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The same may be said of other times set apart for divine worship, as when the providence of God calls to fasting and mourning for our own sins, and the sins of others. This was charged upon the Israelites as a great sin, by the prophet Isaiah. “ In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning; and behold joy and gladness, eating flesh and drinking wine. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die;" Is. xxii. . 12, 14.
Again it is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed immediately before or after divine worship; or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages. It is an aggravation of sin to commit it immediately before, as it tends to unfit us to receive benefit from the worship of God; and it is an aggravation to commit it immediately after, because it must tend effectually to destroy all the impressions we may have received. Besides we must break through restraints which we have not at other times; and it manifests a greater contempt of God, immediately after having been engaged in his worship, to rush into sin.
Once more, sins are aggravated by the circumstance of the place in which they are committed. It is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed in a place dedicated to the worship of God. Christ drave the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and charged them with making a house of prayer, a den of thieves. It is also an aggravation of sin, if it be committed in a public place, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled. For in this case, persons are chargeable, not only with the guilt of the sin which they commit; but they also become partakers with others in those sins to which they are led by their example.
In the conclusion of this discourse, let us ask ourselves; are not our sins greatly aggravated ? Have not all of us sinned with some of the aggravations which have been mentioned ? And are there not some who are guilty of most, if not all these aggravations? The condition of such must be dreadful indeed. If I address any such, let them be alarmed at their situation, repent of their sins, and flee for refuge to the Saviour, whose blood cleanseth from all sin, however aggravated. Let us all be watchful against these aggravations; and therefore against all sin ; for we
especially, cannot sin without aggravations. And let me again remind you my hearers, that like Capernaum, you are exalted to heaven; and that if you should perish your doom will be peculiarly dreadful. The inhabitants of Sodom, will have a far more tolerable place in hell, than you.
May God of his infinite mercy, deeply impress this truth on each of our hearts; and may we all be led to escape from the wrath that is to come. --AMEN.
DESERT OF SIN.
ROMANS VI. 23. FIRST CLAUSE.
“ For the wages of sin is death."
Sin is here personified under the character of a master, who pays wages to his servants. These wages are death. This is the proper desert of sin. By death in this text we are to understand, not only the miseries of this life, and temporal death ; but also, and chiefly, future misery, elsewhere called in Scripture, the second death. That future punishments are particularly and chiefly meant in the text, appears from this consideration, that the Apostle evidently intends a death from which the righteous are delivered. This will appear from an examination of the context. But the righteous are not delivered from temporal death ; for this they have to endure as well as the wicked. The Apostle must therefore mean the punishment of sin in a future world, elsewhere denominated the second death. This death is eternal. This appears from the contrast which in our text and context, the Apostle makes, between the death which is the wages of sin, and the life to which holiness leads. The latter is eternal, and therefore the presumption is, that the former is of equal duration. “ The wages of sin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life.” And this exposition is confirmed by a great many passages of Scripture, which teach us that the second death, or the punishment of sin in the fu. ture world, will be eternal. This is the wages or proper desert of sin. Not merely of some atrocious sins, or of sins often repeated, and long continued in ; but of sin generally, and therefore of every sin. The wages, or proper
desert of every sin, even the least is death, taken in its most extensive sense.
From the text thus explained, may be drawn the following doctrine in the words of our Catechism in the answer to the 84th Question.
“ What doth every sin deserve. .
Every sin deserveth God's wrath and curse both in this life and that which is to come.
The object of the ensuing discourse is to prove this doctrine.
That every sin deserves a degree of punishment, will probably not be questioned. But that every sin deserves eternal punishment, may not by some be so readily admitted. The latter therefore is the point which we shall endeavour to prove; and this being proved, it will follow of course as the greater includes the less, that every sin, deserves God's wrath and curse in the present life.
1. Every sin deserves eternal punishment, because it is committed against God. That every sin is committed against God is taught from the following instances in the Scriptures. When Abimelech king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah, Abraham's wife, supposing her to be his sister, and the Lord reproved him in a dream, and threatened to punish him for it, and Abimelech plead that he had done it in the integrity of his heart, the Lord said unto him, “ I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart ; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me;" Gen. XX. 6. Here the sin which Abimelech was about to commit, though against Abraham and Sarah, was said to be against God. In like manner when Joseph was tempted to commit an act which would have been immediately against his master, he said, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God;" Gen. xxxix. 9. So also when David was charged by Nathan the prophet, with his sins, in the cases of Uriah and Bathsheba, he acknowledged, “I have sinned against the Lord;" 2 Sam. xü. 13. And in the 51st Psalm, which he wrote on that occasion, he confessed, “ Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight;" Ps. LI. 4. In this passage, David (confessed that his sin was against God; and not only this, but that its heinousness was chiefly derived from this circumstance. Yea, that the sin as committed against God was so much greater than as committed against man, that man was not worthy of being mentioned at the same time, although the sin was certainly great as committed against man. From the foregoing passages we conclude that every sin is committed against God.
God has forbidden every sin, as well as those sins which have man for their immediate object, as those which are more immediately against him. Therefore every sin is a transgression of his law, and a practical declaration that his law is not right and good. Every sin is against the sovereignty of God, and is a practical denial of his authority, and is therefore rebellion against him. Every sin is against the holiness of God; for sin is that abominable thing which he hates. Every sin is against the justice of God, or his invariable determination to punish sin, and is a practical denial or disregard of his justice. Every sin is against the truth of God; for he has declared that he will punish sin, but the sinner practically denies it. And every sin is also against the goodness of God; for all his laws are calculated to promote the good of his creatures generally; but every sin practically denies the goodness of God in his laws, and therefore opposes his goodness to his creatures. Thus the object against whom
ect against whom every sin is coinmitted, is God.
Now one way in which we form an estimate of the greatness of crimes in society is, from the character of the object against whom the crime is committed. Should we undertake to depict a crime in its worst colours, would we not annex to it such aggravations as the following? It was committed against a man high in station and authori; ty, on whom the happiness of thousands depended; he was the most amiable, and excellent of men, mild, generous, just, delighting in the felicity of others, and devoted to their good. This man was the parent of the culprit, and ḥe had been the kindest and best of parents. Against
such a man was the crime committed. This certainly, in the estimation of the world, would greatly enhance the guilt of the criminal; and his guilt would be increased, in the commission of the same crime, and other circumstances continuing the same, in proportion to the greatness and worthiness of the object against whom his crime was committed.
Apply this to the subject before us. Every sin, as we have seen, is committed against God, his holiness, justice, truth, goodness, and sovereignty, and is a violation of his law, and rebellion against his authority. Now God is the greatest and best of beings. He is infinitely great, and infinitely good. Therefore the object, against which sin is committed is infinite ; and hence if a crime derives any turpitude from its object, which as we have seen, it certainly does, sin is objectively an infinite evil, and therefore it deserves an infinite punishment ; for if it deserves any punishment, it must be a punishment equal to its demerit, which, as has been just proved, is infinite. But the sinner being finite, cannot otherwise suffer an infinite punishment, than by the eternity of its duration ; and therefore if sin deserve an infinite punishment, it must deserve God's wrath and curse through eternity.
2. The same may be proved from the obligations which every sin violates. It must be admitted that we are under obligations to love, honour and serve a being, in proportion to his worthiness to be loved, honoured, and served. Now God is infinitely worthy to be loved, honoured, and served ; for he is infinitely lovely, infinitely glorious, and has an infinite right to authority over us. He is infinitely lovely; for he possesses in and of himself, every possible excellence in an infinite degree. He is infinitely glorious; for he is infinitely exalted above all other beings. And he has an infinite right to authority over us ; for he is infinitely fit to reign over the universe, and the only being that is fit; he possesses every possible qualification, requisite to render him completely fit to govern the universe; and he has an absolute property in all his creatures ; for he gave them being, he made them for himself, and they are all entirely dependent on him for the constant preservation of their being, and for all the blessings which they enjoy. He therefore undoubtedly has an infinite right to authority over his creatures.