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ing to their own disposition and choice, unavoidably subjects them to a fatal necessity, a necessity of acting otherwise than they would choose, or whether they will or no. Reason plainly teaches, that things done under that necessity which arises from our own hearts, and that which is against them, are just as different, as things in which we are the agents, and things in which we are not:-just as different as Peter's girding himself when he was young, and going whither he would, and his being girded afterwards, and being carried whither he would not just as different as a man's wilfully murdering himself, and being murdered by another, in spite of all he could do in his own defence. We have seen, that if want of holiness excuses a person in being unholy, and if a disposition to sin excuses a person in sinning, then every unholy creature, every sinner in the universe, is perfectly excusable.

Thus if scripture, reason, and common sense, all concurring in the fullest manner, can confirm any thing, an essential difference betwixt natural and moral inability, the inability which arises from our own hearts, and that arising from any other quarter, is most fully. confirmed. Nor can any one say, that these two kinds of cannot, come to the same thing, as to excusing men, without contradicting the highest degree of every kind of evidence we can have, of any moral truth-He that hath an ear, let him hear.

The Perfection of the Divine Law, and its Usefulness for the Conversion of Souls.


Delivered in the College- Chapel, in NewHaven, on the Morning after the Commencement, 1787.


PSALM xix. 7.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

SOME are said to teach such doctrine concerning regeneration, as supposes that no means can be of any efficacy or use, in the case of the unregenerate. Many, undoubtedly, have no opinion of legal preaching, as adapted to promote the salvation of men. It will, however, very universally be agreed, that means are to be used for the conversion of sinners, as well as for the perfecting of the saints. And I believe there are few who will not admit that the law ought to be preached, for both these purposes, as well as the gospel.

Good men may dispute about words; and they may have different ideas, in many matters of nice speculation: But all good men delight to meditate in the law of the Lord; and all good gospel ministers desire, by

all lawful means, to be instrumental of the conversion of souls. For these reasons it is presumed that the words now read, if properly opened and illustrated, will not be uninteresting, or unei ertaining to the present audience.

The general subject of this psalm, is the glorious manifestation which God had given of himself, by the light of nature, and by the light of revelation. In the first six verses are set forth, in lofty language, the illustrious displays of the divine perfections, in the works of creation and of common providence. The Heavens, it is said, declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, &c. At this seventh verse, the psalmist passes from the works, to celebrate the word of God, as discovering yet greater glories, and as being productive of still more wonderful effects. The law of the Lord is perfect, says he, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

By the law of the Lord may be meant, the whole revelation of God's mind and will, which had then been given to mankind. But what is here said of it is especially applicable to the moral law; and to this only, particular attention will be paid in the present discourse. Two things are asserted in the text concerning the divine law. In regard to its intrinsic excellence, it it said to be perfect: respecting its use, in the present fallen state, it is spoken of as converting the soul. Accordingly it is proposed,

1st. To consider the perfection of the law of God; and

2d. Its subserviency to the conversion of the souls of men.

The perfection of the divine law first claims our

careful attention.

If it be asked in what respects the law of the Lord is perfect; the general answer is, in all respects. Like its glorious author, it is light, and in it is no darkness at all. But since an apostle hath said, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good; it may be proper to illustrate these three perfections of the moral law. more particularly.

First then, the law of God is perfectly holy. This appears in its prohibitions, in its requirements, and in its sanctions. I have seen an end of all perfection, says the psalmist, but thy commandment is exceeding


So extensive is the divine law that it forbids all sin, even in the very inclination of the mind, as well as in all manner of conversation. Human expositions, of old time, had indeed given it a more limited construction; as though, like the laws of man, it respected only overt acts, and the grosser instances of iniquity. But our divine teacher, who was in the bosom of the father, hath expounded it in a latitude becoming the law of the most holy God, who looketh on the heart. In his exposition it forbids not only actual murder, gross adultery, and bearing false witness; but every idle word, every lascivious look, and every first emogion of unreasonable resentment.

Nor hath he explained the law only to forbid all positively evil volitions and exercises; as if no positive duty, on the contrary, were required. As if, to him that knoweth to do good, only not to do it, were no sin. As if bare omissions and neglects, were no more criminal in a rational creature, than in stocks and stones. According to our Saviour, and indeed, according to the letter of Moses, the law saith, not merely, thou shalt

not hate; but thou shalt love. Being benevolent and doing good, to the utmost of our capacity, is plainly enjoined; as well as every thing that is positively evil totally forbidden.

The law is likewise glorious in holiness, in its awful sanctions. It requires sinless perfection, as now explained, on no less severe a penalty than everlasting indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. It says, The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The wages of sin, without exception, according to law, is death. The soul's death; its eternal perdition.

Secondly, I am to show that this law is just, perfectly just; in all the strictness of its precepts, and in all the severity of its curse. These will require a distinct consideration. Both are disputed by the carnal


To the justice of the preceptive part of the divine law, indeed, what can human reason object? May we not justly be required not to sin? Not to sin at all, in omission or commission ?-The only objection is grounded on imbecility. "Were we able, doubtless we ought to keep ourselves from all sin, and might justly be so required. But this is by no means possible for the best of men. There is not a just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not. And certainly to require that of us which is not in our power, is palpably unjust."

The objection seems strong, though built upon weakness. It is plausible; but it is not unanswerable. If the meaning be, that more is required of us than would be in our power were we of a perfect heart; I deny that, in this sense, any thing in the commandments is above our capacity. If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted, in all cases; God's perfect law always accepts it, according to that a man hath. Where

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