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we win them to our party ? Is this so hard a matter ? Can the affections of our hearts be set in opposition to God, to Heaven, and our greatest good? Yes ; in the most obstinate opposition; but not, indeed, till religion and reason have lost their hold upon our minds ; for otherwise, a man could never become so literally and desperately his own enemy, could never suffer so total a perversion of mind, and depravity of nature, as to place his delight and joy in the infallible and known means of his own destruction.
O wretched, wretched man! could he know himself, what a wonder, what a monster, would he appear in his own eyes ! How would it shock him, to find himself forsaking God, and leaning on earthly supporters, which have either no strength, or no being, but what his own blind imagination lends them ! falling into snares laid for himself, by his own hands! weltering in misery, where he hoped to wallow in pleasure ! entering the lists for a kingdom, but shamefully submitting in the first encounter! starting for a crown, but stumbling and falling at every step! and, with heaven and hell placed full in his sight, with reason to direct him, and religion to assist him; yet, as it were with open eyes, led downward to eternal misery! But he is hid from himself, and 'seeing, he cannot see.'
May God of his infinite mercy open our eyes. May he give us strength to stand our ground, that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we may receive the full reward of those who continue to the last in his goodness, through the mediation of Christ our Saviour, and the assistance of our ever blessed Comforter and Helper; to whom, with thee, O merciful Father, be all might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
MAN HIS OWN ENEMY.
GAL. v. 17.
The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and
these are contrary one to the other.
This doctrine is the same with that of the apostle, in the seventh and eighth chapters of his Epistle to the Romans ; wherein he speaks of one law in his flesh or members, warring against another law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin,' affirming that the carnal mind is enmity against God.' Nothing in all the Scriptures seems so strange to deists and libertines, as this, which represents the one part of oar nature as set in direct opposition to the other, even in regard to duty and virtue, the rules and motives of which, say they, are founded on, and arise out of, human nature, in such a manner, that a man, in order to be good, hath nothing else to do, but to follow his own nature. But if the dictates of nature are opposite, how can they be all right, or all obeyed? Yet, that they are opposite, the experience of every thinking man is sufficient to teach him; for he can never surely deny, that, on many important occasions, he finds one part of his nature hurrying him to certain actions, while another labours to withhold him. If this is not sufficient to convince the libertine and natural man, that all is not uniform within him, let him consult the heathen philosophers, whom he admires, and, to serve a turn, prefers to Christ and his apostles, and they perhaps will do it. Nothing is more remarkable in their writings, than repeated precepts for subduing the appetites and passions by reason; nor in their actions, than such mortifications applied to that purpose, as no hermit need be ashamed of. Had they been supported in this attempt by a tolerable scheme of religion, they could hardly have failed of success; but vain is the endeavour to remedy irregularities in practice by absurdities in principle.
One of the best methods proposed by philosophy for subduing the passions, is to set them at variance among themselves, so as to make one of them a spy and check upon the other. Thus, fear may be opposed to anger, desire to sloth, and jealousy to love. Aristotle, speaking of this expedient, says, “The affections, if one knows how to manage them with address, may be employed as weapons against each other.' But Seneca says, “ This might be true, if we could take them up and lay them down at our pleasure, as we do warlike instruments; but these arms will neither obey directions, nor wait for the word of command; but make war of themselves, being as bad servants, as they are masters. That readiness and activity, says he, is to be approved, which goes where it is desired, and no farther; which may be turned from its course, and trained to directions. We know our nerves are distempered, when they move in spite of our wills. He is either an old man, or of an infirm constitution, who runs when he intends to walk. In like manner we esteem those the strongest and soundest motions of the mind, which proceed in obedience to our will, and are not carried on as it were by a will of their own.'
It was impossible for mere philosophers to shew a better talent for invention than the first, or at reasoning, than the latter hath done on this occasion. Thus it is however, that philosophy, groping in the dark, runs counter, and refutes herself. This expedient must indeed be rather prejudicial than useful to mere philosophy, which hath not, in herself, sufficient strength to employ the passions in her service; for she cannot govern them. She must therefore labour totally to stifle and suppress them. But Christianity, more agreeable to our nature, hath, to admirable purpose, built its morality on a scheme not unlike that of Aristotle. Our religion hath placed before desire, fear, and hope, the strongest of our passions, such objects as we can never be too much affected with. These passions, thus exalted by faith above all worldly and seducing objects, in respect to which nothing but change and excess are to be looked for, become infinitely helpful in bridling and subduing all our other affections and appetites. He who hath God to love, heaven to hope for, hell to fear, can hardly think any thing in this world worth pursuing, that may divert him from objects so infinitely great and excellent.
Nothing more need be said to shew, that there is in man, left to his own re, a kind of moral war between his reason and passions, to which the compound nature of his being, though it is not the cause, hath given the occasion. The body of man, like the greater world, is made up of ingredients, or elements, directly contrary in their qualities one to another. In the original frame of his nature, these contrarieties were so tempered, and bound together by such a tie, as produced at once an wholesome harmony and necessáry variety; but this tie hath since received such a shock from sin, as suffers the several ingredients to return to their natural opposition, and at last dissolve the body.
Between the soul and body of a man there is also, by their
very nature, a wide diversity, if not a like opposition. At first the body, with its appetites and passions, was made absolutely subject to the soul, from whence resulted wisdom and virtue. But this subjection hath, by the corruption of human nature, been unhappily changed into rebellion; so that now the spiritual and carnal part of man, draw different ways, according to their different natures, this pulling to vice, that to virtue. Hence it comes that in man' (that is, in his flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with him, but how to perform that which is good, he findeth not.' He delights in the law of God after the inward man, but sees, at the same time, a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin.'
This contest between reason and his passions is, in the best man, who lives according to mere nature, exceedingly sharp; and, for want of better aids than he can furnish himself with, his reason is soon forced to quit the field, and submit to some prevailing scheme of vice, prescribed to him by the flesh, or the world; after which, it only serves to conceal and cater for his vices.
But in the Christian, reason being supported with' strong hopes and fears, as to futurity, with lively apprehensions of God's continual presence and inspection, and with the divine Spirit, is enabled to carry on the war against his passions with better hope of success.
Hence the contest becomes more equal, and consequently more fierce and lasting. His flesh contends for present, worldly, and sensible enjoyments; the spirit for good things, unseen, and future. His flesh recommends its choice by the natural sweetness and certainty of the gratification it proposes ; the spirit urges the purity and eternity of that happiness, on which it labours to fix his attention. The Spirit searcheth even the hidden things of God;' nor is he less perfectly acquainted with those of man, for he is the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and counsel,' and therefore is able to guide us into all truth." Now his compassion and tenderness for us are as great as his wisdom, and it is therefore he is called 'our Comforter.' Under the direction of such a guide, we can never go astray.
But our ungoverned affections are irregular and blind, and therefore surely, of all things, the most unqualified either to direct or support us. While we are under their influence, we are exactly in the state of one who is drunk, and knows not how to stand or walk. Any violent passion disturbs the brain in the same manner as strong liquor : • There is,' says St. Chrysostom,' a drunkenness without wine, otherwise the prophet had never said, Woe be to those who are drunk, but not with wine; nor St. Paul, Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; intimating, that there are other things which intoxicate. There is a drunkenness in anger, in concupiscence, in covetousness, in vain glory, and in other affections; for drunkenness is nothing else, but a departure from right reason, and a deprivation of understanding. As he who hath drank much, is lavish of rude words, and sees one thing for another; so a person under the violence of any passion speaks, like a fool, unintelligibly, rudely, and with a strange mixture of silly laughter. His eyes mistake their most accustomed objects, and are often blind to things the most visible. He, particularly, who is angry, is unquestionably drunk; for his voice is hoarse, his eyes are bloodshot and distorted, his understanding is benighted, his tongue faulters, his ears misrepresent what he hears.'
That which puts a man in such a condition, is surely not fit to be trusted with the direction or government of his