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even to the Gentiles, through faith in Christ Jesus, that "believing in him we might receive the promises of the Spirit '." "God made him to be sin, that is, a sin-offering for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him "."
But the impediment of the objectors, in this case, is, that we are not guilty of all the specific sins enumerated in the denunciation in question. That may be. All are not guilty of every sin—but it requires little discrimination to feel that there is a secret current of sin spread over a large surface; and that unites itself in a greater or less degree, generally, or individually, with the whole human race. It is the capability of sinning, the propensity to evil, as well as the actual commission of faults, which demonstrates the relationship of all mankind. In our own case we cannot easily mistake; in the case of others, it is our duty to deal charitably, and, as often as we can, to make a distinction between the crime and the person. We cannot indeed bless whom God has not blessed : but we ought not to condemn, whom God has not condemned. We must not compromise sin in any case, either of our own or others, so as to make it less sinful than it is. The exact discretionary point our blessed Lord distinguishes in his ever-memorable Sermon on the Mount. It is comprised in the word intention; the very term employed in the
1 Shuttleworth's Paraphrase, in locum.
2 2 Cor. v. 21.
common law of the land, to constitute the criterion of legal delinquency.
But is there no other state or condition of man, on which a curse is pronounced, than on those high offences both against God and man, for which there can be no apology? Are we so free from taint, that the hateful expression cannot be applied to us in any sense? There is still an undefended quarter, where the dart may fix its barb. We none of us do all we can; even sins of ignorance bring us under the talons of the law :--" this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." Ignorance of our Saviour must always be a crime, when we repel that knowledge which it is in our power to possess. of this in the passage here produced. The civil officers of the Priests and Pharisees were sent to apprehend Jesus. When they returned without him, they were asked, Why have ye not brought him? They replied, in wonder and admiration, Never man spake like this man! Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or Pharisees, men of wisdom and understanding, and better able to judge than you, believed on him? "But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." If ignorance of the law be imputed as a fault-how much more ignorance of the Gospel! As none of us do all we can in working out our own salvation, so none of
We have a striking instance
us act up to all we know, in the same awful inquiry. The consequence is, that we incur the sad penalty of wilful ignorance. This brings me to a serious point in the matter of conscience, and teaches us to pray for that wisdom which can make us wise unto salvation; for thus only can we avert our curse. The conclusion of all will be this: if we decline the acknowledgment that sin, call it by whatever name you please, is accursed, it is evident we are ignorant of the nature of sin; because we flatter ourselves that we have not sinned, and that we are not capable of sinning; and thus place ourselves under a dangerous scriptural dilemma, from which no argument can extricate us.
Instead of shunning the denunciations of the law, and the woes of the Gospel, we should submit to the awful declaration, in all piety and humility of mind. In a refined world, it too seldom comes in our way to be addressed," Thou art the man!" and much seldomer to believe in our hearts that we really are so. But the discipline of an holy season, duly, truly, and conscientiously improved, will bring us to ourselves; and the happy end will be, that instead of a curse, by the grace of God, we shall find a blessing.
THE canons and ecclesiastical laws enjoin penance, which may be styled practical repentance, particularly in the time of Lent, for certain offences within the jurisdiction of the Church. These were both numerous and afflicting in the dark ages. To a certain extent they still continue in the Church of Rome, and are not wholly abrogated in our own. I enter not into the history of penance in either Church, but simply propose to show that the practice is generally delusive and inefficient; and that there is an immeasurable distance between the opus operatum, or act of personal infliction, and the spiritual benefit to be derived from a just apprehension, and appropriate application of this important doctrine. Could we indeed bring back our Church to primitive manners; primitive censures and primitive punishments might be used with good effect. But as the changes of times are not in our own power, we must use present instruments to present purposes.
That men may deceive themselves to their own destruction, by drawing false conclusions from deceitful premises, is evident in this case as in many others. A penance inflicted by a person on himself, is greatly delusive. To imagine that we may omit, or punish the neglect of a duty to which we are obliged, by doing something to which we are not obliged, is a serious violation both of morals and religion.
ages and countries, in which ignorance has produced and nourished superstition, many artifices have been invented of practising piety without virtues, and repentance without amendment. The devotion of our blind forefathers consisted, for a great part, in rigorous austerities, laborious pilgrimages and gloomy retirement. Yet nothing can be more repugnant to the general tenor of the evangelical revelation, than an opinion that pardon may be bought, and guilt effaced by a stipulated expiation. But error and corruption often may be found, even where men of this description do not exist. Let us not look upon the depravity of others with triumph, nor censure it with bitterness. Every sect may find in its own followers, those who have the form of godliness without the power; every man if he examines his own conduct without intention to be his own flatterer, may, to a certain degree, find it in himself."
Public penance under ecclesiastical authority, as now constituted, is even more delusive than private; for reformation is the least part of its effects. Open penance in a civilized country like our own, when carried to its extremity, which it rarely is, becomes the punishment, as it were, of a civil crime: it may break the spirit and degrade the man, but will never be the means of true conversion. It may harden the obstinate and destroy the weak-hearted; it may, like other
1 Dr. Samuel Johnson, apud Taylor's Sermons.