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the words are an ironical way of expressing, in a more pointed and lively manner, the very contrary to what they seem literally to speak; Like that speech of Elijah concerning Baal, when he said, Cry aloud, for he is a God*; or that of Micaiah to Ahab, Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper t; or that of our Lord to his disciples, sleep on now, and take your rests: To which, I suppose, we may add that saying of God concerning Adam after his fall, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evils. Thus do these words most strongly forbid what they seem to allow, and are as if he had said,“ Thou poor thoughtless creature, who in this giddy intoxication of youth, art so madly bent upon sensual pleasure, take thy fill of it, and withhold not thine heart from any joy. Follow all the most impetuous appetites of nature, and wantonly bound over every restraint of reason and piety, trample on the admonition of all thy teachers, shake off the fetters of a strict education, and burst the bonds of religion, like threads of flax when they are touched by the flame. But think not, Oh sinner, that thou shalt always carry it off with that haughty triumph. Know, that as thou bast thy day, God will also have his : A day of strict account, and of ample recompence. Know, that for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment; and if thou canst find out no expedient, to conceal thee from an all-seeing eye, or to defend thee from an omnipotent hand, a deluge of wrath will bear thee away to everlasting destruction: Dearly shalt thou then pay for every present indulgence, and every sweet morsel shall then be turned, and be as the gall of asps within thee.”
This, I say, appears to be the evident meaning of these words: And that for this plain reason; that some of the phrases made use of, are such as are never taken in a good sense, and therefore cannot admit the former interpretation. Solomon doth indeed, as you have heard, exhort his readers to eat and drink, and enjoy the good of their labours : But where can you find him, or any other sacred writer, exhorting or allowing men to walk in the way of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes ? I am sure, that phrase generally signifies an indulgence to the irregularities of appetite and passion, in the neglect of reason and of scripture. Thus tlie Israelites are charged to wear Fringes on their garments ||, that they might remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and might not seek after their own heart, and their own eyes; that is, as it follows, that they might not go a whoring from God after those gay and luxurious idolatries, which regaled the senses, while they debauched the soul. And thus the wicked Israelite, whom God would separate to evil out of all the tribes, is represented as vainly and arrogantly saying* I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my own heart; that is, as it follows, to add drunkenness to thirst, or one riot to another. And once more ; Tojudge after the sight of the eyest, is a proverbial expression, to signify partial and corrupt judgment. We have no reason therefore to imagine, that Solomon would vary the signification of a phrase already so expressly fixed in some of the sacred writings; which he was himself obliged not only to read, but to transcribet, as he undoubtedly did on his accession to the throne; where he had also read it again and again, that The imagination of man's heart is only evil from his youths; and he had himself elsewhere said, that foolishness is so closely bound up in the heart of a child, that not only words of admonition, but the rod of correction is necessary to drive it awayll. To these general remarks on the usual signification of the phrases occurring here, we may also farther add, that the connection of these words would lead us to understand them as an ironical rather than a serious concession, since they conclude with what seems a very awful menace, But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment : As if he should have said, “ Assure thyself, thou must answer for all.” Which sense is farther illustrated by what follows in the last verse of this, and the first of the next chapter, (which are very unhappily divided from each other, as several other passages are, which have indeed a very close and necessary connection;] Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, i. e. the regret which would follow these sensual indulgencies, if thou walk in the way of it, and put away evil from thy flesh, i. e. those carnal pleasures which religion forbids, or those punishments they would certainly draw down upon thee; for childhood and youth are vanity. And remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youths, instead of sacrificing them to vanity and folly. You easily see there is a beautiful and lively opposition between the several parts of the period on this interpretation, which on the other must be much injured, if not entirely destroyed.
1 Kings xviii. 27. $ Gen. jäi. 22.
| Mat. xxvi. 45.
+ 1 Kings xxii. 15.
I would farther observe, that the judgment, to which Solomon here refers, must undoubtedly be that of a future state; since he had expressly asserted above, that here All things come alike to all; and no man knoweth either love or hatred, i. e. the favour or displeasure of the divine Being, by all that is before them*. That there is a wicked man to whom it happeneth according to the event of the righteous; and on the other hand, many a righteous man to whom it happeneth according to the event of the wicked t; i. e. that very bad men often prolong their Jives through a long series of prosperity, while good men are cut off by an untimely stroke, or linger out their days in a painful succession of sorrows. This led him to conclude, Surely God will judge the righteous and the wicked I; which in many of these cases could only be done in some invisible state, to which both should be reserved. And of this judgment he solemnly warns the young sinner, as a most powerful antidote against the baits of sensuality; as an awful thought, which might fix the most roving eye, and be a means of reducing the most ungoverned heart to the discipline of wisdom and piety.
* Deut. xxix. 19.
+ Isa. xi. 3.
Deut. xvii. 18, 19.
As I conclude that this sense of the words is now sufficiently illustrated and established, I proceed,
II. To inforce the admonition by such considerations, as are expressly suggested in the text, or may naturally arise from it.
I importunately beg your serious attention; I say not these things, either to grieve, or to shame you, but as my beloved brethren and children I warn you . And here let me prevail upon you to consider,-the depravation and corruption of your own heart,--the many delusive charms which are continually offering themselves to your eyes ;-consider, that the blessed God is now the spectator of your conduct,--that he will certainly bring you to an account for it,—an account which will be inexpressibly strict and awful.-- These are the arguments, which I shall more largely inforce; and if they make no deep impression on your mind, there is the utmost reason to fear, that
you will go on hardened in your evil ways, till you actually come to that tribunal, which you now forget or despise. 1. Think of the depravation and corruption of your own hearts,
to deter you from walking in the ways of them.
The heart of man is described by that God, who alone perfectly knows it, as deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ||. The imagination of it is, by him, said to be only evil,
• Eccles. ix. 1, 2.
. Cor. iv, 14.
Fccles. ill. 17.
+ Eccles. viii, 14. vii, 15.
and that continually*. It is a very sad truth, though perhaps you have never seriously considered it, that a degenerate and corrupted nature is conveyed down from one generation of men to another, so as still to leave room-for that expostulation of Job, What is man that he should be pure, how can he be clean that is born of a woman +!--for that confession of David, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me !--for that declaration of the apostle, whether in his own name, or that of another, In me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing §. If you know not The plague of your own heart||, it is a plain argument that you know little of God, or of yourselves; and you had need be seriously reminded of it, lest, with Solomon's fool, you should trust it l, and the blind dead the blind, till you fall into the pit of destruction**.
Do you not know the degeneracy and corruption of your own hearts? I beseech you to review what has passed there : Think of the advantages which you have enjoyed for knowing and serving God; of all the mercies you bave received, of all the instructions you have 'seard, of all the convictions you have sometimes felt, and of all the good resolutions bably formed in consequence of them i And then think, how little all this hath produced, how you have forgotten God, days and times without number ++, and started back from him like a decitful bowfi; how you have been delivered over, in a foolish circle, from one vanity to another, wearied with the pursuit of trifles, and yet rising, after a little respite, to pursue them again. Think, my friends, how you have overborne the dictates of your own consciences, and grieved the holy spirit of God, when he bath been pleading with you in a most importunate manner, and saying unto you, Oh do not this abominable thing that I hate$$. Yet you
have done it, and sacrificed the repose of your own minds, and the hopes of glory, to mean, vile considerations, which
would be asharned to hear mentioned before an assembly: And this not in one instance, but again and again. You have formed good purposes, and broken them; and formed them again, and broken them again; and run such a round of folly and sin, that I am persuaded many of you could not have suspected yourselves of such a conduct some time ago, nor bare believed, if one had told you, that you should act such a part. And must these treacherous hearts still be trusted, and will you still go on to walk in the ways of thein ? when they have already
have proled you into so much sin, when they have already plunged you into so much distress? 2. Think how many delusive charms are daily offering them
* Gen. vi. 5. to Job xv. 14. xxv. 4. | 1 Kings viir. 38. q Prov. xxviii. 26. ## Psal. lxxviü.57. $$ Jer. xliv. A.
1 Psal. li. 5. s Rom. vii. 18. ** Mat. xv. 14. tt Jer, ü. 32.
selves to your eyes, that you may not heedlessly walk in the sight of them.
Remember, Sirs, I beseech you, that you are in a very dangerous situation, and walk among snares. The most mortal poisons are often mingled with the sweetest dainties, and the most dangerous enemies of our souls accost us in the fairest forms. The fruit which undid our common mother, and brought death and a curse upon us all, was a fruit which appeared to be Good for food, and which she saw to be pleasant to the eyes*.
It is an awakening saying of one of the most lively and pathetic, as well as of the most pious writers which our age has produced +, “ That the condition of man in his natural state seems to be like that of a person sick of a variety of diseases, knowing neither his distemper nor cure, but unhappily inclosed in a place where he could hear, or see, or taste, or feel nothing, but what tended to inflame his disorder."
Not that the world in its original constitution, and considered as the work of God, is by any means to be blamed. The whole system of it is such, as would lead a regular mind to wise and pious reflections; and its most pleasurable scenes would be the natural occasion of exciting correspondent gratitude and devotion to the great author of Every good and perfect giftf. But our souls being corrupted, those things become dangerous to us, which might otherwise have been innocent, and even beneficial; as some of the most wholesome and nourishing foods are fatal to a person inflamed with a raging fever.
I am persuaded, that nothing is so likely to make us truly wise, as observations on facts. Let me therefore beseech you, my young friends, seriously to consider how many, within the compass of your own knowledge, have been ruined by the blandishments of the senses; and, perhaps, some of them persons, in other respects, of no contemptible characters. We may indeed say of the world, that specious harlot, She hath cast down many wounded, and many strong men have been slain by her ş. Do not, therefore, walk in the sight of your eyes, lest you also be like the bird, that, struck with some gay promising appearance, hasteneth eagerly to the snare, and knoweth not that it is
* Gen. ïï. 6. † Law on Christian Perfection, p. 11, 1 Jamesi, 17. $ Prov. vii. 26. VOL. II.