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ECCLESIASTES viii. 11, Because sentence against an evil. work is not
executed speedily; therefore the beart of the fons of men is fully set in them to do evil. . ..
THough God had not favoured us with
1 an explicit revelation of his will, yet that absolute perfection which reason must attribute to the Supreme Being, would naturally lead us to conclude, that he cannot look upon sin without the greatest abhorrence'; and in consequence thereof, that his impartial justice, and almighty. power, will not always suffer that abominable thing which he hates, to pass unpunished. Accordingly we find that the conscience of man, till a long habit of finning hath rendered it callous and insensible, gives a reluctant assent to the equity of such punishment, by that anguish which it raiseth in the finner's mind
upon the commission of any gross and heinous transgression. This made Judas to cry out after his vile treachery, “ I have “ betrayed innocent blood.” Nay, so powerfully was his heart smitten with a sense of the demerit of his crime, that, despairing of pardon, he in a manner anticipated the fentence of condemnation, and became the executioner of Divine justice, by laying violent hands upon himself. And the Apostle Paul testifies concerning the Gentile world, that even they, by the light of nature, and the dictates of unaslisted reason, “ knew " the judgement of God ;” and universally acknowledged, with respect to many acts of atrocious wickedness, “ that they who « committed such things were worthy of 6 death."
But the sacred records have put this matter beyond all uncertainty. There “ the « wrath of God is revealed from heaven “ against all unrighteousness and ungodli
nefs of men :" and a curse is denounced against every one, without exception, " who o continueth not in all things which are " written in the book of the law to do them."
- So So that a sentence is passed, and stands in force, against every evil work: and the words of Solomon, which I have chosen for the subject of the following discourse, represent to us--on the one hand, the marvellous patience of God in suspending the execution of this righteous fentence ;-and, on the other hand, mens vile abuse of this unmerited goodness. Instead of being led to repentance, they grow bolder in fin; and “ because sentence against their evil works is “ not speedily executed, therefore their heart " is fully set in them to do evil.”
There is an awful emphasis in the last of these expressions: it denotes the extreme wickedness that sinners may arrive at; not only to commit fin when assaulted with violent temptations, but to make an habitual trade of it; nay, to employ themselves in it with delight. Their heart is fo fully set in them to do evil, that all their faculties bend that way. Thus we read of some “ who drink iniquity like water;"_" who “ devise mischief upon their beds, and set " themselves in a way that is not good ;" nay, who put themselves to incredible pains,
and hard labour, as it were, that they may exceed in wickednefs : “ They weary them“ selves to commit iniquity ;” and “ sin as “ with a cart-rope.”
It must no doubt appear an incredible abuse of the divine goodness, to pervert that patience which should lead men to repentance, into an encouragement to sin more presumptuously: yet fo it hath been in times past; and there is too just cause to complain, that it continues to be so still. Indeed, “ when God's judgements are in the “ earth," the inhabitants thereof do fometimes “ learn righteousness ;” at least, so long as the rod lies heavy upon them, they may refrain from those fins which they imagine have subjected them to it; but no sooner is the rod laid aside, than they quickly relapse into their former course of living, agreeably to what the Prophet Isaiah obferves, “ Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet
will he not learn righteousness: in the “ land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, “, and will not behold the majesty of the " Lord.” What is written, Luke xii. 45. is too just a picture of the temper and practice
of the bulk of mankind: “ They say in their us heart, The Lord delayeth his coming; and " thereupon presume to beat their fellow“ servants, and to eat, and drink, and to be “ drunken:” yea, not the foolish virgins only, but even the wise, are in danger of flumbering, while the bridegroom tarrieth, as we read, Matth. xxv. 5.
There is an unhappy tendency in our nature to forget God. The best find enough ado to overcome it; but the wicked give full scope to it; and nothing but chastisement, severe and present chastisement, will bring them the length even of a feigned submiflion to God. Hence the observation is drawn, that times of adversity have always been most friendly to religion; and they must know little of the history of the world in general, and of their own country in particular, who do not agree in this remark. National prosperity is certainly most desirable ; we regard it as a blessing, we pray for the continuance of it, and it is our duty to do fo: yet if we examine the annals of former times, and do not turn away our eyes from the real state of our D 2