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Eccles. viii. 11. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed
Speedily, therefore the heart of the fons of men is fully fet in them to do evit.
The first fermon on this text.
Othing is more evident, than that the world lies
in wickedness, and that iniquity every where a
bounds; and yet nothing is more certain, than that God will not acquit the guilty, and let fin go un. punished. All men, excepting those who have offered notorious violence to the light of their own minds, and
have put the candle of the Lord, which is in them, under 1. bufwel, do believe that there is a God in the world, to
whose holy nature and will sin is perfe&ly contrary, who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity; that his eyes are upon the
ways of man, and he feeth all his goings; that there is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. All men, except those whose consciences are seared, as it were, with an hot iron, are convinced of the difference of good and evil, and that it is not all one whether men ferve God, or ferve him not, do well, or live witkedly. Every man, from his inward fenfe and experience, is satisfied of his own liberty, and that God lays upon men no necessity of sinning, but that whenever we do amiss, it is our own act, and we chuse to do so; and fo far is he from giving the least countenance to fin, that he hath given all imaginable discouragement to it, by the most severe and terrible threatenings, such as one would think fufficient to deter inen for ever from it, and to drive it out of the world, and to make his threatenings the more awful and effectual, his providence hath not been wanting
to give remarkable instances of his justice and severity upon notorious offenders, even in this life: and yet, for all this, men do, and will fin; nay, they are zealoully set and bent upon it.
Now, here is the wonder; what it is that gives finners such heart, and makes them so resolute and undaunted in so dangerous a course. Solomon gives us this account of it; because the punihments and judgments of God follow the sins of men so slowly, and are long before they overtake the finner; Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the fons of men are fully set in them to do evil.
The scope of the wise man's discourse is this; that, by reason of God's forbearance and long-suffering towards finners in this life, it is not so easy to discern the difference between them and other men; this life is the day of God's patience, but the next will be a day of retribution and recompense. Now, because God doth de- , fer and moderate the punishment of finners in this world, and reserve the weight of his judgments to the next; because, through the long-suffering of God, many great finners live and die without any remarkable testimony of God's wrath and displeasure against them; therefore the hearts of the children of men are fully set in them to do evil.
If we render the text word for word from the original, it runs thus; Because nothing is done as a recompense to an evil work, therefore the hearts of the fons of men are full in them to do evil; that is, because men are not op. posed and contradicted in their evil ways, because divine justice doth not presently check and controul sinners, because sentence is not immediately past upon them, and judgment executed, therefore the heart of the sons of men is full in them to do evil; that is, therefore men grow bold and presumptuous in fin: for the Hebrew word which we render, is fully set in them, we find, Esther vii. 5. where Ahasuerus says, concerning Haman, Who is he? and where is he that durst prejume in his heart to do so? Whose heart was full to do fo?? Fervit in iis cor filiorum hominum; so some render it, “ The hearts of men boil with wickedness, are so
full of it, that it works over. Men are resolute in an evil course, their hearts are strengthened and hardened in them to do evil, fo others translate the words. The translation of the LXX is very emphatical, stampopophon xapedia, the heart of the fons of men is fully persuaded and affured to do evil. All these translations agree in the main scope and sense, viz. that finners are very apt to presume upon the long-suffering of God, and to abyle it, to the hardening and encouraging of themselves in their evil ways.
In the handling of this, I shall, 1. Briefly shew that it is fo. 2. Whence this comes to pass, and upon
what pretences and colours of reason, men encourage themselves in fin, from the patience of God.
3. I fall endeavour to answer an objection about this matter.
1. That men are very apt to abuse the long-suffering of God, to the encouraging and hardening of themselves in an evil course, the experience of the world, in all ages, does give abundant testimony. Thus it was with the old world, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while he was preparing an ark, for the space of an hundred and twenty years, i Pet. iii. 20. For the wickedness of man, which was great upon the earth, a general deluge was threatened; but God was patient, and delayed his judgment a great while: hereupon they grew secure in their impenitency, and went on in their course, as if they had no apprehension of danger, no fear of the judgment threatened. So our Saviour tells us, Matth. xxiv. 38. 39. As in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day.that Noab entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away
And so it was with Sodom, Luke xvii. 28. And like also as it was in the days of Lot, they eat, they drank, they bought, they fold, they planted, they built. And so, our Saviour tells us, it will be in the end of the world; Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. So likewise the Apostle St. Paul, Rom. ii. 4. 5. Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and for bearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hard
nefs ness and impenitent beart, treasureft up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and the reaelation of the righteous judgment of God. The goodness and long-suffering of God, which ought, in all reason, to lead men to repentance, is to many an occalion of greater hardness and impenitency. So also St. Peter foretels, 2 Pet. iii. 3. That in the laft days there should come scoffers, who jhould welk after their own hearts lusts, saying, where is the promise of his coming? And we fee, in daily experience, that the greatett part of sinners grow more obo. ftinate and confirmed in their wicked ways, upon account of God's patience, and because he delays the punishment due to them for their fins. Let us confider, in the
11. Place, Whence this comes to pass, and upon what pretence and colour of reason men encourage themselves in fin, from the long-suffering of God. And there is no doubt but this proceeds from our ignorance and inconsiderateness, and from an evil heart of unbelief, from the temptation and suggestion of the devil, one of whose great arts it is, to make men question the threatenings of God, and to 'insinuate, as he did to our first parents, either that be hath not denounced such threat, enings, or that he will not execute them so severely. All these causes do concur to the producing this mon. strous effect: but that which I design to enquire into, is from what pretence of reason, grounded upon the longsuffering of God, finners argue themselves into this confidence and presumption. For when the wise man faith, that because sentence against an evil work is not executed Speedily, therefore the heart of the fons of men is fully fet in them to do evil; he does not intend to insinuate, that God's long-fuffering fills the hearts of men with wicked designs and resolutions, and does, by a proper and direct efficacy, harden sinners in their course; but, that wicked men, upon some account or other, do take occasion, from the long-fuffering of God, to harden themselves in fin; they draw falfe conclusions from it to impose upon themselves, as if it were really a ground of encouragement; they think they fee something in the forbearance of God, and his delay of punishment, which makes
them hope for impunity in an evil courie, notwithstanding the threatenings of God.
And therefore I shall endeavour to few, what those false conclusions are, which wicked men draw from the delay of punishment, and to discover the fophiftry and fallacy of them; and I shall rank them under iwo heads; those which are more gross and atheistical; and those which are not so gross, but yet more common and frequent.
First, Those conclusions which are more gross and atheistical, which bad men draw, to the hardening ani encouraging of themselves in sin, from the delay of punilhiment, (which we, who believe a God, call the patience or long-suffering of God) are these three; either that there is no God; or if there be, that there is no providence; or that there is no difference between good and evil.
I shall speak more briefly of these, because I hope there are but few in the world of such irregular and be forted understandings, as to make such inferences as these, from the delay of punishinent.
1. From hence fomc would fain conclude, that there is no God. That some are so absurd as to reason in this manner, the fcripture tells us, Pfal. xiv. 1. The food bath said in bis heart, there is u. God: They are corrups, and have done abominable works. Now, the argument that these men frame to themselves, is this; God doth not take a speedy course with finners, and revenge himself immediately upon the workers of iniquity, therefore there is no God; for, if there were, he would show himself, and not bear the affronts of finners, when it is fo easy for him to vindicate himself by a swift and speedy vengeance. Thus the Poet represents the Atheist arguing; Nullos else ders, inane cælum, affirmat Selius, probatque, quod fe fultum, dum negat hoc, videt beatum.
Selius'affirms, There are no Gods, and that heaven " is an empty place, and proves it, because, whilst he " denies God, he sees himself in a very happy and pro"Sperous condition."
And here it is worthy our notice, at what a contradictious rate these men reason; first, they would have no God, left he would be just, and punish them VOL. VII.