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are not conscious of it. Satan so blinds their eyes, that they cannot distinguish between the unallowed infirmities of their nature, and the indulged corruptions of their hearts. Their evil tempers which are unsubdued, are regarded as light and venial frailties: their carefulness about the things of this world is softened down to necessary prudence: and the reigning impurity of their hearts is cloked under the veil of temptation. Whatever be their besetting sins, they find some excuse for them; and, because they have a zeal for the Gospel and make some sacrifices for it, they conclude that all is well with them. Having “a name to live," they have no conception that they can be really “ dead.” But such persons need to be reminded of what our blessed Lord has so plainly and forcibly declared, namely, that one single lust retained in the soul, though dear as a right eye or necessary as a right hand, will infallibly plunge the soul into that lake of fire that never shall be quenched m. Our blessed Lord has warned us, that the “saying, Lord! Lord!” however confidently we may repeat it, will never avail us, whilst we do not the things which he says: and, that though we may have “cast out devils in his name,” we shall find no acceptance with him in the day of judgment, if we have not really, and unreservedly, mortified the whole body of sin". Let all professors of religion know assuredly, that “ without holiness, real and universal holiness, no man shall see the Lordo;" and that, whatever estimate they may form of their own state,“ not he who commendeth himself shall be approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth P."]
Seeing then that so many mistake the way to heaven, I will add a few words, 1. To guard you against all erroneous ways
[There is one great evil which more or less pervades all descriptions of men, and that is, an undue confidence in their own opinions. If they “think a thing to be right,” they conclude that it is right, and will take no pains to ascertain the truth or falsehood of their judgment. They think not of the deceitfulness of sin, or of the blindness of their own hearts, or of the subtlety of Satan; but go on confidently, as if they were in no danger of self-deceit. But why has God so often repeated that admonition,“ Be not deceived,” if we are not in danger of being carried away by our own delusions? We are told of many whom a deceived heart hath turned aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" And why should not this be our state, as well as the state of others? We actually see it in others: why then should we not
m Mark xi. 43–48. n Matt. vii. 21–23. Luke xiii. 26, 27. o Heb. xii, 14.
P 2 Cor. x. 18.
suspect it in ourselves? It is certain that a man may “seem to be religious, and yet deceive his own soul, and have all his religion vain," because of some one sin that is unsubdued, and unperceived within him ?? I can never therefore too earnestly impress upon your minds the necessity of diffidence in all that relates to your souls. There is but one standard of truth: and by that must every opinion be tried. If the way which you think right will stand the trial of God's word, it is well: but, if it accord not with that, it will prove delusive in the end, and issue in the everlasting destruction of your souls. Be it ever so specious, it cannot deceive God. To all then I would say, Act in reference to your souls as the mariner does in navigating a dangerous sea: he consults his chart and his compass continually; and, not contented with thinking himself right, he puts his thoughts to the test, and seeks for evidence that he is right. Then may you hope to avoid the rocks and quicksands on which so many thousands perish; and to reach in safety the haven you desire.] 2. To point out the only true way
[There is a way, which seemeth indeed wrong to the greater part of mankind, which, however, is surely right, and the end thereof are the ways of life. This is the way of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; as Christ himself has told us; “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me"." This indeed is not approved by the world at large : “ to the Jews it is a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness 6 :" but it is “ the good old way, wherein whosoever walks shall find rest unto his soult." Let it not be any matter of astonishment that this way is not generally approved: for it is too humiliating for our proud hearts, and too self-denying for our low and grovelling spirits. Men do not love to renounce all self-dependence, and to have all their wisdom, all their righteousness, and all their strength treasured up in another for their use, to be received daily out of his fulness in answer to urgent and believing prayer. Nor do they like to have that high standard of holiness, which he gives to his disciples as the rule of their life, and the test of their attainments. But, beloved, this is the only true way to heaven: we must believe in Christ, and live altogether by faith in him, going forward in his strength, and “ growing up into him in all things as our living head." Then, though regarded by men as self-deluding enthusiasts, we shall be approved of our God, and receive at last “ the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls."]
9 Jam. i. 26.
John xiv. 6.
THE VANITY OF CARNAL MIRTH. Prov. xiv. 13. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful ; and the
end of that mirth is heaviness. WE are apt to imagine, that whatever is sanctioned by the approbation and practice of the world at large, must be right : but we cannot have a more erroneous standard than popular opinion. This is sufficiently evident from the estimation in which mirth and laughter are generally held: they are supposed to constitute the chief happiness of man; whereas they are far from producing any solid happiness at all. To this mistake Solomon refers, in the words preceding the text; and in the text itself he confirms the truth of his own position.
We mean not to condemn all kinds and degrees of mirth : there certainly is a measure of it that is conducive to good, rather than to evil; “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance,” and “ doeth good like a medicine.” But carnal mirth is distinct from cheerfulness of disposition; inasmuch as it argues a light frivolous state of mind, and indisposes us for serious and heavenly contemplations. Of this mirth we affirm, that it is, 1. Empty
[Let us examine the mirth which we have at any time experienced; let us weigh it in a balance ; let us compare it with that sobriety of mind which results from scenes of woe, and with that tenderness of spirit which is the offspring of sympathy and compassion; and we shall confess, with Solomon, that “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting a :" yea, the more we examine it, the more shall we be constrained, like him, to “ say of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth itb?” It may be justly called, “a filling of our belly with the east wind."] 2. Fictitious
[The gaiety which is exhibited in worldly company is often assumed, for the purpose of concealing the real feelings
a Eccl. vii. 1—3. b Eccl. ii. 1, 2. c Job xv, 2.
of the heart. They who appear so delighted to see each other, have frequently no mutual affection: even the nearest relatives, who seem to participate each other's joys, have so little real cordiality at home, that they can scarcely endure each other's conversation; and would be heartily glad, if the knot which binds them together could be dissolved. Truly “ in their laughter their heart is sorrowful;" their pride, their envy, their jealousy, their private piques, their domestic troubles, or their worldly cares, make them inwardly sigh, so that they can with difficulty prevent the discovery of the imposture which they are practising. The very emptiness of their pleasure fills them often with disgust; and they are constrained to acknowledge, that “ they are feeding on ashes, and that they have a lie in their right handd."] 3. Transient
[Suppose it to have been far more substantial than it has, yet how speedily has it vanished away! What trace of it remains ? It is like a dream when one awaketh: in our dream we thought of satisfaction; but when we awoke, we found ourselves as unsatisfied as ever. If we thought by repeated participation to protract the pleasure, we weakened the zest with which we had partaken of it; and thus diminished, rather than increased, the sum of our enjoyment.] 4. Delusive
[We hoped that the ultimate effect of all our mirth would be an easy comfortable frame : but has it always been so ? Has not the very reverse been often experienced by us? Has not “ the end of our mirth been heaviness?" An excessive elevation of spirit is naturally calculated to produce depression. Besides, we cannot always shake off reflection: and the thought of having so foolishly wasted our time, instead of improving it in preparation for eternity, will sometimes produce very uneasy sensations. Such warnings as Solomon', and our Lord, have given us, will frequently obtrude themselves upon us, and make us almost weary of life, while at the same time we are afraid of death: so justly is this mirth compared to "the crackling of thorns under a poth;" the one, after an unprofitable blaze, terminating in smoke and darkness, the other, after a senseless noise, expiring in spleen and melancholy. In fact, there are no people more subject to lowness of spirits, than they who spend their time in vanity and dissipation.
What will be “the end of their mirth" when they come into the eternal world, is inexpressibly awful to consider. Fearful indeed will be the contrast between the festivities of their
d Isai. xliv. 20. e Isai. xxix. 8. Eccl. xi. 9. 8 Luke vi. 25. h Eccl. vii. 6.
present, and the wailings of their eternal state'! Would to God that man would learn this from a parablek! but, if they will not, they must realize it in their own experience.]
That we may not appear as if we would deprive you of all happiness, we shallII. Shew how we may attain more solid mirth
There is evidently a contrast intended in the text: for when it is said that “ the end of that mirth is heaviness,” it is implied, that there is another species of mirth that shall end in a very different manner.
The Gospel is a source of mirth to all who embrace it,
[The Gospel is called “glad tidings of great joy to all people.” It proclaims salvation to a ruined world; nor can it fail of creating the liveliest emotions of joy wherever it is received---]
And the mirth resulting from it, is the very reverse of carnal mirth
[It is solid.—Behold the change wrought in the first converts! see them turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God! see them enjoying peace with God and in their own consciences ! see them filled with love to each other, and with admiring and adoring thoughts of their beloved Saviour! Can we wonder that they ate their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, blessing and praising God? Yet precisely the same grounds of joy has every one that truly believes in Christm. The Prodigal fancied that he was in the road to joy, when he was wasting his substance in riotous living: but he never tasted real happiness till he returned to his father's house: then “ he began to eat, and drink, and be merry."
It is permanent. It will consist with trials and tribulations; yea, it will even arise out of them"; we may be “sorrowful, yet alway rejoicingo." And, as it is not interrupted by the occurrences of life, so neither will it be terminated by death: it will then be augmented a thousand-fold: and continue without interruption to all eternity - - ADDRESS
1. The young and gay
[Follow your career of pleasure as long as you will, you will be constrained to say at last, with Solomon, not only that
1 Amos vi. 1-6. k Luke xvi. 19, 24, 25. 1 Isai. li. 3, 11. and lxv. 18. and Jer. xxxi. 4. with Acts viii. 8,39. m Jer. xxxi. 11–14. n Rom. v. 3. Jam. i. 2. • 2 Cor. vi. 10.