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with the particular kind or state of happiness we are to enjoy, or the punishment we are to undergo, in the next world; but we may be sure it is in God's power to make them both such as will far exceed any thing we can get or lose in this world, any pleasure that sin can give us, any pain that virtue costs us. This much is intimated, or rather plainly declared, by the words of the text, that what we shall suffer hereafter for our sins is as much beyond any thing we can suffer here by giving them up, as the destruction of the whole body is beyond the loss of a single limb. And then, surely, our Saviour had a right to charge us to suffer the one rather than suffer the other.
It is to be lamented that men cannot be brought to understand, that they are to act in the business of their religion only upon the same principles and grounds that they act upon in their own common concerns and transactions. A situation or pursuit, however pleasant or delightful at present, if we foresaw that it would lead to nothing but ruin and disgrace, we should quit most certainly in common prudence. In like manner, if we had made any advantages for the present, though apparently considerable; and if we observed that they were very uncertain advantages which the next day or even hour might take away, I suppose that we should prefer a smaller, but more regular return, which might be trusted to always. Now it is but this, and no more than this, that we
Sin, be it
are required to do by Christ's command. ever so pleasurable or ever so profitable, must not be long; its pleasures and its profits must end with our lives, generally much sooner: but who shall count, who shall say what or when will be the end of the misery it brings us to? If we gain the whole world and lose our own souls, you may remember who it is that hath said it profiteth nothing. Few, or rather, be it said, none, ever went through more for their religion than St. Paul; yet he could say, and he had every reason to know, "that his sufferings were not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed:" all the struggles, all the self-denial, all the pains we go through to preserve our virtue, will meet with, we may be assured, a proportionable reward, a far more exceeding weight of glory.
Upon the whole, then-to sum up the doctrine of the discourse, if there be nothing in our business, condition, or manner of life, which tempts us to practise deceit, injustice, or any thing which we cannot reconcile to our consciences; if it does not breed in us pride, covetousness, desire of worldly wealth, and the contempt of every thing beside; if there be nothing in our way of life, company, or pleasures, which leads to drunkenness, revelling, or excess of any kind, we may think ourselves very happy, and have cause to be thankful. If there be any such occasions or temptations more than we
can withstand, or in fact do withstand, it is the command of our Saviour-and the express command which none can alter-that we fly from them though it oblige us to suffer as much as the loss of a right hand or eye; though we give up an advantage ever so great, or part with a pleasure we are ever so fond of.
A SENSE OF SIN TO BE KEPT UP IN OUR MINDS.
PSALM XL. 15.
For innumerable troubles are come about me; my sins have taken such hold upon me that I am not able to look up; yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me.
A CONVICTION of sin is oftentimes the beginning of religion in the heart. It is oftentimes a source of anguish and despair. Yet, with all its bitterness and all its danger, it produces a frame of mind more hopeful as to salvation than insensibility. I do not mean that it is more hopeful than the reasonable satisfaction and assurance which arises in the heart from the recollection of a well-spent life, or even of sincere, broken, and imperfect endeavours after such a life; but it is more comfortable than unconcernedness, for that has no recollection to build upon. It is the property of a man (and, God knows, there are millions such), who, when danger is at hand, seeks security by shutting his eyes against danger.
Now all who feel within themselves a strong con
viction of their sin, I desire they will go to the text I have read to you. It describes their case; it exposes their feeling and their sufferings, and it leads them into the right direction. The words of the text bear about them the marks and tokens of reality. It seems impossible to entertain a doubt but that the person who wrote them was at that time labouring and struggling under powerful workings and impressions of conscience; under a deep sense of guiltiness before God, and of the shame and misery, selfcondemnation and debasement, which belong to such a condition when it is perceived. Perhaps it is more than we ought to presume, and more than the truth, that this person was a greater sinner than the generality of men. It might be only that he perceived his condition; and there is as much difference between the man who does, and the man who does not perceive his situation, as between two sinners of very unequal magnitude.
Let us now see how the inward compunctions and stirrings of the writer's conscience operated; what thoughts it raised in him, what expressions it drew from him.
First, He is covered not only with remorse and fear, but with confusion. " My sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up." It is a strong, significant expression, "have taken such hold upon me," for they do indeed take hold; they seize the mind. The remembrance of sin, with the reflections which belong to it, possesses, where it