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that God is merciful, too merciful to punish any one, unless it be, perhaps, some extraordinarily flagrant transgressor. Hence, though they know they are sinners, they never think of repenting, or of changing that course of life which, if the Scriptures be true, must lead them to perdition. Only see the state of the first converts, or of any who have felt their danger of God's wrath; and then tell me whether that be the experience of the world at large? Where do we see the weeping penitents smiting on their breast, and crying for mercy? Where do we see persons flying to Christ for refuge, as the manslayer fled from the sword of the avenger, that was pursuing him? In the world at large we see nothing of this; nothing, in fact, but supineness and security: so true is the judgment of the Psalmist respecting them, that "there is no fear of God before
The same testimony St. Paul also bears?: and we know that his record is true.]
If, then, David's views be indeed correct, SEE, 1. How marvellous is the forbearance of our God!
[He sees the state of every living man: he sees, not our actions only, but our very thoughts : for “ he trieth the heart and reins. What evils, then, does he behold in every quarter of the globe! Not a country, a town, a village, a family, no,
a single soul, exempt from the common malady! all fallen; all“ enemies in their hearts to God by wicked works!” Take but a single city, our own metropolis for instance, and what a mass of iniquity does God behold in it, even in the short space of twenty-four hours! Is it not astonishing that God's wrath does not break forth against us, even as against Sodom and Gomorrha, to consume us by fire; or that another deluge does not come, to sweep us away from the face of the earth? Dear Brethren, “ account this long-suffering of our God to be salvation a,” and “ let it lead every one of you to repentanceb.']
2. How unbounded is the love of God, that has provided a Saviour for us !
[Behold, instead of destroying the world by one stroke of his indignation, he has sent us his co-equal and co-eternal Son to effect a reconciliation between him and us, by the sacrifice of himself! Yes, "he has so loved the world, as to have given his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “ He sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world,” as we might rather have expected; " but that the world through him might be saveda."
b Rom. ii. 4.
z Rom. iii. 18.
a 2 Pet. iii. 15.
What, then, my beloved Brethren, “shall your transgressions say to you?” Shall they not say, “ Avail yourselves of the proffered mercy? Delay not an hour to seek an interest in that Saviour, that so your sins may be blotted out, and your souls be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus?" Let this love of God constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him as his redeemed people; and so to walk before him in newness of heart and life, that “ Christ may be magnified in you, whether by life or death."]
e Phil. i. 20.
THE SELF-FLATTERING DELUSIONS OF SINNERS EXPOSED.
Ps. xxxvi. 2. He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his
iniquity be found to be hateful. IT may well astonish us to see how careless and indifferent men are about the favour of God. But the Psalmist assigns the true reason for it. Every one cherishes in his mind some delusion, whereby he lulls his conscience asleep; and thus, notwithstanding his guilt and danger, rests satisfied with his state, till God himself interpose, in a way of mercy or of judgment, to undeceive him.
To elucidate his words, we shall, I. Point out some of the self-flattering delusions
which are commonly entertainedWe shall notice some which obtain, 1. Among the careless world
[They imagine that God does not regard the conduct of his creatures a . Or, that he is too merciful to consign them over to everlasting perdition
Or that, at least, a little repentance will suffice
Or that, at all
a Job xxii. 13. Ps. xciv. 7. But it is a sad delusion, Prov. xv. 3. 1 Cor. iv. 5. Eccl. xii. 14. Deut. xxix. 19, 20.
• Zeph. i. 12. 2 Pet. ü. 4. But this is also a fatal error, Ps. ix. 17. and 2 Pet. ii. 4, 5, 6, 9.
• Repentance is not so small a thing as men suppose. It is nothing less than a thorough renovation of the heart in all its powers; a putting off the old man, and a putting on the new, John iii. 3. Eph. iv. 22—24.
events, it is time enough yet to think of turning seriously to Godd ---]
2. Among those who profess some regard for religion
[They judge that a moral conduct, with a regular observance of the outward forms of religion, is all that is required
Or, that the embracing of the truths of the Gospel, and joining themselves to the Lord's people, is a true and scriptural conversion
Or, that the having, at some former period, had their affections strongly exercised about religious things, is a proof of their present acceptance with God:
Or, that a present pleasure in religious duties, with a partial mortification of sin, is a sufficient evidence of their sincerityh ---]
But the vanity of these delusions will appear, while we, II. Shew when and how they shall be removed
The eyes of all will sooner or later be opened, and their vain conceits be dissipated
1. Some will have their errors rectified in conversion
[When the Spirit of God enlightens the mind of man, he scatters the clouds of ignorance and error; and, as far at least as respects the foregoing delusions, guides them into the knowledge of the truth. He shews us, not only that our sins are known to God, but that we are in danger of condemnation on account of them, and that we ought to turn to God instantly, and with our whole heartsi --- He discovers to us also, that no form of godliness, no change of sentiment, no moving of the affections, no partial reformation of the life, will suffice; but that, if we will serve the Lord in truth, we must give up ourselves wholly to him and without reservek Particularly he makes us to see " the hatefulness” of the most refined hypocrisy, and even of the remains of sin, which, in spite of our most earnest endeavours to destroy it, yet war in our members! --- -]
d Acts xxiv. 25. If other delusions have proved fatal to thousands, this has destroyed tens of thousands. The folly of it appears from James iv. 14. Luke xii. 20. and Gen. vi. 3. Prov. i. 24–31.
e Our Lord warns us against this mistake, Matt. v. 20.
f But what did this avail the Foolish Virgins ? Matt. xxv. 1–12. or Judas ? xxvi. 21–24. See also, Matt. xiii. 30, 40, 41, 42.
& Such notions are common, Matt. xiii. 20. but awfully delusive, Heb. vi. 4–6. 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21.
h This is the thought of many, Isa. lviii. 2, 3. Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32. Ps. lxxviii. 34, 35. But nothing less than an uniform and unreserved obedience to God will prove us to be God's children, 1 John iii. 7. Mark ix. 43—48.
i Acts ii. 37. and xvi. 30. k Ps. xviii. 23. and Heb. xi. 1.
2. Others will have their misapprehensions removed in condemnation
[Too many, alas! hold fast their delusions in spite of God's word, and all the merciful or afflictive dispensations of his providence. But, as soon as ever they come into the eternal world, they will be undeceived. The sight of a holy God, together with the hearing of that sentence which their once compassionate, but now indignant Judge will pass upon them; and, above all, the feeling of the torments of ħell
, will convince them of their mistakes, and leave them no room to doubt, but that the care of the soul was “the one thing needful,” and that every word of God shall be fulfilled in its season --] ADVICE
1. Confer not with flesh and blood in the concerns of religion
[All unregenerate men endeavour to bring down the word of God to some standard of their own; and consequently will discourage in us every thing that goes beyond the line which they have drawn for themselves. But, if they deceive us, they cannot afford us any remedy in the eternal world. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong; and by that we shall be judged in the last day. Let us therefore regulate our sentiments and conduct, not according to the opinions of fallible men, but according to the unerring declarations of God himself. And instead of endeavouring to lower the demands of God to our wishes or attainments, let us labour to raise our practice to the strictest requisitions of God's lawm.] 2. Pray for the teaching of God's Spirit
[With deceitful hearts, a subtle adversary, and a tempting world, we are continually in danger: nor can we hope to be guided aright but by the Spirit of the living God. Even the Scriptures themselves will be “a dead letter,” and “ a sealed book” to us, unless the Spirit of God open our understandings to understand them. He has promised to lead us into all truth; and if we be really disposed to embrace the truth, he will discover it to us. But if, through our hatred of the light, we shut our eyes against it, God will give us over to our delusions, that we may believe a lie". Let us therefore guard
i Ps. lxvi. 18. James i. 26. Job xlii. 6. Rom. vii. 21—24. m Phil. ii. 13, 14. n John iii. 19. 2 Thess. ii. 10–12. and Isai. lxvi. 3, 4.
against self-deception, and submit ourselves to the guidance of God's Spirit. Then, though our capacities be ever so small, we shall be kept from every fundamental error', and be "made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ."] 3. Seek above all to know the hatefulness of sin
[Nothing but a discovery of the evil of sin will effectually preserve us from self-deceit. To produce this, is the first saving work of the Spirit: and the more this is wrought in the heart, the more shall we be on our guard against all self-flattering delusions.]
o Isai. xxxv. 8. and Matt. xi. 25.
SIN TO BE ABHORRED.
Ps. xxxvi. 4. He abhorreth not evil. THE standard of morals in the Christian world is far below that which is established in the Sacred Records: and hence arises that self-justifying spirit which prevails in every place. Gross iniquities, which affect the welfare of society, are condemned: but less flagrant offences are regarded as venial, and justified as unavoidable in this state of human existence. The person immediately referred to in my text was Saul, who, amidst all his professions of penitence, still entertained evil designs against the life of David. But we need not limit the words to him. They are, like many similar passages cited by St. Paul in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Romans“, expressive of the state of our fallen nature, and universally applicable to every child of man. To elucidate them, I will shew, I. How great an evil sin is
There is scarcely any thing which is vile and lothesome to which sin is not compared. Let us instance this in leprosy; which may be considered as the most spreading, the most defiling, the most incurable of all disorders. In reference to this does the Prophet Isaiah speak of himself and all around him as utterly undone : “ Woe is me! I am undone : I am a man
a Rom. iii. 10–19.