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own nature small, why do you not abstain from them? If the prophet had commanded you a great thing, you might have murmured against the precept; but when he only enjoins what you yourselves reckon a little thing, What pretence have you for a complaint? In place of being an excuse, this is an aggravation of your offence. With your own mouth you condemn yourself. Can there be a stronger proof of a degenerate nature and a stubborn mind, than this inclination to disobey your Creator, in things that you reckon of little consequence? What can shew a heart hardened against God, and set against the Heavens, so much as this refractory and rebellious dispo. sition, which leads men to violate the Majesty of the law, to insult the authority of the Lawgiver, to rihk the vengeance of the omnipotent, and to pour contempt on alt the perfections of the Divine nature, rather than part with what they themselves reckon small and inconsiderable.
III. You may contract as much guilt by breaking the least of the commandments, as by breaking the greatest of them. You start back and are affrighted at the approach of great iniquity; the heart revolts from a temptation to flagrant sins; yet thousands of lesser sins, evil thoughts, malicious words, petty oaths, commodious lies, little deceits, you make no scruple to commit every day. But the guilt of such reiterated sins is as great, or greater, than that of any single sin. To hate your neighbour in your heart without cause, to take every opportunity of blasting his character, and defeating his designs, makes you as guilty in the Divine eye, as if you had imbrued your hands in his blood. To use false weights, and a deccitfnl balance, is as criminal as a direct act of theft. He, who defrauds his neighbours daily in the course of his business, is a greater sinner before God, and a worse member of society, th in he who once in his lite robs on the highway. The Irequency of these little sins makes the guilt great, and ihe danger extreme. The constant operation of evil deeds impairs the strength of the soul, and shakes the foundation on which virtue rests. Wave succeeding wave undermines the whole fabric of virtue, and makes the building of God to fall. The thorns, which at first could tcarccly be seen, spread by degrees over the field, and choke the good seed. The locusts, which Moses brought over the land of Egypt, appeared at first a contemptible multitude; but in a Utile time, like a cloud, they darken
ed the air; as a mighty army, they covered the face of the earth; they devoured the herb of the field, the fruit of the tree, and every green thing, and turned what was formerly like the garden of Eden into a desolate wilderness. Thus these little sina increase as they advance; they blast where they enter: by degrees they make the spiritual life decay; they lay waste the new creation, and turn the intellectual world into a chaos, without form, and void of order.— And yet we are not on our guard against them. It fareth with us as it did with the Israelites of old. We tremble more at one Goliah than at the whole army of the Philistines. One gross scandalous sin makes us recoil and start back; and yet we venture on the guilt of numberless smaller sins, without hesitation or remorse. What signifies it whether you die of many small wounds, or by one great wound? What great difference does it mike, whether the devouring fire and the everlasting burnings are kindled by many sparks or by one firebrand? When God shalL reckon up against you at the great day the many thousand malicious thoughts, slanderous words, deceits, oaths, imprecations, lies, that you have been guilty of, the account will be as dreadful, and the wrath as insupportable, as if atrocious Crimes had stood upon the list.
IV. These little offences make life a chain and a continuation of sins, so that conversion becomes almost impossible. Often upon the commission of a gross sin, a sober interval succeeds; serious reflection has its hour; sorrow and contrition of heart take their turn; then is the crisis of a man's character; and many improving this favourable opportunity have risen greater from their fall. But if these little sins then come in; if between the commission of one gross sin and another, there intervenes a constant neglect of God, a hardness of heart, a vanity of imagination, and unfruitfulness of life, you still add to the number of your sins, and treasure up to yourself wrath against.the day of wrath. Such little sins fill up all the void spaces: so that, by this means, life becomes an uninterrupted and unbroken chain of iniquity. Thus you render yourselves incapable of reformation, and put yourselves out of the power of Divine grace. How is it possible that you can ever come within the reach of mercy? How can the voice of God reach your heart( He speaks to you in the majestic silence of his works ; but you reckon it no sin at all to shut your ears against the voice which comes from heaven to earth, and reaches from one end of the world to the other. He speaks to you by the voice of hi* Providence; but you reckon it of little moment to regard the doings of the Lord. He speaks to you in the Holy Scriptures; but you reckon the precept to read these one of the least commandments. He speaks to you in the ordinances of his own institution, but alas! how many hold it a little sin to absent themselves from these altogether! And how' many of those who attend think it but a little sin to spend their time as unprofitably as if absent! \He speaks to you with a still small voice: his Spirit whispers to your spirit. He seeks to enter in by your thoughts; but vanity and folly, aud vice, swarms of little sins, stop up the passage. Thus every corner of life is filled up. Every avenue to the heart is shut. You no where lie open to the impression of Divine grace, and the soul is so full, that there is no room for the Holy Spirit to enter.
V. These lesser sins infallibly lead to greater. There is a fatal progress in vice. One sin naturally leads to another: the first step leads to the second, till, by degrees, you come to the bottom of the precipice. Deceit, duplicity, dissimulation in different matters, which many persons, who maintain what is called a decent character, make no scruple to employ, have a tendency to render you insincere on more important occasions, and may gradually destroy your character of integrity altogether. He, who tells falsehoods for his own conveniency, will, in the natural course of things, become a common liar.
The spirit of gaming perhaps you reckon a small sin. When gaming is only an amusement, it is innocent; but whenever it goes farther, whenever it is made a serious business, and the love of it becomes a passion, farewell to tranquillity and virtue; then succeed days of vanity and nights of care; dissipation of life, corruption of manners, inattention to domestic affairs, arts of deceit, lying, cursing, and perjury. At a distance poverty with contempt at her heels, and in the rear of all, despair bringing a halter in her hand.
Thus have 1 set before you the evil nature and the dangerous tendency of the least transgressions. And do you ask an indulgence in little sins, when you see how fatal they are? Do you still ask to make an excursion from the path of virtue? Such an excursion it you make, you will tall in with the road to perdition. Do you still wish t* taste the waters which unlawful pleasure presents to your eye? Taste them you may; but be assured that there is poison in the stream, and death in the cup. Alas! if we calmly indulge ourselves in the cool commission of the least sin, who knows when or where we shall stop? If once we yield to the temptation, in whose power is it to say, hitherto shall I go, but no farther? Many persons, at their first setting out, would have trembled at the very thought of these sins, which in time, and by an easy transition, they have been brought to commit with boldness. The traitor consigned to eternal infamy,—Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord of glory, had at first only his covetousness to answer for. Fly, therefore, I beseech you, fly from the first approaches of sin. Guard your innocence, as you would guard your life. If you advance one step over the line which separates the way of life from the way of death, down you sink to the bottomless abyss. Come not then near the territories of perdition. Stand back and survey the torrent which is now so mighty and overflowing, that it deluges the land, and you will find it to proceed from a amall contemptible brook. Examine the conflagration that has laid a city in ashes, and you will find it to arise from a single spark.
—The blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.
REASON and philosophy have applied their powers to external objects with wonderful success They have traced the order of nature, and explamed the elements of En* s. By observation and experience, they have ascera ne the laws of the universe: they have counted he numbe of the stars; and, following the footsteps of the • Almighty, have discovered some of the great lines of that original plan according to which he created the world. But when they approach the region of spirit and intelligence, they stop short in their discoveries. The mind eludes its own search. The Author of our nature has checked our career in such studies, to teach us that action nnd moral improvement, not speculation and inquiry, arc the ends of our being. Accordingly, the moral part of our frame is the easiest understood. Having been placed here by Providence for great and noble purposes, virtue is the law of our nature. This being the great rule in the moral world, God has enforced it in various ways. He hath endowed us with a sense or faculty which, viewing actions in themselves, with regard to their consequences, approves or disapproves them. He hath endowed us with another sense, which passes sentence upon actions according to their consequences in society. He hath given us a third, which, removing human actions from life, anil the world altogether, carries them to a higher tribunal. The first,—which is the moral sense, belongs to us as individuals; is instinctive in all its operations; approves of virtue as being moral beauty; and disapproves of vice as being moral deformity. The second,—which is the sense of utility, belongs to us as members of societv, is.directed in its operations by reason, and passes sentence upon actions according as they are favourable or pernicious to the public good. The third,—which is conscience, belongs to us as subjects of the Divine government, is directed in its operations by the word of God, and considers human actions as connected with a future state of rewards and punishments. It is this which properly belongs to religion. Upon this faculty of conscience, the happiness or misery of mankind in a great measure depends. A good conscience is a continual feast, and proves a spring ot joy amidst the greatest distresses. A conscience troubled with remorse, or haunted with fear, is the greatest of all human evils. Accordingly, the Christian religion, which adaptt itself to every state ef our nature, and tarries consolation to the mind in every distress, has presented to the weary and heavy laden sin"the blood of sprinkling, which spejketh better .an the blood of Abel." The meaning of which Is the blood of Abel, crying to Hcar vengeance, fdled the mind ot Cain with horror, and as every sin b attended with remorse; so the blood