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1. What is that repentance which such persons need
[It is by no means sufficient to confess that we are sinners: we should feel that we are indeed lothesome!; and should be filled with shame on account of the extreme vileness of our hearts m. Nothing less than this will constitute that "repentance which is not to be repented of."]
2. How their character and end may be completely changed
[Lothesome as we are we may be purified by the blood of Jesus, and be made without spot or blemish in the sight of Godo. Our natures also may be changed by his Spirit, so that we shall possess a beauty that God himself shall admire”. Yea, instead of having shame for our portion, we shall be made to inherit “ glory and honour and immortality." We shall be sons of the living God, and be seated with Christ on thrones of glory. Let us then seek this change, and rely on God's promises, that by means of them it may be accomplished in us]
1 Isai. lxiv. 6.
Eph. v. 25—27. P 1 Pet. iii. 4. q 2 Cor. vii. 1.
THE WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS HARD.
Prov. xiii. 15. The way of transgressors is hard. THE Scriptures abound with weighty aphorisms, which deserve the deepest consideration. For the most part, they will be found directly opposed to the general opinions of mankind. The maxims of men are too often founded on the appearance of things, and on the respect they bear to our temporal advantage; but the declarations of God exhibit things as they really are, and as they will approve themselves to be, if we take into consideration their aspect on eternity. The transgressors of God's law account themselves happy in having cast off his yoke, and freed themselves from the restraints which his law would impose upon them. But the truth is, that he is under a most desperate delusion, and grievously deceives his own soul. “A good understanding,” regulating the conduct agreeably to God's commands, “will ensure to a man favour” and comfort, both in this world and the next :” “but the way of transgressors is hard.” Their whole life is a state, I. Of bondage
[Whatever be the besetting sin of the ungodly, it has within them the force of a law, to which alas! they yield a willing obedience a.” As the ten tribes “ran willingly after the commandment” of Jeroboam to the commission of idolatry, to which they had an inward and almost invincible propensity”; so do the worldling, the sensualist, the drunkard, follow but too readily, the impulse of their own corrupt hearts. A spring will not more naturally rise, when the power which compressed it is removed, than their lusts will rise to demand their wonted gratification, when an opportunity for indulgence is afforded them. The poor infatuated agents will call this libertyo; but the whole Scriptures designate it bondage : “ Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey d?” Yes, in yielding to temptation we are “ the servants of sine;" and the servants of Satan also: for “ he it is who worketh in all the children of disobedience," and leads them captive at his will 8.” In fact, the whole Gospel takes this for granted : for Christ was sent on purpose to redeem us from this bondage, and to “ make us free indeedi.” But, whilst thus enslaved, are we not in a most pitiable condition? True, we may not be sensible of the bondage, because the service of sin and Satan is in accordance with our own corrupt inclinations: but we are, in fact, the more to be pitied, because of our insensibility: even as a maniac is, whose whole life is occupied in things which tend to the destruction of his own welfare. The transgressor's life is also a state,] II. Of disquietude
[The ungodly man, whatever be his pursuit, finds nothing in which his soul can rest. Possess what he may, "in the midst of his sufficiency he is in straits k." There is always a secret something unpossessed; some object which he thinks would make him happy, but which, even when in appearance almost attained, eludes his grasp: and after he has “ hewn out to himself a cistern with great labour, he finds it only a broken cistern, that can hold no water?.” His continual disappointments fill him with vexation; so that he finds even the objects of his fondest hope prove, in the issue, to be " vanity and vexation of spirit.
Not being devoted to his God, he wants a Rom. vii. 21. b Hos. v. 11. c 2 Pet. ii. 19. d Rom. vi. 16.
e Rom. vi. 17. Eph. ii. 2. & 2 Tim. ii. 26. h Luke iv. 18. i John vüïi36. k Job xx. 22.
i Jer. ii. 13.
those enjoyments and those prospects which alone can afford consolation to him under his trials -
-To his other pains are added those of a self-condemning conscience. He tries indeed to stifle the voice of conscience; and betakes himself to business, and pleasures, and company, in order to get rid of its remonstrances: but there are times when it will speak, especially a time of sickness and approaching dissolution; and at those seasons he feels regret that he has so long and so entirely disregarded his eternal interests. Gladly at such a season would he consent to have his miserable life protracted to an indefinite period, yea, or to suffer annihilation; not because he could contemplate either the one or the other with pleasure, but because he dreads the judgment for which he has neglected to prepare.
Say, Brethren, whether such a way be not hard and painful? Yet I appeal to the conscience of every man, whether that declaration be not verified in his own experience; “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith
my God, to the wicked m.” Yes, verily, this testimony is incontrovertible; and it proves beyond all doubt the truth in my text, that "the way of transgressors is hard.”
But all this is heightened by the consideration of the transgressors' way as a state,] III. Of danger
[In some respect it may be said of every man, that he is exposed to danger, and that “we know not what a day or an hour may bring forth.” But, if we be servants of Christ, we have nothing to fear; since He is pledged to preserve us from every thing that shall be really evil
, and to make “all things work together for our good n.” Even death itself is a blessing to the pious man, who is privileged to count it amongst his richest treasures o Far different from this, however, is the state of the ungodly man: he knows not but that the next moment may precipitate him into the bottomless abyss of hell. Death waits but for its commission from on high, and it will in an instant transmit his soul to the bar of judgment, and to the presence of his offended God. What a fearful thought ! With what terror would it inspire the unconverted man, if it were contemplated aright! Could we but conceive a transgressor hurried to the tribunal of his Judge, to give up his great account, and to receive his final doom, what a view should we have of the folly of his ways! Oh! the anguish to which he is now subjected under the wrath of an 'avenging God?
m Isai. lvii. 20, 21.
n Rom. viii. 28.
0 1 Cor. iii. 22.
what "weeping" under the load of his misery! what "wailing” on account of his folly, in having so wasted his day of grace! and what " gnashing of teeth,” with unprofitable execrations against his avenging God ! Such is the danger to which the unconverted man is every moment exposed. At his most joyous feasts, this sword is suspended over him by a single hair; which cut or rent asunder, he is instantly consigned to endless woe. Whether the transgressor think of it or not, this is his state; and a miserable state it is: and if he awake not out of it before death shall seize him, it were better for him that he had never been born.] IMPROVEMENT
1. How desirable is the conversion of the soul to God!
[Compare the state of a converted soul with that which has been before described. The saint, doubtless, has his trials, as well as the ungodly man: but in him, so far as it prevails, religion makes a most essential difference : "it frees him from the law of sin and death P;” and he finds all its ways to be the ways of pleasantness and peace" If men consulted only their happiness in this life, they would devote themselves to God, whose service is perfect freedom: but if they take eternity into the account, they will confess him to be the only happy man, who enjoys the Divine favour and looks forward with confidence to a participation of the Divine glory.] 2. How infatuated are they who delay to seek it !
[Truly, if men were conscious of their danger in an unconverted state, they could no more sleep than they could in a ship that was on fire, or on a rafter on which they were making their escape to land. I pray you, beloved, consider the shortness and uncertainty of time! Consider how every day's continuance in sin operates to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, to harden your own hearts, to confirm your evil habits, to accumulate your load of guilt, and to augment the misery that awaits you.
O! will you delay to turn unto your God? Will you delay one single hour? What if your soul be required of you this very night, and your doom be fixed without a hope or possibility of change for ever? I beseech you, to-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts; but "repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions ; so iniquity shall not be your ruin."]
p Rom. viii. 2.
9 Prov, ii. 17.
THE FOLLY OF MAKING A MOCK AT SIN.
Prov. xiv. 9. Fools make a mock at sin. MAN in his first creation was formed after the Divine image ; and there was not in his soul the least inclination to evil of any kind. But since his fall, he is become in love with sin: sin is the very element in which he lives : and so unconscious is he of its malignity, that he makes a mock at it. Doubtless all do not carry their impiety to the same extent. Some are openly profane, and given up to all manner of wickedness; not only not being ashamed of their ways, but actually “glorying in their shame.”
We must not however restrict to persons of this description the declaration in our text. The evil that is there complained of is of far wider extent, it more or less attaches to every unconverted man. This will appear, whilst we open to you, I. The conduct here reprobated
Let us remember what sin is: “it is the transgression of the law.” Whichever table of the law be broken, or whatever command be violated, the violation of it is sin: and to make light of that transgression, whether it be more or less heinous in itself, is to make a mock at sin. Bearing this in mind, we say, that this evil is committed, 1. By those who live in sin themselves,
[Passing over the drunkard, who says to his companions, “We will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundantb;" and the robber, who invites his fellows, “ Come, let us lay wait for blood, that we may fill our houses with spoil“;" and the unhappy prostitute, who "impudently" assaults with importunity the unwary youth"; or a variety of other characters alike notorious and abandoned ;—passing by these, I say, (whom to have named is quite sufficient,) let us look to the worldling, who, though walking in a more sober way, lives altogether for himself; or look to the self-righteous, who though admired and a 1 John iii. 4.
b Isai. lvi. 12. c Prov. i. 11, 13.
d Prov. vii. 6-18.