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God ye are not as other men. On these rocks your formal devotion will split, till you know, that, as the impenitent and prayerless shall perish, so the Lord accepts no penitential prayer, but that of the man, who knows the plague of his own heart; because he alone prays in his own character, and without hypocrisy. 1 Pet. v. 5. 1 Kings viii. 38.
6. And as you cannot approach the throne of grace aright while you remain insensible of your corruption; so the reading or preaching of God's word, till it answers the end of conviction, is of no service to you, but rather proves, to use St. Paul's nervous expression, the savour of death unto death. For when the terrors of the law only suit your case, you vainly catch at the comforts of the gospel; or rather you remain as unaffected under the threatenings of the one, as under the promises of the other: You look on mount Sinai and on mount Sion, with equal indifference, and the warmth of the preacher who invites you to fly from the wrath to come, appears to you an instance of religious madness.. Nor is it a wonder it should, while you continue unacquainted with your danger: When a mortal disease is neither felt nor suspected, a pathetic address upon its consequences and cure, must be received by any reasonable man, with the greatest unconcern; and the person that makes it in earnest, must appear exceedingly ridiculous. Again,
7. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, says the Lord. This is true particularly with regard to the knowledge of our depravity. Reader, if thou remainest a stranger to it, thou wilt look upon slight confessions of outward sins as true repentance; and the godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation, will appear to thee a symptom of melancholy. Taking an external reformation of manners, or a change of ceremonies and opinions, for true conversion, thou wilt think thyself in a safe state, while thy heart continues habitually wandering from God, and under the demi nion of a worldly spirit. In a word, some of the
branches of the tree of corruption thou mayst possibly lop off, but the root will still remain and gather strength. For it is plain, that a bad root, supposed not to exist, can neither be heartily lamented, nor earnestly struck at with the axe of self-denial.
Even an Heathen could say ;*" the knowledge of sin, is the first step towards salvation from it: For he who knows not that he sins, will not submit to be set right Thou must find out what thou art, before thou canst mend thyself. Therefore when thou discoverest thy vices, to which thou wast before a stranger, it is a sign that thy soul is in a better state.”
8. It is owing to the want of this discovery, O ye pretended sons of reason, that thinking yourselves born pure, or supposing the disease of your nature to be inconsiderable, you imagine it possible to be your own physicians, when you are only your own destroyers. Hence it is, that while you give to Jesus the titular honour of Saviour, you speak perpetually of being "saved merely by your duties and best endeavours." Here him warning you against this common delusion; O Israel, says he, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help found. The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick, beyond all hopes of recovering themselves.
9. The prescriptions of this wise physician, are excessively severe to flesh and blood, and some of his remedies as violent as our disease. Therefore, except we see the greatness of our danger, we shall beg to be excused from taking the bitter potion. Who can have resolution enough to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, to take up his cross daily, to deny himself, and lose even his own life, or what is often dearer, his fair reputation?....Who, I say, can do this,
* Initium est salutis notitia peccati, nam qui peccare se nescit corrigi non vult: Deprehendas te opportet antequam emendes. Sen. Ep. xxviii....Et hoc ipsum argumentum est in melius translati animi, quod vitia sua, quæ adhuc ignorabat, videt. Ep. vi
till a sight of imminent ruin on the one hand, and of redeeming love on the other, makes him submit to the painful injunctions? Thou lovely youth, noted in the gospel for thy harmlessness, I appeal to thy wretched experience. When the physician of souls, at whose feet thou wast prostrate, commanded thee to sell all and follow him, what made thee go away sorrowful and undone? Not barely thy great possessions, but the ignorance of thy condition: For all that a man hath will he give for his life, when he sees it in immediate danger, Matt. xix. 22.
10. If it is a desperate step to turn away from the Prince of life, it is a daring one to approach him with a mere compliment. Of this nevertheless you are guilty, ye unawakened sinners, who daily appear before the throne of grace, with thanks and praises to God, for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. Alas! When you deny the state of sin and misery, in which you are by nature, and yet presume to thank God for redemption from it, do you not mock him as solemnly as you would the king, were you to present him every day an address of thanks, for redeeming you from Turkish slavery, when you never knew yourselves slaves in Turkey? O how provoking to God must these unmeaning thanksgivings be! Surely one day they will be ranked among the indignities, offered by earthly worms to the Majesty on high.
11. Some indeed, more consistent than you, openly throw off the mask. Seeing neither the unfathomable depth of their misery by the fall, nor the immense height of their aggravated iniquities, they do not trifle. with, but at once deny the Lord that bought them. Yes, far from admiring the established method of a salvation, procured at so immense a price, as the incarnation and crucifixion of the Son of God, they are not afraid to intimate it is irrational: and upon their principle they may well do it; for if our ruin is not immense, what need is there for an immensely glori
ous Redeemer? And if our guilt reaches not up to heaven, why should the Son of God have come down from thence, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself?
12. As we slight or reject the Saviour, till we are truly convinced of the evil and danger of sin; so we worship a false God, a mere idol. For instead of adoring Jehovah, infinite in his holiness and hatred of sin, inviolable in the truth of his threatenings against it, and impartial in his strict justice....a God in whose presence unhumbled sinners are not able to stand, and with whom evil cannot dwell; we bow to a strange God, whom pious men never knew....a God formed by our own fancy, so unholy as to connive at sin, so unjust as to set aside his most righteous law, and so false as to break his solemn word, that we must turn or die, Ez. xxxiii. 11. Is not this worshipping a God of our own making; or as David describes him, a God altogether such as ourselves? To adore an idol of paste, made by the baker and the priest, may be indeed more foolish, but cannot be more wicked, than to adore one made by our wild imagination, and impious unbelief.
13. We may go one step farther still and affirm that till we are deeply convinced of sin, far from worshipping the true God [which implies knowing, loving and admiring him in all his perfections] we hate and oppose him in his infinite holiness and justice. The proof is obvious: Two things diametrically opposite in their nature, can never be approved of at once. If we do not side with divine holiness and justice, abhor our corruption, and condemn ourselves as hell-deserving sinners; far from approving, we shall rise against the holy and righteous God, who sentences us to eternal death for our sin: We shall at least wish he were less pure and just than he is; which amounts to wishing him to be no God. While proud fiends betray this horrid disposition, by loud blasphemies in hell; ye do it, O ye unconvinced sons of men, by your aversion to godliness upon earth. Haters of God
is then the proper name, and enmity against him, the settled temper of all unhumbled, unconverted sinners. Rom. i. 30, and viii. 7.
14. When the nature of God is mistaken, what wonder if his law is misapprehended? The law is good, Says St. Paul, if a man use it lawfully; but if we make an improper use of it, the consequence is fatal. Since the fall, the law of God, as contra-distinguished from the gospel of Christ, points out to us the spotless holiness, and inflexible justice of its divine Author. It teaches us with what ardour and constancy we should love both our Creator and our fellowcreatures. As a bank cast against the stream of our iniquity, it accidentally serves to make it rise the higher, and to discover its impetuosity; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. It demonstrates man's weakness, who consents indeed to the law that it is good, but finds not how to fulfil it, Rom. vii. 16, 19. As a battery erected against our pride, when it has its due effect, it silences all our self-righteous pleas, and convinces us that a returning sinner is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ: a broken law, a law which worketh wrath, being absolutely unable to absolve its violator....In a word, it is our school-master to bring us to Christ, and drives us with the rod of threatened punishments, to make us touch the sceptre "of mercy, held out to us from the throne of grace.
But, while we remain strangers to our helpless and hopeless state by nature, far from making this proper use of the law, we trust in it and fancy that the merit of our unsprinkled obedience to it is the way of salvation. Thus we go about to establish our own righteousness, making light of the atoning blood, which marks the new and living way to heaven. This very mistake ruined the pharisees of old, and destroys their numerous followers in all ages. Rom. ix. 31.
15. And when we form such wrong apprehensions of the law, is it possible that we should have right