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demnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” God is wellpleased with their sincere, though imperfect obedience: and they “hare confidence towardd God," knowing they are his, “ by the Spirit which he hath given them.” (1 Jolinili. 24.)
7. Nay, fourthly, although they are continually convinced of sin cleaving to all they do; although they are conscious of not fulfilling the perfect law, either in their thoughts, or words, or works ; although they know they do not love the Lord their God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; although they feel more or less of pride, or self-will, stealing in and mixing with their best duties; although even in their more immediate intercourse with God, when they assemble themselves with the great congregation, and, when they pour out their souls in secret to him who sceth all the thoughts and intents of the heart, they are continually ashamed of their wandering thoughts, or of the deadness and dulness of their affections; yet there is no condemnation to them still, either from God or from their own heart. The consideration of these manifold defects only gives them a deeper sense, that they have always need of the Blood of Sprinkling which speaks for them in the ears of God, and that Advocate with the Father, “ who ever liveth to make intercession for them.” So far are these from driving them away from him, in whom they have believed, that they rather drive them the closer to him, whom they feel the want of every moment. And, at the same time, the deeper seuse they have of this want, the more carvest desire do they feel, and the more diligent they are, as they have received the Lord Jesus, so to walk in him.”
8. They are not condemned, fifthly, for Sins of Infirmity, as they are usually called. Perhaps it were advisable rather to call them infirmities, that we may not seem to give any countenance to sin, or to extenuate it in any degree, by thus coupling it with infirmity. But, (if we must retaiu so ambiguous and dangerous an expression,) by sins of infirmity I would mean, such involuntary failings, as the saying a thing we believe true, though, in fact, it prove to be false; or, the hurting our neighbour, without knowing or designing it, perhaps when we designed to do liim good. Though these are deviations from the holy, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, yet they are pot properly sins, nor do they bring any guilt on the conscience of “tliem which are in Christ Jesus.” They separate not between God and them, neither intercept the
light of his countenance; as being no ways inconsistent with their general character of “walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
9. Lastly, “ There is no condemnation” to them for any thing wbatever, which it is Not in their Power to Help; whether it be of an inward or outward nature, and whether it be doing something, or leaving something undone. For instance, the Lord's Supper is to be administered; but you do not partake thereof. Why do you not? You are confined by sickness ; therefore, you cannot belp omitting it; and for the same reason you are not condemned. There is no guilt, because there is no choice. As there is a willing mind, it is accepted, according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath not.”
10. A believer indeed may sometimes be Grieved, because he cannot do what his soul longs for. He may cry out, when he is detained from worshipping God in the great congregation, “Like as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear in the presence of God ?" He may earnestly desire (only still saying in his heart, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt') to “ go again with the multitude, and bring them forth into the house of God." But still if he cannot go, he feels no condemnation, no guilt, no sense of God's displeasure; but can cheerfully yield up those desires with, “0, my soul ! put thy trust in God. For I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance and my God.”
ll. It is more difficult to determine concerning those which are usually styled, Sins of Surprise : as when one who com. monly in patience possesses his soul, on a sudden and violent temptation, speaks or acts in a manner not consistent with the Royal Law, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Per. haps it is not easy to fix a general rule, concerning transgressions of this nature. We cannot say, either that men are, or that they are not condemned, for sins of surprise in general. But it seems, whenever a believer is by surprise overtaken in a fault, there is more or less condemnation, as there is more or less concurrence of his will. In proportion as a sinful desire, or a word or action, is more or less voluntary, so we may conceive God is more or less displeased, and there is more or less guilt upon the soul.
12. But if so, then there may be some sins of surprise, which bring much guilt and condemnation. For, in some instances, our being surprised is owing to some wilful and culpable neglect; or, to a sleepiness of soul which might have been prevented, or shaken off before the temptation came. A man may be previously warned cither of God or man, that trials and dangers are at land ; and yet may say in his heart, “A little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to rest.” Now, if such an one afterwards fall, though unawares, into the snare which he might have avoided,—that he fell unawares is no excuse; he might have foreseen and have shumed the danger. The falling, cren by surprise, in such an instance as this, is, in cflect, a wilful sin; and, as such, must expose the sinner to condemnation, both from God and his own conscience.
13. On the other hand, there may be sudden assaults, cither from the world, or the god of this world, and frequently from our own cvil hearts, which we did not, and hardly could, foresce. And by these ereu a believer, while weak in faith, may possibly be borne down, suppose into a degrec of anger, or thinking evil of another, with scarce any concurrence of his will. Now, in such a case, the jealous God would undoubtedly show him that lic had done foolishly. He would be convinced of having swerred from the perfect law, from the mind which was in Christ, and consequently, grievcil with a godly sorrow, and lovingly ashamed before God. Yet need he not come into condemnation. God layeth not folly to liis charge, but hath compassion upon him, “eren as a father pitieth his own children.“' And his heart condemneth him not; in the midst of that sorrow and shame, he can still say, “I will trust and not be afraid ; for the Lord Jehovali is my strength and my song ; he also is become my salvation.”
III. I. It remains only to draw some practical Inferences from the preceding considerations.
And, tirst, if there be “ no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, and walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” on account of their past sin; then, Why art thou fearful, 0 thou of little faith? Though thy sins were once more in number than the sand, what is that to thce, noir thou art in Christ Jesus? “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's ciect? It is God that justificth: who is lie that condemneth?” All the sins thou hast committed from thy youth up, notil thic hour when thou wast" accepted in the Beloved,”
are driven away as chaff, are gone, are lost, swallowed up, . remembered no more. Thou art now “born of the Spirit :” wilt thou be troubled or afraid of what is done before thou wert born ? Away with thy fears! Thou art not called to fear, but to the “ spirit of love and of a sound mind.” Know thy calling! Rejoice in God thy Saviour, and give thanks to God thy Father through him!
2. Wilt thou say, “But I have again committed sin, since I had redemption through bis blood ? And therefore it is, that “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."! It is meet thou shouldest abhor thyself; and it is God who hath wrought thee to this self-same thing. But, dost thou now believe ? Hath he again enabled thee to say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth ;” " and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God ? ” Then that faith again cancels all that is past, and there is no condemnation to thee. At whatsoever time thou truly believest in the name of the Son of God, all thy sins, antecedent to that hour, vanish away as the morning dew. Now then, “Stand thou fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free.” He hath once more made thee free from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt and punishment of it. 0,“ be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage!”-neither the vile, devilish bondage of sin, of evil desires, evil tempers, or words, or works, the most grievous yoke on this side hell; nor the bondage of slavish, tormenting fear, of guilt and self-condemnation.
3. But, secondly: Do all they which abide “ in Christ Jesus, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ? " Then we cannot but infer, that whosoever now committeth sin, bath Do part or lot in this matter. He is even now condemned by his own heart. But, “if our heart condemn us,” if our own conscience beareth witness that we are guilty, undoubtedly God doth; for “he is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things;" so that we cannot deceive him, if we can ourselves. And think not to say, 'I was justified once; my sins were ouce forgiven me:' I know not that; ncither will I dispute whether they were or no. Perhaps, at this distance of time, it is next to impossible to know with any tolerable degree of certainly whether that was a true, genuine work of God, or whether thou didst only deceive thy own soul. But this I know, with the utmost degree of certainty, “He that committeth sin is of the Devil.” Therefore, thou art of thy father the Devil. It cannot be denied: for the works of thy father thou docst. O
flatter not thyself with vain hopes. Say not to thy soul, Peace, peace! For there is no peace. Cry aloud! Cry unto God out of the deep; if haply he may hear thy voice. Come unto him, as at first, as wretched and poor, as sinful, miserable, blind, and naked! And beware thou suffer thy soul to take no rest, till bis pardoning love be again revealed; till he “heal thy backslidings,” and fill thee again with the “ faith that Worketh by love."
4, Thirdly, Is there no coudemnation to them which "walk after the Spirit," by reason of inward sin still remaining, so long as they do not give way thereto; nor by reason of sin clearing to all they do. Then fret not thyself because of ungodliness, though it still remain in thy heart. Repine not, because thou still comest short of the glorious image of God; nor yet becausc pride, self-will, or unbelief, cleave to all thy words and works. Aud be not afraid to know all this evil of thy heart, to know thyself as also thou art known. Yea, desire of God, that thou mayest not thiak of thyself more highly than thou oughtest to think. Let thy continual prayer be,
“ Show me, as my soul can bear,
The depth of inbred sin :
The pride that lurks within." But when he heareth thy prayer, and unveils thy heart; when he show's thee thoronghly what spirit thou art of; then beware that thy Faith fail thee not, that tho! suffer not thy shield to be torn from thee. Be abased. Be humbled in the dust. See thyself nothing, less than nothing and vanity. But still “let not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Still hold fast, “], even I, hare än Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” “And as the heavens are higher than the carth, so is his love higher than even my sins.” Therefore, God is merciful to thec a simer! Such a simer as thou art! God is Love; and Christ bath died! Therefore, the Father himself loveth thce! Thou art his child! Therefore he will withhold from thee no manner of thing that is good. Is it good, that the whole body of sin, which is now crucified in thec, should be destroyed ? It shall be done! Thou shalt be “cleansed from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit.” Is it good, that nothing should remain in thy heart, but the pure love of God aloue? Be of good cheer! “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” « Faithful is he that hath promised, who also will