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III. In his habits-
[See him from day to day: his whole soul is humbled before God, under a sense of his own extreme unworthiness. Were you to behold him in his secret chamber, you would behold him more abased before his God for an evil thought or desire, than an ungodly man would be for the actual commission of the grossest sin. Oh! the sighs and groans which he involuntarily utters, under the load of that burthen, that body of sin and death, from which he cannot get free! and many are the tears which he sheds in secret, because he cannot attain that perfect holiness which his soul panteth after.
With his humiliation he breathes forth in devoutest accents his prayers and praise. His prayers are no formal service, but a holy wrestling with God; and his praises resemble those of heaven, that are accompanied with the devoutest prostration of soul.
A life of self-denial, too, characterizes his daily walk. He desires to "crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts;" and it is his incessant labour to “ mortify the whole body of sin." “Not a right hand, or right eye,” would he willingly retain : he would gladly part with every thing, however dear to him, if only he may but enjoy the testimony of a good conscience, and approve himself faithful to the heart-searching God.
Το prepare for death and judgment is his one concern. He lives as on the borders of eternity. He knows not at what hour the bridegroom may arrive; and therefore he “ keeps his loins girt, and his lamp trimmed, that he may be ready to enter into the bride-chamber” with his beloved Lord.] But how is it with the wicked in these respects ?
[Are they from day to day humbling themselves in the Divine presence? What cares and sorrows they have are altogether of a worldly nature. To " abhor themselves,” like Job, and “ to repent in dust and ashes," unless for some wickedness that has exposed them to public hatred and contempt, is no part of their experience before God.
And what are their prayers and thanksgivings? Nothing but a mere lip-service, in which their hearts are not at all engaged.
As for self-denial, they know little about it. Their whole life is a system of self-indulgence. They may not run into gross sins on account of their regard for their character amongst men; but they pursue with unabated ardour those earthly vanities on which their hearts are set. Pleasure, or riches, or honour, occupy all their thoughts, and stimulate all their exertions. They live altogether for themselves, and not for God; for the body, and not for the soul; for time, and not for eternity.
Surely the further we compare the characters, the more will the superiority of the righteous appear.]
It remains that we yet further contemplate the righteous, IV. In his end
How blessed this will be, no words can adequately describe!
[Were you present with him in his dying hour, and God were to open your eyes, you would see angels attendant on him, to bear upon their wings his departing spirit into Abraham's bosom. Could you follow him, and witness his reception by the Most High God, what plaudits would you hear! "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord !” How would you, then, behold him graced with a crown of gold, seated upon a throne, invested with a kingdom, and shining forth with a glory that would eclipse the noon-day sun! To all eternity will he then live, in the immediate fruition of his God, holy as God himself is holy; and happy, according to his capacity, as God himself is happy.]
Alas! alas ! here all comparison must for ever cease
[The wicked, unhappy creatures! are dragged into the presence of an angry God, in vain “calling upon rocks and mountains to cover them from his wrath." From him they hear that terrific sentence, “ Depart accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” and into that fire are they cast, even “ that lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,” from whence “the smoke of their torment will ascend for ever and ever.” But this is too painful to reflect upon. O that the very mention of it may suffice to confirm the assertion in my text, and to convince you all wherein alone true excellency can be found !] ADDRESS1. Those whom God has classed with the wicked”
[You will find, in the words following my text, that the persons contrasted with the righteous are so designated : and of them it is said, “The way of the wicked seduceth them." Now, it must be granted, that “their way"is more easy, and to flesh and blood more pleasant, and more approved by an ungodly world; and, therefore they imagine it to be, on the whole, preferable to the difficult and self-denying and despised path of the righteous. But they are "seduced” by these specious appearances; and “s a deceived heart has turned them aside; so that they cannot deliver their soul, or say, Is there not a lie in my right handz?” But be dispassionate, and judge as before the Lord. If you deceive yourselves, you cannot deceive him : he will judge, not according to your own erroneous estimate of yourselves, but according to truth, and to the real state of your souls. Yet methinks you cannot deceive even yourselves, if you will but reflect with any degree of candour upon the comparison that has been set before you. In truth, you have in your own bosoms a witness for God : for, whether your conduct be more or less moral, there is not one of you that does not say in his heart, especially in his more thoughtful moments, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."]
2. Those who are disposed to number themselves amongst “the righteous"
[Many who claim this distinction prove themselves, by their habits, most unworthy of it. It is a melancholy truth, that many professors of religion, instead of being more excellent than their neighbour, are inferior to him in almost every thing that is amiable and praiseworthy. Such self-deceivers will have a fearful account to give at the last day. To every one, then, amongst you I would say, If you profess yourselves to be righteous, let it appear to all around that you are so by the superior excellence of your lives. Our Lord says to his disciples, “What do ye more than others ?” More than others ye ought to do; inasmuch as your obligations and assistances are more than others are acquainted with. You are to "shine as lights in a dark world;" and in every relation of life to approve yourselves more excellent than your neighbour. Are you husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants, you should fill up your station in life more to the honour of God and the good of the community than any others around you. I conclude, then, with that direction which our blessed Lord has given you: “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."]
2 Isai. xliv. 20.
DCCLXXX. THE CHARACTER AND END OF THE WICKED. Prov. xiii. 5. A wicked man is lothesome, and cometh to
shame. THE world in general uphold and countenance one another in their evil ways; some will even “ make a mock at sin,” and glory in it. But God's testimony respecting the wicked man is, that, whatever be his rank, or talents, or estimation among men, he is indeed “lothesome, and cometh to shame.”
In these words we behold, I. The character of the wicked The wicked comprehend all who are not righteous
[There are but two classes of persons mentioned in the Scriptures; and to one or other of them we all belong. There is no intermediate character. We indeed cannot always determine to which of these classes men belong, because we cannot discern the heart; but God, to whom all things are naked and open, will distinguish them from each other as easily as we do sheep from the goats.
It is of infinite importance that we should have this truth impressed on our minds: for we are ready to rank among the wicked those only who are guilty of great enormities: whereas all are wicked who are not truly righteous; all, who are not converted to God, and renewed in the spirit of their minds.]
God's testimony respecting them is applicable to them all, whether they be more or less wicked in respect of gross sins
[The openly profane are doubtless exceeding lothesome in the sight of God. Let any one but notice their conversation ; how replete is it with lewdness and blasphemy! Let their tempers be marked; what evil dispositions do they manifest on all occasions ! Let their conduct be scrutinized, their drunkenness, their whoredoms, and all their other abominations; and who must not confess the justice of that representation, which compares them to swine wallowing in the mire, and dogs devouring their own vomit a ?
The more decent, it is true, are not so vile in the eyes of men, (yea, perhaps they are honoured and esteemed) but they also are lothesome in the sight of God. What monsters of ingratitude are the very best of unregenerate men! What mercies have they received from God; what inconceivable love has been shewn them by the Lord Jesus Christ; and yet they have never spent one hour in humble and grateful adorations. If they had laboured thus to win the affections of some worthless wretch, and after many years of unintermitted kindness were requited by him as they requite their God, would they not consider him as deserving of utter execration? How lothesome then must they be, whose obligations are infinitely greater, and whose conduct is inexpressibly more vile! Their actions, it is confessed, may have been fair and specious: but what have their hearts been? have they not been a very sink of iniquityb? Yes; so depraved are the very best of men, that there are few, if any, who would not rather die, than have all the secrets of their hearts known to men as they are known to God. What then are such persons, but whited sepulchresc? No wonder that, however they be esteemed among men, both their persons and services are an abomination to the Lord 4.]
a 2 Pet. ii. 22. See also Job xv. 16. Ps. liii. 1-3. b Jer. xvii. 9. Gen. vi. 5.
Conformable to their character must surely be, 11. Their end
Sin is in itself inconceivably vile, and will bring its votaries to shame, 1. In this world
[How often are the fairest characters blasted by detection, and exposed to infamy! The deeds of darkness, when brought to light, often reflect such dishonour upon men, as to make them shun society, and put a period to their own existence. And how many are brought to die by the hands of a public executioner, and to entail disgrace on their latest posterity! Little do men think, when first they yield to temptation, whither sin will lead them. It is a principal device of Satan to conceal the consequences of sin, and to make men believe that they can recede from it whenever they please: but when he has once entangled their feet, they find to their cost, that they cannot escape from his net.] 2. In the world to come
[There are many who pass honourably through life, and, for their conduct in society, deserve every token of our respect. But God will try the hearts of men in the last day; and "will bring to light every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.” Then what shame will overwhelm the most specious moralist, whose heart was unrenewed by grace! A want of love to Christ now is thought but a light matter : but then it will appear in its true colours, as deserving of God's heaviest indignation. Secret lusts too are overlooked, as though they did not at all defile the soul: but they will then be found to have made us altogether lothesome and odious to God'. Then will Christ 6 with all his saints and angels: unite in expressing their abhorrence of these whited sepulchres; so fully shall that declaration be verified, They shall awake to shame and everlasting contemptk.) ] We cannot improve this subject better than by point
c Matt. xxiii. 27.
d Lukexv. 16. Prov.xv.8, 26. and xxviii. 9.