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not imply that, even by imputation, they are so righteous as to have no sin, justly imputable to them. Repenting sinners, believing sinners, pardoned and justified sinners, are sinners still. They have as much reason as ever, and more reason than ever, to remember, and be confounded, and never open their mouths any more, because of their shame, when God is thus pacified toward them after all that they have done. For any on this ground, to imagine that they cease to have any blameworthiness, is certainly a very great self-deception.
And it may be observed, that to guard against an idea that believers become free from ill-desert, by their interest in the atonement of Christ, appears to be the particular design of our text. For the apostle having said, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin," he immediately adds, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves."
It remains to be considered, how we are to understand that the truth is not in us, if we say this.
I suppose the meaning is, not merely that in our thinking thus there is no truth; but that we have not in us the truth of religion. This, however, must be understood with some qualification. I do not apprehend that a man's implicitly saying he has no sin, is any certain evidence of his having no grace. Men may hold opinions which imply that no man has any sin, and yet be as sensible of their own sins as if they held no such inconsistent opinions. Or men may have such wrong ideas of certain gospel doctrines as imply, by way of necessary consequence, that believers in Christ are free from all blameworthiness; and yet blame themselves, for all their transgressions and moral imperfections, as much as others do who have no such erroneous apprehensions. Nor do I think but that good men may say explicitly, that they have nosin, through inadvertence. In the heat and hurry
of dispute, a man may be driven to admit the consequence of what he maintains, when nothing is further from his settled inward sentiments. I suppose it is only when a man says this in his heart, or when he seriously belives it, that his saying he has no sin, is an evidence of his having no holiness. And thus understood, this last assertion in our text, appears not incredible, or uncharitable.
Certainly one who has always thought he had no sin, cannot be a true christian; because such an one cannot have had either repentance toward God, or faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
And if any seriously believe that they have now no sin, on whatever grounds such an imagination may be built, it is not unreasonable to suppose they can have no grace.
If a person thinks that he is sanctified wholly, or has already attained to sinless perfection, have we not reason to suspect, and even to conclude, that he knoweth nothing of religion, as he ought to know? When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up, and the seraphims covering their faces; while they cried, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory;" he says, "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." When the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind; that holy man could only say in reply, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." And he had said long before, while maintaining his integrity; "If I justify myself, mine. own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse." From such confessions of the best of men, and from many other things in the holy scriptures, it may well be concluded, that those who imagine they have attained to perfection in holiness, are only alive without the law, like Paul while a pharisee.
But if persons think they have no sin, because they are under a new law, which allows of some sin, certainly neither the truth of scripture, nor common sense, can be in them.
And must it not be evident, also, that, if any really suppose all desert of punishment or blame is taken away from them by the atoning blood of Christ, or by the pardoning mercy of God, they are not true christians. Good men go mourning all their days because of the iniquities of their youth, and under a humbling sense of their remaining imperfections. But this, surely, is inconsistent with their feeling as if, by reason of the imputed righteousness of Christ, or from any other cause, no sin were now justly imputable to them.
On the application of this subject, only a few thoughts will be suggested.
1. Hence learn not to place much dependance on the high professions any make, or the great opinion they appear to have, of their own goodness. Such professions and apprehensions, are generally an evidence of insincerity, or self-deception, rather than of eminent real piety. Our Saviour says, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased." And again, "He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory." Yet, in this way, many have acquired, and still acquire, great popularity. "Of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women," and silly men. "While they speak great swelling words of vanity," relating their own wonderful experiences, and proclaiming their own fervent godliness, and ardent benevolence, they allure" many; thus "beguiling unstable souls." To the stupid admirers of such, may be applied the admonition of the psalmist; "Understand, ye brutish among the people; and, ye fools, when will ye be wise?"
[Ser. X. 2. Hence let all sinners, who are convinced that they have no cloak for their sins, be exhorted to flee for refuge, and lay hold upon the hope set before us in the gospel. God hath made ample provision for the vilest transgressors, that they may be washed, that they may be sanctified, that they may be justified; that they may be delivered from the wrath to come, and may have everlasting life. * Repent, then, and be converted; so iniquity shall not be your ruin; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.
3. Since believers cannot expect to be made perfect in holiness till their death, and shall then be wholly sanctified, let them hence be excited to contemplate that solemn period, with joyful anticipation. Well may every assured believer, adopt the words of David, addressed to our Father in heaven; "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
ON THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.
ROMANS V. 18.
By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.
F all the articles of faith which have had the reputation of orthodoxy, or have generally been supposed to be plainly taught in the holy scriptures, none perhaps, have made more infidels; and none appear indeed, harder to reconcile with reason and common sense, than the doctrines of imputed sin, and imputed righteousness. There are some others which may not be less incomprehensible; particularly the doc. trine of three persons in one God, and that of two distinct natures in the one person of Jesus Christ. But then these are altogether above our full investigation, rather than evidently contrary to human reason. Besides, in the God-head, and in the Divine Mediator, things wonderful, and secret things which belong to God alone, might well be expected: whereas the just grounds of our own condemnation, when we are condemned; and of our justification, when we are justified, one would think, were among the things which it should belong to us to understand. But how sin can justly be imputed to the personally