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plunged in the deepest guilt, by his adultery and murder in the matter of Uriah; commonly, that it was in the time of his perfecution, when the imminent dangers to which he was fo often exposed, brought his fing strongly to remembrance. Reserving what is here faid of the mercy of God to another opportunity, let us now consider the view given us of his justice, in this paffage, “ If thou, “ Lord, fhouldft mark iniquities, O Lord, who
fhall ftand ?" For this purpose 1 shall,
1. Endeavour to ascertain and explain the meaning of the pfalmift's affertion.
2. Support and confirm it from scripture and experience.
3. In the last place, I shall make a practical improvement of what may be said upon ? : it.
I. Let us then, first, endeavour to afcer. tain and explain the meaning of the psalmist's expression, “ If thou, Lord, shouldst mark. “iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?” These words evidently carry in them the deepesti sense of fin, a strong and inward conviction, of the impoffibility of justifying himself before.. a pure and holy God, if he should deal with him as in justice he might : “1f thou, “ Lord, shouldft marķ iniquities, O Lord, who « Ihall stand ?” God is an omniscient being, every where present, to whom all our
thoughts and ways, and consequently all our fins, are and must be perfectly known. The expression, then, cannot mean, that there are any fins unregarded, or not observed of God; because this is impossible. The marking of iniquities here, seems to be an allusion to what paffes in human courts, where the judges set i down, or put upon record all that is brought : against the criminal, in order to found a fen: tence of condemnation. In this view, the meaning must be, if God fhould so mark ini. quities, as to proceed to punish us for all of which we were really guilty, there could be no possibility of standing such an impartial trial.
I need not tell you, that the putting the words in the form of a question, “ O Lord, " who shall stand ?” does not imply, that there is any uncertainty in the matter, or that any can be found pure enough to endure such a scrutiny, but rather serves to deny it in the strongest manner. Again, we are not to suppose, that the psalmist, by putting the question thus in general, “ Who shall stand ?" designed to turn the accusation from himself, or to extenuate his own fins, by bringing in O.. thers equally guilty. This is indeed the prac- . tice of many in the world, who seem to think the numbers of those who are chargeable with any fin, an excuse or palliation of the guilt of particular offenders. But the true spirit of
repentance leads to very different sentiments : it makes the finner fix upon his own faults, and point at the fins and plagues of his own heart, without thinking upon the fins of others, unless as they may be an occasion of discovering to him more of the depravation and wickedness of his own nature. So that the genuine import of the psalmist's expression seems to be, If thou, Lord, shouldst execute the decrees of justice, and punish every thing that is done amiss, the holiest man on earth. would not be able to abide the trial; how much less would such a finner as I be able to ftand?
II. I proceed now to support and confirm this truth from scripture and experience. And you will be pleased to observe, that it is the constant doctrine of the holy scriptures ; it is the uniform language of humility and penitence there. Thus the pfalmift, Pf. cxliii. 2. “ Enter not into judgement with thy servant : “ for in thy fight shall no man living be ju“ ftified.” To the fame purpofe, see the language of Job, ch. ix, 2. 3. 4. “I know it is so “ of a truth : but how should man be just with " God ? If he will contend with him, he “ cannot answer him one of a thousand. He " is wife in heart, and mighty in strength : “who hath hardened himself against him, “ and hath prospered ?” A clear discovery
of the infinite majesty of God, the unspotted holiness of His nature, the extent, the purity, and spirituality of his law, will immediately carry home a conviction of this truth, and make us fenfible what impure and wretched ereatures we are : it will make every one of us cry out with Job, after a discovery of the divine glory and perfection, ch. xl. 4. 5. “Be“ hold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? “ I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. • Once have I fpoken, but I will not an“ fwer: yea, twice, but I will proceed no
further." And again, ch. xlii. 5. 6. “I “ have heard of thee by the hearing of the
eye seeth thee. Where* fore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and " afhes.” Every true penitent will say, with the pfalmift, Pf. xix. 12. "Who can under"* ftand his errors ? cleanse thou me from se“ cret faults.” Náy, he will confider his daily preservation as an evidence of the divine patience, in the suspension of his fentence, as in Lam. iii. 22. 23.
" It is of the Lord's mer.. « cies that we are not consumed, becaufe his
compaffions fail not. They are new every “ morning : great is thy faithfulnefs.”
These, my brethren, are examples of the sentiments and language of the scripturesaints; and if we look a little into their cha.. racters, as fet before us in the inspired writings, we shall fee, that felf-abasement is one
of the most certain proofs of true religion ; that the more any person has made real improvement in holiness, he will think and speak in so much the humbler manner; will more clearly see the evil of fin, and more readily confess its power and influence over his own heart. I know this is very contrary to the spirit that prevails in the world; and particularly opposite to the reigning temper of the present age. I know also, that there are many objections raised against this fundamental truth. But instead of wrangling controversy, in which our understandings are often loft, and our passions irritated, rather than fubdued; for further inforcing the above truth, I shall only urge every hearer to a serious and impartial reflection upon his own conduct. This, I am perfuaded, will, by the blessing of God, be the most effectual mean of filencing the reasonings of the carnal mind, and forcing the conscience to a confeffion, both of the equity of the law, and the guilt of disobedience.
For attaining this end, I shall just propose three general subjects of examination; and beg that you may shew fidelity to your own souls, in bringing them to the trial.
1. How many duties have you.omitted, which you must be sensible you ought to have performed ? 2. How often have you been guilty of express tranfgressions of the law of God? 3. How