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shrine of the incensed Deity, and the fond father has been driven to offer up with his own hands his firstborn for his transgression, and the fruit of his body for the fin of his soul. It is poslible to shake off the reverence, but not the dread, of a Deity. Amid the gay circle of his companions, in the hour of riot and dissipation, the fool may say in his heart that there is no God; but his conscience will meet him when he is alone, and tell him that he is a liar. Heaven will avenge its quarrel on his head. Judge then, my brethren, how miserable it must be for a being made after the image of God, thus to have his glory turned into shame. How dismal must the situa. tion be for a subject of the divine governinent to confider himself as acting upon a plan to counteract the decrees of God, to defeat the designs of eternal Prov: idence, to deface in himself the image and the lineaments of heaven, to maintain a state of enmity and war with his Creator, and to associate with the infer. nal spirits, whose abode is darkness and whose por. tion is despair !
Reflections upon such a state will give its full measure to the cup of trembling. Was not Bel. shazzar, the impious king of Babylon, a striking instance of what I am now saying ? This monarch made a feal to a thousand of his lords, and assembled his princes, his concubines and his wives. In order to increase the festivity, he fent for the confecrated vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of Jerusalem, and in these. vessels, which were holy to the Lord, he made liba. tions to his vain idols, and in his heart bade defiance to the God of Israel. But, whilst thus he defied the
living God, forth came the fingers of a man's hand, and on the wall, which had lately resounded with joy, wrote the sentence of his fate! In a moment his countenance was changed, his whole frame shook, and his knees fmote one against another, whilst the prophet in awful accents denounced his doom: “O man, thy kingdom is departing from thee!” Although Providence should not now particularly interpose to punish thee, O guilty man! yet the fentence of thy doom is written in thy heart, and there is a prophet within, who upon the commission of crimes will tell thee, that for these the kingdom of heaven is departed from thee.
In the second place, As wickedness makes a man miserable in his religious character, so does it also in his focial.
However corrupted men may be in their lives, their moral sentiments are just and right ; that is, although from an immoderate felf-love we may excuse wickedness in ourselves, yet such is the force of conscience within, so deeply rooted in the mind is the eternal difference between good and evil, that, by the very frame of our natures, we abhor wickedness in others. When we are conversant in the world, or give our attention to a story that is a faithful picture of human manners, from the impulse of natur, al feeling, we attach ourselves to the side of inno-. cence, we take part with the virtuous hero, and consider his enemies as our own. There is no vice but what tends to make a man contemptible or odious to fociety. Against the greater and more attrocious crimes, the sword of the law is forever drawn, and its stroke is death. Other vices which come not
under the cognizance of the laws, either have ways of punishing themselves, or are marked with public infamy. Pride makes every affront a torment, and puts a man's happiness in the power of every fool he meets with. The envious man is literally his own tormentor, and preys upon his own bowels. The drunkard exposes himself to the derision of mankind, and falls into follies that cover him with shame in his fober hours. Does not a habit of in. toxication deprive a man of all sense of decency, indispose him for the business of life, and render him a sorrow to all his friends? Will the atheist concil. iate the love of men by shewing us that he possesses not the fear of God ? Is not the miser pointed at with the finger of scorn, and doomed to the double curse of hoarding and guarding ? Is not a liar universally odious, and does he not prepossess us against him even when he speaks truth? Do not fraud and dishonesty mar a man's fortune, ruin his reputation, and hinder his success in life?
In truth, my brethren, there is not a fin but what one way or other is punished in this life. We often err egregiously by not attending to the distinction between happiness and the means of happiness. Power, riches and prosperity, those means of happiness and sources of enjoyment, in the course of providence are sometimes conferred upon the worst of men. Such persons possess the good things of life, but they do not enjoy them. They have the means of happiness, but they have not happiness itself. A wicked man can never be happy. It is the firm decree of Heaven, eternal and unchangeable as JehoVAH himself, that misery must ever attend on guilt,
that when fin enters, happiness takes its departure. There is no such thing in nature, my brethren, there is no such thing in nature, as a vitious or unlawful pleasure. What we generally call fuch, are pleasures in themselves lawful, procured by wrong means, or enjoyed in a wrong way ; procured by injustice, or enjoyed with intemperance ; and surely neither injustice nor intemperance have any charm for the mind; and unless we are framed with a very uncommon temper of mind and body, injustice will be hurtful to the one, and intemperance fatal to the other. Unruly desires, and bad passions, the gratification of which is sometimes called pleasure, are the source of almost all the iniseries in human life. When once indulged, they rage for repeated gratification, and subject us, at all times, to their clamours and importunity. When they are gratified, if they give any joy, it is the joy of fiends, the joy of the tormented, a joy which is purchased at the expence of a good conscience, which rises on the ruins of the public peace, and proceeds from the miseries of our fellow-creatures. The forbidden fruit proves to be the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah. One deed of shame is succeeded by years of penitence and pain. A single indulgence of wrath has raised a conflagration which neither the force of friendship, nor length of time, nor the vehemence of intercession, could mitigate or appease, and which could only be quenched by the effusion of human blood. One drop from the cup of this powerful sorceress, has turned the living stream of joy into -waters of bitterness. “ There is no peace, faith my « God, to the wicked."
If a wicked man could be happy, Who might have been so happy as Haman ? Raised from an inferior station to great riches and power, exalted above his rivals, and above the princes of the empire, favourite and prime minister to the greatest monarch in the world. But with all these advantages on his fide, and under all these smiles of fortune, his happiness was destroyed by the want of a bow, usual to those of his station, from one of the porters of the palace. Enraged with this neglect, this vain great man cried out in the pang of disappointment, “ All “ this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai 6 sitting at the king's gate.” This seeming affront sat deep on his mind. He meditated revenge. A single vi&im could not satisfy his malice. He wanted to have a glutting vengeance. He resolved, for this purpose, to involve thousands in destruction, and to make a whole nation fall a sacrifice to the indulgence of his mean-spirited pride. But, as it generally happens, his wickedness proves his ruin, and he erected the gallows on which he himself was doomed to be hanged !
In the third place, If we consider man as an indi. vidual, we shall see a further confirmation of the truth contained in the text, “ That there is no peace “ to the wicked.”
In order to strengthen the obligations to virtue, Almighty God hath rendered the practice of sin fatal to our peace as individuals, as well as pernicious to our interests as members of society. From the finner God withdraws his favour and the light of his countenance. How dark will that mind be, which no beam from the Father of lights ever visits ? How