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proves it, that habit and custom can destroy the sense and perception of sin. Does the act then, in that person, cease to be any longer a sin ? This must be asserted by those who argue, that nothing can be a sin but what is known and understood, and also felt and perceived, to be so, by the sinner himself at the time; and who, consequently, deny that there are any secret sins, in our sense of that expression. Now mark the consequences which would follow from such an opinion. It is then the timorous beginner in wicked courses who alone is to be brought to account. Can such a doctrine be maintained ? Sinners are called upon by preachers of the Gospel, and over and over again called upon, to compare themselves with themselves; themselves at one time with themselves at another; their former selves, when they first entered upon sinful allowances, and their present selves, since they have been confirmed in them. With what fear, and scruple, and reluctance, what sense and acknowledgment of wrong,

what apprehension of danger, against what remonstrance of reason, and with what opposition

and violence to their religious principle, they first gave way to temptation! With what ease, if ease it may be called, at least with what hardness and unconcern, they now continue in practices which they once dreaded ! in a word, what a change, as to the particular article in question at least, has taken place in their moral sentiments! Yet, notwithstanding this change in them, the reason, which made what they are doing a sin, remains the same that it was at first : at first they saw great force and strength in that reason ; at present they see none; but, in truth it is all the while the same. Unless, therefore, we will choose to say, that a man has only to harden himself in his sins (which thing perseverance will always do for him), and that with the sense he takes


the guilt of them, and that the only sinner is the conscious, trembling, affrightened, reluctant sinner ; that the confirmed sinner is not a sinner at all; unless we will advance this, which affronts all principles of justice and sense, we must confess, that secret sins are both possible and frequent things; that with the habitual sinner, and

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every man, in so far as he is, and in that article in which he is, an habitual sinner, this is almost sure to be the case.

What, then, are the reflections suitable to such a case ? First, to join most sincerely with the Psalmist in his prayer to God, 66 O cleanse thou me from my secret faults." Secondly, to see, in this consideration, the exceedingly great danger of evil habits of all kinds. It is a dreadful thing to commit sins without knowing it, and yet to have those sins to answer for. That is dreadful ; and yet it is no other than the just consequences and effect of sinful habits. They destroy in us the perception of guilt : that experience proves. They do not destroy the guilt itself; that no man can argue, because it leads to injustice and absurdity.

How well does the Scripture express the state of an habitual sinner, when it calls him“ dead in trespasses and sins !" His conscience is dead: that, which ought to be the living, actuating, governing principle of the whole man, is dead within

him ; is extinguished by the power of sin reigning in his heart. He is incapable of perceiving his sins, whilst he commits them with greediness. It is evident that a vast alteration must take place in such a man, before he be brought into the way

of sal vation. It is a great change from innocence to guilt, when a man falls from a life of virtue to a life of sin. But the recovery from it is much greater ; because the very secrecy of our sins to ourselves, the unconsciousness of them, which practice and custom, and repetition and habit, have produced in us, is an almost unsurmountable hindrance to an effectual reformation. SERMON XVII.


Luke viii. 15.

But that on the good ground are they, who

in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

IT may be true, that a right religious prin

ciple produces corresponding external actions, and yet it may not be true, that external actions are what we should always, or entirely, or principally, look to for the purpose of estimating our religious character; or from whence alone we should draw our assurance and evidence of being in the

right way.

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