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“ Why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ?” Ezek. xviii. 31.
These words, “Why will ye die ?” do not mean that sinners directly and immediately desire and determine the ruin of their souls. Though some of them in their profane passions call for damnation often enough, they do not wish it to come. Balaam was as hardened as most, and one who loved the wages of iniquity ; but how much soever he liked the sinner's life, he did not choose his death. He says, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my
last end be like bis,” Num. xxiii. 10. When it is said, “ Why will ye die ?" we are not to suppose that the persons addressed are eager to get out of the world, for in general none are more unwilling; if they perceive the least symptom of danger, they are alarmed beyond measure. They are like Simon Magus, who, when his conscience was startled, said to the apostles, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken may come upon me.” They are fond enough of a life of sinful pleasure, none more so ; but yet, notwithstanding this, they may be said to choose death, and to be bent upon destruction ; for they wilfully persist in what they know is of a deadly nature and tendency, and thus seek their own spiritual and eternal death. They perish with their own consent ; for when a man is drawn away to evil, it is something in himself that urges him to comply; and so he is more instrumental in hazarding his own soul than the whole world besides. “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed : then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death," James i. 14, 15.
Among other circumstances that render it highly culpable I shall only mention the following: Why will you die, when God is so desirous that you should live? It is a direct opposition to the will of God. The salvation of sinners is highly pleasing to him; “For God so loved the world, that he gave
66 Cast away
his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John iii. 16. command is,
your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit;” and there is strong argument and encouragement in what follows : “ for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?” Had he been resolved upon the extirpation of our sinful race, he could easily have done it; it was only to have let us alone, and we should have effectually and eternally destroyed ourselves; but his mercy was extended to us. We deserved to die, but God sent down his Son to die in our stead. He has found an expiation with which he is more pleased than ever he was offended by our transgressions; and will you
refuse the life he offers you ? The slightness of those temptations that put sinners upon destructive courses, is an aggravation of their conduct.
This makes their fault more intolerable, and criminal beyond measure in the sight of God.
What do they get by offending him, and consigning over their souls to endless perdition? To be sure, there is something that looks like a sort of compensation for such a sacrifice; and what is it? Tell me, sinners, what is it you get by sacrificing your souls ? for I profess I am at a loss to know. “ What do we get ?why, we get pleasure; we get profit; we get praise and glory.” What! and are these the mighty gettings, for which God must be offended, Christ neglected, and your souls lost for ever? “ What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" Mark viii. 36, 37.
What a tremendous folly and fault, then, must it be, for the sake of a little of this world, to incur the displeasure of the Almighty, and purchase everlasting misery; to plunge a precious and immortal soul into a lake of fire and brimstone, to please a covetous or sensual appetite for a few moments! O why will you die and make light of the commands of God, and the glories of heaven, without any valuable consideration? Have you well considered, have you considered at all, what it is to die? To die is more than a mere extinction of life. At death, the body returns to the earth as it was, and the soul to God who gave it; and how doth God receive it? He demands, “ Give an account of thyself.” The poor wretch, laden with iniquities, stands trembling like a criminal at the bar of God : guilt makes him speechless. The Judge of all the earth commands, “ Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of
teeth,” Matth. xxii. 13. And is there any thing desirable in this? Are
thus dying? The dreadfulness of the destruction which sinners run them selves into, is a farther aggravation.
If it were a light, temporary, or tolerable evil, it were possible to countervail it by some greater good, worthy of a rational choice; as Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, Heb. xi. 25. But to incur infinite, insupportable, and everlasting misery, is the perfection of stupidity and folly: only think what you lose by thus persisting in sin : you lose God, and with him every thing that is good. Can you be content to let him go ? Can you prefer being without him for ever? O my mistaken friends, think again. Can you so easily part with God, the Author of your being, the Father of your spirits, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, whose favour is life, and whose presence is heaven? Can you be content without him—that you can neglect, that you can refuse, such an infinite and satisfying good, and have nothing in the room of it but a shadow or a lust; turning your back on Him who alone can make you happy, and without whom it were infinitely better to have no being ? No words can set forth the folly, the madness of such a resolution: and yet the one half hath not been told; for by obstinately persisting in your sinful courses, you not merely lose the favonr of God, but you provoké his wrath. “'Who knoweth the power of thine anger ? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath,” Ps. xc. 11. God only knows what his powerful wrath can inflict. Why, then, will ye die, O house of Israel ?
Why will ye, for the sake of any sin, however pleasant or profitable, throw yourselves into everlasting burnings? Will the short, imaginary, superficial pleasures of sin, suited to the body only, compensate for such real, intolerable, and everlasting pain in soul and body too? To cut off one limb to preserve life, is reasonable and right; but to plunge into never-dying death (if I may so express it) for the sake of one favourite corruption, is unspeakable folly. You cannot justify it even to yourselves. If I were to ask you, and I do ask you seriously, Do you intend your own destruction ? Are you deliberately willing to lie down in everlasting burnings? Do you really design and desire to plunge your poor souls and bodies into inconceivable and everlasting torments ? “ No,” you cry, and almost shudder at the question ; " no; God forbid; we have no such intention : we are pursuing our
own happiness, making the best provision we can for our ease and pleasure; and so is every one, for aught we see; and we hope to-morrow will be as this day, and much more abundant, and the next day, like to-morrow; in short, that we shall never know sorrow.” So you think, at least so you would have the world think ; but you are only deceiving your own souls; for you are doing what is deadly and damning. You oblige me to speak plain. I cannot speak plainer than the apostle. “ For to be carnally minded is death ;” and “ if ye
live after the flesh, ye shall die,” Rom. viii. 6, 13. And so, under the pretence of present pleasure, you cheat yourselves of spiritual and eternal blessedness. With the appearance of mirth you delude yourselves into misery. Can any thing be more absurd? You pretend to seek happiness, but you really pursue destruction. What will you get by imposing upon yourselves ? What dreadful reflections will follow, when the cheat comes to be discovered! Conscience will not be always silent under great provocations; and “ wounded spirit who can bear ?" It would almost break a heart of flint, to hear or read the cutting accusations some have uttered against themselves for slighting the offers of mercy, and continuing in known sins, when they come to find how wretchedly they have been befooled, how they have sold themselves for nought, have spent their money for that which is not bread, and their labour and their life for that which doth not profit.
Whom do you gratify by thus wilfully running upon death? No one, surely, but Satan, your old and implacable enemy. “ Ye are of your father the devil,” says Christ, w and the
It pleases Satan to see sinners so resolutely posting on in the paths of destruction; and why should any be so forward to gratify him? What has he done for sinners that they should serve him so industriously? Is it because he has been a murderer from the beginning, and the principal actor in all the misery that has ever befallen our wretched race? Is it because he is watching every moment, like a roaring lion, to devour them, and drag away their precious souls to the fire prepared for himself! One would think you should rather study to cross and disappoint him in his traitorous and fatal designs, and not conspire with him against yourselves. Your repentance will cause joy in heaven among the angels of God, and joy on earth among the people of God; yea, God himself would rejoice over you with great joy. And will you please Satan by obstinately rushing on to destruction, rather than accept
lusts of your