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and flatters himself in it, till at length he finds by experience, that it is bitter as gall and wormwood. Though be thinks the commission of sin to be lovely, yet be will find the fruit of it to be hateful, and what he cannot endure. Prov. xxiii. 32. “ At last it will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.”
Here observe, the subject spoken of is the wicked man, of whom the Psalmist had been speaking in the foregoing verse. His action in flattering himself' in his own eyes; i. e. he makes himself and his case to appear to himself, or in his own eyes, better than it is.
How long he continues so to do, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. Which may be taken for, either, bis sin itself, as the wicked will see how odious sin is to God, when he shall feel the effects of his batred, and how hateful to angels and saints; or, rather, the cause is here put for the effect, the tree for its fruit, and he will find his iniquity to be hateful, as he will find the hatefulness and feel the terribleness of the fruit of bis iniquity. Hence it appears, that Wicked men generally flatter themselves with hopes of escaping punishment, till it actually comes upon them.
There are but few sinners who despair, who give up the cause, and conclude within themselves, that they shall go to hell; yet there are but few who do not go to hell. It is to be feared that men go to hell every day out of this country; yet very few of them suffer themselves to believe, that they are inr any great danger of that punishment. They go on sinning, and thus travelling in the direct road to the pit; yet they per. suade themselves that they shall never fall into it.
Sinners flatter themselves with the hope of impunity.
We are so taught in the word of God, Deut. xxix. 18, 19. « Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God. Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that be bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." Where it is supposed, that they whose hearts turn away from God, and are roots that bear gall and wormwood, generally bless themselves in their hearts, saying, We shall have peace.
See also Psalın xlix. 17, 18. “ When he dieth, he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him, though, whilst he lived, he blessed his soul.” And Psalm l. 21.
These things thou hast done, and I kept silence ; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”
It is very evident, that sinners flatter themselves that they shall escape punishment, otherwise they would be in dreadful and continual distress; they could never live so cheerfully as they now do. Their lives would be filled with sorrow and mourning, and they would be in continual uneasiness and distress, as much as those that are exercised with some violent pain of body. But it is apparent that men are careless and secure; they are not much concerned about future punishment, and they cheerfully pursue their business and recreations. Therefore they undoubtedly flatter themselves, that they shall not be eternally miserable in hell, as they are threatened in the word of God.
It is evident that they flatter themselves with hopes that they shall escape punishment, otherwise they would certainly be restrained, at least from many of those sins in which they now live; they would not proceed in wilful courses of sin. The transgression of the wicked convinced the Psalmist, and is enough to convince every one, that there is no fear of God before his eyes, and that he flatters himself in his own eyes. It would be impossible for men allowedly to do those very things which they know are threatened with everlasting destruction, if they did not some way encourage themselves they should nevertheless escape that destruction.
Some of the various Ways wherein Sinners flatter themselves
in their own Eyes.
1. Some flatter themselves with a secret hope, that there is no such thing as another world. They hear a great deal of preaching, and a great deal of talk about hell, and the eternal judgment; but those things do not seem to them to be real. They never saw hell, nor the devils and damned spirits ; and therefore are ready to say within themselves, How do I know that there is any such thing as another world? When the beasts die, there is an end of them, and how do I know but that it will be so with me! Perhaps all these things are nothing but the inventions of men, nothing but cunningly. devised fables.
Such thoughts are apt to rise in the minds of sinners, and the devil sets in to enforce them. Such thoughts are an case to them; therefore they wish they were true, and that
makes them the more ready to think that they are so. So that they are hardened in the way of sin, by infidelity and atheistical thoughts. Psalm xiv. 1. « The fool bath said in his heart, There is no God." Psalm xciv. 6, 7. “ They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it."
2. Some flatter themselves that death is a great way off, and that they shall bereafter have much opportunity to seek salvation ; and they think, if they earnestly seek it, though it be a great while hence, they shall obtain. Although they see no reason to conclude that they shall live long, and perhaps they do not positively conclude that they shall; yet it doth not come into their minds that their lives are really uncertain, and that it is doubtful whether they will live another year. Such a thought as this doth not take any hold of them. And although they do not absolutely determine that they shall live to old age or to middle age, yet they secretly flatter themselves with such an imagination. They are disposed to believe so, they act upon it, and run the venture.
Men believe that things will be as they choose to have them, without reason, and sometimes without the appearance of reason, as is most apparent in this case. Psal. xlix. 11. * Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.”—The prepossession and desire of men to have it so, is the principal thing that makes them so believe. However, there are several other things which they use as arguments to flatter themselves. Perhaps they think, that since they are at present in health, or in youth, or that since they are useful men, do a great deal of good, and both themselves and others pray for the continuance of their lives; they are not likely to be removed by death very soon.If they live many years in the world, they think it very probable that they shall be converted before they die; as they expect hereafter to have much more convenient opportunities to become converted, than they have now. And by some means or other they think they shall get through their work before they arrive at old age.
3. Some flatter themselves that they lead moral and orderly lives, and therefore think that they shall not be damned. They think within themselves that they live not in any vice, that they take care to wrong no man, are just and honest dealers; that they are not addicted to hard drinking, or to uncleanness, or to bad language; that they keep the Sabbath strictly, are constant attendants on the public worship, and maintain the worship of God in their families. Therefore
they hope that God will not cast them into hell. They see not why God should be so angry with them as that would imply, seeing they are so orderly and regular in their walk! they see not that they have done enough to anger him to that degree. And if they have angered him, they imagine they bave also done a great deal to pacify him.
If they be not as yet converted, and it be necessary that they should experience any other conversion in order to their salvation, they bope that their orderly and strict lives will move God to give them converting grace. They hope that surely God will not see those that live as they do go to hell, Thus they flatter themselves, as those (Luke xviii. 9) “ that trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”
4. Some make (the advantages under which they live an occasion of self-fattery. They flatter themselves, that they live in a place where the gospel is powerfully preached, and among a religious people, where many have been converted; and they think it will be much easier for them to be saved on that account. Thus they abuse the grace of God to their destruction; they do that which the scriptures call despising the riches of God's goodness; Rom. ii. 4. * Or despisest tbou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?"
Some flatter themselves, that they are born of godly parents, who are dear to God, who have often and earnestly prayed for them, and hope that their prayers will be heard; and that encourages them to go on in the way of neglecting their souls. The Jews had great dependence upon this, that they were the children of Abraham ; John viii. 33, they make their boast, “ We be Abraham's seed;" and in verse 39, « Abraham is our father."
5. Some flatter themselves with their own intentions. They intend to give themselves liberty for a while longer, and then to reform. Though now they neglect their souls, and are going on in sin ; yet they intend cre long to bestir themselves, to leave off their sins, and to set themselves to seek God. They hear that there is great encouragement for those who earnestly seek God, that they shall find him. So they intend to do; they propose to seek with a great deal of earnestness. They are told, that there are many who seek to enter the kingdom of heaven, who shall not be able; but they intend, not only to seek, but to strive. However, for the present they allow themselves in their ease, sloth, and pleasure, minding only earthly things.
Or if they should be seized with some mortal disteinper, and should draw near to the grave, before the time which they lay out in their minds for reformation, they think how
earnestly they would pray and cry to God for mercy and as they hear God is a merciful God, who taketh no delight in the death of sinners, they hence flatter themselves that they shall move God to have pity on them.
There are but few sinners, knowing themselves to be such, who have not intentions of future repentance and reformation; but few who do not flatter themselves, that they shall in good earnest seek God some time or other. Hell is full of good intenders, who never proved to be true performers : Acts xxiv. 25. “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”
6. There are some who flatter themselves, that they do, and have done, a great deal for their salvation, and therefore hope they shall obtain ; when indeed they neither do what they ought to do, nor what they might do even in their present state of unregeneracy; nor are they in any likely way to be converted. They think they are striving, when they actually neglect many moral and some instituted duties; nor do they exert themselves as if it were for their lives; they are not violent for the kingdom of heaven.
There are doubtless many such; many are concerned, and are sceking, and do many things, and think that they are in a very fair way to obtain the kingdom of God; yet there is great danger that they will prove at last to be some of the foolish virgins, and be found without oil in their vessels.
7. Some hope by their strivings to obtain salvation of themselves. They have a secret imagination, that they shall by degrees, work in themselves sorrow and repentance of sin, and love towards God and Jesus Christ. Their striving is not so much an carnest seeking to God, as a striving to do themselves that which is the work of God. Many who are now seeking have this imagination; they labour, read, pray, hear sermons, and go to private meetings, with the view of making themselves holy, and of working in themselves holy affections.
Many, who only project and design to turn to God hereafter, are apt to think that it is an easy thing to be converted; that it is a thing which will be in their own power at any time, when they shall earnestly set themselves to it.
8. Some sinners flatter themselves, that they are already converted. They sit down and rest in a false hope, persuading themselves that all their sins are pardoned: that God loves them; that they shall go to heaven when they die; and that they need trouble themselves'no more: Rev. jii. 17. “ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have ' need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
Sinners very generally go on flattering themselves in some