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has loaded himself with the crimes of others, and can never know the extent of his own wickedness, nor make reparation for the mischief that he has caused. There is not, perhaps, in all the stores of ideal anguish, a thought more painful, than the consciousness of having propagated corruption by vitiating principles; of having not only drawn others from the paths of virtue, but blocked up the way by which they should return; of having blinded them to every beauty but the paint of pleasure, and deafened them to every call but the alluring voice of the sirens of destruction.'
But in the appeal which your friend has made to the clemency of our beneficent Creator, no regard is paid to his holiness or his justice ; to his truth and faithfulness as the moral governour of the universe. Considered in this light, his sovereign authority must operate by no rule, but must bend to the corrupt passions and inclinations of men: nay, it must, in fact, relinquish its claim to obedience; and the Maker of all things become himself subject to the caprice of his own creatures!
The drunkard thinks it hard that his momentary intemperance, which is injurious to no one but himself, should be regarded as unpardonable indulgence. The thief can never believe that his forcibly taking from others what he considers as superfluous, in order to supply his own absolute wants, is a crime that calls for the interposition of vengeance. Thus, respecting every species of iniquity, and through all gradations of guilt, each transgressor has, in his turn, a thousand arguments to plead in extenuation of his crimes: and these arguments, if not sufficiently weighty to balance his guilt, ought, he thinks, so far to prevail as to secure him from final perdition. Every man becomes his- own judge, and imagines himself possessed of both capacity and right to decide in his own cause.
Now, according to this hypothesis, there is no fixed standard of right and wrong. There must be as many laws by which to judge, as there are individuals to be judged. The great Arbiter of the universe can give no award. He has erected his tribunal in vain; and must either tamely acquiesce in the sentence which the criminal himself shall pronounce, or be stigmatized as a merciless tyrant.
i 'If,' says a sensible writer, 'the feelings of every man's mind were to be the standard of obligation, what duty that crosses their inclinations will men perform, or what vice that flatters them will they forego, for the sake of what others call reason, and in deference to an equivocal authority arising from what philosophy itself, which hath talked most loudly about this authority, hath not agreed to give any name or definition to? For every man's own feeling, that is, his inclination, will be his standard of duty, without a settled law to which to appeal, a fixed and decisive criterion of good and evil, in spite of all the fine things that have been said on the beauty of virtue— fitness and unfitness—the moral sense—and all
—' which Theocles in raptur'd vision saw.'
When men of this description are told of their situation and their danger, nothing is more common than for them to reply, God is merciful; but 'this,' as an ingenious writer expresses it, 'is a false and fatal application of a divine and comfortable truth. Nothing can be more certain than the proposition, nor morqr delusive than the inference. The truth is, no one does truly trust in God, who does not endeavour to obey him. For habitually to break his laws, and yet to depend on his favour; to live in opposition to his will, and yet in expectation of his mercy; to violate his commands, and yet look for his acceptance, would not, in any other case, be thought a reasonable course of conduct; and yet it is by no means as uncommon as it is inconsistent.
'But the life of a dissipated, or rather a nominal christian, seems to be a perpetual struggle to reconcile impossibilities; it is an endeavour to unite what God has for ever separated, peace and sin; unchristian practices with christian observances; a quiet conscience and a disorderly life; a heart full of this world and an unfounded dependence on the happiness of the next,'1
That all attempts to separate what God has joined together are as impious as they are vain you need not be told. 'Christianity must be embraced entirely, if it be received at all. It must be taken without mutilation, as a perfect scheme, in the way in which God has been pleased to reveal it. It must be accepted, not as exhibiting beautiful parts, but as presenting one consummate whole, of which the perfection arises from coherence and dependence, from relation and consistency. Its: power will be weakened and its energy destroyed, if every caviller pulls out a pin, or obstructs a spring, with the presumptuous view of new modelling the divine work, and making it go to his own mind. There is no breaking this system into portions of which we are at liberty to choose one, and reject another. There is no separating the evidence from the doctrine; the doctrines from the precepts; belief from obedience; morality from piety; the love of our neighbour from the love of God. If we profess Christianity at all, if we allow the divine Author to be indeed unto us wisdom and righteousness, he must be alsa sanctification and redemption.'