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ROMANS vi. 21.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now
afhamed? For the end of those things is death. THOUGH the hopes introduced by the Gospel of Christ are in themselves fitted to support and encourage virtue and true religion, and are only to be truly enjoyed by those who make a title to them by the innocency of their lives; yet they have been perverted to very ill purposes by such as, hating to be reformed by the precepts of the Gospel, are willing nevertheless to put their fins under the protection of the glorious promises contained in it. This policy prevailed so soon in the church, that we find the Apostle stating the pretence, and rejecting it with indignation, in the first verses of this chapter: What fall we say then? Shall we continue in fin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to fin, live any longer therein ? In the chapter before this of the text, he sets forth the exceeding great benefits we receive through Jesus Chrift: that being justified by faith, we have peace with God. That God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet finners, Christ died for us. That being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. That as by one man's disobedience many were made finners ; go by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. To prevent the use which ill-disposed men were ready to make of this great goodness of God towards finners, imagining their iniquities to be privileged, since so much grace had been extended to them, the Apostle in this chapter enters into the question, whether the hopes of the Gospel are reconcileable to a continuance in fin; and shews by many arguments, drawn from the profeffion, the state, and the condition of a Chriftian, that a state of grace and a state of fin are as inconsistent as life and death : since every Christian is buried with Christ by baptism into death ; that, like as Chrift was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. From these reasons he proceeds to others, not of less moment, appealing to the sense of conscience and the voice of reason against the presumptuous conceit which made the Son of God the minister of fin, and the Gospel to give countenance to the iniquities of which nature was ever ashamed, and against which the common reason of mankind had passed fentence of condemnation: What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now afhamed? for the end of those things is death.
These words will suggest to our consideration the following particulars :
First, That the shame and remorse which attend upon fin and guilt arise from the natural impreffions on the mind of man.
Secondly, That the expectation of punishment for fin is the result of the reason given unto us.
Thirdly, That these common notions are the foundation of all religion, and therefore inust be supposed and admitted in revealed religion, and cannot be contradicted by it.
First, That the shame and remorse which attend upon fin and guilt arise from the natural impressions on the mind of man.
It is certain from experience that we can no more direct by our choice the sensations of our mind, than we can those of the body: when the fire burns, flesh and blood must feel pain; and a rational mind compelled to act against its own conviction must ever grieve and be afflicted. These natural connections are unalterably fixed by the Author of nature, and established to be means of our preservation. We are taught by the sense of pain to avoid things hurtful or destructive to the body; and the torments and anxiety of mind, which follow so close and fo constantly at the heels of fin and guilt, are placed as guardians to our innocence, as centinels to give early notice of the approach of evil, which threatens the peace and comfort of our lives. If we are perfect masters of the sensations of our mind, if reflection be so much under command, that when we fay, Come, it cometh, when we say, Go, it goeth, how is it that so many suffer so much froin the uneasy thoughts and suggestions of their own hearts, when they need only speak the word and be whole ? Whence the self-conviction, the self-condemnation of finners, whence the foreboding thoughts of judgment to come, the fad expectations of divine vengeance, and the dread of future misery, if the finner has it in his power to bid these melancholy thoughts retire, and can when he pleases sit down enjoying his iniquities in peace and tranquillity ?
These considerations make it evident, that the pain and grief of mind which we suffer from a sense of having done ill, flow from the very conftitution of our nature, as we are rational agents. Nor can we conceive a greater argument of God's utter irreconcileableness to fin, than that he has given us such a nature that we can never be reconciled to it ourselves. We never like it in others where we have no interest in the iniquity, nor long approve of it in ourselves when we have. The hours of cool reflection are the finner's inortification, for vice can never be happy in the company of reason; which is the true cause why profligate finners fly to any excess that may help them to forget themselves, and hide them from the light of reason, which, whenever it ceases to be the glory of a man, will necessarily become his shame and reproach. No vice is the bet. ter for being found in the company of intemperance, but becomes more odious in the fight of God and
yet how often does vice fly to intemperance for refuge ! which shews what miserable company finners are to themselves, when they can be content to expose themselves to the contempt of all about them, merely for the sake of being free from their own censure for a season. Were it in the power of men to find any expedient to reconcile their reason to their vices, they would not fubmit to the hard terms of parting with their reason for the sake of being at ease with their vices. But
there is no remedy; as long as we have the power of thinking, so long muft we think ill of ourselves when we do ill. The only cure for this uneasiness is to live without thought; for we can never enjoy the happiness of a brute, till we have sunk ourselves into the same degree of understanding.
It may be said, I know, that there have been some profligate sinners who have discovered no uneasiness upon the account of their guilt, but have gone through a life of prosperous wickedness with great fhew of outward peace and tranquillity: I know too, that there have been instances of men who could play with fire, and be very familiar with it, without shewing any sense of pain : but neither will the art of one be accepted as an argument against the sense of feeling, nor the obdurateness of the other be admitted as a proof against the natural sense of a rational mind. Great wicked men are often lost in á perpetual succession of business and pleasure, and have no refpite for reflection. The poor idle finner feeks ease in intemperance ; the more prosperous is kept at an unhappy distance from himself by living in a crowd, and having his hours filled up with business, ceremony, or pleasure.; and both equally live, with respect to themselves and their own condition, in one continued lethargy. But such instances as these are of no consequence in determining the general case of mankind; especially considering that even these are laying up in store for themselves sad materials for reflection, whenever the season of reflection overtakes them; and that, should they ever be deferted by business and pleasures, instead of being objections to the general sense of mankind un