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another, but mockery at sin? This is the life of their conversation : and if we could suppose the world at once to become prudent and virtuous, such persons would be struck dumb.
As this mockery is the sign of a bad disposition, it is also an argument of a weak understanding. It requires judgment to distinguish excellence, and to give praise where it is justly due; while very little knowledge is necessary to discover what is amiss : and there is in all men living something either of offence or infirmity, for a malicious mind to fix upon; something that is evil, or something that may be interpreted into evil. What is light and worthless floats upon the surface, like scum and straws, which every eye can find out; but what is valuable, is concealed by its weight, and cannot be discovered without some penetration : therefore we always see the shallowest people most addicted to censure : so that in short, mockery, according to the terms of our text,
is the proper employment of fools; and mockery at · sin, being the most ill judged mockery in the world, is a sign of the greatest folly.
If we would see how completely odious this practice is, we must take some examples of it: for vice never appears to be what it is, till we consider it in a vicious person. When the Israelites fell into sin, and were afflicted for it at home, or sent away into captivity abroad; the cruel heathens, who hated them for their religion, never failed to rejoice at their fall, and mock at their calamity; like the savage Moors on the coast of Barbary, who were heard to express themselves by shouts of laughter, when poor Christian people slipt into the sea and were drowned, as they were escaping from a wreck to the shore in a storm. When David, who had shone as a warrior, a
prince, a saint, and a prophet, was drawn away by his lust at an unhappy hour into adultery and murder, the drunkards made songs to turn him into ridicule; and the enemies of the Lord made use of his fall as an occasion to blaspheme the religion he professed. The Scribes and Pharisees, the greatest of all sinners, because they added a sanctified hypocrisy to their wickedness, were always ready to seize the opportunity of blackening other people, and of deriding the wisdom of Christ himself. When a woman was taken in the act of adultery, they were not only clamorous against her, insisting upon her condemnation; but they made use of her crime as a snare upon the mercy of our Redeemer; who they supposed would be ready to pardon her offence, and give them an opportunity of accusing him for not observing the laws of Moses. None were ever more busy than these hypocrites in bringing sin to light; not through any hatred against sin, or any zeal to the glory of God, but for some malicious purpose; either to make themselves appear better than they were; or with a view to some farther accusation against those who were better than themselves. . So odious is this vice of mockery against sin, that Satan himself is distinguished by it; who is never so much a devil, as when he is employed in accusing the brethren; insomuch that the word devil, in the original Greek, signifies an accuser. He first tempts men to sin; then ridicules them for their folly, and accuses them to God for their offences. Half his employment consists in treasuring up all the evil he can find in the best men, that he may have it to plead against them in the day of judgment. No faith, no virtue, no charity, no truth, no devotion, will ever charm that deaf adder into a good opinion of any one saint upon earth; but their failings, their infirmities, their omissions, their mistakes, are the objects of all his attention and vigilance: and if that evil spirit, whose portion is everlasting torment, can be capable of any delight, it is at the fall of godliness, at the ruin of virtue, at the reproach of religion, at the apostacy of a believer.
We have very lately had an opportunity of obserying the conduct of different persons, in respect to the unhappy case of a well known divine *, now under disgrace and conviction for an offence which is capital by the laws of this country. As I have passed along the streets of our great city, I have heard him scoffed at, by the vilest of the people, in profane songs and ballads; his profession insulted, and Christianity itself, set at nought for his miscarriage; while the wise, and the virtuous, and the pious have been sighing over him in secret, recommending him to God's mercy in their closets, or lamenting his fall in their conversation : and indeed multitudes of people have seemed so affected with his case, from the consideration of his function and character, that there must, on the whole, be more piety and less malice than we should expect to find in an age so given up to vice and dissipation. .
From hence let us proceed to the second, and the more agreeable part of our subject; which leads us to consider on what principles, favour is shewn to sin by the righteous. By the righteous, those persons are signified who are what we call good men in opposition to the wicked. They have a proper sense of religion: their thoughts are in subjection to the rules of the divine law, and their passions are softened by devotion. Such people can be no friends to sin; and
• The late unfortunaté Dr. Dodd.
yet it is true, that sin finds more favour with them than the worst of sinners. But what is this favour? It is not here to be understood, that the righteous are possessed by a mean spirit, which excuses, and makes light of, all the evil it meets with ; as some are wont to do, who set up for charitable persons, and court the favour of the public by giving every worthless man a good character. He is a false-hearted physician, who leaves the patient insensible of his illness, and tells him he has nothing to fear from the worst distemper to which mortals are subject. Such mistaken favour as this proceeds either from weakness or artifice. He, who finds no faults can give no praises ; because he has destroyed the proper distinction between good and evil. The favour of the righteous is quite of another sort; it is not a symptom of folly but of wisdom: and it reasons thus : that as sin is in itself the greatest calamity, and the cause of all other calamities there are in the world, it is as cruel and absurd to mock at a man for his sin, as it would be to mock at him for a leprous body, or a broken limb. Sometimes the very appearances of sin are lamentable to a compassionate man; but to a religious man, the consequences are always so. The ruin of innocence, the loss of a good conscience, the misapplication of a good understanding, the forfeiture of God's protection, disappointment and misery in this world, and the fearful looking for of judgment in the next, are dreadful considerations, which a righteous man can never separate from the notion of sin. However fair and flattering it may look for a time, (as many fatal diseases have but light symptoms in the beginning,) these are the proper issues of it at last. How many thousands of young men, through the deceitfulness of sin, and thoughtlessness of youth, having yielded to
the first temptations and beginnings of sin, have been drawn by an easy progress from idleness to pleasure, from pleasure to extravagance, from extravagance to vice, from vice to beggary, from beggary to dishonesty, and from dishonesty to infamy and despair! How many unfortunate young women, too little aware of their own danger, have been seduced from their natural modesty, into shame and disappointment; lost and forsaken in this world, neglected by all honest people, despised very probably and avoided by those who seduced them, and dragging on a miserable life in poverty and infamy; who might have lived innocent and useful and happy, if they had duly considered the nature of sin, before they had resigned themselves to a sinful life! What the sword and famine and pestilence are to a nation, such is sin to a single person. "All the havock that is made in the mind, the body, or the fortune, proceeds in some shape or other from this universal cause of evil: there is no one calamity incident to the nature of man, which sin cannot, indeed, which it doth not naturally, produce. Therefore the righteous man considers the sinner as a person taken in a snare, or fallen into a pit, or maimed in all his faculties by the cruel adversary of mankind. Instead of despising him, he grieves for him. He finds him in the same miserable condition with that poor traveller in the parable of the Gospel who in his way from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves, which left him naked, and wounded, and half dead upon the ground. Who can mock at such a spectacle as this ? He only, who either has no sense or no feeling: whose understanding is darkened, and whose heart is hardened: yet this is the real inward condition of a sinner; therefore the righteous man takes the part of the good Samaritan; he sees him