« AnteriorContinuar »
« fire, prépared for the devil and his angels.” In like manner he determines the character of the righteous, not from the striking and splendid virtues which they exhibit to the world, but from the performance of the inferior duties of daily life : " Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the king• dom prepared for you from the foundation of the “ world.” Why? Is it for the splendid works of pi. ety, for building temples to the Deity, or dying as martyrs to the Christian Faith ? No. Men may build temples, without love to the Deity ; they may die as martyrs, without real religion ; but because ye have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirfty, and raiment to the naked ; actions of life in which ye must have been fincere ; because ye never expected that such actions would be heard of, and the practice of them grew so much into habit, that ye scarcely thought it a virtue to perform them.
Secondly, These little fins attack the authority of the Divine Legislator as much, or perhaps more than great sins. Evil thoughts are as expressly prohibit. . ed in the Divine law as evil deeds. The same God who says, Thou shalt not kill, fay; also, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart. What sentiment must you entertain of the Majesty in the Heavens, when his command cannot restrain you from the commission of the least sin ? Hath not God forbidden the impure desire and the malicious intention, as well as adultery and murder? And is it not as much his will that he should be obeyed in those commandments as in these? Have you a dispensation granted you to take the name of God in vain in com. mon conversation, any more than you have to swear
falsely before a civil magistrate? Have you more liberty allowed you to wound your neighbour's charac. ter than you have to shed his blood ? No, the prohibition extends to the one as well as to the other. The same authority that forbids the action, forbids the desire. The same law which says, 1 hou shalt not steal, says also, Thou shalt not covet. But you say, that the indulgences you plead for, are with re. gard to things in their own nature indifferent. A. las ! if you had proper ideas of a God possessed of infinite perfection, nothing that he commands or for. bids would appear indifferent. To you it may appear a matter of little moment or concern, what the strain of your thoughts is, or how the tenor of your conversation runs; but when you learn that your thoughts are known in heaven, and that by your words you shall be justified or condemned, these as. sume a more serious form, and become of infinite importance. But if the things for which you beg an indulgence are in their own nature small, why do you not abstain from them? If the prophet had commanded you a great thing, you might have mur. mured against the precept ; but when he only enjoins what you yourselves reckon a little thing, what pretence have you for a complaint? In place of be. ing an excuse, this is an aggravation of your offence. With your own mouth you condemn yourself. Can there be a stronger proof of a degenerate nature and a stubborn mind, than this inclination to diso. bey your Creator, in things that you reckon of little consequence? What can show a heart hardened against God, and set against the Heavens, so much as this refractory and rebellious disposition, which leads
men to violate the Majesty of the law, to insult the au. thority of the Lawgiver, to risk the vengeance of the Omnipotent, and to pour contempt on all the perfections of the Divine nature, rather than part with what they themselves reckon small and inconsiderable.
In the third place, You may contract as much guilt by breaking the least of the commandments, as by breaking the greatest of them. You start back and are affrighted at the approach of great iniquity : the heart revolts from a temptation to flagrant fins ; yet thousands of lesser fins, evil thoughts, malicious words, petty oaths, commodious lies, little deceits, you make no fcruple to commit every day. But the guilt of such reiterated fins is as great, or greater, than that of any single fin. To hate your neighbour in your heart without cause, to take every opportunity of blasting his character, and defeating his defigns, makes you as guilty in the Divine eye as if you had imbrued your hands in his blood. To use false weights, and a deceitful balance, is as criminal as a direct act of theft. He, who defrauds his neighbours daily in the course of his business, is a greater finner before God, and a worse member of society, than he who once in his life robs on the highway. The frequency of these little sins makes the guilt great, and the danger extreme. The constant operation of evil deeds impairs the strength of the soul, and shakes the foundation on which virtue rests. Wave succeeding wave undermines the whole fabric of virtue, and makes the building of God to fall. The thorns, which at first could scarcely be seen, spread by degrees over the field, and choke the good feed. The locusts, which Moses brought over the land of Egypt, appeared at first a contemptible mul... titude ; but in a little time, like a cloud, they darkened the air ; as a mighty army, they covered the face of the earth; they devoured the herb of the field, the fruit of the tree, and every green thing, and turn, ed what was formerly like the garden of Eden into a desolate wilderness. Thus these little fins increase as they advance; they blast where they enter ; by degrees they make the spiritual life decay ; they lay waste the new creation, and turn the intellectual world into a chaos, without form, and void of order, And yet we are not on our guard against them. It fareth with us as it did with the lfraelites of old. We tremble more at one Goliah than at the whole army of the Philistines. One gross scandalous sin makes us recoil and start back ; and yet we venture on the guilt of numberless smaller fins, without hesitation or remorse, What fignifies it whether you die of many small wounds, or by one great wound? What great difference does it make, whether the devouring fire and the everlasting burnings are kindled by many iparks, or by one fire-brand? When God shall reckon up against you at the great day the many thousand malicious thoughts, slanderous words, deceits, oaths, imprecations, lies, that you have been guilty of, the account will be as dreadful, and the wrath as insupportable, as if atrocious crimes had stood upon the list.
In the fourth place, These little offences make life' a chain and a continuation of fins, so that conversion becomes almost impossible. Often, upon the commission of a grofs sin, a sober interval succeeds ; serious reflection has its hour; sorrow and contrition of
heart take their turn; then is the crisis of a man's character ; and many improving this favourable opportunity, have risen greater from their fall. But if these little sins then come in ; if between the com, mission of one grofs sin and another, there intervenes a constant neglect of God, a hardness of heart, a van, ity of imagination, and unfruitfulness of life, you still add to the number of your fins, and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath. Such little fins fill up all the void spaces ; so that, by this means, life becomes an uninterrupted and unbroken chain of iniquity. Thus you render yourselves inca. pable of reformation, and put yourselves out of the power of Divine grace. How is it possible that you can ever come within the reach of mercy? How can the voice of God reach your heart? He speaks to you in the majestic filence of his works; but you reckon it no fin at all to shut your ears against the yoice which comes from heaven to earth, and reaches from one end of the world to the other. He speaks to you by the voice of his providence; but you reckon it of little moment to regard the doings of the Lord. He speaks to you in the Holy Scriptures; but you reckon the precept to read these one of the least commandments. He speaks to you in the ordinances of his own institution, but alas! how many hold it a little sin to absent themselves from these altogether! And how many of those who at, tend, think it but a little sin to spend their time as unprofitably as if absent ! He speaks to you with the still small voice; his Spirit whispers to your spirit. He seeks to enter in by your thoughts; but vanity, and folly, and vice, swarms of little fins,