The proud sinner wants to be let alone. If he should momentarily dwell upon a prick of conscience by the Spirit of God, he says, “Go away, I will consider this another time.” By hardening his own heart, he condemns himself. By his hardness and his impenitent heart, he is gathering up wrath to himself against the day of wrath. Asahel Nettleton explains:
He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1).
The language of the gospel is “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” But no sinner ever repented without conviction of sin. Even the Spirit of God never interposes to rescue the sinner from destruction in any other way than by arousing his guilty conscience to perform its office. Its genuine effects on the heart are thus described, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” But, you are not to be frightened. When they heard this they were pricked in the heart, and exclaimed, Men and brethren, what shall we do . . . ?
For [the hardened] sinner . . . the gospel contains no remedy. . . . He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed. And there is no remedy. The sinner, who will not take reproof, must be destroyed. The physician, who has exhausted his skill, and tried every experiment upon his patient can only look on and see him die. So fares it with the incorrigible sinner; you may soothe him in his sins – you may flatter his vanity – But this is only hastening the work of destruction. The only salutary application is conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. But this his proud heart will not endure. Every attempt to rescue him from destruction will be resisted – It will only exasperate. . . .
But, if such be the effect of reproof, me thinks I hear some one say, then I will not hear the gospel. I will shun all reproof. Answer: A resolution not to take reproof evinces yourself to be one of the very persons described in the text. Whoever objects in this manner shows his determination to harden his neck at all events. For no one can shun reproof, or a preached gospel, without hardening his neck in the most effectual manner. He voluntarily places himself beyond the reach of hope. The man who has drunk poison may say, “I will run. I will shun it.” But, he is too late. You have heard the gospel and can never rid yourself of its everlasting obligations. If they escaped not, who refused him who spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. They despised all my reproof; therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them. (Sermon: “The Destruction of Hardened Sinners”)