By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;…
Let it be conceded, then, in the outset, that sin has pleasures. This must be true, otherwise men would not commit it. In every instance, at least in the outset of the sinner's career, he is drawn toward iniquity by the belief that in some way or other it will minister to his enjoyment. Now my question is, What are the characteristics of such pleasure? Take it at its best, and suppose you have the greatest joy that it is possible for sin to furnish, of what sort is it, and what is it worth? My answer is that its value is what mathematicians would call a negative quality — it has the minus sign before it; that is to say, "it costs more than it comes to"; in the equation of life it does not add to, but rather takes from, the sum total of your happiness, and leaves you less truly yourself than you were before you enjoyed it.
I. THE PLEASURES OF SIN ARE SHORT-LIVED. In the expressive symbolism of Scripture, they are like water in a broken cistern which speedily runs out; or like the blaze of thorns which crackle and flame up for a little and then die down into a heap of ashes; and the experience of all who have indulged in them will corroborate this statement. There is in them, at best, only a temporary thrill which vibrates for a moment and needs to be reproduced again and again.
"Pleasures are like poppies spread —
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow-fall in the river —
A moment white, then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amidst the storm."I make my appeal to yourselves. Have you got that amount of pleasure out of sin which you expected from it when you began to yield to it? You know you have not. Think not to say within yourselves that though your little indulgence in it has brought you only disappointment a greater would give you satisfaction. Can you change the character of sin by adding to its enormity? Depend upon it, the greater the sin the greater will be the disappointment. It is only when we come to Christ and find pardon and peace in Him that enduring happiness can be obtained. And we receive it from Him because He works a change upon our inner nature. Sin sends us out of ourselves for joy. Jesus gives us enjoyment by coming into us and supping with us and we with Him. Hence the true Christian carries ever his pleasure within himself. It does not depend on external things; but, itself an internal thing, it sends itself out throughout all his life. It is not an experience separate from everything else in his consciousness so much as an element entering into and pervading all his actions and emotions. As the stop in the organ is not itself a separate note, but gives its own peculiarity to every note which the player sounds for the time, so Christ in the heart is not there dwelling apart in a secluded shrine, but entering into all the experiences of the soul, elevating and ennobling them all. Weigh well this contrast, and I think you will have no difficulty in deciding which you will choose. Pleasure in sin is external and evanescent. Christian happiness is internal and permanent.
II. THE PLEASURES OF SIN LEAVE A STING BEHIND, AND WILL NOT BEAR AFTER-REFLECTION. There is guilt in them, and there never can be happiness in contemplating that. Yet when the brief hour of joy is fled the guilt is the entire residuum of the joy. Have you ever entered a banqueting-hall the morning after some high festival had been held in it, and while yet everything remained precisely as the guests had left it at the midnight hour? The candles burned to the sockets, the floor covered with the evidences of the night's hilarity, the dishes piled confusedly upon the tables, and the decorations which looked so gay in the brilliant lamplight now all withered and dishevelled! You can scarcely believe it is the same place as that which a few hours before resounded with mirth and song, or re-echoed with the applause of some orator's address. It is deserted; nay, it is repulsive; and you turn away from it to moralise on the passing glory of all earthly things. But such an external contrast is nothing to that which is furnished by the history of the votary of pleasure when you compare what he is in the moment of indulgence with what he feels in the hour of reflection. There is no companion he more fears than himself, there is no sound to him half so painful as silence, and so he flees back to the society of his companions, and seeks in the noise of revelry renewed to drown " the still small voice" of conscience. But it will not be always hushed. Shakespeare has shown us how sin "doth murder sleep," and that the stain upon the conscience will not "out," though washed by all the waters of the ocean or sweetened by the perfumes of Arabia, but we must beware of supposing that his representation is true only of such unscrupulous ambition as leads to murder. What saith the wise king about the ruby cup? "Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright; at the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder." At the last! at the last! Oh, that men would learn to forecast the future in this way, and to think of what must be "at the last!" In the powerful picture of Noel Paton, which he has styled the "Dance of Pleasure," you see a motley multitude of young and old, and rich and poor, and men and women, rushing madly after the queen. They care not for each other. In the fury of their selfishness they strike against each other and trample each other down; yet still they follow on, and she is decoying them to the brink of an awful abyss, over which each at length must fall. But the painter shows only its dark and rugged edge, leaving suggestion to preach the warning. So I would only lead you to the border of the unseen state, and leave conscience to testify to the dreadful perdition which is the end of sin. How different from all this is the experience of the Christianly good man! I do not know if there be on earth a more beautiful thing than the old age of a Christian who in youth dedicated himself to God, and has spent his life in keeping that holy resolution. His conscience is peaceful, his heart is happy, his future is glorious. The traveller in Switzerland sees few more lovely sights than that which is associated with the descent of the Great Scheideck through Rosenlaui to Meyringen. The pathway runs now through thickets, and now through green pasture-land, enclosed by forest and enlivened by chalets and herds of cattle. As you move downward you see little or no splendour, and are hemmed in on every side with perpendicular walls of rugged rock; yet, ever as you turn to look behind, you are transported with the scene that meets your view. In the forefront the pine forest, swayed by the breeze, seems bowing its head in lowly reverence to the great Monarch of all, while in the background rise the snowy peaks of the Wellhorn and the Wetterhorn, tinted with the blush of sunset, and forming a battlement of mountain grandeur scarcely surpassed by the range even of Mont Blanc. Such a valley, I think, is the life of the Christian on the earth. As he descends the way seems commonplace enough. The yodel of the herdsmen and the lowing of the cattle are in his ears, and he sees nothing that is remarkable; but when he looks behind the retrospect is full of grandeur, and the grandest thing about it is that its gilded summits point him to the higher glories of the heaven that is awaiting him. Which, then, will you choose?
III. THE PLEASURES OF SIN ARE SUCH THAT THE OFTENER THEY ARE ENJOYED THERE IS THE LESS ENJOYMENT IN THEM. There is a wonderful harmony between God's moral law and the physical, intellectual, and moral nature of man; for every violation of its precepts does, in the end, evoke the protest of all our powers. Sinful indulgence either palls upon the taste, or, by its reaction on the system, destroys the very capacity for con. tinuing in it, in which case the craving remains, while the ability to satisfy it is gone. But with the joys of holiness it is quite different. The oftener we enjoy them they are the higher. The longer and better a man knows Christ the more happiness does he derive from Him.
IV. THE PLEASURES OF SIN ARE MOST EXPENSIVE. Here I refer not to money, though that is by no means unimportant; and when men are inclined to say that they cannot afford to be Christians, I would like them to sit down and calmly reckon up how much their sins cost them. But I speak now of the expense of the man's own nature. The Word of God says, "Bloody men shall not live out half their days"; and notwithstanding the existence of a few exceptions, I am persuaded that, in regard to vicious men generally, this will be corroborated by observation and experience. The sinner is old before his time. His physical power is gone. His intellect has lost its freshness. His will has become powerless. His conscience has become seared. In a word, he is a wreck. Did you ever look upon that wild sea-piece of Stansfield's which he has called "The Abandoned"? The sky is dark and lowering, with a forked flash of lightning shooting athwart it; the ocean is angry, and all over it there lies a dreary loneliness that makes the spectator almost shudder. The one solitary thing in sight is a huge hull, without mast or man on board, lying helpless in the trough of the sea. The men who stood by her as long as it was safe have been picked up by some friendly vessel now entirely unseen, and there that battered, broken thing floats on at the mercy of the winds and waves. That is sad enough, but what is it after all in comparison with the condition of an abandoned man, drifting on the ocean of life all dismantled and rudderless, tossed hither and thither by every wind of appetite or impulse, and soon to disappear beneath the waters! And what then? I dare not trust myself to speak of that. Muse on it yourselves for a moment, and then say if you can calculate the cost of the pleasures of sin? Far otherwise is the experience of the Christian. His pleasure is not expensive. A little goes a great way with him, and the more of Christ he knows the more does he learn to use his body as a temple of the Holy Ghost, his intellect as an instrument of serving God, and his wilt in choosing to run in the way of the Divine commands. His faith brightens his mental powers, not at first, indeed, but through the stimulating influence of the truths which he believes. His love strengthens his will, and his steadfastness in well-doing softens the sensibility of his conscience, making it as quick to the presence of evil as the apple of the eye is to the least particle of dust. Christian faith, indeed, will not make a genius out of a dullard; but it will make the man nobler, physically and mentally as well as morally, than without it he would have been. So far from wasting his energies it economises them, and halos them all with the joy of its own happiness.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;