« PreviousContinue »
accidents were under his controul, thinks and talks deliberately of repenting hereafter—in some distant period— when he knows not, and is not yet at leisure to determine—at some unassignable time, when he has more leisure and inclination—and in the mean while sits down with much comfort and composure in the indulgence of his favourite sins.—Unhappy man !—how can you put this palpable cheat upon yourself? —Nothing is more uncertain than human life. It is a bubble liable to be broken by the slightest breath. Death lurks in our very frame: the very air we breathe, the food we take in for our support, carry along with them the seeds of our dissolution. A thousand dangers surround us: the least of them is sufficient to destroy us: the Providence of him, whom you are affronting by your delays, is the cause of your safety and preservation. Let him withdraw his
influinfluence; and instantly every vital motion stops, and your life and purposes are gone together: the smallest insect, the slightest stroke of things about you, is sufficient to bring about this fatal event. In the midst of Use we are in death; health itself in excess is often our destruction. . Look, around you, and tell me, what it is you place your confidence upon? Youth is no security; for the young and old die alike: power is no protection; for death arrests the monarch amidst his guards: greatness is no defence; for it visits alike the cottage and palace. You eat to support life, — that often terminates in a surfeit. You labour in your daily business — This often overheats you, and a firey fever ensues. Sleep tends to recruit nature — but how many close their eyes in this world and open them in another!—
We are sailing on a tempestuous sea,, in a frail bottom; we see thousands
founfoundering unexpectedly around us, of all states, conditions and ages. If we cannot fee, that we are equally in danger, we are blind beyond expression.
II. But, though we could ascertain the term of our lives, yet it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to know the extent of the mischief occasioned by our sins.
Now it is an acknowledged truth, that no repentance is complete without restitution. To repent supposes that we wish the act undone, and we can never wish this sincerely, without endeavouring to repair all its fatal consequences. Such offences indeed as relate only to God, are sufficiently rectified by sincere contrition and amendment. But these are few in comparison of the number, which affect the peace and innocence of the world about us. It is not the mere transient act, that constitutes an injury: they are the fatal consequences, which the action has upon your neighbour,
that that constitute its malignity; and, as long as the consequences continue unrepaired, the injury continues, and your repentance, whatever sorrow or pain you feel upon the recollection of the act, is still defective.
This again being an acknowledged truth, let us examine a few vicious characters, and see whether the act of reparation be so easy a thing as the sinner thinks; if he can be said indeed to think upon a subject, which he never seriously weighed in his whole life.
Suppose a man, who is not guilty of any vice of immediate ill influence on the world; let him be honest and fair in his dealings, a peaceable neighbour, a kind friend, an affectionate relation; suppose at the same time, (if it be possible) that such a man should openly neglect or ridicule the institutions of reli-' gion, or even encourage his weaker rbrethren by his example to think lightly of them. Even this is an offence,
which cannot be repaired without much recollection and difficulty. Does this man know the number of those, whom he has perverted, whose principles he has corrupted, whose zeal he has destroyed, whose passions he has inflamed, and set loose from the restraints of religion?
Take again a man, who, in the foolish language of the world, is no body's enemy but his own, the drunkard, I mean; whose vice is supposed to terminate in himself; and let us see what consequences, he has ro rectify, in order to complete his repentance. Has he no friends or neighbours, who have a right to his unimpaired faculties? Has he no children or wife, that must be turned out to beg the bread of vagrant idleness, or to encreasc the burden, which the legai provision brings upon the industrious? Has he no companions in his riots, whom his persuasion or example encourages? Have .... P his