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On the SLAVERY of VICE.
2 PETER, 1. 19.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is be brought in bondage,
BONDAGE and subjection are disagreeable sounds to the ear, disagreeable ideas to the mind. The advo-¬ cates of vice, taking advantage of those natural impressions, have in every age employed them for discrediting religion. They represent it as the bondage and confinement of the free-born soul of man; as a state of perpetual constraint, formed
by a system of severe rules, which design- SERMON ing men have contrived to impose as fetters on the multitude. On the other hand, they paint a licentious course to themselves, and hold it out to the world, as the gay and pleasurable enjoyment of life; where, having surmounted the prejudices of education, and the timorous scruples of conscience, men can think and act at pleasure, and give full scope to every wish of the heart. But what if those pretended sons of freedom be themselves held in miserable subjection, and their boasts of liberty be no more than the swelling words of vanity? The apostle asserts in the Text that, while they promise liberty to others, they are the servants, or slaves of corruption, overcome and brought into bondage by it. This assertion of the Apostle I purpose to illustrate. I shall endeavour to make it appear, that no true liberty can arise from vice; that bad men undergo the worst servitude; and that no one is free, but he who is virtuous and good,
Ir is necessary to begin with removing false ideas of liberty, and shewing in what
SERMON it truly consists. We are not to imagine that to be free, imports our being set loose from restraint or rule of every kind. No man, in any condition of life, is at liberty to act always as he pleases, and to gratify every wish he forms. The nature of the human state necessarily imposes on all men various restraints. The laws of society allow no one to indulge himself in pursuits or pleasures that are injurious to his neighbour. Even our own nature limits our pleasures within certain bounds. All our desires cannot be gratified together. They frequently interfere, and require him who would indulge one favourite passion, to deny himself in another. Distinctions, therefore, must be made, preferences be given, and some general regulations of conduct be observed, by every one who consults his own welfare. If there be any regulation which ensures us of safety and happiness, to be disengaged from the observance of that regulation is, no article of liberty; at least of such liberty as a wise man would wish to enjoy. It is in effect to be turned loose to our own ruin. It is such liberty as a blind man enjoys,
of wandering at random, and striking SERMON into every devious path, without a guide to direct his steps, and save him from destruction.
That unbounded licentiousness, therefore, which sinners prefer to every regulation of conduct, is altogether different from true freedom. It is in moral behaviour the same as anarchy is in a state, where law and order are extinct. archy, surely, is no less incompatible with true liberty than absolute despotism; and of the two it is hard to say which is the least eligible, or the most miserable state. Liberty by no means supposes the absence of all government. It only supposes that government under which we are placed is wise; and that the restraints to which voluntarily submit ourselves have been contrived for the general interest.
To be free, therefore, imports, in general, our being placed in such circumstances, that, within the bounds of justice and good order, we can act according to our own deliberate choice, and take such measures for our conduct as we have reason to believe are conducive to our welfa.e;
SERMON without being obstructed either by exter, nal force, or by violent internal impulse. This is that happy and dignified state which every wise Man earnestly wishes to enjoy. The advantages which result from it are chiefly these three: freedom of choice; independence of mind; boldness and security. In opposition to these distinguishing characters of liberty, I now proceed to shew that, in the first place, vice deprives bad men of free choice in their actions; that, in the second place, it brings them under a slavish dependence on external circumstances; and that, in the third place, it reduces them to that abject, cowardly, and disquieted state which is essentially characteristic of bondage.
I. Vice is inconsistent with liberty, as it deprives sinners of the power of free choice, by bringing them under the dominion of passions and habits. Religion and virtue address themselves to reason. They call us to look round on every side; to think well of the consequences of our actions ; and, before we take any step of importance,