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out its use, if it render us, as it ought, more circumspect and prudent ;-more strict, as well as more impartial, in examining into "our secret faults," and if it make us, in future, abstain more carefully from all appearance of evil.
Farther, we may observe, that there are some vices, which in their elements, and in their early progress, are pleasing and seductive. Exemplified in living characters, they make powerful appeals to the imagination, the senses, and the passions. Our love of pleasure, our impatience of control, and our thirst of enjoyment, without inquiring too nicely into its nature, or its probable tendency, form the common medium, through which the heart is often corrupted, and betrayed. But, unless such temptations abounded in the world, how could the young, more especially, shew the strength and sincerity of their principles, or their stedfast attachment to the great duties of virtue, and religion? Knowing, however, the frailties of human nature, our holy Redeemer has taught us to pray, that we may not be exposed to trials, which would be too arduous for us to bear; and that the mercy of our heavenly Father would deliver us from that evil to which these trials often lead. Some, in their spiritual warfare,
put on the armour of light," and, like good soldiers of Christ," endure until the end." Verily, "they shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him :" but the numerous class that fall victims to a passion for dissipation and extravagance, (not to mention here more criminal propensities,) sink from a state of opulence and comfort, to degradation, poverty, and want. Now, these, while they exemplify, in striking characters, the excellence and necessity of prudence in our various pursuits, in the management of our affairs, and enforce the great duty of moderation in all our enjoyments, open a wide field for the successful exertions of the sober, the enterprising, and industrious. The gifts, which the thoughtless Prodigal scatters in profusion around him, others will gladly gather up; and may, by the blessing of Divine Providence, apply them to the beneficial purposes of virtue and religion.
It appears, indeed, that nothing can permanently destroy, or interrupt, those plans of wisdom and of mercy, which the Almighty has formed, and which are often promoted even by opposition, and extremes of human conduct. Thus, the spendthrift squanders away those
riches, which the miser eagerly treasures up; and, in a few short years, when his sordid pursuits are at an end, unable to "carry any thing out of this world," and fearful of that awful day, when he must give account of the talents, which were by him buried in the ground, he frequently endows Sanctuaries for the helpless and the wretched, in which, from one generation to another, they are protected, comforted, or relieved.
If we direct our attention to characters that exhibit appearances of more enormous evil, the warning is proportionally awful, and the lesson is more impressive. To select one instance out of many that will occur.-View the early victim. of dissipation, and intemperance ;-dwell, for a few moments, on the melancholy wreck of existence, both in body and in mind ;-see not only the rapid approach of mortal diseases, but the premature destruction, or decay, of intellectual power;-behold all the virtuous propensities of his mind quenched; the most social and natural affections nearly extinguished, while every selfish and sinful passion becomes more fierce, violent, and ungovernable. Who can see such a man bearing the burning signals of his shame about him, without considering
him as a conspicuous beacon in the moral world, warning the young and inexperienced how they approach the sunny rocks of intemperate pleasures, lest they also might be swallowed up in the gulphs of sensuality and vice?
However disgusting the evil may be in this, and similar cases; yet they who exhibit it, may be considered as going about proclaiming, against their will, the dangers and miseries of sinful indulgence, and preaching with irresistible effect, but without knowing it, the blessings and enjoyments of "a godly, righteous, and sober life."
It would be easy, on the present occasion, to amplify the argument, by producing many additional instances; but as the course of inquiry has been opened, and the mode of application explained, the further improvement of this part of the subject might be left, with more advantage, to the meditation and experience of every individual.
It may be now proper to anticipate some sceptical, and sophistical remarks, that might be made on the doctrine, which the Parable in the text inculcates. If, says the dissipated man of the world, a mixture of good and evil be ordained in this life, I am as necessary to the
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 may 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.