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CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
Sermon LII.-Christian Casuistry,
Sermon LXXVI.—The Rapture of St. Sermon XCIX.—(TRANslated by M. A.
PRoverbs iv. 26.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and all thy ways shall be established.
The sentence which we have now read, includes a subject of immense magnitude, more proper to fill a volume, than to be comprised in a single sermon; however, we propose to express the subject 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 number, 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 o the genius of the sacred language than with that of ours. Remark this once for all. There is one among many 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 sophisms: 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 can not 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 inspiration on this account, an Arabian, and a Persian, and all other people have the same. Who does 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 language? 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 punctuation, 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 interpreters to affirm, that it is an eastern expression, which signifies to take no step without first deliberately examining it. #. metaphor of the text being thus reduced to truth, another doubt
arises 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 term a wider extent, and it includes all these ideas. One example shall suffice. “My steps had well nigh slipped,” Ps. lxxiii. 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 o By thus following the ideas of the Wise Man, we will assort our reflections with the actions of your lives, and they will regard also, sometimes the emotions of your hearts, and the operations of your minds.
We must beg leave to add a third elucidation. The maxim in the text is not always practicable. I mean, there are some doctrines, and some cases of conscience, which we cannot fully examine without coming to a conclusion, that the arguments for, and the arguments against them, are of equal weight, and consequently, that we must conclude without a conclusion; weigh the one against the other, and the balance will incline neither way.
This difficulty, however, solves itself; for, after I have weighed, with all the exactness of which I am capable, two opposite propositions, and can find no reasons sufficient to determine my judgment, the part I ought to take is not to determine at all. Are you prejudiced in favour of an opinion, so ill suited to the limits which it has pleased God to set to our knowledge, that it is dangerous or criminal to suspend our judgments! Are your consciences so weak and scrupulous as to hesitate in some cases to say, I do not know, I have not determined that question? Poor men! do you know yourselves so little? Poor Christians will you always form such false ideas of your legislator? Anti do you not know that none but such as live perpetually disputing in the schools make it a law to answer every thing? Do you not