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views in great measure supersede the necessity of the Gospel; and by feeding self-complacency, and the pride of virtue, have had a powerful effect, in producing that disregard to evangelical principles, which forms in many places the peculiar character
“ If righteousness come by the law; " then Christ died in vain;" and he, who feels no need of his salvation, is already prepared, not only to neglect, but to reject and oppose the Gospel.
of the age.
There is in the natural consciences of men a far greater susceptibility of conviction and guilt, in what relates to their conduct towards each other, than in respect to their behaviour towards God. For, too commonly “ God is not in all their " thoughts.” And, besides this; the sense of the injury, done to society by several crimes, associates itself with all the ideas on these subjects, which we receive from education, study, and conversation: because the sentiment prevails in the world. Men generally cry shame of those who grossly violate their obligations to their neighbours; and consider them as unfit for society : but they are not thus affected by the conduct of those, who most atrociously and habitually disregard the authority, and are ungrateful for the goodness, of God. Hence it becomes natural for us to connect the idea of criminality with all
actions of the former kind, but not with those of the latter.
This indeed forms one ground of the opposition, which is every where excited against the doctrines of the Gospel. Men are used to judge themselves and their own characters, as they stand related to one another, and according to the rules and maxims established in their circle of society.
Weighed in this balance, they are not found
wanting.” With a little aid from self-flattery, they conclude, that they never did harm to any one, that their hearts are good, and their lives good ; and are therefore disposed to take offence, when addressed as sinners needing salvation; and eagerly to dispute against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as against many other truths of christianity. Indeed it might be conceded to some among them, that if they had only to do with their fellow-creatures, and with the interests of men in this present world, their pleas would at least be plausible. But if such persons would consider their obligations to God, and call themselves to account, low far they have or have not fulfilled them; if they were disposed to condemn themselves for all that his word condemns ;
Weighed in this balance they must certainly be “ found wanting;” and would soon be led to cry out, “ God be merciful to me a sivner !” And then, every part of Christanity would gradually open to their view, as most needful, most gracious, most suitable and worthy of all acceptation.
The young man, who respectfully addressed our Lord, and enquired “What he must do to “ inherit eternal life;" having over-looked the first table of the law, and interpreted the several precepts of the second as a mere moralist would do, without hesitation replied, “All these have I kept * from my youth.” Yet the event shewed that he loved his riches better than the God who made him. · When our Lord, speaking to a lawyer, who asked the same question, enquired of him “What " is written in the law? How readest thou?" He replied by quoting the two great commandments. And our Lord said, “ Thou hast answered right; “ this do and thou shalt live.” But “he, willing
to justify himself, said unto Jesus, and who is
my neighbour ?" He seemed not conscious of having violated his obligations to God, and so made no enquiry about the first and great commandment; but, desiring to justify himself, he appears to ask for a limitation of the too extensive meaning of the second, without which he could not possibly accomplish his object.
This being the case with men in general, it cannot at all be wonderful, that even serious enquirers after salvation are for a time in some measure embarrassed by the same mistake; and find it very difficult to judge of their conduct according to the rules of Scripture, and with respect to their relations and obligations to the Almighty; and still more so, to be affected with a humbling sense of guilt on this account, answerable to the views and feelings which they hear described by those who preach the Gospel to them.
Indeed, it is probable; that conviction of sin, at first, commonly arises from a consciousness of having acted in certain instances contrary to our views of moral obligation ; rather than from an accurate comparison of our whole conduct and the state of our hearts, with the law of God and our obligations to him. But afterwards, deeper reflection and further enquiry produce a sense of guilt, in those thoughts, words, and actions, which once were considered as entirely innocent.
The intention of these remarks, my brethren, is to impress your minds with the immense importance of the subject before us; for, the want of duly understanding or adverting to it, often keeps serious persons long in a state of hesitation as to the doctrines of the Gospel, and exposes them to great danger from the artifices of those who continually are starting objections against the truth.
Indeed, even true and established Christians are seldom so deeply affected with a sense of guilt, when betrayed into such sinful inclinations, or actions, as appear insulated from all connexion
with men, and never likely to injure any one, or to be known except to the omniscient God alone; as they do for those evils, which fall under human observation, interfere with the comfort or interest of others, and incur their censure.
But in proportion to the degree in which this erroneous judgment influences us, it must unquestionably militate against the exercise of
genuine repentance, humility, and simple faith in the mercy of God, and the merits of Christ: it must prevent that admiring, adoring love of the divine Redeemer, who shed his blood on the cross as an atonement for our sins; and that glowing ardour of affection for him, which was the grand peculiarity of the primitive Christians, and their all powerful motive to self-denying labours and sufferings for his sake. This, we every where meet with in their writings; alas, how different from the frigid zone of modern Christianity!
ist's words, " sinned.”
II. I would illustrate the emphasis of the Psalm
Against thee, thee only, have I
David perhaps might mean, that, as a king, he was accountable to none but God: but he also, no doubt, intended to confess, that in entire distinction from the enquiry, how far man had been offended or injured by his conduct ; he had greatly displeased the Sovereign of the universe, “ the
King of kings and Lord of lords.” Perhaps