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much that he has never performed; and in what he has performed, much that is sinful and blameworthy; 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 nor 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 haying 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 command 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 em
. ploymentofour faculties. Joy and happiness, which form the atmosphere of alacrity and activity, would have been sealed up, and a drooping speechless 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 entering 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 however 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 constitution 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 natural 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 to come. 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 thereby deluded. 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 one great system of passing and patronizing every form of crime. His mercy, however great, must proceed by rule, otherwise it will destroy responsibility, annihilate judgment, and upset righteousness and bring us into the same condition as if he had never interfered in our affairs. Being driven out of this shift, men betake themselves to make a rough estimation of the good and ill of their character, and see how they stand by others, taking heart if they are above par; and, if below it, balancing against their fears some charities or religious formalities, or better intentions for the future. Men of business build upon their honesty, men of rank upon their honour, simple men upon their good nature, dissipated men upon a good heart at bottom, all upon their clearness from great crime and excessive wickedness. Now
this is all at random ; it is to conjecture, not to think; to fancy a God and invent a law, and to abandon those which are revealed. For honesty, and honour, and good-nature, and a good heart, (as they call it,) are rules by which men regulated themselves before God took the reins, and if they could have answered the end in view, it would have been idle in him to have added any thing beyond. But now that he has taken the management, and issued laws by which he commandeth us to abide, he will surely look to their obedience-or what was the use of uttering them? And any claim we rest, of escaping, must derive itself in some way from our obedience of these statutes, otherwise the statues go for nothing, and God is content to be dishonoured, and to leave us as he found us, having totally failed in his undertaking to ameliorate our condition.
The next suggestion of the mind is, “ That if we make a sincere endeavour to do our best in keeping the divine laws, it is enough; God will, in his mercy, pardon our short-coming.” This is, to meet the difficulty in the face, and therefore it is worthy of examination. That God will re.quire of any one more than the best, or that he will ask something beyond what it is possible to do, is unreasonable in the last degree. But who is the man that can say he has done his best? or that he has endeavoured to do his best? Were there such a man, he would have no self-accusations, no upbraidings of conscience, no remembrance of iniquity past, and no uneasiness from