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habits of vice, as to have lost all relish for every thing that is good, that he has no pleasure in the company of the sober, the virtuous, and the pious, but only in that of those who are as abandoned as himself, and that the greatest: satisfaction he has is in corrupting others (and farther than this depravi: ty cannot go); supposing that, in the course of his life, this man, besides every advantage for instruct tion, had experienced a great variety of prosperity and adversity ; and yet that prosperity, instead of making him more thankful and obedient to God; made him forget him the more; and that afflictið ons, instead of softening and bettering his heart, only served to harden it, and make it worse : Do I say that this abandoned wretch cannot be reforma ed, that God cannot, by any methods whatever, work upon his heart, and bring him to serious thought and reflexion? By no means.
-That! would be to limit the power of God, to whom alt things are possible. He can work miracles, if he should think proper so to do. But then I
say this would be a proper miracle, such as, at this day, we are not authorized to expect. And judging by what we see actually to take place, and what we must conclude to be just and right, God may,
and' probably will leave such air one to himself. He
may determine to try him no longer by any of those methods of his providence which are usually employed for the purpose of reclaiming sinners.
For instance, afflictions, and especially bodily sickness, are a great means of softening and bettering the minds of men; but God may resolve that he shall be visited with no remarkable sickness, until he be overtaken with his last; or he may cut him off by a sudden and unexpected death, in the midst of his crimes. The death of our friends, or 'any calamities befalling them, have often been the means, in the hands of divine providence, of bringing to serious thought and reflexion those who have survived those strokes; but God may resolve pever to touch him in so tender a part, but rather make use of his death as a warning and example to others.
Now when a man is thus lefi of God, and no pro: vidential methods are used to reclaim him, we may conclude that he is irrecoverably lost. It is, in fact, and according to the course of nature (and we know of no deviations from it since the age of the apostles) absolutely impossible that he should repent, or be reformed. And though he should continue to live ever so long after God has thus forsaken him, he is only, in the awful language of
scripture, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath; and there remains nothing for him but a fearful looking
for of judgment, and of that fiery in, dignation which shall consume the adversaries of God,
Having thus stated the nature of this awful case, and shewn in what sense, and on what account, it may be said that it is quite desperate and hopeless, viz. because it may be morally impossible that he should ever truly repent and be reformed, by rea. son of God's withdrawing those providential méthods by which he uses to work upon men's hearts, and to bring them to serious thought and reflexion, I come
2dly, To consider the probability and danger of the case with respect to human nature; how far men are liable to fall into this fearful condition, and by what means they fall into it.
A man's case may be pronounced to be thus desperate, when his mind is brought into such a state, as that the necessary means of reformation shall have lost their effect upon him; and this is the natural consequence of confirmed habits of vice, and a long-continued neglect of the means of reli, gion and virtue, which is so far from being an impossible or improbable case, that it is a very gene
In order to be the more sensible of this, you are to consider that vice is a habit; and therefore of a subtle and insinuating nature. By easy, pleasing, and seemingly harmless actions, men are often betrayed into a progress, which grows every day more alarming, Our virtuous resolutions may break with difficulty. It may be with pain and reluctance that we commit the first acts of sin, but the next are easier to us; and use, custom, and habit, will at last reconcile us to any thing, even things the very idea of which might at first be shocking to us..
Vice is a thing not to be trifled with. You may, by the force of vigorous resolution, break off in the early stages of it; but habits, when they haye been confirmed, and long continued, are ob stinate things to contend with, and are hardly ever entirely subdued.
When bad habits seem to be overcome, and we think we have got rid of our chains, they may perhaps only have become; as it were, invisible ; so that when we thought we had recovered our freedom, and strength, so as to be able to repel any temptation, we may lose all power of resistance on the first approach of it..
A man who has contracted a habit of vice, and been abandoned to sinful courses for some time, is
never out of danger. He is exactly in the case of a man who has long laboured under a chronical disease, and is perpetually subject to a relapse. The first shock of any disorder a man's constituti. on may bear, and if it be not naturally subject to it, he may perfectly recover, and be out of danger. But when the general habit is such, as that a relapse is apprehended, a man's friends and physicians are alarmed for him.
The reason is, that a relapse does not find a person in the condition in which he was when the first fit of illness scized him. That gave his constitution a shock, and left him enfeebled, so as to be less able to sustain another shock; and especially if it be more violent than the former, as is generally the case in those disorders.
In the very same dangerous situation is the man who has ever been addicted to vicious courses. He can never be said to be perfectly recovered, whatever appearances may promise, but is always in danger of a fatal relapse. He ought, therefore, to take the greatest care of himself. He is not in the condition of a person who has never known the ways of wickedness. "He ought, there fore, to have the greatest distrust of himself, and set: a double watch over his thoughts, words, and.