Images de page


have been drawn by evil examples into base and unworthy deeds. If such be their influence, in any instance, upon those who have formed sentiments and habits of virtue, we may expect they will have a greater effect on those who are undetermined what course to pursue, who have had but little experience, and whose habits are not fixed. It is, therefore, of great importance, my young friends, that you should be apprized of your danger, and cautioned against that imitation of the wicked, which will destroy your best hopes, and give pain to the hearts of pious parents. But,

2. Not content with what they can effect by example, sinners use every art of persuasion in their power to draw others over to their party. They try arguments, plausible in appearance, to gain their point ; and, when neither persuasion, nor argument, avails according to their wishes, they affect to despise those with whom they are unsuccessful, but whose character they secretly revere. A specimen of their reasoning will be given. When they would encourage an unbounded indulgence of the passions and propensities of human nature, they allege, “ that the author of our being hath interwoven in our constitution those passions and


affections, appetites and desires, which religion and moral maxims require us to restrain ; and that it can never be the intention and will of so benevolent à creator, that his creatures should not gratify, but mortify their natural passions and desires. The supposition,” say they,“ is highly derogatory to the divine character. What, will you pretend to the least reverence and love for the Deity, when you maintain that he hath planted certain passions, affections, and desires in your nature, which give pain, unless they are gratified, and yet forbid their indulgence ? Absurd notion,” say they ;

" their design is by the gratification of them to increase our happiness. You ought, then, to express your gratitude to the Creator by acting in conformity to his wise and benevolent design, as it appears


make and constitution ; otherwise you manifest unreasonable suspicions of his wisdom and goodness.” Thus sinners, de voted to pleasure and criminal indulgence, silence their own conscience, and endeavour to entice others into the paths of vice. In favour of some species of iniquity they, by a strange abuse of it, allege scripture authority. By such methods they delude the simple, and ensnare the unwary. Their arguments for the unre


strained indulgence of our natural passions, appetites, and propensities, drawn from whatever source, and however plausible in appearance, are perfectly sophistical and futile. Their falsity scarcely needs to be suggested to persons of reflection and judgment ; nor does it come within my design, in a particular manner to expose them. But let it be remarked, that, admitting our happiness to have been the chief object of the Creator in the structure of our bodies and minds, and in all he hath done for us, it will not follow that it must consist in an unbounded indulgence and gratification of the animal passions and appetites. These, we allow, were designed to be means of preservation and pleasure ; but, to answer their design, they must be under due regulation. They are not the noblest part of the human constitution, never intended to be the supreme law and rule of action, but to be in strict subordination to the superiour powers of the mind, to the rational faculties of the soul. If not under the control of reason, but gain ascendency over the intellectual powers, mental enjoyment and satisfaction, in their nature infinitely superiour to the highest pleasures of sense, can never be realized. In proportion as passion, in opposition to reason,


influences and directs our choice and conduct, we become restless and miserable. Every argument, therefore, for the unrestrained indulgence of the passions, appetites, and propensities of our nature, strikes at the foundation of rational happiness, and of the dignity of man ; and may be concluded false and deceptive, though you should not be able, at first thought, to detect the fallacy. But,

3. Another method practised by sinners is, to dress vice in the most alluring colours, to represent it under a different character, give it a fascinating appearance, and exhibit all the evidence they can of their sincerity and satisfaction in their choice. Of religion and strict virtue they draw the most gloomy picture, and represent those who conscientiously adhere to the principles and rules they prescribe, as abject slaves, fit companions only for such as have no relish for the social enjoyments of life, or are so void of sensibility and taste, as to be incapable of

any other than a negative kind of happiness. When the sinner has finished his dreary portrait of virtue and religion, and represented their votaries as superstitious idolaters, paying adoration to a God that cannot save them from the distress of religious melancholy, and who has not.


the benevolence to free them from the pain of self-denial, or to reward them for it ; then he rears the stately image of his god pleasure, and decorates it with every ornament imagination can invent.

This,” says he, (and youth are apt to believe him)" is the only object worthy of your attention. This lays no painful restraint, is liberal to all, and impartial in the distribution of happiness.” The better to gain proselytes, the devotees to this god put on the air of satisfaction and self-approbation, as much as possible, that observers may entertain no suspicion of their disappointment. But, with all their art and contrivance to conceal their real state, they seldom appear, when attentively watched, to possess that calmness and serenity, which are the natural offspring of conscious integrity, faith, purity, and virtue. Their pleasures are rapturous, their joys transporting, their delight exquisite, and their happiness exalted ; and, if we may believe as they would have us, they know no alloy but what arises from the stupid. ity of others, who, as they pretend, are deprived by their scruples of conscience of all relish for true enjoyment. As a still greater

inducement to yield to their solicitations, they endeavour to

« PrécédentContinuer »