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and relies on his own supposed good performances. Being entirely ignorant of his moral weakness, the total corruption of his nature, and the extensive demands of divine law, he endeavours, if at all concerned about his soul, to establish his own righteousness, as the principal ground of his acceptance with the high and holy God. He trusts in some general mercy to be exercised towards him through Jesus Christ, to make up the deficiencies attending his own sincere attempts to perform his duty. In case of a relapse into open and scandalous offences, he flatters himself with the hopes of pardon, and of having an interest in the love of God, if he do but forsake his past transgressions, be sorry for them, and amend his ways for the future. This, he thinks, is the obvious and easy way of placating an offended God, and of obtaining the divine favour. On such a sandy foundation are the hopes of men commonly built. Thus we lie, asleep in sin, and dreaming of happiness, on the verge of a dreadful precipice, yet unapprehensive of danger, till reigning Grace exerts her influence to recover us from our native ruin. But when the Spirit of God convinces of sin by the holy law, and manifests its extensive demands to the conscience of a sinner; when he is informed that every sin subjects the offender to a dreadful curse, then his fears are alarmed and his endeavours are quickened. Being aroused from his spiritual slumber, he is more earnest and punctual in the performance of religious duties, in endeavouring after holiness, and in the pursuit of happiness. He is not content with that careless and superficial way of performing devotional services,
which before satisfied his conscience and gratified his pride. For now, guilt burns his soul, and conscience sharpens her sting; while the terrors of the Almighty seem to be set in array against him. The duties he has neglected, the mercies he has abused, and the daring acts of rebellion he has committed against his divine Sovereign, crowd in upon his mind and rack his very soul. The justice of the Lawgiver appears ready to vindicate the law, as holy and good; and, like an incensed adversary, unsheaths his sword and makes a loud demand for vengeance. In such a situation, he cannot but earnestly seek to escape impending ruin. But yet, his heart being deeply leavened with legal pride, and acquainted with the divine righteousness, he labours to obtain salvation, as it were, by the works of the law. When, by the Spirit and word of truth, he is farther made sensible of his natural depravity, and of the defects attending his best performances; when he considers how very imperfect they all appear in his own eye, and that a perfect righteousness is absolutely necessary to his acceptance with the eternal Judge, then his hopes of salvation by his own obedience vanish, and his apprehensions of eternal punishment increase. Thus, when the law comes, shining in its purity and operating on his conscience with power, sin is revived ; a sense of deserved wrath possesses the soul, and his former self-righteous hopes expire. He now reflects on his past ignorance and pharisaical pride, with the greatest amazement and the deepest self-abhorrence. However reluctant, he is obliged to give up his former exalted notions of his own moral excellence, and is compelled, with the polluted leper, to cry, Unclean l unclean l Now he perceives a propriety, now he feels an energy in those emphatical scripture phrases, which describe the state of a natural man, by a filthy sow wallowing in the mire—by a dog in love with his vomit—and by an open sepulchre, emitting the abhorred stench of a putrefying carcase. These objects, he is fully convinced, are infinitely less offensive to the most delicate person and the keenest sense, than that moral polution is, which, in the sight of a holy God, has defiled his whole soul. Now he freely acknowledges, that what he used to look upon as trivial offences, are shocking crimes. He is thoroughly convinced that the various transgressions of his life, however vile and enormous, are so many streams from a corrupt fountain within—that they proceed from a desperately wicked heart. He is amazed, he is confounded, when he reflects on his inbred corruptions, and views his native depravity. His eyes being opened to behold the spirituality and vast extent of the divine law, he considers his whole life as one continued scene of iniquity. For, instead of living every moment of his time in uninterrupted and most fervent love of God, as the law requires, he finds, to his grief and shame, that he has lived in the love of self and sin; self-love having been his law; self-pleasing all his end, Viewing the holy law as a transcript of divine purity, he plainly sees that he is no less obliged to love God with all the powers of his soul, for the sake of his infinite excellencies, than he is to avoid the horrid crimes
of murder and adultery. In a word, he considers
himself as the chief of sinners. The sentence of the
law, though terrible to the last degree, he allows
to be just.
The execution of it he cannot but dread; yet from his heart he acquits both the Lawgiver of any righteous severity, though he should never taste of mercy. His language is, The law is just, and death is my due.
Methinks I behold the awakened sinner, sobbing with anguish and bathed in tears, fixed in thought and indulging reflection about his state and his danger. The law, how holy, which I have transgressed! the curse, how awful, that I have incurred! My crimes, how numerous! Their aggravations, how dreadful! How ineffably wretched my state! for my soul, my immortal all is in the utmost jeopardy. What shall I do? Whither shall I fee for refuge? Shall I look for relief to carnal enjoyments and sinful pleasures ? shall I quaff the sparkling bowl, or frequent the circles of polite amusement ? Such a procedure would enhance my guilt and increase my torment; would be like seeking an asylum in hell. Shall I plead with my Sovereign and Judge, that I have not been so wicked as others? But how shall I prove the fact? or if I could, the debtor that owes but fifty pence, having nothing to pay, is equally obnoxious to an arrest and a prison, with one that owes five hundred. For Jehovah declares, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But have I performed no good works nor any obedience from which I
extract some comfort, on which I may build my hope of acceptance? Here, alas, I am entirely destitute. Conscious I am, that I have not loved God, that I have not sought his glory; and without these there is no acceptable obedience.
My very prayers need an atonement, and my tears want washing. Shall I promise amendment and vow reformation, if He, to whom I have forfeited my life, will be pleased to spare it? Shall I say, with him in the parable that owed ten thousand talents, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all ? This would be an evidence of superlative pride, and an instance of the greatest folly. My debt, like his, is enormous; and would my Creditor compound for the widow's two mites, I should still be insolvent. I now find by experience that I am utterly without strength. But supposing I possessed abilities, and were to perform a perfect obedience in future; this would make no amends for my past trangressions: the old and heavy score will still stand against me. Had my offences been committed against a fellow-creature, I might possibly have been able to make compensation. But they are against my Maker, to whom I owe my time and talents--all that I have and all that I am. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him ; or how shall the offender atone for his crimes ? It is the infinite Jehovah against whom I have sinned: it is the eternal Sovereign of all worlds against whom I have rebelled. Who then shall entreat for me! Yes, I have trampled on infinite authority. The language of my stubborn heart and abominable conduct has been, Who is the Lord that I should cbey him? As the universal Governor, I have renounced his dominion, and seated self on the throne; as my constant Benefactor, I have abused his mercies to his dishonour. Infinitely perfect and supremely amiable as he is