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SIN WITHOUT EXCUSE.
ROMANS VII. 15.
For that which I do, I allow not: for what I
would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
WHETHER the holy Apostle says this SERM. of himself, as some have fancied, or only III. by a figure of speech, as most others suppose, assumes the character he is representing, to soften the reproof, it would, I fear, be vain to look for such perfection among the sons of men at present, as should render the terms of the accusation inapplicable, even to the generality of Christians; and, therefore, to ourselves among the rest. Though there might seem to be much merit in such a confession, as arguing a just sense of one's own infirmities, yet no confession could more
SERM. strongly set forth the alarming nature of
man's weakness. It is a confession, indeed, which so far from pleading any excuse for our transgressions, greatly aggravates our failures. In exposing our weakness, we acknowledge our strength; we do not pre. tend to say we were compelled to submit, but that we have yielded unnecessarily, and even with great baseness and ignominy thrown down our arms.
And yet it is to be feared that no more suitable form of confession could be devised for any of us: we have none of us surely been so compelled to yield to temptations, as to be able to plead a perfect inability, to have done, or to have judged better; as Christians undoubtedly, if we would presume to call ourselves such, this nevercan have been the case ; for in addition to the law written in our hearts, and urged upon us by our conscience, and besides the written laws of God promulgated in the Holy Scripture, we have a promise of the aid and co-opes ration of the spirit of God himself, to strengthen and uphold us, if we do but shew ourselves disposed to resist as we
should do. It is not then to be doubted SERM. but that all our sins and wickednesses carry with them this heavy aggravation, that we are always sufficiently instructed not to approve them in our hearts. That what we do, in opposition to God's laws, we dare not pretend to justify; we dare not presume to say
that even our freedom as moral beings, or our condition as rational creatures, allows of it ; for while the flesh is rebellious, a will is nevertheless always present to us by the very laws of our nature, pointing to what is good; so that even the Gentiles had a law, and an internal monitor and witness in their own consciences, that tacitly served to accuse or excuse all the motions of their hearts.
But we Christians, as it has been already observed, have much more to depend on, and be governed by. We are fenced round and fortified by all that can give security against attack, or encouragement under resistance. We have no surprize to apprehend; for we are forewarned, and put sufficiently on our guard. The enemy is not hidden from our view'; we may see him at
SERM. a distance; snares and ambush will not III. avail him, unless we voluntarily become his prey. Even no advantage can be gained over us, by excess of strength or numbers; the faithful and steady Christian need not be afraid, though a host of enemies should encamp against him; with " bis loins girt "with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness, and his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;" with "bis "shield of faith, and his helmet of salvation;" and, above all, "the sword of the spirit, "which is the word of God;" he may stand fast in the darkest day of trial and temptation, and resist all the attacks of this wicked world, his own sinful flesh, and the wiles of the devil. Such is the security provided by the eternal God for the soul of man. The terms are figurative, but the fact is plain and intelligible; if God be for us, who can be against us? or what temptation or stratagem can prevail against us ? "Yet with all these means of defence at command, we give way at the first summons often, and go over to the enemy for the rest of our lives: but God is not to be mocked.