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withstand temptations so destructive to his natural and real happiness?
But what need to dwell on suppositions, when the truth of our case, fairly represented, will appear in a stronger light than any supposition can place it ?
If we have immortal souls, and that we have nature speaks within us, this place, we are sure, is not their native country : nothing immortal can belong to this globe, where all things tend to decay; which Thall itself be one day consumed, and this beautiful order be succeeded by a new confufion and another chaos. Were this the only place to which we have relation, we might justly complain of nature for the sad provision she has made for man: he only, of all the creatures of this lower world, wants an happiness suited to his capacity. The rest of the creatures leem satisfied and happy, to the full meature of their capacities, by the provision made for them. Man alone finds no true enjoyment here, but is ever restless, and in pursuit of something more than this world can give. If something more is in reserve for him, his desires are well suited to his condition, and the wisdom of God is discernible in giving man defires fitted for nobler enjoyments than this life affords, fince for man much nobler enjoyments are prepared. These desires are given to be a constant call to him to remember the dignity of his creation, and to look forward to the better hopes of a better world ; and to govern and restrain the appetites which, too freely indulged, fet him upon a level with the brutes, and disqualify him for the happiness proper to rațional beings.
Taking this to be the case, what is it a wise man has to do, but to get as well through this world as he can ; I had almost said as fast as he can, that he may arrive at those enjoyments in reserve for him, which will yield a full as well as an endless satisfaction? What can he think of the pleasures of this world, but that they are below the care of him who is born to so great expectations ? Thus he must think even of innocent delights: they are frail, transitory, and uncertain ; he is immortal: these therefore are but unworthy objects of his desires ; fit to be used, but too mean to be courted; proper for his diversion, but never good enough to become his business, or to employ his thoughts in the pursuit of them. But guilty pleasures, the sensual enjoyments and pollutions of the world, appear to him in a more ugly form : he is upon the way, haftening to the place where his heart is fixed : sensual pleasures are robbers which frequent his road, and lie in wait to take away his life and his treasure : these he will fly, for they are dangerous, and he has all his wealth about him ; even his hopes and expectations of immortality, which die away if once he falls into the snares of sensuality.
Consider this case fairly, look to the glory and immortality which are placed before you, and the everlasting habitation prepared for those who serve their Maker in holiness, and keep themselves unspotted from the world : then view the temptations which surround you, which would fix you down to this world, and intercept all your hopes; and tell me what more powerful argument there can be to abstain from fleshly lusts than this, that ye are
strangers and pilgrims on earth, and look for another, even an heavenly habitation.
Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die, fay the disciples of Epicurus : commendable in this, that their exhortation is suitable to their principle. There is no inconsistency in exhorting men to make the best of this world and the pleasures of it, when you teach them there is no other to be expected: but surely it is to the highest degree absurd to teach the same doctrine, without asserting the same principle. There is not common fense in saying, Let us eat and drink, for after this life we Shall enter upon another without end. Yet this is the wise exhortation which every man makes, who pretends to believe a future state, and yet pleads for a liberty to indulge his appetites in this. Yes, say you: but God, who knows what he has prepared for us hereafter, has yet given thefe appetites : and how can it be so inconfistent with our future expectations to gratify our appetites at present, since our appetites as well as our expectations are natural, and both derived from the same original ? This is the capitol of the cause, the darling argument of the sensual man. But suppose this world to be a state of trial, suppose these appetites to be given partly for the proof of our virtue, how will the conlequence stand then ? God has given us appetites for the trial of our virtue, therefore we may indulge our appetites without any regard to virtue : how? No man surely can reason thus : it can never follow that we are at liberty to fin, because God has thought fit to call us to a trial of our virtue. But if God has given us appetites, and made it part of our
trial to govern and restrain them within the bounds of temperance and justice, and you will nevertheless infer, that because God has given these appetites, we may therefore indulge them to the utmost; what is it but making that a license to fin, which God and nature intended for a trial of virtue ?
But you will insist farther perhaps, and ask, How it is consistent with God's goodness to work such temptations as these into the very nature of mankind ? A notable question ! But if you attend to it, it comes to this : How is it consistent with God's goodness to make any thing that is not absolutely perfect, to make rational creatures, for instance, capable of doing amiss ? The question, I say, comes to this, or else there is nothing in it: for if God may make creatures not absolutely perfect, but capable of finning, there is no greater objection against putting the trial of their virtue upon their natural appetites, than upon any other weakness or infirmity : and some infirmity there must be in every creature capable of offending, and thereby capable of a trial. Had we no desires that could incline us to do amiss, we should be above a state of trial : and if it is lawful to indulge all our defires upon this pretence, that they are natural, it is evident we cannot do amiss in following our defires, and consequently we are not in a state of trial, What hitherto we have called temptations to fin, are in truth justifications of it; for temptations act upon our desires, and our desires cannot lead us wrong: and if so, every base action is justified by the temptation that produces it: and no man can fin but when he is forced to do something against his inclination. This plea, drawn from natural defires, is, I know, made use of to justify one kind of wickedness particularly : but surely this is very partial dealing ; for I see no reason why pride, ambition, and avarice should be excluded the benefit of it. Have pride, ambition, and avarice no desires ; or are they all unnatural ? It would be well for the world if they were, but the case is otherwise : mankind are of a nature subject to these desires as well as others; and upon the foot of this plea we may make saints, as well as heroes, of all the great difturbers of the world.
To conclude : the desires of nature are ordained to serve the ends of nature : reason is given to man to govern the lower appetites, and to keep them within their proper bounds : in this consists the virtue of man : this is the trial to which he is called ; and the prize contended for is nothing less than immortality. If we indulge ourselves to the utmost in this world, our enjoyments must be very short-lived, since we are ourselves but of a short continuance on earth ; but the next scene that opens will present us with a state that never changes, either happy or miserable, according as we behave here. In this world we have little interest, no abiding place; and ought therefore to pass through it with the indifference of travellers, whose affections are placed on their native country. This is the view the Apostle had before him in giving the exhortation contained in the text, Dearly beloved, 1 beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abftain from fleshly lufts, which war againg the foul.