Abbildungen der Seite

the most celebrated Case. Of this Practice, however innocent, when considered abstractedly, he advises a Restraint. Not from a Principle of Duty, and private Conscience, as a thing necessary in it self, or hurtful to Persons rightly apprised of the Matter; but upon Considerations of Prudence and Charity, and so far affecting the Conscience of Christians united in one Body. That they are obliged to forbear, whatsoever is apt to wound and offend their weak Brethren. The better to reconcile these Corinthians to such Acts of Self-denial, as they might think too rigorous to be imposed, with regard to things confcitedly lawful in their own Nature; He backs his former Arguments, by mentioning, in this Chapter, several Condescensions, which he in strictness was not bound, but yet content to make, for the greater Credit and Recommendation of his Doctrine, and for the Sake of such Advantages and Rewards, as he knew to be an abundant Compensation, for all he could do or suffer, in so glorious a Cause. This drew him on to another Topick, which would strengthen the Force of His Example, by their Own. And, from the Instances they daily faw, of Men among themselves, submitting to a great deal more, where the Benefits they aimed at from thence were in no degree so valuable, to incite their Zeal, and persuade them to think nothing too much, when the Salvation of their own, and their Fellow-Christian's Soul, was the Recompence promised and aspired after.

2. To render his Representation of this Matter, as moving and lively as might be, the Apostle chuses to express himself, in Terms exceeding proper for the Persons, to whom he wrote. It was with Them, among other Parts of Greece, that those Games, fo renowned in Story, were celebrated. No Honour was more eagerly coveted, than that of excelling in these


[ocr errors]

publick Exercises. One of these was Racing, Another compounded of Wrestling and Cuffing. In order to both these, a long Preparation of set Diet, Abstinence from some Pleasures, and several Hardships were prescribed and undergone. And, in the Course and Combat it felf, much Sweat and Toil, many Hazards, sharp Conflicts, and sore Wounds and Bruises, were to be expected. And yet all these were submitted to, with incredible Alacrity and Resolution. But for what? For an empty Name, for a Crown of Leaves; A Prize that was withering and worthless ; A Prize contended for by Many, but to be won by One ; and yet courted as industriousy, as painfully, as if Each could, nay the more so, because All, it was known, could not, obtain it. But still Each flattered himself, that he should be the single happy Man, to whom the Glory of the Field should be adjudged.

Since therefore it was a thing so common, fo creditable, among the People of Corinth, to exert themselves so vigorously, upon so very poor, so very uncertain Prospects; why should they decline the like Diligence and Zeal, where the Prize they aim at is so much nobler and surer? Why think it hard to obey the Rules, and contain themselves within the Limits, mark'd out for their Christian Course? Why not follow the Pattern of their great Apoftle, by keeping the Goal in view, by striving with all their Might to be foremost in this Spiritual Race; by fighting, like Him, in very good earnest, and, with some Violence, bringing and keeping under an Adversary, as dangerous and difficult to be subdued, as any they could possibly encounter, in the Isthmian Games? Even that Body, those Sensual Appetites and Passions, which St. Paul himself found it needful to treat so roughly; left the Master of the Exercise, and judge of the Prize,



Ver. 27

should at last reject him as unworthy to be crowned, for any undue Indulgencies to his own Inclinations, or for Irregularities or Sloth, in a Matter of such vast importance.

My Endeavour, upon this Occasion, must be to quicken Men in the Pursuit of their Heavenly Reward. And that (1.) by enforcing the Apostle's Argument, which represents the Excellency of it: And (2.) by recommending the Methods he both practised and prescribed, for the obtaining of it. Under each of which Heads, I shall follow the Pattern and Comparison here before us; and, from the very great Industry employed about Matters of less moment, endeavour to expose the Folly and Absurdity, of being careless and indifferent, in those of infinitely greater.

The Motives taken from the Apostle's Discourse here may be two: The Value of the Crown, and The Possibility of obtaining it. And a little Refleetion upon Each, might suffice for the answering his Purpose ; did Men but bring along with them a Difposition, to let any Arguments, in this Cause, have their full Force upon them.

( 1.) The Comparison here lies between One Crown and another: Both looked upon, as an ample Recompence, for the pains taken to obtain them. But with this difference, that, in reality, the Value of the One is imaginary, and depends upon common Estimation only ; That of the Other is intrinsick and substantial, And yet this is commonly rated as much lower, as the former is higher, than it deserves to be. And that, as upon other Accounts, so particularly, because admitting, (in compliance with the mistaken Notions of the World) that Each is a Good ; yet, when taken at the very best, it is evident, the One can be but a short and perishing, whereas the Other is a fixed and lasting


Good. The One a Corruptible, the Other an Incorruptible Crown.

Of the Former, the corruptible Sort, are plainly all those Advantages of the present World, for which Mankind so eagerly

contend. They are fickle and fugitive ; Not only allayed by infinite Abatements, which check our Delights, and disturb our Enjoyment; while we continue in Possession of them ; Not only exposed to infinite Accidents, which seldom suffer that Poffesion to be quiet, and are perpetually conspiring to deprive us of them: But, like those Garlands alluded to by St. Paul, which wither of themselves. They are, in their own Nature, fading, and such as it is not possible, for the utmost Art and Care, to preserve.

To spend Time in proving this, by descending to Particulars, is needless, when Experience and Common Sense have done it to our Hands. For, I appeal to any Man alive, whether this be not the Case of all those most envied Privileges and Conveniences, wherein Men are at so much trouble, to excel one another. The Honour and Applause, acquired by the noblest and most hazardous Archievements, is like that of the Olympick Games, the Subject of Discourse and Admiration for a while; but eclipsed by the next fortunate Gainer of the Prize, and Mortly after negleEted and forgotten. They, who facrifice all to Plcasure, feel, that this is loft by indulging. To render it exquisite is the ready way to shorten it; and every Excess naturally destroys, and turns it into Pain. And lastly, The wise Man hath most emphatically, said of Riches, That they make themselves Wings and fly away ; since used, they cannot be without diminishing ; and, if not used, they are just good for nothing.

These are the Prizes, for which we see so much Clutter and Struggle in the World. These Men think all the Expence and Hardships of long Instruction,


and severe Education in Youth ; All the Toil and Danger of a ripe and vigorous Age; Laborious Days and Restless Nights ; Compassings of Sea and Land; The Caprices of Courts ; The Fatigues of Camps ; The Trial of every Element and Climate; In a Word, Ease, and Safety, and Health, and Peace of Mind, and Life, and too often Conscience and Soul it self, wisely sacrificed to, and laid out upon, Things, which have indeed their Comforts and Conveniences, when sought and used in due Place and Proportion ; but, when pursued and loved inordinately, they destroy the very Purposes they should serve. They are therefore most improper to be made the Chief Aim and End of Living, and altogether unworthy even a small Part of that, which the generality of People are content to do and suffer for them).

And yet I will venture to say, on this Occasion, It were still more tolerable, if only the Things already mentioned, engaged our Affections and Endeavours to so violent a Degree. But, to the still greater Reproach of Mankind, the Folly extends farther. And frequent Instances are to be found, where no Pains, or Time, or Coft, or Danger is grudged, for Things perfectly frivolous, manifestly superfluous. To enFlame a Passion fitter to be check'd and subdued ; Or to carry on a Humour, as unaccountable and extravagant, as the Trouble we are at to sooth it ; Or to gratify a Curiosity as fruitless, as it was hard to be contented. So abfolute a Dominion do even the most trifling Objects gain over us ; when we let our Appetites loose upon the World, and are governed, in the Estimates we make of them, not by Judgment, but by Inclination.

(2.) Still there is one Discouragement behind, which, added to the Rest, should, it mighr reasonably be imagined, damp the Vehemence of these Pur


« ZurückWeiter »