« PreviousContinue »
and consequently for the least transgression. For it is written, “ The wages of sin is death ;” and “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” If what the law requires be right, then what it threatens is just. One reason why so many are apt to think the penalty of the law unjust is, because they do not think that every selfish affection and action is a real sin, or transgression of the law; for it is essential to every law, human or divine, to threaten punishment to every transgressor of it. The law of God threatens death, eternal death, to every transgressor, because every transgression of the divine law renders every transgressor deserving to be punished for ever. For his guilt will for ever remain; and as long as his guilt remains he continues to deserve to be punished. The divine law is the infallible measure of duty, of guilt and of punishment. The moral Governor of moral agents is absolutely bound to treat them according to the holy and righteous law he has given them. And we know that the law which God has given to men is holy, just and good in its precept and penalty. It is, therefore, as certain that every transgressor of his law deserves eternal death, as that he has actually threatened to inflict that punishment for the least transgression.
5. If the law of God forbids all selfish and sinful affections upon pain of eternal death, then mankind are all naturally in a very guilty and wretched condition. If their character and condition are to be measured by the divine law, then they are by nature in a state of perfect guilt and complete condemnation. They do nothing but what is a transgression of the divine law, which condemns them to eternal death for every transgression. They have done nothing but sin every day since they were born, and consequently have been continually treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath ; and nothing prevents God from executing the penalty of his holy law upon them but his mere sovereign, unpromised mercy. Their feet stand on slippery places, and may slide at any moment that God sees fit to determine. This is the plain, simn. ple truth with respect to every sinner. And this plain, simple truth is more alarming and tremendous to an awakened sinner than all the thunderings and lightnings which attended the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. Those displays of the divine displeasure were transitory and momentary; but the sentence which the law passes upon every transgressor is a sentence of eternal death. But why do you attempt to alarm our fears by representing sin as a transgression of the law, and the law as threatening death for every transgression? We have often heard all this before, and are prepared to hear it again, without any painful fears and apprehensions. But perhaps you are mistaken, as thousands of others have been who were as stout hearted as you are now. I will mention one instance. It is that of Paul. He was a man of as much knowledge, and as much courage and fortitude, as you are. But he tells us that he could not stand before the requirements and threatenings of the divine law. "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it, slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” I think I see what you have often seen, poor guilty sinners bowed down, hopeless and helpless, in the utmost anguish and distress, crying, What must we do to be saved? And I think I see one and another of you, who are most stout hearted, sinking down in dismay and despair. I ask you what is the matter? You exclaim, We have sinned against God; we have transgressed his law; we deserve his curse ; his dreadful wrath abides upon us; we cannot stand before him; we fall by our own sin and guilt into the endless torments of hell.
SERMON X X XI X.
SELFISHNESS THE ESSENCE OF MORAL DEPRAVITY.
Fox if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love
those that love them. - LUKE, vi. 32.
When Christ first appeared in his public character, he displayed so much kindness, compassion and benevolence, in healing the sick, relieving the distressed, and preaching the gospel to the poor, that he was almost universally beloved as well as admired. The high and low, the learned and unlearned, the teachers and those that were taught, flocked after him to hear his doctrines and to see and experience his miracles. He appeared to be what it was foretold that he should be, “the desire of all nations." At least, the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, though disunited among themselves, agreed to admire and to follow the long expected Messiah. And to any one less acquainted with the human heart than Christ was, they would have appeared to be his real friends. But he knew what was in man, and was never deceived by any false appearances of love and esteem. As he perfectly knew the characters of all who followed him, so in his addresses to the mixed multitudes, he directed his discourses to the hearts and consciences of both the sincere and insincere. And as he had occasion while his real enemies wore the mask of love, to point out the distinction between true love and false, so he dwelt much upon
this subject in both his public and private discourses. An instance of this we have in the context, where we find a description of his followers, and a summary of his discourse which he delivered to them. “He came down with them and stood in the plain; and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him ; for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for behold your reward is great in heaven." He now turns from his disciples to the multitude, and says, “ But wo unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Wo unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Wo unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Wo unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which bear, Love your enemies, do good to thein which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek' offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you,
ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” What could have been more pertinent than this discourse to the multitudes, who united with his disciples in following him, and who practically expressed so much regard for him? It was suited to make them all see and feel that essential distinction which there is between true love and false, and between saints and sinners. He first describes that pure, disinterested love which forms the character of saints, and then contrasts it with that selfishness which forms the character of sinners; and finally appeals to sinners themselves, whether they deserve the character of saints while they love only those that love them. There is now, perhaps, as much need as there ever was, to set this subject in a just and intelligible light. And in order to this, it is proposed to consider why sinners love themselves; why they love others; and why there is no wioral goodness in their loving themselves and others.
I. Let us consider why sinners love themselves. It is plainly supposed in the text that sinners love themselves; for they are said to love those that love them, which could not be accounted for if they were wholly destitute of love to themselves. In other passages of scripture, they are said to be lovers of their ownselves, and to seek their own things and not the things of others. But this is too evident from experience and observation to need any proof. Sinners certainly love themselves. But why? Not for the same reason that saints love themselves ; if ihey did, they would be saints. Nor do they love themselves from mere instinct, as the lower species of animals do. But they love themselves because they are themselves, which is neither a true love nor a mere animal affection, but proper selfishness. Pleasant and painful sensations are common to saints and sinners, and to all sensitive natures, and have no moral quality belonging to them. Every creature, perhaps, whether rational or irrational, takes pleasure in receiving its proper food; but this love to its food is not love to itself, or selfishness. The saint and the sinner may equally love honey, because it is agreeable to the taste; but this love to honey is neither interested nor disinterested love, and of course is neither virtuous nor vicious. Men never love any particular food from a moral motive, but from the constitution of their nature, in which they are passive, and have no active concern. The case is different in loving themselves. In this they properly act, and act from a moral motive. Sinners love themselves not because they are a part of the intellectual system, nor because the general good requires them to regard their personal happiness, but because they are themselves. They love their own interest because it is their own, in distinction from the interest of all other created or uncreated beings. This is a free, voluntary exercise, which is contrary to their reason and conscience, and which they know to be in its own nature wrong. Their interest is really no more valuable for being theirs, than if it belonged to others; and they themselves are no more valuable than other creatures of the same character and capacity. To love themselves, therefore, because they are themselves, is to love themselves from a motive peculiar to selfish creatures.
II. We are to consider why sinners love others. Our Saviour said to his disciples, that if they were of the world, the world would love them. And he said in the text that sinners love those that love them. Though the love of sinners always centres in themselves, yet it may extend to others, and take in a large circle of mankind, and even God himself. Sinners loved Christ, and cried “ Hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." The whole people of Israel loved the God of Moses when he carried them through the Red Sea, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, and gave them manna from heaven. But the question before us is, Why do