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writings of Solomon a fool is the common appellation of a sinner; and it is as just, as it is common, for no man acts more inconsistently with reason. In relation to the affairs of this world he may act wisely. The children of this world, in their generation, are often wiser than the children of light. But in relation to the concerns of eternity no madman acts more wildly and unreasonably than he does.
1. The sinner is one who pays no just regard to his real interest, but is entirely occupied and pleased with trifles and vanities— things of little or no importance.
If you should see a man wholly inattentive to all the interests and concerns of life, negligent of his person, substance and friends; employing all his time, from day to day, in the little sports and amusements of children, gathering pebbles, chasing butterflies, and riding a hobby-horse, you certainly would think him unsound in his intellect. But what is the sinner better? Trifles alone please him important matters are disregarded. Honors, riches, pleasures are the highest objects of his pursuit; and disappointment in this pursuit is the evil which he principally dreads. Heaven and hell-the happiness and the misery of the eternal world, and the means of securing the former and avoiding the latter, scarcely come into consideration, and are never applied in earnest.
But are not the good things of this world worthy of our regard ? Doubtless they are. A sober, discreet attention to them, far from being a vice, is plainly a virtue. But in comparison with the vast objects which religion proposes to us, the other are but trifles. He who prefers the interests of the world to the riches of eternity, gives as evident proofs of a perverted judgment, and an unsound mind, as he who prefers pebbles to pearls; for the real disproportion is infinitely greater.
What is that which the sinner pursues? It is that which he is not sure of obtaining; which, if he obtains it, he cannot enjoy— surely not the whole, if any part of it; and which, if he enjoys it for the present, he cannot keep long; but may lose it at any time, and certainly must lose it, or leave it soon. And what is that which he foregoes? It is real happiness-the happiness of the rational mind—a happiness large as his capacity, and lasting as his
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 which 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 perhaps will 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 your 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 execute 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