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thereafter, to supply want and succour misery, to patronize merit and uphold praise-worthy people all over the sphere of our influence ;-and, while remembering in our charity the worldly state, not to forget the religious state, but to bear up the pillars thereof, seeking out the persecuted members of Christ to protect and establish them, spreading the gospel to those who know it not, and turning our means into all directions where there is any virtue, and where there is any praise. So much for the stewardship of fortune, which is but one talent, and perhaps the coarsest, cheapest talent of the whole. There is the stewardship of power derived from station and place, and the stewardship of knowledge, a most divine talent, and of affection, and of speech, the talent most constantly in demand, and of thought, of which speech is but the current coinage, and of time so uncertain, and of a thousand others, of all which time would fail us to speak.
Now, if we engage in this sea of divine cares, endeavouring to do our utmost, then do we find this remarkable result, that our mind grows nicer and nicer in its discernment, our perceptions more delicate, and our views of duty more enlarged. We are like travellers in a mountainous country; if we stand in the valley, mountains surround us; if we ascend these mountains, it is but a wider view of mountains to be surpassed.-But the traveller at length, by perseverance, arrives at the peaceful valley, where he may rest from his labours and talk over the hardships which he hath passed. Whereas this task grows incessantly during the whole of life ; as we extinguish it at one end, it grows more perseveringly and more rapidly as the other. It is, in no figurative but in a true sense, a Herculean labour ; for while you strike off one head, two others spring up in its stead. Every one will discover by experience, when he sets his shoulders to the mighty work of keeping the law of God, that what he succeeds in is but a scantling of what he fails in. In the obedience of every other law we may be guiltless. We may pass the bounds of duty and become meritorious and honorary members of the family of the social circle, or of the state ; but we are our own accusers before the law of God, and the better we become, the more violently we accuse ourselves; which is a phenomenon the inexperienced can by no means understand. David well expressed this truth when he said it was light to the eyes ;--for as light openeth to the eye the wonderful works of God, which without it seemed one pall of darkness, so the law openeth to the conscience
the multitude of duties, of which formerly it discerned nei. ther the boundless compass nor the infinite number ; so that, in the language of St. Paul, by the law is the knowledge of sin. Many men have discoursed eloquently of the nice tact 'which conscience arrives at by reason of use ; but beyond all eloquent attestations is the fact, that the men most faithfully and diligently, and, to all appearance, most successfully employed in the fulfilment of the law, are the men who most distinctly perceive and most loudly lament their short-comings. I need not quote Paul's heavy accusation of himself, in the 7th of the Romans, because it is well known ; but I cannot forbear a quotation from the writings of one who should be better knownthe judicious Hooker-who thus expresseth himself in his discourse of Justification : “ There is no man's case so dangerous as his whom Satan hath persuaded that his own righteousness shall present him pure and blameless in the sight of God. If we could say we were not guilty of any thing at all in our consciences, (we know ourselves far from this innocency, we cannot say we know nothing by ourselves ; but if we could) should we therefore plead not guilty before the presence of our Judge that sees farther into our hearts than we ourselves can do? If our hands did never offer violence to our brother, a bloody thought doth prove us murderers before him. If we had never offered to open our mouth to utter any scandalous, offensive, or hurtful word, the cry of our secret cogitations is heard in the ears of God. did not commit the sins which daily and hourly, either in deed, word, or thought, we do commit, yet in the good things which we do, how many defects are there intermingled! God, in that which is done, respecteth the mind and the intention of the doer. Cut off, then, all those things wherein we have regarded our own glory, those thipgs which men do to please men, and satisfy our own liking, those things which we do for any by respect, not sincerely and purely for the love of God, and a small score will serve for the number of our righteous deeds. Let the holiest and best things which we do be considered.-We are never better affected unto God than when we pray; yet when we pray how are our affections many times distracted! how little reverence do we shew unto the grand majesty of God, unto whom we speak! how little remorse of our own miseries! how little taste of the sweet influence of his tender mercies do we feel! Are we not as unwilling many times to begin and as glad to make an end, as if, in saying, Call upon me, he had set us a very burdensome task. It
may seem somewhat extreme
which I will speak, therefore let every one judge of it, even as his own heart shall tell him and no otherwise.--I will but only make a demand: If God should yield unto us, not as unto Abraham, if fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea, or if ten good persons could be found in a city, for their sakes the city should not be destroyed—but if he should make his offer thus large-search all the generations of men sithence the fall of our father Adam, find one man that hath done one action which hath passed from him pure, without any stain or blemish at all, and for that one action neither man nor angel shall feel the torments which were prepared for both. Do you think that this ransom to deliver men and angels could be found to be among the sons of men?”
The same sense of utter deficiency, which is expressed in the above passage with such a compass of thought and language, is experienced by every one who examines his life by the law of God. Much he will see that he has never attempted, and in every thing that he has attempted, much that he has never performed, and in what he has performed, much that is sinful and blame-worthy; and the more he is at pains to scan the mighty labour, the more will the mighty labour swell in his eye, and the more of it will he behold unperformed. In the progress even of his improvement, he rolls along with him an accumulating load of omissions and transgressions, which, had there been no provision made for it, would have overwhelmed his mind, and soon brought all obedience to a stand.
No enthusiasm could have borne up against the hopelessness and terrors of such a law; no spirit could have brooked to be ground down with a task, which by its very nature was interminable and thankless in every stage of its progress, where diligence did not satisfy our task-master, and patient endurance of the unmeasured toil did but find for us threats in this life and scourgings in the life to come. And if we did persevere, it would have been to decry the injustice of proceeding against us. For our advancement in what was good would have begotten a sense of worth, a pride of improvement, and a satisfaction with ourselves, which would have made us recede from the indignity of being threatened with the visitation of divine wrath for that which neither we por any man, by any means, could better perform ; which burst of feeling would avail us little-for, alas ! the remembrance lying heavy upon our conscience of having often fallen asleep in the midst of duties, and allowed ourselves, with our eyes open, to give way before the dalliance and enjoyment and vanities of the world ; the consciousness of having often yielded in the face of our better resolutions, to the insurrection of nature within ; the long period of youth, and perhaps prime of manhood, spent in rushing at the com. mand of natural instinct into forbidden wickedness ;-all these evils, past, present, and to come, memory loaded with the unprofitable past, hope having fearful anticipation of the coming future, the present occupied with interminable duty, would, together, have combined a state of mind the most unfit for any useful employment of our faculties. Joy and happiness, which form the atmosphere of alacrity and activity, would have been sealed up, and a drooping, speech. less drudgery, driven on by a kind of fear ; the desire that things might not grow worse, no hope of ever retrieving them, would have been the only motive to carry us forward. Between attempting and failing, between reflections upon ourselves and reflections upon God, our life would have passed unprofitably, if this law, so enlarged and pure, was to have a strict inquisition at a future judgment.
It remains, therefore, that we complete this exposition of the constitution under which God hath placed us, by enter. ing into an explanation of the various provisions which are contained in it for meeting this dilemma, into which every man is brought, however sincere be his intention and how. ever great his endeavours to keep the perfect law of God, But this is of so much importance, and so distinct, that we separate it along with the other provisions of the divine con, stitution for the next part of our argument.
OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
In order to meet that sense of delinquency with which every reflective mind is oppressed when it betakes itself to stand or fall by the law of God, many devices are imagined, whereof we shall examine the stability before unfolding that which the Lawgiver hath himself discovered. For there is a strange perverseness in mankind to do without this other part of the divine constitution, and by their own inventions to help themselves out of the dilemma into which they are brought by the purity of the law; on which account it becomes necessary to pause, and consider these suggestions of Datural reason, before proceeding to develop what God himself hath revealed upon the subject.
The most common refuge of the mind from its consciousness of guilt is in the mercy of God. His toleration of sin here, and his goodness to the sinner, insinuate into the mind the idea that he may be as forgiving and kind in the world
This hope, or rather hallucination, for it does not reach to the decision of a hope, serves with many to compose whatever thought or anxiety they feel upon the subject of future judgment. It is a notion of such flimsy texture as hardly to bear examination, and would not be worthy of notice in this place, were it not for the numbers who are content to be deluded by it. For it is manifest, that if God is thus to pass all without examination upon the impulse of his mercy, he might have spared himself the trouble of making a law. The law is a dead letter if it is not to be proceeded upon ; nay, it is a deception, inasmuch as it inflicts many needless fears, and requires many useless sacrifices. Not that we would annihilate his power of remission, which we shall see is very great, but that however great, it cannot extend over every form of delinquency without extinguishing all difference of character, and making the divine government