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mighty lies at the root of every thing which is good, is the only restraint from every thing that is bad— that whatever in any degree diminishes, or tends to diminish that regard, is of all hurtful things the
For if it be allowed, which I think it may, that to see the moral evil of swearing is, to look farther than the generality of men do look; and that these evil effects, though real, and great, and certain, are not, like the effects of murder or theft, sensible and immediate; allowing this, then in what situation does the subject stand with those who have not considered the effects at all? It stands thus-it stands with them upon the ground of religion. The religion of the case, the religious command is clear: that at least is obvious and intelligible: of that at least they must be apprised. Wherefore, if they be of the number of those who do not comprehend the reason, or have never much considered the reason which makes swearing and cursing an evil, upon principles of morality, then it becomes a test and trial whether religion alone, whether religion as such, and independently of other considerations, has any authority or influence with them at all. Rules of morality, such as, commonly speaking, are called so, do not afford this test; for they are either enforced by the terrors or penalties of law, or the violation of them is attended with direct and immediate public mischief, or with cruelty, or with injury to individuals: under all which circumstances, although religion operate
in keeping us to our duty, yet it operates in conjunction and combination with other powerful motives. In the case before us, that is to say, in curbing and checking, and breaking the practice of profane swearing, religion operates by itself, and therefore shows what degree of force and strength and weight it really has with us. This observation is applicable to a higher class than those who are vulgarly addicted to this vice, and the very truth is, that those who have upon their minds a sense of religion as such, and in any degree proportioned to its immense importance, are not drawn into the practice of swearing by any position of circumstances whatever; those in whom this sense is feeble, or wanting, or lost, are drawn into this practice, if it so happen that their profession, their company, or their temper, or their habit, lead them into it.
I shall conclude with one reflection.
If there be one description of men more than another who ought to have the dread of God Almighty upon their minds, and in whom that dread ought to check all profane, all contemptuous, all idle, all impious treatment of his name and his commands, it is those who carry their lives in their hands. "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear; fear him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea I say unto you fear him."
ROM. XIII. 13.
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness.
WHOEVER Considers the purity and strictness of the Christian religion; how it extends its rules, not only to our actions, but our words, not only to words, but to thoughts; how it requires self-command, selfgovernment, at almost every turn, and in every point of our duties; mastery and management of our passions of every kind; a constraint over every inclination, so as to be able to check and call it back to its subjection to reason-whoever considers this, will see that we stand in need of perpetual vigilance and circumspection-how liable we are to fall; how little able to maintain a complete adherence to God's laws, even in our soberest hours, with the perfect use of our faculties, and without any extraordinary violence or impetuosity added to our acquired or constitutional propensities; that consequently, when a great advantage is thrown by intemperance into the wrong scale, the passions of every sort are inflamed and put in
motion, our reflection and sense of duty is confused, our judgment disordered, the admonitions of conscience laid asleep, and we are surrounded with temptations and with provocations,-in this condition it cannot be expected from human strength that a man should preserve an unblameable conduct, or a steady regard to the rules of morality and religion. Accordingly, I suppose it is the fact, that few, or none, recover from a fit of intemperance but who are conscious, when they come to themselves, of some impropriety or extravagance into which drunkenness has betrayed them; some action or some outrage of which they are ashamed; some expression or word which has escaped them, and which they wish in vain could be recalled; some quarrel which they have drawn upon themselves; some enmity of which they have sown the seed, and, universally, a loss of that command of ourselves in which both our happiness and virtue consist. But then comes the specious consideration, that the crimes a man commits in that condition are excused by the very condition he is in; that he is not chargeable with what he does when he is not himself, when he has no command perhaps left of his conduct; when his nature and disposition are altered as to all moral purposes: that, like the insane person, he is entitled to all the indulgence and excuses of that condition. This plea is made by thousands; it is a kind of discourse you often hear; and weighs, I am apt to suppose, much in the private thoughts of persons addicted to intemperate
We allow, too, that it carries enough of the semblance of reason to impose upon many, and to deserve examination.
Now, the first observation that occurs is, that if this plea were allowed in its full extent, a man would be at liberty when he found himself disordered by intemperance to commit any crime or any extravagance; for his drunkenness, according to his argument, would cover and excuse it all: and a conclusion so absurd leads one to suspect the argument from which it flows. The truth of the case seems to be this; that if we look no further than the point of time when a drunken man commits his crime, it will be difficult to distinguish between his case and that of an insane person; for he is at that moment more completely bereft of his reason, at least as completely delivered over to the impulse of his passions, as the other: and if that be an excuse for the one, why should it not be so for both ?-So it may be argued, if we confine our attention to the precise period of committing the offence: but here the two cases differ exceedingly-that the one person suffers under the visitation of an inevitable calamity; the other is the author of his own distemper: and this is what, properly, the drunkard's guilt consists in; not in committing faults when he is in a condition in which he cannot help it, but in knowingly and voluntarily bringing himself into such a condition. And when we once understand the proper foundation of the guilt, we shall be enabled to esti