« PreviousContinue »
appear, low deeply rooted soever it may be, how powerful soever tyrannical habits may be over us, we should make rapid advances in the road of virtae, were we often to enter into ourselves: on the contrary, while we act, and determine, and give ourselves up without reflection and examination, it is impossible our conduct should answer our calling.
My brethren, shall I tell you all my heart? This meditation troubles me, it terrifies me, it confounds me. I have been forming the most ardent desires for the success of this discourse : and yet I can hardly entertain a hope that you will relish it. I have been exhorting you with all the power and ardour, of which I am capable, and, if you will forgive me for saying so, with the zeal, which I ought to have for your salvation; I have been exhorting you not to be discouraged at the number and the difficulty of the duties which the wise man prescribes to you: but I am afraid, I know you too well to promise myself that you will acquit yourselves with that holy resolution and courage, which the nature of the duties necessarily demands.
May God work in you, and in me, more than I can ask or think! God grant us intelligent minds, that we may act like intelligent souls ! May that God, who hath set before us life and death, heaven and hell, boundless felicity and endless misery, may he so direct our steps, that we may arrive at that happiness, which is the object of our wishes, and which ought to be the object of all our care! God grant us this grace! To bim be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
SERMON SERMON XII.
THE NECESSITY OF PROGRESSIVE RELIGION,
I Cor. ix. 26, 27.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I, net
as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.
of the most famous generals of antiquity. It was said of him, that he thought there was nothing done, while there remained any thing to do. To embrace such a system of war and politics was to open a wide field of painful labour: but Cæsar aspired to be a hero, and there was no way of obtaining his end except that, which he chose. Whoever arrives at worldly heroism arrives at it in this way, By this marvellous secret the Roman eagles flew to the uttermost parts of Asia, rendered Gaul tributary, swelling the Rhine with German blood, subjugated Britain, pursued the shattered remains of Pompey's army into the desarts of Africa, and caused all the rivers, that fell into the Adriatic sea, to roll along the sound of their victories.
My brethren, success is not necessarily connected with heroism; the hero Cæsar was a common misfortune, all his heroism public robbery, fạtal to the republic, and more so to Cæsar himself. But, in order to be saved, it is necessary to succeed, and there is no other way of obtaining salvation, except that laid down by this great general; think nothing done, while there is any thing to do. Behold, in the words of our text, behold a man, who perfectly knew the Hh2
way to heaven, a man most sincerely aspiring to salvation. What doth he to succeed? What we have said; he accounted all he had done nothing, while there remained any thing more to do. After he had carried virtue to its highest pitch, after he had made the most rapid progress, and obtained the most splendid triumphs in the road of salvation, still he ran, still he fought, he undertook new mortifications, always fearing lesť lukewarmness and indolence should frustrate his aim of obtaining the prize, which had always been an object of his hope; I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.
St. Paul lives no more. This valiant champion hath already conquered. But you, you christians are yet alive ; like him the race is open before you, and to you now, as well as to him formerly, a voice from heaven crieth, Ta him that overcometh will i grant to sit with me in my throne, Rev. iii. 21. Happy, if animated by his example, you share with him a prize, which loses nothing of its excellence by the number of those, who partake of it! Happy, if you be able one day to say with him, I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me onby, but unto all them that love his appearing! 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
Let us first make one general remark on the expressions of the text; they are a manifest allusion to the games, which were celebrated among the heathens. Fable, or history, tells us that Pelops invented them, that Hercules and Atreus brought then to perfection, that Iphitus restored them all which signify very little to us. What is certain is, that these games are celebrated with great pomp. They were so solemn among the Greeks, that they made use of them to mark memorable events, and public eras, that of consuls at Rome, of archons at Athens, of priestesses at Argos. They passed from Greece to Italy, and were so much in vogue at Rome, that an ancient author said, two things were necessary to the Roman people, bread and public shews. It is needless to repeat here what learned men have collected on this subject, we will remark only what may serve to elucidate our text, all the ideas of which are borrowed from ihese exercises.
1. In these games the most remarkable object was the course. The ground, on which the games were cele brated, was marked out with great exactness, . In some places lines were drawn, and the place of combat railed, and when he who ran went beyond the line, he ran to no pure pose. It was dangerous to ramble, especially in some places, as in Greece, where the space was bounded on one side by the river Alpheus, and on the other by a sort of cheveaux ile frise ; as at Rome, where before the construction of the circus, which was afterwards built on purpose for spectacles of this sort, an area was chosen, on one side of which was cheveaux de frise, and on the other the Tiber, so that the combatant could not pass the bounds prescribed to him without exposing himself to the danger either of being wounded by the spikes, or drowned in the waves. This is the first emblem, which our apostle uses here; I run, alluding to the course in general; I do not run uncertainly, in allu, şion to such combatants as, by passing the boundaries, lost the fruit of their labour.
2. Among other games were those of wrestling and box, ing. Address in these combats consisted in not aiming any blow, which did not strike the adversary. He, who had not this address, was said to beat the air, and hence càine the proverb to beat the air, to signify labouring in vain*. This is the second allusion of St. Paul, I fight, not as one that beateth the air.
3. The combatants observed a particular regimen, to reider themselves more active and vigorous. The time, the quantity, and the nature of their aliments were prescribed, and they punctually complied with the rules. They laid aside every thing likely to enervate them. obtain a prize in the Olympick game? said a pagan philosopher, a noble design ! But consider the preparations, and consequences. You must live by rule, you must eat when you are not hungry, you must abstain from agreeable foods, you must habituate yourself to suffer heat and cold, in one word, you must give yourself up entirely to a physiciant." By these ineans the combatants acquired such health and strength, that they could bend with the greatest 'ease such bows, as horses could hardly bend; hence the health of a champion was a coinmon proverb I to express a strong hale
66 Would you
* Eustat, in Homer. Iliąd. † Epict. cap. 36. Voi. Plat de legibus, lib. 8. $ Hor. Art Poet. Julian de Laud. Const. Orat. i. As this regimen was exact, it was painful and trying. It was necessary not only to surmount irregular desires, but all those exercises must be positively practised, which were essential to victorious combatants : It was not sufficient to observe them a little while, they must be wrought by long preparation into habits, without which the agility and vigour acquired by repeated labours would be lost; witness that famous champion, who, after he had often and glori. ously succeeded, was shamefully conquered, because he had neglected the regimen for six months, during which time a domestie affair had obliged him to reside at Athens*. This is the third allusion, which our apostle makes in the text, I keep under my body, anel bring it into subjection.
Let us observe by the way that these expressions of our apostle have been abused to absurd though devotional purposes, and, to omit others, it was an abuse of these expressions, which produced the extravagant sect of the Flagellants †. Al Italy in the thirteenth century was seized with a panic, which ended in the birth of this sect. The next century, the Germans being afflicted with a plague, it filled all Germany; and the folly of Henry III. king of France, joined to that mean complaisance, which induces courtiers to go into all the caprices of their masters, introduced it into that kingdom, and into that kingdom it went with so much fury, that Charles, Cardinal of Lorrain, actually killed himself by adhering too closely to its maxims during a rigoTous winter 1.
What a wide field opens here to our meditation, were it necessary to shew the absurdity of such devotions!
We might shew, that they owe their origin to paganism. Plutarch says, that, in the city of Lacedemon, they were sometimes pursued even to death in honour of Diana. Herodotus speaks to the same purpose concerning the festival of the great goddess in Egypts. In like manner Philostratus speaks of the devotions performed in honour of Scythian Diana** Thus also Apuleius concerning the priests of the goddess of Syria T ; and thus authors more credible, I mean the writers of the book of Kings, concerning the priests of Baal.
* Baudelot de Dairval. Hist. de Ptolomee Auletes, pag. 67. c. 9. + Hospinian. Hist. Monach. Boileau. Hist. des Flagel. lans. De Thou, Hist. liv. 59. Plutarch Vit. Lycurg, § Eutrop. liv. ji. chap. 41.
** 'De Vit. Apollon. lib. vi. c. 2.c L'Ane d'Or. liv. viii.