Page images



PSALM, lxxii. 18.

Surely thou didst set them in slippery places.

This is the observation of David on the situation of the ungodly. In the preceding part of this psalm, he describes his distress of mind while contemplating the dispensations of providence, toward the righteous and wicked. He saw the wicked in the height of prosperity, and the righteous in the depth of adversity ; and how to reconcile this with the moral rectitude of God, he knew not. The house of God was the place, and probably his word the means of removing his wrong apprehensions, and his distress of mind. 16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me ; until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery

Here he learnt, from the word of God, the end of the wicked. This unfolded all the mysteries of God's dispensations toward them in the present life. When through the medium of divine revelation, he come to see, and understood the end of the wicked, he


made this solemn reflection, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places ; thou castest them down into destruction.” These words in this connexion bring up to our view this solemn truth which we shall illustrate.

That the situation of the ungodly is an exceedingly dangerous situation, notwithstanding all present appearances to the contrary.

It is a certain fact, that the real situation of mankind is very different, even in this world, from what it

appears to be on a partial view.

Some persons appear to be very rich ; live in the pomp of independent magnificence, when the truth is, they are very poor.

Some men appear to be at peace in themselves, and to enjoy an undisturbed tranquillity of mind, while their bosoms are torn with corroding cares and vexing disquietudes. Our views of men and things are very partial, and from such partial views, we are exposed to draw false conclusions. We are apt to judge both of men and things according to present appearances. Thus we are apt to judge of the state of the wicked, according to their present appearance. When we see them apparently at ease, in possession of an abundance of the common good things of providence, we are ready to pronounce them happy. To temporal enjoyments much is commonly attached ; hence the rich, the honourable, the prosperous are considered the only happy; when perhaps at the same time, they are the enemies of God, and have no treasures, but of a worldly nature ; no pleasures, but such as the uncertain and unsatisfying enjoyments of this world can bestow, which at best, and upon full experience have been found to be vanity and vexation of spirit. Should we judge of the religious circumstances of mankind by their present appearance, we shall err exceedingly; nor is there less danger of mistake, if from the same things we judge of our own. It is not from present circumstances, but from the word of God, that we are to learn the real situation of saints and sinners. One great end of the christian revelation is to exhibit the character, and situation of both saints and sinners. And in this revelation, the character and danger of the sinner are faithfully described. This is one argument of the divinity of that book, we call the Bible ; there is nothing in it that is calculated to flatter sinners, or to conceal from them their guilt and danger. And this is, at the same time, an evidence of the goodness and benevolence of God toward sinners. For certainly it is an evidence of friendship to a person in great danger to inform him of it; to show him what it is; how great it is; from whence it arises, and to point out the means of avoiding it, if such there be. Truth is precious, and sinners, as well as saints ought to be willing to hear it. They should know and be impressed with their danger. This is important, because until they are sensible of their danger, they never can see their need of a Saviour. Without this impression of danger, they cannot appreciate, nor embrace the means of deliverance. It is those only who are sensibly exposed to evils that seek for deliverance from them. “The whole have no need of the physician.” These consideraticns show, that the descriptions of the sinner's guilt and danger, found in the book of God, are real expressions of divine benevolence. As this knowledge of danger is necessary to excite the sinner to escape from it, I shall endeavour, as far as I am able, to describe this danger to sinners.

Indeed, to describe, fully the danger of sinners is beyond the power of language. We can have no adequate conception of the evil of sinning against an infinite God. We can, at most, conceive but little of the evil of lying forever under his wrath and curse, and therefore can have but a very partial idea of their danger who are constantly exposed to this evil. Notwithstanding this, we can, through the medium of divine revelation, clearly see, that their danger is very great. We can see, that the misery to which the sinner is exposed is very great; and also that his danger of actually falling into this misery is indeed great.

The danger of the sinner will, in some measure, appear when we consider his obligations and character. The sinner is made capable of loving and serving God. This God requires ; because he is infinitely excellent. This law of God which requires perfect love is broken by every sinner, and that continually. This is an infinite evil; for the evil of sin is in proportion to the creature's obligations to the contrary. The sinner's obligations to love, honour and obey God are in proportion to the divine excellency and the creature's dependance on God. These are unlimited and entire ; and therefore to withhold his love from God renders the sinner infinitely guilty. The law of God, there

[ocr errors]

fore, threatens an infinite, or endless punishment to sin, as its proper wages.

This curse lies upon every impenitent sinner, To this punishment every sinner is justly exposed ; and to this punishment every one might have been sent without a reprieve. But God in rich mercy saw fit to provide a Saviour, who has made an atonement of such a nature, that he could consistently pardon the repenting sinner, who accepts of Christ as his Saviour. By Christ, every difficulty . on the part of the divine government is removed ; so that there is a door opened for the sinner to come to Christ and be saved. This is the only way in which sinners ever will be saved. The atonement of Christ opens a way for the sinner to escape from deserved punishment; but does not remove his guilt in the smallest degree. Nor does this door of mercy, this way

of salvation in the least remove his danger; his exposedness to punishment. The sinner's exposedness to punishment ceases only by his union to Christ by faith. The gift of Christ, and the work of redemption by him, afford not the least security, or protection to the impenitent, unbelieving sinner. He lies as nakedly exposed to the penalty of the law, as if Christ had not died. The atonement of Christ alters the ground of the sinner's danger, (if I may so express it) but not the danger itself. Antecedently to the consideration of redemption, the case of the sinner was hopeless, because there was no way to save him honourably from the curse of the law; but now his danger arises from his rejecting the only remedy. Sinners are prisoners of hope ; condemned, but for a time reprieved. A

« PreviousContinue »