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to kill, though unsuccessful, has the penalty of murder attached to it. Thus at the bar of judgment, the sacrifices of a wicked man, how numerous or costly soever they were, will be regarded as of no value: whilst the mere sighing of an upright soul shall not lose its reward. Let that then which is chiefly marked by God, be chiefly attended to by us. Let us endeavour to get our “ hearts right before God.” Let us remember, that, whether evidenced by overt acts or not, he can discern its real state: for “ he searcheth the heart and trieth the reinsd.” “To him all things are naked and opened e;" as the sacrifices of old, when flayed and cut open, were to the eye of the priest who inspected them. “Hell and destruction are before him: how much more then the hearts of the children of men'!” “He weigheth the spirits 8,” and discerns exactly how much there is of every different motive that may operate to the production of every act. Watch, therefore, and examine carefully the state of your own hearts: and as “he requireth truth in the inward partsh,” cease not to pray day and night, that, being “perfect and upright before him, you may have light in darkness', peace in deaths, and glory in eternity?.]
d Jer. xvii. 10. Heb. iv. 13. ver. 11. & Prov. xvi. 2. h Ps. li. 6.
i Ps. cxii. 4. k Ps. xxxvii. 37. Ps. cxl. 13.
INSTRUCTION TO BE OBEYED. Prov. xv.32. He that refuseth instruction, despiseth his own soul.
THE Scriptures speak plainly, and represent things as they really are. Perhaps there is no man that would acknowledge he despised God: yet does God lay that sin to the charge of all who question his retributive justice: “ Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, while he doth say in his heart, Thou wilt not require ita ?” So none would confess that they “ despise their own souls :" yet is that the real character of all who refuse the instruction which God sends to them by his written word, and by the ministration of his faithful servants. And this will appear, if we consider, I. The need that every man has of divine instruction,
Much may be known to man from sensation and reflection: he may gather much from observation
a Ps. x. 13.
and experience, and the mere force of reasoning, without any revelation from heaven: but without divine instruction, 1. He can never know the extent of his wants
[He cannot know his fall in Adam, or the depravity of his fallen nature, or his utter incapacity to restore himself to God's favour. If told that “his carnal mind is enmity against God," and that “without Christ he can do nothing," and that God alone can give him either to will or to do any thing agreeable to the divine command, he would think it all a libel upon human nature. It is revelation alone that can give him any just views on these subjects —--]
2. He can still less know how those wants are to be supplied
[Who could ever have thought that God himself should become incarnate, and live and die for the express purpose of supplying the necessities of his fallen creatures? Who could ever have imagined that God's righteousness should be imputed to man? and that the Spirit of the living God should ever dwell in man, for the purpose of revealing the Saviour to him, and of imparting to him the divine image ? A man not instructed in these things can know nothing about them. They are all matters of pure revelation, and directly contrary to those methods of salvation which uninstructed man would have adopted for himself - --]
3. He can never avail himself of those offers which God has made to him in the Gospel
[In the Holy Scriptures are contained "exceeding great and precious promises,” yea, promises confirmed by an oath, and ratified by an everlasting covenant. These promises relate to every want of fallen man, and make over to him a supply of every want by the simple exercise of faith on the part of man. How can the unenlightened man obtain an interest in these? How is it possible for him to lay hold of them, and rest upon them, and plead them before God, when he has never been instructed in relation to them?--- It is obvious, that without divine instruction he must for ever lie under the guilt and power of his sins, and endure the punishment due to his unrepented and unpardoned transgressions.]
What then must be, II. The light in which he must be viewed, who re
fuses instruction:n otune an expression, if We use by no means too strong an expression, if we say, “ He despises his own soul.” For,
1. He grievously underrates its value
[Who can estimate the value of an immortal soul, a soul capable of knowing, honouring, and enjoying, the Most High God; and actually assured of that honour, if only it obtain the knowledge of Christ, and repose all its confidence in him? But, to judge of its value aright, we must take into account the love that God has borne towards it, and the price which our adorable Lord and Saviour has paid for its redemption. Contemplate its nature and its capacity, its estimation by God, and its eternal destinies; and then say, Whether the man who refuses the instruction whereby he is to be made happy, does not altogether betray an ignorance of its true value? ---] 2. He shamefully disregards its interests—
[Without an attention to the concerns of the soul, it is in vain to hope that it can ever be happy in the eternal world. The man that refuses divine instruction, does in reality inflict upon his soul the heaviest judgment that it can sustain in this life: he says, in fact, . Let me alone, that I may go on to increase my guilt, and “ treasure up for myself wrath against the day of wrath."' What would be thought of a man who should so trifle with his temporal interests? Would there be any term of reproach too harsh or too contemptuous whereby to designate so foolish a character? What, then, must we say of a man who so neglects the interests of his soul? ---]
3. He casts it away for a thing of nought
[Give to sensual gratifications all the importance you will, they are only as the small dust upon the balance when weighed against the soul. Yet for these does the man who refuses instruction sell his soul. Truly, if Esau“ despised his birthright," when he “sold it for a mess of pottage b," much more do they pour contempt upon their own souls, who, for any consideration whatever, abandon all reasonable hopes of heaven, and subject themselves to the infliction of everlasting misery in hell ---] ADDRESS
1. Avail yourselves now of the opportunities that are afforded you
[There has been declared unto you from time to time, so far as I have been enabled to declare it," the whole counsel of God.” Think what improvement you have made of these instructions --- and what will be your reflections in the eternal world, if you reject them ---Indeed, whilst disregarding the instructions given you, you greatly "wrong your own souls,” and act as persons that are “ in love with death 4." O that ye may be wise ere it be too late! For, “if they
Gen. xxv. 34. c Prov. v. 12, 13. d Prov. viii. 36. VOL. VII.
escaped not, who refused Moses who spake on earth, much more shall not ye escape, if ye turn away from him, even the Lord Jesus, who now speaketh to you from heavene."]
2. “ Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selvest”—
[Instruction, if it abide in the understanding only, will be of no profit. To be really useful, it must descend into your hearts, and operate in your lives. Our blessed Lord's warning upon this subject deserves your deepest attention. I would have you not only wise, but “wise unto salvation." I would not that you should erect a house upon the sand; and that, after all your labour, it should fall upon your heads, and crush you; but rather, that you should build your house upon a rock, and find it able to shelter you from all the storms and tempests that ever can assault it. This will shew that “ you have real love to your soulh;" and richly shall you “ be recompensed at the resurrection of the justi."]
e Heb. xii. 25. f Jam. i. 22. 8 Matt. vii. 24-27. h Prov. xix. 8. i Prov. viii. 33–35,
DCCXCI. MAN'S ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF AND GOD'S CONTRASTED. Prov. xvi. 2. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes;
- but the Lord weigheth the spirits. AMONGST the pure t joys of a Christian is “ the testimony of a good conscience ;” and all the labour that can possibly be bestowed on the attainment of it will be well repaid by the acquisition. But we must not forget, that man is a fallen creature, and that his mind and conscience partake of the defilement which sin has brought upon all the faculties of his soul. Hence it is necessary to try even the verdict of conscience itself, and not to trust too implicitly to its representations. To“ put evil for good, and good for evil; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; darkness for light, and light for darkness;" is, alas! but too common, and more especially in forming an estimate of our own character and conduct. So has Solomon informed us in the words which we have just read : from which we shall take occasion to shew, .
a Tit. i. 15.
I. Whence it is that men have such an over-weening
confidence respecting the rectitude of their own
waysWe can know little of mankind, if we do not know that men of every character and every class go forward in their respective ways with a considerable measure of self-confidence, and self-approbation; and, as Solomon elsewhere observes, that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes b." Now whence does this arise? How is it that all, notwithstanding the vast difference there is in their habits and conduct, yet think themselves right? We apprehend that it arises from hence: 1. They judge themselves by a wrong standard
[Every man has a standard of his own, suited to the views and habits of the class among whom he moves. Some allow themselves in a very great latitude, both of principle and practice; and never condemn themselves, unless they grossly violate the code that is established amongst their own particular associates: they are “clean in their own eyes," as long as they keep within the bounds of purity which their own friends prescribe. Others are far more strict, as Paul in his unconverted state was. “As touching the righteousness of the law, he was, in his own estimation, blameless :" so blameless, as to be quite sure of his acceptance before God: “ I was alive without the law once." His very zeal, which was so hateful in the sight of God, and so directly pointed against the Lord Jesus Christ himself, furnished him with an occasion for nothing but selfapplause. Though he did not altogether lay aside the law of God in forming his estimate, he used it only to confirm his own delusions, limiting its injunctions to the mere letter, instead of entering into its spiritual import. None but the truly enlightened Christian brings himself fairly to the test of God's holy law: all others have a defective standard ; a standard of their own, fitted for their own ways: and this is the first great source of the delusion specified in our text.]
2. They turn their eyes from things that have a doubtful aspect,
[Men, if they suspect that all is not right, are very averse to a strict examination of their case: they content themselves with looking at one side of the question only. Whatever tends to justify their conduct, is dwelt upon with pleasure; but whatever tends to cast a shade upon it, is passed over in silence :
• Prov. xxi. 2.