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promised. He not only counsels, but invites; he not only invites, but intreats; and to remove every ground of suspicion or jealousy, he adds his oath to his promise, and to both he superadds his seal, and is now ready to hold it out to you in the holy sacrament. Let me therefore, once more, beseech you to hearken to his advice. First come to himself by an humble faith, and then come and receive the New Testament in his blood.
As for you who have already been determined by grace to listen to the advice of this faithful Witness, I this day invite you, in his name, to come anew, and draw water out of the wells of salvation. For you, he hath again covered a table in the wilderness, and instituted this ordinance for your spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. You have formerly tasted that [the Lord is gracious, he is now waiting to give you some farther experience of it. Come forward then with thankful hearts, and enlarged desires. Devise liberal things, for he is a liberal Giver. Open your mouths wide, and he will fill them a bundantly. Amen.
But 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.
THE promiscuous distribution of good and evil, in the present life, has always tended to weaken the influence of moral and religious motives among mankind. Our minds are so framed, that pleasure or pain, immediately or soon to be experienced, affect them in a much stronger degree, than greater measures of either, removed by distance of future time. There is a prodigious difference between certainty, as the mere object of our understanding, and the strong impression produced by the consideration of those things which are not only certain, but near at hand. The former merely produces assent of the mind; the latter lays hold of the heart, and influences the conduct. Accordingly we find, that all who have aspired to the art of persuasion, in moral or religious dis
courses, have endeavoured to heighten the influence of distant motives, by placing the objects of them in the strongest light. This may be done either directly, by representing their superior and infinite importance, or implicitly, by lessening our conceptions, and thereby lowering our solicitude, as to the intervening period.
This last is the method adopted by Solomon, in the passage with which the text is connected. In the preceding verse, he had expressed, in the strongest terms, the full assurance he had that it should finally be well with them that fear God. Many, indeed, in the present time, are the afflictions of the righteous. In the world, they are generally despised, and reviled, and persecuted. And what is the reason of this? Our Lord tells his disciples the reason: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." But what is the hatred, the calumny, or the persecution of the world, to those whose minds are raised above it, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; whose light affliction, which is but for a moment, works out an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory.
Let us now change the view. The sinner may do evil an hundred times, and as often prosper in his schemes of iniquity; yet, in the midst of all this outward success, he is still the object of pity
and compassion, rather than of envy. To real happiness his heart is a stranger; he grasps at enjoyment, and embraces vanity; his days fly away as a shadow; they see no good; and he himself is fast hastening to those regions of darkness, where nothing is heard but the voice of fruitless lamentation, and everlasting despair.
This, it must be confessed, is a gloomy subject; but gloomy as it is, we must not forbear to press it on your attention. The same God who commands us to say to the righteous, It shall be well with him, commands us likewise to deliver this awful warning: "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."
But, before I proceed to illustrate the threat ening in the text, there is a previous point to be settled, without which, all that I can say must have very little effect, and that is, who the wicked here spoken of are, who are the persons against whom this threatening is denounced.
Were I, in answer to this enquiry, to begin with describing those gross and flagitious crimes, which the natural conscience of every man abhors, I should only spend your time, and offend your ears to no purpose; for who is there in all the society of mankind, not to say in a Christian assembly, that will dispute the justice of this appellation, as applied to thieves and robbers, oppressors and
murderers, blasphemers, false swearers, and open contemners of all laws, human and divine? I may safely presume on your assent, that characters such as these, so obnoxious even to human society, may properly be classed among the wicked, against whom the threatening of the text is denounced. I may even take it for granted, that the greater part of my audience will advance a step farther, and permit me to pass the same censure upon those who are guilty of the more prevailing sins of the present time, such as profane swearing, uncleanness, drunkenness, breach of the Lord's day, and habitual neglect of divine institutions. Thus far, I suppose, we are generally agreed. But if we consult the Scriptures, the only infallible rule of judging, we shall find that the term wicked is of a still more extensive signification, and comprehends a great many characters besides those already named. Of this I cannot give you a more convincing proof, than by referring you to that plain and instructive parable of the talents, Matt. XXV. 14. There we read of one who digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money, and at his return digged it up again, and restored it to him in the same state he got it. In this, according to the general style of judging, there seems to be nothing culpable. The man, though not profitably active, was at least harmless. He took nothing from his master's talent, neither did he put it to any bad use. But what character did his VOL. III.