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designs, and desires, and hopes, and happiness of sinners. Christ himself possesses omnipotent power, and has all created objects and created beings under his absolute control; and can employ them all as instruments to accomplish his eternal purpose. How is it possible then, that he should be counteracted and defeated in his design? Sinners may misconstrue and misunderstand particular passages of scripture; but they cannot misconstrue and misunderstand the great design which Christ is pursuing and will certainly ac-complish. And if he accomplishes his design, the hopes of the finally impenitent to escape with impunity, must perish. If Christ continues to reign, he will make all his incorrigible enemies his footstool, and sink them in endless perdition. Christ has commanded it to be proclaimed throughout the world, that "he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned." All delaying sinners are constantly liable to be cut off, and lie down in eternal sorrow. Their feet stand on slippery places, and all that Christ is doing to carry on his design, is ripening and preparing them for a more aggravated doom. And all that they are doing while against Christ, is increasing their guilt, and the wrath of the Lamb. So long as they delay to act for Christ, they act against him, and by acting against him, they act against themselves and all the good of the universe. Unless they turn to Christ and beome cordially reconciled to him, they will draw down the displeasure of Christ, and the displeasure of all holy beings in the universe, which will sink them in the depth of eternal despair.
Finally, this subject affords a solid ground of peace and safety to those who are united to Christ in his great and good design. If he succeeds, they are safe. If he promotes his own interests, he will promote theirs. If he is accepted of the Father, they will be accepted in him. If he is rewarded for all his labours and sufferings, they shall be rewarded for all their labours and sufferings in his cause. If he sits down with the Father on his throne, they shall sit down with him on his throne.
If his glory and blessedness shall be eternally rising, they shall eternally rise in glory and blessedness with him. The gospel which unfolds the nature, extent and eternal consequences of the accomplishment of Christ's design, opens the most glorious prospects to all the friends and followers of the divine Redeemer. They shall rejoice while others mourn. They shall be completely holy and blessed, while all the enemies of Christ are completely sinful and wretched. Be not then in well doing, but be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the service of Christ, knowing that your labour shall not be vain in the Lord.
SINNERS DESTROY THEMSELVES BY THEIR OWN BLINDNESS.
PROVERBS iv. 19.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they
ALL men are either saints or sinners, either holy or unholy, either righteous or wicked; and they are all walking in paths as different as the characters they sustain. The saints are walking in a straight and narrow path; the sinners are walking in a crooked and broad path; the saints are walking in a path that leads to perfect light, and the sinners are walking in a path that leads to perfect darkness. This is the representation, which Solomon gives of all mankind. He says, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. But he observes by way of contrast, "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble." His plain meaning is this:
Sinners are in such darkness, that they are insensible of the objects, which are leading them to ruin.
I shall first consider the darkness in which sinners are involved; and then illustrate the general observation, that they are insensible of the objects, which are leading them to ruin.
I. Let us consider the darkness in which sinners are involved. We find much said in scripture concerning their peculiar blindness and darkness. Moses represents them as "groping at noon-day." Job says, "they meet with darkness in the day time, and grope in the noon-day as in the night." Isaiah says, "They have made them crooked paths; they grope for the
wall as the blind, and grope as if they had no eyes; they stumble at noon day as in the night." David represents their way "as dark and slippery ;" and Jeremiah represents them as walking "in slippery ways in darkness." The royal preacher says, "The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness." It appears from all these representations, that all sinners are involved in gross darkness. But to what is this darkness owing, or in what does it consist? It cannot be owing to any deficiency in their natural powers; nor to any want of intellectual information. They enjoy the same means of instruction that saints enjoy, and are as capable of understanding the doctrines and duties of religion. The bible points out the way to heaven as clearly to them, as to others; and sets the same motives before them to walk in the same straight and narrow path to eternal life. Their darkness, therefore is not natural, but moral darkness which lies not in their understandings, but in their hearts, which are entirely depraved. Moral depravity always produces moral blindness. Our Saviour says, "The light of the body is the eye, if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The heart is the same to the soul, that the eye is to the body. As a good eye lets in natural light, so a good heart lets in moral light; and as a blind eye shuts out natural light, so a bad heart shuts out moral light. Accordingly, the apostle expressly ascribes the darkness of the understanding to the blindness of the heart. He represents all unrenewed men, " as having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." While sinners remain under the entire dominion of a wicked heart, they are altogether blind to the moral beauty of the character, of the works, and of the providence of God. Their blindness to these divine objects the psalmist describes in very strong and impressive terms. "They know not, neither will they understand: they walk in darkness:
all the foundations of the earth are out of course." God is a being of pure benevolence, he constructed the world upon benevolent principles, and he governs it to answer benevolent purposes. This is all dark to sinners, who view all things with a selfish eye. They can trace nothing into light, but all things into darkness. The present and future state of the world is all darkness, and they see no light in their own, nor in any other creature's existence. Notwithstanding all God has said about himself, and about his creatures, and about his designs, the whole universe still appears to them dark and mysterious. Being alienated from the life of God, and opposed to all true benevolence, their minds are totally involved in moral darkness. When they extend their views to the end of life, to the end of the world, and to the boundless scenes of eternity, they cannot discover a gleam of light. They are a mystery to themselves; and all the changes and revolutions in the natural and moral world are dark and unaccountable to them. The foundations of the earth are all out of course in their view, and the nature and tendency of all things are utterly repugnant to their wishes and desires, and appear to counteract all their hopes and purposes. And if God is pursuing and will accomplish perfectly holy and benevolent designs, these will counteract and defeat all their selfish interests and promising prospects, and involve them in total darkness and hopeless ruin. But yet,
II. They are insensible of the objects over which they are stumbling and falling. "They know not at what they stumble." This has been the case of sinners in all ages. We find many melancholy instances of this kind in the bible. The blindness of Pharaoh's heart, led him insensibly to stumble, and fall, and perish. The rebellious Israelites had not eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to perceive, but walked in darkness, until they stumbled, and fell, and perished in the wilderness. The seven nations of Canaan were involved in moral darkness, and perceived not their danger, until they were destroyed. It was Saul's mo