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PROVERBS iii, 17.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her
paths are peace.
HERE are two opinions which the
inconfiderate are apt to take upon
trust.–The first is a vicious life, is a life of liberty, pleasure, and happy advantages. The second is—and which is the converse of the first--that a religious life is a fervile and most uncomfortable state,
The first breach, which the devil made upon human innocence, was by the help of the first of these suggestions, when he told Eve, that by eating of the tree of knowlege, she should be as God, that is, fhe should reap some high and strange felicity from doing what was forbidden her.-But I need not repeat the fuccess—Eve learnt the difference between good and evil by her transgression, which she knew not before-but then she fatally learnt at the same time, that the difference was only this that good is that which can only give the mind pleasure and comfort-and that evil is that, which must necessarily be attended sooner or later with shame and sorrow.
As the deceiver of mankind thus began his triumph over our race- so has he carried it on ever since by the
same argument of delusion.—That is, by possessing men's minds early with great expectations of the present incomes of fin, making them dream of wondrous gratifications they are to feel in following their appetites in a forbidden way--making them fancy, that their own grapes yield not so delicious a taste as their neighbours, and that they shall quench their thirst with more pleasure at his fountain, than at their own. This is the opinion which at first too generally prevails—till experience and proper seasons of reflection make us all at one time or other confess--that our counsellor has been (as from the beginning) an imposture—and that instead of fulfilling these hopes of gain and sweetness in what is forbidden-that on the contrary, every unlawful enjoyment leads only to bitterness and loss.
The second opinion, or, that a religious life is a servile and uncomfortable state, has proved a no less fatal and capital false principle in the conduct of unexperience through life-the foundation of which mistake arising chiefly from this previous wrong judgment—that true happiness and freedom lies in a man's always following his own humour-that to live by moderate and prescribed rules, is to live without joy--that not to prosecute our passions is to be cowards and to forego every thing for the tedious distance of a future life.
Was it true that a virtuous man could have no pleasure but what should arise from that remote prospect-I own we are by nature so goaded on by the desire of present happiness, that was that the case, thousands would faint under the discouragement of so remote an expectation. But in the mean time the Scriptures give us a very different prospect of this