« AnteriorContinuar »
they labour, by such conformity to the world, in any of its pursuits or pleasures, as shall bring down the difference between you to a mere name. Alas the day! when a Christian has to sound a trumpet before him, to tell what he is ; for though it is no excuse to them, yet is it a reproach to that holy name by the which ye are called, and strengthens the unbelief of those who seek occasion against the gospel. Remember that it is not crying Lord, LORD, that will open the gate of eternal life to you, but the doing the will of your father which is in heaven. Remember that feelings and fervours are not fruits, and that every tree which beareth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Let your fruit, then, be unto holiness that the end may be everlasting life.
Now the God of peace, that brought again frome.the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Anen.
DANGER OF BEING HARDENED IN SIN.
Hebrews üi: 13, last clause.
The words immediately connected with my text, are the following :
Take heed, brethren, lest there be, in any of you, an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
We learn from them, that all sin is a departure from the living God-a separation of ourselves from his service because we prefer another master. That this separation from God, in becoming the servants of sin, proceeds from unbelief from the want of a serious and full persuasion of the heart, that the promises and threatenings of Almighty God, revealed in his word, are actually his fixed and unchangeable purpose. And it is called an evil heart of unbelief, because it is a wilful rejection of the plainest declarations and most undeniable testimony that can be made and given; nothing being more certain than that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men, and that this revelation is in our hands by the gospel. Against this the apostle cautions Christians to take heed, that is, to be on their guard, for themselves, and to exhort each other continually, as against a danger very artful and insidious in its commencement and progress, and most destructive in its consequences.
A common danger and a common duty, therefore, my brethren, will engage us all, I trust, in exertions for the common benefit. For the direction here given is the same in substance with the old commandment—Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour and not suffer sin upon him; and is, in the truest and
highest sense, a fulfilling of the new commandment-Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
That we may the better understand the ground and reason of this duty, I will endeavour to explain,
FIRST, what is meant by being hardened in sin.
SECONDLY, I will point out what are the causes of men's growing hardened in sin.
THIRDLY, I will show how insufficient these causes are to excuse their guilt.
Lastly, I shall enforce the obligation of my text upon Christians, to mutual encouragement and assistance in working out their salvation.
Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. I. First, to explain what is meant by being hardened in sin.
Being hardened in sin undoubtedly means, in this connexion, the being shut up and concluded under the power and dominion of sin, or, as it is otherwise expressed, the being given over to a reprobate mind; and it is against this awful condition, as the final result of sin indulged and persisted in, that the apostle utters his warning. Hence we learn, my friends, that there is a progression in the finally impenitent character, increasing in danger and malignity as we continue to disregard the warnings and admonitions of the word of God, of our friends, and of our consciences; and we also learn, that the inevitable consequence of sin persisted in, is the destruction of the moral sense and of all hope or capacity of salvation.
But as there are degrees or grades in this hardening, it is against these, in every stage, that we are exhorted to be on our guard, and to caution one another.
Of these degrees, a thoughtless yet criminal unconcern on the subject of religion is the lowest; it is also the most frequent; and if not arrested by serious reflection, by the admonition of friends, or by some startling Providence, continues gradually to plunge men deeper into unbelief. In such persons we may remark a strange inattention to every thing connected with religion, a disregard of the clearest evidence and arguments in favour of it, and a prodigality of youth, of health, and fortune, in the dissipations or pursuits of the world, as if they had not time, even if they had the inclination, to listen to any thing in behalf of their souls.
This primarily thoughtless unconcern, however, is, before long, succeeded by a perverseness of temper which not only neglects but resents admonition, and may be considered as the next stage in the process of hardening. The deceitful influence of sin has gradually overcome that levity of mind which distinguishes the youthful novice in the ways of vice, and trained him up to regard whatever is opposed to his course as an enemy; and here begins that strain of infidel objection to revelation, that proud entertainment of doubt as to its truth, certainty, and importance, which disfigures so many minds evidently intended for better things, and is so fruitful in gaining proselytes from less gifted but equally passion-driven followers of the flesh and of the mind. The word of God, they well know, is unrelentingly opposed to all that they delight in. It must, therefore, be invalidated in some way, and, to the love of sin, my hearers, we owe every effort against the Scriptures. Never was there yet an infidel, but from the love of sin in some of its many deceits.
From this state of opposition to truth and reason the progress is rapid to the last stage of hardness and impenitency. To that fixed love of what is directly immoral, that aversion to every thing of a religious nature, that stubborn, callous disposition, which is alike impenetrable to the fear or the favour of Almighty God, which is described in Scripture as having the understanding darkened and the mind blinded; as being past feeling, and reprobate to every good work; as given over to vile affections, to work al uncleanness with greediness; as being sold under sin.
This it is to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, according to the Scriptural meaning of that expression, and as we have instances of this wretched condition continually before our eyes, not only in actual outbreaking wickedness, but in the equally fatal influence of some master sin, occupying the heart against God, nothing further needs be said either to point it out or to explain it.
II. Secondly, I am to point out to you the causes of men's growing hardened in sin.
The first cause or occasion of our being drawn into sin is, our
natural frailty and the temptations to wbich we are exposed. The one is the consequence of our fallen condition ; the other is a necessary attendant on a state of trial. It is the allurement of temptations from without and of passions from within, therefore, which, properly speaking, form the deceitfulness of sin. Deceit, we all know, is the promise, in some way, of enjoyment or advantage, which is not made good ; and in this view sin is the completest deception that ever was played off upon rational beings. For in its very highest attainments there is no perpetuity, and even what gratification there is, is sooner or later followed by disappointment, suffering, and remorse.
We are surrounded by various enticements to evil, and the weakness of our fallen nature and the wilfulness of inordinate desire is too prone to comply with them. The oftener we do so the more do we increase their strength ; the less able and the less willing do we become to resist them. Custom in sin silences the conscience, babit becomes inveterate, so that, as the Scripture expresses it, we cannot cease from sin, till at length we may truly be said to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, deluded by it and besotted to it, stupidly regardless of our real good, deaf to admonition, impatient of restraint..
The next cause of men's continuing in sin, is the custom of the world and the frequency of example. • Experience teaches us, my hearers, that the oftener we commit any sin ourselves, or see it committed by others, the more indifferent does it grow to us; we are too quickly accustomed to it, and, in no long time, shake off that fear and alarm which all, more or less, feel at first. We become familiarized to sin ; it is a school in which we are apt scholars and take our degrees with great applause. This miserable delusion is encouraged in various ways-evil communications corrupt good manners : but the most common is, the strange notion that the evil is not great because we are no worse than our neighbours, perhaps not so bad as some of them; as if the being countenanced by companions could lessen guilt, or the number of criminals either decrease crime or lighten its punishment. Hence it comes to pass, that whatever offence against the law of God is most common is least censured, while another no less sinful and blame