« PreviousContinue »
My brethren, if any one preach to you
gospel than that which has been preached, let him be accursed. If any one will presume to attack those doctrines which the sacred authors have left in their writings, which your fathers have transmitted, which some of you have sealed with your blood, and nearly all of you with your riches and fortune ; if any one presume to attack them; let the doctors refute, let the ecclesiastical sword cut, pierce, exscind, and excommunicate at a stroke the presumptuous man. But consider also that the end of all these truths is, to induce inankind to love their Maker. This is so essential, that we make no scruple to say, if there were one among the different Christian sects better calculated to make you holy than our communion, you ought to leave this in order to attach yourelves hereafter to the other. One of the first reasons which should induce us to respect the doctrine of the incarnate God, the inward, immediate, and supernatural aids of the Spirit is, that there is nothing in the world more happily calculated to enforce the obligation of loving God.
Return therefore, from your prejudices, irradiate your minds, and acquire more correct ideas of a holy life, and a happy death. On this subject, we flatter and confuse ourselves, and willingly exclude instruction. We imagine, that provided we have paid during the ordinary course of life, a modified regard to devotion, we have but to submit to the will of God, whose pleasure it is we should leave the world ; we imagine that we have worthily fulfilled the duties of life, fought the good fight, and have nothing to do but to put forth the hand to the crown of righteousness. “ There is no fear” say they, “of the death of such a Christian, he was an Israelite indeed, he was an honest man, he led a good life." But what is the import of the words, he led a moral life ? a phrase as barbarous in the expression as erroneous in the sense ; for if they mean any thing, it is, that he has fulfilled the duties of morality. But can you bear this testimony of the man we have now described ; of a man who contents himself with avoiding the crimes recounted infamous in the world; but exclusively of that, he has neither fervour, nor zeal, nor patience, nor charity? Is this the man who you say has led a moral life? What then is the morality which prescribes so broad a path ? It is not the morality of Jesus Christ. The morality of Jesus Christ recommends silence, retirement, detachment from the world. The morality of Jesus Christ requires, that you be merciful, as God is merciful ; that ye be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The morality of Jesus Christ requires, that you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind : and that if you cannot fully attain to this degree of perfection on earth, you should make continual efforts to approach it. Here you have the prescribed morality of Jesus Christ. But the morality of which you speak, is the morality of the world, the morality of the devil, the morality of hell. Will such a morality enable you to sustain the judgment of God? Will it appease his justice ? Will it close the gates of hell? Will it open to you the gates of immortality ? Ah! let us form better ideas of religion. There is an infinite distance between him, accounted by the world an honest man, and a real Christian ; and if the love of God have not been the predominant disposition of our heart, let us tremble, let us weep, or rather let us endeavour to reform. This is the first conclusion we deduce from our discourse.
The second turns on what we have said with regard to the force of habits ; on the means of correcting the bad and of acquiring the good. Recollect that all these things cannot be done in a moment; recollect, that to succeed, we must be fixed and firm, returning a thousand and a thousand times to the charge. We should be the more struck with the propriety of this, if, as we said in the body of this discourse, we should more frequently reflect on ourselves. But most people live destitute of thought and recollection. We are dissipated by exterior things, our eyes glance on every object, we ascend to the heavens to make new discoveries among the stars, we descend into the deep, we dig into the bowels of the earth, we run even from the one to the other world, seeking fortune in the remotest regions, and we are ignorant of what occurs in our own breast. We have a body and a soul, exquisite works of God, and we never reflect on what passes within, how knowledge is acquired, how prejudices originate, how habits are formed and fortified. If this knowledge served merely for intellectual pleasure, we ought at least to tax our indolence with neglect; but being intimately connected with our salvation, we cannot
here forbear deploring our indifference. therefore study ourselves, and become rational, if we would become regenerate. Let us learn the important truth already proved, that virtue is acquired only by diligence and application.
Nor let it be here objected, that we ought not to talk of Christian virtues as of the other habits of the soul, and that the Holy Spirit can suddenly and fully correct our prejudices, and eradicate our corrupt propensities. Undoubtedly we need his aid.— Yes, O Holy Spirit, source of eternal wisdom, however great may be our efforts and vigilance, whatever endeavors I may use for my salvation, I will never trust to myself, never will I offer incense to my drag, or sacrifice to my net, never will I lean upon this bruised reed, never will I view my insufficiency without asking thy support.
But after all, let us not imagine, that the operations of the Holy Spirit are like the fabulous enchantments celebrated in our romances and poets. We have told you a thousand times, and we cannot too often repeat it, that grace never destroys, but perfects nature. The Spirit of God will abundantly irradiate your mind, if you vigorously apply to religious contemplation; but he will not infuse the light, if you disdain the study. The Spirit of God will abundantly establish the reign of grace
you assiduously apply to the work; but he will never do it in the midst of dissipation and sin. We ought to endeavour to become genuine Christians, as we endeavour to become profound philosophers, acute mathematicians, able preachers, enlightened merchants,
intrepid commanders, by assiduity and labour, by application and practice.
This is perhaps a galling reflection. I am not astonished that it is calculated to excite in most of you discouragement and fear; here is the most difficult part of our discourse. The doctrines or truths we discuss being unwelcome, and such as you would gladly evade, we must here suspend the thread of this discourse, that you may feel the importance of our ministry. For, after having established these truths, we must form the one or the other of these opinions concerning your conduct,-either that you seek the Lord while he may be found ; that you endeavour, by a holy obstinacy, to establish truth in the mind and grace in the heart; or that you exclude
; yourselves from salvation, and engage yourselves so early in the way of destruction, as to occasion fear lest the Spirit of God, a thousand and a thousand times insulted, should for ever withdraw.
What do you say, my bretheren? Which of these opinions is best founded? To what end do you live? Does this unremitting vigilance, this holy obstinacy, this continual recurrence of watchfulness and care, form the object of your life? Ah! make no more problems of a truth, which will shortly be but too well established.
Ministers of Jesus Christ, sent by the God of vengeance, to plant not only, but also to root out, to build, but also to throw down, (Jer. i. 10.) to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, (Isaiah lxi. 2.) but also to blow the alarming trumpet of Zion in the ears of the people, awaken the conscience, brandish the awful sword of Divine justice, and put in full ef