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ance have you that this shall never happen? David, I suppose, conducted his criminal pursuit with as much address and secrecy as you can do; and after it had lain buried for the space of nine months, I am persuaded be was as fearless of a discovery as you presently are: yet God detected him in an extraordinary manner, and not only made his sin visible in his punishment, but even obliged him, as you have heard, by a solemn exercise of repentance, which is left upon record for the use of the church, to publish his confession of it to all succeeding generations. Have you no apprehension that some. thing of a similar kind may befal yourselves? Cannot God disclose your secret sins if he pleaseth? And have you not cause to fear that he will do it, from what he said to David : “ Thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun?" Will God show greater tenderness to your reputation than to that of the man according to his own heart? May he not, in his righteous displeasure, permit that lust, which you presumptuously cherish in your bosom, to grow so strong, that all your cunning shall not be able to keep it within bounds ? and then it will fly abroad, and be. come public of course. I beg you may attend to this: I confess it is a motive of the lowest kind; but low as it is, you ought at least to take its aid, till you get a relish for others of a more ingenuous and spiritual nature.
Consider, farther, what inward torment you must one day feel: at present, perhaps, conscience is asleep; but it shall not always sleep: afliction may awaken it; the approach of death most probably will; and then “shall your fear come as desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind : distress and anguish shall then come upon you;" for in that awful season, “ the Lord shall give thee a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and sbalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even; and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning, for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes wbich thou shalt see." Or if this seem not misery enough, look forward a little farther to the tremendous issue: “Who can dwell with devouring flames ? who can lie down in everlasting burnings ?” Yet this, 0 sinners, must be your portion, if you live and die in rebellion against God. The sweetness of sin passeth quickly away, but the sting of it is perpetual : the gnawing worm shall never die, the fire of God's wrath shall never be extinguished.
It is really astonishing, that creatures endued with reason, and capable of exercising reflection and foresight, should, in such a situation, enjoy any sort of peace for a moment. What is it that supports you? Do you imagine that God will overlook your rebellion, and never call you to an account for your conduct? Hear his own words by the mouth of his prophets :-“I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees; that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Zephaniah i. 12.-And again, “ Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cartrope: that say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.” Isaiah v. 18. Has he not already, in the course of his providence, given sufficient evidence of his hatred of sin ; and by many awful tokens of his righte. ous displeasure, extorted a confession from the most obstinate sinners, “ that verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth ?” — But you have a proof of this in your own bosom. What means the voice of conscience with, in you ? Whence that fear and horror which sometimes seize upon you ? Surely these painful feelings are involuntary; for no man chooseth to be his own tormentor. Well, then, this internal sense is in place of a thousand witnesses, to prove, that God is marking your steps in the mean time, and that ere long he will punish you for all your iniquities; “ for according to this fear, so is the wrath of God,” which is the object of it.
Do you presume upon the mercy of God? Listen to that awful declaration in the book of Deuteronomy, (chap. xxix. 19, 20.) “ If it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, and say, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart; the Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in the book of the law shall be upon bim." True, God is merciful; but is it not equally true, that he is holly and righteous? Can you devise a more lofty description of the divine goodness than that which was published by God himself, when, descending in a cloud upon mount Sinai, he passed by before Moses, and proclaimed his name, " The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and graci. ous, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin ;" (but observe what follows) có and that will by no means clear the guilty ?" Exodus xxxiv. 6, 7. Nay, the most amazing instance of divine love, wit, God sending bis Son into the world to die for sinners, is, at the same time, the most awful proof of his inflexible justice, and of his irreconcilable hatred of
sin; seeing no less a sacrifice could expiate the guilt of it than the blood of him by whom all things were made. Neither shall this costly sacrifice avail us, if we still continue to hold fast our iniquities ; for “the Son of God was manifested for this very purpose, that he may destroy the works of the devil.” And in vain do we plead the merit of his death, unless we follow the example of his life, and submit to the government of his laws and Spirit; for “he is the author of eternal salvation only to them that obey him."
But, it may be, you hope to make all up by repen. tance; and though at present there are some sins you are unwilling to part with, yet you propose to do it afterwards, with a resolution never to return any more to folly. Well, sinners, this at least is a plain confession that you are self-condemned creatures in the mean time. You admit that repentance is necessary, and that you are undone without it. And now let me display to you
the folly of your conduct. Should you die this night, what would become of you? and what assurance have you that you shall be alive to-morrow? Were not Zimri and Cosbi cut off in the act of sin? And have not many others been carried off by a sudden death, without leisure af. forded them to cry for mercy? Your sin, and consequently your misery, is present and certain: your repentance only future, and therefore altogether uncertain; for who knoweth what a day may bring forth? Besides, is it not egregious folly to do that deliberately which needeth repentance? Would he not justly be accounted mad, who should drink a deadly poison, merely to try the strength of an antidote? 'Though you could repent at pleasure, and bad a lease of life to any term of your own choosing, which you well know you have not; yet, even upon this supposition, your conduct would be foolish and ir
rational. But I have something to add that is still more alarming. Repentance is the gift of God; it is a grace that can only be produced in your hearts by that divine Spirit, whom now you grieve. And is grieving him the way to obtain his assistance ? Must God wait your time, and patiently endure all your affronts, and then bestow upon you a pure favour, to which you can plead no title, whenever you shall deign to ask it? No, sinners. There are such awful words in your Bibles as these: “ My Spirit shall not always strive with man;" and, “ Because when I called, ye refused; when I stretched out my hand, ye did not regard me; therefore will I laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh." Go, think upon these, and get you to your knees, and beg of God, for Christ's sake, that he may pardon what is past, and restrain you from such presumptuous sing for the future. This brings me to the
Last thing I proposed; which was, to direct you how to put up this prayer to God, keep back thy serrant from presumptuous sins.
In the 1st place, You must do it sincerely, with an unfeigned and earnest desire, that God may hear and grant your request, We are very apt to impose upon ourselves in this matter. Conscience being galled and irritated by presumptuous sins, may grow so turbulent and clamorous, that something must be done to still and pacify it. By this means, we may be forced into the clo. set, and obliged to use the words of my text, pay, to ap. ply them to those particular sins for which conscience upbraideth us. But, alas ! our prayers are oft times false and hypocritical; we hate not the sin, but the remorse that follows it; and we wish not so much to be delivered from the sin, as from the fierce challenges of the awful reprover within us. Have you not discovered something