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to sweet, and sweet to bitter," before they can have the smallest ground of hope in such a state as theirs.
We might easily prosecute this subject in a great variety of views: but enough has been spoken to elucidate the words before us: and we trust that no doubt can remain upon your minds, but that all who consider religion as superficial, melancholy, or contemptible, together with all who magnify the pursuits of time, and extenuate sin as venial, and at the same time persuade themselves that their eternal state is safe, are indeed obnoxious to the censure in the text.
We shall pass on therefore to shew, II. The evil of this conduct
But where shall we find words sufficient to declare its great enormity ?
1. It is in the first place, a contemptuous rejection of God's truth
God has clearly marked the difference between good and evil in his word : and if the eyes of our understanding be not blinded by prejudice or passion, we may discern it as easily as we can discern by our bodily senses, light from darkness, or sweet from bitter. But when an appeal is made to the sacred records, their testimony is considered as of no account. Who has not seen the contempt with which God's word is treated, when it is brought forward to oppose some fashionable practice, some favourite lust ? One would suppose that its import should be candidly examined, and carefully ascertained. One might expect that they who heard it, should act like mariners sailing by the compass; that they would endeavour to proceed, as much as possible, in the right direction; that they would deliberate, if at any time they had reason to think that they were out of their proper course ; that they would be thankful for any information that might tend to rectify their mistakes : above all, they would not madly steer in direct opposition to the compass, and at the same time discard all doubts about their safe arrival at the place of their destination : that were a folly of which no man in his senses is capable. Yet this is the very manner in which men act with respect to the Scriptures. There is no other directory than that; and yet they will not only not follow it, but will go on in wilful opposition to it, and still affirm that they are in the way to heaven. Do we speak too harshly of this conduct if we call it a contempt of God's truth? It is the very expression used by our Lord himself; “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” Indeed, the inspired writers speak in yet severer terms: they do not hesitate to affirm, that whosoever acts thus, makes God a liar; “ he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar.” What horrible iniquity is this! If an avowed infidel disregard the admonitions of the Scriptures, he acts consistently, because he does not acknowledge them to be of divine authority. But if we despise them, we who profess to regard them as inspired of God, we who expect to be judged according to them in the last day, what can be said in extenuation of our guilt ? Even “ Sodom and Gomorrha
may well rise up in judgment against us.” 2. In the next place their conduct is a wilful deluding of those around them—
Every man, whether he design it or not, has a considerable influence on his friends and neighbours. The rich and learned in particular, and more especially they who minister in holy things, are looked up to as examples; and their conduct is pleaded both as a precedent, and as a justification of those who follow it.. •Can such learned men be deceived? Can they who have entered into the service of the sanctuary, and solemnly undertaken to guide us in the way of peace, can they be wrong? Can they be “ blind, who are leaders of the blind?" If then they, who from their education, their office and profession, ought to understand the Scriptures better than we, if they do not approve, either in theory or practice, the things which appear to be enjoined in the Bible, doubtless they have good reasons for their conduct: they would
not proceed in a way which they knew to be wrong; we therefore may safely follow them.
By this mode of arguing, all persons lull themselves asleep in their evil ways. Every one upholds his neighbour in the sentiments he has embraced, and in the path he has marked out for himself: and all, instead of condemning themselves for not obeying the divine commands, unite in condemning the obedient as needlessly singular and precise.'
Now we cannot but know that, though an individual has not this extensive influence, the collective body of individuals has; and that every member of society contributes his share according to the conspicuousness of his station, and the sanctity of his profession. Yet we persist in calling good evil, notwithstanding we know that, by so doing, we encourage others to do the
And is this no aggravation of our guilt ? Are we not responsible to God for stirring up, according to our ability, an universal rebellion against him; and for contributing thus to the eternal condemnation, not of those only with whom we associate, but of thousands also whom we have not known !
Doubtless Jeroboam contracted peculiar guilt in
establishing iniquity by a law :" but did not exceeding great guilt attach also to those, who “ willingly ran after his commandment ?" Did not every one of them countenance idolatry, and render an adherence to the true God more difficult? They however might plead obedience to an established law: but there is no law, except the imperious law of fashion, to mislead us; and that we establish, whilst we follow it: we bind others, while we ourselves yield obedience to it. Would to God that men could consider their conduct in this view, as discouraging, and perhaps turning aside, the weak; as rendering odious the godly; and as hardening the wicked! Surely they would not then say, What harm have I done ? but would be ready to confess themselves the very chief of sinners. III. Lastly, the confounding of good and evil is an
awful trifling with our eternal state
We profess to believe that there is “ a day appointed of God, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained :" and that “ every one of us shall stand at the judgmentseat of Christ to receive according to the things done in the body, whether they have been good or evil.” Now in that day we shall not be judged by the opinions of men, but by the word of God. It will be no excuse to any one that such or such maxims were generally received, or that such practices were sanctioned by custom: there will be one standard to which every principle and every action will be referred. The sacred volume will be open before the Judge: and every erroneous sentiment be confronted with the dictates of inspiration. The Judge himself will know no other rule of judgment: every thing that accorded with the Scriptures will be approved; and every thing that contradicted them will be condemned. To what end then is it to impose specious names on things, when they will so soon appear in their true light ? Will God call evil good, and good evil, because we have done so ? Can we convince him that light was darkness, and darkness light, because we persuaded ourselves and others that it was so? What infatuation is it so to trifle with our eternal state! If our error could 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 I conclude, suffer me 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 I 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 other's 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 I would 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 tenour 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