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In a word, trust that man in nothing, --who has not a conscience in every thing.
And in your own case remember this plain distinction, a mistake in which has ruined thousands that your conscience is not a law ;-90,-God and reason made the law, and has placed conscience within you to determine, not like an Asiatick cadi, according to the ebbs and flows of his own passions; but like a British judge in this land of liberty, who makes no new law, but faithfully declares that glorious law which he finds already written.
TEMPORAL ADVANTAGES OF RELIGION.
- PROV. III. 17.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
There are two opinions which the inconsiderate are apt to take upon trust. The first is—A vitious life is a life of liberty, pleasure, and happy advantages. The second is,mand which is the converse of the first,—That a religious life is a servile 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 knowledge, she should be as God; that is, she should reap some high and strange felicity from doing what was forbidden ber. But I need not repeat the success :-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
As the deceiver of mankind thus began his triumph over our race,--so has he carried it on ever since by the very same argument of delusion ;-. that is, by possessing men's minds early with great expectations of the present incomes of sin,-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 neighbour's, 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, at one time or other, all confess,—that our counsellor has been (as from the beginning) an impostor ;-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 slate, has proved.a no lessfatal and capital false principle in the conduct of inexperience through life,-the foundation of which mistake arising chiefly from this previous wrong judgment, -that true "happiness and freedom lie 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 matter. There we are told, that the
service of God is true liberty, that the yoke of christianity is easy, in comparison of that yoke which must be brought upon us by any other system of living; and the text tells of wisdom,-by which is meant religion ; that it has pleasantness in its way, as well as glory in its end that it will bring us peace and joy, such as the world cannot give !-So that, upon examining the truth of this assertion, we shall be set right in this error, by seeing that a religious man's happiness does not stand at so tedious a distance, but is so present, and indeed so inseparable from him, as to be felt and tasted every hour; --and of this even the vitious can hardly be insensible, from what he may perceive to spring up in his mind from any casual act of virtue : and though it is a pleasure that properly belongs to the goods--yet let any one try the experiment, and he will see what is meant by that moral delight arising from the conscience of well-doing.–Let him, but refresh the bowels of the needy, let him comfort the brokenhearted, or check an appetite,mor overcome a temptation,-or receive an affront with temper and meekness, and he shall find the tacit praise of what he has done, darting through his mind, accompanied with a sincere pleasure ;-conscience playing the monitor even to the loose and most inconsiderate, in their most casual acts of well-doing, and is, like a voice whispering behind, and saying,-This is the way of pleasantness,this is the path of peace, walk in it.
But to do farther justice to the text, we must look beyond this inward recompense, which is always inseparable from virtue, and take a view of the outward advantages which are as inseparable from it, and which the apostle particularly refers to, when 'tis said, godliness has the promise of this life, as well as that which is to come ;--and in this argu. ment it is that religion appears in all its glory and strength--unanswerable in all its obligations ;-that besides the principal work which it does for us in securing our future well-being in the other world, it is likewise the most effectual means to promote our present; -and that not only morally, upon account of that reward which virtuous actions do entitle a man unto from a just and wise providence, but by a natural tendency in themselves, which the duties of religion have to procure us riches, health, reputation, credit, and all those things wherein our temporal happiness is thought to consist; and this not only in promoting the well-being of particular persons, but of publick communities and of mankind in general,-agreeable to what the wise man has left us on record, That righteousness exalteth a nation :-insomuch, that could we, in considering this argument, suppose ourselves to be in a capacity of expostulating with God, concerning the terms upon which we would submit to his government, and to choose the laws ourselves which we would be bound to observe, it would be impossible for the wit of man to frame any other proposals which, upon all accounts, would be more advantageous to our own interests than those very conditions to which we are by the rules of religion and virtue :- and in this does the reasonableness of christianity, and the beauty and wisdom of providence, appear most eninently towards mankind, in governing us by such laws as do most apparently tend to make us happy ;-and, in a word, in making that (in his mercy) to be our