« PrécédentContinuer »
sensibly, he is drawn off from the virtuous course, which it was his early resolution to pursue.
The youth, who has not wisdom to shun a vicious connexion, has seldom resolution enough to with. stand the temptations which attend it. Though he may carry a good resolution into bad company, he will hardly be able to bring it off entire and unbroken. The first step to security, is to retreat from the path of danger. They who deliberately enter upon it, whatever good resolutions they form, are usually beguiled along, until they have advanced so far, and find their way so much embarrassed, that they have but little heart to return. "Hear, O my son," says Solomon, "and receive my commandments, and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom, and led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; when thou runnest, thy feet shall not stumble. Enter not into the path of the wicked, go not in the way of evil men; avoid it,. pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
IV. We see the meanness of vice, and in what a despicable light it places the man who-yields to it. While Samson, with the character of the hero, preserved that of the Nazarite, and employed his great strength in vindicating the liberty of his coun. try, and chastising the insolence of her enemies, we view him with esteem and admiration. But when we see this mighty man sinking away into the softness of effeminacy, yielding himself a slave to lust and appetite, and putting that strength which was the gift of God, unto the hands of one, whose only aim was to betray it to the common enemy; when we see him shorn of his locks, and led off blind and impotent, what different sentiments we feel! If we behold him with pity, it is pity mixed with contempt.
Similar spectacles, however, are too often fo be seen. If the man of superiour powers, and á vir tuous education, yields himself a slave to passion and appetite; if by criminal indulgences of any kind, he debilitates his body and beclouds his intellect, destroys his health and wastes his substance, and, from the dignity of a man, sinks down to the meanness of an animal, he is like Samson shorn of his locks, while he slept in the arms of pleasure. If ever he awakes, he will feel with shame and regret the disgraceful change.
The youth, who aims at honour and reputation; must maintain his virtue. Let not mercy and truth; purity and sobriety, evér forsake thee; bind them about thy neck, write them on the table of thine heart, take them with thee in all thy walks, make them thy companions in all companies, and thy guards in all temptations; só shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and
V. We see how naturally sin brings trouble in this world, and what reason there is to believe it will bring misery in the next.
There was such a nátural connexion between Samson's iniquity, and the calamities which ensued, that he could not but ascribe them to himself. His unlawful commerce with a daughter of an idola trous people (for such, undoubtedly, was the person with whom he was now connected) drew him; as the Jewish historian supposes, into frequent vio lations of his vow of Nazariteship. Enticed and overcome by her deceitful arts and urgent solicitations, he disclosed the secret of his strength; and, ma profound sleep, the effect of previous excess, he lost the token of Nazaritism, with which his strength was connected. With his strength he lost his freedom and his eyes; and he, who lately was judge in Israel, is now a slave in a Philistine dungeon.
The man of strictest virtue, is, in this state, liable to adversity; nor can we, from the calamities which a man suffers, conclude him to be a transgressor. But when calamities, by direct and natural steps, follow after manifest iniquity, we must view the former as the proper fruit and punishment of the latter.
Though rewards and punishments are not exactly and constantly dispensed here, yet there are ma ny cases, in which they take place in a degree, to awaken men's attention to the different consequences of virtue and vice, and to convince them that righteousness tends to life, and that he who pursues évil, pursues it to his death.
When they see the connexion between sin and punishment here, they ought to extend their views to the world of retribution, where, on the children of disobedience, the wrath of God will come to the uttermost. He makes their sins to fall upon them in this world, to remind them, that these sins; indulged until death, will find them out in the next. If there is a natural connexion between vice and misery, visible in many instances now, it is presumption and madness for the sinner to flatter himself, that he can ever be secure from misery without renouncing his sins.
It often proves a mercy to mankind, that vice is productive of present misery, because thus its progress is retarded, and, in some instances, transgressors are thus reclaimed. This seems to have been the case with our fallen hero. While he indulged, with profound security, the luxuries of life, he forgot the vow which should have bound him to the strictest purity; and to what depth he might have fallen, if nothing had disturbed his guilty slumbers, we cannot tell. But awakened by the insulting alarm, The Philistines be upon thee; and, after a fruitless effort, finding himself in their power, and
his former strength departed; experiencing the sad change from a hero to a slave, and the sudden transition from a seat of judgment to a dungeon, he began, we may suppose, to reflect on the errours of his life, and especially on his late criminal conduct, which had produced so dismal a reverse; and in his darksome solitude, exercised that deep repentance, which entitled him to the divine favour, and to the return of the supernatural gift which had forsaken him.
Affliction is the common means of repentance. When transgressors are bound in fetters of iron, and holden in cords of affliction, God sheweth them their works, openeth their ears to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
It is happy for some to be denied the means, and cut off from the opportunities of former indulgences. Samson, in prison, had it no longer in his power to pursue a habit, which was dangerously gaining influence upon him. He here renewed his Nazariteship, which had been, for a time, interrupted; and he returned to the purity which that required. Though he could not offer sacrifice for the expiation of his guilt, as the law in this case enjoined, yet, no doubt, by repentance, prayer, and a fresh dedication of himself, he sought and obtained pardon of God; and therefore, as the token of his Nazariteship returned, the privilege annexed to it returned also. By sin we provoke God to withdraw his presence; by repentance we recover his favour. Reflecting therefore on the fatal effects of transgress. ion, let offenders dedicate themselves to God with deep repentance, and stronger resolutions of virtue and obedience. Thus God will have mercy on them, and abundantly pardon them.
GENESIS, xx. 10. 11.
And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? And Abraham said because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
ABRAHAM, having occasion to remove
from Mamre toward the southern part of the land of Canaan, to a place called Gerar, of which Abimelech was king, adopted, for the security of his life, the same expedient which he had once before used in Egypt. He desired his wife to disguise the relation between them, and to call him her brother, and he also agreed to call her his sister, lest some of the people, tempted by her beauty, should kill him for her sake.
From so good a man, and one who had so often experienced the divine protection, we should not have expected an artifice like this; especially as the result, on a former trial, had taught him how