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.“ He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath shewed no mercy.”
Many other texts might be adduced; but these are apprehended to be proofs abundantly sufficient, that, according to the scriptures, deficiency of right affection, and neglect of duty, are damnable sins.
And are not these evidently criminal, according to reason and common sense? Do we not always condemn others, when they have no benevolent concern for us, and pay no attention to us in our necessities and distresses? And do we not sometimes condemn ourselves, for the mere want of those affections, and omission of those duties, which we owe to God, and to our neighbor? Were men accusable of no other crimes than such as these, must not every mouth be stopped, and all the world stand guilty before God?
Several things, I know, are said on the other side: for ever since the fig-leaves of our first parents, many inventions have been sought out by mankind, to cover their moral nakedness.
It is said, that to suppose there can be any evil in merely not loving and obeying God, or in not being friendly or just to men, is to place sin in that which is absolutely nothing.
But it may be replied, that to suppose there can be no sin in deficiencies or omissions, is to make absolutely nothing of all positive duty. Had we nothing to do, for doing nothing we should not be to blame. But this is not the case. We have duties incumbent on us; and therefore in not doing them, there is blameworthiness. The divine law does not run altogether in negatives; as certainly it ought to have done, if in positives only, there were any moral evil. Each of the ten commandments, as they have generally been explained, imply something required, as well as something forbidden. And the two first and greatest of them, according to our Saviour, on which hang all the law and the prophets, are positively expressed. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
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all thine heart; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Can it then be thought, that if we had only avoided the whole of what is forbidden, without doing any of the things required, we should have been faultless ? That if we had never hated God nor our neighbor, though we had never loved either of them at all, we should have had no sin ? God's ancient revolted people were exhorted, both to cease to do evil, and learn to do well. Christians, in regard to their conversation, have both a negative and a positive injunction given them.
“ Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth; but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” And, of God which bringeth salvation teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Have we then done all, when we have left off doing evil, but never learnt to do well ? when we have abstained from those evil communications which corrupt the manners of others; but have never said a word tending to edify them, or to do them any good ? when we have denied ourselves, in regard to impious practices and earthly affections; but have wholly neglected works of righteousness, and all the positive duties and exercises of religion? In a word, are we to think that not to do any thing, is no sin ; and, consequently, that doing nothing, is the whole duty of man?
It is said, If merely not doing be a sin, then stocks and stones are great sinners.
But as this argument goes upon the same ground as the foregoing; so it is fully answered by the apostle. James : “ To him that knoweth to do good, and doth it not,” says he, “to him it is sin.” Moral agents only, are capable of being to blame, whether in motion or at rest. Stocks and stones, having no duty to do, are blameless in not doing any : but a
mals, cannot always lie still, like them, without blameworthiness.
It is said that whenever we neglect any duty, we will the neglect of it, or are doing something which is sinful: that whenever we are wanting in any good exercise of heart, we have an evil exercise in opposition to it; and that it is only for these opposite exercises, volitions and actions, that either God or our own heart condemns us. But I know of no evidence, that the first part of this assertion is true ; and the last part of it, I think, is evidently false.
I am not certain, that whenever we neglect any duty, we will the neglect. It used to be thought there were careless neglects, as well as wilful neg. lects. And I am persuaded that persons are often very faulty in omitting duties, without designing to omit them. For instance; one ought to have visited a sick or bereaved neighbor ; and intended it at a certain time, and never determined the contrary : but when the time came, he wholly forgot it ; and the only blameable cause of such forgetfulness, was his not having a duly benevolent concern for the person in distress or affliction. I am not certain, that when a man neglects what he ought to do, he is always doing what he ought not. He may be taken up about some business which is lawful, and which would have been his duty, were it not for his neglecting another duty to which, at present, he has a more pressing call. I am not certain, that whenever one is deficient in any virtuous affection, he has just so much of that vicious affection which is its reverse. It is very possible that the priest and Levite, in our Saviour's parable, might have had no enmity to the man who lay wounded by the way-side. The only fault represented, and the only one which need be supposed, was their want of charity.
If, however, it were the case, that a man always hates, those whom he does not perfectly love; that whenever a man omits what he ought to do, he wills
the omission of it ; or that one is always wickálly employed, when he neglects any duty; still these are different faults, and he is doubly guilty. Ceasing to worship the true God, is one thing; worshipping false gods, is another : hence the Holy One of Israel says, Jer. ï. 13, “
My people have committed two evils ; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
The arguments now mentioned, are the only ones worthy of notice, which I recollect to have heard or seen, in support of the strange tenet, that not loving God, or our neighbor, or not doing any good, is
Whether these have any real weight, every one must judge.
There is one particular more, which I designed briefly to have illustrated under the present head : namely, that the mere want of a good disposition, in one who has the natural capacities of mankind, is a moral evil.
For the truth of this, as well as the foregoing particulars, I think, we have the concurring full testimony of our best witnesses and guides, on all moral and religious subjects—scripture and common sense. Paul resolves all the darkness of understand. ing in the heathen Gentiles, all the ignorance that was in them, and all their alienation from the life of God, into the blindness of their heart. In the Old Testament, God's chosen people are often spoken of as being criminally stupid, in not having eyes. to see, and cars to hear, and a heart to understand. And our blessed Saviour, who was never angry without a cause, looked round upon men with anger, we are told, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. By hardness of heart is meant, insensibility-an un. feeling disposition—a temper of mind incapable of the love of God, of Godly sorrow for sin, or of any true benevolence. And who is there that has never had his indignation excited, at seeing such hard
heartedness ? Is it not a failing, which may well provoke something more than pity, for a man to be unfeeling, or totally unapt to feel, for any besides himself? Certainly, an unprincipled man-a man of no generosity or integrity-one altogether destitute of an honest and good heart, is considered universally as a blameable character.
But it is time to close the present discourse. May we all learn not to flatter ourselves, until, too late, our iniquity is found to be hateful. “ He that cov. ereth his sins shall not prosper ; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”