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he has contracted: his soul is bound with it as with a cord, and he cannot burst his bonds. In a similar plight is he who has given himself up
to the gratification of his lusts and passions. They, at least as far as the mind is concerned, are increased by indulgence, so that every object calls forth desire, and “the eyes of the libertine are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sina." His very soul, as it were, is sensualized, and, whether sleeping or waking, his imagination roves after the gratification of his lawless appetites.
Nor must I omit to mention the gamester, in whom the text is most awfully verified. Nothing can induce him to abandon his ruinous pursuits. Domestic ties of wife and children have no influence at all. The ruin of himself and family are all suspended on a card or die. Not even the experience of ruin will reclaim him. Let his losses be repaired again and again, and again and again will he return to the fascinating object, like the moth, and hover round it, till he is consumed.
I have mentioned these instances, as being more obvious and acknowledged: but the declaration is equally verified in the gay, the worldly, the profane; yea, and in the superstitious and self-righteous also. They all“ feed on ashes; and a deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right handb?"] 2. As a warning given
[In this view more especially the declaration in our text is introduced, to guard young men against the temptations to which they are exposed. And a most awful warning it is: it shews us how earnestly we should guard against our besetting sins. Every man has some “sin which more easily besets him?," and by which he is more in danger of being enslaved. Now every man should find out what this peculiar temptation
and should watch and pray against it; lest, by yielding to it, he provoke “God to give him over to a reprobate minde, and to say, “He is joined to idols; let him alonef.” We should labour to say with David, " I have kept myself from my iniquity8:” and, with Job, “ Thou knowest I am not wicked, ” not deliberately and habitually wicked”. We should dread lest that be inflicted on us which is spoken in the text; a judgment far heavier than any other that can be inflicted on us even by God himself, as long as we continue in this present life; because it is a certain prelude to everlasting misery, and the means of augmenting it every day and hour: for, if we are delivered over to our own lusts, we do nothing but "treasure a 2 Pet. ii. 14. b Isai. xliv. 20.
ver. 20. d Heb. xii. 1. e Rom. i. 28.
f Hos. iv. 17. 8 Ps. xviii. 23.
h Job x. 7.
up wrath against the day of wrath," and accumulate mountains of guilt to sink us deeper and deeper into everlasting perdition'. Our employment will be like that of those mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah, who“ drew out iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as a cart-rope k :” for, as a rope is spun out continually to an indefinite length by the constant addition of fresh materials, so will our sin be drawn out to an endless extent, till death shall cut it short, and the deserved punishment be awarded to it.]
It would be improper to pass over such a declaration as this without drawing your attention to, II. The reflections which it naturally suggests
1. How thankful should we be for the Gospel of Christ!
[Heathens are in the bondage above described, and have no conception of any way of deliverance from it. But in the Gospel a Saviour is proclaimed; who came on purpose to
preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound!." His power no lusts can withstand. As he delivered Peter from prison, causing his chains to fall off, and the prison doors to open of their own accord, so can he liberate the slaves of sin and Satan from their bondage, and bring them forth into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Diseases, devils, elements, all obeyed his voice in the days of his flesh: and at his word the most deeprooted lusts shall be plucked up, and the most inveterate habits changed. The day of Pentecost sufficiently attests the truth of this assertion. The hands of the men who had crucified him were yet reeking with his blood, yet in an instant were their hearts renewed, and they became altogether new creatures, “the wolf being as harmless as the sheep, and the lion as gentle as the lamb m."
However inveterate then your habits may have been, despair not: but look to "that Mighty One on whom your help is laid," and who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him."]
2. How watchful should we be against the first incursions of sin !
[As we know not “how great a matter a little fire will kindle," so we know not what evils one sin may introduce. Every evil habit originated in one sin. Judas little thought in what his first act of dishonesty would issue: and millions, who are now gone beyond the hope of redemption, once thought as little to what a state they should be ultimately brought, as we now
i Rom. ii. 5. k Isai. v. 18. I Luke iv, 18. m Isai. xi. 6. VOL. VII.
do. Say not, This angry temper is a light evil: It is murder in the seed and embryo ; and may terminate in the very act of murder much sooner than you imagine. Say not, This impure thought or look is venial : it is constructive adultery; to which it leads, and in which, ere you are aware of it, it may soon issue. The same I would say of envy, hatred, malice, covetousness, ambition, and the whole catalogue of spiritual lusts : the admission of them into the heart is as a leak in a ship, which will sink it ultimately, if it be not stopped in time. A mariner will not neglect that leak, though it be but small; because he knows the consequences: he knows that if it be neglected, his efforts to preserve the ship will ere long be vain and ineffectual. It is not possible to look around us without seeing, in numberless instances, what dominion the evil tempers of men have gained, and what misery they diffuse throughout their respective families and spheres. Had they been checked in their commencement, how much sin and misery would have been prevented! If then we would not forge chains for our own souls, let us guard against the first risings of sin: for, whatever we may think, “ we shall reap according to what we sow: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting "."]
3. How constant should we be in waiting upon the Lord Jesus Christ, both in his public ordinances, and in secret prayer!
[None but Christ can afford us any effectual help: for without him we can do nothing." To him we must carry our every trial, and every temptation: and we must plead with him for help, as the Apostle did, till he answer us, and say, “ My grace is sufficient for theep.” Let us never forget that it is in vain to resist sin in our own strength. None but God himself can subdue it in us. “ Our sufficiency even to think a good thought must be of him?." If he help us, it is well: “We can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us?.” But if we address ourselves to the purifying of our hearts in our own strength, we shall fail, as the Apostles did, when in self-confidence they attempted to cast out a devil, which could only be ejected through the influence of prayer and fastings." Let us look simply to Christ to purge us both from the guilt and power of our sins; and then we shall find, that "according to our faith it shall be done unto ust.”]
n Gal. vi. 7, 8.
o John xv. 5.
P 2 Cor. xii. 9.
THE SLUGGARD REPROVED.
Prov, vi. 6–10. Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her
ways and be wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, 0 sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep : so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
FORESIGHT in relation to temporal concerns, though not universally practised, is universally approved; and it is a ground of thankfulness that those classes of society who have hitherto scarcely known how to secure any little sums which they might save, have now, by the establishment of Provident Banks, encouragement to provide for themselves against the day of adversitya. Happy would it be if a similar zeal were now exerted in relation to the concerns of eternity. But here, alas! there is still a sad indifference amongst us. The wants which we are sure to feel in the eternal world are not anticipated ; nor is the importance of providing for them generally felt. In relation to these things, all around us are cast, as it were, into a deep sleep, from which they need to be roused by the most solemn warnings. This address therefore of Solomon to the sluggards of his day may well serve us as a foundation for a similar remonstrance with those who are yet sleeping in security and sin.
Addressing ourselves to persons of this description, we will speak, I. In a way of humiliating reproof
Justly does Solomon observe, that “a sluggard is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason b." The more careless men are about their souls, the more confident they are of their future safety. But how confident soever they may be, they may go and learn wisdom of the meanest insect.
a Preached the week before the establishment of a Provident Bank at Cambridye.
b Prov. xxvi. 16.
There is scarcely any thing in the whole creation from which we may not derive the most valuable instruction. The ox and the ass, the crane and the swallow, are brought forward by God himself to teach and reprove uso: and here we are referred for instruction to the ant. She collects in summer the food that is necessary for her subsistence in the winter. She does it with incredible labour, dragging to her cell grains of corn, that one would scarcely conceive she should be able to move. And this she does “without any guide” to direct her, or “overseer” to watch her, or ruler" to call her to account. And, that her labour may not ultimately prove vain, she bites off, we are told, the ends of every grain, to prevent it from vegetating in the ground.
Go now to the ant, thou sluggard, and consider her ways: consider, 1. Her wise foresight
(Has she a time approaching, against which it is needful for her to provide ; and hast not thou? Is there not a time coming, when thou must stand in the presence of thy God, and give an account of every thing that thou hast done in the body, whether it be good or evil? And hast thou not now to provide a righteousness wherein to appear before God, even the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein alone thou canst ever stand in the presence of a holy God? Hast thou not a new nature also to obtain, in order to fit thee for the enjoyment of the heavenly world?- And is not the present the only time when this provision can be made ? If thou neglect the present opportunities, wilt thou find them in the eternal world? Is there “any work or device to be executed in the grave, whither thou goest d?" — If her work, which relates only to the short transient life of the body, is important, is not yours, which relates to the eternal interests of the soul, much more important?---Go then to the ant, and learn wisdom of her.] 2. Her voluntary labour
[She has none to direct her: she is guided by instinct alone. But you have reason to guide you, and to assure you of the certainty and importance of those things which you have not yet seen with your eyes. You have God himself also inspecting every thing that you do, and pledged to call you into judgment for it, and to assign you your everlasting portion according to
c Isai. i. 3. Jer. viii. 7.
d Eccl. ix..10.