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of wicked and profligate men: for, alas! you little think what misery, even on this supposition, you are preparing for yourself: for when you are immersed in sensuality, the gentle and the kind calls of the Spirit will not awaken you; rougher methods are grown necessary, because your sense of feeling is too far gone to be affected with soft ones: fire and sharp knives can only reach the feeling of a man grown stupid in a lethargy or an apoplectic fit; and therefore they only must be applied. In spiritual distempers the same method is used by the wisdom of God: how was David called back to himself? By grievous afflictions and heavy judgments; by uncommon misfortunes, which only could raise him to see his wretched state and is it worth our while, for any pleasures of sin, to make it necessary for God to send misery and affliction to dwell with us; to bring ourselves into so desperate a condition, as to want so desperate a remedy?
And yet the external evils and afflictions, which by these means we shall call down on ourselves, will be but one part, and a light part of our misery: for when we come with eyes open to see the danger of our condition, to behold hell gaping wide to receive us, and that there is nothing to keep us from present ruin but the slender thread of life on which we hang, what fears, what torment, nay, what despair will possess our minds ! When we look back on the course we have run, and see with unprejudiced eyes the wickedness we have committed; when we number the nights and days spent in the service of sin, the injuries done to men, and the indignities offered to God; where shall we begin to repent, or with what courage shall we set about a work which seems too large to be compassed in the little time we have left ourselves to work in? And when we do begin, how unpleasant must the work be to us! with what confusion shall we lift up to heaven our offending hands and eyes! with what tremblings of heart implore the mercy we have long despised, and petition for that grace which often perhaps we have ridiculed and set up to be a sport for fools! Believe me, there is great difference in the religious work of an innocent, virtuous man, and of a returning sinner: and you cannot make a worse bargain for yourself than to sin on the prospect of repentance: no pleasures can recompense you for the change
you make. To approach the throne of God with filial confidence and joy, and to appear before it with the fear of selfcondemned criminals, are very different states. None but those who have felt the sinner's pains, the remorse and anguish of mind which attend him in every step, can truly judge of this matter and from such experience God defend us all!
On the whole then, since the danger of associating with wicked men is so evidently great; since we hazard nothing less by it than ourselves, our immortal souls, and all our hopes of future glory; and since, though we should recover from their snare, the consequences as to this world abound with certain pain and misery, and as to the next but with uncertain hopes; let us with holy David set ourselves to shun this danger, and with him resolve to be companions of them who fear the Lord and keep his precepts.'
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE LX.
II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 18.
THE motives to obedience in all religions are thus far the same, that they depend on the belief of another invisible world, and the different state of men in it for though it has been urged, with some show of reason, that virtue is its own reward, and that man's chief happiness would consist in the practice of it, independent of any other rewards, yet this, even if true, is far too narrow a foundation to build religion on; as it would only influence men of abstracted thought and reason. The generality of mankind live by sense, and take their measures of happiness, not from the remote conclusions of reason, but from their present feeling, and from the impressions which they receive from their daily intercourse with men and things; and the rewards and punishments of religion are calculated to this sense and feeling, excepting only that they are distant, and incapable of being made the present objects of sense; and therefore they operate so weakly on the minds and affections of men. Herein lies the advantage of the things of this world, that the man of thought and reflexion cannot but see them, while the man of no thought sees nothing else: hence the distinction made by the Apostle in the text. In this lies all the force and strength of worldly temptations and pleasures; for were the enjoyments of this world and those of the next equally remote, there could be no competition between them. This most men would find to be true, would they but observe a little what passes in them
selves and others: this point enlarged on. If it be true now, that it is wise to prefer the pleasures of life to the hopes of futurity, it will be true fifty years hence, that a man acted wisely by so doing; for truth is always the same; and yet if he lives till then, it is great odds but that he judges otherwise; as we find men do every day: this point enlarged on. Hence arises the difference, that in one case reason is excluded by sense and the prevailing power of present objects; in the other it is free, and judges from the truth and nature of things. Throw out sense and appetite, and the question will be reduced to these two points: I. whether we can have sufficient evidence for the existence of the things not seen, as may make them capable of being brought into competition with the things that are seen, the existence of which is in this question out of doubt? II. whether the value of the things which are not seen be so great, that we ought in prudence to forego the enjoyment of the things which are present with us? There are several ways by which we satisfy ourselves of the existence of things without us: the chief of these is sense. This evidence extends to this world and the things of it; and though some have taken great pains to doubt the existence of these, yet it is a question whether any man did ever reach that perfection of scepticism. This evidence may be styled the strongest in one respect, as it most universally affects mankind, who more readily receive the reports of than the conclusions of reason. Not but that the evidence of reason is as strong for the existence of things not seen, as sense is for the things which are seen; as is manifest in the proof of a first cause: so likewise from the testimony of others we believe in the existence of things which they have seen, but we have not; this is the evidence of faith, and on it men act in their dearest concerns in this world: this point enlarged on. Hence it is no manner of proof that things do not exist because they are not seen, as they may admit of another proof: yet the wisdom of the voluptuous man is founded
in this prejudice: he thinks it wisdom not to part with a certainty for an uncertainty: this point enlarged on, with respect to the things of this world, which he sees and feels, and to future things, which lie out of the way of his senses. Sense is the measure of his certainty, else why should he judge as he does? His senses only prove his present existence in this world ; not that he shall not live hereafter in another; and yet from the former he concludes in prejudice to the other world; which is very absurd, since this evidence affects not, one way or other, the belief of future rewards and glories: this point enlarged on. Hence therefore sense can judge only on one side; it can be no rule in this dispute; for a rule must be a common measure of the things to be estimated, and applicable to both. Let sense prove, as strongly as you will, the existence of this world, and the things of it, how can it affect the belief of another? That you live now proves not that we shall not live hereafter; therefore the evidence of sense for this world ought not to prejudice our belief of another. The advantage of this evidence of sense is great, because it is the first that men come to the use and application of; and thus they learn to trust to it in all cases. Men come later to the use of reason, for the evidence of which they have less occasion; and they use still less than they have occasion: being then not equally acquainted with the certainty of this evidence as with the demonstrations of sense, the deductions of reason satisfy them less than the reports of sense. Such is the true state of this question. Now if the evidence for unseen things be not of equal weight with the evidence of sense, the things which are not seen can never be made so clear as to compete with the things that are seen; though the means by which we arrive at the knowlege of the former may afford an evidence equal to the evidence of sense. Many things are known only from reason, and yet are as well received as any report of sense: this point enlarged.on, with respect to the productions and works of nature. Another evi