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On the WOUNDS of the HEART.
PROVERBS, Xviii. 14.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
are two classes of goods and evils belonging to man; those which respect his corporeal, and those which respect his spiritual state. Whatever is of an external nature, is sufficiently the object of attention to all men. In the health and vigour of the body, and in the flourishing state of worldly fortune, all rejoice and whatever diminishes the one or the other is immediately felt and lamented. These are visible and striking objects on which our senses and imagination are accustomed to dwell. But to procure an equal attention to what is inward and spiritual, is much more difficult. It is not easy to convince men that the soul hath interests of its own, quite distinct from those of the body, and is liable to diseases and wounds as real as any which the body suffers, and often much more grievous. What passes within the hearts of men, is always invisible to the public eye. If it be of the pleasing and satisfactory kind, they have no occasion to disclose it; and if it be of a painful nature it is often their intent to conceal it. In the mean time the heart knoweth its own bitterness and from its being secreted from public
observation and concentrated within the breast, it is felt the more deeply. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; the natural vigour and courage of his mind may enable him to surmount the ordinary distresses of life; to bear with patience poverty, sickness, or pain, as long as he is conscious that all is right and sound within. But if within him, the disease rankles in his mind and his heart; if that which should sustain him serves only to gall and torment him; to what quarter can he then look for relief, or to what medicine apply, when that which should have cured his other wounds is itself diseased and wounded? A wounded spirit who can bear?
The spirit or soul of man is wounded chiefly by three causes; by Folly, by Passion, by Guilt.
I. It is wounded by Folly; that is, by vain, light, and improper pursuits; by a conduct, which though it should not be immediately criminal, yet is unsuitable to one's age, character, or condition in the world. Good sense is no less requisite in our religious and moral behaviour, than it is in our worldly affairs. Whoever departs far from the plain track of sober and reasonable conduct, shall, sooner or later, undergo the consequences of a diseased and wounded spirit. -It often happens, that under the notion of innocent pleasure and amusement, of only following their humour and indulging their taste, while, as they say, they hurt no man, and violate no material duty, many go on for a time, in a course of the most egregious follies, and all along conceive themselves to be, if not very virtuous, at least very inoffensive men. The case is the same with the
diseases of the mind as with the diseases of the body. They lurk for a time unperceived. The seeds of them may be working within, while the person affected imagines himself to be in perfect health; but at length a crisis comes, which brings the secret venom forth, and makes all its malignity be felt.
In this age of dissipation and luxury in which we live, how many avenues are constantly open that lead to the Temple of Folly? To how many temptations are all, but especially the young and the gay, exposed, to squander their whole time amidst the circles of levity, and haunts of pleasure? By idleness and extravagance, and the vain ambition of emulating others in the splendid show of life, multitudes run into expense beyond their fortune. The time which should be employed in training them for future significance in the world, they lose in frivolous amusements and pursuits; or in the midst of these, bury the fruits of any good education they had already received. Idle associates are ever at hand to aid them in inventing new plans of destroying the time. If that fatal engine of mischief, the gaming table, then attracts and ensnares them, their career of folly will soon be completed; the gulf of destruction opens, and ruin is at hand.
Supposing some incident to befal, as befal at some time it must, which shall awaken persons of this description from their dreams of vanity; which shall open their eyes to the time that they have mispent, and the follies that they have committed; then, alas! what mortifying and disquieting views of themselves will arise? How many galling remembrances will crowd upon their minds? They see their youth thrown away in dishonourable or trivial pursuits; those valuable
opportunities which they once enjoyed, of coming forward with distinction in the world, now irretrievably lost; their characters tarnished and sunk in the public eye; and the fortune, perhaps, which they had inherited from their ancestors, wasted among idle companions. They behold around them the countenances of their friends angry and displeased. To the grave and the respectable, they dare not look up. They with whom they once started in the race of life as their equals, have now got far before them; they are obliged to respect them as their superiors, and with shame to view themselves left behind disgraced and dishonoured.-Can any situation be more humbling and mortifying than this? Is not this to suffer in a high degree the misery of a wounded spirit, when a man sees that, by mere thoughtlessness and folly, he has exposed and degraded himself; beholds his character, his health, his interest sinking in the world; and is sensible that with his own hands, and by his own blind and ill-judged conduct, he has brought this ruin on himself? - Conscience now begins to exert its authority, and lift its scourge. At every stroke it inflicts, the wounds of the heart open and bleed; and though it exercise not the same dread severity as when it upbraids us with notorious crimes, yet still it is the voice of God within, rebuking and punishing reasonable creatures for folly as well as for guilt; nor indeed are follies of such a kind as have been described, ever free from many stains of guilt.
II. IF by folly the spirit is thus liable to be wounded, it is exposed by Passion to wounds still more severe. Passions are those strong emotions of
the mind which impel it to desire, and to act, with vehemence. When directed towards proper objects, and kept within just bounds, they possess an useful place in our frame; they add vigour and energy to the mind, and enable it, on great occasions, to act with uncommon force and success; but they always require the government and restraint of reason. is in the mind, just as it is in the body. Every member of the body is useful, and serves some good purpose. But if any one swell to an enormous size, it presently becomes a disease. Thus, when a man's passions go on in a calm and moderate train, and no object has taken an inordinate hold of any of them, his spirit is in this part sound, and his life proceeds with tranquillity. But if any of them have been so far indulged and left without restraint, as to run into excess, a dangerous blow will then be given to the heart. Supposing, for instance, that some passion, even of the nature of those which are reckoned innocent, shall so far seize a man as to conquer and overpower him, his tranquillity will be destroyed. The balance of his soul is lost; he is no longer his own master, nor is capable of attending properly to the offices of life which are incumbent on him, or of turning his thoughts into any other direction than what passion points out. He may be sensible of the wound. He feels the dart that is fixed in his breast, but is unable to extract it.
But the case becomes infinitely worse, if the passion which has seized a man be of the vicious and malignant kind. Let him be placed in the most prosperous situation of life; give him external ease and affluence to the full; and let his character be high, and applauded by the world: yet, if into the