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s part from thine house; because thou hast despised " me. *»
Observe, my friends, the prophet does not rest the weight of the charge, brought against David, on the injury done to men; but on the ungrateful contempt shewn to God, and to his law and authority.
The prophet adds, “Howbeịt because by this deed “thou hast caused the enemies of the LORD to blas* pheme; the child also that is born unto thee shall "surely die.t" Here again the crime of David is aggravated, by the dishonour it had brought on the name of God, through the blasphemies of his ene. mies."
These considerations may throw light on the words of our text, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” The wrong done to man by our offences is not to be overlooked, or thought slightly of: but our attention must not be so confined to the evil of them in this respect, as to interfere with a sense of those higher obli. gations to God which we have violated.-In what I have further to offer on the subject, I shall
I. Make some introductory remarks.
II. Illustrate the emphatical words here used; “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”
III. Consider the evil of sin, as committed against God, and as violating all our obligations to him. And
IV. Adduce several instances, in which this doctrine brings those in deeply guilty, who other.
wise would scarcely appear guilty at all; and thus shew how it cuts up by the very roots a self
justifying spirit. 1. I proceed to make some introductory remarks.
In general, the text clearly proves, that the believ. ing penitent's view of the evil of his sins, is propor. tioned to the degree, in which he considers the extent of his obligations unto God. 1 In the present age and nation, systems of morality, and discourses on moral virtues, have almost excluded, not only the doctrines of Christianity, but even the preceptive part of Scripture : though they fall vastly below the high standard of the divine law, and are destitute of its sanctions; and of the motives, encouragements, and assistances proposed to us in the gospel. In many of these books utility to man is made the test and measure of virtue, and the crimjuality of vice is supposed to consist in the injury done to our fellow creatures.
. And this seems to be one of the most dangerous and ruinous evils of the day : as, if carried to its evi. dent consequences, it would supersede the whole reli. gion of Christ, and in fact abrogate the Bible. For it cannot be denied, that the sacred Oracles address us in far different language. The first and great com· mandment of the Law is, “ Thou shalt love the LORI “ thy God with all thine heart, and mind, and soul " and strength.” The first requirement of the Gospe is, “My son, give me thy heart.” “Repent and tur “ to God.”—“ Believe in the LORD JESUS CHRIST. And the general rules laid down for a Christian's cor duct are such as these, “ Whether therefore 'ye eat, “or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory “of God.” “ Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, “ do all in the name of the LORD JESUS CHRIST." “ With good will doing service, as to the LORD, and “not unto men.”
No doubt, such are the holy commands of God, and the way in which we are required to glorify him, that the more exactly we fulfil these superior obligations, the greater benefit we shall eventually render to mankind : but to reverse the order of Scripture, is "turning things upside down”* and placing the glory of the great God below the petty interests of sinful man !—Certainly we ought to do good to man for the Lord's sake; and not to glorify God for the sake of man.
But it will soon appear, that' these anti-scriptural views in great measure supersede the necessity of the Gospel; and by feeding self-complacency, and the pride of virtue, have had a powerful effect, in produ. cing that disregard to evangelical principles,' which forms in many places the peculiar character of the age. “If righteousness come by the law; then Christ “ died in vain ;” and he, who feels no need of his salration, is already prepared, not only to neglect, but toreject and oppose the Gospel.
There is in the natural consciences of men a far greater susceptibility of conviction and guilt, in what relates to their conduct towards each other, than in re. spect to their behaviour towards God. For, too com
Is, xxix. 15.
monly “ God is not in all their thoughts.” And, bie: sides this; the sense of the injury, done to society by several crimes, associates itself with all the ideas on these subjects, which we receive from education, stu. dy, and conversation : because the sentiment prevails in the world. Men generally cry shame of those who grossly violate their obligations to their neighbours ; and consider them as unfit for society : but they are not thus affected by the conduct of those, who most atrociously and habitually disregard the authority, and are ungrateful for the goodness, of God. Hence it becomes natural for us to connect the idea of criminality with all actions of the former kind, but not with those of the latter.
This indeed forms one ground of the opposition, which is every where excited against the doctrines of the Gospel. Men are used to judge themselves and their own characters, as they stand related to one ano. ther, and according to the rules and maxims established in their circle of society. -_-" Weighed in this ba. ' lance, they are not found wanting.” With a little aid from self-fattery, they conclude, that they never did harm to any one, that their hearts are good, and their lives good ; and are therefore disposed to take offence, when addressed as sinners needing salvation; and eagerly to dispute against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as against many other truths of christianity. Indeed it might be conceded to some among them, that if they had only to do with their fellow-creatures, and with the interests of men in this present world, their pleas would at least be plausible, But if such persons would consider their
obligations to God, and call themselves to account, how far they have or have not fulfilled them; if they were disposed to condemn themselves for all that his word condemns; “ Weighed in this balance they must * certainly be found wanting ;' and would soon be led to cry out, “ God be merciful to me a sinner!" And then, every part of Christianity would gradually open to their view, as most needful, most gracious, most suitable, and worthy of all acceptation.
The young man, who respectfully addressed our LORD, and enquired “ What he must do to inherit "eternal life;" having over-looked the first table of the law, and interpreted the several precepts of the second as a mere moralist would do, without hesitation replied, “ All these have I kept from my youth.” Yet the event shewed that he loved his riches better than the God who made him. .
When our LORD, speaking to a lawyer, who ask. ed the same question, enquired of him “ What is " written in the law? How readest thou ?” He re. plied by quoting the two great commandments. And our Lord said, “ Thou hast answered right; this do "and thou shalt live.” But “he, willing to justify "himself, said unto Jesus, and who is my neigh" bour?” He seemed not conscious of having violated his obligations to God, and so made no enquiry about the first and great commandment'; but desiring to justify himself, he appears to ask for a limitation of the too extensive meaning of the second, without which he could not possibly accomplish his object.
This being the case with men in general, it cannot at all be wonderful, that even serious enquirers after