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contagious and baleful. Of course he becomes an object on the one hand of contempt, on the other of loathing. Want, with shrivelled cheeks and haggard eyes, stares him in the face wherever he goes.
Wherever he goes he is followed by the finger of scorn, the jeer of derision, and the hiss of infamy.
In the meantime, he has a soul, and, in spite of his sloth and his wishes, is accountable and immortal. He who is idle in his temporal concerns will be lazy in those which are spiritual. In the case before us vice, of many kinds, and in gross degrees, combines with rivetted sloth to render the work of salvation doubly difficult. To a slothful mind the way to eternal life is full of obstacles, steep, rough, hard of ascent, immeasurably long, solitary, and doubtful in its termination. On all these accounts it is forbidding, full of discouragements, full of toil, devoid of comfort, devoid of hope. To a vicious mind it is disgusting in itself. Such a mind regards the business of obtaining salvation as an odious, painful employment, all the parts of which it considers only with disgust. Equally disagreeable to such a mind is the salvation itself. It sees nothing in eternal life worth the possession, much less worth the labour of attainment. All the disadvantages, therefore, under which a man labours with respect to this mighty concern, combine their influence to prevent this man from securing the glorious acquisition, and to shut him out of heaven.
On such a man it cannot be expected that God will smile. He who will do nothing for himself or his fellow-men, who only devours what they earn, and who lives to no end but to sin and to make others sin, he who does nothing for the author of his being but violates his precepts, abuses his grace, and dishonours his name through life, can certainly expect no favour from God. We know the end as well as the character of the servant who wrapped his talent in a napkin and buried it in the earth. How much less guilty was he than most of those whose character has been described in this discourse. What then can these persons expect but to be given over to premature hardness of heart and blindness of mind. Useless and noxious only while they live in the present world, what can they hope but to be miserable in that which is to come.
Wicked and slothful here, they will of course, with all the other wicked and slothful, be there bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is remarkable that this useless, worthless, wretched being, throughout all the parts of this deplorable progress, hugs himself upon his superior wisdom. This strange union of selfcomplacency with folly and vice, has not escaped the observation of that profound investigator of the human character, the author of the book of Proverbs. “ The sluggard,” says he, o is wiser in his own conceit than seven men who can render a “ reason.” In this seminary, and probably in others, he always pronounces himself a genius; vain of his talents, priding himself particularly in his sagacity, and looking with contempt on his industrious companions, although commonly superior to him in every valuable endowment as well as attainment. This silly dream of his own shrewdness passes with him through life, and with all his rags, and shame, and sin, he thinks himself wiser than any of those around him. We
e are now prepared to sum up the account. The idle member of this seminary enjoys what pleasure he can, in sloth, in dress, in visiting, in vicious company, in profaneness, gaming, drinking, and riot. On the other hand, he is ignorant, pitied, despised, and punished. At the same time he imbibes and rivets habits of vice which cling to him through life. Into the world he enters with the same pleasures, continually lessening indeed, together with the means of them, until at a period not very distant he can enjoy them no more. Thither vice and shame follow him. His character, here broken, is there lost. Poverty, contempt, and disgrace seize upon him as their prey. By good men he is pitied, by bad men despised, and by both regarded with reprobation. Parents point him out to their children, as a warning against sloth and sin; and the providence of God holds him out to mankind for general instruction as a wretched monument of abused talents and neglected privileges. He lives undesired. He dies unlamented. For eternity he makes no preparation, and enters it with no hope. “ He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.”
THE DANGER OF FREQUENTING EVIL COMPANY.
PROVERBS XIII. 20.
“ But a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
The writer of this book particularly, and the scriptural writers generally, teach us, that by folly they mean sin. Thus Solomon observes, that the thought of foolishness is sin. 66 Fools,” he also says,
“ despise wisdom," that is religion, “and make a “ mock at sin:” a character which with particular propriety belongs to gross sinners. Such sinners seem also to be
especially intended in the following declaration : “ It is an abomi“ nation to fools to depart from evil.” It is hardly necessary to observe, that all these passages clearly teach us, as indeed do many others, that the writer of them by folly intended sin, and by fools those who practise it.
The propriety of this use of these terms is obvious. Sin is folly by way of eminence, and those who practise it are fools in a higher degree than any other men.
With this explanation, the text may be easily seen to contain the following doctrine :-“He who frequents the company “ of sinners is in danger of eternal destruction.”
The declaration of the text is absolute; but like other absolute declarations, of which the Scriptures, particularly this book, contain a very great number, is intended to be understood with some qualifications. It is not true that every one who frequents the company of sinners is destroyed in any
Some persons keep company with men of this description for a considerable period, and then renounce it from a conviction of their danger. Of these undoubtedly some become pious, and escape the destruction intended in the text. Others also are compelled to frequent such company by their own proper lawful business, and instead of being corrupted, regard their companions with loathing and dread, and derive from them little else beside warning and amendment. The case, however, considered in the general manner which is here supposed, is far otherwise. The greater number, and all who voluntarily choose such company through life are ruined. Every one, therefore, ought to believe himself to be in the most serious danger.
That eternal destruction is here designed is too clear to admit of a question. Otherwise the observation is so evidently untrue, that it could never have been written by a sober man. Many of the persons spoken of undoubtedly come, from this very cause, to an untimely death. Some are killed in duels ; some sink under the pressure of infamy ; some become suicides. Multitudes are victims to intemperance, and not a small number are swept away by the hand of public justice.
Still it is not generally true that such persons do not very commonly reach the usual limit of human life. Evidently, therefore, the destruction here specified cannot have been of a temporal nature, but lies undoubtedly beyond the grave.
This sentence was uttered by the wisest man who has hitherto been found in the present world ; a man peculiarly versed in the affairs of his fellow-men; a man who watched human conduct with a more critical attention than any other, and with a more piercing eye, whose observations concerning it are more just, various, and profound than any which are left upon record. It was uttered after he had lived long and seen its truth proved by abundant experience. It was uttered by the Spirit of God, who had surveyed all the conduct of men from the beginning, and had seen this truth verified in innumerable instances, in every nation, and in every preceding age of the world. It was uttered by the Judge of all the earth, who both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth the transgressor, with the very destruction denounced in this solemn and benevolent Warning. The truth of the declaration is, therefore, established beyond every doubt.
Still it may be useful to examine the subject as it is presented to us by experience. Illustrations from this source may always be advantageously subjoined to scriptural declarations. What we see we are apt peculiarly to feel. Our conviction may not, perhaps, be more complete, but our impressions cannot fail of being enhanced.
In illustration of this doctrine I observe, therefore,
I. Sinners, when they become companions, devise wickedness for each other.
Different persons see the same subject in different lights and on different sides. Some sinners turn their thoughts to wickedness in one form'; others survey it in another. Thé views of the whole number found in any collection of such men are much more extensive, various, and complete than the views of an individual. All these, by communication, become in the end the views of all. Thus in the unhappily managed stateprisons of this country the youngest criminal, after a short confinement, acquires all the knowledge, art, and skill of all the hackneyed villains who are his fellow-prisoners, and is turned out upon the world a veteran in adroitness, in determination, and in hopeless obduracy.
So at the gaming-table all the tricks of play, all the arts of sharping and defrauding are soon learned, even by the youngest adventurer. In the same manner the companions of thieves, highwaymen, forgers, and coiners of false money, soon imbibe all the arts of the oldest transgressors. In a similar manner also those who frequent the haunts of lewdness and intemperance, become practised votaries to these sins, and as guides, direct the unhappy novice to the successful perpetration of their respective crimes, and to the scenes of guilt and pollution in which they are ensnared and destroyed.
Nor is even this all. In a great multitude of cases they invent new kinds of wickedness, new ways, in which that which has been long pursued may be safely and advantageously practised, new modes of providing against the evils of detection,