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the divine holiness; and if he "essay to justify himself, “ his own mouth will condemn him” as guilty from choice.
Once more, the fame view will eflectually consute, and shew the vanity, of, those pretensions which are derived from our own imperfect and defective cbedience. When conviction first lays hold of a finner, however vain the attempt, he has still a strong inclination that righteousness “ should come by the law.” This is not wonderful; for in no other way can he himself have any title to glory, and a thorough renunciation of all self-intereft, is too great a sacrifice to be made at once. Hence he is ready to look with some mcafure of satisfaction on those who have been greater finners than himself, and secretly to found his expectation of pardon for those sins he hath committed, on the superior heinousness of those front which he hath abstained. Hence also he is ready to hope he may make fufficient atonement for his past fins by future amendment : but a discovery of the holiness of God, and the obligation to love him with all the heart, and foul, and strength, and mind, foon destroys this fond imagination. It shews him that he can at no time do more than his duty; that he never can have any abounding or foliciting merit : nay, that a whole eternity, fo to speak, of perfect obedience, would do just nothing at all towards expiating the guilt of the least fin. But befiles all this, the fame thing thews him, that his best duties are ftained with fuch fins and imperiections, that he is still but adding to the charge, infiead of taking from the old score; for “ we are all as an unclean thing, and all our
righteousnesses are but as filthy rags; and we all do face “ as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have carried “ us away*.” Thus, one after another, he is stript of every plea, however eagerly he may cleave to them, and support or bolster up one, by the addition of another. He sees not only his dancer, but his guilt ; not only the fearfulness of his state, but the holiness and righteousness of his judge. He lies down proftrate at the footstool of the
* Isaiah lxiv. 6.
Almighty, and makes unmerited mercy and sovereign grace the only foundation of his hope.
SE C T. IV.
Of the degrec of sorrow for sin in true penitents.
TAVING thus considered the proper source of
source of genua iue conviction and sorrow for fin, it was proposed next to enquire, to what degree it must be, in order to a faving change. The truth is, were not this a question of ten proposed, and the resolution of it desired by serious perfons, the weakest of whom deserve all attention and re. gard from every minister of Christ, I should have left it altogether untouched. The reason of this obfervation is, that I am persuaded, and take the present opportunity of affirming it, that the chief distinction between convictions genuine or falutary, and such as are only transitory and fruitless, does not lie in their strength and violence, fo much as their principle and source, which has been formerly explained.
There is often as great, or, perhaps, it may be safely said there is often a greater degree of terror in persons brought under occasional convictions, which are after wards fruitless, than in others in whom they are the introduction to a saving change. It is probable that the hora ror of mind which possessed Cain after his brother's murder, was of the most terrible kind. It is probable that the humiliation of Ahab, after he had caused Naboth to be destroyed by false evidence, and was threatened with a dreadful visitation, was exceeding great. It is probable that the mere passion of fear in either of these criminals was equal, if not superior, to the fear of any true penitent recorded in fcripture. It is the principle that distinguish. es their nature. It is the differing principle that produces opposite effects. The one is alarmed and trembles through fear of wrath from an irresistible and incensed God; the other is truly sensible of fin in all its malignity, and fears the sanction of a righteous, but violated law. The one feels himself a miserable creature ; the other
confesses himself a guilty sinner. The one is terrified; and the other is humbled.
It is some doubt with me, whether in fruitless convic. tions there is any fenfe at all of fin, as such ; I mean, as truly meriting punishment from a just and holy God. Such persons ordinarily are displeased at the holiness of God's nature, aad murmer at the strictness of his law; and therefore, however much they may dread suffering here or hereafter, they cannot be said to be convinced of fin. We have seen some who, when afflictions brought their fins to remembrance, were but driven on, by despair, to higher degrees of guilt, and, the more they seem to fear the approaching judgment of God, only increased in the impa. tience of blafpheming rage.
However, as there is a great measure of deceit in the human heart, fome may be ready to flatter themselves, on the one hand, that they have seen the evil of fin in it. felf; and some, on the other, to fear that they have not seen it as they ought, because their sorrow has not risen to the requisite degree. Many have expressed uneasiness that they never mourned for fin in a manner correspond ing to the strong feripture declarations of its odious and hateful nature, or to the following description of gospel penitents : " And I will pour upon the house of David, " and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalemn, the spirit of grace " and supplication, and they shall look upon me whom
they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one “ mourneth for his only fon, and shall be in bitterness “ for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firft-born*.” For this reason I shall make an obfervation or two on the degree of sorrow for fin in true penitents, which may enable us to judge in every question of the fame nature.
1. One thing, in general, must be carefully remembered, that we ought not to lay down one rule for all persons. We are not to meafure the forrow of any true penitent, and make a standard from it for the effects or expressions of forrow in any other. The strength of all the paflions, and their readiness to express themselves, is greater natusally in some than in others. There is nothing of which
Zech, xii. 16.
men may be more fenfible from daily experience. Love and hatred, joy and grief, defire and aversion, fhew them. selves by much more violent emotions in some than in others. It would be wrong, therefore, to reduce all to one rule, and none ought to look upon it as a just cause of disquiet, that they have not had the same degree or depth of distress and anguish which others have had, of whom they have read or heard. Another circumstance may also be the occasion of diversity. In some, convictions may have been more early and gradual, and, therefore, less violent and sensible. It is not to be supposed that Samuel, whose very conception was the answer of prayer, who was called fronı his mother's womb, and served in the temple from his being a child, should have experienced the fame depth of humiliation with such as Manasseh, for example, who had been guilty of many atrocious crimes, and con. tinued long in a hardened and insensible ftate. There. fore,
2. Suffer me to observe, that the great and principal evidence of a proper degree of conviction and forrow for fin, is its permanency and practical influence. Genuine conviction is not a Hath of fervor, however strong, but a deep, abiding, and governing principle, which will thew its strength, by its habitual power over its opposite. Eve ry true penitent will join in thele words of Elihu : "Sure.
ly it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chaf. “tisement, I will not offend any more; that which I see
not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do " no more*.” Nothing else will be a fufficient evidence of penitence, where this is wanting; and where this is the case, nothing can be wanting that is really necessary. This may, perhaps, as I observed on another part of this discourse, be thought too general, but I am persuaded it is the only safe ground to build upon, according to the feriptures. Every other claim of relation will be rejected at last by our Saviour and Judge, as he hath plainly told us : “ Not every one that faith unto me, Lord, lord, shall enter “ into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will
* Job xxxiv. 31, 32.
" of my father which is in heaven. Many will say to me " in that day, Lord, lord, have we not prophesied in thy “ name? and in thy name cast out devils ? and in thy " name done many wonderfui works? And then will I “ profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity*.”
Would any know, therefore, whether their forrow for fin hath been to the requisite degree, let me intreat them to suffer conscience to answer honestly to the following interrogatories. Has your conviétion of fin been such as to make you abhor and hate it in every form ? Hath it been such as to make you resolve upon a thorough and perpetual separation from your once beloved pleasures? Does it make you ready to examine the lawfulness of every pursuit, and to abstain even from every doubtful or fulpected practice? Is there no known fin that you are desirous to excuse or palliate, studious to conceal, or willing to spare ? Remember this necellary caution of our Savi. or : “ And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and “ cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of
thy members should perish, and not that thy whole " body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand “ offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee ; for it is pro- fitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, " and not that thy whole body should be cast into hellt.” Is there no fin, however long practifed, or however greatly delighted in ; is there no fin, however gainful or honorable, but you desire liberty from its enslaving power, as well as deliverance from its condemning guilt? Is there no part of the law of God, of the duty and character of a Christian, however ungrateful to a covetous heart, however despised by a fcorning world, but you acknowledge its obligation ? Would you, indeel, rather be hely than great? Do you rather choose persecution with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of fin for a feason? See what terms Chrilt makes with his disciples : “ If any " man will come after me, let him dleny himself, and take “ up his cross, and follow me: for whosoever will save his
* Matt. vii. 21, 22, 23.
| Vatt. V. 29, 30.