« ПредишнаНапред »
that he might indulge them with safety, and that the consequences of them might be prevented by some more easy and agreeable means, than forsaking them.
To judge, then, whether we abhor evil, we must enquire, whether it is sin itself, or only the consequence of it, that offends us whether we are grieved for our fins in the instances, in which we feel no present inconveniences from them ; for our secret fins; for every known act of wickedness; for the guilty thoughts and inclinations, which have never risen into external acts--what is the princi. ple within us which is crossed ; whether it is the love of virtue and righteousness, or only our pride and covetoufness. By such enquiries we are to learn, whether we abhor moral evil, or only abhor poverty, infamy and pain.
5. We must remember, that there is a mighty difference between an abhorrence of evil, and an abhorrence of the persons, who have done it.
This distinction is not sufficiently regarded. If from
have conceived a prejudice a. gainst a man, you readily condemn in him every action in the least degree exceptionable ; not always because you hate the action, but often merely because you hate the man. The same things, which in others would pass unnoticed, are reprobated in him, because you wish to destroy his reputation, and sink him as low in the opinion of the world, as he has already fallen in yours. This is so far from being a hatred of evil, that it is really a rejoicing in it. It is nothing different from malice. The same temper, which prompts you to scandalize an enemy, and to say all manner of evil against him, would take pleasure in his real ini. quities, because these might enable you to attack his reputation with better hopes of success. Let
no man then conclude that he abhors evil, unless this abhorrence extends farther than to the evil which he fees in his enemies. It must come home to himself, and operate with peculiar warmth a. gainst his own iniquities.
Nothing is more common, than for opposite parties in religion, or in politicks, to vilify one another. The fame conduct, which a zealot would overlook, or even vindicate in his own party, or fect, he will, with great feverity, reprehend, and on all occasions, expofe in a rival one. This he wishes to weaken and discredit ; but to exalt and eftablish his own. For this reason you often fee religious partisans far more zealous to make pro. felytes to their feet, than to make faints of their profelytes. It was said of the Pharisees, “They compassed sea and land to make one profelyte, and when they had gained him, they rendered him two fold more a child of hell than themselves." Hence it is, that they who pretend to form a pure church, consisting wholly of saints, usually bring faintship down to fo low a standard that few wil want proof. They have men's persons in admi. ration, not because of their virtue, but for the sake of advantage : and the only indispensible qualification is a zealous attachment to their party.
When we feel in ourselves a zeal against iniquity, let us ftand and enquire, whose iniquity it is, that warms our zeal. Is it our own, or some other man's ? Is it that of a friend, or of an ene. my? That of the sect to which we belong, or on. ly that of a feet which we hate and wilh to depress ? If only the latter awakens our displeasure, it is not the evil of the perfon, but the person himself, that is the object of our abhorrence. And let us beware, left the zeal in which we glory as a virtue, be finally imputed as a vice. If we have
bitter envy and strife in our hearts, this wisdom descendeth not from above.
6. We must distinguish between an abhorrence of particular evils, and an abhorrence of evil at large.
There may be fome vices, from which men are secured by their constitution of body, or condi. tion in life. There are also vices, which, in some men's character, are excluded by opposite vices. A profufe, and a miserly disposition are both vicious ; but they cannot meet in the same person, because they are, in their nature, inconsistent. The same may be faid of indolence and pafronatene; s—of carelessness and anxiety; and many other vicious tempers, in their extreme. If you hate a particular vice only because it stands in the way of your pursuing another; and if you abstain from one evil, that you may practice a different one with greater freedom ; you are no better than your neighbor, who abftains from your vices, that he may
follow his own. Your supposed abhorrence of evil, is only a love of evil. You reject one, because you love another more.
The question then must be, whether you esteem God's commands concerning all things to be right, and hate every false way.
These observations may sufficiently illustrate the temper under consideration. Before we dismiss this branch of our subject, it will be proper to call up in our minds some arguments adapted to awaken an abhorrence of evil.
1. All moral evil is contrary to the nature of God.
That great and dreadful Being, who fills the universe with his presence, and comprehends all creation within the circuit of his inspection, is ever represented, in scripture, as loving rigteoul
ness and hating wickedness; as looking on the virtuous with approbation and favor, and behold. ing with abhorrence the workers of iniquity. Reason consents to the truth of this representation; for a being of perfect knowledge and recti. tude can never confound things so opposite in their nature, as virtue and vice.
The dignity of man consists in a conformity to the character, and the happiness of man depends on the enjoyment of the favour of this all-perfect, Almighty Being. He who loves what God hates, and he who abhors what God approves, is the object of his displeasure, and therefore must be miserable.
Do we believe, that there is such a Being? And can we think it indifferent what choice we make, and what course we pursue? Do we imagine, that he who made and upholds us, is an unconcerned spectator of our conduct ? Can our hearts be re. conciled to the idea of living under his disapprobation? Can we contemplate the purity of his nature, and the defilement of our own, and not abhor ourselves ? Even angels, those holy beings, vail their faces in his presence. What humility then should cover the face of guilty man? With what self-abasement should he contemplate his own fallen condition ? With what heart-felt penitence should he reflect on his numerous transgressions ? With what fervent desires should he seek the
grace of God to purify his soul and make him meet for heavenly joys?
2. Moral evil is contrary to the design, for which we were created.
When we contemplate our nature as formed by the Deity, we see that we were made for a higher purpose than to obey the calls of appetite and luft. We have within us the faculty of reason to dis
tinguish between good and evil, and the principle of conscience to urge our choice of the one, and rejection of the other.
While we regard iniquity in our hearts, there is a sense of guilt, an involunta. ry self-condemnation which attends us. By experi. ence we find, that without the love of God and of virtue governing our conduct, there can be no ra. tional happiness. Ought we not to abhor that, which in its very nature, sinks, degrades and ruins us ? Ought we not, in our hearts, to detest, and in our practice, to avoid that, which in our reason we condemn ? Shall rational beings act in such contradiation to themselves, as to pursue what they know to be miserable, and choose what they fee to be fatal? We call ourselves rational; and we thew ourselves such, when we abhor evil, and cleave to that which is good.
3. The revelation, which God has given us, is designed to make us see the reality, and regard the importance of the matter, which we are now contemplating
He has spoken to us from heaven, and demonstrated the voice to be divine. He has sent prophets, apostles, angels, and one greater than them all, to instruct, warn and persuade us, to point out the path which leads to glory, and fence up the fatal track which goes down to the chambers of destruction : and shall we with blind infatua. tion, and headlong obstinacy, leap over all barriers, and plunge down the dreadful precipice ?
4. Consider what the Saviour of men has fuf. fered to deliver us from evil, and you will be convinced, that you ought to fly from it.
Qur falvation from fin and its consequences, was the design of his coming into this world. To accomplish this benevolent design, he bare our fins in his own body on the cross. Great was the