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series. It may sometimes assume the SERMON gentler names of folly, irregularity, or levity; but under whatever form it appears, it always imports a deviation from that sacred law which ought to regulate our conduct. It is still the root that beareth
gall and wormwood *; and in exact proportion to the quantity of this poisonous weed, which we ourselves have infused into our cup, we must expect to drink the waters of bitterness. If the foolishness of man did not pervert his ways, his heart would have no occasion to fret against the Lord. He would enjoy competent satisfaction in every situation of life; and, under its unavoidable evils, would derive consolation from religion and virtue.
Indeed, of every evil which we now endure, of those evils which we look upon to be the appointment of Providence, as well as of others, sin is ultimately the cause; as it was man's revolt from God, which gave rise originally to those evils, and which rendered the chastisements we undergo, in this state of discipline, neces
SERMON sary, even for the sons of God. But at XIV. present, we confine our observation to those miseries of which men are the im
mediate procurers to themselves; and from them alone, we find sufficient reason to consider sin as the capital foe to man; as the great troubler and disturber of his life. To Providence, then, let us look up with reverence. On sin let our indignation be vented; and, what is of more consequence, against sin and all its approaches, let our utmost caution be employed. As we proceed through the different paths of life, let us accustom ourselves to beware of sin, as the hidden snake lurking among the grass, from whose fatal touch we must fly in haste, if we would not experience its sting.Too many have no just apprehensions of this danger, Fools, said the wise man,
make a mock at sin. A fool indeed he must be, who dares to think lightly of it. He shews not only the depravity of his heart, but, what perhaps he will be more ashamed to be charged with, he shews his ignorance of the world. He shews that he knows not, he understands not, even his
worldly interest, nor the interest and hap- SERMON piness of human society.
IN the second place, let us learn, from what has been set forth, one of the most awful and important of all truths, the reality of a Divine government exercised over the world. Blind must that man be who discerns not the most striking marks of it, in the doctrine which has been under our review. If there be a sceptic, who contends, that unrestrained liberty in the gratification of desire is given to man; that, in the sight of his Creator, all actions are equal; and that no rule of moral conduct hath been prescribed, or by any penalty enforced; in order to confute such a man, we have not recourse to reasonings, but simply appeal to plain and obvious facts. We bid him look only to the life of man; and take notice how every vice is, by the constitution of things, connected with misery. We bid him trace the history of any one, with whose conduct he had particular occasion to be acquainted; and observe, whether the chief misfortunes which pursued him were not brought
SERMON brought upon him by his own misbehaviour. XIV. We bid him remark in the history of
nations, whether public virtue has not always exalted them; and whether licentiousness and crimes have not paved the way for their ruin. These are testimonies to the truth of religion, which cannot by any sophistry be evaded. This is a voice, which speaks its warnings loud and strong to every heart.
The system upon which the Divine government at present proceeds, plainly is, that men's own wickedness should should be appointed to correct them; that sinners should be snared in the work of their hands, and sunk in the pit which themselves had digged; that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways. Of all the plans which could have been devised for the government of the world, this approves itself to reason, as the wisest and most worthy of God; so to frame the constitution of things, that the Divine laws should in a manner execute themselves, and their sanctions in their own carry bosom. When the vices of men require punishment to be inflicted, the Almighty is
at no loss for ministers of justice. A SERMON thousand instruments of vengeance are at his command; innumerable arrows are always in his quiver. But such is the profound wisdom of his plan, that no peculiar interposals of power are requisite. He has no occasion to step from his throne, and to interrupt the order of nature. With that majesty and solemnity which befits Omnipotence, He pronounces, Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone*. leaves trangressors to their own guilt, and punishment follows of course. Their sins do the work of justice.
They lift the
scourge; and with every stroke which they inflict on the criminal, they mix this severe admonition, that as he is only reaping the fruit of his own actions, he deserves all that he suffers. From what has been
said, I might take occasion,
IN the third place, to shew the injustice of our charging Providence with a promiscuous and unequal distribution of its favours among the good and the bad,
Hofea, iv. 17.