תמונות בעמוד

image and likeness of God; divesting him of sense and reason, and every thing else that was to distinguish him from the beasts of the field, and leaving him even in a worse condition than they, a mere helpless and useless carcass. What a life does hat man lead, who wastes half his time in thinking only how he may be without thought the rest of the day! whose short mornings are spent in contriving the excesses of the night, and his waking hours employed in preparing himself for a new lethargy and the sleep of intemperance !

Should you therefore only propose to share these enjoyments with the libertines, and to keep a strict hand on yourself as to all other kinds and degrees of wickedness; yet even this is destructive of the hopes of religion. If you bring but a taste and relish with you for these pleasures, use and custom and example will soon make you a proficient: and you will wonder perhaps, when it is too late, to find yourself lost in such excesses as you never once thought of looking into. Your cheerful nights, and the heavy mornings which follow them, will indispose you for thought and reflexion; and the sense of religion, which lives and is nourished only by the exercise of thought and reason, will gradually decay: the comforts of an innocent mind which used to warm your soul with delight, and make it spring forth with joy into the contemplations of God and of futurity, will all forsake and leave you ; and in the room of them will succeed misgiving fears and doubts, full of mistrust, evil suggestions, and jealous apprehensions of God and of yourself; till at last you are forced to fly for refuge to those repeated acts of intemperance, which at first you only tasted as transient diversions. And when once this comes to be the case, that

you are afraid of yourself and your own thoughts, and forced to fly from the presence of your own mind, nothing can save you but the more than ordinary grace of God, which whether you will deserve or no, you yourself shall judge.

But the mercies of God are without measure, and like the sun, ‘rise on the evil and the good, on the just and the unjust :' perhaps then he will look down on you, and awaken you once more to see your danger and the evil of your ways. This is the best thing which can befal you:

but could


be sure of this, there is no encouragement in it to enter into the societies of wicked and profligate men : for, alas! you little think what misery, even on this supposition, you are preparing for yourself: for when you are immersed in sensuality, the gentle and the kind calls of the Spirit will not awaken you; rougher methods are grown necessary, because your sensé of feeling is too far gone to be affected with soft ones: fire and sharp knives can only reach the feeling of a man grown stupid in a lethargy or an apoplectic fit; and therefore they only must be applied. In spiritual distempers the same method is used by the wisdom of God : how was David called back to himself? By grievous afflictions and heavy judgments;. by uncommon misfortunes, which only could raise him to see his wretched state: and is it worth our while, for any pleasures of sin, to make it necessary for God to send misery and affliction to dwell with us; to bring ourselves into so desperate a condition, as to want so desperate a remedy?

And yet the external evils and afflictions, which by these means we shall call down on ourselves, will be but one part, and a light part of our misery : for when we come with eyes open to see the danger of our condition, to behold hell gaping wide to receive us, and that there is nothing to keep us from present ruin but the slender thread of life on which we hang, what fears, what torment, nay, what despair will possess our minds ! When we look back on the course we have run, and see with unprejudiced eyes the wickedness we have committed; when we number the nights and days spent in the service of sin, the injuries done to men, and the indignities offered to God; where shall we begin to repent, or with what courage shall we set about a work which seems too large to be compassed in the little time we have left ourselves to work in? And when we do begin, how unpleasant must the work be to us! with what confusion shall we lift up to heaven our offending hands and eyes ! with what tremblings of heart implore the mercy we have long despised, and petition for that grace which often perhaps we have ridiculed and set up to be a sport for fools ! Believe me, there is great difference in the religious work of an innocent, virtuous man, and of a returning sinner: and you

cannot make a worse bargain for yourself than to sin on the prospect of repentance: no pleasures can recompense you for the change

you make. To approach the throne of God with filial contidence and joy, and to appear before it with the fear of selfcondemned criminals, are very different states.

None but those who have felt the sinner's pains, the remorse and anguish of mind which attend him in every step, can truly judge of this matter : and from such experience God defend us all !

On the whole then, since the danger of associating with wicked men is so evidently great; since we hazard nothing less by it than ourselves, our immortal souls, and all our hopes of future glory; and since, though we should recover from their snare, the consequences as to this world abound with certain , pain and misery, and as to the next but with uncertain hopes; let us with holy David set ourselves to shun this danger, and with him resolve to be companions of them who fear the Lord and keep his precepts.'




The motives to obedience in all religions are thus far the same, that they depend on the belief of another invisible world, and the different state of men in it: for though it has been urged, with some show of reason, that virtue is its own reward, and that man's chief happiness would consist in the practice of it, independent of any other rewards, yet this, even if true, iş far too narrow a foundation to build religion on; as it would only influence men of abstracted thought and reason. The generality of mankind live by sense, and take their measures of happiness, not from the remote conclusions of reason, but from their present feeling, and from the impressions which they receive from their daily intercourse with men and things; and the rewards and punishments of religion are calculated to this sense and feeling, excepting only that they are distant, and incapable of being made the present objects of sense; and therefore they operate so weakly on the minds and affections of men. Herein lies the advantage of the things of this world, that the man of thought and reflexion cannot but see them, while the man of no thought sees nothing else: hence the distinction made by the Apostle in the text. In this lies all the force and strength of worldly temptations and pleasures; for were the enjoyments of this world and those of the next equally remote, there could be no competition between them. This most men would find to be true, would they but observe a little what passes in them

selves and others : this point enlarged on. If it be true now, that it is wise to prefer the pleasures of life to the hopes of futurity, it will be true fifty years hence, that a man acted wisely by so doing; for truth is always the same; and yet if he lives till then, it is great odds but that he judges otherwise ; as we find men do every day : this point enlarged on. Hence arises the difference, that in one case reason is excluded by sense and the prevailing power of present objects; in the other it is free, and judges from the truth and nature of things. Throw out sense and appetite, and the question will be reduced to these two points : I. whether we can have sufficient evidence for the existence of the things not seen, as may make them capable of being brought into competition with the things that are seen, the existence of which is in this question out of doubt? II. whether the value of the things which are not seen be so great, that we ought in prudence to forego the enjoyment of the things which are present with us? There are several ways by which we satisfy ourselves of the existence of things without us : the chief of these is sense. This evidence extends to this world and the things of it; and though some have taken great pains to doubt the existence of these, yet it is a question whether any man did ever reach that perfection of scepticism. This evidence may be styled the strongest in one respect, as it most universally affects mankind, who more readily receive the reports of sense than the conclusions of reason. Not but that the evidence of reason is as strong for the existence of things not seen, as sense is for the things which are seen; as is manifest in the proof of a first cause : so likewise from the testimony of others we believe in the existence of things which they have seen, but we have not; this is the evidence of faith, and on it men act in their dearest concerns in this world : this point enlarged on. Hence it is no manner of proof that things do not exist because they are not seen, as they may admit of another proof: yet the wisdom of the voluptuous man is founded

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