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temptation, and we have once more fallen into those sins which we thought could never again overcome us! And we must persevere. The crown is reserved only for those who continue to the end. Let us not then, when this holy season has passed away, be forgetful of all its good resolutions and all its solemn warnings. Let us use every effort that we may not fall back again into that old dreadful state of carelessness and indifference, lest at any time that which was said of the man in the parable become true of us, “ The last state of that man was worse than the first.”
O my soul, wilt thou not resolve whilst this thy state of trial lasts, to use most diligently the means of grace which God has provided for thee in His Church, remembering thine own weakness, and the need thou hast ever to be pleading before the Throne of mercy the Great and Prevailing Sacrifice of the Cross ?
I. Earthly Yoys.
If we allow ourselves to reflect for a few moments on the transitory nature of those pleasures which the world has to offer us, it will help us to look forward with more intense longing to the joys which are prepared in Heaven for those that love God.
There are two threads which so to speak run through our earthly life, often broken, often entangled, but still evident in all: the thread of sorrow and the thread of joy. As there is no person that is exempted from the universal lot of sorrow and suffering, so there is no person however miserable be his ordinary state who has not his gleams of sunshine, some moments at least when his troubles and trials are forgotten. Nay in the lives of some these two threads seem so strangely intertwined that their very suffering is to them an unfailing spring of happiness.
It will perhaps assist our meditations on this branch of our subject if we take it in the following 'subdivision:
1. Pleasures of sin.
1. It is impossible to doubt, as well from our own experience as from the number of slaves which the devil has, that there is some attractiveness in sin. If it were not so, if the devil had no such bribes to offer, no such blinds to use, it would be impossible to conceive that men knowing the consequences of sin, in the present and in the future, could listen for one moment to his suggestions. But it is because they anticipate pleasure in the immediate gratification of their wishes that they consent to run the fearful risk of future punishment. And in what do the pleasures of sin consist ? A. In the act of rebellion. It is a strange characteristic of our fallen nature that there is a strong tendency in us to disobey for the sake of disobedience. All law is felt to be a restraint upon
the natural desires of our evil nature, and hence there is more or less of guilty joy in every act of disobedience, as it seems to give us more of that liberty which we crave after. It is this spirit of lawlessness in the world of which we see so much in the prevalent desire to upset all constituted authority, and to subvert all established forms of order. It is this which accounts for that spirit of liberalism which professes most delusively to have for its end greater individual freedom. It is this which accounts for the prevalence of that ‘free thought' by which men seek to emancipate themselves from the laws of religious
faith laid down by God in His Church, and profess that in this act of rebellion they are but exercising a right inherent in their nature. Or to take a more common illustration, it is this which gives its force to the well known proverb, ‘Stolen waters are sweet.'
B. There is the pleasure which springs from selfindulgence. Every temptation has its power over us through our self love; and it is through this individual love of self that we allow the momentary pleasure of gratifying our passions or senses to outweigh the graver considerations of our duty towards God, and of our future and more lasting interests. And now consider for a moment how unsatisfying are the
pleasures' of sin. How short-lived are they! No sooner is the act of sin over, and the end gained for which we have perilled our soul, than feelings of remorse step in. We feel at once how foolish we have been, how little “the game was worth the candle,” to use an expressive French proverb; how much wiser it would have been if we had exercised a little selfrestraint and denied ourselves the momentary pleasure which we anticipated from our self-indulgence. And then again there is to be considered the misery which sin always bring in its train, and which outweighs in such a degree its pleasures. Take as an illustration the case of the drunkard. I
it must be conceded that he finds some pleasure in his
degrading self-indulgence; and yet none can deny the utter misery of the drunkard's condition. His body is enfeebled by his self-indulgence, and made liable to the inroads of every kind of disease. He is a subject of mockery to his companions, of pity to his friends, shunned by all his respectable neighbours, and a curse to himself. Can any man look on the picture of a drunkard and believe in the reality of sin's pleasures ?
2. Lawful pleasures which may be moderately used without sin. God did not intend that a religious life should be a morose and unhappy life, nor that it should debar us from a moderate use of pleasure, provided that we do not make it the end of our existence. We cannot look
the world and see how beautiful God has made it, we cannot remember that He has given us an eye to see sights of beauty, and an ear to appreciate sounds of entrancing sweetness, and believe that such should be His will. It would not be possible that God, in whom all happiness resides, could wish His creatures to be unhappy, and therefore He has provided that we should have in various ways the means of enjoying ourselves without transgressing His laws.
For this He has given us the powers of mind and sense, the gift of intellect, homes and friends, the bright sunshine, &c. &c.; but with all this we must acknowledge again how unsatisfying