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who is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviqur, implores divine forgiveness and aid, he resolves to “break off his sins by righteousness and his iniquities by turning unto the Lord.”
Such, in brief, is the duty of religious consideration.
II. We proposed, secondly, to remark its salutary effects, in a cheerful and prompt submission to the will of God. Inherent in our nature is a principle, which impels us studi. ously to shun whatever we conceive to be hurtful, and ardently to desire and seek its opposite. The wicked are no less solicitous for happiness, than the righteous. Their most criminal pursuits, though egregiously misdirected, are designed and expected by them to issue in this favourite atchievement : And the eagerness, address, and perseverance of their exertions, at once display the power of the motive, by which they are governed, and prove them capable of astonishing vigilance, resolution and self denial, in quest of any thing which they believe conducive to their interest, repu, tation, or enjoyment. All mankind, however mistaken in their object, uniformly aspire to what they apprehend the greatest good, and labour to be delivered from that which gives them uneasiness and pain. Actuated by this universal impulse, we often abandon undertak.' ings, in which we have incautiously engaged, and commence a new and different career; and we daily witness in others, changes of character and conduct, which evidently originate in the same cause.
Serious consideration enlists this natural principle into the service of religion, and makes it a potent auxiliary and incentive to christian obedience. The worldling infatuated by the delusive opinion, that the perishable possessions and pleasures of time constitute the most desirable portion of mortals, is precipitated into the chase of vanity : But when he duly considers that instability is inscribed on all sublunary things ; and that the only permanent bliss results, from “a conscience void of offence,” will he not be constrained to renounce his errour, and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ?» The profligate, hackneyed in the ways of iniquity, and surrounded by dissolute companions, blushes at the imputation of virtue, “ makes a mock at sin,” and even“ glories in his shame.” But what are his feelings, when, in the hour of re. tirement and reflection, conscience sounds that awful alarm, “know thou that for all these things God shall bring thee into judgment ?»
Can he soberly contemplate his true character, and yet, callous to the disingenuity of his life, neither dread, nor fly that “ everlasting con: tempt,” to which he is exposed ? The votary of false honour too, who, at every hazard, repels the least affront from a fellow worm ; what must be his emotions, when he sees, in their intrinsick deformity, the numberless indignities which he has habitually offered to the God " in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being ?» Can he still remain indifferent and averse to the reasonable obligations, under which he is laid? Can he still refuse to make a single effort to turn from his evil ways ?»
Indeed, what vice can be named, which, if beheld in its real nature and consequences, would not be abhorred and forsaken by its fondest admirers? Is it intemperance ? Did the drunkard ponder, as he ought, the disgrace and wretchedness, which he entails on himself, his family, and his connexions ; did he recollect the awakening denunciations of heaven against riot and excess, he would literally “cut off his right hand and cast it from him,” sooner than reach it forth to grasp the intoxicating cup! Is it profaneness? Were the blasphemous swearer to realize that, beside the pain and horrour with which every sober mind is filled by his impre
cations, “ the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” he would no longer persist in a transgression, for which the most fruitful imagination can neither invent an excuse, nor conceive a temptation ! Is it sensuality ? Were the libertine brought to a proper conviction of the debasing influence of his crimes in this world, and their deplorable termination in the next; "that they who live in pleasure are dead while they live ; and that " whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,” he would surely “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Is it ambition ? Let the trappings of earthly pomp and splendour be estimated according to their inherent worth ; let the breath of popular applause be weighed in a righteous balance, and contrasted with the approbation of him, whose “ favour is life, and whose loving kindness is better than life ;” and none would be found to “ love the praise of men, more than the praise of God.” Is it covetousness? After bringing home to his bosom that impressive expostulation, “what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” who would make gold his trust, or seek its accumulation to the detriment of his neighbour ?
But not to multiply particulars, let it suffice to say in general, that when the sinner, of whatever description, clearly sees the errour of his ways, and has a just sense of his numerous and aggravated deviations from duty and happiness, the strongest motives urge and facilitate his reformation. It is not to be dissembled however, that the force of custom, combined with surrounding enticements may greatly retard his progress and prolong his conflict, He will find it indispensably necessary to watch the motions and counteract the wiles of his spiritual enemies : Nor can he expect to gain the conquest but by resolute and persevering struggles. In proportion to the length of time, in which they have been masters of the field, and the degree of vassalage to which he is reduced, will be the difficulty of dislodging them. They will not resign their empire without resistance. Though they retreat they will return again to the charge ; and unless repelled with renewed and unabating firmness, will re-estab. lish their tyrannical dominion. Every avenue to his heart must be guarded with the utmost care ; the points of weakness, by which he is most exposed to assault or surprize must be ascertained ; all the means of defence, with which he is furnished must be employed with