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plainly denounced the wrath of God against uncleanness, covetousness and foolish talking and jesting. Be not deceived with vain words. The threatenings of God are words of truth and soberness. If you doubt the certain execution of them, yet he cannot deny himself; he is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. If you doubt whether the precepts of the gospel are to be understood in the extent, which the words seem to import, still remember, they are the precepts of God. He trifles not with man, nor may man trifle with him.' Take them as he has given them, and let your hearts be conformed to them, and your practice directed by them. Think not to plead in excuse for your sins, that you were deceived by the opinions of men. You are to call no man on earth your master. God is not mock. ed; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. Eve was deceived by the serpent who flattered her, that transgression would not be death. On this deception she transgressed, and death ensued. She pleaded that the serpent beguiled her ; but the plea was not admitted in bar of sentence. The prophet, who disobeyed the express command of God, in compliance with the advice of another prophet, pretending an order from God to revoke the former command, perished in his presumption. He was not to transgress an order given immediately to himself, on the insinuation of another, that it was now superseded. The command which he had received he knew to be from God; the information of the other prophet was only the word of man.
We are to take the scriptures as they are, and though one should pretend to the inspiration of the Spirit, and to immediate revelation from God, yet we are not to regard him in opposition to the plain and obvious sense of the sacred oracles. The Apostle says, “ Though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, than that which ye have received, let him be accursed."
Againse Fellowship in Unfruitful Works.
LPHESIANS ». 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes
darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord : Walk as children of light, (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness and truth) proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame 10 speak of those thing", which are done of them in secret.
THE several vices enumerated in the preceding verses, are fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, and profane and wanton jesting. These were practised among the heathens in their dark and ignorant state. The Apostle warns the Ephesians, now enlightened by the gospel, that they no longer have fellowship with their neighbors in these unfruitful and pernicious works--that they avoid not only the direct commission of, but all partnership in these and all other sins, which the gospel has detected and condemned. We will,
I. Illustrate this fellowship in wickedness. And,
II. Apply the arguments, which the Apostle, in the words now read, urges against it.
I. We will illustrate this fellowship in wickedness, which Christians are exhorted to avoid.
If by any means we cooperate with sinners, coun. tenance them in their evil works, strengthen their hands, hinder their repentance and reformation ; if we neglect to restrain them, when it is in our power, or to rebuke them when we have opportunity ; or if we take a secret pleasure in their sins, even though we do no. thing directly to encourage them, we have fellowship with them.
1. Not to oppose, in any cases, is to embolden transgressors, and to be partakers with them.
Rulers are to be a terror unto evil works. The no. bles of Judah are said to have profaned the sabbath, when they suffered the men of Tyre to come into the city, and sell wares on the sabbath day. The ministers of religion are charged to bear public testimony against prevailing error and vice, and to rebuke, before all men, such as walk contrary to the gospel, that they may not be partakers of other men's sins, but may keep them. selves pure. If these watchmen speak not to warn the wicked of his evil way, that he may save his soul, the same wicked man will die in his iniquity; but his blood will be required at their hands. The parent is commanded to bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If they make themselves vile, and he restrains them not, he is a partaker with them in their guilt, and God will judge his house. • 2. We have more direct fellowship with the wicked, when we encourage them by our example.
We are to provide things honest and commendable in the sight of all men, that they by our good conversa, tion may be gained over to the interest of virtue. The ill example of men in a distinguished station gives a sort of sanction to vice. Few are so obscure in life, but that they may find some who are subject to their ina fluence. The parent, the master of a family, the aged Christian, the professor of religion may within his cire cle do much to prejudice, and much to promote the cause of religion. It concerns every man, in regard to others as well as to himself, to be careful what manner of person he is. If we practice iniquity under any circum.' stances we must bear the burden of our own guilt; but if by an open example of vice we corrupt others, our burden will be accumulated by a participation of their guilt. Yea, such a tender concern ought we to feel for the virtue of those around us, as to forbear in their presence those innocent liberties, which might encourage them to real transgression. "Take heed," says the Apostle, “ lest by any means your liberty become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if a man see thee, who hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat things, which are offered to idols ?” - 3. They who provoke and incite others to evil works, have fellowship with them.
This may be done by the propagation of licentious opinions, which confound the difference between vir. tue and vice. It was a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem, that they walk in lies, caused the peo. ple to err, and strengthened the hands of evil doers, that none did return from his wickedness. Elymas the sorcerer is called an enemy of all righteousness, because he perverted the right ways of the Lord, and sought to turn away others from the faith. They who are led away with the errors of the wicked, must bear their guilt. And they who diffuse the errors, must an. swer for the consequences. Both are bringing on themselves swift destruction.
This may also be affected by direct persuasions and enticements. The wise man, aware of the dangers to which youth in a licentious age are exposed, gives this salutary caution ; " When sinners entice you, consent ye not."-"Enter not into the path of the wicked, nor go in the way of evil mon; for they sleep not except
they have done mischief ; and their sleep is taken away except they cause some to fall.” It was the most in famous part of Jeroboam's character, that by erecting his golden calves, and recommending the worship of them, he made Israel to sin. The prophet denounces the curse of God against the man, who giveth his neighbor drink, and by putting the bottle to him maketh him drunken.
To suggest the means of executing a wicked design is to make ourselves accomplices in it. Balaam, though he was restrained from cursing Israel, yet taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before them, and draw them into idolatry, which he knew, would bring down upon them the curse of God. Balaam therefore perished among those who committed this trespass against the Lord.
The instigators of evil are involved in a common guilt with the immediate actors. Paul calls himself a blasphemer, because he punished the saints in every city and compelled them to blaspheme.
There are some, who plead in defence of particular vices, deride a godly life, and treat the solemn truths of the gospel with an air of contempt. These, by their insolent mockery, destroy much good, and add strength to the cause of infidelity and vice. The man,
indeed, who can be laughed out of his religion, has nev.. · er deeply felt the power of it in his heart. But these mockers will have a distinguished share in the punishment and perdition of ungodly men. Peculiar marks of God's displeasure will be impressed on those who corrupt the earth with their abominations.
4. They who explicitly consent to, and actually join; with sinners in their eyil works, have fellowship with them. · The Jews, who hired Judas to betray his Lord, and extorted from Pilate a sentence of death against the Saviour, are called his betrayers and murderers. Saul, who stood by and kept the raiment of the men who