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God has said, that “ No weapon that is formed against you shall prosperu;" and again, “ The law of God is in his heart; his footsteps shall not slider.” Go on then: “watch ye; stand fast in the faith; quit you like men; be strong':” and know for your comfort what the all-gracious and unchanging God hath spoken; “ Be not weary in well-doing; for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint nota.”] u Isai. liv. 17. * Ps. xxxvii. 31. y 1 Cor. xvi. 13. z Gal. vi. 9.
SINNER'S RETROSPECT. Prov. v. 12, 13. How have I hated instruction, and my heart
despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!
A TIME of reflection must come to all: if men shake off all thought till the hour of death, they will not be able to do so when once the soul is separated from the body: their ways will then be brought to remembrance; and all the powers of their minds be fixed upon the contemplation of them. Happily, with many this season arrives before it is too late : and, not unfrequently, the very enormities which have been committed are the means of exciting in the soul a salutary remorse. Sometimes the present consequences of sin press heavily upon the mind, and awaken the energies of a sleepy conscience. Thus Solomon supposes many to be affected after they have brought trouble on themselves by their licentious courses : and he urges this very consideration as an argument for guarding against all temptations to sin, that, however pleasurable a life of sin may be, the retrospect will be painful in the extreme ; and the now thoughtless debauchee “ will mourn at the last,” in the review of the mercies he has abused, and will say, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!”
We shall not confine our attention to the particular subject treated of in the context, though in every congregation, it is to be feared, there are but too many to whom it would be applicable; but shall rather take occasion from our text to set before you in a more enlarged view, I. The sinner's retrospect
That we may bring home the subject to every man's bosom, we shall consider men under two distinct classes;
1. Those who already feel some painful consequences of their past conduct
[Amongst these we must first notice the persons more immediately referred to in our text, namely, those who have wasted their property, and injured their constitution, in habits of criminal indulgence. What reason for regret have they! How glad would they now be, if they had restrained their appetites, and not purchased a momentary gratification at so high a price! --- Next to these we may mention the spendthrift, and the gamester, who through covetousness or the love of pleasure have dissipated their fortune, and involved themselves in ruin. How common is it for persons so circumstanced to destroy their own lives, and to seek in suicide a remedy for the evils they have entailed upon themselves! ---To these we may add the persons who by any disgraceful act have blasted their reputation, and rendered themselves obnoxious to just reproach: to such the seasons of reflection are bitter. They attempt perhaps to divert their thoughts by business or pleasure; but they can never cease to rue the day in which they brought upon themselves so heavy a calamity. There are times when all who have entailed misery on themselves will bring to mind the instructions given them in early youth; and then they will, inwardly at least, complain, “ How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!”]
2. Those who, though they feel no present pain arising from their sins, are yet sensible that they have not answered the great ends of life
[The necessity of turning unto God, and the means of acceptance with God through the atonement of Christ, have been distinctly set forth from time to time; so that, supposing persons to have diligently attended to the word that has been preached to them, and to have “mixed faith with it," it would have been impossible for them to have continued in the ways of sin and death. But how many are at this moment as far from God as they were years ago! How many have reason to regret that they have ever heard the Gospel, which, instead of being a savour of life to them, has, through their neglect of it, been made a savour of death unto death! Our blessed Lord told his
a ver. 9-11.
hearers, that “ if he had never come to instruct them, they would not, comparatively, have had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin.” So must it be said to many amongst us; “ that having been exalted to heaven" in their privileges, they have reason to expect that they shall, with Capernaum, “ be cast the deeper into hell” for their abuse of them. It is a small matter that their sins have not been such as to expose them to shame and reproach among men: their neglect of Christ, their want of love to his name, and of zeal in his service, must be reckoned for at the last day, when he will say, “ Bring hither those that were mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me.” O painful retrospect! O afflictive prospect! Brethren, take a review of your past lives; and seek“ the things belonging to your peace, before they be for ever hid from your eyes."]
What then remains to be done by these distinct, but perishing, classes ? To both the one and the other we would say, Consider, II. The sinner's alternative
There is but one alternative for any child of man: we must either attend to the voice of instruction given us in the Gospel, or we must carry with us unchanging and unavailing remorse into the eternal world.
Are we willing to spend eternity in self-condemning reflections ?
[They must follow us, if we die in our sins. God himself will remind us of the benefits which here we neglected to improve: “Son, remember, that thou in thy life-time hadst such and such advantages." What anguish of mind will be occasioned by such thoughts as these: 'I once had the same offers of salvation, as they had who are now before the throne of God: I enjoyed the same heavenly instruction as they; but I despised it, and would not hear the voice of the charmer, how wisely soever he endeavoured to charm me!' This will be the ground of our heavier “ condemnation, that light came into the world, but that we loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil :" and our reflections upon this will be “ a never-dying worm,” gnawing our conscience to all eternity. Whether our sins were more or less flagrant, this will be the source of our greatest torment, that we despised the instructions given us in the Gospel, and trampled under foot that very Son of God who came into the world to seek and save us.]
If we would not spend an eternity in these bitter
reflections, we must now attend to the things which are revealed to us in the Gospel
[If our teachers speak out of their own minds, we may refuse to hearken to them: but, if they speak to us the very word of God, then it is at our peril to turn a deaf ear to their instructions. The word of God is sufficient to “ make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ.” It bids us flee to Christ, as to a strong hold, where we shall be safe from the assaults of sin and Satan. It assures us, that “ Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;" that “ his blood will cleanse us from all sin ;" that “ his grace is sufficient for us;" and that “ he will cast out none who come unto him." Follow these directions, and you are safe : give yourselves up to him; live altogether by faith upon him; improve for his glory the grace which you receive out of his fulness; and you have nothing to fear. Instead of remorse and sorrow, you shall be filled with peace and joy. In the midst of life it shall be a matter of “ rejoicing to you, that you have the testimony of a good conscience;" in a dying hour you shall look back with comfort in the thought of having " fought a good fight, and finished your course, and kept the faith ;" and to all eternity shall you glory in the mercies and privileges which you here enjoyed b.
Here then is your alternative: Despise this instruction, and you shall perish: Obey it, and you shall live for ever.] ADVICE
1. Endeavour to view every thing in the light of eternity
[If you think of time only, the value of present enjoyments will be unduly magnified: but think of eternity, and nothing will be deemed important but the salvation of the soul —--]
2. Endeavour so to spend each day, as you will wish you had spent it, when you shall be standing at the judgment-seat of Christ
[We know what the wishes are of men who are condemned to death for their violations of the law: and we may be sure that such will be our wishes when we are summoned to meet our Judge: that I had lived a very different life!
--- Now then cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart, and devote yourselves to him without reserve. So shall you behold his face in peace, and be partakers of his glory for evermore.]
THE CAPTIVATING POWER OF SIN. Prov. v. 22. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself,
and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. THE force of habit is well known: it operates as a second nature; so constant is it in its exercise, and so imperious in its demands. There is this difference however in habits of piety, and habits of sin; that the one are easily lost ; but the other are with great difficulty overcome. Nor is this difficult to be accounted for; seeing that the one is against the course of nature, and the other conformable to all its propensities: the motion of the one is a continual ascent; the other is downward on a declivity. But it is not merely as a natural consequence that sin, when indulged, has so great a power : there is an additional influence given to it by God himself, as a judicial act, and as a just punishment for indulging it: so that in a judicial, no less than in a natural sense, our text is true: “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself: and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.”
Let us consider,
In a two-fold view it may be noticed ;
[It is inflicted on the whole human race. There is not a sinner in the universe who cannot from his own experience attest the truth of it. Every sin has a power to enslave the mind, and to lead captive him who has indulged it. But we will instance this in some particulars.
The man addicted to drinking previous to the formation of his habit, had perhaps no particular love to strong drink, or desire after it: but he has been drawn into company, he has there acquired a taste for conviviality, and at last, by repeated excesses, he has contracted such a thirst for intoxicating liquors, that he cannot deny himself the use of them, or use them in moderation. He can see his character sinking in the estimation of all the sober part of the community, his health impaired, his fortune injured, his family suffering, and his eternal interests sacrificed; and yet he cannot cast off the habit which