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It may not, however, be inexpedient to expatiate on that wretchedness which is the portion of guilt; since, though the guilty may be but little affected by a representation of their own unhappy state, the innocent may, at least, be encouraged to hold fast their integrity, when they "behold the distresses. that are inseparable from wickedness.
That consciousness of its own immortality, which is implanted in every human mind, unavoidably leads it forward to the contemplation of futurity. On the reflections which this contemplation produces depends much of our pleasure or pain. The good man, from a sense of the divine favour, cannot consider it without satisfaction and hope; the wicked, from a contrary conviction, cannot think of it without misery.
He whose hopes are not in God, who has lived in idle negligence, or in open violation of his laws, must, for the same reason that makes the good man rejoice, dread the events of life and death. When he calmly reflects, (and reflection will sometimes interfere,) he can find nothing in his past life that can recommend him to the favour of that Power, who delights in goodness, and is a rewarder of the just. Deprived then of that favour, what shall he do? or how shall he look forward to the dismal prospect that lies before him How shall he support the thought of being excluded for ever from the presence of that Being, who has promised eternal happimess to his servants Shall he be capable of entertaining such a thought without terror and anguish 2 Miserable is the condition of wickedness even in this life. Gaiety and dissipation may occasionally banish thought, and produce some intervals of ease or mirth; but the flighty scene will quickly disappear, and remorse and distraction renew their assaults. The voice of flattery may for a while soothe the breast with false hope, and paint delightful scenes and agreeable prospects; but the amusive dream will vanish in a moment, and reason and reflection condemn the folly of attention. Happy, indeed, would it be, could the repeated attacks of these friendly monitors at length disengage us from our miserable attachments—at length persuade us to seek our happiness in the paths of religious peace: but such is the obstimacy of depraved inclinations, that the vicious man, though he may feel the disquietudes of conscience, seldom listens to its dictates, or takes the proper means to reconcile it to his conduct. To divert it, indeed, means are generally consulted, and expedients are sought to soothe it into rest; but the slumbers of an unapproving conscience never last long. A thousand accidents concur to bring back reflection, and it is only suspended to acquire the greater force. To what miserable arts is the wicked. man reduced in order to be reconciled to himself, and to stifle the efforts of that conviction, from which it is not in the power of the heart to set itself freel What a wretched expedient to return to the same practices his mind is now condemning, from whose tribunal he is labouring to escape I Strange, indeed, is it that he who pretends merely to act from the suggestions of nature, and makes those a plea for the indulgence of every inclination, should not here listen to the natural friend of his bosom, whose kind endeavours are exerted to rescue him from ruin! Strange, that the habit of vice should be so infatuating, as still to keep its votaries attached to it, in spite of reason and of happiness on the one hand, and the diseases and disquietudes it produces on the other 1 : For though the sense of having forfeited the favour of that all-powerful Being, on whom we depend, might alone be a sufficient cause of wretchedness, yet that is far from being the whole portion of misery that awaits the wicked.
The disorders that the body derives from intemperance, the fear of being detected in vice or villainy, and of suffering either in loss of reputation, or of life; the vexations of frequent disappointments, which, to those whose only hopes are centered in this life, and who have no dependence on, or expectations from, Providence, must be very many and very great; and numberless causes of dissatisfaction besides contribute to enlarge the woes of wickedness, and to take from the vicious man every prospect of rest.
Is this the portion of the guilty? Is this the life for which they forfeit heaven, and are these the delights and the pleasures of sin Great God! can there be in creatures thou hast endowed with the power of reflection such folly as this? Doth not even the unreasoning animal consult, in the best manner he can, his own ease and happiness? But man is industrious to destroy both. He refuses the very means of peace and security, and pursues the obvious path to destruction and misery.
What can thus infatuate the mind; and make it regardless of the dictates of conscience and of reason 2 of conscience that would lead us into the way of salvation, and of reason that would point out the dangers we should avoid. Can we be so much wrapped up in present objects, so careless of the future, as to neglect that which the next moment may refuse us the power to perform, and the omission of which will be attended by the worst of consequences? Can it be in the power of a world that hath deceived us as often as we have trusted it, to make us withdraw our hearts from, and forfeit our hopes to, a better? Can we calmly meditate on the loss of eternal happiness, and pursue the paths of sin with security of heart? No: the prophet observes, that the wicked enjoy mot even this security, that they never know the happiness of a mind at ease, but are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast forth mire and dirt. Astonishing it is that the tempest should not at last make them weary, and desirous of rest in some quiet harbour ! Can the fair scenes of peace have no attraction? can the pleasing prospects of happiness fail to induce? Alas! they fail. The eye refuses to , look upon them, or beholds them at best with careless indifference. The wicked, though they have no peace, seldom take the right