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game, I exercise a strict government over myself; I subdue my rebellious passions, by continual acts of self-denial; “ I keep under “ my body, and bring it into subjection: lest " that by any means when I have preached to 6 others, I myself should be a castaway."
Such is the reasoning of this eloquent apostle at large; and it behoves us all to pay due attention to it; for, though in one circumstance we do not all resemble him, are not all appointed to preach to others; yet are we all, like him, engaged in the Christian conflict with passion and temptation; and must, like him, either come off victorious in it, and gain the prize, or be shamefully subdued, and lose our own souls.
Ever since the unhappy fall of our first parents, and the confusion introduced by it into our moral frame, the passions have acquired so much strength and boldness, that they aspire to nothing less than an absolute sovereignty over the soul; and we are reduced to the necessity of either governing them, or being governed by them. This is literally the choice proposed to us at our first entrance into life; and it concerns us to weigh and consider it well; for we can never decide on a question of more importance. It is this chiefly that must determine us to virtue and happiness, or to vice and misery. For nothing can be more clear, than that far the greater part of the evils we suffer ourselves, and of those we bring upon others, arise from the dominion of our passions. “ From whence “ come wars and fightings among you? “ Come they not hence, even of your lusts, “ which war in your members ?” From whence come murders, robberies, oppression, and fraud ? Whence come breaches of friendship and hospitality, violations of the marriage-bed, ruin, infamy, and remorse to unguarded innocence, confusion and distress to whole families, the destruction of our own health and repose, the dissipation of our fortunes, and the consequent wretchedness of all that look up to us for support? Do not all these, and an infinite number of other calamities, spring solely from the brutal violence of headstrong and unruly desires, bursting forth like a torrent
upon mankind, throwing down every obstacle, and breaking through every the most sacred fence that opposes itself to their impetuous course ?
Such are the mischiefs which daily follow from suffering them to gain the ascendency; and such we have to expect from it ourselves. There is, in fact, no drudgery upon earth like that of serving the passions. Of all tyrants in the world, they are the most unrelenting and insupportable. They will utterly debase and unman the soul; debilitate and obscure its noblest powers ; force their natural sovereign reason to submit to the meanest offices, and most scandalous artifices, for their gratification ; compel us to resign up her truest interests, our most solid comforts, our most valuable expectations; nay, even to invent principles to justify their extravagancies, to reject the revelation that condemns them, to strip ourselves of all claim to immortality, to doubt every thing, to dispute every thing, except their commands. ..
To avoid these dreadful mischiefs, which are by no means exaggerated, there is no
other way left, but to resolve with St. Paul, on“ keeping under our body, and bringing “ it into subjection.” But this, too, though attended at the last with the happiest consequences, is not, however, without its difficulties. These, indeed, to all are not the same; there is, undoubtedly, a difference in the constitution of our minds, as well as of our bodies; and some men are blest with such singularly happy dispositions, such sober desires, such tractable and obedient inclinations, that, with a common degree of prudence and circumspection, and Christian discipline, they preserve the utmost tranquillity and order in the soul, go on uniformly, and almost without interruption in the discharge of their duty, and find the ways of religion “ to be ways of “ pleasantness, and all her paths to be “ peace.” Blest, indeed, beyond measure, are such persons as these, infinitely better provided for the journey of life, and infinitely better furnished with the proper materials of happiness, than those who are generally much more envied, but with much less reason ; those who are favoured with riches, genius, rank, or power. These
are contemptible things compared to the inconceivable comfort of a well-ordered mind, and well-governed affections, which, in a work of infinite importance that must be done, leave us nothing but what it is extremely easy to do. But, with the generality of mankind, this is far from being the case. Almost every one finds within himself some one unruly passion at least, which is continually disturbing his repose, and endangering his innocence; and which, without the utmost vigilance and resolution, he finds it impossible to subdue. Even he who “ delights in the law of God after “ the inward man, frequently sees another 6 law in the outward man, warring against o the law of his mind, and bringing it into
captivity to the law of sin.” Unable to rescue himself from this wretched slavery, and equally unable to support the consequences of submitting to it, no wonder if such an one, in the utmost agony of mind, cries out with St. Paul in his assumed character, « Wretched man that I am! who s6 shall deliver me from the body of this 66 death?” Thanks be to God throughJesus Christ our Lord; there is one that can, and