תמונות בעמוד

Se RM.get of self-confidence; the . inspection of ^- God's providence into the failures of his peo

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pie, together with his fore-sight of them; his super-intending care of them, even during the progress of their temptations, and his over-ruling the issues of them for good. First, I fay, the fallibility and weakness of human nature. This is what experience abundantly testifies : all the sins of mankind, and they are more than can be' numbred, are proofs of it j nay, * there is not a jujiman living upon the earth, that doth good, andfinneth not. Not that God has made us to sin: he is not the author of moral evil 5 it is not the necessary effect of the powers wherewith he has endued us; on the contrary, he has furnish'd our nature with defences against it, and with faculties which have an opposite tendency: <f He is not •tempted with evil, neither does he tempt an] man. It is a voluntary perversion and abuse of our natural faculties, and a violation of that law, which he has written upon our hearts. But he has made us frail and fallible. Indeed it does not appear, that any order of created beings were made originally impeccable. As absolute perfection of knowledge is above the capacity and condition of V finite

* Eccjef. vii. 20. f JaiW i-

finite minds,. there seems to be inseparable ft f# *** from their original frame, a possibility ofl^m_^JI mistakes which may lead them into moral defects. Besides, every indigent being must have selfish affections, which may in some circumstances be the sources of error, overballancing the benevolent dispositions in which moral perfection consists. But not tQ insist on this, of all orders of rational creatures, which we have any knowledge of, some have actually corrupted themselves. The angels who were made pure, and in a happy state, yet did not all continue in it: some of them kept not their first estate of innocence and integrity; but, being the first example of disobedience, fell irrecoverably by their transgression, and were expell'd from their own habitation, their native heaven, into outer darkness, where they are reserved under chains to the judgment of the great day. And the scripture shews us that the first of mankind, tho' distinguifh'd by the divine bounty with many gifts and peculiar privileges, whereby they were enabled to hold their integrity, and in a happy situation, far less liable to be tempted than their posterjty are, yet did not abide in the innocence^

S$ R M. cence, the honour and felicity,.serein they V. were made, but suffered themselves to be milled by the insiduous arts anjd.fsdse ^F?sentations of a subtle and malicious enemy.

But, to confine ourselves particularly to the present condition of human nature; np man, I think, wants to have it proved that we are all liable to failures. Where is tlje man, who doe? not, to the conviction of all that are rlear him, and narrowly observe his behaviour, carry the plain marks qf moral infirmity about him ? and yet they fee but a small part of his faults. The most useful discoveries of this kind, are those which every one might make in himself by a careful attention, having within us the candle qj" die Lord, our own self-conscious spirits, whicjb search the inmost parts. We might there, in a multitude of instances, discern the risers sin, the conceptions of lust, as St. J ame* calls it, or the lower sensitiyerJpart..,qf our nature, comprehending our appetites an4 passions j its progress darkning- the underr standing, engrossing the attention, theiiety producing an insensibility to the most jnv portant things of religion, and pur true ratiqnal happiness: so that the exercise os our rational arilFmoral powers is defeated., ihS S'e R hti we betray' d Into great and grievous offences": JJf*,


tihg^atefui, so perverse, so foolish, so thoughtless about our own true interest, and so inconsistent with our dispositions and purposes at* other' times, as to fall into them.

It ma^ perhaps affect our minds still more, tr> c^nfidtir what failings, nay heinous trefpafles, havestain'd the lives of very eminent persons, in whom virtue has been carried tot#e?'highest perfection that frail humanity is feeble of. To fee a man, not in a single action ority, but through the general tenor of #!s' behaviour, display heroic goodness, magifehirhity, fortitude, patience, beneficence, itfTome instances of his conduct, fall vastly beneath himself, nay, into a shameful deg^ct! of she contrary vices; this is a surjiri&fg appearance; and yet the scripture history affords a variety of such examples. Scarcely, indeed, is there recorded one illustrious character with high applause, that is not sullied With some remarkable defect in that very Virtue which'obtain'd the greatest encomium. "The celebrated Abraham, Who has the hofeofcfto be calPd the father of the faithful,

SERM.and the friend of God, seems not to have . V. acted suitably to his character, when, thro' U**v^~'sear, he denied his wife, thereby exposing her and other innocent persons to a snare, both in Egypt and at Gerar, where Abimelech reproved him severely, as we read in the 20th chapter of Genesis. Moses, the meekest man in the whole earth, yet once spake unadvisedly, and his spirit was embittered, so that God in his displeasure depriv'd him of the priviledge of entering into Canaan; and 'Job, whose exemplary patience is justly celebrated in every age, yet in the extremityof his long continuing trial, fell into the con-;i trary distempers of mind to a degree, which was reproachful, and afterward the subject of grievous remorse. A multitude of other instances there are, which the time would fail me to mention; but that in the text k very peculiar. A man so near to the holy Jesus, a foundation on which he built hi* Church, and to whom he committed the keys of his kingdom, so resolute in his adherence to him as to fay, without his heart reproaching him for insincerity, tbo' IJhoulS die with thee I will not deny thee; yet in that very night, after so recent a premonition, denies with oaths, that he so much as knew


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