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Ess. ix.] His Guilt and Condemnation.
209 bly to be attributed, not to their own diseased and degraded nature, but either to the indirect operation of Christianity, as it is outwardly revealed, or to the secret visitations of a divine influence ; have ly strong reasons to believe, that such an influence is given to all men, to be their cure; often strives with them from infancy to advanced age; is seldom, perhaps, during the course of their lives, entirely withdrawn from them; and, if fully submitted to, would extend and complete that work of righteousness which is now inadequate, partial, and defective. Secondly, the real virtue of actions, apparently good, depends upon the motives out of which they spring; and God, who searches the heart, may frequently condemn in us those very works which satisfy our own self-righteousness, and which are warmly applauded by our fellow creatures. Thirdly, although the moral disease inherent in our fallen nature does not display itself in every individual of the species in the same particular form, there is, nevertheless, not a man upon earth in whom it has not been manifested in some form or other; not one who is not guilty of sin ; not one who is free from a natural propensity to some besetting iniquity.
4. In conclusion, therefore, let us notice the comprehensive nature of that curse, which is declared in the Scriptures to be the consequence of sin. While they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse : for it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them:" Gal. iii, 9, 10; comp. Deut. xxvii, 26. As these words were applied by Moses to the whole Jewish legal institution, so are they applicable, with an especial degree of force, to that moral law of God which formed its most essential feature. Accordingly, we are taught by the apos
[Ess. ix. tle James, that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all: for he that said do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now," adds the apostle, “if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law :" James ii, 10, 11.
Whatsoever, therefore, may be our besetting iniquity-whatsoever the particular respect in which we have forsaken the path of duty-it is plain that we are justly exposed to divine condemnation both here and hereafter. Since all the world “lieth in wickedness; all the world is become "guilty before God.” We have all infringed the law of God: therefore we are all exposed to the curse pronounced on its infringement. We are all "by nature the children of corruption;" therefore we are all “by nature the children of wrath :" Eph. ii, 3. “All have sinned;" therefore (were the voice of the law alone to be heard) " all” must DIE.
I may now proceed to recapitulate the principal truths which have formed the subject of the present Essay. It may be recollected, FIRST, that man was formed like other animals, out of the dust of the ground, to be a living creature: that he was created liable to mortality: that, after he had sinned, he received the sentence of natural death : "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return;" and further, that as he is himself mortal, so those earthly objects which here occupy his attention, and engage his affections, are all of a transitory nature, and are invariably inscribed with the mark of“ vanity of vanities.”
SECONDLY, that man is nevertheless the child of eternity, because being made in the image of God, he possesses a never-dying soul; that the existence of a soul as well as a body in man is plainly recognized by the inspired writers; and that there are many clear
211 passages of Holy Writ, from which we learn that after death, and before the resurrection, the souls of the righteous are with Christ in blessedness, and the souls of the wicked reserved, in a condition of suffering, for judgment.
THIRDLY, that man is the child of eternity in another respect also, because, at an appointed time to come, there will be a resurrection from death, both of the just and of the unjust, when even our mortal part will be clothed with immortality : and that the resurrection of the righteous, more especially, will be attended with circumstances unspeakably joyful and glorious, and will constitute the victory of the Messiah over the last enemy-death.
FOURHLY, that man is a moral agent, capable either of righteousness or of sin; the standard of the former being the will or law of a perfectly holy God-and the latter being the infraction of that will or lawthat we are made free to choose either good or evil, either life or death--that we are in every particular of our life and conversation, responsible to God, from whom alone we derive all things which we possess, and to whom we must individually, in a future world, render the account of our stewardship—and that, when this account has been given, we shall be judged by the Son of God, and punished or rewarded individually, after a rule of perfect justice and equity, according to our works.
FIFTHLY, that the future rewards and punishments of men are declared by the apostles, and by our Lord himself, to be everlasting; and that for many plain critical reasons, the term everlasting, as it is applied to future punishment, cannot be fairly construed otherwise than in its highest sense. That this conclusion is confirmed by a very plain consideration; namely, that the present life alone is the period of our probation;
Practical Observations, [Ess. ix. the world to come being ever represented in Scripture (conformably with the dictates of natural religion) to be one of fixed and permanent retribution.
Sixthly, that Adam and Eve fell from their original righteousness and became sinners—that, in consequence of this mournful change, the whole race of their descendants inherit a sinful nature that the heart or inward disposition of the natural man is infected with sin, and ever prone to evil—that unregenerate men are in a condition of darkness, alienated from the life of God by the ignorance which is in them, and incapable of understanding Divine Truth by their own wisdom -that they are under the dominion of Satan—that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and universally sinners, as is amply proved by the historical, as well as the didactic, parts of Scripture—and finally, that, being sinners, they are all guilty before God, and justly liable to the CURSE OF THE LAW.
What, then, are the practical conclusions to which these premises are calculated to conduct the awakened sinner? He must surely be convinced, that, if he continues under the influence of his fallen nature, misery and destruction are his certain allotment. He beholds his deep moral degradation: he confesses that his enemy has triumphed over him: he knows that he is utterly unable, by any strength or wisdom of his own, to escape from the dominion of Satan, and from the bitter pains of eternal death. Stricken with the sight of his iniquities, he treinbles under a sense of the divine displeasure, and in the awful expectation of judgment to come ; and he is sensible that he can entertain no hope of his soul's salvation, except in the spontaneous, unrestricted, unmerited, mercy of God. Yet, while an indistinct view of that mercy may cast some gleams of consolation over his path of darkness, he perceives not how it can be reconciled with the
213 divine justice : he remembers the corruption and defilement of his own heart, and the perfect holiness of his Creator; and he still shrinks from the all-searching eye, from the pure and penetrating presence, of the Judge of all flesh. While such is his mental condition, he is prepared to pour forth his sorrows in the language of Job: “If I wash myself in snow-water, and make myself never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. (God) is not a man as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment; neither is there any DAY'S-Max betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both!" Job ix, 30–33. He prays for a clean heart: he hungers and thirsts after righteousness; but he is inwardly persuaded, nevertheless, that he stands in need of some powerful and perfect Mediator, who can bear the weight of his iniquity, and perform for him the work of reconciliation. In the bitterness of his soul he exclaims, A Saviour, or I die -A Redeemer, or I perish for ever!
With how much eagerness and delight will he then receive the well-authenticated tidings, that such a Mediator has been appointed—that such a Saviour and Redeemer has been freely bestowed--that now “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other"—that God has given HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON,” and that “whosoever believeth " in Christ “ shall not perish, but have everlasting life !"