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vices, and yet, in a religious point of view, be a great sinner; may in fact have to answer for sins “ more in number than the “ hairs of his head."
In order to come to the knowledge and proper sense of our sins, we must compare our lives with the rule of God's commandments delivered from mount Sinai, and expla ined and spiritualized by our Lord in the sermon on the mount; or with those other practical precepts which abound in every part of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament. I do not mean to enter into a full account of these laws; I will, however, mention a few instances, which may assist in making us sensible, how far we fall short of the obedience which we ought to pay.
Our Saviour tells us then, that “ the first “and great commandment is, Thou shalt « love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, “ and with all thy soul, and with all thy “mindo:” that we must love him better than any thing else: and our own reason must acknowledge, that he deserves this love,
d Psalm xl. 15.
e Matt. xxii. 37, 38.
and that we ought to feel it. Which of us now shall
that he has thoroughly kept this first, this great commandment? One of the most important duties to God is prayer : but how apt are we to neglect prayer? and, when we attempt to pray, how apt are our thoughts to wander to the world and the flesh, thus exposing us to the charge of “ drawing near to God with “ our lips, while our hearts are far from 66 hime!” It would not be too much to assert, that there is not one of the duties which we peculiarly owe to God, which we perfectly fulfil.
Many of those, who cannot but acknowledge that they are wanting in love to God, pride themselves upon their observance of their duty towards their neighbour. With how little reason they thus flatter themselves, a moment's reflection will convince them. The foundation of the duties which relate to man is this, “ Thou shalt love thy. “ neighbour as thyself.” This is styled by our Lord the second great commandment of the law; and the apostle tells us,
e Matt. xv. 8.
that “ he that loveth another, hath fulfilled “ the lawf.” By the word neighbour, we understand every man, to whom we have the means of doing good or harm ; indeed every man without exception. But which of us can truly say, that he feels, if not the same degree, yet the same kind of love for his neighbour that he does for himself? that he is in the same manner desirous of promoting his welfare, in the same manner attentive to his interest, and to the preservation of his character ? But if sin is the transgression of the law, are we not sinners if we transgress both the first, and the second great commandment of that law?
One of the ways in which we are to shew that we love our neighbour as ourself, is by doing as we would be done by. All men, both Christian and heathen, agree in admiring and extolling the excellence of this golden rule. But which of us perfectly acts up to it? - If from the foundation of the laws of the second table, we proceed to consider
some of the particular commandments which it contains, we shall perhaps find equal reason for acknowledging our sinfulness.
We have not, I trust, any of us, committed direct murder : but you know from St. John, that “ he that hateth an66 other is a murderer8:” and our Lord assures us, that the sixth commandment is broken, by causeless or excessive anger, or by bearing malice in our bosoms b. With respect to the seventh commandment, we know that the sins of adultery and fornication will shut out those who are guilty of them from the kingdom of heaven. But supposing that we are not chargeable with these deadly sins ; yet, are we pure from what our Saviour terms the adultery of the hearti? Are our actions, our looks, our dress, our words, and thoughts, governed by the laws of holy chastity? So again we have not been guilty it may be of stealing; we have never taken any thing belonging to another. But have we been strictly true and just in all our dealings? Have we never put a neighbour to loss or inconvenience by incurring debts, which we were unable to pay? Have we never in any bargain, or other transaction, lent unfairly to our own interest? If we have not actually borne false witness against our neighbour in a court of justice, yet, have we never been guilty of slander, or evil speaking? Or have we never given utterance to evil surmises and insinuations to his disadvantage? So again; have we never coveted or desired any thing belonging to another, and have we, on the contrary, been always contented, always patient and resigned in that station of life, and in those circumstances, in which the providence of God has placed us? If in this manner we examine ourselves by the holy and spiritual law of God, if we thus search and try our ways fairly and impartially, we shall find too much reason to confess, that in “ many things we offend all*;" that “ there is no man living that sinneth • not';" that “ if we say we have no sin, “ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is
61 John iii. 15.
h Matt. v. 22.
I Mait. v. 28.