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have been describing in this discourse? Were Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim destroyed by fire from heaven for sins unknown to us? And God knows, God only knows, what dreadful discoveries the formidable but pious vigilance of our magistrates may still make. O God, Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto thee, although I am but dust and ashes. Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked ? Peradventure there be fifty righteous among us? Peradventure forty? Peradventure thirty? Peradrenture trenty? Peradventure ten? Gen. xviii. 25, &c.
My brethren, God yet bears with you, but how long he will bear with you, who can tell? And do not deceive yourselves, his forbearance must produce, in the end, either your conversion or your destruction. . The Lord grant it may produce your conversion, and so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Ezek. xvii. 30. Amen.
The Long-suffering of God with Individuals.
Ecclesiastes viii. 11, 12.
Because sentence against an evil work is not erecuted speedily,
therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. For the sinner doth evil an hundred times, and God prolongeth his days. *
THE wise man points out, in the words of the
1 text, one general cause of the impenitence of mankind. The disposition, to which he attributes it, I own, seems shocking and almost incredible ; but if we examine our deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, Jer. xvi. 9. we shall find, that this disposition, which at first sight, seems so shocking, is one of those with which we are too well acquainted. The heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil. Why? Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily.
This shameful, but too common, inclination, we will endeavor to expose, and to shew you that the long-suffering, which the mercy of God grants to sinners, may be abused either in the disposition of a devil, or in that of a beast, or in that of a philosopher, or in that of a man.
He, who devotes his health, his prosperity, and bis youth, to offend God, and, while his punishment is deferred, to invent new ways of blaspheming bim; he, who followeth such a shameful course of life, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a devil. We bave followed the reading of the French Bible in this passage.
. He, who enervates and impairs bis reason, either by excessive debauchery, or by worldly dissipations, by an effeminate luxury, or by an inactive stupidity, and pays no regard to the great end for which God permits him to live in this world, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a beast.
He, who from the long-suffering of God infers consequences against his providence, and against his hatred of sin, is in the disposition, of which my text speaks, as a philosopher.
He, who concludes because the patience of God hath continued to this day, that it will always continue, and makes such a hope a motive to persist in sin without repentance or remorse, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a man. · As I shall point out these principles to you, I shall-shew you the injustice and extravagance of them.
I. To devote health, prosperity, and youth, to offend God, and to invent new ways of blaspheming him, while the punishment of him who leads such a shameful life is deferred, is to abuse the longsuffering of God like a devil. .
The majesty of this place, the holiness of my ministry, and the delicacy of my hearers, forbid precision on this article, for there would be a shocking impropriety in exhibiting a well-drawn portrait of such a man. But if it is criminal to relate such excesses, what must it be to commit them? It is but too certain, however, that nature sometimes produceth such infernal creatures, who, with the bodies of men, have the sentiments of devils. Thanks be to God, the characters which belong to this article, must be taken from other countries, though not from ancient history. .I speak of those abominable men, to whom living and moving would be intolerable, were they to
pass one day without insulting the author of their life and motion. The grand design of all their actions is to break down every boundary, that either modesty, probity, or even a corrupt and irregular conscience hath set to licentiousness. They bitterly lament the paucity of the ways of violating their Creator's laws, and they employ all the power of their wit, the play of their fancy, and the fire of their youth, to supply the want. Like that impious king, of whom the scripture speaks, Dan. v. 2. they carouse with the sacred vessels, and then they profanely abuse in their festivity: them, did I say? The most solemn truths, and the most venerable mysteries of religion, they take in their polluted mouths, and display their infidelity and impurity in ridiculing them. They hurry away a life which is become insipid to them, because they have exhausted all resources of blasphemy against God, and they hasten to hell to learn others of the infernal spirits, their patterns and their protectors. .
Let us throw a veil, my brethren, over these abominations, and let us turn away our eyes from objects so shameful to human nature. But how comes it to pass, that rational creatures, having ideas of right and wrong, arrive at such a subversion of reason, and such a degree of corruption, as to be pleased with a course of life, which carries its pains and punishments with it?
Sometimes this phenomenon must be attributed to a vicious education. We seldom pay a sufficient regard to the influence that education hath over the whole life. We often entertain false, and oftner still, inadequate notions of what is called a good education. We have given, it is generally thought, a good education to a youth, when we have taught him an art, or trained him up in a science; when we have instructed him how to arrange a few dry words
in his head, or a few crude notions in his memorý; and we are highly satisfied when we have intrusted the cultivation of his tender heart to a man of probity. We forget that the venom of sin impregnates the air he breathes, and communicates itself to him by all he sees, and by all he hears. If we would give young people a good education, we must forbid them all acquaintance with those who do not delight in decency and piety: we must never suffer them to hear debauchery and impiety spoken of without detestation : we must furnish them with precautions previous to their travels, in which, under pretence of acquainting themselves with the manners of foreigners, they too often adopt nothing but their vices: we must banish from our universities those shocking irregularities, and annihilate those dangerous privileges which make the means of education the very causes of corruption and ruin.'
Sometimes these excesses are owing to the conni· vance, or the countenance of princes. We have never more reason to predict the destruction of a state than when the reins of government are committed to men of a certain character. It will require ages to heal the wounds of one impious reign. An irreligious reign emboldens vice, and multiplies infamous places for the commission of it. In an irreligious reign scandalous books are published, and it becomes fashionable to question whether there be a God in heaven, or any real difference between virtue and vice on earth. In the space of an irreligious reign offices are held by unworthy persons, who either abolish, or suffer to languish, the laws that policy had provided against impiety. Histories, more recent than those of Tiberius and Nero, would too fully exemplify our observations, were not the majesty of princes, in some sort, respectable, even after they are no more.