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in, and found the door was shut. The film shall be taken from every eye, and the veil from every heart; either in a way of mercy in this world, or in a way of wrath in the next. The rich man died; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments. His deluded soul was now a lost soul, and all his former dreams of happiness are vanished. Perhaps he did not apprehend his danger till he felt his misery: but now his understanding is enlightened, which before was darkness; and his conscience is awakened, which before had been asleep ! There are many unconvinced sinners upon earth; but remember, there are none in hell. All there is a reality, and the visions of the night are passed away ! 4. Self-deception, discourages from the use of means. The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Those who fancy themselves safe and right, though they have the greatest need of a Saviour, are not likely to apply to him. The sinner feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand. Such dwell at ease in the greatest danger. Their hopes deceive them while their lusts destroy them. They are contented, because they think themselves safe; and imagining that their state is good, and their title firm, they make no attempts to have the one altered and the other secured. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope. Thou hast found the life of thine hand, therefore thou wast not grieved. Isai. xliv. 20. lvii. 10. 5. Present deception will aggravate future misery. None sink so deep in hell as hypocrites and selfdeceivers. If any thing can make its flames more fierce and intolerable, it will be the disappointment of hope and high expectations. To fall at once from the pinnacle of self-confidence and self-sufficiency, into the depths of eternal misery, is the most dread-,
ful of all evils. To be persuaded that God was our friend, and find him an implacable enemy—to be stripped of all our tinsel ornaments, and exposed in our genuine deformity—to expect angels as our guardians and guides to the heavenly mansions, and as soon as our eyes are closed in the shades of death to be seized by malignant spirits, and dragged down to the regions of horror and despair—oh how awful ' What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul! And what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Job xxvii. 8. Matt. xvi. 26.
Hence we learn,
(1.) The necessity of self-examination. This is a duty much neglected, but of great importance. Persons may be deceived, even though they do examine themselves; but they are sure to be deceived, if they do not. An openly profane character may * be more injurious to others; but a hypocrite is most injurious to himself. (2.) The advantage of a soul-searching ministry. + Wherever God has fixed it, it is a favour that cannot be too highly esteemed. Those are our worst enemies who daub the wall with untempered mortar, and who heal the wound slightly, crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. (3.) When we have examined ourselves, and . have been tried by others to the utmost, still there is need to prostrate ourselves before the throne, and to pray with the psalmist, Search me, oh God, and know my heart; try me, and knca, my thoughts / See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psal. cxxxix. 23, 24.
PsAL. Lxxvii. 10.
I said, this is my infirmity.
WHEN a good man is made sensible of any evil in his heart or life, he is ready to acknowledge it, and take shame to himself on account of it. I said, this is my infirmity. No doubt but the psalmist had often said it to himself; and such soliloquies are very becoming, and may be very useful. He said it also to God, in a way of humble confession. I acknowledge my sin unio thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Probably he might say it to his intimate friends, whose piety and sympathy he had often witnessed; for we are commanded to confess our faults one to another, and to pray one for another. James v. 16. It appears from the connexion of these words with the foregoing verse, that the conviction followed close upon the transgression, and the confession upon the conviction. The apprehension of the psalmist was quick and lively; his conscience tender and faithful, approving that which was good, and con
demning that which was evil. He does not glory in WOL. II. Y
his sin, but is humbled under it. He does not say, as some would, ' Oh, it is only an infirmity, a very small deviation from what ought to be, such as is scarcely to be taken notice of, and what all good men are liable to.' No: it is the language of grief and lamentation. 'This is my infirmity, an evil into which I have frequently fallen; and considering the experience I have already had of the goodness and mercy of God, my unbelief and despondency are so much the more inexcusable.'
The term "infirmity," when applied to bodily complaints, generally denotes such as are not dangerous, but common and habitual: and when applied to our moral state it denotes those evils to which good men are liable, and which are not owing to the want of grace, but the weakness of it. The heart may be right in the main ; and yet, through the power of temptation, the prevalence of some corruption, or the want of circumspection, a good man may be drawn aside, and led into some evil which is offensive to God and grievous to his own soul. An infirmity may be where there is spiritual life, but a want of spiritual strength; a wilt to do good, but not a present ability to perform it; uprightness in the heart, but a deviation in the conduct: so that the duty neglected is still loved, and the sin committed disallowed % and there is something from God and for God, as well as against him. Similar to this was the case of Paul: The good that I would, said he, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I mould not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present tsith me. For I delight in the law of God after the inner man: but I see another taw in my members, warring agaiusL-the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. JKoni. via. 19—23.
I. Enquire into the nature of that infirmity of ywhich the psalmist complains.
By considering the context, we may conclude that it consisted in something like the following:
1. A proneness to live too much on frames and feelings. This is common among christians, and hinders their establishment and growth in grace. Those who live on spiritual frames will be like steuben; unstable as water, they shall not excel. At one time they are raised to a full assurance of faith, saying, My mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved: and at another, they are sinking into the depths of despondency, and saying, Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will he be favourable no more ? . They rest upon transient feelings, and not upon firm and absolute promises; and therefore when the former seem to clash with the latter, their faith is staggered, their peace broken, and their confidence turned into fear. They lay more stress upon fallible signs than upon the infallible testimony of God himself. Assaulted by temptations and inbred corruptions, experiencing much darkness and deadness in their own souls, and losing in a measure those joys and comforts which attended the earlier part of their profession, they call in question the sincerity of the past, and tremble for the issue of the future, not knowing how to reconcile these things with a state of grace and acceptance with God. Something like this was Asaph's infirmity; a walking by sight, and not by
2. Forgetfulness of past mercies is another evil. to which good men are subject, and the natural consequence of this is unthankfulness. This was not always the case with the psalmist; for his heart was sometimes inflamed with love, and his lips overflowed with praise. He could say with grateful astonish