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and hourly crowns him with mercies and loving-kindness ! How should shame cover our guilty faces ! Surely if the royal prophet could say, he was as a beast before God; may we not well confess, that in point of gratitude, we are worse than the dullest, and most stupid part of the brute creation? For even the ox says the Lord, knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know me, my people doth not consider my daily favours. And if the very heathens affirmed, that *to call a man ungrateful to an human benefactor was to say of him all possible evil in one word ; how can we express the baseness and depravity of mankind, who are universally so ungrateful, to so bounteous a benefactor as God himself?
But, though we seem made of cold inattention, when the sight of divine mercies should kindle our heart into gratitude and praise ; we soon get out of this languid frame of mind : For, in the pursuit of sensual gratifications, we are all activity and warmth : we seem an ardent compound of life and fire.
What can be the reason of this amazing difference ?.... What but rebellious sense, and wanton appetite, raised at the sight or idea of some forbidden object! Thebait of pleasureappears, corrupt nature summonsall her powers, every nerve of expectation is stretched ; every pulse of desire beats high : the blood is in a general ferment; the spirits are in an universal hurry ; and though the hook of a fatal consequence is often apparent, the alluring bait must be swallowed. The fear of God, the most inestimable of all treasures, is already gone ; and if the sinful gratification cannot
• Ingratum si dixeris, omnia dicis. jur.
be enjoyed upon any other term, a good reputation shall go also. Reason indeed makes remonstrances ; but the loud clamours of flesh and blood, soon drown har soft whispers. The carnal mind steps imperiously upon the throne : Sense, that conquers the greatest conquerors, bears down all opposition : The yielding man is led captive by a brutish lust; and while angels blush, there is joy in hell over the actual, and complete degradation of an heaven-born spirit.
Some indeed affirm, that these conflicts suit a state of probation and trial. But it is evident that either our temptations are too violent for our strength, or our strength too weak for our temptations ; since, notwithstanding the additional help of divine grace, there never was a mere mortal, over whom they never triumphed. . Nor can we exculpate ourselves by pleading, that these triumphs of sense over reasons are neither long nor frequent. Alas! how many perpetrate an act of wickedness in a moment, and suffer death itself for a crime which they never repeated !
See that chrystal vessel. Its brightness and brittleness represent the shining, and delicate nature of true virtue. If I let it fall, and break it, what avails it to say, “ I never broke it before.... I dropped it but once....I am excessively sorry for my carelessness.... I will set the pieces together, and never break it again :" Will these excuses and resolutions prevent the vessel from being broken....broken for ever? the reader may easily make the application.
Even heathen moralists, by their fabulous account of the companions of Ulysses, turned into swine, upon drinking once of Circe's enchanted cup, teach us, that one fall into sensuality, turns a man into a brute ; just as one slip into unchastity or dishonesty, changes a modest woman into a strumpet, or an honest man into a thief. Again.
Ought not reason to have as absolute a command over appetite, as a skilful rider has over a well broken horse ? But suppose we saw all horsemen univer: sally mastered, one time or other, by their beasts ; and forced, though but for a few minutes, to receive the bit, and go or stop at the pleasure of the wanton brutes : Should we not wonder, and justly infer, that man had lost the kind of superiority, which he still maintains over domestic animals? And what then, but the commonness of the case, can prevent our being shocked, when we see rational creatures overcome, and led captive by carnal appetites ? Is not this the wanton, rebellious beast mounting upon his vanquished, das. tardly rider ?
We may then conclude, that the universal rebellion of our lower faculties against our superior powers, and the triumphs of sense over reason, demonstrate, that human nature has suffered as fatal a revolution, as these kingdoms did, when a degraded king was seen bleeding on the scaffold, and a base usurper lording it in the seat of majesty.
Happy would it be for us, if our fall manifested itself only by some transient advantages of sense over reason. But alas ! the experience of the best demonstrates the truth of Isaiah's words, the whole head is sick.
To say nothing of the gross stupidity, and unconquerable ignorance, that keep the generality of mankind just above the level of brutes; how strong, how clear is the Understanding of men of sense in worldly affairs ! How weak, how dark in spiritual things! How few idiots are there, but can distinguish between the shadow and the substance, the cup and the liquor, the dress and the person! But how many learned men, to this day, see no difference between water-baptism and spiritual regeneration, between the means of grace and grace itself, between the form and the power of godliness! -at our devotions, is not our mind generally like the roving butterfly ; and at our favourite diversions, and lucrative business, like the fastening leach? Can it not fix itself on any thing sooner than on the one thing needful ; and find out any way, before that of peace and salvation ?
What can be more extravagant than our Imagination? How often have we caught this wild power, forming and pursuing phantoms, building and pulling down castles in the air! how frequently hath it raised us into proud conceits, and then sunk us into gloomy apprehensions ! and where is the man, that it never led into such mental scenes of vanity and lewdness, as would have made him the object of universal contempt, if the veil of a grave and modest countenance, had not happily concealed him from public notice?
And has our Memory escaped unimpaired by the fall ? Alas! let us only consider, how easily we forget the favours of our Creator, and recollect the injuries of our fellow-creatures ; how little we retain of a good book or pious discourse, and how much of a play or frivolous conversation : and how exactly we remember an invitation to a party of pleasure, whilst the loudest calls to turn to God and prepare for death, are no sooner heard than forgotten....Let us, I say, consider these things, and we shall be forced to confess, that this useful power loses like a sieve the living water of truth, drinks in like a spunge the muddy streams of vanity, and is never so retentive, as when it is excited by revenge, or some other detestable temper.
a A wretch that is condemned to die to-morrow cannot forget it,” says Baxter ; “ yet poor sinners, who are uncertain to live an hour, and certain speedily to see the Majesty of the Lord, to their inconceivable joy
or terror, can forget these things, for which they have their memory; and which, one would think, should drown the matters of this world, as the report of a can. non does a whisper, or as the sun obscures the poorest
glow-worm. O wonderful stupidity of an unregenerate soul! O astonishing distraction of the ungodly! That ever men can forget eternal joy, eternal woe, the eternal God, and the place of their unchangeable abode; when they stand even at the door, and there is but the thin veil of flesh between them, and that amazing sight, that eternal gulph, into which thousands are daily plunging."
Nor does our * Reason make us amends for the defects of our other faculties. Its beams, it is true, wonderfully guide some persons through the circle of sciences, and the mazes of commercial or political af fairs. But when it should lead us in the search of the truth which is after godliness, unless it is assisted from above, how are its faint rays obstructed by the gross medium of flesh and blood, broken by that of passion, and sometimes lost in that of prejudice ! Wise sons of reason, learned philosophers, your two hundred and eighty eight opinions concerning the chief good, are a multiplied proof of my sad assertion : all miss the mark. Not one of them makes the supreme felicity to consist in the knowledge and enjoyment of God, the amiable and adorable parent of all good.
True reason, alas! is as rare as true piety. The poor thing, which, in spiritual matters, the world calls reason, is only the ape of that noble faculty. How partial, how unreasonable † is this false pretender ! If
. By reason I mean that power, by which we pass judgment upon, and draw inferences from what the understanding has simply apprehended.
† Our earth's the bedlam of the universe,
Where reason (undiseas'd in heaven) runs mad,