« PreviousContinue »
tions into ridicule, and under pretence of in- triumphs ; this stains our laurels with blood; genuity and freedom of thought, encourages this excites lamentations, and mixes them with infidelity and irreligion; or, at best, imagines our songs of praise. Let us scatter these dark that religion consists more in hearing and clouds. Let us purify our righteousness in knowing than in practice and obedience. order to purify our happiness. Let religion
It is that soldier who, though he is always be the bridle, the ride, the soul of all our at war with death, marching throu h fires and councils, and so may it pricure us unalterable flames, hearing nothing but the sound of war- peace, and unmixed plasure! or rather, as like instruments crying to him with a loud there is no such pleasure on earth, as imper. voice, Remember you must dre, yet frames a fection is a character essential to human afmorality of his own, and imagines that his fairs, let us elevate our hearts and minds to profession, so proper in itself to incline him to nobler objects, let us sigh after happier peobey the maxims of the gospel, serves to free riods, and let each of us seek true glory in the him from all obligation to obedience.
enjoyment of God. God grant us this grace! Ah! this it is, which obscures our brightest | To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE LIVES OF COURTIERS.
2 SAMUEL xix. 32–39.
Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old, and he had provided the king of
sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim ; for he wus a rery great man. And the king said unto Barzillai, come thou over with me, and I will f ed ihee with me in Jerusalem. And Barzillai said unto the king, how long hade 1 to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem ? I am this day fourscore years old ; and can I discern between good and eril? can thy servant taste what I eat, or what I drink? can I hear any more the coice of singing men and singing women ? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my Lord the king? Thy servant will go a little way oder Jordan with the king; and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? Let thy serdant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother ; but behold thy serdant Chimham, let him go over with my lord the king, and do to him what shall seem good unto thee. And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good untó thee ; and whatsoever thou shalt require of me that will I do for thee. And all the people went over Jordan ; and when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and
blessed him; and he returned unto his own place. We propose to examine to-day, my breth-, like. There is no dispensation in these cases ren, how far business, the world, a court, are on account of age At any age they that do fit for a young man, and how far they agree such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of with a man in the decline of life. It is a pre- God.' judice too common in the world, that there It is, however, clear, that circumstances are two ways to heaven, one way for young sometimes change the nature of moral actions ; men, and another way for men in years that an action is innocent, when done in some Youth is considered as a sort of title to licen- circumstances, which ceases to be so when it tiousness, and the most criminal pleasures. is done in different circumstances; and, to Virtue is usually regarded as proper for those come to the design mentioned at the beginwho cannot practise vice with a good grace. ning of this discourse, it is clear, that business, God forbid such a pernicious maxim should be the world, a court, to a certain degree. suit a countenanced in this pulpit! Let us not de- young man, and that they are unfit for a man ceive ourselves, my brethren, the precepts of in the decline of life. the moral law are eternal, and fitted to all ages Each part of this proposition, my brethren, is of life. At fifteen, at twenty, at thirty, at contained in the text, as we are going to show forty, at fourscore years of age, what the apos- you. Barzillai, by committing his son to king lle affirms is true, they that do such things David, and by allowing Chimham to avail shall not inherit the kingdom of God,' Gal. himself of the favour of his his prince, teaches v. 21. These things are adultery, fornica- us how far business, the world, and a court, tion, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, become a young man. Barzillai, by wishing witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, only to retreat into retirement and silence wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, himself, teaches us how far a court, the world, murlers, drunkenness, revellings, and such / and business, become an old man; or rather
he teaches us, that they do not become him I happiness consists in a private condition, a mnat all, and that there is a certain time of life deraie revenu, a few tried friends, a chosen when the wise man lakes leave of the world. circle, a few relations, business enongh to pre
1. We suppuse Barzillai was a good man, serve vigour of mind without fatiguing it, a and that bis example sufficiently proves it. wisely diricted solitude, moderate studies, in a Indeed this man is very little known. I re- word, in a happy mediocrity. My breihren, collect only three places in Scripture where independence is the blessing which deserves to he is spoken of. The first is in the seventeenth be first of all chosen by us, should God leave chapter of the second book of Samuel There to our choice the kind of life which we ought we are told, that Barzillai 'was of the tribe of to follow ; or if he did not frequently intend Gileau, of the city of Rogelim,' ver. 27, and by placing us on earth more to exercise our that he was one of those who brought refresh- patience than to consummate our felicity. O ments to David and his court, when he fled delicious independence, O inestimable melifrom his barbarous son. This passage tells us ocrity! I prefer you before the most glorious how he became so dear to David. The se- sceptre, the best established throne, the most cond is our text. The third is in the first book brilliant crown! What are those eminent of Kings, where David gives this coinmission posts of which the greatest part of mankind are to his son Solomon. •Show kindness unto the su fond? They are golden chains, splendid sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them punishments, brilliant prisons and dungeons. be of those that eat at thy luble; for so they Happy he, who, having received from Provicame to me when I fed because of Absalom dence blessings sufficient for his rank, easy thy brother, chap. ii. 7. This passage gives with his fortune, far trom courts and granus reason to conjecture, or rather it proves, deurs, waits with tranquillity for death; and that Chimham wa: the son of Barzillai; for while he enjoys the innocent pleasures of life, the commission given by David, when he was knows how to make eternity his grand study, dying, to Solomon, certainly refers to these and his principal occupation. Words of our text, •Behold thy servant Chim 2. A wise man will always consider a court, ham, let him go over with my lord the king, and eminent posts, us dangerous to his salvaand do to him what shall seem good unto thee.'|tion. It is in a couri, it is in eminent posts, Thus, all we know of Barzillai contributes to that, generally speaking, the most dangerous persuade us that he was a good man; that snares are set for conscience. Here it is thut his example sufficiently proves it; that as he men usually abandon themselves to their pasconsented that his son should go into the sions, because here it is that they are gratified world, and
into the most pom- with the utmost ease. Here it is that man is pous and dangerous part of it, he thought tempted to consider himself as a being of a parit might be innocently done. A good father ticular kind, and infinitely superior to those would not have consented that his son should who crawl among the vulgar. It is here enter on a course of life criminal in itsell. where each learns to play the tyrant in his If we have deceived ourselves in our notion turn, and where the courtier indemnifies him. of Barzillai, it will not affect the nature of self for the slavish mortifications to which his our reflections. Our question is this, How far prince reduces him, by enslaving all his dependoes the world, a court, or business, become a dants. Here it is that secret intrigues, under. young man? We shall elucidate this question hand practices, bloody designs, dark and criby the following consideratious: 1. A wise minal plots are formed, of which innocence is man will never choose a court, or high offices, usually the victim. Here it is that the most as most and best fitted to procure true peace. pernicious maxims are in the greatest credit, He inust be a novice in the world indeed who and the most scandalous examples in the highdoes not fitnow the solidity of this maxim. He est reputation. Here it is that every disposimust have reflected very little on the turbu- tion of mind changes, if not its nature,at least its lent condition of courtiers, and of all such as appearance, by the false colouring with which are elevated to any superior rank in the world. all are disguised. Here it is that every one He must have paid very little attention to the breathes the venom of Aattery, and that every snares which are every where set to disturb one loves to receive it. Here imagination their tranquillity; to the envies and jealousies prustrates itself before frivolous deities, and which are excited against them ; to the plots, unworthy idols receive such supreme homage which are formed against their happiness ; as is due to none but the sovereign God. to the reverses of fortune to which they are Here it is that the soul is affected with many exposed ; to the treachery of such friends as a seducing image, the troublesome rememsurround them, and to the endless vicissitudes brance of which often wholly engrosses the which they experience. In general, a man mind, especially when we wish to nourish it must be indifferent to peace, at least he must with such meditations as are suited to immorknow but little in what it consists,'to seek it in tal intelligences. Here a confused noise, an inpomp and worldly grandeur. I forgive a fallible consequence of living in the tumult of young man of fifteen or 'twenty for making the world, gets possession of the mind, and such a mistake. At that time of life, young renders it extremely difficult to relish that simen deserve pity; their eyes are too childish lent retirement, that abstraction of thought, not to be dazzied by a false glare ; they have which are absolutely necessary to self-examimot hen learnt to know appearances from nation, and to the study of our own hearts. realities by their own experience, or by the Here it is that men are carried away in spite experience of others. They do not know that of themselves by a torrent of vicicus exam
ples, which, being thought, and called by eve- | ments of the Lord, and thou hast followed ry bouy about them illustrious, authorize the Baalim,' 1 Kings xviii. 17, 18. Micaiah most criminal actions, and insensibly destroy was at court ; but it was to resist the projects that tenderness of conscience and dread of sin of an ambitious prince, and to say to him, I which are very powerful motives to keep us saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep in the practice of virtue. These general mix that have not a shepherd, chap. xxii. 17. Je. ims admit of some exception in regard to hu was at court; but it was to mortify Joram, Chimham. He saw, in the person of his king, who asked him, "Is it peace? What peace,' the virtues of a pastor, and the excellence of replied he, Wbat peace, so long as the a prophet. David's court was an advantage- whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her ous school for him on many accounts; but witchcrafts are so many" 2 Kings ix. 22. yet was it altogether exempt from all the John the Baptist was at court; but he went dangers we have mentioned? o Chimham, thither to tell Herod, 'It is not lawful for Chimham, I will not detain thee in the port, thee to have thy brother's wife,' Mark vi. when Providence calls thee to set sail! But 18. that sea with the dangers of which thou art Some of these holy men have filled the going to engage, has many, many rocks, and highest posts, and discharged the most imporamong them, alas! there have been innumer tant offices of state ; but they bave done so able shipwrecks.
with that integrity of mind, and with that pi. 3 A wise man will never enter a court, or ety and fervour of heart, which would seem accept of an eminent post, without fixed re- incompatible with worldly grandeur, were we solutions to surmount the temptations with not informed, that to the pure all things are which they are accompanied, and without pure, and that God knows how to preserve using proper measures to succeed in his design. the piety of his elect amidst the greatest dan Far from us for ever be, my brethren, that dis- gers, when zeal for his glory engages them to position of mind, which, by fixing the eye expose themselves for his sake. Samuel disupon the prince, makes us Jose sight of him, charged important offices, he occupied an emi
by whom kings reign, and princes decree jus- nent post; but he could render a faithful actico! Prov. viii. 15. Far from us be such count of his administration, and ventured to an avidity to make our fortunes as to engage face the people with this noble appeal, Beus to forget that we have souls to save, and hold here I am, witness against me before the an eternal interest to pursue! Far from us be Lord, and before his anointed ; whose ox that desire of elevating ourselves in this bave I taken? or whose ass have I taken? world, which debases the dignity of our na or whom have I defrauded? whom have I opture, and inclines us to practices unworthy of pressed? 1 Sam. xii. 3, 4. And what is more men whom the God of heaven and earth bas ihan all this, and what we wish to inculcale called into his family? Those holy men who more than all this, is what he subjoins, of are proposed to us for examples, have been whose hand have I received any bribe to blind sometimes at court; and they have sometimes mine eyes therewith ? and I will restore it filled the highest offices of state, but they have you. To which the people replied, “Thou always made it an inviolable law to set before hast not defraudeu us, nor oppressed us, neitheir eyes thai God, in the presence of whom ther hast thou taken ought of any man's band. all nations are a drop of a bucket, and as Nehemiah was elevated to high offices, he was the small dust of the balance,' Isa. xl. 15. even a favourite of the king; but he availed Moses was at court; but it was with that he himself of his elevation to procure the reroical firmness, with that noble pride, with building of Jerusalem, and the restitution of that magnanimity, which became him whom divine worship in the temple. When the ido. the Lord of hosts had chosen for his messenger, latrous prince put this question to him, Why and placed at the head of his people. Moses is thy countenance sad? He replied, "Why was at court ; but it was to say to Pharaoh, should not my countenance be sad, when the Let my people go that they may serve me. city, the place of my fathers' sepulcbres, lieth Let my people go. And if thou refuse to waste and the gates thereof are consumed with let them go, behold, I will smite all thy bor fire?" Nebem. ii. 2, 3. Daniel filled a high ofders with frogs. They shall come into thine fice, even in an idolatrous court; but there lie house, and into thy bed-chamber, and upon continued his humble diet; he would not hold thy bed, and into the house of thy servants. his office at the expense of his conscience; Let my people go, or the hand of the Lord amidst the tumult of the world he knew how shall be upon thy cattle, upon thy horses, upon to manage his affairs so as to find time * to unthe asses, upon the camele, upon the oxen, and derstand by books the number of the years upon the sheep, and there shall be a very predicted by the prophets, to attend to the grievous murrain,' Exod. vii. 16; viii. 2; and condition of Jerusalem, to make supplication ix. 3. Nathan was at court; but it was to with fasting, and suckcloth, and ashes.' Is say to David, '. Thou art the man; wherefore there any one of you, my brethren, so much hast thou despised the commandment of the master of himself? Have you courage enough Lord to do evil in his sight? 2 Sam. xii. 7. to resist so many enemies ? Are you able to 9. Elijah was at court; but it was to resist withstand so many temptations, and to escape Ahab, who said to him, Art thou he that all these dangers ? Go then, not only to the troubleth Israel?' No, replied he, I bave courts of Davids, but to those of the most pronot troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's Digate princcs. "Go shine as lights in the house, in that ye have forsaken the command. I midst of a crooked and perverse nation ;' go,
be the salt of the earth ;' rise, not only to the the sword;' would they have wandered great offices of state, but ascend a throne, take about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, destitute, the government and reign.
afflicted, and tormented ? Heb. xi. 37. You 4. The evils which imbitter the lives of say, you shall become a martyr, if you execourtiers, and of all who are elevated to emi. cute the elevated office to which you are nent posts, and (what may seem a paradox) called. Very well, God calls you to this the hazard of being damned among human martyrdom. The first part of our propusition grandeurs, ought not to discourage those from is indisputable. The disagreeables in the lives occupying the highest offices who are capai le of courtiers, and of all other persons elevated of doing great good to society and the church. to eminent posts, ought not to deter any man
The first part of this proposition is indispu from accepting an office, when it is probable table. The difficulties which belong to the he may, by discharging it well, do great good lives of courtiers, and of all persons elevated to society in general, and to the church in par to eminent posts, ought not to discourage those ticular. who are able to benefit society and the church. I go farther, and I maintain the second part It is clear, I think, to all who know the first of the proposition. The snares, which are principles of Christianity, that the des.gn of thick set ir high life, and which endanger our God in placing us in the world, was not to en- salvation, ought not to deter us from accepting able us to follow that kind of life which is high offices, when we can do good to society the most cou ormable to our inclinations, and the church by executing them. There though such a kind of life should have no- is some difficulty in this subject, we will enthing in it contrary to the laws of God. God deavour to explain it. Our principal concern intended to exercise us in a painful state of is to be saved. Our highest engagement is to probation. I allow, virtue has charms of its avoid every thing that would endanger our sale own, and often brings its reward along with vation. Our first exercise should be diffiit in this world; but also it often requires us dence, dietrust of ourselves. The son of Sito mortify our dearest passions, and our strong- rach has taught us, that he, who loveth danest inclinations. How often, by the heavy ger shall perish therein,' Eccles. iii. 26. What afflictions in which piety involves us, is that law, then, can oblige us to pursue a course of celebrated expression of an apostle verified, life, which all assure us is almost impassable to 'If in this lite only we have hope in Christ, men who would walk in the way of salvation ? we are of all men most miserable,' 1 Cor. xv Is it not presumption, is it not tempting God to 19. A good man will consult, when he is expose one's self in this manner ? choosing a course of life (and you will have I reply, it is presumption, it is a tempting spent this hour well, my brethren, if you re- of God, to expose one's self to danger, when tain only this maxim, and reduce it to prac no good will come of it. For example, you tice,) a good man, when he is choosing a course know by experience, that if gaming were inof life, will consult not what will render his innocent in itself, it is, however, dangerous to family most illustrious, not what will be most you ; that always, when you allow yourself likely to transinit his name to posterity, not to game, you receive some injury, you either what will most advance his fortune, and will play with an avidity of gain tou great, or you best gratify his own inclinations, but what will lose all patience with the loss of your money, be most useful to society and religion. Door, some way or other, your mind is always not say the pleasures of a court are insipid, | disconcerted. Leave off gaining then. What the life of a courtier is intolerable, perpetual good do you d, to society at large, or to the consultations are burdensome, a multitude of church in particular, by gaming? Were it business is tiresome; ceremonies disgust me; probable, that in future you should always splendid uitles give me pain; I like a tranquillesca pe unhurt, even a probability of suffering life, I prefer obscurity and quiet, I love to cul is enough to deter you, and you cannot extivate my garden, and to spend much of my pose yourself without a presumptuous tempttime in reading and retirement. Noble effort ing of God. Again, you know, by sad expeof devotion, indeed! to choose temporal tran- rience, that the company you keep, is fatal to quillity as the chief end of your studies and you ; that always, when you are in it, you actions! And, pray, what benefit do religion violate the laws of piety, charity, and modesty. and the state derive from your reading your quit this company then. What good is done books and cultivating your flowers ? What! to the state and the church by your frequentis it a question between God and you, whether ing this company. Were it probable that in the course of life that he prescribes to you be future you should receive no damage, the bare disagreeable, whether perpetual consultations probability that you might, ought to induce be troublesome, whether much business fa- you to avoid it. In like manner, yon are tigue, whether ceremonies disgust, and whe- convinced, that your opponent, who is, as ther titles be unsatisfying? Is this the dispute well as yourself, a candidate for a certain office, between God and you? Is the question what will execute it as well as you would. The kind of life you prefer? Do you suppose, is office is dangerous, and you fear you have not God had left to the martyrs the choice of what virtue enough to execute it with safety to course they would have taken through life, your salvation. Renounce your pretensions they would have chosen that to which Godihen. Choose a way of life less dangerous. called them? Would they have preferred, be Let us go a step farther. It is rash, it is fure every other path, that in which they were tempting God to expo»e ourselves to discul*eloned, cawn asunder, tempted, slain with ties which cannot possibly be surmounted. A
pretence of doing good to the state and the of a court. You are certain that, if the small church will not alter the case. A court is number of virtuous men, who fill high ofices, pestiferous. A king, who ought to maintain were to retire from public business, the state order, lives only to subvert it; he consults no would be abandoned to injustice and oppreslaw but his passions, and his will is his only sion, and become the prey of tyrants. You reason. You may, perhaps, moderate his pas. are one of the-e virtuous characters. You sions, if not wholly regulate them ; you may, ought then to fill this post, and the difficulties perhaps, if not wholly terminate the misfor- you meet with cannot dispense with your obtunes of his reign, yet viminish them. Bir ligation. I repeat it again, it does not belong how must you procure this advantage? You to us to choose the way in which it shall be must rise into an opportunity to do good, by the pleasure of God to save us. It is not our becoming yourself an instru nent of his extor business to single out a particular virtue, and tions, by passing encoinium-on his guilty plea insist on such a course of life as shall exercise sures, by diszracing yourself to become the it: whether it be a noisy or a silent path, panegyrist of his tyranıy. In such a case, it whether it be a frequented or a solitary way, would be better to quit the court, to give up whether it be the practice of public or private the favour of such a prince, to obey the divine virtue. But, say you, I cannot help, while ! laws, and to leave the government of the world execute this office, my impatience; I am obto God. It must be granted that, when crimes ligel to give audience to a man who torments are necessary to public good, it is not you who me with tedious and confused harangues in a are appointed to commit them, this is not your course of business; I wish to eradicate this calling. “O my soul, come not thou into their evil, and to get rid of this trial of my pa jence, secret, unto their assembly mine honour be hy quitting my place. No, do not get rid of not thou united,' Gen. xlix. 6.
this man; do not quit your place: but take But, when temptations are surmountable. pains with yourself to correct your impatience; when God offers to assist us to gurmount them, try to cool your blood, and regulate your spiwhen nothing but our own idleness can pre- rits. It is hy the way of patience that God vent our conquering, and when we are able, will save you. But I shall not have courage by exposing ourselves to danger, to serve 90 to plead all alone for rectilude, I shall have ciety and the church ; I affirm, that we are the weakness to sacrifice it, if it shonlu hapthen called to expose ourselves, and to meet, pen at any time not to be supported by others. resist, and surmount all difficuties. I affirm, I will eradicate this evil, and avoid the temp. in such a case, it is our duty not to avoid, but tation by quitting my employment. No. Do to approach difficulties, and to take pains to not quit an employment in which your infiusurmount them. A minister of the gospel ence may be serviceable to the interests of virhas more difficulty in his way of salvation tue; but take pains with your own heart, and than a private person. A private Christian, subdue it to the service of rectitude, that you in general, is responsible only for his own soul; may be able to plead for virtue without a but a minister of the gospel is accountable for second. But I shall certainly sink under terop the souls of all whom God has committed to tation, unless God afforú me extraordinary his care. Every part of his office is a source support. Well, ask for extraordinary support of difficulties and trials. If he have great then; you have a right to exprct it, because abilities, I fear he will becoine vain; if he the place you fill renders it necessary for the have not, I fear he will envy his superiors. If glory of God. Let us finish this article, and he be set in some conspicuous place, I fear his let us form a clear notion of what we mean seeble eyes will be dazzled with his situation ; by a calling. That place, in which it is proif he live in obscurity, I fear he will sink into bable, all things considered, we can do most indifference. If he be appointed to speak to good, is the place to which Providence calls the great, I fear he will become pliant and us. To fill that is our calling. This estate mean; if he be confined to people of ordinary lishes our fourth maxim, that the evils which rank, I fear he will become indifferent to their imbitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who souls, ind not take sufficient pains to procure are elevated to eminent posts, the danger of the salvation of them. Snares and tempta- perishing by the ills which accompany human tions every where! Who is sufficient for these grandeurs, ought not to deter trom occupying things? But what! must a man then bury them such persons as have it in their power his talents lest he should abuse them? No. to render signal services to the state and the This is not to choose the way by which it is church. the pleasure of God to save us. It does not Thus we have made a few reflections serfbelong to us to choose what kind of virtue he / ing to determine how far the honours and af shall think fit to exercise. The duty of a fairs of a court suit a young man. Let us Christian is, not to omit the acquisition of proceed to show that they are improper for an knowledge, but to endeavour not to be puffed old man. This is the principal design of the up with it. It is not to avoid conspicuous text. • The king said unto Barzillai, come places, but to guard against being infatuated thou over with me, and I will feed thee with with them. It is not to flee from the notice of me in Jerusalem. And Barzillai said unto the great, but to watch against servility and the king, how long have i to live, that I should meanly cringing in their presence.
go up with the king unto Jerusalem? 1 an In like manner, you are sure you may be thi de y fourscore years old ; and can I discern very useful to religion and society by filling a between good and evil? can thy servant taste high office. You are aware of the intrigues I what I eat or what I drink? can hear any