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tion. While he was thus placed without the real Law, he seemed to himself alive: and he entertained not the slightest doubt of his having merited salvation, being, as he elsewhere expresses himself, touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless *. But, as soon as the Holy Spirit opened his eyes, and when the commandment came attended with a clear conviction of his numerous breaches of it and his utter inability to keep it; sin revived, and he evidently saw that he lay under sentence of death. He was compelled, indeed, to acknowledge the Law to be holy, and just, and good: but this very excellence served only to increase his condemnation. Though the commandment was ordained to life, he found it to be unto death; a consequence which arose, not from the imperfection of the Law, but from the depravity of his own nature. The Holy Ghost having enabled him to see the spirituality of the Law, he then for the first time perceived that he was carnal, sold under
Phil. iii. 6.
sin. And so deep was the impression which this conviction made upon his mind, that it forced him to exclaim in a kind of agony: wretched man thut I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? He was now brought into a proper frame of mind to receive the Gospel of Christ. He saw his own manifold corruptions and the extreme sinfulness of his sin: he perceived, that he was unable of himself to help himself, and that his very best deeds could not stand the scrutiny of him who chargeth even his angels with folly. This conviction forced him, to look unto Christ for salvation, and to submit himself to the righteousness of God. The Gospel was now to him a savour of life unto life: he renounced all dependence on his own goodness : and he humbly thanked God for the pardon held out to him through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Such were the varying emotions St. Paul's heart, while the great work of illumination was going on within him: and such (for human natnre is the same in all ages) must be the convictions of every one, whom the Holy Spirit condescends to instruct. We are not, indeed, to imagine, that the sincerity of a man's conversion is to be estimated by the strength of his feelings. The converted profligate will naturally be more deeply sensible of those stings which a consciousness of the violated Law inflicts upon the soul, than the decent moral man who begins to suspect the safety of relying upon his own righteousness : and, the warmer a man's natural feelings are, the stronger will be his terror when laboring under a sense of guilt; for Christianity does not so much eradicate the passions, as enlist them into her service. But, whatever their feelings may be on the occasion, men of all temperaments must be thoroughly convinced of their own exceeding vileness : or their understandings will never be sufficiently enlightened to perceive the necessity of a mediator. They may, indeed, previous to this conviction, acknowledge the want of a Saviour with their lips, and own in general terms that their lives are not perfectly free from sin : but, with respect to the hopes which
they entertain of their salvation, they will ever be found to place their principal dependence on the blamelessness of their lives, their benevolence towards their fellow-creatures, and (in their more thoughtful hours) on some vague notions of God's mercy.
4. Observe the workings of a really humbled mind in the confession of Bp. Beveridge. If, says he, there be not a bitter root in
my heart, whence proceeds so much bitter fruit in my life and conversation? Alas! I can neither set my head nor heart about any thing, but I still show myself to be the sinful offspring of sinful parents, by being the sinful parent of a sinful offspring. Nay, I do not only betray the inbred venom of my heart, by poisoning my common actions, but even my most religious performances also, with sin. I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot hear, or preach a sermon, but I sin ; I cannot give an alms, or receive the sacrament, but I sin ; nay, I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still aggravations of them ; my repentance needs to be repented of, my tears want washing, and
the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer. Thus, not only the worst of my sins, but even the best of my duties, speak me a child of Adam : insomuch, that, whensoever I reflect upon my past actions, methinks I cannot but look upon my whole life, from the time of my conception to this very moment, to be but as one continued act of sin *.
5. When a person is once brought into this state of mind, he will then, and not till then, begin to think seriously of another world. He will perceive himself to be a miserable, helpless, undone sinner, justly obnoxious to the wrath of God. Instead of attempting to excuse and palliate his depravity, he will anticipate the sentence of his judge, and be the first to pronounce condemnation upon himself. He will see the impossibility of cleansing his impurity and the vanity of expecting to purchase salvation by any inherent righteousness of his own. It costs more to redeem
• Priv. Thoughts, Art. IV.