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as liberty. Yet this is a very just image of every man's condition, who is under the power of sin. He is a slave to the most cruel tyraut; a prisoner under the most awful condemnation; a captive, tied and bound with the chain of his sins. To drop the metaphor—he is one exposed to the wrath of an offended God; continually increasing the load of his guilt; the sport of various evil passions, which possess and harass his degraded mind; having his understanding depraved by sin; the dupe of Satan's artifice, and the victim of his power and malice; such, in short, that if he repent not, the vengeance of heaven must overtake, and consign him to eternal punishment.
2. Yet it is possible that there may be this state of sin, comprehending all these awful circumstances of misery and danger, without any concern about it, or even any distinct perception of it. A poor captive indeed, confined in prison, cannot well be insensible to the misery of his condition, nor wholly unconcerned for his deliverance; but a sinner, whose state is justly compared to his, may be destitute of all such feelings: and this is, in fact, the case with the generality of sinners. They are unconcerned about their sins. They are not afraid of God's judgments. They see little or nothing to be lamented in their condition. They are not only "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” but morally dead withal: quite insensible to the misery of such a state.
This, however, is by no means the caşe with the persons here represented. Images are used with respect to them, which describe their mind as deeply touched with the sense of their unhappiness. They are not only captives, but they are broken-hearted in their bondage. The good news of redemption is to be preached to them; which would be no glad tidings to those who felt not the weight of their chains: the year of jubilee is to be proclaimed, when all the oppressed were set free: which would be most acceptable to those who were most sensible of their calamity.
And this description of the persons who shall be benefited by the salvation of Christ is perfectly just, and corresponds strictly with the whole tenor of Scripture on the subject. They are represented in Scripture as being sensible of the misery of a sinful state, and desirous to be freed from it. They are “the sick,” who "need a physician;" they are the thirsty," who are invited to drink of the water of life;" "the weary, who shall enjoy their Saviour's “rest.” It is the longing soul which shall be satisfied, and the hungry soul which shall be filled with goodness. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, then the Lord will hear them, and
open rivers to them in high places.” “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness,” (it is written,) "or they shall be filled.” “Whosoever asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” “He that cometh unto me," saith Christ, “I will in no wise cast out:” and if any are excluded, it is because “they will not come” to him, “that they may have life.”
All such expressions denote the true Christian temper,
that which our Lord inculcated under the names of humility and poverty of spirit; and which both Christ and his Apostles meant by the more significant Word "repentance.” It includes a consciousness of demerit; a due sense of the evil of sin, of compunction for its offence, and of shame for its defilement; a sincere detestation of it, and anxiety to be delivered, both from its guilt and from its power. This is the disposition supposed in my text, and also explicitly required in the New Testament, as a necessary preparative for faith in Christ, and for an interest in his salvation.
This frame of mind may comprebend different degrees, or even kinds, of uneasiness on account of sin. The metaphors which are here used, illustrate these. It is one kind of distress to feel the pressure of poverty; it is another to endure the yoke of bondage; and a third, to lose the organ of sight. So, various circumstances produce various forms and shades (if I may so call them) of that penitence and humiliation for sin which are here required. The degree, or the complexion, of that sorrow which men feel for sin-their sense of unworthiness and painful apprehension on account of it-does not depend altogether upon the number and enormity of their transgressions; but sometimes upon the nature of those transgressions. Some are more defiling, and cause more sensible shame; others are more criminal, and excite greater terror; others, again, disqualify for virtues or duties, and produce more of depression. · It depends often upon greater or less sensibility of conscience; upon higher or lower measures of knowledge; upon tempers more or less ingenuous; upon admonitions more or less impressive; upon warmer or fainter love of God; upon an almost endless variety of accidents or peculiarities, which will always diversify the feeling in different minds. What concerns us most, therefore, is the reality of the disposition. To constitute us real disciples of the Saviour, our repentance must be strue,” our humility genuine, our desire of holiness “unfeigned." They must be such as the metaphors in the text will fitly and fairly illustrate. The sum, then, of what we learn from this and
passage of Scripture, concerning the proper character of the objects of Christ's salvation is, that humiliation, repentance, and desire of righteousness form the principal features of it. I put them together because they are united in fact. We may view them separately, if we please; but as they exist, they are one and the same disposition. He who is truly humble must feel the evil of sin, and consequently desire holiness. He who repents must of course be humbled for transgression, and must hunger and thirst after righteousness. Viewing it, then as one disposition, let us consider that to which it is opposed. And what is this but carelessness about transgression; insensibility to guilt; "hardness of heart,” as the Scriptures call it? This excludes
from every benefit which the redemption of Christ can confer; for if repentance and faith be necessary, then the disposition in which they can have no place must disqualify for salvation. Let those, then, who have hitherto been careless about their sins; who have never felt them a burden or a defilement; who have been satisfied with their condition, and have not even wished for one more perfect; O let them seriously consider that, in this state of mind, they are not even objects of the salvation of Christ! Let them put the question to their own consciences, Can I hope that God has sent his Son to save the careless and impenitent? Did the Redeemer ever intimate that such characters were the objects of his favour? Can I, for a moment, suppose that he prayed and agonized for such as should refuse to pray for themselves; or bore the heavy punishment of sin, that they might continue to indulge in it; or led his
pure and holy life, that they might spend theirs in thoughtlessness and folly? Is it unreasonable, if God requires a disposition prepared for mercy before he shews mercy? Is it not just that the moral Governor of the world should demand a suitable acknowledgment of transgression, a proper sorrow for our offence, and that change of heart and conduct without which such acknowledgments are vain? Surely it cannot be imagined that men's carelessness about Divine things is any excuse for their neglect of them? It is rather an aggravation of their sin: for it arises from want of reverence for God, and of regard to his commandments, which is in itself a most criminal disposition. It cannot be supposed that a fair character and mere estimation with our fellow-creatures will be enough to satisfy the holy God, or will be all that he requires? If so, what need of the incarnation of the son of God; of his cross and passion; of the whole dispensation of the Gospel; or of any such thing as holiness?
But give me leave, in a point of so much consequence, to address myself immediately to yourselves. Amongst those who hear me, are doubtless many young persons, gay and thoughtless; many of a more advanced age, immersed in worldly cares, who yet agree in this point, that they have litile real concern about the state of their souls, little uneasiness about their sins, or desire to lead a truly religious life. You all hope to be saved; but I entreat you to consider seriously what kind of persons are the objects of salvation. Will all of all descriptions and dispositions be saved? If not, there must be some discrimination of character, with the nature of which you ought to be acquainted. Search, then, the Scriprures, that you may be able to draw this line for yourselves. See there whether Christianity does not require a state of mind with respect to religion, the very reverse of what you possess. If you can find that Christ has given a warrant to his disciples for negligence, dissipation, and sin, then use the liberty which he has given you: but if he came to save those only who repent, whose hearts are contrite, who hunger and thirst after righteousness; then, 1 beseech you, rest not satisfied with your state till you know that you possess that character which will stamp you for a real Christian.
Il. Blessed be God, however, there are some who know their unworthiness, and are humbled on account of it. These are the persons intended in my text, and such will gladly hear the second point we were to consider; namely, the gracious office which the Redeemer sustains to save them.
This office is here delineated under several views. Is the state of sinners described as a state of great suffering? Christ brings them deliverance. As a state of bondage? He grants them liberty. Under the image of a broken heart? He communicates peace and consolation. Or under that of poverty? He tells them of recovered birthrights, and of a glorious inheritance above. Divested of metaphor, the office of Christ is to expiate guilt; to deliver from the power of sin; to impart peace; and to bestow a title to the kingdom of