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are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no understanding. They discern nothing in a spiritual manner. The things of religion are foolishness to them. They often confound the distinction between moral good and evil. They study to excuse sin, to explain away the obligations of virtue--to destroy the efficacy of Divine threatnings—and to quiet their fears of future punishment.
Their conscience is defiled, hardened and unfeeling. They call evil good, and good evil, and are not ashamed when they commit abominations. If conscience, at any time awakes to remonstrate against their wicked works, they put it to silence by sensual indulgence, by false reasoning, by recurring to the example of others, and by mingling with the ungodly who strengthen their hands in their evil ways.
Their affections are enslaved to the objects of the world. They love the world and the things that are in the world, and their hearts are at enmity with God. They are not subject to his law, but subject to the lusts of the flesh.
They have yielded their members instruments of unrighteousness to sin. Thus the Apostle describes them. « Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongue they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known.
Such is the character of those who have sold themselves to do evil.
Our text adds.
3. They have sold themselves for nought. When men sell an article, they aim to make some gain—to receive an equivalent, which may be more useful to them, than that which they alienate. But when they sell themselves, they can receive nothing in return. They sin and pervert that which is right and it profiteth them not. The Apostle demands of penitents—what fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed.”
They who sell themselves to do evil, hope to gain at least some worldly good. But they are usually disappointed.-If they seem to succeed for a time, they fail at last. “He who hasteth, in any
“ evil way, to be rich, brings trouble on himself and his house.
He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” “The curse of God entereth into the house of them that steal and swear falsely ; and consumeth it with the stones thereof and the timber thereof;" “ His table becomes a snare, and that which should have been for their welfare, becomes a trap.” We often see the wicked designs of men turn to their own confusion and ruin. It is so in private. life. It is remarkably so in public and national transactions. In the judgments of God on sinners in this world, we have evidence that there is a God, who judgeth in the earth; and we have a prelude of a future judgment, by which God will render to every man according to his works.
Sinners not only sell themselves for nought, but for that which is worse than nought-for death and misery. Death is the wages of sin—the wages in which it pays off its servants at last. And what would a man be profited, if by sin he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul! And what can he give in exchange for his soul.
Death, when it is denounced in scripture as the final consequence of a sinful life, intends not merely a natural death, but the misery of the soul after death. “The wages of sin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life.” Death here stands opposed to eternal life, and therefore must intend eternal death.
The unrighteous shall go away into everlasting punishment—but the righteous into life eternal. The scripture when it speaks of the wrath to come, from which Christ died to save us, signifies that there is a wrath to come, to which the ungodly are exposed, and to which they are bound over by the sentence of God's holy law. This completes their bondage. They are criminals, condemn
, ed to suffer the demerits of a corrupt heart and a sinful life.
How awful is their condition? They are slaves while they live, and miserable when they die.
As they have sold themselves for nought, they have no means in their hands by which they can redeem themselves. They deserve the threatened punishment. And there is nothing which they can do, and there is no price which they can pay, to cancel
this desert. They have sold themselves—their slavery is voluntary-it is what they have chosen—and there is no opposite choice; no love of spiritual liberty, which will prompt any effec
2 tual exertions to deliver themselves from their bondage. Hence they are said to be dead in trespasses and sins. If ever they are quickened and made alive to the love of holiness, it must be by a Divine influence, and not by any natural principle of holiness in themselves. If they are saved, it must be by grace from abovenot of their own works. The power of sin consists in a prevailing love, and predominant inclination to moral evil. Where there is a predominant inclination, there cannot be at the same time, a prevailing inclination to oppose
ose it. An opposite prevailing disposition must be from divine excitement, not from the corrupt heart itself. A sinner left wholly to himself will continue in sin. He will wax worse and worse. He will add sin to sin. He has loved it, and after it he will go. “ His own iniquities will take the wicked himself;—he is holden in the cords of his sins, and in the greatness of his folly, he will go astray.” The Apostle speaks of those who have yielded themselves servants to sin, as proceeding from iniquity unto iniquity.
Such is the dreadful condition of habitual sinners. Is there, then, any hope for their deliverance ?-Yes. There is hope. Of those who had sold themselves, the text says,
II. Ye shall be redeemed. But how ?-They had sold themselves for nought; and what had they with which they could purchase their redemption ?-Truly they had nothing, and they needed nothing; for it is said, “Ye shall be redeemed without money." Here lies the sinner's hope. If he would be redeemed only by money, his case would be desperate. For he has no money that can be received as the price of his redemption. This must come in another way--in a way of grace—in a way of absolute favor. God has sent a Redeemer into the world. He has paid the price of our redemption by his own blood. The apostle says, we are not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb, without blemish and without spot. And the benefits of this redemption are offered to us freely, without money and without price. They are
offered to such as have no money—and such are we all. We are in debt, and have nothing to pay. If we humbly and penitently accept this redemption, we are graciously and frankly forgiven.
The redemption by Christ is two-fold - from the power and pollution, and from the guilt and condemnation of sin. One branch of redemption is from the power and pollution of sin. The apostle says, He gave himself for us to redeem us from iniquity--from our vain conversation, and to purify us unto himself.
This part of redemption is effected in that change which is called renovation, regeneration, repentance, and conversion.
This change consists in a new temper and disposition of mind, which is the reverse of the former slavery to sin. In the renewed
. soul there is a supreme love to God, and a general benevolence to mankind-there is an extirpation of former ungodly lusts and guilty passions, such as envy, hatred, malice; and an introduction of opposite tempers. The understanding is enlightened to discern spiritual things in their excellency and importance.
The reason is employed in examining and proving the good and acceptable will of God. The conscience becomes tender, and susceptible of holy impressions. The heart of stone is taken away and a heart of flesh created in its place. The affections are withdrawn from earthly things, and set on things above. The perverse will is subdued, and made subject to the will of God. The life is devoted to God in new and willing obedience. The language of the renewed soul is, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What I know not, teach thou me. Wherein I have done iniquity I will do no more.'
This change is effected in the soul by the word and spirit of God; both which are procured for us by the redemption of Christ. The apostle says, “ God hath saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he hath shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ the Saviour, that being justified by his grace we may be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
The word of Christ is the means of conversion, and the Spirit of Christ accompanying it gives it efficacy and power. Hence the word is called the sword of the Spirit. The apostle says,
"God of his own will hath begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be holy as the first fruits, which were dedicated to God.” “Therefore," says he, “ be swift to hear, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word.”
The word comes to us as a free gift. We have done nothing to procure it. It is not owing to ourselves that a revelation has been afforded to mankind, or that we were born and educated under it. Our enjoyment of this privilege is the fruit of God's sovereign goodness. It is he who has made us to differ from the many thousands, who have never known the gospel.
The Spirit is God's free gift through Christ. It is a benefit, which our guilty race could never have claimed. It is called the spirit of grace, because it is granted in a way of grace. They who have been the subjects of its awakening and renewing influences must acknowledge that God of his own will hath begotten them; he worked in them of his own good pleasure. The Spirit has come to them freely without money-without any previous works of their own, which could give them a claim to it. The convert when he looks back on his past life, sees that he has done much to grieve the Spirit, and nothing to give him a right to it either on the foot of his own desert, or on the foot of God's promise. He admires that grace, which has made him to differ from those, who still are under the bondage of sin.
The other part of redemption is from the guilt and condemnation of sin. This comes by Christ without money--without any desert of our own. As transgressors of God's law, we are under a sentence of condemnation. And the sentence is just. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, that God might, consistently with the ends of his government, pardon our sins, and receive us to favour. He has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
This plan of redemption is all free—all gracious. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”