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thickens, and our strength increase as we march on to the more desperate onset. If our present strength is sufficient for our present purpose, this is all that God has promised, and is enough. Here is the test by which we are to try our character. Do we submit cheerfully to present disappointments, and exhibit a right temper under all the present little corroding incidents of this conflicting world? He who feels no impatience under the aching of a tooth, nor pores with regret over the loss of a dollar, may hope to exhibit the same submission and the same patience, when he feels the cold chill of death, and parts with all that he had ever loved in this world. We are to live under the same government for ever; and if we can entirely approve of the present Divine ministrations, we may rest assured that the government of God will fill us with joy through all future periods.
OUTLINES OF DISCOURSES.*
THE SIN NER'S DESPERATE DEPRAVITY.†
JEREMIAH III. 5.
Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.
THIS passage evidently teaches the doctrine, that men are as depraved as they can be in present circumstances. The charge is made by the infinitely Holy One, and can be fully substantiated against every member of the unregenerate family. The justice of the charge may appear from a consideration of the following positions:
I. That God in his providence has surrounded the sinner with many circumstances operating powerfully to modify human character.
II. That by these circumstances every sinner is actually restrained in his wickedness, and held back in his downward career.
III. That every sinner does make the attempt, and succeeds as far as God will let him, to sunder these ligatures that would hold him fast to reason, hope, and heaven.
Among the circumstances which illustrate the first position, I. mention,
1. Education. This makes Christendom differ from the dark
The following plans of sermons, contain heads of thought, with partial amplification, prepared and used by the Author in extemporaneous preaching.
This skeleton was taken by the reporter of the Charleston Observer, when delivered by the author in Charleston, S. C.
places of the earth, which are full of the habitations of cruelty. This makes the same land differ from what it was while a land of idolatry. This makes us to differ from our forefathers when under the superstition and tyranny of the Druids. This occasions the difference between us and the savage of the western wilds. Education, then, operates greatly in modifying character, and in preventing men from being as bad as they would be.
2. Human law has a similar effect. How near right, think you, would men be, if they were not controlled by human laws? Look at some country while in a state of anarchy. Look at some city or village where the influence of law is suspended. Look at France, while under the reign of terror, when law was abrogated, and see one company after another pass under the guillotine; and the executioners of to-day the victims of to-morrow; and, tell us, is not character greatly modified by municipal law?
3. By the law of God. If men have no other belief in it, but that which may be denominated the faith of history, it still greatly modifies human character. Men have been sorry a thousand times that God ever issued his law. They have hated to read, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." They have been sorry to read, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy;" "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" "Thou shalt not kill;" "Thou shalt not steal," &c. But men have been in a measure restrained by these laws, while they have hated the Lawgiver, and despised his statutes.
4. The troublesome supervision of conscience has greatly modified human character. This everlasting censorship, while it has held men back from sin, has been hated, and warred against, and scowled upon, by the whole human family.
5. The whole Gospel,—the law drawn out into offensive interference with the sinful pleasures and follies of men, has modified human character beyond all calculation. It so commends itself to their reason, and applies such power to their consciences, that it becomes exceedingly difficult to withstand it. It is so tender, majestic, commanding, and reasonable, that it for a time melts and overawes many who ultimately reject its provisions.
6. All the Gospel institutions-the Sabbath, the sanctuary, the church-going bell, the Lord's supper, the ordinance of baptism, every thing associated with Christian worship, operates in modifying human character, and rendering it in appearance, better than it is.
7. The desire of heaven has the same effect. None, perhaps, are so abandoned as not to hope that they may, after all, live and be happy after death. The bare possibility that they shall reach
heaven, and wish to unite in the song of redemption, prevents them from being as wicked as they would be. This operates as a powerful restraint, and helps greatly to modify character.
8. The fear of hell, also, holds back many from the commission. of crime. Men are afraid that what they have heard respecting hell is true. Though the subject often excites their unhallowed mirth, it is a mirth which has its misgivings. Their very laughter betrays their fears. And though they trifle with the thought of everlasting burnings, it is with the manifest design of keeping their courage up. The fear of hell thus operates in modifying the character, perhaps even of the most worldly.
9. The expectation of a judgment has the same effect. They have some apprehension that they may be called to answer at the bar of God for their deeds on earth. They have "a fearful looking for" of this dread reality. They think it may be true that God will bring them into judgment, for every work, whether it be good or evil, and apportion his awards accordingly. And hence, this apprehension serves as a wonderful restraint upon their character.
10. Public sentiment is a great preventive of crime. Men are so constituted as to be obliged to respect public sentiment. They cannot endure the indignation of a whole community; and public sentiment in Christian lands favors virtue, and frowns on vicc. The assassin is thus disarmed-the thief becomes honest-the swindler pays his debts-because public sentiment compels him. No one has daring enough to be utterly indifferent to the good opinion of all his acquaintance; and character is thus greatly modified.
11. The domestic affection produce the same result. The silken cords which entwine around the family circle, prevent the commission of many a crime. The father, the husband, the mother, the wife, the son, the brother, the daughter, the sister-all the endeared relations which the members of a family sustain to each other, and which are strengthened every day, operate greatly in the formation of character. How many a son has been saved from ruin, through the affection which he bore to his mother? How often has a sister's entreaties tamed the ferocious spirit of a brother, and rendered it yielding and lovely.
Thus we see how curbed men often are, while in their native state. This world, then, is in disguise. God, who only knows the full influence of these modifying circumstances, knows what is in man. Therefore, when he looks down from heaven, he still pronounces "the whole head sick and the whole heart faint,"
"every imagination of the thoughts evil," specious appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
Thus we have recounted some of the circumstances which modify the human character. These are, indeed, of vast importance. They result in what we term civility, good morals, &c.—all bearing kindly upon the present condition of man. They all speak the wisdom and kindness of God,—they are so many golden chains let down to earth, to modify its moral corruptions. God is good in every such ligature, by which he holds men within the reach of that blessed influence, which can sanctify and make them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. We ought, then, to thank God for these modifying circumstances, and pray that he would put these chains all on, and keep them on, till even the vilest and most obdurate shall yield to his infinite love. We ought to view men in more hopeful circumstances, in proportion as God shall hold them by these moral bonds. For, while a young man respects the Sabbath, and is obedient to his parents, there is more hope of him than afterwards. While he is afraid to swear, we may hope that he will begin to pray. While he dare not avow open infidelity, we may hope, if we do our duty, that he will yet believe revealed truth, to the saving of his soul.
II. By these circumstances every sinner is actually restrained in his wickedness, and held back in his downward career. In proof of which, we observe,
1. Men are uneasy under these circumstances, which shows them to be restraints. Let men be unrestrained, and they will be easy. It is only pain of some kind that renders them uneasy, and willing to change their position. Hence they will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.
2. Men are constantly trying to alter their circumstances. But they are too indolent by nature to try to alter their circumstances, unless they are circumstances of restraint.
So, when a raging fever burns,
They shift from side to side by turns;
And 'tis a poor relief they gain,
To change the place, but keep the pain.
3. When men at length alter their circumstances in any of these respects, they often show out a worse character; manifesting what they would have been before, if they might, if these restraints had been sundered and they let loose upon the world.