Page images
PDF
EPUB

John. But they were obliged to attack his character in a different manner ; a manner which displayed their wickedness and determined opposition to his doctrines. When John preached to them the necessity of repentance for the remission of their sins, and no doubt laid open the depravity of the human heart their great criminality and imminent danger; notwithstanding all their fond conceits of their own goodness, they said, to avoid the force of all this, “He hath a devil.” The evidence of this was, he neither ate bread nor drank wine. What a reason ! Immediately after, when Christ came and confirmed John's doctrines, they cried, “Behold a gluttonous man, a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." All this outcry against him they made, because he did not abstain from lawful meats and drinks; and because he noticed publicans and sinners, which was agreeable to his design in coming into the world to save such. He came into the world to save sinners; and went into their company to instruct and call them to repentance. These objections and aspersions of the Jews against Christ and John, discovered their great perverseness, and determination to find fault with those who told them the truth. But this is a spirit not peculiar to the Jews; but common to impenitent sinners of all generations. They will be guilty of the greatest self-inconsistency to evade the force of truth ; rather than believe their criminality and danger. This rejection of John, as a mad man, because he neither ate. bread nor drank wine, and their ready charge against Christ, as a drunkard and a glutton, because he did; showed that they were determined to receive no man as a prophet sent from God, who preached such doctrines as John and Christ preached. Is not this a proof that the sinful heart is disposed to make use of any, even the most inconsistent and unreasonable methods to avoid conviction? Sinners will condemn the wise and benevolent methods of God to instruct and reform them; and even ascribe them to the agency of the devil, rather than comply with the calls of the gospel." John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and they said, He hath a devil; the Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”

These words manifestly contain this doctrine, viz.
Sinners are very inconsistent with themselves.

This will appear to be true by comparing them with themselves in a number of particulars.

1. The most obvious inconsistency, which appears in sinful men, is that, between their profession and practice. There are but a few, especially among those who enjoy the advantages of the christian revelation, who do not believe the being and perfections of .. God. So abundant are the evidences of this most important truth, from the works of nature, the laws, order, and harmony which appear in the natural system, that those “who say there is no God," "are fools and without excuse" for their blindness and stupidity. Yet it is a common thing for those, who acknowledge the existence of an infinitely holy God, and, that they are accountable to him; to deny his being in their practice, all their days.

The man who lives without prayer and thanksgiving to God, who neither asks him for the blessings which he needs, nor thanks him for what he bestows, who neither looks to his bounty for good, nor to his mercy for protection from evil; the man who trusts not the promises, nor fears the threatenings of God; who uses his tongue in profaneness, and his hands and other faculties without regard to any rule, but that of his own inclination, such an öne lives, as if there were no God : his practice says there is none. Many there are, who thus live without God in the world. In words they acknowledge God, but in works deny him. How inconsistent is the man, who with his lips acknowledges a God, and in his daily practice says there is none! The man who, makes confession of his sinfulness before God, and prays for pardon, and at the same time indulges himself in any known sin, as all impenitent sinners do, is inconsistent. His praying is a declaration that he desires to be holy, that he wishes to avoid sin; but his practice notwithstanding is a declaration directly to the contrary, The temper of the heart, and the habitual practice of the impenitent sinner, are both a direct contradiction to all his prayers, if he accustom himself to use the form of prayer, which doubtless is true of many who assume the outward badge and appearance of saints. The hearts and tongues of hypocrites are always at variance; and so are those of all impenitent sinners, who pretend to pray to God; for they acknowledge that in words, which they neither approve in heart, nor admit as true in their practice.

2. There is great and constant inconsistency between the hearts and consciences of sinners. The .consciences of sinners, particularly of those who enjoy the advantages of revelation, inform them of what is right. Their reason and conscience dictate to them, that there is a God of infinite glory, and that it is a most desirable thing in itself that there should be such a God, who can govern the world, and order all the affairs in it in wisdom ; and reward and punish moral agents according as they are holy or sinful. But this is all contrary to every feeling of the natural heart. The fool, the sinner, hath said in his heart, there is no God; and the secret wish of his heart is, that there were none. He is not pleased with the idea, that there is a God who will treat him according to the impartial decisions of justice. The selfish heart revolts against all laws binding it to exercise extended benevolence, and therefore the perfections and moral government of God, when revealed, are of all things the most displeasing to the selfish, proud heart of the sinner. His reason and conscience pronounce it to be his duty to love and serve God, and indeed his highest interest, and his supreme happiness. But his heart objects to these dictates. The language of his heart is, that almost any thing is imore deserving of love than the glorious God, and his practice which is ever dictated by the present inclinations of his heart, declares that even the vilest lusts are more to be desired than the enjoyment of God that his happiness consists in living at as great a distance from God, and having as little to do with him as possible. The heart

and conscience of the sinner are at constant war with each other. What the heart approves, the enlightened and well informed conscience always condemns; and what the reason and judgment approve, the heart rejects; I mean as to moral things. The reason of man approves of holiness, and disapproves of all sin; but the wicked heart loves sin, and rejects with abhorrence the ways. of God. Thus is the sinner inconsistent with himself: he is perpetually doing what he is per, petually condemning. There is great wickedness in the heart, which opposes reason and conscience; and this evil, wicked heart, we observe

3. Makes sinners inconsistent in their reasonings respecting moral subjects. This wicked heart will, in many instances, blind the mind, and so pervert the understanding, that darkness will be put for light, and light for darkness, evil for good, and good for evil. All errors of judgment in moral subjects proceed from the heart. For if the heart were right, men would never be hasty and rash in judging : they would not conclude upon the truth or falsehood of a proposition without evidence, nor would they decide further upon any subject than they had real evidence, Were the heart really impartial and honest; were it disposed to admit real evidence as sufficient proof of the truth or falsehood of a proposition in one case, it would be disposed to do the same in another. But the dishonesty and wickedness of the heart blind the judgment, and lead sinners into the greatest inconsistency in things of a religious nature. It is owing to this, that men frequently mistake will and passion for

« PreviousContinue »