Images de page
PDF
ePub

seen,

our reach, a good that we do not possess, and calculated to enfeeble the influence of his that we have no hope so to do, does not excite senses, whose sovereignty produces effects so any desire. Hope is the food of the passions. awful and alarming. Men do indeed sometimes pursue phantoms; 2. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and they frequently run after objects which and sentiment? It is because the tyranny of they never enjoy; but it is always in hope of the senses is succeeded by the tyranny of the enjoying them.

imagination; it is because the objects of piety The last proposition is, that avocations fill are not accompanied with that sensible charm the capacity of the soul. A mind which is with which the inagination is struck by the empty, at leisure, and unoccupied with ideas objects of our passions. This is the second and sentiments, is much more liable to be ani- source of the evil

, and it points out the second mated with a passion, than one which is al remedy which must be applied. A rational ready attracted, occupied, and absorbed, by man will be ever on his guard against his imacertain objects unconnected with that passion. gination. He will dissipate the clouds with

IV. These propositions may lead us to an which it disguises the truth. He will pierce acquaintance with the causes of our antipathies the thin bark with which it covers the suband our sympathies. We have laid them down stance. He will make appearances give place with a view to assign the reasons why most to realities. He will summon to the bar of people fall short of the piety of taste and senti- reason all the illusive conceptions his fancy ment. This is the point we proceed to prove. has formed. He will judge of an object by We shall also trace the sources of the evil, and the nature of the object itself, and not by the prescribe the principal remedies which ought chimeras with which they are decorated by a to be applied. We shall hereby make the seductive imagination. fourth part, combined with the third, the con Are we destitute of the piety of taste and clusion of this discourse.

sentiment? It is because that a present, or, 1. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and at least, an approximate good, excites in us sentiment? It is because that a sensible object more ardent desires than a good which is abnaturally makes a deeper impression upon us, sent, or whose enjoyment is deferred to a distant than an object which is abstract, invisible, and period. This third source of evil suggests the spiritual. The God we adore, is a God that remedy that must be applied. Let us form the hideth himself. The lustre of the duties impos- habit of anticipating the future, and of realizing ed by religion, appear so to the mind only; they it to our minds. Let us constantly exercise have nothing that can attract the eyes of the that “faith which is the substance of things body. The rewards promised by Jesus Christ, hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” are objects of faith; they are reserved for a Let us “not look at the things which world to come, which we never saw and of which are temporal; but at eternal things, which we have scarcely any conception: where- which are not seen,” Heb. xi. 5; 2 Cor. iv. as the pleasures of this world are presented to Let us often launch beyond the confined sphere our taste; they dazzle the eye, and charm the of objects with which we are surrounded. Our ear. They are pleasures adapted to a creature notions must be narrow, indeed, if they do not which naturally suffers itself to be captivated carry us above the economy of the present by sensible objects. Here is the first source life. It may terminate with regard to you in of the evil. The remedy to be applied is to twenty years, or in ten years: it may terminate labour incessantly to diminish the sovereignty with regard to you in a few days, or in a few of the senses. To animate the soul to so hours. This is not all, we must often reflect laudable a purpose, we must be impressed with on the awful events which must follow the the base and grovelling disposition of the man narrow sphere assigned us here below. We who suffers himself to be enslaved by sense. must often think that the world “shall pass What! shall the senses communicate their away with a great noise, and its elements melt grossity and heaviness to our souls, and our with fervent heat," and its foundations shall souls not communicate to the senses their be shaken. “The mighty angels shall swear purity, their energies, and divine flame? What! by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that time shall our senses always possess the power, in shall be no longer,” 2 Pet. iii. 10; Rev. x. 6. some sort, to sensualize the soul, and our souls We must often think on the irrevocable sennever be able to spiritualize the senses? What! tence which must decide the destiny of all shall a concert, a theatre, an object fatal to mankind; on the joys, on the transports of those our innocence, charm and ravish the soul, who shall receive the sentence of absolution; while the great truths of religion are destitute and on the dreadful desponding cries of those of effect? What! do the ideas we form of the whom the Divine justice shall consign to eterpersect Being; of a God, eternal in duration, nal torments. wise in designs, powerful in execution, magnifi 4. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and cent in grace; what! does the idea of a Redeem- i sentiment. It is because, to a certain degree, er, who sought mankind in their abject state, i recollection is a substitute for presence. This who devoted himself for their salvation, who is the fourth source of evil. You would yourplaced himself in the breach between them and selves, and without difficulty, prescribe the ihe tribunal of justice; what! does the hope of remedy, if, in this discourse which requires you eternal salvation, which comprises all the fa- to correct your taste by your reason, you did vours of God to man, do all these ideas still not consult your reason less than your taste. leave us in apathy and indifference? This con- But plead for certain pleasures with all the sideration should make a Christian blush; it energy of which you are capable; make an should induce him to call to his aid, meditation, apology for your parties, your games, your direading, retirement, solitude, and whatever is versions; say that there is nothing criminal in

those dissipations against which we have so / whether it be the part of religion, or the part often declaiined with so much strength in this of the world, this life is invariably a life of laholy place: be obstinate to maintain that bour, we should prefer the labours attended preachers and critics decry them from miscon- with a solid peace, to those which involve us ceptions of their innocence. It is certain, how- in anguish and inquietude. ever, that the recollection of pleasure attracts 7. The affairs of life engross the capacity of the heart to pleasure. The man who would the soul. A mind which is empty, at leisure, become more sensible of the pleasures of devo- and unoccupied with ideas and sentiments, is tion, should apply himself to devotion; and the much more liable to be animated and filled man who would become less attracted by the with a passion, than one that is already conpleasures of the age, should absent himself from centrated on certain objects, which have no ihe circles of pleasure.

connexion with that passion. This is the last 5. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and reason assigned for our non-attainment of the sentiment! It is because that a good, known consolations of religion. Let us keep to the and experienced, is much more capable of in- point. Casting our eye on the crimes of men, flaming our desires, than that which is imper- we regard, at first view, the greater part of fectly conceived, and known merely by the re- them as monsters. It would seem that most port of others. Why do we believe that a soul men love evil for the sake of evil. I believe, profoundly composed in meditation on the glo- however, that the portrait is distorted. Manries of grace, is "satisfied as with marrow and kind are perhaps not so wicked as we commonly fatness. We believe it on the positive testi- suppose. But to speak the truth, there is one mony of the prophet. We believe it on the duty, my brethren, concerning which their notestimony of illustrious saints, who assert the tions are quite inadequate; that is, recollection. same thing. But let us endeavour to be con- There is likewise a vice whose awful consevinced of the fact in a better way. “Lord, quences are by no means sufficiently perceived; show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” So that vice, is dissipation. Whence is it, that a was the prayer of Philip to Jesus Christ, John man, who is appalled by the mere idea of xiv. 8. This request proceeded from the igno- death and of hell, should, nevertheless, brave rance of the apostles, prior to the day of pente- them both? It is because he is dissipated; it is cost. The request was, however, founded both because his soul, wholly engrossed by the cares on reason and truth. Philip was fully persuad- of life, is unable to pay the requisite attention ed, if he could once see with his own eyes the to the idea of death and hell, and to the interGod, whose perfections were so gloriously dis- ests of this life. Whence is it, that a man displayed, that he should be ravished with his tinguished for charity and delicacy, shall act in beauty; and that he should, without reluctance, a manner so directly opposite to delicacy? It make the greatest sacrifices to please him. Let is because the dissipations inseparable from the us retain what is rational in the request of Phi- office he fills, and still more so, those he ingelip, rejecting what is less enlightened. Let us niously procures for himself, obstruct attention say to Jesus, but in a sense more exalted than to his own principles. To sum up all in one this disciple, “ Lord, show us the Father, and word, whence is it, that we have such exalted it sufficeth us." Lord, give me to know by views of piety, and so little taste for piety. The experience the joy that results from the union evil proceeds from the same source—our dissiof a soul reconciled to its God, and I shall ask pations. Let us not devote ourselves to the no other pleasure; it shall blunt the point of world more than is requisite for the discharge all others.

of duty. Let our affections be composed; and 6. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and let us keep within just bounds the faculty of sentiment? It is because all things being equal, reflection and of love. we prefer a good, easy of acquisition, to one If we adopt these maxims, we shall be able that requires labour and fatigue. And would to reform our taste; and I may add, to reform to God, that we were always disposed to con our sentiment. We shall both think and love tract our motives with our fatigues; the esti- as rational beings. And when we think and mate would invert our whole system of life. love as rational beings, we shall perceive that We should find few objects in this world to nothing is worthy of man but God, and what merit the efforts bestowed in their acquisition; directly leads to God. Fixing our eyes and or, to speak as the Supreme Wisdom, we our hearts on the Supreme object, we shall should find that we spend money for that ever feel a fertile source of pure delight. In which is not bread, and labour for that which solitude, in deserts, overtaken by the catastrosatisfieth not,” Isa. Iv. 2. Would to God, that phes of life, or surrounded with the shadows the difficulties of acquiring a piety of taste and and terrors of death, we shall exult with our sentiment, were but properly contrasted with prophet, " My soul is satisfied as with marrow the joy it procures those who surmount them. and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee In this view, we should realize the estimate, with joyful lips, when I remember thee in the “that the sufferings of this present life, are not night-watches;” and when I make thy adoraworthy to be compared with the glory that ble perfections the subject of my thought. shall be revealed in us," Rom. viii. 18. See- May God enable us so to do: to whom be hoing then, that whatever part we espouse, I nour and glory for ever. Amen.

PART I.

is by nature a child of wrath. His father is an SERMON XCVIII. Amorite, and his mother a Hittite; yet he is

called out of darkness into marvellous light.”

He is called to be a prince and a priest. But ON REGENERATION.

in vain would he be honoured with a vocation so high, if the change in his soul did not cor

respond with that of his condition. Who is John iii. 1-8.

sufficient for so great a work? How shall men

whose ideas are low, and whose sentiments are There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nico grovelling, attain to a magnanimity assortable

demus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to with the rank to which they are called of God? Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we The grace which elevates, changes the man know that thou art a teacher come from God; who is called unto it. The Spirit of God for no man can do those miracles that thou doest, comes upon him; it gives him a new heart, except God be with him. Jesus answered and and he becomes another man. said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee,

These are the great truths which Jesus except a man be born again, he cannot see the Christ taught Nicodemus in the celebrated kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, conversation we have partly read, and which how can a man be born when he is old? Can we propose to make the subject of several dishe enter the second time into his mother's womb courses, if God shall preserve our life, and our and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, ministry. Here we shall discover the nature, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water the necessity, and the Author, of the regeneraand of the Spirit he cannot enter into the king, tion which Christianity requires of us. dom of God. That which is born of the flesh

I. The nature of this change shall be the is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is subject of a first discourse. Here in giving spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, you a portrait of a regenerate man, and in deye must be born again. The wind bloweth scribing the characters of regeneration, we where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound there, shall explain to you the words of Jesus Christ, of, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and “Except a man be born of water and of the whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of Spirit. the Spirit.

II. The necessity of this change shall be the The transition which happened in the con- subject of a second discourse. Here, endeadition of Saul was very remarkable. Born of vouring to dissipate the illusions we are fond an obscure family, actually employed in seek- of making on the obligations of Christianity, ing strayed asses, and having recourse on this we shall press the proposition which Jesus inconsiderable subject to the divine light of a Christ collects and asserts with so much force, prophet, Saul instantly found himself anointed “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man with a mystic oil, and declared king, by the be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot prophet, who added, “It is because the Lord see the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I hath anointed thee to be captain over his heri- said unto thee, ye must be born again. Art tage." 1 Sam. x. 1.

thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these To correspond with a rank so exalted, it was thingse" requisite that there should be as great a change NII. The author of the change shall be the in the person, as there was about to be in the subject of a third discourse. There using our condition, of Saul. The art of government best efforts to penetrate the vast chaos with has as many amplifications as there are wants which ignorance, shall I call it, or corruption, and humours in those that are governed. A has enveloped this branch of our theology, we king must associate in some sort in his own shall endeavour to illustrate and to justify the person, every science and every art. He must comparison of Jesus Christ; "the wind bloweth be, so to speak, at the same juncture, artificer, where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound statesman, soldier, philosopher. Those who thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, are become gray-headed in this art find daily and whither it goeth.” new difficulties in its execution. How then I. In giving a portrait of the regenerate, and could Saul expect to acquire it in an instant in tracing the characters of regeneration (which The same prophet that notified the high honour is the duty of the present day,) we must exto which God had called him, discovered the plain the expressions of the Lord, " to be born source whence he might derive the supports of again;—10 be born of the Spirit,” though it be which he had need. “Behold (said he,) when not on grammatical remarks we would fix your thou shalt come to the hill of God, where attention, we would, however, observe, that there is a garrison of the Philistines, thou shalt the phrase, to be born of water and of the meet a company of prophets. Then the spirit Spirit, is a Hebraical phraseology, importing of the Lord shall come upon thee, and thou to be born of spiritual water. By a similar exshalt prophesy, and thou shalt be changed to pression, it is said in the third chapter of St. another man,'' 1 Sam. x. 5, 6. The Spirit of Matthew, "I indeed (says John Baptist) bapthe Lord shall come upon thee: here is support tize you with water unto repentance, but there for the regal splendour; here is grace for the cometh after me one mightier than I; he shall adequate discharge of the royal functions. baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with

Does it not seem, my brethren, that the sa- fire;” that is, with spiritual life. When Jesus cred historian, in reciting these circumstances, Christ says, that we cannot see the kingdom was wishful to give us a portrait of the change of God, except we are born of water and of which grace makes in the soul of a Christian. the Spirit, he wishes to apprise us, that it is * Conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, he not sufficient to be a member of his church, to

be baptized, which is called “the washing of monides affirms, that the children with which regeneration;'* but that greater renovations an Egyptian woman is pregnant at the time she must take place in the heart, than what water becomes a proselyte, are of the second birth. can produce on the surface of the body. Hence some Rabbins have had the odd and

With regard to the other expression, “To confused refinement to suppose, that there is be born again,” it is susceptible of a double an infinity of souls born of I know not what sense. The original term may perhaps be so ideal mass; that those destined to the just, lodge translated; so is its import in various places, in a certain palace; that when a pagan einwhich are not of moment to recite here. It braces Judaism, one of those souls proceeds from may also be rendered, born from above; as in its abode, and appears before the Divine Mathe third chapter of St. James, “The wisdom jesty, who embraces it, and sends it into the from above is first pure, then peaceable.” In body of the proselyte, where it remains; that this text, the original term is the same as that as an infant is not fully made a partaker of which we here translate born again; but though human nature, but when a pre-existent spirit the variation might attract the critic's attention, is united to its substance in the bosom of its it ought not to divert the preacher; for to mother, so a man never becomes a true prosewhichsoever of the readings we may give the lyte but when a new spirit becomes the subpreference, the idea of our version invariably stitute of that he derived from nature.* corresponds with the design of the Holy Ghost, Though it be not necessary to prove by nuand with the sense of the original. The uni- merous authorities the first remark we shall form intention of Jesus Christ must be to dis- make on the words of Christ, “To be born of tinguish our state of grace from that of na- spiritual water," and to be “born again,” it is ture. The state of nature is low and grovelling; proper at least to propose it; otherwise it would that of grace is noble and sublime; consonant be difficult to account for our Saviour's reto what our Saviour said unto the Jews, “ Ye proving Nicodemus, as being “a master in are from beneath, I am from above," John viii. Israel and not knowing these things.” For a 23. Now for men whose birth is mean and doctor in the law does not seem reprehensible grovelling, to acquire a great and noble descent, for not understanding a language peculiar to they must be born anew; thus to be born from Jesus Christ, and till then unheard of; whereas above, and to be born again, are the same thing; the blame naturally devolved on this Jew for and both these readings, how different soever exclaiming at expressions familiar to the Rabthey may appear, associate in the same sense. bins. No doubt, Nicodemus was one of those It is of much more importance to remark on men, who, according to an ancient and still the words which follow, “Born of water and existing abuse, had superadded to his rank and of the Spirit;" first, that they are Hebraisms; dignity, the title of doctor, of which he was and we have found the authorities so nume- rendered unworthy by his ignorance. Hence rous, that we have had more difficulty in re- the evangelist expressly remarks, that he was jecting the less pertinent than in making the " a ruler of the Jews;""" a ruler of the Jews!” selection.

here are his degrees; here are his letters; here The Jews call the change which they pre- is his patent. sume their proselytes had experienced a spi

But Jesus Christ, and this is my second reritual birth; a new birth; a regeneration. It was mark, in borrowing, corrected the language of one of their maxims, that the moment a man the Jews. He meant not literally what he said became a proselyte, he was regarded as a child, to Nicodemus, that to enter the kingdom of once born in sin, but now born in holiness. God, or according to the language of Scripture To be born in holiness, was, in their style, to be and of the Jews, to be a disciple of the Messiah, born in the covenant; and to this mode of one “must be born again:" he never inbibed speaking, St. Paul apparently refers in that re- the notion, that a man on embracing Chrismarkable passage in the first Epistle to the tianity, receives a new soul to succeed the one Corinthians, vii. 14. “The unbelieving hus- he received from nature; he had not adopted band is sanctified by the wife, and the unbeliev- the refinement of the Jewish cabalists, concerning wife is sanctified by the husband; else were ing the pre-existence of souls. The expresyour children unclean, but now are they sions are figurative, and consequently subject holy.”—“Now are they holy;" that is, they to the inconveniences of all similes, and figuare accounted as born within the covenant. rative language in general. The metaphor he Consonant to this notion, the Jews presumed employs, when representing by the figure of that a man on becoming a proselyte, had “a new birth,” the change which must take no longer any consanguinity with those to place in the soul of a man on becoming a whom nature had joined him with indissoluble Christian; this metaphor I say, must be ties; and that he had a right to espouse his 1. Restricted. sister, and his mother, if they became prose

2. It must be justified. lytes like himself! This gave Tacitus, a pagan

3. It must be softened. historian, occasion to say, that the first lessons 4. It must be fortified. the Jews taught a proselyte was, to despise the 1. The expression of Jesus Christ must be gods, to renounce his country, and to regard restricted. We cannot well find the import of his own children with disdain. And Mai- any metaphor, unless we separate whatever is

* Our learned Mede prefers the literal reading of * When our Saviour says, that neither the blind man, Titus iii. 6. The washing of the New Birth, and the re nor his parents, had sinned in a pre-existent slate, he newing of the Holy Ghost. From this distinction of St. obviously decides against this doctrine of Pythagorus and Paul, many divines distinguished the New Birth as the the Rabbins. How can a holy God send a holy soul into entrance on Regeneration.-The Translator.

a sinful body! And St. Paul says, that Levi paid tithes | Book i. chap. 5.

in the loins of Abraham.-J.S.

extraneous to the subject to which it is applied. who has not yet embraced Christianity, with The ideas of all authors whatever would be that required of a weak and wandering Chrisdistorted, did we wish to extend their figures tian, who makes daily efforts to attain the beyond the just bounds. What is indisputable knowledge of the truth, and to practise virtue; with regard to all authors, is peculiarly so with or, who recovers from his errors and deviaregard to the orientals, for excelling other na- tions. It would be unfair to say, that such a uions in a warm imagination, they naturally Christian bas need to “be born again,” at abound in bolder metaphors. Hence the bolder least, in the sense which Jesus Christ attaches the nietaphors, the more is the need to restrict to the words of my text. them; the more they would frustrate the pro 2. The comparison must be restricted to the posed design, should we not avail ourselves of change itself, which Jesus Christ requires of ihis precaution. What absurd systems have those to whom it ought to be applied. But in not originated from the license indulged on the what respects are those things called a new comparison of Jesus Christ concerning the ties birth? The metaphor concentrates itself on a which unite us to himself, with the connexion single point; that as an infant on coming into they have with the aliments which nourish us, the world, experiences so great a change in its and which by manducation, are changed, if we mode of existence in regard of respiration, of may so speak, into our own substance. Pro nourishment, of sight, and of all its sensations, perly to understand this comparison, we must and so very different from what was the case restrict it. We must be aware that it turns on prior to its birth, as in some sort to seem a new this single point, that as food cannot nourish | creature; so a man on passing from the world us, unless it be received into the body by eat to the church, is a new man compared with ing; just so, the religion of Jesus Christ will / what he was before. He has now other ideas, be unavailing, if we content ourselves with other desires, other propensities, other hopes, regarding it in a superficial manner; neglect a other objects of happiness. If you should not profound entrance into all its doctrines, and a make this restriction: but extend the metaphor, close application of its maxims to the heart. you would make very injudicious contrasts beOf other similes we may say the same. How tween the circumstances of the new, and of the many are the insipid notions which arise from natural birth; and you would form notions, straining the comparisons between the mystical not only unworthy of reception, but deemed significance of the ritual law, and the inyste- unworthy of refutation in a place like this. ries of the gospel? I here refer to the types; II. But the change here represented by the those striking figures, of which God himself idea of a new birth, is not the less a reality, is the author, and which in the first ages of the for being couched in figurative language. church traced the outlines of great events, Hence we have said in the second place, that which could not take place till many ages after the expression of Jesus Christ must be justithey had been adumbrated by those figures. fied. In what does the change required of On contemplating those types in a judicious those that would enter into fellowship with manner, you will find support for your faith, him consist? In what does this new birth conand indisputable proofs of the truth of your sist! We have just insinuated, that it is a religion. But to contemplate them in a just change of ideas; a change of desires; a change point of view, they must be restricted in a of taste; a change of hope; a change of the thousand respects, in which they can have no objects of happiness. connexion with the object they are designed 1. A change of ideas. An unregenerate to represent. Into how many mistakes should man, unacquainted with Jesus Christ, is wishwe run on neglecting this precaution; and on ful to be the arbitrator of his own ideas. He straining the striking metaphors taken from admits no propositions but what are proved at the priests, the victims, and other shadows in the bar of reason; he takes no guide but his the ritual law? To understand those types and own discernment, or that of some doctor, figures, we must restrict them; we must be often as blind, and sometimes more so, than aware that they bear on this single point; I himself. On the contrary, the regenerate man would say, that as the office of the high-priest sees solely with the eyes of his Saviour: Jeunder the law was to reconcilo God to the sus Christ is his only guide, and if I may so tribes of Israel, whose name he bore engraved speak, his sole reason, and his sole discernon his mysterious pectoral; just so, the mediato- ment. rial offic of Christ consisted in reconciling I have no clear idea of the manner in which God to the men, with whose nature he was my soul can subsist after the ties which unite clothed.

it to matter are dissolved. I do not properly Never had figure more need of this precau- know my soul by idea; I know it solely by sention; never had figure more need to be re-timent, and by experience; and I have never stricted than that employed by Jesus Christ in thought without the medium of my brain; the words of my text. The restriction has a 1 have never perceived objects without the medouble bearing. First, it must be restricted to dium of my eyes; I have never heard sounds the persons of the unregenerate who are not in without the organs of my ears; and it does communion with his people; and secondly, to not appear to me that these sensations can be the things which Jesus Christ requires of the conveyed in any other way. I believe, howunregenerate. The comparison of Jesus Christ ever, that I shall hear sounds when the organs must be restricted to the profligate, or to the i of my ears are destroyed; I believe that I self-righteous, who are not in communion with shall perceive objects when the light of my his people. If we fail to make this distinction, eyes is extinguished; I believe that I shall but indiscriminately apply the expression to think, and in a manner more close and suball, we confound the change required of a man I lime when my brain shall exist no more.

VOL. II.-50

« PrécédentContinuer »