Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

unreasonable, sin is an evil which we wilfully bring upon ourselves.

Other evils may be forced upon us, but no man is wicked but by his own choice. How do we betray our folly and weakness, by suffering every foolish Just and passion to hurry us into actions which we know to be hurtful to us, and so base and unworthy in themselves that we are ashamed to do them, not only in the presence of a wise man, but even of a child or a fool! So that if sin was followed, with no other punishment but the guilt of having done a shameful thing, one would not by intemperance make himself a beast ; one would not be false, unjust, treacherous, or ungrateful, if for no other reason, yet out of mere greatness and generosity of mind, out of respect to the dignity of his nature, and out of reverence to his own understanding. For let witty men say what they will in defence of their vices, there are so many natural acknowledgments of the unreasonableness of sin, that the matter is past all denial. It is very observable, that though the greater part of the world always was bad, and vice has ever had more followers than virtue, yet never was there any age so degenerate, in which vice could get the better of virtue in point of general esteem and reputation : even they whose wills have been almost enslaved to sin, could never yet so far bribe and corrupt their understandings as to make them fully approve it.

[ocr errors]

4. The consideration of our ways will lead us to a due sense of the fearful consequences of a wicked life. And these are so dreadful, and the danger of them so evident, that no temptation can be sufficient to excuse a man to himself for venturing upon them. A principal point of wisdom is to look to the end of things ; not only to consider the present pleasure and advantage of them, but also the ill consequences of them for the future: and to balance these together.

Naw, sin its own nature tends to make men miserable. It certainly causes trouble and disquiet of mind. And to a considerate man, who knows how to value his own peace, there cannot be a greater argument against sin, than that the forsaking of it is the only way to find rest to his soul.

Besides, every vice is naturally attended with some particular mischief and inconvenience, which makes it even in this life a punishment to itself; and commonly the providence of God, and his just judgment upon sinners, strike in to heighten the mischievous consequences of a sinful course. This we have represented to us in the parable of the prodigal ; his riotous course of life naturally brought him to want, but the Providence of God likewise concurred to render his condition more miserable ; at the same time there arose a mighty famine in the land; so that he not only wanted wherewithal to supply himself, but was cut off

[ocr errors]

from all hopes of relief from the abundance of others. Sin brings many miseries upon us, and God many times sends more and greater than sin brings; and the farther we go on in a sinful course, the more misfortunes we involve ourselves in.

But all these are light and inconsiderable in comparison of the dreadful miseries of another world; to the danger whereof every man who lives a wicked life every moment exposes himself: so that if we could conquer shame, and had stupidity enough to bear the reproach of our vices, and the temporal mischiefs and inconveniences of them ; yet the consideration of the end and issue of a sinful course, is an invincible objection against it. Though the violence of our sensual appetites should be able to bear down all temporal considerations, yet methinks the interest of our everlasting happiness should lie near our hearts; the consideration of another world should startle us; the horrors of eternal darkness, and the dismal thoughts of being miserable for ever, should effectually discourage us from a wicked life. And this danger continually threatens the sinner; and inay, if God be not merciful to him, surprise him the next moment. And can we make too much haste to fly from so great and apparent a danger? When will we think of saving ourselves, if not when (for ought we know) we are upon the very brink of ruin, and just ready to drop into destruction :

3. Upon the consideration of our ways, naturally follows a full conviction of the necessity of quitting a wicked course. Whatever is necessary, is so in order to some end, and the greater that end, the greater is the necessity of the means without which it cannot be obtained, Now the chief and last end of all reasonable creatures is happiness; whatever therefore is necessary in order to that, has the highest degree of rational and moral necessity. We are not capable of happiness till we have left our sins; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

But though we are convinced of this necessity, yet this does not always enforce a present change ; because we hope to continue in our sins, and remedy all at last by repent

But this is so great a hazard, there is no venturing upon it; and wise men, in matters of the greatest concern, will run no hazards, if they can help it. David was so sensible of this danger, that he would not defer his repentance and the change of his life one moment; I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies ; I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments. This day, this hour, for ought we know, may be the last opportunity of making our peace with God; therefore we should make haste out of this dangerous state. He that cannot promise himself the next moment, has a great deal of reason to seize upon the present. While we are lingering

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

in our sins, if God be not merciful to us, we shall be consumed. Therefore make haste, sinner, and escape for thy life, lest evil overtake thee.

6. Lastly, The consideration of our ways will raise in us an apprehension of the possibility of making a thorough change. God, who designed us for happiness at first, and after we had forfeited it by sin, restored us to a capacity of it by the redemption of our blessed Lord and Saviour, has made nothing necessary to our happiness that is impossible for us to do, either of ourselves, or by the assistance of that grace which he is ready to afford us, if we heartily beg it of him. So that notwithstanding the great corruption of our natures, since the grace of God, which brings salvation, hath appeared, it is not absolutely out of our power to leave our sins and turn to God: for that may truly be said to be in our power which God has promised to enable us to do, if we be not wanting to ourselves. There is nothing on his part to hinder it. He hath solemnly declared that he sincerely desires it, and that he is ready to assist our good resolutions to this purpose. And if there be no impediment on God's part, why should there be any on ours? One would think all the doubt and difficulty should be on the other side, whether God would be pleased to show mercy to such great offenders as we have been. But the business does not stick here. Will we

« PreviousContinue »