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the offender with shame and remorse. Yet when narrowly examined, this shame amounts to no more than a proud vexation, that he cannot think so well of himself as he would wish to do. If the exchange could be made, he would rather part with that conscience which gives him uneasiness, than with those sins which occasion its reproofs; and his only motive in condemning bis sins is, that he may pacify that awful monitor. Nay, a man may advance a step farther, and make still nearer approaches to the gracious temper described in the text, without ful. ly attaining it. He may see the baseness and deformity of sin, and be deeply afflicted at the remembrance of his multiplied transgressions, and yet, through ignorance of the inbred corruption of his nature, he may be far from loathing himself in the spirit of true penitence.
What a beast was I, may he say, to act in a manner so reproachful to my faculties? Had I not reason to di. rect me? Could I not have governed my will and affections? Was I not master of my own heart and ways? Thus be may complain, and seemingly condemn himself; but this self-condemning language is in truth the expression of reigning pride, even as none are more severe in blaming themselves for misconduct in their worldly affairs, than those who have the highest opinion of their ability to manage them aright.
In opposition to this, the truly convinced sinner sees himself to be all guilt, pollution, and weakness, destitute equally of righteousness and strength. He is led to see that corrupt fountain of inward enmity to God, which is manifested in the issues of his outward conduct. He is made sensible, that he was conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity, and that in him, that is in his flesh, dwelleth no good thing." On these accounts he Loaths bimself in his own sight, not partially or occasionally only, for having acted a wrong part, which he supposes that by prudence he might have avoided, but universally as a degenerate and corrupted being. He can find nothing to be proud of, nothing that he can call his own, but guilt, disorder, and weakness. And under this conviction, be falls down before God, saying with Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes."
This is that self-loathing which I now call upon you to exercise. And the necessity of it is apparent; for until you are brought thus low in your own estimation, you will never esteem the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save you from the wrath to come. Who is it that values a physician wbile he feels no disease, and bath no fears of death? Will any fly to Christ for refuge, who is not sensible that he stands in need of such a Saviour? No; they only who are perishing in their own apprehensions will welcome the tidings of a Redeemer, and look to him, as the stung Israelites looked to the brazen ser. pent, lying prostrate at his feet, and resigning them. selves wholly to his disposal and government.
Let me then conclude with exhorting you to repair to that fountain which is opened for sin and for uncleanness, to that blood which can cleanse you from all sin. This is the proper use and improvement of all that bath been said. Here is a remedy for all your diseases, a full supply for all your wants. Here you will find gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and the shame of your naked. dess do not appear. The Lord Jesus is a complete Sa. viour, Be your burden what it will, he is able to support it. His merit surpasseth your guilt by infinite de. grees; and his victorious spirit can subdue and mortify
your most imperious lusts. Let what hath been said, then, lead you to him. Dwell on the consideration of your own vileness, till your self-confidence is entirely destroyed, and your hearts disposed to receive him as the unspeakable gift of God to man.
In this your Christianity doth consist, and on this your justification depends. This is the sum of your conversion, and the very soul of the new creature. Other things are only preparatives to this, or fruits that grow out of it. Christ is the end and fulfilling of the law, the substance of the gospel, the way to the Father, the help, the hope, the life of the believer. If you know not him, you know nothing; if you possess not him, you have nothing; and if you be out of him, you can do nothing that hath a promise of salvation. O then fly to him as your refuge and sanctuary, and commit your souls into his hands, that he may purify and form them for himself. Plead in the language of David, (Psal. li. 2.) “ Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hysop, and I shall be clean; wasb me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” And look by faith for the accomplishment of that promise, (Ezekiel xxxvi. 25.) “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." Amen.
JOB Xxxvi. 21.
Take heed; regard not iniquity; for this hast thou cho
sen rather than affliction.
THESE words were addressed to Job, who from the height of prosperity was suddenly plunged into the deepest and most complicated distress. They are the words of Elihu, the youngest, but by far the wisest and most candid of all Job's friends. The other three were indeed, as himself had styled them, miserable comforters. It was their belief, that adversity was in all cases a certain token of God's displeasure; and, upon this principle, they endeavoured to persuade this excellent servant of God, that his whole religion was false and counterfeit, that divine justice had now laid hold of him, and that he was suffering the punishment of his hypocrisy and ini. quity.
At length Elihu interposes; and moved with zeal for the honour of God, and with compassion to bis friend, he unfolds the mysteries of Divine Providence, asserts and proves that affliction is designed for the trial of the good, as well as for the punishment of the bad, directs Job to the right improvement of his present distress, and comforts him with the prospect of a happy deliverance from it, as soon as bis heart should be thoroughly mould. ed into a meek and patient submission to the will of his God. At the same time, be rebukes him with a becoming dignity for some rash and unadvised speeches which
the severity of his other friends, and the sharpness of his own anguish, had drawn from him; and particularly cautions him in the passage before us, “ Take heed; regard not iniquity; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction."
The latter part of the text contains an heavy censure, for which some of Job's impatient wishes for relief had no doubt given too just occasion. But these expressions, uttered in his baste, he afterwards retracted, and finally came out from the furnace of affliction, like gold tried and refined by the fire.—What I propose, in discoursing on this subject, is to illustrate and
the general proposition, that there can be no greater folly than to seek to escape from affliction by complying with the temptations of sin; or, in other words, that the smallest act of deliberate transgression is infinitely worse than the greatest calamity we can suffer in this life.
That the greater part of mankind are under the influ. ence of the contrary opinion, may be too justly inferred from their practice. How many have recourse to sinful pleasures to relieve their inward distress? What unlaw. ful methods do others use for acquiring the perishing riches or honours of this world? while, in order to evade suffering for righteouness sake, thousands make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, through sinful compliances with the manners of the world, against the clear and deliberate conviction of their own minds. These things plainly shew, that the subject I have chosen is of the highest importance; and if what may be said on it shall be so far blessed to any, as to render sin more odious, or affliction less formidable, I shall gain one of the noblest ends of my office, and we shall have reason to acknowledge, that our meeting together has been for the better and not for the worse.