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merciful Lord, who hath thus favourably visited us with his holy illuminations, may take up his abode in our hearts, and delight to dwell with us as lovers of righteousness. For negligence and sloth will follow presumption and security; and then our old enemy will be sure to take his advantage when we are off our guard. But if you keep close to the paths of innocence and virtue; if you do not suffer your footsteps to be shaken in them; if you rely upon God with all your heart, and with all your might, you will find your powers of action will be always equal to the progress of your faith. For it is not in heavenly as in earthly benefactions. You are stinted to no measure nor boundary in receiving the gifts of God; the fountain of divine grace is ever flowing, is confined to no precise limitations, hath no determinate channel to restrain the waters of life; let us but in earnest thirst for them, and open our mouths and hearts to receive them, and as much will flow in upon us as we are capable of holding, or as our faith enables us to receive. Inasmuch, therefore, as we have commenced Christians, and have received the Spirit of God into our hearts, he exerts himself in us as he pleases, he worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Yet as we still drag along with us these mortal bodies, somewhat there still will cleave to us of the secular life and of its several imperfections. What accessions however are these of might and power which are hence derived upon the inner man! Not only to be cleared from the pollutions which are in the world through lust, and to be secure against all the incursions of our ghostly enemy, but even to increase in strength; to be upon the offensive with him, to have at mercy, and under our subjection, the whole host and power of our grand adversary.
2. And now, to give you a clearer manifestation of the truth, and to lay before you the most evident proofs and tokens of the divine grace, I will endeavour to furnish you with proper lights for these purposes; and undrawing the curtain will discover to you in the fullest manner the wickedness and darkness which have hitherto overspread the world. Suppose yourself therefore with me upon the top of some very exalted eminence, and thence looking down upon the appearances of things beneath you. Let our prospect take a compass over the whole horizon, and view with the indifference of a person unconcerned in them, the various motions and agitations of human life. You will then, I dare undertake for you, have a real compassion for the circumstances of mankind, and for the posture wherein this view will represent them. And when you reflect upon your own condition, your thoughts will rise in transports of gratitude and praise to God for having made your escape from the pollutions of the world. The main of what you will observe will be, the highways beset with robbers, the seas with pirates, encampments, marches, and all the terrible forms of war and bloodshed; when a single murder is committed, it shall be deemed, perhaps, a crime; but that crime shall commence a virtue, when committed under the shelter of public authority; so that punishment is not rated by the measures of guilt, but the more enormous the size of the wickedness is, so much the greater is its chance for impunity. If you turn your eyes towards cities and places of resort, you will find there a more melancholy spectacle than what could arise out of the most solitary desert. In the theatres you will observe what will furnish matter of grief and shame to you. Wickedness hence is not suffered to pass into oblivion, time is not permitted to wear out the traces, nor the impressions of it, but the horrors of the action are mitigated by applauded repetitions, it becomes thenceforwards exemplary, and the pleasure which the actors give you in representing to the life these various enormities of domestic wickedness, insensibly forms the mind to it, and thence is of fatal consequence to your virtue. What a waste is here committed upon the spectator's morals? What encouragement given to the vilest practices? What fuel hence is ministered to every impure affection, whilst each contracts its proper defilement from the several representations of the stage? I beseech you, let me put the question whether any man is likely to be a spectator of such impure representations, and yet to preserve the purity of his thoughts and purposes untainted? But you will tell me, perhaps, that I have singled out the very worst and foulest instances of vice to declaim against, and to present a scene before you which should shock any person not quite abandoned to all sense of modesty and virtue, and therefore you may proceed to a different view, and consider those pursuits of life which pass in the opinion of the mistaken world for good and commendable; even there I will discover to you what should raise your aversion. There is a secret mischief lurking under all these gaudy appearances of honour, all those ensigns of military and civil power, that abundance of wealth, and that showy magnificence of authority and grandeur which allure the hopes of the aspiring and the ambitious; the outside in these cases is gay, 'tis true, and pleasing; but the inside is tainted, and there are fatal mischiefs lodged in it. You say that at least authority and power, when joined to riches, must make any man secure, and must give him ease at heart; that the splendour of a court, and the guards which attend it, must needs be safe and satisfactory. Alas! a man in these circumstances hath more reason to look well about him, and to be apprehensive of danger, than any other. He always fears more than he is feared. He pays dear for his power, whoever possesses it; let him fence himself in with guards and securities never so numerous. The more dangerous his power is to his subjects, the more dangerous they become to him; before it can strike terror upon others, it strikes first upon his own breast. It gives him pleasure and pain together; allures, exalts, and flatters him, only to deceive, to depress, and to destroy him. The interest of punishment seems to rise in proportion to the capital stock of power; and the higher the advancement, so much greater is the torment which attends it.
3. There is but one way therefore of founding our ease and security upon a solid and lasting bottom; and that is, to get off with the soonest from the waves of this troublesome world, to retire thence, and to fix in the only sure haven of rest and peace, to raise our thoughts and apprehensions from earth to heaven, to interest ourselves in the covenant of grace, to ascend up to God in heart and affection, and to furnish our consciences with those materials of happiness and satisfaction, which the men of this world seek after in a world unable to furnish them. A man who thus hath raised himself above the world will easily expect, will importunately seek for nothing from it. O! what a blessed state is this of repose and safety! How firm is the security which is derived from Heaven! What a felicity is it to be disengaged from the entanglements of this perplexing scene, to be purified from the dross of this sinful world, and to be fitted for immortality, notwithstanding all the former attempts of our grand adversary to seduce, and to corrupt us! The reflections we