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lashes? How often have they been goaded to despair and madness, till self-destruction appeared to their perverted reason the only remedy for anguish too grievous to be endured ?
Is it desirable therefore to put an end to these torments by any means ? No: there is a way, which though it may diminish the present suffering, increases the real evil. Too often the wretched victim of sin, unable to bear his wounded spirit, endeavours to silence his selfupbraidings, and to quiet his fears by reasoning himself out of all moral and religious principle, (a thing not difficult to those who love darkness rather than light), or gives himself up to unrestrained indulgence, that he may have no time for bitter reflection. Thus men commit spiritual suicide, by the sword of infidelity on the one hand, on the other, by plunging headlong into “hurtful lusts, which drown them in destruction and perdition,”—and thus they may smother the voice of conscience, if they are so madly bent upon their own ruin; the spirit of God will not always strive with them; the devil will help them with all his delusions, to accomplish the work that he most desires. They may at length suppress every good emotion; and as the diseased patient, when his body has begun to mortify, feeling his pains removed, fancies himself
convalescent, though that is the surest sympton of his approaching dissolution, so the sinner, who has thus deceived himself into tranquillity, may imagine that at length he has found happiness, and knows not that it is a fatal ease which he experiences; the tumult indeed has subsided in his soul, and all is hushed and calm, but this death-like stillness portends a dreadful and an eternal storm; the greatest horrors that the mind can suffer, are better than this awful composure and deadness of the soul. Where there is fear of ruin, there still is hope of salvavation ; but when that fear has been deliberately subdued, by false reasoning or by deeper draughts of the deadening poison of sin, I know not what hope can remain. A guilty. conscience with all its torments, is infinitely better than no conscience at all,- for its voice may yet be heard and heeded; but when it has ceased to warn, " the last state of that man is worse than the first."
And is not a good conscience best of all ? A mind tranquil, serene, and happy, and this, not the result of any delusion of infidelity, or intoxication of vice, but arising from inward peace, and a well founded hope of the favour of God? Who can doubt it? Who would not exchange worlds, if he had them, for this precious, this invaluable treasure? Oh! that we had those pure and innocent hearts, (such as were once in paradise,) unconscious of guilt, unincumbered by the burthen of remembered sin! Oh! that we could each of us say with the sincerity of the apostle, “ I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day!” But who among us has such a heart? Who can adopt the words of St. Paul, and say so much good of himself? Our blessed Saviour who well knew what was in man, once said to an assembled crowd, “let him that is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” And what became of all that multitude who were so clamorous for the condemnation of a fellow sinner? Did not one remain to justify his character from the universal imputation of guilt ? Not one;
they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last.” And if a similar experiment were made upon us, would the result be different? Should not we also be convicted by our own conscience? Have we not all sinned? Have we not too often walked in the sight of our eyes, and in the ways of our heart? Have we not followed too much the devices and desires of our corrupt minds? Have we not gone astray like lost sheep? Have we not offended against God's holy laws ? Have we not left undone those things
which we ought to have done, and done those things which we ought not to have done? And if we have committed no flagrant breach of the divine commandments, what have been our thoughts, our conversation, our omissions, and negligences ? Are we not all miserable sinners ? How then can we have this good conscience that is required ? How can we have hearts clean and pure from all stain ? It is impossible. Ever must we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and iniquities, which we from time to time most grievously have committed by thought, word, and deed, against God's divine majesty. If we viewed them aright, the remembrance of them would be grievous unto us, the burden of them intolerable. But though we cannot now possess consciences free from recollection of guilt, we may have them comforted by the sense of pardon; repentance must now be substituted for innocence, and (thanks be to God for his infinite mercy,) our “ hearts may be so sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all sin, that though our sins may have been as scarlet, they shall be as wool,—though red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow.” If we truly repent and believe, our sins are blotted out, and remembered no more against us; and God who beholds us, not as we are and have been, in ourselves, but as justified through his son, and united to him, regards us for his sake as pure, and holy, and sanctified, and washed from all pollution.
But, my brethren, remember, forgiveness for past sin is no licence to transgress again ; " if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature ; » He has
purified us unto himself as a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Henceforth then let us be careful that we do not wound our own consciences afresh, or grieve the Holy Spirit, by any wilful, any careless sin; “let
every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity;" let us earnestly pray, and diligently endeavour, that it may never happen unto us according to the true proverb, “the dog is returned to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Let us by the help of God “keep innocency and take heed to the thing that is right,” for that only shall give us comfort and the assurance of divine favour through life, and bring us peace at our latter end. May we henceforth " exercise ourselves to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man ! as he which hath called us is boly, so may we be holy in all manner of conversation,” labouring to do our christian duty in all simplicity and godly