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PSALM 1xvi. 18.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.



HERE is not, I think, a more ftriking light in which we can confider an affembly of profeffing christians, than as united in their common relation to God, and upon an equal footing, as to outward privileges, but very different, as to their inward character. This difference fhall only be completely manifested in the final decifion of their ftate at the laft day. The mixture of faints and finners muft continue till that time, when there fhall be an eternal feparation of the precious from the vile, of the fheep from the goats. Muft then, all things continue in fufpence and uncertainty till the great day? Is there no way by which we can judge, at prefent, what will be the event at that interefting period?

What is now the inward temper, or the fpiritual state, and what fhall be the eternal condition of every perfon here prefent is perfectly known to God, the fearcher of all hearts. It cannot be known indeed, with any certainty, by his fellow finners, but it may be known in a great S s


measure, by every one with regard to himself. It may be known with fuch a degree of evidence as to deliver him from diftreffing anxiety, and even to fill him with the most joyful hope and expectation. Is not this fufficient? and ought it not to excite every one of us to a ferious and impartial trial of that great queftion, in which we have no lefs than an infinite concern. This ought to be our care, in a particular manner, when we have in view to make a near and folemn approach to God, in his fanctuary on earth, because his acceptance of our worship in the body, is an earnest and pledge of his final approbation, as appears from the words of the text, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear nie,” and likewife from another paffage, John ix. 31. Now, we know that God heareth not finners: but if any man "be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he "heareth."




This Pfalm was compofed, in all probability by the Pfalmift David, though fome are of a contrary opinion, and attribute it to one of the prophets, after the captivity. The inspired author celebrates the goodness of God in fome fignal and national deliverance, and towards the clofe of the Pfalm, takes particular notice of the diftinguifhing kindnefs of God to himfelf, as in Pfalm lxvi. 16. "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare "what he hath done for my foul." He then confiders the countenance and acceptance he had met with from God, as an evidence of his own fincerity in the 18th and 19th verses, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will "not hear me; but verily God hath heard me; he hath "attended to the voice of my prayer." I cannot at this time take in the whole compafs of this fubject, or confider how the one of thefe affertions is related to the other; but as the first of them contains an interefting truth of itself, and very proper for the trial of our ftate-I fhall endea vor, through divine affiftance, to illuftrate it, in the following method,

I. I fhall confider what is implied in regarding iniquity

in the heart.

II. What is to be understood by God's not hearing fuch perfons. And,

III. I fhall make fome practical improvement of the fubject, for your inftruction and direction.

In the first place, then, let us confider what is implied in regarding iniquity in the heart. And I think it is plain, that these words do not directly point at open, scandalous and profane finners, who have burst every bond, and look with difdain and defiance in the face of every reprover. There are too many of this character, my bre. thren, who fall under the description of the prophet Jeremiah, ch. xliv. ver. 16 and first clause of the 17th, and who practically fay, "As for the word that thou haft spoken "unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken "unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing "goeth forth out of our own mouth." To thefe I fhall speak in the application of the subject, as there is no doubt that they regard iniquity in the heart, fince they openly and obftinately practice it in the life. But certainly the words of the text do chiefly relate to those whose characters are more doubtful, both to others and to themselves. Many there have been in every age, and there are many amongst us, who maintain their characters before men; but when weighed in the balance of the fanctuary, shall be found wanting; but, at the fame time, by the power of felf-deceit, they are ready to fay, they shall have peace, though they walk after the imagination of their own hearts. For undeceiving all fuch perfons, and for the trial of others, that they that are approved may be made manifeft, let me befeech your attention to the following particulars.

1. They regard iniquity in their hearts, who practise it fecretly, who are under reftraint from the world, but are not poffeffed of an habitual fear of the omniscient God, the fearcher of all hearts, and from whofe eyes there is no covering of thick darkness where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. Jer. xxiii, 24. "Can any hide "himself in fecret places, that I fhall not fee him? faith "the Lord do not I fill heaven and earth? faith the

"Lord." If you remember in what manner I ftated the general meaning of the words, you will be fenfible that I do not here chiefly point at grofs hypocrify, or thofe who under the cloak of religion practise all manner of wickednefs in their fecret retirement. There are many others on whose conduct the judgment of men has a ftrong, though at the fame time an infenfible effect: who are perhaps regular and guarded in their visible deportment, but on whom a fenfe of the continual prefence of the invisible God, with whom they have to do, hath not a commanding and habitual influence. It is a dangerous fymptom of this, when your repentance is very flight, and you eafily forgive yourselves for thole fins of which the world is ignorant, or in thofe that are known, when you remember the fhame longer than the fin.

How many unhappy examples of this do we fee every day? How many can go very easily under their fins that are known only to God, but are filled with vexation when they have been betrayed into what exposes them to the cenfure of their fellow-creatures. There are fome who feem to be much more affected with the cenfure of others for trifling errors, than the difpleafure of God for heinous fins. Nay, there are to be found fome who evidently fuffer more uneafinefs from the cenfure of others, even where it is wrong, than from frequent neglects or breaches of the law of God. Now, what fignifies the opinion of others, when it is founded on miftake, or malice? I do not mean, my brethren, to extinguifh, or bid you endeavor to extinguifh, a fenfe of fhame; but let it be fubordi. nate to the fear of God. The diftrefs of a real penitent fhould arife from the difhonor he hath done to God. The reproach he hath brought on religion, fhould wound him more deeply than the fhame or fear he hath brought upon himself. Let the fhamefulness of every bad action, bear a part in fhewing you its abominable nature. But I am bold to affirm, that they are ftrangers to true penitence, in whom a sense of fhame is ftronger than a fenfe of fin.

This attachment to fecret fin admits of various degrees. It is fometimes ftronger, and fometimes weaker; fometimes general, and fometimes more confined. There are

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