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whose praise was not of men, but of God." Now Nathanael was one of these true Israelites; he was in reality, as well as by profession, one of the people of God. And the evidence he gave of this was, his freedom from guile. But our Saviour does not say he has no guilt—a man may be freckled, or have spots, and not be painted. A Christian is not sinlessly pure; he has many unallowed and bewailed infirmities; but guile he has not: he is no hypocrite. He does not, in religion, ascend a stage to assume a character which does not belong to him. lie is what he appears to be. There is a correspondence between his professions and actions; his meaning and his words. He is upright in his dealings with himself—in his dealings with his fellow-creatures—and in his dealings with his God. He is all of a piece. He is the same alone as in company: the same in his own house as in the house of God: the same in prosperity as in adversity.
This is the character that stands fair with his own conscience. This is the character that enthrones himself in the esteem of others. This is the character that the King of Glory delights to honour. "The prayer of the upright is his delight" "Light is ■own for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart" "The upright shall dwell in thy presence." "The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." "Hast thou," said he to Satan, " hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" And placing such a character before us, in a situation the most sublime and awful, he says, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." There are two reasons why he calls upon us to admire a Nathanael. The one is, The
RARENESS OF THE CHARACTER. It is not to be
seen every day. Many make no pretensions to religion; and many have only "a form of godliness," while "they deny the power thereof."
*' Broad is the road that leads to death,
'But wisdom shows a narrower path,
The other is, The Excellency Of The Character. It is indispensably necessary, in all religious concerns—nothing can be a substitute for this integrity—nothing that we can say, nothing that we can do, nothing that we can suffer. Without this, every thing else will only render us the more vile and abominable. Judas is called—a devil. On the other hand, where this is found, and God sees that a man acts conscientiously, and from a sincere desire to please and glorify him, he will pass by mistakes, pardon imperfections, and accept him
"according to what he has, and not according to what he has not"
And this leads us to a fourth remark. There Mat Be True Grace, Where Them Is At Present Very Little Lioht. This was the case with Nathanael. His knowledge as yet was small; his mind was contracted; and he laboured under low prejudices. He had no apprehension nf a Messiah, distinguished by poverty and suffering. And because Nazareth was a wicked place, and a place of obscurity, he concluded, nothing good or great could originate thence. Nevertheless he was open to conviction—he complied with the invitation, "Come and see"— he immediately "believed with the heart, and confessed with the tongue"—and our Saviour, pleased with his proficiency, promises to " lead him into all truth."
Now this may be the case with others. And indeed, so far am I from supposing it necessary, to evidence the reality of a man's conversion, that he should in every thing see clearly at first, that I commonly suspect those that are all at once so ripe in knowledge, and so high in doctrine. These disproportionated notionalists remind me of those unhappy children, whose heads grow so much faster than their bodies—the effect of disease, or weakness of constitution, not of health and vigour. I love to see knowledge, experience, and practice advancing together "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" That which comes up in a night may wither in a night—we dislike mushroom piety. If we look into nature, we shall find things slower in their growth, in proportion to their excellency. How rapidly nettles, and thistles, and reeds, and osiers spring up to maturity 1 but the oak is as much slower in attaining its perfection, as it is more firm in its grain, more durable in continuance, more important in its use.
Let us not then conclude that a man is a stranger to divine grace, because he is unable, at present, to go all our lengths in sentiment It is not possible for us to determine, in certain disadvantageous circumstances, with how much ignorance in the judgment true grace in the heart may be connected. How little of the plan of salvation did Peter know, when our Saviour said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven!" As the sanctification of the soul, so the illumination of the mind is gradual; and surely intellectual defects are no more wonderful than moral ones.
Nor let us be anxious to force upon him doctrines which at present he is not prepared to receive. Our Saviour said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now." Where the heart is right with God, a growing experience
in divine things will, after a while, make room for the admission of every important truth. And therefore, we remark, finally, That
'WHERE GRACE IS REAL, IT WILL IN DUE TIME BE ATTENDED WITH CLEARER LIGHT. "Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the rig-tree, believest thou? Thou shilt see greater things than these." Grace is an active principle, and leads us to use what we have—and "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." It disposes us to go on, " and then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." It inspires reverence and humility, and a dependence on Divine teaching—and "the secret of the I.ord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant: the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." Let not thy deficiencies therefore cast thee down. You are under the care of one who will "not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he send forth judgment unto victory." He has your welfare at heart The convictions and desires whicli he has produced in you are tokens for good. He will never leave nor forsake you, "till he has done all that which he has spoken to you of: he will perfect that which concerneth you." It is now only the dawn; but the dawn is the pledge and the beginning of noon. "And the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." And whatever discoveries he has already made, remember, you shall see "greater things than these"—
First, greater in this world; more of himself, of his word, of his grace, of his providence. He can enable us to see divine things more clearly; more impressively; with more confidence, and with more appropriation. Let us not limit our desires, or our hopes.
Secondly, greater in another world. After all our attainments, this earth is only a land of obscurities. But heaven is everlasting light In those happy regions there is "no darkness at all."—" Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known. And when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
Then he will folly reveal himself. "We know that Messiah who is called Christ shall come; and when he is come, he will tell us all things."
THE CHARACTERS OF SL\. What fruit had ye then in those thing's whereof ye are now ashamed i for the end of those things is death.—Komans vi. 21. It is of the greatest importance to enter
tain proper apprehensions of the evil of sinHence the Scriptures are so large and particular in describing it They place it before us in every quality, and express it under every allusion that can rouse our indignation, or awaken our fear and our flight Witness the language of the Apostle: "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
Behold the enemy. Sin is here arraigned and condemned in all the periods of time: the past, the present and the future. For the past—here is unprofitableness; for the present —here is disgrace; and for the future—here is perdition. Let us, then, consider sin under these three characters. I. As Unfruitful.
II. AS SHAMEFUL. III. As DESTRUCTIVE.
And I. The Apostle asks, " What fruit had ye in those things!" The question implies an undeniable negative, and suggests that sin yields no real benefit no solid satisfaction. It should be otherwise. Sin ought to produce something: for it costs much. It requires the sinner to wage war with himself, to overcome innumerable difficulties, to make the most expensive sacrifices. Now, for a man to labour and toil, to give up all the advantages of religion, to sacrifice his soul, his God, his everlasting welfare, and plunge into "the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone" —for nothing! is hard indeed!
And is not this the case? Read the history of wicked nations, families, individuals. What does the sinner ever gain or enjoy? What that is valuable and satisfactory?— What that deserves the name of "fruit?" What that even corresponds with his own expectation?—The enemy told Adam and Eve that they should "be as gods," when his design was to degrade them "below the beasts that perish." And thus we read of "the deceitfulness of sin:" it attracts by flattery; it destroys by delusion. It looks on with blandishing smiles, but conceals the cloven foot; it presents the bait, but hides the hook; it talks of liberty and indulgence, but this is only to favour its inroads; once admitted, slavery and desolation spread all around. It promises much, but how does it perform 1 "Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth: yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him." Sinful gratifications continue no longer than the actions themselves: for then, consequences begin to be thought of: reason ascends the throne, and scourges; conscience awakes and condemns. Nor is it easy for the sinner to creep along to the commission of bis crimes unseen by reason, unobserved by conscience; and, oh! when they are lookers on!—how, by their warnings and reproaches, do they imbitter his enjoyment? He finds
nothing of that contentment and pleasure which ne looked for. As he returns home, with the stain and sting of sin, he. sighs inwardly—" And is this all? If this deserves the name of pleasure, how shortlived, how worthless, how mean! O that I had hearkened to the voice of wisdom and kindness, which said, 'Turn ye not aside from following the Lord—turn ye not aside: for then should he go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.'"
Suppose now a sinner was compelled to rise and answer this question truly—How has sin advanced your well-being? What has it done for you! What has it done for your connexions, for your bodies, for your souls, for your property, for your reputation! Suppose the swearer was to tell us what he has gained by his oaths; the drunkard by his cups; the sensualist by his uncleanness; the prodigal by his extravagance, his idleness, his evil company; yea, the proud, the envious, the malicious, by indulging their vile tempers! Suppose he was to sum up his expenses and his savings; to balance his accounts at the end of a year, of a week, of a day—surely he must find that his gains do not counterbalance his loss, his wages do not reward him for his drudgery, his pleasures do not make him amends for his pains even in the lowest degree.
Let any one as a man of reason consider his weary steps; his mean condescensions and compliances; his corroding anxieties and suspicions; his restless desires and tormenting fears, when under the dominion of some lust or passion—to gain a fancy or a feather; to acquire the opinion of some poor worm; to pick up a little shining dust, to enjoy some light, unsatisfying, and low indulgence—and will he not confess that these things are more than unprofitable and vain! Above all, what does a Christian think when he reviews these wicked courses! He is able now to judge between sin and holiness. He now clearly sees what the practice of sin obliged him to forego, and compelled him to endure. He now clearly sees that it constrained him to live a stranger to his true interest; that it nover allowed him one taste of real joy, or one moment of real peace; that it enslaved him; stripped him; starved him. Since he has served God, he looks back with painful regret upon every hour he spent in the service of sin: it appears to him an hour of inconceivable loss and injury: and he goes on weeping, and taking shame to himself.
And this brings us, II. To consider the Disorxcf.fulnf-ss of sin. Of these unfruitful things, says the Apostle, "ye are now ashamed." And well ye may; for there is nothing in the world so scandalous as sin. Whatever bo a man's station, or office, or abilities, sin degrades all, and renders him rile. It is not a shame to be obliged to la
bour ; it is not a shame to be poor and dependent; it is not a shame to be tried and distressed—but it is a shame to be a sinner. For is it not shameful to be a fool? Is it not shameful to be a base coward! Is it not shameful to be a traitor to the best of kings! And to be ungrateful and perfidious to the kindest of all friends? If a benefactor should receive you to his house, and afford you all the supplies of his table—would it not be shameful to steal out of his presence, blaspheme his name, and endeavour to counteract all his designs! Enlarge the number of images—select whatever may be deemed base and scandalous among men, and be assured it will apply with infinitely greater force to the evil of sin. We say again, nothing is so degrading, nothing can be so shameful as sin.
But to do justice to this part of our subject, it may be necessary to observe, that there are three kinds of shame which attend sin. The first is natural; the second gracious; and the third penal.
There is a natural shame which arises in men from the commission of sin. This it was that made our first parents hide themselves among the trees of the garden as soon as they had transgressed the Divine command—so closely did shame tread on the heels of guilt This class of emotions maybe in a great measure subdued by continuance in sin ; for sin is of a hardening tendency. Accordingly we read of some who "hide not their sin like Sodom." Jeremiah says of some, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush." And the Apostle speaks of some who "glory in their shame." But these characters are not general, and this shamefulness in sinning is not easily, and perhaps never was perfectly attained. "The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, no eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face. For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death." Hence they not only repair to corners, and elude observation—which they would not do if there was any thing that tended to their praise; but hence also, they frame excuses and apologies. I And if not ashamed of their proceedings, why attempt to deny or palliate? Why plead mistake, ignorance, surprise, infirmity? Why ascribe their sins to weakness or necessity, rather than to inclination or choice—unless they deemed them a disparagement to their character? Hence it is—that the sinner cannot endure to be alone, or bear to dwell on his own actions. Though naturally full of self-love and admiration, he slips away from his own presence, and shuns all intercourse with his greatest favourite. And why? Because he is ashamed even to meet himself. Upon the same principle too, when arrived at a certain pitch of iniquity, he abandons the moral world, and mingles only with those of his own quality: for here mutual wickedness creates mutual confidence, and keeps them from reproaching one another.
There is also a gracious shame which accompanies "repentance unto life." This shame does not spring from a fear of the discovery of sin, but from a sense of the pollution and odiousness of it Some crimes are universally considered as abominable; but all ein appears so to the real penitent: and he is now ashamed of things which pass uncensured in the world, and which once produced no uneasiness in himself. Conversion changes not only a man's state, but his aflections and his convictions. Sin appears in consequence of it exceeding sinful; and, oh! what holy self-abhorrence, and loathing, and shame are now felt? The publican standing afar off, "would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven." "Mine iniquities," says David, "have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." Ezra said, "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." And returning Ephraim smote upon his thigh, and confessed, " I am ashamed, and even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." And so these believing Romans were now ashamed of the sins even of former years. And this ingenuous shame will be in proportion to our perception of the glory and the goodness of God. The more we think of his patience in bearing with us, while we were rebelling against him, and of his mercy and grace in pardoning our sins, and adoptmg us into his family, after all our provocations; the more shall we be affected with our vileness in offending him.
There is also a penal shame, by which we mean that shame which attends sm in a way of punishment For God has so ordered things, that if a man be not ashamed of his sins, he shall be put to shame by them. And how often, and in how many instances is the transgressor dishonoured in this world! See the professor of religion—"reproached," not "for the sake of Christ:" this would be his honour—but buffeted for his faults: suffering, not for well-doing, but for evil-doing. See the miser. "He is a proverb and a by-word." See the extortioner. How many "curse his habitation!" Behold the adulterer. "Whoso committeth adultery with a woman, lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul; a wound and dishonour shall he get, and his reproach shall not be wiped away." So true is the reflection of Solomon, that—"a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame."
But this will be more especially the case
hereafter. Of the Israel of God we read that "They shall not be ashamed nor confounded,. world without end:" of Christians, that they shall "have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." But this implies the truth of the reverse; and we are assured that the wicked will "rise to shame, and everlasting contempt"—ashamed in themselves; and contemned by each other, by saints, by angels, and by the Judge of all.
And oh! when they see to what disgrace they have wilfully reduced themselves; when they hear all the wickedness of their hearts, as well as lives, published before an assembled world—what wonder is it, that they call to "the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them"—not only from the wrath to come, but also from shame and confusion of face?
And thus we have, III. reached the conclusion of this dreadful course, which is— Death: "for the end of these things is death." And by death the Apostle includes much more than the dissolution of the body. This indeed was the produce of sin: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, because all have sinned." But besides the universal and unavoidable law of mortality which sin has established, there are many instances recorded in the Scripture, of God's inflicting death immediately upon sinners in a way of judgment Lot's wife, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, are proofs that, even in this sense, "the end of these things is death." And if we had an inspired history of present times, and could trace up to their proper causes those effects which are now confounded in the common course of things, we should perhaps find the destruction of many a transgressor originating in the same way. And what assurance have you that the next time you take his name in vain, or make a lie, you shall not be instantly sent from the place of sinning to the place of suffering?
Death also sometimes attends sin, not only as an immediate judgment from God, but as a natural consequence of vice. It is said that" bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days." How many criminals come to an untimely end at the gallows! How frequently do persons, by anger, intemperance, and such like courses, hasten on dissolution, and become self-murderers! Many might have lived longer had they lived better; and h^ve enjoyed a good old age, had it not been for a profligate youth: but now, if they drag on a miserable existence at all, they are "filled with the sins of their youth," which will "lie down with them in the grave." An old divine says, " the board has killed more than the sword." And a physician of great repute has given it as his opinion, that scarcely one in a thousand dies a natural death.
But what the Apostle principally intends, is—not the corruption of the body in the grave, but the destruction of both body and soul in hell. It is what the Scripture calls, the "second death." It is what our Saviour means, when he says, "He that believeth not shall be damned." It is not an extinction of being, but of happiness and of hope. Such is the end of sin. And it is a dreadful end ; it is a righteous end; it is a certain end.
It is a dreadful end. Nothing that we can here feel or fear deserves to be compared with it Think of the degree and the duration of this misery. Reflect upon those intimations of it which we find in the Scripture. Think of being "bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness, where there sliall be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Think of a place, " where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Think of the sentence, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Surely there is enough in one of these representations to freeze a man with horror, and to keep him from sin all his life long!" It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
It is a righteous end. Hence the wicked themselves will be speechless: not one of them will be able to complain "I do not deserve this; he deals very hardly with me." Had not this doom been as just as it is dreadful, God, with whom there is no unrighteousness, would never have assigned it as the portion of sin. It is not possible for us to know all the demerit of sin; because we know not fully the excellences it has insulted, the obligations it has violated, the effects it has produced in the creation of God. But there is One who is infinitely wise; let us rest satisfied with the judgment of the Judge. And one thing we may observe, if the greatness of the penalty confounds us, that in proportion as beings are holy, sin appears to them evil. Thus sin appears much more evil to a saint, than to a sinner; by the same rule it appears more evil to an angel than to a saint; and infinitely more evil to God than to an angel.
Finally. It is a certain end. From what quarter can you derive a hope, to escape? The power of God enables him to inflict this misery. "Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like his?" The holiness of God excites him to inflict this misery. He " is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The wicked shall not stand in his sight, he liateth all workers of iniquity." The truth of God binds him to inflict this misery. The word is gone out of his mouth, and shall not return. "The Scripture .cannot be broken;" and there "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God. Upon the wicked
God shall rain down snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup."
He therefore that expects any other end of his pride, his avarice, his swearing, his Sabbath-breaking, his disobedience, than death, is "sporting himself with his own deceivings;" and is even aggravating his doom by presumption and unbelief. "And it shall come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst The Lord will not spare him: but, then, the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall he upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven." And is it possible for you to lie down to sleep, when you know that God is bound to punish you, and under an oath to destroy you!
What use should we make of this subject? First, remember the particulars of this discourse; seriously reflect upon them, and resolve to have "no more fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ask yourselves—" Since I went astray—what have I got but shame— and what can I get but death V With this beat off all the solicitations of sin—" Away— what can you ofler me? Do you think I am in love with disgrace, or in want of destruction!" Surely "the workers of iniquity have no knowledge;" surely the heart of the sons of " men is full of madness"—or they could not be induced to continue a moment longer in a course so unprofitable, so scandalous, so fatal—especially since there is such an encouragement afforded to all who are willing to leave it: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
Secondly, let those who are delivered from this condition be thankful. "By nature children of wrath even as others; sometimes foolish and disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in envy and malice, hateful, and hating one another—such—such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." And you are saying, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Admire and adore the freeness, the efficacy, the riches of this grace, by which you are what you are. And be cautious and watchful in future.