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world with a joy never exercised over just persons who need no repentance.
He is also our ruler, our judge, and our rewarder. The universe which he has made is his own empire. All the beings by which it is inhabited are his subjects. The dominion which he exercises over them is dictated by the glorious perfections which I have mentioned. To rebel against it is to oppose the excellence and authority of the ruler and the interests of his immense and eternal kingdom. Those who rebel he will therefore summon to judgment, and demand from them an account of all the deeds done in the body. According to these deeds they will be judged and rewarded.
From these considerations, he who realizes them will perceive, in the clearest light, that in every sin he is guilty of gross injustice to his Maker, in refusing him that which is his by the highest and most unquestionable right; an injustice at which he would start were it practised upon his neighbour; of bold and impious rebellion against his righteous government; of gross and dreadful ingratitude to his goodness and mercy, and of an impious disregard to his perfect and glorious character.
The guilt inherent in all this wickedness will be mightily enhanced by distinct perceptions of the purity of God. Behold, the heavens are not clean in his sight, and his angels are charged with folly! How abominable, then, ought every sinner to exclaim, how filthy am I, who drink iniquity like water. That every intelligent creature ought, in some good measure, to resemble his Maker in this attribute, will not be questioned, except by a mind peculiarly gross and guilty. It cannot be soberly doubted, that both our thoughts and our lives ought to be clean. Accordingly, we are taught that good men of course aim assiduously at this character. "Every "man that hath this hope in him," saith St. John, "purifieth "himself, even as God is pure." But nothing can more strongly enhance the sense of our impurity than a comparison of our own character with that of God. We cannot but discern, that the all-perfect mind, infinitely distant from every stain, must demand an absolute freedom from pollution in
those who are to dwell with him, and obtain an interest in his everlasting love. What abasing views of himself must this consideration, strongly realised, awaken in the mind of every sinful being?
The same effect will be exceedingly increased by just apprehensions of the transcendent greatness of God. The importance which a sinner attributes to himself has no existence, except to the jaundiced eye of pride. Yesterday we were formed of the dust; to-morrow we go down to the grave. From our birth to our death we are frail, dependent, helpless, little, ignorant, and polluted from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. Still we are proud of ourselves and of our circumHow strange is this conduct! How weak, how sinful, how unhappy! There is no method in which this miserable spirit can be extinguished, or even lessened so effectually, as by bringing God before our eyes. To the view of solemn thought, what a being must he be who called the universe out of darkness; who spoke, and it was filled with inhabitants; who himself fills immensity; who inhabits eternity; whose smile makes heaven; whose frown makes hell! Who can be profitable to such a being! Who can be necessary Were heaven to be emptied of its angels at once, his word would replenish it again with others equally wise, great, and good, What then must we be? Nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.
As it is impossible that he should need us or our services, it is certain that he requires nothing of us for himself; and that all his commands are given for our good, and not his. Of course, all the advantages derived from our obedience must be our own. He will not be benefited. We shall be better, and of course happier.
But from his hand we need all things. We are of yesterday, and know nothing. If our mental darkness is illumined, the light must come from heaven. Our strength is weakness, and of ourselves we can do nothing. All our sufficiency is from God. His breath animated our lifeless forms. His power quickened our souls into thought and action. We breathe his air; we live upon his food. His arm guides us;
his hand sustains us; his mercy calls us to the possession of eternal life. We are nothing, we have nothing, we hope for nothing but what he is pleased to give. With these considerations in view, our importance and our pride sink in the dust. In this manner good men have, in all ages, learned and loved to abase themselves. Thus David, in the eighth Psalm, strongly affected with a sense of the greatness of God as displayed in the works of his hands, cries out with the deepest humility, "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy "fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, "what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of "man that thou visitest him!" Thus, also, Job exclaims in the text, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, "but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, " and repent in dust and ashes."
All these considerations will be mightily enhanced, and their efficacy powerfully increased by the recollection of the Omnipresence and the Omniscience of God. The consciousness that this great and awful Being is wherever we are; accompanies us wheresoever we go, and surrounds us in crowds and in solitude; gives a solemnity to our existence, and an importance to all our conduct which can be derived from nothing else. What an eye is that which is employed in searching the hearts, and trying the reins of the children of men; which is always looking directly on our hearts; which, as a flame of fire, shines into the recesses of the soul, and changes the darkness into day; which has watched all our sins from the beginning, and has seen every impious and profane, every ungrateful and impure thought, word, and action! What a hand is that which has recorded all these things in the book out of which we shall be judged, and will open to us the dark and melancholy pages at the final day! How must the presence of such an eye and such a hand make every sinner turn pale with conscious guilt, and tremble at an approaching judgment, if he be not blind, and deaf, and dead in trespasses and sins!
When we call to mind what an appearance we must make before Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon sinners, how can we fail of seeing ourselves
in some measure as God sees us; of thinking concerning sin as he thinks; and of feeling in our hearts, that, as our guilt is of the deepest die, our punishment must be dreadful?
Were all these considerations regularly present to the mind; were they daily and deeply realized, they must, one would believe, almost necessarily make a thinking man sober; a sober man serious; a serious man awakened; an awakened man penitent, and a penitent man watchful, prayerful, diligent, and vigorous in the performance of his duty. Particularly, if we have any just views of sin, it is scarcely possible that they should not become more just, more solemn, more intense, and more efficacious in persuading us to confess and to renounce our transgressions. The more just these views are, the more powerful must be their efficacy. In the mind of an enlightened Christian, especially, they cannot fail to produce the happiest consequences. Such a Christian will feel as Job felt, and exclaim as he exclaimed, "I have heard of thee by the hearing " of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I ab"hor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
From these observations we learn,
I. The reason why the great body of mankind have so imperfect a sense of their sins, viz. they have no just, solemn, constant apprehensions of the character and presence of God. They have very few and very feeble apprehensions of the character of God. Let me address this consideration directly to this assembly. When most of you, like most of your fellow-creatures, think of God at all, is it not true, that you think of him only as a being, who, although in various attributes superior to yourselves, very much resembles you in other respects ? Do you not feel, that he made you solely, or at least supremely to promote your own enjoyment, or, in plainer English, the gratification of your passions and appetites? Do you not feel, that as he has created, so he is bound to provide for you, and
that chiefly as your own pleasure dictates; and that all the obligation lies on him to bestow, while your whole concern is to receive and enjoy? Whenever you perceive or suspect any defect, or any fault in your conduct, is it not the habitual course of your thoughts to charge it upon him, and to clear yourselves?
Do you realize that he made you; that he preserves you; that you live solely on his bounty; that he is your Lord; that he is your Judge; that he will be your rewarder beyond the grave? All these things you may, I acknowledge, admit as a conclusion from premises which you cannot deny. The great question here intended is, "Do they come home to your "hearts with a solemn conviction of their reality? If "realized them, could you live as you have lived? Do you "not, on the contrary, habitually feel that you are your own property, made for yourselves, and not for his service? that, "when he does not satisfy the demands of your passions and "appetites, he is unjust; that, when he interferes with your "concerns, he is arbitrary; and that, when he afflicts you, "he is odious? And do not all these wretched conclusions "flow from false, loose, and solitary apprehensions of his "character ?"
Are you not equally destitute of any just apprehensions concerning his presence? When you lie down, do you remember that he only keeps your habitations from the flames, or preserves you from death? When you awake, do you call to mind, that if God had not awaked you, you would have slept the final sleep, and your eyes never opened again upon the light of the living? When you eat, do you perceive whose hand spreads your table, and fills your hearts with food and gladness? When you profane his name, do you remember that he hears? When your imagination loosely roves after impure and gross objects, do you doubt that he sees? Have you even dreamed that God entered at first the secret chambers of your souls; and that he dwells there, beholding with an awful survey all your forgetfulness of him, your violation of his law, your abuse of his grace, your devotion to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?