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be pleaded before God in extenuation of our fault, then indeed we might have some reason for persisting in it; but how can we excuse ourselves before him, when we had the means of information in our hands, and followed our own surmises in preference to his commands?
Let us then remember that we are acting now for eternity; and that in a little time every thing will appear, not as we wish it, but as it really is. And, if we think it of any importance what our condition shall be in the invisible world, let us desist from our self-deception, which, however pleasant or fashionable it may be, will most unquestionably issue in our eternal ruin.
Before we conclude, suffer us to address a word of exhortation both to those who are deceiving their own souls, and to those who desire to regulate their conduct according to truth.
To the former we beg leave to propose one solemn question: God has said, Woe unto them that call evil good, &c. Can you change that woe into a blessing? Can you prevail on God to retract his word? Can you make void that sentence, when God shall come to execute it upon you in the last day? Yea, will you not then curse your folly, for using such pains to deceive yourselves and others, and for involving yourselves in everlasting misery, when, if you had not so "rebelled against the light," you might have been heirs of everlasting glory? Permit me then to address you in the words of the Apostle, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Begin to weigh both sentiments and actions in the balance of the sanctuary. Begin to "judge righteous judgment." Begin to view things, as you will surely view them when you shall stand at the tribunal of Christ. Bear in mind, that in your present state God has denounced a woe against you. Remember too, that it will be small consolation to you to have others involved in the same misery with yourselves: it will rather be a source of more intense misery to all, by reason of their mutual execrations, for having so greatly; contributed to each others ruin. If the word of God be intended for "a light to our feet, and a lantern to our paths," then make use of it; study it, as it were, upon your knees: meditate upon it day and night: and beg of
God" to open your understandings that you may understand it," and to sanctify your hearts that you may obey it.
To those who are of a better mind we say, Be, strong, and dare to stem the torrent of iniquity, that would bear down all before it. Be not ashamed to call good and evil by their proper names; and to shew by the whole tenor of your lives, that you know how to distinguish them. Let not too great weight be given to the opinions of men. Bow not to the authority of fashion and custom; but "" prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." Bring your advisers to "the law and to the testimony: for if they speak not according to that, there is no light in them." In matters of duty or of discipline indeed you cannot be too diffident, you cannot be too submissive. In those things obedience is your highest honour. But when men presume to think for you in the concerns of your souls, it is high time to enquire, whether they will also perish for you? If you perish, you must perish for yourselves; and therefore it behoves you to think for yourselves, and to act for yourselves. The self-deceiving world cannot remove the woe from their own souls; much less can they from yours. "Walk not then according to the course of this world:" "follow not a multitude to do evil." Look not at your neighbours, but at Christ and his apostles. Let the scriptures regulate your every sentiment, your every act. And without concerning yourselves about the misrepresentations, which blind and ungodly men will give of your conduct, "be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
CCCLIII. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
Hos. viii. 7. They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
MISERY is attached to sin as its inevitable consequence
This connection does not always appear to a superficial observe
On the contrary transgression often seems productiv of happiness
And obedience, to be a source of much affliction and trouble
But, whatever conclusions we may be led to draw from present appearances, we are sure that the wicked are not happy
Nor have they any reasonable expectation of happiness in the eternal world
. The Israelites had forsaken the true God for idols
And God warned them of the judgments which would ere long come upon them
But the declaration in the text may be understood as a general position
We shall take occasion from it to shew
I. Who may be said to sow the wind
To "sow the wind" is a proverbial expression for labouring in vain
It is applied to idolaters, because the silver and gold lavished on idols was unprofitably spent
And it may well be applied to all who seek happiness in a way of sin
1. To sensualists
[They expect to find much comfort in the indulgence of their lusts
Hence they yield themselves up to all the gratifications of
But they find that such pursuits can afford them no real happiness
While they forsake the fountain of living waters they hew out to themselves only broken cisterns that can hold no wa
Solomon, with the amplest means of enjoyment, confessed
And we may address that appeal to all the votaries of pleasure-]
2. To worldlings
(The lovers of this present world seem to follow something substantial
They hope to obtain, not a momentary gratification, but solid and lasting benefits
b Eccl. ii. 1. 10, 11.
a Jer. ii. 13.
• Rom. vi. 21.
They promise to themselves the acquisition of ease, and affluence and respect
But riches are justly, and on many accounts, termed "uncertain".
No dependence can be placed on their continuance with
Our cares are also generally multiplied by means of them— But if they were more conducive to happiness now, what shall they profit in the day of wrath?
What advantage has he now, who once took such delight in his stores
Or he, who placed his happiness in sumptuous fare, and magnificent apparel ?h
Surely all such persons will find ere long, that they "sowed the wind"-]
3. To formalists
[The performance of religious duties seems more calculated to make us happy
It is certain that no one can be happy who disregards them
But mere round of services can never satisfy the conscience
"The form of godliness without the power" will avail little
It will leave the soul in a poor, empty, destitute conditionSome indeed delude themselves with an idea that it will secure the divine favour
And, under that delusion, they may be filled with self-complacencyi
But if God send a ray of light into the mind, these comforts vanish.
A sight of sin will speedily dissipate these self-righteous hopesk
Nor will any thing satisfy an enlightened conscience but that which satisfies God
There was but one remedy for the wounded Israelites in the wilderness1
Nor can a wounded spirit ever be healed but by a sight of Christ-]
4. To false professors.
[Many wish to be thought religious, when they are destitute of spiritual life—
d 1 Tim. vi. 17. 6 Luke xii. 19. Rom. vii. 9.
e Prov. xxiii. 5.
b Luke xvi. 19, 23, 24.
f Prov. xi. 4.
i Luke xviii. 11, 12.
They perhaps are zealous for the doctrines of the gospel, and for their own particular form of church government
But they are not solicitous to live nigh to God in holy duties
Nor do they manifest the efficacy of religion in their spirit and conduct
Yet, because of their professing godliness, they think themselves possessed of it
And buoy up themselves with expectations of happiness in the world to come
Alas! what disappointment will they one day experience!m What will it avail them to "have had a name to live while they were really dead?"
Or to have "cried, Lord, Lord, while they departed not' from iniquity?"
The pains they have taken to keep up a profession, will all be lost
Nothing will remain to them but shame and confusion of face-]
From the seed which they sow we may easily preceive II. What they may expect to reap
"A whirlwind" is a figure used to represent extraordinary calamities"
And such is the harvest which they will reap in due
Their calamities will be
[The corn ripens gradually for the sickle, and its fate is foreseen
But the destruction of the ungodly cometh suddenly and at an instant
They indeed have many warnings from all which they see around them
But they put the evil day far from them, and think it will
Thus it was with the whole world before the delugeThough Noah preached to them for many years, they would not regard him—
And were taken by surprise at last, as much as if no notice had been given them"
Thus also it will be with all who reject the gospel salvationSolomon has expressly declared it in reference to those who sow discord¶_
m Matt. xxv. 11, 12.
n Prov. i. 27.
• 2 Pet. iii. 4.