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Auences of his gracious Spirit. These divine operations are sometimes carried so high, that the spirit is said to strive with them; and continued so long, that he is said to be grieved, and even wearied with their perverseness.
Such measures God has taken, and such he is still pursuing, for the recovery of sinners. What a horrible thing must it then be, for you to strengthen their guilty hands, embolden their daring hearts, and prevent their return to God? What impious opposition is this to his holy will ? What insult on his authority? What contempt of his pow. er and grace, his wisdom and love? What can be conceived more insolent and provoking? How shall he pardon you for this ?”
3. To strengthen the hands of the wicked is a horrible thing, because it directly tends to the misery of mankind; and therefore is the reverse of that benevolence, which ought to govern us in all our conduct toward one another.
The tendency of a wicked life is misery in this world; and the end of it, more intolerable misery in the next. Repentance is the only condition of the divine pardon; holiness is an indispensible qualification for that eternal happiness, which the gospel reveals.
The fruits and consequences of final impenitence are, in scripture, represented by language of most awful import, and by images which strike the feel. ing and attentive mind with amazement and horror.
That they will be dreadful, beyond our present conceptions, may justly be concluded from the nature of sin as an opposition to God's character and government; and especially from the extraordinary method which he has taken for our redemption. Had not the demerit of sin been exceedingly great, a divine Saviour would not have interposed by his own death to rescue us from it.
. Consider then, ye who strengthen the hands of the sinner, you are urging him forward into that everlasting destruction, which is so great, so amazingly great, that to save men from it, the Son of God himself suffered a most painful death. obstruct and prevent his repentance, you hinder him from obtaining a share in that salvation which was purchased, not by silver and gold, but by the precious blood of a divine Redeemer. Can you think it a small thing to be active in bringing one of your fellow immortals to a condition so awful, as that which awaits the ungodly?
The apostle cautions Christians, not to use their liberty, in a manner which might embolden others in inquity, or prove a stumbling block to the weak, lest by these means, a' brother should perish for whom Christ died. For when we sin against our brother, we sin against Christ. Now if it be criminal and dangerous to occasion the destruction of others by an imprudent use of innocent liberty, What a horrible thing must it be, directly and intentionally to strengthen the hands of the wicked, and throw obstructions in the way of their repent. ance? Awful is the denunciation of the Son of God against those, who shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, and neither enter into it themselves, nor suffer those who are entering, to come in.
Consider farther; when you strengthen the hands of an evildoer, you contribute to the spread and diffusion of vice and misery. If one sinner repents, and turns to a godly life, none can tell how much evil may be prevented, and how much good may be done. If this sinner continues in his guilty course, we cannot measure the greatness, nor comprehend the extent of the mischief which may follow. He may corrupt and destroy others; and these may still spread the corruption farther; and from hand to hand, it may be circulated round to an unknown
distance, and be transmitted down to remote generations. And how many will finally perish, by means of one sinner whom you have strengthened, you cannot foresee.
If you should hereafter be convinced of the error of your ways, yet you will not be able to recall the corruptions which you have communicated, nor to repair the mischiefs which you have occasioned. Some, whom you have seduced, may be already in a state of punishment. If they are alive, yet they may not be within your reach ; or they may by this time be too much confirmed in wickedness, to be recovered by your advice. Or could you reclaim them, yet you know not how many they have seduced. The evil, which originated with you, may now be propagated too far, and infused into too ma
for you to think of extinguishing it. If by your repentance, you can save your own soul, it is happy: You cannot, by your counsels and warnings, save theirs.
If your strengthening the hands of evildoers may be productive of so great, so extensive, so lasting mischief to the souls of your fellow men, must you not confess it to be a horrible thing?
4. By this conduct, you support the cause, and cooperate with the influence of that evil spirit, who works in the children of disobedience.
Sin was first introduced into our world by the artifice of Satan, who, by pride and rebellion, having fallen under God's wrath, seduced man into transgression. He is still carrying on a design in opposi. tion to the kingdom of God. He still goes about seeking whom he may destroy. He is called the ruler of the darkness of this world, and the prince of the power of the air. The place where error and vice abound, is called the place, where Satan's throne is. His kingdom is a kingdom of darkness, delusion and wickedness : The kingdom of God is a kingdom of VOL. II.
light, truth and benevolence. They who pervert the right ways of the Lord, and turn others from the mith, imitate the character, second the design, and do the work of the devil; and are called his children, his ministers and servants. They are agents in his cause, and factors in his trade : They act under his influence, and in conformity to his will ; they must therefore, take a share in his punishment hereafter, as well as in his guilt and infamy here.
While we contemplate, with horror, the character of infernal spirits, drawn in the sacred writings, we should consider it as a most horrible thing for human beings, in a state of probation, to imitate this character.
Those evil spirits, who left their own habitation, are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day. For them no redemption is provided; to them no probation is granted; hope never casts a smile on them.
We are placed under hope. Salvation is purchased for us, and offered to us. A day of probation is assigned us. We are all under like circumstances of guilt and danger, and underlike offers of grace and pardon; and we are all exposed to the machinations of a common enemy. Shall any of us revolt from the interest of humanity and love, and join the adversary ? O ye heavens, be astonished at this, and be ye horribly afraid !—Let us stretch out friendly hands, encourage, animate and strengthen one another in the work of our common salvation, and become fellow helpers to the kingdom of God.
5. To strengthen the hands of the wicked is a horrible thing, because we thus become partakers of their sins.
When others, by our enticement, example, or encouragement, or in consequence of any licentious errors, which they have caught from us, are induced to commit iniquity, we share with them in the guilt.
They are answerable for yielding to our influence, in opposition to the better information, which they have received, but we must stand answerable for all that we have spoken and done, to draw them away from virtue and truth; and for our neglect of that which we should have done to lead and encourage them in the path of wisdom, and prevent their apostasy. Ifwe have seduced theni to, or encouraged them in, anevil course ; while they pursue it, they are sinning at our expense, and at our risk, as well as their own. They are agents and factors under us, and with them we must finally divide the fatal reward of iniquity.
Let us realize, how great is the guilt of our own proper iniquities, and we shall think it a horrible, thing to augment it by a participation in the guilt of other men. And
great a proportion of some men's guilt will come from this quarter ? They have done much tocorrupt from virtue the simple and incautious, and to confirm evildoers in their wickedness. Their influence has run far, and spread wide. It operates, at distant hand, on many whom they never have seen. It works without their knowledge, grows while they sleep, and is accumulating their guilt, while they are unaware of the mischief. Of those who bring in damnable heresies, and who seduce many to follow their per nicious ways, the apostle says,
" Their judgment now, of a long time, lingereth not, and their damna. tion slumbereth not.
6. The sin under consideration is an horrible thing, as it is directly contrary to the commands of God, and marked with his peculiar abhorrence.
We have required to rebuke our brother, and not fuffer sin upon him ; to exhort one another, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; to take heed lest any root of bitterness, springing up, trouble us, and thereby many be defiled; to have compas sion on sinners, and save them with fear, pulling