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All MANKIND by NATURÉ under Sin.

A

S E R M O N.

ROMANS iii. 23.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

TH

HE whole revelation of the will of God to mankind,

both in the Old Testament and the New, proceeds upon the supposition that they are finners; that is to fay, transgressors of his law, and liable to the stroke of his juftice. This only can give meaning to the doctrine of redemption. None can understand, at least none can relish or embrace it, unless they believe, and are persuaded of this preliminary truth.

What I have now said, appears from many express pafsages of the holy scriptures; and is particularly evident from the general strain, and from the very structure of the epistle to the Romans. In it the apostle, who had never been at Rome, gives a full and particular account of the doctrine of Christ; and he lays the foundation for this by a distinct and labored proof, that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin.. In imitation of his example, I intend to begin my discourses on practical religion, by endeavoring to impress your minds with a fenfe of the fame truth. This must lead the way to the saving knowledge of the Redeemer; and as he only can build fecurely, who takes care that every part of the superstructure reft immediately or ultimately upon the foundation, it is as necessary to be remembered by faints, as to be re-. ceived by finners.

It may perhaps, on a slight view, appear to be superfinous. * All mankind,' some will say, are ready to ac

knowledge that they are finners; and there is great rea"fon to believe they are sincere in this confession. But, my brethren, a little reflection may convince you, that thris general acknowledgment is either very insincere, or very imperfect and defective. It is plainly a light sense of lin that enables the multitude to sleep in fecurity. It is plainly a light sense of fin that betrays men into the commission of it, and emboldens them to continue in it. It is plainly a light sense of fin that blunts the edge of all the threatenings in the word of God, and the admonitions of his providence. Is it not from a light sense of sin, that when the preaching of the gospel is not wholly deserted, its inestimable truths are received without thankfulness, and heard without profit?

For these reasons, I propose, through the allistance of divine grace, to discourse a little on the words of the apoftle now read : “For all have finned, and come short of the

glory of God:” And, in so doing, shall

1. Endeavor to confirm the truth contained in them, That all mankind are finners, or transgressors of the law of God, and liable to his rigliteous judgment. And,

2. Shall make a practical improvement of the subject.

I. In the first place, then, let us endeavor to confirm the truth contained in the text, That all mankind are finners, or transgressors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgment. And here, my brethren, it puts me a little to a stand, in what manner to handle this important subject; whether in the way of reason or affection; whe.. ther in the way of cool and conclusive arguments directed to the judgment, or pointed interrogatories directed to the conscience. Many, nay, innumerable, are the cavils that, have been brought by men of corrupt minds against this fundamental truth. The father of lies, indeed, seems to consider it, and justly, as the corner-stone of true religion, which, if he is able to weaken or undermine, it must end in the fall and ruin of the whole fabric. If there be any. among yoll, as poflibly there are, infected with the poisoa

of infidelity, all exhortation and warning will be treated by such with disdain, while their objections, however weak, have not been brought into view. On the other hand, there are multitudes of finners borne away by lust and passion, who are incapable of understanding the force of speculative reasoning, and who have an unhappy tendency to overlook, as what does not concern them, every thing that is treated in that way. I shall be obliged, therefore, to have an eye to both: and oh! that it may please God to enable me fo to propose to the judgment, and so to press upon the conscience, this necessary truth, as that some careless persons may be awakened, and brought to an attention to the one thing needful; and that if any have hitherto taken up with imperfect notions of religion, and built their hope upon the fand, they may be persuaded in time to distrust that dangerous situation, and to found it upon the Rock of ages.

For the reason above assigned, it is difficult to determine, what use is to be made of fcripture-testimony on such a subject. The charge of guilt upon the finner, seems to be only preparatory to, and must, as it were, pave the way for the reception of scripture-truths. If the testimony of God in fcripture is to be refted on, this one passage is fufficient; but the unbelieving heart is ready to challenge and call in question every such scripture-declaration. I find the worthy author of a well-known catechisin, commonly used in the instruction of Children, joins together fcripture and experience, in the answer to that question, How do you know, that you are born in a state of fin " and misery?” Anf. “ God's word tells me fo. Besides, “ I find my heart naturally backward to that which is good, " and prone to that which is evil.” After this example, and confidering, that by the law is the knowledge of fin, we shall not separate them; tbe rather, that God is able to make his own word, even in the bare repetition of it, quick and powerful, Heb. iv. 12. In the further illustration of this head, therefore, I shall, first briefly lay before you some of the scripture-cleclarations on this subject; and, secondly, confirm them from experience, the visible ftate of the world, and the testimony of our own hearts.

· First, Allow me to lay before you some of the scripturedeclarations on this subject. And that I may avoid handling the subject fyítematically, and tediously, I join together original and actual sin. Every one who is able to understand what I say, is concerned in both: and indeed they are inseparable the one from the other. The deplorable wickedness in which the world in general is overwhelmed, hath flowed in a continued stream from the first fin of Adam; and the finfulness of every person's practice has the corruption of liis nature as its fruitful source. See the account given of the world, Gen. vi. 5. “ And “ God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, “and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart

was only evil continually.” This you may compare with Gen. viii. 21. " And the Lord said, I will not «again curse the ground any more for man's fake ; for the "imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. See also the confession of David, Pfal. li. 5.

“ Behold, " I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother con- : u ceive me.” In this the Pfalm.ist plainly and cleary teaches the original and universal corruption of our nature. What he asserts concerning himself, must be equally true of all the human race; otherwise, instead of making a proper part of his confession, it would be an excuse or ex. tenuation of his fin. "Nothing can more plainly show the force of this text, than the aukward endeavors used by fome to evade or misinterpret it. For example, how mean a subterfuge is it, to pretend, that David declared, he was frapen in iniquity, and conceived by his mother in fin; because he was the issue of some criminal co merce between his father and a maid-fervant, or between the wife of Jesse and another man? This is plainly a profine invention, offered without any manner of proof, or the least infinuation in the history of that great prince. Besides, it is evidently beside his purpose in the psalm refered to, where he is confessing his own finful nature, and not the finful deeds of his parents.' If there be meaning in words, his intention is, to humble himself before God, not only for his adultery and murder in the matter of Uriah, but as a transgressor from the womb.

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To this you may add the testimony of a greater than David, viz. our blesed Lord and Saviour himself

, John ii. 6. “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and " that which is born of the Spirit, is fpirit.” For understanding the proof drawn from his text, you may obferve, that though the word flesh has various fignifications in fcripture; sometimes, for example, fignifying the weakness of our mortal nature, unable to support itself, and liable to a variety of changes, which must at last end in diffolution; yet here it evidently fignifies our nature as corrupted by fin. This appears from the opposition of the two clauses : for it is certain, that those who are regenerated, are still liable to all the weakness of mortality. It muft therefore bear the same meaning in this place as in Rom. viii. 8. “So then they that are in the flesh, cannot

please God.” It is with a view to this great truth that Job, who pleads with so much warınth his general integrity, yet says, Job xiv. 3, 4. “ And dost thou open thine

eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment, “ with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an un66 clean ? Not one.

With this agree many other fcripture-declarations, some of which I shall mention. Psal. xiv. 2, 3, “ The Lord “ looked down from heaven upon the children of men ; to « see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. “ They are allgone afide, they are alltogether become filthy: " there is none that doth good, no, not one.” Pl. lviii. 3, “ The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray Was soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Isaiah xlviii. 8. " Yea, thou heardlt not, yea, thou knewest not, yea, from “ that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that " thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and wast called 4

tranfgreffor from the womb,” Rom. iii. 9, 10, 11, 12, « What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise ; “ für we have before proyed both Jews and Gentiles, that " they are all under sin ; as it is written, There is none " righteous, no not one: There is none that understand“ eth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all

gone out of the way, they are together become unpro

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