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following passages: "Who, knowing the judgment ofGod, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, do the same;" Rom. i. 32. And "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat;" Rom. xiv. 22, 23.
Again it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against "public or private admonition." For we read, He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy;" Prov.
Here let us pause and reflect, whether these aggravations are not chargeable upon us. Have not we sinned against means, mercies, judgments, the light of nature, conviction of conscience, and public and private admonition? We have enjoyed many means of knowing our duty. We have our duty clearly revealed to us. We enjoy not only the light of nature in common with the Heathen; and the Scriptures of the Old Testament in common with the Jews; and the instructions of Christ in common with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; but we enjoy also the instructions of the inspired Apostles; and all the additional light, which from that time to the present, has been shed upon the Scriptures, by the fulfilment of prophecy, and by the labours of the pious and learned. We have not those prejudices to oppose the reception of the gospel, which the inhabitants of Capernaum had. For we have been educated in the belief of it. We have the gospel preached to us, in season and out of season. Most of us have been devoted to God in baptism, and have the seal of his covenant upon us, and thus have been brought into connexion with that body, to which" pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the service of God, and the promises;" Rom. ix. 4. Many of us have been blessed with pious parents, who not only dedicated us to God in baptism; but also have endeavoured by their pious instructions and example, by their wholesome reproofs and corrections, and by their earnest prayers, to bring us up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We have been the subjects of innumerable mercies, temporal and spiritual, personal, domestic, social, civil and religious; and in infancy, childhood, youth, and riper years. Many of us have also
been visited with judgments. We have all been instructed by the judgments of God upon others, and in the world around us. To many of us afflictions have been brought home. We have been disappointed in our pursuits; our friends have sickened and died; our own health has been taken away, and we have been brought to the brink of the grave, and the border of eternity.And some of you have had your consciences awakened, to reprove you for sin, and to fill your souls with alarm, under a sense of your condition as sinners.
How have we acted under all these means, mercies, judgments, admonitions, and convictions? Have we continued in sin, and remained impenitent amidst them all? If so, our guilt is very aggravated. Like Capernaum, we are exalted to heaven; and in some respects we are privileged above Capernaum. Peculiarly dreadful will be our doom, if we should be lost. Like Capernaum, we shall be cast down to a deeper hell; and it will be far more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for us. And this we have reason to fear will be the dreadful end of many in this place. All the means you have enjoyed, all the mercies you have received, all the judgments with which you have been visited, all the public and private admonitions which have been given you, and all the convictions of conscience you have had, if you should die impenitent, will rise up in judgment against you, and condemn you, and aggravate your guilt and future misery.
We proceed to the consideration of other aggravations of sins.
It is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against the "censures of the church and civil punishments." "If he neglect to hear the church (said Christ) let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican;" Mat. xviii. 17. Both church censures and civil punishments are calculated to restrain men, and to lead them to repentance; and it is therefore an aggravation of sin, if committed against these restraints.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against" our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God,or men." There are many who pray against sin, and then commit it. This is an aggravation, as it is mocking God, contradicting our prayers, and
breaking through the additional restraints, by them imposed. There are many also who make resolutions and promises of amendment, and yet continue in sin in opposition to them. Hereby they break through greater restraints, and add to their other sins, the sin of violating resolutions and promises. That acting in opposition to our prayers, and breaking our resolutions and promises, are aggravations of sins, are proved by the declaration of the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews. They, calling God to witness, promised, if the prophet would pray for them, they would obey the answer the Lord should give concerning them. But they brake their promises. Therefore Jeremiah denounced the judgments of God against them. "Now therefore," that is, because ye have broken your promises "know certainly that ye shall die by the sword &c;" Jer. xLii. 22. «Have none of you, my hearers, been guilty of thus acting in opposition to your prayers, and violating your purposes and promises? Especially have not some of you in the hour of sickness and distress formed purposes, and made promises which you have not kept? If you continue impenitent they will rise up in judgment against you, and aggravate your doom.
Are there not also, many present who are under vows to God, and who have entered into covenant, and engagements with him; who have violated their vows, and covenant, and engagements? The sins of such are greatly aggravated. For we read, "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay;" Eccl. v. 5. And forgetting the covenant of God, and covenant-breaking, whether towards God or men, are mentioned in Scripture as great sins. They who have offered their children in baptism have made vows unto God, and have entered into covenant and engagements. Have not some of you, my hearers, violated your vows, covenant and engagements in this respect. You vowed and engaged to God to bring up your children in his nurture and admonition. Have you done it? And are you doing it? If not, your sin is greatly aggravated by the breach of vows, covenant, and engagements, of which you have been guilty. Baptismal vows and engagements brethren, will in the great day be seen to be, not an unmeaning form, but a solemn business.
Those again who have come to the table of the Lord,
are under vows, have entered professedly into covenant with God, and are under most solemn engagements to him. Sin in such is greatly aggravated, by the violation of vows, covenant, and engagements, with which it is attended.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if it be done" deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance." To sin deliberately, that is with forethought and contrivance; and to sin wilfully, that is with the full bent of the will, are certainly great aggravations of sin. Sin under such circumstances is certainly far worse, than when committed from the impulse of the moment, under strong temptation, and before a person has time to reflect. To this purpose the Psalmist spake, when he said of the wicked man, "He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil;" Ps. xxxvi. 4.
Presumption, that is, rushing into sinful actions in a daring manner, when judgment, and conscience, and the word of God are clearly known to oppose, is defying God, and is certainly a very great aggravation of sin. To this purpose is the passage, Num. xv. 30; "The soul that doeth aught presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people."
Impudence or committing sin without shame, and boasting of it, either, while in the commission or afterwards, are certainly very aggravating circumstances. Our own feelings prove this; and also the following passage of Scripture spoken in relation to the degenerate Israelites. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; therefore shall they fall among them that fall" Jer. vi. 15.
Malice, or doing wickedness from hatred to any one, and a desire or design to injure them; or from hatred to God, and a design to injure his cause, is another great aggravation of sin. Malice is spoken of in Scripture; as one of the greatest sins, and therefore those sins which are committed through malice must hereby be greatly aggravated.
Frequency in sin is also an aggravation. By human laws a man is accounted more guilty for a second or repeated offence of the same kind, than for the first, and is more severely punished. And it was mentioned by the Lord as an aggravation of the sins of Israel in the wilderness, that they had tempted him ten times; Num. xiv. 22.
Obstinacy also, that is to sin, in opposition to reasons and arguments, with a determination not to be influenced by them, is a great aggravation of sin. In proof of this is the following text: "They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone. Therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts;" Zech. vii. 11, 12.
To sin with delight, or to take pleasure in the commission of sin is also another aggravation. This is much worse than to do it through the strength of temptation, while we disapprove of it, and struggle against it.
Continuance in sin is also an aggravation. It is much worse to persevere in a course of sin, than to commit it occasionally. Thus Jeremiah speaking of the degenerate Jews said; "They proceed from evil to evil: and weary themselves to commit iniquity;" Jer. ix. 3, 5.
Again, relapsing after repentance, or committing a sin, after we have felt deep compunction and sorrow on account of a former commission of it, is a great aggravation. This we are taught by several passages of Scripture of a similar import with the following. "If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning;" 2 Pet. ii. 20.
We proceed to the consideration of the
IV. Class of aggravations of sin; viz.: circumstances of time and place.
"If on the Lord's day, or other times of divine worship; er immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages. If in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled."
An action which would be sinful on any day becomes more so when committed on the Lord's day; because in this case it is a complication of wickedness, including, in addition to what would be sin on any other day, the profanation of the Sabbath.