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This question might be safely submitted to the decision of almost any person.
We will first inquire, on the part of man, whether he be right. Do men feel, that their hearts and lives, accord with reason, and the relations which they sustain? Do their consciences bear witness in their favor? When they consider, what passes in their heart; what feelings, intentions, and desires, they possess, as well as what actions they perform, can they say, that if God's character and law be right, he must esteem and approve them? Are they at peace within, from a conviction that their motives, aims, and endeavors, are rational and pure? Do they heartily approve, what their understanding points out to be duty; and heartily disapprove, and condemn, what their understandings testified to be wrong? If sinners feel conscious of moral rectitude, why are they so timid? why do they often fear where no fear is? why is a dreadful sound in their ears? and why are they chased by the sound of a shaken leaf? why, like Adam, are they afraid, on hearing the voice of God? Why are they afraid to die, and appear at the seat of judgment? If they do well, shall they not be accepted? From the conduct, and feelings of sinners, it is very evident that they themselves think that an alteration, on their part, ought to take place. They do not really believe themselves in the right. They know, that their own ways are not equal.
Let us now look on the other side, and inquire, if God's ways be not equal, and of course whether any alteration should on his part be produced.
Would God be a better Ruler of the universe,-more worthy of the love and confidence of his creatures, should he give liberty to sinners, to walk in the way of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes? Did he permit them to violate truth, when their present interest requires them to be dishonest, profane, intemperate or impure?-Did he permit them to live without prayer or any worship, rendered to him, would he be a more amiable and glorious Being?-But perhaps, in these respects, you are not dissatisfied with the requirements of God. You
would not wish him to allow these outward crimes and omissions. But you think it too much, that he condemns sin in every instance, and the sins of the heart, as well as those of the life.
Here let me ask again, If there be good reasons, why God should condemn great sins, whether there be not reason why he should condemn those also, which are denominated small? These are of the same nature as the others: they differ only in degree. The same reason, which induces him to disapprove and forbid the one, must lead him to disapprove and forbid the other. Would the great Jehovah be more worthy of veneration and love, were he to grant the liberty here pleaded for, and make this compromise. If you will abstain from great offences, I shall make no account of those, which are less considerable. As to the sins of the heart, Are God's ways unequal, in forbidding and punishing them? This you cannot believe. Men regard the heart, in their estimation of others: they regard the intentions of their fellow men, so far as these can be known. If it be proved that a man has had an intention to injure you, the matter is not forgotten, because the action did not take place : you consider that man as your enemy, because of his intentions. If a child should do nothing outwardly, in opposition to the commands of his parents, yet if they should discover that he entertained no respect and love for them, they surely would not have the same opinion of him, which they previously had; they would think him blame-worthy for wishing them ill, even if his designs and wishes were never executed.
Is it wrong in God that he requires obedience of heart, as well as obedience of life? Would his character be entitled to greater veneration, were he wholly indifferent to the feelings and purposes of men? Ought God to allow them to be proud, envious, cruel, selfish, unkind, ungrateful, or revengeful? Ought he to allow them to forget their Maker, to disregard their fellow creatures, and make themselves the objects of their supreme regard? Ought he to say, "Provided your outward behavior is agreeable to my requirements, the state of your hearts will give me no offence?" If the character of God is
perfect, surely it is no unreasonable thing that he requires love and confidence from his creatures. What is there, then, either in the character or law of God, which admits of alteration for the better? God once expostulated with the Jews, saying: What iniquity have your fathers found in me? Again: O my people, what have I done unto you; wherein have I wearied you? Testify against me. However sinners may attempt to justify themselves and accuse their Maker, it is unchangeably true, that his ways are equal, but their ways are unequal. Now if this appears so at present, it will appear so to the whole universe, at the day of judgment. Every mouth will be stopped; and the whole world will become guilty before God. He will be justified when he speaketh, and clear when he judgeth. The heavens shall declare his righteousness, and all people shall see his glory. We hence see,
1. The extreme folly, of justifying ourselves, and criminating God. If his ways are equal, and ours unequal, what advantage can possibly arise from persuading ourselves of the contrary? What advantage can arise from persuading ourselves, that God is wrong and we right, when the reverse is true, at present, and will abundantly appear so, at the day of judgment? But the folly of this is not greater than its impiety. To attempt to justify sin, is of itself a great sin. To complain of a righteous law, to justify the breach of it, renders the guilty person
still more guilty.
2. From what has been said, we infer, that the salvation of man is of grace. If God has a right to require obedience of heart as well as life, and in small things, as well as great; if obedience in every particular is our duty, it certainly follows that partial obedience can make no atonement for sins. every sin is inexcusable, and contrary to duty, none can be pardoned but by free mercy. If we suppose that some acts of obedience, atone for other acts of disobedience, and that we can, by any thing done by us, satisfy the divine law, we evidently remove ourselves from the grace of Christ, to another gospel ; we deny the atonement, and implicitly declare, that Christ is
dead in vain. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, and compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and the sparks, that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow.
Christ is, emphatically, the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth. In him, all who believe, are justified from those things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. But in order to partake in this justification, the heart must be reduced to the obedience of faith.
3. From the preceding discourse, appears the necessity of conversion. If God's character be perfectly right, and the characters of sinners essentially different, it clearly follows that there can be no solid peace between God and them, without a turning on their part. Except a man be born again, he cannot enjoy God. God's character will never alter; consequently, unless the character of the sinner alter, there must be eternal variance between them. And who will be injured by this? Will the injury be on the part of God, or on the part of sinful men? Who ever hardened himself against God, and prospered? Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel. Can ye endure the chains of darkness, and that devouring fire, which never can be quenched? It is vain, we have seen, to make excuses, to argue against the purity of God's law, and the justice of his requirements. All such arguing answers no other purpose than to prove the existence of that very guilt and depravity you would excuse. We must come with contrite hearts to the throne of mercy, lamenting what we are, and acknowledging what we deserve. We must have the disposition of penitents, and abandon the sins for which we mourn. The empire of sin must, by divine grace, be opposed and overcome, or we forever sink under its galling chains. There is no escaping. Except we repent, we must perish.
TENDENCY OF THE GOSPEL WHEN IT IS REJECTED.
JOHN 9: 39.-And Jesus said, for judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, might be made blind.
It is well known to have been the habit of our Saviour, to improve occurrences for the conveyance and illustration of moral truth. The occasion, on which the words, just read, were spoken, was the cure wrought on a man, who had been blind from his birth. Hence our Lord thought proper to show beforehand the effects, which would be produced by his ministry. Those whose minds were honest, docile, and humble, would obtain more clear and consistent views of religious truth; while the careless, the prejudiced, and the self-confident would find themselves more disinclined either to receive or obey it. It is by no means impossible, that the Jews and Gentiles were especially in our Saviour's mind. The latter, not having received any distinct revelation from God, could have no pretence for pleading the sufficiency of their religious knowledge. Through the ministry of Christ and his apostles, they, who were thus blind, received sight. As it is written: To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and they that have not heard, shall understand.
The Jews were already in the Church of God, enjoying the knowledge and privileges of such a relation. The event of Christ's coming was, in regard to them, the loss of that relation, and its concomitant privileges. They lost advantages, which they had;