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All sin must be traced to the evil propensities of our own nature
["A clean thing cannot be brought out of an unclean;" and therefore no descendant of Adam can be free from sin. We have within us a secret bias to sin; which, however good our direction appear to be, operates at last to turn us from God. That bias is called “ lust,” or desire, or concupiscence: and it works in all, though in a great variety of degrees and manner. All sin is fruit proceeding from this root, even from “ the lust that wars in our members ;” and in whatever channel our iniquity may run, it must be traced to that as its genuine and proper source.]
This will appear more strongly, while we mark, II. Its growth
Its first formation in the soul is often slow and gradual
[“ Lust," or our inward propensity to sin, presents something to our imagination as likely to gratify us in a high degree. Whether it be profit, or pleasure, or honour, we survey it with a longing eye, and thereby our desire after it is inflamed. Conscience perhaps suggests that it is forbidden fruit which we are coveting ; and that, as being prohibited, it will ultimately tend rather to produce misery than happiness. In opposition to this, our sinful principle intimates a doubt whether the gratification be forbidden; or at least whether, in our circumstances, the tasting of it be not very allowable : at all events, it suggests that our fellow-creatures will know nothing respecting it; that we may easily repent of the evil; and that God is very ready to forgive; and that many who have used far greater liberties are yet happy in heaven; and that, consequently, we may enjoy the object of our desire, without suffering any loss or inconvenience. In this manner the affections are kindled, and the will is bribed to give its consente: then the bait is swallowed, the hook is fastened within us; and we are “ dragged awaye” from God, from duty, from happiness; yea, if God do not seasonably interpose, we are drawn to everlasting perdition.] Its progress to maturity is generally rapid
[The metaphor of a fætus formed in the womb, and brought afterwards to the birth, is frequently used in Scripture in reference to sinf. When the will has consented to
d Isai. xliv. 20. See this whole process illustrated, Gen. iii. 1–6.
e These seem to be the precise ideas intended to be conveyed by δελεαζόμενος και εξελκόμενος. .
i Job xv. 35. Ps. vii. 14. with the text.
comply with the suggestions of the evil principle, then the embryo of sin is, if we may so speak, formed within us; and nothing remains but for time and opportunity to bring it forth. This of course must vary with the circumstances under which we are: our wishes may be accomplished, or may prove abortive: but whether our desire be fulfilled or not, sin is imputed to us, because it formally exists within us: or rather it is brought to the birth, though not altogether in the way we hoped and expected.]
We proceed to notice, III. Its issue
Sin was never barren ; its issue is numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore : but in every instance the name of its first-born has been “ death.” Death is, 1. Its penalty
[Death temporal, spiritual, and eternal, was threatened as the punishment of transgression while our first parents were yet in paradise. And on many occasions has the threatening been renewed 8 — So that sin and death are absolutely inseparable.] 2. Its desert
[The fixing of death as the consequence of transgression was no arbitrary appointment. The penal evil of death is no more than the moral evil of sin. Consider the extreme malignity of sin : What rebellion against God! What a dethroning of God from our hearts ! What a preferring of Satan himself, and his service, to God's light and easy yoke ! View it as it is seen in the agonies and death of God's only Son: Can that be of small malignity which so oppressed and overwhelmed “ Jehovah's fellow?” Of those who are now suffering the torments of the damned, not one would dare to arraign the justice of God, or to say that his punishment exceeded his offence: whatever we in our present state may think, our mouths will all be shut, when we have juster views, and an experimental sense, of the bitterness of sin".] 3. Its tendency
[We may see the proper effect of sin in the conduct of Adam, when he fled from God, whom he had been accustomed to meet with familiarity and joyi. He felt a consciousness that his soul was bereft of innocence; and he was unable to endure the sight of Him whom he had so greatly offended. In the
8 Ezek. xviii. 4. Rom. i. 18. and vi. 21, 23. Gal. ii. 10. h Matt. xxii. 12.
i Gen. iii. 8.
same manner sin affects our minds: it indisposes us for communion with God; it unfits us for holy exercises : and, if a person under the guilt and dominion of it were admitted into heaven, he would be unable to participate the blessedness of those around him; and would rather hide himself under rocks and mountains, than dwell in the immediate presence of a holy God. Annihilation would be to him the greatest favour that could be bestowed upon him; so truly does the Apostle say, that “ the motions of sin do work in our members to bring forth fruit unto deathk."] Advice 1. Do not palliate sin
[Though circumstances doubtless may either lessen or increase the guilt of sin, nothing under heaven can render it light or venial. Our temptations may be great; but nothing can hurt us, if we do not ourselves concur with the tempter. That wicked fiend exercised all his malice against our adorable Lord; but could not prevail, because there was nothing in him to second or assist his efforts. So neither could he overcome us, if we did not voluntarily submit to his influence. All sin therefore must be traced to the evil dispositions of our own hearts; and consequently affords us a just occasion to humble ourselves before God in dust and ashes. If we presume to reflect on God as the author of our sin, we increase our guilt a hundred-fold: it is only in abasing ourselves that we can at all hope for mercy and forgiveness.]
2. Do not trifle with temptation
[We carry about with us much inflammable matter, if we may so speak; and temptation strikes the spark which produces an explosion. How readily are evil thoughts suggested by what we see or hear; and how strongly do they fix upon the mind! “ Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” Let us then stand at a distance from the places, the books, the company, that may engender sin. And let us, in conformity with our Lord's advice, " watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation."] 3. Do not for one moment neglect the Saviour
[There is none but Jesus that can stand between sin and death. Indeed even “ he overcame death only by dying” in our stead : and we can escape it only by believing in him. We deserve death: we have deserved it for every sin we have ever committed. Ten thousand deaths are our proper portion. Let us then look to Him who died for us. Let us look to
k Rom. vii. 5.
him, not only for the sins committed long ago, but for those of daily incursion. Our best act would condemn us, if he did not “ bear the iniquity of our holy things.” He is our only deliverer from the wrath to come: to Him therefore let us flee continually, and “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.")
GOD THE ONLY SOURCE OF ALL GOOD.
Jam. i. 16, 17. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good
gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
THERE is much evil in the world. But people are little aware from whence it proceeds. We forget that at the first creation there was no such thing as evil, either natural or moral, in the whole universe. God, it is true, could have prevented the existence of it: and so he could have prevented the existence of the world itself, which only came into being through the operation of his sovereign will and of his almighty power. It is not for us to inquire, why he permitted evil to exist. Doubtless he will ultimately be glorified in all that he has done, yea and, on the whole, in all that he has permitted, though we cannot exactly say how that glory shall accrue to him. All that we, in our present state, are called to, is, to feel and to maintain that he does all things well: that, however he may permit, he does not do evil; but that, on the contrary, all good, and nothing but good, is to be ascribed to him.
Now it is of great importance that we should, at least as far as regards ourselves, have just views of this matter, since for want of them we greatly err. So the Apostle evidently intimates in the words which we have read : from whence I will take occasion to shew, I. The true character of the Deity
He is here declared to be the only, and the unchanging source of all good
1. He is the only source of all good
[The sun in the material world may properly be called “the father of lights," because there is no light but what proceeds from him. The moon and stars only reflect the light which they receive from him. Thus is God to the whole creation the only source of light and life. There is no "good and perfect gift,” but proceeds from him. In nature, alĩ the worlds were framed by him, and every thing in them was fitted for its peculiar use, and for the benefit of the whole. In providence, every thing is ordered with unerring wisdom to subserve the designs of God, and to accomplish his holy will, yea, and ultimately to further the welfare of all his chosen people
In grace this appears in a still more striking point of view. Every good disposition is formed by him in the heart of man, which, without the agency of his Spirit, would continue one entire and unaltered mass of corruption through all eternity. If we either will or do any thing that is good, it is in consequence of his electing love and sovereign grace --- ] 2. He is the unchanging source of all good
[If in the communication of good he in some respects resembles the sun, he in other respects differs widely from it. The sun, though the fittest emblem that we have of immutability in dispensing good, has yet its changes, both annual and diurnal, and at different seasons of the day and year, casts its shadows in a widely different form, according to the quarter in which it shines, and to its position in our hemisphere, as more vertical or horizontal. But not so Jehovah, the Father of all heavenly lights. There are no changes with him. “With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” To his believing people he is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." True, his light may be intercepted by a cloud: but he himself remains the same: and let only the cloud be dispelled, and he will shine as bright as ever on the believing soul -]
Now that you may see how important this view of the Deity is, I beg you to notice, II. The errors we run into for want of duly advert
ing to itWe err exceedingly, 1. In a way of self-vindication
[This is the precise point to which St. James directs our attention. After saying, “ Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth he any man: but every man, when he is
a Phil. ii. 12, 13. b Mal. iji, 6. c Heb. xiii. 5, 8.