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ings? By such sad and frequent soliloquies, the vicious sensual affections are eradicated, and the heart is transplanted from earth to heaven. If men would wisely ponder things, if conscience, the sincere and unsuspected judge did hold the balance, and put into one scale the glory, the riches, and pleasures of this world; and into the other, the promises that belong to godliness here, and hereafter, how despicably light will they be found ?
It was truly said, that false scarlet appears with lustre, till compared with the rich and true; so the fictitious felicity of this world is very specious, and ravishes the mind of men, till compared with celestial felicity. Worldly honour is counterfeit, because it is no certain argument of inherent worth : vain-glory and real infamy, often meet in the same person : yet it is admired, and ambitiously sought, till compared with the “Honour of the saints.” What is a reputation and honour with the worms and moles of the earth, compared with the honour that comes from the esteem of God, and angels, and other blessed spirits above, who incomparably exceed all mortals in number, and infinitely in understand
What is a vanishing shadow of reputation, against an eternal inestimable weight of glory? What are the riches of this world, gold, and silver, and jewels, for gaining of which so many lose their souls, but vile trash coinpared with the sacred treasures of heaven, the graces of the saints ? What are the empty delights of the senses, compared with the “Peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost," that can sweeten all our sorrows here, and the fulness of joy that springs from God's presence in heaven? If men would make judicious comparisons, their affections would cool towards perishing vanities. But they will only look upon what is pleasant and attractive in the world, without regarding its miserable defects, without considering what is infinitely better and most worthy of their ardent desires and vigorous endeavours. They are so pleased with their error, so engaged in the sweet captivity of the world, that they cannot extricate themselves if they would, because they will not if they could.
(2.) It is a culpable and guilty folly. When children prefer things of lustre before things of value, their childish toys, before real treasures; when they choose a little present enjoyment, before a future good that is incomparably better, their folly is innocent, because reason cannot display its operations in them: but when men, who are capable to distinguish between the thinge that are seen and temporal, and the things that are not seen and eternal ;" when they sottishly prefer sensible things before spiritual, notwithstanding the vast difference between them, both in the quality and duration, their choice is so criminal, as deserves an everlasting hell. If Esau had been a child when he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, his folly had been excused; for he was compelled by hunger; and the glorious dignity of the birthright was disproportionate to his appetite and understanding : but in his mature age, when capable to understand his interest, to part with so sacred and precious an advantage, for & little sensual satisfaction, was so “profane an act," that he was justly deprived of the divine blessing that was annexed to the birthright. That beasts are wholly led by their sensual appetites, is natural and regular, their voracity and cruelty, folly and filthiness, envy and fury, are not vicious passions, because sense is the superior faculty in them. But when men are so brutish, that the objects that please their eyes, and carnal senses, are the only attractives of their affections, it is unnatural and monstrous ; because reason should have the supremacy in them. If a woman remain in a single state, she has power over her actions, and may freely govern herself; but if married, is subordinate to her husband : and disobedience to his authority and prudent counsels, is culpable. The body considered as the seat of the senses, has natural appetites, and might enjoy what is suitable to them according to their capacity; but united with an immortal spirit, that is stamped with the living image of God, its desires must be limited and directed by the mind, and the pleasing of sense in actions forbidden by the mind, is rebellion against the ruling faculty. If one be under a disease that wine inflames and increases, and the physician forbids it as deadly, yet the patient will judge only by his palate whether wine be good for him ; were it not & kind of brutishness worthy of the evil that attends it? Such perverse folly are men guilty of in their sensual satisfactions, whereby the soul is unspeakably wronged, and God highly dishonoured, who has given to man a more excellent spirit, than to the fowls of the air, that he may judge of things, not as they appear, but as they are.
(3.) It is the most ignominious folly. Shame arises from the sense of a debased excellence: the understanding is the most ex
cellent faculty in man; and nothing brings a greater disreputa. tion to him, than when he is deceived by the ignorance or inconsiderateụess of his mind. And the delusion is most shameful in matters of great moment. Now for a man to exchange his soul, that is of angelical eminence, for transitory vanities; O folly! how enormous, how astonishing! The Lord Jesus, who as the Creator and Redeemer of souls, perfectly knew their worth, puts the question, so as to imply the strongest denial, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” The vanity of the purchase, and the value of the loss, is such, that no man, conscious of his immortality in the next state, but must acknowledge that he is an infinite loser, and prodigious fool, that gains the world by the loss of his soul. It is said of the ancient * Germans, that in their commerce with the Romans, receiving silver for their amber, that has no virtue but to draw straws to it, they were amazed at the price. And certainly the great tempter cannot but wonder at the foolish exchange that men make, in giving their immortal souls to him for perishing vanities; and having this scornful advantage, will much more upbraid them hereafter, than ever he allured them here.
The shame that attends this folly, is sometimes felt by sinners in this world; when they are shaken out of their stupifying slumber, and fully awaked to discover their evil choice. Thus the apostle speaks, “What fruit had you of those things whereof you are now ashamed, for the end of those things is death ?” When the memory of sin is revived, with a true judgment of it, that which “has emptiness in the beginning, and death in the issue, must have shame in the middle.” Jer. 17. 11. The prophet tells us, “ He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be : fool.” He was a fool all along in his deceiving of others, though reputed worldly wise; but in the issue, when that which he gained cannot be kept; and the soul being lost, can never be recovered; by the conviction of his conscience, he is a fool, and reflects upon his past folly with confusion. But at the last day, the shame of foolish sinners shall be displayed before the eyes of the whole world. It is foretold, that "some shall rise to
• Pretium mirantes accipiunt. Tacit,
shame and everlasting contempt.” Dan. 12. 2. Obscurity is the mask of shame, but to be exposed a spectacle of scorn before a thronged theatre, is the aggravation and eminence of the shame. How confounding will the shame of sinners be in the universal confluence of angels and saints, and the presence of the glorious God, the judge of all ? The sense of their guilt and folly will sting them for ever.
(4.) It is the most woful folly. Here such mischievous effects proceed from it as deserve the saddest lamentations. The understanding, the highest faculty, the beauty and excellency of man is blinded, the will is fettered by corrupt passions, and the whole man miserably enslaved to satan. What a spectacle of compassion was Samson in the slavery of the Philistines? He that had been general and judge of Israel, was deprived of his sight, and divine strength : his warlike hands, that had been of equal power with an army, and performed such glorious achievements, were employed in turning a mill, the work of a beast : and his misery was pointed and made sharper by the insultation of his enemies. The true emblem of the degenerate state of men; the soul that was created in the image of God, and had a peaceful sovereignty over the sensual appetites, a superiority over sensible things, is now enslaved and employed in the vile drudgery of sin, and become the derision of the devils. This is liitle thought of, or lamented, but therefore the more woful. The loss of the kingdom was not so dismal a judgment to Nebuchadnezzar, as the loss of his understanding. When his reason was taken away, and the heart of a beast was given him; it was the lowest and saddest degradation.
But hereafter the misery of foolish sinners will be extreme. The apostle tells us, that the love of the world causeth “ Men to fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.' I Tim. 6. 9. The expressions are full to exaggerate the horror of their ruins, and to signify that it is absolute and irrecoverable. The lusts of men are equally foolish and pernicious ; they please themselves in the enjoyments of the world, and are secure, as if bathing in the fountains of felicity, when ready to be swallowed up in the whirlpool of death. By sensual vanities they are estranged from God, careless of their duty, and are finally separated from his blessed presence. And as the enjoying of God,
without a possibility of losing him, is our consummate happiness ; so to lose him, without hopes of ever enjoying him, is extreme misery. The foolish sinner is not affected with this now; whilst he lives in pleasure, he is content to be without God in the world; but hereafter, when he shall be deprived of these slight short-lived pleasures, and shall know the invaluable loss of his happiness, sorrows will overwhelm him for ever. As it befel that infidel in 2 Kings 8. he saw the plenty, but was not suffered to taste of it; so the damned shall see the glory of heaven shining in the saints, but shall not partake of it.
This misery will be amplified under the following heads.
III. We are to consider the justice, the certainty and the heaviuess of the destruction, that shall seize on foolish sinners that abuse prosperity.
1. To illustrate the justice of God in their destruction, I shall only insist on that reason that is so admirably amplified in this chapter for their conviction, that is, their destruction is the fruit of their own choice. Prov. 1. The divine wisdom allures and invites them, by all the most tender and powerful persuasives, to forsake their ruinous course, and “the spirit of graee should be poured upon them,” which is the earnest of glory; but they would not be convinced and reformed; they “ loved simplicity,' the vain volatile pleasures of sin, though attended with perdition: “ They hated knowledge,” godliness, though recommended by the assurance of a blessed eternal reward : therefore their destruction is resolved into their own choice. Indeed no man can directly and absolutely choose misery, or reject happiness, but virtually and by real consequence the most do. A prodigal that wastes his estate, does not intentionally and deliberately choose poverty, but thus he thinks, this expence is for my honour, this for my pleasure, and proceeding to innumerable expences, he at last becomes poor, and his poverty is voluntary, because it is the issue of his voluntary exorbitant profuseness. The evil of sin, though it be destructive, and in that respect not eligible by man, yet it is pleasing to his corrupt nature : and the depraved will is so allured by the present pleasure, that it anticipates the reflections of the mind, and chooses to gratify the propensions of nature, with a brutish disregard of the terrible consequences of sin. And the present disconvenience of serious piety to the carnal heart, causes an averseness from it, notwithstanding the heavenly