« PreviousContinue »
which only gives them license to beg. Upon this point it were to be wished that inferior parish officers had better encouragement given them to perform their duty in driving away all beggars who do not belong to the parish, instead of conniving at them, as it is said they do for some small contribution; for the whole city would save much more by ridding themselves of many hundred beggars than they would lose by giving parish officers a reasonable support.
It should seem a strange, unaccountable thing, that those who have probably been reduced to want by riot, lewdness, and idleness, although they have assurance enough to beg alms publicly from all they meet, should yet be too proud to wear the parish badge, which would turn so much to their own advantage, by ridding them of such great numbers who now intercept the greatest part of what belongeth to them; yet it is certain that there are very many
who publicly declare they will never wear those badges, and many
others who either hide or throw them away; but the remedy for this is very short, easy, and just, by trying them like vagabonds and sturdy beggars, and forcibly driving them out of the town.
Therefore, as soon as this expedient of wearing badges shall be put in practice, I do earnestly exhort all those who hear me, never to give their alms to any public beggar who doth not fully comply with this order; by which our number of poor will be so reduced, that it will be much easier to provide for the rest. Our shop-doors will be no longer crowded with so many thieves and pick pockets in beggars' habits, nor our streets so dangerous to those who are forced to walk in the night.
Thus I have, with great freedom, delivered my thoughts upon this subject, which so nearly concerneth us. It is certainly a bad scheme, to any Christian country which God hath blessed with fruitfulness, and where the people enjoy the just rights and privileges of mankind, that there should be any beggars at all. But, alas! among us, where the whole nation itself is almost reduced to beggary, hy the disadvantages we lie under, and the hardships we are forced to bear; the laziness, ignorance, thoughtlessness, squandering temper, slavish nature, and uncleanly manner of living in the poor popish natives, together with the cruel oppressions of their landlords, who delight to see their vassals in the dust: I say
that in such a nation, how can we otherwise expect than to be overrun with objects of misery and want? Therefore there can be no other method to free this city from so intolerable a grievance than by endeavoring, as far as in us lies, that the burden may be more equally divided, by contributing to maintain our own poor, and forcing the strollers and vagabonds to return to their several homes in the country, there to smite the conscience of those oppressors who first stripped them of all their substance. I might here, if the time would permit, offer many arguments to persuade to works of charity; but you hear them so often from the pulpit, that I am willing to hope you may not now want them. Besides, my present design was only to show where your alms would be best bestowed, to the honor of God, your own ease and advantage, the service of your country, and the benefit of the poor. I desire you will all weigh and consider what I have spoken, and according to your several stations and abilities endeavor to put it in practice; and God give you good success. To whom, with the Son and Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
SERMON THE TENTH.
ON SLEEPING IN CHURCH.
ACTS, xx, 9. And there sat in the window a certain young man, named Eutychus, being fallen
into a deep sleep; and while Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken dead.
I HAVE chosen these words with design, if possible, to disturb some part in this audience of half an hour's sleep, for the convenience and exercise whereof this place, at this season of the day, is very much celebrated.
There is, indeed, one mortal disadvantage to which all preaching is subject; that those who by the wickedness of their lives stand in greatest need have usually the smallest share; for either they are absent upon the account of idleness or spleen, or hatred to religion, or in order to doze away the intemperance of the week: or, if they do come, they are sure to employ their minds rather
way than regarding or attending to the business of the place.
The accident which happened to this young man in the text, hath not been sufficient to discourage his successors; but, because the preachers now in the world, however they may exceed St. Paul in the art of setting men to sleep, do extremely fall short of him in the working of miracles; therefore men are become so cautious, as to choose more safe and convenient stations and postures for taking their repose, without hazard of their
matter, choose rather to trust their destruction to a miracle, than their safety. However, this being not the only way by which the lukewarm Christians and scorners of the age discover their neglect and contempt of preaching, I shall enter expressly into consideration of this matter, and order my discourse in the following method :First, I shall produce several instances to show the great neglect of
preaching now among us. Secondly, I shall reckon up some of the usual quarrels men have
against preaching Thirdly, I shall set forth the great evil of this neglect and contempt
of preaching, and discover the real causes whence it proceedeth. Lastly, I shall offer some remedies against this great and spreading
First, I shall produce certain instances to show the great neglect of preaching now among us. These
may be reduced under two heads. First, men’s absence from the service of the church; and secondly, their misbehavior when they are here.
The first instance of men's neglect is in their frequent absence from the church.
There is no excuse so trivial that will not pass upon some men's consciences to excuse their attendance at the public worship of God. Some are so unfortunate as to be always indisposed on the Lord's-day, and think nothing so unwholesome as the air of a church. Others have their affairs so oddly contrived, as to be always unluckily prevented by business. With some it is a great mark of wit and deep understanding to stay at home on Sundays. Others again discover strange fits of laziness, that seize them particularly on that day, and confine them to their beds. Others are absent out of mere contempt of religion. And, lastly, there are not a few who look upon it as a day of rest, and therefore claim the privilege of their cattle, to keep the Sabbath by eating, drinking, and sleeping, after the toil and labor of the week. Now in all this the worst circumstance is, that these persons are such whose companies are most required, and who stand most in need of a physician.
Secondly, Men's great neglect and contempt of preaching appear by their misbehavior when at church.
If the audience were to be ranked under several heads, according to their behavior when the word of God is delivered, how small a number would appear of those who receive it as they ought! How
much of the seed then sown would be found to fall by the wayside upon stony ground, or among thorns; and how little good ground there would be to take it! A preacher cannot look round from the pulpit without observing that some are in a perpetual whisper, and by their air and gesture give occasion to suspect that they are in those very minutes defaming their neighbor. Others have their eyes and imagination constantly engaged in such a circle of objects, perhaps to gratify the most unwarrantable desires, that they never once attend to the business of the place; the sound of the preacher's words does not so much as once interrupt them. Some have their minds wandering upon idle, worldly, or vicious thoughts. Some lie at catch to ridicule whatever they hear, and with much wit and humor provide a stock of laughter by furnishing themselves from the pulpit. But of all misbehavior, none is comparable to that of those who come here to sleep. Opium is not so stupefying to many persons as an afternoon sermon. Perpetual custom hath so brought it about that the words of whatever preacher become only a sort of uniform sound at a distance, than which nothing is more effectual to lull the senses. For that it is the very sound of the sermon which bindeth
up their faculties is manifest from hence, because they all awake so very regularly as soon as it ceaseth, and with much devotion receive the blessing, dozed and besotted with indecencies I am ashamed to repeat.
I proceed, secondly to reckon up some of the usual quarrels men have against preaching, and to show the unreasonableness of them. Such unwarrantable demeanor as I have described among
Christians in the house of God in a solemn assembly, while their faith and duty are explained and delivered, have put those who are guilty upon inventing some excuses to extenuate their fault; this they do by turning the blame either upon the particular preacher, or upon preaching in general. First, they object against the particular preacher; his manner, his delivery, his voice are disagreeable; his style and expression are flat and slow, sometimes improper and absurd; the matter is heavy, trivial, and insipid, sometimes despicable and perfectly ridiculous; or else, on the other side, he runs up into unintelligible speculation, empty notions, and abstracted flights, all clad in words above usual understandings.
Secondly, They object against preaching in general; it is a perfect road of talk, they know already whatever can be said, they have heard the same a hundred times over. They quarrel that preachers do not relieve an old beaten subject with wit and invention, and
that now the art is lost of moving men's passions, so common among the ancient orators of Greece and Rome. These and the like objections are frequently in the mouths of men who despise the foolishness of preaching. But let us examine the reasonableness of them.
The doctrine delivered by all preachers is the same: “So we preach, and so ye believe :” but the manner of delivering is suited to the skill and abilities of each, which differ in preachers just as in the rest of mankind. However, in personal dislikes of a particular preacher, are these men sure they are always in the right? Do they consider how mixed a thing is every audience, whose taste and judgment differ perhaps every day, not only from each other, but themselves ? and how to calculate a discourse that shall exactly suit them all is beyond the force and reach of human reason, knowledge, or invention. Wit and eloquence are shining qualities that God hath imparted in great degrees to very few; nor any more to be expected in the generality of any rank among men than riches and honor. But further, if preaching in general be all old and beaten, and that they are already so well acquainted with it, more shame and guilt to them who so little edify by it. But these men, whose ears are so delicate as not to endure a plain discourse of religion, who expect a constant supply of wit and eloquence on a subject handled so many thousand times; what will they say when we turn the objection upon themselves, who, with all the rude and profane liberty of discourse they take upon so many thousand subjects, are so dull as to furnish nothing but tedious repetitions, and little, paltry, nauseous commonplaces, so vulgar, so worn, or so obvious, as, upon any other occasion but that of advancing vice, would be hooted off the stage? Nor, lastly, are preachers justly blamed for neglecting human oratory to move the passions, which is not the business of a Christian orator, whose office it is only to work upon faith and reason. All other eloquence hath been a perfect cheat to stir up
men's passions against truth and justice for the service of a faction; to put false colors upon things, and, by an amusement of agreeable words, make the worst reason appear to be the better. This is certainly not to be allowed in Christian eloquence, and therefore St. Paul took quite the other course; he “came not with the excellency of words or enticing speech of men's wisdom, but in plain evidence of the spirit and power.” And perhaps it was for that reason the young man Eutychus, used to the Grecian eloquence, grew tired and fell so fast asleep.
I go on, thirdly, to set forth the great evil of this neglect and