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grees, when it is made familiar to you in the example and conversation of your friend. Now if this be the case, and we shall find it so in fact, however we may reason about it, there seems to be nothing left for a man who pays a proper attention to his virtue, and to our rule in the text, but to renounce and break off all such acquaintance absolutely. This is hard and difficult, we say; but be it recollected, that Christ knew it to be so; for he takes his examples from things the most painful and severe. This instance, it is true, requires more than ordinary resol:ition, for we may have the censure of the world, as well as our own inclination to struggle with. But I can only say that they both are to be set at nought, when our duty and the salvation of our souls are at stake.
But we proceed to consider the reason our Saviour gives for this command. It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.'
Every sound plan of religion, and consequently the plan of the gospel, is only putting men in the best way of promoting their own happiness, and providing for their own interest. It is on our own account, for our own sakes, after all, that we are bound to perform the laws of our religion, because ourselves only will be the sufferers by the violation of them. For the present, possibly, we may have to undergo some mortification, or pain, or self denial; and yet it is our real pleasure and happiness, upon the whole, that is aimed at by the prohibition. As we are obliged and willing to take a very bitter medicine, or suffer a very painful operation, not for the sake of tormenting ourselves for the present, but in order to amend our health for the future; so is the case with every thing we suffer, or every thing we give up on the score of religion ; that is, it is with a view of being bettered and benefitted by it at the conclusion. If we give up father, mother, and brother, and sister; or, as this expression further denotes, riches, and honor, and pleasures, and diversions, or any thing else we take delight in, it is to receive tenfold reward, and in the world to come life everlasting. The severest trials we are put upon, if we are to cut off our right hand or pluck out our right eye, such is the instance before us, it is that our whole body may not be cast into hell ; it is to escape those punishments which will be, beyond all comparison, more grievous to be borne, than any thing we ever experienced. Certainly we are not, and possibly we could not have been made acquainted with the particular kind or state of happiness we are to enjoy, or the punishment we are to undergo, in the next world; but we may be sure it is in God's power to make them both such as will far exceed any thing we can get or lose in this world, any pleasure that sin can give us, any pain that virtue costs us. This much is intimated, or rather plainly declared, by the words of the text, that what we shall suffer hereafter for our sins is as much beyond any thing we can suffer here by giving them up, as the destruction of the whole body is beyond the loss of a single limb. And then, surely, our Saviour had a right to charge us to suffer the one rather than suffer the other.
It is to be lamented that men cannot be brought to understand, that they are to act in the business of their religion only upon the same principles and grounds that they act upon in their own common concerns and transactions. A situation or pursuit, however pleasant or delightful at present, if we foresaw that it would lead to nothing but ruin and disgrace, we should quit most certainly in common prudence. In like manner, if we had made any advantages for the present, though apparently considerable ; and if we observed that they were very uncertain advantages which the next day or even hour might take away, I suppose that we should prefer a smaller, but more regular return, which might be trusted to always. Now it is but this, and no more than this, that we are required to do by Christ's command. Sin, be it ever so pleasurable or ever so profitable, must not be long; its pleasures and its profits must end with our lives, generally much sooner; but who shall count, who shall say what or when will be the end of the misery it brings us to ? If we gain the whole world and lose our own souls, you may remember who it is that hath said it profiteth nothing. Few, or rather, be it said, none, ever went through more for their religion than St Paul; yet he could say, and he had every reason to know, that his sufferings were not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed ;' all the struggles, all the self denial, all the pains we go through to preserve our virtue, will meet with, we may be assured, a proportionable reward, a far more exceeding weight of glory.
Upon the whole, then, to sum up the doctrine of the discourse, if there be nothing in our business, condition, or manner of life, which tempts us to practise deceit, injustice, or any thing which we cannot reconcile to our consciences; if it does not breed in us pride, covetousness, desire of worldly wealth, and the contempt of every thing beside ; if there be nothing in our way of life, company, or pleasures, which leads to drunkenness, revelling, or excess of any kind, we may think our
selves very happy, and have cause to be thankful. If there be any such occasions or temptations more than we can withstand, or in fact do withstand, it is the command of our Saviour, and the express command which none can alter, that we fly froni them, though it oblige us to suffer as much as the loss of a right hand or eye; though we give up an advantage ever so great, or part with a pleasure we are ever so fond of.
A SENSE OF SIN TO BE KEPT UP IN OUR MINDS.
PSALM XL. 15.
For innumerable troubles are come about me; my sins have taken such hold
upon me that I am not able to look up; yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me.
A CONViction of sin is oftentimes the beginning of religion in the heart. It is oftentimes a source of anguish and despair. Yet, with all its bitterness and all its danger, it produces a frame of mind more hopeful as to salvation than insensibility. I do not mean that it is more hopeful than the reasonable satisfaction and assurance which arises in the heart from the recollection of a well spent life, or even of sincere, broken, and imperfect endeavours after such a life; but it is more comfortable than unconcernedness, for that has no recollection to build upon. It is the property of a man, and, God knows, there are millions such, who, when danger is at hand, seeks security by shutting his eyes against danger.
Now all who feel within themselves a strong conviction of their sin, I desire they will go to the text I have read to you. It describes their case ; it exposes their feeling and their sufferings, and it leads them into the right direction. The words of the text bear about them the marks and tokens of reality. It seems impossible to entertain a doubt but that the person who wrote them, was at that time laboring and struggling under powerful workings and impressions of conscience ; under a deep sense of guiltiness before God, and of the shame and misery, self condemnation and debasement, which belong to such a condi
tion when it is perceived. Perhaps it is more than we ought to presume, and more than the truth, that this person was a greater sinner than the generality of men. It might be only that he perceived his condition; and there is as much difference between the man who does, and the man who does not perceive his situation, as between two sinners of very unequal magnitude.
Let us now see how the inward compunctions and stirrings of the writer's conscience operated ; what thoughts it raised in him, what expressions it drew from him.
First, he is covered, not only with remorse and fear, but with confusion. “My sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up.' It is a strong, significant expression, have taken such hold upon me,' for they do indeed take hold ; they seize the mind. The remembrance of sin, with the reflections which belong to it, possesses, where it enters, the whole soul; and it ought to do so. As they take hold of the thoughts, so they do of the spirits. Men are disturbed in their spirits by the evils of life; but sin, when understood, makes the evils of life nothing; it displaces them, by presenting something more near to us than they are. The force with which sin perceived, sin understood, seizes the spirits and the thoughts, is well expressed by the Psalmist, when he tells of their taking hold of him. And they overwhelm him with shame and confusion. It was not the shame of men, for his sins might be unknown to them; it was not that sort of confusion which he alludes to, but it was shame and confusion before God. And this very often exists in reality; nay, so much so, that the man who has never felt it, ought to doubt with himself whether religion be indeed within him. It is a different thing from the shame of men; it is a secret humiliation and debasement, when we call to mind our behaviour, as towards God. The Publican in the gospel would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven. He felt bis humiliation and self debasement; yet was it entirely between his God and him. The Pharisee saw him afar off, but it is not said that he saw the Pharisee, or that he was moved by the presence of men, or by any consideration of the presence of men; nay, the contrary must be taken for granted, to give proper force and significance to the parable. It must be taken on the Publican's part, to have been a secret and close communication with his Maker.
Now observe the progress of the Psalınist's meditations ; My sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up;' and why? You hear the reason; • They are more
memory as toubary state of mind er. An ordinary crowd and
Sely upon the when a man in num
in number than the hairs of my head. This is to perceive sin. When we begin to see our sins as they are, they crowd and multiply upon us beyond number. An ordinary mind, or a man in an ordinary state of mind, bears nothing, possibly, in his memory as touching his sins, but a few flagitious, very vicious actions, if he has in the course of his life been guilty of any. But these cannot, in the worst men, be said to be more in number than the hairs of his head. It is only when a man comes to think more deeply and closely upon the subject, that he is made to perceive the number of his sins, and understand them, as the Psalmist did. Let us place fairly and fully before our eyes the laws of God. Let us call to mind, not slightly, but thoroughly, our thoughts, our affections, our desires, and passions; what has passed within, as well as what has passed without us; and lastly, our words, and actions, and conduct; not in a few great instances of flagrant offences, which may, indeed, or may not be really more sinful, but are more strikingly such, because coming under human laws and opinions. I say, let us not confine our attention to these, which we are apt to do; but direct it to the examination of our conduct in its ordinary course. Let us do this, and we shall see that our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head. For example; What is it which we owe to God, which we know to be due to him? • To love him with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength.' Have we done so ? Have not, on the contrary, our lives been a constant failure of duty in this very article? Wherein bave we come up to this rule? Wherein have we not come short of it? Yet it is both our rule and our reason. The rule carries our obligation no farther than reason carries it. Such a being, such a benefactor as. God is, is entitled to our love, and to be loved with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength. Deficiencies, therefore, in this respect, are sins truly and actually such.
Then, as to mankind, our benevolence is to be as strong as our self interest; we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Self interest is a motive of action usually strong and powerful enough ; benevolence ought to be equally strong and powerful. It ought to be so; for that is the meaning of the rule. Yet is it so? is it any thing like it? Here, therefore, we must see in ourselves a humiliating deficiency of duty.
Again : Look to the ten commandments themselves ; look not to their letter, but their spirit ; look to them as expounded, in some instances, by our Lord himself in his sermon upon the mount, and consequently as justly admitting the same exposition