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power of nature and of conscience, and the influence of a religious education, may, for A while, withstand the shock, but these gradually will be overpowered, and yield to the impetuosity of the torrent. Hence follow the painful struggles between reason and the senses, between conscience and inclination, which constitute a state of the utmost misery and torment. Such persons, when they are carousing in the gay circle of their acquaintance, when the blood is warm, and the spirits high, will then go all lengths with their fellow-debauchees, and give a loose to every wanton and every wicked desire. But when the fumes of intoxication have forsaken the aching head; when the calm forenoon hour of reflection comes, then conscience, faithful to its trust, summons them to her awful bar, fills them with confusion and remorse, and condemns them to the severest of all tortures, to be extended on the rack of reflection, to lie upon the torture of the mind. This is a state in which great part of mankind live and die. They have as much corruption as to lead them to the commission of new sins, and as much religion as to awaken in them remorse for these sins. They repent of their old vicious pleasures, and at the same time are laying plans for new ones, and make their lives one continued course of sinning and repenting, of transgression and remorse.
The third and last stage of impiety is sitting in the chair of the scorner, or laughing at all religion and virtue. This is a pitch of diabolical attainment, to which few arrive. It requires a double portion of the infernal spirit, and a long experience in the mystery of iniquity, to become callous to every sense of religion, of virtue, and of honour; to throw off the authority of nature, of conscience, and of God; to overleap the barrier of laws divine and human ; and to endeavour to wrest the bolt from the red righthand of the Omnipotent. Difficult as the atchievementis, we see it sometimes effected. -We have-^en persons who have gloried in- their shame, and boasted of being vicious for the sake of vice. Such characters are monsters in the moral world. Figure to yourselves, my brethren, the anguish, the horror, the misery, the damnation, such & person must endure, who must consider himself in a state of enmity witli heaven and with earth; who has no pleasant reflections from the past, no peace in the present, no hopes from the future; who must consider himself as a solitary being in the world; who has no friends without to pour balm in the cup of bitterness he is doomed to drink; who has no friend above to comfort him, when there is none to help; and who lias nought within him to compensate for that irreparable and irredeemable loss. Such a person is as miserable as he is wicked. He is insensible to every emotion of friendship; he is lost to all sense of honour; he is seared to every feeling of virtue.
In the class of those who sit in the chair of the scorn* er, we may include the whole race of infidels, who misemploy the engines of reason or of ridicule to over* throw the Christian religion. Were the dispute concerning a system' of speculative opinions, which of themselves were of no importance to the happiness of mankind,- it would be uncharitable to include them all under this censure. But on the Christian religion, not only the happiness but the virtue of mankind depends. It is an undoubted fact, that religion is the strongest principle of virtue with all men, and with nine tenths of mankind is the only principle of virtue. Any attempt therefore to destroy it, must be considered as an attempt against the happiness and against the virtue of the human kind. If the heathen philosophers did not attempt to subvert the false religion of their country, but, on the contrary, gave it the sanction of their example* because, bad as it was, it had considerable influence on the manners of the people, and was better than no religion at all, what shame, what contempt, what infamy ought they to incur, who endeavour to overthrow a religion which contains the noblest ideas of the Deity, and the purest system of morals, that ever were taught upon earth? He is a traitor to his country; he is a traitor to the human kind; he is a traitor to Heaven, who abuses the talents that God has given him, in impious attempts to wage war against Heaven, and to undermine that system of religion, which, of all things, is the best adapted to promote the happiness and the perfection of the human kind. Blessed then is the man who hath not brought himself into this sinful and miserable state, who hath held fast his innocence and integrity in the midst of a degenerate world; or if, in some unguarded hour, he hath been betrayed into an imprudent step, or overtaken in a fault, hath made ample amends for his folly by a life of penitence and of piety.
Verse 2. His delight is in the law of the Lord. He makes religion and virtue the grand business of his life, and his business becomes his delight. He does not take it up occasionally, and by fits and starts; it is his employment day and night. In the mornino- he riseth with the sun, and joins with the choir of angels and archangels in celebrating the great Creator. He looks around him with a pious pleasure on the living landscape which the hand of the Almighty hath drawn for his delight, and he adores that benevolent power who makes all nature beauty to his eye, and music to his ear; but he has a fairer prospect within, than nature can furnish without, and the still small Voice of conscience whispers peace to his heart in sweeter strains than all the music of the morning, which hails him on every side. With a cheerful and a grateful heart, he contemplates the wonders of creating bounty, he recollects the instances of preserving goodness, and he traces the annals of redeeming love. He looks through the veil of created things, and raises his thoughts from this world to that state of happiness and immortality which is reserved for the spirits pf just men made perfect. His religion does not consist in contemplation alone. He goeth about doin"good. He instructs the ignorant in the light that leads to heaven: he pours the balm of consolation into the wounded mind; and he wipes the tears from the cheeks of the distressed. He distinguishes every day with some good, some memorable deed; and he retires to rest with that inward, serene, and heart-felt joy, that sober certainty of bliss, which is only to be found in a life of holiness and of piety.
Verse 3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he duth shall prosper. A tree planted by the rivers of water, * is a beautiful object in all nations; but to the Jews, who lived in a hot country, and were scorched with the heat of the sun, it was an object both of signal beauty and of signal utility, by affording them a shadow from the heat. Hence, when they describe mankind in their happiest state, they represent them as sitting under their vines and their fig-trees. This allusion expresseth well the flourishing state of the righteous man. Planted in the garden of his God, and watered with the dew of heaven, his leaf is ever green, and he brings forth the fruits of righteousness in due season. His goodness is liberal and unconfined, and his beneficence is shared promiscuously by friends and foes. He is clothed with righteousness, and his judgment is a robe and a diadem. The ear that hears him blesseth, and the eye that sees him gives witness to him, because he delivereth the poor, the fatherless, and them that have none to help. He is eyes to the blind. He is feet to the lame. The loins of the naked bless him. The blessing of him that is ready to perish comes upon him, and he causes the widow's heart to sing for joy.
All he doth shall prosper well. Among the Jews, to whom this Psalm was addressed, this held invariably true. There was a particular dispensation of providence exercised towards that people, distributing temporal rewards to righteousness, and temporal punishments to sin. In the ordinary course of providence now, this does not always hold. Success and disappointment are administered variously to the sons of
jhieh. But still, in all his endeavours, the good mail bids the fairest for success; While he acts in character, he will attempt nothing but what is just and honourable in itself, or beneficial to the interests of society; he will always have the good wishes of mankind on his side. And, although lie should sometimes be disappointed, the consciousness of his good intentions will keep his mind at ease, and his faith in the good providence of his heavenly Father, will fill him with a contentment and peace of mind, that is a stranger to *he breast of the wicked man, even when he obtains his wishes.
Verse 4. The ungodly are not so - But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. The Psalmist hits upon the distinguishing feature in the character of a wicked man. He never acts upon a plan. He lives and acts at random. He has no rule for his life but the veerings of passion. Present gratification being his only object, different and contrary passions solicit him at the same time. One appetite saith unto him* Go, and he goeth; another says, Come, and he cometh. The slave of sense, and the sport of passion, he is driven to and fro like the chaff before the whirlwind, and his life is one continued scene of levity, inconsistency, and folly.
Verses 5, and 6. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; But the way of the ungodlu shall perish* The miseries which the wicked endure here, are but the beginning of their sorrows. That God, whose grace they abused, whose mercy they undervalued, and whose power they despised, is now their awful and inexorable Judge. The wicked have no cause to complain of the sentence that is passed upon them. They have brought it upon their own heads. They have been the instruments of their own ruin. They have brought themselves into a situation in which it is impossible for them to be happy. Let us suppose them to be admitted into, the company of the blessed,
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