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durft not commit in the presence of the meanest Man.
This is a very unaccountable thing, and one would imagine that such Men did not believe that God sees what they do in secret, and yet they do believe it; and we all know it is fo: It may be there are few Men but are guilty of some private Sins at sometime or other, which nothing could have perswaded them to have committed publickly; and yet when any Man is tempted by Secresie and Retirement, though he drives away the Thoughts of God as much as he can, while he is in pursuit of his Lusts and wicked Designs, when he comes to himself, and has time to think, his Conscience speaks Terror to him, and puts him in mind, that God sees him, though Men do not.
But consider, I befeech you, if God will judge us for all our most secret Sins, how little it will avail us to conceal our Sins from Men: We may
indeed by this means escape present Shame and Punishment, but eternal Shame, eternal Torment will be our Portion; and are we more afraid of being reproached by Men, than of being reproached by God and by our own Consciences ? Than of being exposed to Shame in the general Assembly of Men and Angels, when God shall bring to light all the hidden Works of Darkness ? Are we more afraid of some Punishments in our Bodies or Eftates, which Humane Laws and Judicatures can inflict on us, than we are of Hell, where the Worm dieth not, and the Fire is not quenched ?
I am very sensible what it is that deceives Men in this Matter, and if you will but reflect upon your selves, you will find what I say to be true: You do believe that God sees
your most secret Sins, and will judge and condemn you for them; and you are more afraid of Hell, than of all present Shame and Punishment; and yet you will venture.upon those Sins under the Eye of God, which the Presence of a Man, at least of such Men as will discover your Sin and Shame, and punish you for it, would have kept you from: What is the meaning of this? To be more afraid of God than of Men, and yet to stand in more awe of Man than of God?
The Account of this, which looks like a Mystery, I think, is very plain: Men dare not commit those Sins publickly, which they will venture on in private, because if Men see their Wickedness, they immediately forfeit their Reputation, and get such a Blot and Stain on their Names, which all the Tears of Repentance cannot wash out again, for they know the World is ill-natured, and every single Milcàrriage, which comes to be known leaves an indelible Character of Infamy on them i
and they are not willing to forfeit their Reputation, which is so neceffary to the Comforts of Life, for ever: And besides this, if the Sins they commit be such as are punishable by Humane Laws, if they be known, all their Repentance, how sincere loever it be, will not deliver them from Punishment; and though the love their Sins very well, they will not venture the Punishment of them.
But now though God abhors all Sin more
This looks like a very notable Contrivance, to
When Men think to out-wit God, his Justice and Providence is concerned for their discovery : Almost as many Sinners as we see hanged, or pilloried, or whipt, so many Demonftrations there are, that Men cannot conceal their Sins, or can never be sure they Shall: For all these Malefactors study Secresie and Concealment, as much as they can ; and yet are at one time or other discovered, and luffer that publick Shame and Punishment they deserve. There are a thousand Accidents which betray the grcatest Privacies, a thousand Circumstances which make Men suspected, and that makes them watched, and curiously observed; they cannot always use that Caution that is required, or the Partners and Instruments of their Sins are discovered, and then they betray one another : Nay, mány Sins without great Caution will betray themselves; let Men be never so secret in their Lust, it will be known to all the World when they begin to rot with it, when the Marks of their Sin grow visible, and can be hid no longer: Nay, Men who sin very cautiously and secretly at first, in time grow more bold and impudent, and are not so much concerned to be private ; what at first they were ashamed the World should know, in time they think no shame. A custom of sinning, though in private, wears off the Modesty of Humane Nature; and when Men forget to blush, they despise Reproach and Cenfure, and then publish their own Wickedness, and seek for Retirement and Privacy no longer: The most impudent Sinners in the World were at first modeft; but if they find
any Excuse to make a beginning, how modest soever their beginnings are, they quickly improve and lose the sense of Sin, and aversion to it by their repeated Commissions, and then cannot bear the Restraints of Modesty and Retirement.
And this shews what little hope there is, that secret Sinners should ever prove true Penitents ; for the most impudent and hardned Sinners finned very secretly at first; and of all those Sinners, who made very modest and bashful beginnings, I doubt for one true. Penitent, fonte hundreds sin away all Thoughts of Repentance.
For the only effectual Restraint upon Humane Nature is an Awe and Reverence for God, and the Fear of Future Judgment, and Men may fin away this in private as well as in publick. When once they conquer a Reverence for God, and for their own Consciences, which a Custom of Sinning will do, bę it never so secret, they will have
lircle regard to what the World says of them; they may fear Humane Punishments, but they are sunk below the sense of Shame.
If ever God reclaim such Men, it must be either by some great and severe AMictions, which carry the Marks of a Divine Vengeance on them, or by discovering their Wickedness, and exposing them to publick Shame before they have lost all sense of it. But if Men sin secretly, and are very fortunate in concealing their Sins, they will never think it time to repent, till they can fin no longer.