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and defective obedience. When conviction first lays hold of a sinner, however vain the attempt, he has still a strong inclination that righteousness “ should come by the law.” This is not wonderful; for in no other way can he himself have any title to glory, and a thorough renunciation of all self-interest, is too great a sacrifice to be made at once. Hence, he is ready to look with some measure of satisfaction on those who have been greater finners than himself, and fecretly to found his expectation of pardon for those fins he hath committed, on the superior heinousness of those from which he hath abstained. Hence also he is ready to hope he may make fufficient atonement for his past fins by future amendment: but a discovery of the holiness of God, and the obligation to love him with all the heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, foon destroys this fond imagination. It shews him that he can at no time do more than his duty; that he never can have any abounding or solicit. ing merit: nay, that a whole eternity, so to speak, of perfect obedience, would do just nothing at all towards expiating the guilt of the least sin. But besides all this, the same thing shews him, that his best duties are stained with such fins and im- 1 perfections, that he is still but adding to the charge, instead of taking from the old score ; for
“ we are all as an unclean thing, and all our “ righteousnesses are but as filthy rags; and we « all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like “ the wind, have carried us away *." Thus; one after another, he is stript of every plea, however eagerly he may cleave to them, and support or bolster up one, by the addition of another. He sees not only his danger, but his guilt ; not only the fearfulness of his state, but the holiness and righteousness of his judge. He lies down prostrate at the foot-ftool of the Almighty, and makes unmerited mercy and sovereign grace the only foundation of his hope.
SECT. IV. Of the degree of forraw for fin in true penitents.'
H AVING thus considered the proper source
of genuine convidion and sorrow for fing it was proposed next to enquire, to what degree. it must be, in order to a faving change. The truth is, were not this a question often proposed, and the resolution of it desired by serious persons, the weakest of whom deserve all attention and regard from every minister of Christ, I should have left it altogether untouched. The reason of this observation is, that I am persuaded, and take the
Isaiah Ixiv, 6.
present opportunity of affirming it, that the chief distinction between convictions genuine or falu' tary, and fuch as are only transitory and fruitless, does not lie in their strength and violence, so much as their principle and source, which has been formerly explained.
There is often as great, or, perhaps, it may be safely faid there is often a greater degree of terror in persons brought under occasional convi&tions, which are afterwards fruitless, than in others in whom they are the introduction to a saving change. It is probable that the horror of mind which posfeffed Cain after his brother's murder, was of the most terrible kind. It is probable that the humiliation of Ahab, after he had caused Naboth to be destroyed by false evidence, and was threatned with a dreadful vifita-' tion, was exceeding great. It is probable that the mere paffion of fear in either of these crimin nals was equal, if not superior, to the fear of any true penitent recorded in fcripture. It is the principle that diftinguishes their nature. It is the differing principle that produces opposite effects. The one is alarmed and trembles through fear of wrath from an irresistible and incensed God; the other is truly sensible of fin in all its malignity, and fears the sanction of a righteous but violated law. The one feels himself a miserable creature; the other confesses himself a guilty sinner. The one is terrified, and the other is humbled.
It is some doubt with me, whether in fruitless convictions there is any sense at all of fin, as such; I mean, as truly meriting punishment from a just and holy God. Such persons ordinarily are displeased at the holiness of God's nature, and murmur at the strictness of his law; and there. fore, however much they may dread suffering here or hereafter, they cannot be said to be convinced of fin. We have seen fome who, when affli&tions brought their fins to remembrance, were but driven on, by despair, to higher degrees of guilt, and, the more they seemed to fear the approaching judgment of God, only increased in the impatience of blaspheming rage.
However, as there is a great measure of deceit in the human heart, some may be ready to fatter themselves, on the one hand, that they have seen the evil of sin in itself; and fome, on the other, to fear that they have not seen it as they, ought, because their forrow has not risen to the requisite. degree. Many have expressed uneasiness that they never mourned for fin in a manner correfponding to the strong scripture declarations of its odious and hateful nature, or to the following description of gospel penitents : " And I will “ pour upon the house of David, and upon the « inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace " and supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn
« for him as one mourneth for his only son, and “ Thall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in “ bitterness for his first-born *.” For this reason I shall make an observation or two on the degree of sorrow for fin in true penitents, which may enable us to judge in every question of the same nature.
1. One thing, in general, must be carefully remembered, that we ought not to lay down one rule for all persons. We are not to measure the forrow of any true penitent, and make a standard from it for the effects or expressions of sorrow in any other. The strength of all the passions, and their readiness to express themselves, is greater naturally in some chan in others. There is nothing of which men may be more sensible from daily experience. Love and hatred, joy and grief, defire and averfion, shew themselves by much more violent emotions in some than in others. It would be wrong, therefore, to reduce all to one rule, and none ought to look upon it as a just cause of disquiet, that they have not had the fame degree or depth of distress and anguish which others have had, of whom they have read or heard. Another circumstance may also be the occasion of diversity. In some, convictions may have been more early and gradual, and, therefore, Jess violent and sensible. It is not to be supposed • Zech. xii. 10.