and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.
It is not often that the word of Divine warning is so swiftly and so visibly accomplished as it was here. Frequently God allows time (according to human calculation) to intervene. Yet, in every case, the agency is set in motion, so soon as the propose is formed, and that agency, whether it moves slowly or swiftly, moves surely
to its end. But the idea of time is human. The structure of the human mind compels us to introduce the element of duration. But God is superior to this limitation. "With him a thousand years are as one day," and vice versa.
I. THE SWIFTNESS OF THE RETRIBUTION. Although this one act of sacrilege and self-debauchery is the only event in Belshazzar's life which is recorded in the page of sacred history, we are warranted in the conclusion that his public life, and probably his earlier private life, were series of guilty and impious acts. No man reaches great excesses of sin at a single step. In all likelihood God bad condescended to warn and counsel Belshazzar again and yet again, and this last daring act of defiance was the climax of his degenerate course. This was Belshazzar's reply to God's patient expostulations, and sudden destruction was the most fitting penalty. We are surprised, not at the rapid execution of God's warnings, but at his unparalleled forbearance.
II. THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CALAMITY. We are not informed by Daniel the minute steps of the royal overthrow; but possibly Belslhazzar had retired to rest, little supposing that retribution was at his very door. It may be that his senses had been overcome by wine and fear; that deep stupor succeeded, as the natural reaction of his sensual excess; and. that the noise of the city's capture did not reach his ear. Very likely he heard no rumour of alarm until some bold and reckless besiegers gained the palace, and slew the king in his bed. In this case he scarcely woke to die. It is not an uncommon thing for punishment to come on the ungodly at last, suddenly, as "a thief in the night." At the moment when Daniel declared the heavenly Monarch's will, amendment was too late. The king was not in possession of his faculties. He had drowned them in the wine-cup; and, before the fumes of his intoxication had worn off, he was a corpse. Our sin ofttimes disables us for true repentance. "No place for it is found, though we seek it carefully, and with tears."
III. THE COMPLETENESS OF HIS DOOM. It was not a partial disaster, such as the infliction of disease or the loss of his crown; not such a disaster as might yet be repaired by reformation or obedience. It was complete, final, irreparable. In a moment every possession he held ceased. His sovereign power, his worldly possessions, hi. health, his life, his hope, - all were destroyed at a single blow. The stroke was overwhelming. Nothing was left behind but an obnoxious reputation - a beacon to future voyagers. No human mind can estimate the extent of that calamity. What blacker hell can there be than for a man to awake to consciousness in the next life with a sense that he has lost all? He had a splendid opportunity, but he wasted it! He might have gained heaven, but he has irretrievably failed. Existence has become intolerable misery. Now he is compelled to hear this knell of doom, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still." - D.
In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
THE JUDGMENT OF THIS NIGHT HAD BEEN LONG THREATENED. Upwards of one hundred and sixty years before this, the taking of Babylon by Cyrus had been predicted. Ages before the deliverer was born, his very name is given and his work described (Isaiah 45:1-7
). Up to the very hour the probability seemed against such an occurrence. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speodily," sinners infer that it will never come. Come it must; the march of justice may be slow. but her steps are resistless, and her movements punctual to the moment.
II. THE JUDGMENT OF THIS NIGHT WAS NOT AT ALL EXPECTED. This night began with a grand festival — a royal banquet. Perhaps, amidst the riot of the talk and jestings of that season, many a contemptuous joke was passed as to the futilities of all invading projects. They were the great nation, their city the great city, their armies the great armies — none like them; yet at this very hour, Cyrus, the officer of eternal justice, was at their door. Thus it was then, as it often has been, that, at the moment men cry peace and safety, that moment destruction arrives.
III. THE JUDGMENT OF THIS NIGHT ROUSED THE CONSCIENCE OF THE MONARCH TO AGONY ON ITS FIRST TOKEN. "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand," etc. (v. 5, 6).
IV. THE JUDGMENT OF THIS NIGHT HAD TERRORS NO MORTAL COULD ALLAY.
1. He tried the wise men.
2. He tried Daniel. Daniel gave him the meaning of the writing, but the meaning could afford him no consolation.
V. THE JUDGMENT OF THIS NIGHT SETTLED FOR EVER THE FATE OF ITS VICTIMS.
1. The fate of Belshazzar was settled. He was slain.
2. The fate of the nation was settled. The empire of Babylon received its death blow. The Medo-Persian dynasty rose on its ruins.
Human historians, in the narration of events, are generally disposed to rest their narratives upon second causes. The scheme of a politician, the success of a battle, or the external resources of a people, appear to them sufficient to account for all the great revolutions by which this globe has been affected. The sacred historians express themselves in a more decided manner. Scripture makes the important discovery that moral causes are the ultimate ones, into which all others may be finally resolved. It appears to be the capital design of this singular book to convince mankind that there is a certain, though frequently an invisible connection between vice and misfortune. In recording the revolutions which happen in this world, they set down God for a principal part; and represent these revolutions as the necessary effects of His government. Placed at the head of the system, they uniformly represent Him as we would suppose a moral governor to be employed, distributing rewards, and inflicting punishments, according to their deserts, on men and nations. In discoursing, therefore, upon this subject, I shall begin with observing the causes, as they are related by the historian, which led this great king to his fall; I shall then make some observations upon the justice of his fate; and, lastly, shall consider at some length the nature of the vices themselves with which he is charged. The history of the royal house of Babylon is concise and affecting. It is a memorable instance of the danger of prosperity, and the instability of human greatness. The vices of Belshazzar were the vices of his family. The empire of the Chaldeans was brilliant, but of short duration. Like the plant of a kindly sun, it rose swiftly to its height, and as suddenly decayed. Had they but known how to use their greatness, it might have been prolonged. Power is like riches, and must be maintained by the same prudent management by which it was acquired. The Chaldean sovereign, at his entrance into public life, drew the attention of all mankind. Fired with the ambition of conquest, he passed from province to province, and extended his empire and his fame with a rapidity which had not been excelled. The Assyrian empire, ancient and extensive, first yielded to his force; and the Pharaohs of Egypt, as ancient and as powerful, who had marched, through numerous nations, to seek him on the banks of his own Euphrates, were repulsed and subdued. But he was then vigilant and active, and his people were laborious. There is something in the climates of the East which relaxes the mind, or renders it extravagant. Their air and situation produce the same effects on them as the power of an active imagination is supposed to do on other people. Hence it is that moderation is unknown in every situation, that adversity dejects their minds, and prosperity raises them far above their level. In proportion to these effects, more vigilance is requisite. Nebuchadnezzar had reached the summit of ambition, but what he gained in fame and power he seemed to lose in understanding. He forgot his first maxims of diligence and prudence, and became vain in his imagination. Such impiety and folly, though Heaven had not interposed, must have led him to destruction. The effect proceeded naturally from the cause, and has taken place without a miracle. But Heaven did interpose, in a manner so signal and terrible as might have left an impression upon remote posterity. This proud king was humbled, and reduced to moderation. He was driven raving to the forest, exposed to the rigours of Heaven, and mingled with the beasts whom he resembled. Where was now great Babylon, which he had builded, for the house of his kingdom, by the might of his power, and for the honour of his majesty? One would be ready to conclude that so signal an event must have left an impression, not on himself alone, but his successors. It did leave an impression, but not on Belshazzar. The reason frequently why one man is not warned by the misfortunes of another is that he considers these misfortunes as proceeding from natural causes, and not as the effects of the Divine displeasure. We consider not that there is a necessary connection, even in this world, between certain vices and sufferings. This connection is in harmony with God, and forms part of His government of the world. Yet did not his successor profit by the admonition. Elated with his rise into royal life, his heart was distended with the same pride, and he even exceeded his predecessor. In this chapter we have a memorable instance of his impiety and extravagance. While the enemy lay ready to break in at his gates, he was feasting his lords, and wasted that time, and detained those hands, which were precious to their country, in debauchery and disorder. As an insult to the God of Heaven, he commanded to bring the vessels of His temple, and employed them in his carousals. Infatuated man! thou seest not the dangers with which thou art this moment surrounded. Yes, Heaven itself, to convince thee, frantic king! that there is a power superior to thine, and to let thee know from what quarter thy destruction cometh, sends a dreadful forerunner. In the middle of the stately banquet, when all is mirth and song — dreadful apparition! — a hand appears, visible, writing on the wall the doom of Babylon and its unhappy monarch. Then their joy is damped, fear chills their blood, the king loses his courage at this dreadful sight, and his knees smote one against another. O vain terror! the decree is gone forth, and past recalling. The reverses of this world teach us a fatal truth, that repentance itself may arrive too late to save us. The minister of God, whom he had not thought of till the hour of danger, whom he had probably left to languish in obscurity and penury, is now sent for. But to what purpose? Unhappy monarch! not the minister of God, nor the winged ministers from Heaven themselves, can retard thy fate one moment. The prophet can but declare the will of Heaven, and retire in mourning. Yet like a drowning man, he collects his strength, and struggles against the torrent. He orders purple to be brought, and ornaments of gold, and vainly thinks that he may appease God by heaping honours upon his servant. Ah, Belshazzar! how unhappy is the man who cannot be taught but by his own misfortunes? Thy unhappy house, which would never be admonished, must at last fall. Experience, the great teacher, proceeds to his last experiment: "In that night was Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, slain." After this history of the house of Babylon, and the fate of Belshazzar, the last of that line of princes, we proceed now to mark the wise lessons which these suggest; and we will do this by making some observations upon the justice of his fate, and then considering the nature of the vices he is charged with. I know not how it happens, but we feel it to be true, that the misfortunes of the great and happy affect and interest us more than the misfortunes of those who are placed in a humble station, and even sometimes than our own. Whether it be that the fall is greater, or that we imagine their feelings to be more exquisite, or whatever may be the cause, the effect is certain. I believe we entertain a mistaken notion of the happiness of the great. A crown is subject to many cares, and requires infinite circumspection. Kings have much to lose, and much to answer for. They are subject to great reverses, and their temptations to neglect, or desert their duty, are neither few nor easily resisted. Yet the happiness of thousands depends upon their conduct; and, when they fall, they involve nations in their ruin. But the fate of Belshazzar is not to be considered merely as the consequence of his own sincerity. It must be regarded chiefly as a punishment: from Heaven. "In that night," the night which he had rendered signal by his riot and impiety, "was Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, slain." With respect to the justice of his fate, I believe there is no man, if he consider the life of this unhappy king, who will not allow his punishment to be necessary. His daring impiety, his unbounded riot, were inconsistent with the serious cares of government, and marked a spirit which was past correction. Some of the vices which disgraced this monarch are hardly consistent with the humility of our situation; but the source from which they proceeded is common to us all. It was pride which overthrew him; a vice which is inspired by prosperity, and is found chiefly in weak minds, who are incapable of much reflection. From this proceeded in a train, security, debauchery, tyranny, and impiety; the most ruinous and disgraceful habits of the human mind, and the most offensive to the Supreme Being. It is no new observation that any man may bear adversity; but it is not every man, nor, indeed, many men, who can bear prosperity. It tends strongly to make men forget themselves, and become vain in their imaginations. What is history but a continued narrative of the vices of the prosperous? I would content myself here with only inferring, in general, that prosperity corrupts weak minds." Unable to reason deeply, they ascribe their success to something in themselves; and, incapable of much foresight, they apprehend no reverse, and imagine it must last for ever. They are too vain to admit advice, and, at the same time, too weak to resist temptation. It shows, therefore, the wisdom and care of Providence, in the first place, that so few are necessarily in that situation; and, secondly, that, by a necessary train of events, these few are perpetually changed, and give place to others. Last of all, the afflictions of life themselves are an instance of the same care; because, however grievous they may be, they are well calculated to abase the pride of man, and recall him to a proper sense of himself, and of his own dependence. I proceed, then to consider the vice of pride, that vice which vitiates equally sovereigns and subjects. I shall begin by describing it, and obviating some apologies which have been made for it. All vice may, in general, be defined to be the excess or abuse of some passion, or of some natural sentiment. To animate us to well doing, various premiums are held out to us. One of those is the approbation of our own minds. When we act a proper part, we are satisfied with ourselves. It is for the same reason that we are pleased with praise from others. The applause of our own minds, whether it. arises immediately from our own actions, or from the praise of others, is the result of virtue, and constitutes a very pleasing part of its reward. But this sentiment, like all the other sentiments and affections of our nature, may be vitiated. The pleasure we feel from well doing incites us to do well. The pleasure we receive from praise leads us to do things worthy of praise. Perhaps we may say that, in a state like this, even a small portion of conceit is necessary to keep us in good humour with ourselves. Hence it is that every man, generally speaking, even the meanest, values himself upon something or other. It is when our self-value, or self-complacence, becomes enormous or wrong directed, when it is either utterly disproportioned to its object, or founded upon improper objects, that it is vicious. It then becomes pride, and exhibits immediately the native characters of vice — folly and malignity. The transition from the virtue to the vice, in this case, as in all others, is easy. The complacence which we feel from our actions is first converted into a conceited opinion of ourselves as we are with what we have done, we begin to think there is some remarkable merit in it. We conceive, consequently, highly of ourselves, and think there must be something extraordinary about us. From this point, the folly becomes apparent. The passion we have conceived for ourselves, like all other passions which depend on fancy, multiplies itself fast, and is fed by everything it meets with. Having departed from the original sentiment, it comes at last no longer to resemble it. We bring materials from all quarters to build our tower with. Accustomed to contemplate our own importance, we are at no loss for fancies to support it. Riches are one very common source of pride, and yet we may be vain of poverty. Titles are another, and yet we may despise titles. Praise is a third, and yet we may think ourselves above praise. We may even be vain of our humility. We may in short, be vain of anything, or of nothing. When we once take a fancy to ourselves, there is no defining it. The vice of pride is founded on weakness of intellect. It arises obviously from the want of knowing ourselves and our own state. Ignorance produces it, and want of capacity renders it incurable. A proper degree of knowledge moderates our ideas of all things, and of ourselves among the rest. If we cannot receive this knowledge, our folly is incurable. The weakest people, therefore, and the least informed, are always the most subject to this vice. A good deal also may be ascribed to education. Foolish parents make foolish children. There is something in this vice very astonishing. That a person should conceive highly of something without him is natural. But that a creature should take a fancy to itself is very extraordinary. What is without us we may be forgiven for not knowing perfectly; but one would think, if we knew anything, that we might know ourselves, at least, so far as to see that we have no great reason to be vain of ourselves. A distinction has been attempted, by way of apology for it, between pride and vanity. It alleged that vanity, as distinguished from pride, is marked by two characters. It consists in that self-importance which arises from the opinion or behaviour of others, and it is generally founded upon trifling circumstances. Pride is satisfied with itself. It is founded upon its own opinion of its own merit, and this merit arises, it is supposed, from great accomplishments. It has no relation to the opinions of others. Hence it is ready to treat them with contempt when they differ from its own, and with neglect when they agree to them. Vanity, on the other hand, is always elated with applause, and mortified when it is withheld. This distinction is merely plausible, and can give no protection to its votaries. First of all, it will not follow, though these vices were different, that they are not both vices; nor will it follow that they may not even be united in the same person. But, in the next place, it is a distinction without a difference, for there is really no difference. The sentiment itself is, in all cases, the same. It is the same opinion of our own consequence, whatever we derive it from, whether from the praises of others or from our own reflections. With respect to the one being founded upon great, and the other upon little accomplishments, that depends upon whom we make the judge. If we take his own word, every man of this character thinks his own accomplishments great, and that his pride is proper. Greatness of mind is that disposition which leads a man to great actions and sublime sentiments. Pride is that disposition which leads a man to contemplate his own actions and sentiments, whatever they are, with self-consequence. A great mind never reflects upon its own merit. A proud, or vain one, rejects upon nothing else. The former conceives noble sentiments, and expresses them in his actions, without thinking of the abilities which produced them. The latter can conceive no sentiments or actions without attending principally to this circumstance. When a greet man performs a worthy action, he does not think that he has done anything extraordinary.A proud man is wholly engrossed with this. What a difference is there between these dispositions! How mean is the one when compared with the other! A great mind is superior to a proud one, as far as a generous temper is superior to a selfish one. What a pity it is that a man should sully an action, which may in itself be laudable, with this ridiculous ingredient? What occasion is there for pride in any case? Or where is the advantage of it? May not a man act in the best manner without having his mind perpetually engrossed with his own actions? Or is acting well such a stranger to his nature that he cannot do it, in any instance, without giving himself credit for it? Must he be perpetually thinking of himself and his own consequence? I will even go farther, and venture to affirm that pride, admitting the distinction which it assumes to itself, is both more dangerous and more contemptible than vanity. Vanity can, at any time, be checked. As it is founded upon the good opinion of others, the withdrawing of this is all that is necessary to humble it. Pride is founded upn itself, and cannot be humbled but by its own destruction. It is also more contemptible. The vain man has this to say for himself, that, if he thinks wrong, he thinks but what others think. The proud man is lifted up with his own opinion. The folly of the other is pure, and admits no apology. And if pride, in its best state, be so little a sentiment, how contemptible must it be when it is founded upon little objects — such as, we may observe, the common possessions of this world may in general be said to be? This sentiment, absurd in itself, will appear to greater advantage still if we consider the effects of it. Here the vice begins to appear, and to manifest itself. We shall treat these effects under three heads; as they respect God; as they respect our fellow-creatures; and as they respect ourselves. Considered in itself, it appears rather a folly; but, observed in its operation, we immediately discern the virulence, working, as usual, with dreadful symptoms; vitiating the subject, and producing the most shocking scenes of misery among the species.
I. PRIDE IS AN ENEMY TO THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. It affects, in the moat material manner, the most important of our connections, our connection with the Almighty. It leads us to forget, and finally to throw off our dependence upon Him. It has a manifest tendency to obstruct the intercourse, and destroy the relations, which subsist between God and created natures. It is opposite to those habits of submission and acknowledgment which result from our situation, and by which alone we can maintain an intercourse with the Great Parent of the world. Pride is the natural enemy of subordination. It destroys the habits of respect, and leads us to hate, or to avoid, the presence of superior beings. It is remarkable that this is the vice which is ascribed to the angels who kept not their first estate. If there be a God, we ought to reverence Him. This consequence follows forcibly and directly. It is a proposition which stands upon its own basis, and does not even depend upon revelation. There is an undoubted relation between God and His creation. If existence is bestowed by the one, duty becomes the other. If the one afford protection, the other is bound to gratitude. If Deity be a perfect being, He is the object of respect and homage. If men be imperfect creatures, humility is proper to them. If we live under a supreme, superintending government, we owe submission and attachment to it. These are the instincts of nature, as well as the first dictates of reason How monstrous is the mind which wants these affections? I believe it would not be difficult to show that pride is connected with atheism. The mind which is self-sufficient must be uneasy at the thought of an obligation. To what impious conclusions will not this disposition lead a man, especially if he possess high passions, or any portion of ingenuity? It led Belshazzar to acts of the most frantic impiety. I make no doubt that this insolent monarch, when he ordered the sacred vessels to be produced, and applied to common purposes, meant an insult to the Deity. I believe there are few here who are in danger of proceeding to such excess as Belshazzar. But, in general, we may affirm that, of all the vices, pride is the most inconsistent with the religious temper. If it steps short of absolute impiety, it leads at least to forgetfulness of God, and of our dependence upon Him. The mind of the vain man is, first of all, engrossed with the objects of his vanity. He has neither room, therefore, nor inclination for religious objects. The weakness of mind also, out of which this vice arises, is inimical to religion. The mind which is conceited of lithe objects can have no capacity for large ones. The sentiments, in the next place, cannot consist together. The religious temper is founded in meekness, and in humility. In general, it will be sufficient to show us that this quality must, in its own nature, be inconsistent with the religious character, to reflect that the attention of a proud, or vain man, is wholly engrossed with second causes. This is, indeed, one natural and immediate issue of the vice. Whatever success may attend him, the man's vanity continually leads him to refer it entirely to the exertions or causes immediately producing it (that is to himself), and he looks no farther. We may conclude, then, upon certain principles, that pride leads us away from God, and from the regards we owe Him. It has the effect, in the very first instance, to turn our minds from Him, and to leave Him out of our calculations. For how, indeed, in common good sense, can it be otherwise? Will a man, whose thoughts are wholly engrossed with himself, ever think of his Maker? Will a man, who is intoxicated with his own sufficiency, be sensible, as he ought to be, of the need which he has of the Divine protection? A proud man possesses not the qualities which constitute the religious character. Of all the tempers of the mind, the religious is at the greatest distance from self-sufficiency. The great duty of the present state is to improve our nature. But to this pride is inimical. A man, who supposes himself perfect enough already, will not think of improving himself.
II. The vice of pride is not only inconsistent with the religious principle. IT IS REPUGNANT TO THAT SYSTEM OF LIBERAL AND EQUAL POLICY WHICH IS THE GLORY OF OUR SPECIES, AND UNDER WHICH ALONE OUR NATURE CAN RECEIVE ITS PROPER CULTIVATION. It is calculated for a state of slaves and masters, and is subversive of the liberal connections of an equal and free society. We may regard this vice under two views, as it affects the manners and as it affects the conduct Throughout both these it preserves the same character, and exhibits the same offensive effects. It divests men equally of the manners and the qualities of their most improved state. A vain man considers himself as far exalted above others. He regards the rest of mankind as a species of inferior creatures His attentions are centred in himself, and he considers others as either below his notice or as born for his convenience. He is, therefore, obviously a selfish and a repulsive character. The natural expression of pride is insolence. A proud or vain man deserves not the regards of others. He does not interest himself in them. He has no real attachment but to himself. If a man of this description mixes with other men, he would have it regarded as a piece of prodigious goodness, and often labours to be agreeable for no other reason but that he may value himself, and hear others value him, upon his affability. What a monstrous perversion is this of the human character! It is this again which converts life into affectation, and fills the world with insincerity. But this vice appears in its full deformity when it is connected with power. This gives it the means of displaying itself; and, in this case, it usually displays itself in acts of mischief. We may observe that pride may exist in any state, but it is more usually the effect of prosperity. We may observe also, under this head, that a man of this character is incapable of gratitude. He possesses not the sentiments which are proper to his situation. He is not formed for a state where we all depend upon one another. You cannot oblige a proud man. He considers every benefit which can be conferred upon him as his due. The proud man is the natural enemy of society. Pride cannot consist with the virtues of the improved life. It breaks the natural connections of the species. In their manners, it makes men insolent, or, if not insolent, deceitful — in their conduct and deeds, oppressive. It is also opposite to the liberal policy of the species. In general, we may observe that pride is the natural quality of the barbarian, not of the cultivated citizen. Being the result of ignorance, the more enlightened the society is the less vanity will be found in it. It is the native plant of an unenlightened society, and of a violent government. The vice of pride goes to establish a system of oppression, and to place men universally in a state of hostility to one another.
III. Pride not only destroys our connections with the Supreme Being, and with one another; it not only leads us to neglect God, and abuse men; BUT IT LEADS US TO NEGLECT, VITIATE, AND FINALLY RUIN OURSELVES. First of all, this vice, like all other vices, vitiates us. We have already observed that it destroys the two great classes of our affections, the affections which we ought to have for God and for our species. So far it vitiates. But it has a more extensive effect. It acts against the whole man, and vitiates him on all sides. Pride takes many directions, but I will speak of those which are most natural to it. Boastfulness is a property of the vice. The proud are, first, boastful. They have, consequently, a continual tendency to depart from truth. "They speak," as the apostle expresses it, great "swelling words of vanity." The evil here operates in two directions. The same disposition which leads them to magnify themselves, leads them to diminish others. They depart from truth in both cases; till, at last, by repeated deviations, they lose the sense, and cease to perceive the value of it. Malice is a property of this vice. The proud are malicious. They view those above them with envy, and those below them with satisfaction. Their equals they are never lucky enough to meet with. What a source of malignity here opens to us! For the same reason they are pleased with the disappointments of people, and bear nothing so ill as to see a man rise and prosper in the world. This is one certain mark of folly. They are for keeping every man down that they can possibly. The proud are revengeful. Important in their own minds, if you touch their folly, or offend their consequence, they are implacable. The proud are hard-hearted. The proud are hypocrites. It is not often convenient for them to discover all the bad passions which actuate them. The proud make God and men their enemies. They act, therefore, continually in the midst of a multitude who are interested to defeat them. Such is their situation that there are always numbers of people to whom their fall would be agreeable, and who watch the opportunities of procuring it. But, in this unstable state, where every situation totters, these opportunities are frequent; and hence it happens that the proud man, when he least expects it, generally receives an impulse, from some quarter or other, which oversets him. This is the more likely to happen from another cause, that pride has the effect generally to inspire a presumptuous security and contempt of danger, which at once relax our vigilance and our exertions, and expose us to misfortunes. But, besides the external shocks to which it is liable, pride contains a source of ruin within itself. We have already observed, as one of its natural properties, that it is boastful and ostentatious. The waste and show which the proud are first led into from vanity, they soon conceive a passion for on their own account; and this becomes finally so strong that it either renders them blind to what is before them or infatuates them to that degree that they are unable to relinquish it even when they see the consequences, and when ruin stares them in the face. The same process leads them to sensuality. Indulging at first from vanity, they soon come to indulge for the sake of indulging, and acquire gross, vile habits. Arrived at this point, the motion becomes rapid; and, as it draws near the end, is accelerated. We observed that pride is naturally presuming and self-sufficient. This leads to other effects. Confidence in our own abilities, or situation, leads us naturally to security. Security, besides exposing to external shocks, gives habits of indolence; and these again have a double issue. They operate both against the virtue and the natural faculties. They act against the virtue. Idleness is the natural soil where all the rank vices gather. They act against the natural faculties. The mind becomes incapable of application from the want of applying, and it becomes weak from the want of being exercised. The vices which it collects hasten the effect. They relax the mind and body, and render both feeble. There never was a juster maxim than the maxim of Solomon, "before honour is humility, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Independent of the morality of the dispositions themselves, the one has a necessary tendency to relieve our affairs, and the other to distress them. Humility renders us watchful and active; while pride relaxes our exertions, and leads us back to ruin. I shall now conclude this subject with an improvement of it; and this I shall make by collecting, and stating shortly, some of the chief conclusions which arise from it. It is remarkable that the vice of pride is represented everywhere in the Scriptures as peculiarly offensive to God. He observes the humble with complacence. He marks those who set themselves above their kind. Let me, then, first of all, warn you against this vice, from the consideration of the displeasure of God — that displeasure which brings down the lofty looks of man, and lays the pride of empires low. To conclude, seeing that the histories of Scripture were recorded for our sakes, suffer them to produce their just effect. I have selected one memorable instance from these precious monuments for your information. The more dangerous any situation is, we ought to guard ourselves the more against it. Let the history of Belshazzar teach us not to presume upon prosperity, nor to let the season of youth and of exertion pass unimproved. Which of us can read his fate, and not tremble for his own?
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