Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

men.

time, that the powers of the soul were employed in advancing the virtue and happiness of a world ; and not in providing new hobby-horses for the despicable ambition of despicable individuals.

In your own course follow the wonderful men, whose character I have delineated. Their Master excepted, the sun never shone upon so glorious an object. The virtue of the Gospel, the spirit of heaven, was the energy of their minds: an energy immeasurably more glorious, and not less vigorous, than the pride and passion, which have burned, as a furnace, in the hearts of conquerors. No hero ever encountered such toils, or underwent such self-denial, for the laurel or the sceptre, as they, for the salvation of

What dwarfs, what motes, are heroes at their side! Conquerors have been mere beasts of prey. The Apostles assumed, with no unhappy resemblance, the employment of Angels. The same employment lies open to you. Let your spirit, your labours, your prayers, be like theirs; and your success, though inferior, will be great, honourable, and delightful. You will go

to the same world, whither they have gone; and partake of their enjoyments, their glory, and their praise. Even here below, conscience will smile on every part of your progress, and spread peace and joy over the world within. To your parents the sight of your Evangelical labours will soften the pillow of a dying bed ; gild the darkness of the grave; and add new lustre to the days of eternity. Your country, the church of God, and generations yet unborn, will rise up and call you blessed. The Redeemer bimself will look with complacency on every step of your progress ; and, 0 how enrapturing the prospect! will at the end of life receive you all into his own divine kingdom; and make you companions, and friends, in the world of life, and heirs of the glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was.

SERMON XXVII.

ON THE LOVE OF DISTINCTION.

PREACHED TO THE CANDIDATES FOR THE BACCALAUREATE

.IN 1814.

JOHN xii. 43.

For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Among the persons, who from distant countries came up to the feast of the passover, during which our Saviour was betrayed and crucified, there were several Greeks ; of that class of converts to the Jewish religion, called by the Rabbins proselytes of righteousness. These men, apparently influenced by piety blended with curiosity, desired to see Jesus. For this purpose they applied to Philip; Philip communicated their wishes to Andrew; and the two disciples, together, mentioned the subject to Christ. This was the first instance, in which such an application had been made to our Saviour by Gentiles ; and may be considered as the first providential intimation of the accomplishment of that memorable prophecy ; " In thy sced shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Our Saviour, comprehending the whole import of this most interesting prediction, appears to have been delighted with the dawn, which, he foresaw, would usher in so glorious a day. Accordingly, he began a strain of discourse, filled with thoughts of the highest moment, and springing from his contemplations on the future enlargement of his church among the nations of men. As he proceeded, bis soul appears to have been wrought up to no

common degree of rapture; and broke out into this ejaculation, “ Father, glorify thy name.” In answer to this petition there came a voice from heaven, saying, “ I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Astonished at so wonderful an event, a part of the assembly, being struck with terror by the awful nature of the sound, declared, that it thundered : while another part, less terrified, and perceiving that articulate' sounds were uttered by the voice, insisted, that an angel had spoken to our Saviour from heaven.

Among the persons, who were present at these transactions, there were, it seems, many of the chief rulers ; a considerable number of whom were so much affected by the scene, that they believed on him: i. e. they were convinced, that he was the Messiah. Still, for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess him ; or, in other words, did not openly profess their faith in him as the Messiah, lest they should be put out of the Synagogue. The Sanhedrim was to a great extent composed, and at this time almost wholly under the influence, of the Pharisees. Under this influence it had not long before come to a solemn determination, that if any man should confess Christ to be the Messiah, he should be cast out of the synagogue; or, in other words, excommunicated. The dread of this punishment prevented these rulers from acknowledging their belief in the Redeemer. Excommunication among the Jews was followed by the loss of all the ecclesiastical privileges, which a Jew could claim as his birthright. At the same time it assured to the unfortunate subject the hatred and contempt of his nation : and this seems to have been the evil, principally dreaded by these rulers : so dreaded, that neither the wisdom and excel. lence of the Redeemer, nor the stupendous miracle, of which had just been witnesses, could induce them to encounter it: “ For,” says the Evangelist,“ they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

The spirit, by which these Rulers were governed in this conduct, was the love of the approbation of their fellow-men: a disposition, styled, at times, the love of applause; the love of fame; ambition; and the love of glory. By all this phraseology the same affection of the mind is indicated, with certain shades of difference, arising from some diversity in the objects, from which we

[blocks in formation]

hope to derive it, or in the methods, in which it is pursued. The affection itself is, however, but one; and will be so considered in the present discourse. In these rulers this disposition was addressed, as it is, perhaps, in most other cases, in two modes: the dread of losing the favourable opinion of their countrymen, especially of persons possessing superior influence : and the hope of retaining it: and so powerfully was it addressed, that to secure this favourable opinion they were willing to forego the approbation of their Maker.

The youngest member of this audience scarcely needs to be told, that the feelings, which governed these Jewish rulers, characterize the whole race of Adam. No man is sufficiently elevated to rise above their influence; and no man sufficiently depressed to be beneath it. The ambition of kings and heroes, of philosophers and poets, has for ages been a proverbial topic of observation. It is unnecessary to search for it at the head of empires, or armies, or recur to profound wisdom, or brilliant talents. Men in private life, and of all descriptions, covet the good opinion of those around them as truly, as he, who challenges the homage of courts and nations; as he, who expects to inwreath his temples with a garland of amaranth, or to live through the succession of ages by the hand of the statuary; as he, who is conscious of soaring above the Aonian mount on the wing of Milton, or of unravelling with the hand of Newton the mysteries of nature. The farmer claims this distinction from the skill and success of bis busbandry; the merchant, from the extension and prosperity of his commerce. The mechanic expects it from the niceness and saperiority of his workmanship; and the manufacturer, from the ingenuity with which he abridges his labour, and the perfection which he gives to his fabrics. When we descend to the humblest stations of life; we see the same spirit no less prominent in those, hy whom they are occupied. The common labourer, the seaman before the mast, the coachman, the groom, and the foot-boy, are as truly, and often as intensely, covetous of applause, as the statesman, or the hero. They feel equally well assured, that they have merited it; equally challenge it as their proper reward; and are no less uniformly governed by it as a motive. To take one set of examples mofe : men, distinguished for their

vices only, aim equally at acquiring distinction by these, as others by nobler, kinds of conduct. The miser, odious to all men by his characteristical spirit, still intends to be, and feels strongly assured that he is, applauded, as well as envied, by others, for his shrewdness in amassing money, and for the sums which he has actually amassed. The thief claims applause for the cunning, and the robber for the courage, with which he has plundered others of their property. The gambler holds it to be high distinction to game with skill; the liar, to impose with adroitness on the faith of his neighbours; and the drunkard, to taste wine more acutely than his companions. All these men, and all others, like them in character or station, aim at the applause of some circle, . greater or less, of their fellow-men. All feel conscious of having deserved it in some manner or other by their conduct; and all are proud both of the desert, and the attainment. Should the extraordinary case happen, that any one of them should believe himself to have failed of his favourite object; he would, like the miser in Horace, console himself for the injustice, done to him, by an ample tribute of self-flattery at his own fire-side. To sum up this part of the discussion in a word; it is not improbable, that no child of Adam was ever so poor, so low in station, so ignorant, so profligate, or so absolutely destitute of character, as not to aim at the applause of others, and to feel assured that it was his due.

It is, however, to be carefully observed, that dispositions materially different are designated in the customary language of men by these names. What is intended by them is sometimes the desire of Esteem, and sometimes the love of Admiration.

The desire of esteem is, in its nature, capable of being just and yindicable. It may be, it often is, no other than the desire of being believed by others to have thought, and acted, well; to have done our duty; to have conformed to the dictates of conscience, and the Word of God. In this case, if confined within the limits, prescribed in the Sacred volume, it is virtuous. In that volume we are taught, that a good name is better than great riches, and loving favour, than silver and gold. A good name is nothing but the character, testified of us by others, when they believe, that we have done our duty: and such a testimony is by the voice of God declared to be better than great riches. Accordingly, it is

« AnteriorContinuar »