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injurious, becomes, not only a partaker of mercy for himself, but he becomes a useful man to others; he was useful to Paul, and no doubt he was useful afterwards to his old master Philemon; and perhaps many in the town would hear of it, and be induced to "What a marvellous change is wrought in this say, man! How did it come about? Some think that Onesimus himself afterwards became a minister of the Gospel. O what a blessed alteration grace makes, and if it produce a change in a man's heart, it will certainly produce a change in his conduct also.
Further, let pious persons from hence derive encouragement as to their ungodly relations and friends. It may be that while I have been speaking of Onesimus, your thoughts have been travelling to some spot or other, where your relations live, with regard to whom you have reason to entertain fear as to their eternal state. Think then of Onesimus, and offer up incessant prayer to God for them, for nothing is too hard for the Lord; none are beyond the reach of divine grace.
Finally-Let this subject recommend to all men the use of the means of grace. Let it recommend the hearing of the Gospel of Christ. How did all this change happen? It was doubtless by the special grace and power of the Spirit of God, but then it was through the instrumentality of the word. We should therefore be encouraged to bring all we can to hear the word of God; and let nothing be done to discourage the worst of men from coming to hear it, even such as shew that they hate and despise it: yet let them attend. Who can tell what God may effect by the teaching of his Holy Spirit? What is the language of wisdom? "Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." Yet, let none presume upon future times and opportunities, these we cannot command; but this we know that "now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation."
Romans, v. 20. (latter part). Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.
IN and GRACE are two of the most comprehen
are connected with these two things, as Cause and Effect. Sin leads only to hell, and grace alone can lead to heaven:-surely, then, it becomes us to be well acquainted with the nature of sin, which is the spring of all misery, and with grace, which is the fountain of eternal life. Much is said of both these in a masterly manner, by the Apostle of the Gentiles in his admirable epistle to the Romans, and especially in this chapter. To exalt Christ, was his constant aim, and he makes a beautiful comparison, or rather a contrast, between the first and the second Adam; wherein he proves that the grace of Christ was more powerful to save than the sin of Adam was to destroy; and he sums up the whole in the words of our text.
These words naturally divide themselves into two parts,
The awful abounding of sin, and
The superabounding of grace.
Let us first attend to the awful abounding of sin; and here allow me to premise that this is a subject X
upon which we ought to enter with solemn awe; all the evils that we feel, or fear, proceed from sin. If pain and sorrow, death and the grave, hell and everlasting burnings, are awful, then must sin be deemed a horrible evil, for sin is the source from which they all proceed, and let me remind you that this is a subject in which every one of you is concerned; because all are sinners, whether they know it or not, and our sins will prove our ruin, if grace prevent it not, if this grace do not abound above and beyond all our sins.
What is sin? Few it may be feared have right notions of it? To swear, and be drunken, to rob, or to murder, is allowed by all men to be sinful; that which ruins a man's reputation, or injures society is allowed to be evil; but much that is deemed innocent by man, is abominable in the sight of God. Sin cannot be rightly known, but by an acquaintance with the holy law of God, for "sin is the transgression of the law, it is disobedience to that authority, which cannot be disputed: and if no evil were to arise from sin by way of punishment in the present world, or in that which is to come, still sin would be a detestable evil. Yes, persons may think that some sins are but trivial evils. Such, they may suppose, was eating of the forbidden fruit; and what was the evil of that sin, but disobedience against God, a defying the divine authority: and that is the real evil of sin which true penitents will always readily acknowledge as a great transgressor once did, when he said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Sin is an evil not only because it is injurious to society, but because it is an act of rebellion against God; it is undermining the divine government; and therefore it cannot but be hateful to Him whose law is holy, and just and good." We must therefore be somewhat acquainted with the divine law, if we would entertain just notions of sin. St. Paul says that "he was alive, without the law, once;" that is, when he was a
proud self-righteous Pharisee, but, "when the commandment came," when he understood the purity and spirituality of the law, he perceived, that he was a notorious and guilty sinner, condemned by the law of God. Indeed, this holy law condemns all men; for "whatever the law saith it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," and the law thus understood will plainly shew how awfully sin abounds. Let us consider this in a few particulars-" sin abounds."
This appears in the first place from its extensive prevalence. It is not a local evil, like many natural evils, confined to one place, or limited to one age; but, it is an universal mischief; from the beginning until now, it has continued in its full force; and wherever human beings have been discovered, there it has been found that sin has reigned. The Apostle has shewn us in the first and second chapters of this masterly epistle, that the whole world is in a state of condemnation; it is a rebellious universe, the whole species is up in arms against God. However men may differ in their customs and manners,— men who never heard of each other, you will find, wherever you go, that sin reigns.
This appears also from the immense number of sins that are constantly committed. If we include, as we ought, our sins of omission, and our sins of thought, who can enumerate his errors! With regard to the dispositions of our minds, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength; and if we fall short of this, then we are transgressors. How many thousands of sins are committed in the imagination, from which perhaps no external act proceeds; the imaginations of the thoughts of men's hearts are only evil, continually." Gen: vi. 5. From the first dawn of reason, through infancy, childhood, youth, and riper years, even to the end of human life we are offending against God. We
behold the workings of sin, envy, pride, and rage, even in little infants. In short, we "are estranged from the womb, we go astray as soon as we be born, speaking lies;" if these evils be continued for forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years, how are our sins multiplied! We may well say, "Innumerable evils have compassed us about; our iniquities have taken hold upon us, so that we are not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of our head; therefore our hearts fail us." Psalm xl. 12.
Consider, further, the eagerness with which men sin; the earnestness with which they commit transgression. There is sin in our nature; the seeds of sin are in our constitution; but how are our iniquities cultivated by art; they become, as it were, a trade; "the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil;" the scriptures represent men to be sinning as with a cart-rope;" "with both hands earnestly;" and what plans are formed for the execution of it, "man drinketh in iniquity like water," and some "sell themselves to do evil." Their language is, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die," and their sole object is "to fulfil the lusts of the flesh."
In some seasons and in some places iniquity unusually abounds; and persons arrive at a certain pitch of wickedness, beyond which God will not suffer them to go. Thus it was with the Canaanites, and the Amorites; with Sodom and Gomorrah; and with the Jews also; they "fill up the measure of their iniquities," till there be no remedy.
Consider also, the aboundings of sin in the aggravations of them. Some sins are extremely heinous in themselves; others are aggravated by the circumstances under which they are committed; thus, no doubt, Judas, with the knowledge he possessed, was far more criminal than Pilate. When sins are committed against knowledge, then are they aggravated. All sinners are 6 without excuse,' some are more inexcusable than others: and how