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the two can produce the best supports against the outward evils common to both ?
If we allow the vicious man to have a greater share of sensual gratifications, we allow him at once all the advantage he can claim for himself; and since he best knows how pleasant such enjoyments are, let him set his own value on them. But though we allow him to rate his own pleasures according to his own lust and relish of them, yet his taste will not enable him to judge of the happiness or unhappiness of those who deny themselves the same liberties. It is the virtuous man's business not only to abstain from the pleasures of vice, but to subdue the passions of it; and when he has done so, he renders himself capable of much nobler enjoyments, which are a perpetual fund of delight and satisfaction to his mind. So that, take the men in conjunction with their desires and appetites, and there is reason to believe that, even with respect to the present enjoyments of life, virtue has infinitely the advantage over vice.
But if we look into the consequences of their different ways of living, such consequences only I mean as a little time produces and makes manifest to the eyes of the world, the case will grow to be
very clear. View the persons in themselves: on one side you may see health and vigor attending on virtue; on the other, pains and diseases following close at the heels of vice. But if
you look still nearer, and examine their states of mind, the difference will appear yet greates: on one side you may see an undisturbed reason, surrounded with a constant calm serenity, and enjoying itself in all the prospects that are presented to it by things past, present, and to come : on the other side are disturbed imaginations, eager desires, perpetual uneasiness, reflexions half stifled, and a mind ever laboring with unpleasant thoughts of the time past, and the more unwelcome prospects of the time to come. These are natural and constant effects; and such they are surely in which the happiness of human life is very much concerned. You may value the pleasures of the body as you please, and despise the better part, the mind; but you are a reasonable creature whether
will or no, and your reason will have the last influence in making you either happy or miserable. If you lay in matter for uneasy thoughts and reflexions, it is but storing up misery for yourself, a misery from which all the real or fancied goods of the world cannot deliver you. The pains of the mind are never-ceasing torments : the wounds of the body may be cured; but for the wounds of the spirit the world affords no salve; they will fester and grow desperate, till they waste both body and mind. The truest touchstone by which we can prove the things which are conducive to our happiness, is to consider how they will operate on our minds for the remainder of our life : for instance, you have an opportunity of getting some great advantage by doing some vile thing : whilst you look only at the advantage, and think over all the ways in which it may be serviceable to your pleasure or ambition, so long the temptation may be strong; but set it at a little distance from you, and the case will be altered. Suppose the thing done and the advantage gained ; and then put yourself into a posture of looking back on the whole transaction, and see what comfort will arise from the reflexion : can you rejoice in the sight of woods and parks, if every sight of them must call to your mind an innocent man whom you ruined in order to obtain them? Such a thought must ever be attended with a secret abhorrence of ourselves; and how happy the man is who lives under a continual displeasure with himself, let any one judge.
This secret displeasure, which wicked men conceive against themselves, is inconsistent with any real enjoyment: so that sin lays the foundation of misery, and lays it so close to us that we can never remove it. Add to this, that vice renders men odious and contemptible, not only to themselves, but to all the world besides. There is so much sense of virtue left, and will be as long as men continue to be reasonable creatures, that, whether we like it for ourselves or no, we must needs like it for all others : and therefore a vicious nian will always be a contemptible man ; a circumstance that will always make him an unhappy man; for it is impossible for a man to bear contempt easily, when he knows that he deserves it. So that consider the wicked man as he stands with regard to himself and his own judgment, and as he stands with regard to the world and the common opinion of mankind, and in both views he seems given up to misery, and to be the object of his own and the common hatred.
But there is still another scene to be opened, which will present us with a larger prospect, and show us far greater miseries in reserve for the wicked. Hitherto we have considered his case with respect only to this world and the natural effects of his vice; but ask him, and he will tell you that this is but an imperfect description of his condition; that he has other fears about him, and such forebodings of future misery as are sufficient to poison all the pleasures of life, were they free from all other corruption. He sees that in this life all things come to an end, that the wicked and the righteous equally go down to the
grave; but what new distinctions may arise hereafter, answerable to the natural hopes and fears of the mind, he hates to remember, and yet has it not in his power to forget. These thoughts are his perpetual plague: no sooner is a passion satisfied, and the pleasure over, but it appears again in a ghastly form, and speaks to him in the language of Israel's King, “Know, that for all these things God will call thee into judgment.'
Say, however, and it is all that the wicked have to say, that such imaginations may be delusive, and such fears may be vain; but yet, weak as you suppose these fears to be, we must be much weaker than we are, before we can get rid of them; that is, we must lose our reason and understanding, before we can forget that there is a God who will judge the world in righteousness. These are natural thoughts, the plain result of that reason which is born with us; and be they true or be they false, they have a real effect on our present happiness; and if they are true, as I trust we shall all one day be convinced that they are, they will add eternity to the misery of the wicked.
We meet sometimes with such hardened sinners as are proof for many years against all considerations of this sort ; but their hardness is no security to them against the misery of these natural reflexions : vice will soon impair their strength and bring down the pride of their hearts; at least time will bring them within sight of the grave; and when weakness and infirmities lay hold on them, or death draws near to execute his commission, they awake as one out of a dream, and their long silenced fears begin to speak with double terror. And what a condition is a man in, when there is nothing past that he can reflect on without self-condemnation, nothing to come that he can contemplate without horror and distraction of mind ? Inquire of him in this condition, what profit there is in the pleasures of vice? Ask him, whether the fears of futurity are all idle dreams? And as you like his answer, follow his example.
It is a vain attempt to describe the misery of a sinner, who lies expiring with all his senses about him : the imagination cannot furnish ideas strong enough to paint out this scene of woe; and the experience of it may we never know !
There is in all men a' natural aversion to death : the best are not free from it: but this is an evil that has its remedy. Thought and reflexion will furnish us with many arguments to balance against this fear: a trust in God, and a comfortable expectation of a happy futurity, will enable us to perform the last act with applause, and to give up ourselves with courage and with joy into the hands of our Redeemer. By these supports the righteous man, after a life of solid comfort, may find comfort too in his death, and wait with patience and tranquillity for that summons which he trusts and believes will call him to perpetual joys.
Could we but rightly balance this difference between the wicked and the righteous in their latest hours, it would sufficiently determine which has made the happier choice : but take the whole together ; consider the wicked man in his life and in his death, how he lives despised by himself, and contemned by the world, without thinking of God, or thinking of him with dread, and at last expires under the utmost torments and agonies of mind, and we shall feel great reason to join in the petition of the text, · Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE LVIII.
PSALM CXIX.-VERSE 165.
In the exposition and self-application of this and such like texts, men are apt to commit two great mistakes; which, though very different in kind, are in their consequences equally fatal and pernicious. On the one hand they think that they cannot place too great a reliance on the promise of the text; easily persuaded that the general name of peace comprehends whatever the world calls good : and because that on which they fix their most sanguine affections, is what the world places in competence and health, they fondly conclude that the promise of peace infers the promise of these good things, which they esteem the genuine and necessary effects of peace. On the other hand, to secure their title to these things, they consider the condition to which they are annexed in quite a different view; employing all their force to limit and expound away the rigor of this article, and to show how easily, and on how small a portion of righteousness and obedience a man may be included among those denoted by the text. There they make all reasonable allowances to themselves through the great perfection of the law, which renders it hard to practise; through their own weakness so liable to offend, and through the mercy of God, which will incline him to accept the will for the deed. These deductions being made in the proportion which best suits their own will and condition, they easily find themselves within the articles of the text, and therefore expect the annexed promises, to which they think they have so good a claim. But as error naturally produces error and falsehood, so these mistakes