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alacrity and activity, would have been sealed

up; and a drooping speechless drudgery, driven on by a kind of fear, by the desire that things might not grow worse, with no hope of ever retrieving them,

, would have been the only motive to carry us forward. Between attempting and failing, between reflections upon ourselves and reflections upon God, our life would have passed unprofitably,-if this law, so enlarged and pure, was to have a strict inquisition at a future judgment.

It remains, therefore, that we complete this exposition of the constitution under which God hath placed us, by entering into an explanation of the various provisions which are contained in it for meeting this dilemma, into' which every man is brought, however sincere be his intention and however great his endeavours to keep the perfect law of God. But this is of so much importance, and so distinct, that we separate it along with the other provisions of the divine constitution for the next part of our argument.








N order to meet that sense of delinquency with which every reflective mind is oppressed when it betakes itself to stand or fall by the law of God, many devices are imagined, whereof we shall examine the stability before unfolding that which the Lawgiver hath himself discovered. For there is a strange perverseness in mankind to do without this other part of the divine constitution, and by their own inventions to help themselves out of the dilemma into which they are brought by the purity of the law; on which account it becomes necessary to pause, and consider these suggestions of natural reason, before proceeding to develop that scheme which God himself hath revealed.

The most common refuge of the mind from its consciousness of guilt is in the mercy of God. His toleration of sin here, and his goodness to the sinner, insinuate into the mind the idea that he may be as forgiving and kind in the world to come. This hope, or rather hallucination, for it does


his mercy,

God's power

not reach to the decision of a hope, serves with many to compose whatever thought or anxiety they feel upon the subject of future judgment. It is a notion of such flimsy texture as hardly to bear examination, and would not be worthy of notice in this place, were it not for the numbers who are content to be thereby deluded. For it is manifest, that if God, upon the soft suggestion of

is to pass all without examination, he might have refrained from the formality of making a law; which is a dead letter if it is not to be proceeded upon; nay, a deception, inasmuch as it inflicts many needless fears, and requires many useless sacrifices. Not that we would annihilate

of remission, which we shall see is very great, but that however great, it cannot extend over every form of delinquency without extinguishing all difference of character, and making the divine government one great system of passing and patronizing every form of crime. His mercy, however great, must proceed by rule, otherwise it will destroy responsibility, annihilate judgment, upset righteousness, and bring us into the same condition as if he had never interfered in our affairs.

Being driven out of this shift, men betake themselves to make a rough estimation of the good and ill of their character, and see how they stand by others; taking heart if they are above the average level of character, and, if below it, balancing against their fears, some charities or religious formalities, or better intentions for the future. Men of business build upon their honesty, men of rank upon their honour, simple men upon their good naturé, dissipated men upon a good heart at bottom, all upon their clearness from great crime and excessive wickedness. Now this is all at random; it is to conjecture, not to think; to fancy a God and invent a law, and to abandon those which are revealed. For honesty, and honour, and goodnature, and a good heart, (as they call it,) are rules by which men regulated themselves before God took the reins, and if they could have answered the end in view, it would have been idle in him to have added any thing beyond. But now that he has taken the management, and issued laws by which he commandeth us to abide, he will surely look to their obedience-or what was the use of uttering them? And any claim we rest, of escaping, must

, derive itself in some way from our obedience of these statutes, otherwise the statutes go for nothing, and God is content to be dishonoured, and to leave us as he found us, having totally failed in his undertaking to ameliorate our condition.

The next suggestion of the mind is, “ That if we make a sincere endeavour to do our best in keeping the divine laws, it is enough; God will, in his mercy, pardon our short-coming.” This is, to meet the difficulty in the face, and therefore it is worthy of examination. That God will require of any one more than the best, or that he will ask something beyond what it is possible to do, is unreasonable in the last degree. But who is the man that can say he has done his best? or

that he has endeavoured to do his best ? Were there such a man, he would have no self-accusations, no upbraidings of conscience, no remembrance of iniquity past, and no uneasiness from present imperfection. If any one be so opinioned of himself, to be undeceived he has only to ask his neighbour or his bosom companion, or his enemy, or any other mortal than himself. Ignorance indeed of what duty consists in, may work this delusion, which self-esteem will hardly work. But our inquiry doth not admit the apology of ignorance, being not, what an ignorant man feels, but what a man, informed by the divine law, and bringing to the bar of that law his thoughts and words and deeds—what such a one feels. And surely, as hath been shown above, no one will allow but that he understands more of God's law than he hath performed, and that there is much of it which he hath not taken pains to understand; that hours and days and weeks and months and years have passed at one time or other of his life, in which he did not think of God's law, much less endeavour to keep it-much less endeavour his best to keep it. If no one, then, can say he hath done bis best to keep it, what availeth this quietus to conscience? It leaves us where it found us. No one can claim upon it for an arrest of judgment..

But there is a great tendency in men to indulge the idea that they are doing the best under all the circumstances of their case; and that God, who sends them their severe trials, their strong passions, and their imperfect nature, will surely take all these

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