How Soon All the Present Pleasures of Sin Will Be Gone and Leave Nothing but a Sting
Old age, weakness, sickness will make a great change in the whole outward man as to beauty, strength, natural vigor, liveliness of senses, and all whereby a man might take any pleasure in the world or in his lusts. When sickness, old age, death’s forerunner comes, it will make a strange change in the most comely countenance. Corporal comeliness and beauty is soon stained. Sickness will not only fade it but deface it. You that are endowed with comely proportion, sparkling eyes, well-favoredness, amiableness of colors of white and red, with straightness and agility of body, with a cheerful aspect—when old age comes, it will plow deep furrows in those fair faces. And yet many, ignorant of their foul souls and filthy hearts, are proud of their fair faces and comely features, so that they grow wanton by reason of it. And to set out the beauty and whiteness of their skins (not being contented with their Creator’s curious make) [they] will add painting, patches, powdering, crisping, curling, artificial hair, and whatnot. Know that old age will not only wither your beauty, which is but skin deep, but abate your outward strength, natural vigor, liveliness of senses, and all whereby you may have any worldly pleasure.
Old age is Solomon’s “evil day” [Eccl. 12:1], when the sun, moon, and stars will be darkened; the keepers of the house tremble; and the strong men bow themselves; and the grinders cease; and all the daughters of music will be brought low; and fear will be in the way; when the outward man is decayed—namely, eyes dim and dark, ears deaf, teeth rotten, gums bare, head bald, breath corrupt, hands and feet weak and trembling—an evil day indeed, in which you will find no delight in your former dalliances. For “the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail” (12:5). But the beauty of grace withers not under the greatest declinings of natural beauty, for grace is the oil in the lamp that never goes out but shines more and more. The king’s daughter is all glorious within (Ps. 45:13). Godliness, which is God’s likeness, casts a luster that is very lovely in the sight of God and man. “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” [Song 4:7].
Sinners! You that now taste the sweet of sin; rejoice to do wickedly; that spend your time in riotous drunkenness, in chambers of wantonness; lie on beds of ivory; and stretch yourselves on your couches; and eat the lambs out of the flock; that chant to the sound of the viol; that drink wine in bowls; that are not grieved for the afflictions of Joseph; that put far away the evil day—know that the fire of sin will burn, and that your sweet morsels are but for a moment. Those sweet morsels and delicate dainties will cost you dear.
Hear now this, you that are given to pleasure, that feast yourselves in doing evil. ’Tis but a little time, and you will see and say that all your delights, hopes, joys are past and gone, and that you will never see or taste them more. Only the gravel, gall, guilt, and sting will still remain. You that love this hellish banquet of sin (the stolen waters that are sweet, and bread eaten in secret that is pleasant) do not know that “the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell” (Prov. 9:17–18). Sin is a sweet poison, pleasant in the acting but bitter in the end. For the soul that sins will die (Ezek. 18:20). And will you spare it and keep it still within your mouth, hide it under your tongue, until it become the gall of asps within you (Job 12:12–14)? Consider also that your secret wickedness, committed in the dark, in corners, that is marked and close kept, is known to God.
The infinitely holy and heart-searching God marks them (Job 10:14; Hos. 7:2), watches them [Job 14:16], seals them. They are done among His treasures (Deut. 32:34), and they will find you out (Num. 32:23). And, if not truly and deeply repented of and pardoned, they will lie down with you in the grave and follow you into the other world and meet you at God’s dreadful bar and be discovered in the sight of the whole world. Evil will pursue the sinner. This evil thing and bitter, bred in the wound, not buried in the grave, not extinguished by the fire of hell will pursue the sinner to hell. Sinners, this is most certain: unrepented sins will never leave you but lie down and rise with you. Your bones are full of the sins of your youth, which will lie down with you in the dust (Job 20:11). Sin is a bad bed-fellow and a worse grave-fellow. And if it sleep with you, it will awake with you when the dreadful trumpet will sound, “Arise ye dead and come to judgment.” The damned in hell have all their sins about them. That which was the cause of their being cast into hell will be their everlasting companions there. And will you take these vipers and scorpions into your bosoms, that will be always gnawing on your hearts? Know this: your posting sun of all sinful, sensual delights will set in the dreadful ocean of endless, easeless, and remediless sorrow.
John Fox, Time and the End of Time