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ot, live in
either of e not (to use impenitent are 2
“ workers of th. vii. 23.) Sin umployment of unry formal attention nission of their usual cultivation of holiness
of God's people; and itions from the habitual is, and are occasioned by ople of God fear to sin, and whereas others love it, cone, and find pleasure in it. The inst it, the latter “make provicoh to fulfil the lusts thereof." Terence lies in the bias of the will. i God would be perfectly holy if they impenitent, if they dared, would sin they do. (Comp. Rom. vii. 9-25.) of holiness in the saints would bring proper fruits, were it unobstructed in its
join in a recital of our present collect, which is adapted exclusively to their use, who are, through grace, “ turned from idols to serve the living « and true God, and to wait for His Son from 66 heaven whom He raised from the dead, even 65 Jesus who delivered us from the wrath to come.” But this will be more apparent as we pursue our subject.
We proceed therefore to consider the quality of those sins, from which the people of God pray to be absolved. They are such as “ through * their frailty they have committed.” The sins of their unregeneracy were pardoned so soon as they believed in Christ. Then the iniquity, both of their nature and of their past lives, was all washed away. But the people of God remain sinners after regeneration and conversion. For the work of sanctification is a gradual work. Intirely to “put off the old man, and put on the “ new," is not the labour of a day; but it is a constant and progressive operation through life. The very office of an advocate established in heaven supposeth commission of sins after regeneration, and during the whole time that ihe people of God continue in the present world. * If any man sin,” saith St. John, speaking of those to whom he wrote for the purpose of arming them against sin, “ We have an advocate with the “ Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is “ the propitiation for our sins; and not for our as sins only, but also for the sins of the whole " world." (1 John ii. 1, 2.) The Lord's prayer and the general confession of our church, which are both designed for the use of the Lord's people, prove that “if we say that we have no i sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not
in us." The moon hath her dark as well as her
bright spots, even when the sun shines fully on her hemisphere. · The people of God, however, do not sin as others do, nor as they themselves did before they became His people. Their sins are sins of
frailty.” For whosoever is born of God dothi « not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: “ and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John iii. 9.) There is a material difference between the offences of a regenerate and those of a natural man. The former neither doth, nor can, commit sin as the latter. On this important part of our subject we shall enlarge a little.
The people of God cannot, and do not, live in the habitual practice of known sin, either of omission or commission. They are not (to use the emphatic phrase by which the impenitent are often characterized in Scripture) “ workers of " iniquity.” (See Ps. v. 5. Math. vii. 23.) Sin is the trade, the business, the employment of unregenerate persons; and every formal attention to duty is to them an intermission of their usual occupation: whereas the cultivation of holiness is the professed business of God's people; and their offences are deviations from the habitual tendency of their hearts, and are occasioned by their frailty. The people of God fear to sin, and labour to avoid it; whereas others love it, contrive for its practice, and find pleasure in it. The former fight against it, the latter “make provi“sion for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof."
The main difference lies in the bias of the will. The people of God would be perfectly holy if they could ;
the impenitent, if they dared, would sin more than they do. (Comp. Rom. vii. 9-25.) The seed of holiness in the saints would bring forth its proper fruits, were it unobstructed in its
growth, and free from extrinsic oppression: and, on the other hand, the principle of corruption in every unrenewed mind, if free from restraining grace, slavish fear, or civil restriction, would produce all its baneful effects in the utmost perfection of enormity. The needle which habitually points to the pole may be diverted from its aim by external violence; but its tendency continues unaltered. The swine wallows with delight in the mire from which the instinct of the slieep recoils.
The offences (trippings or stumblings) of God's people are occasioned by their frailty. The principle of holiness in saints on earth is yet.in an infantile state, perfect in its parts but not in its degree. The tendency of their hearts towards God is liable to be shaken, nay, is often disturbed. The plant grows, but the unfavourable nature of the soil and climate impedes its progress towards maturity. They are encompassed by temptations; and to these temptations their senses are constant inlets. Satan is permitted to assault them. And hence they find much in themselves to lament and to condemn.
. This leads us to consider the absolute necessity of the blessing which the people of God inplore in our collect, viz. absolution from their offences. Their offences are many in number. Not a day, an hour, a moment passes by, in which the state of their hearts and lives will bear the exact scrutiny of Omniscient purity, conducted according to the extensive requisitions of the Divine law. Not a single duty is performed in which this frạilty doth not betray itself. The more their consciences are quickened, their minds enlightened, and their hearts converted, the more clearly they discern the
multitude and the enormity of their offences. The microscopic eye of a strong faith discovers hideous deformity where reason could see nothing offensive, and where a weak faith perceived only some slight imperfections. The most finely polished slab of marble, viewed through the medium of a powerful magnifier, appears full of asperities. A mortified limb, whose vital qualities have been destroyed by a gangrene, so soon as the mortification ceases, begins to feel; and as the vital qualities are gradually restored, it becomes progressively sensible of its malady which was before unfélt. A sun-beam darting through a crevice into a darkened room, discovers floating particles of dust, which without its aid would be unobserved.
The offences of God's people, though in some respects less heinous than those of others, yet are attended with peculiar aggravations. Many of them are committed against light and knowledge; all of them in opposition to redeeming love. They are hostile to the known interests of their own souls, and to the glory of God their Saviour.
The sins of saints are in themselves damnable, as well as those of others. Even our sins of ignorance, surreption, and daily infirmity, though less enormous than some others, yet are sins. Vain thoughts and idle words incur guilt, though not in the same degree with overt acts of iniquity. We admit not of the popish distinction between venial and mortal sins; for all sin is meritoriously mortal, whether chargeable on believers or on impenitent sinners. All sin, with a single exception, is pardonable through faith in Him whose blood cleanseth from all sin; and no sin can be blotted out by any other VOL. III.