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perfection of the whole, as those who boast of their virtues. In the great moral picture, that is exhibited before us, I shew the beauties of variety and contrast. If others constitute the light, I form the shade; and if they are the conspicuous objects, that are viewed with admiration, I may be considered as the background, that brings them forward to the greatest advantage. The libertine and voluptuary may exclaim, as in the Book of Wisdom *, “ Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present; and let us speedily use the creatures like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments; and let no flower of the spring pass by us : let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered: let none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness : let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place; for this is our portion, and our lot is this." All this, and whatever else be said on the subject, goes on the assumption that man can divest himself, in the moment of transgression, of the consciousness of right and wrong; and that he was not intended by his Great Creator to be a moral, intelligent, and therefore an accountable creature; but born for


* Chap. ii. 6-9.

no other purpose, than the beasts of the forest, and pursuing nothing more than the promiscuous gratification of his appetites, and passions. But let it be remembered, that, in addition to this moral sense of good and evil, which is the first principle of virtue, and which was insisted on in my last discourse, God has never left himself “ without witness in the world." The laws of the sacred Decalogue are as old, perhaps, as the records of civil society; and they have now been enlarged and perfected by that beautiful system of truth, righteousness, and holiness, which the Saviour of the world established on earth. So that whatever our own self-will, our perverseness of understanding, and corrupt passions might dictate, we have the laws of God and man to appeal to, for the rule and measure of our duties ;--for the encouragement of virtue, and the condemnation of vice. To that consciousness, therefore, which will not, on all occasions, extend so far as might be wished, is added the conviction of guilt, which arises from the transgression of what ought to be considered by every member of society as the most sacred, and inviolable principles of conduct.

Besides, before any one can presume to think


himself innocent, or to claim any merit from his actions, he most assuredly ought to examine into the motives that directed them. From our ignorance and frailty, indeed, we may often be the authors of evil, where we only intended good; but if “our heart be right in the sight of the Lord,” he will mercifully accept the will for the deed ; and, however our good intentions may be concealed from the world, “he seeth them in secret, and will hereafter reward them openly.” Now, let the vicious of every description, whether addicted to sensuality and intemperance,' to violence and fraud, to prodigality, or avarice, to the love of pleasure, or the love of ease ; let them all reflect, whether they had any other motive, or object in view, than their own sinful and selfish gratifications.

Admit, however, for argument's sake, that some will say they had; “shall we do evil that good may come ?" Let us answer with the apostle, in the strongest form of negation that language will admit of, GOD FORBID. But no such views enter the mind of the wilful sinner. He inflicts wounds, but leaves others to perform that “ labor of love," which may be necessary to heal them.

-He propagates mischief, and iniquity, in every direction, which his more virtuous neighbour is

sedulously engaged in counteracting.--He pulls down what others spent the greater part of a laborious life in carefully building up; and often plants in the bosom of the innocent that sting of sorrow, and of bitter remorse, which Christian compassion may alleviate, but never can entirely remove. Thus it is, that “ though offences must come, yet woe is justly denounced against him through whom they come.”

Here, then, the most practical and consolatory view of the whole subject opens immediately on the mind. We perceive, that not all the combinations and varieties of wickedness, which the world presents to our notice, can contravene the plans of Infinite Wisdom and Mercy. The providence of God is such, that evil is made subservient to good even in this present life; and so conspicuous is it, that we may join in the deep expression of adoration, and humility, used by the holy Psalmist, and say, “ Surely, the wrath of man shall praise Thee!" But this world, we know, is offered to us as a state of discipline and trial, not of strict retribution and reward. The mixture of the virtuous and the vicious, the indolent and active, the wise and the foolish, furnishes a wide field for doing good, and preventing evil ;—for

bearing with some, and assisting others; and for “ working out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Let us, then, during the short time we have to live, exert ourselves with diligence, co-operating in works of forbearance and compassion with our heavenly Father, “who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and



Lastly, let us not, in our present meditations, indulge any harsh and uncharitable opinions of our fellow-creatures, nor think the world worse than it really is. The best of men, indeed, if they examined their own bosoms, might be led to acknowledge, that there are some tares mixed, and growing up with their best wheat; or that there are some frailties to be numbered among their most distinguished virtues; but unless, on a general estimate of character, the righteous greatly exceeded the wicked in this world, it would evidently be impossible that “all things should work together for good.”

To remove every doubt and difficulty that may still attach to the present subject, it remains for us only to look forward, with the steady eye of Christian faith, to that spiritual harvest, which is fast approaching, when God

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