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millions, but before they reached the land of promise, near half their numbers pined away in their iniquities, and perished in the wilderness. And though they increased again in the reign of Solomon, yet in the next succeeding reign they departed from God, and for their groundless revolt, half a million were destroyed in one day. Nor did their open vices and immoralities ever fail to diminish their numbers, from that time to the time of their final dispersion and ruin. The Greeks, for many ages, maintained their virtue, and continued to increase; but as soon as the vices of Asia corrupted their morals, they immediately began to diminish. Rome was once extremely populous. It contained more inhabitants, than are now contained in all the United States. But vice, in a few years, not only thinned the capital, but diminished the whole empire. Vice has a natural, as well as a moral tendency to waste and destroy every human society. For, indolence, intemperance, luxury, and prodigality, serve to weaken and enervate the human frame, and of course, to expose men to the attacks and ravages of every malignant disorder. Hence we find, that the whole train of painful and mortal diseases, have always raged with the greatest violence, among those nations who have sunk the deepest in moral pollutions.
II. It is the nature of sin to sink and depress the spirits of a people. This is a fair and just conclusion from the last particular. The soul and body are intimately connected, and mutually strengthen or weaken each other. If vice therefore serves to weaken and enervate the body, it must in the same proportion, serve to sink and depress the spirit. Besides, the vie cious and profligate sensibly feel, that vice immediately affects and contaminates their minds, sets their rea
son, conscience, and passions at variance, and effectually restrains them from great and noble exertions. Hence says the Father of Spirits by the prophet, “whoredom, and wine, and new wine, take away
A people confirmed in the habits of vice, have no heart to labor, no heart to think, no heart to form, nor execute any virtuous and laudable designs. Their genius withers, their exertions languish, their hopes and honors, and virtues perish. These are no imaginary, but real and natural effects of the prevalence of vice. And these have been actually experienced, by the most brave and enlightened nations, in the last stages of luxury and corruption. There never was a people, perhaps, more brave and sprightly, and more perfectly polished in their taste and manners, than the ancient people of Athens. They carried learning in general, and the fine arts in particular, next to the last degree of refinement.
Their works of genius and taste are still considered and admired as the standards of perfection. But indolence, prodigality and luxury, gradually enslaved and enfeebled their minds, and tinally reduced them to the lowest state of savage stupidity and ignorance. The Romans, after they had subdued the Greeks and all other nations within the reach of their arms, finally subdued and enslaved themselves, by their own vices. In the time of Augustus, they reigned masters of the world, and stood without a rival in arms and arts. But at the close of the Augustan age, not only their spirit of enterprise, but their spirit of refinement began to languish; and after that corrupt and dissolute period, they never produced but two men of genius and eminence; the one to relate, and the other to satirize their viccs.*
* TACITUS and JUVENAL.
T'he corruption of morals, which now prevails in some of the principal nations of Europe, already begins to impair their mental powers and improvements. Many of their modern productions of genius and taste, bear strong and visible marks of declension. Their late publications are extremely superficial. They discover neither strength of mind nor energy of expression. They appear more like the feeble births of leisure and memory, than the strong and masculine offspring of genius and study. They merit the corner of a monthly or weekly paper, but ought never to occupy the page of a serious volume.
In short, their plays, novels, epigrams, extracts, and abridgements, which compose the catalogue of their learned labors, are much better suited to amuse and stupisy, than to enlighten and enlarge the mind; and therefore they naturally tend to diminish, rather than to increase the common stock of useful knowledge. The British nation, in particular, have been gradually declining in point of literature, ever since the licentious reign of Charles II. This is confirmed by the venerable authority of their own most venerable monuments, Their Newton continues to reign in philosophy; their Locke in nietaphysics: their Milton in poetry; and their Addison in neat and nervous composition. When these illustrious and virtuous men went off the stage, the republic of letters sustained a loss, which will never be repaired by the feeble and languishing genius of Britain. Such plain and undeniable facts carry convincing evidence, that the prevalence of vice among a people, will impair their minds, obstruct the progress of learning and knowledge, and reduce them to that ignorance and barbarity, which must issue in their ruin and reproach,
III. It is the nature of sin to destroy the wealth of a nation, and subject them to all the evils and reproaches of poverty. Though some species of fraud and dishonesty may, for a certain time, and under certain circumstances, advance a person or people in wealth and grandeur; yet vice, according to its common and natural course, will eventually involve them in poverty and shame. Solomon assures us, “the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty; and drowsiness shall cover a man with rags.” And again, “slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Luxury and prodigality not only waste the wealth which a people have already acquired; but, by destroying the spirit of industry, effectually prevent the future acquisitions of property. Besides, these vices stupify the minds of a people, and forbid them to reflect where their folly and dissipation will carry them, till poverty and distress awaken their fears, and plunge then in remorse and despair. Wc have a remarkable instance of this, in the stupid conduct and miserable fate of the corrupt and degenerate Romans. They had acquired immense treasures from their conquered subjects: but their immense prodigality and profusion soon wasted their wealth, and reduced them to extreme poverty. Their houses, their tables, their equipage, and other articles of private luxury, were sufficient of themselves, to destroy the wealthiest nation. But their public profusion was far more extravagant. Their temples, their theatres, their public games, and shows, and triumphs, cost millions and millions! They might have easily seen, that such prodigality and dissipation would soon exhaust the treasures of Rome and all her provinces; but the enchantments of vice would not permit the mass of the people to open their eyes and perceive their dan
ger, till they were past recovery, and completely ripened for ruin. Accordingly they persisted in their folly, till poverty and meanness concluded the scene. The whole empire at length became so poor, so corrupt, and venal, as to be sold at a public auction to a private citizen. This must be the fate of any nation, who give themselves up to prodigality and luxury. No people can possibly supply the insatiable demands of vice; and therefore unless it be seasonably restrained, it will infallibly sink them in poverty and reproach.
IV. It is the nature of vice to deprive a people of the blessings of freedom, and involve them in the misery and meanness of slavery Were it not for the vices and corruptions of men, they would have no occasion to give up any of their rights and privileges, in order to secure and enjoy the rest. The Apostle tells us, “The law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers, for stealers, for liars, for whoremongers, and for perjured persons." The ultimate design of government is, to prevent and restrain those open acts of violence, which disturb and injure the virtuous and peaceable members of society. But it is the nature of vice to pervert this salutary and important design of government, and transform it into an engine of slavery and ruin.
Vice has the same effect upon the body politic, that sickness has upon the natural body. The natural body is composed of innumerable cords or ligatures, which unite the parts, and strengthen the members to perform their office. But sickness serves to relax and dissolve these tender cords, and bring on a total extinction of life and motion. So the body politic is composed of innumerable moral ties and connexions,