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The very first offence committed by man after the creation of the world was, as we know to our cost, followed by immediate and exemplary punishment. The next great criminal, Cain, was rendered a fugitive and a vagabond upon earth, and held up as an object of execration and abhorrence to mankind. When the whole earth was sunk in wickedness, it was overwhelmed by a deluge. The abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah were avenged by fire from heaven. The tyrant Pharaoh and his host weré drowned in the Red Sea. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their rebellious companions, were buried alive in the bowels of the earth. It was for their portentous wickedness and savage practices that the Canaanite nations were exterminated by the Israelites; and it was for their idolatries, their licentiousness, and their rebellions against God, that the Israelites themselves were repeatedly driven into exile, reduced to slavery, and at length their city, their temple, and their whole civil polity utterly destroyed, and themselves scattered and dispersed over every part of the known world, and every where treated with derision and contempt. It will be said, Vol. I.
perhaps, perhaps, that these were the consequences of the peculiar theocratic form of their government, under which the rewards and the punishments were temporal and immediate, and that they are not to be expected in the present state of human affairs. Still however they are proofs, and tremendous proofs, that God is not an inattentive and unconcerned spectator of human wickedness. But let us come to our own times, and to the fates and fortunes of individuals under our own observation. Do we not continually see that they who ink dulge their passions without controll, and give an unbounded loose to every corrupt propensity of their hearts, are sooner or later the victims of their own intemperance and licentiousness? Do they not madly sacrifice to the love of pleasure, and frequently within a very short space of time, their health, their fortune, their characters, their peace of mind, and that too completely and effectually, and beyond all hopes of recovery? The instances of this. are many and dreadful, without taking into the account such flagrant crimes as deliver
dily executed against evil works? It may be alledged, that these are only the natural consequences of wrong conduct, and not the immediate judicial inflictions of heaven. But who is it that has made these evils the natural consequences of vice? who but the great author of nature? He hath purposely formed his world and his creature man in such a manner, that these penalties shall follow close upon wickedness, as a present mark of his abhorrence and detestation of it; and they fall on many offenders, both so speedily and so heavily, that till second thoughts correct the first impression, it seems almost an impeachment of his goodness that he inflicts them.,..
Still it must be confessed that wickedness is sometimes triumphant ; and so also does folly sometimes meet with success in the world; but it is true notwithstanding, that it labours Cunder great disadvantages, and immoral conduct under still greater. The natural tendency of sin is to misery. Accidents may now and then prevent this, but not generally; art and cunning may evade it, but not nearly so often. as men imagine. : 395, burl:; Z2 . ; But
- But supposing the guilty to escape for å time all sufferings, and in consequence of it, to. please themselves highly with the prudence of their choice; yet still punishment, though slow, may overtake them at last. The blindness of such men to consequences is quite astonishing. One man evades the penalties of human laws in a few instances, and therefore concludes he shall never be overtaken by them. Another preserves his reputation for a time, and thence imagines it to be perfectly secure. A third finds his health hold out a few years, and therefore hạs not the least suspicion that what he is always undermimng must fall at last. * Now each of these may, if he pleases, applaud his own wisdom; but every one else must see his extreme stupidity and folly. In fact, whoever commits sin has swallowed poison, which from that moment begins to òperate; at first perhaps by a pleasing intoxication, afterwards by slow and uncertain degrees, but still the disease is within, and is mortal; and since it may every instant break out with fatal violence, it is a melancholy thing to see
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the person infected filled with a mad joy, which must end in heaviness and death. ..Vice, especially of some sorts, affects to wear a smiling countenance, and the days that are spent in it pass along for a time pleasantly enough; but little do the poor wretches that are deluded by it reflect what bitterness they are treasuring up for the rest of life, and how soon they may come to taste it in such consequences, as even the completest reformation, and the strictest care afterwards, will very imperfectly either prevent or cure. - After all, however, it must be acknow, ledged, that there are numbers of worthless and profligate men, who go on for a considerable length of time, perhaps even to the end of their days, in a full tide of worldly prosperity, blessed with every thing that is thought most valuable in this life, wealth, power, rank, health, and strength, and enjoying all these advantages without interruption and alloy, “ coming in no misfortune like other folk, and not plagued or afflicted like other men.”
These, it must be confessed, are strong symptoms of happiness, if we are to judge from appearances only. But does not every one know that happiness depends infinitely 23