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and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others "."
14. History concurs in attesting the truth of this mournful representation; a large portion of which is occupied in detailing the murders, violence, oppression, injustice, villainy, and corruption of the human species. Now and then the picture presents a few light and agreeable tints; but how soon is this pleasing view obscured, by a cloud of dark shades and colours, which disfigure the portrait, and manifestly exhibit its leading features!
15. If, however, neither the evidence of our senses, nor the declarations of God, nor observations upon the conduct of others, can convince us; let an appeal be finally made to our own experience. You need look no further than your own bosoms, for a confirmation of man's universal depravity. Trace, then, your steps from infancy to youth; and, thenceforward, through the remaining periods of a frail existence and if you honestly compare what has passed in your hearts, and has been acted in your general deportment, with the demands of God's law, a conviction of the fact must immediately follow. Before example, custom, or education, could have had a powerful influence over your minds, " you went astray from God, like lost sheep," yielding yourselves to the guidance of perverse inclinations. The love of the world, and its fading toys, predominated in your breasts at an early age. In your juvenile years, your hearts were intensely set upon present things; your senses and passions were clamorous for forbidden gratifications; you had no serious desire to please God; and you made no scruple of acting contrary to his will. Though you sometimes offered formal petiEph. ii. 2,3.
tions to Heaven; yet you did not fervently, and from your inmost souls, pray for Divine grace to recover you to a state of righteousness. Examination, of the heart was entirely neglected, while your minds were filled only with schemes and prospects about your future advancement in life.
And if you fairly review your actions from that time to this very moment, what ingratitude, forgetfulness of God, loud murmurs against his providence, and impatience under his fatherly visitations! What avowed and secret contempt of his name and ways, and what numberless acts of wickedness, have been observable in your lives, and have called for the most exemplary punishment of Heaven! Now, if our hearts were not naturally evil, we should act in a widely-different manner towards God. Had we right ideas of our obligations to him, then we should adore his perfections, and seek his face, as soon as we are capable of rendering him service.
16. Since the proofs of the doctrine of original sin rest upon such undoubted authority, it will be presumptuous to deny it. On the contrary, it becomes us to read the Scriptures with a teachable spirit; that, comparing their affirmations, on the humiliating subject, with our own experience, wemay get a thorough acquaintance with the defilement of our nature. Indeed, a hearty belief of our depravity, and the peril to which it exposes us, is necessary to salvation. The maxim of Christ holds invariably good in spiritual, as well as natural diseases: "They that be whole need not a Physician, but they that are sick." Until we are made sensible that our unholy state absolutely unfits us for intercourse with the blessed God, either here or
Matt. ix. 12.
in the life to come, we shall never feel constrained to cry, "What must we do to be saved?" Flattering ourselves that our souls are not so depraved as the Bible represents them, we shall either not seek their renovation, or else we shall imagine that by our own wisdom and strength we can reform them when we please. Examine yourselves: take an exact survey of your ruined condition; and let not self-deception blind your eyes. By this means, you will make a discovery of the secret abominations which lurk within you: and though such a knowledge of your guilt will at first excite painful sensations, it will nevertheless be productive, in the end, of real advantage: it will teach you the necessity of regeneration; and force you to cry, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me!"
But dost thou, Reader, "know the plague of thine own heart?" hast thou felt its dire effects in alienating thy affections from God? Then fly to Christ, whose atoning blood is a sovereign remedy for thy disease. It will ease thy concience, and give thee peace: it will wash out the foulest stains of guilt which thou hast contracted. His His grace can renew and purify your heart. His Spirit can alter the current of your depraved affections, and give them a right bias towards the service of God; and thus, being enabled to honour him here, by a devoted life, he will call you hereafter to the full enjoyment of himself for evermore.
ON THE HEINOUSNESS AND MALIGNITY OF SIN.
Rom. vii. 13. That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
THE existence and dire effects of sin are so obvious, as not to require any arguments to prove them. All the moral evils which are extant in the world be traced to sin, as their common source. St. Paul seems to have been at a loss for an epithet, wherewith he might fix a suitable brand on the odious nature of sin, when he styles it "exceeding sinful." St. John, indeed, furnishes us with a definition of it, which will enable us to form some faint conceptions of its enormity: "Sin," says he, "is the transgression of the law." Now the precepts of God's law demand, from every individual, a perfect obedience. The Divine law takes cognizance of, and condemns, the impure thought, the vicious desire, and the wandering heart and affection, as well as the more open and flagrant acts of immorality. If, then, we contrast sin with the unsullied purity of the moral law, it will plainly appear to be a violation of its requirements, and, consequently, an offence directed against the Throne and Majesty of Heaven. Viewed in this proper light, it will be impossible for a serious and reflecting mind to regard sin as a mere trifle. And yet, how many are there, who can allow themselves in the commission of it without any hesitation or remorse! Trusting, it is to be feared, to the uncovenanted mercy of God, they flatter themselves that all will be well at last, and that God will not exact punishment for what they term venial faults. b 1 Jolin iii. 4.
a Rom. vii. 13.
Such persons are manifestly unacquainted with the revealed character of God: they do not consider, that although his mercy is exuberantly great, yet he cannot, consistently with his other perfections, suffer iniquity to go unpunished. If men live and die in guilt and impenitence, the justice of God is sure to overtake and punish them at last. "The Lord alloweth the righteous; but the ungodly, and him that delighteth in wickedness, doth his soul abhor. Upon the ungodly he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest; this shall be their portion to drink."
Now, surely, the Judge of all the Earth would never thus visit iniquity, unless there was something in it peculiarly heinous and abominable. The fact is, sin is an infinite evil, because it is committed against ap Infinite Being; and therefore we should not feel surprised, if God deems it worthy of endless punishment; and declares, "The soul that sinneth, it shall died;" and "The wages of sin is death."
The heart is the fountain of action, from whenc all our sins, both of principle and practice, flow. The inward and secret iniquities of our hearts, though they do not manifest their malignity by action, are, nevertheless, as criminal, in the eye of Divine Justice, as the more open and avowed acts of transgression. With a view to shew the guilt of sin, let us speak a little concerning the moral evils which it has occasioned in the world,'
1. It is to sin we must ascribe all those diseases and pains which afflict our bodies; and that anguish and grief which rankle in our bosoms; with all that dire train of miseries to which human-nature is subject. Sorrow, from whatever quarter it arises, Ps. xi. 6, 7. Prayer-Book Translation. 19 Ezek. xviii. 4. Rom. vi. 23.