Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the desire of society, need no commentary or proof. We can scarcely conceive that the system of life should go on without it; or if it could go on without any union of effort, of council, or affection, still man, the solitary savage, would at best only draw

, out a few years of a forlorn and miserable existence.

In fine, even the selfish principle, the desire of personal well-being, which we all feel so strongly, how could this be spared from our constitution, without utter ruin? What is there bad in a rational regard to our own welfare ? And what sort of a being would he be, if he could exist at all, who had no degree of love for himself ? What shallow metaphysicians then are those, who instead of aiming to regulate self-love, as a principle useful and innocent in itself, denounce every degree of it as sin, and would vainly seek to extirpate a sentiment, which is necessarily interwoven with the existence of every intelligent being.

Thus much of the innocence and usefulness of our desires, as they are originally implanted in our constitution. Let me now endeavour to show in what way they become sources of sin. They are, we must remember, blind and undiscerning; they are simply direct tendencies towards particular objects, without distinction of the means by which they are to be obtained. They do not possess, therefore, any more than the appetites of the body, an instinctive power of self-guidance and

a

self-control. That is left to be the task of man himself. They have, too, when indulged without caution and foresight, a tendency to increase, to gather strength, and finally to rush into excess and extravagance. In a word, these desires, if habitually cherished, gratified and indulged, without watchfulness and care, are converted into passions, and become the guilty instruments of sin.

But it is not by their own excesses alone that the desires become the sources of transgression. It is found that when habitually indulged, they combine together, and become the parents of new and artificial desires. The love of money, for example, is no original part of our nature. It is

produced by the compounded influence of the desire of esteem, of power, of superiority, and of personal well-being, associating and confounding the means of happiness with happiness itself. It is thus by making the means and instruments of good the primary objects of pursuit, that they become the primary objects of affection; and though all innocent in themselves, and all originally capable of being completely gratified by innocent objects, do yet enkindle within the soul sentiments which nature never planted there--the horrible sentiments of pride, envy, jealousy and malignity.

The process by which these artificial desires and passions are engendered, cannot now be detailed; nor can it be attempted here to recount the modes in which they join the original principles of our nature, in producing those vices which darken and dishonour the history of our species. The time would fail me, or I might else attempt to show the effects of the extravagance and madness of unbridled desires. I might show how even the desire of knowledge, though in itself so innocent and useful, may occupy the breast too exclusively and become the active minister of evil as well as of good. I might show how the love of esteem first degenerates into a passion for admiration, destroys the mind's independency, and leads at length to the sacrifice of conscience and principle, to gain the vain tribute of the world's applause. I might show how the desire of power and the love of superiority, when fostered and indulged, swell the bosom with arrogance and pride, torture it with envy, and convulse it with jealousy, lead men to trample on the rights of others, and to commit deeds of atrocity, at which the world gazes with horror and fear. I might show, too, how the social principle may be abused; and in speaking of the effects of sympathy and imitation, when left undirected, might point out to you the inlet of floods of corruption among men.

It is but to name the selfish principle, to remind every one of the most prolific nurse of injustice, and almost every species of crime..

So terrible are the effects of applying a constant stimulus even to our most natural desires, and placing no restraint on their wanderings, till they rush into excesses, which we have no longer power to control. By permitting any one of them long to riot in the breast, it becomes at last the master passion of the soul, and makes all the others tributary to its lusts. Then, it is, that we see how truly it was said, that “ he that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” His mind is in ruins-desolate of all that is good ; and all that was originally regular and fair is defaced and marred. It resembles the once proud and flourishing Babylon, now fallen in the dust. 6 Wild beasts of the desert lie there; its houses are full of doleful creatures; and owls dwell there, and satyrs dance there, and the wild beasts of the islands cry in its desolate houses, and dragons in its pleasant palaces.”—“ Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall !""

SERMON XVII.

SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

1 CORINTHIANS, X. 12.

Let him that thinketh he standethi, take heed, lest he

fall.

In pursuing our inquiry into the sources of sin in human nature, having considered the appetites, the senses, and the various desires, whether original or 'artificial, we are next led to the examination of our affections, as the instruments of transgression. They are usually divided into benevolent and malevolent, according as their object is the communication of enjoyment or of suffering to any of our fellow creatures. To prove

that our benevolent affections are naturally innocent and worthy of their divine original, little need be said. Who will require any

illustrations of the purity or value of the parental and filial affections; of the affections of kindred, love, friendship, patriotism, gratitude, or pity ? Yet pure and celestial as are these sentiments, the general law of our being ex

« AnteriorContinuar »