The next installment.
42. Another is emulation. Emulation, or rivalship, is one of the works of the flesh, and it is enmity against the meek and humble spirit of Christ; and its consequences are pernicious beyond description. In matters called religion we see much of its antiquity, as well as in natural things. One denomination wishes to rival another; one preacher wishes to rival another; and how often it is the case that professed Christians will act more underhandedly to obtain an advantage over a professor of a different denomination, than a common jockey is willing to do in order to obtain a bargain! And I will say more, I have often seen, in the same churches, persons at such variance about matters of their religion, that truth seemed not to be regarded in the least on either side; each would strive to crush his brother, until two parties were formed, and a whole town set in an uproar. This is the religion which pleases the carnal mind, but it is death. One nation looks with an envious eye on the increasing wealth and population of another. She forms a subterfuge, as a pretext for declaring war against her neighbor, by which the two nations are drawn into a contention; a long war ensues, bringing horrors, to describe which would swell a volume to an enormous size. Look on England and France this moment, and for many years back. Who could calculate one-half the miseries produced from the spirit of rivalship between these potent rivals. How many a brave youth has fallen a sacrifice to ambition; how often has the ground drunk copious draughts of human blood; the bosom of the deep been reddened with the gore of the slain; and sharks and sea-dogs fed on the sins of mourning fathers and weeping mothers; while the leaders of this calamity make high professions of the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, and are frequently sending out their proclamations for fasts and for prayers to Almighty God to assist them in human butchery! â€œFrom whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not even from your lusts, which war against the soul?â€
43. Another is covetousness. It is recorded in the scriptures that the love of money is the root of all evil. But men would have no love for money were it not for the earthly advantages obtained by it. The the passion is covetousness, and the consequence is mischievous to mankind. One, for the sake of money, will steal, another will lie, another counterfeit the currency, and other will murder. Were it not for the sake of property, would men do these things? Answer, no; then, in relation to what I have before argued, I ask, would men be industrious were it not for the sake of property? Answer, no; then the case is plain that they both act from the same main passion, which is want, and to the same major object, which I happiness. But their minor objects and their minor passions vary. What need would there be of government were it not for sin? If all were willing to do as they would be done by, what an enormous expense would be saved, as it would render governmental laws useless. But by reason of man’s passions and mistaken objects influencing then, our lives are exposed to be taken by our neighbors, our property pillaged, our hard earnings interrupted by banditti, and, in short, all that is dear to us, to be taken from our enjoyment. â€œHe who loveth not his brother is a murderer.â€ Are not all men murderers? Do they not sometimes experience the lack of brotherly love? This murderous passion is sin; it is opposed to the language of the heavenly man in the mind; but what are its consequences? Every one endeavors to supplant his brother, no one is safe in his feelings while he is in the hands of his brother. When this passion reigns, all tender charities of humanity are frozen; a deaf ear turned to the cries and calls of the needy in distress; the poor are dispised by the rich, the rich are envied by the poor; parents are dishonored by their children; children are abused, and provoked to anger by their parents. The vile affections of sin will burn to the destruction of the sweetest harmonies of nature; the whitest robes of innocence are stain with its indelible crimson; the soul is drowned in the black waters of iniquity; and the whole mind, with every faculty, is plunged into the hell of mortal death.
44. The torment of sin is within. Yet, listen to the worst of torments in consequence of sin. â€œA wounded conscience who can bear?â€ A fire that burns all the day long, a sword that continually pierceth the soul, a sting that cannot exhaust its poison, a fever that never turns till the patient dies. â€œA dark stuck through his liver.â€ What ails the sinner? why his hand on his breast? There gnaws the worm that never dies, there burns the fire that is never quenched. A consciousness of guilt destroys all the expected comforts and pleasures of sin. How strange it is that after a thousand disappointments in succession men are not discouraged. Oh, sin! how you paint your face; how you flatter us, poor mortals, on to death; you never appear to the sinner in your true character; you make us fair promises, but you never fulfilled one; your tongue is smoother than oil, but the poison of asps is under your lips; you have impregnated all our passions with the venom of your poison; you have spread gloomy darkness over the whole region of the soul; you have endeavored, with your stupefactive poison, to blunt the sword in the hands of the cherubim, which, for your sake, keeps us from the tree of life.
45. The mistake of ignoring the present evils of sin. A mistaken idea have been entertained of sin even by professors. I have often heard sincere ministers preach, in their reproofs to their hearers, that it was the greatest folly in the world for people to forego salvation in a future state for the comforts and pleasures of sin in this. Such exhortations really defeat their intentions. The wish of the honest preacher is that the wicked should repent of their sins and do better; but, at the same time, he indicates that sin, at present, is more productive of happiness than righteousness; but that the bad will come in another world; that, although doing well is a hard way, yet its advantages will be great in another state. Just as much as any person thinks sin to be more happifying than righteousness, he is sinful; his heart esteems it, though in some possible cases, for fear of the loss of salvation in the world to come, he may abstain from some outward enormities; yet his heart is full of the desire of doing them. A thief passes a merchant’s shop, wishes to steal some of his goods, but durst not for fear of apprehension and punishment. Is this man less a thief at heart for not actually taking the goods?
46. Sin begets misery. I have been told, by persons of high professions in Christianity, that if they were certain of salvation in the world to come they would commit every sin to which their unbridled passions might lead them; even from the lips of some who profess to preach the righteousness of Christ have I heard such-like expressions! I do not mention these things to cast reflections on any person or denomination in the world; for I have a favorable hope that there are some in all denominations who are not to be deceived; but I mention them in order to show how deceivings in is [sic] to the mind. It is as much the nature of sin to torment the mind as it is the nature of fire to burn our flesh. Sin deprives us of every rational enjoyment, so far as it captivates the mind; it was never able to furnish one drop of cordial for the soul; her tender mercies are cruelty, and her breasts of consolation are gall and wormwood. Sin is a false mirror, by which the sinner is deceived in everything on which his mind contemplates. If he thinks of his Maker, who is his best friend, it strikes him with awe, fills his mind with fearful apprehensions, and he wishes there was no such being. If he thinks of any duty which he owes his Maker, he says, in a moment, â€œGod is a hard master, why should he require of me what is so contrary to my happiness? Religion is only calculated to make men miserable; righteousness blunts my passions, and deprives me of pleasures for which I long.â€ But it represents stolen waters to be sweet, and bread eaten in secret to be pleasant. In a word, sin is of a torment-giving nature to every faulty of the soul, and is the mortal death of the mind.