Page images
PDF
EPUB

in paradise according to the diligence or negligence with which the people gratify the avarice of him who distributes them. There needs only a pastor fretted with envy and jealousy against his brethren to poison their ministry, by himself, or by his emissaries. Yea sometimes, there needs only the want of some less essential talents in a minister to give advantage to the enemies of religion, and to deprive the truths he preaches of that profound respect which is their due ; a respect that even enemies could not withhold, if the gospel were properly preached and its truths exhibited in their true point of view.

It would be unreasonable perhaps to develope this article now. How many of our people would felicitate themselves if we were to furnish them with pretènces for imputing their unfruitfulness to those who cultivate them ; but, if this article must not be developed, what grave remonstrances, what pressing exhortations, what fervent prayers should it occasion ; let the heads of families consider the heinousness of their conduct in presuming to offer impure victims to the Lord, and in consecrating those children to the holy ministry, in whom they cannot but discover dispositions that render them unworthy of it. May ecclesiastical bodies never assemble for the elections of pastors without making profound reflections on the importance of the service in which they are engaged, and the greatness of the trust which the magistrate commits to them : May they never ordain without recollecting, that, to a certain degree, they will be responsible for all the sad consequences of a faithless or a fruitless ministry : May they always prostrate themselves, on these occasions, before God, as the

apostles in the same case did, and pray, Lord shere: whom thou hast chosen, Acts i. 24. May our rulers

and magistrates be affected with the worth of those souls, whom pastórş instruct ; and may they unite all their piety, all their pity, and all their power to procure holy men, who may adorn so eminent, so venerable a post.

What hath been said on the choice of pastors still more particularly regards the election of tutors, who are employed to form pastors themselves. Universities are public springs, whence riyulets flow into all the church. Place at the head of these bodies sound philosophers, good divines, wise casuists, and they will become seminaries of pastors after God's heart, who will form the minds, and regulate the morals of the people, gently bowing them to the yoke of religion. On the contrary, place men of another character at the head of our universities, and they will send out impoisoned ministers, who will diffuse through the whole church the fatal venom which they themselves have imbibed.

3. The third cause, which we have assigned, of the infancy and noviciate of most christians in religious knowledge, is the multitude of their secular affairs. Far be it from us to aim at inspiring you .with superstitious maxims. We do not mean that they who fill eminent posts in society, shall devote that time to devotion, which the good of the community requires. We allow, that, in some critical conjunctures, the time appoiņted for devotion must be yielded to business. There are some urgent occasions when it is more necessary to fight than to pray: there are times of important business in which the closet must be sacrificed to the cares of life, and second causes must be attended to even when one would wish to be occupied only about the first. , Yet, after all, the duty we recommend is indispensable. Amidst the most turbulent solicitudes of life,, a christian, desirous of being saved,

will devote some time to his salvation. Some part of the day he will redeem from the world and society, to meditate on eternity. This was the prac

. tice of those eminent saints, whose lives are proposed as patterns to us. The histories of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David are well known, and you recollect those parts of their lives to which we refer, without our detaining you in a repetition now.

The last cause of the incapacity of so many christians for seeing the whole of religion in its connection and harmony, the last cause of their taking it only by bits and shreds, is their love of sensual pleasure. We do not speak here of those gross pleasures, at which heathens would have blushed, and which are incompatible with christianity. We attack pleasures more refined, maxims for which reasonable persons become sometimes apologists : persons who, on more accounts than one, are worthy of being proposed as examples : persons who would seem to be the salt of the earth, the flower of society, and whom we cannot justly accuse of not loving religion, How rational, how religious soever they appear in other cases, they make no scruple of passing a great part of their time in gaming, in public diversions, in a round of worldly amusements; in pleasures, which not only appear harmless, but, in some sort suitable to their rank, and which seem criminal only to those, who think it their duty not to float on the surface of religion, but to examine the whole that it requires of those men, on whom God hath bestowed the inestimable favor of revealing it. We may presume, that, if we shew people of this sort, that this way of life is one of the principal obstacles to their progress in religion, and prevents their knowing all its beauties, and relishing all its delights, we shall not speak without success. In order to this, pardon

me if I conjure you to hear this article, not only with attention, but with that impartiality, which alone can enable you to know whether we utter our own speculations, or preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recollect here that general notion of reli gion which we have laid down: it contains truths of speculation, and truths of practice. Such sensual pleasure as we have just now mentioned, form invincible obstacles to the knowledge of both.

I. To the knowledge of speculative truths. How is it possible for a man to obtain a complete system of the doctrines of the gospel while he is a slave to sensual pleasures ?

1. To obtain a complete system of the doctrines of the gospel, there must be a certain habit of thinking and meditating. In vain you turn over whole volumes, in vain you attend methodical sermons, in vain you make a parade with bodies of divinity, you can never comprehend the connexion of religious truths unless you acquire a habit of arranging ideas, of laying down principles, of deducing consequences, in short of forming systems yourselves. This habit cannot be acquired without exercise ; it is unattainable without serious atten

2 tion, and profound application. But how can people devoted to pleasure acquire such a habit ? Sensual pleasure is an inexhaustible source of dissipation: it dissipates in preparing, it dissipates in studying, it dissipates after the study is at an end.

2. To counterbalance the difficulty of meditation and study there must be a relish for it. Those who make study a duty or a trade, seldom make great progress in knowledge : at least, a great difference has always been observed between the proficiency of those who study by inclination, and those who study by necessity. . But nothing.is more capable of disgusting us with the spiritual pleasures

a

a

of study and meditation than the love of sensual pleasures. We will not intrude into the closets of these persons; but is there not a remarkable difference between their application to study and their attention to pleasure ? The one is a violence offered to themselves, the other a voluptuousness after which they sigh. The one is an intolerable burden eagerly shaken off as soon as the time appointed expires: the other is a delicious gratification, from which it is painful to part when nature exhausted can support it no longer, or troublesome duty demands a cessation. In the one, hours and moments are counted, and the happiest period is that which terminates the pursuit : but in the other, time glides away imperceptibly, and people wish for the power of prolonging the course of the day, and the duration of life.

3. To acquire a complete knowledge of religious truths, it is not enough to study them in the closet, in retirement and silence; we must converse with others who study them too. But the love of sensual pleasure indisposes us for such conversations. Slaves to sensual pleasures have but little taste for those delicious societies, whose mutual bond is utility ; in which impartial inquirers propose their doubts, raise their objections, communicate their discoveries, and reciprocally assist each other's edification : for deprive those who love sensual pleasures, of gaming and diversions, conversation instantly languishes, and converse is at an end.

But, secondly, if the love of sensual pleasure raise such great obstacles to the knowledge of speculative truths, it raiseth incomparably greater still to the truths of practice. There are some scripture maxims, which are never thought of by the persons in question, except it be to enervate and destroy

;

« PreviousContinue »