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monly “God is not in all their thoughts.” And, be: sides this; the sense of the injury, done to society by several crimes, associates itself with all the ideas on these subjects, which we receive from education, study, and conversation : because the sentiment prevails in the world. Men generally cry shame of those who grossly violate their obligations to their neighbours ; and consider them as unfit for society : but they are not thus affected by the conduct of those, who most atrociously and habitually disregard the authority, and are ungrateful for the goodness, of God. Hence it becomes natural for us to connect the idea of criminality with all actions of the former kind, but not with those of the latter.
This indeed forms one ground of the opposition, which is every where excited against the doctrines of the Gospel. Men are used to judge themselves and their own characters, as they stand related to one another, and according to the rules and maxims established in their circle of society.--" Weighed in this ba“ lance, they are not found wanting.” With a little aid from self-fattery, they conclude, that they never did harm to any one, that their hearts are good, and their lives good; and are therefore disposed to take offence, when addressed as sinners needing salvation; and eagerly to dispute against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as against many other truths of christianity. Indeed it might be conceded to some among them, that if they had only to do with their fellow-creatures, and with the interests of mer in this present world, their pleas would at least b plausible. But if such persons would consider the
obligations to God, and call themselves to account, how far they have or have not fulfilled them; if they were disposed to condemn themselves for all that his word condemns; “ Weighed in this balance they must
certainly be found wanting ;' and would soon be led to cry out, “ God be merciful to me a sinner!" And then, every part of Christianity would gradually open to their view, as most needful, most gracious, most suitable, and worthy of all acceptation.
The young map, who respectfully addressed our LORD, and enquired
" What he must do to inherit " eternal life;" having over-looked the first table of the law, and interpreted the several precepts of the second as a mere moralist would do, without hesitation replied, “ All these have I kept from my youth.” Yet the event shewed that he loved his riches better than the God who made him.
When our LORD, speaking to a lawyer, who asked the same question, enquired of him “ What is " written in the law? How readest thou ?" He re. plied by quoting the two great commandments. And our Lord said, “ Thou hast answered right; this do " and thou shalt live.” But “he, willing to justify "himself, said unto Jesus, and who is my neigh. " bour ?” He seemed not conscious of having violated his obligations to God, and so made no enquiry about the first and great commandment'; but desiring to justify himself, he appears to ask for a limitation of the too extensive meaning of the second, without which he could not possibly accomplish his object.
This being the case with men in general, it cannot at all be wonderful, that even serious enquirers after VOL. 11.
salvation are for a time in some measure embarrassed by the same mistake ; and find it very difficult to judge of their conduct according to the rules of Scripture, and with respect to their relations and obligations to the Almighty; and still more so, to be affected with a humbling sense of guilt on this account, answerable to the views and feelings which they hear described by those who preach the Gospel to them.
Indeed, it is probable, that conviction of sin, at first, commonly arises from a consciousness of haying acted in certain instances contrary to our views of moral obligation ; rather than from an accurate comparison of our whole conduct and the state of our hearts, with the law of God and our obligations to him. But afterwards, deeper reflection and further enquiry produce a sense of guilt, in those thoughts, words, and actions, which once were considered as entirely in
The intention of these remarks, my brethren, is to impress your minds with the immense importance of the subject before us; for, the want of duly understanding or adverting to it, often keeps serious persons long in a state of hesitation as to the doctrines of the Gospel, and exposes them to great danger from the artifices of those who continually are starting ob. jections against the truth.
Indeed, even true and established Christians are seldom so deeply affected with a sense of guilt, when betrayed into such sinful inclinations, or actions, as appear insulated from all connexion with men, and never likely to injure any one, or to be known except to the omniscient God alone; as they do for those
evils, which fall under human observation, interfere with the comfort or interest of others, and incur their
But in proportion to the degree in which this erroneous judgment influences us, it must unquestionably militate against the exercise of genuine repentance, humility, and simple faith in the mercy of God, and the merits of CHRIST: it must prevent that admiring, adoring love of the divine Redeemer, who shed bis blood on the cross as an atonement for our sins; and that glowing ardour of affection for him, which was the grand peculiarity of the primitive Christians, and their all powerful motive to selfdenying labours and sufferings for his sake. This, we every where meet with in their writings; alas, how different from the frigid zone of modern Chris. tianity!
II. I would illustrate the emphasis of the Psalmist's words, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”
David perhaps might mean, that, as a king, he was accountable to none but God: but he also, no doubt, intended to confess, that in entire distinction from the enquiry, how far man had been offended or injured by his conduct; he had greatly displeased the Sovereign of the universe, “the King of kings and “ Lord of lords.” Perhaps some persons at that time might be secretly rejoiced, that such a man as David had thus kept them in countenance. Joab, who had committed murder, for instance, might inwardly exult on so lamentable an occasion. But, however that might be, He who is, “ no respecter persons, and with whom is no difference between the mightiest
monarch and the meanest subject, was deeply offended,
The language of the text, Against thee, thee “only,” implies far more than I can express, of the majesty, excellency, and authority of the glorious God; our relations to him, as the Creator, Governor, and Judge of all; our obligations to him, in general and particular; and the return which we ought to “ render for all his benefits.”
It is worthy of remark, that no records of anti. quity, however admired, (the Scriptures alone ex. cepted,) use language concerning the infinite God, which is in any measure worthy of his incomprehensible majesty and greatness; nay, which is not exceed. ingly degrading to his character: and if moderns have at all succeeded better on this subject, it is be. cause they have derived their most adequate ideas from the Bible, though many are unwilling to acknowledge the obligation. Yet, after all, the sublimity of the sacred oracles on this subject is unparalleled. "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be
praised ; . His greatness is unsearchable. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works; and men shall speak of the "might of thy terrible acts, and I will declare thy
greatness."*“ Who hath measured the waters “ in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the hea“vens with a span, and comprehended the dust of “ the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains “ in scales, and the hills in a balance ?!" The na
Ps. cxly. 3-6.