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1. The poor
[We have represented you as in some respects under great disadvantages in a time of sickness: but in other respects the advantage is altogether on your side. The friends of the rich are almost uniformly bent on keeping from them all those who would seek to benefit their souls: and, if one get access to them, one scarcely dares to speak, except in gentle hints and dark insinuations; whilst their friends in general are doing all they can to divert their minds from all serious religion. But such friends as these give themselves no trouble about you; whilst the benevolent Christian who visits you begins at once to instruct you in the things that belong to your everlasting peace. Thus all the treasures of redeeming love are opened to you, whilst they are studiously withheld from the rich; and all the consolations of the Gospel are poured into your souls, whilst even a taste of them is denied to thousands, either through their own contempt of Christ, or through the blindness and prejudice of ungodly friends. Know ye then, that if on account of your want of temporal comforts we compassionate your state, we rather congratulate you on the advantages you enjoy for your immortal souls. God has said, that " he has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of his kingdom;" and therefore we call upon you to take this into your estimate of your condition, and to adore God for having chosen better for you than you would have chosen for yourselves.] 2. Those who engage in visiting the poor
[This is a good and blessed office, in the conscientious discharge of which, religion in no small degree consists!. Abound then, as far as your situation and circumstances will admit of it, in this holy work: but take especial care that you perform it in a proper spirit. If you would have those whom you visit to weep, you yourself must be filled with compassion, and weep over them. This is a state of mind which an angel might envy. Never did Jesus himself appear more glorious, not even on Mount Tabor, than when he wept at the grave of Lazarus. Nor does God ever delight in his people more than when he sees them abounding in acts of love to men for their Redeemer's sakeh. Only see to it that you “ draw out not your purse only, but “ your souls” also to the afflicted, and God will recompense it into your bosom an hundred-fold) 3. The congregation at large
[In order to administer relief to any extent, considerable funds are necessary: and where any measure of benevolence f Jam. i. 27.
& John xi. 35. h Matt. vi. 4.
i Isai. Iviïi. 10, 11.
exists, it will be a pleasure to contribute towards the carrying on a work of such incalculable importance. When St. Paul went up to confer with the Apostles at Jerusalem, they added nothing to his knowledge of the Gospel ; “ only they would that he should remember the poor: the same which I also (says he) was forward to dok.” To you then would we recommend the same benevolent disposition ; and we pray God that there may be in you
the same readiness to cultivate it to the uttermost. All may not have time or ability to do much in instructing and comforting the poor: but all, even the widow with a single mite, may testify their love to the poor, and their desire to advance the good work in which a select number are engaged. Even those who are “in deep poverty may abound unto the riches of liberality!." Let all then “prove the sincerity of their love to Christ" by their compassion to his poor membersm; and let them know, that “
even a cup
of cold water given for his sake shall in no wise lose its reward.”]
k Gal. i. 10. 1 2 Cor. viii. 1-4. m 2 Cor. viï. 8.
AWFUL STATE OF UNGODLY MEN.
Ps. xxxvi. 1. The transgression of the wicked saith within my
heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes. WHEN we speak of the wickedness of mankind, that command of our Lord is frequently cast in our teeth, “ Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But this command refers to an uncharitable ascribing of good actions to a bad principle; which, as we cannot see the heart, we are by no means authorized to do. But, if it do not authorize us to “call good evil,” it assuredly does not require us to “call evil good.” If we see sin, it is no uncharitableness to pronounce it sin : and, if the sin be habitual, it is no uncharitableness to say, that the heart from which it proceeds is bad and depraved. We are told by our Lord, that “the tree is to be judged of by its fruit; and that as a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so neither can a good tree habitually bring forth evil fruita.” An error, and even a fault may be committed, without detracting from a person's general character: but a sinful course of life involves in it, of necessity, a corruption of heart, and carries with it, to any dispassionate mind, a conviction that the person who pursues that course has not within him the fear of God. This was the impression made on David's mind, when he said, “ The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes."
a Matt. vii, 16–18.
In confirmation of this sentiment, I will shew, I. How God interprets sin
God views sin not merely as contained in overt acts, but as existing in the soul: and he judges of its malignity, not according to its aspect upon social happiness, but as it bears on himself, and affects his honour. Throughout the whole Sacred Volume, God speaks of it in this view. He represents sin as striking at the relation which subsists between him and his creatures : 1. As adultery
[He is the Husband of his Church, and claims our entire and exclusive regards. When these are alienated from him, and fixed on the creature, he calls it adulteryd: and hence St. James, speaking of those who sought the friendship of the world, addresses them as "adulterers and adulteresses e;' because, as the Spouse of Christ, they have placed on another the affections due to him alone.) 2. As rebellion
[God, as the Governor of the universe, requires us to obey his laws. But sin is an opposition to his will, and a violation of his laws: and therefore God says respecting it, “ The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can bef." Here, let it be observed, it is not the overt act, but the disposition only, that is so characterized: and, consequently, if the very disposition as existing in the soul is an equivocal proof of the wickedness of the heart, much more must the outward act, and especially the constant habit of the life, be considered as a decisive evidence that the soul itself is corrupt.] 3. As idolatry
[God alone is to be worshipped: and to put any thing in competition with him is to make it an idol. Hence the love of money is called idolatry 8: and the indulgence of a sensual b Isai, liv. 5. c Hos. iii. 3.
d Ezek. xvi. 37. e James iv. 4. f Rom. viii. 7,
& Col. iii. 5.
appetite is to make our belly our godh.” And hence St. John, having set forth “ the Lord Jesus as the true God and eternal life," guards us against any alienation of our hearts from him, in these memorable words: “ Little children, keep yourselves from idolsi.” And here let me again observe, it is the disposition, and not any outward act, that has this construction put upon it.] 4. As downright atheism
[It is represented as a denial of all God's attributes and perfections. It denies his omnipresence and omniscience; since men, in committing it, say, “ How doth God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of the heavenk," and is at no leisure to attend to what is done on earth. It denies his justice and his holiness: it says, “ I shall have peace, though I walk after the imaginations of my heart." “God will never require at my hands what I dom” “He will not do good; neither will he do evil".” So far from having any thing to fear from God, “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them°." Sin denies yet further the right of God to control us: “We are Lords; we will come no more to theep :" “ Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? ?” “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit is there, that we should
pray unto him??” It even denies the very existence of God: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no Gods." Hence St. Paul calls us " Atheists in the worldt." Men will not say all this with their lips; but it is the language of their lives, and therefore of their hearts.]
Having seen. how God interprets sin, and what construction he puts upon it, we are prepared to see, II. What interpretation we also should put upon it
No inference was ever more legitimately drawn from the plainest premises, than that which forced itself upon David's mind, from a view of the ungodly world. And the same conclusion must we also arrive at, from all that we see around us : “ The transgression of the wicked saith within our hearts that there is no fear of God before their eyes.”
1. There is no sense of God's presenceh Phil. iii. 19.
i i John v. 20, 21. k Job xxii. 13, 14. See also Ps. lxxiii. 11. and xciv. 7. 1 Deut. xxix. 19. m Ps. x. 13.
n Zeph. i. 12. o Mal. ii. 17.
P Jer. ii. 31. q Ps. xii. 4. r Job xxi. 14, 15. s Ps. xiv. 1. * Εph. ii. 12. άθεοι. u Job xxiv. 15.
[A thief would not steal, if he knew that the eyes of the proprietor were fastened on him: yea, even the presence of a child would be sufficient to keep the adulterer from the perpetration of his intended crimes. But he regards not the presence of Almighty God. If he be out of the sight of any fellow-creature, he saith in his heart, “ No eye seeth meu." never reflecting, that “the darkness is no darkness with God, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to him are both alike."] 2. There is no regard to his authority
[Men will stand in awe of the civil magistrate, who he knows to be an avenger of evil, and that he does not bear the sword in vain.” To see to what an extent men stand in awe of earthly governors, conceive in what a state of confusion even this Christian land would be, if only for one single week the laws were suspended, and no restraint were imposed on men beyond that which they feel from a regard to the authority of God: we should not dare to venture out of our houses, or scarcely be safe in our houses, by reason of the flood of iniquity which would deluge the land. And though it is true that every one would not avail himself of the licence to commit all manner of abominations, it is equally true, that it is not God's authority that would restrain them: for the same authority that says,
“ Do not kill or commit adultery," says, Thou shalt “ live not unto thyself, but unto Him that died for thee and rose again.” And if we be not influenced by it in every thing, we regard it truly in nothingy.] 3. There is no concern about his approbation
[If we be lowered in the estimation of our fellow-creatures, how mortified are we, insomuch that we can scarcely bear to abide in the place where we are so degraded. An exile to the remotest solitude would be preferable to the presence of those whose good opinion we have forfeited. But who inquires whether God be pleased or displeased? Who lays to heart the disapprobation which he has excited in his mind, or the record that is kept concerning him in the book of his remembrance? If we preserve our outward conduct correct, so as to secure the approbation of our fellow-creatures, we are satisfied, and care little what God sees within, or what estimate he forms of our character.] 4. There is no fear of his displeasure
[One would think it impossible that men should believe in a future state of retribution, and yet be altogether careless about the doom that shall be awarded to them. They think
* Ps. cxxxix, 11, 12.
y James ii. 10, 11.