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which, notwithstanding all their advantages, they have committed, they will learn to be more candid. There are Christians, who are disposed to overlook their own imperfections, whilst they treat the imperfections of others without mercy. They seem to think that they shall by these means compound for their peculiar vices, or at least ward off the censures of the world. To such
persons I would recommend the study of their own charac
Let them endeavor to become acquainted with their own hearts, and to reform what is amiss in their own conduct. Self-examination will afford them sufficient employment, and leave them no time to censure the conduct of their brethren. This advice is conformable to the precepts of our blessed Saviour. Let him, said he in a memorable instance, let bim who is without sin, cast the first stone. Again, Why beholdest thou the mote which is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam which is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote which is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam which is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to pull out the mote which is in thy brother's eye. The man, who has repented of his own vices, will view his brethren, who are still under the dominion of sin, with compassion and affection, not with severity or ill will. He will desire, he will endeavor to reform them, as he knows by experience that the paths of wickedness lead to misery and destruction ; but the means, which he employs to effect this benevolent purpose will be kind words, and charitable exhortations.
I have thus endeavored to recommend candor; and I would now conclude my discourse with entreating you to become acquainted with this amiable virtue. Cherish her as your companion ; embrace her as your friend. Her presence will diffuse peace through your minds, and calm the tumults, which severity and censoriousness excite in her absence. Forget not however to associate her with every other virtue ; for the virtues appear to the best advantage in each other's society, and are in general inseparable companions ; when one is banished, the rest will be inclined to depart. I exhort you therefore in the words of the Apostle Peter: Add to your faith, fortitude; and to fortitude, knowledge ; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
S, before Lent..
THE ENTICEMENT OF SINNERS.
but wha the
PROV. I. 10.
MY SON, IF SINNERS ENTICE THEE, CONSENT THOU NOT.
What is the cause of sin ? is a question on which speculative men have been much divided. Many solutions have been attempted; but none has been given, which has satisfied all parties. Some have attributed it to the abuse of principles, which are in themselves good and useful; others, to a nature originally corrupt ; a third party, to the temptation of the Devil: and a fourth, to the influence of the Supreme Being himself, who hates the sin, which he has created. But whatever the cause of it may be, the fact is certain that it exists in the world, and that it is both destructive of our happiness, and displeasing to God. To extenuate the guilt of it, we may lay the blame of it upon nature; but our consciences testify that this excuse is not satisfactory. When we commit it, we feel that we do wrong ; we feel that we could have done otherwise; and we are convinced, that we are chargeable with guilt, and that we may be justly punished. It is our duty therefore, instead of endeavoring to justify it by arguments which, though they may be specious in theory, are yet practically false, and dan
gerous to act upon; it is our duty to guard ourselves against it with the utmost caution, and to avoid, in particular, the temptations which may lead us to evil. One of the strongest of these temptations is the bad example of the wicked. Whilst there are around us depraved men, who are continually enticing us, our situation is extremely perilous. We need look no further than to them for the cause of sin. There may be other causes; but the pernicious example of a corrupt multitude from whatever source it originated, is alone sufficient to keep the world corrupt, and to make it degenerate still more
Solomon, who in his system of morals has shown us what constitutes the business, the dignity, and happiness of human nature, has, in the introduction of his Proverbs, given us a caution against yielding to the temptations of the wicked : My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. He knew that virtue is rendered difficult by the degeneracy of mankind, and that the most dangerous foes to the practice of it are examples of iniquity. It was necessary therefore to warn the young of what they might expect. It was necessary to warn them, that they would not be suffered to remain unmolested in the paths of innocence; and that the first preparative of a holy life was a fear of being overcome by temptation.
We have in our constitution, passions and appetites, which are given to us for wise purposes ; but which, when they are abused, are the sources of guilt and wretchedness. These passions would seldom be perverted from their right ends, if we were not influenced by the evil example of others. If we saw no persons around us sin, we should not think of sinning. Our passions
would be always gentle breezes, if they were not excited by the breath of the licentious. Who would inflame his spirits with wine, if there were no sinners to entice him to mad revelry? Who would violate truth, if by doing it, he became a solitary liar? Who would dare to be a knave, if dishonesty was unknown in the world ? Where is the man to be found, who would venture, however strong his passions might be, to commit the first crime; to make the first breach in the laws of God; to be the first to introduce confusion into the constitution of nature ? Without temptations from surrounding sinners, temptations within would hardly be sufficient to force men into vice.
This observation shows that our principal care ought to be to guard ourselves against the enticings of the wicked, and the contagion of evil example. In running the career of virtue, the laws of God and our consciences direct us to the right path. It is the irregular conduct of others, which chiefly draws us aside. We follow whither the degenerate lead; for if there were no degenerate to lead, we should venture alone into the crooked paths of vice, into the wilderness of guilt. Alone we should brave all the dangers of the place. Society prevents us from seeing the horrors of the dismal region. We wander to destruction, because we are allured on by companions ; for without companions we should hardly dare to stray.
But the opinions and practices of the wicked, however numerous, cannot alter the nature of vice. Its hatefulness does not lessen, in proportion as it becomes prevalent. In every circumstance and situation, it is a violation of the laws of God, and destructive bath of present and future happiness. A man is not less guilty, because
for tho Blo