صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

pass one day without insulting the author of their life and motion. The grand design of all their actions is to break down every boundary, that either modesty, probity, or even a corrupt and irregular conscience hath set to licentiousness. They bitterly lament the paucity of the ways of violating their Creator's laws, and they employ all the power of their wit, the play of their fancy, and the fire of their youth, to supply the want. Like that impious king, of whom the scripture speaks, Dan. v. 2. they carouse with the sacred vessels, and them they profanely abuse in their festivity: them, did I say? The most solemn truths, and the most venerable mysteries of religion, they take in their polluted mouths, and display their infidelity and impurity. in ridiculing them. They hurry away a life which is become insipid to them, because they have exhausted all resources of blasphemy against God, and they hasten to hell to learn others of the infernal spirits, their patterns and their protectors.

Let us throw a veil, my brethren, over these abominations, and let us turn away our eyes from objects so shameful to human nature. But how comes it to pass, that rational creatures, having ideas of right and wrong, arrive at such a subversion of reason, and such a degree of corruption, as to be pleased with a course of life, which carries its pains and punishments with it?

Sometimes this phænomenon must be attributed to a vicious education. We seldom pay a sufficient regard to the influence that education hath over the whole life. We often entertain false, and oftner still, inadequate notions of what is called a good education. We have given, it is generally thought, a good education to a youth, when we have taught him an art, or trained him up in a science; when we have instructed him how to arrange a few dry words

in his head, or a few crude notions in his memory; and we are highly satisfied when we have intrusted the cultivation of his tender heart to a man of probity. We forget that the venom of sin impregnates the air he breathes, and communicates itself to him by all he sees, and by all he hears. If we would give young people a good education, we must forbid them all acquaintance with those who do not delight in decency and piety: we must never suffer them to hear debauchery and impiety spoken of without detestation: we must furnish them with precautions previous to their travels, in which, under pretence of acquainting themselves with the manners of foreigners, they too often adopt nothing but their vices: we must banish from our universities those shocking irregularities, and annihilate those dangerous privileges which make the means of education the very causes of corruption and ruin.

Sometimes these excesses are owing to the connivance, or the countenance of princes. We have never more reason to predict the destruction of a state than when the reins of government are committed to men of a certain character. It will require ages to heal the wounds of one impious reign. An irreligious reign emboldens vice, and multiplies infamous places for the commission of it. In an irreligious reign scandalous books are published, and it becomes fashionable to question whether there be a God in heaven, or any real difference between virtue and vice on earth. In the space of an irreligious reign offices are held by unworthy persons, who either abolish, or suffer to languish, the laws that policy had provided against impiety. Histories, more recent than those of Tiberius and Nero, would too fully exemplify our observations, were not the majesty of princes, in some sort, respectable, even after they are no more.

Sometimes these excesses, which offer violence to nature, are caused by a gratification of those which are agreeable to the corruption of nature. Ordinary sins become insipid by habit, and sinners are forced, having arrived at some periods of corruption, to endeavor to satisfy their execrable propensities by the commission of those crimes, which once made them shudder with horror.

To all these reasons add the judgment of divine Providence, for God giveth those up to uncleanness, Rom. i. 24. who have made no use of the means of instruction and piety, which he had afforded them.

I repeat my thanksgivings to God, the protector of these states, that among our youth, (though, alas! so far from that piety which persons, dedicated to God by baptism, ought to possess) we have none of this character. Indeed had we such a monster among us, we should neither oppose him by private advice nor by public preaching: but we should think that the arm of the secular magistrate was a likelier mean of repulsing him than the decision of a casuist. Let none be offended at this. Our ministry is a ministry of compassion, I grant; and we are sent by a master who willeth not the death of a sinner: but if we thought that compassion obliged us on any occasions to implore your clemency, my lords, for some malefactors, whom your wise laws, and the safety of society, condemn to die, we would rather intercede for assassins and highway robbers, yea, for those miserable wretches whose execrable avarice tempts them to import infected commodities, which expose our own and our children's lives to the plague; for these we would rather intercede, than for those whose dreadful examples are capable of infecting the minds of our children with infernal maxims, and of rendering these provinces like Sodom and Gommorrah, Admah and Zeboim,

first by involving them in the guilt, and then in the fiery punishment of those detestable cities.

Where the sword of the magistrate doth not punish, that of divine vengeance will: but as it would be difficult for imagination to conceive the greatness of the punishments that await such sinners, it is needless to adduce the reasons of them. Our first notions of God are vindictive to such, and as soon as we are convinced that there is a just God, the day appears in which, falling upon these unworthy men, he will address them in this thundering language: Depart; depart into the source of your pleasures; depart into everlasting fire with all your associates, Matt. xxv. 41. do for ever and ever what you have been doing in your life-time, having exhausted my patience, experience the power of my anger; and as you have had the dispositions of devils, suffer for ever the punishments prepared for the devil and his angels.

II. A man may be in the disposition, of which the wise man speaks in the text, through stupidity and indolence, and this second state confounds the man with the beast. There is nothing hyperbolical in this proposition. What makes the difference between a man and a beast? The distinguishing characters of each are these: the one is confined to a short duration, and to a narrow circle of present objects; the other hath received of his Creator the power of going beyond time, and of penetrating by his meditation into remote futurity, yea even into an endless eternity. The one is actuated only by sensual appetites; the other hath the faculty of rectifying his senses by the ideas of his mind. The one is carried away by the heat of his temperament; the other hath the power of cooling. temperament with reflection. The one knows no argument nor motive but sensation; the other hath

the power of making motives of sensation yield to the more noble and permanent motives of interest. To imitate the first kind of these creatures, is to live like a beast; to follow the second, is to live like

a man.

Let us apply this general truth to the particular subject in hand, and let us justify what we have advanced, that there is nothing hyperbolical in this proposition. If there be a subject that merits the attention of an intelligent soul, it is the long-suffering of God: and if there be a case, in which an intelligent creature ought to use the faculty that his Creator hath given him, of going beyond the circle of present objects, of rectifying the actions of his senses by the ideas of his mind, and of correcting his temperament by reflection, it is certainly the case of that sinner with whom God hath borne so long.

Miserable man! ought he to say to himself, I have committed, not only those sins which ordinarily belong to the frailty and depravity of mankind, but those also which are a shame to human nature, and which suppose that he who is guilty of them hath carried his corruption to the highest pitch! O miserable man! I have committed not only one of the sins which the scripture saith, deprive those who commit them of inheriting the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 10. but I have lived many years in the practice of such sins; in the impurity of effeminacy and adultery, in the possession of unjust gain, in the gloomy revolutions of implacable hatred! Miserable man! I have abused, not only the ordinary means of conversion, but also those extraordinary means, which God grants only to a few, and which he seems to have displayed on purpose to shew how far a God of love can carry his mercy! Miserable man! I was not only engaged as a

« السابقةمتابعة »