William Nicholson, 1862
"He who pursues evil, pursues it to his own death." Proverbs 11:19
In human conduct, it is a mark of true wisdom to reflect on consequences. Hence, Solomon says, "A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself." The cause of so many being involved in circumstances of failure and misery, is the lack of forethought.
And in spiritual matters, man is so depraved that he hates the investigation of his own conduct, and generally shuns it. No wonder then that he should "pursue evil, even to his own death," and that the termination of his life would be marked by dying regrets and painful forebodings.
I. The Nature of Sin.
Sin is trespass against the Almighty Lawgiver. It is a departure from God. It is the transgression of his righteous laws. It is acting contrary to his wise and holy will, 1 John 3:4.
1. Sin's source. The depraved heart is the source of all evil thoughts, desires, and actions. Psalm 51:5. This corruption of nature is the indwelling sin, Romans 7:17, 20, and works all manner of evil desires, Romans 7:8. Sin was in man, Romans 7:23, reigns over him and subjugates him, Romans 6:11, 12, 14. Sin is the fruitful spring of all iniquity, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'." Matthew 15:19. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest," etc. Galatians 5:19.
2. Sin's development. It develops itself by the disposition, by the temper, by the language — all these are characterized by evil. Sin develops into:
"fulfilling the lusts of the flesh;"
love of worldly amusements, and other vanities,
delight in worldly association,
resorting to places of wickedness,
contempt of God's word, and hatred to his people,
rejection of faithful and tender advice and warning,
and sometimes by the most flagrant deeds of wickedness, which lead to punishable crimes. "The way of transgressors is hard!"
Thus the heart is like an impure fountain, sending forth filthy streams! It is like a corrupt tree, bearing bad and worthless fruit. Isaiah 1:2, etc. "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time!" Genesis 6:5. "Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." Genesis 8:21
II. The Pursuit of Sin."He who pursues evil."
1. This pursuit is the result of deliberate choice. The sinner loves evil. It is the element in which his unregenerated nature loves to revel. Though sin is degrading, shameful, and ruinous — he loves it. He chooses it in preference to that which is real, substantial, and blissful. He chooses . . .
husks, rather than the true and living bread,
folly, rather than wisdom,
death, rather than life,
the world, rather than Christ,
perdition, rather than Heaven.
2. He pursues sin with avidity. He . . .
rushes forward to fleshly gratification,
breaks through all restraints,
turns a deaf ear to all remonstrance,
makes every sacrifice, to pursue some imagined good.
He is in earnest. He agonizes. He sees the phantom, the bubble, before him — and his eagerness to grasp it is extreme. Witness the pursuit of . . .
the covetous after glittering gold,
the sensualist after momentary indulgence,
the mirthful after amusement,
the drunkard after the cup of intoxication — so eager is his pursuit that the natural love of offspring, etc., is very frequently violated.
3. This pursuit is progressive. The sinner proceeds from one degree of wickedness to another — from a lesser evil to a greater evil. Sin gradually hardens the conscience, and makes bolder in wickedness. And the misery connected with transgression is also progressive.
4. Sin is frequently pursued in opposition to conviction, and the accusations of conscience. These say, "Do yourself no harm," but he still pursues his favorite lust.
God's providential visitations, as personal affliction, family bereavements, etc., cry, "Escape for your life!" But he rushes on to sin.
The Gospel says, "Flee from the wrath to come!" But he reckons it all delusion. But alas! he is the deluded one, and subsequent events will prove it; for "sin when it is finished, brings forth death!" See James 1:13-15.
III. The Awful Termination of Sin."He who pursues evil, pursues it to his own death!"
Sin has its seedtime, its growth, and its harvest.
1. Sin is the death of reputation. "Sin is a disgrace to any people," Proverbs 14:34. It has blighted the fairest characters, and degraded those once highly esteemed.
Is there anything honorable connected with sin? If a man is not ashamed of his sins, he shall be put to shame by them. "A wicked man is loathsome, and comes to shame!" Proverbs 13:5. What is there honorable or attractive about a swearer, a liar, an obscene jester, or a drunkard? Where is the reputation of an extortioner, a miser, an oppressor? What honor attaches to an infidel, or an atheist? None! For his opinions or systems are prompted by debased, earthly, and devilish passions! There is no honor connected with sin.
2. Sin is frequently the death of mental vigor. Sin enervates and destroys the powers of the mind.
What mischief have drunkenness and sensuality done in this respect! Sin has driven man back to the imbecility of childhood; it has produced insanity; it has confined to the asylum. Look at the intellects of some people in middle life, and in old age! What foolishness, childishness, and folly! They seem to have bestowed no culture, and to have made scarcely any improvement. In intelligence, in wisdom, in seriousness, they are excelled even by some children. Alas! old man, you are in a pitiable and degraded condition. The golden seedtime of mental improvement is gone, and you are now reaping the harvest of your folly. You have "pursued evil," and it has destroyed your mental vigor! Why that nervous excitability? Why those childish fears, and gloomy imaginings? Why those melancholy forebodings? Why that incoherent speech? Why? Your intellect is under the power of sin! Alas! alas! for you, old man!
3. Sin is frequently the death of health. Sin, by the conduct to which it prompts, by its excess and riot, by its revelry and debauchery — impairs the constitution, wastes the body, and induces premature old age, or death.
Evil is pursued by sinners to their own death. Many might have lived long had they lived better, and have enjoyed a good old age, had it not been for their youthful folly. But now, many are dragging on their existence, "filled with the sins of their youth," which will "lie down with them in the grave." An eminent physician has given it as his opinion, that scarcely one in a thousand dies a natural death.
4. Sin is the death of happiness. This is obvious from what has already been advanced. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." "Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him!" "The wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest."
5. Sin has frequently caused the infliction of death in the way of judgment.
Some have been hurried away in the very career of sin and folly. Thus it was with Pharaoh, in the heat of battle, and while fighting against God. Thus it was with Saul, when slain upon Mount Gilboa. Thus it was with Nebuchadnezzar and his nobles, who died in the midst of a drunken feast. Thus it was with Judas, who went down "quick into Hell." Thus with Ananias and Sapphira, who died with a lie upon their tongues; and with Herod, who in the midst of his blasphemy was smitten by an angel. And if we had an inspired history of the present times, and could trace the causes of those effects now confounded in the common course of things, we would find the destruction of many a transgressor as the result of Divine judgment!
6. Sin destroys the soul. All who die in impenitence and unbelief, die in their sins, and go down to the grave with their guilt on their own heads, and it will rise with them to judgment. Death comes to such in its original form, with a curse. "The wages of sin is death," not the corruption of the body in the grave, but "banishment from the presence of the Lord," etc. It is to be accounted "cursed, and to depart into everlasting fire," etc. It is "the second death." It is "the worm that dies not," etc.
1. Learn to estimate things according to their final results; judge of religion in this way, and also of the pleasures of sin.
2. Let those who are delivered from the pursuit of evil be thankful. "You were once children of wrath, even as others!"
3. Let the pursuit of evil be abandoned, by repentance and faith in Christ. There is mercy in him for the vilest!