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Serm. be considered that he is under a law of

III. self-approbation, which may be called the ne primary law of his nature, enforced with

this powerful sanction, that the highest enjoyment he is capable of dependeth upon obeying it, the most painful remorse followeth the violation of it, as every one's experience may convince him. To the ob, servance of this law, the liberty just now described is absolutely neceffary, for selfapprobation dependeth upon reflection, and the meaning of it is, the satisfaction in our own minds, which resulteth from a conscia qusness of having done what appeared to ourselves best after mature and impartial deliberation : and, as its being the law of human nature signifieth, that it is the law of God, the designing author of our constitution, in whose perfect wisdom, equity, and goodness, we are secure against his violating it by a contrary command, for we can never have reason to believe he requireth any thing inconsistent; so it is impossible any inferior being should have a right to discharge us of this obligation, nor consequently to deprive us of any freedom which is necessarily conpected with it. .

But we are imperfect moral agents, and pur liberty is capable of being abused, nay

impaired, and in a great measure loft. We SERM. have various motives to action, and expe- III. rience sheweth, that we do not always exert our reflecting powers as becometh us, in comparing and examining them, in order to act so as we may have the approbation of our minds. To set this matter in a clear light, it must be observed, that there are in our nature different tendencies and springs of action, but we are not irreGistibly determined to follow them. For a man to act upon every suggestion or motion of appetite or paffion, may be said to be following nature, so far as that appetite and passion is in his nature an inferior part of it; but to do this without enquiring, and being satisfied that it is right, or, all things considered, the best for him, is not to act according to the whole of his nature, nor indeed according to that which hath been observed to be its primary law. Perhaps, too, some may imagine that such a conduct is free, and that it is a high privilege of the will, to determine itself with a kind of supremacy independant of reason. It may be acknowledged this is freedom in one sense, that is, a man thus acting, is under no constraint : But surely we cannot suppose that the preroga

SERM, tive of acting without reafon is a privilege III. worthy of rational beings, or that the li

berty of acting in considerately can ever anfwer the ends of the human constitution, and that in exercising it the mind can attain a true felf-enjoyment. It followeth, that the great fundamental error: in practice, against the right use of liberty, is acting in deliberately, determining precipitantly upon every motive that occurreth without confideration, complying with the first fuga gestions or inclinations which happen to arise in the mind, without weighing their tendency, their consistency with the fuperior affections of our nature, and agreeableness to the judgment of conscience, the appro

bation of which is absolutely necessary to • preferve an inward solid peace. ; )

Such fatal temerity and weakness; multitudes of mankind are chargeable with, indeed every one in fome degree ; but they can never justify it to themselves. For 'nothing can appear plainer to creatures constituted as we are, than the reasonableness of reflection, in order to prevent errors; therefore our hearts reproach us for such inattention as betrayeth us into actions which upon a review appear to be wrong, and might have been prevented, if we had exerted the power we are conscious of in Serm. fufpending a determination, till the motives III. of it had been duly considered. But as sm God hath written the work of his law upon our hearts, in so plain and legible characters, that we cannot offend against the principal parts of our duty, without conscience's bearing witness against us; to comply with what the apostle James calleth the conceptions of luft, or the motions of appetite and passion, in defiance of its express and particular admonitions, is a more heinous, because it is a wilful transgression of the divine law and abuse of liberty, than any error arising from mere ignorance or inadvertency can be: And by such indulgencies frequently repeated, vicious habits are contracted, the lower appetites become impetuous, and passions, exorbitant. This is what experience teacheth all men who carefully reflect on themselves, and observe the vaft, difference which there is in the characters and dispositions of mankind. Can any one be ignorant that our tempers and prevailing inclinations are in a great measure formed by custom, that by an habitual course of action, a proneness to it, and facility in it are acquired ; that this becometh a principle vehemently urging to actions,

erted

Serm. which nature hath left us even indifferent to, III. but addeth great force to the instincts of na

ture ; that the tendency of it is to make us forgetful of, or insensible to, contrary motives; and that by this faculty of habits, which is an important part of our constitution, the human powers are carried to their highest improvement, and most compleat exercise; good men arrive at the perfection of virtue, and bad men at the consummation of wickedness. But what I principally observe to the present purpose is, that by bad habits, the rational liberty of man may be, and often is, greatly diminished, nay, almost wholly lost; the mind bebecometh impotent, the order of nature reversed, its harmony broken ; for the empire of reason and conscience, the only conservator of original freedom and inward tranquillity, is usurped by tyrants within, the vices of intemperance, avarice, ambition, cowardice, revenge, and others like them, enslaving the foul, degrading the man and rendering him unhappy, because they leave the higher powers which can never be totally extinguished, no share in the direction of his affairs, but instead of it only to make ineffectual remonstrances against his misconduct, which are extreamly pain

ful.

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