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pure and innocent hearts, (such as were once in paradise) unconscious of guilt, unencumbered by the burthen of remembered sin! Oh! that we could each of us say with the sincerity of the apostle, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day!" But who among us has such a heart? Who can adopt the words of St. Paul, and say so much good of himself? Our blessed Saviour, who well knew what was in man, once said to an assembled crowd, "let him that is without sin among you, cast the first stone." And what became of all that multitude who were so clamorous for the condemnation of a fellow sinner? Did not one remain to justify his character from the universal imputation of guilt? Not one; they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last." And if a similar experiment were made upon us, would the result be different? Should not we
also be convicted by our own conscience? Have we not all sinned? Have we not too often walked in the sight of our eyes, and in the ways of our heart? Have we not followed too much the devices and desires of our corrupt minds? Have we not gone astray like lost sheep? Have we not offended against God's holy laws? Have we not left undone those things which we ought
to have done, and done those things which we ought not to have done? And if we have committed no flagrant breach of the divine commandments, what have been our thoughts, our conversation, our omissions, and negligences? Are we not all miserable sinners? How then can we have this good conscience that is required? How can we have hearts clean and pure from all stain? It is impossible. Ever must we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and iniquities, which we from time to time most grievously have committed by thought, word, and deed, against God's divine majesty. If we viewed them aright, the remembrance of them would be grievous unto us, the burden of them intolerable. But though we cannot now possess consciences free from recollection of guilt, we may have them comforted by the sense of pardon; repentance must now be substituted for innocence; and (thanks be to God for his infinite mercy,) our hearts may be so sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all sin, that though our sins may have been as scarlet, they shall be as wool,— though red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow." If we truly repent and believe, our sins are blotted out, and remembered no more against us; and God who beholds us, not as we
are and have been, in ourselves, but as justified through his Son, and united to him, regards us for his sake as pure, and holy, and sanctified, and washed from all pollution.
But, my brethren, remember forgiveness for past sin is no licence to transgress again; "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" he has "purified us unto himself as a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Henceforth then let us be careful that we do not wound our own consciences afresh, or grieve the Holy Spirit, by any wilful, any careless sin; "let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity;" let us earnestly pray, and diligently endeavour, that it may never happen unto us according to the true proverb, "the dog is returned to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Let us by the help of God "keep innocency and take heed to the thing that is right," for that only shall give us comfort and the assurance of divine favour through life, and bring us peace at our latter end. May we henceforth "exercise ourselves to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man! as he which hath called us is holy, so may we be holy in all manner of conversation," labouring to do our Christian duty in all simplicity and godly sincerity, and "walking in all
108 A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENCE.
the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless."
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE FORM OF GODLINESS WITHOUT THE POWER.
2 TIMOTHY iii. 5.
Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
Ir is my purpose, in my present discourse, to fulfil the promise which I made to you on a former occasion, and to remind you of the seriousness of character and profession required of you as declared Christians, and to exhort you to accompany the form of godliness, which you all in different proportions wear, with the life and spirit and power of sincere religion.
My brethren, I trust that I should never willingly indulge in unnecessary harshness of expression, or wantonly wound the feelings of any one, by unwarranted representations of the sin and danger of that sort of life, which has nothing in it of Christianity but the name. Whatever I