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“one loves to receive it. Here, imagination prostrates itself before frivolous deities, and unworthy idols receive such supreme homage ás is due to none but the sovereign God. Here it is, that the soul is affected with many a seducing image, the troublesome remembrance of which often wholly engrosses the mind, especially when we wish to nourish it with such meditations as are suited to immortal intelligences. Here a confused noise, an infallible consequence of living in the tumult of the world, gets possession of the mind, and renders it extremely difficult to relish that silent retirement, that abstraction of thought, which are absolutely necessary to self-examination, and to the study of our own hearts. Here it is, that men are carried away in spite of themselves by a torrent of vicious examples, which, being thought, and called by every body about them illustrious, authorise the most criminal actions, and insensibly destroy that tenderness of conscience, and dread of sin, which are very powerful motives to keep us in the practice of virtue. These general maxims admit of some exception in regard to Chimhap. He saw in the person of his king, the virtues of a pastor, and the excellences of a prophet. David's court was an advantageous school for him on many accounts : but yet was it altogether exempt from all the dangers we have mentioned ? O Chimham, Chimham, I will not detain thee in the port, when providence calls thee to set sail! But that sea, with the dangers of which thou art going to engage, hath many, many rocks, and among them, alas ! there have been innumerable shipwrecks.
3. A wise man will never enter a court or accept of an eminent post, without fixed resolutions to surmount the temptations, with which they are accompanied, and without using proper measures to succeed in his design. Far from us for ever be, my brethren, that disposition of mind, which by fixing the eye upon the prince, makes us lose sight of him, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice! Prov. viii. 15. Far from us be such an avidity to make our fortunes as to engage us to forget that we have souls to save, and an eternal interest to pursue! Far from us be that desire of elevating ourselves in this world, which debaseth the dignity of our nature, and inclines us to practices unworthy of men, whom the God of heaven and earth hath called into his family! Those holy men, who are proposed to us for examples, have been sometimes at court, and they have sometimes exercised the highest offices of state: but they have always made it an inviolable law to set before their eyes that God, in the presence of whom all nations are as a drop of a bucket, and as the small dust of the balance, Isa. xl. 15. Moses was at court: but it was with that heroical firmness, with that noble pride, with that magnanimity which became him, whom the Lord of hosts had chosen for his messenger, and placed at the head of his people. Moses was at court: but it was to say to Pharaoh, Let my people go that they may serve me. Let my people go. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs. They shall come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants. Let my people go, or the hand of the Lord shall be upon thy cattle, upon thy horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep, and there shall be a very grievous murrain, Exod. vii. 16. viii. 2. and ix. 3. Nathan was at court: but it was to say to David, Thou art the man, woherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in
his sight? 2 Sam. xii. 7. 9. Elijah was at court : but it was to resist Ahab, who said to him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel ? No, replied he, I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim, 1 Kings xviii. 17. 18. Micaiah was at court: but it was to resist the progress of an ambitious prince, and to say to him, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, chap. xxii
. 17. Jehu was at court: but it was to mortify Joram, who asked him, Is it peace? What peace, replied he, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many ? 2 Kings ix. 22. John the Baptist was at court: but he went thither to tell Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife, Mark vi. 18.
Some of these holy men have filled the highest posts, and discharged the most important offices of state: but they have done so with that integrity of mind, and with that piety and fervor of heart, which would seem incompatible with worldly grandeur, were we not informed, that to the pure, all things are pure, and that God knows how to preserve the piety of his elect amidst the greatest dangers, when zeal for his glory engageth them to expose themselves for his sake. Samuel discharged important offices, he occupied an eminent post : but he could render a faithful account of his administration, and ventured to face the people with this noble appeal, Behold, here I am, witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed : whose or have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have 1 defrauded ? whom have I oppressed ? 1 Sam. xii. 3. 4. And what is more than all this, and what we wish to inculcate more than all this, is what he subjoins, of whose hand hare I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith ? and I will restore it to you. To which the people replied, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand. Nehemiah was elevated to high offices, he was even a favorite of his king: but he availed himself of his elevation to procure the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restitution of divine worship in the temple. When the idolatrous prince put this
question to him, Why is thy countenance sad? He replied, Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my father's sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Nehem. ii. 2. 3. Daniel filled a high office, even in an idolatrous court : but there he continued his humble diet; he would not hold his office at the expence of his conscience; amidst the tumult of the world he knew how to manage his affairs so as to find time to understand by books the number of the years predicted by the prophets to attend to the condition of Jerusalem to make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. Is there any one of you, my brethren, so much master of himself? Have you courage enough to resist so many enemies? Are you able to withstand so many temptations, and to escape all these dangers ? Go then, not only to the courts of Davids, but to those of the most profligate princes, Go, shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, go, be the salt of the earth, rise, not only to the great offices of state, but ascend a throne, take the government and reign.
4. The evils, which imbitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and, (what may seem a paradox,) the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not
to discourage those from occupying the highest offices, who are capable of doing great good to society and the church.
The first part of this proposition is indisputable. The difficulties, which belong to the lives of courtiers, and of all persons elevated to eminent posts, ought not to discourage those, who are able to benefit society and the church. It is clear, I think, to all, who know the first principles of christianity, that the design of God in placing us in this world was not to enable us to follow that kind of life, which is the most conformable to our inclinations, though such a kind of life should have nothing in it contrary to the laws of God. God intended to exercise us in a painful state of approbation. I allow, virtue has charms of its own, and often brings its reward along with it in this world : but also it often requires us to mortify our dearest passions, and our strongest inclinations. How often, by the heavy afflictions in which piety involves us, is that celebrated expression of an apostle verified, If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable ? 1 Cor. xv. 19. A good man will consult, when he is choosing a course of life, (and you will have spent this hour well, my brethren, if you retain only this maxim, and reduce it to practice.) A good man, when he' is choosing a course of life, will consult, not what will render his family most illustrious, not what will be most likely to transmit his name to posterity, not what will most advance his fortune, and will best gratify his own inclinations, but what will be most useful to society and religion. Do not say, the pleasures of a court are insipid, the life of a courtier is intolerable, perpetual consultations are burdensome, a multitude of business is tiresome, ceremonies disgust me, splendid titles give