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but, to a religious man, the consequences are always so. The ruin of innocence, the loss of a good conscience, the misapplication of a good understanding, the forfeiture of God's protection, disappointment and misery in this world, and the fearful looking-for of judgment in the next, are dreadful considerations, which a righteous man can never separate from the notion of sin. However fair and flattering it may look for a time, (as many fatal diseases have but light symptoms in the beginning,) these are the proper issues of it at last.
issues of it at last. How many thousands of young men, through the deceitfulness of sin, and thoughtlessness of youth, having yielded to the first temptations and beginnings of sin, have been drawn by an easy progress from idleness to pleasure, from pleasure. to extravagance, from extravagance to vice, from vice to beggary, from beggary to dishonesty, and from dishonesty to infamy and despair ! How
young women, too little aware of their own danger, have been seduced from their natural modesty, into shame and disappointment ; lost and forsaken in this world, neglected by all honest people, despised very probably and avoided by those who seduced them, and dragging on a miserable life in poverty and infamy; who might
have lived innocent and useful and happy, if they had duly considered the nature of sin, before they had resigned themselves to a sinful life! What the sword and famine and pestilence are to a nation, such is sin to a single person. All the havock that is made in the mind, the body, or the fortune, proceeds in some shape or other from this universal cause of evil: there is no one calamity incident to the nature of
man, which sin cannot, indeed, which it doth not naturally, produce. Therefore the righteous man considers the sinner as a person taken in a snare, or fallen into a pit, or maimed in all his faculties by the cruel adversary of mankind. Instead of despising him, he grieves for him. He finds him in the same miserable condition with that poor traveller in the parable of the Gospel, who in his
from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves, which left him naked, and wounded, and half dead upon the ground. Who can mock at such a spectacle as this? He only, who either has no sense or no feeling : whose understanding is darkened, and whose heart is hardened : yet this is the real inward condition of a sinner; therefore the righteous man takes the part of the good Samaritan ; he sees him and has compassion on him; he raises him, from the earth
to which he is fallen, and pours balm into his wounds. What a pleasure would a generous mind take in releasing a poor wretch bound hand and foot by thieves, and left to perish in the field ! How happy is the good man in the opportunity of redeeming a poor Christian slave, who has been chained to the oar, and beaten by unfeeling Turkish tyrants ! Such is the satisfaction we ought to take in restoring a sinner to his liberty. All men are entitled to this pity from us by the common ties of humanity : the effects of sin are to be deplored even in Heathens, Jews, and Savages : but Christians have a nearer claim upon us, as members of the same body, in which we are all to rejoice and suffer together. The righteous therefore instead of triumphing in the sin of his neighbour, and aggravating his fault, is ready to offer any thing that can be said in the way of extenuation :' that the sinner might offend through ignorance; that if he had known better, he would have done better ; that he might be surprized into sin in an unguarded hour by the sudden violence of some temptation. Charity hopeth all things that are good, and believeth all things that are favourable. And, to conclude these observations, as the fool in mocking at sin imitates the devil, the righteous
in shewing favour follows the example of Jesus Christ, who was even reflected upon for his condescension as the friend of publicans and sin
But here we must be careful to urge the example of our blessed Saviour so far only as it will go. The malice of the hypocrite, and the sins of the impenitent, were the objects of his compassion, and even of his tears; but sin is no object of pardon, till it is confessed and repented of. We are commanded to pray for those that revile us and use us despitefully! but God himself is not faithful and just to forgive us our sins, till they are confessed by the penitent. Christ wept over Jerusalem for the calamities which its apostacy should bring upon it, and devoutly wished it might have seen the things which belonged to its peace; but he pardoned sin in those only who wept for themselves; and none of this temper were ever cast out, when they applied to him.
I am now lastly to add some advice proper to the subject.
The doctrine we have heard is this; that the righteous is favourable, and the fool is censorious. Let us therefore be careful not to mistake that mockery for wit, which is the greatest instance of folly. To mock at the evil or the shame of sin in those who are guilty of it, is the
height of cruelty and malice; it is inhuman; it is more like an undistinguished brute, than one who is indued with the tender feelings of a rational man: and to mock at sin itself, as if there were no harm in it, is the way to let sin loose upon us: it saves trouble to the tempter, by taking off those restraints of religion and virtue which stand in his way. No words can make sin so horrible as it really is. It ruins individuals every day, in mind, body and estate ; and there is a time when it shall destroy the world, as certainly as the fire of the last day shall consume it. If he, that trifles with fire, is accounted a mad man, what must he be, who makes a mock at sin? For when fire and sword, and famine and pestilence, are laying waste the world, sin is the spring which puts them all in motion.
Mockery, being an act of pride as well as folly, is very dangerous to those who practise it; because pride goeth before a fall; and he, that mocks at sin, is never far from falling into it. The offence is such as ought to be in justice, and generally is, punished with subsequent disgrace and humiliation, He, that mocketh at others, shall be mocked at himself. We are warned not to be high minded, but to fear. When the wise man sees another fall, he is im