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avarice grasp the dishonest gain. And let the same person be brought to want, he might be more odious and more to be dreaded, than the arraigned criminal. The only difference between the most secret and trifling dishonesty, and the most open and daring robbery, is merely circumstantial. The principle is the same; for he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much. A change of condition and the depravity of the human heart, would be sufficient to lead such an one into the most enormous crimes. Then when overt acts, disgrace any of our fellowmortals, let us inquire of our own hearts, if we cherish the secret lurkings of such a principle in our breasts.
3d. This subject may serve to show, that though the gain of sin be small, the guilt may be great. One great principle to be inferred from the text, is, that he who has sinned, though to a small amount in respect to the fruit or profit of the transgression, has, by so doing, incurred a full condemnation. He who has just passed over a forbidden limit, which was distinctly known to him, is unfaithful in the least; and is also guilty in much. For a vindication of this, it is evident, That by a small act of fraud, the line which separates the right from the wrong, is just as effectually broken over, as by a great act of injustice. The Saviour, in the words of the text, speaks to the man who is only half an inch within the limit of forbidden ground, in the very same terms by which he addresses the one who has made the fartherest and the largest excursions over the boundary. Grant that he is but a little way upon the wrong side of the line of demarkation! But why is he upon it at all ? It was in the act of crossing that line, that he entered upon the contest between right and wrong; and then it was decided. That was the instant of time at which principle struck her surrender. The great difficulty was to pass the partition wall; for, after that was done, the moral principle has no barriers to obstruct his progress over the whole extent of the
forbidden field but what may be easily surmounted. If he is but a little way within the unlawful territory, even upon its margin, the God who finds him there, will reckon and deal with him as a bold transgressor. In the words of the text,the Saviour has taken bis stand on the mere dividing line between what is lawful and what is unlawful; and he gives us to understand, that the man who enters by a single footstep on the forbidden ground, immediately contaminates bis person with the full bue and character of guiltiness. He does not make the difference between right and wrong to consist in a gradual shading of the one into the other; and thus obliterate the distinctions of morality. He allows no imperceptible intermixture between the nature and margin of virtue and vice; but gives a clear and decided delineation. It is not a gentle transition for a man to step over from honesty to dishonesty, and from truth to falsehood. There is between thein a wall, rising up unto heaven: and the authority of God must suffer violence, ere one inch of entrance can be made into the field of iniquity. The Saviour never glosses over the beginning of crimes. His object is effectually to fortify the limit, to cast a rampart of exclusion around the whole territory of guilt, and to rear it before the eye of man in such characters of strength and sacredness, as should make him feel that it is impregnable.
Again: We may see, that he who is unfaithful in the least, has incurred the condemnation of him who is unfaithful in much; because the littleness of the gain, so far from lessening the guilt, is in fact rather a. circumstance of aggravation. It is certain that he who has committed injustice for the sake of a less advantage, has done it on the impulse of a less temptation. He has parted with his honesty at an inferiour price, by bartering it for a mere trife. And does this lessen his guilt ? Certainly it proves how small is the price which he sets upon his cternity; and how cheaply he can bargain away the favour of God, and an inherit
ance in glory: And the more paltry the trafick is in respect of sinful gain, the more profane it may be in respect of principle. It likens him the more to
profane Esau, who sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage. The piercing eye of Him who looketh down from heaven, and pondereth the secrets of every breast, perceives that the man who is abhorrent only in the view of flagrant acts of injustice, has no justice whatever in his character. It is at the precise limit between the right and the wrong, that the flaming sword of God's law is placed. This is strikingly evident in the instance of the first sin that entered the world. What is it that swells the eating of the forbidden fruit with a grandeur so momentous ? How came an action, in itself so minute, to be the germe of such mighty consequences? How are we to conceive that our first parents, by one act of disobedience, brought death upon themselves and their posterity? By the eating of the forbidden fruit, a clear requirement, or distinct prohibition was broken. A transition was made from loyalty to rebellion; and an entrance was effected into the kingdom of Satan. If the act itself was a trifle, it served to aggravate the guilt; that, for such a trifle the authority of God could be despised and set at defiance. Moreover, the truth of God was pledged for the execution of the threatening. And now, it for a single transaction, all the felicity of paradise had to be broken up, and the wretched offenders to be turned abroad upon a world, now changed by the curse into a wilderness; and all the woes with which earth is filled, be the direful consequence, let us not hesitate to believe, That he who is unfaithful in that which is least, contracts great guilt; and for the sake of a little gain, incurs an aggravated condemnation.
4th. We may also see, that he who is faithful in that which is least, is entitled to the highest praise. In respect both of righteous principle and practice, such an one is, and ought to be considered as being faithful in
that which is much. Who is the man, my hearers, to whom you would most readily confide the whole of your property? He who would disdain to put forth an injurious hand on a single farthing. Of whom would you have the least dread of any unrighteous encroachment? He is the one, all the delicacies of whose principle are awakened when he comes within sight of the dividing limit, which separates justice from injustice. Who is the man whom we shall never find
among the greater degrees of iniquity ? He who shrinks, with sacred abhorrence, from its smallest degree. Nobleness of condition in life, is not essential as a state for nobleness of character: Nor does a man require to be high in office, to gather around his person the worth and lustre of a high-minded integrity. Humble life may be as rich in moral grace and moral grandeur, as the loftier places of society and refinement. True dignity of principle may be cherished in the breast of a man of the lowest drudgery, as well as in the bosom of him who stands entrusted with the fortunes of an empire. Moreover, that man has the brightest christian character who conscientiously observes all the punctilios of godliness. It is in a humble, and almost unnoticed walk, that he can most effectually prove to his God and his own conscience, that he is a Christian. Hence, the secret walk, the private acts of men, if noble, far the noblest of their lives. And to be faithful in those things that are little, gives the most incontestible evidence, that a man is faithful in that which is much; and consequently entitled to the highest esteem and commendation from his fellow men and the peculiar smiles and approbation of his God. Amen.
Romans iii. 24.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus. THE doctrine of justification is one of the main pillars, which supports the Christian religion. It is of great importance that it be rightly understood ; for it is essential to the system of divine truth, revealed in the sacred scriptures. And that we may have clear views of this fundamental article of Christianity, let us attend to the context. St. Paul, after showing that by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God, illustrates the present subject in the following manner. the righteousness of God without the law, is manifested; being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all, them that believe, for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sirs that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
We are now naturally called upon to attend to the explication of the term, justification.
This word is adopted from the proceedings of judicial courts; and denotes the acquittal of a person,