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to adjust and settle their accounts with men, why not take time to settle their accounts with God.
Go through the several stages of your life. Neglect not to look into your birth and infancy. "Behold, says David, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Behold and remember the sins of childhood. For childhood and youth are vanity. Sins may be committed in childhood, which will find out the sinner long after. Cast up the sins of youth, it is a time of heedlessness and rashness, in which often much sorrow and misery is laid up for the time to come. "Know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." Follies of youth may be the burden of old age, and must reckon for them precisely with God here or hereafter. Survey the sins of middle age. "Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." And let the sins of old age be narrowly examined.
Search into the several corners of your conversation. Examine your way in your dealing with God and men. Look how you have carried in respect of the duties of religion towards your Creator; of sobriety with respect to yourself; of righteousness with respect to your neighbour. Trace your way in the several relations in which you stand, how you have behaved as a husband, wife, parent, child, servant, master, subject, church-member. How have you behaved alone and in company. What you have done for God's honour, and the good of others in the world. Ask yourselves particularly, In what case is your salvation work? What progress have you made in the work of your day and generation?
2. Search out particularly those sins in you that have been most dishonouring to God, and shocking to your conscience, whether secret or open. For these will most readily give you a fearful meeting if you do not prevent them. No matter though they be of an old date, for when the conscience is roused, they will be fresh and lively in respect of the sting. All sins deserve wrath, and will bring it if not pardoned; but some are more heinous in the sight of God than others, which providence useth to write over in the particular strokes sent for them. Therefore as ever you would prevent this, search them out till you find them.
3. Search out the several steps and outbreakings of that sin, with which you have been most easily beset and led astray. "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth most easily beset us." That is the special idol of jealousy, which provoketh God to jealousy, and which a holy providence ordinarily makes sinners smart for in a remarkable manner. So that as it has been a peculiar grief to his Spirit, he makes it also some time or other a peculiar grief to the
sinner's heart. Thus Eli's softness to his children, which seems to have been his weak side, found him out very terribly at length. God may pardon his own people's weaknesses, and yet may cause them remarkably smart for them, by taking vengeance on their inventions. So that in that respect horror may take hold upon them. 4. Search into those sins which you thus discover. Let us search and try our ways. Open them up and look into the lurking evil that is in them. When the serpent is found, rip it up to see where the poison lies. "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding shall reprove thee; know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." View them in the dishonour which they have reflected on God, in the multitude of mischiefs which they have brought forth to your own souls, or to others. Notice their several aggravations, the light, love, privileges, and obligations, against which you have sinned. Draw out the libel at length against yourselves, that you may prevent its being presented against you in wrath. Present it to yourself in its native colours.
Lastly, These things which you have omitted or done with a doubting or erring conscience, examine narrowly and strictly, for our opinion of sin can never alter the nature of it. The after reckoning of conscience is often the most true one. Thus Paul says, "But what things were gain for me, those I counted loss for Christ." There are many things in which persons have peace, in which they could have no peace, if they would narrowly examine them. And when they will not do it, God makes their sin to find them out, writing out their disguised sins, in such a stroke as sets them in their own colours, which this search might be a proper means to prevent.
Motive 1. If there be a way under heaven to prevent sin's finding out the sinner in wrath, this is it. "For if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged." It is the way amongst men, for one judge to enter a process against a transgressor of the laws and to discern against him, to keep him out of the hands of one that would be more severe. Take you the same course in your own process. Erect a tribunal within your own breast, place conscience on the judgment-seat, let it narrowly examine the cause and pass an impartial sentence, if you would be safe. If not, the day will come when you will find that your own indulgence to yourselves has ruined you.
2. In case providence see it meet to make some stroke to overtake you, even for that sin or sins which you have acknowledged
and lamented aforehand, yet you shall have more comfort in that case, and it shall be less than otherwise it would have been. "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, the Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." Remarkable is the difference of these two laws, Exod. xxii. 1.-4. "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and shall kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. But if the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double." The reason of this difference, where the sin was more complete, the punishment was greater; where less, it was less. So that there shall ever be found an advantage of taking this course. Lastly, It is impossible but your sin and you must meet. And where there is no shifting of the meeting, sure it is the wisest course to yield to it in time. If a besieged city can by no means hold out, it is the best way to keep things from an extremity presently to yield. "Agree then with thine adversary quickly; whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
Exh. 3d and last. Repent then and turn from your sins unto God. Give up with your sinful courses and ways. Let the consideration of the bitterness that will be in the end of it, move you to put an end to them with all speed. For escape as long as you will otherwise, be sure your sin will find you out at last.
Motive 1. As your sin goes on, your accounts increase, and while they are making one treasure, God is making another. "Thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." None of your sins are forgotten, as long as they are not forgiven; neither are they forgiven while you are going on in them. And it is a miserable office to be increasing your debts to divine justice, taking no proper means to be delivered from the burden.
2. You will be brought to a reckoning for them all. "For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Sin is a debt that will neither die nor drown, but in the sea of the Redeemer's blood. And the longer the reckoning be delayed, it will be the more dreadful when it comes. Judgment that comes slow with feet of lead, strikes with iron hands when it comes. Therefore break off your sinful
course in time, lest your sin overtake you, when there will be no remedy.
As many unrepented and unforsaken sins as hang about you, so many snares and traps are for your ruin. And when God begins to reckon for one, he may reckon for all with you. When I begin, says
he, I will also make an end. It is often with the sinner in this case as with a man when he breaks; all his creditors come on him one after another, when once one begins. And thus the ruin of some is completed, and heavy is the case of others made.
Question. What should one do, whose sin is, or has already found him out?
1. Bless God and be thankful that he ceaseth not to be a reprover to you. It is a fearful case where the Lord lays the reins on the sinner's neck, and will not bestow a check upon him. "And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth," said God to Ezekiel, that thou shalt be dumb and shalt not be to them a reprover, for they are a rebellious house. It is a token for good when the Lord checks the sinner, and restrains him, and causes the serpent to bite him as soon as he goes the parent is most concerned to shown him and frequent checks. fall in with it.
over the hedge. The child whom educate right, gets many faults Despise not your own mercy, but
2. Carefully pursue any providential hint that God makes to you of sins and faults in your way. "A reproof entereth more into a wise man, than a hundred stripes into a fool." Be taught by slender means, if you would not provoke God to teach you by more severe handling. A tender conscience will be taught more by a frown, than others by a heavy rod on their backs.
3. Read the sin in the punishment, and justify God in what he is doing, or has done against you. So did good Eli. "And he said, it is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." So did Hezekiah. "He said to Isaiah, good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken: he said moreover, for there shall be peace and truth in my days." The humbled soul will do this, when the proud unhumbled spirit will strive against a reproving God, and so bring on a heavier stroke.
4. Flee with your guilt to the Redeemer's blood. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin, and for uncleanness." When God discovers your spiritual uncleanness, and we find the load of guilt on our souls: we must go to God, confess our sin freely and fully, and make application to the blood of sprinkling. Then shall our souls be cleansed from sin, by the precious blood of his Son. The VOL. III.
sting shall be taken out of the conscience, for this blood purgeth the conscience from dead works. And there shall be a raising up both in confidence in the Lord, and if God see it meet the stroke shall depart, however the quarrel shall be ended.
Lastly, Forsake that sin. Give up with it and strive against it. Turn to the hand that smiteth and be not like those of whom it is said, "Thou Lord hast striken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return." Return not with the dog to the vomit, otherwise you will get a sharper rebuke next.
Question. What should one do, who is afraid in a humble manner that their sin find them out? That is, that the Lord's anger justly "My soul, says David, trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments."
fall upon them for their sin.
1. Go to the Lord Jesus, the great burden bearer, and lay all your guilt over upon him. Lay the hand of faith on the head of the sacrifice, and plead the promise of forgiving and forgetting. For saith the Lord, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
2. Lay yourselves down at the Lord's feet, acknowledging that you deserve wrath, but begging for his Son's sake, he would turn it away; withal resolved to submit to whatsoever chastisement he will lay on you, saying, "Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.”
Lastly, Mourn over your sin and walk humbly and softly under the sense of it. Faith in Christ's blood and true repentance is the best grave-stone for guilt, that it neither rise on a soul here nor hereafter. Amen.
Ettrick, August 2, 1719.-Forenoon.
THE GREAT DANGER OF PROFESSORS WHO HOLD THE TRUTH IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
ROMANS i. 18.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
It is highly necessary to move men to depart from iniquity, that they understand how heinously the Lord takes their going on in it,