« PreviousContinue »
cussions and researches into the origin of evil, and into the permission of the entrance of sin into the world. Let us not bury ourselves alive in speculations and labyrinths; let us not plunge into abysses, from which no pains can disengage us. Let us fear an ocean full of rocks, and let an idea of the ship.vrecks, which so many rash people have made, stop us on the shore. Let us consider these questions less with a view to discover the perfections of the Creator in the thick darkness, under which he hath thought proper to conceal them, than in that of learning the obligations of a creature. I do not mean to decry those great geniusses, who have treated of this profound subject, Their works do honour to the human mind. They are eternal monuments to the glory of a reason, which knows how to collect its force, and to fix itself on a single object ; but, it is always certain, that we cannot arrive at clear truth on this subject, except by means of thousands of distinctions and abstractions, which most of us cannot make. This subject is so delicate and refined, that most eyes are incapable of seeing it, and it is placed on an eminence so steep and inaccessible, that few geniusses can attain it.
Let us religiously abide by our principle. The duty of an intelligent soul is to adhere to truth, and to practise virtue ; We are born with a disinclination to both. Our duty is to get rid of this, and without doing so we neglect the obliga. tion of an intelligent soul, we do not answer the end, for which we were intended, we are guilty, and we shall be punished for not having answered the end of our creation.
Let us consider ourselves as soldiers placed round a besieged city, and having such or such an enemy to fight, such or such a post to force. You, you are naturally subject to violence and anger. It is sad to find in ones own constitution an opposition to virtues so lovely as those of submission, charity, sweetness, and patience. Groan under this evil: but do not despair; when you are judged, less attention will be paid to your natural indisposition to these virtues than to the efforts, which you made to get rid of it. To this point direct all your attention, all your strength, and all your courage. Say to yourself, this is the post, which my general intends í should force ; this is the enemy I am to fight with. And be you fully convinced, that one of the principal views, which God hath in preserving your life, is, that you should render yourself.master of this passion. You, you are naturally disposed to be proud. The moment you leave
your mind to its natural bias, it turns to such objects as seem the most fit to give you high ideas of yourself, to your penetration, your memory, your imagination, and even to exterior advantages, which vanity generally incorporatęs with the person who enjoys them. It is melancholy to find within yourself any seeds of an inclination, which so ill agree with creatures vile and miserable as men. Lament this misfortune: but do not despair ; to this side turn all yonr attention and all your courage and strength. Say to yourself, this is the post, which my general would have me force; this is the enemy, whom he hath appointed me to oppose, And be fully convinced, that one of the principal views of God in continuing you in this world, 'is that you inay resist this passion, and make yourself master of it.
Let us, all together, my brethren, endeavour to rule our own spirits. Let us not be dismayed at the greatness of the work, because greater is he that is in ys, than he that is in the world. Grace comes to the aid of nature. Prayer acquires strength by exercise. The passions, after having been tyrants, become slaves in their turn. The danger and pain of battle vanish, when the eye gets sight of conquest, How inconceivably beautiful is victory then! God grant we may obtain it! To him be honour and glory for ever: Amen,
Proverbs iv. 26. Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy ways shall be
THE sentence, which we have now read, includes a suba
ject of immense magnitude, more proper to fill a volume than to be comprized in a single sermon : however, we propose to express the substance of it in this one discourse. When we shall have explained the subject, we will put it to proof; I mean, we will apply it to some religious articles, leaving to your piety the care of applying it to a great num= ber, and of deriving from the general application this consequence, if we ponder the paths of our feet, all our ways will be established.
I suppose, first, you affix just ideas to this metaphorical expression, ponder the path of thy feet. It is one of those singular figures of speech, which agrees better with the genius of the sacred language than with thạt of ours. Remark this once for all. There is one, among inany objections made by the enemies of religion, which excels in its kind ; I mean to say, it deserves to stand first in a list of the most extravagant suphisms: this is, that there is no reason for making a difference between the genius of the Hebrew language and the idiom of other languages. It would seem, by this objection, that a book not originally written in the idiom of the language of scepticism cannot be divinely inspired. On this absurd principle, the scripture could not be written in any language; for if a Greek had a right to object against inspiVOL. IV. Ff
ration on this account, an Arabian, and a Persian, and all other people have the same. Who doth not perceive at once, that the inspired writers, delivering their messages at first to the Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God, Rom. iii. 2. spoke properly according to the idiom of their Janguage? They ran no risk of being misunderstood by other nations, whom a desire of being saved should incline to study the language for the sake of the wisdom taught in it.
How extravagant soever this objection is, so extravagant that no infidel will openly avow it, yet it is adopted, and applied in a thousand instances. The book of Canticles is full of figures opposite to the genius of our western languages; it is therefore no part of the sacred canon. It would be easy to produce other examples. Let a modern purist, who affects neatness and accuracy of style, and gives lectures on pronunciation, condemn this manner of speaking, ponder the path of thy feet; with all my heart. The inspired authors had no less reason to make use of it, nor juterpreters to affirm, that it is an eastern expression, which signifies to take no step without first deliberately examining it. The metaphor of the text being thus reduced to truth, another doubt rises concerning the subject, to which it is applied, and this requires a second elucidation. The term step is usually restrained in our language to actions of life, and never signifies a mode of thinking: but the Hebrew language gives this terin a wider extent, and it includes all these ideas. One example shall suffice. My steps had well nigh slipped, Psal. Ixxiji. 2. that is to say, I was very near taking a false step: and what was this step? It was judging that the wicked were happier in the practice of licentiousness, than the righteous in obeying the laws of truth and virtue. Solomon, in the words of my text, particularly intends to regulate our actions; and in order to this he intends to regulate the principles of our minds, and the affections of our hearts. Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy WAYS SHALL BE established, for so I render the words. Examine your steps deliberately before you take them, and you will take only wise steps : if you would judge rightly of objects, avoid hasty judging : before you fix your affection on an object, examine whether it be worthy of your esteem, and then you will love nothing but what is lovely, By ihus following the ideas of the wise man we will assort our reflections with the actions of your lives, and they will