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SERMON XIII.

SINNERS DESTROY THEMSELVES BY THEIR OWN BLINDNESS.

PROVERBS iv. 19.

The way of the wicked is as darkness : they know not at what they

stumble.

He says,

All men are either saints or sinners, either holy or unholy, either righteous or wicked ; and they are all walking in paths as different as the characters they sustain. The saints are walking in a straight and narrow path; the sinners are walking in a crooked and broad path; the saints are walking in a path that leads to perfect light, and the sinners are walking in a path that leads to perfect darkness. This is the representation, which Solomon gives of all mankind. 6 The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” But he observes by way of contrast, “ The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” His plain meaning is this ;

Sinners are in such darkness, that they are insensible of the objects, which are leading them to ruin.

I shall first consider the darkness in which sinners are involved; and then illustrate the general observation, that they are insensible of the objects, which are leading them to ruin. • I. Let us consider the darkness in which sinners are involved. We find much said in scripture concerning their peculiar blindness and darkness. Moses represents them as “groping at noon-day.” Job says, * they meet with darkness in the day time, and grope in the noon-day as in the night.” Isaiah says, “ They have made them crooked paths; they grope for the

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wall as the blind, and grope as if they had no eyes ; they stumble at noon day as in the night.” David represents their way “as dark and slippery;" and Jeremiah represents them as walking 6 in slippery ways in darkness." The royal preacher says, “ The wise

66 man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness.” It appears from all these representations, that all sinners are involved in gross darkness. But to what is this darkness owing, or in what does it consist? It cannot be owing to any deficiency in their natural powers; nor to any want of intellectual informa

. tion. They enjoy the same means of instruction that saints enjoy, and are as capable of understanding the doctrines and duties of religion. The bible points out the way to heaven as clearly to them, as to others; and sets the same motives before them to walk in the same straight and narrow path to eternal life. Their dark ness, therefore is not natural, but moral darkness which Jies not in their understandings, but in their hearts, which are entirely depraved. Moral depravity always produces moral blindness. Our Saviour says, “ The light of the body is the eye, if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The heart is the same to the soul, that the eye is to the body. As a good eye lets in natural light, so a good heart lets in moral light; and as a blind eye shuts out natural light, so a bad heart shuts out moral light. Accordingly, the apostle expressly ascribes the darkness of the understanding to the blindness of the heart. He represents all unrenewed men, “ as having their un

, derstanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." While sinners remain under the entire dominion of a wicked heart, they are altogether blind to the moral beauty of the character, of the works, and of the providence of God. Their blindness to these divine objects the psalmist describes in very strong and impressive terms. “They know not, neither will they understand : they walk in. darkness :

ness.

all the foundations of the earth are out of course." God is a being of pure benevolence, he constructed the world upon benevolent principles, and he governs it to answer benevolent purposes. This is all dark to sinners, who view all things with a selfish eye. They can trace nothing into light, but all things into dark

The present and future state of the world is all darkness, and they see no light in their own, nor in any other creature's existence. Notwithstanding all God has said about himself, and about his creatures, and about his designs, the whole universe still appears to them dark and mysterious. Being alienated from the life of God, and opposed to all true benevolence, their minds are totally involved in moral darkness. When they extend their views to the end of life, to the end of the world, and to the boundless scenes of eternity, they cannot discover a gleam of light. They are a mystery to themselves; and all the changes and revolutions in the natural and moral world are dark and unaccountable to them. The foundations of the earth are all out of course in their view, and the nature and tendency of all things are utterly repugnant to their wishes and desires, and appear to counteract all their hopes and purposes. And if God is pursuing and will accomplish perfectly holy and benevolent designs, these will counteract and defeat all their selfish interests and promising prospects, and involve them in total darkness and hopeless ruin. But yet,

II. They are insensible of the objects over which they are stumbling and falling. “ They know not at what they stumble.” This has been the case of sinners in all ages. We find many melancholy instances of this kind in the bible. The blindness of Pharaoh's heart, led him insensibly to stumble, and fall, and perish. The rebellious-Israelites had not eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to perceive, but walked in darkness, until they stumbled, and fell, and perished in the wilderness. The seven nations of Canaan were involved in moral darkness, and perceived not their danger, until they were destroyed. It was Saul's moral blindness and obstinacy, which led him in the path to ruin. And it was owing to the same moral blindness, that led the Jews to stumble and fall in the gospel day. 6 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for: but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Accordingly as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see.” The consequence was, they stumbled and fell. Spiritual blindness is the same in all sinners, at all times, and has the same dangerous and destructive tendency. It makes them walk in darkness, and stumble over every thing that lies in their way, without their knowing at what they stumble. Every thing is armed against them, and yet they do not see the danger to which they are exposed. They walk as carelessly as if nothing could hurt them. When they are wounded, they do not feel their wounds; and though they stumble every step they take, yet they vainly imagine, that they shall never fall. The reason is, they know not at what they stumble, and are insensible of the objects, which are constantly leading them to destruction. This may be illustrated in a variety of particulars.

1. They are insensible that they stumble at the great deceiver. The bible represents this evil spirit as employing all his power and subtilty, to seduce and destroy sinners. He is said to blind the minds of them that believe not. He is said to be the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. He is said to walk about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is full of his devices to ensnare and destroy the ungodly. He knows how to take advantage of their ignorance, stupidity and depravity. He has not only the power, but the art of tempting. He adapts his temptations to the state, the character, and disposition of sinners. Some he tempts to disbelieve the being of God; some he tempts to disbelieve the

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word of God; some he tempts to oppose the gospel; and many more he tempts to neglect and refuse a cordial compliance with the offers of mercy. He tempts the awakened, to stifle convictions, and return to a state of stupidity. While he tempts moral sinners to self-righteousness and self-dependence, he seduces others to walk in the smooth and broad road to destruction. But though sinners are thus led captive by Satan from day to day and from year to year; yet they are totally insensible of his malignant influence over them, and know not that he is perpetually causing them to stumble. They sometimes, indeed, see the objects which he employs to seduce them, but still they are insensible of his seducing influence. They know not that they are continually walking in the paths of the destroyer, who is leading them blindfold to destruction.

2. Sinners are not sensible, that they are stumbling at one another. They are all taking the same course and pursuing the same objects. They are united in their disaffection to God, and in their love to the world. They join hand in hand, and all lead, and are led. Those who are before look back and see multitudes following them; and those who are behind look forward, and see multitudes before them. Their numbers inspire them with courage and resolution; for they cannot imagine, that so many of their fellow men are deceived, and are walking together in the path to ruin. Besides, they are constantly telling one another either expressly or implicitly, that there is no danger, and that they may safely and joyfully pursue their present course. Though they are in danger from Satan, yet they are in much greater danger from one another. The eye and ear affect the heart. They are continually seeing each other's conduct, and hearing each other's language. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. They all directly or indirectly invite each other to walk together, and never leave, nor forsake one another. They use all their influence, by example, by smiles and frowns, to increase their num

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