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worst servitude; and that no one S ERM. is free, but he who is virtuous and good.
It is necessary to begin with remov. ing false ideas of liberty, and shewing in what it truly consists. We are not to imagine that to be free imports our being set loose from restraint or rule of every kind. No man, in any condition of life, is at liberty to act always as he pleases, and to gratify every with he forms. The nature of the human state necessarily imposes on all men various restraints. The laws of society allow no one to indulge himself in pursuits or pleasures that are injurious to his neighbour. Even our own nature limits our pleasures within certain bounds. All our desires cannot be gratified together. They frequently interfere, and require him who would indulge one fayourite passion, to deny himself in another. Distinctions, therefore, must be made, preferences be given, and some general regulation of conduct be observed by every one who consults his
SER M. own welfare. If there be any regula
tion which enfures us of safety and happiness, to be disengaged from the observance of that regulation is no article of liberty; at least of such liberty as a wise man would wish to enjoy. It is in effect to be turned loose to our own ruin. It is such liberty as a blind man enjoys, of wandering at random, and striking into every devious path, without a guide to direct his steps, and fave him from destruction.
That unbounded licentiousness, there fore, which sinners prefer to every regulation of conduct, is altogether different from true freedom. It is in moral behaviour the same as anarchy is in a ftate, where law and order are extin&t. Anarchy, surely, is no lefs incompatible with true liberty than absolute defpotism ; and of the two it is hard to say which is the least eligible, or the most miserable state. Liberty by no means supposes the absence of all government. It only fupposes that the government under which we are placed is wife; and that the restraints to
which we voluntarily submit ourfelves SER M. have been contrived for the general interest, * To be free, therefore, imports, in ge'neral, our being placed in such circumstances, that within the bounds of justice and good order, we can act according to our own deliberate choice, and take fuch meafures for our conduct as we have reason to believe are conducive, to our welfare ; without being obstructed either by external force, or by violent internal impulse. This is that happy and dignified state which every wife man earnestly wishes to enjoy. The advantages which result from it are chiefly these three; freedom of choice ; independence of mind ; boldnefs and fecurity. In opposition to these distinguishing characters of liberty, I now proceed to Thew that, in the first place, vice deprives bad men of free choice in their actions; that, in the second place, it brings them under a Navish dependence on external circumstances; and that, in the third place, it reduces them to that abject,
SERM.cowardly, and disquieted state which is
effentially characteristic of bondage:
I. Vice is inconsistent with liberty, as it deprives sinners of the power of free choice, by bringing them under the dominion of passions and habits. Religion and virtue address themselves to reason. They call us to look round on every side; to think well of the consequences of our actions; and, before we take any step of importance, to compare the good with the evil that may ensue from it. He therefore who follows their dictates, acts the part of a man who freely consults, and chuses, for his own interest. But vice can make no pretensions of this kind. It awaits not the test of deliberate comparison and choice; but overpowers us at once by some striking impression of present advantage or enjoyment. It hurries us with the violence of passion; captivates us by the allurements of pleasure; or dazzles us by the glare of riches. The sinner yields to the impulse, merely
because he cannot resist it. Reason re- SERM. monstrates; conscience endeavours to a check him; but all in vain. Having once allowed some strong passion to gain the ascendant, he has thrown himself into the middle of a torrent, against which he may sometimes faintly struggle, but the impetuosity of the stream bears him along. In this situation he is so far from being free, that he is not master of himself. He does not go, but is driven; tossed, agitated, and impelled; paffive, like a ship to the violence of the waves.
After pafsion has for a while exercised its tyrannical sway, its vehemence may by degrees subside. But when by long indulgence, it has established habits of gratification, the finner’s bondage becomes then more confirmed, and more miserable. For during the heat of pursuit he is little capable of reflection. But, when his ardour is abated, and nevertheless, a vitious habit rooted, he has full leisure to perceive the heavy yoke he has brought upon himfelf. How many Naves do we fee in