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not only diminishes their own happiness, but greatly dishonors religion. By their not always rejoicing in God, they lead the men of the world to conclude that their religion, instead of doing them any good, does them a great deal of hurt. It prevents them from rejoicing in any thing, and makes them more disconsolate and gloomy than those who have no religion, and pretend to none. It is a great blemish and imperfection in the character and conduct of christians, to suffer the trials and tribulations which God brings upon them to overwhelm them in sorrow, and to banish all joy and rejoicing from their hearts. David's conduct at the death of Absalom was highly displeasing to God, and to Joab, and to the people in general; and it was happy for him that Joab had courage and resolution to reprove him and bring him to right feelings and conduct. Christians who neglect to rejoice always, never fail to give occasion to the enemies of religion to think and speak reproachfully of it. Nor is this all the evil arising from neglecting to rejoice in God. It unfits them for all religious duties. When they neglect to see God, and to rejoice in him, they are always either in darkness, or stupidity, which makes every religious duty irksome, and leads to the neglect of those duties in which they once took peculiar pleasure and delight. While christians rejoice in the Lord, they are always active and constant in every religious duty; especially in times of trouble, sorrow, or mourning; and never enjoy more happiness, than they then derive from rejoicing in the Lord. These considerations ought to excite all christians to rejoice in the Lord always, as the most important and indispensable duty.
Finally, This subject calls upon sinners to renounce all their worldly and sinful joy, and to rejoice in God, who is the only source of pure and permanent joy. All other sources of joy and rejoicing will soon forsake you; and then you must be wretched indeed. You cannot begin to be truly happy, until you rejoice in God; and you cannot always be happy, unless you always rejoice in God. All the happiness of heaven will flow from rejoicing in God; and all the miseries of the damned will flow from the entire loss of this source of happiness. God is infinitely worthy of your supreme love and joy, on account of his essential and amiable perfections. And not only so, but also for what he has done for you, bestowed upon you, and offered to you. You will be the most ungrateful and guilty, as well as the most wretched creatures in the universe, if you continue to refuse to rejoice in God. You have no right to rejoice in any thing, so long as you neglect to rejoice in God. He calls you, therefore, to mourning; and you have reason to mourn for all your rejoicing, which God has forbidden. Be entreated then to rejoice in God immediately and for ever.
SAINTS DESIRE GOD TO PUNISH SINNERS.
Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors ; give them after the work of their hands; render
to them their desert. - PBALM xxvii. 4.
These are the words of the man after God's own heart, who possessed pure benevolence, and who expressed the genuine feelings of his heart, in his address to the throne of divine grace. It appears from the preceding petitions, that he presented this with peculiar solemnity and tenderness. “ Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me, lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands towards thy holy oracle. Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity.” And to manifest the sincerity of his request,' he continues to cry, “Give them according to their deeds and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.” He had prayed that God would not draw him away with the wicked, nor cast his future and final lot among them. For they appeared so odious in his sight, and so deserving of the marks of the divine displeasure, that he could not only approve of their being punished, but could sincerely desire that God would punish them, for his own glory and the good of all holy beings. His petition is an expression of that love to holiness and hatred of sin, which reigns in every pious, benevolent heart. Hence we may justly draw this general conclusion;
Good men do desire God to punish finally impenitent sinners according to their deserts. I shall show,
I. Why impenitent sinners deserve to be punished. II. That some impenitent sinners more deserve to be punished than others.
III. What is implied in God's punishing them according to their deserts. And,
IV. Why good men desire God to punish them according to their deserts.
I. Let us consider why impenitent sinners deserve to be punished.
It seems to be supposed in the text that there are three things for which they deserve to be punished, their deeds, their works, and their endeavors. But every one knows, there is no criminality or ill desert in mere external actions. Deeds and works are external actions, and, simply considered, have no criminality. The ill desert of sinners, therefore, consists in something different from their works, or deeds, or external actions; and the text suggests the only ground of their ill desert. “Give
" them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors." Their wickedness lies in their endeavors, or their intentions to do evil. All sin consists in selfishness; and all selfishness lies in the heart. The heart is the seat of sin; and a sinful heart consists in sinful desires, intentions, or affections. When men desire, or intend, or endeavor to do evil, they are really guilty, and deserve to be punished. It is the dictate of common sense, that no man deserves to be punished for his conduct when he had no evil design in it; and it is equally the dictate of common sense, that every man deserves to be punished when he has intended, or endeavored to do evil. It is the character of all sinners that every imagination of the thoughts of their heart is evil, only evil continually. All their free, voluntary exercises are entirely selfish and criminal, for which they deserve to be punished. Sin and guilt are naturally and inseparably connected. Of this, all sinners are conscious. They know that when they commit sin they are guilty, and deserve to be punished. Joseph's brethren acknowledged that they were verily guilty, and deserved to be punished,
for selling him into Egypt; and Judas condemned and punished himself, for betraying his Lord and Master. The hearts of impenitent sinners are fully set in them to do evil, for which they are conscious that they deserve to be punished, whether they are punished, or not punished. They know the reason why God threatens to punish them both in this life and the life to come. They know it is because they are continually committing sin, which is the abominable thing that God hates, and that he ought to punish them for. They know that sin creates guilt, and guilt creates desert of punishment. This leads us to consider,
II. That some sinners more deserve to be punished than others. So David thought when he said to God, “ Give them according to the wickedness of their endeavors; render to them their desert.” These phrases convey the idea that some sinners may be more ill deserving than others. This must be true, if ill desert is founded in the ill intention, or design of sinners. It is evident that one sinner may have a more selfish and malevolent design than another, and of course may be more deserving of punishment. Though all sinners act from selfish and sinister motives, yet they may act from different motives, and contract different degrees of guilt. One may design to take away a man's property, another may design to take away a man's life, and another may design to destroy a nation. These are all bad designs; but the second is worse than the first, and the third is worse than the second. Cain was more criminal than Achan, and Pharaoh was more criminal than Cain. It does not appear that Achan intended to destroy any
. man's life; but Cain meant to destroy his brother's life, and Pharaoh meant to destroy a whole nation.
Ill desert is always in proportion to the ill design of the agent; and the ill design of the agent is always in proportion to the magnitude of the evil he designs to do. I know it is supposed that ill desert is to be measured by the strength and tendency of an evil intention. But neither the strength nor tendency of an evil intention, is the proper measure of ill desert. It is as criminal 10 kill a man in cool blood, as in a violent passion. This is the dictate of common sense, and agreeable to the laws of God and man. Cool, premeditated acts of killing are denominated murder; but violent and unpremeditated acts of killing are called manslaughter. And there is a just foundation for this distinction. The man who kills another from a cool, deliberate intention, has more time and opportunity of viewing the act in its nature and dreadful consequences, than the man who kills another suddenly and without previous consideration. Indeed, the badness of any evil intention does not depend upon the strength of the affection from which it flows, nor upon its evil tendency, any farther than its evil tendency is foreseen. Some imagine that every sinful exercise of heart is infinitely criminal and ill deserving, because it tends to do infinite mischief, and would produce this effect if it were not under a divine control. But granting here, what might be questioned, that every sin has a natural tendency to do infinite mischief if it were not divinely controlled, yet no man can be reasonably accountable for the evil tendency of his evil intention or action, any farther than he foresaw its evil tendency.
If every sinner were accountable for all the evil consequences of his evil actions, he could not so much as conjecture the
degree of guilt or ill desert that would be chargeable to his account. It must be supposed, therefore, that the sinner's guilt is only in proportion to the evil he intends to do, and not in proportion to the evil he may actually do, or would have done, had not his evil action been overruled, or restrained in its consequences. This may be illustrated by a scripture example. You remember that when David fled from Saul, he went to Nob, under a pretence of consulting Abimelech, the priest, and by deception induced him to give him the show-bread and Goliah's sword. This act was followed with most serious and fatal consequences. For when Saul was informed of it, he sent and destroyed four-score and five priests of the Lord. Now, if David did not foresee these fatal consequences of his conduct, what propriety could there be that he should be chargeable with them? If he had no thought that his deceiving Abime. lech would have a tendency to destroy his father's house, how could he be guilty of murdering Abimelech and his father's house? His guilt could not extend any farther than his real intention extended; nor could he be chargeable for the evil tendency of his action any farther than he foresaw the consequences of it.
of it. And the same may be said of every other evil action. Its guilt cannot extend any farther than the agent's knowledge of its evil tendency extends. But so far guilt always will extend. The evil intention of a sinful agent is the exact measure of his guilt, or ill desert. And according to this measure, the guilt of one person may be much greater than the guilt of another. There is a great difference in the views and designs of sinners. Some act upon a smaller and some upon a larger scale. The sins of some men are much more heinous in the sight of God than others. This doctrine Christ abundanıly taught. He represented some sins as motes and others as beams. He said, the servant that knew his master's will and did it not, should be beaten with many stripes. He said, if he had not come and spoken to the Jews, they had not had, comparatively, any sin. He said to Pilate, He that delivered me unto thee had the greater sin; meaning Caiaphas, the high priest. Though Pilate was guilty in condemning Christ, yet he was not so guilty as Caiaphas in delivering him into his hands. Caiaphas had more light than Pilate; and this rendered his guilt much greater than Pilate's. Pilate intended to crucify Christ to please the people; but Caiaphas intended to get Christ crucified to prevent the spread of the gospel. Caiaphas had a worse intention than Pilate, and his guilt was in proportion to the wickedness of his endeavors. Herod's guilt was in proportion to his evil intention, which was to destroy all the children in Bethlehem under two years old. And Paul's guilt was in