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apply the standard to themselves, they are made to learn the humiliating lesson of their own deficiency. That such our deficiency should be overlooked, so as not to become the loss to us of happiness after death; that our poor, weak, humble endeavours to comply with our Saviour's rule should be received
and not rejected ;—I say, if we hope for this, we must -I hope for it, not on the ground of congruity or desert, which it will not bear, but from the extreme benignity of a merciful God, and the availing mediation of a Redeemer. You will observe that I am still, and have been all along, speaking of sincere men, of those who are in earnest in their duty, and in religion and I say, upon the strength of what has been alleged, that even these persons, when they read in Scripture of the riches of the goodness of God, of the powerful efficacy of the death of Christ, of his mediation and continual intercession, know and feel in their hearts that they stand in need of them all.
In that remaining class of duties, which are called duties to ourselves, the observation we have made upon the deficiency of our endeavours applies with equal or with greater force. More is here wanted than the mere command of our actions. The heart itself is to be regulated; the hardest thing in the world to manage. The affections and passions are to be kept in order: constant evil propensities are to be constantly opposed. I apprehend, that every sincere man is conscious how unable he is to fulfil
this part of his duty, even to his own satisfaction : and if our conscience accuse us, "God is greater than our conscience, and knoweth all things." If we see our sad failings, He must.
God forbid that any thing I say, either upon this, or the other branches of our duty, should damp our endeavours. Let them be as vigorous and as steadfast as they can. They will be so if we are sincere ; and without sincerity there is no hope; none whatever. But there will always be left enough, infinitely more than enough, to humble self-sufficiency.
Contemplate, then, what is placed before us: heaven. Understand what heaven is: a state of happiness after death: exceeding what, without experience, it is impossible for us to conceive, and unlimited in duration. This is a reward infinitely beyond any thing we can pretend to, as of right, as merited, as due. Some distinction between us
and others, between the comparatively good and the bad, might be expected: but, on these grounds, not such a reward as this, even were our services, I mean the service of sincere men, perfect. But such services as ours, in truth, are, such services as, in fact, we perform, so poor, so deficient, so broken, so mixed with alloy, so imperfect both in principle and execution, what have they to look for upon their own foundation? When, therefore, the Scriptures speak to us of a redeemer, a mediator, an intercessor for us; when they display and magnify the exceedingly great mercies of God, as set forth in the salvation
of man, according to any mode whatever which he might be pleased to appoint, and therefore in that mode which the Gospel holds forth; they teach us no other doctrine than that to which the actual deficiencies of our duty, and a just consciousness and acknowledgement of these deficiencies, must naturally carry our own minds. What we feel in ourselves corresponds with what we read in Scripture..
MISAPPREHENSION OF THE NATURAL EFFICACY OF REPENTANCE.
HEBREWS IX. 26.
Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
THE little that we have to hope for on the ground of right, or desert, or claim, and consequently the much in which we are indebted to spontaneous goodness and mercy, and the much we stand in need of other application and other intercession than our own, of a saviour, a redeemer, and a mediator, I have, in a former discourse, endeavoured to show, from the extreme deficiency and imperfection of our services, even of such as are sincere in their duty.
The same conclusion also arises from the indignity and aggravation of our sins. I think it to be true that we are fully sensible neither of one nor of the other; neither of the imperfection of our services, nor the malignity of our sins; otherwise our recourse to Jesus Christ would be stronger and more earnest than it is.
There is another point also nearly connected with
these, in which we take up an opinion without foundation, and that is, the natural efficacy of repentance in obtaining the pardon of sins.
I am at present to treat of the malignity and aggravation of our sins, under the circumstances in which they are usually committed.
First, our sins are sins against knowledge. I ask of no man more than to act up to what he knows : by which I do not mean to say that it is not every man's obligation, both to inform his understanding, and to use his understanding about the matter; in other words, to know all he can concerning his duty; but I mean to say that, in fact, the question seldom comes to that-in fact, the man acts not up to what he does know-his sins are against his knowledge. It will be answered, that this may well be supposed to be the case with persons of education and learning, but is it the case with the poor and ignorant? I believe it to be the case with all. Is there a man who hears me that can say he acts up to what he knows? Does any one feel that to be his case? If he does, then he may reasonably plead his ignorance, his want of education, his want of instruction, his want of light and knowledge, for not acting better than he does, for not acting as he would have acted if these advantages had been vouchsafed to him. But he must first act up to what he does know, before he can fairly use this plea-before he can justly complain that he knows no more. Our sins are against know