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persuade you, that the course they recommend leads to the certain possession of riches. “Come with us,” say they, “and we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil.” These methods being tried, and proving ineffectual, sinners then, as we observe,
4. Affect to despise, and treat with ridicule, those who resist the temptation, and preserve their integrity. They charge them with cowardice, want of spirit and resolution to be happy ; with credulity and superstition ; with being restrained from true enjoyment by some imaginary prohibition of the Creator, or by some preacher whose living depends on his art in representing the innocent pleasures of life as destructive to the soul. This has proved a successful method. Ridicule and affected contempt have proved powerful weapons against the cause of religion and virtue. They have a very commanding influence upon the youthful mind and heart, unless early fixed in sentiments and habits of piety and goodness. Sinners understand the use and effect of these weapons, and often ply them with great dexterity. Though conscious of their own inferiority to the truly virtuous, they make these the subjects of ridicule, affect to despise them, to avoid their
society, and to treat them as a degraded order of human beings, who are unworthy to be companions of men of honour, whose generous souls have a true relish for manly pleasures ; by which they often intend criminal indulgences, dissipation, and dissoluteness of morals and
Against these and every other method of enticement to sin, you are exhorted and entreated, my young friends, to be on your guard. You are constantly exposed, and can never be too vigilant. “ Watch, and pray, lest you enter into temptation,” and fall by evil devices. May integrity ever guide and preserve you, the blessing of heaven rest upon you, and the power
of divine grace enable you to stand perfect and complete in the whole will of God.
PROVERBS i. 10.
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
In pursuing the subject we shall, in the next place,
Fourthly, Offer to your consideration a general rule of judging the character of those who
It is not uncommon for the impious and vile to exhibit an appearance of sanctity, and pretend to eminent degrees of piety and virtue. They dress themselves “ in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” By this artifice the
young, who are unable to penetrate the secret purposes of their hearts, and are unsuspicious of an evil design, are often deceived. By concealing their views, and professing love and zeal for religion and virtue, the wicked are often most successful in drawing others over to their party. If they can raise in the minds of those, with whom they are conversant, a belief that they are religious, they gain their confidence, and possess an influence over them. Under this character the virtuous pay them deference ; and what they justify and practise, is concluded to be innocent and commendable, without comparing it with any established principles of morality. Many are betrayed because they do not examine the real character of those who would entice them to particular practiees. Supposing it to be good, they conclude their conduct cannot be bad; whereas they ought to learn from the quality of the fruit what is the nature of the tree.
Though men may have the art and address to persuade us that they are good, we ought not to suffer them to determine what is right for us to do, without consulting our own conscience. This we are to respect and obey, as God's vicegerent in the human soul. No sentiment is to be entertained, or action performed, which, upon a fair examination, this does not approve.
If any urge you to that which, upon a clear and full statement of the case, your own conscience disallows, you have reason, to entertain suspi. cions of his goodness, however high he may have stood in your estimation.
It is indeed possible, that a person of a pure and honest mind may encourage that which you conceive to be wrong ; and therefore you ought not too hastily to conclude against any one who differs from you as to the fitness of some actions. But still your own conscience, not his, must be your guide. When he entices you to any thing notoriously and confessedly evil, his goodness, to say the least, must be very doubtful. By consulting your own conscience, you can determine for yourselves what is right, and what is wrong. When that forbids a compliance with any solicitation, instead of yielding to the judgment, or disposition, of another, and endeavouring to reconcile your mind to that which it
perceives to be wrong, you should presume that he is in an errour, or that his motives are not so pure as you may have conceived. You never can be justified in consenting to a thing you apprehend to be wrong, because you are enticed by those, of whom you have entertained a fa