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actual condition of all present, that there is nothing in us to warrant our meeting the judgment of God in our righteousness, or to propitiate bis favour for our sins and imperfections.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.
I. First, the express declarations of God's word.
The Holy Ghost who inspired the writing of the Scriptures of our faith, is in nothing more earnest than to do away all occasion for pride and vain glory in the creature. And this, I am persuaded, from the knowledge that of all our other vices, it is the most deeply rooted in human nature, and the most ruinous to our souls. The book of God, accordingly, abounds with most pointed lessons against the fatal consequences of this inveterate principle, and to teach us that humility which is the only entrance to all-saving knowledge, sets before us the lowly original of our nature. The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground. And when sin bad deprived him of the image of God impressed upon this dust; when rebellion had driven him out from the presence of his Maker, condemned to toil and labour, exposed to sorrow and suffering, disease and death, his sentence was so expressed as to remind him, would he but hear it, of his lowly origin. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the ground : for out of it wert thou taken: for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. Here, as in a glass, my friends, we may see our humble origin, and learn how much lower sin hath degraded us; here we may understand that pride was not made for man; that however rich or great, or noble or wise, it is in fact but earth and dust in its short progress to dust again; that however fair or beauteous or lovely, it is but a clod of the valley clothed with flowers, which shall wither and fade like the grass of the field; and that however imposing the exterior may be, if not quickened and renewed by the SPIRIT OF CHRIST, the greatest and the fairest among us is not only the prey of death but outcast from God and fuel for everlasting burnings.
But it is in the effect of sin upon the soul that the word of God is most express in pointing out its deadly consequences that it separated it for ever from all communion and intercourse with its maker-that it obliterated every divine and heavenly
impression stamped on it by its Creator, when it came forth at his bidding very good, to inhabit the body prepared for it; and though immortal in its nature, became so depraved and perverted as to relish only the perishing delights of time and sense. Hear the witness of the Spirit of God to this humbling truth. God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence ; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. Every one of them is gone back, they are altogether become filthy, there is none that doeth good, no not one. There is no fear of God before their eyes. The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee, and set thy wickedness in order before thine eyes. Thus, before the flood, and under the Old Testament dispensation after it, is there one unvarying testimony to the inherent depravity of fallen man; and the history we have of his conduct, both in the Scriptures and elsewhere, prove that it is a true and faithful witness.
But, is there no difference, it may be asked, under the gospel, under the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ? Alas ! no. He is yet the same creature, sprung from the same corrupt root, and brings with him into the world the same mortal taint and infection. Hear him who knew what is in man, and poured out his soul unto death to redeem him from eternal death. There is none good but one, that is God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Now let me ask, are these the true sayings of God? If they are, their influence is this moment at work in this congregation, and the spirit of every self-righteous sinner present rises against them, and is contriving to elude the verdict
of conscience in their favour. But you do it at your peril, for it proves the very point I am striving to bring home to your hearts. Othat God would be pleased to open them, that the truth may not prove the savour of death unto death.
It may be said, however, that these are allegorical expressions, not to be taken according to the strictness of the letter, but with the necessary allowances for the florid and figurative style of Eastern writings. But in such case of what value or authority would the Scriptures be as the fixed and only rule of faith and practice? Who does not see that on this principle all dependance on Scripture is done away. Heaven and hell may be an allegory, as well as these revolting but saving truths. To try this subterfuge of unbelief, pride, and self-righteousness by the only safe rule, let us, in the
II. Second place, hear the confessions and acknowledgments of all holy men in all ages.
To begin with Job, who certainly confided more in the righteousness of his life, for the assurance of God's favour, than could be allowed under the light of the gospel. What is the testimony of this approved man to this point, How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him he cannot answer him one of a thousand, how much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him whom though I were righteous yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge. If I justify myself mine own mouth shall condemn me : if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect yet would I not know my soul, I would despise my life. If I wash myself with snow water and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch and mine own clothes shall abhor me. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. How, then, can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not, yea, the stars are not pure in his sight, how much less man, that is a worm, and the son of man which is a worm ? And at the close of his trial when it pleased God to turn his mourning into rejoicing, and make a clearer manifestation of himself to his righteous servant, what was the effect ? Deeper humiliation and self-abasement. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.
What is the confession of David, the man after God's own heart, an inspired prophet, and a type of the Messiah : Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. Who can tell how oft he offendeth. O cleanse thou me from my secret faults. Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O LORD for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
What acknowledgment doth Daniel make in this behalf—a man whom his very enemies admitted they could find no occasion against, unless they found it concerning the law of his God. O LORD the great and dreadful Gop, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments, we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and thy judgments.
What saith John the Baptist, who was more than a prophet, and sanctified with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me? What is St. Paul's confession ? I know that in me dwelleth no good thing. And though he could say, that touching the righteousness which is in the law, that is, the outward morality of his life, he was blameless—yet what things were gain to me, says he, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of CHRIST Jesus my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of Gop by faith.
What is the acknowledgment of St. John, the beloved disciple! If we say that we have no sin we deceivo ourselves, and the truth is not in us; if we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
And what is the confession of every true Christian from that day to this ? Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.
Now, then, let me ask, is there any thing allegorical or figura
tive in these plain and direct confessions of sin, original and actual, and of the utter worthlessness of every thing that can be done by a fallen, imperfect creature, to propitiate and please a just and perfect God. No, it is matter of fact and of experience, as is ready to be testified by every Christian present. How, then, shall those escape who resist such conclusive testimony, and refuse a righteousness perfect and complete, provided for them by the mercy of God, in Christ Jesus. O flee to the strong hold ye prisoners of hope-tarry not in the plain, however pleasant it may appear—and look not bebind you, neither turn back to gather up the filthy rags of your own righteousness—they will but encumber your flight, and mar your progress to the city of refuge.
III. For, thirdly, the actual condition of all present is such as to prove beyond dispute, that in our own righteousness we cannot stand the severity of God's judgment.
To satisfy you on this point, let us first consider what that God is, whom we have thus to meet. Now can any of you, even the wisest among you, tell me any thing of his nature and attributes, by a knowledge of your own ? How, then, are we to know any thing of him, unless by revelation ? And what, in this respect, says the true and faithful witness, who was with him from the beginning, and hath plainly showed us of the Father ? Pure, holy, perfect, and unchangeable ; who cannot behold iniquity, or look upon sin with the least degree of allowanceyet gracious and merciful, compassionate and long-sufferingnot willing that any should perish. Do you require a proof of his hatred of sin. Behold him exacting from his only Son, as our representative, the penalty due to it, as the sole condition of its pardon. Do you want one of his loving kindness and tender mercy? Behold it in his so loving the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. But what is sin ? Sin is the transgression of the unchangeable law of this pure and holy being, in any of its literal or spiritual requirements. Cursed is every one that continueth not, in all things written in the Book of the Law, to do them.
And now let us all view ourselves in the glass of this Holy