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their lives by their fixed enmity to goodness and love of wickedness. Such beings are not capable of happiness. His own iniquity shall take the wicked himself. His sins will find him out and fall upon him. His misery will be the natural result of his vile affections and criminal indulgencies.
St. Jude, speaking of the punishment of certain ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and deny the Lord who bought them, says, “ They were of old ordained to this condemnation.” It is the ordination of God, that such impious men should be condemned to punishment. This ordination was of old revealed by God, and is more explicitly revealed in the gospel. As early as the days of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the judgment of God on such sinners was denounced, and the denunciation has been repeated in all succeeding revelations. Sinners, by habituating themselves to their crimes, and by opposing the authority and contemning the goodness of God, have rendered themselves so unlike to the great original of all perfection, and have strengthened in their hearts such alienation from him, and enmity to him, that they are not only unfit for his presence, but absolutely incapable of being happy in it. They who live and die under the power of sin, would be unhappy, even though they should be admitted into heaven. The glories and entertainments of that blissful world, would be unglorious, unfelicitating to them. The society, the converse, the employments, the congratulations, the devotions of the new Jerusalem, would be so diverse from the exercises, pleasures and entertainments, to which they have accustomed themselves, and for which they have contracted an habitual relish in this world, that they could afford them no delight. By their sensual gratifications and their continued opposition to God and goodness, they have attempered themselves to a place quite the reverse of heaven. As a course of virtue and holiness is an education preparatory to blessedness, so a course of vice is an education preparatory to misery. Sin is hell began, as religion is heaven anticipated. A course of sin fits and disposes the soul for infelicity. Hell is not only the doom, but the natural consequence, of that perversion of the taste and faculties, which is implied in habitual disobedience to God. It is evident then, not only that there
is, in the future world, a place of punishment for impenitent sinners; but also, that while they continue impenitent, they are attempering and preparing themselves for that place.
One objection, which unbelievers make against the gospel is, its denouncing punishment against the workers of iniquity. But how unreasonable is this objection? Their exposedness to punishment arises not from the gospel; but from the essential constitution of God's government. Misery is as much the natural fruit of their wickedness, as what they reap in their fields is the natural fruit of what they sowed. If God disposes all things to their proper ends, the wicked must be doomed to the day of evil.
How deplorable is the condition, and how odious the character of every bold and hardened transgressor-alienated from God and goodness-base in his mind and manners--an enemy to his own happiness-treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.
For whom is the infernal lake prepared and its flames kindled? Not only for the devil and his angels, but also for all those who walk according to the course of this wicked world, and yield to the influence of those infernal spirits, who work on earth in the children of disobedience.
With what gratitude should our hearts be filled, that Jesus, the son of God, has appeared to deliver us from the wrath to come? There is salvation in no other. We have redemption through his blood. If we despise this redemption, there is no other sacrifice for sin ; but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Wrath awaits every impenitent transgressor. But on them, who not only transgress God's law, but trample on the blood of his Son, wrath will come to the uttermost. Let us flee from this wrath by repentance, and by faith lay hold on the hope set before
It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Let us embrace the doctrine with all thankfulness, and beware lest we fall under the condemnation of those, who, when light has come into the world, choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
THE MADNESS AND FATE OF LMPENITENT SINNERS.
ECCLESIASTES ix. 3.
Yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and mad
ness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
It is reason which chiefly distinguishes man from the animal tribes. In his senses and appetites he agrees with them; and he might justly be ranked among them, had not the Creator given him this single pre-eminence.
There is such a case as a man dispossessed of reason; and this we always consider as a very unhappy and affecting case. Nothing shocks the mind more, than to see one of our own species—one closely allied to us by nature—one of the same original and of the same form, wholly divested of understanding, sunk to a level with brutes, and rendered incapable of knowing God, doing good to men, or providing for himself.
But why is such a spectacle affecting, rather than a brute ? It is because there is something unnatural in it. The brute was made to be what he is: man was made for a rational conduct. And that which shocks us in the madman is his unnatural degradation from the dignity of the species to which he belongs.
But affecting as this spectacle is, there is one, which, justly viewed and considered, is far more so; and that is, a man who possesses the faculty of reason, but never applies it to the great end for which the Creator gave it. Here is a contempt, not a loss of reason-here is a voluntary, not mechanical insanityhere is a corruption of heart, not a disorder of brain-here is a madness which involves guilt, not one which exempts from blame. It is more affecting to see an instance of self-murder, than of common murder; because the man who does violence to himself, acts more unnaturally, than he who does violence to another. For the same reason, he who perverts or neglects his own faculties, is a more despicable and miserable creature, than he who is providentially deprived of them. The latter is mad, because he cannot but be so: the former is mad, because he will be so.
But can we find any instances of this species of madness? Certainly we may. Every sinner is an instance. “Madness is in his heart.” Solomon speaks, as if such cases were numerous in his day. “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil.” Nor is the world so much mended, but that the observation remains just in our day.
By custom and use we become in a manner reconciled to almost any objects, however disagreeable they may be in themselves. This is one reason, why we are more affected with the sight of a madman, than with the sight of a wicked man. If the latter was as rare a sight as the former, why would it not be as shocking? The sinner is as truly a madman, as he who is deprived of reason; only his madness is of a different kind, takes a different turn, and operates in a different manner. " The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
There are two things to which the text calls our attention; the first is, the character which is given of the sinner; and the other is, the end which he makes.
I. We will consider the character, which Solomon here gives of a wicked man. “ Madness is in his heart.” Our Saviour, speaking of a returning prodigal, says, “ He came to himself." The phrase imports, that he had beep beside himself. In the
writings of Solomon a fool is the common appellation of a sinner ; and it is as just, as it is common, for no man acts more inconsistently with reason. In relation to the affairs of this world he may act wisely. The children of this world, in their generation, are often wiser than the children of light. But in relation to the concerns of eternity no madman acts more wildly and unreasonably than he does.
1. The sinner is one who pays no just regard to his real interest, but is entirely occupied and pleased with trifles and vanities things of little or no importance.
If you should see a man wholly inattentive to all the interests and concerns of life, negligent of his person, substance and friends; employing all his time, from day to day, in the little sports and amusements of children, gathering pebbles, chasing butterflies, and riding a hobby-horse, you certainly would think him unsound in his intellect. But what is the sinner better? Trifles alone please him : important matters are disregarded.. Honors, riches, pleasures are the highest objects of his pursuit; and disappointment in this pursuit is the evil which he principally dreads. Heaven and hell—the happiness and the misery of the eternal world, and the means of securing the former and avoiding the latter, scarcely come into consideration, and are never applied in earnest.
But are not the good things of this world worthy of our regard ? Doubtless they are. A sober, discreet attention to them, far from being a vice, is plainly a virtue. But in comparison with the vast objects which religion proposes to us, the other are but trifles. He who prefers the interests of the world to the riches of eternity, gives as evident proofs of a perverted judgment, and an unsound mind, as he who prefers pebbles to pearls; for the real disproportion is infinitely greater.
What is that which the sinner pursues ? It is that which he is not sure of obtaining; which, if he obtains it, he cannot enjoy~ surely not the whole, if any part of it; and which, if he enjoys it for the present, he cannot keep long; but may lose it at any time, and certainly must lose it, or leave it soon. And what is that which he foregoes ? It is real happiness—the happiness of the rational mind- a happiness large as his capacity, and lasting as his