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well. But, alas! I have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD.' I know not what others feel: but I am free to confess, that in many instances which my recollection now reproaches me with, and others, no doubt, which my treacherous heart hath long since forgotten; I have neither done justly, loved mercy, nor walked humbly with my GOD,'
'Though I have reason to be very thankful, that God's preventing and restraining grace hath kept me from the more open and flagrant acts of injustice; yet I am conscious that selflove and self-interest have betrayed me into the doing of many things, which would not bear to be ascertained by the strict equilibrium of a standard of justice, which admits no partiality. I am no less convinced also that in speaking, I have committed, on numberless occasions, a breach of that golden rule of justice, which forbids reporting to another's injury, what, in similar circumstances, I should have thought wrong to have had spoken of myself. And from the imagination of man's heart, which scripture declares to be only evil continually, I am persuaded that, in thinking, many unkind thoughts have arisen in my mind against my neighbour, which become a violation of that law of charity which thinketh no evil. I dare not, there
fore, whatever others may do I dare not risk the final decision of my everlasting welfare on the point of doing justly.
"Neither under the condition of loving mercy, can I find greater confidence. For I discover in my nature, anger, resentment, pride, and the like corrupt passions; which, in spite of all my endeavours to suppress them, like the eruptions of a volcano, which plainly bespeak the 'heat within from the lava thrown without, too clearly testify that the love of mercy is not the ruling passion! and therefore never to be estimated by the few casual acts of alms-giving, which, if the heart would be faithful to acknowledge, are sometimes more the result of pride, than the pure effect of real love and charity.
I blush at the bare mention of walking humbly with GOD, in the recollection how often my rebellious heart hath risen, and is continually rising, in opposition to His government and authority. Fretful and impatient under the slightest afflictions; unthankful for the greatest mercies; and though desiring in my daily prayer, that his will may be done, frequently wishing it may not; and even displeased if it be, when it thwarts my own!-Can such a creature be said to walk humbly with his GOD?'
My neighbour listened to the poor man's observations, and when he had finished, walked away without making a reply. For my part, though it appeared that his reasoning was conclusive, and unanswerable, yet I ventured to say, "If this be the state of the case, what becomes of the morality of the Christian Religion; and in what sense are we to accept the Sermon on the Mount, with which the Great Author of it opened his commission ?'
"The morality of the Christian religion, (reliplied the poor man,) stands where it ever stood, upon its own fixed and immoveable basis; and 'sooner shall Heaven and earth pass, than one jot or tittle of the Law shall fail.' GoD doth not lose his authority to command, because man hath lost his power to obey. The creditor foregoes not the right to his just due, because the debtor is become insolvent. By 'the Law is the knowledge of sin*. Hence the Great Author of the Christian system opened his commission with the promulgation of this law, that its unalterable, unaccommodating terms might ever stand in the front of his Gospel; and the man that doeth them shall live in themt.' If, therefore, any man can appeal to this standard of decision; can look up with an uncovered, un
• Rom. iii. 20.
† Gal. iii. 12.
daunted front, and challenge the strictest scrutiny over every thought, and word, and action; if there be such an obedience found as can give life, 'verily righteousness shall be by the Law*.? But if both scripture and experience have con cluded all under sin, if all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;' and by 'the deeds of the Law, no flesh can be justified in His sight:' then it will be found, that the moral sermon of the Great Author of Christianity on the mount, as well as the moral system of the great Jewish lawgiver in the wilderness, were both designed to act as the schoolmaster to bring unto Christ† ;' and, that He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth‡.'
Pause, therefore, one moment, and examine how the account stands between GoD and your conscience. In the present season of lightness and inattention, a multitude of occurrences of frailty, and sometimes what deserves a harsher name, pass away in the stream of time, noiseless and inaudible, and are soon swallowed up in the gulph of oblivion. But in' that hour, when the Lord will iay' judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet,' if you and I have no better righteousness than our own + Rom. x. 4.
* Gal. iii. 21. † Gal. iii. 24.
to trust in, no Surety to stand in our stead, no Advocate to plead our cause; an effect infinitely more awful than that which loosed the loins of the impious monarch we read of will take place, when weighed in the balance and, found wanting*.'
I knew not what to reply, and therefore remained silent. The poor man, bidding me farewell, left me to ruminate on the solemn inquiry: How should man be just with GOD?'
The effect wrought in my mind by reason of the poor man's observations, was not unsimilar in permanency, though producing very opposite sensations in point of pleasure, to what the poet hath described of our first father's feelings, in the garden of Eden, on the close of the angel's relation concerning divine things
The Angel ended, and in Adam's ear
So charming left his voice, that he awhile Thought him still speaking, still stood fix'd to hear.
I felt the same force, but not the same sweetness, from what he said. It was a harsh sound, and the vibration long dwelt upon my rear, 'How shall man be just with GOD?" It † Job ix. 2.
* Dan. v. 6.