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Asp. Scarce any thing displays in a more glaring light the extreme depravity of man, than his strong propensity to pride; notwithstanding so much vileness, and so many deformities. Should the noisome leper admire the beauty of his complexion, or the impotent paralytic glory in the strength of his sinews; would they not be mistaken, even to a degree of sottishness and frenzy 2 Yet, for man, fallen man, who has lost his original righteousness, which was the true ornament of his nature; who is become subject to base and sordid lusts, or as the apostle speaks, “is earthly and sensual;’ for him to be proud, is still more absurdly wicked. And since this is the case, I cannot acquit him from the last and heaviest article of the sacred writer’s charge; I have a fresh and more convincing proof, that we do him no wrong, when we call his nature, his disposition, his wisdom—devilish.* w Ther. Why do you reckon pride a universally prevailing corruption ? I see no ground for such a dis. honourable suspicion. I hope, I myself am an instance to the contrary; to unguarded sallies of passion, to several other faults, I confess myself subject, but cannot think that I am proud. Asp. Ah! Theron, if you were not proud, you would not be passionate. Unreasonable anger always proceeds from an overweening opinion of our own worth. One who, besides his acquired knowledge of human nature, had the supernatural gift of discerning spirits, is observed to join humility and meekness. Intimating, that they are amiable twins, and where one exists, the other cannot be absent. Always consistent with himself, he links together the opposite vices, ‘heady and high-minded,’t not obscurely hinting, that those who are easily provoked, are certainly proud. Shall I add, without offence; if we fancy our minds to be clear from the weeds of vanity, and our thoughts free from the workings of self-admiration, it is a most pregmant symptom, that we are overrun with the former, abandoned to the latter, and blinded by both 2 Pride was the first sin that found entrance into our nature; and it is, perhaps, the last that will be expelled.
What are all our afflictions, but a remedy provided for this inveterate disease, intended to “hide pride * from man?' What is the institution of the gospel, but a battery erected against this strong hold of Satan, ordained to ‘cast down every high imagination ?’ + Though that remedy is often applied, though this battery is continually playing; yet the peccant humour is not entirely purged off, nor the elatement of spirit totally subdued, till mortality is swallowed up of life. * Pride is the sin which most easily besets us; “Who can say, I have made my heart clean’t from iniquity ? It defiles our duties, and intermingles itself with our very virtue; it starts up I know not how, in our most solemn hours, and our most sacred employs. The good Hezekiah, whose prayers were more powerful than all the forces of Sennacherib, was not proof against the wiles of this subtle sorceress. Even the great apostle, who had been caught up into the third heavens, was in danger of being puffed up with pride; in such great danger, that it was necessary to put a lancet into the gathering tumour, or, as he himself expresses it, “to fix a thorn in his flesh," and permit the messenger of Satan to buffet him."
How pathetically is this corruption lamented, and how truly described, by “a sweet singer of our Israel !”
But pride, that busy sin,
- T; glories I abate,
The very songs I frame,
And steal the honours of thy name,
• To build their own applause."
Ther. Now, I presume, you have given the last touches to your distorted portrait. Asp. There are other disagreeable and shocking features; but those I shall cast into shades or hide under a veil. One particular you must allow me to add, which, like a sullen air in the countenance, throws aggravated horror over the whole. I mean an inclination to be fond of our slavery. In other instances, “the captive exile hasteth to be loosed.” But here we prefer bondage to freedomi, and are loth to leave our prison. Of this our backwardness to self-examination, is both a consequence and a proof. Self-examination, under the agency of the spirit, would open a window in our dungeon; would shew us our wretched condition, and teach us to sigh for deliverance. Why have we such a dislike of reproof? Because we hug our chains, and choose darkness rather than sight. Reproof is more grating than the harshest discord, though it tends to dissolve the enchantment, and rescue us from the tyranny of sin; while flattery, which abets the delusion, and strengthens the spell, is music to our ears. Is not our reason, which should arraign and condemn every irregularity, forward to invent excuses, and to spare the favourite folly? Reason, which should unsheath the dagger, superinduces the mask; and instead of striking at the heart of our vices, screens them under the cover of some plausible names. A wicked habit is called a human infirmity; insmaring diversions pass for innocent amusements; a revengeful disposition is termed spirit, gallantry, and honour. Thus our reason (if, when so egregiously perverted, it deserves the name) is ingenious to obstruct our recovery, and rivets on the shackles, which our passions have formed.” This the eternal wisdom foresaw, and therefore uttered that tender expostulation; ‘How long ye simple ones will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge o' Even the
* Job. xxxiii. 17. t 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. -- * 1 Prov. xx. 9. 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. | 2 Cor. xii. 7. - Watts's Hor. Lyr.
* Isaiah li. 14. + Perhaps this is what our Lord means, when developing the human heart and discovering its latent enormities, he closes the dark account with a ppoovvn, foolishness; implying that stupidity which has no sense of its misery, that perverseness which has no inclination for a recovery; both which render all the other evils far more inveterate. Märk vii. 22.
inestimable precious knowledge of an all-atoning and completely justifying Saviour; who preaches, who has purchased, and who works deliverance—preaches in his word, has purchased by his blood, and works by his spirit, deliverance for the captives—the wretched captives of ignorance, sin and death.
This I take to be the most flagrant and deplorable effect of human depravity, our aversion to the doctrine, the privileges, the grace of the gospel. Beware, dear Theron, lest you prove my point by—shall I speak it Would you suspect it?—your own practice. Zealous as I am for my tenets, I should be sorry, extremely sorry, to have such a demonstration of their truth.
Ther. You are highly obliging, Aspasio, to single me out for your evidence; yet why should the honour be appropriated to myself? It belongs upon the foot of the preceding calculation, not to your friend only, but to the whole species. If you were aiming at none but the licentious and abandoned, you would have none to oppose you but persons of that character. Your arrows of satire, would then be rightly levelled, and might be serviceable to mankind. Whereas, to put all in the black list, to mark all with the villain’s brand, this can never be Christian charity; this is unsufferable censoriousness."
Asp. Let me beseech you, Theron, not to misapprehend my design; I speak not as a malevolent satirist, but would imitate the faithful physician. I am opening the sore, that it may admit the healing balm : and should 1 perform the operation with an envenomed instrument 2 My soul abhors the thought. I must entreat you likewise to remember the distinction between a state of mature, and a state of grace. We are all naturally evil; such we should for ever continue, did not a supernatural power intervene, making some to differ. both from their original selves, and from the generality of their neighbours. Are they refined in their temper, and reformed in their life I grant it; but then it is the influence of the sanctifying spirit, which purges away their dross, yet not without leaving some alloy.
Ther. Here, Aspasio, you certainly strain the bow
till it breaks, since Scripture itself celebrates some persons as absolutely perfect. What says Moses the inspired historian ** Noah was perfect in his generation.” What says the God of Moses, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived?"Job was a perfect man and an upright;'t consequently, their nature must be entirely cleansed from this hereditary defilement, and their character confutes your derogatory representations of mankind. . Asp. Those eminent saints were perfect; that is, they were sanctified throughout, sanctified in all their faculties. No one grace of religion was lacking, as in the new-born infant, there is a human creature complete, no constituent part of the vital frame is wanting: though each is tender, all are very feeble, and none arrived at the full size. They were upright. This word seems to be explanatory of the preceding, and signifies an unfeigned desire, joined with a hearty endeavour to obey the whole will of God, excluding not all defect, but all reigning hypocrisy and wilful remissness. The interpretation, thus limited, is of a piece with their conduct; if stretched to a higher pitch, it is evidently inconsistent with the marsative of their lives. * Pray what was your motive for decorating the sylvan retirement, which sheltered us yesterday, with the statue of Elijah - Ther. Because I thought his solitary life and gloomy temper suited that sequestered bower; because the memorable adventure there represented is, with me, a favourite portion of sacred history. . * Are we pleased with spirited and delicate raillery nothing exceeds his pungent sarcasm on the stupid and despicable dupes of idolatry. Every sentence is keen as a razor and pointed as a dagger, yet wears the appearance of the most courtly complaisance. We may truly say, in the beautiful language of the psalmist, “His words are smoother than oil, and yet be they very swords.'t