|« Prev||Sermon XVIII. Of the Heinous Guilt of Taking…||Next »|
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.
THE sense of these words I shew, in the preceding discourse, fell naturally into this one proposition: 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.
The prosecution of which I stated upon these three things.
First, To shew what it is that brings a man to such a disposition of mind, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins.
Secondly, To shew the reasons why a man’s being disposed to do so, comes to be attended with such an extraordinary guilt.
Thirdly and lastly, To declare what kind of persons are to be reckoned under this character.
The two first of which being despatched already, I proceed now to the third and last. Concerning which, I shall lay down this general assertion; That 29whosoever draws others to sin, ought to be looked upon as one delighting in those sins that he draws them to. Forasmuch as no man is brought to do any thing, especially if it be ill or wicked, but in order to the pleasing of himself by it: it being absurd and incredible, that any one should venture to damn himself hereafter, for that which does not some way or other gratify and please him here. But to draw forth this general into particulars.
1. First of all: Those are to be accounted to take pleasure in other men’s sins, who teach doctrines directly tending to engage such as believe them in a sinful course. For there is none so compendious and efficacious a way to prepare a man for all sin, as this: this being properly to put out the eyes of that which is to be his guide, by perverting his judgment; and when that is once done, you may carry him whither you will. Chance must be his rule, and present appetite his director. A man’s judgment or conscience is the great spring of all his actions; and consequently to corrupt or pervert this, is to derive a contagion upon all that he does. And therefore we see how high a guilt our Saviour charges upon this in Matt. v. 19. Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: that is, in truth shall never come thither. And we find the great sin of the Pharisees was, that they promoted and abetted the sins of other men, taught the devil’s doctrine out of Moses’s chair, and by false descants upon the divine precepts, cut asunder the binding force of them: so that, according to their wretched comments, men might break the law, and yet never sin against it. 30For in Matt. xv. 5, 6. they had taught men how to dishonour their parents, without any violation of the fifth commandment. Thus they preached: and what design can any one imagine the authors of such doctrines could have, but the depravation of men’s manners! For, if some men teach wicked things, it must be that others should practise them. And if one man sets another a copy, it is no doubt with a purpose that he should write after it.
Now these doctrines are of two sorts.
1. Such as represent actions, that are in themselves really wicked and sinful, as not so.
2. Such as represent them much less sinful as to their kind or degrees, than indeed they are.
For the first of which; to instance in one very gross one, instead of many, take the doctrine of those commonly called Antinomians, who assert positively, that believers, or persons regenerate, and within the covenant of grace, cannot sin. Upon which account, no wonder if some very liberally assume to themselves the condition and character of believers; for then they know that other mighty privilege belongs to them of course. But what? may not these believers cheat and lie, commit adultery, steal, murder, and rebel? Why, yes; they may, and nothing is more common than to see such believers do such things. But how then can they escape the charge of all that guilt that naturally follows from such enormities? Why, thus; you must in this case with great care and accuracy distinguish between the act of lying and the sin of lying, the act of stealing and the sin of stealing, and the act of rebellion and the sin of rebellion. Now, though all these acts are frequent and usual with such persons, 31yet they are sure (as they order the matter) never to be guilty of the sin. And the reason is, because it is not the quality of the action that derives a qualification upon the person, so as to render him such or such, good or bad; but it is the antecedent quality or condition of the person that denominates his actions, and stamps them good or evil. So that they are those only who are first wicked, that do wicked actions. But believers, and the godly, though they do the very same things, yet they so much outwit the devil in the doing of them, that they never commit the same sins. But you will say, how came they by such a great and strange privilege? Why, they will tell you, it is because they are not under the obliging power of the law. And if you ask further, how they come to get from under that common obligation that lies so hard and heavy upon all the rest of the world; they will tell you, it is from this, that believers, instead of the law, have the Spirit actually dwelling in them, and by an admirable kind of invisible clock-work moving them, just as a spring does a watch; and that immediately by himself alone, without the mediation of any written law or rule to guide, or direct, and much less to command or oblige them. So that the Spirit, we see, is to be their sole director, without, and very often contrary to, the written law. An excellent contrivance, doubtless, to authorize and sanctify the blackest and most flagitious actions that can proceed from man. For since the motions of the Spirit (which they so confidently suppose themselves to have) cannot so much as in things good and lawful, by any certain diagnostic, be distinguished from the 32motions of a man’s own heart, they very easily make a step further, and even in things unlawful conclude the motions of their own hearts to be the impulse of the Spirit; and this presently alters the whole complexion of an action that would otherwise look but very scurvily; and makes it absolutely pure and unblameable, or rather perfect and meritorious. So that let a man have but impudence and wickedness enough to libel his Maker, and to entitle the Spirit of God to all that he does or desires, surnaming his own inclinations and appetites (though never so irregular and impure) the Holy Ghost; and you may, upon very sure grounds, turn him loose, and bid him sin if he can. And thus much for the first sort of doctrines, which once believed, like the flood-gates of hell pulled up, lets in a deluge and inundation of all sin and vice upon the lives of men. And if this be the natural effect of the doctrines themselves, we cannot in all reason but infer, that the interest of the teachers of them must needs be agreeable.
2. The other sort of doctrines tending to engage such as believe them in a sinful course, are such as represent many sins, much less, as to their kind or degree, than indeed they are. Of which number is that doctrine, that asserts all sins committed by believers, or persons in a state of grace, to be but infirmities. That there are such things as sins of infirmity, in contradistinction to those of presumption, is a truth not to be questioned; but in hypothesi, to state exactly which are sins of infirmity, and which are not, is not so easy a work. This is certain, that there is a vast difference between them; indeed, as vast as between inadvertency and deliberation, between 33surprise and set purpose: and that persons truly regenerate have sinned this latter way, and consequently may sin so again, is as evident as the story (already referred to by us) of David’s murder and adultery: sins acted not only with deliberation, but with artifice, study, and deep contrivance. And can sins, that carry such dismal marks and black symptoms upon them, pass for infirmities? for sins of daily incursion, and such as human frailty, and the very condition of our nature in this world, is so unavoidably liable to, (for so are sins of infirmity,) that a righteous man may fall into them seven times in a day; and yet, according to the merciful tenor of the covenant of grace, stand accepted before God as a righteous man still? No, certainly, if such are infirmities, it will be hard to assign what are presumptions. And what a sin-encouraging doctrine that is, that avouches them for such, is sufficiently manifest from hence; that although every sin of infirmity, in its own nature, and according to the strict rigour of the law, merits eternal death; yet it is certain from the gospel, that no man shall actually suffer eternal death barely for sins of infirmity: which being so, persuade but a man that a regenerate person may cheat and lie, steal, murder, and rebel, by way of infirmity, and at the same time you persuade him also, that he may do all this without any danger of damnation. And then, since these are oftentimes such desirable privileges to flesh and blood; and since withal, every man by nature is so very prone to think the best of himself and of his own condition; it is odds but he will find a shrewd temptation to believe himself regenerate, rather than forbear a pleasurable or a profitable sin, 34by thinking that he shall go to hell for committing it. Now this being such a direct manuduction to all kind of sin, by abusing the conscience with undervaluing persuasions concerning the malignity and guilt even of the foulest; it is evident, that such as teach and promote the belief of such doctrines, are to be looked upon as the devil’s prophets and apostles; and there is no doubt, but the guilt of every sin, that either from pulpit, or from press, they influence men to the commission of, does as certainly rest upon them, and will one day be as severely exacted of them, as if they had actually and personally committed it themselves.
And thus I have instanced in two notable doctrines, that may justly be looked upon as the general inlets, or two great gates, through which all vice and villainy rush in upon the manners of men professing religion. But the particulars, into which these generals diffuse themselves, you may look for and find in those well-furnished magazines and store-houses of all immorality and baseness, the books and writings of some modern casuists; who, like the devil’s amanuenses, and secretaries to the prince of darkness, have published to the world such notions and intrigues of sin out of his cabinet, as neither the wit or wickedness of man, upon the bare natural stock either of invention or corruption, could ever have found out.
The writings, both of the Old and New Testament, make it very difficult for a man to be saved; but the writings of these men make it more difficult, if not impossible, for any one to be damned: for where there is no sin, there can be no damnation. And as these men have obscured and confounded 35the natures and properties of things by their false principles and wretched sophistry, though an act be never so sinful, they will be sure to strip it of its guilt; and to make the very law and rule of action so pliable and bending, that it shall be impossible to be broke. So that he who goes to hell must pass through a narrower gate than that which the gospel says leads to heaven. For that, we are told, is only strait, but this is absolutely shut; and so shut that sin cannot pass it, and therefore it is much if a sinner should.
So insufferably have these impostors poisoned the fountains of morality, perverted and embased the very standard and distinguishing rule of good and evil. So that all their books and writings are but debauchery upon record, and impiety registered and consigned over to posterity.
In every volume there is a nursery and plantation of vice, where it is sure to thrive, and from thence to be transplanted into men’s practice. For here it is manured with art and argument, sheltered with fallacy and distinction, and thereby enabled both to annoy others and to defend itself.
And to shew how far the malignity of this way of sinning reaches; he, who has vented a pernicious doctrine, or published an ill book, must know that his guilt and his life determine not together: no, such an one, as the apostle says, being dead, yet speaketh; he sins in his very grave, corrupts others while he is rotting himself, and has a growing account in the other world after he has paid nature’s last debt in this; and, in a word, quits this life like a man carried off by the plague; who, though he 36dies himself, yet does execution upon others by a surviving infection.
2. Such also are to be reckoned to take pleasure in other men’s sins, as endeavour by all means to allure men to sin; and that either by formal persuasion, importunity, or desire, as we find the harlot described, enticing the young man, in Prov. vii. from ver. 13 to 22; or else by administering objects and occasions fit to inflame and draw forth a man’s corrupt affections; such as are the drinking of a choleric or revengeful person into a fit of rage and violence against the person of his neighbour; thus heating one man’s blood, in order to the shedding of another’s. Such also as the provoking of a lustful, incontinent person, by filthy discourse, wanton books and pictures, and, that which equals and exceeds them all, the incentives of the stage; till a man’s vice and folly works over all bounds, and grows at length too mad and outrageous to be either governed or concealed.
Now with great variety of such kind of traders for hell as these, has the nation of late years abound ed. Wretches who live upon the shark, and other men’s sins, the common poisoners of youth, equally desperate in their fortunes and their manners, and getting their very bread by the damnation of souls. So that if any inexperienced young novice happens into the fatal neighbourhood of such pests, presently they are upon him, plying his full purse and his empty pate with addresses suitable to his vanity; telling him, what pity it is, that one so accomplished for parts and person should smother himself in the country, where he can learn nothing of gallantry or 37behaviour; as, how to make his court, to hector a drawer, to cog the die, or storm a whorehouse; but must of necessity live and die ignorant of what it is to trepan or be trepanned, to sup, or rather dine at midnight in a tavern, with the noise of oaths, blasphemies, and fiddlers about his ears, and to fight every watch and constable at his return from thence, and to be beaten by them: but must at length, poor man! die dully of old age at home; when here he might so fashionably and genteelly, long before that time, have been duelled or fluxed into another world.
If this be not the guise and practice of the times, especially as to the principal cities of the kingdom, let any one judge; and whether for such a poor deluded wretch, instead of growing rusty in the country, (as some call it,) to be thus brought by a company of indigent, debauched, soul-and-body-destroying harpies, to lose his estate, family, and virtue, amongst them in the city, be not a much greater violation of the public weal and justice of any government, than most of those crimes that bring the committers of them to the gallows, we may at present easily see, and one day perhaps sadly feel.
Nor is this trade of corrupting the gentry and nobility, and seasoning them with the vices of the great town, as soon as they set foot into it, carried on secretly, and in a corner, but openly, and in the face of the sun; by persons who have formed themselves into companies, or rather corporations. So that a man may as easily know where to find one to teach him to debauch, whore, game, and blaspheme, as to teach him to write or cast accompt: it is their support and business; nay, their very profession and livelihood; getting their living by those 38practices, for which they deserve to forfeit their lives.
Now these are another sort of men, who are justly charged with the guilt and character of delighting in other men’s sins: men, who are the devil’s setters; who contrive, study, and beat their brains how to draw in some poor, innocent, unguarded heir into their hellish net, learning his humour, prying into his circumstances, and observing his weak side; and all this to plant the snare and apply the temptation effectually and successfully; and when by such insinuations they have once got within him, and are able to drill him on from one lewdness to another, by the same arts corrupting and squeezing him as they please; no wonder if they rejoice to see him guilty of all sorts of villainy, and take pleasure in those sins in which they find their profit too.
3. Such as affect the company of infamous and vicious persons, are also to be reckoned in the number of those who take pleasure in such men’s vices. For otherwise, what is there in such men which they can pretend to be pleased with? For generally such sots have neither parts nor wit, ingenuity of discourse, nor fineness of conversation, to entertain or delight any one, that, coming into their company, brings but his reason along with him. But, on the contrary, their rude, impertinent loudness, their quarrels, their nastiness, their dull, obscene talk and ribaldry, (which from them you must take for wit, or go without it,) cannot but be very nauseous and offensive to any one who does not balk his own reason, out of love to their vice; and, for the sake of the sin itself, pardon the ugliness of its circumstances: as a father will hug and embrace his beloved son, for all the dirt 39and foulness of his clothes; the dearness of the person easily apologizing for the disagreeableness of the habit.
One would think it should be no easy matter to bring any man of sense to love an alehouse; indeed of so much sense, as seeing and smelling amounts to; there being such strong encounters of both, as would quickly send him packing, did not the love of good fellowship reconcile him to these nuisances, and the deity he adored compound for the homelines of its shrine.
It is clear therefore, that where a man can like and love the conversation of lewd, debauched persons, amidst all the natural grounds and motives of loathing and dislike; it can proceed from nothing but the inward affection he bears to their lewd, debauched humour. It is this that he enjoys, and, for the sake of this, the rest he endures.
4thly and lastly, Such as encourage, countenance, and support men in their sins, are to be reckoned in the number of those who take pleasure in other men’s sins. Now this may be done two ways.
First, By commendation. Concerning which, we may take this for granted; that no man commends another any further than he likes him: for indeed to commend any one, is to vouch him to the world, to undertake for his worth, and, in a word, to own the thing which he is chiefly remarkable for. He who writes an encomium Neronis, if he does it heartily is himself but a transcript of Nero in his mind; and would, no doubt, gladly enough see such pranks, as he was famous for, acted again, though he dares not be the actor of them himself.
From whence we see the reason of some men’s 40giving such honourable names and appellations to the worst of men and actions, and base, reproachful titles to the best: such as are calling faction, and a spitting in their prince’s face, petitioning; fanaticism and schism, true protestantism; sacrilege and rapine, thorough reformation, and the like. As, on the contrary, branding conformity to the rules and rites of the best church in the world, with the false and odious name of formality; and traducing all religious, conscientious observers of them, as mungrel Protestants, and Papists in masquerade. And indeed many are and have been called Papists of late years, whom those very persons who call them so know to be far from being so. But what then do they mean by fixing such false characters upon men, even against their own consciences? Why, they mean and design this: they would set such a mark upon those whom they hate, as may cause their throats to be cut, and their estates to be seized upon, when the rabble shall be let loose upon the government once again; which such beggarly, malicious fellows impatiently hope and long for.
Though I doubt not (how much soever knaves may abuse fools with words for a time) but there will come a day, in which the most active Papists will be found under the Puritan mask; in which it will appear, that the conventicle has been the Jesuits safest kennel, and the Papists themselves, as well as the fanatics, have been managers of all those monstrous outcries against popery, to the ruin of those Protestants whom they most hate, and whom alone they fear. It being no unheard-of trick for a thief, when he is closely pursued, to cry out, Stop the thief, and thereby diverting the suspicion from himself, 41to get clear away. It is also worth our while to consider with what terms of respect and commendation knaves and sots will speak of their own fraternity. As, What an honest, what a worthy man is such an one! And, What a good-natured person is another! According to which terms, such as are factious, by worthy men, mean only such as are of the same faction, and united in the same designs against the government with themselves. And such as are brothers of the pot, by a good-natured person, mean only a true, trusty debauchee, who never stands out at a merry-meeting, so long as he is able to stand at all; nor ever refuses an health, while he has enough of his own to pledge it with; and, in a word, is as honest as drunkenness and debauchery, want of sense and reason, virtue and sobriety, can possibly make him.
2dly, The other way by which some men encourage others in their sins is, by preferment. As, when men shall be advanced to places of trust and honour for those qualities that render them unworthy of so much as sober and civil company. When a lord or master shall cast his favours and rewards upon such beasts and blemishes of society, as live only to the dishonour of Him who made them, and the reproach of him who maintains them. None certainly can love to see vice in power, but such as love to see it also in practice. Place and honour do of all things most misbecome it; and a goat or a swine in a chair of state, cannot be more odious than ridiculous.
It is reported of Caesar, that passing through a certain town, and seeing all the women of it standing at their doors with monkeys in their arms, he 42asked, whether the women of that country used to have any children or no? thereby wittily and sarcastically reproaching them for misplacing that affection upon brutes, which could only become a mother to her child. So, when we come into a great family or government, and see this place of honour allotted to a murderer, another filled with an atheist or blasphemer, and a third with a filthy parasite, may we not as appositely and properly ask the question, whether there be any such thing as virtue, sobriety, or religion amongst such a people, with whom vice wears those rewards, honours, and privileges, which in other nations the common judgment of reason awards only to the virtuous, the sober, and religious? And certainly it is too flagrant a demonstration, how much vice is the darling of any people, when many amongst them are preferred for those practices, for which, in other places, they can scarce be pardoned.
And thus I have finished the third and last general thing proposed, for the handling of the words, which was, to shew the several sorts or kinds of men, which fall under the charge and character of taking pleasure in other men’s sins.
Now the inferences from the foregoing particulars shall be twofold.
1. Such as concern particular persons; and,
2. Such as concern communities, or bodies of men.
And first for the malignity of such a disposition of mind, as induces a man to delight in other men’s sins, with reference to the effects of it upon particular persons. As,
1. It quite alters and depraves the natural frame of a man’s heart: for there is that naturally in the heart of man, which abhors sin, as sin; and consequently 43would make him detest it, both in himself and in others too. The first and most genuine principles of reason are certainly averse to it, and find a secret grief and remorse from every invasion that sin makes upon a man’s innocence; and that must needs render the first entrance and admission of sin uneasy, because disagreeable. Yet time, we see, and custom of sinning, can bring a man to such a pass, that it shall be more difficult and grievous to him to part with his sin, than ever it was to him to admit it. It shall get so far into, and lodge itself so deep within, his heart, that it shall be his business and his recreation, his companion and his other self; and the very dividing between his flesh and his bones, or rather, between his body and his soul, shall be less terrible and afflictive to him, than to be took off from his vice.
Nevertheless, as unnatural as this effect of sin is, there is one yet more so: for, that innate principle of self-love, that very easily and often blinds a man, as to any impartial reflection upon himself, yet, for the most part, leaves his eyes open enough to judge truly of the same thing in his neighbour, and to hate that in others, which he allows and cherishes in himself. And therefore, when it shall come to this, that he also approves, embraces, and delights in sin, as he observes it, even in the person and practice of other men; this shews that the man is wholly trans formed from the creature that God first made him; nay, that he has consumed those poor remainders of good that the sin of Adam left him; that he has worn off the very remote dispositions and possibilities to virtue; and, in a word, turned grace first, and afterwards nature itself, out of doors. No man 44knows, at his first entrance upon any sin, how far it may carry him, and where it will stop; the commission of sin being generally like the pouring out of water, which, when once poured out, knows no other bounds but to run as far as it can.
2dly, A second effect of this disposition of mind is, that it peculiarly indisposes a man to repent, and recover himself from it. For the first step to repentance is a man’s dislike of his sin: and how can we expect that a man should conceive any through dislike of that, which has took such an absolute possession of his heart and affections, that he likes and loves it, not only in his own practice, but also in other men s? Nay, that he is pleased with it, though he is past the practice of it. Such a temper of mind is a downright contradiction to repentance; as being founded in the destruction of those qualities which are the only dispositions and preparatives to it. For that natural tenderness of conscience, which must first create in the soul a sense of sin, and from thence produce a sorrow for it, and at length cause a relinquishment of it; that, I say, (we have already shewn,) is took away by a customary, repeated course of sinning against conscience: so that the very first foundation of virtue, which is the natural power of distinguishing between the moral good and evil of any action, is, in effect, plucked up and destroyed; and the Spirit of God finds nothing in the heart of such an one to apply the means of grace to. All taste, relish, and discernment of the suitableness of virtue, and the unsuitableness of vice, being utterly gone from it.
And as this is a direct bar to that part of repentance, which looks back with sorrow and indignation 45upon what is past; so is it equally such to that greater part of repentance, which is to look forward, and to prevent sin for the future. For this properly delivers a man up to sin; forasmuch as it leaves his heart destitute of all those principles which should resist it. So that such an one must be as bad as the devil will have him, and can be no better than the devil will let him. In both he must submit to his measures. And what is this but a kind of entrance into, or rather an anticipation of hell? What is it but judgment and damnation already begun? For a man in such a case is as sure of it, as if he were actually in the flames.
3dly, A third effect of this disposition of mind (which also naturally follows from the former) is, that the longer a man lives the wickeder he grows, and his last days are certainly his worst. It has been observed, that to delight in other men’s sins was most properly the vice of old age; and we shall also find, that it may be as truly and properly called the old age of vice. For, as first, old age necessarily implies a man’s having lived so many years before it comes upon him; and withal, this sort of viciousness supposes the precedent commission of many sins, by which a man arrives to it; so it has this further property of old age: that, as when a man comes once to be old, he never retreats, but still goes on, and grows every day older and older; so when a man comes once to such a degree of wickedness, as to delight in the wickedness of other men, it is more than ten thousand to one odds, if he ever returns to a better mind, but grows every day worse and worse. For he has nothing else to take up his thoughts, and nothing to entertain his desires with; 46which, by a long estrangement from better things, come at length perfectly to loathe and fly off from them.
A notable instance of which we have in Tiberius Caesar, who was bad enough in his youth, but superlatively and monstrously so in his old age: and the reason of this was, because he took a particular pleasure in seeing other men do vile and odious things. So that all his diversion at his beloved Capreae, was to be a spectator of the devil’s actors, representing the worst of vices upon that infamous stage.
And therefore let not men flatter themselves, (as no doubt some do,) that though they find it difficult at present to combat and stand out against an ill practice, and upon that account give way to a continuance in it; yet that old age shall do that for them, which they in their youth could never find in their heart to do for themselves; I say, let not such persons mock and abuse themselves with such false and absurd presumptions. For they must know that an habit may continue, when it is no longer able to act; or rather the elicit, internal acts of it may be quick and vigorous, when the external, imperate acts of the same habit utterly cease: and let men but reflect upon their own observation, and consider impartially with themselves, how few in the world they have known made better by age. Generally they will see, that such leave not their vice, but their vice leaves them; or rather retreats from their practices, and retires into their fancy; and that, we know, is boundless and infinite: and when vice has once settled itself there, it finds a vaster and a wider compass to act in, than ever it had before. I 47scarce know any thing that calls for a more serious consideration from us than this: for still men are apt to persuade themselves, that they shall find it an easy matter to grow virtuous as they grow old. But it is a way of arguing highly irrational and fallacious. For this is a maxim of eternal truth; that nothing grows weak with age, but that which will at length die with age; which sin never does. The longer a blot continues, the deeper it sinks. And it will be found a work of no small difficulty to dispossess and throw out a vice from that heart, where long possession begins to plead prescription. It is naturally impossible for an old man to grow young again; and it is next to impossible for a decrepit aged sinner to become a new creature, and be born again.
4thly and lastly, We need no other argument of the malign effects of this disposition of mind, than this one consideration, that many perish eternally, who never arrived to such a pitch of wickedness as to take any pleasure in, or indeed to be at all concerned about, the sins of other men. But they perish in the pursuit of .their own lusts, and the obedience they personally yield to their own sinful appetites: and that, questionless, very often not without a considerable mixture of inward dislike of themselves for what they do: yet for all that, their sin, we see, proving too hard for them, the over powering stream carries them away, and down they sink into the bottomless pit, though under the weight of a guilt, by vast degrees inferior to that which we have been discoursing of. For doubtless many men are finally lost, who yet have no men’s sins to answer for, but their own: who never enticed 48nor perverted others to sin, and much less applauded or encouraged them in their sin: but only being slaves to their own corrupt affections, have lived and died under the killing power of them, and so passed to a sad eternity.
But that other devilish way of sinning, hitherto spoken of, is so far beyond this, that this is a kind of innocence, or rather a kind of charity, compared to it. For this is a solitary, single; that a complicated, multiplied guilt. And indeed, if we consider at what a rate some men sin nowadays; that man sins charitably, who damns nobody but himself. But the other sort of sinners, who may properly enough be said to people hell, and, in a very ill sense, to bear the sins of many; as they have a guilt made up of many guilts, so what can they reasonably expect, but a damnation equivalent to many damnations?
And thus much for the first general inference, from the foregoing discourse, shewing the malignity of such a disposition of mind as induces a man to delight in other men’s sins, with reference to particular persons.
2dly, The other inference shall be with reference to communities, or bodies of men; and so such a disposition has a most direct and efficacious influence to propagate, multiply, and spread the practice of any sin, till it becomes general and national. For this is most certain, that some men’s taking pleasure in other men’s sins, will cause many men to sin, to do them a pleasure; and this will appear upon these three accounts. 1. That it is seldom or never that any man comes to such a degree of impiety, as to take pleasure in other men’s sins, but he also shews 49the world by his actions and behaviour that he does so. 2. That there are few men in the world so in considerable, but there are some or other who have an interest to serve by them. And, 3. That the natural course that one man takes to serve his interest by another is, by applying himself to him in such a way as may most gratify and delight him.
Now from these three things put together, it is not only easy, but necessary to infer, that since the generality of men are wholly acted by their present interest, if they find those who can best serve them in this their interest, most likely also to be gained over so to do by the sinful and vile practices of those who address to them; no doubt such practices shall be pursued by such persons, in order to the compassing their desired ends. Where greatness takes no delight in goodness, we may be sure there shall be but little goodness seen in the lives of those who have an interest to serve by such an one’s greatness. For take any illustrious, potent sinner, whose power is wholly employed to serve his pleasure, and whose chief pleasure is to see others as bad and wicked as himself; and there is no question but in a little time he will also make them so; and his dependants shall quickly become his proselytes. They shall sacrifice their virtue to his humour, spend their credit and good name, nay, and their very souls too, to serve him; and that by the worst and basest of services, which is, by making themselves like him. It is but too notorious how long vice has reigned, or rather raged amongst us; and with what a bare face and a brazen forehead it walks about the nation, as it were, elato capite, and looking down with scorn upon virtue as a contemptible and a mean thing. Vice could not 50come to this pitch by chance. But we have sinned apace, and at an higher strain of villainy than the fops our ancestors (as some are pleased to call them) could ever arrive to. So that we daily see maturity and age in vice joined with youth and greenness of years. A manifest argument, no doubt, of the great docility and pregnancy of parts, that is, in the present age, above all the former.
For, in respect of vice, nothing is more usual nowadays, than for boys illico nasci senes. They see their betters delight in ill things; they observe reputation and countenance to attend the practice of them; and this carries them on furiously to that, which, of themselves, they are but too much inclined to; and which laws were purposely made by wise men to keep them from. They are glad, you may be sure, to please and prefer themselves at once, and to serve their interest and their sensuality together.
And as they are come to this height and rampancy of vice, in a great measure, from the countenance of their betters and superiors; so they have took some steps higher in the same from this, That the follies and extravagances of the young too frequently carry with them the suffrage and approbation of the old. For age, which naturally and unavoidably is but one remove from death, and consequently should have nothing about it but what looks like a decent preparation for it, scarce ever appears of late days but in the high mode, the flaunting garb, and utmost gaudery of youth; with clothes as ridiculously, and as much in the fashion, as the person that wears them is usually grown out of it. The eldest equal the youngest in the vanity of their dress, 51and no other reason can be given of it, but that they equal, if not surpass them in the vanity of their desires. So that those who by the majesty and, as I may so say, the prerogative of their age, should even frown youth into sobriety and better manners, are now striving all they can to imitate and strike in with them, and to be really vicious, that they may be thought to be young.
The sad and apparent truth of which makes it very superfluous to inquire after any further cause of that monstrous increase of vice, that like a torrent, or rather a breaking in of the sea upon us, has of late years overflowed and victoriously carried all before it. Both the honourable and the aged have contributed all they could to the promotion of it; and, so far as they are able, to give the best colour to the worst of things. This they have endeavoured, and thus much they have effected, that men now see that vice makes them acceptable to those who are able to make them considerable. It is the key that lets them into their very heart, and enables them to command all that is there. And if this be the price of favour, and the market of honour, no doubt where the trade is so quick, and withal so certain, multitudes will be sure to follow it.
This is too manifestly our present case. All men see it; and wise and good men lament it: and where vice, pushed on with such mighty advantages, will stop its progress, it is hard to judge: it is certainly above all human remedies to control the prevailing course of it; unless the great Governor of the world, who quells the rage and swelling of the sea, and sets bars and doors to it, beyond which the proudest of its waves cannot pass, shall, in his infinite 52compassion to us, do the same to that ocean of vice, which now swells, and roars, and lifts up itself above all banks and bounds of human laws; and so, by his omnipotent word, reducing its power, and abasing its pride, shall at length say to it, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further. Which God in his good time effect.
To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.53
|« Prev||Sermon XVIII. Of the Heinous Guilt of Taking…||Next »|