David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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do for your deliverance ? The more vehemently you struggle,
the more deeply you are entangled in the toils; and you find no
way to escape.

How was the case with that great admirer of reason, the au-
thor of the maxim above cited ? I mean the famous Mr. Hobbes.
None will deny that he had a strong understanding. But did it
produce in him a full and satisfactory conviction of an invisible
world? Did it open the eyes of his understanding to see —

* Beyond the bounds of this diurnal sphere ? *

Oh, no! far from it! His dying words ought never to be forgot-
ten. " Where are you going, sir ? '* said one of his friends. He
answered : ^^ I am taking a leap in the dark ! '^ and died. Just
such an evidence of the invisible world can bare reason give to
the wisest of men! . .

One of the most sensible and most amiable heathen that
have lived since our Lord died, even though he governed the
greatest empire in the world, was the Emperor Adrian. It is
his well-known saying: "A prince ought to resemble the sun: he
ought to shine on every part of his dominion, and to diffuse his
salutary rays in every place where he comes. *^ And his life was
a comment upon his word; wherever he went he was executing
justice and showing mercy. Was not he, then, at the close of a
long life, full of immortal hope ? We are able to answer this
from unquestionable authority, — from his own dying words. How
inimitably pathetic!


^'•Animula, vagula, blaridiila,
Hoipes, comesque corporis.


QucE nunc ahihis in loca,
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
AW, lit soles, dabis jocos! **

Which the English reader may sc- translated into our own Ian-
guage, with all the spirit of the original: —

<* Poor, little, pretty, fluttering thing.
Must we no longer live together ?
And dost thou prune thy trembling wing

To take thy flight, thou know'st not whither?

"Thy pleasing vein, thy humorous folly,
Lies all neglected, all forgot!
And pensive, wavering, melancholy.

Thou hop'st, and fear'st, thou know'st not what.*

Reason, however cultivated and improved, cannot produce the
love of God; which is plain from hence: it cannot produce either
faith or hope; from which alone this love can flow. It is then
only, when we " behold * by faith " what manner of love the
Father hath bestowed upon us,* in giving his only Son, that we
might not perish, but have everlasting life, that "the love of
God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is
given unto us.* It is only then, when we "rejoice in hope of
the glory of God," that "we love him because he first loved us.*
But what can cold reason do in this matter ? It may present us
with fair ideas; it can draw a fine picture of love: but this is
only a painted fire. And further than this reason cannot go. I
made the trial for many years. I collected the finest hymns,
prayers, and meditations which I could find in any language ; and
I said, sang, or read them over and over, with all possible seri-
ousness and attention. But still I was like the bones in Ezekiel's
vision: "The skin covered them above; but there was no breath
in them.*

And as reason cannot produce the love of God, so neither can
it produce the love of our neighbor; a calm, generous, disinter-
ested benevolence to every child of man. This earnest, steady
good-will to our fellow-creatures never flowed from any fountain
but gratitude to our Creator. And if this be (as a very ingeni-
ous man supposes) the very essence of virtue, it follows that vir-
tue can have no being, unless it spring from the love of God.


Therefore, as reason cannot produce this love, so neither can it
produce virtue.

And as it cannot give either faith, hope, love, or virtue, so it
cannot give happiness; since, separate from these, there can be
no happiness for any intelligent creature. It is true, those who
are void of all virtue may have pleasures, such as they are; but
happiness they have not, cannot have. No: —

*< Their joy is all sadness; their mirth is all vain;
Their laughter is madness ; their pleasure is pain ! >^

Pleasures ? Shadows ! dreams ! fleeting as the wind ! unsubstan-
tial as the rainbow! as unsatisfying to the poor gasping soul,

<^As the gay colors of an eastern cloud."

None of these w^ll stand the test of reflection: if thought comes,
the bubble breaks!

(From a Sermon on I. Timothy vi. 9)

OYE Methodists, hear the word of the Lord! I have a mes-
sage from God to all men, but to you above all. For above
forty years I have been a servant to you and to your
fathers. And I have not been as a reed shaken with the wind;
I have not varied in my testimony. I have testified to you the
very same thing, from the first day even until now. But "who
hath believed our report"? I fear not many rich; I fear there
is need to apply to some of you those terrible words of the
apostle : " Go to now, ye rich men ! weep and howl for the mis-
eries which shall come upon you. Your gold and silver is cank-
ered, and the rust of them shall witness against you, and shall
eat your flesh, as it were fire." Certainly it will, unless you
both save all you can, and give all you can. But who of you
hath considered this, since you first heard the will of the Lord
concerning it ? Who is now determined to consider and practice
it ? By the grace of God, begin to-day !

O ye lovers of money, hear the word of the Lord! Suppose
ye that money, though multiplied as the sand of the sea, can
give happiness ? Then you are " given up to a strong delusion
to believe a lie " ; — a palpable lie, confuted daily by a thousand


experiments! Open your eyes! Look all around you! Are the
richest men the happiest ? Have those the largest share of con-
tent who have the largest possessions ? Is not the very reverse
true ? Is it not a common observation, that the richest of men
are, in general, the most discontented, the most miserable ? Had
not the far greater part of them more content, when they had
less money ? Look into your own breasts. If you are increased
in goods, are you proportionally increased in happiness ? You
have more substance ; but have you more content ? You know
that in seeking happiness from riches, you are only striving to
drink out of empty cups. And let them be painted and gilded
ever so finely, they are empty still.

O ye that desire or endeavor to be rich, hear ye the word of
the Lord ! Why should ye be stricken any more ? Will not even
experience teach you wisdom ? Will ye leap into a pit with your
eyes open ? Why should you any more " fall into temptation '* ?
It cannot be but temptation will beset you, as long as you are
in the body. But though it should beset you on every side, why
will you enter into it ? There is no necessity for this : it is your
own voluntary act and deed. Why should you any more plunge
yourselves into a snare, into the trap Satan has laid for you, that
is ready to break your bones in pieces; to crush your soul to
death ? After fair warning, why should you sink any more into
" foolish and hurtful desires '* ? desires as inconsistent with reason
as they are with religion itself; desires that have done you more
hurt already than all the treasures upon earth can countervail.

Have they not hurt you already, have they not wounded j'-ou
in the tenderest part, by slackening, if not utterly destroying
your ^' hunger and thirst after righteousness '* ? Have you now
the same longing that you had once for the whole image of God ?
Have you the same vehement desire as you formerly had, of
** going on unto perfection '^ ? Have they not hurt you by weak-
ening your faith ? Have you now faith's abiding impression,
realizing things to come ? Do you endure, in all temptations,
from pleasure or pain, ^^ seeing him that is invisible '^ ? Have you
every day, and every hour, an uninterrupted sense of his pres-
ence ? Have they not hurt you with regard to your hope ? Have
you now a hope full of immortality ? Are you still big with
earnest expectation of all the great and precious promises ? Do
you now " taste the powers of the world to come '^ ? Do you
"sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus *^?


Have they not so hurt you as to stab your religion to the
heart ? Have they not cooled, if not quenched, your love to God ?
This is easily determined. Have you the same delight in God
which you once had ? Can you now say : —

" I nothing want beneath, above ;
Happy, happy in thy love *^ ?

I fear not. And if your love of God is in anywise decayed, so
is also your love of your neighbor. You are then hurt in the
very life and spirit of your religion! If you lose love, you lose

Are not you hurt with regard to your humility ? If you are
increased in goods, it cannot well be otherwise. Many will think
you a better, because you are a richer man: and how can you
help thinking so yourself ? especially, considering the commenda-
tions which some will give you in simplicity, and many with a
design to serve themselves of you.

If you are hurt in your humility, it will appear by this token:
you are not so teachable as you were, not so advisable; you are
not so easy to be convinced, not so easy to be persuaded; you
have a much better opinion of your own judgment, and are more
attached to your own will. Formerly one might guide you with
a thread; now one cannot turn you with a cart rope. You were
glad to be admonished or reproved; but that time is past. And
you now account a man your enemy because he tells you the
truth. Oh, let each of you calmly consider this, and see if it be
not your own picture!

Are you not equally hurt, with regard to your meekness ?
You had once learned an excellent lesson of him that was meek
as well as lowly in heart. When you were reviled, you reviled
not again. You did not return railing for railing, but contrari-
wise blessing. Your love was not provoked, but enabled you on
all occasions to overcome evil with good. Is this your case now ?
I am afraid not. I fear you cannot ^* bear all things. '* Alas, it
may rather be said, you can bear nothing; no injury, nor even
affront! How quickly are you ruffled! How readily does that
occur, "What! to use me so! What insolence is this! How did
he dare to do it ? I am not now what I was once. Let him
know, I am now able to defend myself.'* You mean to revenge
yourself. And it is much, if you are not willing, as well as able;
if you do not take your fellow-seryant by the throat. . . .



You are so deeply hurt that you have nigh lost your zeal for
works of mercy, as well as of piety. You once pushed on through
cold or rain, or whatever cross lay in your way, to see the poor,
the sick, the distressed. You went about doing good, and found
out those who were not able to find you. You cheerfully crept
down into their cellars, and climbed up in their garrets, —

*To supply all their wants,
And spend and be spent in assisting his saints.'^

You found out every scene of human misery, and assisted accord-
ing to your power : —

"Each form of woe your generous pity moved;
Your Savior's face you saw, and, seeing, loved.'*

Do you now tread in the same steps ? What hinders ? Do you
fear spoiling your silken coat ? Or is there another lion in the
way ? Are you afraid of catching vermin ? And are you not
afraid lest the roaring lion should catch you ? Are you not afraid
of him that hath said: "Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto
the least of these, ye have not done it unto me '' ? What will fol-
low ? ^' Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the
devil and his angels ! *

(From a Sermon on I. Peter iii. 3, 4)

THE question is: What harm does it do to adorn ourselves with
gold, or pearls, or costly array, suppose you can afford it;
that is, suppose it does not hurt or impoverish your family ?
The first harm it does is, it engenders pride, and where it is al-
ready, increases it. Whoever narrowly observes v\'hat passes in
his own heart will easily discern this. Nothing is more natural
than to think ourselves better because we are dressed in better
clothes; and it is scarcely possible for a man to wear costly ap-
parel without, in some measure, valuing himself upon it. One of
the old heathens was so well apprised of this that when he had
a spite to a poor man, and had a mind to turn his head, he
made him a present of a suit of fine clothes.

" Eutra'pebis ciiicunque nocere volebat,
Vestinienta dabat pretiosa. ''


He could not then but imagine himself to he as much better as
he was finer than his neighbor. And how many thousands, not
only lords and gentlemen in England, but honest tradesmen,
argue the same way ? inferring the superior value of their per-
sons from the value of their clothes!

<* But may not one man be as proud, though clad in sackcloth,
as another is, though clad in cloth of gold ? '^ As this argument
meets us at every turn, and is supposed to be unanswerable, it
will be worth while to answer at once for all, and to show the
utter emptiness of it. ^^ May not, then, one clad in sackcloth,*
you ask, ** be as proud as he that is clad in cloth of gold ? '' I
answer: Certainly he may: I suppose no one doubts of it. And
what inference can you draw from this ? Take a parallel case.
One man that drinks a cup of wholesome wine may be as sick
as another that drinks poison; but does this prove that the poison
has no more tendency to hurt a man than the wine ? Or does
it excuse any man for taking what has a natural tendency to
make him sick? Now, to apply: Experience shows that fine
clothes have a natural tendency to make a man sick of pride;
plain clothes have not. Although it is true, you may be sick of
pride in these also, yet they have no natural tendency either to
cause or increase this sickness. Therefore, all that desire to be
clothed with humility, abstain from that poison.

The wearing gay or costly apparel naturally tends to breed and
to increase vanity. By vanity I here mean the love and desire
of being admired and praised. Every one of you that is fond of
dress has a witness of this in your own bosom. Whether you
will confess it before man or no, you are convinced of this be-
fore God. You know in your hearts, it is with a view to be ad-
mired that you thus adorn yourselves; and that you would not
be at the pains were none to see you but God and his holy an-
gels. Now the more you indulge this foolish desire, the more it
grows upon you. You have vanity enough by nature ; but by thus
indulging it, you increase it a hundredfold. Oh, stop! Aim at
pleasing God alone, and all these ornaments will drop off.

Gay and costly apparel directly tends to create and inflame
lust. I was in doubt whether to name this brutal appetite; or,
in order to spare delicate ears, to express it by some gentle
circumlocution, — like the dean, who, some years ago, told his
audience at Whitehall : ^' If you do not repent, you will go to a


place which I have too much manners to name before this good
company.'^ But I think it best to speak out; since the more the
word shocks your ears, the more it may arm your heart. The
fact is plain and undeniable; it has this effect both on the wearer
and the beholder. To the former, our elegant poet Cowley ad-
dresses those fine lines: —

* Th' adorning thee with so much art
Is but a barbarous skill;
'Tis like the poisoning of a dart,
Too apt before to kill."

That is, — to express the matter in plain terms, without any color-
ing, — ^* You poison the beholder with far more of this base ap-
petite than otherwise he would feel." Did you not know this
would be the natural consequence of your elegant adorning ? To
push the question home: Did you not desire, did you not design,
it should ? And yet, all the time, how did you —

* Set to public view
A specious face of innocence and virtue!"

Meanwhile, you do not yourself escape the snare which you spread
for others. The dart recoils, and you are infected with the same
poison with which you infected them. You kindle a flame which
at the same time consumes both yourself and your admirers.
And it is well, if it does not plunge both you and them into the
flames of hell!

The wearing costly array is directly opposite to the being
adorned with good works. Nothing can be more evident than
this; for the more you lay out on your own apparel, the less you
have left to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to lodge the
strangers, to relieve those that are sick and in prison, and to
lessen the numberless afflictions to which we are exposed in this
vale of tears. And here is no room for the evasion used before:
*^ I may be as humble in cloth of gold, as in sackcloth." If you
could be as humble when you choose costly as when you choose
plain apparel, — which I flatly deny, — yet you could not be as
beneficent, — as plenteous in good works. Every shilling which
you save from your own apparel you may expend in clothing
the naked and relieving the various necessities of the poor whom
ye ^* have always with you." Therefore, every shilling which you


needlessly spend on your apparel is, in effect, stolen from God
and the poor. And how many precious opportunities of doing
good have you defrauded yourself of! How often have you dis-
abled yourself from doing good by purchasing what you did not
want ! For what end did you buy these ornaments ? To please
God ? No ; but to please your own fancy, or to gain the admira-
tion and applause of those that were no wiser than yourself.
How much good might you have done with that money! and
what an irreparable loss have you sustained by not doing it, if it
be true that the day is at hand when ^* every man shall receive
his own reward according to his own labor !*^



[eorge Whitefield, one of the greatest extemporaneous orators
of modern times, preached his first sermon at Gloucester in
1736, and his formidable appeals to their consciousness of
wrongdoing are said to have ^< driven fifteen persons mad.'> In view
of this assertion of what is generally accepted as a fact, the reader
must judge the extent to which it is a misfortune that Whitefield's
written sermons do not at all represent his power as an extempora-
neous speaker. It is said by one of his critics that ^* his printed works
convey a totally inadequate idea of his oratorical powers, and are
all in fact below mediocrity. ^^ While ^* The Kingdom of God,>> here
used to represent him, does not deserve this sweeping condemna-
tion, it is certainly not equal in force or style to the average ser-
mons of his great associate, Wesley, whom as an extemporaneous
speaker he certainly surpassed. Whitefield was born in Gloucester in
17 14. He began life as potboy in an inn, kept by his parents in
Gloucester, and it is said that in his youth he was addicted << to
Sabbath-breaking, card-playing, and other vicious practices.* At
eighteen, however, he became more sober-minded, and entering Ox-
ford as a servitor of Pembroke College, he came under the influence
of the Wesleys. This decided his career and made him one of the
founders of the Methodist Church. He was ordained as a minister of
the Church of England and left it only when his great eloquence and
astonishing power caused him to be condemned by the more lym-
phatic as an emotional enthusiast. It is said that he preached
eighteen thousand times during the thirty-four years of his ministry,
visiting almost every town in England, Scotland, and Wales, and
crossing the Atlantic seven times back and forth between England
and America. He died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, September
30th, 1770.



(From a Sermon on Romans xiv, 7)

THE kingdom of God is <* righteousness. '^ By righteousness
we are here to understand the complete, perfect, and all-
sufficient righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, as includ-
ing both his active and his passive obedience. M}^ dear friends,
we have no righteousness of our own; our best righteousness,
take it altogether, is but so many filthy rags; we can only be
accepted for the sake of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus
Christ. This righteousness must be imputed and made over to
us, and applied to our hearts; and till we get this righteousness
brouofht home to our souls, we are in a state of death and dam-
nation, — the wrath of God abideth on us.

Before I go further, I would endeavor to apply this. Give me
leave to put this question to your hearts. You call yourselves
Christians, and would count me uncharitable to call it in que's-
tion; but I exhort you to let conscience speak out, — do not bribe
it any longer. Did you ever see yourselves as damned sinners ?
Did conviction ever fasten upon your hearts ? And after you
had been made to see your want of Christ, and made to hunger
and thirst after righteousness, did you lay hold on Christ by
faith ? Did you ever close with Christ ? Was Christ's righteous-
ness ever put upon your naked souls ? Was ever a feeling appli-
cation of his righteousness made to your hearts ? Was it, or was
it not? If not, you are in a damnable state, — you are out of
Christ ; for the Apostle says here : ^^ The kingdom of God is right-
eousness '* ; that is, the righteousness of Christ applied and brought
home to the heart.

It follows ^* peace, '^ "The kingdom of God is righteousness
and peace. ^^ By peace I do not understand that false peace, or
rather carnal security, into which so many are fallen. There are
thousands who speak peace to themselves when there is no peace.
Thousands have got a peace of the devil's making; the strong
man armed has got possession of their hearts, and therefore
their goods are all in peace. But the peace here spoken of is a
peace that follows after a great deal of soul trouble; it is like
that calm which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the wind:
" Peace, be still ; and immediately there was a great calm ^' ; it is
like that peace which Christ spoke to his Disciples when he came


and said: "Peace be unto you/* — "My peace I leave with you."
It is a peace of God's making, it is a peace of God's giving, it is
a peace that the world cannot give, it is a peace that can be
felt, it is a peace that passeth human understanding, — it is a
peace that results from a sense of having Christ's righteousness
brought home to the soul. For a poor soul before this is full of
trouble; Christ makes application of his righteousness to his
heart; and then the poor creature, being justified by faith, hath
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. My dear friends,
I am now talking of heart religior;, of an inward work of God,
an inward kingdom in your hearts, which you must have, or you
shall never sit with Jesus Christ in his kingdom. The most of
you may have peace, but for Christ's sake examine upon what
this peace is founded — see if Christ be brought home to your
souls, if you have had a feeling application of the merits of
Christ brought home to your souls. Is God at peace with you ?
Did Jesus Christ ever say, "Peace be to you** — "Be of good
cheer ** — " Go thy way, thy sins are forgiven thee ** — " My peace
I leave with you, my peace I give unto you ** ? Did God ever
bring a comfortable promise with power to your soul ? And after
you have been praying, and fearing you would be damned, did
you ever feel peace flow in like a river upon your soul ? so
that you could say: Now I know that God is my friend, now I
know that Jesus is my Savior, now I can call him : " My Lord,
and my God " ; now I know that Christ hath not only died for
others, but I know that Jesus hath died for me in particular.
O my dear friends, it is impossible to tell you the comfort of
this peace, and I am astonished (only man's heart is desperately
wicked) how you can have peace one moment and yet not know
that God is at peace with you. How can you go to bed this
night without this peace ? It is a blessed thing to know when
sin is forgiven; would you not be glad if an angel were to come
and tell you so this night ?

But there is something more — there is *joy in the Holy
Ghost.** I have often thought that if the Apostle Paul were to
come and preach now, he would be reckoned one of the greatest
enthusiasts on earth. He talked of the Holy Ghost, of feeling
the Holy Ghost; and so we must all feel it, all experience it, all
receive it, or we can never see a holy God with comfort. We

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 23 of 56)