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when men overlook the real motives of their
conduct, and mistake the workings of their
own corruptions for the fruits of the Spirit
of God.

That there is such deceitfulness in the
world, none can doubt, who consider the
dreadful enormities that have been committed
under the sacred name of religion. In many
cases, it must be acknowledged, these enor-
mities have been committed by persons who
were conscious of the motives from which
they acted, and who employed religion mere-
ly as an engine to attain the objects of their
avarice or ambition. But in other cases it
is no less certain, that men have concealed
from themselves the motive of their conduct,
and even mistaken the workino-s of their cor-
ruptions for the fruits of the Spirit of God.



Of this we have several examples in scrip-
ture. A striking instance of it occurs in the
conduct of Jehu, who, when shedding the
blood of Jezreel to serve the purposes of his
own ambition, said exultingly to Jehonadab,
Come, sec my zeal for the Lord ! It is not
improbable, that at the time he imagin-
ed himself to be influenced by zeal for God,
thoudi there cannot be a doubt, that in
what he did he was actuated chiefly by the
love of power. Our blessed Lord forewarns
his disciples, that the time should come,
when whosoever killed them, would think
that he did God service ; in like manner as
the prophet Isaiah had declared concerning
the persecuted people of God in his time,
Hear the word of the Lord, ye, that trem-
ble at his word. Your brethren that hated
you, that cast you out for my name's sake,
said, Let the I^ord be glorified.

We arc greatly shocked when we read of
the dreadful persecutions which in different
ages have been carried on against the faith-
ful servants of Christ, by the blood-thirsty
votaries of Rome ; yet these men pretended

5ER. 1. OF THE HEART. l^

zeal for the glorj of God: Nor is it impro-
bable, but that many of them might so far
deceive themselves, as to imagine, that they
were doing God service, while shedding the
blood of his saints. This is indeed the high-
est instance of the extreme deceitfulness and
desperate wickedness of the human heart,
and the most awful proof of being given up
of God to a reprobate mind. But, in a less-
er degree, men frequently practise this kind
of deceit upon themselves, ascribing to the
word ^nd to the Spirit of God what is evi-
dently the effect of their own ignorance,
wickedness, and depravity.

On the whole, since the ways in which
men deceive themselves are so various, can
Ave be too jealous over our own hearts ? He
that trusteth to his own heart, says the wise
man, is a fool ; and the reason is obvious,
because the heart is deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked. Let us
therefore. Brethren, accustom ourselves to
self-examination. Instead of indulging a
censorious disposition, and looking abroad.


to discover the faults of our neighbours, let
us descend into our own breasts, and ob-
serve the plagues of our own hearts. Let us
attend, not merely to our outward actions,
but to the principles and motives from which
these actions proceed. Let us consider our
conduct, not in the light in which self-love
and self-partiality would present it to our
minds, but in the light in which any impar-
tial spectator would view it, in the light in
which God's word teaches us to consid-
er it, and in the light in which ,it will
be judged of at last, when God shall
bring to light the hidden things of darJo-
ness, and make manifest the counsels of
all hearts.

We are all more or less liable to self-deceit ;
and they who think they have the least of it,
are in general most of all under its dominion.
Let us therefore distrust our own judgment,
and, sensible of our own ionorance and lia-
bleness to mistake, let us pray to God for
his divine teaching ; saying, with Ehhu in
the book of Job, That zchich I see not,


teach thou me ; and with the Psalmist,
Search w?e, God, aiid know my heart ;
try me, and know my thoughts, and see if
there he any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the nmii everlasting.




Prov^irbs xiv. 9.
Fools make a mock at sin.

V ARIOUS and opposite are the opinions
of men on the different subjects of rehgion,
but we know that the judgment of God is
ahvays according to truth. Men of hcen-
tious principles and of profligate manners,
have often been admired by the world, as
persons of superior sagacity and discern-
ment. Their profane scoffs and impious
raillery at the truths of God, have been fre-
quently dignified with the name of S'if, and
highly applauded by persons of like dispo-
sitions with themselves. In particular, eve«


ry attempt which they have made to lessen
the evil and demerit of sin, has obtained
credit with the world, and if tolerably plau-
sible, has gained to its author the wished-for
reputation of wisdom. But He, whose under-
standing is infinite, and who sees and knows
things as they really are, hath denominated
them, fools who make a mock at sin. All
attempts, therefore, to lessen its evil and de-
merit in the estimation of men, must be as
weak as they are impious. Our slight
thoughts of sin must proceed from ignorance.
For did we only know its nature, and con-
sider its effects, instead of making a mock *
at it, our minds would be impressed with
the most serious and solid apprehensions of
its dreadful malignity, and fatal consequen-

I propose, my Brethren, from the word*
which I have read, to discourse to you on
this awful, but interesting subject ; and
would endeavour, by the help of God, to
impress your mind and my own, with a
deep sense of the exceeding evil and sinful-


ness of sin. With this view I shall consider

I. In its nature ;

II. In its effects ;

III. In the views which persons in differ-"
ent situations entertain of it.

From this it will appear, how justly
they are said to befools who make a niock
at sin.

I. Let us consider sin in its nature. The
qualities of certain objects are sometimes
best understood by contrasting them with
those to Avhich they are opposed. Thus
the evil nature of sin is most strikingly re-
presented, by contrasting it with the cha-
racter of God, against whom it is commit-
ted ; and with the law of God, of which it is
the transo-ression.


1. God is a Being of the most perfect ex-
cellence, possessed of every attribute that

SER. 2* THE EVIL OF SllSf* 25

can excite the admiration, love, and es-
teem of his intelligent creatures. He is in-
finitely glorious, and completely amiable ;
and, what in a peculiar manner renders him
so, is the holiness of his nature. Holiness is
the chief and brightest attribute of the God-
head. It is rather a combination of excel-
lencies, than a distinct perfection. It is that
which gives a lustre to all the perfections of
God, and raises them so far above the poor
imperfect resemblances of them to be found
among creatures. The power, the wisdom,
the justice, and even the mercy of God
could not command our love and esteem, if
these perfections were not always united
with the most spotless holiness. God is
therefore glorious in his holiness. He is in-
finitely excellent and infinitely lovely, be-
cause he is infinitely holy ; and creatures
^re more or less excellent and lovely, in pro-
portion as they are more or less conforma-
ble to the imao:e of the divine holiness.
Judge from this, therefore, what nmst- be
the odious nature of sin, which is directly
opposite to the hohness of God. If God fe


infinitelv excellent and amiable, sin must bs
infinitely vile and detestable.

In this light, it is miiformlj represented
in Scripture, where we are told, that God
cannot look upon iniquity hut uith ahhor-
7'e7ice, that evil cannot dwell with hitn, nei-
ther can fools stand in his sight, and that he
hateth all the zcorkers of iniquitij. Sin is re-
bellion against th€ adorable Majesty of hea-
ven and earth. It aims at the destruction of all
the perfections of God. It is directed against
his power, which it defies. It is employed
in opposition to the counsels of liis wisdom,
which it seeks to overthrow. It denies his
justice ; it calls in question his faithfulness ;
it abuses his goodness. It is particularly
directed against his holiness, practically de-
nying its existence, or saying, that it is not
tlie lovely and adorable excellence which
the word of God declares it to be. Dread-
ful then must be the nature of that evil
which is so opposite fo the character of God,
and at variance with all the perfections of
his nature. But let us consider the natiire
of .^in.

8ER. 2. THE EVIL OF SIN". 2?

2. As contrasted with the law of God, of
which it is the transgression.

The law of God is a transcript of his per-
fections. The law is holi/, says the Apos-
tle, and the commandment holy, and jiisf,
and good. It is not only holy and just,
that is, perfectly agreeable to the nature of
God, and to the reason and fitness of things,
but likewise good, being evidently calculat-
ed to promote the happiness of those who
are subject to its authority. Were it at
present necessary, every precept of the law
of God might be shewn to have this ten-
dency. But to be convinced of this, let us
only attend a little to the summary which
our blessed Lord hath given us of the law
of God, in the two great commandments of
love to God and to our neighbour. Can
any thing be more reasonable, or better a-
dapted to promote our happiness than these
commandments ? To love the Lord, oar God
with all our heart, and soul, and mind, atul
strength, is only requiring us to place our
supreme affection on boundless excellence ;
than which, nothing can give greater satis-


faction to a well regulated mind. And, to
love our neighbour' as ourselves, is a rule,
so consonant to right reason, so pleasant to
those who practise it, and so plainly condu-
cive to the interest and happiness of society,
that there is no man but must allow its ex-
cellence, however little disposed he may be
to put it in practice. Thus holy, and just,
and good is the law of God. It is pure and
perfect. It is evidently conducive in all its
parts to the happiness of man, and bears
the plainest marks, both of the wisdom and
of the goodness of its blessed Author.

But sin is the transgression of this law,
and must therefore contain in it a malii^^ni-
ty and vileness proportioned to the purity
and excellence of the law of God. If the law
be holy, and just, and good, sin, which is
the transgression of it must be inconceiva-
bly evil. If, as we have observed, the evi-
dent tendency of every precept in the law
of God be to promote the happiness of men,
the transgression of this law must inevita-
bly lead to misery and woe. Sin is the
greatest of evils, becausq it is opposite to the


greatest good. It is opposite to the nature
of God, which is pure and perfect hohness ;
and it is hkewise opposite to the will of God,
as made known to us in his law, which is
the unerring standard of right and wrong.
How great then must the evil of sin be,
which stands thus directly opposed to what-
ever is excellent and praise-worthy.

But not to insist longer on the abstract
nature of sin, let us proceed,

II. To consider sin in its effects.

Here a much wider field opens to our
view. We can say little of the nature of sin,
because we are so little acquainted with the
perfection of the nature and law of God ;
but wherever we turn our eyes, we behold
the effects of sin. Within us and around
us, on earth and in hell, w^e contemplate the
baneful consequences of this mortal evil.
No sorrow or misery of any kind can be
named, that does not spring from tlys root
of bitterness. It is the source of every o-
ther evil, the fruitful womb, that conceives


and brings forth all the wretchedness that
is in the universe.

First of all, let us reflect on the mischief
which sin has done to the angels who kept
not their lirst estate. These, you know,
were once pure and happy spirits, standing
continually in the presence of God, and
blest with the beatific vision of his life-giv-
ing countenance. But sin entered their blest
abodes. They aspired to be like to God ;
they affected to be independent of their Ma-
ker ; and, on account of their pride and re-
bellion, they were banished from heaven.
And now Ave are told, theij are reserved in
chains under darkness to the judgment of
the great day, when they shall be brought
forth to receive their iinal and everlasting

But angels are not the only creatures who
exhibit to the universe the baneful effects
of trans2:ression. Man, the lord of this low-
er world, who was formed at first after his
Maker's image, is likcM ise become a fallen
and sinful creature. How Ioa ely Mas man


at his first creation, when his understanding
was clear and unclouded, his will under sub-
jection to the will of his Maker, and ail the
lower appetites and passions of his nature,
uniformly governed bj reason and con-
science ! But now, what a melancholy
change hath sin produced ! How is the gold
become dim, and the most fine gold chan-
ged ! Instead of that perfect order, and de-
lightful harmony which once prevailed, the
soul of man is become the seat of various
contending passions. His understanding, is
darkened through the ignorance and blind-
ness of his heart, and the noblest powers of
his nature are wilhngly enslaved by the low -
^ est and meanest appetites. Who that pro-
perly considers this melancholy change, but
must drop a tear over the ruins of humau
nature. Fools may make a mock at sin ;
but the man of/ serious reflection, who con-
templates the fatal effects of transgression,
who beholds around him a number of im-
mortal creatures, living in the open neglect
and contempt of God and religion, the slaves
of divers lusts and pleasures, while he feel§
within himself a natural avers'ion to every


thing that is good, and a perpetual prone-
ness to that which is evil, must have very
awful apprehensions of the infinite evil of
sin, which has thus miserably defaced one of
the noblest works of God.

Every thing around us bears marks of
man's fatal apostacy from God. The whole
creation groaneth. The voice of lamentation
is heard from every quarter. Time would
fail, were I to speak of the numberless cala-
mities, both of a public and private nature,
which are the effects of sin, — of earthquakes
and tempests, the famine and pestilence, the
war and bloodshed, which are the common
scourges of mankind, — or of the pain and po-
verty, the sickness and distress, and all the
tliousand nameless ills which fall to the lot
of individuals. Let us turn our eyes to
what part of the world we may, and we be-
hold the awful effects of this deadly evil. Sin
has brought a curse upon the creature, so that
now vanity and vexation of spirit are inscrib-
ed in legible characters on all earthly enjoy-
ments. The fatal poison hath spread through

skR. 2. THE EVIL OF sin; 33

every part of the visible creation of God, and
embittered every cup of human bhss.

It is unnecessary to go far for instances
to prove this melancholy truth. Where is
the man or woman that has hved any time
in the world who has not felt the bitterness
of human woe ? Even while I now speak,
the wounds of some may be bleeding afresh,
at the remembrance of some calamity that
has recently befallen them. One man may
be mournins: the loss of a beloved friend or
relation, another lamenting the decay of
his substance or reputation, while a third is
labouring under the effects of a frail and
sickly constitution.' These, and all the o-
ther evils incident to man in his present
state, are the baneful effects of sin. And, to
complete this catalogue of human woes,
death at length arrives ; death, that dread-
ed foe of man, who is justly stiled the king
of terrors, wearing the most gloomy aspect
and formidable appearance, when viewed
only with the eye of sense. Death closes
our eyes upon this visible world, and all its
loved and valued enjoyments ; it puts an


34 tHE EVIL or SIN. s£r. 2.

end to all our capacities and opportunitiea
of usefulness ; it seems like the destruction
of our nature. The dust returns to the
earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who
gave it. What contempt does death pour
upon human nature ! What a dark cloud
does it cast over all the beauty and glory of
our outward condition ! The body becomes
a motionless lump of clay. Death sits hea-
vy upon it, and the sprightliness and vigour
of life are perished from every feature, and
from every limb. If we descend into the
gloomy chambers of the grave, what do we
behold ! the dead lying in their cold man-
sions, in beds of darkness and of dust. The
shadows of a long evening are stretched o-
ver them, the curtains of a deep midnight
are drawn around them ; the worm is
spread under them, and the zcorms cover'

All this is the effect of sin. For the zim-
ges of sin is death, and hi/ one man sin en-
tered into the zcorld, and death by sin, and
so death has passed upon all men, for that all
have sinned. We arc too apt to conceive a


slight opinion of the evil of sin, because it is
to be found in the best of men, and is so
constant an attendant on human nature.
We are not sufficiently affected with the
thoughts of it, because its greatest evil is of
a spiritual and invisible nature. We consi-
der not that infinite Majesty which it dis^
honours, that spotless holiness which it of-
fends, nor the glory and perfection of that
law which it violates. But in the scenes of
misery and death which I have now describ-
ed, we may survey the sensible and mighty
injury which sin has done to the nature of
man, and may thence infer, how offensive it
is to God,

You may think this, my Friends, a very
sad and dismal picture of the effects of sin,
butthe half has not yet been told you. Dread-
ful as the effects of sin in the present life
are, they are inconsiderable indeed in com-
parison of its effects in a future and eternal
state. There the worm never dies, and the
fire is never quenched. Thence hope is for
ever excluded. In hell the wicked remain
the awful and eternal monuments of God's



infinite and invariable abhorrence of sin.
If ho knows the power of his anger ! even
according to his fear, so is his wrath. It
is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God, more fearful than it is pos-
sible for language to describe, or imagina-
tion to conceive.

And is all this the effect of sin ? Are these
thy baneful consequences, thou irreconcile-
able foe of God and man ? Then by what
name shall we call thee, or how shall we
sufficiently detest and abhor thee ? let fools
make a mock at sin ; but may I ever enter-
tain the most awful impressions of its malig-
nity and vileness. Shall I ever think, or
speak lightly of that which has been pro-
ductive of so much mischief, which brings
with it such a train of evils in the present
hfe, and which leads to endless, inconceiva-
l)le misery in the life to come !

We now proceed, as was proposed, in
the -

HI. and last place. To consider the views


which persons in diiFerent situations enter-
tain of sin.

Here it may be useful to observe, the
different apprehensions which men enter-
tain of the evil of sin, according to their dif-;
ferent moral characters. The more profli-
gate a man becomes, the less evil he per-
ceives in sin : and, on the contrary, the high-
er degrees of purity that a person is enabled
to attain, the clearer and deeper will his
convictions be of the guilt and danger of
transgressing the law of God. It is remark-
able how exactly this observation holds in
every case. There is a fatal progress in
vice, and the man who at first was accus-
tomed to startle at the more open and dar-
ing violations of the law of God, by degrees
becomes reconciled to the most enormous
crimes, till, at last, (in the emphatical lan-
guage of Scripture,) his conscience is seared
as with a hot iron, and he seems to lose all
sense of right and wrong. Persons in this
state of mind perceive little or no evil in sin,
and consider the most presumptuous trans-
gressions in no other light than as harmless,


or unavoidable frailties. Again, the more
decent and respectable part of mankind are
shocked at the grosser violations of the di-
vine law. Their consciences are so far en-
lightened as to perceive and acknowledge
the evil of sin, when it disturbs the peace of
i^ociety, or violates some of the plainer and
more obvious principles of morality* But
their views are exceedingly narrow and con-
fined. They have no just conceptions of
the purity and perfection of this law, and
therefore content themselves with a very
partial outward observance of its precepts.
Nor are they much troubled at the plagues
of their hearts, nor with the sins which
more immediately affect the first table of
the law, if their conduct before the world
be such as to procure the esteem and
good will of their fellow creatures.

Far different and juster views of the evil
of sin have they who are taught and en-
lightened by the word and Spirit of God.
To them, the least offence appears an in-
finite evil. They have received from the
sacred scriptures just and becoming ap-


prehensions of the majesty and hoUness of
God, and of the purity and spirituahty of
His law ; and consequently, their minds are
affected with every deviation from that per-
fect standard of duty. They see the base-
ness and ingratitude of sin, as committed a-
gainst God, and bewail with deep contrition
the secret and hidden evils of their hearts,
as well as the open irregularitie.^ of their life
and conduct. In this respect, however, we
may perceive a difference, even among the
children of God, who are sanctified by faith
which is in Christ Jesus. Some are more
humble, more tender, more sensible of the
evil that is in sin than others, just in pro-
portion to the degree in which they are
conformed to the image of the divine holi-
ness. And, if we carry this thought a little
farther, we may suppose how much clearer
and more affecting apprehensions of the evil
of sin, those spirits must have who are dis-
lodged from their tenements of clay, and
blest with the immediate vision and enjoy-
ment of God. As long as they remain in
the present state, their judgments are cloud-
ed by remaining ignorance and corruption ;

40 THE EVIL OF SlJf. ^^R. 2.

but when thev are introduced into the man-
sions of glory, and behold the truths of God
in the clear light of heaven, what astonish-
ing views must they have of the inconceiv-
able evil and demerit of sin. Fools inake a
mock at sin^ — but saints who behold the
face of God, are struck with the most seri-
ous apprehensions of its infinite mahgni-
tj and vileness. Fools make a mock at
sin, — but angels, who excel in strength,
whose nature is far more noble, and whose
capacities are far more comprehensive than
ours, entertain very different thoughts of
this fatal and deadly evil. The more
holy any creature becomes, the nearer re-
semblance it bears to the infinitely pure
and ever-blessed God, the greater evil does
it perceive in sin, and the more must it ap-
prove of the awful punishment which God
has annexed to the transgression of his ho-
ly law.

Such are the views which persons of dif^
ferent characters, and in different situations
entertain of sin. But after all, it must be
acknowledged, that the apprehensions of the


holiest and most enlightened creatures on
this subject fall infinitely short of the reali-
ty. No finite mind can perceive in their
full extent the evil nature and bitter conse-
quences of sin. He only, whose all-com-
prehensive mind perceives all things at once,
with all their connections and consequen-
ces, can fully know the vast extent of this
baneful evil. Facts are more powerful and
convincing than any reasonings : and, from
the testimonies which God liath given of
his awful displeasure at sin, we may judge
in what an odious light it must appear in

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Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 3 of 23)