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A clear and lively sense of sin impressed his soul; he saw himself chargeable with aggravated guilt; in consequence of which his vain coneeit fled, and his presumptuous hopes expired. This is the experience of all who have had true conviction of sin. They see the depth of their guilt; they behold themselves lost ; they acknowledge that they are justly liable to eternal death.
There are few, if any, in a gospel land who have not occasional convictions, some misgivings of heart, some apprehensions that all is not right, some purposes of amendment, some fears of hell, some desires for heaven; impressions produced by the faithful preaching of the word, or by the alarming providences of God. But we must distinguish between these oceasional fears and those genuine convictions which end in conversion. The former generally arise from the apprehension of God's power and justice; the latter from a sense of his goodness, love, and infinite hatred to sin. The former endure but for a season, the latter are permanent. In the former there is a view only of the penalty of the law; in the latter of the propriety of this penalty. The sinner who is truly convinced perceives the odious nature as well as the awful consequences of sin. He feels his own sins, and sees the punishment they merit; he feels some drops of the Divine wrath falling upon his soul; he feels, what he never before felt, that if sovereign grace interpose not quickly, he must be lost for ever. Earthly concerns, sensual pleasures, which once gave him rest, are now painful and irksome. Now his great inquiry is, “ How shall I escape the wrath to come? How shall I be reconciled to God? How shall I save my poor, neglected, perishing soul ?” Ah! he knows what Paul meant when he exclaimed, “ sin revived." Sins that had been utterly forgotten, which had long ceased to disturb his conscience, which he once regarded as slight and venial, now rush upon his mind with all their aggravations. He sees the intimate connection between them and misery, and trembles at the anticipation of the just judgments of the Almighty.
III. In the next place, consider the cause of this conviction. commandment came;" shining in its purity, and operating with power. In this manner only can the sinner be effectually convinced; by the law sent home to his heart, not in the “deadness of the letter,” but in all the energy
of the Spirit.
The moral law insists upon an obedience that is perfect-perfect in its principle, perfect in its parts, perfect in every degree-and denounces condemnation
the least violation. When it is thus revealed to the sinner, in its wide extent, in its high demands, in its rigorous sanctions, it must convict and humble him before God. It convinces him of the nature of sin, shows what a righteous law it violates, what an awful majesty it affronts, what infinite purity it opposes, what rich niercy it abuses. It has also an
awakening influence upon his conscience, and brings him to deep and feeling apprehension. He was before easy and secure, but when “ the commandment comes," he is roused from his slumbers—startled by the view which it presents of the impurity of his heart, and the sinfulness of his life.
There is another intention of the law equally useful; it “ reveals the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Having set before the sinner his innumerable offences and enormous guilt, it denounces the doom which he deserves ; it unsheaths the sword of justice, and threatens him with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” And then, when his heart is wounded, and when he looks around for some deliverer from “ the wrath to come,” he learns that the law can give him no salvation; it only thunders in his ear the dreadful sentence, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
But let us remember that this power which the law has is not inherent, but is derived solely from the Spirit of God. Without his influence it never did, and never can savingly convince the soul. It is the sword that pierces the heart, but the Holy Spirit must wield it. When the sinner is enlightened by that Spirit, then “the law enters, that the offence may abound;" that he may perceive the multitude of his iniquities, the impurity of his heart, the utter imperfection of his best services. Thus “ the commandment comes,” to accuse, to convict, and to condemn; to prepare him for the reception of the Mediator's righteousness; to drive him to the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. "By the law," saith the apostle, “is the knowledge of sin." " I, through the law," saith the same apostle, “ am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”
In applying this subject to practical purposes, I remark,
1. It teaches us that we may live in this world without apprehensions and fears, and yet perish for ever. Is not this the case with the generality of men? Their conduct evinces that they have no sense of God upon their souls, no preparation for death and eternity, and yet they are careless and gay; they indulge in pleasure and mirth ; they confidently expect everlasting felicity. Do you ask, “ why is this?" Not because they have no ground of alarm ; " the wrath of God abideth on them;" the bottomless pit is open beneath them; and death is continually lurking in ambush to cut them down. The true reason is, they are “ without the law.” They never reflect upon its nature, its requirements, its sanctions; they never hear the awful curse which it denounces; they never listen to the threatenings of an incensed God; they see not the tempest of divine vengeance, ready to burst upon their heads : or, if they do reflect upon the divine law, they consider it as regarding only their external conduct, and not reaching to the motives, the temper, the sentiments of the soul. For this reason they think it easy to attain heaven; they excuse and palliate their sins ; they disbelieve what Almighty God declares in his word. " The commandment" has never come to them in all its purity, in all its spirit, in all its power, as a solemn reality.
2. This subject addresses those who are under conviction of sin.
By the holy Spirit, the law has in some degree come home to you ; shining in its purity, and operating on your conscience. You have seen its demands to be reasonable ; you have heard its curses ; you have acknowledged the justice of its sentence; you have felt the desert and aggravations of your sins. In view of the desperate wickedness of your hearts, your contempt of God's authority, and your rejection of a Savior's love, I hear you exclaiming, “ For these things I deserve to die; I deserve to be for ever damned.” Remember, there is no necessary connection between conviction and conversion. You know it when you open the Scriptures and see the numerous examples of those who were convicted—who trembled--who .wept—but who continued strangers to regenerating grace. You know it, when you look around you and see those who were once deeply affected on the subject of religion now careless and unconcerned. Let such instances be a warning to you, and lead you to beware how you trifle with the Spirit. Your situation is most critical ; your conviction should humble you, should strip you of all self-righteousness, should urge you to accept of the Savior. “ The law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” It arraigns, and proves us guilty; shows that we have come infinitely short of our duty, and teaches us that there can be no salvation by our own works. It thus drives us from every false refuge, and urges us to flee to him who is “the end of the law for righteousness.” Convinced sinner, let it have this effect upon thee; let it drive thee to despair ; not to despair of salvation, but of being saved by any works of thy own. Then you will see your need of a Savior's death ; then, “weary and heavy laden,” you will go to Christ and“ find rest to
3. The subject before us should excite the gratitude of those whose conviction of sin has issued in true conversion. Bless God that you are experimentally acquainted with the language of the text; adore him for his distinguishing grace; and show by all your conduct that you indeed know the real purity of his character, that you indeed feel the true nature of sin. Though the law has “no condemnation” for you if you be “ in Christ Jesus”—yet as a rule of life it is still binding, and has lost none of its authority. Having driven you to the Savior for salvation, it serves as a rule for your conduct, and shows you how to order your conversation and to adorn your profession ; how to glorify God and express your gratitude to Christ. You are bound to observe it in every tittle ; to render to it perfect obedience. Love then the law-pay the highest regard to it, and “ delight in it after the inner man.” Such obedience will be a constant testimony of your gratitude to God, and of your concern for his glory. If any man pretend to be justified by Christ, to love his name, and to enjoy communion with him, who does not habitually regard his commands, “ he is a liar, and the truth is not in him ;" for our Lord says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words."
Finally; this subject addresses those who are insensible of their guilt. Remember, sinners, it is the law of God you are contemning; that immutable law which is the transcript of the divine perfections ; that holy law which has broken the hearts of thousands, and driven them to the only citadel of safety, the Lord Jesus Christ. I tell you, upon the authority of him “who cannot lie,” that you are under the curse of this law; daily, hourly exposed to the infinite wrath of Almighty God. From your childhood you have been in this awful state. The cloud of divine vengeance, big with awful thunder, has long been hovering over you, and nothing but the restraining hand of God's sovereignty has prevented it from suddenly bursting upon you.
But this wonderful forbearance cannot always continue; . the sentence, denounced, may soon be executed: acknowledge then and feel your dreadful guilt, and desert of hell ; acknowledge and feel that in strict justice God never has been under obligation to exercise mercy towards you. There is but one way of escape-the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” Guilty as you are, you are invited to this refuge; an opportunity is now offered for securing pardon and salvation; the uplifted arm of vengeance is suspended; the collected wrath yet waits for a moment. Oh, then, flee to that Redeemer who can “save to the uttermost,” flee quickly, ere the majesty and the justice of the Eternal overtake thee. "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, tarry not in all the plain, lest thou be consumed."
BY REV. CYRUS YALE,
SCRIPTURAL EVIDENOE OF SAVING FAITH.
JAMES ii. 18.--I will show thee my faith by my works. The mode of instruction here proposed is the philosophical method of scripture. It is to develope the character of faith by the test of experiment. In placing before us this prime Christian grace, the Spirit of inspiration makes little use of abstract terms and formal definition, which the learned as well as “the unlearned and unstable might wrest to their own destruction." As if despairing of success in this way, he takes us directly to the field of battle, where our own eyes may see“ the good fight of faith” in various circumstances; he points to some peculiarly distinguished in the spiritual warfare; shows us their many and brilliant victories; and thus gives us the most correct and vivid impressions of a genuine faith: he shows us what it is by its works. Adopting the same course, we may notice,
1. SOME OF THE OPERATIONS OF FAITH IN VARIOUS SITUATIONS FITTED TO BRING OUT ITS NATURE ; AND
II. SOME OF ITS LEADING FEATURES AS THUS DEVELOPED.
On the former point, the records of scripture are very ample. They exhibit faith triumphing gloriously over the strongest principles of depraved nature, and resisting alike the allurements and threatenings of a wicked world.
It triumphs over that deep-rooted feeling, the dread of ridicule. For proof, look back and see a man employed in constructing a large vessel, as if he really expected a flood of waters to cover the earth, and drown its guilty inhabitants. He dares to be singular. He takes his right-forward course in the face of public opinion. He spares neither time nor property in an entreprise which draws upon him the laugh of the world. And he prosecutes his purpose for the long period of “one hundred and twenty years." What could have prompted him onward? The Bible informs us.“ By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." Ile was more afraid of the coming deluge than of the present sneer of the multitude. He believed God, and so his faith was victorious.
Is the love of home and of country powerful? Does it reign in every heart? Still we see Abraham tearing himself away from home, and kindred, and country, strong as were his attachments. God has promised him “ a better country," and bidden him depart. He believes the promise -commits himself cheerfully to the divine guidance, and goes forth, he knows not whither. His faith triumphs over the tenderest ties.
Is paternal affection a very influential principle? Is it peculiarly so,