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My neighbour listened to the poor man's observations, and when he had finished, walked away without making a reply. For my part, though it appeared that his reasoning was conclusive, and unanswerable, yet I ventured to say,' If this be the state of the case, what becomes of the morality of the Christian Religion; and in what sense are we to accept the Sermon on the Mount, with which the Great Author of it opened his commission?'
'The morality of the Christian religion, (replied the poor man,) stands where it ever stood, upon its own fixed and immoveable basis; and • sooner shall Heaven and earth pass, than one jot or tittle of the Law shall fail.' God doth not lose his authority to command, because man hath lost his power to obey. The creditor foregoes not the right to his just due, because the debtor is become insolvent. By' the Law is the knowledge of sin*.' Hence the Great Author of the Christian system opened his commission with the promulgation of this law, that its unalterable, unaccommodating terms might ever stand in the front of his Gospel; and 'the man that doeth them shall live in themf.' If, therefore, any man can appeal to this standard of decision; can look up with an uncovered, Tan'-* * Rom. iii. 20. J Gal. iii. 12.
daunted front, and challenge the strictest scrutiny over every thought, and word, and action; if there be such an obedience found as can give life,' verily righteousness shall be by the Law*.' But if both scripture and experience have coneluded' all under sin, if all have sinned and come short of the glory of Godand by 'the deeds of the Law, no flesh can be justified in His sightthen it will be found, that the moral sermon of the Great Author of Christianity on the mount, as well as the moral system of the great Jewish lawgiver in the wilderness, were both designed to act as 'the schoolmaster to bring unto Christtand, that 'He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believethf.' -'
Pause, therefore, one moment, and examine how the account stands between God and your conscience. In the present season of lightness and inattention, a multitude of occurrences of frailty, and sometimes what deserves a harsher name, pass away in the stream of time, noiseless and inaudible, and are soon swallowed up ia tire gulph of oblivion. But in that hour, when the Lord will iay ' judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet,' if you and I have no better righteousness than our own * Gal. iii. 21. f Gal iii. 24. * Rom. x. 4.
to trust in, no Surety to stand in our stead, no Advocate to plead our cause; an effect infinitely more awful than that which loosed the loins of the impious monarch we read of will take place, when weighed in the balance and found wanting*.'
I knew not what to reply, and therefore remained silent. The poor man, bidding me farewell, left me to ruminate on the solemn inquiry: 'How should man be just with GODf V'
'The effect wrought in my mind by reason ofthe poor man's observations, was not unsimilar in permanency, though producing very opposite sensations in point of pleasure, to what the poet hath described of our first father's feelings, in the garden of Eden, on the close of the angel's relation concerning divine things—
The Angel ended, and in Adam's ear So charming left his voice, that he awhile
Th ought him still speaking, still stood fix'd to hear.
I felt the same force, but not the same sweetness, from what he said. It was a harsh sound, and the vibration long dwelt upon my ear, 'How shall man be just with GOD V It • Dan. v. t Job ix. 2.
followed me to what Job calls the 'visions of the night*;' and even then, like the spectre which he saw, the same expostulating voice seemed to cry, 'How shall man be just with GOD V
The stern demand rang through all the chambers of the conscience, as if a thousand voices had concurred to proclaim the utter impossibility of answering the question, in the very moment of proposing it. And as an echo reverberates from broken walls, so the sound of conviction returned from my broken heart; by ' the deeds of the Law no flesh can be justified in his sightf,' . .
It is with some degree of grateful recollection, that I look back upon this part of my history; and bless God, while I trace his divine hand, graciously interposing by the instrumentality of this poor man, to rescue me from the dangerous path of delusion, into which I had turned, when seeking justification by the deeds of the law. I can now enter into a participation of David's experience upon a similar occasion, and feel somewhat of that spirit which he felt in the instance of the wife of the Carmelite, when under a deep conviction of that sin-preventing providence, he cried out,' * Job. iv, t Rom. iii. 20.
ed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me; and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou*.'—In like manner I find cause to bless God in the review of this instance as the Author, the poor man as the instrument, and his advice as the mean, which the Lord was pleased to commission, for the emancipation of my mind from a self-confidence, which, if cherished, must have ultimately ended in my eternal ruin. —And my reader will I hope forgive me if I interrupt the progress of the history for a moment, only to remind him, that unless the mind be brought under similar conclusions respecting the unalterable and unaccommodating right of God's demands, 'wo unto him that striveth with his Maker!' We may fancy what we please,'and frame a standard of our own, for God to go by, according to our notions of the fitness of things; as if an arraigned culprit at the bar should stand up and prescribe laws to his judge! but it would be well to consider, before it be too late, the very solemn tone of decision in which scripture hath settled the point, which leaves the subject at once determined and without appeal. Behold, lie putteth no trust inHis Saints; even Hi? Angels
* 1 Sam. xxv. 32.