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of his repentance. While he thinks highly of himself, he will use no means for his amendment and suffer none to be used with him, any sooner than an insane person, who thinks himself sound, will submit to the discipline of remedies and regimen, in order to
From these instances it appears, that Solomon justly characterized the wicked man, when he said, madness is in his heart.
THE MADNESS AND FATE OF IMPENITENT SINNERS.
ECCLESIASTES IX. 3.
Yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
SOLOMON, in these words, represents sin as a sort of madness. It is not a natural, but a moral madness. It is not the want, but the perversion of reason. It is a disorder not in the head, but in the heart. The sinner acts as contrary to wisdom, as if he had He pays no just regard to his true interest-seeks his own destruction is an enemy to his best friends-deludes and imposes on himself-is inconsistent in his views and actions-and is blind to his own condition. In these respects he symbolizes with a madman. But in other respects there is a wide difference. One is unsound in his intellect, the other is perverse in his will-the one cannot act rationally, the other will not. The latter, therefore, is involved in guilt of which the former is not capable. These things we have considered in a former discourse. We will now, as was proposed,
II. Consider the end, which this moral madness leads. Solomon says of the sons of men; "Madness is in their heart, while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
Here are several serious thoughts suggested.
1. It is here intimated, that many persist in their mad course as long as they live.
Some, indeed, by the grace of God are happily reclaimed to a sounder mind and a wiser conduct. But of many, it may doubtless be said, "Madness is in their heart, while they live." They haughtily spurn and reject all the instructions, and warnings, which are given them-all the means, which are applied to themand all the strivings of God's spirit with them. "Their iniquities have taken them; they are holden in the cords of their sins, and they die without instruction, as in the greatness of their folly they have gone astray." What proportion of mankind these unhappy wretches make, it is not for us to judge; but there is reason to believe their number is not small. When the old world was destroyed, but a remnant was saved. In the city of Sodom there were not ten righteous, to secure it from the vengeance of heaven. There was a time, wher, in the Jewish nation, there was not a man found, who sought the truth and executed judgment. There might be many, who wept in secret places for the general corruption; but error and vice were become so strong and insolent, that none had courage openly to oppose them. In our Saviour's time, so few gave heed to his doctrine, that he applied the prophet's complaint, "Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Many were called, but few were chosen. Hence, exhorting his hearers to enter in at the straight gate, he urges this solemn argument, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat: But straight is the gate and narrow the way, which leadeth to life; and few there be who find it!" There were, in the time of John's vision, but few names even in Sardis, which had not defiled their garments. Nor have we any reason to conclude, that the prevalence of sin is limited to those times and places. It has ever been the complaint of good men, that iniquity abounds. This is a full and undeniable proof, that some moral disorder has infected human nature—some seed of bitterness has taken root in the soil, and springing up, bears gall and wormwood. Why else is there not a just man on
earth, who perfectly does good, and sins not? Why else does the madness of sin so extensively prevail? Why else are the most powerful antidotes so often ineffectual?
Our own observation will furnish us with sad examples of the infatuating influence of sin. There are many, who discover no deep concern for their future interest, but are wholly immersed in the cares of the world-who are governed by no fixed principles of piety, but entirely by temporal considerations. There are some who are addicted to palpable vice, to intemperance, profaneness, slander, or injustice, and who live in the habitual neglect of the means of religion. There are those who persist in their guilty course, unreformed and unawakened by all the methods of divine grace and providence: or if they are alarmed by a sudden danger, they soon relapse into their former stupidity.. And we sometimes see those who leave the world without exhibiting any proof of a better temper. Madness is in their heart while they live. Our Saviour warns us, that, at the last day, many will come and plead admission into his kingdom, whom he will reject as workers of iniquity.
Now it is probable, that among those who shall be finally rejected, few will be found, who beforehand really expected this awful event. When Jesus speaks of the sad fate of impenitent sinners, he generally represents them as wofully disappointed. If we enquire what supports their present hopes, we shall find it to be one of these two things; either a flattering opinion that they are already entitled to God's favour, or a vain presumption that they shall secure his favour by repentance, before they die. Well; you see that many, who have indulged these hopes, will finally be disappointed: look well to yourselves, lest ye be disappointed also. Fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into God's rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. There are probably none present, who really believe that they shall miss of this grand object. If they realized for themselves such an event, how is it possible that they should maintain all this calmness and indifference, which they actually discover?-And yet it is probable, there are some, who, if they were to talk seriously of their moral state, would confess, that they had not made their calling
and election sure. It is then the hope of a future repentance, which composes their minds. But how precarious such a hope is, appears from this undeniable fact, that many have contented themselves with it as long as they lived. And what reason have you to conclude, that the same hope of future repentance which has flattered thousands through life, and flattered you hitherto, will not flatter you, till you die? You think it now a just ground of inward peace; and yet you know that you must, and intend that you will, by and by, view it otherwise. You resolve, that some day or other, you will give it up, and live upon it no longer. But how absurd it is to depend upon that now, which you hope you shall hereafter see to be vain and delusive? If it be a sufficient ground of comfort now, why do you not intend to trust it always? If it be no ground of comfort, why will you trust it at all?
2. The words of the text remind us, that the sinner, however unprepared, must yield to death. Though, in the madness of his heart, he lives thoughtless of death, yet he must go to the dead as well as others.
A man would think his reason affronted, if his neighbor should seriously undertake to convince him that he must die, by laying before him, in a formal manner, the proofs of human mortality. You never met with a man, who would dispute this solemn truth. The most profane sinner in the world, if he ever talks calmly on such a subject, will say, "All men are mortal-no man hath power in the day of death-there is no exemption from that warfareand no man knows what shall be on the morrow."
It may then, be proper to ask him such questions as these: Since you believe this important truth, why are you not influenced by it? Since you know that God will bring you to death, why do you live as if you were in league with death? Since you would be ashamed to have it thought, that you disbelieved your mortality, why are you not ashamed to act as if you disbelieved it? Which is most to your dishonor, to reject a plain and important truth, or to confess it and still live in opposition to it?
Death is an event as solemn and momentous, as it is certain and evident. It will dissolve this animal frame, disunite soul and body, remove us from every earthly interest and enjoyment, and