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the great Sovereign and Judge of the world? not only to break his laws, but to trample upon them and despise them, when we know whole laws they are? Will we provoke the Lord to jealousy ? Are we stronger than he ? We believe that it is God who said, Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighlour ; thou shalt not hate, or oppress, or defraud thy brother in any thing ; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself and will we notwithstanding venture to bieak these laws, knowing whose authority they are stampt withal ? After this contempt of him, what favour can we hope for from him i What can we fay for ourselves, why any one of those many stripes which are threatened should be abated to us? Ignosci aliquatenus ignorantit potest; contemptus veniam non habet; " Something may be pardoned "to ignorance ; but contempt can expect no for"giveness." He that strikes his Prince, not knowing him to be so, hath something to say for himself, that though he did a disloyal act, yet it did not proceed from a disloyal mind : but he that first acknowledgeth him for his Prince, and then affronts him, deserves to be prosecuted with, the utmost severity, because he did it wilfully, and in mere contempt. The knowledge of our duty, and that it is the will of God which we go against, takes away all possible excuse from us ; for nothing can be said, why we should offend him who hath both authority to command us, and power to destroy us.
And thus I have as briefly as I could, represented to you the true ground and reason of the aggravation of those sins, which are committed against the clear knowledge of God's will, and our duty; because this knowledge is so great an advantage to the doing of our duty; so great an obligation upon us to it; and because the neglect of our Lord's will in this case, cannot be without great wilfulness, and a downright contempt of his authority.
And shall I now need to tell you how much it concerns every one of us, to live up to that knowledge which we have of our Lord's will, and to prepare ourselves to do according to it ? to be always in a readiness and disposition to do what we know to be his will, and actually to do it, when there is occasion and opportunity? And it concerns us the more, because we, in this age and nation, have so many advantages above a great part of the world, of coming to the knowledge or our duty. We enjoy the clearest and most perfect revelation which God ever made of his will to mankind, and have the light of divine truth plentifully shed amonest us, by the free use of the holy scriptures, which is not a sealed book to us, but lies open to be read, and studied by us. This spiritual food is rained down like manna round about our tents; and every one may gather so much as is sufficient; we are not stinted, nor have the word of God given out to us in broken pieces, or mixt and adulterated, here a lesson of scripture, and there a legend; but whole and entire, sincere and incorrupt.
God hath not left us, as he did the Heathen for many ages, to the imperfect and uncertain direction of natural light; nor hath he revealed his will to us, as he did to the Jews, in dark types and shadows: But hath made a clear discovery of his mind and will to us. The dispensation which we are under, hath no veil upon it, the darkness is past, and the true light now jhineth; we are of the day, and of the light, and therefore it may justly be expected that we should put off the works of darkness, and walk as children of the light. Every degree of knowledge which we have, is an aggravation of the sins committed against it, and, when our Lord comes to pass sentence upon us, will add to the number of our stripes. Nay, if God should inflict no positive torment upon sinners; yet their own minds would deal most severely with them upon this account: and nothing will gall iheir consciences more, than to remember against what light they did offend. For herein lies the very nature and sting of all guilt, to be conscious ous to ourselves, that we knew what we ought to have done, and did it not. The vices and corruptions which reigned in the world before, will be pardonable, in comparison of ours. The times of that ignoranciGod winked at; but now he commands all men every where to repent. Mankind had some excuse for their errors before, and God was pleased in a great measure to overlook them; but if we continue still in our sins, we have no cloak for them. All the degrees of light which we enjoy, are so many talents committed to us by our Lord, for the improving whereof, he will call us to a strict account; for unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required; and to whom he hath committed much, if him he will ask the more. And nothing is more reasonable, than that men should account for all the advantages and opportunities they have had of knowing the will of God; and that as their knowledge wa% increased, so their sorrow and punishment should proportionably rise, if they fin against it. The ignorance os a great part of the world is deservedly pitied and lamented by us; but the condemnation of none is so fad, as of those who having the knowledge of God's will, neglected to do it. How much better had it been for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them! If we had been born, arid brought up in ignorance of the true God and his will, we had had no fin, in comparison of what now we have: But now that we fee, our fin remains. This will aggravate our condemnation beyond measure, that we had the knowledge of salvation so clearly revealed to us. Our duty lies plainly before us : we know what we ought to do, and what manner of persons we ought to be, in all holy conversation and godliness. We believe the coming of our Lord to judgment, and we know not how soon he may be revealed from heaven with his mighty Jlngels, not only to take vengeance on them that know not God, but on them that have'known him, and yet obey not \ the gospel of his Son. And if all this will not move
us to prepare ourselves to do our Lord's will, we deserve to have our stripes multiplied. No condemnation can be too heavy for those who offend against the clear knowledge of God's will, and their cuty.
Let us then be persuaded to set upon the practice of what we know; let the light which is in our understandings, descend upon our hearts and lives; let us not dare to continue any longer in the practice of any known sin, nor in the neglect of any thing which we are convinced is our duty; and if our hearts condemn us not, neither for the neglect of the means of knowledge, nor for rebelling against the light of God's truth shining in our minds, and glaring upon our consciences, then have we confidence towards God: but if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.
The sins of men not chargeable upon God; but upon themselves.
J AME s i. 13, 14. Let no man fay, when he is tempted, J am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is ternpted, when is he drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
The first sermon on this text.
NE X T to the belief of a God, and his providence, there is nothing more fundamentally necessary than the belief of these two principles, That God is not the author of fin; and that Vot. V. Mm every every man's fin lies at his own door, and he hath reason to blame himself for all the evil that he does.
First, That God is not the author of fin, that he is no way accessary to our faults, either by tempting or forcing us to the commission of them. For if he weie, they would neither properly be lins, nor could they be justly punished. They would not properly be fins, for sin is a contradiction to the will of God; but supposing men to be either tempted, or necessitated thereto, that which we call sin would either be a mere passive obedience to the will of God, or an active compliance with it, but neither way a contradiction to it. Nor could these actions be justly punished; for all punishment supposeth a fault, and a fault supposeth liberty and freedom from force and necessity ; so that no man can be justly punished for that which he cannot help, and no man can help that which he is necessitated and compelled to. And though there were no force in the case, but only temptation, yet it would be unreasonable for the same person to tempt and punish. For as nothing is more contrary to the- holiness of God, than to tempt'men to sin; so nothing can be more against justice and goodness, than first to draw men into a fault, and then to chastise them for it. So that this is a principle which lies at the bottom of all religion, That God is not the author of the fins of men. And then,
Secondly, That every man's fault lies at his own door, and he has reason enough to blame himself for all the evil that he does. And this is that which makes men properly guilty, that when they have done amiss, they are conscious to themselves it was their own act, and they might have done otherwise; and guilt is that which makes men liable to punishment; and fear of punishment is the great restraint from sin, and one of the principal arguments for virtue and obedience.
And both these principles our Apostle St. James I does here fully assert in the words which 1 have read unto you: Let no man fay, when he is tempted;I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with