Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

might easily examine other precepts, and shew them to be equally reasonable. Yea, every one of them is so; and therefore every deviation from perfect obedience is entirely unreasonable. There is nothing in the whole law of God grievous in itself; or difficult, except to our proud and carnal hearts. David and Paul, men" after God's own "heart," greatly loved and delighted in God's law: Christ being perfectly holy, entirely delighted in it, and perfectly obeyed it: angels and saints in glory enjoy full liberty in obeying it, and find it perfect felicity: yea, God himself though absolute Sovereign, is pleased to observe in his own conduct, the same rules which he prescribes for ours, as far as consists with his majesty and authority: his law is the transcript of his own holiness; and when he requires our obedience, he only says, " Be ye holy, "for I am holy." In proportion as we bear his image, we take pleasure in his precepts, and find obedience easy and natural: in proportion as we resemble Satan, we hate the law, and find obedience irksome, arduous, impossible. How excellent then this law! how vile are we who have broken it! What need have we to repent of our unreasonable conduct!

III. All have need to repent, because all have by sin absolutely destroyed themselves.-A trifling penalty incurred by transgression might reasonably have been disregarded. When human laws only inflict small fines, short imprisonment, or burning in the hand, offenders may treat such nalties with indifference: but, when excruciating tortures and ignominious death are the threatened punishment; when the sentence is impartially and rigorously inflicted; when the crime is fully

pe

proved, and the prisoner closely confined; the most stubborn spirit bends, the stoutest heart is intimidated, and indifference is madness. Art thou then, sinner, careless and unconcerned, in a case infinitely more tremendous? Canst thou find a heart for gay amusements, or coolly apply to worldly pursuits, while "the wrath of God abideth

upon thee," the law thunders out a dreadful curse against thee, death closely pursues thee, everlasting misery awaits thee? That God whom thou hast offended, is at once the witness, the judge, and the avenger of thy crimes: thou canst not hide thy transgressions from his all-seeing eye: thou canst not flee from his omnipresence, resist his almighty power, bribe his inflexible justice, or endure his awful vengeance. The sentence, if thou die impenitent, is already published in the judge's own words: "Depart from me, ye cursed, "into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and "his angels." Are not these words of the loving Saviour most dreadful? "Can thy hands be strong,

[ocr errors]

or can thy heart endure," when they shall sound in thy affrighted ear? Is this "the wrath to come," surely, inevitably, to come, upon an ungodly world? Are these his words who saith, "Heaven "and earth shall pass, but my word shall not pass away?" Art thou one of the very persons concerned? Art thou a transgressor of the law? Doth the word of God run thus, "Cursed is every one "that continueth not in all things written in the "book of the law, to do them?" And dost thou still remain unconcerned? Indeed, were there no way of escape, it would not be worth while to torment thyself before the time. "But there is

"forgiveness with God;" there is a space allowed for repentance; a way of salvation: a proclamation of mercy and dost thou still trifle, and not apply thyself immediately to seek deliverance from "the wrath to come?"

Surely these considerations, if laid to heart in a manner suitable to their certainty and importance, would damp the vain mirth of an ungodly world, and turn their songs and laughter into bitter lamentations. Let me, my fellow sinners, recommend the apostles advice to you: "Be afflicted, ❝and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be “turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”* Thus shall your godly sorrow for sin "work repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." IV. The necessity of repentance appears from the justice of this sentence, severe as it may seem. -Sinners are ready to say, "I only gratify my "natural inclinations, and enjoy a little irregular

[ocr errors]

pleasure for a few years; and can it consist with "the justice and goodness of God to punish me "with everlasting misery? Is there any propor"tion between the crime and the punishment?" But consider, poor deluded man, the infinite majesty, purity, and goodness of that God, against whom thy sins are committed; consider that "his "is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, "for ever:" consider thy relations to him, as his creature, his property, his subject; and the reasonableness of his claim to thy love and obedience, resulting both from his own excellency and authority, and from the benefits which he has conferred

* James iv. 9.

on thee: consider the reasonableness of his law, the pleasantness of his service, the happiness of his subjects, and the noble rewards of obedience: then estimate, if thou art able, what injustice, ingratitude, rebellion, contempt, enmity, and obstinacy, there is in sin, and what punishment is adequate to its deservings.

If a man injure his equal, it is evil; if he injure his superior it is worse. If a child curse, smite, or murder his parent, his conduct is baser than it would have been had he thus treated a stranger or an equal. The wiser, better, and more indulgent the parent, the more atrocious is the crime of the unnatural, ungrateful child. Should a son murder an excellent parent, in the midst of a recent profusion of kindness, without any provocation or motive, except in order to the more unrestrained gratification of some vile passion; what punishment should we deem too severe for the parricide? Add, further, the relation of sovereign to that of parent; a rightful, wise, just, clement sovereign, the common father of his people. For a persecuted David to stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed, though a cruel treacherous Saul, would have been highly criminal: how much more to murder a prince of consummate excellency, without the least provocation! for his favourite, on whom his bounty had been lavished, to be the assassin! But for his son, his indulged son, to break through all obligations, human and divine, and murder his father and prince at once, that he might more unrestrainedly indulge his lusts, would stamp the action with stupendous baseness! When Absalom designed to act this

monstrous part against the " man after God's own "heart," even the ill-judged lenity of the too indulgent parent was not permitted to rescue the traitor from deserved punishment.-According to the plainest dictates of human reason, the malignity of the action must rise in proportion to the authority and excellency of the party offended, and the offender's relations and obligations to him. In human affairs, this method of computing the comparative criminality of offences, and of proportioning punishments, is generally adopted among civilized nations. If we are allowed to compute in the same method the evil of sin, (and why should we not?) what heart can conceive, or tongue express, or numbers reach, the evil of every offence committed against the Majesty of God? By arguments and meditations of this kind we may arrive at some feeble conception of the odiousness of transgressing the divine law: but he alone, who sees all things exactly as they are, is the competent judge; and my design is not to demonstrate a matter before doubtful, but to illustrate the reasonableness of that which is certainly true. Whether we see and allow it or not, sin is infinitely evil, and deserving of eternal punishment. Thus he hath determined, " whose judgment we "know to be according unto truth." All his loyal subjects on earth join in praising him, "as

[ocr errors]

righteous in all his ways and holy in all his "works." All the inhabitants of heaven thus praise him, even while "the smoke of the tor"ments of the wicked ascendeth up for ever and "ever." None but rebels think the sentence too severe. If we would not have our lot with them

« VorigeDoorgaan »