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never free from suspicion and alarm. The sinner is afraid, sometimes, of the partners of his crimes, lest they betray him ; sometimes, of those who have suffered by his crimes, lest they revenge themselves; frequently, of the world around him, lest it detect him ; and, what is worst of all, he is reduced to be afraid of himself. There is a witness within him, that testifies against his misdeeds; and threatens him in secret, when other alarms leave him. Conscience holds up to his view the image of his past crimes, with this inscription engraved upon it, “ God “will bring every work into judgment." How opposite is such a state as this, to the peaceful security arising from the liberty enjoyed by the virtuous ? Were there nothing more in the circumstances of sinners to affix upon them the marks of servitude, this alone would be sufficient, that, as the Scripture expresses it, through fear of death they are all their lifetime subject to bondage.* Death sets all other captives free. The slave who digs in the mine; or labours at the oar, can rejoice at the prospect of laying down his burden together with his life; and tastes the hope of being at last on equal terms with his cruel oppressor. But, to the slave of guilt there arises no hope from death. On the contrary, he is obliged to look forward with constant terror to this most certain of all events, as the conclusion of all his hopes, and the commencement of his greatest miseries.
I have thus set before you such clear and unequivocal marks of the servitude undergone by sinners,
* Heb. i. 15.
as fully verify the assertion in the text, that a state of vice and corruption is a state of bondage. In order to perceive how severe a bondage it is, let us attend to some peculiar circumstances of aggravation which belong to it.
First, It is a bondage to which the mind itself, the native seat of liberty, is subjected. In other cases, a brave man can comfort himself with reflecting that, let tyrants do their worst, let prisons or fetters be his lot, his mind remains unconquered and free. Of this liberty, they cannot rob him; here he moves in a higher sphere, above the reach of oppression or confinement. But what avails the show of external liberty, to one who has lost the government of himself? As our Saviour reasons in another case, If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness ? So we may reason here, if that part of thy nature, thy mind, thy will, by which only thou canst enjoy and relish liberty, be itself in bondage to evil passions and habits, how miserable must be that bondage ?
Next, it is aggravated by this consideration, that it is a bondage which we have brought upon ourselves. To have been forced into slavery, is misfortune and misery. But to have renounced our liberty and chosen to be slaves, is the greatest reproach added to the greatest misery. Moments there frequently must be when a sinner is sensible of the degradation of his state ; when he feels with pain the slavish dependence under which he is brought to fortune and the world, to violent passions and settled habits, and to fears and apprehensions arising from conscious guilt. In such moments, how cruel is the reflection, that of all this disgrace and misery he has been the
author to himself; that, by voluntary compliance, he has given to his passions that haughty ascendant which they now exercise over him ; has forged the. chains with which he is bound, and sold himself to do iniquity.
Lastly, The servitude of vice is accompanied with this farther aggravation, that it is subjection to our own servants. Those desires and passions which the sinner has raised to lawless rule, were given us as instruments of self-preservation; but were plainly designed to be under the direction of a higher power. Of themselves, they are headstrong and blind; they bear all the marks of intended subordination; and conscience is invested with every ensign of authority and supremacy.
But sin inverts the whole frame of human nature. It compels reason to bow down before those passions which it was formed to command ; and leads it, as it were, in triumph, to grace the shameful conquest of its ministers and servants. It has been always observed that none are so insolent in power, as they who have usurped an authority to which they had no right; and so it is found to hold in this instance. The desires and passions of a vicious man having once obtained an unlimited sway, trample him under their feet. They make him feel that he is subject to divers, and contradictory as well as imperious masters, who often pull him different ways.
His soul is rendered the receptacle of many repugnant and jarring dispositions; and resembles some barbarous country, cantoned out into different principalities, who are continually waging war on one another. Such is the state into which sinners have brought themselves, in order to be free from the supposed confinement of virtue. Where they
had promised themselves nothing but ease and pleasure, they are made to experience restraints more severe, and mortifications more painful, than any which they would have undergone under the discipline of religion.
It will perhaps be contended by some, that although the representation which has now been given of the slavery of sin holds true in certain instances, yet that it is applicable only to those who come under the description of atrocious sinners. They imagine that a certain moderate course may be held in vice, by means of which, men, without throwing altogether aside the restraints of reason, may enjoy an easy and pleasurable life. - By reasoning thus, my friends, you flatter and deceive yourselves to your own destruction. Be assured that, by every vicious indulgence, you are making an approach to a state of complete slavery; you are forfeiting a certain share of your liberty; how soon the whole of it may be forfeited, you are not aware. It is true, that all which has now been said of the servitude of sin, applies only to a character corrupted in the extreme. But remember, that to this extreme no man ever arrives at once. He passes through many of those intermediate stages, in one of which you are now perhaps found. Vice always creeps by degrees; and insensibly twines around us those concealed fetters by which we are at last completely bound.-- As you value therefore your liberty and your happiness, avoid every approach to evil. Consider all vicious pleasures as enchanted ground, by entering on which, you will be farther and farther ensnared within the magic circle, till at length you are precluded from all retreat. The most pure and virtuous man is always