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of certain characters spake of them as despising dominion, and speaking evil of dignities; Jud. 8.
Again, sins are aggravated by being committed against such as we stand especially related and engaged unto. It would be a great sin to deceive or betray any person ; but it would be a still greater sin to deceive or betray a familiar friend. It would be a great sin to murder any person ; but it would be still greater, to murder a friend who had always been kind to us, and laid us under many and great obligations; and the sin would be still more aggravated, if this friend was a brother or sister, a parent, child, husband, or wife. That such sins are aggravated we are taught by the following texts; “ Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me;" Ps. xli. 9. "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out and the young eagles shall eat it;" Prov. xxx. 17.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against any of the saints ; for they are peculiarly dear to God, they bear his image, and are his children. And he hath said, “ He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye ;" Zech. ii. 8. And more especially is the sin aggravated, if the persons sinned against, be weak brethren ; for such are not only dear to God in common with all his people, but they will be more likely than other saints to be discouraged and turned out of the way. To this purpose the Apostle spake, “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ, died. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ ;" 1 Cor. viii. 11, 12.
Again it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against the souls of any. That is, it is worse to injure the soul of any man than his body, or to sin against his spiritual than his temporal welfare. Because his soul is far more valuable than his body, and an injury done to his soul is much greater than it it had been done to his body.
Finally, it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against the common good of all, or many; that is, the same sin is worse, when it injures the public at large, or many, than when it injures an individual, or only a few; because the mischief is much greater.
The two remaining heads of aggravations of sins must be postponed to a future opportunity:
Be exhorted in the conclusion of this discourse to reflect on the evil nature of all sin. If any of you have not been guilty of the aggravations, which have been mentioned, do not therefore draw the conclusion that
your sins are small; for although some sins are greater than others, yet every sin is great in the sight of God, and deserves his eternal wrath and curse.
And if sin without aggravations be such a great evil, and exposes to such a great punishment, what must it be if committed with those aggravations which have been mentioned ? Review this discourse, my hearers, and must not most if not all of you acknowledge, that you have sinned with some of those aggravations which have been considered ? Yea, have not some of you sinned with all these aggravations ? If you should perish at last, how peculiarly dreadful must be your future misery ! The thought is calculated to awaken and alarm. Let it have this effect; and let it lead you without delay to fly for refuge unto that Saviour, whose blood cleanseth from all sin, however aggravated.
And let those who have fled to him, and experienced the efficacy of his peace speaking blood, ever keep in mind, that sin in them is peculiarly aggravated; and therefore let them be careful to depart from all iniquity, and to keep consciences void of offence towards God, and towards man.--AMEN.
AGGRAVATIONS OF SINS
MATTHEW X1. 23, 24.
" And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell : for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
The doctrine deduced from this text in the preceding discourse was, that some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others. The sources whence sins receive their aggravations were divided into four; viz.
I. The persons offending, II. The parties offended, III. The nature and quality of the offence, IV. Circumstances of time and place. The first two of these have already been considered. We now proceed to the consideration of the remaining two.
III. Sins receive their aggravations from the nature and quality of the offence. “ If it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins ; if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation; if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, cove enants, and engagements to God or men; if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.”
It is an aggravation of sin if it be committed “ against the express letter of the law.” In proof of this is the fok
lowing passage; “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded ;" 1 Kings xi. 9, 10. Some sins are much more plainly forbidden than others. Of some sins there may be doubts, whether they are sins or not. And although it is sinful to do an action, while we have doubts of its lawfulness, it is much more sinful to do an action, the sinfulness of which is so plain, from the express letter of the law concerning it that there can be no doubt about it. To act against the express letter of the law, manifests great boldness and presumption which greatly aggravate sin.
It is an aggravation of sin, if it " break many commandments, and contain in it many sins.” For in this case the crime is complicated, and a person is chargeable, not only with the guilt of one crime, but of many.
As for instance, simple drunkenness is a great sin ; but if a man when in that state, takes the name of God in vain, and abuses his family, the crime becomes worse. Common sense proves this.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if it is not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, and scandalize others.” Wrong thoughts, desires, intentions, and affections are wicked. For it is a precept of the divine law, “ Thou shalt not covet," which relates chiefly to the soul. And a woe is denounced against them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds; Mic. ï. 1. But the sin is much greater, when our wicked desires and intentions are acted out ; because the mischief done is much greater. Thus it is wicked to covet our neighbour's goods ; but it is worse to take them. It is very wicked to desire our neighbour's life; but it is far worse to take it away. While wickedness is concealed in the heart, it injures no one, but the person who entertains it. But when it is acted out, the example often has a pernicious influence on others; and the act may scandalize others, and may seriously injure them.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if the act be of such a nature, that the mischief done “admits of no reparation.” Thus if we injure a man in his property, we may repair the injury by making restitution. But if we take his life,
or if by our example or advice we ruin his soul, we can never repair the injury. So with respect to ourselves, there are some acts which would irreparably injure us. They would blast our reputation, destroy our usefulness, impair our health, or ruin our property as long as we lived. Such sins are worse, than those which are not attended with such irreparably evil consequences to ourselves or others.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin if it be committed“ against means” to prevent it, and lead to a different course of conduct. Our text and context directly apply to this particular. “ Wo unto thee, Chorazin! wo unto thee Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment than for you. And thou Capernaum, &c.”
It is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed against “ mercies.” Thus it was mentioned as a great aggravation of the wicked conduct of Israel, that they sinned against many mercies.
“Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise;" Deut. xxxii. 6. “ Hear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth : for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me ;" Is. i. 2.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin if it be committed against “ judgments. Thus the prophet Jeremiah mentioned it as an aggravation of the sins of the Jews. “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved ; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction;" Jer. v. 3.
It is a further aggravation of sin if it be committed against “ the light of nature.” There are some sins which the light of nature, independent of revelation teaches to be wrong. These sins are aggravated from the consideration, that they are so clearly wrong, that a person to commit them, must act against the clearest light.
It is a further aggravation of sin if it be committed against “the conviction of conscience.” A person must be bold and hardened in wickedness, to act in opposition to the clear convictions of his conscience. That acting against conscience is an aggravation of sin, is taught in the