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For all have sinned, and come foort of the
glory of God.
HE whole revelation of the will of
God to mankind, both in the Old
Testament and the New, proceeds up on the fuppofition that they are finners; that is to say, transgressors of his law, and liable to the stroke of his justice. This only can give meaning to the doctrine of redemption. None can understand, at least none can relish or embrace it, unless they believe, and are persuaded of this preliminary truth.
What I have now said, appears from many express passages of the holy scriptures; and is particularly evident from the general strain, and from the very structure of the epistle to the Romans. In it the apostle, who had never been at Rome, gives a full and particular account of the doctrine of Christ; and he lays the foundation for this by a distinct and laboured proof, that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, are under fin. In imitation of his example, I intend to begin my discourses on practical religion, by endeavouring to impress your minds with a' fenfe of the fame truth. This must lead the way to the saving knowledge of the Redeemer ; and as he only can build securely, who takes care that every part of the superstructure reft immediately or ultimately upon the foundation, it is as necefsary to be remembered by saints, as to be received by finners.
It may perhaps, on a flight view, appear to be fuperfluous. All mankind,' fome will say, ' are ready to acknowledge that
they are finners; and there is great reason
to believe they are sincere in this confef* fion.' But, my brethren, a little reflection may convince you, that this general acknowledgement is either very infincere, or very imperfect and defective. It is plainly a light sense of fin that enables the multitude to sleep in security. It is plainly a light sense of fin
that betrays men into the commiffion of it, and emboldens them to continue in it. It is plainly a light sense of fin that blunts the edge of all the threatenings in the word of God, and the admonitions of his providence. Is it not from a light sense of fin, that when the preaching of the gospel is not wholly deserted, its inestimable truths are received without thankfulness, and heard without profit?
For these reasons, I propose, through the affistance of divine grace, to discourse a little on the words of the apoitle now read : “For “ all have sinned, and come short of the glo“ ry of God” And, in so doing, shall
1. Endeavour to confirm the truth contained in them, That all mankind are finners, or transgreffors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgement. And,
2. Shall make a practical improvement of the subject.
I. In the first place, then, let us endeavour to confirm the truth contained in the text, That all mankind are finners, or transgreffors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgement. And here, my brethren, it puts me a little to a stand, in what manner to handle this important fubject; whether in the way of reason or affection; whether in the way of cool and conclusive arguments directed to the judgement, or pointed
interrogatories interrogatories directed to the conscience. Many, nay, innumerable, are the cavils that have been brought by men of corrupt minds against this fundamental truth. The father of lies, indeed, feems to consider it, and justly, as the corner-stone of true religion, which, if he is able to weaken or undermine, it must end in the fall and ruin of the whole fabric. If there be any among you, as possibly there are, infected with the poison of infidelity, all exhortation and warning will be treated by such with disdain, while their objections, however weak, have not been brought into view. On the other hand, there are multitudes of fin. ners borne away by luft and paffion, who are incapable of understanding the force of fpeculative reafoning, and who have an unhappy tendency to overlook, as what does not concern them, every thing that is treated in that way. I shall be obliged, therefore, to have an eye to both : and oh! that it may please God to enable me fo to propose to the judgement, and so to press upon the confcience, this necessary truth, as that some careless persons may be awakened, and brought to an attention to the one thing needful ; and that if any have hitherto taken up with imperfect notions of religion, and built their hope upon the fand, they may be perfuaded in time to distrust that dangerous situation, and to found it upon the rock of ages.
For the reason above assigned, it is difficult to determine, what use is to be made of scripture-testimony on such a subject. The charge of guilt upon the finner, seems to be only preparatory to, and must, as it were, pave the way for the reception of scripturetruths. If the testimony of God in scripture is to be rested on, this one passage is sufficient; but the unbelieving heart is ready to challenge and call in question every such scripture declaration. I find the worthy author of a well-known catechism, commonly used in the instruction of children, joins together scripture and experience, in the answer to that question, “How do you know, that you
are born in a state of fin and misery?” Ans. “ God's word tells me fo. Besides, I “ find my heart naturally backward to that “ which is good, and prone to that which is. “ evil.” After this example, and confidering, that by the law is the knowledge of fin, we fhall not feparate them; the rather, that God is able to make liis own word, even in the bare repetition of it, quick and powerful, Heb. iv, 12. In the further illustration of this head, therefore, I shall, first, briefly lay before you some of the scripture-declarations on this fubjeét; and, 2dly, confirm them from experience, the visible state of the world, and the testimony of our own hearts. A 3