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land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people.” How much more, then, may I say this to you, in reference to the heavenly land! “ Understand it,” then, and consider it well for to dream of any righteousness of your own, is to be guilty, 1. Of the grossest injustice
[Did the self-applauding Israelites rob God of his glory? How much more do ye! What becomes of all his stupendous love, in giving his only Son to die for you? What becomes of his sovereign grace, in choosing you at first, and in giving you to his Son ? What becomes of all his mercy in pardoning, his power in sanctifying, his faithfulness in keeping you to the end? By this one act of self-righteousness you rob God of it all; and take the crown from the Saviour's head, to put it on your own.
What construction would you put on similar conduct shewn towards yourselves? If you had taken the most helpless and worthless of the human race from a dunghill, and had with vast cost and trouble educated him for
your heir, and had actually made over to him all that you possess; would
you think he offered you no indignity, if he denied his obligations to your unmerited love, and ascribed all the glory of his exaltation to his own superior merit, which left you no option, but claimed it all at your hands? How base, then, must ye be, if ye so requite the love of Almighty God! Know, that " His is the kingdom,” to which you have been called: and “ His is the power,” by which you have been kept: and “ His must be the glory” for ever and ever.] 2. Of the extremest folly
[What can provoke God, if this does not? Or, what can ye expect, but that, as the recompence of your conceit and arrogance, he should say to you, 'Go on without my help. You have done thus much for yourselves : carry on now the good work within you. You have overcome Satan: overcome him still. You have merited my favour : continue still to merit it. You have paid a price for heaven: complete your purchase. Bring with you your works to my judgment-seat; and I will deal with you according to them. Ah, Beloved! what would become of us, if God were thus to give us up to our proud delusions, and our vain conceits? It would soon appear what we are, and what measure of sufficiency we possess for any thing that is good. If, then, you would not provoke God to give you up altogether to yourselves, discard from your minds these “ lofty imaginations, and let every thought of your hearts be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”]:
Having thus directed my attention, throughout the
whole subject, to the self-sufficient, I will con
clude with an ADDRESS to, 1. The desponding sinner
[You are ready to say, God will not have mercy upon me, because I have no righteousness whereby to recommend myself to him. But you need none for this end. It was not the righteous, but sinners, whom he came to save.
You are to go to Christ guilty, that you may be forgiven ; vile, that you may be made holy; and weak, that his strength may be perfected in your weakness. “ Understand” this; and your
conscious unworthiness, so far from appearing any longer a bar to your acceptance with him, will be a motive for coming to him, and an encouragement to trust in him: for“where sin has abounded, there, you have reason to hope, shall his grace much more abound."] 2. The joyful saint
(Let not the freedom of God's grace ever prove a snare to you. Though God will never save you for your righteousness, he will never save you in an unrighteous state. Though he requires no righteousness of yours as the ground of your acceptance with him, he requires the utmost attainments in righteousness as your meetness for heaven; yes, and as the means whereby he may be glorified. Take heed, therefore, that you
understand” this : for “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” At the same time, you must cultivate a spirit directly opposite to that of the self-applauding Pharisee—a spirit of humiliation and self-abasement before God. This was the state of mind which he required of those whom he conducted into Canaan; and this is the spirit which he expects to find in
Hear his own words to them, and to us in them: “ Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all the evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt dealings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord Godh.” Here, I say, you see the spirit that becomes you. To your latest hour, and in your highest attainments, be ye abased, and let God be glorified as "all in all !"]
h Ezek. xx. 42–44. and xxxvi. 22, 32.
A PENITENTIAL RETROSPECT ENJOINED.
Deut. ix. 7. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst
the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness. THERE is no sin more deeply rooted in the heart of man than pride: nor is there any thing which will not serve as a foundation for it to prefer its claims. Even an excess of impiety will afford to some an occasion of glorying; and a precedence in rebellion against God, give them a title to praise amongst those whom they have out-stripped in the career of wickedness. It may well be expected, then, that success in any lawful enterprise should very generally be thought to give a man a legitimate ground for selfapplause. Yet, doubtless, if ever there were a people less entitled to self-admiration than others, it was the people of Israel, who were a stiff-necked people from the very first moment that God took them under his peculiar care. And, if ever there were a matter that entirely precluded all ground of glorying, surely it was the establishing of that people in the land of Canaan. Their fathers had all provoked God to destroy them in the wilderness : and they themselves were also a rebellious generation : so that they at least might be expected to acknowledge themselves indebted to the sovereign grace of God for all the blessings of the promised land. But behold, God, who knew what was in man, was constrained to caution them against the enormous evil of ascribing to their own superior goodness all the interpositions of God in their behalf: “Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations, the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Remember, and forget not how thou
provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness.” This was the state of mind which became them; and this is the habit that becomes us also.
To fix this admonition the more deeply on your minds, I will endeavour to shew, I. What impression sin makes upon the mind of God
It is not so light an evil as we are ready to imagine. It is most offensive to God: it is “ that abominable thing which his soul hateth.” In what abhorrence he holds it, we may see, 1. By his own positive declarations
[“ In the day that thou eatest of the forbidden tree, thou shalt dieb," was the declaration of God in Paradise : and “ The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” has been his solemn warning to all mankind, even to the present hour. Yes; “ the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men d.” “ The wicked," saith David, “ shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget Gode.” And again : “Upon the ungodly shall God rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion to drink?:"
go into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angelsk : " they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend up for ever and ever: and they shall have no rest, day nor nighth:” they shall be “ where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched';" and shall spend eternity itself in “ weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth k.”
Now I would ask, What can such declarations mean? or rather, What can they mean who set them all at nought, and say, “I shall have peace, though I walk after the imaginations of my own evil heart??"] 2. By the actual exhibitions of his wrath
[It is easy to say, “ The Lord doth not see, neither will the Almighty regard it.” But how do his dispensations accord with these conceits? Was the sin of Adam visited with no expression of his wrath? Was there no manifestation of his anger at the deluge ? None on the cities of the plain, the punishment of which was a figure of hell itself? Look at his
a Jer. xliv, 4.
b Gen. ii. 17.
c Ezek. xviii. 4.
dealings with Israel in the wilderness : Was sin unpunished there? Do we see there no marks of his displeasure, no proofs of the connexion which he has established between sin and misery? Does the destruction of that whole people in the wilderness give us no insight into this matter? When we see what was inflicted on a man for gathering sticks upon the Sabbathm, on Uzzah for a mistake", on the men of Bethshemesh for unhallowed curiosity', on Herod for pride P, on Ananias for a lie?, shall we listen to the voice that tells us, that “ the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil??” Know ye of a truth, beloved Brethren, that “ God is angry with the wicked every days;” and that “ though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished'."]
From hence, then, we may see, II. The impression which it should make on our
mindsVerily, as it makes a deep impression upon God's mind, so should it also upon ours.
We should remember it; and never forget so much as one sin, if it were possible; but should have the iniquity of our whole lives ever treasured up in our minds, and standing in one accumulated mass before our eyes. This is necessary for the unpardoned sinner
[We are not to imagine, that it is sufficient for us to acknowledge in a general way that we are sinners, or to have our minds fixed on one or two enormous transgressions, and to confess them to God. We ought to trace sin to the fountain-head, and see how totally we are by nature alienated from God, and “ enemies to him in our minds by wicked works :' and at the same time we should have such views of particular transgressions, as to be constrained to come to God, saying, “ Thus and thus have I done:" and without such a view of our sins we can have no repentance, no forgiveness, nor even so much as any preparation of heart for the Gospel of Christ.
Without calling our ways to remembrance, we can have no repentance. For, what is repentance, but a confession of our sins, and mourning over them before God? have no forgiveness ; for “ he that covereth his sins shall not prosper: it is he only who confesseth and forsaketh them that shall find mercy u” Nor can a person be prepared to receive the Gospel: for the Gospel is a remedy; for which they
m Numb. xv. 33–35.
n 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7.
0 1 Sam. vi. 19.
Zeph. i. 12. u Prov. xxviii. 13.