Images de page

fire, prépared for the devil and his angels." In like manner he determines the character of the righteous, not from the ftriking and fplendid virtues which they exhibit to the world, but from the performance of the inferior duties of daily life: "Come ye bleffed of my Father, inherit the king. "dom prepared for you from the foundation of the "world." Why? Is it for the fplendid works of pi ety, for building temples to the Deity, or dying as martyrs to the Chriftian Faith? No. Men may build temples, without love to the Deity; they may die as martyrs, without real religion; but becaufe ye have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirfty, and raiment to the naked; actions of life in which ye must have been fincere; becaufe ye never expected that fuch actions would be heard of, and the practice of them grew fo much into habit, that ye scarcely thought it a virtue to perform them.

Secondly, Thefe little fins attack the authority of the Divine Legiflator as much, or perhaps more than great fins. Evil thoughts are as exprefsly prohibited in the Divine law as evil deeds. The fame God who fays, Thou shalt not kill, fays alfo, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart. What fentiment muft you entertain of the Majefty in the Heavens, when his command cannot reftrain you from the commiffion of the leaft fin? Hath not God forbidden the impure defire and the malicious intention, as well as adultery and murder? And is it not as much his will that he fhould be obeyed in thofe commandments as in these? Have you a dispensation granted you to take the name of God in vain in common conversation, any more than you have to fwear

falfely before a civil magistrate? Have you more liberty allowed you to wound your neighbour's character than you have to fhed his blood? No, the prohibition extends to the one as well as to the other. The fame authority that forbids the action, forbids the defire. The fame law which fays, Thou fhalt not steal, fays also, Thou shalt not covet. But you fay, that the indulgences you plead for, are with regard to things in their own nature indifferent. Alas! if you had proper ideas of a God poffeffed of infinite perfection, nothing that he commands or for. bids would appear indifferent. Το you it may appear a matter of little moment or concern, what the ftrain of your thoughts is, or how the tenor of your converfation runs; but when you learn that your thoughts are known in heaven, and that by your words you fhall be juftified or condemned, thefe af fume a more serious form, and become of infinite importance. But if the things for which you beg an indulgence are in their own nature fmall, why do you not abstain from them? If the prophet had commanded you a great thing, you might have murmured against the precept; but when he only enjoins what you yourselves reckon a little thing, what pretence have you for a complaint? In place of being an excufe, this is an aggravation of your offence. With your own mouth you condemn yourself. Can there be a stronger proof of a degenerate nature and a stubborn mind, than this inclination to difobey your Creator, in things that you reckon of little confequence? What can fhow a heart hardened against God, and set against the Heavens, fo much as this refractory and rebellious difpofition, which leads

men to violate the Majesty of the law, to infult the authority of the Lawgiver, to risk the vengeance of the Omnipotent, and to pour contempt on all the perfections of the Divine nature, rather than part with what they themselves reckon fmall and inconfiderable.

In the third place, You may contract as much guilt by breaking the least of the commandments, as by breaking the greatest of them. You ftart back and are affrighted at the approach of great iniquity; the heart revolts from a temptation to flagrant fins; yet thousands of leffer fins, evil thoughts, malicious words, petty oaths, commodious lies, little deceits, you make no fcruple to commit every day. But the guilt of fuch reiterated fins is as great, or greater, than that of any fingle fin. To hate To hate your neighbour in heart without caufe, to take every opportuyour nity of blasting his character, and defeating his defigns, makes you as guilty in the Divine eye as if you had imbrued your hands in his blood. To use false weights, and a deceitful balance, is as criminal as a direct act of theft. He, who defrauds his neighbours daily in the course of his business, is a greater finner before God, and a worfe member of fociety, than he who once in his life robs on the highway. The frequency of thefe little fins makes the guilt great, and the danger extreme. The conftant operation of evil deeds impairs the strength of the foul, and shakes the foundation on which virtue refts. Wave fucceeding wave undermines the whole fabric of virtue, and makes the building of God to fall. The thorns, which at first could fcarcely be seen, spread by degrees over the field, and choke the good feed. The locufts, which Mofes brought over the

land of Egypt, appeared at firft a contemptible multitude; but in a little time, like a cloud, they darkened the air; as a mighty army, they covered the face of the earth; they devoured the herb of the field, the fruit of the tree, and every green thing, and turn, ed what was formerly like the garden of Eden into a defolate wildernefs. Thus thefe little fins increase as they advance; they blast where they enter; by degrees they make the fpiritual life decay; they lay waste the new creation, and turn the intellectual world into a chaos, without form, and void of order, And yet we are not on our guard against them. It fareth with us as it did with the Ifraelites of old, We tremble more at one Goliah than at the whole army of the Philiftines. One gross fcandalous fin makes us recoil and ftart back; and yet we venture on the guilt of numberlefs fmaller fins, without hefitation or remorse. What fignifies it whether you die of many small wounds, or by one great wound? What great difference does it make, whether the devouring fire and the everlasting burnings are kindled by many sparks, or by one fire-brand? When God fhall reckon up against you at the great day the many thousand malicious thoughts, flanderous words, deceits, oaths, imprecations, lies, that you have been guilty of, the account will be as dreadful, and the wrath as infupportable, as if atrocious crimes had ftood upon the list.

In the fourth place, Thefe little offences make life a chain and a continuation of fins, fo that converfion becomes almost impoffible. Often, upon the commiffion of a grofs fin, a fober interval fucceeds; ferious reflection has its hour; forrow and contrition of

heart take their turn; then is the crifis of a man's character; and many improving this favourable opportunity, have rifen greater from their fall. But if these little fins then come in; if between the com. miffion of one grofs fin and another, there intervenes a conftant neglect of God, a hardness of heart, a vanity of imagination, and unfruitfulness of life, you still add to the number of your fins, and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath. Such little fins fill up all the void spaces; fo that, by this means, life becomes an uninterrupted and unbroken chain of iniquity. Thus you render yourselves incapable of reformation, and put yourselves out of the power of Divine grace. How is it poffible that you can ever come within the reach of mercy? How can the voice of God reach your heart? He speaks to you in the majestic filence of his works; but you reckon it no fin at all to fhut your ears against the voice which comes from heaven to earth, and reaches from one end of the world to the other. He fpeaks to you by the voice of his providence; but you reckon it of little moment to regard the doings of the Lord, He fpeaks to you in the Holy Scriptures; but you reckon the precept to read these one of the leaft commandments. He fpeaks to you in the ordinances of his own institution, but alas! how many hold it a little fin to absent themselves from these altogether! And how many of those who attend, think it but a little fin to spend their time as unprofitably as if abfent! He speaks to you with the still small voice; his Spirit whispers to your spirit. He seeks to enter in by your thoughts; but vanity, and folly, and vice, fwarms of little fins, ftop up the

« PrécédentContinuer »