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public sights, and shews, are always employed to work upon the mind, by the fabricators of public inischief. They can lead religion and loyalty to be hooted at and burned with disgrace; while sedition and treason are carried home upon men's shoulders in triumph. No preposterous disguises or deceptions can be wondered at, in any age or country, when it is remembered, that the Lord of Glory was disfigured by a wicked world with a crown of thorns; and the hand, that can aim the lightnings of heaven, insulted with a weak reed for a sceptre : while, perhaps, Barabbas, the acquitted felon, was attended home with acclamations.
The ears are imposed upon by sounds, as the eyes by appearances ; "the orator can work with deceitful images and false comparisons, to inftame the passions, and mislead the judgment. That prime intellectual juggler of the times, Voltaire, whose logic has driven the world to madness, never fails to work upon his readers with false associations: they are his peculiar manufacture. His reasonings are contemptible; but his power in debauching the minds of men, by setting false images before them, is prodigious, and would be unaccountable, if the principle now before us did not explain it all.
I shall conclude upon this part of my subject, with observing, that the Scripture imputes all the wickedness of an unbelieving world to the inventions of their imagination. Here all the various formations and fictions of idolatry began : and they never ended, but in the total perversion of truth, the corrupting of manners, and the sanctifying of cruelty and all kinds of immorality. The old idols are many of them out of fashion : but the restless mind of man can never forbear its fictions; so that new idols are daily rising up; not without the pomp and pageantry of the old, to
recommend them : such as liberty without law
i majesty of the populace; equality in all ranks; by which and other like phantoms, while the world is amused, it is betrayed into confusion and calamity; and God alone can tell whether it will ever more be reduced to peace and order : for which, however, we should daily pray.
We have now seen how the imagination leads into sin; let us next inquire how it brings us into misery. For it is always found by those who consider the righteous ways of divine Providence, that men are punished by those things wherein they offend. W ben the entrance of siu brought sickness and death upon the body, the imagination also became weak and subject to some grievous distempers. It seems to be the faculty on which the fall hath taken effect. as it continues in a sound.state, it is like a mirror, plain and bright, and reflects all objects truly: but if its polish be injured, it reflects them imperfectly; and then we conceive things slowly and obscurely: if it be Jost, as in the case of ideots, it reflects nothingmand as there is no wickedness where there is no imagination, language gives the name of an innocent (Fr. un innocent) to the ideot If the mirror hath a false figure, it will give the image wrong: it will make great tings appear little, or little things great; or even distorted and monstrous, though they are regularly formed and beautiful. Sometimes one certain image is seen constantly by the mind, as if a figure were burned in upon the face of a mirror : and in some · cases, the mind forms ierages involuntarily, and becomes like a body which has lost its retentive powers, and is both active and passive at once.
Neither must we forget, that images are forced upon the mind, for forment, by the maglignant Being who first intro
duced them for sin : even heathens were persuaded that ideas of horror might be raised in the mind, for punishment, by tormenting Furies. In all such extreme cases as these, the person is mad; his imagination is under no more controul when he is awake, than that of rational men when they are asleep; whence it is plain, the humiliating distemper of madness, the most deplorable evil of man's life, is seated in the imagination, where sin first began. And if it be considered, that there is no man, who at all times has the perfect command of his imagination, what can we say, but that all minds are subject to a sort of weakness, which may pass for a degree of insanity? The imaginations of some ingenious persons, particularly those of a poetical turn, work so freely and so violently, that they are nearer to madness than other men; and soinetimes actually fall into it. If so, it seeins as if what we call genius, may, in certain cases, be infirinity: like the beautiful variegations of a flower; which are known to proceed from the weakness of the plant.
It is scarcely credible, how much the evils of life are maynified, multiplied, and even created, as the imagination happens to be affected : which can strike with such force upon the passions, that suddeu fear and terror, or even joy and surprize, have been followed by instant death. Persons of lively inaginations have irritable nerves; they suffer, more from pain and grief of every kind; and pay a severe tax for their boasted sensibility. They that use but little air and exercise, and accuston theinselves to an indolent delicate way of life, grow lax and soft and effeminate, and suffer more on every occasion, than those that rise early, and fare hardly, and preserve à firmness of babit and constitution. Too inany there are, who by giving themselves up to the luxury of the imagination, become totally worthless and useless in their minds; never acting from reason and duty, but always froin the impulses of fancy, which is no reasoning faculty. Many are taken off from the neces. sary employments of life, and fall into poverty and contempt, because truly, their imagination will allow them no time to work. Instead of feeding upon their labour, they are starving upon their thoughts. In every station of life, the indolent never fail to be tormented with imaginary evils: they contradict the great and universal law of God; who bath ordained, that man shall eat his bread, not in the fancies of his brain, but in the sweatings of his broiv. Let it also be observed, that for want of useful employment, the mind wears and preys upon itself, like a mill, when it is not supplied with corn to work upon. We are all rightly informed, and, I believe, most of us convinced by experience, that man's life is a struggle, a warfare, a passage over a dangerous seu : but none can under.stand to what degree, and in what extent it is such, till they have reviewed the errors, and dangers, and sufferings of the imagination.
It is therefore our duty, and will be our wisdom, to consider how we may best secure ourselves against these evils.
First then, that the imagination may not be dangerously emplpyed, let it be turned to its proper use. The word of God presents no images to the mind, but to lead us into truth: that word ought therefore to be the daily object of our attention. To set a mistaken value upon things, and make false estimates ; to take little things for great, and great for little, is the worst misfortune that can befal the mind of man : his whole
life is hereby thrown out of its due course; he becomes useless to others, and unhappy in himself. On the contrary, the Scripture gives us a sure rule for finding the weight and measure of every thing: and with the use of it, let us beseech God to deliver us from the wandering of our thoughts; by which we are so apt to be disturbed in 'our meditations and devotions. Every serious Christian must have found, how troublesome and impertinent the imagination is, when the soul should be given up to its prayers ; by which all our sacrifices are so interrupted, and rendered so iinperfect, that another prayer is commonly necessary at last, for forgiveness upon all the prayers that have
2. If we know the true excellence of the Scripture in furnishing the mind with images, we shall of course avoid all such reading as only fills the head with empty visions ; which is too often the only excellence that can be found in works of genius. In a corrupt age, the vanity of invention abounds : idle novels arise, to feed upon public folly; as worms breed in putrid flesh, and then live upon it. Those fashionable productions, whose object is only to amuse, are the ruin of thousands; who collect from thence false ideas of themselves and of the world, which betray them into fatal mistakes, and render them totally unfit for the business of life. Nor is this the worst; the disappointed mind, with vanity to inflate it, and nothing solid to support it, is driven to the agonies of despair, and to the last miserable refuge of despair--God send better things to every Christian soul in which there is a spark of grace!
3. Many strange doctrines, with a colouring of religion upon them, have been propagated of late years, nearly allied to the old heathen magic; which lead