Page images

cause no man knows what selfishness, restrained only by nature, is capable of doing. Hazael could say, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing ?” and yet he did it.* The Jews who crucified the Saviour of the world, thought that if they had lived in the days of their fathers they should not have slain the prophets.t And if any of you are dreaming, that, left to yourselves, you should not go the length of those whose history you have reviewed, let that dream end at this spot" The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

2 Kin. viii. 13.

* Mat. xxiii. 30.

[ocr errors]







SALVATION depends very much on possessing a correct view of our native ruin and need of a Sa. viour. For want of this many disdainfully reject the offers of grace, and undertake to recommend themselves to God in a way more gratifying to human pride. None will apply to the physician till they feel that they are sick.

The most holy and devout portion of the Christian Church have always held, with the fathers of New-England, that mankind by nature are totally depraved; by which they have meant, not that they are as bad as they can be,—not that they are all equally wicked, -not that the form of their actions is always wrong,—not that they are wholly destitute of love to men,-of all moral sense,-of all regard for the natural, fitness there is in virtue,--of all disgust at the natural unfitness there is in vice; but merely this, that they are utterly destitute of holiness. And this our text evidently implies. It virtually declares that none shall be debarred from seeing the Lord but they who are “ without holiness;” which is to say, that all who are not entitled to heaven are destitute of that principle,-all who in Scripture are called sinners in distinction from saints, children of wrath in distinction from children of God, natural men in distinction from spiritual men, the world in distinction from the Church, are 6 without holiness."

There are however in natural men certain semblances of holiness, which have been often alleged in opposition to this doctrine. Natural men are susceptible of gratitude and patriotism ; of domestick affections, such as subsist between parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters; of humanity, including both compassion and general good wishes for the happiness of men; of a sweet disposition, enlarging their humanity, and producing gentleness, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and beneficence.

They are susceptible of a sense of honour, revolting from meanness and pollution ; of taste, that delights in beautiful proportions in all visible objects and relations ; of conscience, or the moral sense, which approves of justice and virtue, and disapproves of vice, and when sufficiently enlightened justifies the whole law of God, and religion generally, and good men, and condemns the opposite of all these.

Under the

influence of these principles, fortified by education and habit, aided by hopes and fears, by respect for human opinions and laws, by regard for good order, (especially as being necessary for personal security,) by the general good nature which prosperity imparts even to selfish minds, and by numberless associations of ideas, multitudes of natural men lead amiable and moral lives. But after all, they are utterly destitute of that “ holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” To put this point beyond a doubt, let us,

I. Inquire what holiness is.
II. Compare the world with this standard. .

III. By this standard test the natural principles in question.

I. What is holiness ? Avoiding all points liable to dispute, I will give such an answer to the question as I think no man will be disposed to deny. I will put the answer in two forms, and you may take your choice. Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. The other answer is, Holiness consists in obedience to His commands. Shall I illustrate the principle in both forms ?

(1.) Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. If a doubt could rest on this point the whole Bible would join to remove it. In the image of God man was originally formed ; and that image is reinstampt on his soul in sanctification. “ We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” Holiness in

« PreviousContinue »