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Supposing you thus to have applied, and to have succeeded in your suit, you must have some remembrance of those solemn transactions betwixt Christ and your soul. You can recall the season when you committed yourselves into the hands of the Redeemer; when, like the leper in the gospel, you fell at his feet, crying, “ If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Your struggles after the Saviour, your attempts to believe, accompanied with
prayer that he would help your unbelief, and the rest you have found in him after being tossed by the storm, cannot all have passed like the fleeting images of a dream, without leaving some traces in your mind not easily effaced. If you are conscious that nothing of this nature has taken place, if you recollect no such transactions, you may be assured they never took place.
Waving, however, these points of inquiry, and admitting it to be possible that all this may have disappeared from your mind, still, since sin is a universal malady from which none are naturally exempted, if you are now healed, you must be conscious of your being very different from what you formerly were. Admitting you can give no account of the circumstances or time of your cure, yet you can at least say with him in the gospel, “ One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Your taste, inclination, and pursuits, must have undergone a great alteration; and, whereas you were formerly alienated from God, and took no delight in him, he is now your
avowed and deliberate end, your chosen portion. Whereas you were formerly utterly disinclined to prayer, it is now your constant practice, and considered as a high privilege. “ Led captive” formerly “by Satan at his will,” borne away by the tide of sensual inclination or corrupt example, you now feel yourselves endowed with spiritual power, so as to overcome temptation; and, having the seed of grace remaining, you keep yourselves that so “the wicked one toucheth you not.” The Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to you formerly “ like a root out of a dry ground, without any beauty or comeliness in him for which
should desire him," is now in your eyes “the branch of the Lord, beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the earth, comely and pleasant.” The knowledge of him, instead of being tasteless and insipid, you now find to be of so high and superlative excellence, that you account all things but loss in the comparison ; nay, you esteem them “but dung that you may win Christ.” You feel, it may be, some remains of your ancient distemper; but you feel at the same time that its power is broken, that the prescriptions of your Physician have wrought kindly, and that you are not far off from a complete cure.
But if you are conscious of being strangers to all this, you may rest assured your disorder remains in its full force. Nor let any flatter themselves that things are well with them because their external conduct is decent and regular, and they are exempt from the grosser acts of immorality, while they remain alienated from God, forgetful of his presence, unawed by his authority, insensible to his goodness, strangers to his converse. In this alienation lies the very core and essence of sin; this is the “ evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God;" this is the radical distemper, of which the diversified forms of iniquity in men's lives are but the symptoms and effects. This aversion to God, this inaptitude to be influenced by considerations and motives derived from his blessed nature and holy will, is the seminal principle of all wickedness; it is the (universal,] the pervading malady, which attaches to apostate spirits, as well as to apostate men, and the only one of which disembodied spirits are capable; and which [leagues] the disobedient and rebellious in all parts of the universe in one grand confederacy against God and goodness. Till this is subdued, nothing is in reality done towards the recovery of lost souls. “ Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart;"* and, in consequence of this, that which is highly esteemed among men is, not unfrequently, an abomination in his sight. “ There is,” the Scriptures tell us,
a generation who are pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness;”and they who value themselves on the correct exterior of their conduct, while their heart is not turned to God, are precisely that generation. * 1 Sam. xvi. 7.
+ Prov. xxx. 12.
II. The second improvement to which the subject naturally leads, is a reflection on the misery of those who are yet under the power and defilement of sin. Happy should we esteem ourselves, could we impress upon the consciences of such, an adequate idea of their misery. “ Then said” the prophet “Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean ? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.”*
To be under the power and pollution of sin, is to be odious in the sight of God; and what inexpressible degradation is comprehended in this idea! For the eye of God's holiness to be averted from us, to have no share in his complacency, to be in a situation in which his essential attributes are engaged for our destruction, is a conception, which, if you come to realize it, is replete with horror. To have “the wrath of God abiding on you” is a calamity which, one would suppose, must drink up your spirit, and completely destroy whatever satisfaction you might naturally derive from other objects. Till this plague is removed, cheerfulness is folly, and laughter is madness. However prosperous your outward condition, however successful your worldly pursuits, however ample your fortune, or elevated your rank, they are no just occasion of joy to you, any more than the garland which decorates the victim prepared for slaughter. “Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God.”* There are many circumstances calculated to afford a degree of joy; the blessings so plenteously showered down on the path of life, are adapted in themselves to exhilarate the heart, and to diffuse a ray of cheerfulness over the soul; but to him that is under the wrath of the Almighty, if they afford high gratification, it must be in consequence of his forgetfulness of his true situation. We should pity the insensibility of the man who could delight himself with the dainties of a feast, while a sword was suspended over his head by a single hair ;+ the danger of whose situation is, however, not to be compared with being every moment exposed to “the wrath of God.” While you continue in your sins, you have not the shadow of security against overwhelming and hopeless destruction: at any moment, in the midst of your amusements, your business, your repose, whether at home or abroad, in company or in solitude, you are liable to the arrest of justice; to be cast out into that eternal prison, from whence you can never escape
* Haggai ii. 13, 14.