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he deign to give you the Spirit of Esdras, of, a Moses, who knows how to stay the arm of Nehemiah, of Josiah, of Hezekiah, princes God, and to say, O Lord, pardon this people; distinguished in the sacred Scriptures, who "and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy brought their nation back to reformation and book," Exod. xxxii. 32. O how glorious to be piety, and thereby to happiness and glory. in a republic, if I may venture so to speak, the
This law concerns you, this condition, pas- stay of the state, and the cause of its existtors, is imposed on you. “Return from your ence! May he who has chosen you to those evil ways and amend.” The ministry with exalted duties, assist you to discharge them which God has invested you; this ministry, at with fidelity. May he purify all your yet reall times weighty and difficult, is particularly maining defects and imperfections! May he so in this age of contradiction and universal make you the salt of the earth, and enable depravity. You are appointed to censure the you to shine as lights in the midst of this vices of the people, and every one is enraged crooked and perverse generation, and cause against you, the moment you cast an eye on you to find in the delights which piety shall his particular crimes. They will treat you as afford, the first rewards of all the advantages enemies when you tell them the truth. No it procures. matter. Force your hearers to respect you. This law concerns us all, this condition is Testify to them by your generosity and disin- imposed on each. “Let us return from our terestedness, that you are ready to make every evil ways, and amend.” Why would we delay sacrifice to sustain the glory of your ministry, conversion? Why would we delay disarming Give them as many examples as precepts; and the wrath of heaven till overwhelined with then ascend the pulpit with a mind confident its vengeance? Why should we delay our supand firm. You have the same right over the plications till God shall “cover himself with people, as the Isaiahs, as the Micahs, and as a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass throagh?" the Jeremiahs, had over Israel and Judah. Lam. jii. 44. Why should we delay till wholly You can say like them, the Lord has spoken. enveloped in the threatened calamities. To And may the God who has invested you with say all in a single word, why should we delay the sacred office you fill, may he grant you the till Holland becomes as Provence, and the talents requisite for its faithful discharge; may Hague as Marseilles? he assist you by the most intimate communi Ah! what word is that we have just procations in the closet, to bear the crosses laid nounced? what horrors does it not oblige us to upon you by the public; may he deign to ac- retrace? O consuming fire, God of vengeance, cept the purity of your intentions, to have animate our souls; and may the piercing and compassion on your weakness, and enable you awful ideas of thy judgments, induce us to to redouble your efforts by the blessings he shall avert the blow. Odreadful times, where death shed on your work!
enters our houses with the air we breathe, and This law concerns you, this condition is im- with the food we eat; every one shuns himself posed on you, rebellious men: on you sinners, as death; the father fears the breath of his son, who have excelled in the most awful courses and the son the breath of his father. O dreadof vice, in tighting, in hatred, in brutality, in ful times, already come on so many victims, profaneness, in insolence, and every other and perhaps ready to come on us, exhibit the crime which confounds the human kind with calamities in all their horrors! I look on mydemons. It is you, chiefly you who have up- self as stretched on my dying bed, and abanlifted the arm of vengeance which pursues us; doned by my dearest friends; I look on my it is you who have dug those pits which are children as entreating me to help them; I am under our feet. But "return from your evil terrified by their approach, I am appalled by ways, and amend." Let your reformation have their embraces, and receive the contagion by some proportion to your profligacy, and your their last adieu! repentance to your crimes. And may the God My brethren, the throne of mercy is yet acwho can of these stones raise up children unto cessible. The devotion of so many saints who Abraham, and make to rush from the hardest have besieged it to-day, have opened it to us. rocks fountains of living water, may he deign Let us approach it with broken and contrite to display on you the invincible power he has hearts. Let us approach it with promises of over the heart: may he penetrate the abyss of conversion, and oaths of fidelity. Let us apyour souls, and strike them in places the most proach it with ardent prayers for the salvation tender and susceptible of anguish, of shame, of this republic; for the prosperity of the and of repentance!
church; for the peace of Europe; and for the This law concerns you, it is imposed on you salvation of those victims, which the divine believers; and believers even of the first class. justice is ready to sacrifice. Let us prostrate How pure soever your virtues may be, they are before God as David at the sight of the destill mixed with imperfections: how firm soever stroying angel, and may we like that prince the fabric of your piety may be, it still requires succeed in staying the awful executions. May support; and how sincere soever your endea- this year, hitherto filled with alarms, with horvours may be, they must still be repeated. It ror, and carnage, close with hope and consolais on you that the salvation of the nation de- tion. May this day, which has been a day of volves. It is your piety, your fervour, and fasting, humiliation, and repentance, produce your zeal, which must for the future sustain the solemnities of joy and thanksgiving. God this tottering republic. May there be ten grant us the grace. To whom be honour and righteous persons in our Sodom, lest it be con- glory for ever. Amen. sumed by fire from heaven: may there still be
prehensible absurdities, and of difficulties which SERMON XCII.
cannot be resolved.
The whole of these propositions, my bre
thren, claim the most careful investigation. If DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN
Heaven shall succeed our efforts, we shall RELIGION.
have a new class of arguments for the support of our faith. We shall have a new motive to
console ourselves within the limits God has 1 Cor. xii. 9. We know in part.
prescribed to our knowledge, and await with
ardour and patience, the happy period, till The systems of pagan theology have, in gen-“that which is perfect shall come;" till that eral, affected an air of mystery; they have "which is in part shall be done away;" till evaded the light of fair investigation; and, fa- " we shall behold the Lord with open face, voured by I know not what charm of sancti- and be changed into glory by his Spirit.” So fied obscurity, they have given full effect to er- be it. Amen. ror and immorality. On this subject, the ene 1. Mysteries should render a religion doubt. mies of Christianity have had the presumption ful, when we cannot examine whether that reto confound it with the pagan superstition. ligion proceed from the spirit of truth, or from They have said, that it has, according to our the spirit of error. Mankind neither can, nor own confession, impenetrable mysteries; that ought to receive any religion as divine, unless it is wishful to evade investigation and re- it bear the marks of divine authority, and prosearch; and that they have but to remove the duce its documents of credibility. veil to discover its weakness. It is our design For example, if you should require Mahoto expose the injustice of this reproach by in- met to produce the proofs of his mission, he vestigating all the cases, in which mysteries would say* that it had a peculiar character, can excite any doubts concerning the doctrines and a singular sort of privilege; that till his they contain, and to demonstrate on this head, call, all the sent of God were obliged to prove as on every other, that the religion of Jesus the divinity of their mission; and the prophets Christ is superior to every other religion in the gave signs by which they might be known: world. It is solely in this point of view, that that Jesus Christ gave sight to the blind, herr we proceed to contemplate this avowal of our ing to the deaf, health to the sick, and lie to apostle, and in all its principal bearings. “We the dead: but on his part, he had receival auknow in part."
thority to consign over to eternal tornents, There are chiefly four cases in which mys- every one who shall dare to doubt the ruth of teries render a religion doubtful.
his doctrine; and anticipating the puishment, 1. When they so conceal the origin of a re- he put every one to the sword wh presumed ligion, that we cannot examine whether it has to question the divine authority oʻhis religion. proceeded from the spirit of error, or from the But if you require of Jesus Chist the proofs spirit of truth. For example, Mahomet seclud- of his mission, he will give yū evidence the ed himself from his followers; he affected to most obvious and satisfacto. “Though ye hold conversations with God, concealed from believe not me, believe th works. If I had the public, and he has refused to adduce the not come and spoken unt them; if I had not evidence. In this view, there is nothing mys- done among them the works which no other terious in the Christian religion; it permits you man did, they had not ad sin. But now are to trace its origin, and to weigh the authen they without excuse. The works that I do in ticity of its proofs.
my Father's name,
ney bear witness of me,” II. Mysteries should render a religion doubt- John X. 25. 38; x* 22. 24. ful, when they imply an absurdity. For ex If you ask th followers of Mahomet, how ample, the Roman Catholic religion establishes they know tha, the Alcoran was really transone doctrine which avowedly revolts common mitted by the prophet, they will confess that sense, and annihilates every motive of credi- he knew nener how to read nor write; and bility. But the mysteries of our faith have no- that the none of prophet is often assumed by thing which originated in the human mind, men ignrant of letters: but they will add, and which our frail reason can in equity reject. I that he conversed for twenty years with the
III. Mysteries should render a religion doubt- angel Gabriel; that this celestial spirit revealful, when they tend to promote a practice con- ed is him from time to time, certain passages trary to virtue, and to purity of morals. For of the Acoran; that Mahomet dictated to his example, the pagan theology had mysteries of chsciples the subjects of his revelation; that iniquity; and under the sanction of religious they carefully collected whatever dropped from concealment, it favoured practices the most his lips and that the collection so made conenormous, and the foulest of vices. But the stituts the subject of the Alcoran. But, if mysteries of the gospel, are “mysteries of god- you vish to penetrate farther, and to trace the liness," I Tim. iii. 15.
boo' to its source, you will find that after the IV. In a word, mysteries should render a re- deth of Mahomet, his pretended revelations, ligion doubtful, when we find a system less en wre preserved merely on fugitive scrolls, or in cumbered with difficulties than the one we at ne recollection of those who had heard him; tack: but when the difficulties of the system that his successor, wishful to associate the scalwe propose, surpass those of our religion, then it ought still to have the preference. For ex.
* See the Alcoran, chap. on the lin. of Joach; chap. on ample, the system of infidelity and of atheism gratifications; chap. on Jonah; chap. on thunder; chap.
on the nocturnal journey; chap. on the Creator; chap. is exempt from the difficulties of Christianis; on the spider. but, its whole mass is a fertile source of incm + See Maraccio on the Alcoran, page 38.
tered limbs in one body, made the collection whose good and evil are equal; in what he says more with presumption than precision; that concerning Jesus Christ's escape from crucifixthis collection was a subject of long debate ion, having so far deceived the Jews that they among the Mahometans, some contending that crucified another in his place, who very much the prince had omitted many revelations of the resembled him.* prophet; and others, that he had adopted some You will find a book replete with fabulous which were doubtful and spurious. You will tales. Witness what he says of God having find, that those disputes were appeased solely raised a mountain, which covered the Israelby the authority of the prince under whom they ites with its shadow.t Witness the dialogue originated, and by the permanent injunctions he imagined between God and Abraham. Witof those who succeeded him on the throne. ness the puerile proofs he adduces of the innoConsequently, it is very doubtful, whether the cence of Joseph. Witness the history of the impostures of Mahomet really proceeded from seven sleepers. Witness what he asserts that himself, or were imputed to him by his fol- all the devils were subject to Solomon.t Witlowers.
ness the ridiculous fable of the ant that comSome even of Mahomet's disciples affirm, | manded an army of ants, and addressed them that of the three parts which compose the Al- with an articulate voice. Witness the notions coran, but one is the genuine production of he gives us of paradise and hell. || Whereas, the prophet. Hence, when you show them if you require of Christians the characteristic any absurdity in the book, they will reply, authorities of their books, they adduce subthat it ought to be classed among the iwo lime doctrines, a pure morality, prophecies spurious parts which they reject.*
punctually accomplished, and at the predicted But if you ask us how we know that the period, a scheme of happiness the most noble books, containing the fundamentals of our and the most assortable with the wants of man faith, were composed by the holy men to whom that over entered the mind of the most celethey are ascribed, we readily offer to submit brated philosophers. them to the severest tests of criticism. Let If you ask the sectarians of Mahomet what them produce a book whose antiquity is the signs God has wrought in favour of their releast disputed, and the most unanimously ac- ligion, they will tell you, that his mother bore knowledged to be the production of the author him without pain; that the idols fell at his Whose name it bears; let them adduce the evi- birth; that the sacred fires of Persia were exdenses of its authenticity; and we will adduce tinguished; that the waters in lake Sava dithe some evidences in favour of the canon of minished; that the palace of Chosroes fell to our gonels.
the ground. They will tell you, that Mahomet If you ask the followers of Mahomet to himself performed a great number of miracles, show you'n the Alcoran, some characteristics that he made water proceed from his fingers; of its divin authenticity, they will extol it to that he cut the moon, and made a part of it the skies, a.d tell you " that it is an un- fall into his lap. I They will tell you, that the created work;the truth by way of excellence; stones, and the trees saluted him, saying, the miracle of iracles; superior to the resur- Peace, peace be to the ambassador of God. * rection of the dyd; promised by Moses and They will tell you, that the sheep obeyed his the apostles; intelirible to God alone; worthy voice; that an angel having assumed the figure to be received of al intelligent beings, and of a dragon, became his guardian. They will constituted their rule f conduct.” But when tell you, that two men of enormous stature you come to investigte the work of which grasped him in their hands, and placed him on they have spoken in suç extravagant terms, the top of a high mountain, opened his bowels, you will find a book desy ute of instruction, and took from his heart a black drop, the only except what its author had orrowed from the evil Satan possessed in his heart: having afterbooks of the Old and New Testament; con- ward restored him to his place, they affixed cerning the unity of God; the ality of future their seal to the fact.ft Fabulous tales, adducjudgment; the certainty of the wife to come; ed without proofs, and deservedly rejected by and those various maxims, that
e must not the more enlightened followers of Mahomet. give alms in ostentation; that Go loveth a But, if you require of the Christians miracheerful giver, that all things are posible to cles in favour of their religion, they will prohim;" and that “he searches the heart. You duce them without number. Miracles wrought will find a book in many places directly oppos- in the most public places, and in presence of ed to the maxims of the sacred autlors, even the people; miracles, the power of which was when it extols the Deity, as in the lavs it prto communicated to many of those who embraced scribes respecting divorce; in the permision of Christianity; miracles admitted by Zosimen, a new marriage granted to repudiated vomen; by Porphyry, by Julian, and by the greatest in the liberty of having as many wives as we enemies of the gospel; miracles which demonplease, a liberty of which Mahomet a ailed strate to us the truth by every test of which himself; in what he recounts of Pharinh's remote facts are susceptible; miracles sealed conversion; of Jesus Christ's speaking in the by the blood of innumerable martyrs, and rencradle with the same facility as a man of dered in some sort still visible to us by the conthirty or of fifty years of age; in what he ai vances concerning a middle place betweel. heaven and hell, where those must dwell who
* Chap. on women. † Preface, page 14.
|| Chap. of orders. have done neither good nor evil, and those See Maraccio's Life of Mahomet, page 10.
Sinon's Hist. Crit. of the Faith of the Nations of See Joseph of St. Maria on the expedition to the te Levant. East Indies.
** Maraccio, preface, page 14. col. 2. | Maraccio on the Alcoran, chap. vi.
Ibid. page 13.
version of the pagan world, and by the pro- | Spirit, do not proceed in this manner. Are not gress of the gospel, and which can find no these ideas contradictory? No, my brethren. parallel in the religion of Mahomet, propagat If we should say, that God has but one esed with the sword, as is confessed by his fol- sence, and that he has three essences, in the lowers, who say, that he fought sixty battles, same sense that we maintain he has but one; and called himself the military prophet. Where- if we should say, that God is three in the as Christianity was established by the prodigies same sense he is one, it would be a contradicof the Spirit, and by force of argument. The tion. But this is not our thesis. We believe mysteries of the gospel are not therefore in the on the faith of a divine book, that God is one first class, which render a religion suspected in the sense to which we give the confused They do not conceal its origin. This is what name of essence. We believe that he is three we proposed to prove.
in a sense to which we give the confused name II. Mysteries should expose a religion to of persons. We determine neither what is this suspicion, when they imply an absurdity. Yes, essence, nor what is this personality. That surand if Christianity notwithstanding the lumin- passes reason but does not revolt it
. ous proofs of its divine authority; notwith If we should say, that God in the sense we standing the miracles of its founder; notwith- have called Essence, is become incarnate, and standing the sublimity of its doctrines; notwith at the same time this notion is not incarnate, standing the sanctity of its moral code, the we should advance a contradiction. But this completion of its prophecies, the magnificence is not our thesis. We believe on the faith of of its promises; notwithstanding the convinc- a divine hook, that what is called the person ing facts which prove that the books contain- of the Son in the Godhead, and of which we ing this religion were written by men divinely confess that we have not a distinct idea, is inspired; notwithstanding the number and the united to the humanity in a manner we cannot grandeur of its miracles; notwithstanding the determine, because it has not pleased God to confession of its adversaries, and its public reveal it. This surpasses reason, but does not monuments; if it was possible, notwithstand- revolt it. ing all this, should the Christian religion in If we should advance, that God (the Spirit) clude absurdities, it ought to be rejected. Be in the sense we have called Essence, proceeds cause,
from the Father and the Son, while the Father Every character of the divinity here adduc- and the Son do not proceed, we should advance ed, is founded on argument. Whatever is de- a contradiction. But this is not our thesis. monstrated to a due degree of evidence ought We believe on the credit of a divine book, to be admitted without dispute. The proofs that what is called the Holy Spirit in the Godof the divine authority of religion are demon- head, and of which we confess we have no strated to that degree; therefore the Christian distinct idea, because it has not pleased God religion ought to be received without dispute. to give it, has procession ineffable, while what But were it possible that a contradiction should is called the Father and the Son, differing exist; were it possible that a proposition, ap- from the Holy Spirit in that respect, do not pearing to us evidently false, should be true, proceed. This surpasses reason, but does not ovidence would no longer then be the charac- revolt it. ter of truth, and if evidence should no longer We go even farther. We maintain not only be the character of truth, you would have no that there is no contradiction in those docfarther marks by which you could know that a trines, but that a contradiction is impossible. religion is divine. Consequently, you could What is a contradiction in regard to us. It is not be assured, that the gospel is divine. To an evident opposition between two known me, nothing is more true than this proposition, ideas. For instance, I have an idea of this pula whole is greater than a part. I would reject a pit, and of this wall. I see an essential differreligion how true soever it might appear, if it ence between the two. Consequently, I find a contradicted this fact; because, how evident contradiction in the proposition, that this wall, soever the proofs might be alleged in favour and this pulpit are the same being. of its divinity, they could never be more evi Such being the nature of a contradiction, 1 dent than the rejected proposition, that a whole say, it is impossible that any should be found is greater than a part. Our proposition is there in this proposition, that there is one divine es. fore confirmed, that mysteries ought to render sence in three persons: to find a contradiction, a religion suspected when they imply absurdi- it is requisite to have a distinct idea of what I ties. We wish you to judge of the Christian call essence, and of what I call person: and, as religion according to this rule.
I profess to be perfectly ignorant of the one, Now if there be in our gospels a doctrine and the other, it is impossible I should find an concerning which a good logician has apparent absurdity. When, therefore, I affirm, that cause to exclaim, it is this; a God, who has there is a divine essence in three persons, I do but one essence, and who nevertheless has not pretend to explain either the nature of the three persons; the Son, and the Holy Spirit unity, or the nature of the Trinity. I pretend who is God; and these three are but one. The to advance only that there is something in God Father, who is with the Son, does not become which surpasses me, and which is the basis of incarnate, when the Son becomes incarnate. this proposition; viz. there is a Father, a Son, The Son, who is with the Father, no longer and a Holy Spirit. maintains the rights of justice in Gethsemane, But though the Christian religion be fully when the Father maintains them. The Holy exculpated for teaching doctrines which destroy Spirit, who is with the Father and the Son, themselves, the Church of Rome cannot be jusproceeds from both in a manner ineffable: and tified, whatever efforts her greatest geniuses the Father and the Son, who is with the Holy may make, in placing the doctrine of the Trini.
ty, on the parallel with the doctrine of tran- | from what we said at the commencement of substantiation, and in defending it against us this article. A Roman Catholic, consonant to with the same argument with which we defend his principles, has no right to believe the divine the other against unbelievers.
authority of the Christian religion, for the eviWere we, I allow, to seek the faith of the dences of Christianity terminate on this princichurch of Rome in the writings of some indi- ple, that evidence is the character of truth. vidual doctors, this doctrine would be less lia- But if the doctrine of transubstantiation be ble to objections. Some of them have express- true, palpable absurdities onght to be believed ed themselves, on this subject, in an undeter- by the Roman Catholic; evidence, in regard to mined way; and have avoided detail. They him, being no longer the character of truth. say in general, that the body of Christ is in the If evidence in regard to him be no longer the sacrament of the eucharist, and that they do character of truth, proofs the most evident in not presume to define the manner.
favour of Christianity, can carry no conviction But we must seek the faith (and it is the to him, and he is justified in not believing method which all should follow who have a thern. controversy to maintain against those of that I go farther still; I maintain to the most communion;) we must, I say, seek the faith of zealous defender of the doctrine of transubstanthe church of Rome in the decisions of her ge- tiation, that properly speaking, he does not beneral councils, and not in the works of a few lieve the doctrine of transubstantiation. He
individuals. And as the doctors of the council may indeed verbally assert his faith, but he can • of Trent lived in a dark age, in which philoso- never satisfy his conscience: he may indeed be
phy had not purified the errors of the schools, cloud his mind by a confusion of ideas, but he they had the indiscretion, not only to deter- can never induce it to harmonize contradictory mine, but also to detail this doctrine; and there- ideas: he may indeed inadvertently adhere to by committed themselves by a manifest contra- this proposition, a body having but a limited cirdiction. Hear the third canon of the third ses- cumference, is at the same time in heaven, and at sion of the council of Trent. “If any one the same time on earth, with the same circumfedeny, that in the venerable sacrament of the rence. But no man can believe this doctrine, eucharist, the body of Christ is really present if by believing, you mean the connecting of in both kinds, and in such sort that the body distinct ideas; for no man whatever can connect of Christ is wholly present in every separate together both distinct and contradictory. part of the host, let him be anatheinalized.” III. We have said in the third place, that
Can one fall into a more manifest contradic- mysteries should render a religion suspected, tion? If you should say, that the bread is de when they hide certain practices contrary to stroyed, and that the body of Christ intervenes virtue and good manners. This was a characby an effort of divine omnipotence, you might teristic of paganism. The pagans for the most perhaps shelter yourself from the reproach of part affecies a great air of mystery in their absurdity; you might escape under the plea of religious exercises. They said, that mystery mystery, and the limits of the human mind. conciliated respect for the gods. Hence, diBut to affirm that the substance of the bread is viding their mysteries into two classes, they destroyed, while the kinds of bread, which are had their major and their minor mysteries still but the same bread, modified in such a But all these were a covert for impurity! Who manner, subsist, is not to advance a mystery, can read without horror the mysteries of the but an absurdity. It is not to prescribe bounds god Apis, even as they are recorded in pagan to the human mind, but to revolt its convic- authors What infamous ceremonies did they tions, and extinguish its knowledge.
not practise in honour of Venus, when initiated If you should say, that the body of Christ, into the secrets of the Goddess? What mystewhich is in heaven, passes in an instant from rions precautions did they not adopt concerning heaven to earth, you might perhaps shelter the mysteries of Ceres in the city of Eleusiš yourself from the reproach of absurdity, and No man was admitted without mature expeescape under the plea of mystery, and of the rience, and a long probation. It was so estalimits of the human mind. But io affirm, that blished, that those who were not initiated, the body of Christ, while it is wholly in hea- could not participate of the secrets. Nero did ven, is wholly on earth, is not to advance a not dare to gratify his curiosity on this head; mystery, but to maintain a contradiction. It and the wish to know secrets allowed to be disis to revolt all its convictions, and to extinguish closed only by gradual approach, was regarded all its knowledge.
as a presumption. It was forbidden under the If you should say, that some parts of the penalty of death to disclose those mysteries, body of Jesus Christ are detached, and mixed and solely, if we may believe Theodoret, and with the symbols of the holy sacrament, you Tertullian, to hide the abominable ceremonies, might perhaps avert the charge of contradic- whose detail would defile the majesty of this tion, and escape under the plea of mystery, place. And if the recital would so deeply deand the limits of the human mind. But to af- file, what must the practice be? firm, that the body of Christ is but one in num The mysteries of Christianity are infinitely ber, and meanwhile, that it is perfect and en- distant from all those infamous practices. The tire in all the parts of the host, which are with gospel not only exhibits a most hallowing moout number, is not to advance a mystery, it is rality, but whatever mysteries it may teach, it to maintain a contradiction. It is not to pre- requires that we should draw from their very scribe bounds to the human mind, but to revolt obscurity motives to sanctity of life. If we say, all its convictions, and to extinguish all its that there are three persons who participate in knowledge.
So you may indeed conclude, my brethren, • Life of Nero by Suetonius, chap. 34.