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the dawn of our existence to this hour, he has been mindful of us with more than a parent's tender care. Amid countless dangers, he has cast his shield about us. When one has fallen on our right hand and another on our left, he has said unto us, live. Each breath we draw thus increases our obligations to obey him. To break his commands to-day, is a greater sin than it was yesterday. To break them to-morrow will be a still deeper crime.
3. He has encompassed us with countless blessings. The earth itself is made for man. For us, it is beautified with flowers and verdure. For us it yields its increase. To us are given the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the sea.
the rivers flow, the oceans roll, the clouds distil, and the seasons keep their appointed times. His sun is made to light us by day, his moon and stars, by night. To shield us from cold, he has provided raiment—from heat, a shade--from storms, a shelter. He has constituted us social beings- with tongues that can speak-with ears that can discriminate --- with hearts that can sympathize, Verily he hath done all things well for us. And shall we deny our obligations to keep his commandments ?
4. He has prepared a heaven for our eternal home. His purposes for man's good are great and glorious, like his own infinite goodness. He who is the angels' Lord and our Brother, hath said, “ In my Father's house are many mansions ;” and he invites us to a residence, where are joys which“ hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.” It is the abode of his own infinite blessedness-the palace of his glory-and the home of holy angels.
5. When we had forfeited this bright heaven, and plunged ourselves in guilt and wo, God gave his own dear Son to redeem us. Notwithstanding the provocation to cut us off, and leave us for ever hopeless and miserable, it was with him a time of love. Beholding man thus cast out by his rebellion to the loathing of his person, he said, “ Save him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.” It was the blood of his only begotten Son. Thus hell was baffled—and heaven filled with wonder and joy. To achieve the work, it was needful that the Saviour take upon himself the form of a servant; be made under the law ; pass a life of suffering and scorn; and finally be crucified by wicked hands. Yet to all this he submitted, not by constraint, but willingly-nay, joyfully. It was for the joy set before him, that he endured the cross, despising the shame. This joy was the happiness and the glory of raising such miserable beings as we are, to the abodes of holiness and bliss. Where is the heart that can believe all this, and yet not own that sin, against such a God and such a Saviour, is an evil that baffles all description ?
6. God has given us a revelation, comprising the knowledge and motives requisite for the attainment of this great salvation. And how is this sacred volimme filled with entreaties to sinful man, to flee from the wrath to come,
and lay hold on the hope set before him. Nay, the very threatenings it contains are the admonitions of kindness. And how much has God done to preserve and extend his revelation. When man did not like to retain God in his knowledge, and sought out many inventions to blot truth from the earth, God has interposed to rescue his word from oblivion. The sea has not overwhelmed it. The flame of persecution has not consumed it. Truly, God is intent, for ever intent, on his purpose to save guilty mortals.
7. He bears long with us, as a race of guilty beings, and as individuals. It is because he is God and not man, that we are not consumed. How long has the earth been filled with violence, stained with blood, and darkened with impiety! From the fall of Adam to this hour, it has been the theatre of rebellion against Heaven. Why has not God swept it with the besom of destruction ? Or why has he not left sin to work its own destruction, and to render this earth one vast and solitary waste? Why has he not left it to float darkly amid the better worlds of his creation, as a monument at once of the tendency of sin, and of his righteous indigTiation? And why does he bear with us as individuals, through long years of wilful obduracy? When he has given each one a fair opportunity of probation, and found him to choose darkness rather than light, why does hé not consign him to darkness for ever? Each spared sinner is a perfect demonstration of the infinite goodness of God. And the aged impenitent is as great a monument of the divine forbearance, as he is of guilt. No one need range beyond the record of his own life, to find proof of the great evil and malignity of sin committed against such a God. I might speak of the awful guilt of sinning against the common, and the special influences of the Divine Spirit ; but I need not multiply particulars.
I beseech you now, fellow-mortals, review each one of the foregoing topics by itself, and estimate, if you can, the weight of obligation it imposes on you to obey God. And when you have done this, apply yourself to the task of computing the combined obligation resulting from the whole. Then will you be prepared to judge, whether the doctrine of our text is supported by a view of the relations subsisting between man and his offended Creator. Then reflect, that against this same God, you have committed every sin that has polluted your life. Under this conviction, if your conscience be not dead, you cannot but exclaim with the Psalmist ; Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thor judgest.
1. The punishment denounced against the wicked, is manifestly just. It is impossible to portray future punishment in more glowing colours, than those employed by the eternal Judge. And if he has not told us they shall suffer for ever, it is impossible for language to express the idea.
But the fact that such punishment is threatened, is much more obvious to guilty men, than its justice. The proud culprit has ever exhibited a strong propensity to deny its justice; and hence, either to question its reality or to impeach the character of God. Tow, to rebuke and for ever to repress this propensity, i conceive God has himself settled the validity of this inference in the sense of our text. To the confession of his guilt as committed against God only, the Psalmist adds these remarkable words, That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. This is given in the shape of an inference, and as such we must receive it. What then is God thus to be justified in speaking? Is it merely a temporal punishment? There would be no need of this emphatic acknowledgment of sin as committed against God only, in order to justify him in such a penalty on such complicated guilt. Human laws inflict the greatest temporal punishment on such crimes considered only in their social relation ; and all men pronounce it just. No, this strong language is frought with meaning. God is pronounced just in all that he speaks against the transgressor, for eternity as well as for time. He is also clear when he judges." Here is essentially the same sentiment; but with a reference to the actual sentence. And at the last great day, God will be clear in the view of assembled worlds, in judging the sinner to just that retribution which he has already spoken. He that is filthy, is to be filthy still ;-to be given over to a state of abandonment and woe, in which he will sin for ever and suffer for ever.
To ask whether God would be just to punish the sinner for ever, provided he should cease to sin in hell, is only to present a question of idle curiosity. But to deny that his law is just, and that himself will be clear in pronouncing that sentence which he has foretold, is to deny the obvious import of our text. The fact that makes all thus clear and just in God, is the commission of sin against him, and not merely against mortals. And let this thought once enter the mind and agonize the heart of a sinner, and he will no longer dream of impunity or of self-justification. David, comprehending in one view his crime against both God and man, has uttered the language of every contrite heart.
2. There is not so great a difference, as men often imagine, between different kinds of sin. I would not deny that “ some sins in themselves are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” Nor would I at all intimate an equality of guilt among transgressors possessing different degrees of light, or actuated by different degrees of malignity. He that knows his Lord's will and does it not, is to be beaten with many stripes, while the ignorant is to be beaten with few. But, committed in the like circumstances, there is not that difference in different kinds of sin which is often supposed. He that said, Do not kill, said also, Do not steal--and he said also, Do not profane the sabbath, nor covet, nor swear, nor indulge
an improper thought or idle word. The least commandments are sanctioned by the same authority as the greatest ; and he who breaks any one of them, is guilty of 'setting at defiance the infinite God.
Now, we have seen that the chief evil of sin consists in its violation of divine, obligation. Let no one then speak of small sins-- little offences --and assign as his reason, that he injures no one but himself, that he does not infringe on the rights of his fellow-men It is idle, and delusive, and impious to indulge in thus comparing and extenuating our' crimes of rebellion against the infinite i overeign. Each sin, thus viewed, is of magnitude sufficient to sink a world.
All minor differences, then, in the sins of the same person in similar circumstances, are too trifling for distinction. There is indeed a great difference between the numbers one and two: but the difference between a million and a million and one, is lost in the comparison. So is it with our great and little sins. If then you would still insist on the comparison, you may rate your violation of divine obligation at a million, and if there is also a violation of human obligation in the same act, as there was in the case of David, you may rest assured that God will regard it according to its enormity.
In this light, O, impenitent sinner, be entreated to reflect on the countless sins you have heedlessly committed and quickly forgotten. They are all recorded for the day of judgment; and then you must answer for them, as so niany acts of rebellion against the high and holy God. If you now shudder at the remembrance of a few startling crimes, what will be your feelings, when all your sins are exhibited in the light of eternity and in the immediate presence of your Judge!
3. The most upright man is a great sinner. Suppose him perfectly honest-exculpate him from falsehood—and say that he never injured the character or the feelings of any mortal.--A human tribunal would then acquit him.
But where is he to be tried ? At the bar of God. What then ? Has he kept all God's commandments? Has he discharged the duties of piety to his Maker and Redeemer ? Has he abstained from every sinful act and thought ?. Has he loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbour as himself ? He has nothing but guilt to plead on every item.
Now, though God will not charge him with the circumstance of violating human obligations, where he has not been guilty of it, yet he will hold him guilty of violating all those infinitely more weighty obligations to the Sovereign of worlds.
And in vain will the man plead that these were in his estimation trivial sins ;-that he was ignorant of their enormity. God has forbidden him, with the Bible in his hand, to remain in this wilful ignorance. We have seen the absurdity of such pleas; and the individual himself, if ever brought to a right view of the divine law, will see, as multitudes of the like character have seen, that he is not only a sinner, but exceedingly sinfal.
4. We are taught by this doctrine our need of Christ's atonement. Were sin merely an offence against man, the injury might admit of reparation by creatures. But to him who regards it, as David did, an offence against God, the necessity of a Divine atonement must be obvious. The evil is seen to be too inveterate in its nature, and too vast in magnitude, for a finite remedy. Thus it has in fact been seen and felt by many a mind once proud and skeptical.
And when a miserable sinner is thus brought to feel his need of the atonement, it is with unspeakable delight that he opens the sacred volume, and finds the glorious work already accomplished, and a ready pardon offered through that precious blood, without which there could be no remission of sins.
3. We see the nature of true conviction. It consists in seeing and feeling the evil of sin as committed against God. Fear of punishment is often mistaken for conviction : but it is really not even a necessary part of it. Real conviction does not cease at conversion, but increases with our growth in grace and knowledge of God. David, Isaiah, and Paul, appeared to feel it with increasing emotion, and to loathe and abhor themselves, and repent in dust and ashes.
But, on the other hand, a sinner may see that he has wronged man, and lament it: he may also see the gulf of perdition yawn for his reception, and shudder at the view: the terrors of hell may get hold upon him : and after all, if he has no proper sense of sin, as committed against a holy God, and justly exposing him to the threatened penalty, and leading him to feel his need of the atonement; he has the greatest reason to fear he has no true conviction, and no repentance unto life. Happy for us, if we are now the subjects of this conviction and repent
Miserable beyond conception, if we appear at the bar of God with our guilt upon our heads! For then, if not before, shall we see and feel, that we have sinned against God only, and that he is just when he speaketh, and clear when he judgeth the impenitent to eternal burnings. O, then, too late, may we realize the awful import of those words, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprode thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.