Page images

This indeed is the unvarying doctrine of scripture. Men have received a perfect law from the hands of their maker; and they have not kept it. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.

Moreover, if I may be allowed to advance one step further into the subject, for this universal defection from the pure and holy law of God the scripture assigns an origin and a cause. It describes the original righteousness of our nature, when it says, that God formed our first parent in his own image and likeness. It describes also its original sin, when the man, whom he had created upright, ventured to transgress that single command, which was his only restriction in Paradise. That first transgression was an inlet to all corruption. It changed the condition of our nature. dered it a sinful nature, as a single grain of arsenic will render a wholesome draught poi

The human mind had then consented to disregard a positive law of its maker: and it could thenceforward no longer stand upright in

It ren



On the violation of the divine law.

its integrity, but became liable to all those motions of sin, which now work in our members. I do not say, that the sinfulness of Adam was imputed to his descendants. But it has been copied by them. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Even little children soon betray symptoms of a nature, which has fallen from its primitive purity, and manifest dispositions, very different from that love of others without selfpreference, in which the essence of conformity to the divine law may be said to consist, and which was no doubt exhibited in perfection by the holy child, Jesus. I do not now however contend for doctrines. I appeal to facts : and I fear, that none, who are guided in their judgment by a real attention to the facts of experience or history, and have well weighed the reasonings, which have been addressed to you, can deny or doubt the conclusion, that we have all received a law, perfect, holy, suited to our intellectual nature, and conducive to our happiness and perfection, and that we have not kept it.


Ezekiel xviii. 4.

The soul, that sinneth, it shall die.

SUFFICIENT reason has (I trust) been alleged for the conviction, that there is a God of infinite power, wisdom, goodness, holiness, and purity, by whom both we and all things else were made, and by whom alone they are all upheld in being. We have moreover had clear proof brought before us, that this God has made a revelation of his will concerning us, that he has given us a law, and that the substance of that law consists in two commandments, requiring us to love him with the full exertion of our faculties, and to love all our fellow-mortals, as ourselves. It has appeared moreover upon a comparison of the plain terms of that law with our own consciousness and observation, that we have none of us come up to the requisitions of his law, that we do not come up to its standard now, that we have broken its enactments in various particulars, that we are still breaking them every day, and that consequently by that law it is impossible, that we should be justified in his sight. The next question, that presses itself upon our attention, is—Under these circumstances in what light are we regarded by our Maker? Is he offended by our transgressions and omissions? and, if he be, are there any means of reconciling him ? Will he forgive us ? and may we hope to be again received into favour?

These are questions, so deeply affecting our best and highest interests, that no reasonable man can rest in peace without having them satisfactorily answered. May God impress our hearts with a due sense of the extent of the evil, against which we have to contend, and also lead us all to a settled and well-grounded conviction of the sufficiency of the only true remedy!

I proceed now to a consideration of the first question, which has been just suggested. In what light are we regarded by him, who gave us the law, which we have broken?

On this subject we have some intimation from natural conscience, which, like an instinct, warns us, not only, that he, who gave us a law, must be displeased at any infringement of it, but also still more particularly, that they, which commit such things as he has forbidden, are worthy of death. Hence arises that undefined horror, which is felt by most men, if not by all, in the hour of sickness and languishing, at the thought of something after death; hence their readiness to condemn in others the very faults, to which they are prone themselves ; hence also their eagerness to drown in frivolity, in an unmeaning succession of amusements, or else in some more sober, but stronger excitement, the natural anticipation of futurity. Hence again the sublimest and most transporting of all subjects for meditation, the thought of God and of eternity, is the most unwelcome, and passes consequently with the least regard, because we are naturally

« PreviousContinue »