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Now either these Complaints were true Serm. or they were false. 'Tis all one, as to
X. the Matter in Hand, which of these it be; for if they were true, the Point is gained; and if they were never fo false and groundless, yet still they will serve the Purpose they are brought for ; they are sufficient to shew, that whatever good Opinion the Complainers of latter Ages may have of the former Times, they that lived in those Times thought otherwise, and made that the Subject of Complaint which others have since made the Subject of their Approbation.
But the Truth of the Matter is this: The Times are generally the same, and I believe it will readily enough be granted, that they are always worse than a good Man could wish them to be; but then to ask why the former were better, generally proceeds upon a Supposition, that former Times were better purely because they are past, and therefore will serve no Manner of Purpose, but to prove the Folly of the Enquirer. It has been the Complaint of our Forefathers, says Seneca,
Serm. (De Ben. Fol. p. 268.) that Virtue and
Good Manners are rooted up and destroy'd ;
ever, we complain of the same Thing, says he, and our Posterity will do the same ; whereas these Things are much the same now as they were then, and so they will be for the future : They only move a little to and fro, sometimes inclining to one Kind of Vice, sometimes to another; for Vices don't prevail always alike, and continue in one Stay, but are moveable, and as they differ widely, they become tumultuous, and drive and fly from one another: However, this we ought always to say of ourselves, that we are evil, that we have been so, and I am unwilling to add, says he, we shall continue to be so.
We find in the early Ages of the World, that the Wickedness of Man was great in the Earth; and that every Imagination of the Thoughts of his Heart was only evil continually. David in many Places gives an Account of the Wickedness
of the People in his Days ; and St. Paul, Serm. talking of the People in his Days, tells
X, the Galatians, that as heretofore, be that was born after the Flesi» perfecuted bim that was born after the Spirit, even so it
So that it is true enough, that the Times are wicked and bad, but then, it is what they have ever been, and as long as bad Men live in them, it is what they always will be. There will be the fame Rapine, Fraud, Injustice, and Oppression, as long as there are the fame Passions to create them; for the fame Causes will produce the same Effects; and as long as we set up a false Happiness to ourselves, so long shall we cherith the fame Passions, and keep alive the fame Evils ; and thus it has always been. Is there any thing whereof it may be faid, See, this is new! it has been already of old Time which was before us. : The Thing that hath been, it is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new Thing under the Sun,
SERM. But notwithstanding all this, every
Age still sends' us to the former for bet-
with the Pleasures of the World, and therefore can't furnish a Man with Experience enough to draw the Comparison between Times of such a Distance. : Whereas, when Age comes upon us, and our Views" are enlarged, we have then a greater Knowledge of the World, and a more sensible Perception of the Nature, of Human Life ; for we come at that Time to share the Troubles likewise, as well as Pleasures of it. Things at a Distance always appear less than they really are, and we only see
the best side of them ; but when they are SERM.
X. brought home to our Eyes, we see them with all their Defects and Inconveniencies. So that to insinuate that the former Days were better than these, most commonly proceeds from a want of enquiring wisely concerning this: For by the same Rule that we so inych admire the former Times, will the present, when they are old enough, be the Envy and Admiration of the Age to come.
Indeed we need go no farther back than the last Century, and view the Troubles which this Day's Anniversary always puts us in Remembrance of, to prove what I have been saying under this Head ; and to shew the Mistake of those, who copy after the Murmurers in the Text. And as all the Outrages of these distracted Times were owing to this restless, complaining, turbulent Spirit; so this Day may be a Warning to the Murmurers of our Times, how they indulge themselves in such a troublesome mischievous Temper; since no one knows to what extravagant Lengths it may carry a Man, and what Evils it