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bers, and maintain their strength and security. Thus moral sinners are a stumbling block to the immoral, and the immoral are a stumbling block to the moral. The aged are a stumbling block to the young, and the young are a stumbling block to the aged. Thus all classes and ages of sinners are mutually stumbling blocks to each other, yet they are all so involved in spiritual darkness, that they know not at what they stumble. They seem to have no apprehension, that the friendship of the world is. enmity to God, and that to follow a multitude in doing evil, is the direct road to destruction.
3. Sinners are insensible, that they stumble at divine providence. God governs the natural and moral world, by a constant and powerful, but invisible influence, which he exerts with great regularity and uniformity. This gives occasion to the morally blind and stupid to disregard his holy hand, and disbelieve his universal government. Ezekiel tells us, that, in his day, sinners said, “ The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not.” Zephaniah tells us, that those who were settled on their lees in his day, said, “ The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” And the apostle tells us, that sinners would continue to imbibe such sentiments, and scoffingly say, “ Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” The very evidence which God is every day giving sinners of his being and providence, leads them to forget, or to doubt, or to deny both. But if they do see and acknowledge God in his providence, yet they entirely misconstrue it. Since he causes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the evil as well as on the good; and since he causes all things to come alike to the evil as well as to the good, they thence conclude, that he loves them all alike, and will treat them all alike in a future world, as well as this. Because he does not execute vengeance speedily, they presumptuously imagine he never will; and because he waits to be gracious, they fatter themselves, that his
patience and forbearance will never end. His goodness instead of leading them to repentance, leads them to impenitence, unbelief and presumption. Though the frowns of providence sometimes awaken their fears, yet they more commonly excite their enmity and opposition to his righteous treatment. So that they are constantly and insensibly stumbling over both the smiles and frowns of providence.
4. Sinners are insensible, that their common employments are dangerous objects, over which they are stumbling and falling. They are apt to think, that while they are industriously pursuing their lawful callings, they are in the path of duty and safety. Their secular concerns habitually engross their thoughts and affections, and cement their hearts to the world. Though they are commanded to do every thing heartily to the Lord, and whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, to seek the glory of God; and though they are forbidden to love the world and the things of the world ; yet they do every thing for themselves, and labour solely for the meat that perisheth. But while they are habitually indulging their selfish feelings, they are wholly insensible, that the ploughing of the wicked is sin, and that their worldly motives in their worldly pursuits are leading them to ruin. Their daily cares and concerns continually divert their attention and af fections from all invisible and eternal objects. All earthly objects serve to make them earthly-minded. They cannot serve God and mammon. For while they are laying up treasures for themselves, they are not rich towards God, and yet know not, that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. They are so blind to the selfish and sinful motives of their own hearts, in their common secular con cerns, that all their worldly employments are insensibly leading them in the path to destruction.
5. They are no less blind to the nature and tendency of their religious performances. Though some sinners do not perform any duties of religion externally, and of course, do not place any dependence upon them;
yet there are many, who statedly read the bible, call upon God, and attend the religious duties of the sanctuary. These externals of religion they seriously, and as they imagine, conscientiously perform, while their hearts are far from God. By maintaining these forms of religion, they are so blind as to think, that they are really doing their duty and performing a reasonable and acceptable service to their maker. So Paul thought before he became acquainted with his own heart; and so the young man in the gospel thought, who said he had kept all the commandments of God; and so all moral sinners think, They trust in themselves that they are righteous, and shall be saved, because they are better than others. Their religious performances encourage and animate them to pursue a way which seemeth right in their own eyes, though the end thereof be the way to death. They have no suspicion, that
. their supposed prayers, and duties, and good works, are an abomination to the Lord, and leading them to endless darkness and despair. Such was the deplorable case of the self-righteous and blinded Jews, for whose salvation the apostle fervently prayed. “Brethren, my heart's desire, and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For 1 bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” They were blind to the character of God and to the deep depravity of their own hearts, which made them insensible, that they were stumbling over their religious duties, and falling to rise no more. Some of the most amiable sinners are thus walking and groping in the dark path to destruction, while they are fondly expecting they shall eventually reach the kingdom of glory
6. The moral blindness of sinners insensibly leads them to stumble at the preaching they hear. They often love to hear the gospel preached, and cherish a pleasing hope, that it will sooner or later prove a savor
of life unto life to them. God says of the sinners in Zion, “ They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways. They ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.” They of ten go
to the house of God, with a serious intention to hear for their lives, and not to be hearers only, but doers of the word. Bat walking in darkness under the blinding influence of their unholy hearts, they either misunderstand, or misapply, or oppose the truths they hear. If preachers point out one stumbling block, they will blindly stumble over another. If they warn them against one false way, they will blindly run into another. If they clearly show them, that by pursuing their present course, they must certainly perish; yet they will persist in their delusion, and risk the fatal consequences. They stumble at the most alluring and most alarming truths exhibited before them and inculcated upon them. The morally blinded stumble at the very same truths, which the morally enlightened believe to the saving of their souls. The apostle
that the unbelieving Jews “stumbled at that stumbling-stone and rock of offence, which "God had laid in Zion." And the apostle Peter repeats the same divine declaration concerning blind and impenitent sinners. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious : and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore who believe he is precious; but unto them who be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed." But those who hear and disbelieve the gospel have no idea, that they stumble at it, and are highly displeased, when they are charged with it. “ Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world: that they which see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees who were
with him heard these words, and said unto him, are we blind also ?" I must add,
7. That sinners are blind to the blindness of their own hearts, which are insensibly leading them to blackness and darkness forever. Their hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. The deceitfulness of the heart leads them to think they intend right, when they act wrong, and that their hearts are better than their actions. Though they know, that their hearts are sometimes as bad as their actions, and even worse, still they think there is some goodness in their hearts, upon which they place great dependence. They trust in their own hearts to dispose them to reform, to repent, and to believe, and finally obtain pardoning mercy. And this confidence in the goodness of their own hearts, removes all fear of future and eternal misery. But if they are constrained to see the badness of their hearts, they will plead the badness of their hearts, as an excuse for hating God, for rejecting the offers of mercy, and for remaining in impenitence and unbelief, not knowing that these self-justifying pleas have a direct tendency to destroy them for ever. They are every day stumbling over their own hearts, which are deceitfully and insensibly leading them in the broad and smooth way to endless darkness and despair.
1. If sinners are so blind and insensible to the dangerous objects with which they are surrounded, and over which they are stumbling, it is not strange, that they generally live so securely and joyfully. It has always appeared strange as well as grievous to the godly, to see the ungodly live securely and joyfully, though under a sentence of death, and continually exposed to the wrath to come. Job was surprised to see the wicked spend their days in wealth, in joy, and in festivity. David was grieved at the prosperity of the wicked, and could not account for their not being in