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knows not how to spare it. And now if I could set
all the good men whose lives are recorded in the Old or New Testament, you would see them all agree in this. They may be very different in their natural dispositions ; but here they are sure to agree.
5 Ezra seems gentle and mild by nature: Nehemiah, with much uprightness and generosity, appears somewhat rough and vehement in his temper. But with respect to sin, they feel it alike: Look at Ezra's last chapter but one, and Nehem. 1st chapter, and you will be of my opinion. Would you, Brethren, know true religion, and not be deceived by that which is counterfeit? this single circumstance will help you much to discover it. The true spirit of religion leads men to regard sin as exceedingly dreadful, to abhor it, to loathe it, in themselves and in others as the curse of the creation. Of course they will exert themselves against it, in all their conduct, whạtever little probability of success there may be, as you see in the righteous zeal of Josiah. For the new birth unto righteousness has given them new eyes, and a new taste in this matter. They cannot bear sin in any of its forms: and to any thing in the world they would sooner indulge the spirit of toleration.
I said in themselves and others; for some persons, who value themselves on knowing men and manners, are full enough of complaints against a bad world, and indulge a spirit of censure against all mankind but themselves. Their ludicrous* and
* Such a character as that of Dr. Swift seems to illustrate what I say. Any one who has read his satirical pieces may see he is not humbled and grieved for the sins of mankind: he is only gratifying his pride by the notion of his own superiority; and his ill-tempers by endeavouring to give pain to others.
merciless way of censuring shows they are only indulging the spirit of pride and malice: Sin is with them evidently a light matter, and an affair of merriment after all. The spirit of such men is plain by this : They condemn others, but see not that they themselves are involved in the same condemnation. Not so Nehemiah; not so any truly good man; I mention Nehemiah particularly, because he thus expresses himself; “ I and my father's house have sinned.” In the tremendous vision of Ezekiel *, a
” mark is set on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done. Thus you see God himself marks those as his people, , who are grieved and sincerely affected on account of sin. And hence all good men, vexed at the profane conversation of the wicked around them, are much reconciled in their minds to leave such a world as this; and they long to enter where sin shall pain them no more. But where men are so hardened as to “ make a mock at sin t," it is a certain mark of an unconverted state, whatever seeming good qualities in other respects there may appear to be in their character. Thus I have given a rule, by which we may be much helped to know the spirit of true religion, and also what our own state is.
2. This hatred of sin will also show itself outwardly. If it be within, it must break out; not ostentatiously, but by such signs and evidences as are natural and suitable to existing circumstances. Had Josiah pretended ever so deeply to be grieved at the iniquity of the times, and yet made a jest of the absurdities of idolatry, without taking any a Ezek. ix.
+ Prov. xiv. 9.
pains to destroy it; or had he made himself merry with the follies of his countrymen, and seemed quite careless and at his ease on the subject, he would have given no proof of sincere piety. Do Those deserve the name of humble and pious persons, who can be entertained with the hypocrisy or absurdity, the deceit or meanness of mankind, and give no one outward mark of grief or sadness on that account? But we see Josiah's heart is tender: he humbles himself; and rends his clothes, and weeps before God, and takes unwearied pains against the sins of the times. What signs do we show of the same spirit? Where is our grief, our testimony against sin ? What pains do we take against it? And what marks can men see of our hatred of it?
3. I will just add that this spirit shows itself more in reflecting on the evil of sin, than on the punishments that attend it. There is no cavilling in Josiah's mind against the punishments, as though they were too severe. When men admit with reluctance the idea of suffering for sin, when they are disposed to consider the thing itself as shocking to right reason, and when they are ready to treat, as uncharitable, all persons who maintain the justice of God's punishments in a future state; such discontent and murmuring affords sure proofs that their hearts are proud, and that they feel not the evil of sin.- I need not enlarge on this head: These marks are very plain; and very descriptive of men's characters.
4. There is another very important circumstance, which appears in Josiah's spirit,-a reverential regard to the word of God. How strongly is the very feeling of his soul displayed in this point !
“ Great,” says he, “is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened to the words of this book.” And the Lord testifies, “ thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place.” I seem in some degree to conceive how his soul trembled with pious awe, when he heard what strict and solemn charges were delivered in the books of Moses against idolatry and rebellion, attended with so much earnestness of affection, and such endearing motives both of gratitude and interest to unite them to their God. When he saw such solemn threatenings denounced against transgression, and considered the general depravity of his own age and time, his tender heart was humbled within him, and his godly sorrow must have overflowed in tears : and doubtless, while he was strongly apprehensive of desolating judgments for the transgressions of his people, he would not forget his own sins : His mind, enlightened with the true knowledge of God and of sin, would feel his own transgressions among the rest, and be ready to animadvert on them with godly severity. father's house have sinned.”
Is not this believing regard to the word of God a very necessary part to the character of a really good man; so necessary, that where it does not exist, a man is altogether in a state of enmity with his Maker ? A real worshipper of God feels his word; subjects his inmost soul to it; takes its very nature, and “has the witness in himself,” that it is his word. Its holy and righteous nature points out its author; and the contrary spirit, which, alas,
- I and my
never more abounded than at this day, is a certain proof of an ungodly state. When men continue to hear the most awful threatenings of the divine word, whether of sore judgments for sin in this life, or of eternal punishments in the next, and remain quite gay, careless, unmoved; when they persist in the same round of covetousness, of pleasures, and of vanity as before, cavilling perhaps at the meaning of some particular expressions, or curiously inquiring after some niceties, which do not at all affect the main point;-always taking care to keep the matter from their consciences;- there is too much reason to fear that they must be ripe for destruction.
Ye who live in known sin, and have not the fear of God before your eyes, bear witness for me, that I have, from time to time, set forth the terrors of the Lord in this house, and warned you to repent and be converted, that your sins might be blotted out.
How is it that you have not been afraid of the wrath of God? Is it that you do not believe these things to be true? Your own consciences should tell you, that if the love of sin were out of the question, you could have no reasonable doubts left. Is it not shocking that men can hear these things again and again, and be told of the wrath of God against their sins, and yet go on, filling up the measure of their iniquity, as careless as if they apprehended there was no God at all ?
The contempt of the Scriptures is a too general evil. They are looked on as words of course; and a pretended notion of charity, by which all men expect to find God merciful at last, is the snare that keeps thousands in their sins. How long will it