlation, or hopes to elude 
detection under the disguises and coverings of false- 

If, at any time, the ingenuousness of a noble nature 
has been betrayed into an error through the inconside- 
rate ardor of the passions, never will it seek a dubious 
justification in concealment, or a disingenuous palliation 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 3*7 1 

in disguise; but with generous candor is able to rest 
upon itself in the fair disclosure of the fact. For it is 
the maxim of a high and virtuous mind, that more true 
greatness of soul is often displayed in frankly confes- 
sing, than in not having committed an error. It is a 
sublime homage paid to virtue, and implies an elevated 
turn of thinking which is superior to what is mean, and 
abhors what is unworthy or dishonourable. God has 
imposed upon all men inviolable obligations to truth, 
not only in the powerful dictates of conscience, but in 
its obvious and indispensible subserviency to the order 
and happiness of society. Society exists only by the 
force of truth. Whatsoever things are true, think of 

these things. . 

Be then the love and pursuit of the truth, as it is in 
Christ Jesus our Lord, ever among your supreme cares. 
To display its glorious evidence to the world, Christ 
himself descended from Heaven. And the soul pene- 
trated and purified by its holy light, is raised to the 
likeness of the Saviour, and becomes more and more 
assimilated to him, who is the author of truth. For ^ 
this end, besides the ample volume of nature, contain- 
ing the visible declaration of his will to all mankind, 
he has given to his disciples the more luminous volume 
of his Holy Spirit. And to study both the one and the 
other with profound attention, and with continual 
prayer to the Father of lights for his illuuiinating 
mace is at once, our precious privilege and our in- 
dispensible duty. To read them witli understanding 
requires the purest simplicity of heart, and the most 
profound humility, that no corrupt bias within may ob^ 

372 The perfection of Christian Morals. 

scure the light: For he only, saith the Saviour, who 
doeth ray will shall know of the doctrine whether it be of 
God, or ivhetlier I speak of myself. 

2. Next to this divine principle which assimilates 
the soul to him whose nature is truth, the sacred wri- 
ter ^dds,-ivhatsoever things are honest. — 

The force of this term in the original, is better ex- 
pressed in our language by honourable or respectable. — 
The obvious intention of the apostle is, to enjoin that 
dignity and gravity of manners which become a chris- 
tian, always conscious of the presence of Almighty 
God, and always occupied with the pure and subhme 
affections of religion. Principles which display them- 
selves in a manly seriousness of deportment, not only 
while engaged in the immediate offices of devotion, but 
in discharging all the ordinary duties of life. The un- 
seasonable levities or the effeminating pleasures of the 
world, frivolity of character or lightness of manners, but 
ill comport with that dignified simplicity, and that 
reflective gravity which should be stamped on the 
whole exterior of a disciple of Christ. In this respect 
the judgment of the world concurs with the gospel, for 
nothing does it more severely reprehend, than its own 
ima«-e when seen in those who bear the name of so 
high and holy a master. 

Far however, is religion from recommending a pom- 
pous reserve for dignity of manner, a melancholy gloom 
for seriousness, or a solemn and penitential counte- 
nance, for sanctity. These imposing austerities can 
arise only from mistaken apprehensions of the nature 
of God, and the true principles of human duty. A chris- 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 373 

tian, on the contrary, ought ever to exhibit in his de- 
portment the serenity of a good conscience, and the 
softened cheerfuhiess of rehgious hope. A serious but 
placid composure of manner is the decent and natural 
expression of that habit of the soul which pious sensi- 
bility has thrown over the rational views and plans of 
life. It refuses not to descend ta lighter scenes, and, 
on proper occasions, to mingle with the innocent 
amusements of society; but it descends as reason and 
Christianity ought to descend. It touches trifles, when 
it is proper to unbend, in a way that engages your es- 
teem, and never departs from the decency and self-re- 
spect which belong to religion. True piety, always 
occupied with the sober duties, of life, or occasionally 
yielding to its lawful relaxations, derives the dignity of 
its manner from the inward majesty of the spirit of de- 
votion. Whatsoever things are honourable, think of 
these things; and never let the sacred honor of the gos- 
pel be impaired in your example by any act unworthy 
the profession of God your Saviour. 

3. But by no means can the respectability of chris- 
tian morals be more surely supported than by an exact 
fulfilment of the duties of justice. A class of virtues 
was included under this denomination, according to 
the distribution of the ancient sages, extending to a 
nmch wider compass than that to which it has been 
restricted in the precision of modern science. Besides 
the principles of simple equity, it comprehended the 
duties also, which we owe to God, to our parents, to 
our country, and was made to embrace all the charities 
of life. In this extent it was probably regarded by that 


374 The perfection of Christian Morals. 

learned apostle who was eminently instructed in all the 
science of the Greeks. Hence is the term, in this 
place, justly deemed equivalent to that inestimable rule 
of our blessed Saviour; Whatsoever ye would that men 
should do unto you, do you even so to them. A rule which 
requires no explanation, but must ever yield a clear 
and unambiguous direction in duty to every man who 
is only faithful to himself and to God; for God hath 
lod,^ed the interpretation of it in his own breast. 

But taking the term in its strictest implication, as 
comprising only that fairness and integrity which ought 
to regulate all the intercourse ofmankind with one an- 
other, no virtue, perhaps, ought to bear a higher estima- 
tion in society; and no other surely, can compensate the 
defect of justice. Where integrity is wanting, generosity 
is but thoughtless profusion; benevolence is, at best, 
but an amiable weakness, and the pri^fession of piety 
is gross hypocrisy. What vice, indeed, can be more 
opprobrious than that which strikes at the very exis- 
tence of society? 

Manifest fraud, insolent oppression, or that low cun- 
ning which lies in wait to surprise an unjust advantage 
from the necessities, the inadvertence, or the generous 
openness of heart of others, all men will loudly con- 
demn. But there are not wanting many examples of 
those who, misled by their love of ostentation, or their 
incautious pursuits of pleasure, trespass upon the obli- 
gations of justice, while hardly are they conscious that 
they are, in these very acts, stained with crimes of deep 
offence against the holy rule of equity in the eye of 
Heaven. For so sacred are the rights of others, that. 

The perfection of Christian Morals. SI 5 

voluntarily to put them in hazard, is a species of iniqui- 
ty. Justice not only imperiously commands the fulfil- 
ment of the minutest claims of equity, but rigorously 
requires a good man to abstain from whatever, cither 
in the habits of living, or the transactions of commerce, 
may eventually seduce him to impair its principles. 
And how often, alas! have we seen men who embarked 
in hazardous speculations, have been tempted at length 
to the most unworthy departures from an upright con- 
duct, in order to preserve those doubtful appearances 
which have too long flattered themselves, and imposed 
upon the world; and how often do we see the vanity of 
some, the emulation of others, and of not a few, a cul- 
pable facihty of temper in yielding to the importunities 
of an inconsiderate family, lead them into a style of 
ostentation and expense, which they have no solid 
means to support? Soon the pressure of factitious 
wants, and the false shame of descending to the level 
of their circumstances, engage them first in a maze of 
fraud, and plunge them at length in a gulf of crimes. 
How omch then, does the honor of justice and of Chris- 
tianity require the cultivation of simple tastes and fru- 
gal habits of living -* They are favourable to piety, 
they are manly, and, in the infinite fluctuations of for- 
tune, they are essential to the security of the principles 
of virtue. They add a real lustre to the possession 
of ample wealth, if it shall be your lot to enjoy it; or 
they will enable you if without vice you fall, to de- 
scend with dignity, and yield with submissive resigna- 
tion to the will of God. 

4. Whatsoever things are pure, form the next char- 

376 Tlie perfection of Christian Morals. 

acter of christian perfection, in this excellent summary. 
As truth and justice regulute the intercourse of a good 
man with society; purity relates to his personal duties 
in the government of his propensities and appetites. 
These principles, naturally tending to excess, require 
to be restrained under a firm and constant rein. Mo- 
derate gratifications they demand; and, when they are 
preserved within reasonable limits, they contribute to 
the haj)piness and health of the individual. But, when 
incautiously indulged, they become an impure vortex, 
which absorbs into itself all the great and noble quali- 
ties of the heart and intellect. Nothing so deeply 
taints the purity of the soul as the gross affections of 
the body; or equally disqualifies it for communion with 
the infinite sources of purity and truth. They cloud 
the serenity of reason, they disturb the exercises of 
devotion, and often render even the spirituality of the 
soul doubtful to the slaves of appetite. Therefore we 
are so earnestly enjoined, throughout the holy scrip- 
tures, to deny ourselves; to keep under the body; and to 
crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. When 
the soul is enabled, by this temperate self-control, to 
rise above the obscure atmosphere in which they would 
involve it, and to purge off their turbid and intoxicating 
fumes, it aspires through the divine spirit, to unite itself 
with God, and to mingle its essence, as far as it is law- 
ful for our imperfect nature, with that of the supreme, 
and all-perfect mind. 

Purity, then, imphes that principle of the renewed 
nature which is most directly opposed to every impro- 
per gratification in the pleasure of sense, it consists 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 377 

not only in moderation of indulgence, but in conti- 
nence of desire. The perfection of the christian mo- 
rality extends to the thoughts, and to the first princi- 
ples of action in the soul. At the same time that it re- 
quires manners sober, temperate and chaste, it impo- 
ses a rigorous law upon the imagination and the heart. 
He who will give the reins to an impure fancy, will soon 
find himself enslaved to the worst passions. 

5. In this admirable portrait of evangelic perfection, 
we find the apostle, who was not less a great philoso- 
pher, and a man of polished manners, than an emi- 
nent saint, improving it in the next place by adding 
whatsoever things are lovely: — manifestly embracing in 
his ideas those ornamental graces of conduct by which 
Christianity should be recommended to the esteem of 
the world, as his preceding directions had enjoined 
chiefly its substantial duties. The will of the Creator 
upon this subject, is not obscurely indicated in the 
whole structure of the world. In all his works we be- 
hold beauty combined with utility. Man is endowed 
by his Creator with a lively relish of whatever is beau- 
tiful in nature, or amiable and lovely in human con- 
duct. In conformity with this general intention, we 
perceive that there are certain graces of manner which 
contribute to render a character, otherwise good, pe- 
culiarly interesting. Many pious men imagine that, 
if they possess the substantial virtues of the gospel, — 
its integrity and truths its penitence and faith, the more 
amiable and ornamental graces of manners are hard- 
ly to be desired; and that the cultivation of them sa- 
vours too much of the fashion of this world. The ap- 

378 The 'perfection of Christian Morals. 

prehension of these good nfien, so contrary, as we have 
seen, to the order of nature, is not less opposed to the 
evangelic order: for the holy apostle, a man the most 
abstracted from the vanities of the world, enjoins it 
with peculiar emphasis, upon his Philippian converts, 
to cultivate whatsoever things are lovely. 

The particular character of virtue, which is here 
the subject of the apostolic injunction, consists in those 
dispositions of kindness, benevolence, and considera- 
tion for others which form the most amiable features 
in the commerce of mankind. Formed for society, 
we regard with peculiar complacency, those manners 
which contribute to refine its ties, and to render its 
intercourse endearing. But, far be it from Christianity 
to recommend that polite foppery, or that studied, and 
distant urbanity which is merely the ape of benevolence, 
a painted image without a heart; that is more concern- 
ed for the manner of doing an action, than for its good- 
ness; and much more vain of its own grace than in- 
terested for your happiness. The politeness of a true 
christian is the simple and unaffected expression of the 
benevolent sentiments which occupy his mind. They 
give a meaning and interest to every look and action, 
which consequently enters the soul by a charming in- 
sinuation, bespeaking its confidence far beyond any 
forms of the artificial and cold civility of the world. 
The most benevolent intentions, and the most benefi- 
cent actions often lose great part of their value, if they 
are void of delicacy. And a certain insinuation in the 
style of conferring a favour, or expressing oui' regard 
and consideration for others, the result simply of be- 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 379 

nevolent feeling, creates for the act a much warmer 
interest in our hearts than the highest polish of an arti- 
ficial manner. Whatsoever things are Imely, therefore, 
disciples of the most mild and benevolent master! think 
oftJiese things; that, according to the declared design 
of the apostle, they may at once render your virtues 
more amiable in the eyes of the world, and increase, 
which is the first wish of every real follower of his Sa- 
viour, your power of doing good. 

In this comprehensive view of a perfect character 
traced by the sacred writer, the loveliness of its man- 
ners is not to be exclusively confined, even to the most 
amiable expressions of its benevolent dispositions to- 
wards others, but may justly be extended to all those 
small but important attentions to the proprieties of life, 
which contribute to render the intercourse of society 
more pleasing. It has, in every age, been the error of 
some devout men, to conceive that religion is so ex- 
clusively occupied with the great interests of our eter- 
nal being, that the body, which is destined so soon to 
perish, is hardly an object of its pious care. Yet, that 
a certain condescension to this earthly part of our na- 
ture is not unworthy the sublimity of its views, is mani- 
fest from the whole ritual of the ancient dispensation. 
By how many ablutions and purifications did the law 
of Moses express its solicitude, not only for the health 
of the body, but all the decencies of life? And is it 
not reasonable that, while our corporeal and spiritual 
faculties coexist, and compose but one nature, religion 
should embrace the improvement and perfection of both 
within her cognizance. Let no one be surprised, then, 

380 The perfection of Christian Morals. 

that attentions even of this personal kind should be en- 
umerated among the virtues of the gospel. It recom- 
mends, indeed, no frivolous or excessive cares of orna- 
ment, which are always the indications of a vain, and 
even an unchaste mind; but it is equally remote from 
that grossness of sentiment which disgusts by neglect. 
A decent regard to appearance, according to the several 
stations which men hold in society, — an elegant sim- 
plicity where it can be afforded; and above all, purity 
of person, though under the homeliest garb, are proofs 
of a benevolent desire to please and be pleased, which 
can never be separated from christian charity. 

Their precious influence is, perhaps, chiefly felt in 
that society which is the most intimate, and ought to 
be the most dear to man; \ mean the conjugal and do- 
mestic, which, when supported by delicate and mutual 
attention, is the scene of his purest earthly joys; but, 
when poisoned by negligence, or any want of the de- 
cencies and proprieties of life, is the source of some of 
his most poignant infelicities, and often, of his greatest 
errors and vices. 

Shall these attentions, christians! be esteemed too 
light and unimportant to be introduced into this sacred 
place, when so much of the happiness of human life 
depends upon them? Nay, 1 fear not to class them 
with the essential duties of piety, and to claim for them 
a rank and consideration in the scale of morals which 
has too seldom been assigned them. Whatsoever things 
are lovely, think of these things. And add to them, 

6. Whatsoever things are of good report. If we 
attempt to discriminate between this class, and those 

TJie perfection of Chiistian Morals. 381 

which precede it, it probably consists of such acknow- 
ledfijed and cons[)icuoiis acts of beneficence, goodness 
and nobleness of heart, as are calculated to attract to 
themselves extraordinary reputation. Reputation is 
attached, in a certain degree, to the fulrilment of every 
duty, and the practice of every virtue, but it is especial- 
ly won by distinguished proofs of a humane, benign, and 
munificent spirit. Accordingly, in the exercise of the 
charitable virtues, the primitive christians are recorded 
to have exceeded all mankind, and, by the precfous 
fruitsof this pious benevolence, to have preeminently 
contributed to the early and wide diffusion of the doc- 
trines of God their Saviour. And the apostle, in sketch- 
ing that character of christian perfection, so ornamen- 
tal to their holy profession, had, doubtless, his view 
principally fixed on those extraordinary charities which 
distinguished the new sect, and were then, to the 
great honor and advantage of the christian name, for 
the first time, displayed in all their beauty before the 
pagan world. We can hardly hesitate concerning the 
design of the sacred writer in this injunction, which was 
to reconimend to his fellow christians, the benevolent 
spirit of their heavenly master, and to seek a good re- 
port among their brethren, not only by the conspicuous 
exercise of every virtue, but especially by the liberality 
and amplitude of their public charities. AH men in- 
deed do not possess the same means of making their 
beneficence shine before the world. But, in the hum- 
blest stati(uis of life, if they have not wealth to bestow 
in the relief of sufiering indigence, they have their sym- 
pathies, their assiduities, tiieir ten thousand hunsane of- 

VOL. II. 3 c 

S82 The perfection of Chrislian Morals. 

fices. Who is there so obscure, who has it not often in 
his power to render some alleviations to the afflictions 
of others; to succour, or befriend injured innocence; 
to assist or console virtuous sorrow, and, in many 
ways, to do good even to the evil and unthankful? But 
if heaven has blessed you with affluence, is it not put- 
ting in your power a more conspicuous opportunity of 
exercising a noble hberality? What a pure and vir- 
tuous reputation may you not acquire by favouring es- 
tablishments for relieving helpless distress? by furnish- 
ing to the poor the means of an honest and useful in- 
dustry? by assisting institutions for diffusing knowledge, 
and promoting virtue among the most indigent orders 
of the community? by works for the improvement and 
benefit of your countiy? Reputation sought by such 
means is a splendid ambition, and contributes as much 
to the honor of religion as to tlie glory of the individual. 
If those who aspire to honorable distinction, should, 
instead of courting a low popularity by the vile and 
disingenuous arts by which it is too often attained; or 
consuming their revenues in invidious ostentation, em- 
ploy the same talents in promoting works of public 
utility, — in augmenting the grandeur, the industry, and 
solid power of their country, — in improving arts, in ad- 
vancing knowledge, in diffusing religion, in alleviating 
the unavoidable calamities of human life, how honora- 
bly might they flourish in the love and good report of 
their fellow citizens, and fellow christians! What a 
triumph might they not obtain for religion! what a glo- 
ry might they not shed on the charitable principles of 
the gospel, which in the most splendid periods of Greece 

77ie perfection of Christian Morals. 383 

and Rome, were hardly understood in the temples of 
paganism? And how strongly, in that age must the 
incipient cause of Christianity have been recommended 
to their pagan brethren, by these rare virtues! In every 
age, what a lustre do they shed on the doctrines of the 
ever blessed Redeemer! — Whatsoever things are of 
good report, think of these things. 

After inculcating, with the apostle, the superior vir- 
tues of the christian life, little can be wanting, in this 
age of refinement, and in the present state of cultiva- 
ted society, to I'econimend that suavity of manners 
which he esteemed so highly ornamental to the chris- 
tian profession. That civility which studies to imitate 
the benevolence and charity of the gospel, is incorpo- 
rated by our education into our earliest habits. How 
desirable, that the image were converted into the sub- 
stance, and that the ceremonious exterior which, too 
often, by a certain excess of urbanitj^, endeavours to 
cover its defects, were animated with the genuine spirit 
of charity! Still, however, is the image of it calcula- 
ted to maintain a happy intercourse among mankind, 
and promote the harmony of society. And the cultiva- 
tion of this character of manners, is ranked by the 
holy apostle, not merely among the decencies required 
by society, but the virtues of the christian life. As 
virtues, therefore, and duties to heaven, and not as 
what is only graceful in ourselves, let all the decent 
expressions of mutual civility be practised. Thus may 
they be made subservient to the purposes of genuine 
charity, and be rescued from the imputation of being 
merely a cold and frivolous ceremonial. The loveli- 

384 The perfection of Christian Morals. 

ness of christian manners consists principally in their 
being a pure emanation from the fountain of a humane 
and benevolent heart, which gives them an inimitable, 
and most persuasive grace. It tends to transfuse itself 
into the look, the manner, and even the tones of the 
voice. Whatever cultivation can add to nature is not 
to be neglected; but it is lovely, it is sanctified nature, 
which touches the finest sensibifities of the soul. 

7. This amiable portrait of christian morals, the 
holy and eloquent apostle finishes by the following 
striking and comprehensive strokes, v^'hich present 
every thing to the eye, at a single glance; — if there be 
any virtue, if there be any praise; whatever the dictates 
of your own heart pronounce to be right, although the 
individual act be not definitely prescribed by any law; 
whatever the common sentiments of mankind approve 
as praiseworthy, be this a sacred and inviolable rule of 
conduct to you whether it respects the minutest actions 
of life, or affects its most important affairs. The in- 
stinctive dictates ot the heart are, periiaps always in 
favour of virtue; and with them concurs the general 
suffrage of mankind, because all are conscious of the 
same benevolent impulses; and virtue is ever found to 
be the common interest of the world. Next, therefore, 
to the praise which cometh from God, and the consci- 
ous approbation of our own hearts, it is laAvful for chris- 
tian humility, to aspire to the honorable praise that 
cometh from man; that by acquiring so just a title to 
the esteem of our fellow christians, we may be able 
more effectually to promote the glory of the Redeemer, 
and extend the influence of his most holy religion. 

The perfection of Christian Morals. 3S5 

Such is the beautiful portrait of the christian char- 
arter, as it is obvious to the observation of the world, 
dehneated by the holy apostle. Its beauty and perfec- 
tion redounded greatly to the honor of the christian 
name in the first ages of the gospel. And it was evi- 
d(Mitly the design of this great defender of the cross, 
to draw an argument in favour of the doctrine of Ohrist 
from its excellent fruits in the morals of his followers. 
For this purpose, he presents to our view, in this pas- 
sage only the obvious and visible part of the christian 
character, from which intention I have not permit- 
ted myself to depart in the illustration. But when 
we attempt to trace the character to its secret and in- 
ternal principles, it will not be forgotten by you that 
the morality of the gospel has its foundation deeply 
laid in supreme love to God, and in unfeigned benevo- 
lence towards our fellow .men; in repentance and in 
faith. From these principles arises the whole fabric 
of our duties to heaven, and the whole law of truth, of 
justice, and of charity to mankind. By divine love we 
are assimilated to him whose nature and property is 
love; — by faith we are renewed in the spirit of our 
minds, and united to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, 
which is all prevalent at the tribunal of his justice; 
while, by sincere repentance, the soul is purified from 
its old transgressions, and prepared to be presented to 
God, a pure offering on his altars. From this basis, 
the superstructure of christian morals can never be 
separated. And let no man vainly imagine, that, by 
any pretences to repentance and faith, or any interior 
exercises of devotion unaccompanied with the visible 

38t) 7%e perfectwn of Christian Morals. 

fruits of righteousness; nor, on the other hand, that 
any external acts of charity, justice, temperance, truth, 
or honor, detached from the inward principles of a re- 
newed heart, will ever meet a gracious approbation in 
the judgment of God. Being alone, they are dead; but 
united, they form the perfect character of christian 
virtue. God is then witness of the purity of the heart; 
and the glory of the Redeemer is advanced by the beau- 
ties of holiness, exhibited in the lives of his disciples. 

Now, brethren to him who is able to keep you from 
falling, and to present you faultless before his throne 
with exceeding joy, be glory forever! Amen' 



So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethreu. 

2 Chron. xxv. 36. 

This is the exhortation of a pious prince who had 
just invited the people of Jerusalem and Judah to a 
solemn assembly for the celebration of a national sa- 
crifice. This action had departed from the genuine 
spirit of their religion, and even from its external in- 
stitutions, into an imitation of the idolatry of the sur- 
rounding heathen. The king, solicitous to restore the 
purity of divine vs^orship, and to procure a more uni- 
form and faithful obedience to the laws of God, had 
convened them, to recognize their ancient covenant 
with Jehovah, and to give hini renewed pledges of their 
duty and obedience, in the most public, and sacred 
acts of their religion. Such an act was their passover, 
when thousands of victims were slain in commemora- 
tion of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, 
and of their preservation from the sword of the de- 
stroying angel, who went through the land, and smote 
with death the first born of every family whose doors 
were not sprinkled with the blood of the pascal lamb. 
This pascal sacrifice was a most significant emblem 
of that precious lamb slain from the foundation of the 

oS8 The Christian Passover. 

world, to deliver human nature from the bondage of 
sin, and to restore it finally from the dominion of death. 
When this excellent king had assembled the nation for 
a purpose so pious, and worthy the majesty of the 
throne, he commanded them to sandi/y themselves fur 
this holy service: a term which signifies their interpo- 
sing an entire separation between their worldly avoca- 
tions, and the holy services of the sanctuary, by the 
rites and purifications of their law, the enjblems of that 
purity and preparation of heart with which we ought 
ever to approach the presence of the Eternal in the 
acts of divine worship. The passover was the most so- 
lemn ordinance in the religion of the temple. And 
the people of Israel usually prepared with extraordina- 
ry solicitude and anxious circumspection for its cele- 
bration in due form, according to the prescriptions of 
their great lawgiver. It was especially their duty in 
this solemnity, to look back with holy reverence to the 
fearful displays of the majesty and glory of God in 
their deliverance from Egypt, amidst the ravages of 
death which then surrounded them, throughout the 
whole land; — to recollect with gratitude the distinguish- 
ing mercy of God in their salvation, and to remember 
with thankful praise, the riches, the peace, and hap- 
piness of that promised land to which they had the 
hope of attaining under the conduct of their glorious 

That holy ordinance, christians, which we are con- 
vened to celebrate, is the great antitype of the pascal 
institution in the Jewish church, in which, according 
to the expression of the apostle, Christ our passover is 

The Christian Passover. 389 

sacrificed for us. — Kill the passover, said Josiah to the 
people. — In this ordinance, the Iamb, your passover is 
already slain. Let me address you then, in the lan- 
guage of the king of Israel; sanctify yourselves; — se- 
parate your thoughts and affections from the world, 
as you have separated your persons in this holy con- 
vocation, from its occupations and pursuits; and come 
prepared along with your brethren to eat it with faith. 
Christians! we are assembled in the sanctuary ofthe 
Most High, to perform the most sublime act of our 
religion, and to celebrate, in the presence of Christ, 
the most awfiU, and at the same time, the most con- 
sohng ordinance which he has instituted in his church. 
To what, then, should all your preparations tend? What 
are those sentiments and affections which you should 
bring with you to that holy altar which bears the sa- 
crifice of our passover? to that blessed table which is 
spread with the memorials of our Saviour's love? 
What humility of heart under a sense of sin for which 
Christ died? What mortification to the wot Id, which, 
to a true behever, is crucified with Christ! What love 
to God, who hath given his only begotten son, that 
whosoever believeth on him, shall not pensh, but have 
everlasting life! What fervent charity to the family of 
Christ assembled with you round the same boardi iiut 
I must confine the range of oar meditations, and, as 
we have come up to celebrate our christian passover, 
let me be guided in the reflections which 1 shall fur- 
ther offer you, by those sentiments which would na- 
turally occupy a true Israelite, when slaying his pas- 
sover, and fieasting on his pascal lamb. 1 have already 

VOL. II. 3 D 

390 T9ie Christian Passover. 

pointed ^hem out;— A holy fear of God, whose awful 
judgments surrounded them on every side, while de» 
parting from E.^ypt,— love and gratitude to their Al- 
mighty Saviour, the symbol of whose salvation they 
saw sprinkled on their doors; — and hope of the pro- 
mised land which supported their hearts amidst all the 
trials and dangers of the wilderness through which 
they were to march to its possession. Let us then ap- 
proach our christian sacrifice with profound veneration 
of him who is evidently set forth crucified among us. 
With fervent and supreme love to him whose love we 
commemorate in this feast; — with a lively hope of the 
heavenly Canaan which he hath purchased for the true 
Israel by his deaths and which shall gloriously reward 
the duties, the toils, and dangers of the desert. — That 
is, let us approach this holy table with fear, with love, 
and with hope. With fear in the first place. In this 
ordinance, indeed, you behold the blessed Saviour in 
his humiliation, wounded for our transgressions, bruised 
for our iniquities, and bearing the chastisement of our 
peace. You behold the infirmities of a suffering na- 
ture, symbolized by the siiuplest emblems. Was it not 
that there might be found a victim competent to bear 
the sins of the world .^ Where have you, then, so awful 
a display of the terrors of divine justice, as on the al- 
tar which bears the lamb of God broken and consumed 
as a whole burnt otfering, for our iniquities.'* — The an- 
gels who kept not their first estate, were cast forth firom 
the mansions of glory, into the blackness of everlasting 
darkness; the guilty inhabitants of the old world were 
swept from the earth by a deluge; and Sodom and Go- 

The Christian Passover. 391 

inorrah, for their crimes, were sunk in an abyss of in- 
extinguishable fire; but what was the destruction of an- 
gels, and cf men, to the death of the son of God, of him 
who is united to the Creator of the universe, and par- 
takes of his glory and immortality? All things are no- 
thing, and less than nothing, and vanity, compared 
to him, who is the first born of every creature; the begin- 
ning of the creation of God. This table, then, humble 
and simple as it appears, presents to the view of faith, 
the most fearful monuments of the righteous indigna- 
tion of Almighty God against sin. The children of Is- 
rael ate their passover while the angel of death was 
flying round their habitations, and spreading desola- 
tion through an impious land: but they were sheltered 
by the blood of that symbolical victim which formed 
their sacred repast. Christians! we eat our pascal 
lamb under the shelter of its protecting blood, amidst 
the desolations of that spiritual death, which sin is 
spreading around us. We encompass an altar, we sur- 
round a table, on which we behold the flames of an 
eternal and consuming justice, combined with the hght 
of divine mercy. How serious and awful is the trans- 

But, is there not another view which may justly in- 
spire a pious communicant with holy fear.^ Although 
you behold on that table the most glorious fruits and 
pledges of the Saviour's love, although he is the lamb 
slain from the foundation of the world, the Ibod of the 
hungry, the consolation of the afflicted soul, the hope 
of those who were ready to perish, yet is he the King 
of kings, and Lord of lords, — the righteous judge of 

$92 The Christian Passover. 

quick and dead; and he is seated at the head of his 
own table, judging the hearts of those who approach 
it. — He carries in his hands the decrees of hfe and of 
death. He casts a discriminating look among the 
guests to see who has not on a wedding garment. Yes, 
christians, from that table as from his tribunal, his 
eyes pierce the whole assembly of worshippers, who 
are here present to distinguish the righteous fiom the 
wickpd, spiritually to divide the sheep from the goats, 
as he will more conspicuously separate them in the 
awful decisions of the last day. Are not these con- 
siderations sufficient to fill the breast of every humble 
communicant with holy fear, who is conscious of his 
own manifold imperfections, and of the deceitfulness 
of his own heart.^ Am 1, he is ready to ask, of that 
little flock to ivhom it is the FatJier's good pleasure to 
give the kingdom? O my Saviour! while I am, perhaps 
rashly taking my seat among thy friends, dost thou see 
in the unholy passions and desires of my heart, in the 
errors of my life, the proofs that I have no right to 
the children's bread? — Yes, penitent believer! even 
while partaking of the cup of salvation, you often need 
to be re-assured and encouraged against your own pi- 
ous fears. To the eyes of faith, a tremendous majesty 
surrounds the meek and condescending lamb of God, 
which seems, to the humble and trembling penitent, 
almost, to interdict an approach into his presence. But 
if some, to the injury of their own spiritual comfort, 
flee from this table which bears the sacrifice of their 
peace, as the children of Israel did from the thunders 
of that terrible mountain on which Jehovah descended 

The Christian Passover. 393 

at the promult^ation of his law; are there ndt others, 
alas! who, making religion consist only in a mere 
form, and an empty ritual, who, having never felt 4ts 
vital power, regard this holy table with that irreverent in- 
difference with which the same people braved the terrors 
of his sanctuary, when they presumed to offer strange 
fire upon his altar? They approach it without prepa- 
ration, they leave it without impression, they taste and 
handle the symbols of the broken body, and shed the 
blood of their Saviour, as vulgar things, and return to the 
world with the same carnal temper which they brought 
from it, its cares and pursuits having hardly been in- 
terrupted by a hasty service, equally void of solemnity 
and devotion. Ah! formal hyprocrites! Jesus knows 
the traitor who betrays him with a kiss; he perceives 
the hand mixing with those of his sincere disciples which 
shall afterwards be lifted up in rebellion against him. 
Christians, sometimes, by relaxing their vigilance in 
duty, by immersing themselves without precaution in 
the pursuits of the world, or in the levities and dissolu- 
tions of certain circles of society, impair the spirit and 
the comforts of religion in their own hearts. They, 
consequently, tremble at this ordinance, they dread its 
approach, not through pious awe of the majesty of him 
who is evidently set forth crucified before them, but 
through consciousness of their own hypocrisy. They 
are not duly prepared, their hearts are not rightly dis- 
posed for this most holy service. Like the foolish vir- 
gins, they are alarmed and in confusion at the appear- 
ance of the bridegroom, whom they are not in a fit habit 
of soul to receive at his coming. Ah! christians! this is 

394 The Christian Passover. 

not the (ear of those who truly reverence the body and 
blood of our blessed Lord. A sincere disciple of the 
Redeemer should study to be at all times in habitual 
readiness, either to nicet the bridegroom at his table, 
or to appear before the judge at his tribunal. His 
preparations for the one, and for the other, he should 
mingle with all his avocations in life, with his serious 
duties, and even with his lawful amusements; they 
should mingle with all his engagements, with all his 
habits, with all his thoughts, with his activity, with 
his repose, with the devotions of the closet, with the 
offices of the church. Thus alone, believer! can 
you be prepared to honor your Saviour at his own ta- 

If then we ought to eat our christian passover with 
holy reverence and awe at the contemplation of that 
astonishing victim which was slain for our sins, of tJiat 
word of life of which here we taste and handle; we 
ought also to come, 

II. In the exercise of fervent and supreme love to 
him whose infinite love to us we are here invited 
to commemorate. 

The whole gospel, which is a system of divine love, 
is here represented in epitome. — ^Jesus! Saviour! to 
what but thy own ineffable love are we to ascribe that 
wonderful, that almost incredible condescension which 
brought thee from heaven to enshrine thy glory in the 
infirmities and miseries of a mortal body; to endure 
that horrible exile in which, though Creatorof the uni- 
verse, thou hadst not where to lay thy head; to sub- 
mit to an accursed death, and bear the whole weigh 

Tlie Christian Passover. 395 

of the justice of the violated law for our salvation! We 
are lost in the boundless wonders of this love. We are 
lost in the abyss of our own unworthiness and imper- 
fection! Penitent believer! have you seen your sins 
in the dark and terrifying colours in which they ap- 
pear to a convinced conscience? Has the condemning 
voice of the law pursued you as it often does the con- 
vinced sinner, almost to the verge of despair? have you 
trembled at the flames, which the wrath of God seem- 
ed, such is the force of conscious guilt, to be kindling 
arv)und you? Ah! then, our language will be feeble, to 
represent to you the obligations which you owe to that 
love which has delivered you from its dreadful curse. 
To describe to which moved the Saviour 
to place himself in your room, on the altar of eternal 
justice. Look on the memorials of the Redeemer's 
love, and will not the elevated joys of faith convey to 
your heart a sentiment which words are impotent to 
express; which indeed can only be feebly conveyed in 
the deep silence of devout rapture. What then, chris- 
tian, will be the aspirations of your pious affections, 
while sitting with your Redeemer at the table which his 
giace has spread, and receiving fiom his hand the 
memorials of his dying love? — Lord! enter in and 
take possession of my whole soul! fill it with thyself 
alone! satisfied, inebriated with thy love, may I forget 
for a moment, the world, its sorrows, its pleasures, all 
that it contains; that, occupied only with thee, nothing 
may have power to interrupt the full tide of my pious 
joy! — Ah! Lord! is my heart too impure for thy resi- 
dence? Come, purify it by thy divine spirit! Is my 

^^^ The Christian Passover. 

mind dark and afflicted by doubts? lift upon it the 
light of thy countenance! Is it detiled by former mis- 
carriages and sins? Cleanse it, Lord, with thy own 
most precious blood, and make it an offering worthy 
thy acceptance! 

Bo this, said our blessed Saviour, in instituting this 
ordinance, do this in remembrance of me. And does not 
love, my brethren, delight to recall the memory of 
every action, of every word, of every minute circum- 
stance connected with the peculiarly cherished objects 
of our affections? At this table, then, covered with the 
memorials of your Saviour, will you not retrace with a 
holy pleasure, the great events of a history so dear to 
every true believer? Will you not go with delight along 
with the adoring shepherds to Bethlehem to contem- 
plate the infant Saviour in that humble manger on 
which he shed such glory? — Will you not, with devout 
admiration follow him, through all the scenes of his life 
wherein he had so many opportunities to display those 
amiable and divine virtues which rendered him the most 
perfect example to mankind, of a holy conversation 
with the world, in his meekness, his humiUty, his pa- 
tience, his forgiveness of injuries, his activity in doing 
good, his zeal for the glory of God, his benevolence 
and grace to men? But, among a thousand tender and 
affecting recollections which a believer will delight to 
nourish at this holy table, will he not center his medi- 
tations chiefly on that last scene of sorrow and suffer- 
ing in which he made tlie most transcendent displays 
of his love and compassion to mankind? He who pos- 
sesses the plenitude of infinite happiness in the hea- 

The Christian Passover. 397 

vens, sufTered the torrent of affliction to enter into his 
soul; he who will judge the universe, submitted to be 
judged at the bar of a worm of the dust! he who wields 
the thunders of Heaven, and will in the fearful day of re- 
tribution lanch them on the heads of his enemies, yield- 
ed his own life without resistance into the hands of 
sinful men! Oh! infinite and unsearchable love! which 
could submit to such humiliations for our salvation! 
But that his enemies might not blaspheme his conde- 
scension and grace, and ascribe to weakness the vo- 
hmtarv offerins; of love, he chose the moment of his 
death to make the most glorious displays of his omni- 
potent power. The rocks were rent, the whole land 
was shaken with an earthquake, darkness covered 
the face of the sun, and the graves of many of the 
saints were opened, to demonstrate the power with 
which he is able to break the chains of death, and re- 
lease the prisoners of the tomb. — Follow him, believer, 
in your mournful recollections, to that garden in which, 
under the weight and oppression of your sins, of which 
he stood the victim, he sweat as it were great drops of 
blood, falling down to the earth! Follow him through 
that scene of insult and indignity heaped upon him in 
the hall of Pilate, and admhe that submissive meek- 
ness, that unruffled patience with which he bore the 
cruel scoffing of his enemies! Follow him up the pain- 
ful ascent of Calvary, fainting under the load of that 
cross on which he was himself to be suspended! Be- 
hold him under the cruel tortures of crucifixion, but 
suffering infinitely greater agonies in his soul, made an 
offering for sin! 

VOL. II. 3 £ 

398 The Christian Passtwer. 

O! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the 
world! in the midst of this unutterable scene of horror 
thou didst empire, in all the majesty of divine meek- 
ness and compassion, pronouncing the forgiveness of 
thine enemies! What shall we render thee! What do 
we not owe thee for love so transcendant, so divine! 
Our love, our duty, our hves, all the powers of our be- 
ing, can form only a poor and unworthy return. But, 
poor and unworthy as they are. Lord! Thou wilt 
deign to accept them ; and at thy table we come to of- 
fer them all to thee! 

We are sometimes ready, says an eminent preacher, 
to envy those who saw Christ upon earth, and heard 
the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, 
the apostles who listened to his heavenly discourses; 
the beloved disciple who reclined upon his bosom; Ma- 
ry who washed his feet with her tears, and whose love 
carried her the first to visit his tomb. — Ah! christians, 
let faith, enlivened and exalted by love, contemplate 
him in this ordinance, and you need not regret that 
you did not live in his age. Blessed, saith he, are 
those who have not seen, and yet have believed: but, by 
the power of divine love in the heart, we may almost 
see in believing. We may even have some advantages 
over those who conversed with him upon earth. The 
veil of a mortal body concealed much of his glory from 
the eyes of sense. You now behold him raised to the 
right hand of God, holding in his hands the rewards of 
immortal life, to crown his faithful followers! Those 
gracious promises which he delivered to his disciples 
in his familiar discourses, he now announces to us 

The Christian Passover. 399 

from that throne on which he governs the universe. 
On a heart animated with a sincere faith, therefore, 
his present glory is calculated to give them perhaps, a 
deeper impression, as well as to impart a higher con- 
solation than his disciples could enjoy duririg his min- 
istry on earth. 

Come to his table then, that, while you hold com- 
munion with him in the acts of a pure and holy love, 
and feed with him upon the bread of life, you may also 
nourish your own religious comforts, and strengthen 
all your christian graces. This, indeed, should be the 
chief end of all communion with our Saviour, of all our 
devout intercourse with heaven ; that the same spirit 
might be created in us, tvhich was also in Christ Jesus 
our Lord; the same meekness, the same humility, the 
same candid and forgiving temper, the same simphcity 
of heart and manners, the same charity and desire of 
doing good to mankind, the same zeal for the glory of 
God, the same love of retreat, meditation, and prayer, 
the same purity, innocence, and usefulness in our con- 
versation with the world. At this table, christians, learn 
to prepare for the eternal festival of love to which you 
hope to be admitted in the temple of God in the hea- 
vens. Cultivate here those graces which can arrive 
at perfection only in the region of immortal love, where 
they will bear fruit to everlasting life. Heaven only 
expands those blossoms, and brings to maturity those 
fruits, which are planted in the garden of God on the 

HI. To awaken in the heart the lively hope and 
anticipation of this heavenly inheritance, confirmed by* 

4O0 Tlie Christian Passover, 

these precious memorials of our Saviour, is the last 
duty and privilege of a sincere disciple of Christ at 
this holy table. 

In the first ages, when persecution so often desola- 
ted the church, the communion of the body and blood 
of Christ was constantly used as a preparation for 
martyrdom. As soon as the decrees of persecuting 
tyrants were published, all the faithful hastened round 
their altars, to derive thence the holy courage necessary 
to meet the rage of their enemies. From their church- 
es they carried with them the precious memorials of 
their Saviour's love, to console them in their prisons, 
and their dungeons, or to cheer those gloomy retreats 
to which they were obliged to flee to escape imprison- 
ment and chains. Inspired by these pledges of divine 
mercy, they defied the powers of earth and hell, and 
marched amidst the ensigns of death with the courage 
of men who forgot its tortures, and beheld only the 
glory to which they led. And, my brethren, when we 
commemorate the death of our blessed Lord, let us 
not arrest our imagination at the foot of the cross, the 
symbol and the instrument of his deep humiliation: let 
us follow him also in his victory and triumph, let us 
contemplate him rising to the right hand of the glory 
of God; and seated as king on his holy hill of Zion, to 
give eternal life to as many as believe on his name. 
The cross of Christ has opened the gates of immor- 
tality to the heirs of death. To his table, therefore, 
which bears the symbols of his dying love, to his altar 
which carries the sacrifice of our salvation, come to 
fill your hearts with the anticipations of heaven, with 

The Christian Passover. 401 

the joys which are in the presence of your glorified 
Redeemer. Nothing will so effectually extinguish the 
fears of death in the heart of a true believer, as those 
holy coinniunions in which you hold in your hands the 
purchase and the pledges of immortal life. Indeed, 
one would think that the error of a christian, under the 
full and hvely views of faith, would rather be an im- 
patience to leave the sins and sorrows of this imper- 
fect state, and to enter into the joy of his Lord. Hear 
how the holy Psalmist expresses the fervent aspiration 
of his soul: — Oh! that I had wings like a dove^ that 1 
miojitjlee aivay and be at rest! that I might mount from 
this vale of tears, to the everlasting hills! — Come, then, 
christians, take the cup of salvation and call on the 
name of the Lord. Look beyond these frail symbols 
to that eternal festival of love wdiich all the redeemed 
shall celebrate in the presence of God. And remem- 
ber that the altar which bears tlie sacrifice of your 
salvation, is the altar also, on which you come to con- 
firm by the most sacred solemnities, your own vows of 
eternal fidehty and obedience to him. Amen! 


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