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Men sin variously, under different influences, and with different degrees of excess. They often transgress more from habit than from principle ; not from a wish to offend their Creator, but only from a desire to gratify themselves. Habit will, in time, however, reconcile us to the worst enormities, if we allow ourselves to grow familiar with them; so that habit may be a very dangerous enemy to our peace in a future world. It therefore demands from us incessant watchfulness and caution to bring it into subjection to the law of God.
All men are certainly not equally vicious in their lives-heaven forbid they should ! nevertheless, all have undoubtedly offended and “come short of the glory of God.” Who is there that never neglects his spiritual welfare? There is none such, “no, not one.” We are all worse, very much worse, than we might be. The best among mankind have still need of the divine indulgence of Heaven, or they never could attain to its glories. If the Lord were “extreme to mark what we have done amiss," who would be able to abide his anger? In spite however of our defections we are never forsaken. Notwithstanding our guilt, his forbearance is great, and his mercies manifold; for “ the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to usward, not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
I have already said that we are often sinful rather from habit than principle ; this will not however secure us from the penalties of guilt. To our habits indeed we frequently give way only because it is irksome to resist them, and thus it is that we allow failings to creep in
upon us unawares to the great danger of our happiness in the life eternal. We yield to habit because it is easier and more grateful to yield to what is agreeable than to resist it.-We have a natural repugnance in denying ourselves indulgences with which use has rendered us familiar, and a long familiarity with what is criminal entirely reconciles us to the guilt of it. The less resistance we offer, the more confirmed in evil must we become. Years will pass by us only to render those habits the more inveterate, until at length, when age has crept upon us and our course is about to close, we shall find that we are alto. gether unprepared to undergo that final change of circumstance beyond the grave, where the brief divisions of time shall be no more numbered, and eternity will be affixed to our sorrows or our joys.
Next to habitual is deliberate sin, which is even yet more deplorable in its consequences, if persisted in. It were well indeed if we never went wrong but through inadvertency or igno
It would not be too much to hope that he who atoned for us with his blood, would pardon errors which did not originate in the evil intents of the heart, but solely from the infirmity of our degenerate nature. Sin however has generally its origin in something far less. venial than either ignorance or thoughtlessness. We are continually doing what we ought not to do, conscious at the same time that we are deliberately violating the divine commands. What schemes do we not frequently form for the accomplishment of some guilty purpose ? What pains we frequently take to injure one another, in direct contradiction to the prayers which we daily offer up for each other's welfare ; and this too whilst we are conscious that to do our neighbour wrong is to transgress against God! How often are we aware of the sinfulness of our desires, and yet stubbornly persevere in gratifying them, scarcely differing from those whom the Apostle characterizes as persons who, knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them !"
Many it is true are withheld from the commission of flagrant offences, but the motive which withholds them is nevertheless not always a pure one. It is oftener interested and selfish. A regard for their reputation, their interest, will
frequently impose a restraint which no other inducement would have supplied. The dread of death too, and of those fearful uncertainties which lie beyond it, keep many from the gratification of desires in which, but for this, they would unrestrainedly indulge ; still how few among us, like the early patriarchs and Apostles, are checked in their pursuit of evil by the fear of God alone, a fear superinduced by our very love of him, and which consists in a dread of offending a Being whom it is such happiness to reverence and adore !
There are numbers among the professors of Christianity who, in defiance of danger, still sin without remorse. Notwithstanding that the convictions of conscience occasionally assail them, dissipating that fictitious serenity by which they affect a happiness to them indeed utterly unknown, they endeavour to stifle those stern admonitions by resorting, with renewed excitement, to scenes of dissipation, and so allow themselves no time for repentance, nor for making their peace with heaven. Thus it is that “men's hearts are fully set in them to do evil.” If their sins were followed by a visible and instant punishment, there would be less active depravity among the sons of men ; the terrors of God's immediate judgments would keep them within the bounds of decorum, and they would be innocent only because they dared not be guilty.
This however would be to abridge the freedom of the human will by making it subservient to our fears. It would produce a forced and therefore at best but a negative virtue. The righteousness of restraint moreover must be at all times questionable. True holiness can only consist in a willing, an anxious, a devoted offering of the heart to God. It is consequently for this cause that he defers the execution of his severer judgments until we have evinced the true dispositions of our hearts either by our implicit obedience to, or wanton disregard of, his laws; when he can find free exercise both for his justice and mercy.
He does sufficient to keep us from sin. We are visited with numerous afflictions, the manifest results of it. We have frequent and impressive warnings against its delusions. He has sent down from Heaven his only begotten Son to redeem us from its
He has revealed to us his 'will in all things necessary for our salvation. He has furnished us with precepts as guides for conduct, and laws as rules of life. He has marked out for us the precise line of duty, planned for us a simple but sublime scheme of virtue, and afforded us the most intelligible instruction how we are “ to eschew evil and cleave to that which is good.”
We are not to imagine however that “ because sentence against an evil work is not executed