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phemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." The love of self is here represented as the fruitful source of every species of disobedience to the divine law; and it must be so, because disobedience to it cannot spring from any other source. It must be here observed, that as the law requires no external actions but what flow from disinterested love, so the law forbids no external actions but what flow from selfishness. As love therefore is said to be the fulfilling of the law, so selfishness may as properly be said to be the full and entire transgression of the law. It is just as certain that the divine law forbids selfishness, as that it requires disinterested love; and it is just as certain that sin consists in selfishness, as that holiness consists in disinterested benevolence. And it must be universally allowed, that the divine law is an infallible standard of both holiness and sin.
1. If the transgression of the divine law consists in positive selfishness, then it does not consist in a mere want of conformity to it. The Assembly of divines tell us that “sin is any want of
. conformity to, or transgression of the law of God.” The mere want of any thing is nothing. The mere want of conformity to the divine law is nothing; and nothing has no qualities, either good or bad. There is a want of conformity to the divine law in all material objects; but no praise or blame can be ascribed to them on that account. Their want of conformity is no transgression of the law of God. There is a want of conformity to the divine law in all the lower creation ; but their want of conformity to it has no qualities, and is neither morally right nor wrong. And a mere want of conformity to the divine law has no qualities, and is neither sinful nor holy. A mere want of conformity to the divine law is no transgression of it. It is not any thing that is directly contrary to the disinterested love which the law requires. It is not any thing positive, but only negative. It is no more like selfishness, than benevolence. There is no more sin in the want of holiness, than there is holiness in the want of sin. Neither holiness nor sin can originate from a privative cause, which is really no cause at all. Whatever exists must have a positive cause of existence. If holiness exists, it must have a positive cause; and if sin exists, it must have a positive cause. And if sin consists in selfishness, it must have as positive a cause as holiness, which consists in benevolence. Selfishness has as real and positive an existence as holiness, and requires as positive a cause of its existence as holiness. But it is universally allowed that holiness must have a positive cause of its existence; and it is generally allowed that God is the direct, immediate and efficient cause of its existence. No reason, then, can be given why so many maintain that sin consists in a mere want of conformity to the divine law, but a fear of allowing that it must have a cause, and that God must be that cause. To avoid the sentiment that God is the cause of moral evil, they are driven to suppose that moral evil has crept into the world without any cause.
They suppose that Adam's first sin consisted in a mere want of conformity to the law of God, and had no positive cause. They compare all moral evil to cold, which they suppose is owing to the mere want of the warın influence of the sun, and not to any positive cause.
But what right they have to suppose that cold is owing to a mere want of heat, more than that heat is owing to a mere want of cold, I know not; and I believe they cannot tell. There is not a truer or plainer proposition in nature, than that every effect must have a cause. Sin is an effect as much as holiness, and must have a cause as much as holiness. And if we look into the Bible, we shall find that the inspired writers as often and as plainly speak of the cause of a bad heart as of a good heart, of a hard heart as of a soft heart, and of sin as of holiness. They represent holiness as consisting in pure, holy, disinterested love; and sin as consisting in interested love, or selfishness. They represent God as producing holiness and producing sin. It is no more possible to conceive that selfishness should get into the world, than that holiness should get into the world, without a divine agency. There is but one true and satisfactory answer to be given to the question which has been agitated for ages, Whence came evil ? — and that is, it came from the great First Cause of all things. This must certainly be true, if sin does not consist in a mere want of conformity to the law of God, but in a free voluntary exercise of that selfishness which is the only possible transgression of it. But we are told that all sins of omission consist in a mere want of conformity to the divine law. Though this appears a little plausible, it is easy to see that there is no weight in it. I know that there are many sins which are called sins of omission, and are always considered as criminal. But let us consider in what their criminality consists. It does not consist in a mere want of thinking, or the mere want of speaking, or in the mere want of acting. Idleness may be said to be a sin of omission. If a man who is able to work, who needs to work, and who ought to work, neglects to work, he is guilty of idleness, which is a sin of omission. But n viat Ines 11s ein ansiat? It Ansists Ils freis, roinnarle pillfing 'o in via je kom? le munt diu Or Is TI mind and he in 31 siers: nt iar nang 10 01ce. 10 1px 9:1. 10 niegtion. anoni 1ping ve. Eis PruBNT DJUPY he primant 'n anor 9 is pau" 1 10911Ta ut ii tisupp tience 'n and musession 31' he av at on. E uur tourne on he earnaih. Te great and he Lerte V10 se v tre oor tan hery av vindest. und PTPOPÍ Deurve 10. ramp stepniin nut at 1 an af smisaca. Eat id au 910 ann41 n 1.71Pre vur at encry . in un Umu ar guien et ne av stere! T'es par un estute at per *ption, aurin, arnarienrp, Gr 1.00.00. They ini cesin e 23$7:
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pe 0.3.re av. and not in a mere tint of accion. of more he tena Be thai an most bare as postare a cose as bonitas, Tie opiron et aut mor. T is oricz t a bere prijatve, can, and primary consists in a mere wart of cooErmity to the digme 1a-. is not on very erroneous, but leais to many other great and dangerous errors.
2. If the dinine lax tesir pare, disinterested love, and forholde sehehneng, then every free, volantary exercise of the heart is either an art of obedience or disobedience of the law of God. There are no free, voluntary exercises of a moral agent who ja under law to God, that are indifferent-neither grund nost pvil; or that are almost good and not quite, or almost evil and not quite. The divine law is the infallible standard of moral good and evil, and condemns all free, voluntary exercises which it does not require. Many imagine that there are a great many desires, designs, dispositions, inclinations, intentions, resolutions and wishes, which are almost good, but not quite ; and a great many that are almost sinful, but not quite. And upon this ground they suppose that there a great many persons that are almost sinners, but not quite; or almost christians, but not quite. And they have the samne opinion of themselves. They imagine that they sometimes almost obey the law, but not quite; and sometimes almost disobey the law, but not quite. But there is no such thing as almost obeying, or almost disobeying, the divine law. A sinner never approaches any nearer obeying the law at one time than at another; but always breaks it, by every imagination of the thought of his heart. And a christian
always obeys or disobeys the divine law. There are no venial sins, as papists imagine. They suppose mankind do a great many things which are not wholly right nor wholly wrong, and do not amount to real obedience or disobedience to the divine law. These they call venial sins, or sins that are small and may be winked at, or allowed. But the divine law knows no such things. It condemns whatever it does not require. Every free, voluntary exercise of the mind is either holy and benevolent, or sinful and selfish. Hence says our Saviour, “ He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much." Every benevolent exercise is obedience to the law, and every selfish affection is a transgression of the law. No voluntary exercise is partly benevolent and partly selfish. Nor is there the least resemblance between a benevolent and a selfish affection. There is therefore no possibility of partly obeying and partly disobeying the divine law, by any free, voluntary exercises. The divine law is exceeding broad, and reaches to all the exercises of the heart, and either requires or forbids every exercise. As every sin is a transgression of the law, so the least sin is exceeding sinful. It is disobedience to the supreme authority of the supreme Being. And whoever realizes this, cannot think light of any sin, or make a mock at sin.
3. If every selfish exercise be a transgression of the law, then those are under a deep deception who imagine that they have no sin. There are some at this day, who maintain the sinless perfection of saints in this life. Some publicly profess to believe that they have actually attained to a state of perfect freedom from sin, and have become perfectly sanctified. They not only believe, but teach this doctrine, by which they not only deceive themselves but others. For if they would only view themselves in the glass of the divine law, they would soon be convinced that they fall far below that standard of perfection. If they would only consider that every selfish affection is a transgression of the law, they would be far from thinking that they have no sin, and are more holy than the most holy men whose characters are drawn by the infallible pen of divine inspiration. Solomon says that "there is not a just man upon earth, who doeth good and sinneth not.” Job says, “ If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Paul says, “ I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me:” and he exclaims, “ O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” After this, he expressly declares that he fell far short of sinless perfection. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but VOL. IV.
I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It is contrary to the whole current of scripture to suppose that any mere man since the fall
, ever did, or ever will attain to sinless perfection in this lise; but yet a large denomination of christians publicly profess and maintain this unscriptural doctrine. Though all the Methodists do not pretend to have actually reached sinless perfection, yet they generally profess to believe and zealously incul. cate this doctrine. But their opinion has no foundation in reason, observation or scripture; and originates in nothing but spiritual ignorance and self-deception. This Christ's most beloved disciple has told us. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us." The same denomination of christians maintain that the best of christians, even those who have, as they supposed, attained to sinless perfection, may nevertheless finally fall away and eternally perish. This great error arises from a still greater and absolutely fundamental error which they hold and strenuously propagate; that is, the denial of the doctrine of personal election to eternal life. They speak of the doctrine of election and reprobation in terms that are not fit to be used on any subject. But some may ask, why do you mention these errors? I answer, because the evidence of their falsehood and dangerous tendency clearly appears from the subject I am considering ; and because these errors are zealously propagated near us and all around us, and thousands and thousands in New England and in the United States, are imbibing them with great avidity, at the risk of their eternal interests. It becomes every minister and every church, to contend earnestly for great and essential truths, and to guard themselves and to guard others against all false and dangerous errors in religion.
4. If every selfish exercise is a transgression of the law, and every transgression of the law is sin, then every sin deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come.
The least sin is an act of rebellion against God, the supreme Sovereign and Lawgiver of the universe. Though some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others, yet every sin is real rebellion against him, and deserves the weight of his eternal wrath. One sin is as real a transgression of the law as another, and as justly deserves the divine displeasure. Accordingly we find that God has threatened in his law, to inflict everlasting punishment for every transgression,