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death. And being thus made free from sin, they become the servants of righteousness, and cannot, after this, serve sin, because they are under law to Christ. See Rom. vi. passim. And accordingly, when it addresses the sinner, the amount of what it says is, Will you part with sin and receive Christ? or will you retain sin and neglect Christ? One or the other must take place; and thus our Lord instructs us : He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it. Matt. x. 39. But in such league is the natural man with sin, that to part with it would be worse than cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. Matt. v. 29, 30. Sin is dear to him; it is the air which he breathes; the element that suits him. Now it is the immediate design of the gospel, to bring about a separation between him and his sin, and to produce conviction and alarm; yet before his eyes are open to its evil, and to the far superior joys of religion, if you at all dislodge him from his fastnesses, he is, to himself, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest. Isa. xvi. 2. He has lost his home, and his resting place, This is to shorten his bed, and to narrow his covering, so that he cannot wrap himself up in it. Isa. xxviii. 20. And what is the issue of this? If it be nothing more than natural conviction, he will afterwards be ashamed that he should have discovered a moment's uneasiness about his sin, and will perhaps say before his old partners in iniquity, with a laugh; They have stricken me, and I was not sick, they have beaten me, and I felt it not : when shall I awake ? I will seek it yet again! Prov. xxiii.
There is some sin in particular, perhaps, that holds the sinner fast; he cannot be persuaded to part with this; it appears to him more precious than the salvation of his soul, and he would rather go on to gratify some base and carnal lust, than to hearken to that word, which calls him from sin, and reminds him of a judgment to come. This was probably the case with Felix. See Acts xxiv. 25. Our Lord refers us to this as the radical cause why the gospel is so continually rejected; Men love darkness rather than light. Yea, he adds, they hate the light. Doubtless because it brings their sins to view. Neither will the lover of sin come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. John iii. 19, 20. Reproof for sin is the abominable thing which the wicked hate; they fear inquiry, they dread disturbance; and would sooner hazard everlasting destruction, than do or hear any thing which might bring home reproof!
If the gospel would allow indulgence in sin, and suffer them to take their lusts along with
them, or if they could go to heaven together, then would the offence of religion cease. But because it saves the sinner from his sins, and insists upon his renouncing all iniquity, therefore it is he hates it.
But how unworthy would the gospel be of God as its author, and of the love and confidence of his people, did it not constrain us to declare
Eternal war “ With ev'ry darling sin." O sinners, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, consider your ways. Hag. i. 7. However smooth and pleasant inay be your path now, the end thereof will be bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Your feet go down to death, your steps take hold on hell. Prov. v. 4,5. Think of your state before it be too late. Think of that gospel which you can now hear. Think of that door of mercy which yet stands open. For the days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
THE PARTICULAR EFFECTS OF UNBELIEF, CON
SIDERED IN REFERENCE TO NEWLY AWAKENED SOULS, AND REAL BELIEVERS.
Having noticed, that unbelief is that principle in the unregenerate, which leads them to reject the gospel because of its sacred properties; we will for a time leave them, and proceed to enquire, how it operates upon their minds, who have been awakened to a sense of the importance of religion, and who see there is no way of salvation, but by the gospel being brought home to their hearts.
I. It is no unusual thing for unbelief to say, There is no hope. The soul, redeemed by Christ, is convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit. His
eyes are opened to the holiness, spirituality, and justice of the divine law, by which is the knowledge of sin. He sees that there is not one of God's laws but he has broken, either in thought, word, or deed, times without number
In many things he has offended all. He now sees himself a sinner from the womb; he appears defiled in every part. The moral contagion has deeply infected him throughout: From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it ; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores. Isa. i. 6. He is alarmedapprehends that the sword of divine justice is about to cut him down, and the fiery pit below yawns wide to receive him as he falls ! The word of salvation is proclaimed to him. He is directed to behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. He is assured, that it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to suve sinners, even the very chief ; and that whosoever comes to him he will in no wise cust out. He appears thoughtful; the tidings brought are encouraging. But, will Christ receive me? is his cry. The very question implies a doubtful mind; because after such declarations from the faithful and true witness, the question is quite unnecessary.
Satan seizes the moment; he has an answer at hand : immediately he says, “ No: it is presumption in you to indulge such
a hope for a moment. You know your sins are “ far too many, too great and provoking, ever to “ receive forgiveness. You know the blasphe“mous thoughts you have entertained; how dar