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I should be glad to leave a single distinct impression on the minds of my readers. It is, that charges of guilt of a most serious nature are made against every one of us. I should desire that you would consider the source of those accusations, and be willing to look at the evidence that they are true. If, as I believe, they are brought against us by God himself, not one word is needed to show that they demand attention. They are the most serious charges that can be made. They come from a source demanding the ear and the fixed attention of those against whom they are brought. If they are alleged by our Creator, they are true; if true, they should excite alarm. They must somehow, and at some period, be met. It will not do to deny their truth, or to laugh at them, or to forget them, or to regard them with unconcern. There they stand written against us in the word of God. They are recorded in the history of our race. They are engraven on our own souls. They are of such a nature that they can easily be made to meet us on the bed of death. They are such that unless they can be shown to be false, or unless the offences charged on us be forgiven, they must sink us down to everlasting suffering. And can man be unconcerned, where there is the slightest evidence that such allegations are brought against him by his Creator ? There are those from whose eyelids, if they had a suspicion that a rumour were breathed abroad in this community respecting their integrity as men of business, sleep would depart to-night. There are others, whose character is to themselves so dear and so sacred, that a whisper about their want of holy virtue would throw them on a restless bed, and drive peace from their bosom. Can you be indifferent when your Creator stoops from his throne and charges you with sin, with open rebellion, with such a character as to exclude you from his favour? Can you suffer all this to pass by you as the idle wind ? Oh! could you see all, your eyes would not know the sweets of slumber to-night; your body would be deprived of calm repose ; your conscience would be racked with horror ; your soul would be overwhelmed with deep and gloomy forebodings. Can it be a slight thing to be charged with damning guilt by the eternal God?
MAN CANNOT JUSTIFY HIMSELF BY SHOWING THAT HIS
CONDUCT IS RIGHT.
Rom. iii. 20.--"By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.”
In the last discourse, I proposed to show from these words, that man cannot be justified by his own righteousness. In doing this, I endeavoured to point out what is meant by justification, and then entered upon an argument to prove that man cannot justify himself before God. I observed that when a man is accused of crime, there are two grounds of defence which he may set up, on either of which, if successfully maintained, he will be acquitted, or will be declared just in the sight of the law. He may either deny the fact charged on him, or, admitting the fact, he may urge that he had a right to do as he has done. I showed that man is charged by his Maker with the violation of his law, and that if he will justify himself, he must either deny the truth of the charge, or show that in the circumstances of the case he had a right to do as he has done. The first of these grounds of defence I proceeded to examine at length, and attempted by the following considerations to establish the position that inan cannot deny the truth of the charges brought against him :-that God, who brings them, could not be mistaken, and could not have brought them from malignity; that man, in fact, so far from obeying the holy law of God, has failed of perfect conformity to the lowest standard of morality ; that the account of man in the Bible is confirmed by all the facts and all the monuments of history; and that the charges in the Bible are sustained by the decisions of conscience.
The only other ground of defence or of justification which man can set up is, that it was right or proper for him to do as he has done ; that admitting the facts in the case to be as they are charged--that he does not love his Maker with a perfect heart that he violates his laws-that he is under the influence of unholy passions—and that he neglects many things which are l'equired of him,- yet that such are the circumstances in which he is placed that it is not wrong for him to do as he has done, or that he has a valid excuse, and ought not to be condemned, His condition, he might be ready to admit, is one that is to be pitied; but his conduct is not such as to deserve blame or punishment. If a man can make this out, he will not be condemned, for God will not condenin the innocent. If man has good and sufficient excuse for what he has done, there is no being in the universe who will look more benignantly on it than God, for there is no one so ready to do justice to the innocent, or to allow its proper weight to all that ought to exculpate. It is necessary, therefore, to examine this ground of defence, or to inquire whether man can set up the plea that he has a right to do as he has done ; to live as he is in fact living. Man is soon to stand before his Maker on a high charge of guilt. If he cannot deny the facts charged on him, he must take the ground that he has a right to do as he has done ; that he has a valid reason which excuses him; that he ought to be acquitted, and that his deliverance should be hailed everywhere with songs and rejoicing, and that he ought to be received to heaven in triumph. What is this ground of defence? What is its value? Will it avail on the final trial?
Here it may be observed, that man will not set up the plea of insanity, though more insane on the subject charged on him than many who have been acquitted by human tribunals. Man has too much pride, and too much confidence that he is right and that God is wrong, to urge this plea. Nor would he maintain that God has no jurisdiction over the case, for nothing is plainer than that he owes allegiance to the laws of his Maker, and that he cannot go beyond the limits of his empire. The points on which the accused sinner must rely, if he would undertake to show that he is not to blame for what he has done and to justify himself, must be such as the following :-either that the constitution of things under which he is placed is such as to make it inevitable that he should do as he does; or that he is but acting out the nature which God has given him, and that therefore it must be right; or that the law of God is unreasonably severe and stern, and he is excusable for not obeying it; or that the time of preparation for eternity is too short, and that too great interests are made to depend on this brief period of existence; or that the penalty is too severe, and that if a man acts as well as lle knows how, though he does not conform to the holy law of God, he ought not to be recompensed with eternal torments. If these points can be made out, man ought to be acquitted. If they cannot, has he any other ground of defence on which he can rely?
I. The first of these grounds of defence is derived from the constitution of things under which we are placed. Our minds, when we set up this defence, go back to the arrangement with Adam, and the effect of his sin on his posterity. The form of this defence is, that his fall, by the Divine arrangement, placed us in far more unfavourable circumstances for salvation than those in which we should otherwise have been ; that his apostacy inade it certain that all his descendants would sin; that it made it certain that the first act of each moral agent on earth would be wrong; that there was a strong probability thus created that all his posterity would be lost; and that all our strong propensities to evil, and our exposure to ruin, are to be traced to this arrangement. If they who rely on this ground of defence were disposed to take shelter under the declarations of Scripture, the defence would be found in the following statements of the apostle Paul: --- Through the offence of one many are dead.” judgment was by one to condemnation.” “ By one man's offence, death reigned by one." By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.”
By one man's disobedience, znany were made sinners.'' 66 The law entered, that the offence might abound,” Rom. v. 15–17, 20. If these things are so, how can man be held to be guilty for conduct thus rendered certain and inevitable ?
The question now is, whether this can be regarded as a vindication of the undisputed facts in the conduct of man. Will it be admitted as a suficient reason for what we have done in violation of the holy law of God, when we stand at his bar ? The fact is undeniable, that man early goes astray, and that he continues to wander farther and farther unless he is restrained or reclaimed. Is it a suficient excuse for this that Adam fell, and that we live under such a constitution that his sinning made it certain that we should sin also ?
Now in examining this question we may admit two things : one is, that our circumstances in consequence of his fall are in many respects less favourable than they would otherwise have been; or that incalculable evils have come upon us in consequence of his apostacy; and the other is, that there is much about it which neither revelation nor human philosophy exjölains. But these are different points from the one before us, whether that act of our first father is a sufficient excuse or apology for our crimes; or, whether we can take shelter under that constitution as a vindication from the charge of guilt. In reply to this, two or three remarks may be made.
The first is, that we are responsible not for his sin, but for our
The sin which is charged upon us is not his, but ours. The question is, not whether his acting as he did will free us from accountability or ill-desert, on account of his act—which is plain enough ;--but whether it will free us from ill-desert on account of our own sins. We could not be held guilty, that is, blameworthy, for his sin ; and if this were the charge, the defence set up must be conclusive. No reasoning has yet shown that man either is or can be regarded as blameworthy on account of the crime of his first father.
Again, the fall of Adam, and the constitution under which we live, compel no one to sin. All sin is voluntary, and there is nothing in which man more consults his own pleasure than in the course of life which is charged upon him. Every profane man means to be profane; every dishonest man prefers to be dishonest; every sensual man has pleasure in moral corruption. It is a great law of our being that where freedom ends, responsibility ends, and there is nothing more universally true than that a wicked man does only what he prefers to do. Nay, the sins which are charged on him are very often the fruit of long and deliberate plan ; and so attached is he to a course of iniquity, that no argument or entreaty is sufficient to induce him to attempt to change his method of life. So voluntary are men in their sins, that there is no argument or topic of persuasion which will induce those living in sin, of themselves, to break off their transgressions and turn to God. A man must take the ground that he is compelled by the act of Adam to do what he would otherwise not do, before that apostacy can be a vindication from the charges alleged against him. Further, this plea would neither be urged nor admitted by man himself in any other case. In all the numerous charges brought against men before human tribunals, in different lands and ages, it is probable that this has never once been alleged as a vindication. To no murderer, thief, pirate, or traitor, has it ever occurred to urge this in his own defence. The state of the world has never been such that it would be tolerated for a moment; nor has the consideration that Adam fell, and that we are under a constitution where all sin, probably ever modified, even in a single instance, the verdict of a jury. There have been men on the bench, and in the jury-box, who have held this as a theological dogma, or as an excuse for their own sins before God; but in a court-room nature speaks out, and no man would venture to apply such a dogma of theology to a decision of the bench. What would it avail on a charge of murder before any court in the world