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light on the subject. The holy law is the unalterable rule of right and wrong, in respect of all men however distinguished: nor is it possible, that God should judge of characters and actions by any other rule; for the law is the exact reflection of his infinite holiness, and he "cannot deny him"self." He can, however, pardon the guilty, and make allowance for unavoidable disadvantages. They who know not the will of God and do it "not shall be beaten with few stripes: but they "who know and refuse to do his will shall be "beaten with many stripes." It will be "more "tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and "Gomorrah," than for those who heard the doctrines and saw the miracles of Christ, and did not repent and believe the gospel.
The apostle therefore adds a few verses after the text, "As many as have sinned without law "shall also perish without law." They have indeed violated the perfect rule of duty: but, as they had not the advantage of the written word, they will not be liable to so heavy a condemnation, as wicked Jews and Christians: yet, as they acted against the dictates of their own reason and conscience, those remains of the law originally "written in the heart," they "will perish without "law." For, "being a law to themselves," their consciences may indeed excuse some parts of their conduct, but they must condemn others; especially "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of "men by Jesus Christ:" so that " every mouth "will be stopped, and all the world become guilty
Luke xii. 47, 48.
"before God." All, except idiots, (who scarcely can be thought accountable creatures,) know far better than they practise, and might know much more, were not their hearts set against the truth through love of sin. All men must therefore be condemned according to this rule; and the number, and aggravation of their crimes, compared with the measure of their advantages, is the standard by which their punishment will be ascertained, by the infinitely righteous Judge.
What the Lord may do in mercy to any of his sinful creatures, it does not become us to inquire beyond what he hath seen good to reveal: but we have no ground to suppose that any who die without spiritual religion can be happy in another world: and neither scripture nor history countenance the opinion, that the Lord gives his sanctifying Spirit where he has not sent some measure of the light of revelation. We are sure however, that the state of the pagans will be far better than that of wicked Christians, so called. While we therefore rejoice in our privileges, we may tremble lest they should increase our condemnation: and the state of the nations, who still sit in darkness " and the shadow of death," should animate our endeavours, and excite our prayers for their conversion.
The apostle adds, " as many as have sinned un"der the law, shall be judged by the law." The Jews rejected the gospel, and sought justification by the works of the law." Deists discard revelation, and rely on their own moral conduct to recommend
'Rom. iii. 19.
them to God; and various descriptions of professed Christians form a complex law of works, out of the religion of the New Testament. But, whatever system men favoured with revelation may adopt, if they put the event of the great decisive day on their own works, as the ground of their confidence; they will be judged according to the holy law of God, and fall under its awful curse. "Christ is become of none effect to them: they "are fallen from grace, and become debtors to do "the whole law." The advantages which such men enjoy, the crimes which they commit, their proud aversion to the humbling salvation of the gospel, and the degree of their enmity and opposition to the truth, will determine the measure of their guilt and punishment, according to the decision of unerring wisdom and infinite justice.
Some observations have already been made on the case of those who allow the doctrines of Christianity, renounce dependence on their own works, and profess to expect pardon, righteousness, and eternal life," as the gift of God through Jesus "Christ our Lord." Such persons, when the Lord shall come, will be judged according to this profession; and, if their faith be shewn to have been living and genuine, by its holy fruits, according to the discoveries which have been mentioned, they will, as justified believers, receive the reward of righteousness; and their future glory and felicity will be proportioned to the degree of their grace and obedience of faith. But, if their conduct and dispositions have proved that they were not true
'Gal. v. 1---6.
believers, they will remain under the condemna-` · tion of the law, aggravated by their abuse of the gospel; and so have "their portion with hypocrites" and unbelievers.
IV. Let us then make some particular application of the subject.
It has been before remarked, that " we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ ;" and let this reflection sink deep into every heart. Men voluntarily break the laws of their country, but dire compulsion takes place when they are convicted and executed for their crimes. The young man, rejoicing in his vigour and flow of spirits, may give a loose to his passions; but let him remember that "for all these things God will bring him into judgment." You may now forget God; but he will not forget you, or any of your works. You may affront his justice, and despise his mercy; but he will shortly say, "It is a people of no under
standing; therefore he that made them will not "have mercy on them."1 Now is the day of the Lord's patience: but the day of wrath and perdition of ungodly men approaches: now he invites you to draw near to his throne of grace; shortly he will summon you to his awful tribunal. "Seek
ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon "him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake "his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; " and let him return unto the Lord, and he will "have mercy on him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." "Strive to enter in at the "strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in, and
Isa. xxvii. 11.
"shall not be able. When once the master of the "house is risen up, and hath shut to the door;" it will be for ever in vain for those that stand without, to cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us." Now the Saviour pleads with you in accents of tenderest love; "How long ye simple ones will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in their scorning, "and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my re"proof, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will "make known my words unto you." But ere long he will frown on the impenitent and unbelieving, and say, "Because I called and ye refused, I"stretched out my hands and no man regarded; "-therefore shall ye eat the fruit of your own
ways," and be filled with your own devices." "Oh that men were wise, that they understood "these things, that they would consider their latter "end!" 1
But will any of you, with this solemn season of discovery and decision before your eyes, deliberately put the event of it upon the goodness of your hearts and lives? Is there not in your very soul an involuntary shrinking from so strict and awful a scrutiny? Do you not feel a disposition to say, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O "Lord?" "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, "O Lord, who may stand?" As you value your immortal souls, do not now insist on any plea, which you feel to be inadmissible in the great day of righteous retribution. Stand not on any distinction between your case and that of your fellow sinners. Seek above all things an interest in the
'Prov. i. 19-31. Deut. xxxii. 29.