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its operations, we know there may be. ministering spirits; in whom great power is united to a substance invisible: and even the divine Spirit, as the Lord and Giver of life, is understood from the natural air, or' breath, upon which we live. By such teaching as this, we are raised above ourselves: we ascend up to God by the scale of his creation; and while we are in this world can foretaste the wisdom of a better. This is the best and highest use of the imagination; and if I have been so happy as to make myself understood, we may now go on to the abuse of the imagination.
For, the thoughts of man's heart, which puts things truly together, for good, can put them falsely together, for evil; and be prepared for hell by those powers and actions of the mind, which should lift us up to heaven. The first evil that came into the world, entered by this way of the imagination. On that faculty the tempter practised, when he promised a sort of wisdom independent of God; and a sort of happiness consistent with disobedience. It was suggested to our first parents, that a new light would break in upon their minds; and that, in consequeuce of it, they would rise to an equality with God. Here is first a vision for the head; and with it a lesson of pride for the heart: and thus the first sin is a pattern for every other. In every temptation, some alluring object is held up; the image of it works upon the heart; the heart re-acts upon the head; false and irrational compositions are formed, and vain expectations are raised: the act is sin; the result is error; and the end is death. Yet, in this manner doth the mind of scan, in his present fallen state, and left to itself, never fail to work, ii the text be true; every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. The first motion to sin begins in the imagination; and it may be questioned whether any one instance can be produced to the contrary. The passions, so productive of evil works, do all act as the imagination directs, to fulfil some vision it has entertained. Love, hatred, hope, fear, envy, revenge, and despair, which contribute in their turns to agitate and torment the heart of man, do all ope- . rate according to the measures of the imagination; that is, according to the images the mind hath formed of persons and things; of itself within, and of the world without. The slightest affront will give unpardonable offence to the man who has formed a great idea of himself: when disappointed he is ex* ceedingly hurt; because the magnitude of the disappointment will be according to the rate or value he has set upon his own person: so that one man shall even be killed outright with indignation and despair, by an accident, which another circumspect man, of an humble mind, would not feel for half an hour. A grand idea of this world in a man's head, with the love of its wealth or its fame in his heart, will work together, till they produce strange effects, and turn a man of sense into a fool: of which we can find no greater example, than in the case of an avaricious person; who admires gold for its use in procuring every thing; and with it procures nothing. The thoughts of his heart unite together wealth and happiness: the wealth, with much toil and anxiety, and perhaps no small degree of fraud and injustice, is realized: but the happiness is still a vision as at first: it began in the imagination, and it never gets any farther.
Our danger will be better understood, when we consider how the imagination is furnished with matter by the two senses of the sight and the hearing. The Psalmist apprehending this, did wisely pray, 0 (urn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity! When the 1
passions are enslaved, and ruin is inevitable, how often do the deluded sufferers wish, they had never beheld such and such objects! So much sin enters by the sight, that the son of Sirach (chap. xxxi. 13.) pronounced, there is nothing more wicked than the eye; that therefore it wecpeth, and is made the fountain of sorrow in every countenance. On this consideration, 'public spectacles and stage entertainments, so alluring to the eye, and so curiously provided, are always dangerous, and not seldom fatal: for by indulging this luxurious and insatiable appetite of the eye, distempers are introduced into the mind, of which it is never eured. The objects there presented to the sight, are either corrupting in themselves, or made so by art and circumstance. Piety, goodness and virtue, are quiet and obscure: they pass through life without noise or figure: but the spirit of intrigue is active and busy; productive of plot and incident; vice is enthusiastic, impetuous, and picturesque; and furnishes matter of grand effect, fit for stages and theatres. When good and evil are both misrepresented, which often happens, the mind of an unguarded, spectator catches the misrepresentation, and makes it a rule of action. Let the self-murderer appear with dignity, and the robber be merry and successful, upon the stage; suicides and thieves will be increased and multiplied. This is not speculation; it is undoubted fact. What a common artifice it is, to couple something that is great and sacred with something which is mean and contemptible; to make it ridiculous, and provoke insult! While that which is base, worthless, and pernicious, .shall be raised and recommended, by joining it to something that is good; or, which the times agree to call good. These arts of deception are so necessarv to the cause of wickedness, that prints, pictures, public sights, and shews, are always employed to work upon the mind, by the fabricators of public mischief. They can lead religion and loyalty to be hooted at and burned with disgrace; while sedition and treason are carried home upon men's shoulders in triumph. No preposterous disguises or deceptions can be wondered at, in any age or country, when it is remembered, that the Lord of Glory was disfigured by a wicked world with a crown of thorns; and the hand, that can aim the lightnings of heaven, insulted with a weak reed for a sceptre: while, perhaps, Barabbas, the acquitted felon, was attended home with acclamations.
The ears are imposed upon by sounds, as the eyes
by appearances; the orator can work with deceitful
images and false comparisons, to inflame the passions,
and mislead the judgment. That prime intellectual
juggler of the times, Voltaire, whose logic has driven
the world to madness, never fails to work upon his
readers with false associations: they are his peculiar
manufacture. His reasonings are contemptible; but
his power in debauching the minds of men, by setting
false images before them, is prodigious, and would be
unaccountable, if the principle now before us did not
explain it all.
I shall conclude upon this part of my subject, with observing, that the Scripture imputes all the wickedness of an unbelieving world to the inventions of their imagination. Here all the various formations and fictions of idolatry began: and they never ended, but in the total perversion of truth, the corrupting of manners, and the sanctifying of cruelty and all kinds of immorality. The old idols are many of them out of fashion: but the restless mind of man can never forbear its fictions; so that new idols are daily rising up; not wi thout the pomp and pageantry of the old, to Vol. iv. S
recommend them: such as liberty without law; majesty of the populace; equality in all ranks; by which and other like phantoms, while the world is amused, it is betrayed into confusion and calamity; and God alone can tell whether it will ever more be reduced to peace- and order: tor which, however, we should daily pray.
We have now seen how the imagination leads into sin; let us next inquire how it brings us into misery. Tor it is always found by those who consider the righteous ways of divine Providence, that men are punished by those things wherein tney offend. When the entrance of sia brought sickness and death upon the body, the imagination also became weak and subject to some grievous distempers. It seems to be the faculty on which the fall hath taken effect. So long as it continues in a sound state, it is like a mirror, plain and bright, and reflects all objects truly: but if its polish be injured, it .reflects, them imperfectly; and then we conceive things slowly and obscurely: if it be lost, as in the case of ideots, it reflects nothing—and as there is no wickedness where there is no imagination, language gives the name of an innocent (Fr. un innocent) to the ideot If the minor hath a false figure, it will give the image wrong: it will make great things appear little, or little things great; or even distorted and monstrous, though they are regularly formed and beautiful. Sometimes one certain image is seen constantly by the mind, as if a figure were burned in upon the face of a mirror: and in some •cases, the mind forms images involuntarily, and becomes like a body which has lost its retentive powers, and is both active and passive at once. Neither must wc forget, that images are forced upon the mind, tor torment, by the maglignant Being who first intra*