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in perfect darkness, if they take them not by this direction); then, continuing the fame courfe they now do, they are a loft generation.
All their lawful and faithful guides tell them, with one mouth, they are certainly in the broad way to damnation; and that, how irksome and terrible foever the thoughts and apprehenfions of hell are to them, yet thither they must certainly come, if they pursue this course. Their reason plainly tells them, be that chufeth the means, and engageth in the way leading to hell, muft, and ought to make account, that hell is the place he is preparing for.
Confcience is as plain and pofitive with them, that they must either return, or perifh. The fcripture confirms the teftimonies of both, by telling them plainly, That the end of these things is death; Rom. vi. 21.
It is downright folly and madness, by the vote of the whole rational and fober world, for any man to conclude, or hope he fhall be happy in the world to come, whofe life is drawn through, and finifhed in all manner of obfcenity, filthiness, and profaneness in the prefent world.
For let the cafe be brought into the light of your own reason, as dim as it is, and let it freely judge, when you are belching out your black and horrid blafphemies against God, imprecating damnation from him upon your own fouls, wallowing in beastly lufts, vomiting and roaring in taverns and ale-houses: ask, I fay, your own reafon, confcience, or the fcripture, whether all, or either of them, will allow you to fay or think, Now we are in the right way to eternal bleffednefs! This is ⚫ the very courfe that will bring us to happiness in the world to come: this pleafeth God better, and is a furer path to glory, ⚫ than repentance or faith, mortification, prayer, or reforma'tion.' No, no, as blind as your reafon is, and as feared as your confciences are, you will never bring them to comprobate, or fubfcribe fuch abfurd and horrid conclufions as these.
But, on the contrary, they will tell you, that if you will have the pleasure, you must have the pain and torment of fin. That it is madness to fay, you are afraid to burn, but not afraid to fiu; that you are loth to be damned, and yet challenge the almighty God to his face, to damn you: as much a folly, as to drink a baneful dose of known poison, and think to feel no painful gripes afterwards.
As for the fcriptures, they appeal to the reafon of men in this cafe, as a moft known and allowed thing, fcarce imaginable to lie hid from any man. Cor. vi. 9, 10. Know ye not, that
"the unrighteous fhall not inherit the kingdom of God.
"not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themfelves with man "kind; nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, "nor extortioners, fhall inherit the kingdom of God."
It would make the bowels of a compaffionate Christian to roll and yern within him, to behold multitudes of fouls of invaluable worth, running greedily on to their eternal ruin, wilfully ftopping their ears all the way, to the voices of their own reafon and confcience, as well as to the voice of God in his word; not once making a pause, till they fall into that gulph of eternal and intolerable mifery, into which, with great precipitation, they are cafting themselves.
10. And then, for the community to which they belong ƒ how dangerous, yea, how deftructive fuch perfons are to it, cannot poffibly be hid from any wite and serious obferver. For if one finner destroys much good; if one Achan trouble the whole camp of Ifrael; how much more will whole fwarms and droves of drunkards, blafphemers, and adulterers, as now fill every place, pull down the judgments of God upon thole flates and kingdoms wherein they breath? If our fears and dangers were greater than they are, yet reformation might fave us, Jer. v. 1. "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Je"rufalem, and fee now, and know, and feek in the broad pla "ces thereof, if you can find a man, (i. e. a public man, a "man in authority,) if there be any that executeth judgment, "that feeketh the truth, and I will pardon it." And if our hopes and confidences were much higher than they are, yet unrestrained fin would undo us. Kingdoms and commonwealths are not fo much endangered by the powers and policies of their enemies without them, as they are by the unreformednefs of profligate wretches within, and amongst them. Reformation quickly recovers the antient glory of kingdoms, and makes them the terror of their enemies.
For though there will be ftill too much fin privately commit. ted under the best laws, and the most vigorous and impartial execution of them; yet abundance of fin would thereby be prevented, and the fins that are committed would not become na. tional, but perfonal only; and these would not so much concern and hazard the public weal and tranquillity of the state.
Moreover, states and kingdoms are in no fmall hazard by the public debauchery, and common profaneness of their fubjects; forafmuch as in this very fink and puddle of their lofts, the manly wisdom, fprightly courage, and true gallantry of their
fubjects, are quenched and drowned, their fpirits 1oftened and effeminated. It is hard to imagine those men will engage far in the cause of reformation, when reformation itself is the only thing they hate and fear.
Nor need we wonder to find men intimidated, and low-fpirited, in times and places of imminent danger, who not only carry about them fo much guilt, (which is the fountain of fear) but are wholly addicted to fenfual pleatures, which they are loth to hazard upon public accounts and confiderations, these being the only heaven they have, or hope for: "Whoredom, “and wine, and new wine take away the heart," Hof. iv. 11. It is in the very nature of these fins, to make men fottish, and in the very nature of guilt to make them pufillanimous. Seneca obferves, (and his obfervation is true) That the ⚫ confcience of a wicked man is a terrible scourge and torment * to him, perpetually lathing him with follicitous thoughts and fears; fo that he diftrufts all fecurities, and knows not where <to be fate.' Hence it comes to pafs, that many men of good extraction, liberal education, and excellent natural endowments, become fo ufelefs, yea, fo pernicious as they are; who, could they be recovered but to temperance and fobriety, would become both excellently ufeful, and ornamental to the nation where they had their birth, and to the fafety and honour where. of they owe their service.
§1. This molt defirable recovery and reformation of profane debauched perfons, is not fimply and abfolutely impoffible: And if magiftrates and minifters were every where exemplary themselves for fobriety and piety, zealous and impartial in the discharge of their refpective duties, a general reformation would not be difficult. But when thofe, whofe office it is to fupprefs wickedness, fhall affociate themselves with lewd and profligate perfons, and vie with them in their profane courses, or discourage more confcientious perfons in the discharge of their duties; this makes reformation morally impoffible.
If profaneness were once found the general odium of the people, and a bar to all preferments, it might be hoped, things would quickly alter for the better. It was an ancient custom among the Heathens, (as learned and excellent Mr. Hale of Eaton, out of Chryfoftom obferves), That if a man offered himself to contend in the Olympic games, he was not permitted so to do, till proclamation had been first made, Whether any man knew him to be either a fervant, or a man of infamous life? Seneca, epift. 97. X X
And if any fuch imputation were proved against him, it was fufficient to keep him back, let his skill be what it would.
What care was here taken, that their vanities fhould not be difcredited? And will neither reafon nor religion convince us, that not only equal, but far greater care ought to be taken, to difcourage profancnefs among Chriftians, than the blind Heathens ever took, to preserve the reputation of their vain exercises? Let all fubordinate minifters of state, and officers in the church, confider how great a part of this bleffed refor mation is demanded at their hands.
§ 12. Were kingdoms and commonwealths once purged from that fpirit of profaneness and debauchery, which thus defiles and overflows them, and the people generally reduced but to civility, fobriety, and temperance; experience would quickly fhew them the comfortable effects, and happy fruits thereof.
For though this be much short of what Chriftianity exacts from all its profeffors, and infufficient to obtain the happiness of the world to come; yet it is greatly conducent to the civil happiness and flourishing of the kingdoms of this world; and, therefore richly worthy the ftudies and endeavours of all men, to promote and obtain it.
There is no kingdom or commonwealth in the Chriftian world, which would not by this means breed and fend forth multitudes more than they do, with excellent abilities and qualifications, fitting them to fit at the helm of government, and fteer a more profperous courfe than they do at prelent. A wife and steady direction of the arduous and important affairs of kingdoms, can only be expected from thofe that are able to govern themselves, and their own affairs, with fobriety and difcretion.
If the laws of nations take care for the prefervation and growth of timber, fit for the building of houses and ships, and every one fees the ufefulness and neceffity of fuch acts; much more ought they to take care for fuch an education of men, as may render them ferviceable members to the state, both ip camp and council.
Magiftrates are (in a fenfe) the foundation of kingdoms; the frong fhoulders, that bear the burden of government: And reafon will tell, that fo great a weight and stress, as the affairs and concerns of kingdoms, ought not to be laid on their fhoulders, whofe legs, through debauchery, are too weak to bear their own recling and staggering bodies.
Scamen and foldiers are the walls of kingdoms, and (under God) their prudence and courage are the peoples defence and fafeguard. Plutarch tells us, there were two virtues in Hanni
bal, which made him profperous and fuccefsful: There was in him, Plurimum audacia ad capienda pericula, et plurimum confilii inter ipfa pericula: He was bold in attempting, and prudent in managing the moft difficult fervices. The former had fignified little without the latter. Courage may throw men into the midst of difficulties; but counsel and wisdom helps them to emerge thofe difficulties; and I am fure, that cannot be rationally expected from men, that daily dethrone their own reafon by debauchery.
But when men, not only fober, juft, and temperate, but religiously good, are employed in public trufts and fervices; we cannot but think, the fecurity and profperity of fuch a state, are abundantly provided for. And our confidence hereof is not only founded upon the maxims of human reason, but of fcripture, wisdom, and authority alfo.
What a renowned, profperous, and fuccessful captain of the armies of Ifrael, was good Jofhua! No man was able to stand before him all the days of his life, Jofh. i. 5. But what bred thofe brave, gallant, and undaunted fpirits in the breast of this hero, and crowned his noble defigns with fuch admirable fuccefs? If we look into ver. 8. we (hall find it was religion, that gave both the edge and point to his natural courage;
book of the law fhall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou "fhalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayeft ob"ferve to do all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make
thy way profperous, and then thou shalt have good fuccefs.", Hezekiah, this way, became a nonfuch among the kings of Judah; for "he clave to the Lord, and the Lord was with him; "and he profpered whitherfoever he went forth," 2 Kings xviii. 5, 6, 7. And dying David, from a whole life of experience, recommended this as the only method of profperity, unto Solomon his fon; "Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to "walk in his ways; that thou mayest prosper in all that thou "doft, and whither foever thou turneft thyself," I Kings ii. 3, 4.
How great a luftre therefore doth this truth caft about it: that the restraint and reformation of vice, and the due encouragement of virtue and piety, becomes the very civil interest of kingdoms and nations, by the joint votes and fuffrages both of human and divine wifdom? Let any kingdom or state make trial of this method, and from that very time they shall date their profperity. This will make them become the terrors of their enemies round about them: Peace and profperity fhall flourish in the midst of them; which is the true level and deSign of this molt neceflary and feasonable attempt.