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Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death , not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
FROM the beginning of the 18th verse to the end of the 31st, (the verse immediately going before the text,) we have a catalogue of the blackest sins that human nature, in its highest depravation, is capable of committing; and this so perfect, that there seems to be no sin imaginable but what may be reduced to, and comprised under, some of the sins here specified. In a word, we have an abridgment of the lives and practices of the whole heathen world; that is, of all the baseness and villainy that both the corruption of nature, and the instigation of the devil, could for so many ages, by all the arts and opportunities, all the motives and incentives of sinning, bring the sons of men to. And yet, as full and comprehensive as this catalogue of sin seems to be, it is but of sin under a limitation; an universality of sin under a certain kind; that is, of all sins of direct and personal commission. And you will say, is not this a sufficient comprehension of all? For is not a man’s person the compass of his actions? Or, can he operate further than he does 2exist? Why yes, in some sense he may; he may not only commit such and such sins himself, but also take pleasure in others that do commit them; which expression implies these two things: first, That thus to take pleasure in other men’s sins, is a distinct sin from all the former: and secondly, That it is much greater than the former. Forasmuch as these terms, not only do the same, but also take pleasure, &c. import aggravation, as well as distinction; and are properly an advance a minore ad majus, a progress to a further degree. And this indeed is the farthest that human pravity can reach, the highest point of villainy that the debauched powers of man’s mind can ascend unto. For surely that sin that exceeds idolatry, monstrous unnatural lusts, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, deceit, backbiting, hatred of God, spitefulness, pride, disobedience to parents, covenant-breaking, want of natural affection, implacableness, unmercifulness, and the like: I say, that sin, that is a pitch beyond all these, must needs be such an one as must nonplus the devil himself to proceed further: it is the very extremity, the fulness, and the concluding period of sin, the last line and finishing stroke of the devil’s image drawn upon the soul of man.
Now the sense of the words may be fully and naturally cast into this one proposition, which shall be the subject of the following discourse; viz.
That the guilt arising from a man’s delighting or taking pleasure in other men’s sins, or (which is all one) in other men for their sins, is greater than he can possibly contract by a commission of the same sins in his own person.
For the handling of which, I cannot but think it 3superfluous to offer at any explication of what it is, to take pleasure in other men’s sins; it being impossible for any man to be so far unacquainted with the motions and operations of his own mind, as not to know how it is affected and disposed, when any thing pleases or delights him. And therefore I shall state the prosecution of the proposition upon these following things.
I. I shall shew what it is that brings a man to such a disposition of mind, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins.
II. I shall shew the reasons why a man’s being disposed to do so, comes to be attended with such an extraordinary guilt: and,
III. and lastly, I shall declare what kind of persons are to be reckoned under this character. Of each of which in their order.
And first, for the first of these, What it is that brings a man, &c.
In order to which, I shall premise these four considerations.
1. That every man naturally has a distinguishing sense of turpe et honestum; of what is honest, and what is dishonest; of what is fit, and what is not fit to be done. There are those practical principles and rules of action, treasured up in that part of man’s mind, called by the schools συντήρησις, that, like the candle of the Lord, set up by God himself in the heart of every man, discovers to him both what he is to do, and what to avoid: they are a light. lighting every man that cometh into the world.
And in respect of which principally it is, that God is said not to have left himself without witness 4in the world; there being something fixed in the nature of man, that will be sure to testify and declare for him.
2. The second thing to be considered is, That there is consequently upon this distinguishing principle an inward satisfaction or dissatisfaction arising in the heart of every man, after he has done a good or an evil action; an action agreeable to, or deviating from, this great rule. And this, no doubt, proceeds not only from the real unsuitableness that every thing sinful or dishonest bears to the nature of man, but also from a secret, inward, foreboding fear, that some evil or other will follow the doing of that which a man’s own conscience disallows him in. For no man naturally is or can be cheerful immediately upon the doing of a wicked action: there being something within him that presently gives sentence against him for it: which, no question, is the voice of God himself, speaking in the hearts of men, whether they understand it or no; and by secret intimations giving the sinner a foretaste of that direful cup, which he is like to drink more deeply of hereafter.
3. The third thing to be considered is, That this distinguishing sense of good and evil, and this satisfaction or dissatisfaction of mind consequent upon a man’s acting suitably or unsuitably to it, is a principle neither presently nor easily to be worn out or extinguished. For besides that it is founded in nature, (which kind of things are always most durable and lasting,) the great important end that God designs it for, (which is no less than the government of the noblest part of the world, mankind,) sufficiently shews the necessity of its being rooted 5deep in the heart, and put beyond the danger of being torn up by any ordinary violence done to it.
4. The fourth and last thing to be considered is, That that which weakens, and directly tends to extinguish this principle, (so far as it is capable of being extinguished,) is an inferior, sensitive principle, which receives its gratifications from objects clean contrary to the former; and which affect a man in the state of this present life, much more warmly and vividly than those which affect only his nobler part, his mind. So that there being a contrariety between those things that conscience inclines to, and those that entertain the senses; and since the more quick and affecting pleasure still arises from these latter, it follows that the gratifications of these are more powerful to command the principles of action than the other, and consequently are, for the most part, too hard for, and victorious over, the dictates of right reason.
Now from these four considerations, thus premised, we naturally infer these two things:
First, That no man is quickly or easily brought to take a full pleasure and delight in his own sins. For though sin offers itself in never so pleasing and alluring a dress at first, yet the remorse, and inward regrets of the soul, upon the commission of it, infinitely overbalance those faint and transient gratifications it affords the senses. So that, upon the whole matter, the sinner, even at his highest pitch of enjoyment, is not pleased with it so much, but he is afflicted more. And, as long as these inward rejolts and recoilings of the mind continue, (which they will certainly do for a considerable part of a man’s life,) the sinner will find his accounts of 6pleasure very poor and short, being so mixed and indeed overdone with the contrary impressions of trouble upon his mind, that it is but a bitter-sweet at best; and the fine colours of the serpent do by no means make amends for the smart and poison of his sting.
Secondly, The other thing to be inferred is, that, as no man is quickly or easily brought to take a full pleasure or delight in his own sins, so much less easily can he be brought to take pleasure in those of other men. The reason is, because the chief motive, as we have observed, that induces a man to sin, which is the gratification of his sensitive part, by a sinful act, cannot be had from the sins of an other man; since naturally, and directly, they affect only the agent that commits them. For certainly another man’s intemperance cannot affect my sensuality, any more than the meat and drink that I take into my mouth can please his palate: but of this more fully in some of the following particulars.
In the mean time, it is evident from reason, that there is a considerable difficulty in a man’s arriving to such a disposition of mind, as shall make him take pleasure in other men’s sins; and yet it is also as evident from the text, and from experience too, that some men are brought to do so, And therefore, since there is no effect, of what kind soever, but is resolvable into some cause; we will inquire into the cause of this vile and preternatural temper of mind, that should make a man please himself with that which can no ways reach or affect those faculties and principles, which nature has made the proper seat and subject of pleasure. Now the causes (or at least some of the causes) that debauch and 7corrupt the mind of man to such a degree, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins, are these five.
1. A commission of the same sins in a man’s own person. This is imported in the very words of the text; where it is said of such persons, that they not only do the same things; which must therefore imply that they do them. It is conversation and acquaintance, that must give delight in things and actions, as well as in persons: and it is trial that must begin the acquaintance. It being hardly imaginable, that one should be delighted with a sin at second hand, till he has known it at the first. De light is the natural result of practice and experiment; and when it flows from any thing else, so far it recedes from nature. None look with so much pleasure upon the works of art, as those who are artists themselves. They are therefore their delight, because they were heretofore their employment; and they love to see such things, because they once loved to do them. In like manner, a man must sin himself into a love of other men’s sins; for a bare notion or speculation of this black art will not carry him so far. No sober, temperate person in the world, (whatsoever other sins he may be inclinable to, and guilty of,) can look with any complacency upon the drunkenness and sottishness of his neighbour; nor can any chaste person (be his other failings what they will) reflect with any pleasure or delight upon the filthy, unclean conversation of another, though never so much in fashion, and vouched, not by common use only, but applause. No, he must be first an exercised, thorough-paced practitioner of these vices himself, and they must have endeared themselves to him by those personal 8gratifications he had received from them, before he can come to like them so far as to be pleased and enamoured with them wheresoever he sees them. It is possible indeed, that a sober or a chaste person, upon the stock of ill-will, envy, or spiritual pride, (which is all the religion that some have,) may be glad to see the intemperance and debauchery of some about them; but it is impossible that such persons should take any delight in the men themselves for being so. The truth is, in such a case, they do not properly delight in the vice itself, though they inwardly rejoice (and after a godly sort, no doubt) to see another guilty of it; but they delight in the mischief and disaster which they know it will assuredly bring upon him whom they hate and wish ill to: they rejoice not in it, as in a delightful object, but as in a cause and means of their neighbour’s ruin. So grateful, nay, so delicious, are even the horridest villainies committed by others to the Pharisaical piety of some; who in the mean time can be wholly unconcerned for the reproach brought thereby upon the name of God and the honour of religion, so long as by the same their sanctified spleen is gratified in their brother’s infamy and destruction.
This therefore we may reckon upon, that scarce any man passes to a liking of sin in others, but by first practising it himself; and consequently may take it for a shrewd indication and sign, whereby to judge of the manners of those who have sinned with too much art and caution to suffer the eye of the world to charge some sins directly upon their conversation. For though such kind of men have lived never so much upon the reserve, as to their personal 9behaviour, yet, if they be observed to have a particular delight in, and fondness for, persons noted for any sort of sin, it is ten to one but there was a communication in the sin, before there was so in affection. The man has, by this, directed us to a copy of himself; and though we cannot always come to a sight of the original, yet by a true copy we may know all that is in it.
2dly, A second cause that brings a man to take pleasure in other men’s sins is, not only a commission of those sins in his own person, but also a commission of them against the full light and conviction of his conscience. For this also is expressed in the text; where the persons charged with this wretched disposition of mind are said to have been such as knew the judgment of God, that they who committed such things were worthy of death. They knew that there was a righteous and a searching law, directly forbidding such practices; and they knew, that it carried with it the divine stamp, that it was the law of God; they knew also, that the sanction of it was under the greatest and dreadfullest of all penalties, death. And this surely, one would think, was knowledge enough to have opened both a man’s eyes, and his heart too; his eyes to see, and his heart to consider, the intolerable mischief that the commission of the sin set before him must infallibly plunge him into. Nevertheless, the persons here mentioned were resolved to venture, and to commit the sin, even while conscience stood protesting against it. They were such as broke through all mounds of law, such as laughed at the sword of vengeance, which divine justice brandished in their faces. For we must know, that God has set a flaming sword, not only 10before paradise, but before hell itself also, to keep men out of this, as well as out of the other. And conscience is the angel, into whose hand this sword is put. But if now the sinner shall not only wrestle with this angel, but throw him too, and win so complete a victory over his conscience, that all these considerations shall be able to strike no terror into his mind, lay no restraint upon his lusts, no control upon his appetites; he is certainly too strong for the means of grace, and his heart lies open, like a broad and high road, for all the sin and villainy in the world freely to pass through.
The truth is, if we impartially consider the nature of these sins against conscience, we shall find them such strange paradoxes, that a man must balk all common principles, and act contrary to the natural way and motive of all human actions, in the commission of them. For that which naturally moves a man to do any thing, must be the apprehension and expectation of some good from the thing which he is about to do: and that which naturally keeps a man from doing of a thing must be the apprehension and fear of some mischief likely to ensue from that thing or action that he is ready to engage in. But now, for a man to do a thing, while his conscience, the best light that he has to judge by, assures him that he shall be infinitely, unsupportably miserable, if he does it; this is certainly unnatural and, one would imagine, impossible.
And therefore, so far as one may judge, while a man acts against his conscience, he acts by a principle of direct infidelity, and does not really believe that those things that God has thus threatened shall ever come to pass. For, though he may yield a general, 11faint assent to the truth of those propositions, as they stand recorded in scripture; yet, for a thorough, practical belief, that those general propositions shall be particularly made good upon his person, no doubt, for the time that he is sinning against conscience, such a belief has no place in his mind. Which being so, it is easy to conceive how ready and disposed this must needs leave the soul to admit of any, even the most horrid, unnatural proposals that the devil himself can suggest: for conscience being once extinct, and the Spirit of God with drawn, (which never stays with a man, when conscience has once left him,) the soul, like the first matter to all forms, has an universal propensity to all lewdness. For every violation of conscience proportionably wears off something of its native tenderness; which tenderness being the cause of that anguish and remorse that it feels upon the commission of sin, it follows, that when, by degrees, it comes to have worn off all this tenderness, the sinner will find no trouble of mind upon his doing the very wicked est and worst of actions; and consequently, that this is the most direct and effectual introduction to all sorts and degrees of sin.
For which reason it was, that I alleged sinning against conscience for one of the causes of this vile temper and habit of mind, which we are now discoursing of: not that it has any special productive efficiency of this particular sort of sinning, more than of any other, but that it is a general cause of this, as of all other great vices; and that it is impossible but a man must have first passed this notable stage, and got his conscience throughly debauched and hardened, 12before he can arrive to the height of sin; which I account the delighting in other men’s sins to be.
3dly, A third cause of this villainous disposition of mind, besides a man’s personal commission of such and such sins, and his commission of them against conscience, must be also his continuance in them. For God forbid that every single commission of a sin, though great for its kind, and withal acted against conscience for its aggravation, should so far deprave the soul, and bring it to such a reprobate sense and condition, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins. For we know what a foul sin David committed, and what a crime St. Peter himself fell into; both of them, no doubt, fully and clearly against the dictates of their conscience; yet we do not find, that either of them was thereby brought to such an impious frame of heart, as to delight in their own sins, and much less in other men’s. And therefore it is not every sinful violation of conscience, that can quench the Spirit, to such a degree as we have been speaking of; but it must be a long, inveterate course and custom of sinning after this manner, that at length produces and ends in such a cursed effect. For this is so great a masterpiece in sin, that no man begins with it: he must have passed his tyrocinium, or novitiate, in sinning, before he can come to this, be he never so quick a proficient. No man can mount so fast, as to set his foot upon the highest step of the ladder at first. Before a man can come to be pleased with a sin, because he sees his neighbour commit it, he must have had such a long acquaintance with it himself, as to create a kind of intimacy or friendship between him and that; and 13then, we know, a man is naturally glad to see his old friend, not only at his own house, but wheresoever he meets him. It is generally the property of an old sinner, to find a delight in reviewing his own villainies in the practice of other men; to see his sin and himself, as it were, in reversion; and to find a greater satisfaction in beholding him who succeeds him in his vice, than him who is to succeed him in his estate. In the matter of sin, age makes a greater change upon the soul, than it does or can upon the body. And as in this, if we compare the picture of a man, drawn at the years of seventeen or eighteen, with a picture of the same person at threescore and ten, hardly the least trace or similitude of one face can be found in the other. So for the soul, the difference of the dispositions and qualities of the inner man will be found much greater. Compare the harmlessness, the credulity, the tenderness, the modesty, and the ingenuous pliableness to virtuous counsels, which is in youth, as it comes fresh and untainted out of the hands of nature, with the mischievousness, the slyness, the craft, the impudence, the falsehood, and the confirmed obstinacy in most sorts of sin, that is to be found in an aged, long-practised sinner, and you will confess the complexion and hue of his soul to be altered more than that of his face. Age has given him another body, and custom another mind. All those seeds of virtue and good morality, that were the natural endowments of our first years, are lost, and dead for ever. And in respect of the native innocence of childhood, no man, through old age, becomes twice a child. The vices of old age have in them the stiffness of it too. And as 14it is the unfittest time to learn in, so the unfitness of it to unlearn will be found much greater.
Which considerations, joined with that of its imbecility, make it the proper season for a superannuated sinner to enjoy the delights of sin in the rebound; and to supply the impotence of practice by the airy, phantastic pleasure of memory and reflection. For all that can be allowed him now, is to refresh his decrepit effete sensuality with the transcript and history of his former life, recognised, and read over by him, in the vicious rants of the vigorous youthful debauches of the present time, whom (with an odd kind of passion, mixed of pleasure and envy too) he sees flourishing in all the bravery and prime of their age and vice. An old wrestler loves to look on, and to be near the lists, though feebleness will not let him offer at the prize. An old huntsman finds a music in the noise of hounds, though he cannot follow the chase. An old drunkard loves a tavern, though he cannot go to it, but as he is supported, and led by another, just as some are observed to come from thence. And an old wanton will be doating upon women, when he can scarce see them without spectacles. And to shew the true love and faithful allegiance that the old servants and subjects of vice ever after bear to it, nothing is more usual and frequent, than to hear that such as have been strumpets in their youth, turn procurers in their age. Their great concern is, that the vice may still go on.
4thly, A fourth cause of men’s taking pleasure in the sins of others, is from that meanness and poor spiritedness that naturally and inseparably accompanies 15all guilt. Whosoever is conscious to himself of sin, feels in himself (whether he will own it or no) a proportionable shame, and a secret depression of spirit thereupon. And this is so irksome, and uneasy to man’s mind, that he is restless to relieve and rid himself from it: for which, he finds no way so effectual, as to get company in the same sin. For company, in any action, gives both credit to that, and countenance to the agent; and so much as the sinner gets of this, so much he casts off of shame. Singularity in sin puts it out of fashion; since to be a] one in any practice, seems to make the judgment of the world against it; but the concurrence of others is a tacit approbation of that, in which they concur. Solitude is a kind of nakedness, and the result of that, we know, is shame. It is company only that can bear a man out in an ill thing; and he who is to encounter and fight the law, will be sure to need a second. No wonder therefore if some take delight in the immoralities and baseness of others; for nothing can support their minds drooping, and sneaking, and inwardly reproaching them, from a sense of their own guilt, but to see others as bad as themselves.
To be vicious amongst the virtuous, is a double disgrace and misery; but where the whole company is vicious and debauched, they presently like, or at least easily pardon one another. And as it is observed by some, that there is none so homely, but loves a looking-glass; so it is certain, that there is no man so vicious, but delights to see the image of his vice reflected upon him, from one who exceeds, or at least equals him in the same.
Sin in itself is not only shameful, but also weak; 16and it seeks a remedy for both in society: for it is this that must give it both colour and support. But on the contrary, how great and (as I may so speak) how self-sufficient a thing is virtue! It needs no credit from abroad, no countenance from the multitude. Were there but one virtuous man in the world, he would hold up his head with confidence and honour; he would shame the world, and not the world him. For, according to that excel lent and great saying, Prov. xiv. 14. A good man shall be satisfied from himself. He needs look no further. But if he desires to see the same virtue propagated and diffused to those about him, it is for their sakes, not his own. It is his charity that wishes, and not his necessity that requires it. For solitude and singularity can neither daunt nor disgrace him; unless we could suppose it a disgrace for a man to be singularly good.
But a vicious person, like the basest sort of beasts, never enjoys himself but in the herd. Company, he thinks, lessens the shame of vice, by sharing it; and abates the torrent of a common odium, by deriving it into many channels; and therefore, if he cannot wholly avoid the eye of the observer, he hopes to distract it at least by a multiplicity of the object. These, I confess, are poor shifts, and miserable shelters, for a sick and a self-upbraiding conscience to fly to; and yet they are some of the best that the debauchee has to cheer up his spirits with in this world. For if, after all, he must needs be seen, and took notice of, with all his filth and noisomeness about him, he promises himself however, that it will be some allay to his reproach, to be but one of many, to march in a troop, and by a preposterous 17kind of ambition, to be seen in bad company.
5. The fifth and last cause, (that I shall mention,) inducing men to take pleasure in the sins of others, is a certain, peculiar, unaccountable malignity, that is in some natures and dispositions. I know no other name or word to express it by. But the thing itself is frequently seen in the temporal concerns of this world. For are there not some who find an inward, secret rejoicing in themselves, when they see or hear of the loss or calamity of their neighbour, though no imaginable interest or advantage of their own is or can be served thereby? But, it seems, there is a base, wolfish principle within, that is fed and gratified with another’s misery; and no other account or reason in the world can be given of its being so, but that it is the nature of the beast to delight in such things.
And as this occurs frequently in temporals, so there is no doubt, but that with some few persons it acts the same way also in spirituals. I say, with some few persons; for, thanks be to God, the common, known corruption of human nature, upon the bare stock of its original depravation, does not usually proceed so far. Such an one, for instance, was that wretch, who made a poor captive renounce his religion, in order to the saving of his life; and when he had so done, presently run him through, glorying that he had thereby destroyed his enemy, both body and soul. But more remarkably such, was that monster of diabolical baseness here in Eng land, who, some years since, in the reign of king Charles the first, suffered death for crimes scarce ever heard of before; having frequently boasted, 18that as several men had their several pleasures and recreations, so his peculiar pleasure and recreation was to destroy souls, and accordingly to put men upon such practices as he knew would assuredly do it. But above all, the late saying of some of the dissenting brotherhood ought to be proclaimed and celebrated to their eternal honour; who, while there was another new oath preparing, which they both supposed and hoped most of the clergy would not take, in a most insulting manner gave out there upon, that they were resolved either to have our livings, or to damn our souls. An expression, so fraught with all the spite and poison which the devil himself could infuse into words, that it ought to remain as a monument of the humanity, charity, and Christianity of this sort of men for ever.
Now such a temper or principle as these and the like passages do import, I call a peculiar malignity of nature; since it is evident, that neither the inveterate love of vice, nor yet the long practice of it, and that even against the reluctancies and light of conscience, can of itself have this devilish effect upon the mind, but as it falls in with such a villainous preternatural disposition as I have mentioned. For to instance in the particular case of parents and children, let a father be never so vicious, yet, generally speaking, he would not have his child so. Nay, it is certain, that some, who have been as corrupt in their morals as vice could make them, have yet been infinitely solicitous to have their children soberly, virtuously, and piously brought up: so that, although they have begot sons after their own likeness, yet they are not willing to breed them so too.19
Which, by the way, is the most pregnant demonstration in the world, of that self-condemning sentence, that is perpetually sounding in every great sinner’s breast; and of that inward, grating dislike of the very thing he practises, that he should abhor to see the same in any one, whose good he nearly tenders, and whose person he wishes well to. But if now, on the other side, we should chance to find a father corrupting his son, or a mother debauching her daughter, as (God knows such monsters have been seen within the four seas) we must not charge this barely upon an high predominance of vice in these persons, but much more upon a peculiar anomaly and baseness of nature: if the name of nature may be allowed to that which seems to be an utter cashiering of it; a deviation from, and a contradiction to, the common principles of humanity. For this is such a disposition, as strips the father of the man; as makes him sacrifice his children to Moloch; and as much outdo the cruelty of a cannibal or a Saturn, as it is more barbarous and unhuman to damn a child than to devour him. We sometimes read and hear of monstrous births, but we may often see a greater monstrosity in educations: thus when a father has begot a man, he trains him up into a beast, making even his own house a stews, a bordel, and a school of lewdness, to instill the rudiments of vice into the unwary, flexible years of his poor children, poisoning their tender minds with the irresistible, authentic venom of his base example; so that all the instruction they find within their father’s walls shall be only to be disciplined to an earlier practice of sin, to be catechized into all the mysteries of iniquity, and, at length, confirmed in a mature, 20grown up, incorrigible state of debauchery. And this some parents call a teaching their children to know the world, and to study men: thus leading them, as it were, by the hand, through all the forms and classes, all the varieties and modes of villainy, till at length they make them ten times more the children of the devil, than of themselves. Now, I say, if the unparalleled wickedness of the age should at any time cast us upon such blemishes of mankind as these, who, while they thus treat their children, should abuse and usurp the name of parents, by assuming it to themselves; let us not call them by the low, diminutive term or title of sinful, wicked, or ungodly men; but let us look upon them as so many prodigious exceptions from our common nature, as so many portentous animals, like the strange unnatural productions of Africa, and fit to be publicly shewn, were they not unfit to be seen: for certainly where a child finds his own parents his perverters, he cannot be so properly said to be born, as to be damned into the world; and better were it for him by far to have been unborn, and unbegot, than to come to ask blessing of those whose conversation breathes nothing but contagion and a curse. So impossible, and so much a paradox is it, for any parent to impart to his child his blessing and his vice too.
And thus I have despatched the first general thing proposed for the handling of the words, and shewn in five several particulars, what it is that brings a man to such a disposition of mind, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins. I proceed now to the
Second, which is, To shew the reasons why a man’s being disposed to do so, comes to be attended with 21such an extraordinary guilt. And the first shall be taken from this, that naturally there is no motive to induce or tempt a man to this way of sinning. And this is a most certain truth, that the lesser the temptation is, the greater is the sin. For in every sin, by how much the more free the will is in its choice, by so much is the act the more sinful. And where there is nothing to importune, urge, or provoke it to any act, there is so much an higher and perfecter degree of freedom about that act. For albeit the will is not capable of being compelled to any of its actings, yet it is capable of being made to act with more or less difficulty, according to the different impressions it receives from motives or objects. If the object be extremely pleasing, and apt to gratify it; there, though the will has still a power of refusing it, yet it is not without some difficulty: upon which account it is, that men are so strongly carried out to, and so hardly took off from, the practice of vice; namely, because the sensual pleasure arising from it is still importuning and drawing them to it.
But now, from whence springs this pleasure? Is it not from the gratification of some desire founded in nature? An irregular gratification it is indeed very often; yet still the foundation of it is, and must be, something natural: so that the sum of all is this, that the naturalness of a desire is the cause that the satisfaction of it is pleasure, and pleasure importunes the will; and that which importunes the will, puts a difficulty in the will’s refusing or forbearing it. Thus drunkenness is an irregular satisfaction of the appetite of thirst; uncleanness an unlawful gratification of the appetite of procreation; and covetousness 22a boundless, unreasonable pursuit of the principle of self-preservation. So that all these are founded in some natural desire, and are therefore pleasurable, and upon that account tempt, solicit, and entice the will. In a word, there is hardly any one vice or sin of direct and personal commission, but what is the irregularity and abuse of one of those two grand natural principles; namely, either that which in clines a man to preserve himself, or that which in clines him to please himself.
But now, what principle, faculty, or desire, by which nature projects either its own pleasure or preservation, is or can be gratified by another man’s personal pursuit of his own vice? It is evident, that all the pleasure that naturally can be received from a vicious action, can immediately and personally affect none but him who does it; for it is an application of the pleasing object only to his own sense; and no man feels by another man’s senses. And therefore the delight that a man takes from an other’s sin, can be nothing else but a fantastical, preternatural complacency arising from that which he has really no sense or feeling of. It is properly a love of vice, as such; a delighting in sin for its own sake; and is a direct imitation, or rather an exemplification of the malice of the devil; who delights in seeing those sins committed, which the very condition of his nature renders him uncapable of committing himself. For the devil can neither drink, nor whore, nor play the epicure, though he enjoys the pleasures of all these at a second hand, and by malicious approbation. If a man plays the thief, says Solomon, and steals to satisfy his hunger, Prov. vi. 30. though it cannot wholly excuse the 23fact, yet it sometimes extenuates the guilt. And we know there are some corrupt affections in the soul of man, that urge and push him on to their satisfaction, with such an impetuous fury, that when we see a man overborne and run down by them, considering the frailty of human nature, we cannot but pity the person, while we abhor the crime. It being like one ready to drink poison, rather than to die with thirst.
But when a man shall, with a sober, sedate, diabolical rancour, look upon and enjoy himself in the sight of his neighbour’s sin and shame, and secretly hug himself upon the ruins of his brother’s virtue, and the dishonours of his reason, can he plead the instigation of any appetite in nature inclining him to this; and that would otherwise render him uneasy to himself, should he not thus triumph in an other’s folly and confusion? No, certainly; this can not be so much as pretended. For he may as well carry his eyes in another man’s head, and run races with another man’s feet, as directly and naturally taste the pleasures that spring from the gratification of another man’s appetites.
Nor can that person, whosoever he is, who accounts it his recreation and diversion to see one man wallowing in his filthy revels, and another made in famous and noisome by his sensuality, be so impudent as to allege for a reason of his so doing, that either all the enormous draughts of the one, do or can leave the least relish upon the tip of his tongue; or that all the fornications and whoredoms of the other, do or can quench or cool the boilings of his own lust. No, this is impossible. And if so, what can we then assign for the cause of this monstrous 24disposition? Why, all that can be said in this case is, that nature proceeds by quite another method; having given men such and such appetites, and allotted to each of them their respective pleasures; the appetite and the pleasure still cohabiting in the same subject: but the devil and long custom of sinning have superinduced upon the soul new, unnatural, and absurd desires; desires that have no real object; desires that relish things not at all desirable; but, like the sickness and distemper of the soul, feeding only upon filth and corruption, fire and brimstone, and giving a man the devil’s nature and the devil’s delight; who has no other joy or happiness, but to dishonour his Maker, and to destroy his fellow-creature; to corrupt him here, and to torment him hereafter. In fine, there is as much difference between the pleasure a man takes in his own sins, and that which he takes in other men’s, as there is between the wickedness of a man, and the wickedness of a devil.
2. A second reason why a man’s taking pleasure in the sins of others comes to be attended with such an extraordinary guilt, is, from the boundless, unlimited nature of this way of sinning. For by this a man contracts a kind of an universal guilt, and, as it were, sins over the sins of all other men; so that while the act is theirs, the guilt of it is equally his. Consider any man as to his personal powers and opportunities of sinning, and comparatively they are not great; for at greatest they must still be limited by the measure of a man’s acting, and the term of his duration. And a man’s active powers are but weak, and his continuance in the world but short. So that nature is not sufficient to keep pace with 25his corruptions, by answering desire with proportion able practice.
For to instance in those two grand extravagances of lust and drunkenness: surely no man is of so general and diffusive a lust, as to prosecute his amours all the world over; and let it burn never so outrageously for the present, yet age will in time chill those heats; and the impure flame will either die of itself, or consume the body that harbours it. And so for intemperance in drinking; no man can be so much a swine, as to be always pouring in, but in the compass of some years he will drown his health and his strength in his own belly; and after all his drunken trophies, at length drink down himself too; and that certainly will and must put an end to the debauch.
But now, for the way of sinning which we have been speaking of, it is neither confined by place, nor weakened by age; but the bed-rid, the gouty, and the lethargic, may, upon this account, equal the activity of the strongest and the most vegete sinner. Such an one may take his brother by the throat, and act the murderer, even while he can neither stir an hand nor a foot; and he may invade his neighbour’s bed, while weakness has tied him down to his own. He may sin over all the adulteries and debauches, all the frauds and oppressions of the whole neighbourhood, and, as I may so speak, he may break every command of God’s law by proxy, and it were well for him if he could be damned by proxy too. A man, by delight and fancy, may grasp in the sins of all countries and ages, and by an inward liking of them communicate in their guilt. He may take a range all the world over, and draw in all that wide 26circumference of sin and vice, and center it in his own breast. For whatsoever sin a man extremely loves, and would commit if he had opportunity, and, in the mean time, pleases himself with the speculation of the same, whether ever he commits it or no, it leaves a stain and a guilt upon his conscience; and, according to the spiritual and severe accounts of the law, is made, in a great respect, his own. So that by this means there is a kind of transmigration of sins, much like that which Pythagoras held of souls. Such an one to be sure it is, as makes a man not only (according to the apostle’s phrase) a partaker of other men’s sins, but also a deriver of the whole entire guilt of them to himself; and yet so as to leave the committer of them as full of guilt as he was before.
From whence we see the infinitely fruitful and productive power of this way of sinning; how it can increase and multiply beyond all bounds and measures of actual commission, and how vastly it swells the sinner’s account in an instant. So that a man shall, out of all the various, and even numberless kinds of villainy, acted by all the people and nations round about him, as it were, extract one mighty, comprehensive guilt, and adopt it to himself; and so become chargeable with, and accountable for, a world of sin without a figure.
3. The third and last reason that I shall assign, of the extraordinary guilt attending a man’s being disposed to take pleasure in other men’s sins, shall be taken from the soul’s preparation and passage to such a disposition. For that it presupposes and includes in it the guilt of many preceding sins. For, as it has been shown, a man must have passed 27many periods of sin, before he can arrive to it; and have served a long apprenticeship to the devil, before he can come to such a perfection and maturity in vice, as this imports. It is a collection of the guilt of a long and numerous train of villainies, the compendium and sum total of several particular impieties, all united and cast up into one. It is, as it were, the very quintessence and sublimation of vice, by which, as in the spirit of liquors, the malignity of many actions is contracted into a little compass, but with a greater advantage of strength and force, by such a contraction.
In a word, it is the wickedness of a whole life, discharging all its filth and foulness into this one quality, as into a great sink or common shore. So that nothing is or can be so properly and significantly called the very sinfulness of sin, as this. And therefore no wonder, if, containing so many years guilt in the bowels of it, it stands here stigmatized by the apostle, as a temper of mind, rendering men so detestably bad, that the great enemy of mankind, the devil himself, neither can nor desires to make them worse. I cannot, I need not say any more of it. It is indeed a condition, not to be thought of (by persons serious enough to think and consider) without the utmost horror. But such as truly fear God, shall both be kept from it, and from those sins that lead to it.
To which God, infinitely wise, holt/, and just, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.28
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