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Believe it, Sirs, the sins, that now abound in the world, challenge our tears and pity. We ought to mourn and repent for those, who do not, who will not repent for themselves. It is a sad and a doleful sight, to see so many every where dishonour God, disgrace their natures, and destroy their souls: to see some come reeling home, disguised in all the brutish shapes that drunkenness can put upon them, ready to discharge their vomit in the face of every one they meet; others, frantic with wrath and rage, and, like a company of madmen, Alinging about firebrands, arrows, and death: Prov. xxvi. 18: to see such woeful transformations, and the dire effects that sin and wickedness have caused in the world. Certainly, he, that can entertain himself with mirth at these things, hath not only forsworn his religion, but his humanity; and may, with much more reason, make the miseries of poor distracted people, chained up in Bedlam, to become his sport and pastime.
I know it will be here pretended, that, surely, it can be no such great crime to explode and hiss sin off the stage; nay, it were a proper means to keep men from being generally so wicked, could we but make wickedness more ridiculous in them,
But, alas! vice is now-a-days grown too impudent to be laughed out of countenance: and those methods of a scurrilous mockery, which some plead for, as rendering vice ridiculous, have, I doubt, only made it the more taking and spreading ; and encouraged others to be the more openly sinful, by teaching them to be the more wittily vile and wicked. Few will be deterred from sinning, when they think they shall but gratify others, by making sport for them; and stir up, not their indignation and abhorrence, but their mirth and laughter.
It is true, we read that Elijah mocked the idolatrous worshippers of Baal: and his scoffs and taunts at them were very biting and sarcastical; and cut them much deeper, than they are said to cut themselves. But this he did in a serious and zealous reproving of their sins; not in a jocular and sportive merriment.
There are two things in sin, Impiety and Folly. We may lawfully enough scorn the one, whtle we are sure to hate and detest the other : and a due mixture of both these together, scorn and detestation, are very fit to enkindle our zeal for God; and may oftentimes be a requisite temper for him, who is to reprove confident and audacious sinners. But, to laugh and sport at others' wickedness, and to make the guilt and shame of others our mirth and recreation, is both unchristian and inhuman; and we may as well laugh at their damnation, as at that which will lead them to it. Thus to make a mock at sin, is to make our very mocks to be our sins; and argues us, not only profane, but foolish: for this is to laugh and rejoice at our own stain and dishonour, and to abuse our own nature; that nature, which is common to us, as well as others; that nature, which, were it not debased with sin, renders us but a little lower than the angels.
What a fair and glorious creature was man, before sin debased and sullied him! A friend to his God; lord of the creation; made a little lower than the angels, being a-kin to them, though of a younger house and meaner extract; adorned with all both natural and divine perfections, till sin despoiled him of his excellency, and made him, who was almost equal to the angels, worse than the very brutes that perish, sottish and miserable. And canst thou laugh and sport thyself at that, which hath ruined and undone thee, as well as others ? Thy nature is blemished and corrupted, as much as theirs. When we look abroad in the world, and observe the abominable wickednesses that are every where committed; the murders, uncleannesses, blasphemies, drunkenness, and all those prodigies of impiety, that every where swarm amongst men; how by swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, until blood toucheth blood : Hos. iv. 2. what else see we now in all this, but the woeful effects of our own corrupt nature? Here we see ourselves unbowelled ; and discover what we ourselves are, at the price of other men's sins: for, as in water, face answereth to face ; so doth the heart of man to man : Prov. xxvii. 19. We have, therefore, more reason to lament the sins and miscarriages of others, than to make a sport and mock at their wickedness: since we ourselves are the very same; and prone enough, without the restraining grace of God, either to imitate or exceed them.
1. Consider what an accursed, horrid thing it is, to tempt others to sin, only that thou mayest afterwards make sport with them, and raise a scene of mirth out of the ruins of their souls.
I wish this were not as common a practice, as it is damnable. See what dreadful woes God denounceth against such, by the Prophet: Hab. ii. 15, 16: Woe unto him, that giveth his neighbour drink ; that puttest thy bottle to him, and inakest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on his nakedness; his shame and dishonour. Thou art filled with shame, for glory : drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered : the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory. Hence have these devils (for that name belongs to them, who do his work) invented all those artifices of excess and drunkenness, to draw on others to debauch themselves and their reason, that they may have matter to laugh at their sottish actions, and to boast how many they have made to fall under the puissance of their riots. But, certainly, if there be a hell, as it is certain there is; or if that hell were not made in vain, as it was not; these wretched sinners can expect nothing else, but to have their portion therein with those devils, whose industrious factors they have been: and, there, the cup of God's right hand, a cup of pure wrath and unmixed fury, shall be given them; and they shall be forced to drink it off, to the very dregs.
2. Hence, think how desperately impious, wicked wretches they are, who sin only to make others sport; that buffoon themselves into hell, and purchase the pleasing of others with the dreadful damnation of their own souls.
And, yet, how frequent is this in the world! How many are there, that will neither spare God, nor Heaven, nor Scripture, nor Religion, nor common Modesty, if they come but in the way of a jest! Nothing, how sacred, how venerable soever it be, can escape them, if they can but turn it into drollery. I need not mention what tropes and metaphors inen have found out to talk lasciviously by: almost every one is perfect in that piece of rhetoric. Nor what strange, monstrous lies some will aver openly, to raise either mirth or wonder in company. And that, which is worst of all, is, that now the Holy Bible is become a mere jest book with them; a cominon-place for wit and merry discourse; and the Devil again speaks Scripture out of these men's mouths: they know no more of it, than what they abuse; and all their meditations and cominents upon it, are only how such and such passages may be ingeniously perverted and turned into burlesque, to heighten the inirth of the next profane company they meet. Impious wretches ! that dare to violate the most tremendous mysteries of religion; and expose their God to scorn, his oracles to contempt, and their own souls to eternal perdition; only for a little grinning and sneering of a company of vain, yea mad Fools, who think they commence
wits by applauding blasphemy! But these wits, as they are profane and impious, so they prove themselves very fools, thus to sport themselves to death: their laughter is rather spasmodical and convulsive, than joyous; a Risus Sardonicus, caused by venom and poison: they go down merrily to hell, and frolic themselves into perdition.
And, thus, I have done with the First sort of Fools; namely, those, that make a sport and mock at other men's sins.
ii. The Second particular is to shew, that they are Fools, WHO MAKE A MOCK AT THEIR OWN SINS: SO AS TO THINK THE COMMISSION OF THEM BUT A SLIGHT, INCONSIDERABLE MATTER. And here I shall shew you,
That wicked men do generally account sin a small, slight
matter. What it is, that induceth and persuadeth them to account
so slight of it. Their gross and inexcusable folly, for so accounting of
it. 1. That wicked men do generally account sin a small, inconsiderable matter, may appear from these Three things.
(1) Slight provocations and easy temptations, are sufficient to make them rush boldly into the commission of sin.
Any slight inconsiderable gain, and transitory, fading, washy pleasure; yea, oftentimes, a mere gallantry and humour of sinning; is enough to make them veuture upon any crime, that the Devil or their own wicked hearts shall suggest to them. Yea, those very things, for which they would scarce suffer a hair of their heads to be twitched off, are yet forcible enough, to persuade them to lie or swear: sins, that murder and destroy their precious souls for ever! What is this, but a plain demonstration, that they account sin a mere trifle ; and look
upon a small and slight thing, to offend the Most High God?
(2) It is very hard and difficult, to work these men to any true sorrow and compunction for their siņs.
Turn the mouth of all the terrible threatenings, that God hath denounced in his Holy Word against them; and let them thunder out all the woes and curses, that are in the magazine of God's justice against them: yet these wicked wretches are not start led at it; but still hold fast their confidence and boldness, wheu they have lost their innocency and integrity, and cannot
nor will not be persuaded that God should be so angry and incensed for such small matters.
(3) If they are at all moved with these things; yet they think that a slight and formal repentance will suffice to make amends for all.
They pacify their consciences, and think they appease God also, by crying him mercy; and find it as easy a matter to repent of their sins, as it is to commit them. And therefore, certainly, these men must needs have very slight thoughts of sin, who can be so easily tempted to commit it, and are so hard to be brought to repent of it: or, if they do, yet is it so slightly and superficially, as if they feared the amends would be greater than the injury.
2. I come now to the Second-thing: and that is, to shew what it is, that induceth and persuadeth wicked men, to make so light of their sins.
Now there are these Two things, that make sinners to account their sins slight and trivial matters.
(1) Because they see so few instances of God's dread wrath and vengeance executed on sinners in this life: and those rare ones, that are extant and visible, they impute rather to chance, than to the retribution of divine justice.
And, therefore, upon their own impunity and the impunity of others, they conclude, that certainly sin is no such heinous thing as some sour, tetrical people would fain persuade the world to believe: and so they cry Peace, Peace, to themselves, though they go on in the frowardness of their hearts, adding iniquity to sin : Deut. xxix. 19. Because God so long winks at them, they conclude him blind; or, at least, that he doth not much disallow those sins, which he doth not presently punish. Indeed, it would be somewhat difficult to answer this argument, were this present life the appointed time of recompence: no; but God reserveth his wrath and vengeance to a more public and more dreadful execution of it, than any can be in this life. Though now thou feelest no effects of God's wrath; yet, believe it, the storm is but all this while gathering: but, when thou launchest forth into the boundless ocean of eternity, then, and perhaps never before then, will it break upon thee in a tempest of fury, and drown thy soul in perdition and destruction.
(2) Another thing, that makes wicked men think so slight of sin, is, that it cannot affect God with any real injury: for, as