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which they must approve some, as right and good; and disapprove others, as wrong and evil. Now, this distinction, which we are capable of seeing, God must see much more clearly, as his understanding is more perfect than ours. Therefore, he must entirely love what is good, and utterly hate what is evil; and his will must be, that all his rational creatures should practice the former, and avoid the latter. This he makes known to be his will, in some degree, to all men, however ignorant, by natural conscience; and hath more fully made known to us, by the revelation of his holy word: wherein also, besides those things which we of ourselves might have known to be fit, he hath signified his pleasure, that we should observe some further rules, which he knew to be useful and requisite, though we should otherwise not have discerned it. Now the will and pleasure of a person having authority, and God hath absolute authority, is, when sufficiently notified, a law. Those laws of his, which human reason was able to teach us, are called natural or moral laws; those which he hath added to them, are called positive ones; obedience to both sorts is our duty; transgression of either is sin; whether it be by neglecting what the law commands, which is a sin of omission; or doing what it forbids, which is a sin of commission.
Further, as God hath a right to give us laws, he must have a right to punish us, if we break them. And we all of us feel inwardly, that sin deserves this punishment; which feeling is what we call a sense of guilt. Some sins have more guilt-that is, deserve greater punishment than others; because they are either worse in their own nature, or accompanied with circumstances, that aggravate, instead of alleviating them. Thus, if bad actions, known to be such, are done with previous deliberation and contrivance, which are
called wilful or presumptuous sins; they are very highly criminal. But if we do amiss in some smaller matter, through inconsiderateness, or other weakness of mind, or else through a sudden unforeseen attack of temptation; which are usually called sins of infirmity or surprise; these, though real, are yet less offences. And if, lastly, we act wrong through invincible ignorance, that is, have no means of knowing better; then the action is not, strictly speaking, a fault in us, though it be in itself. But if we might, with a reasonable attention, have known our duty, and did not attend, we are justly blameable, even for a careless ignorance, and fully as much for a designed one, as if we had known ever so well.
Another difference in the kinds of sins is this: that though they be only in smaller instances, yet if persons take so little pains to guard against them, that they live in a constant or frequent practice of them, which are called habitual sins; the guilt of these may be full as heavy as that of greater transgressions, provided they be less common. But if they be great, and habitually indulged also, that makes the worst of cases.
Committing sin can never be a slight matter. For it is acting as our own hearts tell us we ought not. It is, likewise, for the most part, injuring, one way or other, our fellow-creatures; and it is always behaving undutifully and ungratefully to our Creator, who hath sovereign power over us, and shows continual goodness to us. We may be sure, therefore, that the punishment due to the least sin, is such as will give us cause to wish from the bottom of our souls, that we had never done it. More enormous ones are of worse desert, according to their degree. And since recompences proportionable to them are not, with any constancy distributed in this world; as certainly, as God is just, they will in the next, unless we ob
tain forgiveness in the mean time. And all will be made miserable, so long as they are wicked.
This is the main of what human abilities, unassisted, seem capable of discovering to us, concerning sin and its consequences; excepting it be, that as we have a natural approbation of what is good, so we have, along with it, a natural proneness to what is evil; an inconsistence, for which reason finds it hard, if possible, to account.
But here, most seasonably, revelation comes in; and teaches, not, indeed, all that we might wish, but all that we need to know of this whole matter; that our first parents were created upright, but soon transgressed a plain and easy command of God, intended for a trial of their obedience; by which they perverted and tainted their minds; forfeited the immortality, which God had designed them; brought disease and death on their bodies; and derived to us the same corrupt nature, and mortal condition, to which they had reduced themselves. An imperfect illustration of this lamentable change, and I give it for no other, we may have from our daily experience, that wretched poverty, fatal distempers, and even vicious inclinations, often descend from parents to their children. Now, the sinful dispositions, which our origin from our primitive parents hath produced in us, are called original sin. And this transgression of theirs may, very consistently with divine justice, occasion, as the Scripture shows it hath, our being condemned, as well as they, to temporal sufferings and death. For even innocent creatures have no right to be exempt from them; and to fallen creatures they are peculiarly instructive and medicinal. The same transgression may also, with equal justice, occasion our being exposed to a more difficult trial of our obedience, than we should else have undergone; indeed, than we should be able, by the strength which remains in us, to support. And
thus, were we left to ourselves, we must, in consequence of the fall of our first progenitors, become finally miserable. But God is ready to give us more strength, if we will ask it; and he may undoubtedly subject us to any difficulties that he pleases, provided he bestows on us, whether naturally or supernaturally, the power of going through them in the manner that he expects from us; which he certainly doth bestow on all men. And if they use it, they will be accepted by him in a proper degree; what that is, we are no judges.
But when, instead of resisting our bad inclinations, as through the grace of God we may, we voluntarily follow and indulge them; then we fall into actual sin, and are, in strictness of speech, guilty, and deserving of punishment. And this punishment the Scripture frequently expresses by the name of death. For death being the most ter rible to human nature, of all the punishments, that man inflicts; it is used to signify the most terrible, that God inflicts; even those, which extend beyond death, and are therefore called "the second death."1 Accordingly, our Saviour directs his followers, "Be "not afraid of them that kill the body; and after "that have no more that they can do. But I will "forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him,
which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast. "into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him."2
The nature and duration of the future sufferings, reserved for sinners, are most awfully described in the Word of God; the declarations of which, concerning them, I shall soon have occasion to lay before you. But in the mean while, we all know them to be such, as may abundantly suffice to engage us in a most serious inquiry, how we shall obtain what was proposed to be explained. II. The Forgiveness of Sins. Now, thus much
(1) Rev. xx. 14. xxi. 8.
(2) Luke xii. 4, 5.
our own reason evidently teaches; that when we have done amiss, we are to undo it, as far as we can. We are to disapprove it, and be sorry for it, as we have great cause; to beg pardon of God, for having offended him; to make the best amends we are able to our fellow-creatures, if we have injured them; to be very humble in our hearts, and very watchful in our future conduct. These things, through God's help, we can do; and these are all that nature directs us to do. Undoubtedly he will never accept less; but the question is, whether he will so far accept this, as to be reconciled to us upon it. Since wickedness deserves punishment, it may be justly punished. Being sorry for it, is not being innocent of it. And the most careful obedience afterwards, no more makes a compensation for what went before, than avoiding to run into a new debt pays off the old one; besides that we never obey so well, as not to add continually some degree of fresh misbehaviour. God, indeed, is merciful; but he is equally righteous and holy, and abhorrent of sin. And what can the mere light of our own understandings discover to us, with any assurance, from these attributes joined ? We see, that in this world the most merciful rulers, if they are just and wise also, which God is, often punish even those offenders, who repent the most heartily. The honour and good order of their government require it. And why may not he have reasons of the same, or even of a different nature, for doing the same thing?
Still the case of penitents must be more favourable, than that of others. And there is ground for all such to hope, that such pity, as can, will be shown them in some manner, though they cannot be sure how, or to what effect. And God hath been pleased to confirm this hope, from time to time, by various revelations, gradually unfolding his gracious designs; till, by the coming of our