« AnteriorContinuar »
makes us prefer falling a thousand times into falshood, before saying for once, I mistake Had we not some knowledge of mankind, were we to form a system of morality on metaphysical ideas, it would seem needless to prescribe docility, and one would think every body would be naturally inclined to practise this virtue. But what seems useless in speculation is very often essential in practice. Let us guard against obstimacy. Let us always consider that the noblest victory, which we obtain, is over ourselves. Let each of us say, when truth requires it, I have erred, I consecrate the remainder of my life to publish that truth which I have hitherto misunderstood, and which I opposed only because I had the misfortune to misunderstand it. 6. Truth requires the sacrifice of curiosity, and the sixth precept which is proposed to us, is Restrain your avidity of knowing. This is a difficult sacrifice, the precept is even mortifying. Intelligence is one of the noblest prerogatives of man. The desire of knowledge is one of our most natural desires. We do not, therefore, condemn it, as bad in itself: but we wish to convince you, that to give an indiscreet scope to it, instead of assisting in the attainment of truth, is to abandon the path that leads to it; and by aspiring to the knowledge of objects above our reach, and which would be useless to us during our abode in this world, and destructive of the end for which God hath placed us here, we neglect others which may be discovered, and which have a special relation to that end. We ought then to sacrifice curiosity, to refrain from an insatiable desire of knowing everything, and to persuade ourselves, that some truths, which are of ten the objects of our speculations, are beyond the attainment of finite minds, and particularly of those finite minds, on which God hath imposed the necessity of studying other truths, and of practising other duties, 7. But of all the sacrifices which truth requires, that of the passions is the most indispensible. We have proved this on another occasion, and we only mention it to-day. Such are the sacrifices which truth requires of us; such are the precepts which we must practise to ob. tain it, and the explication of these may account for some sad phoenomena. Why are so many people deceived Why do so many embrace the grossest errors Why do so many people admit the most absurd propositions as if they were demonstrations? Why, in one word, are most men such bad reasoners? It is because rectitude of thought cannot be acquired without pains and labor; it is because truth is put up at a price; it is because it costs a good deal to attain it, and because few people value it so as to acquire it by making the sacrifices which, we have said, the truth demands.
II. Let us proceed to enquire the worth of truth, for however great the sacrifices may be which the attainment of truth requires, they bear no proportion to the advantages which truth procures to its adherents. 1. Truth will open to you an infinite source of pleasure. 2. It will fit you for the various employments, to which you may be called in society. 3. It will free you from many disagreeable doubts about religion. 4. It will render you intrepid at the approach of death. The most rapid inspection of these four objects will be sufficient to convince you, that at whatever price God hath put up truth, you cannot purchase it too dearly. Buy the truth.
1. Truth will open to you an infinite source of pleasure. The pleasure of knowledge is infinitely superior to the pleasures of sense, and to those which are excited by the turbulent passions of the heart. If the knowledge of truth be exquisitely pleasing when human sciences are the objects of it, what delight isit not attended with, when the science of salvation is in view My brethren, forgive me, if I say, the greater part of you are not capable of entering into these reflections. As you usually consider religion only in a vague and superficial manner; as you know neither the beauty, nor the importance of it; as you see it neither in its principles, nor in its consequences, so it is a pain to you to confine yourselves to the study of it. Reading tires you; meditation fatigues you; a sermon of an hour wearies you quite out; and judging of others by yourselves, you consider a man who employs himself silently in the closet to study religion, a man whose soul is in an extacy when he increaseth his knowledge, and refines his understanding; you consider him as a melancholy kind of man, whose brain is turned, and whose imagination is become wild, through some bodily disorder. To study, to learn, to discover; in your opinions, what pitiable pursuits The elucidation of a period The cause of a phoenomenon The arrangement of a system. There is far more greatness of soul in the design of a courtier, who, after he hath languished many hours in the anti-chamber of a prince, at length obtains one glance of the prince's eye. There is much more solidity in the projects of a gamester, who proposes in an instant, to raise his fortune on the ruin of that of his neighbor. There is much more reality in the speculations of a merchant, who discovers the worth of this thing, and the value of that, who taxes, if I may be allowed to speak so, heaven, and earth, and sea, all nature, and each of its compoment parts. But you deceive yourselves grossly. The study of religion, as we apply it to our closets, is very disferent from that, which you exercise under a sermon, sometimes not well preached, and often badly heard; and from that which you exercise in the hasty reading of a pious book. As we meditate, we learn, and as we learn, the desire of learning increaseth. In our studies, we consider religion in every point of light. There, we compare it with the dictates of conscience, with the desires of the human heart, and with the general concert of all creatures. There, we admire to see the God of nature in harmony with the God of religion; or rather, we see religion is the renovation and embellishment of nature. There, we compare author with author, oeconomy with oeconomy, prophecy with event, event with prophecy. There, we are dehighted to find that, notwithstanding diversities of times, places, conditions, and characters, the sacred authors harmonize, and prove themselves animated by one Spirit: a promise made to Adam, is repeated to Abraham, confirmed by Moses, published by the prophets, and accomplished by Jesus Christ. There, we consider religion as an assemblage of truths, which afford one another a mutual support, and, when we make some new discovery, when we meet with some proof of which we had been ignorant before, we are involved in pleasures, far more exquisite than those, which you derive from all your games, from all your amusements, from all the dissipations, which consume your lives. We enjoy a satisfaction in advancing in this delightful path, infinitely greater than that, which youtaste, when your ambition, or your avarice, is gratified: we look, like the chgrubims, to the mystical ark, and desire thoroughly to know all its contents, 1 Pet. i. 12. A christian, who understands how to satiate his soul with these sublime objects, can always derive pleasure from its fountain. If ye continue in my word, said the Saviour of the world, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, John viii. 31, 32. This saying is true in many respects, and perhaps it may, not improperly, be applied to our subject. A man, who hath no relish for truth, is a slave, leisure-time is a burden to him. He must crawl to every inferior creature, prostrate himself before it, and humbly intreat it to free him from that listlessness, which dissolves and destroys him; and he must by all means avoid the sight of himself, which would be intolerable to him. But a christian, who knows the truth and loves it, and who endeavors to make daily advances in it, is delivered from this slavery: The truth hath made him free. In retirement, in his closet, yea, in a desert, his meditation supplies the place of the whole world, and of all its delights. 2. Truth will fit you for the employments to which you are called in society. Religion, and Solomon, the herald of it, had certainly a view more noble and sublime, than that of preparing us for the exercise of those arts, which employ us in the world. Yet, the advantages of truth are not confined to religion. A man, who hath cultivated his mind, will distinguish himself in every post, in which Providence may place him. An irrational, sophistical turn of mind incapacitates all, who do not endeavor to correct it. Rectitude of thought, and accuracy of reasoning, are necessary every where. How needful are they in a political conference? What can be more intolerable than the harangues of those senators, who, while they should