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count? This you may read at the 26th verse. His lord said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant," and, in conformity with this character, he pronounces on him this awful sentence, ye fitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Hence it appears, that not only the gross and flagitious transgressors of God's law, but even the slothful and careless, who neglect to improve the talents committed to them, are reckoned among the wicked, by the infallible Judge, in conformity with that decisive sentence of the Apostle James, “ To him that know. eth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This at once undermines the foundation upon which thousands of deluded mortals build all their hopes of the divine fa. your and acceptance. In vain, O misguided men, will you plead at the great day, even though ye could prove that plea, that ye abused ng talent bestowed on you-that you did harm to none of all God's works. Was it for this negative purpose only, do you think, that your Maker gave you a place in his world ? Was it for this only, that he conferred the active powers of your nature; that he gave you reason to preside over these powers ; and his word to guide that reason? Was it for this only that he placed you in a situation where activity is necessary for your own happiness, and for the happiness of all around you? Is it nothing that your being is a chasm in creation, where infinite wisdom intended that nothing should he void, nothing cumbersome nor unprofitable? The tree that bears no fruit, as well as that whose fruit is pernicious, is cut down and cast into the fire. In like manner, if
your lives have not been fruitful in the works of righteousness, if they have not exhibited positive evidences of love to God, and benevolence to men, your abstinence from gross transgressions will be of no avail. You will not indeed be ranked with those who proclaim their sins as Sodom; but yet you will be numbered with the wick
ed, and with them expelled for ever from the presence of the Lord.
But what shall we say of those who are not only harmless, but also good and useful members of human society; decent in their conduct, upright in their dealings, beneficent and obliging to all around them? Of such persons we are certainly bound both to speak and to think well. Where those good fruits appear, we ought to conclude, that the tree which produces them is good likewise. It is a bold and impious invasion of the divine prerogative; to judge the hearts of others; and nothing can be more opposite to the spirit of Christianity, than to harbour any secret suspicion of men's inward tempers, when their conduct is proper, inoffensive, and useful:
But if the question be put in another shape, What ought these persons to think of themselves ? the word of God obliges me to give another answer.
There we are taught to exercise a perpetual jealousy over ourselves, and to take no credit from particular acts of virtue, if our character be not entirely formed by those principles which it alone inspires. Of these, one of the most commanding is mentioned in the text itself. shall not be well with the wicked, because he feareth not before God.” Were all the combinations of language to be studied, it would be impossible to devise an expression more significant than this, or more calculated to discrimi. nate the steady and commanding motives of virtue, from those which are unsound, accidental, and fluctuating.
The openly profane fear not God at all. The unprofitable servant, who buries his talent in the ground, fears him as an austere master, and by that slavish fear is restrained from making the proper improvement of it. Tie man who aspires only to decency, and outward propriety ot conduct, is actuated by a fear which respects sonietimes God, sometimes the reproofs of conscience, but most frequently the opinion of his fellow men. In contradis: tinction to all these partial and inadequate principles, the
truly good man fears before God. He dreads him not as an enemy, but, conscious of his inspection at all times, he dreads every thing that would make this thought a terror to him. To this decisive test I must therefore lead you. Is the authority of God become the great consideration to which you bend all your sentiments and conduct ? Have you been led to renounce the maxims of the world, and the inclinations of nature, and to make the will of God the standard of all you do, regardless of present danger or advantage ? Unless this be the habitual frame of your souls, all your seeming virtues are no better than dead works; ye are still in the bond of iniquity, and have every reason to tremble at the denunciation in the text : “ It shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not before God."
1st, It cannot be well with the wicked, because the consequences of their own conduct naturally involve misery. Independent of all the sanctions of the divine law, sin is in itself the destroyer of our happiness. There is so much slavery and distraction in obeying our corrupt passions, the consequences are so inconvenient and ruinous, that none ever followed such a course, without a secret consciousness of fatal mistake. To be happy, it is necessary that we be at peace with ourselves. But how can the wicked have this peace ? Their minds, torn by contending passions, are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. They may indeed dethrone their reason, and trample on their conscience; but yet the voice of these degraded faculties will at times be heard, and even in their scenes of riot and frantic mirth, will, like the hand-writing on the wall of Belshazzar's palace, embitter all their joys. Many sins are destructive of bodily health, as well as of peace of mind. This is confessedly the case with sensuality and intemperance. Others expose men to dreadful hazards, weary them with incessant toils, and at last plunge them
in infamy and ruin. “ Come, say they, let us lay wait for blood ; let us lurk privily for the innocent ; let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that
go down to the pit ; we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil.” But behold the issue of these criminal projects. They lay wait for their own blood ; they lurk privily for their own lives. Knowest tliou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth; that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. They have sown vanity; and they shall reap the whirlwind.”
2dly, It cannot be well with the wicked, because they are in a state of distance and alienation from God. The glorious attributes of his nature are to them objects of terror and dismay, and the secret wish of their hearts is, that there were no God. But there is a God, O sinner; a God who hateth wickedness, and who will destroy all the workers of iniquity. He hath bent his bow, and made it ready : he hath also prepared for them the instruments of death. And O how hopeless a warfare is it to contend with him! Who ever hardened himself against God and prospered ? Is there any strong hold, where the enemies of his government may be safe? Go try the whole extent of creation.-Ascend to heaven, and he is there in tlie brightness of his majesty. Go down to the regions of darkness, and he is there in the severity of his justice. Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, even there his boundless dominion extends ; ever there his right hand shall hold thee a prisoner to his vengeance. Listen, () sinner, to the tremendous declaration of this omnipotent, omnipresent God. “ I, even I, am he; and there is no God with me. I kill and I make alive, I wound and I héal, neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand : for I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will
reward them that hate me.
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood."
3dly, It cannot be well with the wicked, because they lie under the guilt of all the sins which they have ever committed. A dreadful load ! One sin ruined myriads of beings superior to man ; how shall they escape, then, who from their youth upwards have drunk iniquity even as the ox drinketh water? It is possible that you may, soothe yourselves with the thought of having repented of the grosser sins with which your lives have been stained; you trust that these are forgiven, and presume that a merciful God will overlook the rest. But I must be allowed to inform you, that this is a rash and groundless thought. There is no such thing with God as partial forgiveness. If all your sins are not pardoned, , not one of them is; and unless you have been renewed by the grace and Spirit of God, those sins you commited in your earliest years, are as much in force against you as those of the most recent date you can name.
Conversion and pardon are inseparably connected ; and it will ever remain a certain truth, that whom God justifies, them he also sanctifies. There is indeed no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; but, on the other hand, these are such as walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
4thly, It cannot be well with the wicked, because, while they remain in this state, nothing they do can please God. I mean not to affirm, that they cannot perform actions materially good, the substance of which is commanded by God. The morality of Christ's religion is so much accommodated to the interest of individuals, and to the good of society, that even they, who have no higher motives, may find it profitable to comply with some of its injunctions. Far less is it my meaning, that it would be better, or as good, for such persons to neglect or disobey these injunctions. Buť my meaning is, that