« PreviousContinue »
noblest blood run in thy veins; if thy seat were among princes, and thine arm were “ the terror of the mighty in the land of the living,” (Ezek. xxxii. 27.) it would be necessary thou shouldst be told, and told plainly, thou hast broken the laws of the King of kings, and by the breach of them art become obnoxious to his righteous condemnation.
3. Your conscience tells you, that you were born the natural subject of God, born under the indispensable obligations of his law. For it is most apparent, that the constitution of your rational nature, which makes you capable of receiving law from God, binds you to obey it. And it is equally evident and certain, that you have not exactly obeyed this law, nay, that you have violated it in many aggravated instances.
4. Will you dare to deny this ? Will you dare to assert your innocence? Remember it must be a complete innocence; yes, and a perfect righteousness too, or it can stand you in no stead, farther than to prove, that, though a condemned sinner, you are not quite so criminal as some others, and will not have quite so hot a place in hell as they. And when this is considered, will you plead not guilty to the charge ? Search the records of your own conscience, for God searcheth them : ask it seriously, “ Have you never in your life sinned against God?” Solomon declared, that in his days “there was not a just man upon earth, who did good and sinned not;" (Eccles. vii. 20.) and the apostle Paul, “ that all had sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. iii. 23.) “ that both Jews and Gentiles (which, you know, comprehend the whole human race) were all under sin.” Rom. iii. 9. And can you pretend any imaginable reason to believe the world is grown so much better since their days, that any should now plead their own case as an exception? Or will you, however, presume to arise in the face of the ornniscient Majesty of heaven, and say, I am the man?
5. Supposing, as before, you have been free from those gross acts of immorality, which are so pernicious to society, that they have generally been punishable by human
laws; can you pretend that you have not, in smaller instances, violated the rules of piety, of temperance, and charity? Is there any one person, who has intimately known you, that would not be able to testify you had said or done something amiss ? Or if others could not convict you, would not your own heart do it? Does it not prove you guilty of pride, of passion, of sensuality, of an excessive fondness of the world and its enjoyments? of murmuring, or at least of secretly repining against God, under the strokes of an afflictive providence; of misspending a great deal of your time ; abusing the gifts of God's bounty, to vain, if not, in some instances, to pernicious purposes; of mocking him when you have pretended to engage in his worship,' “ drawing near to him with your mouth and your lips, while your heart has been far from him?" Isa. xxix. 13. Does not conscience condemn you of some one breach of the law at least ?
And by one breach of it, you are, in a sense, a scriptural sense, “become guilty of all,” (Jam. ii. 10.) and are as incapable of being justified before God, by any obedience of your own, if
you had committed ten thousand offences. But, in reality, there are ten thousand, and more, chargeable to your account. When you come to reflect on all your
sins of negligence, as well as on those of commission; on all the instances in which you have “ failed to do good, when it was in the power of your hand to do it;" (Prov. iïi. 27.) on all the instances in which acts of devotion have been omitted, especially in secret; and on all those cases in which you have shown a stupid disregard to the honour of God, and to the temporal and eternal happiness of your fellow-creatures : when all these, I say, are reviewed, the number will swell beyond all possibility of account, and force you to cry out, “ Mine iniquities are more than the hairs of my head." Psalm xl. 12. They will appear in such a light before you, that your own heart will charge you with countless multitudes; and how much more “then, that God, who is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things.” 1 John, iii. 20.
6. And say, sinner, is it a little thing, that you have
presumed to set light by the authority of the God of heaven, and to violate his law, if it had been by mere carelessness and inattention ? How much more heinous, therefore, is the guilt, when in so many instances you have done it knowingly and wilfully? Give me leave seriously to ask
you, and let me entreat you to ask your own soul, “ against whom hast thou magnified thyself? against whom hast thou exalted thy voice,” (2 Kings, xix. 22.) or “ lifted
up thy rebellious hand ?” On whose law, O sinner, hast thou presumed to trample? and whose friendship, and whose enmity, hast thou thereby dared to affront? Is it a man like thyself, that thou hast insulted ? Is it only a temporal monarch? Only one who can kill thy body, and then hath no more that he can do ?” Luke, xii. 4.
Nay, sinner, thou wouldst not have dared to treat a temporal prince as thou hast treated the “King Eternal, Immortal,” and “Invisible.” 1 Tim. i. 17. No price could have hired thee to deal by the majesty of an earthly sovereign, as thou hast dealt by that God, before whom the cherubim and seraphim are continually bowing. Not one opposing or complaining, disputing or murmuring word, is heard among all the celestial legions, when the intimations of his will are published to them. And who art thou, O wretched man who art thou, that thou shouldst oppose him? That thou shouldst oppose and provoke a God of infinite power and terror, who needs but exert one single act of his sovereign will, and thou art in a moment stripped of every possession; cut off from every hope ; destroyed and rooted up from existence, if that were his pleasure; or, what is inconceivably worse, consigned over to the severest and most lasting agonies? Yet this is the God whom thou hast offended, whom thou hast affronted to his face, presuming to violate his express laws in his very presence. This is the God, before whom thou standest as a convicted criminal : convicted, not of one or two particular offences, but of thousands and ten thousands; of a course and series of rebellion and provocations, in which thou hast persisted, more or less, ever since thou wast born, and the particulars of which have been attended with almost every conceivable circumstance of aggravation. Reflect on particulars, and deny the charge if
7. If knowledge be an aggravation of guilt, thy guilt, O sinner, is greatly aggravated! For thou wast born in Emmanuel's land, and God hath “written to thee the great things of his law,” yet “thou hast accounted them as a strange thing.” Hos. viii. 12. Thou hast “ known to do good, and hast not done it;" (James, iv. 17.) and therefore to thee the omission of it has been sin indeed. “ Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard ?” Isa. xl. 28. Wast thou not early taught the will of God? Hast thou not since received repeated lessons, by which it has been inculcated again and again, in public and in private, by preaching and reading the word of God? Nay, hath not thy duty been in some instances so plain, that, even without any instruction at all, thine own reason might easily have inferred it? And hast thou not also been warned of the consequences of disobedience? Hast thou not " known the righteous judgement of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death ?" Yet thou hast, perhaps, not only done the same, but hast had pleasure in those that do them :” (Rom. i. 32.) hast chosen them for thy most intimate friends and companions ; so as thereby to strengthen, by the force of example and converse, the hands of each other in your iniquities.
8. Nay more, if Divine love and mercy be any aggravation of the sins committed against it, thy crimes, O sinner, are heinously aggravated. Must thou not acknowledge it, О foolish creature and unwise ? Hast thou not been - nourished and brought up by him as his child, and yet hast rebelled against him?" Isa. i. 2. Did not God “take you out of the womb ?” Psal. xxii. 9. Did he not watch over you in your infant days, and guard you from a multitude of dangers, which the most careful parent or nurse could not have observed or warded off? Has he not given you your rational powers ? and is it not by him you have been favoured with every opportunity of improving them ? Has he not every day supplied your wants with an unwearied liberality, and added, with respect to many who will read this, the delicacies of life to its necessary supports ? Has he not “heard your cry when trouble came upon you?” (Job, xxvii. 9.) and frequently appeared for your deliverance, when in the distress of nature you have called upon him for help? Has he not rescued you from ruin, when it seemed just ready to swallow you up; and healed your diseases, when it seemed to all about you, that the “residue of your days was cut off in the midst ?” Psal. cii. 24. Or, if it has not been so, is not this long-continued and uninterrupted health, which you have enjoyed for so many years, to be acknowledged as an equivalent obligation ? Look around upon all your possessions, and say, what one thing have you in the world which his goodness did not give you, and which he hath not thus far preserved to you? Add to all this, the kind notices of his will which he hath sent you; the tender expostulations which he hath used with you, to bring you to a wiser and better temper; and the discoveries and gracious invitations of his Gospel, which you have heard, and which you have despised; and then say, whether your rebellion has not been aggravated by the vilest ingratitude, and whether that aggravation can be accounted small ?
9. Again, if it be any aggravation of sin to be committed against conscience, thy crimes, O sinner! have been so aggravated. Consult the records of it; and then dispute the fact if you can. 66 There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding ;" (Job, xxxii. 8.) and that understanding will act, and a secret conviction of being accountable to its Maker and Preserver is inseparable from the actings of it. It is easy to object to human remonstrances, and to give things false colourings before men ; but the heart often condemns, while the tongue excuses. Have you not often found it
o? Has not conscience remonstrated against your past conduct, and have not these remonstrances been very painful too? I have been assured, by a getleman of undoubted credit, that, when he was in the pursuit of all the gayest sensualities of life, and was reckoned one of the happiest