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creditors : and the arrival of a fleet with provisions, in a time of urgent famine, occasions a joy of which such as live in plenty can form no adequate conception. We must therefore understand something of our own condition, before we can cordially welcome the gospel of Christ : and inattention or mistake, in this respect, forms one grand reason why so many slight the message of salvation. But lectures on moral duties, separated from the doctrines of grace, no more meet the cause of lost sinners, than extracts from the statute-book can give comfort and hope to condemned criminals. We may know something of our situation by
and the scripture further explains the humiliating and alarming subject. It cannot be denied that the world is full of crimes and miseries : this is equally certain, whether men believe or disbelieve the Bible. Even they who are averse to the doctrine of human depravity, when applied to themselves and their connexions, shew by the caution with which they transact their affairs, that they consider mankind in general as basely selfish ; and he who at first disdains this sentiment, as unjust and illiberal, will be at length constrained to adopt it, or become a prey to designing men. Hence it is that incautious young persons, having been repeatedly deceived, often grow suspicious and peevish as they advance in years ; and manifest their vexation by reviling this or the other class of men : as if the fault lay in their rank or profession, and were not common to the human species, however restrained, disguised, or modified ; except as true religion produces an effectual change of disposition.
At the same time, it is evident that all our com
forts are entwined with cares and disquietudes ; every enjoyment, after a while, palls and grows insipid ; all our possessions are precarious, and may either be torn from us, or become the causes of the most exquisite anguish. Pain and sickness are entailed upon us ; death is certain, and who knows how near ? Its approach is dreadful, its stroke inevitable, and its visible effects intolerably mortifying. A dark gloom overshadows the rest : who, but he that believes the sure testimony of God, can say what is beyond the grave? Yet there are forebodings of future retribution, which most men experience to their additional alarm : so that numbers seem to suffer many deaths in fearing one. To escape such distressing reflections, they whoare not confined by daily business have recourse to dissipated pleasures. These at first yield a childish delight; but soon become irksome, unless novelty be superadded by unceasing variety. This is the real secret of public and private diversions ; and of the liberality with which immense sums are expended in encouraging new species of amusement, however frivolous and absurd. These enable men for a moment to escape from the tediousness of life, or the anguish of solitude and reflection ; and tend to promote forgetfulness of God, of death, and of a judgment to come.
We appeal to every man's feelings and observation whether this description does not accord with facts ? and whether it has any dependence on peculiar religious opinions. Let us then inquire what light the scriptures throw upon the subject. There we learn that “God made man in his own image,'' and created the world“ very good :" but that the
first parents of our race ungratefully rebelled against their bountiful Creator, and disobeyed his express and easy command. Thus “ by one man “ sin entered into the world, and death by sin; “and so death passed upon all men, for that all “ have sinned.” The holy image of God was also effaced, and from that time man was naturally incapable of spiritual felicity, dead in sin, and prone to every kind of evil.
When the root of our race thus fell, all the branches fell with him, and became mortal and sinful ; from the heart of fallen men evil thoughts, words, and works, continually proceed : and the natural effect of their crimes unites with the righteous indignation of God, in rendering this life a scene of labour and sorrow: and, as “it is ap“pointed to all men once to die, and after death the “ judgment ;” still more terrible miseries may justly be dreaded in a future world. A criminal may suffer many things previously to his trial and condemnation, but his principal punishment folfows afterwards. And, as the human soul is subject to sinful passions, corresponding to the diseases of the body : we not only must inevitably be exposed to condemnation at the tribunal of God; but we also carry in our lapsed nature the seeds of misery and destruction.
We have, however, another view given us, in the sacred oracles, of our actual condition, still more suited “ to stop every mouth, and to bring “ in all the world guilty before God.” We are doubtless, as reasonable creatures, accountable to our supreme Governor and Judge, for every part of our conduct ; and his holy law is the rule, by which every disposition, word, and action must be tried. Now who does not feel that he has in many instances violated the reasonable and righteous commandments of God who has not heard that “cursed is every one that continueth not in all “ things written in the book of the law, to do “ them?"
Thus “the scripture hath concluded all under “sin :” and it was not without cause, I hope not without meaning, that we this morning added, after each of the commandments, ‘Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.'
The man, who carefully compares his past and present conduct with this most strict and spiritual standard, will soon find his own conscience bring in a verdict against him: "and, if our heart con“demn us, God is greater than our heart and “ knoweth all things."
No repentance or amendment can compensate for past offences ; because we cannot in any instance exceed our present duty ; and our debt increases in proportion as we still fall short of perfect obedience. Nor can we estimate the intrinsic evil of our sins against the infinite majesty of heaven, or the punishment we deserve for our ungrateful rebellion.
When we attempt to frame our conduct by the holy law of God, we feel a surprizing reluctance and backwardness to this most reasonable service, and a strong propensity to disobedience. Evil dispositions, though common to all, are in some exceedingly strengthened by habit, and rendered ungovernable by peculiar temptations. Such men, therefore, as have serious thoughts and form good
purposes, commonly find their resolutions enervated, and their endeavours baffled: and after some fruitless efforts they return to their former course of life, unless relieved by the gospel of Christ.
When these things are seriously considered, the condition of mankind appears truly deplorable. Related to God and an eternal world ; exposed to death and a future judgment; already guilty of many
heinous crimes, and propense to increase the number; liable to final condemnation, and “ves“ sels of wrath fitted to destruction;" what can any one do to rescue or ransom himself or his brother from the awful sentence already published by the Judge, “Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire, “prepared for the devil and his angels ?” It is in vain to reason and dispute against facts, and the sure testimony of scripture. “ Who art thou that “ repliest against God ? Shall not the Judge of all “ the earth do right? Shall mortal man be more
just than God? Shall a man be more pure than “ his Maker?"1
Let us rather submit to his righteousness, and seek that relief which his gospel proposes to us. The Lord, against whom we have rebelled, hath revealed himself to us as “merciful and gracious, “ forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin ;” and hath made way for the exercise of his boundless mercy, in harmony with infinite justice and holiness, in the person, redemption, and mediation of his beloved Son. And the divine Saviour, having made a complete atonement for sin, “ brought in
Job iv. 17.