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but fair terms of retreat were offer'd to them by their SERM.
CXVIII enemies. It is one thing when a man suffers by the law, and cannot help it; and another thing when men may avoid suffering. In the former cafe men submit to necessity, and bear it as well as they can ; in the latter case, if men suffer, it is a sign they firm- : ly believe the reward of it; and if they suffer chearfully, and with joy, as most of the martyrs did, it is a plain evidence that God affords them extraordinary support in their fufferings; and then the case is not vary hard, when religion puts them upon nothing, bur what it gives them cautë, and enables them, to rejoice in the doing of it.
Fifthly, it is objected; that the christian religion : is apt to dispirit men, and to break the courage and vigor of their minds, by the precepts of patience, and humility, and meekness, and forgiving injuries, and the like. This objection hath made a great noise in the world, and hath been urged by men of great reputation, and a deep insight into the tempers of men, and affairs of the world. It is said to be particularly insisted upon by Machiavel, and very likely it may; though I think that elsewhere he is pleased to speak with terms of respect, not only of religion in general, but likewise of the christian religion ; and (which seenis very much to contradict the other) he fays in the first book of his discourses upon Livy, (chap. xi.) that the greatness and success of Rome is chiefly to be ascribed to their piety and religion; and that Rome was more indebted to Numa Pompilius for settling religion among them, than to Romulus the founder of their state, and the reason he gives is much to our present purpose ; for, says he, withouç religion there can be no military discipline, religion M 4
chiefy to be and more indehem, than one cives is
SERM. being the foundation of good laws and good dif-
;cipline. And particularly he commends the. Sam
But howsoever this objection be, I dare appeal
1. To reason, and that as to these two things.'' .(1.) That the christian religion is apt to plant in the minds of men principles of the greatest refolution and truest courage. It teacheth men upon the best and most rational grounds to despise dangers, yea and death itself, the greatest and most formidable evil in this world, and this principle is likely to inspire men with the greatest courage; for what need he fear any thing in this world, who fears not death, after which there is nothing in this world to be feared ? and this the christian religion does, by giving men the assurance of another life, and a happiness, infinitely greater than any is to be enjoyed in this world. - And in order to the securing of this happiness, it teacheth men to 'be holy, and just, and to exercise a good conscience both toward God and man, which is the only way to free a man from all inward and tormenting fears of what may happen to him after death. “ This makes as the righteous man to be (as Solomon says) bold
6 as a lion." Nothing renders a man more undaunted as to death, and the consequences of it, than the peace of his own mind; for a man not to be conscious to himself of having willfully displeased lini, who alone can make us happy or miserable in.
the other world. So that a good man, being secure S E R M.
CXVIII. of the favoup of God, 'may upon that account reafonably hope for a greater happiness after death than other men: whereas a bad man, if he be sober, and have his fenses awakened to a serious consideration of things, cannot but be afraid to die; and be extremely anxious and solicitous what will become of him in another world. And surely it would make the stoutest man breathing afraid to venture upon death, when he sees hell beyond it.' Possibly there may be some monsters of men, who may have so far suppress'd the sense of religion, and stupified their consciences, as in a good measure to have conquer'd the fears of death, and of the consequences of it. But this happens but to a very few, as the poet tells us in the person of an epicurean. :
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,..."
There are very few that attain to this temper, and but at some times. So that if vice and wickedness do generally break the firmness of mens spirits; it remains that nothing but religion can generally givemen courage against death. And this the christian religion does eniinently to those who live according to it; our blessed Saviour having delivered us from the fear of death, by conquering death for us, and giving us assurance of the glorious rewards of another life.
(2.) Meekness, and patience, and humility, and modesty, and such virtues of christianity, do not in reason tend to dispirit men, and break their true courage, but only to regulate it, and take away the fierceness and brucishness of it. This we see in ex
SE R M. perience, that men of the trueft courage, have many CXVIII.
times least of pride and insolence, of passion and fierceness. Those who are better bred, are commonly of more gentle and civil dispositions : but yet they do not therefore want true courage, though, they have not the roughness and fool-hardiness of men of ruder breeding. So in a true christian, courage and greatness of mind, is very consistent with meekness, and patience, and humility. Not that all good men are very courageous ; there is much of this in the natural temper of men, which religion does not quite alter. But that which I am concerned to maintain is, that christianity is no hindrance to mens courage, and that cæteris paribus, fupposing men of equal tempers, no man hath so much reason to be valiant, as he that hath a gocd conscience; I do not mean a blustering, and boisterous, and ralh courage; but a sober, and calm, and fixt valour.
2. I appeal to experience for the truth of this. Did ever greater courage and contempt of death appear in all ages, and sexes, and conditions of men, than in the primitive martyrs ? were any of the heathen soldiers comparable to the christian legion, for resolution and courage, even the heathens themselves being judges? The religion of Mahomet seems to be contrived to inspire men with fierceness and desperateness of resolution, and yet I do not find, but that generally where there hath been any equality for number, the christians have been superior to them in valour, and have given greater instances of resolution and courage, than the Turks have done. So that I wonder upon what grounds this objection hath been taken up against christianity, when there is nothing either in the nature of this religion, or from
the experience of the world, to give any tolerable countenance to it. And surely the best way to know what effect any religion is likely to have upon the minds of men, is to consider what effects it hath had in the constant experience of mankind. There remains the other two objections, which I mention'd, but I must reserve them to another opportunity.
non this text.
MATTH. xi. 6.
ROM these words I proposed to consider these serm.
CXIX. 1. The prejudices and objections which the
The second world at firlt had, and many still have, against our fe blessed Saviour and his religion. · II. That it is a great happiness to escape the common prejudices which men are apt to entertain against religion.
I have considered those objections which the Jews and heathen philosophers made against our Saviour and his religion: and,
JI. Those which at this day are insisted upon by che secret and open enemies of cur religion. And I mentioned seven, the two last of which I shall now speak to.