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THE NECESSITY OF PROGRESSIVE RELIGION.
1 CORINTHIANS, ix. 26, 27. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly ; 80 fight 1, not as one that beateth the air.
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.
thinking nothing done, while there is any thing at Rome, that an ancient author said, two
cles of this sort, an area was chosen, on one St. Paul lives no more. This valiant cham- side of which was a chevaux de frise, and on pion has already conquered. But you, you the other the Tiber, so that the combatant Christians, are yet alive; like him, the race could not pass the bounds prescribed to him is open before you, and to you now, as well without exposing himself to the danger either as to him formerly, a voice from heaven cries, of being wounded by the spikes, or drown• To him that overcometh will I grant to sited in the waves. This is the first emblem, with me in my throne,' Rev. iii. 21. Hap- which our apostle uses here; I run,' allud. py, if animated by his example, you share | ing to the course in general; I do not run
uncertainly,' in allusion to such combatants as, of France, joined to that mean complaisance by passing the boundaries, lost the fruit of which induces courtiers to go into all the capritheir labour.
ces of their masters, introduced it into that 2. Among other games were those of wrest- | kingdom, and into that kingdom it went with so ling and boxing. Address in these combats much fury, that Charles, cardinal of Lorraine, consisted in not aiming any blow which did actually killed himself by adhering to closely net strike the adversary. He who had not to its maxims during a rigorous winter. * this address, was said to beat the air;' and What a wide field opens here to our medihence came the proverb to beat the air,' to tation, were it necessary to show the absurdity signify labouring in vain.* This is the second of such devotions ! allusion of St. Paul, • I fight, not as one that We might show, that they owe their origin beateth the air.'
to Paganism. Plutarch says, that in the city 3. The combatants observed a particular of Lacedæmon, they were sometimes pursued regimen, to render themselves more active even to death in honour of Diana.t Herodoand vigorous. The time, the quantity, and tus speaks to the same purpose concerning the the nature of their aliments were prescribed, festival of the great goddess in Egypt. In like and they punctually complied with the rules. manner Philostratus speaks of the devotions They laid aside every thing likely to ener- performed in honour of the Scythian Diana. vate them. Would you obtain a prize in the Thus also Apuleius concerning the priests of Olympic games?' said a pagan philosopher, the goddess of Syria ;|| and thus authors more • a noble design! But consider the prepara- credible, I mean the writers of the Book of tions and consequences. You must live by Kings, concerning the priests of Baal. rule, you must eat when you are not hungry, We might show the weakness of the arguyou must abstain from agreeable foods, you ments on which such practices are founded ; as must habituate yourself to suffer heat and fabulous miracles, and, among many others, a cold; in one word, you must give yourself up letter brought by an angel from heaven to Jeentirely to a physician.'t By these means rusalem, which declared, that the blessed virthe combatants acquired such health and gin having implored pardon for the guilty, God strength, that they could bend with the grea 1. had replied, that their pardon should be grantest ease such bows as horses could hardly ed on condition they whipped themselves in bend; hence the health of a champion' was this manner. I a common proverb | to express a strong hale We might produce the weighty reasons state. As this regimen was exact, it was which many of the Roman communion, and painful and trying. It was necessary not on- among others Gerson and De Thou. urged ly to surmount irregular desires, but all those against such practices, and the testimonies of exercises must be positively practised which our Scriptures, which expressly forbid them; were essential to victorious combatants :) it but we will content ourselves with observing, was not sufficient to observe them a little that the words of our text have nothing that while, they, must be wrought by long prepa- can serye even for a plausible pretence for ration into habits, without which the agility these superstitions. We said St. Paul alluded and vigour acquired by repeated labours to the regimen observed by combatants ; comwould be lost; witness that famous cham- batants observed that kind of life, which was pion, who, after he had often and gloriously most proper to fit them for their profession ; in succeeded, was shamefully conquered, be- like manner, St. Paul observed what fitted him cause he had neglected the regimen for six for his. Were it possible to prove that mortimonths, during which time a domestic affair fications and macerations were necessary to had obliged him to reside at Athens. This this purpose, we should not then have a right is the third allusion which our apostle makes to determine that the apostle had his eye on in the text, 'I keep under my body, and bring such services here. For our parts, we think, it into subjection.'
he intended all acts of repentance prescribed Let us observe, by the way, that these ex- in Scripture, and exemplified by the saints ; pressions of our apostle have been abused to as silence, retirement, fasting, abstinence from absurd though devotional purposes; and, to criminal pleasures, and so on. omit others, it was an abuse of these expres- 4. Further, there were persons who presisions which produced the extravagant sect of ded over the pagan games. They were called the Flagellants.|| All Italy in the thirteenth heralds. The name given them in the Greek century was seized with a panic, which ended language is precisely the same which in our in the birth of this sect. The next century, the language is rendered preacher. Their office Germans being afflicted with a plague, it filled was expressed by a word which signifies to all Germany, and the folly of Henry III. king preach. It consisted in proclaiming the game,
directing the combatants, encouraging the * Eustat. in Homer. Iliad.
weak, animating the valiant, exposing the † Epict. cap. 36. Voi. Plat. de legibus, prize to public view, and giving it to the viclib. 8.
| Hor. Art. Poet. Julian de Laud. Const. * De Thou, Hist. liv. 59. Orat, i,
† Plutarch Vit. Lycurg. Baudelot de Dairval. Hist. de Ptolomee # Eutrop. liv. ii. ch. 41. Auletes, p. 61. c. 9.
De Vit. Apollon. lib. vi. c. 20. || Hospinian. Hist. Monach. Boileau. Hist. L Ane d'Or, liv, viii. des Flagellans.
Bosius Anal. under the year 1349.
tor. This is the fourth allusion of our apostle, ers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor • lest when I have preached to others. The height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall original word which we have translated be able to separate us from the love of God," preached, is the very word which is used to Rom. viii. 38, 39. But I keep under my describe the office of such as presided at the body ;' and the rest means, whatever progress games; and St. Paul, by using this term, gives I have made in a career of virtue, all my past us a beautiful idea of the apostleship, and, in efforts would be useless, should I spend the general of the gospel ministry. What is the rest of my life in idleness and indifference, and office of a minister of the gospel? We publish I could not expect, even by the assistance of the race, we describe the good works, which grace, to arrive at glory. God hath before ordained, that we should walk Let us now justify this disposition of our in them ;' we animate you by often saying, apostle, and let us prove this general truth, • run with patience the race that is set before that there is no point fixed, at which a Chrisyou :' we lift up to public view the prize, and tian may stop ; That each portion of life has its in the name of God we cry, so run that you task ; that to what degree soever we have may obtain.' Happy if you all attend to this carried our sanctification, unless we carry it voice, and if, while a few are eagerly and con- further, go on and persevere, we should act stantly running the race set before them, others contrary to the spirit and temper of the gospel. do not run more eagerly across the space, like This is the principal design of this discourse. those unhappy people just now mentioned, 1. Let us first examine the example of St. who were wounded with iron spikes, or drown- Paul. St. Paul did not think that if he lived ed in the waves.
hereafter in indolence without endeavouring 5. In fine, The last remark we make on pa- to make new advances, he had any right to gan games regards the different destiny of the expect the benefits of the gospel : no Christian, combatants. The conquered derived no ad- therefore, living in indolence, and making no vantages from their pains; but the victors new advances, ought to flatter himself that he were covered with honours and advantages ; | is entitled to the blessings of the gospel. In they were distinguished in all public assem- order to perceive this consequence, form a blies; they were called by the high sound- | just notion of the virtue of our apostle, and ing name of Olympian; they were crown- consider Paul as a zealot, Paul as a proselyte, ed with great ceremony; statues were erect- Paul as an apostle, and Paul as a martyr, and ed to their honour, and breaches were made in you will allow he was a great character, a the walls of cities to admit them with the Christian of the highest order ; and that if, greater pomp. This is the fifth allusion which with all his eminent virtues, he thought himthe apostle here makes to the games, lest I self obliged to acquire yet more eminent virshould be a cast-away.' A cast-away; the tue, every Christian ought to form the same heathens applied this word to such combatants idea of his own duty. as entered the lists but did not obtain the prize. Consider Paul as a sealot. Perhaps you
Such were the games celebrated through all may be surprised at our passing an encomium Greece, and in particular at the city of Phi- on this part of his life. Certainly we shall lippi, where St. Paul wrote this epistle, and in not undertake to make an apology for that that of Corinth to which it is addressed. The cruel and barbarous zeal which made use of believer is a stranger on earth, he sees there a fire and blood, and which put racks for arguthousand delights of which he does not partake. ments, and gibbets for demonstrations. But The eyes of Paul at Philippi, more properly his the purest life has its blots; and the most genears (lor St. Paul hardly attended public erous heart its frailties. In that fatal necessity amusements), were struck with the fame and of imperfection which is imposed on all manmagnificence of these games. The Corinthi- kind, there are some defiled streams, so to ans were in the same condition. How hard is speak, which flow from pure springs, some it to live in a country and to be excluded from people, and the apostle was one, who si: from the pleasures of the inhabitants! St. Paul an excess of virtue. What idea then must we strengthens the Corinthians and himself against form of this man, and what shall we say of his these temptations; he rises from sensual to virtues, since his vices were effects of such an spiritual pleasures, and says, he has also an excellent cause? This odious part of his life, area, a race, a crown, a triumph. I therefore which he wished to bury in oblivion, that bar80 run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as barity and madness, that industry to inflame one that beateth the air. But I keep under the synagogue, and to stir up all the world, all my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that this, strictly speaking, and properly explained, by any means, when I have preached to others, was worthy of praise. He maintained error. I myself should be a cast-away.'
Why? Because he thought it was truth, and We have explained the terms and allusions respected it accordingly. He persecuted, beof the apostle. His meaning is sufficiently cause he loved; he was mad, because he was clear. •I keep under my body,' and so on, does zealous ; zeal, as I said just now, misguided, not mean, as some interpreters have it, I halt but zeal, however; a criminal indiscretion inbetween hope of salvation, and fear of destruc- deed, but an indiscretion, which in a moral abtion; an interpretation directly opposite to that straction, may be considered as a virtue. assurance which St. Paul expresses in many Consider Paul as a proselyte. A man eduparts of his epistles, and particularly in this cated in opinions opposite to Christianity, infamous passage which we have elsewhere ex- fatuated with popular errors, prejudiced with plained, “I am persuaded that neither death, ideas of a temporal Messiah, accustomed to connor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor pow- sider Jesus Christ as an impostor, and his religion as a plot concerted by knaves, this man as a nurse cherisheth her children. You know changes his ideas, and his whole system of re- how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged ligion, and worships the crucified Jesus, who every one of you, as a father doth his chilwas to the Jew a stumbling block, and to the dren, that ye would walk worthy of God,' Greek foolishness,' 1 Cor.i. 23. The first les- chap. ii. 7. 11, 12. Is it prudence • Unto the son from heaven persuades him, the first knock Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the at the door of his heart opens it, his conversion Jews; to them that are without law as withis effected in a moment. “I went not up to Jeru- out law, that I might gain them that are withsalem,' said he; I conferred not with flesh and out law. I am made all things to all men, blood, Gal. i. 16, 17. What a fund of virtue that I might by all means save some,' 2 Cor. instantly had this man in his heart! Of all ix. 20. 22. Is it charity? I could wish that characters in life there are few so respectable myself were accursed from Christ for my breas that of a real proselyte. A man who changes thren,’ Rom. ix. 3. 'I will very gladly spend his religion on pure principles, has a greatness and be spent for you,' 2 Cor. xii. 15. Is it of soul above common men. I venture to ad- courage? He resisted St. Peter, and withvance this general maxim, that a man who stood him to the face, because he was to be changes his religion, must be consummate blamed,' Gal. ii. 11. • He reasoned of righteither in virtue or vice. If he be insincere, he eousness, temperance, and judgment to come, is a wretch; if he be not a wretch, he is a before Felix and Drusilla,' Acts xxiv. 25. Js hero. He is a hero if his virtue be sincere, if it disinterestedness in regard to the world ? he makes generous efforts to correct errors im- We sought not glory of men, neither of you, bibed in his earliest youth, if he can see with- nor yet of others. We speak the gospel not out trembling that path of tribulation which as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our is generally opened to such as forsake their re- hearts,' 1 Thess. ii. 6. 4. Is it zeal? His ligion, and if he can bear all the suppositions spirit was stirred in him at Athens, when he which are generally made against them who saw the city wholly given to idolatry,' Acts renounce the profession of their ancestors ; if, xvii. 16. Then, like the prophet of old, he I say, he can do all this, he is a hero. On the became very jealous for the Lord of hosts,' 1 contrary, none but a wretch can embark in Kings xix. 10. Is it to support the honour of such an undertaking, if he be destitute of the his ministry?. Let a man so account of us, dispositions necessary to success. When such as of the ministers of Christ,' 1 Cor. iv. 1. · We a man forsakes his former profession of religion, are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did there is reason to suppose that human motives beseech you by us,' 2 Cor. v. 20. It were have done what love of truth could not do; better for me to die, than that any man should and that he embraces his new religioa, not be- make my glorying void,' 1 Cor. ix. 15. Jesus cause it appears to him more worthy of his at- Christ was the model, by which St. Paul formtention and respect, but because it is more ed himself: . be ye followers of me, even as I suitable to his interest. Now to embrace a re- also am of Christ,' chap. xi. 1. When students ligion for worldly interest is almost the high- turn their attention to the Christian ministry, est pitch of wickedness. Our maxim admits of models of such as have distinguished themvery few exceptions, and most proselytes are selves in this office are proposed to their imieither men of eminent virtue or abandoned tation. The imagination of one, the judgment wretches; and as we are happy to acknow- of another, the gravity of a third, and the ledge there are several of the first kind in this learning of a fourth are set before them, and age, so with sorrow we are obliged to allow, from good originals very often we receive bad that there are a great number of the latter.copies. St. Paul chose his pattern. His masLet St. Paul be judged by the utmost rigour ter, his model, his original, his all, was Jesus of this maxim. He was a hero in Christiani- Christ; and he copied every stroke of his ority. The principle that engaged him to em- | ginal, be ye followers of me, even as I also am brace the gospel, diffused itself through all his of Christ.' life, and every one of his actions verified the But, though it is always commendable to sincerity of his conversion.
discharge this holy office well, yet it is parSt. Paul was born for great things; he itticularly so in some circumstances ; and our was whom God chose for an apostle to the apostle was in such, for he officiated when the Gentiles. He did not stop in the porch of the whole world was enraged against Christians. Lord's house, he quickly passed into the holy Consider him then on the stage of martyrdom. place; he was only a very short time a cate- What would now be our glory was then his chumen in the school of Christ ; he soon be- disgrace; assiduity, gentleness, zeal, and all came a master, a minister, an apostle ; and in the other virtues just now mentioned, drew all these eminent offices he carried virtue to a upon
him the most envenomed jealousy, accuhigher pitch than it had ever been carried be- sations the most atrocious, and persecutions the fore him, and perhaps beyond what it will most cruel. It was in this light, God set the ever be practised after him. In effect, what ministry before him at first, I will show him qualities ought a minister of the gospel to pos- how great things he must suffer for my name ses which St. Paul did not possess in the high-sake, Acts ix. 16. Show him how great things est degree? Is it assiduity Ye remember, he must suffer for my name sake! What a brethren,' said he, our labour and travel, for motive to engage a man to undertake an oflabouring night and day we preached unto you fice! Now-a-days, in order to give a great the gospel of God, 1 Thess. ü. 9. Is it gen- idea of a church, it is said, it has such and such tleness? We were gentle among you, even advantages, so much in cash, so much in small
tithes, and so much in great tithes. St. Paul taken literally, it.is the language of humility, saw the ministry only as a path full of thorns and resembles what St. Paul says in another and briars, and he experienced, through all place, I am the chief of sinners ;' agreeably the course of his life, the truth of that idea to his own direction, that each Christian which was given him of his office. Hear the • should esteem another better than himself,' catalogue of his sufferings. Of the Jews five and which he calls, very justly, lowliness of times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice mind.' No such thing, my brethren, you will was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, be convinced of the contrary by the following thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day
reflections. have I been in the deep. In journeyings often, 2. We ground the necessity of progressive in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in religion on the great end of Christianity. perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by Form, if it be possible, a just notion of Christhe heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in tianity. I say if it be possible; for we have an the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils unaccountable reluctance to understand our among false brethren; in weariness and pain- own religion. We have all a strange propensifulness, in watchings often, in hunger and ty to disguise the character of a true Christian, thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness,' and to keep ourselves ignorant of it. We have 2 Cor. xi. 24—27. Good God! What a sala- the holy Scriptures, and in them the gospel ry for a minister; hunger, thirst, fastings, na- plan of redemption before our eyes every day; kedness, peril, persecution, death! In our and every day we throw over them a variety of case, we can die but once, and virtue considers prejudices, which suppress the truth, and prethe proximity of the crown of righteousness, vent us from seeing its beauty. One forms of which being suspended immediately over the Christianity an idea of indolence and relaxahead of the martyr, supports him under the tion, and, under pretence that the gospel speaks pains of martyrdom; but the ministry of St. of mercy and grace, persuades himself that he Paul was a perpetual martyrdom ; his life was may give a loose to all his natural evil disposia continual death. I think that God hath tions. Another imagines the gospel a body of set forth us the apostles last, as it were ap- discipline, the principal design of which was to pointed to death. For we are made a specta- regulate society; so that provided we be pretcle unto the world, and to angels, and to men,' ty good parents, tolerable magistrates, and as 1 Cor. iv. 9.
good subjects as other people, we ought all to Here we finish the eulogium of our apostle, be content with ourselves. A third thinks, to and, by uniting the parts of this slight sketch, be a Christian is to defend with constant heat we obtain a just portrait of the man.
certain points which he elevates into capital know a greater than St. Paul ? Can you con- doctrines, essential to holiness here, and to salceive virtue in a more eminent degree? Be- vation hereafter. A fourth, more unjust than hold a man fired with zeal, making what he all the rest, supposes the first duty of a Christhought the cause of God his own cause, God's tian is to be sure of his own salvation. Each enemies his enemies, the interest of God the wanders after his own fancy. interest of himself. Behold a man, who turns It should seem, however, that the more we his attention to truth, and, the moment he dis- consult the gospel, the more fully shall we be covers it, embraces, and openly avows it. Be. convinced, that its design is to engage us to ashold a man who, not content to be an ordinary pire at perfection, to transform man, to render Christian, and to save himself alone, aspiring him as perfect as he was when he came out of at the glory of carrying through the whole the hands of his Creator, .to renew him after world for public advantage, that light which the image of him that created him,' to make had illuminated himself. Behold a him approach the nature of glorified saints, and, preaching, writing; what am I saying? Be- to say all in one word, to transform him into the hold a man suffering, dying, and sealing with divine nature. This is Christianity. This it his own blood the truths he taught. An arcent is to be a Christian ; and consequently a Chriszealot, a sincere convert, an accomplished tian is a man called to be perfect as his Father minister, a bleeding martyr, learned in his er- which is in heaven is perfect;' to be one with rors, and, if I may be allowed to speak so, regu- God, as Jesus Christ is one with God. lar in his mistakes, and virtuous even in his This definition of a Christian and of Chris. crimes. Show me in the modern or primitive tianity, is justified by all we see in the gospel. church a greater character than St. Paul. Let For why does it every where propose perfecany man produce a Christian who had more tion for our end, heaven to our hope, God for reason to be satisfied with himself, and who our model ? Why does it teach us to consider had more right to pretend that he had dis- the good things of the world as evils, and the charged all his duties. Yet this very man, evils of the world as benefits, human virtues as this Paul, forgat those things which were be- vices, and what men call vice as virtue? Why hind!' This very Paul was pressing for- all this? All beside the matter, unless the gosward! This is the man who feared he should pel proposes to renew man, to transform him, • be a cast-away! And you, smoking flax,' and to make him approach the perfect Being. you bruised reed,' you, who have hardly ta- From these principles we conclude this.ken root in the Christian soil, you, who have Since the gospel requires us to endeavour to be hardly a spark of love to God, do you think perfect as our Father which is in heaven is peryour piety sufficient! Are you the man to fect,' we ought never to cease endeavouring till leave off endeavouring to make new advances ! we are'as perfect as our Father which is in hea
Perhaps you may say, the text is not to be ven is perfect. Since the gospel requires us to