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then his hopes of salvation by his own obedience vanish, and his apprehensions of eternal punishment increase. Thus, when the law comes, shining in its purity, and operating on his conscience with power, sin is revived; a sense of deserved wrath possesses his soul, and his former self-righteous hopes expire.
He now reflects on his past ignorance and Pharisaical pride with the greatest amazement and the deepest self-abhorrence. However reluctant, he is obliged to give up his former exalted notions of his own moral excellence, and is compelled, with the polluted leper, to cry out, Unclean! unclean! Now he perceives a propriety, now he feels an energy in those emphatical scripture phrases, which describe the state of a natural man by a helpless infant grovelling in its blood, and a filthy sow wallowing in the mire; by a dog in love with his vomit, and an open sepulchre emitting the abhorred stench of a putrifying carcase.* These objects, he is fully convinced, are infinitely less offensive to the most delicate person, and the keenest sense, than that moral pollution is, which has defiled his whole soul in the sight of an holy God. Now he freely acknowledges that what he used to look upon as trivial offences are shocking crimes. He is thoroughly convinced that the various transgressions of his life, however vile and enormous, are so many streams from a corrupt fountain within-that they proceed from a desperately wicked heart.'+ He is amazed, he is confounded, when he reflects on his inbred corruptions, and views his native depravity. His eyes being opened to behold the spirituality and vast extent of the divine law, he considers his whole life as one continued scene of iniquity. For, instead of living every moment of his time in the uninterrupted and most fervent love of God, as the law requires, he finds, to his grief and shame, that he has lived in the love of self and sin; self-love having been all his law,
* Ezek. xvi. 5, 6. 2 Pet. ii. 22. Jer. xvii. 9.
Rom. iii. 13. Matt. xxxiii. 27. Mark vii. 21, 22.
self-pleasing all his end. Viewing the holy law as a transcript of the divine purity, he plainly sees that he is no less obliged to love God with all the powers of his soul, for the sake of his infinite excellencies, than he is to avoid the horrid crimes of murder and adultery. In a word, he considers himself as the chief of sinners.' The sentence of the law, though terrible to the last degree, he allows to be just. The execution of it he cannot but dread; yet from his heart he acquits both the law and Lawgiver of any the least unrighteous severity, though he should never taste of mercy. His language is, 'The law is just, and death is my due.'
Methinks I behold the awakened sinner sobbing with anguish, and bathed in tears, fixed in thought, and indulging reflection, about his state and his danger. The law, how holy, which I have transgressed! The curse, how awful, which I have incurred! My crimes, how numerous! Their aggravations, how dreadful! How ineffably wretched my state! for my soul, my immortal all, is in the utmost jeopardy. What shall I do? Whither shall I flee for refuge? Shall I look for relief to carnal enjoyments and sinful pleasures? Shall I quaff the sparkling bowl, or frequent the circles of polite amusement? Such a procedure would enhance my guilt, and increase my torment-would be like seeking an asylum in hell. Shall I plead with my Sovereign and Judge, that I have not been so wicked as others? But how shall I prove the fact? or if I could, the debtor that owes but fifty pence,having nothing to pay,is equallyobnoxious to an arrest and a prison with one that owes five hundred. For Jehovah declares, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.' But have I performed no good works, nor any obedience from which I may extract some comfort, on which I may build my hopes of acceptance? Here, alas! I am entirely destitute. Conscious I am that I have not loved God, that I have not sought his glory; and without these there is no
acceptable obedience. My very prayers need an atonement, and my tears want washing. Shall I promise amendment and vow reformation, if He, to whom I have forfeited my life, will be pleased to spare it? Shall I say, with him in the parable that owed ten thousand talents, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all?' This would be an evidence of superlative pride, and an instance of the greatest folly. My debt, like his, is enormous; and would my Creditor compound for the widow's two mites, I should still be insolvent. I now find, by experience, that I am utterly without strength. But supposing I possessed abilities, and were to perform a perfect obedience in future, it would make no amends for my past transgressions; the old and heavy score would still stand against me. Had my offences been committed against a fellowcreature, I might possibly have been able to make compensation. But they are against my Maker; to whom I owe my time and talents, all that I have and all that I am. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him ;' or how shall the offender atone for his crimes? It is the infinite JEHOVAH against whom I have sinned; it is the eternal Sovereign of all worlds against whom I have rebelled. Who then shall entreat for me? Yes, I have trampled on infinite authority. The language of my stubborn heart and abominable.conduct has been, Who is the Lord, that I should obey him? As the universal Governor, I have renounced his dominion, and seated self on the throne; as myconstant benefactor, I have abused his mercies to his dishonour. Infinitely perfect and supremely amiable as He is in himself, I have neither loved nor adored him: I have treated him as though he deserved neither affection nor reverence. Ihave (shocking impiety!) I have preferred the vilest lusts, and the gratification of the worst of appetites, to his honour and service. How have I neglected the divine word and sacred worship! I have treated the Bible as if it were not worthy of a serious perusal, and in so doing have F
been a practical Deist. The assemblies of the saints, my closet, my conscience, all bear testimony against me, that I have lived as 'without God in the world.' Or, if at any time I have attended religious worship in public or private, how have I mocked my Maker?I have behaved myself in his awful presence as though he had been a senseless idol-one who neither knew nor cared how he was worshipped. When I pretended to acknowledge my sins, my confessions froze on my formal lips; and if I asked for heavenly blessings, it was as though I had little or no necessity for them. With delight and avidity I have pursued transitory pleasures and vicious enjoyments; but, as to the worship of God, I have been ready to cry, 'O what a weariness is it!' I have said to God, it has been the language of my heart and conduct, Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that I should serve him? and what profit shall I have if I pray to him?* Can I doubt then, can I question for a single moment, whether I deserve to die, deserve to be damned? DAMNED! dreadful punishment! Imagination recoils at the thought. The idea chills my blood. Heaven avert the impending, the righteous vengeance! But God is just; and justice requires that sin should not escape with impunity. Does it not follow, then, that my eternal misery is inevitable: In what other way can the rights of the Godhead, the honour of divine holiness, truth, and justice, be maintained? If no other way can be found, wretch that I am! I am lost for ever. Thus he lies at the foot of sovereign mercy.
As a rebel against the Majesty of heaven, and conscious that he deserves to perish, he lies deep in the dust of self-abasement, and low at the footstool of divine grace. But his all being at stake for eternity, and not being sunk into absolute despair, he ventures to address the blessed God; being well persuaded, that if his request be granted and his person accepted, his soul shall live; and that if his prayer be rejected,
* Job xxi. 14, 15.
and his person abhorred, he can but die. With trembling hands and a throbbing heart, with downcast looks and faltering lips, he therefore thus proceeds: 'Offended Sovereign! I am justly under sentence of death, and if I eternally perish, yet thou art righteous. My mouth must be stopped: I have no right to complain. But is there nothing in thy revealed character which may encourage a miserable creature, and a guilty criminal, to look for mercy and hope for acceptance? Art thou not a compassionate Saviour, as well as a just God? Is not Jesus thy only Son, and hast not thou set him forth as a "propitiation through faith in his blood?" To him, therefore, as my only asylum from divine wrath, I would flee. Yet, if repulsed, I dare not, I cannot object; for I have no claim on thy mercy. Only, if it seem good to Thee. to save the vilest of sinners, the most wretched of creatures; if it please Thee to extend infinite mercy to one who deserves infinite misery, and is obliged to condemn himself, the greater will be the glory of thy compassion. However, as a supplicant at the throne of grace, as a perishing sinner, who has no hope but in sovereign mercy, and the blood of the cross, I am resolved to wait till freely received or absolutely rejected. If rejected, I must bear it as my just desert; if accepted, boundless grace shall have the g Thus the name and the work of Jesus forbid despair, and shed a beam of hope on his benighted and disconsolate soul.
* Let none of my readers imagine that the process of conviction here described is designed as a standard for their experience, or that I would limit the Holy One of Israel to the same manner and way of working in the minds of sinners when he brings them to know themselves, their state, and their danger. I have no such intention; being well aware that God is a Sovereign, and acts as he pleases in this, as in all other things. For though every sinner must feel his want before he will either seek or accept relief at the hand of grace, yet the Lord has various ways to make his people willing in the day of his power. Some he enlightens in a more gradual way, and draws them to Christ by gentler means, as it were with the cords of love; while he strikes conviction into the minds of others as with a voice in thunder, and sudden as lightning. They are brought to the very brink of despair, and shaken, as it were,