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cesses of judgment, and justice, are pressing upon the man to make him confess his crimes.
Yet there is nothing which a man is less willing to do. And hence arise all the evasions in court, and in common life, to suppress the evidence of crime; all the arts of dishonest trade, and do small part of the wiles of policy, and ambition; and of the perverted codes of morals and religion among men. Hence too the efforts of guilty men, to obliterate the marks of a guilty conscience which God has fixed in the eye, and on the cheek, and in the tremblings of the frame, to proclaim a man's own guilt. Thus guilty youth must proclaim its crime, but hardened villainy shall have learned to fix the eye, and command the nerves, and fortify the cheek against the rush of blood at the consciousness of guilt. And the most hardened villain may sometimes go through society, or rise to posts of honor, accredited as a man of virtue, until his crimes shall be too much for the earth to bear, and an unexpected array of circumstances shall whelm his soul, and his name, in the depths of infamy.
All this operates with tremendous power in religion. There is do man on earth who more dreads an ingenuous avowal of guilt ; who is more reluctant to admit the full charge of God against himself, than the immoral, or the moral man. To admit that he is guilty and lost; that all that God has said of the worst of men, and nothing worse could be said, is true of him; to admit that his heart has been proud, selfish, ungrateful, unsubdued; that he has violated all law; despised all “entreaties;" held in contempt prophets
, martyrs, and the Son of God; and that the eternal home of the drunkard, the adulterer, and the pirate whom he would not admit into his presence, would be the abode fit for him ;-all this is too humbling, and before a man will come to this, he will flee to every hiding place of guilt; adopt any system of religion however absurd ; or associate with any society however much he may despise it
. Hence one class of men pray us to prophecy to them smooth things. Another become angry at faithful dealing. Another, run away from the sanctuary, and seek smoother preachers. Another devote the sabbath to gain, or study, or reading novels, or newspapers, or books that lie along the borders of religion, that they may not wholly fall out with their consciences for violating the sabbath. Another seek refuge in a form of godliness; and another in those places where the Savior is denied, and they are told there is no danger, that “these shall go away into everlasting punishment."
Yet in a return to God, it is indispensable that there should be a full and frank confession of guilt. The very idea of repentance involves it, and the man must be the herald of his own guilt, as far as the knowledge of his penitence may go. It must be made in the face of companions who will regard him as weak, and superstitious; before even parents who may despise religion and its God; in view of elevated and refined society, amidst which the penitent has moved; before associates, partners in crime or amusement; in the face of thoughtless and deriding men; and before the wide world. Nay more, it must be made before the universe, with a willingness that every created intelligence may mark the flowing tear of shame and grief; every eye witness the heavings of the guilty bosom, and every ear hear the sigh of the soul contrite for sin. "God himself, the great Being who surveys all hearts, and against whom the soul has long sinned, is also to witness the subdued and humble tread of the haughty man, as with bending head and a face bathed with tears, and with faltering steps, he approaches the throne of grace confessing that God is right, and he is wrong: and that when he has no assurance yet of his favor, and knows not but He may frown him into hell
. Now it is clear that against this avowal of guilt, there will stand opposed all the hatefulness of shame; all the pride of rank and wealth; all the influence of miserable self-valuation; all the flattery of friends and of men's own hearts; all the pride of station and office; all the incense offered to splendid talents and attainments; all the aspirings of ambition; and all the allurements of pleasure. Where is the man that would not rather climb the steeps of praise with incense burning around him, and the multitude rendering homage at his feet, than be found pleading for mercy with bitter tears like David the best of kings, or weeping in the prayer meeting, or in his office, or counting room? Where is the man that would not rather recline on his bed of down, and seek enjoyment in his splendid abode, than weep with Jesus Christ in the garden or on the mountains ? Where is the daughter of gaiety and pleasure, that would not rather seek for pleasure in the theater, or be the admiration of the splendid circle, than like Mary bathe the feet of Jesus with tears?
3. A third obstacle to conviction of sin, is the influence of false philosophy and unscriptural opinions. These I shall just enumerate. 1. The ancient Pharisee had his system of self-righteousness
, reduced to statute, and entrenched with subtle arguments, to oppose the claims of God. The modern man of self-righteousness has a system just like his, and one equally insurmountable by hu
2. The apostles found the world organized into sects, and names of philosophy all standing in array against the command to repent. The Stoic held that all things by the Fates, over which he had no control ; and of course he had no consciousness of crime. The Epicureans held that pleasure is the summum bonum, and the common interpretation was
, that all pleasure was to be enjoyed, and of course he felt no guilt for sen
suality, and gross indulgence. The gods of the Greeks were represented to be as bad as any man could wish to be; and as the standards of morals among all men will be formed from the character of the gods, they felt no obligation to repent until they reached a point which they were sure not to reach-a descent to the same level of depravity as their gods. Thus Augustine says that “the Gentile gods are most unclean spirits, desiring under the shapes of some earthly creatures, to be accounted gods, and in their proud impurity, taking pleasure in those obscenities, as in divine honors. Hence arose those routs of gods, and others of other nations as well as those we are now in hand with, the senate of selected gods—selected not for virtue, but for villany."* The same thing is to be encountered in all pagan lands; and hence one of the peculiar difficulties of the missionary is to make the heathen feel their guilt. 3. The same thing is true of the false sys
tems of civilized lands. Systems of morals are so framed as to 27 evade the conviction of guilt. This is eminently true of most of
the forms of infidelity. An absolute and decided fatalism has found its way commonly into the scheme of the deist. If he has admitted the existence of guilt at all, it has been only of those enormous crimes which a proper regard to the opinions of men would not allow him to deny. The tendency of the scheme has been to obliterate the memory of crime, and to leave men to the
indulgence of all mad and ferocious passions. Hence France un31 der the reign of this terrible system was drenched in blood, and
men were taught to feel that carnage and lust, were not offensive in the eyes of heaven. Hence Hobbes held that all property should be common, and that a man has a right to it wherever he could find it, the same doctrine that we have had among us; and hence Hume left it as his recorded opinion, that adultery should be practiced if men would obtain the chief benefit of life, and that suicide is lawful. With such views of law and morals, repentance was out of the question. When a man by his very system was allowed the indulgence of every passion, for what was he to be grieved at the close of life? 4. Men often adopt systems of physical philosophy, whose tendency is to destroy all sense of obligation to repentance. One man believes the soul to be material, and of course that he is under no obligation to seek any moral change. Another supposes disease of the mind to be like that of the body; a misfortune indeed but not truly criminal. A man of science will often run his views of materialism through all the subjects of morals. Thought is but some motion in the brain or nervous system. Passion, or emotion, is but a movement of animal spirits. Reason, fancy, conscience, are but some confor
City of God, Book VII, chap. 33.
mations of matter, and in these certainly no man can be bound make a change. Another holds that depravity is the very nature of man. That he is born with it as an original propensity of the same kind as that of the tiger, or adder. He holds that no human power can reach that;—that it must be counteracted by the inlusion of some principle equally independent of the will, of a contrary tendency; and that all his efforts would be like attempting to aid the Almighty in propelling the planets. With such views we call on him in vain to exercise repentance towards God. 5. A fifth perversion respects the doctrine of ability. The man avers that he cannot repent, and while this stands in the way, there is an end of the matter. It would be in vain to call on a man to remove a mountain, or to raise the dead. We might as well proceed to the tombs, and call on their lifeless tenants to come forth. And especially is this true when the plea of inability is one which the man has not made up for himself, but has learned from others in places of spiritual power, and can defend by the endless dogmas of the church, and find in the almost infinite tomes of theology, No man would dare to invent such a plea for himself; nor could he keep himself long in countenance with such a pretense
, if he were left alone. It is so obviously a reflection on the goodness and justice of God; such a manifest violation of all his own views of right, and of all the dictates of his own conscience ; so plainly in the face of the bible, that a man would be compelled to forsake it, if he had not the countenance of some of the better class of 2 christians. I verily believe, indeed, that Satan never furnished to sinners such an obvious, useful, and unanswerable defense of impenitence, as has thus been furnished by the ministry of the gospel. Tell a man that he cannot repent, or love God, or obey him, and your work will be done. The effect of one such dogma will go through life; will shed a baleful influence in large regions of christian truth; and like the tree of Upas, or the Siroc of the desert, will shed a desolation all around the moral feelings of a man, in regard to his duties towards God. 6. Men pervert the doctrine of election and decrees, and either with mistaken views of the doctrine, or by design, bar up all access to their souls against truth adapted to produce the conviction of guilt.
4. A fourth reason why men do not feel their guilt, is found in the fact, that they have different views of sin, from those of God. He commands repentance on the ground of what He believes to be the human character, and repentance naturally results from the sinner's entertaining the same views.
When our feelings coincide with those of God, it is impossible but that men should repent
. Yet on no subject do men differ more from their Maker, than on this. He has declared His view in every possible form. No man can mistake what God thinks of him, if he will give credit to his
declarations. He has expressed views of every man, which no human law, and no poetic description, has ever expressed of the worst of men. To charge a man with being a hater of God, is to sum up all crimes in one; and beyond that charge you cannot go. Yet God has charged this on man. He has done it not as an abstract, and cold proceeding ; not as a matter of poetry, romance, or declamation; not merely to produce terror, but as the result of his profound knowledge of the human heart, and of the secret deeds of every man. He has done it, too, in the most solemn and tender manner. In the midst of judgments, in his threatenings, in his promises, in the dying groans and agonies of his own Son.
We might ask of sinners, have you ever sympathized with God in his views of sin, as expressed in the cross of Jesus Christ? Have you never practically felt, that God was misguided and deceived in supposing that your sins demanded such a sacrifice ? Have you ever looked on the dying sufferings of the Son of God, bleeding between murderers; cursed by men; rejected by his nation ; subjected to the malignant devices of the enemy of God; and forsaken by his Father, and felt that your sins deserved woes like these ? Have you ever felt that it would be right that God should subject you to woes like those of Gethsemane-prolonged through revolving ages in eternity, amid the slow moving cycles of hell; that it would be right in him to waken his “thunder red with uncommon wrath,” and summon the universe to witness your sufferings for sin ; that it would be right to forsake you, and to pour your own soul the deep sorrows of abandonment, as he did into the bosom of his Son on the Ciuss? Have you ever felt that it was right in God to annex eternal woes to crime committed in this world, and that your sins deserved the endless damnation of hell ? Have you ever gone and cast an anxious eye into the world of woe, and realized that infinite despair and gloom were the proper recompense of unbelief and sin in this life? We should not need to pause for a reply. Every impenitent sinner knows, that he has never felt this. On this whole matter he has differed from bis Maker. The sentiment of his heart is that God is severe, arbitrary, and cruel in dooming the soul to penal and inextinguishable fires. Had he the views of sin which Jesus Christ had when he bled on the cross, he would repent. Had he the views which the eternal Father had when he appointed endless woes as a recompense, he would weep that God is laid under a necessity, if I may so speak, to defile and mar the beauty of his universe with the smoke of an eternal hell. With those views he has commanded men to repent. And it is neeedless to add, that while they differ from their Maker, “far as from the center thrice to the utmost pole ;" while they regard sin as a trifle; hell as an arbitrary appointment, a place of holy martyrdom in the cause of injured inno