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excuses, which betray at the same time the weakness of their understandings and the corrupt state of their hearts; and by pretended extenuations which only aggravate their guilt! One man thinks to screen himself from justice by alledging that it is the first time he has been guilty of the offence with which his conscience upbraids him; or, if this cannot with truth be asserted, that he does not live in the habitual practice of it, as if the just desert of every single act of sin were not eternal death. * Another urges that he was surprised by a sudden gust of temptation; though the facility with which the Tempter finds access to our hearts, is full proof of our fallen and guilty state. All that a third has to propose in his own defence is, that his crimes have not been detrimental to society; as if the very essence of sin did not consist in its contrariety to the nature and will of God. †
* Rom. vi. 23.
"The Christian life comprehends two great branches "of duty: the first towards God, the second towards our 66 neighbour. God has an undoubted claim to the first "place; our neighbour has the next; and we are to love "him, and help him, from a sense of our duty to God who "has commanded us so to do. But if I stumble in the beginning of my duty, and offend against God himself, "what reason have I to expect his favour for what I do to any body? Will acts of kindness towards a fellow-subject "excuse me for an act of rebellion against my prince, or "stop the execution of a statute against treason? What "was the offence which brought death into the world? Not offence against society, for there was none; but only "against a positive command of God. It was revealed, "that to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree would be "attended with a deadly effect. This revelation was dis"puted; the truth of God was called in question; the lust "of pride prevailed, and the sentence of death followed. "Therefore if Adam destroyed the whole world by sinning "against the truth of God, certainly any single man may
“ Sin is the transgression of the law.” A fourth flies for refuge to the comfortless idea, that others are worse than he has been; as though companions in torment would be able to alleviate the mutual sufferings of each other: but God has declared “ that, though hand join in hand, the “ wicked shall not be unpunished.”* Others have some personal good, as they suppose, to throw into the opposite scale; as if freedom from the guilt of murder would atone for the commission of adultery; or the love of any one sin did not as fully prove a man to be in an unconverted and unpardoned state, as the love of ten thousand. Thus man, blinded by sin, fatally imposes upon himself. But it is not so with the awakened soul. He has no excuses to make, but confesses his sin with every aggravating circumstance, searching for it through all the recesses of his heart, as a man would search his house for a thief that was come to rob and murder him. Sin, suffered to remain unconfessed, unpardoned, and unmortified, will rob us of eternal felicity, and destroy both body and soul in hell. Of this the contrite sinner is well persuaded, and therefore examines himself daily, to the end that sin, being discovered, may be confessed and pardoned: and not content with his own exertions, and moreover suspecting his own heart as “ deceitful above all things," he makes this his continual prayer, “ O God, and know my heart, try me and “ know my thoughts: and see if there be any
.66 Search me,
“ destroy himself by the same means; though he should
give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be “ burned for the good of society," &c.---Preservative against Socinianism, p. 5.
* Prov. xi. 21.
"wicked way in me, and lead me in the way "everlasting." Dissimulation doubles the guilt of sin, and effectually prevents the Divine communication of pardoning mercy. Of this we have a clear proof in the experience of David. *When I kept silence," says he, while I withheld a full confession of my sin, " "my bones "waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the "drought of summer." I found no comfort, but the agony of my soul was inexpressibly great. Then I acknowledged my sin unto "Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I "said, I will confess my transgressions unto the "Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my "sin." Confession is essential to a participation of mercy.
Having shewn the necessity of confession, our church proceeds to direct us how to perform this duty in an acceptable manner: for confession must be made with "a humble, lowly, "penitent, and obedient heart."
A humble and lowly heart" is an essential requisite in every part of God's worship; but it is so, in an especial manner, when we come before His footstool " to acknowledge and conIfess our manifold sins and wickedness." The lips may utter words in which the heart is uninterested. It was one of the charges brought against the Jews, that they drew near to God with their mouth, and honoured Him with their lips, while their heart was far from Him. †
* Ps. xxxii. 3, &c. See also Job xliii. 5, 6.
Would to God, that the charge were not applicable to professing Christians also ! But it is possible that the heart may be engaged in the utterance of confession, and yet in a very improper manner: the heart may be destitute of humility and lowliness.
A man may even propose to himself his own reputation in the confession which he makes. He may speak degradingly of himself, in order that others may consider him as a pattern of humility. There is reason to fear that this is not unfrequently the case. Humility is the characteristic of a Christian; and therefore pride often conceals itself under the garb of repentance. But when men truly know the evil of sin, their confessions will be made with a heart truly “humble and lowly."
.” It was with such a heart that the prodigal returned to his father's house, saying, “ Father, “I have sinned against Heaven and before “ Thee, and am no more worthy to be called · Thy son.” It was with feelings of deep selfabasement that the contrite publican smote upon his breast, crying, - God be merciful to me a “ sinner!” There were no witnesses of his humiliation present, in whose opinion he could hope to raise himself by the lowly language he used. It was enough for him that the Searcher of hearts saw his “ godly sorrow.” Perhaps it would be useful to inquire, whether the confessions of our closets coincide with those which we make before men: whether the language which we adopt in the church harmonize with our feelings and expressions in secret, when no eye seeth us, and no ear heareth us, but those of our Father who is in heaven. Are we really ashamed of sin? Can we in sincerity adopt the language of Ephraim, whom God heard
bemoaning himself thus, " Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was "instructed, I smote upon my thigh: * I was "ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I "did bear the reproach of my youth." † Oh, how many are ashamed of outward evidences of poverty, who never felt one emotion of shame on account of sin; though there is nothing but sin that is properly a cause of shame!
Penitence is another concomitant of all true confession. Repentance includes a hatred of sin, and a full purpose to forsake it: "He that "confesseth and forsaketh it shall have mercy.' The promise is exclusively to him. Our sorrow for it must arise from godly, not from worldly motives; for "the sorrow of the world worketh "death." Our dereliction of sin must not be partial, but universal. No reserves must be made. How horrible would be such a prayer as this! "Lord, such and such sins trouble "me, I freely confess them to be sins, and am willing to be delivered from them; but there " is one or more, which I cannot part with, at "least not now, though perhaps I may at some "future time." Do you start at such language? O take heed lest it should prove to be that of your own hearts.
* "Smiting on the thigh is mentioned as a gesture of "violent grief, not only in the sacred (see also Ezek. xxi.
12.) but likewise in the profane writers.-See Homer II. "xii. lin. 163. 11. xv. lin. 397. So in Xenophon (Cyropod. “lib. vii. p. 390. Edit. Hutchinson, 8vo.) When Cyrus "heard of the death of Abradatas, and the sorrow of his 6 wife on that account, επαίσατο αρα τον μηρον, he smote his "thigh."
† Jer. xxxi. 19.