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ness and infirmity; by One who sees, better than man can state it, everything that can be said in his defence; by One more disposed than any human being ever was to do justice to all that is amiable and pure. If man wishes to find a friend who will be kind to his infirmities, and do justice to him when the world does him wrong, he can find no such friend as God. (c) It may be added here, that the charge is one that no denial affects. It has been deliberately made, and is that on which we are to be tried. We may deny it, or disregard it, but it is not thereby affected. Whatever we may choose to think of it does not change the estimate which our Maker ailixes to our character, any more than the private views of a prisoner at the bar can modify the estimate of the judge and jury: God will pronounce sentence on us according to his own estimate of our character ; and the only security which we can have that we shall not meet with condemnation will be in the fact, that on some grounds he will regard it as not proper to condemn us. But that cannot be by attempting to deny the truth of the charge which he brings against us, or by holding him either to be malignant or mistaken.
(2.) To show that man cannot deny the truth of what is alleged against him as a violator of the law, it may be observed, secondly, that so far from obeying the perfect law of God, he has failed of yielding perfect obedience to the very lowest rules of morality. The standard at which man aims is in general low enough, and might be supposed sufficiently accommodating to satisfy any one who wished to save himself by his own righte
That standard is, at any rate, at an immeasurable distance from the holy law of God. Yet let a man take any standard of conduct which he pleases, and he will fail in all attempts to show that he has always been conformed to it. Who would undertake to prove before any tribunal that could take cognizance of the motives, the thoughts, the words, as well as the outward conduct, that he had always been honest, true, kind, chaste, or courteous? Who would attempt to prove that he has on no occasion failed in his duty in the tenderest relations of life? What husband would attempt to prove that he has always had right emotions towards the wife of his youth? Who in this relation would attempt to prove that he had on no occasion forgotten the high trust committed to him when she left her home and friends to be his? What child is there that would undertake to prove that he has never failed in his duty to his father or his mother, that he has always been as respectful obedient, and grateful as he ought to have been ? Is there no compunction, when he sees a father dic? Is there nothing
which he would wish to recall when he stands by a mother's grave? What brother would undertake to vindicate all his conduct towards a sister? or what friend is there that has never had a feeling towards his friend which he ought not to have entertained? Who is there that would undertake to say that he has never failed in the duty of perfect honesty and truth in the transactions of business ? Nay, to come down to a lower standard, Who, professing to be governed by the laws of honour, would venture, when he comes to die, to stake his eternal welfare on the fact that he has never failed of perfect conformity to that arbitrary code? Who that professes to be governed by the rules of etiquette would attempt to maintain that those laws have always been perfectly observed? Let a man choose his own standard of action ; let him refer to any code by which he professes to regulate his conduct; would he be willing that every thought, and word, and feeling, and action of his life should be brought out to noonday, and that his eternal welfare should be determined by the issue of the question, whether he had or had not been perfectly conformed to that code? If not, how shall he vindicate himself from the charge of sin? And if he cannot vindicate himself in reference to these low and imperfect standards, how shall he stand acquitted of the charge of having violated the high and holy law of God? That, he has never made a standard or rule of life. That, he has never attempted to obey. The love to his Maker which that requires, he has never once attempted to exercise. The holy duties which that enjoins, he has never endeavoured to perform. Its sacred injunctions he has never thought of bearing with him to the relations of life, to the counting-room, to the circles of his friendship, or to the scenes of his amusement. How, then, will he proceed in attempting to show that the charges of guilt brought against him are not true?
(3.) The charges which are brought against man by his Maker are sustained by all the facts of history. What ground would that man take, who should attempt to show that the accusations in the Bible against the race, that it is sinful and prone to evil are unfounded and false ? On what would he base his argument? To what part of the world, to what historic monument, to what recorded opinions would he turn? Men often feel that the account in the Bible of the character of man, of the human heart, of the tendency of our nature, is harsh and gloomy. They are inclined to think better of the race, and to suppose that the views in the Bible must have been derived from the observation of man in a peculiarly dark age of the world, or were the result of feelings bordering on misanthropy. They think that man is better than he is there represented; or at least that by certain modifications in society he reaches a state where that description does not apply to him. On this account it is felt that the charge is one that cannot be sustained ; and that it is not true now, that all hope of salvation on the ground of an upright life is cut off. But let a few indisputable facts be submitted to candid men. (a) One is, that the historic account of human conduct in the Bible is no worse than in other records. The narration of crimes, of wars, of ambition, of carnage, of blood, of sensuality, of venality, of political profligacy or corruption of manners there, is no worse than is to be found in Livy or Suetonius, in Gibbon or Hume. Every crime recorded in the sacred narrative has more than one parallel in the records of profane history; and every sentiment there expressed about man can be confirmed by any number of testimonies that the most sceptical could demand. The world has been many a time in a state like that described by Moses as the cause of the deluge; and the earth now bears up many a city where all the crimes on account of which Sodom was overthrown still have an exist
Herculaneum and Pompeii have been revealed, by the monuments exposed to human view from beneath the ashes that covered them, to have been as corrupt, and corrupt in the same sense, as the cities of the plain ; and a single one of the capitals of Europe embosoms probably now more revolting sins than they all. There is not an instance of fraud, corruption, or villany, attributed to man in the Bible, which has not its parallel in the present age of the world. The instances of depravity whose deeds are recorded in the Bible find abundant parallels in profane history; and not one of the men of guilt there referred to surpasses in wickedness the names of Nero, or Tiberius, of Alexander VI., or his wretched son, of Henry VIII., or Charles II. ; or of the leaders of the French Revolution. (6) The account contained in the Bible of human depravity is sustained by the opinions of the sober and reflecting in all ages. Those who have given themselves to the contemplation of the condition of the world, have seen in it the sad tendency to depravity in human nature, lamented it, and sought to correct it, and yet the current of iniquity has swept over every barrier which man could erect against it, and sweeps on unchecked from age to age. (c) The same view of the human character has been taken by wicked men themselves. Byron had no confidence in human virtue ; Walpole said that every man had his price; Chesterfield regarded all virtue as false and hollow; Robespierre and Danton
acted under the belief that every man deserved the guillotine. And (d) every man acts on the presumption that every other man is a sinner, and that no confidence can be placed in him without securities; and expects that every other one will regard himself in the same light. His security is not in human virtue, but in vaults, and bars, and locks, and bonds; and he himself expects to be treated by every other man as if he had the same character. His head neither hangs down with shame, nor do his eyes flash with indignation, when he is asked for security that he will pay an honest debt, or when he is told in a bank, or on exchange, that no individual or corporation will trust him without having some other security besides himself that he is a safe and honest man. In these circumstances, how can man go before God and attempt to justify himself on the pretext that the charges against him are not true? Can he take the ground that his Maker is mistaken, or that he has maliciously brought a false accusation?
(4.) There is but one other observation which it is necessary to make on this part of the subject. It is, that conscience sustains the truth of all the charges which are brought against
Man exhibits this very strange and remarkable characteristic, that he often frames an argument to show that the race is not as guilty as it is accused of being, and perhaps succeeds in convincing others, but still his argument does nothing to affect the proof as it lies in his own soul. There is that within himself which is to him overpowering demonstration that his arguments are all false, and that the charges against him are true. God has so formed the soul, that he has there at all times what may be summoned forth, at his pleasure, as a living witness that all that he has charged on man is true, and that shall render nugatory in a moment all the reasonings of men about the uprightness of their own hearts. This proof is found in a man's own conscience. This is a device by which man himself is made to coincide with and confirm the views of the Almighty ; to approve where he approves, to condemn where he condemns. It stands apart from the deductions of reason; is little affected by the arguments which men may employ; is susceptible of being called up to give judgment at
to give judgment at any time; often pronounces sentence against the favourite opinions of the man himself; and when unbiassed, uniformly declares judgment in favour of right, and condemns what is wrong, and is always on the side of God and his claims. This mysterious and wonderful power is wholly under the Divine control. No matter what may be the cherished opinions of man; no matter how he may call in question the correctness of the Divine testimony against human conduct, and no matter how reluctant man may be to admit the impossibility of being saved by his own works ; God has power at any moment to summon the mind itself to sustain his own account of the state of the heart, and to put it into such a condition as to leave not a shadow of doubt that all that he has said respecting its depravity is true. It requires all the art of a sinner to keep the voice of conscience silent, and to save himself from its rebukes. Well he knows that if suffered to speak out, it will be in tones of deep condemnation. It often does speak out. In solitude ; in the silence of the night; under the preaching of the gospel ; when the mind in its lonely musings runs back, by some mysterious law of association, to the past; in a revival of religion ; on a bed of sickness, or in the prospect of death,--conscience often utters its voice in tones that are so distinct that they can neither be misunderstood nor suppressed. These are circumstances where man is most likely to judge according to truth ; and in such circumstances, he is so made as to feel, without a doubt, that the judgment pronounced by conscience is in accordance with that of the Most High, and that the views pressed upon his conscience then about his own character, are those which will be confirmed by the sentence of the final Judge.
“ In thoughts from the visions of the night,” said an ancient sage, “when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker ? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly : how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth ?" Job iv. 13-19,
I have concluded but one part of my argument, having aimed to show that man cannot justify himself before God by taking the ground that the facts are not as charged upon him, or that he has not in fact violated the law of God. This has been shown by these considerations :—that it is impossible to believe that God would bring a false charge against man ; that, as a matter of fact, man fails of perfect conformity to the very lowest standard of morals; that the account in the Bible of the human character is confirmed by all the records elsewhere existing of the character of man; and that when man hias denied the charges against him, conscience comes in to confirm the accusations and the decisions of the Almighty,