Page images
PDF
EPUB

ESSAY IV.

CONVICTION OF SIN.

It is not strange, that natural men should sometimes be alarmed by a sense of their danger. When they see that the judgments which God has denounced against sin, will sooner or later overtake them; that they are rapidly passing to the gates of death; and that they are unprepared for the solemn realities of the future world; it is impossible for them to remain unmoved. They begin to think seriously of the things that belong to their everlasting peace. 'They cease to make light of that which is important, and to view as important that which is lighter than vanity. They begin to see things as they are. The value of the soul the indispensable necessity of an interest in the blood of sprinkling-heaven-hell-these are subjects which engage their most serious reflection, and excite the most fearful alarm. But, strange to tell, how soon does their solemnity vanisli! How often is their alarm momentary! The lapse even of a few weeks may convince you, that all this is but the early cloud, and the morning dew, that quickly passeth away. :

A variety of considerations induce us to believe, that no degree of conriclion for sin is conclusive evidence of Christian Character. The simple conviction, that I am a sinner, is

common to all men. That view of sin which arises from its hateful nature as committed against the Holy God, is peculiar to saints. There is a state of mind differing from both these, from the former in degree, and from the latter in kind, which is designated by the phrase, conviction for sin.

Impenitent sinners are often brought to see their own sinfulness. God gives them a just view of their character. They are favored with a discovery of the total corruption of their hearts. They see that they have not the love of God in them. They are made sensible that they are under the dominion of the carnal mind that is enmity against God. The Divine Law, in all the reasonableness of its precept, and all the equity of its sanction, comes home to the conscience with power, and brings with it the knowledge of sin, and the sense of guilt. They see its extent and spirituality, as well as its righteousness, . They feel as Paul felt, when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died. Sin does actually revive. The law that binds their consciences, excites the enmity of their hearts. The more clearly they discern its righteousness and spirituality, the more vigorously do they hate its Divine Author. They begin to learn what kind of hearts they cher. ish. They see that in them there dwelleth no good thing. In vain do they search for the least holiness, or a single duty, in all that they kave done. Every imagination of the thoughts

of their hearts is only evil continually. All their words and all their actions, all their desires and all their prayers are in direct contrariety to the holy law of God. Now, suffer me to ask, is there any religion in all this? There can be none surely in possessing a depraved heart, and there is none in merely being sensible that we possess it. In the simple discovery, that I am an atrocious sinner, there is no sense of the hateful nature of sin, no sorrow for sin, no desire to be delivered froin its power. To see any aggravated sinfulness and not be humbled on account of it, is evidence of unyielding enmity, rather than cordial reconciliation. If a strong sense, or if you please, the strongest sense of personal sinfulness, were conclusive evidence of personal religion; every reprobate at the bar of judgment, and all the damned in hell, would be Christians. A sense of their corruption furns no small part of their wretchedness We know from the unequivocal declaration of Eternal Truth, that when the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all, he will CONVINCE all that are ungodly among them OF ALL THEIR UNGODLY DEEDS which they have ungodly committed. llow then can the conviction of ungouliness, be the evidence of godliness?

In the minds of the unregenerate, the sense o! personal sinfulness is always accompanied with the apprehension of danger. It cannot be otherwise. When a sense of sig

is fastened upon the conscience of the sinner, it cannot fail to throw him into distress. In many cases, the distress is great. The law work” is severe. The unhappy man sees the corruption of his own heart; and iherefore gives up all hope from his own righteousness. He sees the corruption of his own heart, and therefore gives up all hope from the prospect of amendment. The law which he has broken, sweeps away at a stroke all his righteousness, and cuts up bis hopes, root and branch. All that is past is bad; all that is to come is no better. He sees that with his present disposition, sin will only revive and increase every hour that he lives. He is wretched and forlorn. He knows that he is the prisoner of justice, and fears that he is already bound over to the curse. He looks around for help, but no kind arm will interpose. He ventures to make a struggle to shake off his bondage; but every effort evinces his weakness, every struggle binds him faster in his chains. The arrows of the Almighty are within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirils. He sees that he is actually going to hell. He knows that nothing he shall ever do, will prevent his going there. There is but a step between him and the eternal pit; while an invincibly obstinate heart cuts him off from every successful effort to escape it.* He is.

* The inability of the natural man to repent and believe the Gospel, lies in a heart so corrupt, that it is absolutely invincible, but by the Almighty power of God. It is an ina

beyond the reach of help on this side heaven. No means, no motives can afford him relief. He sees that he is in the hands of a Sovereign God, and that every thing without him, and

bility, the very essence of which consists in his moral turpitude. This the convinced sinner knows. He may not, in form, recognize the distinction between moral and natural inability, but every pang that shoots through his heart, is decisive testimony of its correctness. With the deep sense that he is in danger, is connected the deep conviction, that he is without excuse. He no longer casts the blame on God. The door of hope is open. Every obstacle, except that which arises from his own aversion to the way of life, is removed.

All things are ready; he alone is unwilling While he beholds himself trembling upon the verge of the pit, and hears. the voice of the Great Deliverer, -"Sinner, lay down the weapons of thy rebellion; repent of all your transgressions; come unto me”-he will not come. At terms like these, every feeling of his heart revolts. Lay down the weapons of his rebellion! repent of all his transgressions! come unto Christ! he will not, he cannot. He spurns the offers of mercy, and had rather die than submit. Here is his inability: an inability that is all of his own cherishing, all confined within his own carnal heart.

It would be well if those who feel so uncharitably, and speak so unarlvisedly concerning persons who are conscien. tiously constrained to maintain both the reality and importance of the distinction between natural and moral inubility, understood either themselves,or the doctrine they condemn. In giving the sinner a natural power to become holy, we do not claim for him the self-determining power of the will. We do not say, that he can produce holiness by an act of the will that is antecedent to the first exercise of holiness. Neither do we challenge for a worm of the dust, the prerogative of independence. Eternal life hangs on the sovereign grace of God. The work of renewing and sanctifying the soul, and bearing it to heaven at last, rests on his Al. mighty arm. In giving the sinner a natural power to become holy, we design to give God the throne, and humble the singer at his feet. Not until this important truth ceases to glorify God, and abase his enemies, let it be denounced as a doctrine either replete with error, or devoid of meaning.

Natural ability consists in possessing all those faculties that are necessary to constitute a moral agent. A moraš

« PreviousContinue »