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SERM.out the remarks and reflections of others, they XXIII. would chuse to be without them, and throw
them away as troublesome and uneasy trifles.
All the pleasure this world affords, beyond the necessary supplies and conveniencies of nature, is fo inconsiderable that it is hardly mist; and nothing makes them agreeable to us but the being used to them; nothing but custom and opinion renders many of them tolerable : And if we consider the matter justly, there is no such thing as real and positive happiness in this world ; since most of the enjoyments in it are only the supplying the defects of nature, and ridding it from uneasiness at the present. We eat only to cure the gnawings of an empty stomach ; we drink to quench the irksome violence of thirst; we clothe ourselves to prevent the pain of cold and nakedness; and thus it is in most other instances: All that we do is not to make us happy, but to prevent a little prefent misery and uneasiness; when we are at the height of all worldly enjoyments : even a pain in our finger shall make them all vanish like a dream, and rob us of all gust and relish of them; and though there were no interruption from any pain in the body, yet, even in the most hardened finners, there is some remorse of conscience always attending the committal of fin, which palls the enjoyment : Nor are all the pleasures of this life, in their greatest purity, comparable to the secret complacence and the real positive satisfaction of mind, which
follows the cutting off a sin, and the conquestS E R M.
Alas! how low and mean, and wretched
useless things about them to look at every day; and above all to have a considerable sum of money to leave behind them when they die. These are the things which go by the name of pleasure and enjoyment, which people are as fond of as they are of their eyes ; daily purchase at the price of their souls, and will rather be cast into hell fire than part with them. This is such a degree of folly and madness as men will never be thoroughly sensible of, till they come to another world, it is as if one should drink a glass of deadly poison, only that they might taste the sweet of it while it is going down: But then they will feel how little it profits a man to gain the whole world and lose bis own soul, and how much better it is to pluck out the eye that offended them, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
II. If we should suppose the sinful pleasures of this life, to be as great as the most corrupt
SER M. and defiled imagination can represent them, XXIII.
yet they will last but for a short time ; the W longest is but for the life of the man, and then
this world passeth away, and the luft thereof, and all that is in it; the lust of the flesh, the luft of the eye, and the pride of life disappears ; then the scene changes, and they are succeeded by an eternity of woe and misery; a sure and certain change! and then the greater their pleasure was before, the more they enjoyed of their good things in this life, the more unsupportable will be that state of misery, which Thall never have an end,
Now, the eternity of those torments is the great aggravation, here mentioned, of that woe, which shall be the punishment of fin; and of the folly of making such an exchange, by enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, to be cast into hell, where their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched.
This was a received form of speaking among the Jews; who as the son of Syrach says, vii
. 17. were generally of an opinion, that the vengeance prepared for the ungodly consisted in fire and worms. The most probable account how it came to be so was this: Among the Jews, the utmost severity they executed upon malefactors for any grievous offence was, not to suffer them to be buried after execution; and the place they cast their dead bodies into, was the valley of Hinnom, a little disa tance from Jerusalem, where they lay till their flesh was eaten up of worms, and then their
bones were burnt to ashes in a fire kept always Ser M. there for that purpose; from which fire, toge-XXIII. ther with that supposed to be in the same valley, where the idolatrous Jews burnt human facrifices to their idols, the extreme punishment of wicked men in another world was usually signified amongst them, by that of fire and worms; and the being cast into a place of torment hereafter, was signified by the being cast into Gehenna, (i. e.) the valley of Hinnom.
Now from hence the words are transferred by our Saviour, to signify the torments of the damned. And
ist, He says their worm shall never die; which expression hath been used to signify the torments of the mind, as that of fire expresses the punishment of the body; and it aptly represents to us that everlasting remorse of conscience, which shall be the consequence of guilt in another world; shame and remorse and anguish of mind, are the infeparable companions of guilt, and people never fail to find it while they are young sinners, till by habits of sinning it becomes fo familiar to them, that in time they wear off all sense of it, and by this means the worm of conscience dies in this world; yet it shall be revived again in the other, where we are told it shall never die.
How exquisite a punishment this will be, is impossible to conceive, till men come to know what that kingdom of heaven is which they
Ser m. have lost, and at how great a distance their XXIII. fins have placed them from God, whofe pre
sence alone can make us infinitely happy, and preferve us from being miserable; yet there are two things which may help us to fome notion of it.
I. One is, that compunction of mind, and anguish of heart, which
sincere penitent feels for his past lins; that forrow which (as the Apostle speaks) works a repentance never to be repented of. What this is, those alone can be sensible of who have felt it; in some it is fo great that it leaves a lasting imprefsion on their minds, it dwells upon their spirits ; fo that they can scarce be said to enjoy any thing in this world: In the whole course of their lives they cannot lift up
their with chearfulness; and their greatest hopes have a mixture of despondency. But above all the most pungent fenfe of guilt is that which follows the committal of a fin, after the strength of the temptation was broke, and after a long confirmed habit of the contrary virtue: This renews the wounds of conscience, it makes them bleed afresh, and all before seemed but a fmarting, in comparison of that raging pain in such a perfon's mind; he hath now many additional degrees of folly to upbraid himself with ; he is now under the displeasure of God, who was once in his favour: The bitterness of his soul is such, that his flesh trembles for fear of God, and he is afraid of lis judgments.
eyes to heaven