« السابقةمتابعة »
sinner pardoned, while impenitent: never was a sinner truly penitent, while insensible of the great evil of sin and never did a sinner see the great evil of sin, before he was first acquainted with the infinitely great and glorious God. You may indeed have been sorry for sin on other accounts; as, that you have exposed yourself to shame before men: or hurt your estate; or brought God's judgments upon you in this life; or exposed yourself to his judgments in the life to come: or, perhaps in times past, you have been greatly awakened and terrified, and then filled with joy, and even ravished, through a false, but confident persuasion your sins were pardoned; and in consequence of this, from natural gratitude, have felt real grief for your sins against God, considered merely as your great benefactor1. But if you never saw the great evil of sin, as it is against a God who is infinitely glorious in himself, your repentance was never genuine : and you are yet unpardoned.
Here it may be observed, that if ever men were thoroughly convinced of this great evil of sin, the conviction would be permanent and abiding. For where true grace is ever wrought in the heart, it will continue. The water that Christ gives will be in us a never-failing fountain, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Those, therefore, who were greatly terrified with their sin and guilt, some years ago, but have since learnt to make a light matter of sin, and can easily get quiet, and go on in their evil ways, they never truly saw the great evil of sin. Yea, I may add, that where true grace was ever wrought in the heart, it will not only continue, but increase; like the mustard-seed, which grows into a tree": and so a sight and sense of the great evil of sin, will consequently increase and strengthen. For as men grow in the knowledge of God, and sense of his glory, and of their obligations, to him: so, proportionably, will they see more and more of the infinite evil there is in sin, as it is against him. The case therefore may soon be decided against all those who
That those religious affections, which men may have towards God, considered merely under the notion of a benefactor, are not of the nature of saving grace, is evident from Job i. 9, 10, 11. and Mat. v. 46.
were once awakened and enlightened, but have since fallen away, and returned with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. Their eyes never were truly opened: the heart of stone was never taken away they never tasted the bitterness of sin to good purpose and they are still in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity P; and must return to their awakenings and sorrows again, in this world, or in the world to come.
Answer me, to these six questions:
1. Does God's government appear reasonable, and his law just? Behold, and see how God governs the world; observe how he looks upon sin, and how he treats it. The sinning angels, for their first transgression, are turned out of heaven, and doomed to an eternal hell. Our fallen world too, but for the interposition of a Mediator, had sunk into eternal ruin. Every impenitent sinner will, at the day of judgment, be sentenced to depart to everlasting burnings. Now, does it appear reasonable that sin should be so severely punished? In heaven, they cry Hallelujah! just and righteous are thy judgments, Lord God almighty! But what is the language of your heart? Say, do you approve God's government? or be you an enemy to it? And, in all this, God does but proceed exactly according to LAW. For the law says, cursed is every one that continues not in all things".` Now, do you heartily approve the law as strictly just, that threatens eternal damnation for the least sin? Does sin appear so great an evil, as to deserve, in all reason and justice, to be so severely punished? Put it to your own case; and can you justify God and his law?
2. Can you justify God in his present dispensations towards you? How are you actually affected under those chastisements which God inflicts upon you for sin in this world? When God told David, that for his sins, his wives should be defiled in the sight of the sun, the sword never depart from his house, and his child should die ; penitent David says, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: wherefore thou art just when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest. And when afterwards he fled out
o 2 Pet. ii. 22. p Acts viii. 23. q Gal. iii. 13. r 2 Sam. xii.
of Jerusalem, from the face of Absalom, and Shimei cursed him, and said, Come out, come out, thou bloody man! broken-hearted David said, the Lord hath bidden him, let him alone. For he plainly saw he deserved it at the hands of God. And is it the native language of your heart, when God lays his hand heavy upon you-Righteous art thou, O Lord? Can you justify God in his dispensations towards you? God always in this world punishes us far less than our iniquities deserve ": and a sight of the great evil of sin will effectually make it appear so to ús. 3. Is it become natural to you, to look upon hell as your proper due, in such sort, as that every thing in your circumstances, wherein you are better off than the damned, appears as mere, pure mercy? Are you so vile, and hell-deserving, in your own account? Do you appear so in your own eyes as in the sight of God? And do you accordingly attribute all you have, that is better than hell, to mere pure mercy? And go up and down the world, wondering at the goodness and patience of God! These things naturally arise from a sight of the great evil of sin.
4. Do you deserve eternal damnation now, to your own sense and apprehension as much as ever you did? Be it so that you have been brought to true repentance for your past sins, and have been sincerely devoted to God for these many years, and that you live a life of penitency and godly sorrow from day to day, and enjoy sweet communion with God, and a sense of his favour; and have good hopes of eternal life; yet, considered merely as in yourself, in strict justice, what do you deserve at the hands of God? Do you deserve hell still? And do you deserve it as much as ever you did? Or does it seem as if you had made some amends for the sins of former years, by your repentance and piety since? Or does your daily repentance make any amends to God for your daily short-comings? If you see the great evil of sin, it will be a clear case to you, that you never did, nor even can, make the least satisfaction to God, for the least sin. And therefore, instead of imagining that you deserve better at the hands of God than once you did, you will naturally see, that
2 Sam. xvi. Jer. xii. 1.
t 2 Sam. xii.
u Ezra ix. 13.
you grow more unworthy and ill-deserving. For, besides former transgressions, there are your daily short-comings, whereby you are continually meriting hell, without doing any thing, in the least measure, to make amends for what is past.
5. Do all your hopes of finding mercy at last, take their rise, only and absolutely, from the free grace of God, through Christ, as revealed in the Gospel? St. Paul was doubtless one of the holiest men that ever lived yet no man seems so sensible of his own vileness, and need of Christ and free grace. The law, says he, is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. Oh wretched man that I am! I am less than the least of all saints. By the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified. And he ever looks to be justified by free grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He is concerned, to be found, not in himself, having on his own rightcousness; but to be found in Christ, having on his righteousness b. In a word, it was his character, to worship God in the Spirit, to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. And this, which was his character, will be your nature, if you really see the great evil of sin.
6. Is it become natural to you, to be afraid of SIN, of all sin as the greatest evil? Are you afraid of secret, as well as open sins? Of sinful thoughts, as well as sinful actions? Of an ungracious, unholy frame of heart, as well as an unholy life? Are you afraid of having your heart turn away from God, the fountain of all good? Of losing a relish for secret prayer? Of wandering thoughts on the sabbath, and at sacrament? And are you afraid of whatsoever tends thereto; such as vain company, a merry way of living, love to the world, neglecting to watch the heart? Do you make conscience of walking with God, and of maintaining communion with the most high, in your closets, and families, and in the house of God? Or does not a round of duties, and form of religion, content you? Do you make conscience of loving your neighbour as yourself, and doing as you would
x Rom. vii. 14. 24.
≈ Rom. iii. 20.
b Phil. iii. 8, 9.
a Rom. iii. 24.
c Phil. iii. S.
be done by; paying your debts, at the time agreed upon, and showing mercy to the poor? Do you make conscience of it, to bridle your tongue, to avoid tattling, and acting as busybodies in other men's matters? Do you make conscience of it, not to mispend your time in fruitless visits at taverns; in frolics, or in any other vain or unprofitable way but to devote your time and all your talents, to the service of God? If you see your obligations to God, you will make conscience of pleasing him in all things. If you see the great evil of sin, you will be afraid of it in every shape. If it appears to you as the greatest of evils, you will be most afraid of it. You will be more afraid of sin, than of any worldly loss, or of any reproach, or shame, or suffering, or even of death itself. However it may be with a good man, for a fit, this is his habitual temper d. Indeed, in general, men are but little afraid of sin; they will go into the way of it: they will run into temptations, to taverns, to frolics, to vain company; and care but little or nothing about the love of God, and secret prayer: no, nor so much as whether they are honest in their dealings, and true to their promises: and yet, alas! are ready to imagine themselves to be the children of God.
However, an habitual sense of the great evil of sin, is so essential to vital piety, that without it, men, (let their past experiences and their present pretences be what they will,) are but mere hypocrites. Their repentance is counterfeit their faith is false: their religion is all unsound. If you know not the great evil of sin, you know nothing, yet, as you ought to know. You are a stranger to God, ignorant of your own heart, and of the deplorable condition you are in, and to this day are unhumbled, impenitent, and unpardoned. Wherefore, consider these things, answer these questions; and see, and say, what is your state.
Oh! how doleful is the state of secure, Christless sinners! At enmity against God! Rebels against the majesty of heaven! Their fraine of heart and manner of life, a continual despising the Lord! a grief to the Holy One of Israel! a constant provocation! And yet, alas! they know it not; nor does it once enter into their hearts: they go on at ease, and