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existence—a happiness, which accidents will not destroy, nor time impair. And say; is it not madness in the extreme to forego such an interest as this, for the sake of the former? To exchange the sublime joys of eternity, for the dull delights of a moment? The rational pleasures of the soul for the sordid indulgences of sense? The glories of heaven for the vanities of the world? The applause of angels and the approbation of God for the favor of mortals and for the laughter of fools ? Surely no madman can act more wildly, or choose more absurdly.
2. The habitual sinner is pursuing his own destruction.
“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself,” says God to his sinful people.
If a man run into fire, or water, or leap from a precipice with his eyes open, or drink poison knowing it to be such, we judge him beside himself. But is there not an infatuation equal to this in the conduct of every vicious man? He runs into the way, which leads down to the chambers of death ; and no cautions, warnings, or counsels restrain him. Hence he is said to love death.
Sin tends to the destruction of the natural life. It inflames the passions, impairs the health, exposes to casualties, and often takes away the power of self-preservation. This is eminently true of the vices of sensuality and intemperance.
Sin destroys the comfort and pleasure of life. It wounds the conscience with guilt and remorse; breeds irregularity and confusion in the powers of the soul, kindles up violent and painful passions, disturbs "social order, interrupts family peace, embitters domestic relations, and excludes self-enjoyment.
The final issue of sin is death in a more eminent sense-a separation from all good to the greatest evil—and from all hope to eternal despair. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Now if a man pursues a course, which tends to the destruction of his body, to the vexation of his mind, and to the everlasting misery of his soul, is he not destroying himself? This is the tendency of sin. He who pursueth evil, pursueth it to his death. And can he say, he does this ignorantly? No: his own conscience remonstrates against his course, and warns him to forsake it.
Whenever he calmly considers his way, he must be convinced that danger and misery attend it. If he ever reflects on the past, and contemplates the future, he must feel some inward checks and rebukes. His own experience, if he would consult it, would evince the folly and madness of his pursuits; for he never finds the pleasure which he had promised himself; he is always disappointed in his views and expectations; if he accomplishes his designs, still he is left as empty and unsatisfied as he was before; and if he tastes immediate pleasure in his guilty indulgences, this is soon embittered by shame and remorse, discontent and confusion. God himself has warned him of his danger, and of the misery which is before him, and yet he rushes on, as if he was resolved on his own destruction. If neither reason, nor experience, nor the divine word will restrain him, surely madness is in his heart.
3. Another instance of madness in the sinner is, that he is the greatest enemy to his best friends.
It has often been observed of people in a delirium, that they fall out first with those to whom they are most obliged. This is true of every wicked man.
He is an enemy to his own conscience. This, as long as he will allow it to do its office, acts the part of a faithful friend. It warns him of his danger, upbraids his folly, restrains his excesses, points out his duty, and urges his attention to his best interest; and for this very cause he is an enemy to it. He opposes and resists it; yea, sometimes mocks and ridicules it; calls it superstition and prejudice. He often acts in direct and palpable contradiction to the sense and conviction of his mind. If he finds this difficult, he will invent some excuses and palliations of his sins-he will call evil good, and good evil—will confound the difference between right and wrong, or endeavor to persuade himself, that there is some circumstance in his case, which exempts him from the imputation of guilt, though he would not allow such a circumstance to have any weight in the case of another.
The sinner may come to such a state of obduracy and perverseness, as to hate his reprovers, and count them his enemies, because they tell him the truth. This is not indeed the character of every sinner. Some have so much ingenuity left as to hear reproof candidly and accept it thankfully. But there are those whom nothing will provoke sooner, than the mention of their faults. Hence this caution of our Saviour,“ Cast not your pearls before swine, nor give that whieh is holy unto dogs, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you."
Reprove the sinner,” says Solomon, “and he will hate you. He that rebuketh a wicked man, getteth to himself a blot." He provokes the wicked man to seek revenge by casting reproach on his character:
The sinner is an enemy to the word of God. “He that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh he to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” If he dare not openly reject God's word, yet he retains an inward aversion to it; otherwise he would converse with it daily-would submit to its corrections and instructions, and govern himself by its rules. He hates the precepts of God, because they condemn him. He hates God's threatnings, because they shew him his danger.
The sinner is represented in scripture as an enemy to God himself-an enemy in his mind by wicked works. The sinner per
say, “ I am not an enemy to God-I reverence him, because his character is perfect, and I love him, because he is good and merciful." If this is really true, you belong not to the class of persons of whom we are speaking. It is worth the while, however, to examine the matter. Perhaps you have partial ideas of God's character; perhaps it is only an imaginary Deity, whom you revere and love-a Deity whose goodness is indiscriminate indulgence, and who will make you happy without your repentance of sin, and submission to his government. Remember, God is a being of immutable justice and truth, and of perfect rectitude and holiness. If you love him, you love these perfections, and you are assimilated to them in your temper, and conformed to them in your practice. If you love God, you love his precepts; and if you love them, you will observe them. If you love God, you love that way of salvation which he has proposed to you; for in that way God is glorified and man humbled. And if you love this way of salvation, you will certainly submit to it, by a deep
repentance of sin, and by faith in God's mercy through a Mediator. If then you live in opposition to God's holiness, in disobedience to his commands, and in neglect of your salvation, you are, in the scripture sense, an enemy to God.
Put the case in another form : Do you not sometimes wish that God had allowed you full liberty to sin—that he would not exeeute his threatnings against the workers of iniquity ? Now what is this, but to wish that he were not a hater of sin-or that he were not a holy being—or that he were not God? Can you, with such sentiments in your heart, pretend that you love God? You doubtless love the favors which he bestows upon you, and take pleasure in many of the benefits, which you receive from his bounty. It is said of the Jews, in their most degenerate state, “ They ate and drank and became fat, and delighted themselves in God's great goodness. Nevertheless they were disobedient and cast his laws behind their backs." There are many such lovers of God, as these were. If you love him truly, you love him in his complete character; you fear his goodness, as well as love it; and you love his justice, as well as fear it.
4. The habitual sinner is one who deludes and imposes upon himself-fancies himself to be what he is not, and not to be what he is.
This is a turn, which natural madness often takes, and moral madness takes as often. If the madman forms airy and romantic schemes; if he imagines himself to be a king; if he views the world as his property, and its inhabitants as his subjects, he is not more beside himself than the sinner often is. He also
says, am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, and knows not, that he is wretched and poor and miserable and blind and naked.” It is by this self-delusion, that he makes himself easy in his awful condition. He views his state to be quite different from what it really is. He thinks himself free, when he is a slave to lust. He fancies himself raised to honor, when he is sunk in infamy. He glories in that which is his greatest shame. He feels secure, when he lies down to sleep on a precipice : he hopes for heaven, when he is running in the way which leads down to
hell: he calls evil good, and good evil, and puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.
But suppose him convinced that he is a sinner; for this conviction will sometimes obtrude itself upon him; how will he do then? He has now another delusion at hand, as absurd, and perhaps as fatal, as any of the former. This is the intention of a future repentance. He sees not, or he is reluctant to see, that life and reason, the means and the day of grace are all uncertain; that there is every motive to present, that there can be to future repentance; that by delay he fiardens his heart and resists the spirit of God, and thus renders his repentance more difficult and doubtful; that the causes of present delay may as well operate his future delay; that if ever he repent at all, he must, some time or other, come to a fixed resolution that he will not offend any more, and that he may come to this resolution now as well as hereafter; that every day his guilt and danger are increasing, and that there is no security, but in a direct and immediate application to the great concerns of his salvation. These are plain, obvious truths; but such is his madness, that he will not see them; or if he sees, will not regard them.
5. The sinner is one who disbelieves the most evident truths, and yet believes absurdities, contradictions and impossibilities.
He will not be convinced that there is any pleasure or advantage in a holy and virtuous life; that there is any reward for the righteous, or any punishment for the workers of iniquity; though reason clearly evinces, and the word of God fully declares them. He may, indeed, give a cold assent to them, as he does to an hundred other things in which he has no concern; but he feels not the weight of them, and is not at all influenced by them, and therefore may be said, not to believe them. If he denies them not in words, he contradicts them in practice; and he may as well not believe them, as not regard them when he pretends to believe them. But though 'he is incredulous to plain truths, he is credulous to palpable falsehoods. He believes there is solid happiness in the world, though his experience has hitherto taught him the contrary. He believes there is pleasure in sin, though he has tried it often, and found it to be an evil and bit