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Isa. liii. 6.
MAN did not long continue in a state of innocency. Tempted and overcome by the devil, he broke the law of his God, and brought ruin both upon himself and his posterity. We, his offspring, have followed his sad example; and, from our youth even
“all we like sheep have gone astray.”
Let us consider, first, wherein men have gone astray from God; secondly, the dreadful effects which have followed : and, thirdly, conclude with some advice to the wretched wanderers.
I. WHEREIN HAVE MEN GONE ASTRAY FROM GOD?
1. In their thoughts. “They have forgotten God that formed them.” They forget his being and perfections, his presence, and providence: they forget his goodness, his
mercy, his truth: they forget their dependence upon him, and the high obliga
tions they are under to love, honour, and obey him: they forget his justice, his threatenings, and his fixed purposes to punish sin. They think about eating and drinking, dress and company, amusements and pleasures, riches and honours; but better and more important things seldom find place in their minds. Sometimes, perhaps, an alarming providence, or an awakening sermon, may lead them to reflect for a moment; but, alas, how soon do their thoughts wander again on the vanities and follies of human life! Before the flood, “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
2. In their affections. God, whom they are bound to love supremely, is hated. They hate his government and laws, his worship and people. “The carnal mind is enmity against God-They are given up to vile affections—They love the world, and the things that are in the world, but the love of the Father is not in them.” Nothing, I think, can be a stronger proof that men are fallen from God than this state of their affections. They feel no interest in divine things. Their souls are wholly in the world. There is their treasure, and there are their hearts. They may feel fear and terror when death and eternity are presented to their view; but they are destitute of that love which is the essence of genuine religion.
3. In their conversation. This necessarily follows; for, " out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The thoughts and affections being corrupt, the conversation must be corrupt. They converse freely and frequently about the world; but God is not named, except in profane oaths, curses, and blasphemies.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Modern politeness may not admit of oaths, curses, and blasphemies, in common conversation; but it substitutes nothing that is in reality much better. Were we to go through the most polished and refined circles of the rich and great, we should hear but little either of God or Christ, of heaven or hell, except what is said on these important subjects in the way of scorn and contempt.
4. In their conduct. They stray from the paths of piety, justice, mercy, and truth; and were it not for human laws, it would be difficult to calculate the number of horrid crimes which they would commit. In short, they are proud, self-willed, covetous,
cruel, and full of deceit. There is not one sacred command of God which they do not break, not one promise which they do not neglect, not one threatening which they do not despise.
II. THE DREADFUL EFFECTS WHICH HAVE FOLLOWED.
1. God is offended. How can it be otherwise ? Is it possible for men to enjoy his favour, while they trample his laws under their feet? “ He is angry with the wicked every day-His wrath abideth upon unbelievers." This is a most alarming consideration ; enough, one would think, to terrify the most hardened wretch. We fear the anger of man, if he have power over us; but what is that when compared with the anger of God?. At his presence " the mountains quake, and the hills melt, the earth is burned; yea, the world and all that dwell therein." Sinner, how wilt thou stand before him? When he ariseth in judgment, what will become of thee? I tremble for thee. O that thou wouldst tremble for thyself!
2. Light is withdrawnThe true knowledge of God is nearly lost. “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people." How little do men know either of themselves, of God, or of Christ! How astonishingly ignorant are
they both of the nature and design of pure religion! They understand arts and sciences, trade and commerce, and whatever else belongs to this perishing world. On these subjects they converse rationally ; but when religion is the subject of conversation, we evidently perceive they are in the dark. “Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools." This is the case both with heathens, jews, mahomedans, and nominal christians: they are all strangers to God and vital godliness, till the light of the gospel shines upon them.
3. Happiness is lost. Men talk about happiness. They expect it in ten thousand objects, but find it in none. Sin and misery, holiness and happiness, are
are inseparable companions. The soul of man, separated from God, cannot be happy. No created object can satisfy its large desires. Never, then, let us expect happiness in wandering from God. We can find it only in returning to him, and being made partakers of the divine nature: for, “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
4. Misery abounds. Men are mortal, and they feel a thousand pains in consequence of their mortality. “The body is dead because of sin.” Some linger in pain year after year; others are hurried away suddenly by the plague, by fire, by famine, and by war.