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injured, because he has not only wronged others, but ruined himself, -is his course any the less guilty, or unhappy, or unnatural?
I say unnatural; and this is a point on which I wish to insist, in the consideration of that wrong which the moral offender does to himself. The sinner, I say, is to be pronounced an unnatural being. He has cast off the government of those powers of his nature, which, as being the loftiest, have the best right to reign over him-the government, that is to say, of his intellectual and moral faculties, and has yielded himself to meaner appetites. Those meaner appetites, though they belong to his nature, have no right, and he knows they have no right, to govern him. The rightful authority, the lawful sovereignty belongs. and he knows that it belongs, not to sense, but to conscience. To rebel against this is to sin against Nature. It is to rebel against Nature's order. It is to rebel against the government that God has set up within him. It is to obey, not venerable authority, but the faction which his passions have made within him.
Thus violence and misrule are always the part of transgression. Nay, every sin-I do not mean now the natural and unavoidable imperfection of a weak and ignorant being,-but every wilful moral offence is a monstrous excess and excrescence in the mind, a hideous deformity, a loathsome discase, a destruction, so far as it goes, of the purposes for which our nature was made. As well might you say of the diseased plant or tree, which is wasting all its vigour on the growth of one huge and unsightly deformity, that it is in a natural condition. Grant that the natural powers of the plant or tree are converted, or rather perverted to this misuse, and helped to produce this deformity; yet the deformity is not natural. Grant that sin is the possible or supposable, or that it is the actual, nay, and in this world, the common, result of moral freedom. It has been argued, I know, that what is common is natural; and grant that too. But sin, we believe, is not common in the whole moral universe. It is not the common result of universal moral action. And it is evidently not the just and legitimate result; it is not the fair and natural result; it violates all moral powers and responsibilities. If the mechanism of a vast manufactory were thrown into sudden disorder, the power which propels it-and a power, if you please, which the artificer had placed in it-might, indeed, spread destruction throughout the whole work; but would that be the natural course of things; the result for which the fabric was made? So passion, not in its natural state, but still natural passion, in its unnatural state of excess and fury, may spread disorder and destruction through the moral system; but wreck and ruin are not the proper order of any nature, whether material or moral.
The idea against which I am now contending, that sin is natural to us, and, in fact, that nothing else is natural-this popular and prevailing idea, is one, it seems to me, so fearful and fatal in its bearings-is one of such comprehensive and radical mischief, as to infect the religious state of all mankind, and to overshadow, almost with despair, the moral prospects of the world. There is no error, theological or moral, that appears to me so destructive as this. There is nothing that lies so near the very basis of all moral reform and spiritual improvement as this.
If it were a matter of mere doctrine, it would be of less consequence. But it is a matter of habitual feeling, I fear, and of deep-settled opinion.
The world, alas! is not only in the sad and awful condition of being filled with sin, and filled with misery in consequence, but of thinking that this is the natural order of things. Sin is a thing of course; it is taken for granted that it must exist very much in the way that it does; and men are everywhere easy about it, they are everywhere sinking into worldliness and vice, as if they were acting out the principles of their moral constitution, and almost as if they were fulfilling the will of God. And thus it comes to pass, that that which should fill the world with grief, and astonishment, and horror, beyond all things else most horrible and lamentable, is regarded with perfect apathy, as a thing natural and necessary. Why, my brethren, if but the animal creation were found, on a sudden, disobedient to the principles of their nature, if they were ceasing to regard the guiding instincts with which they are endowed, and were rushing into universal madness, the whole world would stand aghast at the spectacle. But multitudes in the rational creation disobey a higher law and forsake a more sacred guidance; they degrade themselves below the beasts, or make themselves as entirely creatures of this world; they plunge into excess and profligacy; they bow down divine and immortal faculties to the basest uses, and there is no wonder, there is no horror, there is no consciousness of the wrong done to themselves. They say, "it is the natural course of things," as if they had solved the whole problem of moral evil. They say, "it is the way of the world," almost as if they thought it was the order of Providence. They say, "it is what men are, almost as if they thought it was what men were designed to be. And thus ends their comment, and with it all reasonable endeavour to make themselves better and happier.
If this state of prevailing opinion be as certainly erroneous as it is evidently dangerous, it is of the last importance, that every resistance, however feeble, should be offered to its fatal tendencies. Let us therefore consider, a little more in detail, the wrong which sin does to human nature. I say, then, that it does a wrong to every natural faculty and power of the mind.
Sin does a wrong to reason. There are instances, and not a few, in which sin, in various forms of vice and vanity, absolutely destroys reason. There are other and more numerous cases in which it employs that faculty, but employs it in a toil most degrading to its nature. There is reasoning, indeed, in the mind of a miser; the solemn arithmetic of profit and loss. There is reasoning in the schemes of unscrupulous ambition; the absorbing and agitating intrigue for office or honour. There is reasoning upon the modes of sensual pleasure; and the whole power of a very acute mind is sometimes employed and absorbed in plans, and projects, and imaginations of evil indulgence. But what an unnatural desecration is it, for reason-sovereign, majestic, all-comprehending reason-to contract its boundless range to the measure of what the hand can grasp; to be sunk so low as to idolize outward or sensitive good; to make its god, not indeed of wood or stone, but of a sense or a nerve! What a prostration of immortal reason is it, to bend its whole power to the poor and pitiful uses which sinful indulgence demands of it!
Sin is a kind of insanity. So far as it goes, it makes man an irrational creature: it makes him a fool. The consummation of sin is
ever, and in every form, the extreme of folly. And it is that most pitiable folly, which is puffed up with arrogance and self-sufficiency. Sin degrades, it impoverishes, it beggars the soul; and yet the soul, in this very condition, blesses itself in its superior endowments and happy fortune. Yes, every sinner is a beggar, as truly as the most needy and desperate mendicant. He begs for a precarious happiness; he begs it of his possessions or his coffers that cannot give it; he begs it of every passing trifle and pleasure; he begs it of things most empty and uncertain,-of every vanity, of every shout of praise in the vacant air; of every wandering eye he begs its homage: he wants these things; he wants them for happiness; he wants them to satisfy the craving soul; and yet he imagines that he is very fortunate: he accounts himself wise, or great, or honourable, or rich, increased in goods, and in need of nothing. The infatuation of the inebriate man, who is elated and gay, just when he ought to be most depressed and sad, we very well understand. But it is just as true of every man that is intoxicated by any of his senses or passions, by wealth, or honour, or pleasure, that he is infatuated-that he has abjured reason.
What clearer dictate of reason is there than to prefer the greater good to the lesser good? But every offender, every sensualist, every avaricious man, sacrifices the greater good-the happiness of virtue and piety-for the lesser good, which he finds in his senses or in the perishing world. Nor is this the strongest view of the case. He sacrifices the greater for the less, without any necessity for it. He might have both. He gives up heaven for earth, when, in the best sense, he might, I repeat, have both. A pure mind can derive more enjoyment from this world, and from the senses, than an impure mind. This is true even of the lowest senses. But there are other senses besides these; and the pleasures of the epicure are far from equalling, even in intensity, those which piety draws from the glories of vision and the melodies of sound,-ministers as they are of thoughts and feelings that swell far beyond the measure of all worldly joy.
The love of happiness might properly be treated as a separate part of our nature; and I had intended, indeed, to speak of it distinctly,to speak of the meagre and miserable provision which unholy gratification makes for it, and yet more of the cruel wrong which is done to this eager and craving love of happiness. But as I have fallen on this topic, and find the space that belongs to me diminishing, I must content myself with a single suggestion.
What bad man ever desired that his child should be like himself? Vice is said to wear an alluring aspect, and many a heedless youth, alas! rushes into its embraces for happiness; but what vicious man, what corrupt and dissolute man, ever desired that his child should walk in his steps? And what a testimony is this-what a clear and disinterested testimony, to the unhappiness of a sinful course! Yes, it is the bad man that often feels an interest about the virtue of others, beyond all, perhaps, that good men feel; feels an intensity, an agony of desire for his children, that they may be brought up virtuouslythat they may never, never be such as he is!
How truly, and with what striking emphasis, did the venerable Cranmer reply, when told that a certain man had cheated him," No, he has cheated himself." Every bad man, every dishonest man, every
corrupt man, cheats himself of a good, far dearer than any advantage that he obtains over his neighbour. Others he may injure, abuse, and delude; but another thing is true, though commonly forgotten, and that is, that he deludes himself, abuses himself, injures himself, more than he does all other men.
In the next place, sin does a wrong to conscience. There is a conscience in every man, which is as truly a part of his nature as reason or memory. The offender against this, therefore, violates no unknown law, nor impracticable rule. From the very teaching of his nature he knows what is right, and he knows that he can do it; and his very nature, therefore, instead of furnishing him with apologies for wilful wrong, holds him inexcusable. Inexcusable, I am aware, is a strong word; and when I have looked at mankind, and seen the ways in which they are instructed, educated, and influenced, I have been disposed to feel as if there were palliations. But on the other hand, when I consider how strong is the voice of nature in a man, how sharp and piercing is the work of a restraining and condemning conscience, how loud and terrible is its remonstrance, what a peculiar, what a heaven-commissioned anguish it sometimes inflicts upon the guilty man, -I am compelled to say, despite of all bad teaching and bad influence, "this being is utterly inexcusable;" for, I repeat it, there is a conscience in men. I cannot admit that human nature ever chooses sin as such. It seeks for good, for gratification, indeed. But take the vilest man that lives, and if it were so that he could obtain the gratification he seeks-be it property or sensual pleasure that he could obtain it honestly and innocently, he would greatly prefer it on such terms. This shows that there is a conscience in him. But he will have the desired gratification; and to obtain it, he sets his foot upon that conscience, and crushes it down to dishonour and agony, worse than death. Ah! my brethren, we who sit in our closets talk about vice, and dishonesty, and bloody crime, and draw dark pictures of them,-cold and lifeless, though dark pictures; but we little know, perhaps, of what we speak. The heart, all conscious and alive to the truth, would smile in bitterness and derision at the feebleness of our description. And could the heart speak-could "the bosom black as death" send forth its voice of living agony in our holy places, it would rend the vaulted arches of every sanctuary with the cry of a pierced, and wounded, and wronged, and ruined nature!
Finally, sin does a wrong to the affections. How does it mar even that image of the affections, that mysterious shrine from which their revealings flash forth, "the human face divine;" bereaving the world of more than half its beauty! Can you ever behold sullenness clouding the clear fair brow of childhood, or the flushed cheek of anger, or the averted and writhen features of envy, or the dim and sunken eye and haggard aspect of vice, or the red signals of bloated excess hung out on every feature, proclaiming the fire that is consuming within,without feeling that sin is the despoiler of all that the affections make most hallowed and beautiful?
But these are only indications of the wrong that is done, and the ruin that is wrought in the heart. Nature has made our affections to be full of tenderness, to be sensitive and alive to every touch, to cling to their cherished objects with a grasp from which nothing but cruel
violence can sever them. We hear much, I know, of the coldness of the world, but I cannot believe much that I hear; nor is it perhaps meant in any sense that denies to man naturally the most powerful affections-affections that demand the most gentle and considerate treatment. Human love-I am ready to exclaim-how strong is it! What yearnings are there of parental fondness, of filial gratitude, of social kindness everywhere! What impatient asking of ten thousand hearts for the love of others; not for their gold, not for their praise, but for their love!
But sin enters into this world of the affections, and spreads around the death-like coldness of distrust; the word of anger falls like a blow upon the heart, or avarice hardens the heart against every finer feeling; or the insane merriment, or the sullen stupor of the inebriate man falls like a thunderbolt amidst the circle of kindred and children. Oh! the hearts where sin is to do its work should be harder than the nether millstone; yet it enters in among affections, all warm, all sensitive, all gushing forth in tenderness; and, deaf to all their pleadings, it does its work, as if it were some demon of wrath that knew no pity, and heard no groans, and felt no relenting.
But I must not leave this subject to be regarded as if it were only a matter for abstract or curious speculation. It goes beyond reasoning; it goes to the conscience, and demands penitence and humiliation.
For of what, in this view, is the sensualist guilty? He is guilty, not merely of indulging the appetites of his body, but of sacrificing to that body a soul!-I speak literally-of sacrificing to that body a soul! yes, of sacrificing all the transcendent and boundless creation of God in his nature to one single nerve of his perishing frame. The brightest emanation of God, a flame from the everlasting altar burns within him; and he voluntarily spreads over it a fleshy veil-a veil of appetites-a veil of thick darkness; and if from its awful folds one beam of the holy and insufferable light within breaks forth, he closes his eyes, and quickly spreads another covering of wilful delusion over it, and utterly refuses to see that light, though it flashes upon him from the shrine of the Divinity. There is, indeed, a peculiarity in the sensuality of a man, distinguishing it from the sensual gratification of which an animal is capable, and which many men are exalted above the brutes only to turn to the basest uses. The sensual pleasures of a human being derive a quality from the mind. They are probably more intense, through the co-operating action of the mind. The appetite of hunger or thirst, for instance, is doubtless the same in both animal and man, and its gratification the same in kind; but the mind communicates to it a greater intensity. To a certain extent this is unquestionably natural and lawful. But the mind, finding that it has this power, and that by absorption in sense, by gloating over its objects, it can for a time add something to their enjoyment,-the mind, I say, surrenders itself to the base and ignoble ministry. The angel in man does homage to the brute in man. Reason toils for sense; the imagination panders for appetite; and even the conscience-that no faculty may be left undebased-the divine conscience strives to spread around the loathsome forms of voluptuousness a hazo of moral beauty-calling intoxication enthusiasm, and revelling good fellowship, and dignifying every species of indulgence with some name that is holy.