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law, merely that the faithful might fin; but fuch a thought can only come from an atheift, who denies a God, or a devil, who hates him. God, who is all goodness, cannot impose a law on creatures without enabling them to obferve it. He cannot bind them up to impoffibilities, nor punish them for tranfgreffions they had no power to avoid.
It is true, by virtue precifely of the law, neither heaven nor grace were promifed; but both were included in the promife of a Meffias made to Abraham. In view of whofe future merits, God gave the Jews grace to observe the law, and heaven as a recompence of their virtues.
No, no, O God! thou doft not treat us, as the Egyptians did thy people, with cruelty and tyranny. When thou doft command us to work, thou doft furnish us with materials, and fupplies, to execute thy commands. The fault muft lie at our door, not at thine, if we tranfgrefs thy law; which is only hard, because we are idle. Our paffions carry us to fenfualities and disorders, and we will not take the pains to ftrive against the torrent; nor exert our ftrength to withstand their violence: we are the fole cause of our own miscarriage; our corrupt nature defeats the defigns of thy goodnefs; and the greatest part, even of Chriftians, are damned, because they will not be faved: they refuse thy gracious affiftance, and give up all right to heaven for criminal fatisfactions on earth.
GOSPEL of St. Luke, Chap. xvii. Verse
11. And it came to pass as he went to Ferufalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12. And as he entred into a certain village, there met bim ten men that were lepers which flood afar off:
13. And they lifted up their voices, and faid, Jefus Mafter, have mercy upon us.
14. And when he saw them, he faid unto them, Go fhew your felves unto the priests. And came to pass that, as they went, they were cleanfed.
15. And one of them, when he faw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.
16. And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17. And Jefus answering faid, Were there not ten cleanfed? but where are the nine?
18. There are not found that returned to give glory to God, fave this ftranger.
19. And he faid unto him, Arife, go thy way: thy faith bath made thee whole.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
ESUS was always travelling from place to place; but he dropt as many favours, as he took steps; wherever he past, he cured the fick, and delivered thofe he found poffefs'd by the devil. In the paffage before us, we are told, he met ten lepers in the way they were forbid by the law to enter into towns, or to converfe with any, left they fhould fpread the infection, and communicate their diftemper to others. Such a
care had God eve of the bodily health of his people.
But he would teach us, befides, another important leflon, that we must not frequent the company and converfation of the wicked; becaufe their vices are no lefs catching, than the plague or the leprofy. A philofopher had reafon to answer one, who afk'd him what kind of man fuch a one was; Tell me what company be keeps. He meant, that, if he convers'd with the virtuous, in all probability he was virtuous; but, if he haunted the converfation of the wicked, he was affuredly vicious.
God forbad the Jews to have any commerce with infidels, and the reafon was, because they would certainly debauch them by their example: But intereft had more fway with them, than fo fevere a prohibition. So that they mix'd with idolaters; and immediately took up their vices, and embraced their religion.
Ah! could we ask the damned, what was the cause of their ruin, the greateft part of thofe unfortunate creatures would anfwer, Bad company. Had they avoided finners, they had either lived innocent, or died repentant. But their converfation taught them crimes, which they did not know, and their example encouraged them to commit all those abominations they had learnt.
We frequent moft those we love, and love moves us to imitate them. If therefore you converfe with the wicked, you either are a finner, or foon will become one.
Ah! tell me not, tho' you love their company, you hate their vices: but will you continue in the fame difpofition? Alas! we have a ftrong inclination to evil; and the occafion to commit a fin is generally too ftrong for our refolu tions to practise virtue: it is certain, without
grace, we cannot refift a great temptation, and it is prefumption to expect it, whilft we remain in the way of temptation. Now, it is certain, bad company is fuch: example gives credit to the worst of crimes, and makes them fafhionable, nay, and almoft lawful too: perfuafions will enforce the temptation, and when all thefe confpire with flesh and blood, and the devil is of the confederacy, what can be expected but wickedness?
But, perchance, you may overcome thefe temptations perchance you may; but it is a thousand to one you will not; and will you venture your innocence, and heaven alfo, upon a bare perchance, at fo great odds? One may eat with lepers, and converfe with thofe, that are ftruck with the plague, and perchance receive no harm by either; yet no body will try the experiment, nor venture his life upon a poffibility of efcaping.
Why then, O Chriftians, will you expofe your foul to a danger, you dare not expofe your body to? Is the death of that a greater evil than of this? Our bleffed Saviour commands you to fly from all things that draw you to fin, tho' never fo dear; nay, to pluck out your eyes. Does any company come fo near you, as your own members? Is any friendfhip fo neceffary? Leave therefore, dear Christian, thofe converfations that are infectious; and break off with those you must not imitate. Contract no friendfhip with those that are enemies to God; that pawn their fouls for a vain pleasure, and will certainly decoy you into the fame folly. What do you fear? to difplease those who dare displease God? You should rather fear to please those, who laugh at innocence, and glory in their crimes.
But their entertainment is diverting. Is it then fo great a diverfion to a Chriftian, to fee his Creator offended every moment? to hear his holy name blasphemed? and the very Person of our Saviour cru
cified once again with oaths and imprecations? If you are fo difpofed you will certainly follow their example; there is but one step from the approbation of a crime to the committing it.
These lepers ftood at a distance: the law forbad them to enter into towns, or to converfe with any, left they should communicate their diftemper: they obeyed the law. God forbids you to fcandalize your neighbour by your finful conduct; and tells you, it were better for you to be caft into the fea with a mill-stone about your neck, than to draw your brother into fin: and he adds a fevere Woe to the perfon by whom the offence cometh, Matth. xviii. 7. And yet how frequently is this precept tranfgreffed? Is not your example oftentimes a leffon of vice to your children and domefticks? Oh! what an account will thofe parents and mafters of families render to God, who teach young children fins they fhould never know, and animate them to commit them in time by their example. A child's memory is tenacious, and feldom forgets the first impreffions; when they come to riper years, they remember what they faw in their infancy, and think it lawful to follow the example their parents have left them. If you will fin, and damn your felf, let your diforders at leaft be private, and draw not your inferiors into the fame desperate refolution. Their fouls coft our bleffed Saviour dear; a laborious life, and a cruel death.
So foon as the lepers faw our Saviour, they cried out, Jefus, Mafter, have mercy upon us. What drew them to Jefus, but a defire to be healed of their infirmity? Had they not fallen into that diftemper, perchance they had never known him, nor implored his Divine Affiftance: their difeafe was beneficial to them: their confidence in our Saviour's power and goodness procured health to their bodies, and perhaps to their fouls also.