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were no sooner withheld, than he became a striking and melancholy instance of the truth which is here exhibited. Being left to the freedom of his own will, without which his integrity could not have been proved, nor his obedience acceptable, he suddenly fell into the snares of the devil, and lost his purity, innocence, and happiness. And if man, in that state of primeval purity, with all his powers and motives to obedience, found it impossible to direct his steps, what was to be expected in his frail and degenerate offspring ? Adam no doubt might have stood; but, since he fell, his posterity, from that fatal moment, have walked upon slippery ground. And we have only to review the history of past ages, and consult our own experience, to be sensible what human nature is, in our present degenerate state ;-how weak the reason, how depraved the affections, and how dark the understandings of men ! The Old Testament presents us with numberless instances of those who fell from the belief of the existence of the Divine Nature into heathen idolatry and . pagan superstition. And since the es
tablishment of Christianity, what numbers do we read of in ecclesiastical history, of all countries, ranks, and stations, who have forsaken the true faith, joined the various heresies of the times, and wandered far from the paths of virtue and religion ! Even those who persevered in the belief and worship of the true God, men noted for their piety, and dignified with the appellation of saints, yet in the course of their journey through life, were guilty of occasional backslidings and heinous sins. Thus, we read of the unbelief of Abraham, the drunkenness of Noah, the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah ; of Moses “ speaking “ unadvisedly with his lips ;” of Job cursing the day he was born, and of Peter, at the challenge of a maid-servant, denying his Master. These things are written for our admonition. The cases which I have mentioned, out of many more that might have been adduced, are so many beacons set up to warn us, that the most eminent saints stand not in their own strength ; that “it is not in man that “ walketh to direct his steps.”
There are two particular states or con
ditions to which mankind are often appointed in the course of Divine Providence, viz. prosperity and adversity. And if we consider the Christian in each of these, it will tend still farther to illustrate the truth and propriety of the prophet's declaration.
1. Let us then consider him in a state of prosperity, with the candle of the Lord shining upon his head, and all things around him flourishing as his heart would wish. Yet even in this favourable and flattering situation of affairs, how soon does the weakness of human nature discover itself, and shew how little man is capable of directing his steps. He is apt to become intoxicated with pride, prove ungrateful to the Author of his enjoyments, and run into follies and crimes, from which in a less prosperous state he would have shrunk with abhorrence. Those very blessings which he eagerly wished for, and which, when obtained, might have been improved to the glory of the bountiful giver, his own comfort, and the good of others, are often known to be the means of involving him in extreme wretched
x nėss and ruin. In such a state as this, he
may be truly said to be surrounded with snares and dangers. There is a multiplicity of sensible objects ready to solicit his attention, and captivate the affections of his heart. Pleasure from
every quarter invites him, and fashion, that vile abuser of mankind, adds its deluding voice to seduce him from the paths of rectitude. His own resolutions form but feeble barriers, and in the hour of temptation too often leave him an unprotected prey to every hostile intruder.
Not only do the alluring objects of time and sense take advantage of man in a prosperous condition ; but Satan, that grand adversary of souls, improves such a precious season for accomplishing his wicked devices. He is an enemy,
of all others, the most restless, subtle, and powerful. He works upon the minds and imaginations of men, and avails himself of their natural temper and outward circumstances in order to ensnare and ruin them. What a specimen of his skill and power did he give in the case of our first parents in paradise ! Though
at present he may not put on exactly the same form which he then assumed; though he may not employ precisely the same means to which he formerly had recourse, yet think not his machinations have ceased. There are a thousand forms which he can assume,-a thousand instruments which he can employ. With unwearied and ceaseless activity, he besets the paths, and frequents the abodes of men, seeking like a roaring lion whom he may devour.
At the moment we are apt to think ourselves most secure, and proof against the temptations of the evil one ; whilst we are dreaming of the great felicities of our state, and promising ourselves long and uninterrupted prosperity; a fatal blow is aiming against us, which soon overthrows our towering thoughts, shews us the instability of all worldly things, and leaves us to lament the frailty of human nature. “ prosperity,” is the language of David, 6 I said that I would never be moved.' But no sooner had he begun to presume upon his safety, when instantly his mountain was shaken, and his fond expectations were disappointed. We ought,
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