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say, that we are led by the Spirit.” And when, by using every weapon, which the panoply of the holy gospel furnishes, the victory over the manifold temptations of the world shall have been once decided, the Almighty will grant us additional strength, to encounter fresh dangers. We must not expect, indeed, on such an occasion, the visible descent of angels to minister unto us; but we may confidently hope for the divine light, consolation, and support of the Holy Spirit, and for that “ Peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” and which “the world can neither give, nor take away.”
Such being the inestimable benefits, which are derived from self-examination, in a state of retirement and abstraction from the world, we may all join in the fervency of
prayer, with the holy Psalmist, and say, “ Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart: Prove me, and examine my thoughts; look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Lastly, I would only observe, with respect to our blessed Lord's last temptation, that when the adversary “shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” he offered him what he had not the power to give. Thus it is, when we listen to the sinful cravings of our appetites and passions; or when we follow the evil imaginations of our own hearts. Unbounded pleasure, gratification, and enjoyment are the tempting promise; but grievous disappointment and the most poignant regret are frequently the result.
No human being, one should suppose, could have lived long in the world, without being aware of “the deceitfulness of sin;" and yet the delusion of many is so strong on this subject, as to excite our utter astonishment. It is with reference to this strange infatuation, and mental blindness, that the wise king of Israel says, “ There is a way, which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death."
If we wish for a striking illustration of this important truth, let us direct our attention to the numerous votaries, or rather victims, of vice and folly, with which the world at all times abounds. See the intemperate man sacrifice the greatest blessings which this life affords,-health, competency, reputation, and even the capacity of rational enjoyments, for the temporary indulgence of appetites, that degrade him below the beasts of the field.
The strong, but diabolical, temptation to taste of forbidden pleasures leads the sensualist and voluptuary to violate the most sacred ties, and to pollute the dearest relations in civil society: but, instead of the promised happiness, which they expected, they have often to encounter mutual recrimination and reproachmisery and ruin, poverty and disgrace,--a combination of evils, which excite no pity, but are aggravated by the indignation and contempt of the virtuous, and the unmerited sufferings, perhaps, of an innocent and helpless offspring.
If we would witness the madness and folly, the devastation and the crimes of lawless ambition, we need only contemplate, for a moment, the rise, the progress, and the end of that extraordinary man, who, like a baleful meteor, blazed in the meridian of our days for a short time, and then was extinguished for ever.
Even the allurements of indolence and ease require the constant watchfulness of Christian duty, that we may avoid the evils to which they often lead. Man is so formed for action, and his usefulness so much depends on it, that
" Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry,' are maxims, which he cannot long follow with innocence, or impunity. The body, in such a state, will be soon infected with disease; and the mind, it can scarcely be hoped, will long escape the contagion of vice. Indolence, sloth, and self-indulgence, indeed, are in themselves sins; and, considering the active duties that we are called on to fulfil, they are of no inconsiderable magnitude: but, from the mere tædium of existence, or the burthensomeness of time, not properly employed, they soon connect themselves with other bad habits; and it is not uncommon to see the man, who promised himself the quiet enjoyments of that idleness and ease, which an independent fortune ensures, become gradually selfish and discontented, if not vicious and miserable.
To relieve the languor of the lazy day and sleepless night, or else to gratify the eager desire of gain, and to enjoy the strong excitement, which a life of chance affords, many, it is to be lamented, of almost every rank and condition of life, throng to the gaming table. I will not attempt to harass your feelings, by describing the misery and the crimes, which result from this destructive vice. Forgery and
fraud, peculation and dishonor, are its usual concomitants; utter ruin, public infamy, and suicide, are by no means uncommon; while the frantic despair and agonizing feelings of a wife and helpless family, reduced to beggary, may be easily imagined and deplored.
I will only just observe, that, in the next degree of folly and of guilt, ranks the man, who yields to the temptation of gaining immense wealth, by the short road of speculation, and desperate adventures; with this peculiar aggravation, that the commercial gambler often dishonorably plays for a stake, which, if he loses, he can never pay; and if he wins, he probably ruins his associate. In both instances, the promise is unbounded riches, with all the luxury, magnificence, and splendor, which riches can supply; but the performance often falls wretchedly short, and the real consequences are frequently poverty and degradation ;-disappointed vanity, and mortified pride ;-though without that stigma of infamy and contempt, which they so justly deserve.-Such is the prevalence of popular opinion over the obvious principles of justice, and such is the shelter, which the guilty often seek, and find, in numbers !