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Does he not say, plainly, by his providence, “Go not up to convert the world by means of sectarian efforts—for I am not among you ?" Is it not His first message, “Cease to do evil, learn to do well ?” “Put away the iniquity” of your disunion “from before mine eyes.” Banish your rivalries and contentions forev3r. Be of one accord-of one mind. Then shall ye call,
“and I will answer you.” Then the God of Israel shall go with you into the missionary enterprise, “as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night." "One shall then chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” Nations shall be born in a day. Then shall the hastened conversion of the world call forth from every mouth, the general acclamation, “This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
I repeat it, then ;-UNION AMONG CHRISTIANS, OR THE PERPETUATION OF PAGANISM AND INFIDELITY, is the alternative that now demands the attention of all Christ's friends.
THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN. ROMANS vii. 13. That sin by the commandment might become exceeding
sinful. A STRONG proof of the universal depravity of the human heart is furnished by its great insensibility to the evil of sin. While the threatenings of God's word, the judgments of his hand, and the destructive tendencies of sin, loudly proclaim its exceeding sinfulness, men generally look upon it with feelings of stoical indifference, and even fondly cherish in their bosoms this most malig. nant and implacable foe. To a reflecting and benevolent mind it can be no less a matter of astonishment than grief, to see beings, destined to an immortal existence, trifling with sin, that relentless enemy that is binding them hand and foot in chains of adamant, and preparing to drag them down to the prison of unending woe. You would at once condemn the folly of the man who should place a deadly serpent in his bosom ; but are you not, at the same time, fondly pressing to your bosoms an enemy which “at the last biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder;" and which fastens its fangs with a much surer aim and deadlier grasp? Sin inflicts a wound, which, unless seasonably treated by the “balm of Gilead,” will unevitably bring upon you the everlasting agonies of “the second death." If the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” surely to cast off fear, to disregard his authority, and to treat sin with indifference must be the extreme of madness. Reason and Scripture, experience and observation, all furnish the most incontestible evidence that sin is most malignant in its nature, and most destructive in its consequences. Yet strange to tell, thousands, upon whom the Gospel has poured its heavenly light, can still live in a state of entire sinfulness without dread apprehensions of future retribution. And even those, who have experienced something of its bitterness, and have mourned over it with a godly sorrow, do not maintain a sufficient watchfulness over the multiplied movements of this treacherous and cruel foe. Though they are not under the “ dominion" of sin, they are not exempt from its rigorous attacks, or beyond the reach of its malignant shafts.
It may therefore be profitable to consider, under some variety of illustration and proof, the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
The expression “that sin might become exceeding sinful,” is peculiarly energetic, and is no doubt employed by the Apostle, to express in the strongest VOL. XI. No. 2.
possible manner, the exceeding criminality of sin.
As this is a very
forcible, and at the same time a Scriptural expression, I shall retain it in illustrating the subject before us. In illustrating the exceeding sinfulness of sin, I remark,
I. Sin is a rejection of the most reasonable claims. That a parent has claims upon the affections and obedience of his child will not be disputed. But whence do these acknowledged claims originate? Evidently in the relations that subsist between them. The parent is, in a subordinate sense, the author of the child's existence—has watched over it during the defenceless period of its infancy-has relieved its necessities--and has made it the object of anxious and unceasing solicitude. The parent therefore has strong claims upon the child. These relations constitute a claim which all mankind have been ready to acknowledge. But if a parent has such high claims upon his child, has not God infinitely higher claim's upon the creatures of his hand ? If such high claims result froin an earthly relation, who can estimate the strength of those claims that result from the relation that exists between God and his creatures ! He is in the highest sense the author of their existence. His skillful hand has forined and fashioned them. His Spirit has breathed into them the breath of life-has endowed them with all those noble powers and faculties which exalt them to the rank of rational beings—and has given them an existence, that shall endure when the earth shall have been consigned to the fires of the last day, and when suns and stars shall have ceased to shine in the firmament of heaven. His watchful eye has followed them all along the path of life, his protecting arm has been thrown around them to defend them from danger, and his bountiful hand has been extended to crown their years with his goodness ever since they came from his creating hand. Hence the claims of God upon men are paramount to all others. They are the creatures of his hand and the objects of his preserving care.
He has therefore a property in them that can never be alienated. He is hereby entitled to their warmest affections and their undivided services. They are under the highest possible obligations to consecrate their powers, their time, their influence, their talents, their property, their all to his service and glory. These obligations they cannot violate, these claims they cannot reject, without subjecting them. selves to the fearful charge—“ Ye have robbed me.” Now sin is the actual rejection of all these high and rightful claims. It is violating the infinite obligations you are under to serve your Creator. It is trampling on the sacred rights of Jehovah. It is setting up your own inclinations, and your own private interests, in opposition to the glory of God, and the infinite claims he has upon
the obedience of his creatures. And who can estimate the guilt of thus robbing God? Who can compute the inalignity of that spirit that would dissolve all moral obligation, and strip the Creator of all the property he possesses in the creatures of his power? Yet this is sin-must it not then be exceeding sinful?
II. Sin is rebellion against the authority and government of God. For an individual to oppose the rightful authority of the government under which he lives is universally pronounced highly criminal
. Human governinents possess a subordinate authority derived from Him whose authority is supreme. They are, according to Scripture, "ordained of God for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well.”. They are indispensably necessary to secure the rights of individuals--to maintain the general interests of society. Hence to rise up against its rightful authority indicates a heart totally indifferent to the rights of others, and willing to sacrifice the public good upon the altar of selfishness. Hence, too, all unite in condemning the man who tramples upon the sacred authority of law. Especially is this the case where every department of government is conducted with wisdom and
equity--where its laws are good—where its rulers are intelligent and disinterested, and where the combined influence of the whole administration is adapted to promote individual and national prosperity. Rebellion against such a government is at once declaring war with every principle of justice, and indicates a spirit that would unhesitatingly trample upon the rights and interests of the whole community. Now suppose this spirit of rebellion, which is condemned by the unanimous voice of all but criminals, when directed against a wise national government, should be directed against the authority of Him whose kingdom rules over all-and then tell me if it is not clothed with a degree of criminality which baffles all finite conception. While human governments have but a subordinate authority derived from God, his authority is supreme. He is, by an original and inalienable right, King of kings and Lord of lords. The mightiest monarchs of the earth derive all their authority from him, and he claims it as his rightful prerogative to set up one and put down another. He is infinitely exalted above all principality and power, and might and dominion. Clothed with majesty and enthroned in light inaccessible, he sways, uncontrolled and unrivalled, the sceptre of the universe.
At the same time his government is administered with perfect justice and equity. All his proceedings are characterized by infinite wisdom and boundless benevolence. Such is the wisdom and perfection of his government, that every event that takes place, however disastrous in its present aspects, is ultimately rendered subservient to the best interests of his extensive kingdom. He calms the waves of the sea, stills the tumults of the people—and causes the very wrath of man to establish more firmly the foundations of his eternal throne. How immensely important is it then, that his authority should be re. spected, and his government maintained. His authority being supreme and his government universal, and at the same time so wise and equitable, who can form any adequate conception of the guilt of trampling upon such authority, and rising up in rebellion against such a government? Yet such is the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The supreme authority of God is not too sacred to escape its impious contempt, nor is the perfect rectitude of his government too important to be exempted from its malignant attacks. Should sin be suffered to take its course unrestrained, it would utterly subvert the authority and government of God, open a wide door for the entrance of universal anarchy, and spread unbounded desolation over all worlds. Is it not then erceeding sinful ? Be it remembered, too, that the government of God is endless ir duration. Human governments can exist only for a limited period, and yet a disregard for their authority is justly considered highly criminal. Immensely more criminal must it be to disregard the authority of God, whose kingdom is to endure forever. Add to the perfection and universal extent of God's government, its endless duration, and it is invested with an impor. tance truly infinite. Must not sin then be exceeding sinful ? For it is nothing less than positive rebellion against the government of Jehovah, and its direct tendency is, not only to spread present anarchy throughout the universe, but also to perpetuate it through a never-ending duration. It would forever extinguish the light of heaven, annihilate the throne of God, and in. volve the whole universe in all the darkness and wretchedness of an utter desolation never to be repaired.
III. The excellence of the divine law, presents a forcible illustration of the exceeding sinfuluess of sin. We have already considered the divine government generally. The excellence of the divine law may justly receive a more distinct consideration. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," is the summary of the divine law as
given by the supreme lawgiver himself. This law, you will at once perceive, is adapted to the capacities of every rational being, and in its binding power is co-extensive with the moral government of God. It is the unchangeable and eternal law of his kingdom. By the excellence of the divine law, I intend more particularly its tendency to promote the happiness of intelligent and accountable beings. Every one can perceive, that it is perfectly adapted to the relations which creatures sustain to God and to each other; and that it de. mands the highest perfection of moral character. In a world so depraved as ours, that course of conduct which the world has usually honored with the name of morality, is justly deemed important to the happiness of the commumunity; and yet it is only in appearance what the law of God is in reality. Its highest demands may be met by mere outward action, while the heart remains under the entire dominion of selfishness. What then must be the happy effects of that pure and spiritual and perfect morality which is the
fulfilling of the law!” Should ihis law of love be written in the hearts and exemplified in the lives of the entire population of the globe, what a wonderful change would it produce in the face of the whole earth. It would be the very image of heaven. That happy world owes its blessedness to the fact, that all its inhabitants yield perfect obedience to this law. Love is the principle that moves every heart, inspires every tongue, and fills every mansion in heaven with songs of rejoicing. Should this same spirit prevail here, the miseries under which the world has groaned and travailed in pain these six thousand years, would be exchanged for the blessedness of paradise. Peace and joy would be the constant inmates of every dwelling, and would spread their heavenly influence through all the habitations of men. T'he wilderness would blossom as the rose, and moral beauty and loveliness would throw a lustre hitherto unknown over the face of the whole earth. Man would no longer be the foe of man; nation would no longer lift up sword against nation ; and revenge, ambition, and war would no longer spread desolation over this ill-fated world The law of God would bind man to man, and earth to heaven. All men would then love the worship of Jehovah, and the whole earth would be consecrated a vast temple to his praise. God would then look down with complacency upon a renovated world--would remove the curse with which he had righteously visited the apostacy of man-and render the whole earth once more fertile and beautiful as the garden of the Lord. What a wonderful-- what a glorious change! Who can estimate the excellence of that law which is adapted to banish from the earth the idolatry, the infidelity, the blasphemy, the falsehood, the malice, the cruelty, the ambition, and the wars which have so long held her under the frown of a righteous God; and which can supply their place with piety, and truth, and benevolence, and happiness hitherto unknown? A law that can elevate the character of man to the perfection of angels, and cause the confusion, deformity, and misery of earth to give place to the order, loveliness, and blessedness of heaven !
Now sin is the transgression of this law, and so far as it extends, it prevents these glorious results. But this is not all. It directs the whole weight of its influence against the very existence of the law, and of conse. quence against all the holiness and blessedness of God's kingdom. In its direct tendency it would annihilate the holiness and happiness of heavenmultiply without end the miseries of this world-swell beyond calculation the number of the lost, and rally every intelligent creature of God around one common standard of revolt.
IV. Sin is an abuse of the mercy and forbearance of God. Insensibility to kindness is universally condemned. The man who feels no emotions of gratitude for peculiar favors from his fellow men, is justly regarded as lost to all the tender feelings of humanity. But to abuse kindness, and to injure a