« PreviousContinue »
of God? Will it appease his justice? Will it, to become genuine Christians, as we endeavour close the gates of hell? Will it open the gates to become profound philosophers, acute matheof immortality! Ah! let us form better ideas maticians, able preachers, enlightened mer, of religion. There is an infinite distance be- chants, intrepid commanders, by assiduity and tween him, accounted by the world an honest labour, by close and constant application. man, and a real Christian; and if the love of
This is perhaps a galling reflection. I am God' have not been the predominant disposi- not astonished that it is calculated to excite in tion of our heart, let us tremble, let us weep, most of you discouragement and fear: here is or rather let us endeavour to reform. This is the most difficult part of our discourse. The the first conclusion we deduce from our dis- doctrines or truths we discuss being unwelcourse.
come, and such as you would gladly evade, we The second turns on what we have said must here suspend the thread of this discourse, with regard to the force of habits; on the that you may feel the importance of our minismeans of correcting the bad, and of acquiring try. For, after having established these truths, the good. Recollect, that all these things we must form the one or the other of these cannot be done in a moment; recollect, that to opinions concerning your conduct, either that succeed, we must be fixed and firm, returning you do "seek the Lord while he may be a thousand and a thousand times to the charge. found," and endeavour, by a holy obstinacy, to We should be the more struck with the pro-establish truth in the mind, and grace in the priety of this, is, as we said in the body of this heart; or that you exclude yourselves from discourse, we employed more time to reflect salvation, and engage yourselves so afore in on ourselves. But most people live destitute the way of destruction, as to occasion fear lest of thought and recollection. We are dissipated the Spirit of God, a thousand and a thousand by exterior things, our eyes glance on every times insulted, should for ever withdraw. object, we ascend to the heavens to make new What do you say, my brethren? Which of discoveries among the stars, we descend into these opinions is best founded? To what end the deep, we dig into the bowels of the earth, do you live? Does this unremitting vigilance, we run even from the one to the other world, this holy obstinacy, this continual recurrence seeking fortune in the most remote regions, of watchfulness and care, form the object of and we are ignorant of what occurs in our your life? Ah! make no more problems of a own breast. We have a body and a soul, truth, which will shortly be but too well estanoblest works of God, and we never reflect on blished. what passes within, how knowledge is acquir Ministers of Jesus Christ, sent by the God ed, how prejudices originate, how habits are of vengeance, not to plant only, but also to formed and fortified. If this knowledge served root out; to build, but also to throw down; merely for intellectual pleasure, we ought at Jer. i. 10, to“ proclaim the acceptable year of least to tax our indolence with negligence: but the Lord,” Isa. Ixi. 2, but also to blow the being intimately connected with our salvation, alarming trumpet of Zion in the ears of the we cannot but deplore our indifference. Let people ; awaken the conscience; brandish us therefore study ourselves, and become ra- the awful sword of Divine justice; put in full tional, if we would become regenerate. Let effect the most terrific truths of religion. In us learn the important truth already proved, prosperous seasons the gospel supplies us with that virtue is acquired only by diligence and sweet and consoling passages; but we should application.
now urge the most efficacious, and not stay to Nor let it be here objected, that we ought adorn the house of God, when called to extinnot to talk of Christian virtues as of the other guish a fire which threatens its destruction. habits of the soul; and that the Holy Spirit | Yes, Christians, did we use concerning many can suddenly and fully correct our prejudices, of you, any other language, we should betray and eradicate our corrupt propensities. With the sentiments of our hearts. You suffer the out a doubt we need his aid—Yes, O Holy only period, proper for your salvation, to es. Spirit, source of eternal wisdom, however cape. You walk in a dreadful path," the end great may be my efforts and vigilance, what thereof is death,” and your way of life tends ever endeavours I may use for my salvation, I absolutely to incapacitate you from tasting the will never trust to myself, never will I "offer sweetness of a happy death. incense to my drag, or sacrifice to my net," It is true, if you call in some ministers at the never will I lean upon this “bruised reed,” close of life, they will perhaps have the weaknever will I view my utter insufficiency with ness to promise, to the appearance of converout asking thy support.
sion, that grace which is offered only to a genuBut after all, let us not imagine that the ine change of heart. But we solemnly declare, operations of the Holy Spirit are like the fa- that if, after a life of inaction and negligence, bulous enchantments celebrated in our ro- they shall speak peace to you on a death-bed, mances and poets. We have told you a thou- you ought not to depend on this kind of prosand times, and we cannot too often repeat it, mises. You ought to class them with those that grace never destroys, but perfects nature. things which ought not to be credited, though The Spirit of God will abundantly irradiate“. an angel from heaven should come and preach your mind, if you vigorously apply to religious them.” Ministers are but men, and weak as contemplation; but he will not infuse the light others. You call us to attend the dying, who if you disdain the study. The Spirit of God I have lived as most of the human kind. There will abundantly establish the reign of grace in we find a sorrowful family, a father bathed in your heart, if you assiduously apply to the tears, a mother in despair: what would you work; but he will never do it in the midst of have us to do? Would you have us speak hodissipation and sin. We ooght to endeavour nestly to the sick man"Would you have us
tell him, that all this exterior of repentance is | You are now precisely at the age for salvation,
fret unto the testimonies of the Lord,” Ps.
you knew the consolation of a Christian, who we called your attention, the study of man? seeks his God in prayer, who mingles his voice What is more proper to confound such a man, with the voice of angels, and begins on earth than to tell him, as we then did, your brain the sacred exercises which shall one day con- will weaken your age; your mind will be filled stitute his eternal felicity:-If you knew the with notions foreign to religion; it will lose joys which succeed the bitterness of repent- with years, the power of conversing with any ance, when the sinner, returning from his fol, but sensible objects; and of commencing the ly, prostrates himself at the feet of a merciful investigation of religious truths? What is God, and receives at the throne of grace, from more proper to save such a man from his prethe Saviour of the world, the discharge of all judices, than to remind him, that the way, and their sins, and mingling tears of joy with tears the only way of acquiring a habit is practice; of grief, repairs by redoubled affection, his that virtue cannot be formed in the heart by a lukewarmness and indolence: If you knew single wish, by a rash and hasty resolution, the raptures of a soul persuaded of its salva- but by repeated and persevering efforts; that tion, which places all its hope within the veil, the habit of a vice strengthens itself in proporas an anchor sure and steadfast, which bids tion as we indulge the crime? What, in short, defiance to hell and the devil, which antici- is more proper to induce us to improve the pates the celestial delights; a soul" which is time of health for salvation, than to exhibit to already justified, already risen, already glorifi- him the portrait we have drawn of a dying ed, already seated in heavenly places in Christman, stretched on a bed of affliction, labouring Jesus," Eph. ji. 6.
with sickness, troubled with phantoms and reAh! why should we defer so glorious a task: veries, flattered by his friends, terrified with We ought to defer things which are painful death, and consequently incapable of executand injurious, and when we cannot extricate ing the work he has deferred to this tragic peourselves from a great calamity, we ought at riod? I again repeat, my brethren, if you were least to retard it as much as possible. But this attentive to the discourse we delivered, if the peace, this tranquillity, these transports, this desire of salvation drew you to these assemresurrection, this foretaste of paradise, are they blies, there is not one among you that those to be arranged in this class. Ah no! I will no serious reflections would not constrain to enter longer delay, O my God, to keep thy, com- into his heart, and to reform without delay the mandments. I will “reach forih," "I will purposes of life.
press towards the mark for the prize of the But it may appear to some, that we narrow high calling,” Phil. iii. 14. Happy to have the way to heaven; that the doctrines of faith formed such noble resolutions! Happy to ac- being above the doctrines of philosophy, we complish them! Amen. To God, the Father, must suppress the light of reason, and take Son, and Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. solely for our guide in the paths of piety, the Amen.
lamp of revelation. We will endeavour to afford them satisfaction: we will show that reli
gion, very far from weakening, strengthens the SERMON LXXXI. reflections which reason bas suggested. We
will prove, that we have said nothing but what ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION.
ought to alarm those who delay co
conversion, and who found the notion they have formed of the Divine mercy, not on the nature of God,
but on the depraved propensity of their own Isaiah lv. 6.
heart, and on the impure system of their lusts.
These are the heads of this discourse. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye
You will tell us, brethren, entering on this upon him while he is near.
discourse, that we are little afraid of the diffiIt is now some time, my brethren, if you culties of which perhaps it is susceptible; we recollect, since we addressed you on this sub- hope that the truth, notwithstanding our weakject. We proposed to be less scrupulous in ness, will appear in all its lustre. But other discussing the terms than desirous to attack thoughts strike our mind, and they must for a the delay of conversion, and absurd notions of moment arrest our course. We fear the diffidivine mercy. We then apprised you, that culty of your hearts: we fear inore: we fear we should draw our reflections from three that this discourse, which shall disclose the sources,-from the nature of man,—from the treasures of grace, will aggravate the condemauthority of Scripture, and from actual ex- nation of those who turn it into wantonness: perience. We began by the first of these we fear that this discourse, by the abuse to points; to-day we intend to discuss the second; which many may expose it, will serve merely and if Providence call us again into this pul as a proof of the truths already established. Ó pit, we will explain the third, and give the God! avert this dreadful prediction, and may finishing hand to the subject.
the cords of love, which thou so evidently emIf you were attentive to what we proposed ployest, draw and captivate our hearts. Amen. in our first discourse, if the love of salvation I. The Holy Scriptures to-day are the source drew you to these assemblies, you would de- from which we draw our arguments to attack rive instruction. You would sensibly perceive the delay of conversion. Had we no design the vain pretensions of those who would in- , but to cite what is positively said on this subdeed labour to obtain salvation, but who always ject, our meditation would require no great efdelay. For what, I pray, is more proper to forts. We should have but to transcribe a excite alarm and terror in the soul, negligent mass of infallible decisions, of repeated warnof conversion, than the single point to which ings, of terrific examples, of appalling menaces,
with which they abound, and which they ad- delay of conversion; when we prove from the dress to all those who presume to delay con- force of habits, that it is difficult, not to say version. We should have to repeat this cau- impossible, for a man aged in crimes, to be tion of the prophet, “ To-day if ye will hear converted at the hour of death; it appeared his voice harden not your hearts,” Ps. xcv. 7. to you, that we shook two doctrines which are A caution he has sanctified by his own exam- in fact the two fundamental pillars of your ple, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep faith. thy commandments," Ps. cxix. 60. We should The first is the supernatural aids of the Hohave only to address to you this reflection, ly Spirit, promised in the new covenant; aids made by the author of the second book of which bend the most rebellious wills, aids Chronicles: “The Lord God of their fathers which can surmount in a moment all the diffisent to them by his messengers, because he had culties which the force of habit may oppose to compassion on his people; but they mocked conversion. the messengers of God, and despised his words, The second doctrine is that of mercy, access and misused his prophets, until the wrath of to which being opened by the blood of Christ, the Lord arose against his people till there was there is no period it seems but we may be adno remedy. Therefore he brought upon them mitted whenever we come, though at the close the king of the Chaldees, who slew the young of life. Here is, in substance, if I mistake men with the sword. And bad no compassion not, the whole of what religion and the Scripupon young men or maidens, old men or him tures seem to oppose to what has been advancthat stooped for age. They burned the house ed in our first discourse. If we make it thereof God, and brake down the wall of Jerusa- fore evident, that these two doctrines do not lem, and burned all the palaces thereof with oppose our principles; if we prove, that they fire,” 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, &c. We should contain nothing directly repugnant to the cononly have to propose the declaration of Eter- clusions we have drawn, shall we not thereby nal Wisdom, " Because I called and ye refused, demonstrate, that the Scriptures contain noI will laugh at your calamity, and mock when thing but what should alarm those who trust your fear cometh," Prov. i. 26. We should to a tardy repentance. This we undertake to have but to represent the affecting scene of Je- develope. The subject is not without difficulsus Christ weeping over Jerusalem, and say- ty; we have to steer between two rocks equaling, “O that thou hadst known, at least in ly dangerous; for if, on the one hand, we this thy day, the things that belong to thy should supersede those doctrines, we abjure the peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes, faith of our fathers, and draw upon ourselves Luke xix. 41. We should have but to say to the charge of heterodoxy. On the other hand, each of you, as St. Paul to the Romans: “De- if we should stretch those doctrines beyond a spisest thou the riches of his goodness, and certain point, we furnish a plea for licentiousforbearing, and long-suffering, not knowing ness: we sap what we have built, and refute that the goodness of God leadeth thee to re- ourselves. Both these rocks we must caupentance? But after thy hardness and impeni- tiously avoid. tent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath The first proofs of which people avail themagainst the day of wrath, and revelation of selves, to excuse their negligence and delay, the righteous judgments of God,” Rom. ii. 4, and the first arguments of defence, which they &c. And elsewhere that God sends strong draw from the Scriptures, in order to oppose delusion on those who believe not the truth, to us, are taken from the aids of the Spirit, probelieve a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 8. We should have mised in the new covenant. “Why those but to resound in this assembly, those awful alarming sermons." say they. "Why those words in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “If we awful addresses, to the sinner who defers his sin wilfully after we have received the know- conversion. Why confound, in this way, reliledge of the truth, there remaineth no more gious with natural habits?" The latter are sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking formed, I grant, by labour and study; by perfor of judgment, and fiery indignation, which severing and uninterrupted assiduity. The shall devour the adversaries,” Heb. x. 26. For former proceed from extraneous aids; they are if the mercy of God is without bounds, if it is the productions of grace, formed in the soul by ready to receive the sinner the moment he is the Holy Spirit. I will not, therefore, invaliinduced by the fear of punishment to prostrate date a doctrine so consolatory; I will profit by himself before him, why is this precise day the prerogatives of Christianity; I will devote marked to hear the voice of God? Why this my life to the world; and when I perceive myhaste? Why this exhausting of resources and self ready to expire, I will assume the characremedies? Why this strong delusion? Why ter of a Christian. I will surrender myself this refusal to hear the tardy penitent? Why to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and then this end of the days of Jerusalem's visitation? he shall, according to his promise, communiWhy this heaping up of the treasures of wrath? cate his powerful influence to my heart; he Why this utter defect of sacrifice for sin? All shall subdue my wicked propensities, eradicate these passages, my brethren, are as so many my most inveterate habits, and effectuate, in a sentences against our delays, against the con- moment, what would have cost me so much tradictory notions we fondly form of the divine labour and pain. Here is an objection, which mercy, and of which we foolishly avail our most sinners have not the effrontery to avow, selves in order to sleep in our sins.
but which a false theology cherishes in too All these things being hereby evident and many minds; and on which we found nearly the clear, we stop not for farther explication, but whole of our imaginary hopes of a death-bed proceed with our discourse. When we em conversion. ployed philosophical arguments against the To this objection we are bound to reply.
We proceed to make manifest its absurdity, 1. you not perceive, on the contrary, that the By the ministry God has established in the youth who learns his catechism with care, bechurch. 2. By the efforts he requires us to comes a good catechumen; that the candidate make, previously to our being satisfied that we who profoundly studies divinity, becomes an have received the Holy Spirit. 3. By the able divine; and that the Christian, who endeamanner in which he requires us to co-operate vours to subdne his passions, obtains the vicwith the Spirit, when we have received him. tory over himself? Hence, the Holy Spirit re4. By the punishment he has denounced against quires you to use exertions. Hence, when those who resist his work. 5. By the conclu- we exhorted you to become genuine Christians, sions which the Scripture itself deduces from with the same application that we use to beour natural weakness, and from the necessity come enlightened merchants, meritorious offiof grace. Here, my brethren, are five sources cers, acute mathematicians, and good preachof reflection, which amount to demonstration, ers, by assiduity and study, by labour and apthat every man who draws consequences from plication, we advanced nothing inconsistent the promised aids of the Spirit, to live in luke- with the genius of our religion. Hence, he warmness, and to flatter himself with acquir- who draws from the aids of the Holy Spirit ing, without labour, without difficulty, without conclusions to remain inactive, and defer the application, habits of holiness, offers violence to work of salvation, offers violence to the econoreligion, and is unacquainted with the genius my of grace, and supersedes the design of the of the Holy Spirit's economy.
ministry God has established in his church. The ministry established in the church, is This is our first reflection. the first proof that the aids of the Spirit give We have marked, secondly, the efforts that no countenance to lukewarmness, and the de- God requires us to use to obtain the grace of lay of conversion. Had it been the design of the Holy Spirit, when we do not account ourthe Holy Spirit to communicate knowledge, selves as yet to have received them. For it is without the fatigue of religious instruction; fully admitted that God required us, at least, had it been his design to sanctify, in a moment, to ask. The Scriptures are very express. “If without requiring our co-operation in this any man lack wisdom let him ask of God," great work, why establish a ministry in the Jam. i. 5; "seek, and ye shall find; knock, church? Why require us in infancy to be and it shall be opened,” Matt. vii. 7. And, if taught “ line upon line, and precept upon pre- we are required to ask, we are also obliged to cept," as Isaiah expresses himself, Isa. xxxviii. use efforts, however weak and imperfect, to 10. Why, as St. Paul says, require us after- obtain the grace we ask. For, with what face ward to " leave the principles of the doctrines can we ask God to assist us in the work of of Christ, and go on to perfection?" Heb. vi. 1. salvation, when we deliberately seek our own Why require, as the same apostle says, that destruction? With what face can we ask God we proceed from “milk to strong meat?” not to lead us into temptation, and we ouri Cor. iii. 2. Why require to propose motives, selves rush into temptation, and greedily riot and address exhortations? Why are we not in sin? With what face can we ask him to enlightened and sanctified without means, extinguish the fire of concupiscence, when we without ministers, without the Bible, without daily converse with objects which inflame it? the ministry? Why act exactly in the science We ought, therefore, to conduct ourselves, of salvation, as in the sciences of men? For, with regard to the work of salvation, as we do when we teach a science to a man, we adapt with regard to life and health. In vain should it to his capacity, to his genius, and to his me we try to preserve them, did not God extend mory; so God requires us to do with regard to his care: nature, and the elements, all con
“Faith comes by hearing,” says St. spire for our destruction; we should vanish of Paul," and hearing by the word,” Rom. x. 17. our own accord; God alone can retain the “ Being ascended up on high, he gave some to breath which preserves our life. Asa, king of be apostles, and some prophets, and some evan- Israel, was blamed for having had recourse to gelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the physicians, without having first inquired of the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the Lord. But should we not be fools, if, from a ministry (mark the expression,) for the edify- notion that God alone can preserve our life, ing of the body of Christ,”. Eph. iv. 11, 12. we should cast ourselves into a pit; abandon Perceive you not, therefore, the impropriety ourselves to the waves of the sea, take no food of your pretensions? Seeing it has been God's when healthy, and no medicine when sick? good pleasure to establish a ministry, do you Thus, in the work of salvation, we should do not conceive that he would have you regard it the same; imploring the grace of God to aid with deference? Seeing he has opened the our endeavours. We should follow the examgates of these temples, do you not conceive that ple of Moses, when attacked by Amalek; he he requires you to enter his courts? Seeing he shared with Joshua the task of victory. Mo. has enjoined us to preach, do you not conceive ses ascended the hill, Joshua descended into that he requires you to hear? Seeing he re- the plain: Joshua fought, Moses prayed: Moquires you to hear, do you not conceive that ses raised his suppliant hands to heaven, Johe likewise requires you to comprehend? See- shua raised a warrior's arm: Moses opposed ing he commands us to impress you with mo- his fervour to the wrath of Heaven, Joshua tives, would he not have you feel their force opposed his courage and arms to the enemy of Do you think he has any other object in view? Israel: and, by this judicious concurrence of Show us a man, who has lived eighty years praying and fighting, Israel triumphed and without meditation and piety, that has instan- Amalek fled. taneously become a good divine, a faithful Observe, thirdly, the manner in which the Christian, perfected in holiness and piety. Do Holy Spirit requires correspondent co-operation