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The force of example is very great; infomuch that some will have it to be the source of all moral evil, and maintain that all the wickedness which is practised in the world, is only the effect of imitation; and that, if any one from his infancy could have a perfect example propounded to him, he would be a perfect man. This indeed is abundantly more than I can allow : but thus much may safely be granted; that example is one great source of evil, tho not the only one. It is natural for us to imitate the manners of those with whom we converse; we side almost insensibly into actions which we see daily practised by multitudes around us. Men for the most part do not care to be fingular, but love to conform themselves to the customs of their neighbours. Each man is apt to say within himself, “ why should I be afraid of do
ing that which other people do so fre
quently without any remorse ? why “ sould I be more nice and scrupulous " than many of my friends and acquaint"ance?" And when once a man has indulged a vicious inclination, he is ready to add; “ if I should change the course “ of my life, forsake such and such fins,
« and apply my self to the practice of " the contrary virtues, I Thould be “ laughed at by my companions.
Thus example alone is ensnaring, But the danger is still greater when folicitation and entreaty are added to it ; which often happens to be the case, For finners are not contented to do that which is evil themselves, but endeavour to feduce others also; faying as Solomon represents them in the first chapter of Proverbs; Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privately for the innocent without cause ; let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that go down into the pit; we mall find all precious substance,' we shall fill our houses with spoil ; cast in thy lot among us,
let us all have one purse.
Another thing which adds to the difficulty of a religious life, is that opposition which wicked men are ready to make to holiness and virtue wherever they see hem take root. When once a man forfakes evil courses, and applies himself to the practice of religion, he presently draws on himself the hatred of an ungodly world. A life of strict piety and Virtue is so contrary, and when compared with it, doth so vastly out: fhine it ; that no wonder if the wicked man is filled with indignation against the righteous, because his vices render him as odious and detestable, as the virtues of the other render him beautiful and amiable. And being enraged against him, he will do what in him lies to moleft and disturb him : if he cannot seduce him from the paths of virtue, he will at least endeavour to abate the pleasure of walking in them : if he cannot prevail on him to cast off religion, he will persecute him for adhering to it. It might be expected, according to the nature and reason of things, that religious men should be most esteemed, and meet with the kindest treatment from the world, because they do most resemble the divine being who is the pattern of all perfection, and because they are the most useful members of society : but so it is, that wicked men invert the order of nature, and make that the object of their scorn and derision, which ought to attract their admiration and love. They strive to out-do one another in breaking jefts upon religion, and casting disparaging reflections upon those who proteís it. Now contempt and reproach are very
irksome and ungrateful to human nature ; and therefore it requires extraordinary strength and firmness of mind, to persevere stedfastly in the practice of religion in spight of the derision of scorners.
But the difficulty is still greater, when to scorn and contempt are added external force and violence. The time hath been, when the profession and practice of true religion have exposed®men to the loss of all that was dear to them in this world. Persecution for righteousness fake began very early. Cain New his brother Abel: and wherefore flew he him? because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous ; 1 John III. 12. And ever since that time there have been some who have gone in the
way of Cain; i. e. have been irreconcilable enemies to virtue and goodness, and laboured to extirpate them out of the world. Almost every age hath produced instances of righteous men, who have fallen a facrifice
of the wicked. Now when things come to this extremity, that we must either renounce religion, or suffer death for adhering to it; it is easy to conceive that there will be a great struggle between the sational and the carnal part of our frame ; and no wonder if we be strongly tempted to apostacy, at a time when the keeping our fidelity is like to cost us dear.
Thus it appears, that the world affords many powerful temptations to fin. And it would be well if that was the only source of them: but, most unhappily for us, there is another very confiderable one ; and that is, the devil. The manner of his access to, and operation upon the minds of men, is very much a secret ; but the thing itself is most certain, because it is founded on express testimony of scripture. St. Peter exhorts us to be sober and vigilant, because our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may
devour; 1 Pet. V. 8. St. Paul calls him the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience ; Eph. II. 2. The treachery of Judas in betraying our Saviour, is ascribed to the influence of the devil : John XIII. 27. And after the sop, Satan entred into him. And the sin of Ananias, in prevaricațing with the apostles about the price of the land which
had sold, is referred to the same original : Acts V. 3. Peter said, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy