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his passions, inflamed by liquor, never broke out into any excesses, never abused his friend, revealed his secrets, or blackened his reputation? Have none of the partakers of his tumultuous scenes been transported, in the heat of them, into any such excesses? Let the drunkard endeavour in some sober hour to answer these questions, and he will find a full reparation, a task already swoln perhaps beyond his power.
Imagine again the libertine, who makes it his business to corrupt female virtue. To win the confidence of a person by overtures of affection, to engage the partiality of a fond tender heart, to hold out the fairest pretensions of unabated passion, and lasting fidelity, and then, in some fatal moment of unsuspicious fondnesa and innocent credulity, to take advantage of sleeping virtue —and then —base assassin ! —to cast her away, lost to fame, lost to the
world, to her friends, and to herself
to be hissed at and marked out with abhorrence—to be deprived of an honest and comfortable settlement in the world — nay, of common refuge and protection—obliged to end her days in poverty, irreclaimable prostitution, or an untimely impenitent death — dreadful evils, horrid even in conception ! — this is the crime of the libertine, which he calls gallantry, and the following of nature; but what reason must call in most cases an irreparable crime, beyond the reach of reparation, that important, that essential part of repentance.
But if we proceed from hence to the more acknowledged characters of active vice, the unjust servant, the fraudulent dealer, the secret thief or powerful oppressor, whose plan of life is to thrive and live by injustice; here frauds and villanies appear, exceeding even the power of memory to recollect.
If therefore (that we may conclude p 2 this this head) reparation and restitution be an essential part of true repentance, where our sins affect social life; if most of our sins have either directly or indirectly such a pernicious influence; and if, in a long progress, they accumulate and swell into guilt beyond the reach of reparation, and even recollection; it becomes every man, who has any serious intention of saving himself, to stop immediately, before he brings himself into such inextricable difficulties, as he will wish for worlds to be clear of, and yet must wish in vain.
III. But this forms not the worst part of a sinner's distress. His moral powers grow every day weaker by sinful habits.
Sin tends to render the heart callous and insensible to every good impression. It darkens the judgment, perverts the affections, enslaves the will. It wears away the natural restraints of
fear fear and shame; it blots out of the mind the distinctions ofright and wrong; the imagination is stained and polluted with vicious ideas, the passions are inflamed by a habit of commanding, and the reason base and servile from a habit of obedience. Evil habits, by these means, insensibly take a firm hold of man; one act brings on another, repetition renders the act familiar, familiarity begets a confirmed habit, and habit grows into a second nature. The leopard, in the language of scripture, can as soon change his spots, as an inveterate sinner, except in extraordinary eases, change and alter the bent of a depraved disposition. Like wounds in the body, unless timely prevented, sin festers, corrupts, and mortifies by degrees, and diffuses its malignity over all the powers of the soul.
At the same time, that our moral powers are decaying, temptations continue the same: the world will to morP 3 row row present the same riches, the same pleasures, and honours to ensnare us, as it does to day. Though the tempta-. tions of youth decrease, the temptations of manhood and age continue. Though appetites subside and cool by time, the inclination may still survive; the wishes of a corrupt heart may still encrease the guilt amidst the impotence of sinking nature. For as refraining from sin through mere fear is not genuine virtue, so ceasing from sin from want of ability or opportunity is not repentance.
A Man will never repent, if he means to wait, till there be no temptations. While he amuses himself with one idle hope after another of certain better opportunities hereafter; life wears away, and the man is but just where he was before. To morrow he will repent, and, in the mean time thinks, he may safely sin to day: to morrow comes, and he sins again. To morrow he will be more resolute,