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What reason then is there to doubt that the same benevolence would always be visible, if our views were more extensive ? Is it for feeble and erring man to judge of the ways of Him, who is perfect in wisdom? Shall the dim eye of a creature so poor and weak be turned with reproach, or shall its feeble voice be raised in murmurs, against its Creator, because it is unable to comprehend what Omnipotence alone can fully embrace ? Shall an insect so small as to be scarcely visible in the vast Temple of Nature, presume to judge of the harmony of its proportions, and arraign the great Architect because it imagines it here discovers a blemish or there an irregularity ?-My friends, let us learn a lesson from the history of Job. Let us be reminded of our ignorance and insignificance, our feebleness and dependence, and we shall blush to remember our arrogance. We shall sink down in silence, humility and submission, at the footstool of his throne. The ways of God are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts.
There are many other respects in which we shall find the intelligent study of this book profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Let us then learn like the Psalmist, to meditate on the precepts
that have respect unto the ways of the Lord, to delight in his statutes, and not to forget his word; and with him to pray, that God would open our eyes, that we may see wondrous things out of his law.
SOURCES OF SIN.
1 CORINTHIANS, X. 12.
Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
. This precept of the Apostle evidently takes it for granted that there are constant, deep, and powerful tendencies to sin in the human constitution. It is addressed to us all, my friends. So far from considering any one as so safe, that watchfulness is no longer necessary, it is implied that he who thinks himself the least in danger is the most eminently in
Since then we are encompassed with temptations, and our frailty exposes us continually to their power, it is alike our duty and our wisdom to examine with care the nature and the sources of our danger. We should often look within and without us, and inquire where it is that seduction lurks in ambush for us, and where it is that the safeguards of our virtue are weak and unsound. “ Watch and pray," saith our Lord, “ lest ye enter into temptation. What I say unto you, I say unto all-watch.”
It is very important, however, that our conviction of the sins and dangers to which we are exposed should be something definite and distinct. It should be something much more than the vague and general impression with which some men content themselves that “ nobody is perfect,” “ the best men have their weak sides," “ every one has his fault.” Neither on the other hand is it enough that we are willing to talk gravely of “the depravity of the human heart,” « the vileness of our corrupt nature,” “its rottenness to the very core." Notwithstanding the lofty claims to humility, which are made by some of those who use this language, it is still very possible to deceive ourselves by the use of it. It is very possible, that all these phrases may be very regularly and constantly repeated, without any proper sense, any practical conviction, of the real propensities to sin, which exist in our nature. In truth, I believe that it not unfrequently happens with many who are most fond of speaking in general of the utter corruption of their nature, that they are not found to be more willing than others to be suspected of a tendency to any particular sin.
But on such a subject as this, the language of extenuation or exaggeration is equally misplaced. We ought all to wish to know the truth, the exact truth. It can be no man's real interest in this life
to deceive himself or others; and in a future one, how fatal will he find a voluntary and cherished delusion to have been! Let us then, my brethren, look honestly and faithfully into our own hearts. Let us study the true tendencies of our constitution. Let us seek to find in what our danger really consists.
You have often been invited in other discourses to consider the nature and dangers of particular sins. In the present discourse it is my wish to take a view of the principal sources of evil that are found in the human constitution. We
learn from it a salutary lesson of caution and humility. At the same time I shall consider it my duty to endeayour to show that the guilt of each of our sins is all our own; and that there is no part of our nature, as it proceeds originally from the hands of our Maker, which is unworthy of its divine Author. God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
The first source of sin to which our attention is naturally directed, is that which arises from the part of our nature which we share in common with other animals. We are prompted to transgression by our appetites. It is not that they are not useful, necessary, and perfectly innocent in their original purposes; but if we neglect or abuse them, a powerful tendency is produced in them to excess and disorder. In the lower creation the cravings of appetite are regulated by instinct, and the desire of
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gratification dies when the real wants of nature are satisfied. It is otherwise with man. trusted—and it is a noble charge-with the care of his own happiness, with the task of self-government. The precise limit of gratification, therefore, is not marked for him by instinct; it is left to be discovered, and to be fixed, by himself. Originally to find and to keep this limit is not difficult. Our nature, in this respect, as it comes from the hands of its Maker, is not found with any strong and invincible bias to transgression. Our appetites acquire their dangerous power only by neglect and voluntary and unnatural indulgence, and then indeed they become a prolific and fatal source of sin. There is a degree of pleasure annexed to the gratification of them—a pleasure bountifully given, and capable of being innocently used. But when this pleasure is pursued extravagantly, when it is made an end of our being, we suffer the penalty of violating the laws of virtue. Disorder is introduced into our system. A habit of yielding to their power converts them from the useful servants of man, into the lawless tyrants of his soul. A love of strong sensation becomes at last the primary pursuit, the ruling desire of our nature, and bears down all nobler, purer, and holier aspirings of the soul. Whether it displays itself in a life of disso lute luxury, of brutal intemperance, or degrading voluptuousness, it is fatal to all our best hopes of happiness, here and hereafter.
It produces that