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he should enjoy an uninterrupted flow of happiness. But he soon found that his hopes were visionary, and his expected enjoyments “like “ a dream when one awaketh :" but that the misery which surrounded him was real; that he was exposed, friendless and deserted, to the substantial evils of hunger and thirst, and nakedness.
And is not the case the same with those, who. quit the house of their heavenly Father, in persuit of worldly happiness? How many are there, who have lived at ease under God's protecting care, who were plentifully fed with the bread of his word, admitted to his table, and treated as the children of his love, but, by unliappily departing from him, have lost all these privileges, have fallen into spiritual want and poverty of soul, and have lingered' out their miserable lives in a total neglect of all religious duties, and in a sottish ignorance of the way to happiness? To these unhappy men we may justly apply what Isaiah says to the unenlightened heathens, who sought for that true happiness in the writings of their philosophers, which is to be found in God alone :-" Wherefore do ye spend money for " that which is not bread, and your labour for “ that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently “s unto me, and eat that which is good, and let " your soul delight itself in fatness."--In short,
it is only by obeying God and continuing in his house, that we can find the true bread of life, which cometh down from heaven. So long as we continue there, we find peace of conscience, satisfaction of mind; the pardon of our sins, and eternal happiness : but the moment we depart from it, like the rash prodigal, we fall into misery and want, --misery and want of all the greatest,
the misery of a guilty conscience, and the want of God's comfort and protection.
· When the prodigal was reduced to this distressful situation, “ he went," says our Saviour, " and joined himself to a citizen of that country, “ and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.” -Such is ever the behaviour of profligate young men. When their vices and follies have brought them to a state of wretchedness, instead of taking the wise course of repentance and reformation, they seek out for new expedients to support them in their desperate courses; they join themselves to companions more wicked than themselves, and submit to the basest arts of dishonesty and incanness.
Such too is the behaviour of us all, in respect to our great Master in heaven. We think, if we can but keep at a distance from God, and return no more to the yoke of religion, that we have
gained our point, and are in a state of perfect freedom. We consider not, that by leaving God and submitting to worldly lusts, we have forsaken a master whose service is perfect freedom, to be slaves to those hard and dreadful tyrants, the world, the flesh, and the devil; who will put us to basest and vilest employments, and, in our Saviour's phrase, will send us out into the field to feed swine.
Lastly, To put the finishing stroke to the prodigal's wretchedness,“ he would fain have filled “ his belly with the husks that the swine did “ eat, and no man gave unto him.”—Miserable state of humiliation indeed! for him who was born to a plentiful fortune, and educated under all the tenderness of an indulgent parènt, to envy the very food of these vile animals, and to find no man charitable enough to appease his hunger! But such is ever the end of sin and folly. As our wickedness increases, our misery increases with it. We may promise to ourselves all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them too; but so long as we remain in a far country, so long as we are strangers to God and religion, we shall find nothing but disappointment and woe; we shall covet the vile husks of sensual pleasures, and shall at last find no man to give them unto us; instead of enjoyment, we shall find a broken constitution and ruined fortune, a guilty conscience and an offended God.
From what has been said we may learn, that nothing is more shameful and debasing than sin. It is contrary to the dignity and excellence of our natúre, and that glory which God has reserved for us. For why has he given us an understanding to know him, laws to direct our conduct, a will to obey them, and an immortal soul capable of everlasting happiness, but with a design to make us holy and happy, to deliver us from the miseries of sin, to lead us to an imita- . tion of his virtues, and to reward us with an is inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that 66 fadeth not away.” This was doubtless the end which God proposed to himself in placing us in the world, and revealing himself to us in the Gospel; and we ought to omit nothing to preserve such inestimable privileges. But if we give up ourselves to sin, it will deprive us of all these high honours and dignities, it will degrade us from that rank to which God has raised us, disfigure that glorious image which Christ came to renew in us, and reduce us to all the baseness of degenerate and corrupt nature, -to the husks of sordid and irrational swine.
We máy, secondly, from hence learn, that sin is likewise the source of numberless troubles, miseries, and distresses, which, sooner or later, never fail of being the portion of those, who follow its guidance. The world, indeed, and especially the younger part of it, have a different way of thinking. They promise themselves a thousand pleasures in the indulgence of their passions. But this is only the effect of ignorance and youthful inexperience: reason and maturer age will teach them a very different lesson. We are all of us indeed apt to form too favourable ani opinion of vice, from seeing the wicked too often apparently happy in the world. But this is one of those false judgments, into which we are led by the imperfection of our nature, which sees not beyond the surface of things: -Could we strip the sinner, however prosperous, of all
disguise; could we, like the Almighty, search : into his heart, and see what passes within ; could
we be witness to the fears, inquietudes, and anxieties, which wound his soul, which make him start and look pale at midnight;, we should soon change our opinion, and conclude, in the language of the prophet, “There is no peace to " the wicked.”
But though we cannot see the hearts of others, we may at least see our own, and there read the · VOL. II.