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Ther. The World that is, the Gentile World, or the wicked World; which was abandoned to Licentioufnefs and grofs Immorality. Making no Scruple to indulge Luft or Revenge; committing Adultery or Injuftice, or whatever gratified a vicious Inclination.
Afp. And can You think, that the SON of the moft high GOD, fhould be fent from the Heaven of Heavens, only to tell People that Revenge and Adultery are evil? Or does the World hate a Perfon, for inveighing against Licentiousness and grofs Immorality? No, Theron: the Works, against which our LORD teftified; the Works, which He cenfured as evil; were the very beft Deeds both of Jews and Gentiles. Thofe, for which they approved and valued themselves; in which they gloried, and on which they trufted. This Teftimony, bearing fo hard upon all-human Excellency, affronted their Pride, and inflamed their Refentment; as it seems to have enkindled a little Warmth in my Friend's Temper.
However, as You apprehend fome Injury done to the Credit of human Works, let Us, as We lately promised, give the Matter a fair Hearing.-What is the Standard, to which thefe Works of Righteousness must be conformed; and by which their Sufficiency may be determined?
Ther. The moral Law, doubtlefs; I know no other Standard of Righteousness, nor any other Way of becoming righteous.
Afp. You will, I hope, ere long, be acquainted with another Way. You will know, what that meaneth, which is spoken by the Apostle; With the Heart Man BELIEVETH UNTO RIGHTEOUS
NESS-At prefent, I agree to your Propofal. We will join ifflue on this Footing; and try the Merits of our Caufe, before the Tribunal of the Law. Yourself fhall be the Judge. I will only afk your Opinion, and refer myfelf to your Decifion. -You fee, I am foon weary of the military Style. I had obtruded myself on a Part, which I was not qualified to act; and now resume a more becoming Character.
Ther. If You place me on the Bench, I fhall allow of no fuch Digreffions; but fhall keep You clofe to the Subject.
Afp. Has your Lordfhip then confidered the Nature of the divine Law, and the Extent of its Obligations?
Ther. It obliges all Perfons, and comprizes the Whole Duty of Mankind. It forbids all Immorality, and enjoins every Virtue.-Are not these your Sentiments?
Afp. They are, when somewhat enlarged.- -The Empire of the Law, as prohibitory of Evil, extends both to the outward and inward Man. It takes cog nizance of the Actions. It judges every Word. All the Operations, and all the Difpofitions of the Soul, come under its facred Jurifdiction. It is indeed a Difcerner, not only of the working Thoughts, but alfo of the dawning Intentions; and arraigns them both at its awful Bar. It pierces even to the dividing afunder of the Soul and Spirit +. Not the inmoft Receffes of the Breaft, are too deep for its Penetration; nor all the Artifices of the deceitful Heart, too subtle for its Detection.Other Laws forbid the unclean A&; this condemns the wanton Eye, and irregular Defire.
*Rom. x. 10.
+ Heb. iv. 12.
Defire. Other Laws punish the injurious Deed ; this paffes Sentence on the unguarded Sallies of Paffion, and the most secret Emotions of Refentment. So eminently true is that Remark of the Pfalmift, Thy Commandments are exceeding broad!-Tell me now, Theron, has your Obedience been commenfurate with this extenfive Platform of Duty? Ther. If the Law be fo very extenfive
Afp. Nay, my Friend, You cannot fufpect, that I have stretched, to an undue Extent, the Obligations of the divine Law. Since this Interpretation is eftablished by an Authority, too great to be controverted; too clear to be misunderstood; even by the Authority of CHRIST Himself. Whofe Sermon upon the Mount, is a profeffed Expofition of the Commandments; and maintains, in the moft explicit Manner, all that I have advanced.-So that, if our. LORD's Expofition is juft, it will be neither rash, nor uncharitable to say; There is not a Man upon Earth, but has broke them all.
Ther. Are We all Idolaters then? All Adulterers? All Murderers? Shocking to imagine!
Afp. It is fhocking, I confefs.-But how much more fhocking to true Religion, and to common Senfe, if fuch Delinquents expect Juftification by their own Deeds?
Ther. This is no Proof of your Affertion, my good Friend.
Afp. To be fond of Gold; to be enamoured with the World; to love any Creature more than the ever-bleffed CREATOR; are Inftances of Idolatry †, not quite so grofs, but altogether as real, as to set up Idols in our Temples, or pay Acts of AdoVOL. I.
Pfal. cxix. 96.
+ Col. iii. 5. Phil. iii. 19.
ration to fenfeless Images. Have You always been free from this Apoftacy of the Affections?
Our infallible TEACHER has informed Us, That unreafonable Anger, contemptuous Language, and malevolent Wishes*, are each a Species of Murder; and not many Removes from the Affaffin's deadly Stab. Have You been always meek, always benevolent, and never chargeable with this mental Homicide?
We are farther affured, That the Indulgence of inordinate Defire is, in the impartial Eftimate of Heaven, as the Commiffion of the impure Deed †. And evil Concupifcence, of every Kind, violates that facred Precept, Thou shalt not covet. Has your Will
+ Matt. v. 28.
Matt. v. 22. Rom. vii. 7. Afpafio's Obfervation brings to my Remembrance a remarkable Incident; which, as it is quite pertinent to our Purpofe, the Reader will allow me to relate. It paffed between a Friend of mine, and a certain ingenious Stranger, into whofe Company He happened to fall.-The Gentleman was extolling, at a lavish Rate, the Virtue of Honefty: what a Dignity it imparted to our Nature! How it recommended Us to the Supreme BEING! He confirmed all by a celebrated Line from Mr. Pope,
An honeft Man's the nobleft Work of GOD.
Sir, replied my Friend, however excellent the Virtuel of Honesty may be, I fear, there are very few Men in the World, that really poffefs it.-You furprise me! faid the Stranger.-Ignorant as I am of your Character, Sir, I fanfy, it would be no difficult Matter, to prove even You a difhoneft Man.-I defy You.-Will You give me leave then, to ask You a Question or two; and promife not to be offended?-Afk your Queftions, and welcome. -Have you never met with an Opportunity of getting, Gain by fome unfair Means?The Gentleman paufed. -I don't afk, Whether You made use of, but whether
Will been invariably upright, and warped with no irregular Inclination? Are You wholly unpolluted with this Adultery of the Heart?
I wait not for a Reply. I have often heard You plead Guilty to all-yes, to all and every of these Charges refpectively.
Ther. Where, and when, Afpafio ?
Afp. In the moft venerable Place, and on the most folemn Occafion. And not You only, but a whole Multitude of felf-condemned Criminals. Our Church, You know, has engrafted the Decalogue into her public Service; and taught all her Members to anfwer, after the Repetition of each Commandment; LORD, have Mercy upon Us, and incline our Hearts to keep this Law. Is there any Senfe in thefe Words? Or have We any Meaning, when We utter them? If We have, furely they muft imply an Acknowledgment of Difobedience in every Particular. The Criminal arraigned at the Bar, never falls on his Knees and craves Forgivenefs, till
You have met with, fuch Opportunity? I, for my Part, have; and, I believe, every Body else has.-Very pro bably I may.-How did You feel Your Mind affected, on fuch an Occafion? Had You no fecret Defire, not the leaft Inclination, to feize the Advantage which offered ? Tell me, without any Evafion, and confiftently with the Character You admire?-I muft acknowledge, I have not always been abfolutely free from every irregular Inclination, but-Hold, Sir; none of your Salvos. You have confeffed enough. If You had the Defire, though You never proceeded to the Action, this fhews You was difhoneft in Heart. This is what the Scripture calls Goncupifcence. It defiles the Soul. It is a Breach of that Law, which requireth Truth in the inner Parts. And, unlefs You are pardoned through the Blood of CHRİST, will be a juft Ground of your Condemnation, when GOD fhall judge the Secrets of Men.