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hiding-places of guilt; to bring the transgressor out to light, and to hold him there, while eternal truth, with a full and overpowering blaze, shall do its work, and justice shall shake his frame, and conscience shall make him pale, and mercy shall find out the place of grief, and the memory of crime shall wring tears from eyes unused to weep. The question is often put to ministers, by the awakened sinner, "How may I FEEL my guilt, and be brought to repentance?" The inquiry is made with deep emotion; there is some honesty and sincerity about it, though much less than the inquirer supposes; but, we need hardly add, there is nothing holy in the feelings from which it springs. Yet a condition in which a man will ask the question, is far more promising than the leaden sleep in which most men lie. It is the business of the ministry to answer this question, and happy will it be if even in a singlo case, the answer shall give light to a benighted and anxious mind. We shall attempt to do it, by showing what obstacles prevent men from feeling their guilt; that Christianity contemplates the removal of these obstacles; that it has power to demolish them; and that, when they are removed, the gospel is fitted to meet the state of the soul, and to overwhelm it with the consciousness of guilt.
1. The first obstacle to conviction of sin, is the instinctive reluctance which all men feel to the consciousness of guilt. The dread of this, indeed, is one of those deep and immovable safeguards which God has laid in human nature itself, for the welfare of society. So painful and terrific is this consciousness of guilt, that many men avoid it by refraining from open transgression, when there is no better principle to guard them. The certainty that if they commit iniquity they must yet feel it; that conscience has an ever-goading sting, and a whip of scorpions; that there is an unseen hand to reach a fugitive a finger that can write his crime on every wall; and a voice of blood that can cry from the earth beneath his feet
may deter a man from guilt, when no higher principle restrains him.
This same fear, however, may be turned to the most pernicious uses. There may be such a determined purpose of wickedness; such a rush of passion and headlong indulgence; such a propensity to evil that none of the safeguards of virtue will restrain the man. Then, when the crime is committed, it becomes a question how he may avoid the consciousness of it? How he may put back the hand of justice? How silence the voice of blood? How still the thunders of conscience and of law? How go on still in crime, and yet not be harrowed with remorse? Here originates the desire for all those arts of evasion, those subterfuges of guilt, those selfdelusions which are made to set in upon the soul, like a mist from the ocean, to shut out the sun of truth, and to elude the eye of justice. Here is the source of all the superstition of misguided men, of all the arts of the pagan and the Jesuit, to ward off the convictions of a man's own guilt; and of all the false systems of morality and theology; and here, too, originates the accelerated love of pleasure and amusement; the plunging into deeper schemes of gain or ambition, that a man may escape from the memory of his crimes, and live at ease, while he violates the laws of man and of God.
Such, too, is the case with a sinner, when God commands him to repent. He fears the consciousness of guilt. He dreads the alarms of conscience. He starts back from the
process of repentance and of a return to God. That instinctive dread of this consciousness which was one of the safeguards by which God would have deterred him from the commission of crime, he now perverts to a hinderance to his return. He looks upon this return, upon a state of conviction for sin, as a dark and starless way; a condition of gloom and sadness; a course of terror where no light shines on the path but the flashes of the lightning of justice, leaving the darkness deeper.
and more dreadful. "The spirit of a man," says Solomon, "can sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit, who can bear?" He anticipates a protracted process in the work of conviction-what he has learned in the books of an older theology, but not in the Sacred Scriptures, to dread as a long and perilous "law-work" on the soul; a dark and dismal journey for weeks, or months, or years, across a barren waste, till he emerges at last in the region of light and peace. The necessity of feeling guilty, even for a few moments, would deter and frighten him. How much more so, when he has been led to suppose that he must go bowed down with this consciousness for months or years, before he can find peace of conscience or reconciliation with God.
Now it is clear that with this apprehension, no man will go through the process of repentance, if he can help it. It is clear, too, that in the workings of human wickedness for six thousand years, more than one way will be found out to avoid it. Hence every man has a shield to throw before himself, to ward off the consciousness of guilt. And hence we are compelled to make our way to the conscience, against this barrier which the sinner has raised; in the face of the mighty determination not to be lashed with a whip of scorpions; and to follow the man through a thousand hiding-places, and in a labyrinth of evasion, before the arrows of truth reach the victim, and the quiver is fixed in the panting heart.
One part of the sinner's apprehension is true; the other is not. It is true, that we seek and desire to overwhelm him with the consciousness of guilt; and that we wish to inflict pangs in the soul that shall start him from his seat of ease, and teach the tear of penitence to flow down the cheek of guilt. But it is not true, that religion seeks to throw him into a land of storms, and gloom, for weeks and years. Religion comes with pardons in her hand and peace in her train. The sunshine of mercy beams through the storm, and
even while the tempest pours, and the thunder rolls, it has already, though unseen, painted the bow of hope in the distant sky. The idea that men must suffer pangs and gloom for years; that they must go through the tremendous and protracted process of what, in old theology, is called "the law-work," is what a false philosophy has added to the Sacred Scriptures. Nothing there forbids the thought, that they may at once exercise repentance and be pardoned. One emotion of genuine sorrow for sin; one act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will secure pardon and eternal life. Nor will the soul be better fitted for the change by long rebellion in a state of anxiety and gloom; by stern and stubborn resistance when sinners know their duty; by a war against the Holy Ghost protracted for months and years, than by a frank and ingenuous acknowledgment of guilt at once, and a rushing to the arms of Christ's outstretched mercy. We speak much of the improvements of theology in modern times. Perhaps the greatest practical advance consists in removing this cumbersome burden from the gospel of Christ; and in the grand truth, now beginning to be felt, that the gospel may convey the balm of consolation to a wounded spirit at once; and that the Great Physician of souls needs not that the gangrene of sin should prey on the vitals for years; that the leprosy should spread and rage, and torment the soul, through many dark and gloomy months, before the healing hand can be stretched out to restore. The sinner may be relieved at once. The first terrific view of guilt may be followed by the tender voice of pardon, and the sight of a merciful Redeemer speaking peace.
2. Closely allied to this, is the second obstacle which I shall mention, viz., An unwillingness to avow and confess guilt, even when the mind is conscious of it. This also is an instinctive feeling, and is another of the safeguards thrown around the human heart, but capable also of great perversion. The fact
that guilt must be avowed if felt, that others must know it, and that the condition of the world is such as to extort the confession of it, is one of the many means which God has employed to prevent its commission. Every man knows that
if he is guilty and is conscious of it, it must be revealed. The burning cheek, even when he wishes to drive the blood to the heart, will betray him. The eye, when he would have it fixed and calm, will be distracted and turn away. The brow that he would have smooth and calm, will be clouded. The thoughts, which he would "drive down into the soul," will start up with living power, and shed a trembling influence over the whole frame. He will be betrayed. God has guarded this matter too well to suffer him to escape. Society is organized to bring him out. Laws, and jurors, and judges; the injured man or society, become spies upon his movements, and have an interest in bringing guilt from its hiding-place; and all the array of witnesses, and all the terrors of conscience, and the processes of judgment, and justice, are pressing upon the man to make him confess his crimes.
Yet there is nothing which a man is less willing to do. And hence arise all the evasions in court, and in common life, to suppress the evidence of crime; all the arts of dishonest trade, and no small part of the wiles of policy, and ambition, and of the perverted codes of morals and religion among men. Hence, too, the efforts of guilty men to obliterate the marks of a guilty conscience which God has fixed in the eye, and on the cheek, and in the tremblings of the frame, to proclaim a man's own guilt. Thus guilty youth must proclaim its crime, but hardened villany shall have learned to fix the eye, and command the nerves, and fortify the cheek against the rush of blood at the consciousness of guilt. And the most hardened villain may sometimes go through society, or rise to posts. of honour, accredited as a man of virtue, until his crimes shall be too much for the earth to bear, and an unexpected array