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look around you, one will address himself to your understanding, endeavoring to explain to you the nature of faith ; dwelling, it may be, upon its simplicity; while another would address himself to your sense of gratitude, and represent, most unguardedly, one perfection of the Great God as, in itself, “most estimable," and therefore to be first received. The apostles commended themselves first to “every man's conscience," both parties being understood to be standing in the presence of God; and could we follow this method, I presume, more success would follow.
I, like yourself, reader, have been raised out of the dust but the other day. Into the divine presence, therefore, , let me now invite you, and there let this great matter be explained, and, it may be, settled between us. Standing here, I have nothing to address to your fancy, or your sense of honor; nothing to your speculative understanding, or your disposition for religious controversy; nor, at this moment, anything to your sense of gratitude.
You may recollect, that I said I should request your ear, and something more; it was conscience to which I then alluded. Yes; since I refer not to what is doubtful, but what is certain, I appeal directly to conscience. Secrets, in your own mind, there ought to be none assuredly concealed from yourself, and of me or of my searching, you need not be afraid : at least I cannot ascertain so much as you might
Have you never, then, in past life, had any misgivings of mind ? And were not each of these the voice of conscience ? Has your mind ever known depression, or foreboding of something painful, you knew not what? And what was this, if not the voice of conscience ? Have you ever felt weary of life, and begun again? And what, to you, could this be, but the movement of conscience ? Nay, have you never condemned yourself in the thing which
you allowed? And if so, how could this have been, if not through conscience ? I appeal not at this moment to your heart: no; here let me remain in the passage to it, and entreat you to consider how much you have to answer to Him, in whose presence we now stand, for your resistance of all these misgivings, or this depression, -for your forgetfulness of all these forebodings and this self-condemnation. Fearfully and wonderfully made you are, but not less fearfully and critically situated. Surely you will not now shut the book, and leave me here alone? Bear with me but a little longer, and consider what I am now so anxious to add. Have you no concern in comprehending the nature and the extent of divine authority? Do you not consider that He in whom your breath is, and by whose power you now peruse these lines, has also unlimited dominion over you ? and that you belong more to him than to yourself? And whither, I ask, can you go from his presence, and where will you flee when He appeareth ? Do you wish to evade his eye? It is in vain. Do you wish to shrink back into oblivion? It cannot be. Go forward you must, and live too for ever. Registered as a subject of the divine government, you are duly observed; and your actions, and pursuits, and expressions, as duly recorded.
Surely, then, I may go farther, and ask Conscience herself, with her impartial finger, to point out the particular path which you have trodden so long. Has the Almighty no concern in that path ? And though the Vulture's eye hath not seen it, doth He not know, hath He not pondered it all? Do you inquire my meaning ? I refer to the sin or the sins to which you have been most addicted. The way—your way has a character all its own. It distinguishes you, and will distinguish, from your pearest relative, from your most intimate companion.
Do you evade all this, or say, as some do when pressed,
have sinned in every way? This I do not dispute: but your conscience even now tells you that you have not so sinned equally. No, not in every way equally. This you cannot have done, for no man ever did. You have had a preference—you have had a choice, a decided choice, even in sinning. What is it then to which you have been addicted ? What is it which you have pursued ? One sin there is, above all others, most frequent in your case. This generally, if not invariably, has one associated with it, which operates either as a shield to protect, or a covering to conceal the other from observation, or even from yourself. There is indeed, in some characters, what may be called a black and sinful threefold cord, but I believe most frequently we are drawn along by the reciprocal power of two master-crimes,-in thought,-in word, -or in action. Here then, my friend, is the way of your heart, and here the chosen sins which have furnished at once to the superlative deceitfulness, and -unheeding wickedness of your heart, an appropriate channel. “ See then thy way in this valley, and know what thou hast done." It was Jeremiah's grief, in times of old, that his countrymen would not look here.
16 There is none,” said he, “ that repenteth him of his way, saying, What have I done ?"
And what, then, in your case, reader, are those leading crimes? “But why,” you ask, “ be so very solicitous and 80 pressing as to these? Will it not do to reply simply, that I am a sinner ?” Did you say this with an understanding conviction of that in which the sinfulness of sin consists, and an eye fixed on the way in which you have walked, then this confession might suffice for yourself : but to my ear, my dear friend, it conveys nothing more than what thousands around us say, who evidently live in sin, and at last die in it! No man is a member of the church of the living God who cannot go along with her
66 All we
in her confessions : so that, if you and I would be thus united, then must we be able not only to say, like sheep have gone astray,” but to add, with the church herself, we have turned every one to his own way.”
If then, as your most sincere friend, I can be of any service, why should I not press for a reply more definite, and apply to conscience ? Conscience uninfluenced and suffered to speak out, will speak at once. And ah! what if this very reluctance is the resistance of conscience ? Or if there is difficulty in comprehending my meaning, What if, through the blinding influence of sin, still cherished in secret, this should prove an evidence of your being, after all, indisposed to forsake your way. See now, reader, the imperious necessity of coming to particulars. For why should Scripture specify sin at all? Why specify particular characters? Why should the law be divided into ten commandments? And why should such infinite variety have been adopted by Infinite Wisdom in addressing the rebellious throughout the empire of God? Why, if not to convince of particular sins ? How can any individual be convinced that he is a sinner, without being convinced of sin ? And how convinced of sin, if not of some one in particular ? “I had not known sin,” said one of the most interesting men who ever professed Christianity, “I had not known sin, but by the law : for I had not known lust” or evil desire to be sin, “except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.' Thus the apostle found the key to his own character : but how can any man find this, and yet remain either ignorant or unimpressed, most painfully, with that one sin, or these sins by which he most frequently violated the divine law, and most frequently incensed the Almighty, and so often and so long presumed upon the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering ?
Only confess then, reader, these the leading proofs of
your guilt, and suffer me to proceed : for an immediate use is to be made of these, and the knowledge, the conviction of these will be of essential service to your latest day. And how, you say, is this? of what use are they now? With these alone can I proceed as the leading evidence of your personal guilt, and the necessity of confession, and the ground of God's especial call to you in particular. These sins you may slight, but they are the proof of the state in which you now stand before God. Though by no means containing a full view of your case, these are the dangerous prognostics of your disease, and these may not only sink you to the grave, but lower still. To you also, even now, these sins especially stand in the same relation which the warrant for apprehension does to the man, who has been not only a frequent offender, but the very person charged with the crimes contained in that warrant. Nay, more, these sins, so often repeated, are to you the strongest proofs that you are already condemned. Perhaps you know the change which takes place in the condition of a prisoner committed for trial, if that man should be left for execution? Now, whatever you may suppose as to yourself, and whatever is to become of you hereafter, on you, my friend, that change, in the divine government, has already passed. “He that believeth not,” said the Saviour, “is condemned already,”-he was condemned before-before Christ came, and so are you, though he has come ! With the book of God in your hand, look steadily at these sins, whether of thought, of word, or of action, and you will find, alas! but one solitary point of difference between your own state, and that of those who are now in endless wo! On them the sentence has been executed-on you, only not as yet! Surely then “it is meet to be said unto God, I have offended, and wherein I have done wickedly I will do so no more : for he looketh upon men, and if any shall say, I have sinned,