Imágenes de página


to compare the good with the evil that SERMON may ensue from it. He therefore, who follows their dictates, acts the part of a man who freely cousults, and chooses, for his own interest. But vice can make no pretensions of this kind. It awaits not the test of deliberate comparison and choice; but overpowers us at once by some striking impression of present advantage or enjoyment. It hurries us with the violence of passion; captivates us by the allurements of pleasure; or dazzles us by the glare of riches. The sinner yields to the impulse, merely because he cannot resist it. Reason remonstrates; conscience endeavours to check him; but all in vain. Having once allowed some strong passion to gain the ascendant, he has thrown himself into the middle of a torrent, against which he may some times faintly struggle, but the impetuosity of the stream bears him along. In this situation he is so far from being free, that he is not master of himself. He does not go, but is driven; tossed, agitated and impelled; passive, like a ship to the violence of the waves.

After passion has for a while exercised


SERMON its tyrannical sway, its vehemence may by degrees subside. But when, by long indulgence, it has established habits of gratification, the sinner's bondage becomes then more confirmed, and more miserable. For, during the heat of pursuit, he is little capable of reflection. But when his ardour is abated, and, nevertheless, a vicious habit rooted, he has full leisure to perceive the heavy yoke he has brought upon himself. How many slaves do we see in the world to intemperance, and all kinds of criminal pleasure, merely through the influence of customs, which they had allowed to become so inveterate that it was not in their power to alter them? Are they not often reduced to a condition so wretched, that when their licentious pleasures have become utterly insipid, they are still forced to continue them, solely because they cannot refrain; not because the indulgence gives them pleasure, but because abstinence would give them pain; and this too, even when they are obliged at last to condemn their habits of life, as injuring their fortune, impairing their constitution, or disgracing their charac

ter ?


ter? Vice is not of such a nature that we SERMON can say to it, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther. Having once entered into its territories, it is not in our power to make a retreat when we please. He that committeth sin, is the servant of sin. No man who has once yielded up the government of his mind, and given loose rein to his desires and passions, can tell how far these may carry him. He may be brought into such a desperate state, that nothing shall remain for him but to look back with regret upon the forsaken path of innocence and liberty; and, severely conscious of the thraldom he suffers, to groan under fetters which he despairs of throwing off. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard bis spots ? Then may ye also do good, who are accustomed to do evil *.

Vice confirms its dominion, and extends it still farther over the soul, by compelling the sinner to support one crime by means of another. Not only is he enslaved to those vices which take their rise from his own inclination, but they render

Jeremiah, xiii. 23.



SERMON others necessary, to which, against his inclination, he must submit; and thereby strengthen the commanding power of iniquity within him. The immoderate love of pleasure, for instance, leads him into expence beyond his fortune. In order to support that expence, he is obliged to have recourse to low and dishonourable methods of gain, which originally he despised. To cover these, he is forced upon arts of dissimulation and fraud. One instance of fraud obliges him to support it by another; till, in the end, there arises a character of complicated vice; of luxury shooting forth into baseness, dishonesty, injustice, and perhaps cruelty. It is thus that one favourite passion brings in a tribe of auxiliaries to complete the dominion of sin. Among all our corrupt passions there is a strong and intimate connection. When any one of them is adopted into our family, it never quits us until it has fathered upon us all its kindred.- -By such means as these, by the violence of passions, by the power of habits, and by the connection of one vice with another, sin establishes that servitude

over the will, which deprives bad men of SERMON all power of free choice in their actions.

II. THE slavery produced by vice appears in the dependence under which it brings the sinner to circumstances of external fortune. One of the favourite characters of liberty is, the independence it bestows. He who is truly a free man is above all servile compliances, and abject subjection. He is able to rest upon himself; and while he regards his superiours with proper deference, neither debases himself by cringing to them, nor is tempted to purchase their favour by dishonourable means. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature. His passions and habits render him an absolute dependant on the world, and the world's favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune, and the fickle humours of men. For it is by these he subsists, and among these his happiness is sought; according as his passions determine him to pursue pleasure, riches, or preferments. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things with





« AnteriorContinuar »