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everything will be practically brought. If a man can solemnly feel that he is more blessed in serving the devil than in obeying God; that every power of his being finds its freest and most joyous development, and every latent faculty its truest education, in that work; that every pulse of pleasure is exhilarated, and every throb of pain soothed and stilled thereby; that his peace is perfect and his heaven serene; that he glories in the service, and asks no better than to live by it, and to die by itI say, if this could be the solemn testimony of a man's spirit in a life of sin, it would be hard, by any abstract demonstrations about righteousness, to get him to change it for what you might think a higher and a nobler way. He saith, “ The old is better.” It fills him with blessedness; it inspires him with hope; why should he change? But while God lives, this blessedness is absolutely impossible to sin. God witnesses by word against the essential nature of evil; His law denounces it as hateful in His sight. And He witnesses against it by its fruits. These, at any -rate, shall bear testimony for the Ruler; these, at any rate, shall obey His will. Here we touch the limit of the free-will of man. In self-determination he is omnipotent; he is powerless as to results. What a man wills, too, he may do. God places no obstacle to his doing anything which he may please, which is within the wondrous compass of his powers. There is nothing whatever to hinder his resolving to strike a knife into the heart of the next man that he may meet; and but little to hinder his doing it. But there his power ends—God's power begins. Laws are at work, in whose grasp he is powerless, which drag him to prison, and hang him at length as a dog for his crime. There is nothing to hinder your resolving to go out and spend the night in a foul debauch, and but little to hinder your doing it. The means, alas ! are at hand all round you—you can go. But, then, nothing can help your going forth on the morrow with a pallid face, a sodden eye, a shaking hand; sick and heartsick ; unstrung, unmanned ; feeling and looking like a beast. You can go this moment if you will ; that is your power. You must suffer shame and wretchedness for it; that is God's. You can, if you like, be a bear in your home. You can make your wife tremble at the sight of you, and your children cower or shrink into dark corners from the kick or the curse, which is the only greeting that they know. But no power of yours can help your home being a bear-garden; your wife sullen, dirty, reckless ; your children deceitful, vicious, indolent; and your soul a very hot-bed for forcing into early fruitage vice, misery, and despair. You can do the one, God does the other ; and He asks
you to balance the account. Settle it fairly you shall. You do your will as to actions, He will have His will done as to results. And He asks you to look at the balance. Does it tempt you to go on? I know that it is dead against you. You are bankrupt already. It must be so inevitably, unless your arm be stronger than God's. Here is the hold which God keeps on men. They may sear out the lines which He inscribes on the fleshy tablet of every heart as witnesses to Him and to His truth ; they may harden their hearts and deafen their ears to every direct appeal from heaven. He may thunder His commandments in vain. But so long as men can suffer He can reach them ; so long as they can feel the thorns and the goads, He can make them understand the deadliness of sin. So long as there lurks one faintest desire for the happiness which man was made to seek and enjoy, there is something which God can lay hold upon; there is a hook in the nostril of the foulest passions, the fiercest lusts, by which there is a hope that He may tame them and make them submissive to His will.
Such is the theory. And now let us apply the practical test of it. What fruit have you had off this tree of sin? You have known something of the great realities of life; some of you have travelled far on the pilgrimage ; you have plucked
fruit enough off this tree to know well what it is worth. I see grey hairs here, and furrowed brows. Experience, life's cares and sorrows, have chased those lines. Your witness would be worth something. Is it for God or for the devil ? Lift up your hand now and tell us, Is sin the loved and honoured mistress of your lives? Is the remembrance of all that sin and self-will have done for you so sweet that you ask no better than to love their ways, and to follow them for ever? Do you glory in your service, and in its fruits ? Do you set yourself forth as a witness of how blessed a thing it is to grasp, and hoard, and drink, and game, and hate, and lust. One testified of old thus, concerning the ways of God: “ Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season ; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” “ The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree : he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright : He is my
rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." Are you ready to set yourself forth in opposition, as a witness of the goodness of the ways of sin ? Look round you. Search the neighbourhood of your own home. Is it the drunkard, the roysterer, the lazy, idle, tattling, guzzling workman, whose home seems to you most cheerful, bright, and happy? Don't you think that you could go through any neighbourhood, and put a mark on the doors of the sober, steady, industrious, Godfearing men and women? Would you not know them in a moment by the peace, the order, the cleanness, the comfort that reign within ? Why, homes are just like faces. Some have a cheery smile, some have a sullen frown. Some look just like a drunkard. He is there staggering home, with hot, flushed face, truculent eye, and lowering brow. You see that he is going home to kick and to curse, and to do worse things, of which drink is at the root. The man's home is like his face; God makes the devil set his mark upon it, and the mark says to all men, “ Beware.” And there is the neat, tidy, comely, happy-looking housewife, who has just swept the hearth, given the children the last touch, and set the table for her hard-working husband's tea. Her house smiles and shines as well as her countenance. God sets His own mark there, and every one who looks upon it