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soul far from God, and short of eternal life, they are miserably deficient. If there were neither God, nor a retributive hereafter, perhaps, there are some worldly men to whom might be conceded the character of wisdom; but with another world before them, with God and future judgment awaiting them when they die, their neglect of salvation, and their blind embrace of earthly objects as their all in all, preclude us from attributing to the conduct of thoughtless sinners any other character than that of folly, however much adorned with the accomplishments of time, and however respectable for high attainments of various knowledge. This, accordingly, is the most common term applied to them in Scripture. And, doubtless, to a spectator free from the prejudices of sin, that can trace human actions to their final results, and estimate the comparative good of time and eternity to an immortal being, the conduct of men must appear indescribably foolish. One who could not be mistaken in his judgment of things, hath set before us a striking specimen of worldly character, in the man who, after laying up his redundant stores, proposed to his soul a long period of ease and enjoyment. “But God said unto him, Thou
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fool, this very night shall thy soul be required of thee; and then, whose shall these things be?” A like rebuke belongs to all, whether poor or rich, who make no provision for their soul's salvation. If this be so, how wide is the dominion of folly ?
Hitherto we have considered the sinner as foolish, in miscalculating his own interest, and as acting preposterously for himself : But the text exhibits him as acting injuriously to God. foolish and disobedient,” says the Apostle. The folly of man is not of a harmless inoffensive kind, but shows itself in acts of daring disobedience and lawless opposition to the will of God. The perfections of God are so lovely, his character so beneficent, and his goodness so engaging, that it might be thought, previous to experience, that all reasonable natures would rejoice to obey him. Or, if benefits and blessings would not move them, yet is He so awful in Majesty, and so fearful in the vengeance of his offended justice and despised power, that fear, it might be reckoned, would compel the most reluctant to yield subjection, and obey his laws. But is it so?
Alas! survey the scene of life, and see
in a thousand instances, that men, not through ignorance or inadvertency, but with knowledge and determination of will, disobey God. He requires them to abstain from sin, and to regulate their lives by his holy, just, and good commandments; he directs them to love the Lord their God, to whom they owe all; to believe his truth, and live godly in Christ Jesus : But the heart of man revolts, and wilfully sets itself to disobey the Lord. The lives of most men are but a continued transgression ; every day is made a day of provocation, and every year adds to the mass of accumulating guilt. Of
it truly said, that they never obey God in any instance; acting with no regard to his authority, and with no reference to his will. And what is this obstinate disobedience to the King Immortal, but a most guilty rebellion ? What deserves it, but the wrath to come? It assimilates men to the angels that sinned; for was not disobedience their crime? and if persisted in, it brings men to share with them the punishment of everlasting fire !
Yet the disobedient world think not so; for another characteristic feature is added to the picture, and that is “deceived.”
What thinks this poor foolish disobedient creature of himself? that he is wise and good, and worthy of heaven ? and that it would be most merciless to consign him to endless woe? Yes ! these are his thoughts. Deceived ! how applicable is this term to unregenerate men, who seem to act under a perpetual delusion! To them every object of time seems as if viewed through a beguiling medium, and assumes an unreal magnitude and value. They are deceived in the pleasures they follow, and deceived in the interests they pursue. They are deceived in thinking their virtues so many, and their sins so few and venial. They are awfully deceived in presuming that they shall be saved without repentance, without faith, without holiness.
They feed on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned them aside, that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?” Satan deceives them with arts of diabolical subtilty and craft, filling their minds with dark prejudices against God, as not good or not strictly just; and against religion, as a thing fitted only to make men timid, superstitious, and morose. The world deceives them with a promise of happiness it never fulfils. Sin deceives them with assurances
of pleasure and impunity, which, in the nature of things, cannot be realized. Alas ! they deceive themselves the most of all, by building some refuge of lies, and entering in to abide there, with false hope as their bosom friend, which speaks peace to them, when there is no peace,-promises an easy and a distant death,-a God all mercy,-an eternity all delights, and without a hell, at least, for such as they. Nevertheless, though false hope would fain exclude him, death comes suddenly, and comes with terror; and the guilty soul, on its first entrance into the invisible world, finds itself deceived indeed. Then—then is the grand deceit discovered, though the detection comes too late to retrieve the infinite mistake! Vengeance pursues the undone spirit into outer darkness, there to reap the fruit of its doings—there to lament for ever that others did much to deceive it, but that selfdeception was the loss of heaven.
Yet such is the deceitfulness of sin, that, fearless of judgment to come, men are seen earnestly “serving divers lusts and pleasures,” just as if the wages of sin were not death. The natural man will not serve God, whether besought by his mercy, or warned of his power; but most heartily he