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er degree in the progress of vice than those characters of it which have been already named-resistance to the authority of conscience-ingratitude for the mercies of God--and impenitence under his correction ?-It does men are often restrained, by a principle of decency, from public and open vice long after they have lost the fear of God. Accordingly the prophet speaks of it as the consummation of the crimes of Israel, and the sure presage of the destruction of the nation. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination ? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush : therefore they shall fall among them that fall; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."*
But, it is the proof of a still more obdurate mind, when the profligate has arrived at the monstrous vanity of glorying in his shame.
It is not enough for him to have overcome the modesty of nature, and to forget, or to despise the awful censure of the world ; he hardens his countenance into brass, insults the public manners and sentiments, and braves the terrors of the Supreme Judge of Heaven and earth. Sometimes we see the horrid spectacle of youth, who boast their scenes of riot and debauchery-who triumph over the innocence they have betrayed-who repeat, in the midst of blasphemies, their feats of intemperance and licentiousness-who, not contented with scaring the night with their crimes, dare to pollute the day with their shameful recital—who glory in being beasts, rather than in being men. Ah! what a corrupted taste, what hardened hearts !
Another class of these worthless men, equally weak in their understandings, and corrupted in their morals, lest you should suspect them of principle, or of being influenced by any remains of a virtuous and pious education, which they wish to be forgotten, boast even of vices of which they have not been guilty, and are ambitious of appearing adepts in iniquity, before they have been able entirely to shake off the power of conscience, and the modesty and timidity of their first habits. They boast of licentious scenes, in which they have not been engaged, and of ruined chastity, which they have never had the effrontery to attempt. Wretches ! despicable to their companions, and worthy the abhorrence of all good men! Even Christian charity can hardly forbear to mingle an indignant contempt along with her compassion for their deplorable folly.
* Jeremiah, ch. 6. v. 15.
But to virtue, the most contemptible, and to piety, the most afflicting example of this kind, is an old and decrepid sinner, boasting the profligacy of his youth. When indulgence has lost its relish-when passion is no longer an excuse for folly-when vice has no charms but in remembrance, to see the decayed and miserable remnants of a man exhausted in the service of sin, having no resource within himself, and in the affections and hopes of religion, endeavouring to excite his wasted appetites, and to tickle a sensual imagination, by the recollection of scenes of brutal pleasure, is among the most deplorable of all objects. Age, glorying in its shame, seems to be the nearest resemblance on earth, of infernal spirits, who pursue absolute wickedness without interest, and triumph in it without enjoyments.
Continuation of Dr. Smith's Sermon on public vicese
THE ultimate degree in that fatal progression of vice, which I am endeavouring to trace, consists in a zeal to insnare, seduce, and corrupt others.
Activity to extend the principles and augment the number of a party, is one of the most unequivocal evidences of sincerity in its cause. Many vicious men, contented with being guilty themselves, are willing to leave the rest of the world to follow their own inclinations. But the zealous partizans of impiety are ready to exert all their talents to give a pernicious extension to their corrupted principles. Hastening to ruin themselves, they are solicitous to draw others with them, to the same perdition. Some, through a perverted sociability, desire companions in their crimes, only to increase their own enjoyments. Knowing no other satisfactions but those which vice affords, they esteem religion merely as the resource of our last moments, when all the plea
sures of the world are about to forsake us or the occupation of weak minds, who know not how to enjoy life. Having corrupted their taste to the relish ́of the most impure and tainted streams, they are not satisfied unless they stoop to drink of every stagnant and filthy puddle that has gathered, in their way. Others, deriving con. fidence from associates in guilt, are the most ambitious to disseminate the poison of their impiety. Notwithstanding their assumed audacity, something within still secretly misgives them, and mixes an uneasy doubt at the bottom of their pleasures. The apprehensions of guilt, require the influence of numbers to allay them, and to restore confidence to the heart. The sinner is a coward who often depends for his security and courage on the example of others. Hence that scandalous zeal which the profligate frequently discover to scatter the contagion of irreligious principles, and to spread the infection of licentious manners. But, not a few, still morę malignant, study to corrupt the morals of others, through enmity to the pure and humble spirit of piety. The bitterness of their hearts, they vent in keen reproaches, and insulting scoffs-by seducing the unwary, and offering themselves as leaders, to those who are yet but just entering in the paths of vice. Above all, if they can shake the faith of a believer in Christ, or corrupt one whose first inclinations were in favour of religion, with what malicious satisfaction they contemplate, or with what insolent mirth they triumph over their deluded prey! It is not their own enjoyment which they seek, in particular acts of vice, nor the heightened enjoyments which associates in iniquity confer, but they derive an infernal pleasure from the ruin of innocence itself. Their malignity is gratified, by being themselves the instruments of corrupting it. This appears to be the last stage of impiety upon earth, and contains the most open, daring and criminal hostility against truth and virtue.
In this class of sinners may be ranked, likewise, those numerous writers and artists, who endeavour to corrupt the public morals by debauching the imagination, or by vitiating the public taste for amusement and pleasure. In the former, we often see vice more seductive, by an enchanting brilliancy of genius. The latter go directly to deprave the heart through the organs of the senses. Seducing images, indecent pictures, loose scenes, and an immodest wit, contribute their aid to spread the infection of vice. Even those low diversions, which in many places are so eagerly sought after, by assembling the idle, the thoughtless, and the dissipated, and debasing the taste, are hastening the degeneracy of manners. But what shall we say of those brothels of loose pleasure, and those places of ruinous gaming, where youth so often throw away virtue, and honour, and estate, and health ? Temples, are they, of iniquity-houses of pestilence, whence the most dire contagion is spread through society. How criminal are the leaders and actors in these scandalous and corrupting scenes! Nor are those who encourage them by their presence, or support them by their contributions, free from deep guilt.
To these pernicious corrupers of mankind are to be added the pretended philosopers, who, in the present age, are so assiduously striving to undermine the foundations both of natural, and of revealed religion. And for what end? Is it for the love of virtue ? Alas! the very basis of virtue is destroyed when religion is taken away. Is it, as they so often profess, through regard to the interests of society, and the happiness of mankind ? Ah! society without religion, would soon become a chaos of passions and of crimes. What then is the motive of all this ingenious, but perverted industry? Is it not to be found in enmity of heart against that purity and holiness, which religion requires ? Is it not some vice of character that renders them obnoxious to the awful sanctions of religion. But, whatever it be, no sins can be more fatal in their consequences, or draw after them a greater train of ruin. Youth is corrupted; the foundations no society are shaken ; reverence for the Deity is annis. lated ; his providence is denied ; his justice set at defiance ; his love in the redemption of the world, profaned
nd insulted; the blessed Saviour again rejected of men! If a zeal to make proselytes to the pernicious cause of impiety and vice, is among the highest degrees of open and presumptuous sinning. If a fatal success aggravates the guilt, how criminal are you, ye corrupters of the age ? If the blessing of those who are ready to perish shall come upon the good man who hath contributed to their salvation, surely upon you shall come the blood and curse of thousands, who have been destroyed by your influence!
From these considerations, the first idea that suggests itself, is, the insidious nature, and the dangerous progression of vice. No man becomes abandoned at once. Se, cret faults precede open and public vices--and, among these last, there is a wide distance between the first viola, tions of known duty, and that hardened profligacy which learns at length to sin without shame. Beware, therefore, of the beginnings of vice-they are like the letting out of water, which soon increases to a mighty flood. Its habits are incessantly advancing, and men frequently arrive, in the progress of time, calmly to perpetrate crimes on which they would once have looked with a degree of horror. Break off, in season, your sins, by repentance, and return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you, and to your God, and he will abundantly pardon you. But remember, there is a point of impiety beyond which there is no more sacrifice for sins.Deplorable is his state, who has corrupted or silenced the judge within him who has torn away all the restraints of that internal law in his own breasta--who has violated conscience till it has ceased to speak. If he has arrived to sin in peace, it is only because he is abandoned of God, his peace is the dreadful calm that precedes a storm-and God is preparing the thunders that shall avenge his insul. ted truth and justice. How fearful are his decrees ! “ Because I have called and ye refused. I have stretched
out my hand, and no man regarded but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my re.
proof, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mack “ when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as de" solation, and your destruction eometh as a whirlwind; “ when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall
they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek
me early, but they shall not find me : for that they " hated knowledge, and did not chuse the
fear of the Lord. “ They would none of my counsel they despised all my
reproof: therefore, they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices,"