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relation or member of society, a formal worshipper or profane. Granting all that any man can desire; supposing the character of the reader to be decent, amiable, and respectable among men ; I will endeavour to‘shew him, and to shew all, their need of repentance.
I. Because “ all have sinned, and come short “ of the glory of God.”—Few in comparison are acquainted with the extent, strictness, and spirituality of the law of God, as taking cognizance of every thought, word, action, intention, or disposition of the whole heart and life ; requiring absolute perfection in all things, continued in even to the last moment of life. Few keep an exact account of their own thoughts, words, and actions, with reference to this law, as the standard of duty and sin. Consequently few are sensible, in any tolerable degree, how numerous, or rather how innumerable, their transgressions are. But most, or all, know that in some instances they have offended God, by doing those actions which he hath forbidden, and leaving undone those which he hath commanded. Surely, reader, thy conscience will excuse me from further evincing this particular. Only listen to this faithful monitor: even now it arraigns, accuses, and condemns thee: and, wert thou guilty only of one transgression, (instead of those millions, which are noted in God's book of remembrance,) and shouldest thou die without repenting of that one sin ; as sure as conscience now condemns thee, so sure will God condemn thee in that solemn day, “when he shall
judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” For,
“ if our heart condemn us, God is greater than “ our heart, and knoweth all things."
One felony or murder fully proved ensures condemnation equally with ten thousand. “There“ fore by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified in the sight of God ;” because “ all “ have sinned ; “and by the law is the know
ledge of sin.” It takes cognizance of, and con- . demns, every sin and every sinner ; and consequently can justify none who have once transgressed. But remember, that the number and heinousness of our transgressions, though they add nothing to the certaiuty, yet will add proportionably to the greatness, of the merited condemnation; and should add to the depth of our repentance. Could that man be found who had once and but once, and in the smallest instance, failed of obedience, he would need repentance; it would be his duty, nor could he be saved in impenitence. How needful then repentance for him, whose sins exceed in number the hairs of his head, and equal the moments of his life! For him whose crimes are full of aggravation, and loudly call for vengeance !
II. The law which we have broken is “holy, “just, and good.”—There are laws in this land which condemn the murderer and housebreaker to death. These are reasonable laws, of which none can disapprove, but those who are, or would be, guilty of those crimes. We experience them to be the security of our persons, property, and repose. He who breaks these laws is not only condemned by them, but in the judgment of every
wise and honest man; and ought in reason to condemn himself, like the penitent thief, allowing the justice of the punishment which he suffers.*
But Nebuchadnezzar made a law, commanding all his officers and servants to worship a golden image, under penalty of being cast into a furnace of fire, Darius made a law, forbidding any of his subjects to worship God for thirty days, on pain of being cast into the den of lions. And many such laws have the tyranny, caprice, and pride of
imperious princes and rulers produced. They are | however evidently absurd and impious; and every
man will abhor them, in proportion to his wisdom and goodness. The three pious Jews who broke Nebuchadnezzar's edict, and Daniel who transgressed that of Darius, were indeed condemned by the laws; but they have been admired for their courage, and constancy in disobedience, by all good men ever since. Nay, the very consciences of their enemies testified for them, that they had done nothing amiss. Nor would it have been right for them to have condemned themselves; but rather they might glory in serving God, and keeping a good conscience, in the face of danger and death.
Were the law of God in any degree like those oppressive edicts, we should have cause to be extremely grieved at the hardship put upon us, and alarmed at the sentence denounced against us; but we could not, with any propriety, condemn ourselves, or repent of our transgressions.
We ought not indeed to reply against God:
Luke xxiii. 41.
but the absurdity of this presumption arises, not so much from the consideration of his irresistible power and uncontroulable sovereignty, as from that of his absolute perfection of justice and holiness. This we are bound humbly to allow and suppose, even when we cannot perceive it; and to silence all our rising objections by saying, “ Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Yet God condescended himself to argue the matter with those who thought his ways unequal. He even proposes his conduct in his government
of the world to our consideration, that we may ► see and adore his justice ; and to onr imitation,
that we may be holy as he is holy: and the day of judgment will clear up all our difficulties, when the righteousness of God will be fully demonstrated, to the universal satisfaction of his holy creatures, and the confusion and silence of all his enemies. It is indeed blasphemy to suppose the law of God unreasonable, and his government oppressive; but it is a blasphemy congenial to our depraved nature, of which in our hearts we are all guilty, and of which we are with difficulty cured ; for “ the carnal mind is enmity against God: it is “ not subject to the law of God, neither indeed
As therefore no sinner can be truly penitent, till he is convinced that the law of God is holy, just, and good; we should first establish this point, in endeavouring to bring sinners to repentance. This is the apostolical method. St. Paul, arguing in the epistle to the Romans against justification by the law, aware of the false conclusions which men of corrupt minds would be ready to draw from his
reasonings, again and again purposely leaves his main subject, to assert and prove the goodness of the law notwithstanding. With one accord, also, do all the writers of the sacred volume speak honourably of the moral law, expressing their approbation of it, and delight in it: nor is there one exception to this rule. This may shew us the great importance of this part of the subject : and how dangerous some inconsiderate expressions are, into which several good men have been betrayed, in their zeal for that fundamental doctrine, justification by faith alone.
We may be sure, that the law is " holy, just, “and good,” because given by a holy, just, and good God," whose work is perfect;" and because, after Adam's fall, when it became morally impracticable for any of his posterity to be justified by it, God is still pleased to continue them under it, judge them according to it, and condemn them to utter destruction * for breaking it. " Is there
* All who die in unbelief perish for breaking this law; all who are saved, were thus condemned for breaking it; else why did Christ bear their sins for them? Some indeed talk of another and milder law; but where it is found, when it was promulgated, what it requires, who does keep it, or who is condemned for breaking it, has never been, nor ever can be, determined.--Others express themselves very ambiguously about our obligations to keep the law, prior to the consideration of redemption. But“ where there is no law there can be no transgression :" where there is no transgression, there can be no condemnation : and, where no condemnation, no occasion for redemption. Thus we repcal the law, and subvert the gospel. Surely we ought with precision to determine this matter; and to shew, that
man, as God's creature, is bound to obey his law; that “ sin is the
transgression of the law; that “ the wages of sin is death ;" that Christ died (not for Adam's sin only, or mainly, but) for