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where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves from him." O sinners, think of this; none of your ways are hid from the Lord. He not only knows what you do, but he also knows what opposition and restraint you overcome in doing it. You may fain excuses to your neighbours; you may plead the violence of temptation, the want of recollection, or the strength of passion; and
1; by these alleviations extenuate your guilt, and put some sort of colour upon your conduct; but God sees through all these thin disguises; he that heard every whispering of conscience within thee; and the complaints of this oppressed, subdued deputy, are all recorded against thee. Brethren, this is a most alarming consideration ; may God impress it upon our hearts, and give it that pow. er and influence which it ought to have! This would humble us to purpose, and make us to loathe ourselves in our own sight because of our abominations.
Surely the heart of man is with good reason said to be « deceitful above all things, and desperately wick
We are hastening to the tribunal of that Judge, whose eye hath been constantly upon us, and from whose sentence there lies no appeal. No craft or policy can evade his justice, neither can any power deliver out of his hands; yet we live as if we had no witness, no judge, nor any cause of importance to be tried. God hath assured as in his word, that “ death is the wages of sin;" reason condemns it; conscience either remonstrates against it, or rebukes us for it; yet, in defiance of all these, we hug it in our bosom, and refuse to let it go.
This is such perverse, such unaccountable folly, that were not the whole earth a bedlam, in which all have a tincture of the same disease, it would be regarded with equal surprise and horror. One of the most probable means for restoring men to their right senses, is the seri
ous belief of this important doctrine, that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Which leads me to observe, in the
5th and last place, That an habitual impression of the divine presence would prove at once an effectual restraint from all manner of sin, and the most powerful incitement to every part of our duty.
This would deter us even from the most secret sins, and influence us as much in our closest retirement as when we act in the public view of the world. Had we no other spectators than men, it might be sufficient to maintain a fair outside, because that only falls under their observation; but there is no covering so thick as to hide us from God; the most secret deviation of the heart is sub. ject to his cognizance, as much as the most open transgression of the life; and sins committed in the deepest shades of darkness, are as perfectly known to him as those committed in the clearest noon-day. None of the springs from whence they proceed can escape bis notice, nor the temper of mind with which they are done; wbich give the truest light into their nature, and determine the precise degree of their malignity. What reason, then, have we to keep our hearts, as well as our lives, with all diligence; and to dread a sin in privacy no less than when we know that many eyes are upon us?
With respect, again, to the practice of our duty, the influence of a realizing faith of the divine omniscience is so apparent that it needs no illustration. “I have kept thy statutes and thy testimonies,” said David; “ for all my ways are before thee." Were God habitually present to our minds, we should think nothing too much to be done, or too hard to be endured, in his service. A holy ambition to approve ourselves to him, by whose final sentence we must stand or fall, would render us superior to every trial, and carry us forward in the way of his commandments with increasing vigour and alacrity. We should never “ think that we had already attained, either were already perfect ; but, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, we should press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Upon the whole, then, let us earnestly pray God that he, by his grace, may strengthen our faith of this important truth, that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good ; and enable us so to set him before us all the days of our pilgrimage on earth, that hereafter we may be admitted into his immediate presence; where, in the happy society of angels' and saints, we shall enjoy the unclouded light of his countenance without interruption and without end. Amen.
PSALM xix. 13.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.
MEMORABLE is that saying of the apostle Paul, “ I had not known sin but by the law.” We can never judge aright of our temper and practice till we prove them by this unerring rule. Many objects appear to have a strong resemblance while we view them apart, and at a distance from each other; which, in almost
every feature, are found to disagree when they are brought together and examined with accuracy. Thus there is a seeming conformity to the divine law, an image of sanctity, which very often passeth for real holiness, and leads men “ to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think.” Paul " was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died.” So long as he knew only the letter of the law, and was a stranger to its spiritual meaning, and just extent, he imagined that his prayers, his fastings, and his alms, accompanied with some pieces of bodily exercise, and an abstinence from the grosser acts of sin, were sufficient to recommend him to the friendship of God, and would certainly entitle him to the joys of immortality; but " when the commandment came" in its native purity, and entered into his heart with light and power, he soon discovered his mistake, and was convinced, that his seeming virtues were no more in reality than “ dead works;" his pharisaical righteousness a mere painted outside, the delusive pic. ture or “ form of godliness."
In like manner, the author of this psalm, after a devout contemplation of the divine law, (which he had magnified in the foregoing verses, by a just and animated detail of its amiable properties and salutary effects) turning his eyes inward, is struck with a sense of his own guilt and pollution : “ Who,” saith he, “ can understand his errors?” Many indeed, too many, alas! I can soon recollect; for every period of my life hath been stained with sin: but besides all these, I now perceive, that in numberless instances, unobserved or forgotten, I must have deviated from so perfect a rule. Upon this he supplicates the mercy of God, and implores the forgiveness of those "errors,” or infirmities, which had either escaped his notice or dropped out of his remembrance; “Cleanse thou me from secret faults ;" “ secret,” not only with respect to others, but to myself also; bid from mine own eyes as well as from the eyes of my fellow men. And under this awful impression of the polluting nature even of his unobserved and “ secret faults," he views with horror the more aggravated guilt of known and wilful sins; and prays, with redoubled earnestness, in the words of my text, that it might please God to restrain or keep him back from these: keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.
What these sins are, and how much it concerneth us all to avoid them, I shall endeavour to show in the sequel of this discourse; and, as my text is a prayer,
I sball conclude with some directions for the help of those who are willing to make it their own prayer, and wish to offer it up with acceptance and success.
By presumptuous sins, we are to understand something different from those unavoidable failings, on account of which it is said, that “there is not a just man upon earth, who doeth good, and sinncth not." Perfection in holiness is not the attainment of our present state; the best offend in many things; and “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
There are some sins done through ignorance; and this circumstance, how great soever the offence may be in its own nature, doth certainly render the case of the offender more pitiable. We find “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus,” pleading this argument for mercy to his murderers; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." St. “ Paul ob. tained mercy, who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious, because he did it ignorantly." And the Judge bimself hath assured us, (Luke xii. 48.) that