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nothing of that contentment and pleasure |bour; it is not a shame to be poor and depenwhich he looked for. As he returns home, dent; it is not a shame to be tried and diswith the stain and sting of sin, he sighs in-tressed-but it is a shame to be a sinner. wardly-"And is this all? If this deserves For is it not shameful to be a fool? Is it not the name of pleasure, how shortlived, how shameful to be a base coward? Is it not worthless, how mean! O that I had hearkened shameful to be a traitor to the best of kings? to the voice of wisdom and kindness, which And to be ungrateful and perfidious to the said, 'Turn ye not aside from following the kindest of all friends? If a benefactor should Lord-turn ye not aside: for then should he receive you to his house, and afford you all go after vain things, which cannot profit nor the supplies of his table-would it not be deliver; for they are vain.'" shameful to steal out of his presence, blaspheme his name, and endeavour to counteract all his designs? Enlarge the number of images-select whatever may be deemed base and scandalous among men, and be assured it will apply with infinitely greater force to the evil of sin. We say again, nothing is so degrading, nothing can be so shameful as sin."
Suppose now a sinner was compelled to rise and answer this question truly-How has sin advanced your well-being? What has it done for you? What has it done for your connexions, for your bodies, for your souls, for your property, for your reputation? Suppose the swearer was to tell us what he has gained by his oaths; the drunkard by his cups; the sensualist by his uncleanness; the prodigal by his extravagance, his idleness, his evil company; yea, the proud, the envious, the malicious, by indulging their vile tempers? Suppose he was to sum up his expenses and his savings; to balance his accounts at the end of a year, of a week, of a day-surely he must find that his gains do not counterbalance his loss, his wages do not reward him for his drudgery, his pleasures do not make him amends for his pains even in the lowest degree.
Let any one as a man of reason consider his weary steps; his mean condescensions and compliances; his corroding anxieties and suspicions; his restless desires and tormenting fears, when under the dominion of some lust or passion-to gain a fancy or a feather; to acquire the opinion of some poor worm; to pick up a little shining dust, to enjoy some light, unsatisfying, and low indulgence-and will he not confess that these things are more than unprofitable and vain? Above all, what does a Christian think when he reviews these wicked courses? He is able now to judge between sin and holiness. He now clearly sees what the practice of sin obliged him to forego, and compelled him to endure. He now clearly sees that it constrained him to live a stranger to his true interest; that it never allowed him one taste of real joy, or one moment of real peace; that it enslaved him; stripped him; starved him. Since he has served God, he looks back with painful regret upon every hour he spent in the service of sin it appears to him an hour of inconceivable loss and injury: and he goes on weeping, and taking shame to himself.
And this brings us, II. To consider the DISGRACEFULNESS of sin. Of these unfruitful things, says the Apostle, "ye are now ashamed." And well ye may; for there is nothing in the world so scandalous as sin. Whatever be a man's station, or office, or abilities, sin degrades all, and renders him vile. It is not a shame to be obliged to la
But to do justice to this part of our subject, it may be necessary to observe, that there are three kinds of shame which attend sin. The first is natural; the second gracious; and the third penal.
There is a natural shame which arises in men from the commission of sin. This it was that made our first parents hide themselves among the trees of the garden as soon as they had transgressed the Divine command-so closely did shame tread on the heels of guilt. This class of emotions may be in a great measure subdued by continu ance in sin; for sin is of a hardening tendency. Accordingly we read of some who "hide not their sin like Sodom." Jeremiah says of some, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush." And the Apostle speaks of some who "glory in their shame." But these characters are not general, and this shamefulness in sinning is not easily, and perhaps never was perfectly attained. The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, no eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face. For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.” Hence they not only repair to corners, and elude observation-which they would not do if there was any thing that tended to their praise; but hence also, they frame excuses and apologies. And if not ashamed of their proceedings, why attempt to deny or palliate? Why plead mistake, ignorance, surprise, infirmity? Why ascribe their sins to weakness or necessity, rather than to inclination or choice-unless they deemed them a disparagement to their character? Hence it is that the sinner cannot endure to be alone, or bear to dwell on his own actions. Though naturally full of self-love and admiration, he slips away from his own presence, and shuns all intercourse with his greatest favourite. And why? Because he is ashamed even to meet himself.
hereafter. Of the Israel of God we read that "They shall not be ashamed nor confounded,, world without end:" of Christians, that they
Upon the same principle too, when arrived at a certain pitch of iniquity, he abandons the moral world, and mingles only with those
ness creates mutual confidence, and keeps them from reproaching one another.
And oh when they see to what disgrace they have wilfully reduced themselves; when they hear all the wickedness of their hearts, as well as lives, published before an assembled world-what wonder is it, that they call to "the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them"-not only from the wrath to come, but also from shame and confusion of face?
of his own quality: for here mutual wicked-shall "have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." But this implies the truth of the reverse; and we are assured There is also a gracious shame which ac- that the wicked will rise to shame, and companies "repentance unto life." This everlasting contempt"-ashamed in themshame does not spring from a fear of the dis-selves; and contemned by each other, by covery of sin, but from a sense of the pollu- saints, by angels, and by the Judge of all. tion and odiousness of it. Some crimes are universally considered as abominable; but all sin appears so to the real penitent: and he is now ashamed of things which pass uncensured in the world, and which once produced no uneasiness in himself. Conversion changes not only a man's state, but his affections and his convictions. Sin appears in consequence of it exceeding sinful; and, oh! what holy self-abhorrence, and loathing, and shame are now felt! The publican standing afar off, "would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven." "Mine iniquities," says David, "have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." Ezra said, "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." And returning Ephraim smote upon his thigh, and confessed, "I am ashamed, and even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." And so these believing Romans were now ashamed of the sins even of former years. And this ingenuous shame will be in proportion to our perception of the glory and the goodness of God. The more we think of his patience in bearing with us, while we were rebelling against him, and of his mercy and grace in pardoning our sins, and adopting us into his family, after all our provocations; the more shall we be affected with our vileness in of fending him.
And thus we have, III. reached the conclusion of this dreadful course, which isDEATH: "for the end of these things is death." And by death the Apostle includes much more than the dissolution of the body. This indeed was the produce of sin: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, because all have sinned." But besides the universal and unavoidable law of mortality which sin has established, there are many instances recorded in the Scripture, of God's inflicting death immediately upon sinners in a way of judgment. Lot's wife, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, are proofs that, even in this sense, "the end of these things is death." And if we had an inspired history of present times, and could trace up to their proper causes those effects which are now confounded in the common course of things, we should perhaps find the destruction of many a transgressor originating in the same way. And what assurance have you that the next time you take his name in vain, or make a lie, you shall not be instantly sent from the place of sinning to the place of suffering?
There is also a penal shame, by which we mean that shame which attends sin in a way of punishment. For God has so ordered things, that if a man be not ashamed of his sins, he shall be put to shame by them. And how often, and in how many instances is the transgressor dishonoured in this world! See the professor of religion-" reproached," not "for the sake of Christ:" this would be his honour-but buffeted for his faults: suffering, not for well-doing, but for evil-doing. See the miser. "He is a proverb and a by-word.” | lived longer had they lived better; and have See the extortioner. How many "curse his enjoyed a good old age, had it not been for a habitation!" Behold the adulterer. "Whoso profligate youth: but now, if they drag on a committeth adultery with a woman, lacketh miserable existence at all, they are "filled understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth with the sins of their youth," which will his own soul; a wound and dishonour shall "lie down with them in the grave." An old he get, and his reproach shall not be wiped divine says, "the board has killed more than away." So true is the reflection of Solomon, the sword." And a physician of great repute that "a wicked man is loathsome, and has given it as his opinion, that scarcely one cometh to shame." in a thousand dies a natural death.
Death also sometimes attends sin, not only as an immediate judgment from God, but as a natural consequence of vice. It is said that "bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days." How many criminals come to an untimely end at the gallows! How frequently do persons, by anger, intemperance, and such like courses, hasten on dissolution, and become self-murderers! Many might have
But this will be more especially the case
But what the Apostle principally intends,
is not the corruption of the body in the grave, but the destruction of both body and soul in hell. It is what the Scripture calls, the "second death." It is what our Saviour means, when he says, "He that believeth not shall be damned." "It is not an extinction of being, but of happiness and of hope. Such is the end of sin. And it is a dreadful end; it is a righteous end; it is a certain end.
It is a dreadful end. Nothing that we can here feel or fear deserves to be compared with it. Think of the degree and the duration of this misery. Reflect upon those intimations of it which we find in the Scripture. Think of being "bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Think of a place, "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Think of the sentence, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Surely there is enough in one of these representations to freeze a man with horror, and to keep him from sin all his life long! "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
It is a righteous end. Hence the wicked themselves will be speechless: not one of them will be able to complain "I do not deserve this; he deals very hardly with me." Had not this doom been as just as it is dreadful, God, with whom there is no unrighteousness, would never have assigned it as the portion of sin. It is not possible for us to know all the demerit of sin; because we know not fully the excellences it has insulted, the obligations it has violated, the effects it has produced in the creation of God. But there is One who is infinitely wise; let us rest satisfied with the judgment of the Judge. And one thing we may observe, if the greatness of the penalty confounds us, that in proportion as beings are holy, sin appears to them evil. Thus sin appears much more evil to a saint, than to a sinner; by the same rule it appears more evil to an angel than to a saint; and infinitely more evil to God than to an angel.
Finally. It is a certain end. From what quarter can you derive a hope to escape? The power of God enables him to inflict this misery. "Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like his?" The holiness of God excites him to inflict this misery. He "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The wicked shall not stand in his sight, he hateth all workers of iniquity." The truth of God binds him to inflict this misery. The word is gone out of his mouth, and shall not return. "The Scripture cannot be broken;" and there "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God. Upon the wicked
God shall rain down snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup.”
He therefore that expects any other end of his pride, his avarice, his swearing, his Sabbath-breaking, his disobedience, than death, is "sporting himself with his own deceivings;" and is even aggravating his doom by presumption and unbelief. "And it shall come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, Í shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will not spare him: but, then, the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven." And is it possible for you to lie down to sleep, when you know that God is bound to punish you, and under an oath to destroy you?
What use should we make of this subject? First, remember the particulars of this discourse; seriously reflect upon them, and resolve to have "no more fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ask yourselves-" Since I went astray-what have I got but shameand what can I get but death?" With this beat off all the solicitations of sin-" Awaywhat can you offer me? Do you think I am in love with disgrace, or in want of destruction?" Surely "the workers of iniquity have no knowledge;" surely the heart of the sons of “men is full of madness" or they could not be induced to continue a moment longer in a course so unprofitable, so scandalous, so fatal-especially since there is such an encouragement afforded to all who are willing to leave it: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
Secondly, let those who are delivered from this condition be thankful. "By nature children of wrath even as others; sometimes foolish and disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in envy and malice, hateful, and hating one another-such-such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." And you are saying, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Admire and adore the freeness, the efficacy, the riches of this grace, by which you are what you are. And be cautious and watchful in future.
Will you turn again to folly? Would you listen to your old seducer, now you know that shame and death always follow his steps? Do you want another taste of this infamy and hell? "And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts."
To conclude-Mark the difference between the service of sin, and the service of God. It holds in all the articles we have reviewed. If sin be unfruitful-godliness is not: "godliness is profitable unto all things." Take a Christian, and ask him—What fruit have you had in all these duties and ordinances; in all this self-denial and separation from the world? Oh, says the Christian, much every way. "In keeping his commandments there is great reward." I have found "rest unto my soul." His "yoke is easy. His burden is light. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace."
If sin is shameful-holiness is not. The work in which it employs us is honourable and glorious. I do, says the Christian, indeed blush-but not in the sense you mean. I am ashamed-but it is at what I have left undone -not at what I have done. I am ashamed, but it is of my progress, not of my course: I am ashamed, but it is of myself-not of my master. No: he has dealt well with me. As far as I have sought him, he has been found of me. As far as I have trusted in him, he has not disappointed me. I follow him from conviction; and I am not ashamed to avow my adherence to him, and my dependence upon him.
If sin ends in death-religion does not. While the possessor has his "fruit unto holiness," his "end is everlasting life." And it is the end that crowns all. We have seen that religion has many great advantages at present: but if it had not-if it were all gloom, and bondage, and hardship-it has this incomparable recommendation-it ends well: ends in "glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life." If the way be rough, it leads to heaven. If the gate be strait, it opens into the paradise of God: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit."
"Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."
ACQUIESCENCE IN THE WILL OF GOD.
And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.-2 Sam. xv. 25, 26.
Ir is very desirable to teach by example. This mode of tuition is the most pleasing, the most intelligible, and the most impressive. How useful to a scholar is a copy! How much does a builder aid our apprehension by giving us a model of the edifice he means to rear! In reading history, how much more are we struck with the representations of a battle, than by any rules of war!
So it is in spiritual things. The various subjects of religion are most advantageously placed before us, not in their abstraction-but embodied, enlivened, exemplified. We want instances-facts. We naturally inquire how did faith operate in Abraham, and meekness in Moses? We are anxious to know how men of acknowledged religion behaved themselves in such a season of prosperity, or in such an hour of distress?
In this, as well as in every thing else essential to the welfare of man, the Scripture comes in to our assistance, and holding up to our view a succession of characters, in diversified situations, furnishes us with warnings, encouragements, motives-as our circumstances may require.
The condition of David, when he spake the words which we have read, was severely trying. His son Absalom had commenced a powerful rebellion; in consequence of which he was compelled, with a few faithful followers, to leave Jerusalem, and pass over the brook Kidron towards the way of the wilderness. "And lo!. Zadok also was there, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city."
Here he paused. And here I call upon you to observe him. In such a distressing and perplexing condition, the mind will be "driven with the wind, and tossed," unless
there be some grand principle to anchor it. | our everlasting welfare. Minds truly gracious estimate their situations and conveniences in this world by the opportunities they give them of service for God, and of communion with him. Hezekiah asks, in distress, "What is the sign that I shall go up into the house of the Lord?" "One thing," says David, have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple."
This Job had."Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." And this David had. His religion aided him. It shone forth in this darkness: it glorified this trouble; and rendered it the occasion of exercising several pious dispositions, which we are going to remark. "And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him." Behold here-his love to devotion-his dependence upon Divine Providence-his submission to the will of God.
Are you like-minded? If you are, you will not suffer a little trouble or a little expense, to keep you from the house of God. When compelled to abstain from his courts, you will feel your exclusion painful. With a mournful pleasure you will think of the seasons when you went "to the house of God with the voice of joy and gladness." With longing desire you will ask, "When shall I come and appear before God?"
This will influence servants in the choice of their stations. They will forego a number of advantages, and put up with a number of difficulties, rather than be deprived of the means of grace.
I. Observe his ESTIMATION OF DIVINE MEANS AND ORDINANCES. The ark and the tabernacle were much more to him than his throne and his palace. And therefore he only mentions these. 66 Carry back (says he,) the ark This will actuate the man of property in of God-if I shall find favour in the eyes of fixing the bounds of his habitation. Many the Lord, he will bring me again"-to my persons in leaving off business go down into house and my family-No: but he will the country; and looking around them, say bring me again, and-show me both it, and -Behold, yonder is a hanging wood-There his habitation"-the ark and the tabernacle. are beautiful meadows-Here is a fine stream Not that he undervalued the privilege of a of water. But the Christian would inquire, safe return. Religion is not founded on the before he pitched his tent, Is "the tree of destruction of humanity. We are not re- life" here? Can I here have access to the quired to contemn the good things of nature" wells of salvation?" Can I go in and and providence. Indeed, were we to despise out, and find pasture?" them, it would not be possible for us to discover resignation under the loss of them. Then our submission appears, when we know their value, and are capable of relishing them-yet can willingly give them up at the Divine call. Yea, when we are not sufficiently sensible of our obligations to God for temporal blessings, he often teaches us their value by their loss. In sickness the man has prized health, and has said, How little did I think of the goodness of God, in continuing the blessing so long! If I enjoy it again, all my bones shall say, who is a God like unto thee!" Were an enemy to invade our shores; were the din of war to drive us from our dwellings, carrying our infants in our arms; were we oppressed by the exactions of tyranny-we should soon feelingly acknowledge the advantages of national safety, of civil liberty, of wise and good laws. Owing to our present connexions and circumstances, a thousand things demand a share of our attention, and ought to excite our gratitude.
But our attention and our gratitude should be wisely exercised. We should be principally affected with "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" we should supremely regard our souls, and those spiritual blessings which belong to
II. See his FAITH IN DIVINE PROVIDENCE. David views his defeat or his success, his exile or his return, as suspended entirely on the will of God. He does not balance probabilities" These things are for me, and those are against me. When I think on these cireumstances, I feel hope; but when I dwell on those, I tremble. I know the issue turns upon the pleasure of the Almighty. He bringeth down, and he lifteth up. When he giveth peace, then who can make trouble? And when he hideth his face, then who can behold him, whether it be done against a nation, or a man only ?”
Not that he acted the part of an enthusiast, and despised the use of means. This appears obviously from the measures he devised, especially his employing the counsel of Hushai. But while he used means, he did not trust in them. He knew that duty is ours, and that events are the Lord's. He therefore looks beyond all instruments and second causes, to an Agent, "who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”—“ If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation."
David knew it was easy for Him to take