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carnal mind, which is death ; that sensual disposition, which is enmity to God. So terrible a source of evil may that part
of our nature become, through our neglect, which was given us by our Creator for purposes the most beneficial and wise.
Our animal nature is found to be a source of sin in another way. It is a powerful obstacle to good, as well as a direct source of transgression. The objects of sense are continually soliciting our attention, and laying hold on our affections. From our earliest infancy we are surrounded by, and as it were, immersed in them.
They present themselves spontaneously to our view, and with a degree of vividness and force, which gives an air of unreality to those things which are visible only to the eye of the mind.
Hence we are in such constant danger of having our thoughts centre on the objects of this world. The pure and intellectual truths of religion are perpetually liable to be shut out from the mind, by the overwhelming influence of the objects which the senses press upon our attention. The senses weigh down the spirit. It is hard for the mind to withdraw within itself, to shut out the objects of sense, to disengage itself from the body, and to hold a sacred and undisturbed communion with the unseen world. This is the reason why to think on God, and Christ, and the eternal world, is so difficult; and why it is so much harder still to fix our affections on them, to make them the supreme objects of regard. This is the
reason why we so naturally give our hearts to the fleeting objects of sense, and are so untouched by the resplendent glories, the boundless bliss, of heaven and futurity. It is in this view that the Apostle declares, “ I know that in me dwelleth no good thing." There is nothing in my animal nature,
, which is virtuous, or which can take the stamp of virtue. Nay more ; “ The flesh lusteth against
“ the Spirit.” “ There is a law in my members war
66 ring against the law of my mind, so that when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
It is not the purpose of this discourse to inquire into the powers of counteracting this indisposition to spiritual contemplation and spiritual affection. It would be easy to show that they exist, and are adequate, by God's grace, to their objects. But my wish is simply to unfold the sources of those sins which we see exist, and point out the nature and operation of those causes which lead us to evil. It is the dangers of our state which I would now point out, and it may be my grateful task hereafter to invite your thankfulness for those means of avoiding them with which we are supplied.
We see then, that from the body—from that part of our nature which we have in common with the lower animals—our liability to many of the most degrading sins proceeds. We trace to its influence, primarily and chiefly, the sins of gluttony, of intemperance in all its forms, of the grosser kinds of luxury, and in general of the long and dark list of sensual sins, together with very much of that indisposition and reluctance to the contemplation of what is spiritual and pure, of which we are all so conscious. Let us now proceed to consider those sources of sin, which are found in the mind-in that part of our nature, which distinguishes us from the lower creation.
Those active principles of our nature, which have their origin in the mind, have been variously named and classed. I am little studious of a philosophical accuracy, being desirous only to refer you in as plain a manner as I can, and only so far as the subject requires it, to the chief facts and laws of our moral constitution.
The arrangement, which seems best fitted for this end, is that which distributes these active principles into Desires and Affections, and gives to either, when they pass the limits of moderation, the name of Passions.
The principal desires which seem originally to belong to our nature, are the desire of knowledge, or the principle of curiosity—the desire of esteemthe desire of power, or the principle of ambitionthe desire of superiority, or the principle of emulation—the desire of society, or the social principlethe desire of well-being, or the selfish principle.
Before speaking of these desires as sources of sin, it is right to remind you of their importance to the perfection of our nature, as the means of being and doing good. We may learn their value by con
sidering what we should be without them. How innocent and laudable then, in itself, is the principle of curiosity; and what would man be, if no trace of it existed in his breast, and he were prompted to attain knowledge only by a perception of the actual wants and necessities of nature? What could supply, in infancy and youth particularly, the place of a principle, always strongest in the most capacious minds, which urges them on to perpetually new acquisitions ? Curiosity is to the mind, exactly what hunger is to the body, and how wholly inadequate would be the force of mere reason, if either of them depended for its supplies only on its slow and uncertain deductions ?
Nor could the desire of esteem be more safely spared. Nothing surely can be more innocent and useful in its nature, than a desire of the regard of our fellow men. We see the dawnings of this principle in the earliest infancy; and the child is sensibly mortified by any expression of neglect or contempt, even before it acquires the use of speech. Its influence is at all times more striking, perhaps, than that of any other active principle whatever. Even the love of life daily gives way to the desire of esteem; and of esteem too, which, as it is only to affect our memory, cannot be supposed to interest our self-love. Suppose now this powerful principle struck out of our nature. Suppose we had no desire of each other's esteem, and were profoundly indifferent to the opinions of all
mankind concerning us. Is it not evident, not only that an incentive which enters so largely into the motive for the most meritorious toils and noblest sacrifices, would be lost, but that there would go with it, one of the most powerful instruments of social order and gentleness, one of the most salutary restraints on the rash excesses of human depravity, and one of the most effectual safeguards even of the existence of society.
The desire of power or the principle of ambition, and the desire of superiority or the principle of emulation, will perhaps be thought to be of a more equivocal worth. In their nature, however, there is certainly nothing which is necessarily bad. The mere pleasure and exultation, which the consciousness of possessing power imparts, is innocent in itself, and may be highly beneficial. So too the mere desire of superiority is not illaudable in its nature; and it is surely possible to conceive, that emulation may take place between men, who are united by the most cordial friendship, without a single sentiment of ill-will disturbing their harmony. The value of both these principles as springs of human improvement will be confessed. We see at once, that if neither ambition nor emulation existed, the most beneficial energies of man would be struck with a fatal palsy, and the world would remain for ever at one dead and dreary level of hopeless mediocrity.
The inestimable value and perfect innocence of