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them out of the fire; to beware, lest we put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall, in our brother's way. Of him who turneth away from the law of God and draweth others after him, Moses says, “ The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord will smoke against him, and he will separate him to all evil.” The most infamous part of Jeroboam's character was, that he made Israel to sin ; and this is assigned as a special reason of God's judgment on him and his house. The chief ground of the woes denounced against the Pharisees, was, that they shut up the kingdom of God against men. God's justice is glorified in heaven for his vengeance on those who had corrupted the earth. One can scarcely without shuddering, read Paul's awful rebuke on the sorcerer of Paphos, who sought by his artifice to turn away from the faith the deputy of the country. “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righteousness; Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ? Behold now the hand of the Lord is upon thee.” Paul says of those Jews, who forbade the apostles to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, " They please not God, and are contrary to all men; they fill up the measure of their sins always, that wrath may come upon them to the uttermost."
We see then the horrible nature, and fearful danger
of the sin condemned in the text-“strengthen. ing the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness.” Let us apply the subject.
You will first apply it to the ministers of the gospel, and the publick teachers of religion. I mustjustify the application. Doubtless they are deeply concerned in it. If they cease to warn the wicked of his evil way, if they pervert the word of God, if by their example they countenance wickedness, or by their doctrine disseminate error, it may justly be
apprehended that many will perish by their means, and at their hands will be required the souls which thus are lost. But know, my brethren, your minister is not alone concerned in the subject. Permit him in his turn, to apply to you.
You have declared yourselves the subjects of God's kingdom ; see that you shut not up the way to it, and that you lay no obstructions before those who are entering into it. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
Take heed lest, by your means, the way of truth be evil spoken of. Let your conversation in all things, be as becomes the gospel of Christ. If you walk according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind ; if you neglect the worship and ordinances of God's house ; if you talk lightly about the doctrines and duties of religion ; if you plead in favour of corrupt opinions; or propagate by your discourse, or other means, those sentiments, which tend to beguile unstable souls ; you do more to strengthen the hands of the wicked, and to prevent their repentance, than if you had never assumed the christian character.
Many are looking to you ; some that they may be guided by your example ; some that they may mark your miscarriages, and find occasion to reproach both you and your religion. Walk in a plain path because of your observers ; by well doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men ; shew yourselves in all things a pattern of good works, that they, who would accuse you, may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of
you. Heads of families will not fail to apply a subject so pertinent to them.
The virtue of those under your care depends much on your prudence and fidelity. If you command your children and household, and train them up in virtuous sentiments and manners, you may
hope, thát through God's grace, they will keep the way of the Lord, and that you shall rejoice, behold. ing their good conversation in Christ. But if they make themselves vile, and you lay on them no restraints, and give them no warning of their danger; if amidst the instructions which cause to err, you leave them unguarded and defenceless ; if, far from instructing and warning them in this unexperienced and critical period, you corrupt them by your own example and conversation, strengthen their hands in their evil works, and fortify their consciences against the calls to repentance; What will you do, when God riseth up; and when he visiteth, what will you answer him? If it be a horrible thing to strengthen other sinners in wickedness, What name shall we find to express your guilt, when you hide yourselves from your own fesh, and harden yourselves against them, as if they were not yours
? Let the young beware, lest they strengthen each other's hands in evil doing.
You have opportunities to do much good, or much evil among those of your age, and those who often associate with
you. If deeply impressed with a sense of religion and the future world, you walk in the path of wisdom and virtue ; if you have no fellowship with the wicked in their evil works, but rather reprove them; your presence will restrain the vicious, your reproofs awaken the careless, and your examples strengthen the virtuous. A reformation discovering itself among a few, may hopefully spread and extend its influence to many.
But if you walk in vanity and vice, set your tongues against the heavens ; make light of the great concerns of futurity ; hear with eagerness and communicate with pleasure, the sentiments which tend to licentiousness; make a mock of sin, and of the threatenings of God; and labour to for.
tify yourselves and others against the convictions, which might lead to repentance ; you will do more, than you can imagine, to corrupt the young generation, to which you belong, and, alas, I fear, few of you will return from your wickedness.
Finally. If it is so horrible a thing to strengthen evildoers, it is horrible also to be strengthened in evil doing. Beware then, lest, being corrupted by the example and advice of the wicked, you grow. bold in sin, and, become hardened in guilt
. “If sinners entice thee, hearken not to them. Enter not into the path of the wicked ; go not in the way of evil men : Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away! Get wisdom, take fast hold of instruction ; let her not go : Keep her, for she is thy life, exalt her, and she shall promote thee ; forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee.”
Beware therefore lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in
the prophets ; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish : For I work a work in your days ; a work which ye shall in no wise beliede, though a man declare it to you.
THE Apostle Paul, preaching to the Jews in Antioch, gives them a summary view of the nature and evidences of the gospel, its extensive de. sign, and its glorious privileges; and then in the words of our text, solemnly warns them of that destruction, which, by their contempt of this gospel, they were urging on themselves. “ Beware lest that come upon you, which is spoken in the prophets."
The passage in the prophets, to which the Apostle alludes, is in Habakkuk, Chap. i. ver. 5. "Be. hold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously : For I work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”