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We add, consent to the enticement of sinners is discovered by an evident fondness for their company, by pushing into the way of their examples, and even by not taking pains to avoid them. He who does not in some degree con. sent, is careful “ not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, not to stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful.” Not exercising this caution is a strong indication of a consenting mind, of a disposition conformed to their views and practices. . .
It is too great a compliment, something like consent, to suffer yourselves to attend without reply, or rebuke, to what they say and do, to urge you into any vice. To allow your minds to be shaken, and brought into doubt respecting the truth of scripture, or the lawfulness or unlawfulness of those pleasures and indulgences you have judged criminal, by the arts or arguments of sinners, has the appearance of consenting in a degree, and indicates a secret inclination to adopt their sentiments and manners, if conscience can by any means be paci. fied. In proportion to the doubt you admit, and to the strength of this inclination, every argument will receive new force, every art of seduction new aid, until your judgment is per
verted, and you fall an easy prey to the wicked. The moment you hesitate whether to yield or not to the enticement of sinners, they have more than half gained their point. At the instant your resolution against it fails, the beginning of your consent is to be dated. The virtue that condescends to parley is not far from a surrender. The outworks are gone, and the citadel will be an easy conquest. · These observations prepare the way for tak. ing into consideration, in the next place,
Sixthly, The extent of the prohibition in the text.
Upon this point, it is possible, many have fallen into mistake. They may conceive the prohibition relates, not to the common faults and follies of the irreligious, but to those heinous crimes mentioned in the context. To these it doubtless has particular respect; but it extends to every species of transgression. Some may imagine that the actual commission of the sins to which they are enticed is all that is for. bidden. This is too great a limitation of the divine precept; for, as there may be several modes and degrees of consent to evil entice. ment, each tending to the highest, it is reasonable to conclude, cvery degree is prohibited ; 131
that we are forbidden, in any measure, to con. sent to that which is wrong, and commanded, with a fixed resolution, to resist every tempta. tion arising from the artful insinuations, or more direct attempts, of sinners, to entice us to sacrifice our virtue, and with it our hopes and happiness.
We are to shun, not only those horrid deeds perpetrated by bold transgressors, to which we may be sometimes urged; but the more common vices and irregularities of mankind; and, lést we should appear to be on the part of sinners, discountenance them in every prudent method, and avow our determination to pursue a course of piety and virtue in spite of all opposition. We are not at liberty to bestow a smile, or nod of approbation, upon a vile person in the actual commission of wickedness; but our very looks should express detestation, not of his person, but of his conduct, and every gesture reprove those who entice us to be their companions in vice.
I would not, however, be understood to discourage an air of pleasantry and good humour in the company of the wicked, if it can be exhibited without apparent approbation of their vices, or consent to their evil practices; much
less would I be thought to recommend to the virtuous and religious that gloomy aspect, that sadness of countenance, which is indicative either of base hypocrisy, or an unpleasing nielancholy, rather than of conscious purity and integrity of heart. Such appearances, when considered as the effect, or the necessary appendages, of religion and virtue, will prejudice beholders against the very name of christians. The inconsiderate are apt to take the picture of religion from the gloomy distorted features and
countenances, which many of its avowed vota. :ries are fond of presenting to their view. By
such means religion is painted in false colours, is dressed in an attire that does not belong to her. They who are good, or would be thought so, by such appearances aid sinners in enticing others from the ways of wisdoin, and in exciting a fear to be virtuous upon religious principles. Persons of the strictest piety, and who possess most of the genuine spirit of christianity, will endeavour to convince others that Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light; not that they are under bondage, or in chains so galling that every breath must be a sigh, every word a groan, and every look an expression of inward horror. Nor will they feel themselves
restrained from every amusement; from such as may invigorate their mental and bodily pow. ers. They know that, in the course of divine providence, “ there is a time to laugh and a time to weep;" and that, by prohibiting innocent amusements, they may provoke others to break over all restraint, to leap ail bounds of decency and decorum.
But nothing that is vicious, or wrong in respect to season and circumstances, should be any part of your amusement. If any thing of this kind be introduced, you are bound to show that it damps your spirits, and gives uneasiness
to your minds. This feeling you should be · careful to manifest to those who would intro
duce that which is immoral, or even indecorous. The company that exhibits evil exam. ples, and would entice and allure you to imitate them, you are studiously to avoid, and to reject their proposals with indignation. This is the course that religion and virtue will suggest ; and it is by fair construction, enjoined in the text ; which forbids every degree of consent to the enticement of sinners, and is applicable to · persons of either sex, and of every age. But
as youth, in an especial manner, are liable to be influenced by the corrupt manners and commu