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wings and is scorching her to death. Others, possessed of a refined imagination, disdain the gross indulgences of sensuality, yet are slaves to their own domineering passions; they are blown into the most intemperate rage, and pushed on to the most extravagant actions by every little ruffling accident: they see the meanness which such an ungovernable spirit argues; they feel the misery which such internal tempests create; nay, they resolve to suppress the impetuosity of their temper; yet are bore away by the torrent, and, upon the first provocation, are as furiously resentful as ever. Will you call these persons free, because their task-masters and their tyrants are lodged within?" because the fetters are forged, not for the meaner, but for the immortal part of their nature? Ther. Let us pass to the affections: these are to the soul what wings are to the eagle, or sails to the ship; these always stand ready to receive the gales of interest, and to spring at the signal of reason. + Asp. O, that they did But if the wings are clogged with mire, if the sails are disproportioned to the ballast, what advantage will accrue either to the animal or to the vessel ? the one will probably be overset in the voyage, the other will lie grovelling on the ground. Ther. Desire seems to be the first which ‘opens the mouth, or moves the wing, or peeps.’t Desire is active as a flame, and ever in pursuit of happiness. Asp. What if your flame, instead of shooting upwards, should point its inverted spires to the earth; would not this be strange, and a sign of great disorder: God is the centre of perfection and the source of felicity: all that is amiable in itself is comprehended in God; all that is beneficial to us proceeds from God. Do our desires uniformly tend to this superexcellent Being? Do our wishes terminate in the enjoyment of his ever-glorious majesty 2 Alas! we are naturally estranged from him: we covet no communion with him:
we are wedded to trifles, and dote upon vanity; but to # Inordinate desires And upstart passions catch the government From reason, and to servitude reduce Man, till then free.—Milton. t Isa, Xe 14,
God we say, it is evidently the language of our conduct,
rational and dissolute affection; harder than adamant,
colder than ice, to this heavenly flame.
Ther. If our love is blind, our fear has not her eyes. Fear is quick of apprehension, and, instead of being stupidly insensible, is ready to “rise up at the voice of a bird.’;
t # Job xxi. 14, o # The wings of a fly are ; : to have the quickest motion of any material substance which lives: and if they make, as naturalists imagine, some hundreds of vibrations in a second of time, I think there can be no competition in the case, † Collect for Easter Day. - § Eccles, xii. 4.
s Asp. The passion of fear is sufficiently active, but deplorably misapplied. We fear the reproach of men; but are we alarmed at the view of that everlasting shame which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall pour upon the ungodly We shudder at the drawn dagger, and stand appalled at the headlong precipice; but how often have ‘we defied the sword of Almighty vengeance, and sported upon the brink of irretrievable perdition!
Sin is the most pernicious of all evils. Sin violates the divine command, and provokes the divine Majesty : sin offers despite to the blessed Spirit, and tramples upon the blood of Jesus: for sin, the transgressor is banished from the blissful presence of God, and doomed to dwell with inextinguishable burnings. Do we dread this grand destroyer of our happiness; dread it more than any calamities, more than all plagues? Take one of those fine may-dukes, which glow with so beautiful a scarlet on yonder espalier, offer it to the blackbird that serenades us from the neighbouring elm, the creature, though fond of the dainty, will fly from your hand as hastily as from a levelled fowling-piece; he suspects a design upon his liberty, and therefore will endure any extremity, will even starve to death, rather than taste the most tempting delicacy in such hazardous circumstances. Are we equally fearful of an infinitely greater danger ? Do we fly with equal solicitude” from the delusive but destructive wiles of sin 7 Alas! do not we too often swallow the bait, even when we plainly discover the fatal hook? Do we not snatch the forbidden fruit, though conscience remonstrates, though God prohibits, though death eternal threatens 2
Ther. Conscience, then, according to your own
account, has escaped the general shipwreck. Conscience is God’s vicegerent in the soul, and executes her office faithfully. Even the Gentiles “shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.'t
Asp. If there be any remains of the divine image, perhaps they are to be found in the conscience; but even this is not exempt from the common ruin. Consider its light: it is like a dim taper feebly glimmering, and serving only to make the darkness visible; or if it discovers any thing, it is an obscure something, we know not what; which, instead of informing, tantalizes . us; and instead of guiding,bewilders us: as false and delusory lights on the shore put a cheat upon the mariner, and lead him on to ruin.” Consider its operations: it is either dumb or dead, or both: dumb, or else how vehe. unently would it upbraid us for our shocking ingratitude to the supreme omnipotent Benefactor? How loudly would it inveigh against our stupid neglect of spiritual interest and eternal ages? Dead, otherwise how keenly would it smart when gashed with wounds—numerous, as our repeated violations of the divine law—deep, as the horrid aggravations of our various iniquities. Ther. Do you call this an answer to my objection, Aspasio 2 If it be an answer, it resembles, in point of satisfaetory evidence, the light which you ascribe unto the conscience. Asp. The Gentiles, you allege, shew the work, but not the love of the law, written on their hearts. Some leading notices of right and wrong they have : some speculative strictures of good and evil; but without a real abhorrence of the one, or a cordial delight in the other. Which, far from ennobling their nature, far from vindicating their practice, argues the exceeding depravity of the former, and renders the latter absolutely without excuse. No ; you say, conscience excuses the heathens. Rather, their conscience bears witness to the equity of
puerałv, the meanwhile, but alternately or interchangeably accusing or excusing, sometimes one, sometimes the other, in contoo to the different circumstances of their temper and behaour, * This seems to have been the case with the bulk of the heathen world. Conscience arraigned and found them guilty. This put them upon Pool. abominable, sometimes their inhuman idolatries; nay, this induced them to give the most scandalous and impious misrepresentations of the Deity. That they might sheath the sting of conscience, and find some salvo for their own iniquities, they made even the objects of their worship the patrons and the precedents of their favourite vices.
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the law, while their thoughts make some weak apology* for the tenor of their conduct. This is far from acquitting, far from justifying them. Besides, these weak attempts to excuse are always founded on ignorance. Did they know themselves, their duty, or their God, conscience would, without the least hesitation, bring in her verdict, guilty.—The apostle assures us, that, till faith, which is a divine principle, takes place in our breasts, both the mind and conscience are defiled.t Here, and elsewhere, very plainly intimating, that the conscience is evil, and ever will be evil, till it is sprinkled with the blood of Christ.f It accuses some, I acknowledge; and it ought to accuse, yea, to condemn all. But even here it evidences itself to be corrupt. For, its accusations are sometimes erroneous, and no better than false witness; sometimes partial, and suborned by appetite; and very, very often ineffectual. Nay, when they do take effect, they produce no fruit that is truly good. They work not a genuine humiliation, or an unfeigned repentance; but either a slavish dread of God, as a severe judge ; or hatred of him, as an inexorable enemy. Ther. Hatred of God–Astonishing impiety Is it possible for the human heart to admit such enormous, almost incredible wickedness? Asp. You may well be astonished, Theron; and God
, * The word is aroMo'yovuevov, not erupuapropovvrov, not 5ukawa'avtovo - t Tit. i. 15. f Heb. x. 22. $ Erroneous—What else was that grand article in the accusations of conscience, mentioned, with such particular distinction, by Virgil; Phlegyasque miserrimus omnes Admonet, et magnâ testatur Voce per Umbras, Discite Justitiam moniti, et non temnere Divos.
For men to despise such dunghill, worse than dunghill deities, had been their virtue if done, and was their duty to do. "What else was that yoice of conscience, mentioned by our Lord, John xvi. 2 or that confessed by the o: Acts xxvi. 9. | Partial–Otherwise, how could the most celebrated among the ancient heroes, applaud and practise, that execrable unna: tural crime, self-murder? How could their first-rate historians extol and almost consecrate, that diabolical principle of action, pride?, And how could, their ablest teachers, of morality, not only tolerate, but establish the error, by neglecting to find so much as a name for that amiable virtue, humility?