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ward and inward part, partake of a moral nature, they are sinful, and that whether the external form is right or wrong. In strictness of speech the sin lies not in the outward form even when that form is wrong, certainly not when it is right. Yet in the popular language of Scripture, as in the common language of mankind, the form and disposition are both comprehended in the action. Now what I assert is, that the action, thus complexly considered, takes its moral character, not from the form, but from the disposition ; and where the disposition is wrong the general action is pronounced sinful. “ The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." The widow's mite He affectionately approves, while He rejects the man who without evangelical love bestows all his goods to feed the poor, and then with a martyr's zeal gives his body to be burned. He accepts “ the willing mind” even where no action follows, while He pronounces the
6 sacrifice of the wicked an abomination." While " a cup of cold water," administered in love, is rewarded with eternal life, 66 he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [is] abomination.” And that not merely when he intends to mock: “ The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination, how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind." Nor let it be supposed that his sacrifices are singled out to bear this reproach: “The plowing of the wicked is sin.” His commonest actions are an offence to God, be
so ] ;"
cause they proceed from a heart 6 deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” You must cleanse the fountain before the streams can be sweet ; you must heal the tree before the fruit can be pleasant. “Make the tree good and his fruit good.” “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Hence those maxims inscribed on the everlasting tablet, “ They that are in the flesh, “ Without faith it is impossible to please Him." Without that "faith” which is the gift of God," that belief that 6 Jesus is the Christ” which bespeaks one “born of God,” no action, no prayer is accepted. “If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God ;-but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea :for let not that man think that he shalt receive ANY THING of the Lord.”. “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss,” is the common reproof of all who are supremely attached to the present world. “ We know that God heareth not sinners," was said even by Jews.*
The case is not altered by any convictions which the Spirit may excite, by any anxieties of the sinner, by any attention to the means of grace. If Regeneration is the commencement of holiness, all
* 1 Sam. xvi. 7. Prov. xv. 8. and xxi. 4, 27. and xxviii. 9. Jer. xvii. 9. Mat. x. 42. and xii. 33. and xxiii. 26. Mark xii. 42-44. John ix. 31. Rom. viii. 8. 1 Cor. xiii. 1–3. 2 Cor. viii. 12. Eph. ii. 8. Heb. xi. 6 James i. 5-7, and iv. 3. 1 John v. 1.
the feelings and actions to that moment, so far as they partake of a moral nature, must be sinful. So far as the moral Governour is at all affected, He is disgusted and offended till the very moment of the change.
(2.) It follows that the unregenerate, even under their highest convictions, and however near they may have approached the time of conversion, still lie at the uncovenanted mercy of God. By this I do not mean that no promises are held out to them on condition of their returning; I only mean that nothing which they now do has the promise of any reward or notice from God. The moral Governour of the world cannot pledge Himself to reward sinful actions, nor actions barely neutral. A temporal king may consistently engage to recompense actions which have only a fair exterior; but for God to do this would be to relinquish His right to search the heart. While acting as temporal head of the Jewish nation, (an office which He never bound Himself by promise to sustain, but held in sovereign condescension to the weaknesses of the people,) He visibly rewarded actions good only in the sight of men; and to present to the eye a picture of Himself in His providence, He may do the same now : but He never promised that nation a sheaf of barley, nor a hin of oil, but on condition of sincere and holy obedience. The following passage reveals the sole condition, (unless you profanely suppose two conditions, like the two prices of the petty merchant,) on which all temporal blessings were
promised that people: “ And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD, and to serve Him WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil."* Indeed love to God and man made so conspicuous a figure in the Mosaick code,t that this condition was necessarily implied in all the promises suspended on general obedience. The sum of that code was this: “And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” “ Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart,--but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”||
There is another insuperable difficulty in the way of extending promises to the unregenerate ; they are not united to Christ. The great bond of union is faith; but “whosoever believeth-is born of God." “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." Now it is obvious that none who are not united to Christ can partake of the promises; for like the oil on Aaron's head that descended to the skirts of his
* Deut. xi. 13-15. † Deut. vi. 5, 6. and vii. 9. and x. 16, 19. and xi. 1, 13, 22. and xiii. 3. and xix. 9. and xxx. 2, 6, 16, 20. Josh. xxii. 5. and xxiii. 11. # Deut. vi. and xi, and xxyiii. and xxx. | Lev. xix. 17, 18. Deut. x. 12.
garments, the promises are all poured upon Christ, and descend only to His members. “To Abraham and his Seed were the promises made; He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of One, and to thy Seed, which is Christ :" “ that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith:” “ that the Gentiles should be
- partakers of His promise in Christ.” “ All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen," -in Him who was given for a covenant of the people.” “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”* How then can any promise reach those who are out of Christ ? The promise chiefly contended for is one that shall ensure to the unregenerate an answer to their prayers: But if such prayers are answered it must be without the influence of Christ; of course they might have been answered if Christ had never died. Why then did He die ? If one prayer of a sinner could ascend to God without going through Christ, a whole soul might, and if one soul might, a whole world might. If in one act a sinner can be accepted without a Saviour, he may be so accepted in his general conduct; and if one may, a whole world may: why then was a Saviour provided? But far from us be such a thought. Infinite Purity cannot commune
* Isai. xlii. 6. 2 Cor. 1. 20. and y. 17. Gal. iii. 14, 16, 22. üi. 6. 1 John v. 1,