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a blessed hope. Tit. ii. 13. “ Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” This day inay well be the object of their eager desire, and when they hear of Christ's coming to judginent, they may well say, Even so come, Lord Jesus. Rev. xxii. 20. It will be the most glorious day that ever the saints saw; it will be so both to those who shall die, and whose souls shall go to heaven, and to those who shall then be found alive on earth : it will be the wedding-day of the church. Surely then in the consideration of the approach of this day, there is ground of great consolation to the saints.
SELF-FLATTERIES;OR, THE VAIN SELF-FLATTERIES
OF THE SINNER.
Psal. xxxvi. 2.
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be
found to be hateful.
In the foregoing verse, David says, " The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes :" that is, when he saw that the wicked went on in sin, in an allowed way of wickedness, it convinced him that they were not afraid of those terrible judgments, and of that wrath with which God hath threatened sinners. If the sinner were afraid of these, he could never go on so securely in sin as he doth.
It was a strange thing that men, who enjoyed such light as they did in the land of Israel, who read and heard those many awful threatenings which were written in the book of the law, should not be afraid to go on in sin. But, saith the Psalmist, They flatter themselves in their own eyes : they have something or other which they make a foundation of encouragement, whereby they persuade themselves that they shall escape those judgments : and that makes them put far away the evil day.
In this manner the sinner proceeds, until his iniquity be found to be hateful; that is, until he finds by experience that it is a more dreadful thing to sin against God, and break his holy commands, than he imagined. He thinks sin to be sweet, and hides it as a sweet morsel under his tongue ; he loves it and flatters himself in it, till at length he finds by experience, that it is bitter as gall and wormwood. Though he thinks the commission of sin to be lovely, yet he will find the fruit of it to be hateful, and what he cannot endure. Prov. xxiii. 32. "At last it will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder."
Here observe, the subject spoken of is the wicked man, of whom the Psalmist had been speaking in the foregoing verse. His action in flattering himself in his own eyes; i. e. he makes himself and his case to appear to himself, or in his own eyes, better than it is.
How long he continues so to do, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. Which may be taken for, either bis sin itself, as the wicked will see how odious sin is to God, when he shall feel the effects of his hatred, and how hateful to angels and saints ; or rather, the cause is here put for the effect, the tree for its fruit, and he will find his iniquity to be hateful, as he will find the hatefulness and feel the terribleness of the fruit of his iniquity. Hence it appears, that Wicked men generally flatter themselves with hopes of escaping punishment, till it actually comes upon them.
There are but few sinners who despair, who give up the cause, and conclude within themselves, that they shall go to hell; yet there are but few who do not go to hell. It is to be feared that men go to hell every day out of this country; yet very few of them suffer themselves to believe, that they are in any great danger of that punishment. They go on sinning, and thus travelling in the direct road to the pit; yet they persuade themselves that they shall never fall into it.
Sinners flatter themselves with the hope of impunity.
We are so taught in the word of God, Deut. xxix. 18, 19. " Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God. Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." Where it is supposed, that they whose hearts turn away from God, and are roots that bear gall and wormwood, generally bless themselves in their hearts, saying, We shall have peace. .
See also Psalm xlix, 17, 18. “When he dieth, he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him, though, whilst he lived, be blessed his soul.” And Psalm 1. 21. " These things thou hast done, and I kept silence; thou
thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself : but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine
It is very evident, that sinners flatter themselves that they shall escape punishment, otherwise they would be in dreadful and continual distress; they could never live so cheerfully as they now do. Their lives would be filled with sorrow and mourning, and they would be in continual uneasiness and distress, as much as those that are exercised with some violent pain of body. But it is apparent that men are careless and secure; they are not much concerned about future punishment, and they cheerfully pursue their business and recreations. Therefore they undoubtedly flatter themselves, that they shall not be eternally miserable in hell, as they are threatened in the word of God.
It is evident that they flatter themselves with hopes that they shall escape punishment, otherwise they would certainly be restrained, at least from many of those sins in which they now live : they would not proceed in wilful courses of sin. The transgression of the wicked convinced the Psalmist, and is enough to convince every one, that there is no fear of God before his eyes, and that he flatters himself in his own eyes. It would be impossible for men allowedly to do those very things which they know are threatened with everlasting destruction, if they did not some way encourage themselves they should nevertheless escape that destruction.
Some of the various Ways wherein Sinners flatter themselves
in their own Eyes. 1. Some flatter themselves with a secret hope, that there is no such thing as another world. They hear a great deal of preaching, and a great deal of talk about hell, and the eternal jndgment; but those things do not seem to them to be real. They never saw hell, nor the devils and damned spirits ; and therefore are ready to say within themselves, How do I know that there is any such thing as another world? When the beasts die, there is an end of them, and how do I know but that it will be so with me! Perhaps all these things are nothing but the inventions of men, nothing but cunningly-devised fables.
Such thoughts are apt to rise in the minds of sinners, and the devil sets in to enforce them. Such thoughts are an ease to them; therefore they wish they were true, and that makes them the more ready to think that they are so.
So that they are hardened in the way of sin, by infidelity and atheistical thoughts. Psalm xiv. 1. “The fool hath said in his heart. There is no God.”' Psalm xciv. 6, 7. “ They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see ; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it." 2. Some flatter themselves, that death is a great way off
, and that they shall, hereafter, have much opportunity to seek salvation; and they think, if they earnestly seek it, though it be a great while hence, they shall obtain. Although they see no reason to conclude that they shall live long, and perhaps they do not positively conclude that they shall, yet it doth not come into their minds, that their lives are really uncertain, and that it is doubtful whether they will live another year. Such a thought as this doth not take any hold of them. And, although they do not absolutely determine that they shall live to old age, or to middle age, yet they secretly flatter themselves with such an imagination. They are disposed to believe so, they act upon it, and run the venture.
Men believe, that things will be as they choose to have them, without reason, and sometimes without the appearance of reason, as is most apparent in this case. Psalm xlix. 11. “ Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations ; they call their lands after their own names.”_-The prepossession and desire of men to have it so, is the principal thing that makes them so believe. However, there are several other things which they use as arguments to flatter themselves. Perhaps they think, that since they are at present in health, or in youth, or that since they are useful men, do a great deal of good, and both themselves and others pray for the continuance of their lives; they are not likely to be removed by death very soon. If they live many years in the world, they think it very probable that they shall be converted before they die: as they expect, hereafter, to have much more convenient opportunities to become converted, than they have now. And, by some means or other, they think they shall get through their work before they arrive at old age.
3. Some flatter themselves, that they lead moral and orderly lives, and therefore think that they shall not be damned. They think, within themselves, that they live not in any vice, that they take care to wrong no man, are just and honest dealers; that they are not addicted to hard drinking, or to uncleanness, or to bad language; that they keep the Sabbath strictly; are constant attendants on the public worship, and maintain the worship of God in their families. Therefore, they hope, that God will not cast them into hell. They see not why God should be so angry with them as that would imply, seeing they are so orderly and regular in their walk! they see not that they have done enough to anger him to that degree. And if they VOL. VI.