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rity, merely for some trifling provocation, or poor worldly advantage, to gratify some base appetite, or perhaps only to indulge a silly whim, is most frightful wickedness. For, terrible evils as they are in themselves, being exposed to them unjustly aggravates them so, as to make often the severest part of their torment. Then to think too of such things, as done to each other by short-lived helpless wretches, that are subject to unavoidable burdens, heavier than they know how to bear: to think of these, deliberately doubling and trebling their mutual sorrows: in direct contradiction to the exigency of their own circumstances, which loudly require of them forbearance, compassion, beneficence; to the dictates of their own consciences, which reproach them for every harsh action or expression they are guilty of; and to his known will and positive commands, from whom they have received all that they enjoy, and on whom it depends, whether they shall be everlastingly happy or miserable: it is so amazing, that no tongue can set forth, no heart conceive sufficiently, the sinfulness or the folly of such conduct. His great design is the good of his creation. He requires us not to obstruct it, but contribute to it. This is the principal mark of gratitude, which our bounteous benefactor desires of us : the principal duty, which our Lawgiver and Judge enjoins us. We, at all adventures, resolve to disregard him whenever we please; and boldly pursue our wordly interests, our sensual appetites, our ill-natured passions, our wayward humours, our wildest fancies, right or wrong, let who will be the worse for it. What notion can a man have of himself, who acts thus : what notion of his Maker, to hope it can ever end well? We are accustomed to it indeed; and therefore may be tempted to look on it
as a slight matter. But our Maker will determine at last, not according to the prejudices of men, but the truth of things. We are disposed to entertain very favourable opinions of our own behaviour: and even when we see it to be wrong, if we are of low degree, we hope to be passed over as inconsiderable; if of high, to be treated hereafter with some peculiar tenderness and deference. But God is no respecter of persons * : the meanest is not beneath his notice; the greatest is not above his power; the difference between them is as nothing in his eyes; and both shall be punished or rewarded according to their deeds. May he therefore grant us all to take immediately the only method of shunning his wrath, and securing his favour, by considering our ways impartially, for else we may believe things to be allowable, nay commendable, which are highly criminal: by holding fast our integrity, so far as we have hitherto preserved it; by ceasing to do evil and learning to do well, in whatever respects we are faulty or deficient: by faith in his mercy for pardon, and his grace for strength, through the merits and mediation of our blessed Redeemer: to whom, &c.
• Acts x. 34.
2 SAM. XII. 13.
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.
In Holy Scripture, not only the great and good actions of pious persons are written for our learning*, that we may admire, and, as far as we are concerned, imitate them; but their chief transgressions also are recorded, for a caution to be on our guard, and a direction, if, like them, we have done amiss, like them, to repent and reform. Amongst all the instances of this kind, there is none more fruitful of instruction, than that well-known history of David's being seduced from a religious course of life to most dreadful wickedness, and continuing regardless of his guilt till the Prophet Nathan at length having awakened him to a sense of it, by a home application of the parallel case of the poor man and the ewe lamb, brought him to the confession, and administered to him the comfort expressed in the text.
There are many circumstances in this narration, which may and ought to remind us of truths, in which we are too nearly interested. But the principal of them will be comprehended, if we learn from it the following points of doctrine.
• Rom. xy. 4.
1. That without continual care, the best of men may be led into the worst of crimes.
II. That we are all very apt to overlook our own faults, and yet to be extremely quick-sighted and severe in relation to those of others.
III. That as soon as ever we are, by any means, made sensible of our offences, we should acknowledge them with due penitence.
IV. That, on doing this, the greatest sins will be forgiven us. Yet,
V. That sins even after they are forgiven, produce frequently such lamentable consequences, that, on this account, amongst others, innocence is greatly preferable to the truest repentance.
I. That without continual care the best of men may be led into the worst of crimes.
David, we are told in Holy Writ, was a man after God's own heart*: who did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him, all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittitet. Such high expressions are never to be interpreted of any mere man in the utmost rigour: but the lowest meaning must be, that he was, on the whole, to a very high degree, innocent of known deliberate sin; and exemplary for piety and virtue, to the age he lived in : when even they, who in some things were favoured with revelations from above, were in others, being left to their own reason, less enlightened than common Christians are now, and therefore intitled to a more favourable judgment. But independently on this consideration, David's eminence in goodness appears from many excellent actions, related * i Sam, xiii. 14. Acts xii. 22.
+ 1 Kings xv. 5.
throughout the book of Samuel : and the Psalms, written by him, are everlasting instances of his fervent devotion, his reverent esteem of God's law, his watchfulness over his own spirit. Nay, indeed, there is one instance in which he appears to have been scrupulous even to an extremity of delicacy: when his heart smote him, that he had cut off the skirt of Saul's garment * Suppose, now, the Prophet Nathan had foretold concerning such a man as this, that in a little time he would commit the capital sin of adultery; and, when the scheme which he had framed to hide it was frustrated, would calmly contrive to murder by treachery the man whom he had injured, intrust others with his purpose, execute it by their means, and triumphantly take his wife home to himself: who could possibly have believed the prediction; or how could David have received the most respectful warning against such enormities, but with contempt or indignation ? Yet so it was : even this good man, even when grown old in religion, was guilty of deeds, which many habitual sinners, though prompted by youthful passion, and unrestrained by the fear of God, would still have abhorred,
And if this was the case of David, then let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall t. Few, it may be doubted, have the same warmth of right resolution; but all have the same deceitful nature: and therefore we must all be continually attentive; or we know not into what abominations we may be drawn. Every man bath within him the principles of every bad action, that the worst man ever did. And though in some they are languid, and seem scarce alive; yet, if fostered by indulgence, they will soon grow to incredible strength: nay, if only left to themselves, * 1 Sam. xxiv. 5.
t 1 Cor. x. 12.