Images de page




This is a source of invention different from the former; for the former is confined to things really relative; but this speaks in general of things supposed, which have no relation to each other. For example, when we speak of a change, what they call the terminus a quo necessarily supposes the terminus ad quem: and the terminus ad quem supposes the terminus a quo.

A covenant supposes two contracting parties--a recon. ciliation effected, or a peace made, supposes war and enmity-a victory supposes enemies, arms, and a com. bat-life supposes death, and death life-the day supposes night, and the night day: sometimes there are propositions which necessarily suppose others, either be. cause they are consequences depending on their princi. ples, or because they are truths naturally connected with others. It is always very important to understand well what things are supposed in a text; for sometimes several useful considerations may be drawn from them, and not unfrequently the very expressions in the text include them.

For example, Rom. xii. 17. Recompense ta no man evil for evil. In discussing this text, you may very properly observe the truths which are implied or supposed in the words; as, 1. The disorder into which sin has thrown mankind, so that men are exposed to receive injuries and insults from each other. A society of sinners is only a shadow of society ; they are actually at war with each other, and like the Midianitish army, turning every one his sword against his companion. The spirit of the world is a spirit of dispersion rather than of association. Different interests, diversities of sentiments, varieties of opinions, contrarieties of passions, make a perpetual division : and the fruits of this division are insults and injuries. It may be said of each in such societies, as of Ishmael in the prophecy, His hand is against every man, and every man's hand against him.

2. We must not imagine that faith, and the dignity of a Christian calling, raise the disciple of Christ above inVOL. I.


juries : on the contrary, they expose him oftener to evils than others; as well because God himself will have our faith tried, that we may arrive at heaven through many tribulations, as because a Christian profession necessarily divides believers from infidels. The world and sin form a kind of communion between the wicked and worldly, which produces a mutual forbearance and friendship: but there is to communion between a believer and an unbe. liever, any more than between light and darkness, Christ and Belial. Thence come all the persecutions of the church, and thence will good men continue to meet with opposition from the wicked, to the end of time. Jesus Christ, when he sent his apostles, did not fail to apprise them of this : he said, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves ; and again, If ye were of the world, the world would love his own ; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

You may make an observation on each of these supposed truths; and, having established the apostle's precept, by shewing that private revenge is contrary to the laws of Christianity, and incompatible with true piety, you may observe a third supposed truth:

3. That the Gospel not only forbids resentment and revenge; it even commands us to pardon offences; and, further obligeth us to do good to our enemies, and to pray for our persecutors, according to the precept of Jesus Christ, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you: and, according to the doctrine of St. Paul in another place, If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.

It remains that you take care in treating supposed truths,

1st, Not to fetch them too far, or to bring them about by long circuits of reasoning. Avoid this for two reasons : first, because you would render your discourse obscure by it; for every budy is not capable of seeing truths which are very distant from the text: and, secondly, because by this means you might bring in all the whole body of di. vinity into your text; which attempt would be vicious, and contrary to the rules of good sense. Of supposed truths, you must choose the most natural, and those which lie nearest the text.

In the 2d place, do not enlarge on implied truths: it is proper, indeed, that hearers should know them; but they are not principal articles.

And, 3dly, Take care also that these supposed things be important, either for instruction in general, or for casting light particularly on the text, or for consolation, or for the correction of vice, or practice of piety, or some useful purpose; otherwise you would deliver trifling im pertinencies under the name of implied truths.



For an example, let us take the last-mentioned text of St. Paul, Recompense to no man evil for evil. Here you may very pertinently remark, 1. That this precept is more beautiful in the mouth of St. Paul than it could have been in that of any other man. The reason is this; he, of all the men in the world, had the greatest reason for resentment upon-worldly principles; for never was there a man more persecuted, never a man more unjustly persecuted than he; he was persecuted by his own countrymen the Jews, persecuted by the Gentiles, persecuted by false brethren, persecuted by false apostles, persecuted when he preached the Gospel, persecuted even by those for whose salvation he was labouring, persecuted to prison, to banishment, to bonds, to blood; how amiable, then, is such a precept in the mouth of such a man! How forcible is such a precept, supported by one of the greatest examples we can conceive! by the example of a man whose interest seems to dictate a quite contrary practice! When we give such precepts to the worldly, they never fail to say, to us, Yes, yes! you talk finely! you have never been insulted as we have! had you met with what we have, you would talk otherwise! But there is no reason to say so to St. Paul, any more than to Jesus Christ, his master, the author of this divine morality; for who was ever so persecuted as Jesus Christ? and, after him, who suffered more than his servant St. Paul?

2. You may also very properly remark, that, to take a different view of the apostle Paul, no man was more obliged to teach and love such a morality than him

self. Why? Because of all those, whom God, in his ineffable mercy, had called to the knowledge of the truth, he had been the most concerned in cruel efforts of rage against God and his church; all inflamed with fury, he went from Jerusalem to Damascus, to ravage the flock of Jesus Christ. In this raging violence of his hatred, God made him feel his love, pardoned his sins, softened his heart, and from heaven cried to him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who, then, could be more obliged to preacli mercy than this man, to whom God bad shewed so much mercy? Might he not say, when he gave these rules of morality, what he said on another subject, I have received of the Lord that which I deliver unto you; I have received the same merey which I teach you. Add to this, the apostle had not only met with pardoning love to an enemy on God's

part, but he had also experienced it from the church. Far from rendering him evil for evil, far from avenging his persecutions, the disciples of Christ reached out the arms of their love to him, received him into their communion, and numbered him with the aposules of Jesus Christ.




Thus, in explaining 1 Thess. v. 16. Rejoice evermore, you must not fail to consider the state of St. Paul, when he wrote that epistle ; for he was at Athens, engaged in that superstitious city, where, as it is said in the xviith of Acts, his spirit was stirred in him, observing the city wholly given to idolatry; where he was treated as a bábbler, a setter forth of strange gods, and where, in short, he was the object of Athenian ridicule and raillery. Yet, amid so many just causes of grief, he exhorts the Thessalonians always to preserve their spiritual joy; not that he meant to render them insensible to the evils which he suffered, nor to the afflictions of the new-born church; but because our spiritual afflictions, I mean those which we suffer for the glory of God and the good of his church, are not incompatible with peace and joy of conscience: on the contrary, it is particularly in these afflictions that God gives the most lively joys, because then he bestows on his children more abundant measures of his grace, and more intimate communion with himself. Moreover, on these sad occasions we generally become better acquainted with the providence of God, we feel an assurance that nothing happens without his order, and that, happen what will, all things work together for good to them that love God. This gives us true rest, a joy which nothing is capable of disturbing.



For example, St. Paul, in his first epistle to Timothy, requires, that, in the public services of the church, prayers should be made for all men; but first for kings, and for those that were in authority. Here it is very natural to remark the time. It was when the church and the apostles were every where persecuted; when the faith ful were the objects of the hatred and calumny of all mankind, and, in particular, of the cruelty of these tyrants. Yet none of this rough treatment could stop the course of Christian charity. St. Paul not only requires every believer to pray for all men ; but he would have it done in public, that all the world might know the maxims of Christianity, always kind, patient, and benevolent. Believers consider themselves as bound in duty to all men, though men do nothing to oblige them to it. He was aware, malicious slanderers would call this worldly policy and human prudence, and would say, Christians only meant to flatter the great, and to court their favour; yet even this calumny does not prevent St. Paul; he orders them to pray publickly, and, first, for civil gover. nors. We ought always to discharge our duty, and, for the rest, submit to the unjust accounts that men give of our conduct.



St. Paul says to the Philippians, Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize

« PrécédentContinuer »