Page images
PDF
EPUB

kingdom of God. I fear it may be said of most of us, that the class of sins which compose our account with God, are habitual sins; habitual omissions, and habitual commissions. Now it is true of both these, that we may

have continued in them so long, they may have become so familiar to us by repetition, that we think nothing at all of them. We may neglect any duty, till we forget that it is one ; we may neglect our prayers; we may neglect our devotion ; we may neglect every duty towards God, till we become so unaccustomed and unused to them, as to be insensible that we are incurring any omission, or contracting, from that omission, any guilt which can hurt; and yet we may be, in truth, all the while “ treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.” How many thousands, for instance, by omitting to attend the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, have come not to know, that it forms any part of Christian obligation. And long disuse and discontinuance would have the same effect upon any other duty, however plain might be the proof of it, when the matter came to be considered.

It is not less so with sins of commission. Serious minds are shocked with observing with what complete unconcern and indifference many forbidden things are practised. The persons who are guilty of them do not, by any mark or symptom whatever, appear to feel the smallest rebuke of conscience, or to have the least sense of either guilt, or danger, or shame, in what they do ; and it not only appears to be so, but it is so. They are, in fact, without any notice, consciousness, or compunction upon the subject. These sins, therefore, if they be such, are secret sins to them. But are they not therefore sins ? That becomes the next great

[ocr errors]

question. We must allow, because fact proves it, that
habit and custom can destroy the sense and perception
of sin. Does the act then, in that person, cease to be
any longer a sin ? This must be asserted by those who
argue, that nothing can be a sin but what is known
and understood, and also felt and perceived, to be so,
by the sinner himself at the time ; and who, conse-
quently, deny that there are any secret sins, in our
sense of that expression. Now mark the consequences
which would follow such an opinion. It is then the
timorous beginner in wicked courses who alone is to be
brought to account. Can such a doctrine be main-
tained ? Sinners are called upon by preachers of the
Gospel, and over and over again called upon, to com-
pare themselves with themselves; themselves at one
time with themselves at another; their former selves,
when they first entered upon sinful allowances, and
their present selves, since they have been confirmed in
them—with what fear, and scruple, and reluctance,
what sense and acknowledgement of wrong, what ap-
prehension of danger, against what remonstrance of
reason, and with what opposition and violence to their
religious principle, they first gave way to temptation-
with what ease, if ease it may be called, at least with
what hardness and unconcern, they now continue in
practices which they once dreaded—in a word, what a
change, as to the particular article in question at least,
has taken place in their moral sentiments! Yet, not-
withstanding this change in them, the reason, which
made what they are doing a sin, remains the same that
it was at first : at first they saw great force and strength
in that reason ; at present they see none; but, in
truth it is all the while the same. Unless, there-

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

fore, we choose to say, that a man has only to harden himself in his sins (which thing perseverance will always do for him); and that with the sense he takes away the guilt of them ; and that the only sinner is the conscious, trembling, affrightened, reluctant sinner; that the confirmed sinner is not a sinner at all ;-unless we will advance this, which affronts all principles of justice and sense, we must confess that secret sins are both possible and frequent things: that with the habitual sinner, and with every man, in so far as he is, and in that article in which he is, an habitual sinner, this is almost sure to be the case.

What, then, are the reflections suitable to such a case ? First, to join most sincerely with the Psalmist in his prayer to God, “ O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.” Secondly, to see, in this consideration, the exceedingly great danger of evil habits of all kinds. It is a dreadful thing to commit sins without knowing it, and yet to have those sins to answer for. That is dreadful; and yet it is no other than the just consequences and effect of siniful habits. They destroy in us the perception of guilt: that experience proves. They do not destroy the guilt itself: that no man can argue, because it leads to injustice and absurdity.

How well does the Scripture express the state of an habitual sinner, when he calls him “ dead in trespasses and sins!” His conscience is dead: that, which ought to be the living, actuating, governing principle of the whole man, is dead within him—is extinguished by the power of sin reigning in his heart. He is incapable of perceiving his sins, whilst he commits them with greedi

It is evident that a vast alteration must take place in such a man, before he be brought into the way

ness.

of salvation. It is a great change from innocence to guilt, when a man falls from a life of virtue to a life of sin. But the recovery from it is much greater; because the very secrecy of our sins to ourselves, the uncon. sciousness of them, which practice and custom, and repetition and habit, have produced in us, is an almost insurmountable hinderance to an effectual reformation.

XIV.

A SENSE OF SIN TO BE KEPT UP IN OUR MINDS.

PSALM XL. 15.

For innumerable troubles are come about me ; my

sins have taken such hold upon me that I am not able to look up; yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me.

A CONVICTION of sin is oftentimes the beginning of religion in the heart. It is oftentimes a source of anguish and despair. Yet, with all its bitterness and all its danger, it produces a frame of mind more hopeful as to salvation than insensibility. I do not mean that it is more hopeful than the reasonable satisfaction and assurance which arises in the heart from the recollection of a well-spent life, or even of sincere, broken, and imperfect endeavours after such a life; but it is more comfortable than unconcernedness, for that has no recollection to build upon. It is the property of a man (and, God knows, there are millions such), who, when danger is at hand, seeks security by shutting his eyes against danger.

Now all who feel within themselves a strong conviction of their sin, I desire they will go to the text I have read to you. It describes their case; it

exposes their feeling and their sufferings, and it leads them into the right direction. The words of the text bear about them the marks and tokens of reality. It seems im- .

« PreviousContinue »