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becoming an understanding creature, will keep them from
such a pitch of folly and wickedness as shall expose them to
shame, danger, and the anger of God.

But then it is not well considered, that men have very



613 THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN.

SERM. different notions of what is good and praiseworthy; nor is it
-^^^' considered, that interest, and passion, and vice, will change



the sentiments. So that a man, who at one time of his life
thought such a thing dishonourable, may come at last to be
reconciled to that very action, and with eagerness and delight
commit it.

And is there any wickedness which can be named, that
men born with reason, but destitute of the grace of God, have
not been guilty of? Our first parents are an instance suffi-
cient to shew us what reason, in its greatest perfection, when
left to itself, will end in ; namely, in the destruction of those
that trust to it. And will any man on earth pretend to
govern himself by reason better than they did ?

And if a person who had such excellent notions of justice
and temperance as that prince had, who first debauched the
wife, and then murdered the husband ; if two such succeed-
ing crimes could gain upon him, notwithstanding his know-
ledge, experience, and the commands of God to the contrary,
who afterwards will pretend that reason, natural conscience,
honour, or any thing but the Spirit of God, can secure a
man's innocence ?

In short, there is nothing so wicked, nothing so base, dis-
honourable, or destructive, that one man is guilty of, but
another is by nature capable of being so.

And though this will look strange to one who finds in his
breast a perfect abhorrence for some vices, and supposes he
should die, rather than be guilty of them; yet he may
perhaps change his thoughts, when he considers that there
are few people who, in many instances, do not come to be in
love with sins, which once in their lives they had a hearty
dislike to.

The Scriptures have given us several very noted examples

[2 Kings 8. of this. "Am I a dog,^^ said Hazael to the Prophet, "that

■■' ever I should do such vile things as you speak of?" And yet

for all this abhorrence, he did those very wicked actions.

[Mark 14. " Though I die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee in any

■-' wise," saith St. Peter; and after all, being left for one

moment to himself to make that promise good, you know

how it ended.

Now these things are written for our example, that we



THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN. 513

may see what poor, weak creatures we are by nature ; that
we may learn not to value ourselves, not to trust in our own
reason or strength, or in any thing but the living God ; for if
He once desert us, we are undone for ever.

For as we have no power of ourselves to do any thing that
is good ; as we have no power of ourselves to resist tempta-
tions, and that evil spirit, " who goes about like a roaring [i Pet. 5.
lion, seeking whom he may devour -," so shall we have no
power of ever returning to sober reason, of ever repenting of
our sins, or of qualifying ourselves for future happiness.

For those who, by open and avowed profaneness, by living
in hypocrisy, or in a continued state of wickedness, have
forced God to leave them to themselves, such persons are
proof against all those means which God makes use of to
reduce mistaken men.

The Word of God, how powerful soever it be, cannot con-
vince one who will never hear it with seriousness ; the ex-
amples of good men will have no effect upon one who has
used himself to despise them ; the judgments of God upon
the wicked will make no impressions upon one who has
accustomed himself to call them mere accidents ; nay,
miracles themselves, though they are called for by unbe-
lievers, and are indeed a sure sign that God is present with
those that work them in His name, even miracles themselves
are not sufficient to convert an obstinate sinner, whose affec-
tions are to be changed, as well as his judgment, which
miracles cannot effect. A remarkable instance of which
we have in Acts iv. 16 ; where the Jews own that indeed a
notable miracle had been done by the Apostles, as was
manifest to all Jerusalem, and we (say they) cannot deny it :
why then, sure they received their testimony : very far from
it ! But instead of that, they threatened and commanded
them to speak no more, or teach in the name of Christ.

Nothing could be more unreasonable than this, or more
effectually shew the difficulties men lay themselves under of
being reformed, when once they have made themselves in-
capable of judging betwixt good and evil, by a long course
of wickedness.

One need not use more words to convince any thoughtful
man, that as there is nothing upon earth which can give

WILSON. J, 1



514 THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN.

S E R M. greater satisfaction to the soul of man than the assurance of

— being under the care and protection of God, so there is no

estate so truly terrible as that of a man's being abandoned of
God and left to himself.

By what steps and means men bring themselves into this
sad estate, is what we now come to consider : " they did not
like to retain God in their knowledge •/' that is, they did not
endeavour to keep up such a sense of God in their minds as
was necessary to secure His favour and protection, but' they
depended upon themselves, their own reason, and strength ;
they neglected His word, and the cautions therein contained ;
they did not fear His threatenings, nor think upon His
promises; they did not ask His help, nor give Him thanks
for the common mercies they enjoyed. And this is the way
that all who «re ruined bring destruction upon themselves.

Most people, at least in the beginning of their days, feel
in their souls an aversion for many vices they see in others.
Thus they think it will always be with them ; this makes
them less careful of their ways ; by degrees they grow more
careless; this makes them more wicked; and wickedness
being countenanced by multitude of examples, they grow bold
and fearless of what may come hereafter.

During this time, the Spirit of God strives to reduce them ;
[Job 33. '' for God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it
■-' not;" Whom if they refuse to hear, to repent, and turn to

God, God will at last give them up to themselves, and to the
government of those evil spirits, whose business and whose
pleasure it is, to bring to destruction all those who put them-
selves out of God's protection.

Now, that this is truly the case of wicked men, that this is
matter of fact, and not arguments only to frighten people, is
plain from hence : ask a man who is going to suffer for his
villanies, whether ever he suspected it would come to this,
that he should do such things as would bring him to an un-
timely end? Ask the spendthrift Avho wants bread, whether
he dreamt of such a change ? In short, let every sinner ask
himself, (and then we shall all be convinced,) let us all ask
ourselves, whether by giving way to our appetites, we have
not done such things as some time we abhorred, and never
feared our being guilty of them ?



THE DANGER OP LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN. 515

This consideration furnislieth us with an account of those
horrid crimes, which are but too frequently committed, and
wliich even human nature startles at. For one man to
murder another who never injured him; for a woman to
strangle the child of her womb ; for a man to blaspheme
Him Who with one word can send him to hell : — these are
wickednesses which we are amazed at, and Avonder that any-
thing that carries the shape of a man, can be guilty of such
crimes. But then we do not consider that human nature, as
it is now corrupt, is the same in all men.

We are all subject to temptations ; and if, by our repeated
crimes, we should ever force the Spirit of God to leave us to
ourselves, no man can tell, no man can foresee, what bar-
barous Avickedness he shall at last be tempted to commit, nor
what unwelcome, unlooked for calamity he may bring upon
himself, Avhile he goes from sin to sin, till he meets with
destruction.

Now, from what has been said, we may very justly make
these folloiving observations : that no man will continue long
at one certain pitch of wickedness, but either he must reform
and grow better, or he will still grow more depraved and
vicious. Our souls are very active beings, and we may truly
say of them what we commonly do of children, that we must
be employed in what is good, or we shall certainly be doing
mischief: for not only one evil habit begets another, but the
more a man sins, the less capable he still makes himself of
judging what sin is, and what will be the consequences of
continuing in it. And the influences of God's Holy Spirit,
and the methods of His providence, have still less power upon
his mind and soul, till he has quite forgotten Gt)d, till God
has forsaken him, till he has filled up the measure of his
wickedness, and till he meets with destruction.

Therefore, no man can be secure of himself, who will con-
tinue in the practice of any known vice ; nor can he be sure
that in time he shall not be reconciled to the most abo-
minable wickedness ; for no man can at first force himself to
do what in time, and by degrees, he may make easy to his
mind and practice.

Whoever considers some passages in the life of Solomon,
will find a wonderful contradiction in his sentiments and his
l12



516 THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN.

SERM. actions. And the first part of his life was so very different
— ^ ' — from the last, that those Avho do not consider how very fruit-
ful sin is, and how apt to change the whole man, would hardly
believe that one and the same person was he who in so pious
a strain dedicated a temple to the God of heaven, and he who
afterwards fell into the grossest idolatry. But the steps he
took were such as would effectually change him so much for
the worse. He went against tlie express command of God
in taking wives from amongst the idolatrous nations ; he de-
pended upon his own reason and strength, believing that he
could never forget and forsake that God Who had after so
gracious a manner appeared to him, and had given him such
an nncommon share of wisdom.

But this effectually shews, that neither the greatest share
of wisdom, nor the best education, nor the greatest favours of
God, are sufficient to secure us, when once we leave the com-
mands of God. For this prince's advantages, that he had
above others, made him careless ; this brought him to intem-
perance ; his ease and intemperance made him a slave to his
lusts, and his wives ; and these made him as great an idolater
as any of those nations, which God, for that sin, had cast out
of the land of Canaan ; by which he brought upon himself,
and entailed upon his family, such troubles as ended in the
destruction of it.

And thus it will be with every man living, who knowingly
allows himself in the practice of what God has forbidden him.

There is no man who did not sometime in his life count
drunkenness a sin ; and those that are yet undebauched can-
not imagine what it is that can bewitch men to make them
fond of a sin which disorders both body and mind. And yet
how does custom prevail to draw in those who once abhorred
the vice; and to how many other sins this leads is so well
known, that it need not here be mentioned.

The same may be observed of that too common sin of
swearing, which example and impunity have made so easy to
too many, that they count it amongst the faults of human
frailty (though to a considering man it is a most horrid crime) ;
for it leads men naturally to speak of God without fear and
without reverence. This leads them to impiety, to atheism,
and to damnation.



THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN. 517

And indeed there is no security, until a man has so far
gained upon himself that he can be content to hear the voice
of God within him, and to obey the dictates of his conscience ;
till he can resolve to put a stop to the very beginning of vice,
and knows for certain, that to allow of any one known sin, is
but too sure a way to fall into another.

Therefore, it is strange to see men confident that for them-
selves they shall never do such things as others are blamed
and punished for; when at the same time they freely indulge
themselves the liberty of such things as grieve the Spirit of
God, by Whom alone they are kept from the greatest vil-
lanies.

And this brings us to another observation from these words,
that God does never suspend His grace, while men continue
worthy of such a mercy ; that is, while there is any hope (and
God knows it very well) whether His grace will not be still
abused, and still despised.

The goodness and the justice of God give us all the assur-
ance imaginable of the truth of this ; and the constant me-
thods of His providence shew us, that He leaves no means
untried which may become a merciful Father, and a just
Creator, to bring His children and creatures to their duty
and happiness.

And therefore, though we have many ways provoked the
justice of God, yet we are sure He has not given us up to our-
selves, if we are sorry for our miscarriages, and are resolved
to take up for the time to come ; for such thought and such
purposes come from the good Spirit of God, Which never doth
any thing in vain.

But then, this is no reason why a man should still continue
in sin, in hopes that the same good Spirit will some way or
other preserve him from ruin ; for, it is true, God doth won-
derfully prevent us while there is any hope of a reformation ;
but when that is over, when we have wearied the patience
and long-suffering of God {for He will not strive with us for [Gen. 6. 3.]
ever) ; then we may expect to be given over to a reprobate
mind.

This then is the use we are to make of this knowledge :

First ; We should always endeavour to live in the fear of
God, that we may not consent to known iniquity. This was



518 THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ANY KNOWN SIN.

s E R M. the holy Psalmist's rule : " I have set God always before me,

Pg jg g — therefore I shall not fall;" that is, he endeavoured to have
it always in his mind, that God was ever present with him,
saw all his actions, heard all his words, and knew the very
thoughts of his heart.

Secondly ; If at any time we fall, what have we to do but

Ps. 119. 60. to follow the example of the same Psalmist : " I made haste,
and delayed not to keep Thy commandments." And let us
not fancy that we can repent and turn to God when we
please ; but remember, that every sin a man knowingly com-
mits, the more careless and the more hardened he grows, and
consequently more unfit for God's grace, without Avhicli no
man ever did repent.

Thirdly ; When the Holy Spirit of God puts into our minds
good thoughts and desires, we see how dangerous a thing it
is to strive to divert them. And we shall not do so, if we re-

Prov. 1.24 member the dreadful words of God: "Because I called and
ye refused ; ye set at nought all My counsel, and would none
of My reproof; I will therefore laugh at your calamity, and
mock when your fear cometli."

Lastly ; We see how dangerous it is to neglect the means
of grace which God has appointed to keep up a sense of His
majesty in our hearts. People do not consider, that we can-
not please God, but in the ways of His own appointment ; so
that no man can tell what he shall do, what he shall be,
when once he ventures to leave or to neglect the means of
grace afforded him in the Church of God.

In short, if we are under the conduct of the Spirit of God,
we may know that we are so by these short observations :
First ; We shall be very humble, knowing that we have no-

[Phii. 2. thing of our own to boast of; " for it is God that worketh in
us both a will and a power to do any thing that is good."

Secondly ; We shall be very careful of our ways, knowing
that we are under the direction of an Holy Spirit, Who will
forsake those that grieve Him by their evil deeds.

Lastly ; We shall be very thankful, that God is pleased to
take the government of us Himself, and not to leave us in
the hands of our own counsel, for then we are sure to be un-
done. And we shall strive to express our gratitude by doing
what He has commanded us.



THE DANGER OF LIVING IX ANY KNOWN SIN. 519

Oil the other hand, they that live iu any known s'm, they
that are careless of their souls, they that neglect the ordinary
duties of religion, may be assured of it, that they are taking
themselves out of God's protection, and putting themselves
into the service of the devil ; and that they cannot go back
when they please into the service of God, no more than they
can go to heaven without the leave of God.

To conclude the whole.

Happy are those who from being great sinners become
worthy penitents; but the ways of sin are extremely dan-
gerous, and the return to righteousness difficult, irksome,
and hazardous.

More happy therefore by far, and more safe, are the cir-
cumstances of those who, from their very youth being taught
to know and to fear the Lord their Maker, are careful not to
grieve His Holy Spirit, by consenting to, and continuing in
known iniquity ; for then that good Spirit will ever be pre-
sent with them, to lead them in the way they should go, until
all danger will be over, and they are secure from fear of evil:
which God grant we may all be in His good time, for Jesus
Christ's sake.

To Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all
honour, praise, and thanksgiving, now and for ever. Amen.



XK SERMON XLVI.



NINTH SUNDAr AFTER TRINITY, ATSD EVENING AFTER THE SACRAMENT.



THE EXAMPLE OF THE JEWS A WARNING TO CHRISTIANS.



ICOR. X. 11.

Now all these tJt'mgs happened unto them for ensamples : and
they are written for our admonition, ^c.

In this chapter the Apostle shews (and that by the example
of the Israelites), that to be in covenant with God, and to
partake of the sacraments, which are the seals of the covenant,
will not secure ns from destruction, if we do not live worthy
of such a favour.
ver. 1, &c. " I would not," saith he, " brethren, have you ignorant,
that all our fathers were baptized as well as we, and did all
eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiri-
tual drink f that is, they were partakers of the same cove-
nant, and sacraments, and promises, that we are; and yet
notwithstanding all these privileges, those that were dis-
obedient were destroyed in the wilderness, and never entered
into the land of Canaan, which was a figure of heaven.

Now all these things were written for our admonition; that
is, to warn us not to depend upon being christians, without
living as becomes christians.

Let him therefore, who thinketh he standeth, that is, high
[ver. 12.] in God's favour because he is a christian, take heed lest he fall;
as the Israelites did in the wilderness, and never set their
eyes upon the land of promise, which they so much desired.

When we hear the account of the strange behaviour of the
people of Israel, while God was bringing them out of slavery.



THE EXAMPLE OF THE JEWS A WARXIXO TO CHRISTIANS. 521

iii order to make tliem happy in a laud of their own, we can-
not but wonder at it ; we are apt to think it impossible, that
people should see so many miracles wrought in their favour,
and yet should distrust, at every turn, the power, the wisdom,
and the goodness of that God That wrought them.

And yet so it was : and the Psalmist expresseth his won-
der after a most elegant manner: "They were disobedient [Ps.ioc. 7.]
at the sea, even at the Red sea;" at the very place where
God had saved them by the greatest miracle that ever man
had seen.

In short, their whole life was one continued miracle ; they
had their meat from heaven, their garments waxed not old,
their enemies fell before them, the visible judgments of God
fell upon them over and over for their sins, and yet they
were disobedient. The conclusion of all was, God was so
provoked by their unworthy behaviour and ingratitude, that
He suffered very few of them ever to enjoy the land of Canaan,
which He had promised to give them.

But you will say. What is this to us ? AVhy, I will tell you
— the Apostle shall tell you, — these things were written for
our admonition, /or a wai^ning to us, to let us know how God
has ever dealt, and for ever will deal, with those that despise
His mercies, and forbearance, and long-suffering.

In short, as the goodness of God, to those that obeyed
Him amongst the Jews, was a figure of the favour and loving-
kindness which He bears to all others that love and fear Him ;
so the severity of God to that whole nation, in suffering so
few of them ever to set a foot on the promised land, is a
figure of that severity with which He will deal with wicked
christians ; He will for ever shut them out of heaven, of
which Canaan was a figure.

But we are apt to think, that we are not so blind, and stub-
born, and hard-hearted, and wicked, as the Jews were. People
are apt to think, that the world is now civilized, and that
christians are not so liable to God's judgments as heretofore.
I would to God it were so; but really it is not. Many that
call themselves christians can make a shift to be as wicked as
either Jews or heathens.

Observe the malice and envy with which one christian
pursues another, rejoicing iu the ruin and misery of their



522 THK EXAMPLK OP THE JEWS

SEEM, fellow-creatures: layiue snares for one another in all manner



of business ; scarce any security from another man's word or
oath; all things carried by power, err interest, or craft; the
rich oppressing the poor, because it is in the power of their
hand to do it ; and the poor envying the rich, instead of help-
ing them by their prayers to heaven ; parents educating their
children after such a manner, as will ruin them as certainly
as if they intended their rimi, teaching them to love the world
with all their heart and soul, instead of renouncing it ; suffer-
ing them to content themselves with a form of religion, with-
out the power; pastors as little concerned for the flocks com-
mitted to their charge, as if in truth they were so many
beasts, whose souls must die with their bodies.

In short, if the Jews were disobedient to God, so are chris-
tians; if theij were ungrateful, so are we; if they were within
the covenant of mercy, and yet lived as ill as those that were
strangers to the covenant and promises, so do christians, who
have yet greater things to fear and hope for, than ever they
had; if they were delivered from the bondage of Egypt by
the mighty hand of God, and yet as soon forgot the mercy as
it was over, even so christians, who have been delivered from
a greater tyranny and bondage than that of Pharaoh, do yet
forget the mercy, and desire to return to the slavery of sin
and death.

In one word ; the Israelites in Egypt and in the wilderness
are exact figures of christians in this world, and in their
passage to the next, except in this one thing, that God being
wearied as it were and provoked by their backslidings, did at
last swear that none of them, that had so ungratefully abused
His favours, should enter into the place of rest designed for
them.

In this one thing we are happier than they, in that we have
it yet in our power to work out our salvation ; to appease our
God by repentance, to avert His judgments by returning to
our duty, and to secure to ourselves a share in His promise
of heaven and happiness eternal,
f Heb. 3. What saith the Apostle to christians on this head ? " To-

'' J day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts;" for,

as the promises, and mercies, and assistances, and reivards, to
christians, far exceed those which God made to the Jews ; so



A WAUMXG TO CIUMSTIAXS. 523

the punislmient which wicked christians will meet with will
be infinitely greater than any they had to fear.

So very little reason have christians to value themselves
upon the better covenant, and better promises, and better means
of grace, which God has afforded them, if they do not make a
better use of them.

Let us all, therefore, seriously consider this portion of Holy
Scripture, and what befel the Jews for their frequently pro-
voking God by their sins ; that is, that at last God for ever
shut them out of Canaan.

Let us also fear, lest a promise being made us of entering [Heb. 4. i.
into heaven, any of us should come short of it ; ever remem-
bering that the people of Israel had the same God, the same
promises, the same law, that we have : and this advantage we



Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 46 of 49)