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tentionally against all the articles of the law: but, it is highly probable, he will actually violate all articles one after another; because, when universal esteem for all the laws of God is not laid down as the grand principle of religious action, the passions are not corrected, they are only deranged, one put in the place of another, and nothing more is necessary to complete actual, universal wickedness than a change of vices with a change of circumstances.
All this is yet too vague. We have, indeed, endeavoured to explain, and to prove the proposition of our apostle: but unless we enter into a more minute detail, we shall derive very little advantage froin this discourse. Those of our auditors, who have
most reason to number themselves with such as sin deliberately, will put themselves in the opposite class. The inost abandoned sinners will call their own crimes either daily frailties, or transient faults, or involun: tary passions. We must, if it be possible, take away this pretext of depravity, and characterize those sins, which we have named sins of reflection, deliberation, and approbation, sins, which place hiin, who commits them, precisely in the state intended by our apostle; he offends in one point, and his disposition to do so renders him guilty of total and universal disobedience. This is our third part, and the cona clusion of this discourse.
III. St. James, pronounces in our text a sentence of condemnation against three sorts of sinners. 1. Against such as are engaged in a way of life sinful of itself. 2. Against such as cherish a favourite passion. 3. Against persons of Cunteachable dispositions.
1. They, who are engaged in a way of life sinful of itself, are guilty of a violation of the whole law, while they seem to offend only in one point..
We every day hear merchants and traders ingeniously consess, that their business cannot succeed, unless they defraud the government. We will not examine whether their assertion be true, we will suppose it to be as they say, and we affirm, that a trade, which necessarily obliges a man to violate a law so express as that of paying tribute to government, is bad of itself. That disposition of mind, which induces a man to follow it, ought not to be ranked either with those human frailties, transient faults, or involuntary passions, which we have enumerated, and for which evangelical abatements are reserved. This is a blow struck
at legislative authority. What, then, ought a merchant to do, who is engaged in a commerce, which necessarily obligeth him to violate a law of the state concerning impost? He ought to give up this commerce, and to quit a way of living, which he knows, is iniquitous in itself. If he cannot prevail with himself to make this sacrifice, all his hopes of being saved are fallacious.
We every day hear military men affirm, that it is impossible to wear a sword with honour without professing to be always disposed to revenge, and to violate all laws human and divine, which forbid duelling. We do not inquire the truth of the assertion, we suppose it true.
We dot examine, whether prudence could not in all cases suggest proper means to free men from a tyrannical point of honour, or whether there really be any case, in which gentlemen are indispensibly obliged either to quit the army, or to violate the precepts, that commands us to give up a spirit of resentment. We only affirm, that a military man, who constantly and deliberately harbours a design of always avenging himself in certain cases, is in this miserable list of sinners, who, by offending in one point are guilty of all. We do not affirm, that he would be in this guilty condition, if he could not promise to resist a disposition to revenge in every future moment of his life: we only affirm, that he is guilty of a violation of the whole law, if he do not sincerely and uprightly resolve to resįst this inclination. You cannot be a christian without having a fixed resolution to seal the truths of the gospel with your blood, if it please providence to call you to martyrdom. You cannot, however, promise, that the sight of racks and stakes shall never shake your resolution, nor ever induce you to violate your sincere determination to die for religion, if it should please providence to expose you to death on account of it. It is sufficient for the tranquillity of your conscience, that
you have formed a resolution to suffer rather than deny the faith. In like manner, we do not affirm, that a military man is guilty of the offence, with which we have charged him, if he cannot engage never to be carried away with an excess of passion inclining him to revenge; we only say, if he coolly determine always to avenge himself in certain cases, he directly attacks the authority of the lawgiver. He offendeth in one point, and he is guilty of all. If a man cannot profess to bear arms without harbouring a fixed intention of violating all laws human and divine, that prohibit duelling, even to those, who re
ceive the most cruel affronts, either the profession of arms, or the hope of salvation must be given up. No man in the army can assure himself, that he is in a state of his conscience attests, that he will avoid, with all possible circumspection, every case, in which a tyrannical point of honour renders revenge necessary; and that, if ever he be, in spite of all his precautions, in such a case, when he must either resign his military employments, or violate the laws, that forbid revenge, he will obey the law, and resign his military honours.
It is too often seen, thát our relation to some offenders inspires us with indulgence for their offences. This kind of temptation is never more difficult to surmount than when we are called to bear a faithful testimony concerning the state of our brethren, who refuse to sacrifice their fortune and their country to religion, and a good conscience. But what relation is so near as to pre-occupy our minds to such a degree as to prevent our considering the life of such a person, as it really is, bad in itself, or what pretext can be plausible enough to authorise it? We have sounded in their ears a thousand times these thundering words of the Son of God, Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels, Luke ix. 26. He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter, and, we may add, he, that loveth houses or lands, case, riches, or honours, more than me, is not worthy of me, Matt. x. 37. We have summoned them by the sacred promises and solemn engagements, which some of them have entered into at the table of the Lord, while they partook of the significant symbols of the body and blood of the Saviour, to devote themselves to the glory of God, and che edification of his church. We have unveiled their hearts, and shewn thein how the artfulness of their ingenious passions cxculpated their conduct by putting specious pretexts in the place of solid reasons. We have reproved them for pretending, that they dare not face the danger of attempting to flee, when the government forbad their quitting the kingdom, and now liberty is granted, for making that a reason for staying. We have described the numerous advantages of public worship; we have proved, that the preaching of the gospel is, if I may speak so, the food of christian virtues; and that, when people have accustomed themselves to live without the public exercises of religion, they insensibly
lose that delicacy of conscience, without which they cannot either be good christians, or, what are called in the world, men of honour and probity; we have demonstrated this assertion by an unexceptionable argument taken from experience; we have said, Observe that man, who was formerly so very scrupulous of retaining the property of his neighbour, see, he retains it now without any scruple: observe those parents, who were formerly so tender of their children, see now with what inhumanity they leave them to truggle with want. We have represented to them, that to reside where the spirit of persecution is only smothered, not extinguished, is to betray religion, by exposing the friends of it to the hazard of being martyred, without having any assurance of being possessed with a spirit of martyrdom; and we have endeavoured to convince them, that he, who flatters himself, he shall be able to undergo martyrdom, and lives where he is liable to it, while providence opens a way of escape, is presumptious in the highest degree, and exposeth himself to such misery as the son of Sirach denounces, when he says, Ile, that loveth danger, shall perish therein, Eccles. 111. 26. Not having been able to remove them by motives taken from their own interest, we have tried to effect them with the interest of their children. We have told them, that their posterity will live without any religion, that they will have too much knowledge to adhere to superstition, and too little to profess the true religion; and this sad prophecy has been already verified in their families. To all these demonstrations they are insensible; they wilfully shut their eyes against the light; they guard themselves against the force of these exhortations; they are forging new fetters for themselves, which will confine them to a place, of which God has said, Come out of her my people! that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, Rev. xviii. 4. They build, they plant, they marry, they give in marriage, and thus they have abused the patience of thirty five years, in which they have been invited to repent. I ask again, what relation can be so near as to prevail with us to put this kind of life among the frailties, for which evangelical abatements are reserved ?
Let us all, as far as providential circuinstances will allow, follow a profession compatible with our duty. Let us do more, let us endeavour so to arrange our affairs that our professions may stimulate us to obedience, and that every thing around us may direct our attention to God. Alas! in spite Vol. IV.
of all our precautions, sin will too often carry us away; we shall too often forget our Creator, how loud soever every voice around us proclaims his beneficence to us, and his excellencies in himself. But how great will our defection be, if our natural inclinations be strengthened by the engagements of our condition! A kind of life wicked of itself is the first sort of sin of which my text says, Whosoever offendeth in one point is guilty of all.
2. In the same class we put sinners, who cherish a darling passion. Few hearts are so depraved as to be inclined to all excesses. Few souls are so insensible to the grand interest of their salvation as to be unwilling to do any thing towards obtaining salvation. But, at the same time, where is the heart so renewed as to have no evil disposition? And how few christians are there, who love their salvation so as to sacrifice all to the obtaining of it? The offender, of whom we speak, pretends to compound with his law giver. Is he inclined to avarice? he will say, Lord! allow me to gratify my love of money, and I am ready to give up my disposition to revenge. Is he inclined to revenge? Lord ! allow me to be vindictive, and I will sacrifice my avarice. Is he disposed to voluptuousness? Lord ! suffer me to retain my Drusilla, and my Dalilah, and my vengeance, my ambition, my avarice, and every thing else I will sacrifice to thee.
A favourite passion is inconsistent with the chief virtue of christianity, with that, which is the life and soul of all others, I mean that God of love, which places God supreme in the heart. A jealous God will accept of none of our homage, while we refuse him that of our chief love. All the sacrifices, that we can offer him to purchase a right to retain a darling sin, are proofs of the empire, which that sin hath over us, and of our fixed resolution to free ourselves from the law of him, who would be, as he ought to be, the supreme object of our love. Do not fancy, that what we have said concerning involuntary passions is applicable to darling sin, and exculpates a favourite passion. One man, whose involuntary passions sometimes hurry him away, detests his own disposition: but the other cherishes his. One makes many an arduous attempt to correct his error: the other engages to do so, but he makes promises pass for performances, and means to get rid of the last by professing the first. One considers the grace, that tears the deplorable passion from his heart, as a most desirable benefit, and, even while he falls into his sin, he considers it as the greatest misfortune of his life: the