Images de page



i Pet. ii, 2.

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims,

abstain from fleshly lusts; which war against the soul.

THE words you have heard, my brethren, offer four subjects of ineditation to your minds.

First the nature of the passions--secondly the disorders of them—thirdly the remedies to be applied—and lastly the motives that engage us to subdue them. In the first place we will give you a general idea of what the apostle calls fleshly lusts, or in modern style the passions. We will examine secondly the war which they wage against the soul. Our third pare will inform you of the means of abstaining from these fleshly lusts. And in the last place we will endeavour to - make you feel the power of this motive, as strangers and

pilgrims, and to press home this exhortation of the apostle, Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.

I. In order to understand the nature of the passions, we will explain the subject by a few preliminary remarks.

1. An intelligent being onght to love every thing that can elevate, perpetuate, and make him happy; and to avoid whatever can degrade, confine, and render him miserable. This, far from being'a human depravity, is a perfection of nature. Man hath it in common with celestial intelligences, and with God himself. This reflection removes a false sense, which the language of St. Peter may seein at first to convey, as if the apostle meant by eradicating fleshly lusts to destroy T2


the true interest of inaii. The most ancient enemies of the christian religion loaded it with this reproach, because they did not understand it; and some superficial people, who know no more of religion than the surface, pretend to render it odious by the same means. Under pretence that the christian religion forbids ambition, they say it degrades man, and under pretence thåt it forbids inisguided self-love, they say it makes man miserable. A gross error! A false idea of christianity! If the gospel humbles, it is to elevate us; if it forbids a self-love ill-directed, it is in order to conduct us to substantial happiness. By fleshly lucts St. Peter doth not mean such desires of the heart as puts ús on aspiring after real happiness and true glory.

2. An intelligent being united to a body, and lodged, if I may speak so, in a portion of matter, under this law, that according to the divers motions of this matter he shall seceive sensations of pleasure or pain, must naturally love to excite within himself sensations of pleasure, and to avoid painful feelings. This is agreeable to the institution of the Creator. He intends, for reasons of adorable wisdom, to preserve a society of mankind for several ages on earth. To accomplish this design he hath so ordered it that what contributes to the support of the body shall give the soul pleasure, and that what would dissolve it would give pain, so that by these means we may preserve ourselves. Aliments are agreeable; the dissolution of the parts of our bodies is painful; love, hatred, and anger, properly understood, and exercised to a certain degree are natural and fit. The stoics, who annihilated the passions, did not know man, and the schoolmen, who to comfort people under the gout or the stone told thein that a rational man ought not to pay any iegard to what passed in his body, never made many disciples among wise men. This observation affords us a second clue to the meaning of the apostle : at least it gives us a second precautiori to avoid an error. By fleshly lusts he doth not niean a natural inclination to preserve the body and the case of life; he allows love, hatred and anger to a certain degree, and as far as the exercise of them doth not prejudice a greater interest. Observe well this last expression, as far as may be without prejudice to a greater interest. The truth of our second reflection depends on this restriction.

3 A being composed of two substances, one of which is more excellent than the other; a being placed between two interests, one of which is greater than the other, ought, when these two interests clash, to prefer the more noble before the less noble, the greater interest before the less. This third principle is a third clue to what St. Peter calls lusts, or passions. Man hath two substances, and two interests. As far as he can without prejudicing his eternal interest he ought to endeavour to promote his temporal interest : but when the two clash he ought to sacrifice the less to the greater. Fleshly lusts is put for what is irregulas and depraved in our desires, and what makes us prefer the body before the soul, a temporal before an eternal interest. That this is the meaning of the apostle is clear from his calling these passions or lusts fleshly. What is the meaning of this word ? The scripture generally uses the word in two senses. Sometimes it is literally and properly put for fleshi, and sometimes it signifies sin. St. Peter calls the passions fleshly in both these senses ; in the first because some come from the body as voluptuousness, anger, drunkenness, and in the second because they spring from our depravity. Hence the apostle Paul puts among the works of the flesh both those which have their seat in the body, and those which have in a manner no connection with it. Now the works of the flesh are these, adultery, lasciviousness, idolatry, heresies, envyings. According to this the works of the flesh are not only such as are seated in the flesh (for envy and heresy cannot be of this sort) but all depraved dispositions.


This is a general idea of the passions : but as it is vague anil obscure, we will endeavour to explain it inore distinctly, and with this view we will shew-first what the passions do in the mind-next what they do in the senses—thirdly what they are in the imagination-and lastly what they are in the heart. Four portraits of the passions, four explications of the condition of inan. In order to connect the matter more closely, as we shew you what fleshly lusts are in these four views, we will endeavour to convince you that in these four respects they war against the soul. The second part of our discourse therefore, which was to treat of the disorders of the passions, will be included in the first, which explains their nature.

1. The passions produce in the mind a strong attention to whatever can justify and gratify them. The most odious objects may be so placeel as to appear agreeable, and the inost lovely objects so as to appear odious. There is no absurdity so palpable but it may be made to appear likely; and


there is no truth so clear but it may be made to appear doubtful. A passionate man fixes all the attention of his inind on such sides of objects as favour his passion, and this is the source of innumerable false judgings, of which we are every day witnesses and authors.

If you observe all the passions, you will find they have all this character. What is vengeance in the mind of a vindictive man? It is a fixed attention to all the favourable lights in which vengeance may be considered; it is a continual study to avoid every odious light in which the subject may be placed. On the one side, there is a certain deity in the world, who hath made revenge a law. This deity is worldly honour, and at the bar of this judge to forget injuries is mean, and to pardon them cowardice. On the other side vengeance disturbs society, usurps the office of the magistrate, and violates the precepts of religion. A dispassionate man, examining without prejudice this question, ought I to revenge the injury. I have received, would weigh all these motives, consider each apart, and all together, and would determine to act according as the most just and weighty reasons should determine him: but a revengeful -man considers none but the first, he attention to the last; he always exclaims, my honour, my honour, he never says my religion and my salvation.

What is hatred? It is a close attention to a inan's imperfections. Is any man free? Is any man so imperfect as to have nothing good in him ? Is there nothing to compensate his defects ? This man is not handsome, but he is wise : his genius is not lively, but his heart is sincere: he cannot assist you with money, but he can give you much good advice supported by an excellent example: he is not either prince, king, or emperor, but he is, a inan, a christian, a believer, and in all these respects he deserves esteem. The passionate man turns away his eyes from all these advantageous sides, and attends only to the rest. Is it astonishing that he hates a person, in whom he secs nothing but imperfection? Thus a counsellor opens and sets forth his cause with such artifice that law seems to be clearly on his side; he forgets one fact, suppresses one circumstance, omits to draw one inference, which being brought forward to view entirely change the nature of the subject, and his client loses his cause. In the same manner, a defender of a false religion always revolves in his mind the arguments, that seem to establish it, and never recollects those, which subvert it. He will curtail a sentence, cut off what goes before, leave out what follows, and retain only such detached expressions as seem to countenance his error, but which in connection with the rest would strip it of all probability. What is still more singular is, that love to true religion, that love, which under the direction of reason opens a wide field of argument and evidence, engageth us in this sort of false judging, when we give ourselves up to it through passion or prejudice.


This is what the passions do in the mind, and it is easy to comprehend the reason St. Peter had to say in this view, fleshly lusts war against the soul. Certainly one of the noblest advantages of man is to reason, to examine proofs and weigh motives, to consider an object on every side, to combine the various arguments that are alleged either for or against a proposition, in order on these grounds to regulate our ideas and opinions, our hatred and our love. The passionate man renounces this advantage, he never reasons in a passon, his mind is limited, his soul is in chains, his fleshly passions war against his soul.

Having examined the passions in the mind, let us consider them in the senses. To comprehend this, recollect what we just now said, that the passions owe their origin to the Creator, who instituted them for the purpose of preserving us. When an object would injure health or life, it is necessary to our safety, that there should be an emotion in our senses to effect a quick escape from the danger; fear does this. A man struck with the idea of sudden danger hath a rapidity, which he could not have in a tranquil state, or during a cool trial of his power. It is necessary, when an enemy approaches to destroy us, that our senses should so move as to animate us with a power of resistance. Anger doth this, for it is a collection of spirits .... but allow me to borrow here the words of a modern philosopher, who hath admirably expressed the motions excited by the passions in our bodies. - Before the sight of an object of passion, saith he, the spirits were diffused through all the body to preserve every part alike, but appearance

of this new object the whole system is shaken; the greater part of the animal spirits rush into all the exterior parts of the body, in order to put it into a condition proper to produce such moțions as are necessary to acquire the good, or to avoid the evil now present. If it happen that the power of man is unequal to his wants, these same spirits distribute themselves so as to make him utter mechanically certain words and


on the

« PrécédentContinuer »