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ther such a one as themselves. Their petitions are not guided by their desires, but they utter with their mouths what they find in the book, though their hearts have no love or relish of the things they ask for. How often is God mocked by those who join in our established worship? Has he not been so this morning by some of you? How little he is reverenced by many, is plain from the little regard they pay to his commands. They will break his sabbaths, blaspheme his name, live in drunkenness, whoredom, anger, and malice, and yet pretend to worship him. But those who rightly understand the inquiry in my text, cannot do thus. They consider him as the high God; they know that he humbles himself to behold even the worship of heaven, and are therefore struck with this thought, Wherewith can I, a poor worm, who am but dust and ashes, come before this high God?
3. A sense of guilt. . Alas! says the soul that is enlightened to see itself, I am not only mean, but vile. “ I have sinned, what shall I do unto thee, O thou pre“ server of men*?" wherewith shall such a polluted obnoxious creature as I am, appear before a holy God? Can
my services atone for my sins, or what service can I perform that is not defiled and rendered unworthy of acceptance by the evil of my heart? But could I perform ever so well from this day forward, what would this avail for what is past? If I had offended a man like myself, I might think of making some amends; but my sins are against God. His justice, wisdom, holiness, and truth, have all demands upon me. What then can I bring? Will sacrifices appease him? No: these, though of his own appointment, are not of them
* Job, vii. 20.
selves sufficient. “ It is not possible for the blood of “ bulls and goats to take away sins*.” Though all the beasts of the forest, and the cattle upon a thousand hills were mine, though I should offer all Lebanon, hills of frankincense, rivers, yea, ten thousands of rivers of oil, all would not do. Or should I give my son, my only son, the fruit of my body, neither would this atone for the sin of my soul.
Here then you may see, that to an awakened sinner sin is the heaviest burden imaginable. He is willing, and would be glad (if it might be), to purchase the pardon of sin with the loss of every thing he accounts most valuable. If he had the whole world, he would freely part with it to be free from guilt. But at the same time he finds it a burden that he cannot shake off; he knows that he never can be delivered for any thing he can do or propose, and therefore the great subject of inquiry always upon his mind is, Wherewith or how shall I appear and stand before the high God!
I hope some of you are thus minded; to you I have a comfortable message from the other part of But as I cannot hope thus of you all, I must previously take notice, that there is hardly any one passage in the Bible more generally misunderstood, and which ignorant and careless men are more prone to wrest to their own destruction, than the verses under our present consideration. Not a few, having their eyes blinded by the god of this world, and their hearts enslaved to the love and practice of sin, are content to understand it as if it was rather a rebuke than an encouragement to them, who, like † the jailer, are deeply affected with a concern for the salvation of their souls. Their comment is to
“ He hath showed thee, O man, what is
† Acts, xvi. 30.
good;" that is, you need not terrify yourself at this rate; there is nothing so evil in sin, or so awful in God's threatenings as you suppose. He has said, indeed, “ The soul that sinneth shall die *;" yet here you see an easy way to escape, “ Do justly” (which is, being interpreted), Do not grossly cheat and injure your neighbour; abstain from robbery, extortion, and heavy oppression, and “ love mercy;" that is, be ready to do what are commonly called good-natured offices, and to give a shilling, or a guinea (according to your circumstances), now and then to the poor, and you will be safe enough. How they explain the other clause, “ walk humbly," upon this plan, I confess myself unable to conceive, and therefore I believe they are glad to omit it; for I am sure, light cannot be more contrary to darkness, than such language as this is opposite to the idea of walking humbly with God.
According to this opinion, to do justly, and to love mercy, are the whole of religion. They are, indeed, essential parts of it; and miserable will you be who talk in this strain, if God, at the great day, should judge you by this text to which you now presumptuously appeal. How wonderful is the pride and arrogance
of fallen man, who will dare to urge a plea before God which must issue in his own confusion! Do you indeed deal justly? It implies something more than not being an arrant knave. Do you at all times, and in all respects, behave to every person as you would they should do unto you? Did you never take the least advantage of the ignorance or neces
your neighbour? Did you never speak or report any thing to his prejudice, without sufficient warrant and sufficient cause? You feel how tender you
* Ezek. xviii. 4.
are of your own character and interests. Have you been equally tender of the interests of others, of all others with whom you have had connexions, without being influenced in any instance or degree by partiality or mercenary views? If you cannot appeal to the Searcher of hearts that you have walked in this integrity, your pretence' that you have done justly, is vile hypocrisy, and you may tremble to think how easily you may be condemned out of
your own mouth. Alas! if God, to whom all your thoughts and actions have been incessantly exposed, should enter into judgement with you, how unable would you be to answer him in one of a thousand?
Again, Do you love mercy? Do you love it as a miser loves money? Is it the pleasure of your hearts to overcome evil with good? If your brother or neighbour offend you, not seven times, but seventy times seven *, do you find it delightful to repeat your forgive ness, to bless them that curse you, to pray for them that despitefully use you, and to requite repeated injuries with repeated acts of kindness ? If not, what have you to do with mercy, either to pretend that mercy yourself, or to indulge a hope of obtaining mercy from God, if you knew no better way of seeking it than by your own works. But suppose you was less culpable in these particulars, can you say that you walk humbly with God? Alas ! how impossible is this, while you trust in your own righteousness, while you slight and despise his threatenings, while your hearts rise against his Gospel. Are you not impatient under the afflictions which he sends, and unthankful for innumerable mercies which he is daily bestowing upon you?
And is this to walk humbly with God? Bear with me for a plain word, which I purposely speak plainly, that it may not be forgot: I say, that if any man or woman can be saved in this way, that is, upon the account of doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, then Satan himself has no cause to despair.
I return now to those who see and acknowledge themselves to be sinners, without righteousness and strength, and are desirous to appear before God with comfort. To you I bring good tidings; the Lord help you to believe and rejoice. He hath showed you that which is good, which is the only and sufficient ground whereon to build your hopes: he has showed or revealed it, for otherwise you could never have found it out. What the law cannot do in that it is weak and ineffectual through the flesh, God bas done by sending bis Son in the likeness of sinful flesh * The Lord Jesus Christ is that good to which the prophet refers ; Moses and the prophets, and all the Scriptures, testify of him, and Micah among the rest. One of the most illustrious testimonies to the person and office of our Immanuel in the Old Testament, is to be found in the chapter preceding my text. “ But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, " though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is “ to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been “ from of old, from everlasting. And he shall stand “ and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty “ of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall “ abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of " the earth. And this man shall be the peacet.” All other sacrifices and Saviours are insufficient; but Jesus,