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away bis sin?” His daughter ravished; the incestuous brother slain; Absalom invades both his throne and his bed; the bulk of his subjects desert him; and he himself, accompanied with a few remaining friends, is driven into the wilderness, and hard put to it to shift for his life. And though David was chargeable with many failings, and some of them gross enough, yet in the character which the inspired historian hath given of him, they are all passed over in silence, except his complicated guilt in the matter of Uriah; but that is expressly mentioned, and left as a blot upon the name of this great and good man, to deter others from such delibe rate and presumptuous sins; for thus it is written (1 Kings xy. 5.) “ David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded bim all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” Nay, David with his own hand hath recorded his guilt in the 51st Psalm, where to this day he professes his shame and sorrow, and will continue to do so as long as God shall have a church upon earth. When these things are attended to, the importance of being kept back from presumptuous sins must appear to us in the strongest and most affecting light.
Let me now address those whose consciences bear witness, that they have often transgressed in this manner, and are living perhaps at this very time in the ha. bitual indulgence of some presumptuous sin. Have you seriously considered the danger you are exposed to? David's case, which I just now mentioned, suggests te me one argument that may possibly have weight with you. Some of you, perhaps, are sly offenders; so cunning in your way, that the world hath not found you out. But, say, would it not give you pain to think, that one day you should be discovered ? Now, what assur
ance have you that this shall never happen? David, I suppose, conducted his criminal pursuit with as much address and secrecy as you can do; and after it had lain buried for the space of nine months, I am persuaded be was as fearless of a discovery as you presently are: yet God detected him in an extraordinary manner, and not only made his sin visible in his punishment, but even obliged him, as you have heard, by a solemn exercise of repentance, which is left upon record for the use of the church, to publish his confession of it to all succeeding generations. Have you no apprehension that something of a similar kind may befal yourselves? Cannot God disclose your secret sins if he pleaseth? And have you not cause to fear that he will do it, from what he said to David : “ Thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun?" Will God show greater tenderness to your reputation than to that of the man according to his own heart? May he not, in his righteous displeasure, permit that lust, which you presumptuously cherish in your bosom, to grow so strong, that all your cunning shall not be able to keep it within bounds? and then it will fly abroad, and become public of course. I beg you may attend to this: I confess it is a motive of the lowest kind; but low as it is, you ought at least to take its aid, till you get a relish for others of a more ingenuous and spiritual nature.
Consider, farther, what inward torment you must one day feel: at present, perhaps, conscience is asleep; but it shall not always sleep: affliction may awaken it; the approach of death most probably will; and then “sball your fear come as desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind : distress and anguish shall then come upon you;" for in that awful season, “ the Lord shall give thee a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow
of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even; and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning, for the fear of thine heart wberewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of
wbich thou shalt see." Or if this seem not misery enough, look forward a little farther to the tremendous issue: “ Who can dwell with devouring flames? who can lie down in everlasting burnings ?" Yet this, 0 sinners, must be your portion, if you live and die in rebellion against God. The sweetness of sin passeth quickly away, but the sting of it is perpetual: the gnawing worm shall never die, the fire of God's wrath shall never be extinguished.
It is really astonishing, that creatures endued with reason, and capable of exercising reflection and foresight, should, in such a situation, enjoy any sort of peace for a moment. What is it that supports you? Do you imagine that God will overlook your rebellion, and never call you to an account for your conduct? Hear his own words by the mouth of his prophets : “I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees; that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Zephaniah i. 12.-And again, “ Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart
say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.” Isaiah v. 18. Has he not already, in the course of his providence, given sufficient evidence of bis hatred of sin; and by many awful tokens of his righteous displeasure, extorted a confession from the most
obstinate sinners, “ that verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth ?"-But you have a proof of this in your own bosom. What means the voice of conscience with. in you ? Whence that fear and horror which sometimes seize upon you ? Surely these painful feelings are involuntary; for no man chooseth to be his own tormentor. Well, then, this internal sense is in place of a thousand witnesses, to prove, that God is marking your steps in the mean time, and that ere long he will punish you for all your iniquities; “for according to this fear, so is the wrath of God,” which is the object of it.
Do you presume upon the mercy of God? Listen to that awful declaration in the book of Deuteronomy, (chap. xxix. 19, 20.) “ If it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, and say, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart; the Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in the book of the law shall be upon bim." True, God is merciful; but is it not equally true, that he is holly and righteous? Can you devise a more lofty description of the divine goodness than that which was published by God himself, when, descending in a cloud upon mount Sinai, he passed by before Moses, and proclaimed his name,
6. The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin;" (but observe what follows) “6 and that will by no means clear the guilty ?” Exodus xxxiv. 6, 7. Nay, the most amazing instance of divine love, to wit, God sending bis Son into the world to die for sinners, is, at the same time, the most awful proof of his inflexible justice, and of his irreconcilable hatred of
sin; seeing no less a sacrifice could expiate the guilt of it than the blood of him by whom all things were made. Neither shall this costly sacrifice avail us, if we still continue to hold fast our iniquities; for “the Son of God was manifested for this very purpose, that he may destroy the works of the devil.” And in vain do we plead the merit of his death, unless we follow the example of his life, and submit to the government of his laws and Spirit; for “ he is the author of eternal salva. tion only to them that obey him.”
But, it may be, you hope to make all up by repen. tance; and though at present there are some sins you are unwilling to part witb, yet you propose to do it afterwards, with a resolution never to return any more to folly. Well, sinners, this at least is a plain confession that you are self-condemned creatures in the mean time. You admit that repentance is necessary, and that you are undone without it. And now let me display to you
the folly of your conduct. Should you die this night, what would become of you? and what assurance have you that you
shall be alive to-morrow? Were not Zimri and Cosbi cut off in the act of sin? And have not many others been carried off by a sudden death, without leisure afforded them to cry for mercy? Your sin, and consequently your misery, is present and certain: your repentance only future, and therefore altogether uncertain; for who knoweth what a day may bring forth? Besides, is it not egregious folly to do that deliberately which needeth repentance? Would he not justly be accounted mad, who should drink a deadly poison, merely to try the strength of an antidote ? Tboogh you could repent at pleasure, and bad a lease of life to any term of your own choosing, which you well know you have not; yet, even upon this supposition, your conduct would be foolish and ir