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tion of the duty of the unregenerate.
Let us review our own past lives, according to our different opinions on this subject, that we may try which of us must feel most indebted to Christ, upon the estimate which our respective sentiments will lead us to form of our quantity of guilt. When you reflect upon the days of your unregeneracy, you suppose that you neglected a number of external duties which you ought to have performed, and might have done without any special grace; e. g. The same feet which carried you to an alehouse, could have taken you to a place of worship; the same hands which played at cards, could have given alms; the same eyes that osten beheld vanity, could have looked into the Bible; the same tongue which sung wanton songs, could have sung hymns; the same ears which listened to evil conversation, could have hearkened to sermons: for the omission of these duties, therefore, you blame yourself; and also on account of various sins, of falsehood, profaneness, &c. which you could have forborne to commit, without any love to God or Christ. On the whole, you can think of a number of sins, both of omission and commission, for which you needed to repent, and for which you have sought pardon: and as you hope that you have found mercy, you ascribe the forgiveness of all these sins to the riches of grace, displayed through the mediation and atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ then, acccording to your estimate, has done somewhat considerable for
you, in redeeming you from the curse of the law, which was due to all these sins. You owe him much on this account. But now, when I review the days of my unregeneracy, according to my ideas of duty and sin,
how much more do I owe to Christ, if I am forgiven my sins for his sake! There was nothing which you suppose to have been your duty, but what I equally consider as having been my duty. There is no sin which you charge upon yourself, but what I think as criminal as ever you can do; but over and above what you allow of yourself, I am convinced that I was bound, by the strongest obligations, to revere and esteem the ever blessed God; to love him with all my heart, and serve him with all my might, aiming constantly at his glory. I charge myself, therefore, with unspeakably greater criminality than you, for as much as I lived so many years without any supreme regard to God; in all which time I did nothing for the sake of glorifying him: yea (as though it had been a small thing to disregard that law which is holy, just, and good, and which is spiritual, extending to the heart, and taking cognizance of the springs of action) I also slighted the Lord Jesus Christ, and rejected the counsel of God against myself, making light of the great salvation, and treating God as a liar, by disbelieving his testimony concerning his Son: all this I view as sin, horrid sin, aggravated sin? If, therefore, my sentiments are just, I must view myself as infinitely more criminal than your opinions would lead you to esteem yourself; and if I am pardoned, my obligations to Christ and free grace must appear unspeakably greater than yours.
EXHORTATION TO THE WICKED TO PRAY.
"Exhort a wicked man to pray! God would as soon
be moved by the howlings of the damned!” said a flaming declaimer in the pulpit some time since. Query, Is it right to exhort a wicked man to pray?
The declaimer seems to have had his eye to those passages of Scripture, which declare the sacrifice and way of the wicked to be an abomination to the Lord;* and to have concluded from them, that God does not require any sacrifice or prayer at their hand. But if so, Why did Peter exhort the sorcerer to pray? And wherefore is the fury of God denounced against the families that call not upon his name?t An hypothesis which flies in the face of the express language of Scripture is inadmissible; and the framer of it, to be consistent, should avow himself an infidel. If he meant only to deny that God requires such prayers as wicked men actually of.fer, the prayer of a hard, impenitent, and unbelieving heart, I have no controversy with him. God cannot possibly approve any thing of this kind. But then the same is true of every other duty. Wicked men do nothing that is good or well pleasing to God; nothing which is aimed at his glory, or done in obedience to his authority; every thing that is done, is done for selfish ends. If they read the scriptures, it is not to know the will of God, and do it; or hear the word, it is not with
* Prov. xv. 8, 9. xxi. 27.
# Acts yli. 29
ány true desire to profit by it: even their pursuit of the common good things of this life, is that they may consume them
their lusts; hence the very ploughing of the wicked is sin.* Yet the declaimer himself would scarcely infer from hence, that it is not their duty to read the word of God, nor attend to the preaching of the gospel, nor pursue the necessary avocations of life: neither would he reckon it absurd to exhort them to such exercises as these.
The truth is, wicked men are required to do all these things; not carnally, but with a right end, and a right spirit: and in this way Simon, though in the gall of bitterness, and the bonds of iniquity, was exhorted to pray, not with a hard and impenitent heart, but with a spirit of true contrition. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedne88, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee! To repent and pray, is the same thing in effect as to pray penitently,or with a contrite spirit. Wicked men are required to read and hear the word, but not with a wicked spirit; and to plough the soil, but not that they may consume its productions upon their lusts. There are not two sorts of requirements, or two standards of obedience, one for good men, and the other for wicked men; the revealed will of God is one and the same, however differently creatures may stand affected towards it. The same things which are quired of the righteous,(repentance, faith, love, prayer, praise, &c.) are required of the wicked. If it were not So, and the aversion of the heart tended to set aside
* Prop. xxi. 4.
† Acts iii. 19. John xii. 36. Rev, xy. 4.
God's authority over it, it must of necessity follow, that a sinner can never be brought to repent, except it be for the commission of those sins which might have been avoided, consistent with the most perfect enmity against God. And this is to undermine all true repentance; for the essence of true repentance is godly sorrow, or sorrow for having displeased and dishonored God. But if, during my unregeneracy, I were under no obligation to please God, I must of course have been incapable of displeasing him; where no law is, there is no transgression; consequently I can never be sorry at heart for having displeased him: and as there would be but little, if any, ground for repentance towards God, su there would be but little, if any, need of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; for if, during my unregeneracy, I were under no obligation to do any thing pleasing to God and were so far incapable of doing any thing to displease him, so far I must be sinless, and therefore stand in no need of a Savior. Where there is no obligation, there can be no offence; and where there is no offence, there needs no forgiveness. Thus the notions of this declaimer, who, I suppose, would be thought to be very evangelical, will be found subversive of the first principles of the Gospel testimony.