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o unrighteous person, the sentence upon all such • singly is, they shall not inherit the kingdom of «God. The enemy of your souls, the Devil him«self, will suffer you, or (if it be possible) help (you to confess all your sins but one, if he could • be sure you would keep that one.'* It is not the multitude or enormity of our sins that prevents our participation of Divine mercy, but the impenitence of our hearts.
The motives, with which our church enforces her exhortation, are drawn from the character of that God, with whom we have to do. He is • Almighty God, our heavenly Father. He is
Almighty' to save the penitent, and to punish those who reject His mercy. Since He is Al• mighty to save even to the uttermost through • the plenteous redemption' that is in Christ Jesus, there is no reason to fear His displeasure, if the disposition of Nathanaelt be found in us : if in our spirits | there be no guile; if, in simplicity and Godly sincerity, we confess our sins, • He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and • to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'S But He is also Almighty' to punish those, who reject His counsel. There is no darkness nor • shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves,'|| so that His Omniscient
* Adam's Posthumous Works, vol. i. p. 263. + John i. 47. Psalm xxxii. 2. § 1 John i. 9. | Job. xxxiv. 29.
eye shall not follow them : nor is there any place so strongly fortified, that His • Almighty' arm cannot drag them thence, to plunge them in perdition. To those, who approach His mercy-seat, He is a • Father' in Christ to pardon and accept, for as a Father pitieth his children, even so the • the Lord pitieth those that fear't His wrath, and deprecate His vengeance. O what motives then are these to enforce the necessity of an immediate and undisguised confession !
But we shall not do justice to the wisdom of the compilers of our Liturgy, if we neglect to notice the ample variety of words and phrases, which they have used on this subject. They not only put us in mind of the duty of confession, but also of the folly and danger of neglecting it. They pathetically warn us • not to dissemble nor o cloak our sins before the face of almighty God." This is wisely added, on account of our natural propensity to endeavour to bide our sins from God and from ourselves. Foolish as this conduct is, it is general. It seems to be an effect of that darkness, which the fall brought on our understandings. So soon as Adam had broken the law of God, and had thereby brought guilt on his conscience, we perceive that his foolish heart • was darkened. For when God came down into the garden to inquire into the conduct of His creature, instead of hastening to the feet of his
Psalm ciii. 13.
Maker with humble confession and earnest supplication for mercy, the sacred historian informs us that he hid himself from the presence of the • Lord God among the trees of the Garden.'* Poor unhappy Adam, where is that clearness of understanding, in which thou wert created ?What, hide thyself from Him, who is Omniscient and Omnipresent! How is the fine gold become dim! How are thy faculties at once impaired by the admission of sin into thy heart !This unhappy propensity to self-delusion has Adam intailed on all his children. We are all foolish enough to think, that we can hide our sins from God. How shall we account for it, but by the considerations that follow ? Man, till brought to an acquaintance with the person and work of the Mediator Jesus, is afraid to see and acknowledge the exceeding sinfulnesst of sin, lest by the discovery hope should be excluded from his mind : for when sin is seen in the full dimensions of its malignity and demerit ; the sinner must despair, if ignorant of the virtue of that blood,
which cleanseth from all sin. But there is yet another consideration, which may serve to account for this strange folly of the human breast. Till the sinner's heart be changed by grace ; till the love of sin be eradicated, and the love of holiness implanted in its room; he is afraid to consess his sins, because then his conscience would enforce the necessity of a separation between him and his beloved lusts : and to a man that is unrenewed, nothing is so dreadful as a divorce from sin. He will rather risk the salvation of his precious soul on a vague, groundless hope of unpromised mercy, than confess and forsake his favorite iniquities. How often do we hear poor deluded criminals dissembling and cloaking their offences by excuses, which betray at the same time the weakness of their understandings, and the corrupt state of their hearts ; and by pretended extenuations, which only aggravate their guilt. One man thinks to screen 'himself from justice by alledging, that it is the first time he has been guilty of the offence, with which his conscience upbraids him ; or, if this cannot with truth be asserted, that he does not live in the habitual practice of it; as if the just desert of every single act of sin were not eternal death.* Another urges, that he was surprised by a sudden gust of temptation; tho' the facility, with which the Tempter finds access to our hearts, is full proof of our fallen and guilty estate. All that a third has to propose in his own defence, is that his crimes have not been detrimental to society ; as if the very essence of sin did not consist in its contrariety to the nature and will of God st Sin is the transgression of the law,' A fourth flies for refuge to the comfortless idea, that others are worse than he has been : as though companions in torment would be able to alleviate the mutual sufferings of each other : for God has declared, that though hand join in hand, the
# Gen, iji. 8.
* Rom. vii. 13.
wicked shall not be unpunished.'t Others have some personal good, as they suppose, to throw into the opposite scale ; as if freedom from the guilt of murder would atone for the commission of adultery; or the love of any one sin did not as fully prove a man to be in an unconverted and unpardoned state, as the love of ten thousand.
† The Christian life comprehends two great branches of duty : " the first towards God, the second towards our neighbour. God • has an undoubted claim to the first place; our neighbour has the o next; and we are to love him, and help him, from a sense of our • duty to God who has commanded us so to do. But if I stumble ' in the beginning of my duty and offend against God himself,
what reason have I to expect his favor, for what I do to any .body? Will acts of kindness towards a fellow subject excuse * me for an act of rebellion against my prince, or stop the execu. tion of a statute against treason? What was the offence which "brought death into the world ? Not an offence against society ;
for there was none; but only against a positive command of • God. It was revealed, that to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, would be attended with a deadly effect.---This revelation was disputed ; the truth of God was called in question ; the lust * of pride prevailed, and the sentence of death followed. There. fore if Adam destroyed the whole world, by sinning against the truth of God, certainly any single man may destroy himself by
the same means; though he should give all his goods to feed the 'poor, and his body to be burned for the good of society,' &c.Preservative against socinianism. p. 5.
# Prov. xi. 21.