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to renounce his error: the other was filled with self-approbation and self-applause, thinking nothing of his risks and dangers, if he might but help forward the utter subversion of the government. Take these two persons, and say, whether, notwithstanding their acts were in appearance the same, there would not be an immense difference between the measure of their criminality in the estimation of an upright judge? There can be no doubt on this subject. Take then any other sin whatever, (for all sin is treason against the King of kings ;) and examine how far it has been voluntary, deliberate, habitual; how far it has been against light and knowledge; and how far it has proceeded from a heart radically averse to God and holiness. Let sins of omission be examined in this way, as well as sins of commission: and then the things which now are accounted light and venial, will appear hateful in the extreme, not merely as blighted "grapes of a degenerate vine,” but as “grapes of Sodom, and clusters of Gomorrha :" their enormity will be felt, in proportion to the strength and fixedness of the principle from which they spring.] 2. Our general character
[If our actions have not been openly sinful, we are ready to bless ourselves as having but little ground for shame and remorse. But if we consider “ the enmity of the carnal mind against God," and view our utter want of all holy affections, and exceeding proneness to some besetting sins, we shall see but little reason to glory over the vilest of mankind. We shall see abundant cause indeed for thankfulness to God, who by his preventing grace has restrained us from many evils into which others have run : but we shall take no credit to ourselves as better than others. If we behold bitter fruit produced by others, we shall remember that there is the root of it all in ourselves : if we see in others the streams of wickedness, we shall bear in mind, that the fountain of it all is in ourselves also. Thus, however free we may be from any flagrant enormity, we shall be ready to acknowledge with Paul, that "in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing;" and with Job to say, “ Behold, I am vile! I repent, and abhor myself in dust and ashes." So far from indulging self-preference and self-esteem, we shall find no names more suited to us than those by which St. Paul designated his own character, “ Less than the least of all saints," and "The very chief of sinners ".") From this view of our natural corruption, we may
LEARN, 1. How greatly we need the renewing influence of God's Spirit-
Eph. iii. 8. 1 Tim. i. 15.
[Outward amendment might suffice for outward sins: but where the heart itself is so corrupt, we must have “ a new heart given to us,” and “ be renewed in the spirit of our minds." With such hearts as ours, it would be impossible for us to enter into the kingdom of heaven, or to enjoy it even if we were there: we could not bear the sight of so holy a God; nor endure to spend our lives in such holy employments. Know then, that “old things must pass away; and all things must become new.” “ That which is born of the flesh, is flesh:” the stream can rise no higher than the fountain head. If ye would enjoy the things of the Spirit, ye must be " born of the Spirit," who alone can impart the faculties necessary for that end. Let your prayer then be like that of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within meo!"]
2. How carefully we should watch against temptation
[If we carried about with us a load of powder which a single spark would cause to explode, we should be extremely careful to avoid whatever might subject us to danger. Should we not then, with hearts so corrupt, and with temptations so thick around us, look well our ways, and pray unto our God to keep us from the evils of an ensnaring world? Well did our blessed Lord say,
“ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation :" “ The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.” Who that reflects on David's state previous to his fall, does not fear for himself, and cry mightily unto God, “ Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe!” “Uphold me with thy free Spirit, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me!" To all then we say, “ Be not high-minded, but fear:” “ Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."]
DLXXXVIII. THE IMPORTANCE OF INWARD INTEGRITY. Ps. li. 6. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts ; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
MANKIND at large are chiefly observant of their outward conduct; but the child of God cannot rest in externals: he is anxious about the internal habits of his soul; and desires to have them conformed to the mind and will of God. The words before us strongly express this idea. By many indeed they are interpreted, as if David intended in them to
aggravate yet further the guilt he had contracted, which had been in direct opposition both to the profession he had made, and to the light he had enjoyed“. But we conceive that the words, as they stand in our translation, convey the true meaning of the Psalmist; and that they relate, not to his sins, but his repentance for them. The sense of them appears to be to this effect;
“ Thou requirest me to be truly sincere in my present humiliation; and, if I am, as I desire to be, thoroughly sincere, thou wilt make this whole dispensation a source of the most important instruction to my soul.” In this view of the words, they are an humble address to God, declarative of, I. The disposition He requires
“ Truth,” is a conformity of our feelings and actions to our professions : and this God requires of us in the whole of our spirit and conduct. He requires it, 1. In our acknowledgments
[We confess ourselves sinners before God. But such a confession is of no value in his sight, unless it be accompanied with suitable emotions. Think then, what becomes us, as sinners: what deep sorrow and contrition should we feel for having offended Almighty God! what self-lothing and selfabhorrence for our extreme vileness and baseness! what ardent desires after mercy! what readiness to justify God in all that he may be pleased to inflict upon us in this world, whatever means or instruments he may see fit to use; yea, and in the eternal world also, even if he cast us into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and make us everlasting monuments of his wrathful indignation! This should be the state and habit of our minds: we should have our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust,” “ crying, Unclean, unclean!” In a word, we should adopt from our inmost souls the language of Job, “ Behold, I am vile! therefore I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes." In proportion as we feel thus, we are upright, and have " truth in our inward parts :" but so far as we are wanting in these feelings, we are hypocrites in heart," drawing nigh to God with our lips in a way belied by our hearts b."
2. In our purposes-
“ Thou hast made me to know."
b Matt, xv. 7, 8.
[We profess, as persons redeemed by the blood of our incarnate God, to give up ourselves to him, and to live unto Him who died for us: and, if we are sincere in this, our determination is fixed, that, with God's help, nothing shall ever keep us from executing this intention. We have deliberately counted the cost. We are aware, that “if we will live godly in Christ Jesus, we must suffer persecution :" but we are prepared to meet it, from whatever quarter it may come, yea, though our greatest foes should be those of our own household.” We are ready to sacrifice our reputation, our interests, and our very lives also, rather than in any respect deny our God, or suffer ourselves to be diverted from the path of duty. We are determined, through grace, to put away every thing that may retard our progress heavenward, and to aspire after the highest possible attainments in righteousness and true holiness. Now God requires, that we should be acting up to this profession, " setting our face as a flint against the whole world,” and standing in the posture of Daniel or the Hebrew Youths, willing to have our bodies consigned to a den of lions, or a fiery furnace, rather than violate our duty by any sinful compliance. If we are halting or hesitating, we have not truth in our inward parts.] 3. In our endeavours
(Purposes must be judged of by the exertions that are put forth in order to carry them into effect. A diligent attendance therefore on all the means of grace must of necessity be required of us: in the public ordinances, and in our private chambers, whether we be hearing, or reading, or meditating, or praying, we must be like men in earnest, even like the manslayer fleeing from the pursuer of blood, that scarcely stopped to look behind him, till he should reach the appointed sanctuary, the city of refuge. Remissness in such a cause argues a want of real integrity: if truth be indeed in our inward parts, we shall run as in a race, which leaves us no time to loiter; and wrestle with all our might, lest we be foiled in the contest; and fight as those who know that there is no alternative but to overcome or perish. In all the interior workings of our minds we shall resemble the Corinthians, who clear in this matter"]
That we may not be discouraged by the strictness of God's requirements, let us consider, II. The benefit he will confer
There is a wisdom that is to be gained only by experience: what has its seat in the head, may be learned by the head : what dwells in the heart, must
c 2 Cor. vii. 11. DD
be learned by the heart : and of the heart there is but one teacher, even God; according as it is said, “ Who teacheth like Goda:” and again, “ There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understandinge.”
Amongst the treasures of wisdom which God will impart to the truly upright, and the hidden things which he will cause them to know, are, 1. The deceits of the heart
[These are very deep, and absolutely unsearchable'; yet in a measure will God discover them to those who have truth in their inward parts. The world at large know nothing of them: “ they are calling evil good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; and bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter 8 :" « they feed also on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand h ?” They contrive to satisfy their minds that all is well with them, or at least to lull their consciences asleep with the hope that all will be well with them before they die. They have a thousand pleas and excuses which they urge in their own defence, and which they vainly hope will be accepted by their Judge. If we attempt to open their eyes, they reply, with indignation, " Are we blind also i ?" Thus are they both blinded and “hardened" through the deceitfulness of sin. But those who are really " Israelites indeed, and without guile," have their eyes opened to see what delusions they have cherished: and being thus “ brought out of darkness into marvellous light,” they find that promise fulfilled to them, “ They that erred in spirit shall come to understandingk." “ Their eye being made single, their whole body is full of light."] 2. The devices of Satan—
[The men of this world, though “taken in his snares, and led captive by him at his will,” have no idea of his agency. But he is a subtle adversary; and his “wiles” are innumerable. He can even “transform himself into an angel of light?;" and, when aiming a deadly blow at our souls, assume the garb of "a minister of righteousness.” His first device is, to persuade men that they are in no danger of the judgments they fear. If he fail in that, he will instil into their minds the notion that they have gone too far, and that there is no hope for them.
d Job xxxvi. 22.
e Job xxxii. 8.
f Jer. xvii. 9.