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exposed, and of the persons who were their associates in iniquity. Thus, as our first parents sought “ to hide their nakedness by fig-leavest,” so do all men by nature strive, by every device they can think of, to hide from themselves, and from each other, their real state.]
4. How to persuade themselves that all will issue well with them at the last
(They will not believe that eternal punishment can ever be inflicted on persons for such offences as theirs. God is too merciful to proceed in such a way. And, if he did, what must become of the whole world? All who die, are considered as having gone to their rest; and no one ever once thinks of them as in a state of misery. Why then should not they, when they die, go to their rest? or what reason can they have to apprehend that any misery awaits them? But, supposing that God's threatenings were true, they intend to repent at some convenient season; and have no doubt but that a gracious God will avert his displeasure from them, in answer to their prayer. It is possible, indeed, that they may be called away suddenly (as many are), and not have time to realize their good intentions: but then the suddenness of their removal will plead their excuse, and their purposes be accepted as though they had been performed.
Thus, by means of these inventions which men have sought out, they are kept in a constant state of delusion; wearying themselves in the pursuit of vanities which elude their grasp, and filling with vexation both themselves and all around them.] We may see from hence,
1. What is the true intent of the Gospel —
[The Gospel is to remedy all this evil, and to restore man to the state of holiness and happiness from which he is fallen. It is to rectify our views of God, and make us see what a great and holy and gracious God he is. It is to make him known to us in the person of his Son, and to fill our souls with admiring and adoring thoughts of his love. It is to bring us also to the knowledge of ourselves, as lost and utterly undone; and to engage our whole souls in the service of our God, as his rightful property, his purchased possession.
Beloved Brethren, this is an invention of God; sought out by him; planned in his eternal counsels; and carried into effect on Mount Calvary: and, if duly received, it will be effectual to dissipate at once all our “inventions." It will not indeed remove all the evils that abound in the world: there will yet remain much that is “ crooked, and that cannot be made straight;" but it will sanctify those evils, and overrule them for our greater
+ Gen. iii. 7.
good: its operations, however, will be gradual, especially as far as relates to the restoration of the divine image on our souls. We shall be “ renewed in knowledge, after the image of Him that created usu:" we shall also be " created, after God's image, in righteousness and true holiness*:" but then, in both respects, our light will be progressive, advancing like that of the sun, from its earliest dawn to its meridian heighty. This is the change which the Gospel has wrought on millions of the human race: and that Gospel shall yet be found, by every true Believer, “the power of God to the salvation of his soul."]
2. How we may know whether it has produced its due effect upon us
[You have heard what it was intended to do; namely, to remove all the obliquity of our fallen nature, and to restore the uprightness in which we were at first created. These are therefore the points for you to inquire into, in order to form a just estimate of your state, Can you say, “ I have found this?" And can you further say, that the delusions, by which the devil has formerly led you captive, are now dissipated and dispelled ? Can you declare yet further, that the intellectual and moral qualities, which man originally possessed, are forming progressively within your souls? Here are marks which may easily be discerned; and which will with great accuracy determine, not only the truth, but also the measure, of the change that has taken place within you. Alas! alas! on far the greater part of us, it is to be feared, no such change as this has ever taken place at all. The greater part of us still live far from God; still have our affections fixed on things below; still are unhumbled before God; and buoying ourselves up with the vain hopes of future happiness, though there is no one lineament of the divine image formed upon our souls. If this be the case with you, my Brethren, deceive yourselves no longer; but “ to-day, while it is called to-day, cease to harden your hearts;" and begin to seek the mercy which God has offered you in the Son of his love --- If however, after careful self-examination, you have an evidence of a work of grace upon your souls, then press forward for the attainment of more grace, and for a more perfect restoration to the divine image. If you do this in earnest, then even this present world will be less a scene of confusion to you than it was in your unconverted state; and, in the world to come, the glories of Paradise shall be for ever yours. You shall be admitted into the sweetest intercourse with your God; and “ be fully like him, because you shall see him as he is?."]
MAN'S ABUSE Of God's PATIENCE. Eccl. viii. 11. Because sentence against an evil work is not
executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,
SIN is in itself an evil of a crimson dye; nevertheless its malignity may be greatly increased by the aggravations with which it is attended. One can scarcely conceive any thing that can enhance its guilt so much, as the committing of it in hopes that God's mercy will pardon it. Yet this is the very ground on which the world indulge themselves in the commission of it. “ Because,” &c. I. The extent of man's wickedness
That sin exists in the world is visible to all; but the degree in which it prevails is very little known. In what way men sin, we may judge from the exceeding depth of colouring which there is in the picture before us. They sin, 1. Habitually
[All are not equally vicious in their lives, but all forget God, and neglect their own souls. Successive years serve only to confirm this habit. We may all adopt the confession of the church of old a.] 2. Deliberately
[It were well if we never sinned, but through ignorance or inadvertence: but what schemes have we formed for the accomplishment of sinful purposes ! How often have we seen the sinfulness of our desires, and yet gratified them ! The very bent and inclination of our souls has been towards wickedness C.] 3. Without restraint
[A regard to our reputation or interests may impose some restraint. A fear of hell may also prevent the gratification of some desires : but few are kept from evil, like Joseph, by the fear of God a : that is the only restraint which proves uniformly effectual e.] 4. Without remorse
a Jer. iii. 25. b Rom. i. 32. c Job xv, 16. d Gen. xxxix. 9. e Jam. ii. 11.
r inadvertenent of sinful purpand yet gratithas bee
· [We must at times have felt some convictions of conscience, but we, for the most part, stifle them by company, amusements, &c. Many attain to dreadful hardness of heart and impenitence. The prophet's description may well be applied to each of us 8.]
Thus are “men's hearts fully set in them to do evil” —
[They walk after the imagination of their own hearts : neither mercies nor judgments can prevail with them to do otherwise.]
If their sins were followed by a visible and immediate punishment, men would not dare to live in this manner; but God defers the execution of his judgments. II. The occasion of it,
God is not an unconcerned spectator of sin. He has appointed a day for the revelation of his righteous judgment. At present he forbears to inflict vengeance. This very forbearance emboldens men to sin—“because," “ therefore.” From the delay of punishment men think,
1. That there is but little “ evil” in sin. [God indeed calls sin “an evil work :" but his forbearance towards sinners is thought to indicate indifference. This however is a fatal delusion. He has marked the evil of sin in many awful instances h: he will soon undeceive this blind infatuated world'.] · 2. That there is no“sentence" gone forth againstit
[Men would gladly persuade themselves that they have no cause to fear. The temptation whereby the serpent beguiled Eve is cherished by themk. But the wrath of God is indeed denounced against sind. Every species and degree of sin renders us obnoxious to his displeasure m.]
3. That the sentence (if there be any) will never be “executed”—
[Since God defers punishing, it seems possible that he may decline it altogether. The apparent disproportion between the offence and the punishment seems to countenance this idea. To confirm our hope we are apt to compare God with ourselves n. But, however long God delay, he will surely strike at lasto]
Thus it is that men act in every age
f 1 Tim. iv, 2. i Eph. v. 6. m Rom. i. 18.
8 Jer. viii. 5, 6.
Gen. ü. 4. n Ps. 1. 21.
h 2 Pet. ii. 4–6.
Rom. ii. 8, 9. • Eccl. viii. 12, 13.
[David mentions this effect as arising from it in his day P. St.Peter foretells the prevalence of this iniquity in the last days . Experience proves how universally it obtains at this hour.] INFER
1. How great the folly, as well as wickedness, of unregenerate men!
[If there were only a bare possibility of eternal punishment, how mad were it to continue in sin! But God has pledged himself that he will inflict it on the impenitent". Every moment's continuance in sin increases the condemnations. What extreme folly then is it so to abuse the forbearance of God! May we be ashamed of ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes.]
2. What need have we to be cleansed by the blood and Spirit of Christ!
[What but the blood of Christ can ever expiate the guilt we have contracted ? What but the Spirit of Christ can ever deliver us from such habits? That we can never renew our own souls is certain. Let us therefore wash in the fountain opened for us "; and let us apply to God for his almighty aid*.]
3. How dreadful must be the state of those who continue impenitent!
[There is a certain measure of iniquity which sinners are left to fill upy: when this is full, nothing can avert the divine vengeance 2. Already are the arrows of divine justice pointed at them a. Eternity itself will be the duration of the punishment. The time is coming when Jerusalem's state will be ours. Let us then tremble lest we exhaust the divine patienced. Let us diligently improve this day of salvation ]
THE BLESsedness of fearinG GOD. Eccl. viii. 12. Surely I know that it shall be well with them which
fear God. NOTHING certain can be determined respecting God's favour from the outward dispensations of his providence”. The wicked seem on the whole to
a Eccl. ix. 1.