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the greatest tormentor of himself;-the perpetual disturbance of his own mind, being so immediate a chastisement, as to verify what the wise man says upon it,That, as the merciful man does good to his own soul, so, he that is cruel, troubleth his own flesh.
In all which cases, there is a punishment independent of these, and that is the punishment which a man's own mind takes upon itself, from the remorse of doing what is wrong.-Prima est hæc ultio, this is the first revenge, which (whatever other punishments he may escape) is sure to follow close upon his heels, and haunts him wheresoever he goes;-for, whenever a man commits a wilful bad action,-he drinks down poison, which, though it may work slowly, will work surely, and give him perpetual pains and heart-aches,---and, if no means be used to expel it, will destroy him at last. So that, notwithstanding that final sentence of GOD is not executed speedily, in exact weight and measure, there is, nevertheless, a sentence executed, which a man's own conscience pronounces against him ;—and every wicked man, I believe, feels as regular a process within his own breast, commenced against himself, and finds himself as much accused, and as evidently and impartially condemned for what he has done amiss, as if he had received sentence before the most awful tribunal;-which judgment of conscience, as it can be looked upon in no other light but as an anticipation of that righteous and unalterable sentence which will be pronounced hereafter, by that Being, to whom he is finally to give an account of his actions-I cannot conceive the state of his mind, under any character, than of that anxious doubtfulness described by the prophet, That the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and filth.
A second caution against this uniform ground of false hope, in sentence not being executed speedily, will arise from this consideration,That in our vain calculation of this distant point of retribution, we generally respite it to the day of judgment;—and as that may be a thousand, or ten thousand years off, it proportionably lessens the terror To rectify this mistake, we should first consider, that the distance of a thing, no way alters the nature of it.-2dly, That we are deceived in this distant prospect, not considering, that, however far off we may fix it in this belief, that, in fact, it is no farther off from every man, than the day of his own death.-And, how certain that day is, we need not, surely, be reminded :It is the certainty of the matter, and of an event which will as surely come to pass, as that the sun shall rise to-morrow morning,that should enter as much into our calculations, as if it was hanging over our heads-For though, in our fond imaginations, we dream of living many years upon the earth;-how unexpectedly are we summoned from it?. -How oft, in the strength of our age, in the midst of our projects, when we are promising ourselves the ease of many years? -How oft, at that very time, and in the height of this imagination, is the decree sealed, and the commandment gone forth to call us into another world?
This may suffice for the examination of this one great cause of the corruption of the world ;from whence I should proceed, as I purposed, to an inquiry after some other unhappy causes, which have a share in this evil.-But I have taken up so much more of your time in this, than 1 first intended, that I shall defer what I have to say to the next occasion, and put an end to this discourse, by an answer to a question often asked, relatively to this argument, in prejudice
of Christianity, which cannot be more seasonably answered, than in a discourse at this time;— and that is, Whether the christian religion has done the world any service, in reforming the lives and morals of mankind, which some, who pretend to have considered the present state of vice, seem to doubt of?This objection I, in some measure have anticipated in the beginning of this discourse ;-and what I have to add to that argument is this,-That it is impossible to decide the point, by evidence of facts, which, at so great a distance, cannot be brought together and compared, it must be decided by reason, and the probability of things;--upon which issue, one might appeal to the most professed deist, and trust him to determine,whether the lives of those who are set loose from all obligations but those of conveniency, can be compared with those who have been blessed with the extraordinary light of a religion?--and, whether so just and holy a religion as the christian, which sets restraints even upon our thoughts;-a religion, which gives us the most engaging ideas of the perfections of GOD, at the same time that it impresses the most awful ones of his majesty and power;-a being rich in mercies, but if they are abused, terrible in his judgments;-one constantly about our secret paths, about our beds ;—who spieth out all our ways,-noticeth all our actions ;-and is so pure in his nature that he will punish even the wicked imaginations of the heart, and has appointed a day wherein he will enter into this inquiry, and execute judgment according as we have deserved ?
If either the hopes or fears, the passions or reason, of men, are to be wrought upon at all, such principles must have an effect, though, I own, very far short of what a thinking man should expect from such motives.
No doubt there is great room for amendment in the christian world; and the professors of our holy religion, may, in general, be said to be a very corrupt and bad generation of men, considering what reasons and obligations they have to be better. Yet still I affirm, if those restraints were lessened, the world would be infinitely worse;— and therefore, we cannot sufficiently bless and adore the goodness of GOD, for those advantages brought by the coming of CHRIST;-which God grant that we may live to be more deserving of; that, in the last day, when he shall come again to judge the world, we may rise to life immortal.Amen.
Trust in GOD.
PSAL. xxxvii. 3.
Put thou thy trust in the LORD.
WHOEVER seriously reflects upon the state and condition of man, and looks upon that dark side of it, which represents his life as open to so many causes of trouble ;....when he sees how often he eats the bread of affliction, and that he is born to it as naturally as the sparks fly upwards;....that no rank or degrees of men are exempted from this law of our beings;....but that all, from the high cedar of Libanus to the humble shrub upon the wall, are shook in their turns by numberless calamities and distresses....When one sits down and looks upon this gloomy side of things, with all the sorrowful changes and chances which surround us;....at first sight, would not one wonder, how the spirit of a man could bear the infirmities of his nature, and what it is that supports him, as it does, under the many evil accidents which he meets with in his passage through the valley of tears? Without some certain aid within us to bear us up, so tender a frame as ours, would be but ill fitted to encounter what generally befals it in this rugged journey: And accordingly we find, that we are so curiously wrought by an all-wise hand, with a view to this, that, in the very composition and texture of our nature, there is a remedy and provision left against most of the evils we suffer; we being so ordered, that the principle of self-love, given us for preservation, comes in here to our aid, by opening a door of hope, and, in the worst emergencies, flattering us with a belief, that we shall extricate ourselves, and live to see better days.
This expectation, though in fact it no way al