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may justly demand; “What iniquity have my people found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity ?” I created you out of nothing, and endowed you with an immortal soul. As a father I have provided for you; as a nurse I have cherished you. I have consigned over to your possession the earth and the fulness thereof. All my creatures do you service, and even my angels minister unto your good.— Do you desire greater demonstrations of my love I have given what is dearer to me than all angels, than all worlds. I have given my Son from my bosom, to die in your stead. Would you have farther evidences of my tender, my distinguished regard? Behold ! I touch the mountains, and they smoke: I look upon the earth, and it trembles: I cast even the princes of heaven, when they break my law, into chains of darkness. But to you, O men, 1 condescend to act as a supplicant. Though highly injured, and horribly affronted, I beseech you, again and again I beseech you, to be reconciled. To hatef such a God, is indeed the most detestable impiety. Yet man, foolish man, practises this impiety, ... whenever, for the sake of a vile lust, an ignoble pleasure, or an unruly passion, he transgresses the command of his Creator. . Shall I exemplify the doctrine, in another of the affections 2 . Ther. In truth, Aspasio, I begin to be sick of the subject. If human nature is so ulcerated, the less you touch it the better.—However, let us not quite omit the irascible appetite. Asp. Of this we have already taken a side view ; if you choose to see it in fuller proportion, make your observation on Fervidus.-Fervidus comes home in a rage; his cheeks are pale, and his lips quiver with excess of passion. Though he can hardly speak, he vows revenge, and utters imprecations.—What is the
* * * # Jer. ii. 5. t Hatred of God is so shocking an expression, that one would
almost wish never to hear or read it. But it occurs in one un
erring book; is too often exemplified in common life; and is en
cause of all this wondrous ferment? A neighbour, it seems, has dropt some reflecting hint, or a servant has blundered in some trifling message. Such usage, Fervidus says, is intolerable; and such negligence unpardonable. This same Fervidus has offered numberless affronts to his Maker; he has most scandalously neglected the will of his Almighty Lord ; yet feels no indignation against himself. He is all fury when his own credit is touched; but when the interest of Christ is wounded, he can sit unconcerned, or pass it off with a laugh. Anger, I acknowledge, is sometimes becoming and useful. But is this its right temperature? this its proper application? Ther. This is the practice only of some few turbulent spirits. To saddle their qualities upon every person, is a procedure just as equitable, as the madman's" calculation was reasonable; who took an account of every ship which entered the harbour, and set it down for his own. Asp. The latter part of my charge, I fear, is applicable to more than a few. However, let us consider the most calm and sedate minds. How are they affected under injuries? Do they never aggravate failings into crimes 2 Do they find it easy to abstain from every emotion of ill-will? Easy to love their enemies, and do good to those who hate them? These godlike tempers, if our nature was not degenerated, would be the spontaneous produce of the soul. But now, alas ! they are not raised without much difficulty; seldom come to any considerable degree of eminence; never arrive at a state of true perfection. An undoubted proof, that they are exotics, not natives of the soil. Now we are speaking of plants, cast your eye upon the kitchen-garden. Many of those herbs will perfume the hard hand which crushes them; and embalm the rude foot which tramples on them. Such was the benign conduct of our Lord ; he always overcame evil with good. When his disciples disregarded him in his bitter agony, he made the kindest excuse for their ungrateful stupidity. When his enemies, with unparalleled barbarity, spilt his very blood, he pleaded their
* Thrasylus, an Athenian. t Matt. xxvi. 41.
ignorance as an extenuation of their guilt.* Is the same spirit in us which was also in our divine Master Then are our passions rightly poised, and duly tempered. But if resentment kindles, and animosity rankles in our hearts, this is an infallible sign that we swerve from our Saviour's pattern ; consequently, are fallen from our primitive rectitude. Ther. What say you of the fancy? This sure, if no other, retains the primitive rectitude. What pictures does she form, and what excursions does she make? She can dive to the bottom of the ocean ; can soar to the height of the stars; and walk upon the boundaries of creation. Asp. That the fancy is lively and excursive, I readily grant. It can out-travel the post, or out-fly the eagle. But if it travel only to pick shells; or fly abroad to bring home mischief; then, I apprehend, though you should admire the faculty, you will hardly be in rapture with its agency. This is the real truth : our fancy, till divine grace regulate and exalt its operations, is generally employed in picking painted shells, or culling venomous herbs; * weaving (as the prophet very elegantly, and no less exactly describes the case) the spider's web, or hatching cockatrice eggs;' busied in the most absurd impertinencies; or acting in speculation, the vilest iniquities. That which should be “a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed, for the Prince of Peace, is the thoroughfare of vanity. And even when we are renewed from above, O ! how necessary is it, to keep an incessant watch, and exercise a strict discipline over this volatile, variable, treacherous vagrant! The memory, as well as the fancy, is impaired; or, if not impaired, is debauched. Why else does it so firmly retain the impressions of an injury, but so easily let slip the remembrance of a benefit? Any idle fopperies which soothe our vanity, and increase our corruption, cleave to the thoughts, as the vexatious burr to our clothes; while the noble truths of the gospel, and the rich mercies of a gracious God, slide away from the mind, and leave no lasting trace behind them. This double perverseness is very emphatically, and too truly represented by Jeremiah; ‘Can a maid forget her orna. ments, or a bride her attire Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” If we hear a loose hint, or read an immodest expression, they are almost sure to fasten themselves on our memory. If shaken off, they follow us with a troublesome importunity; if excluded as unwelcome visitants, they force themselves, again and again, upon our imagination : they dog us to the closet, they haunt our most retired hours, and too often disturb our very devotions. Tell me now, can that faculty be upright and uncorrupted, which is a perforated sieve, to transmit the beneficial ; but a thirsty sponge, to imbibe the pernicious Pt Ther. Well, my friend, whatever guilt I or others have contracted, flattery, I dare be positive is none of yours. Human nature has received no heightening or adulatory touches from your pencil; you have portrayed her foolish, and beastly, and every thing bad but devilish. Asp. And this, even this abomination I must not secrete, I dare not except. Envy is a devilish disposition, it subsists no where, but in damned spirits and fallen souls; yet, infernal as it is, it has been found in persons of the most exalted character. The magnanimous Joshua felt its cancerous tooth;f the disciples of the blessed Jesus were soured with its malignant leaven. An apostle declares, that “the spirit which dwelleth in us lusteth to envy;"| is impetuously prone to that detestable temper. s Lying is confessedly a diabolical practice, yet how unaccountably forward are our children to utter falsehood: As soon as they are born they go astray, and as soon as they speak, they speak lies. I said unaccountably, but I recall the expression: the cause is evident. They have lost the image of the God of truth, and are
* Luke xxiii. 34. t Isa, lix. 5. t Cant. iv. 12.
* Jer. ii. 32.
+ This, I think, suggests an unanswerable confutation of that specious argument, o, used in behalf of some fashionable but dissoluté diversions. ' They are interspersed, say their admirers, with sentiments of virtue, and maxims of morality.’– Should we admit the truth of this plea, yet the depraved, disposition of mankind is pretty sure to drop the morality, and carry away the ribaldry.
: Numb. xi. 29. § Matt, xx. 24. | Jam. iv. v.
become like that apostate spirit, who “ is a liar, and the father of it.” What think you of malice, of hate, and revenge : Are they not each a species of murder, and the seed of the old serpent? Unless, therefore, we are entirely free from all these hellish emotions, we must, we must acknowledge, that the prince of this world t has his party within us. May the almighty hand of our God extirpate and subdue it, day by day ! You tell me, I am no flatterer. Should a person who professes himself the friend of his fellow creatures, soothe them into a false peace Should he bolster them up in a groundless conceit of their excellency, when they really are no better than “an unclean thing o' Shall the surgeon assure his patient, “All is well;' even when the mortification has taken place, and the gangrene is spreading? This were to refine the first out of all benevolence, and to flatter the last into his grave. A disputant of less complaisance than my Theron, would probably ask, with a contemptuous sneer, ‘have you then been drawing your own picture ?' To whom I would reply, with confusion and sorrow, “I have.” alleging this only, to moderate my confusion; that I am daily seeking, by prayer and watchfulness, more and more “to put off this old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.’t And to alleviate my sorrow, I am endeavouring continually to remember, that, however unworthy I am, however vile I may have been, my adored Redeemer’s righteousness is perfect; and in this righteousness every believer is to make his boast. - - * Ther. So then man is blind in his understanding; perverse in his will; disorderly in his affections; influenced by dispositions which are partly brutal, and partly diabolical. I have often heard you extol in terms of high admiration, the virtue of humility. You have lavished all the riches of eloquence, when haranguing on poverty of spirit. If such be the condition of mankind, they have infinite cause to be poor in spirit; they must, otherefore, have one excellency left, and according to your own account a very distinguishing one.
* John viii. 44. t John xiv. 30. t Eph. iv. 22.