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his purchase must be the effect lublequent channeed you
that you may be fit for salvation by Christ. These hopes will soon be dashed in pieces. Faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ is the finner's only plea. The more vile you are in your own apprehension, the more need you have " to put on Christ.” The subsequent change of heart and practice must be the effect of his power, is a part of his purchase, and ought to be received as his gracious gift. And I will ventáre to foretel, that you will make the greater progress in true holiness, the less you are disposed to boast of, or to trust in it.
This, I apprehend, is the gospel itself, ftiled in scripture, with the highest propriety, the “ gospel of the grace “ of God.” “Christ came not to call the righteous, but vi finners to repentance.” If you will rely on him for sal. vation, he will shed abroad the love of God in your hearts by the Holy Ghost, which will be a powerful and operative principle of new obedience. I beseech you, therefore, in the most earnest inanner, not to reject the counsel of God against yourselves. Nothing can be more liberal, or more gracious, than the offer of the gospel : “ I will give " to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life “ freely.” There is no fin of so deep a dye, or so infectious a stain, but the blood of Christ is sufficient to wash it out. There is not any slave of Satan so loaded with chains, but he is able to set him free. If you perish, it is of your. selves. I have given you warning, from a sincere and ardent concern for your everlasting interest ; and may God himself, for Christ's fake, by his Holy Spirit, effectu. ally persuade you to comply with it,
(Dr. Witherspoon published a separate volume of Sermons on the
leading truths of the gospel, with the design of forming somes thing like a connected system of these truths. The sermons that were thus published are kept together in this edition of his works. They begin with the discourse that immediately fol. lows, on Rom. iii. 23 ; and end with that entitled “ Obedience " and Sacrifice compared.”]
ALL MANKIND BY NATURE UNDER SIN.
ROMANS iii. 23.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
THE whole revelation of the will of God to mankind,
both in the Old Testament and the New, proceeds upon the supposition that they are finners; that is to say, transgressors of his law, and liable to the stroke of his juftice. This only can give meaning to the doctrine of redemption. None can understand, at least none can relish or embrace it, unless they believe, and are persuaded of this preliminary truth.
What I have now said, appears from many express passages of the holy scriptures; and is particularly evident from the general strain, and from the very fructure, of the epistle to the Romans. In it the apostle, who had ne. ver been at Rome, gives a full and particular account of the doctrine of Christ; and he lays the foundation for this by a distinct and laboured proof, that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin. In imitation of his example, I intend to begin my discourses on practical religi. on, by endeavoring to impress your minds with a sense of the same truth. This must lead the way to the saving knowledge of the Redeemer ; and as he only can build securely, who takes care that every part of the superstructure reft immediately or ultimately upon the foundation, it is as necessary to be remembered by faints, as to be received by finners.
It may perhaps, on a slight view, appear to be fuperfluous. All mankind,' some will say, "are ready to ac• knowledge that they are finners; and there is great rea• son to believe they are lincere in this confession.' But, my brethren, a little reflection may convince you, that this general acknowledgment is either very insincere, or very imperfect and defective. It is plainly a light sense of fin that enables the multitude to sleep in security. It is plainly a light sense of sin that betrays men into the com. mission of it, and einboldens them to continue in it. It is plainly a light sense of sin that blunts the edge of all the threatenings in the word of God, and the adınonitions of his providence. Is it not from a light sense of sin, that when the preaching of the gospel is not wholly deserted, its inestimable truths are received without thanksuliefs, and heard without profit ? . For thele reasons, I propose, through the assistance of divine grace, to discourse a little on the words of the apol. tle now read : “For all have finned, and come short of the "glory of God:” And, in so doing, shall
1. Endeavor to confirin the truth contained in them, That all mankind are finners, or transgressors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgment. And,
2. Shall make a practical improvement of the subject.
I. In the first place, then, let us endeavor to confirm the truth contained in the text, That all mankind are finners, or transgressors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgment. And here, my brethren, it puts me a little to a stand, in what manner to handle this important subject'; whether in the way of reason or affection; whether in the way of cool and conclusive arguments directed to the judgment, or pointed interrogatories direct
ed to the conscience. Many, nay, innumerable, are the cavils that have been brought by men of corrupt minds against this fundamental truth. The father of lies, indeed, seemns to consider it, and justly, as the corner-stone of true religion, which, if he is able to weaken or undermine, it must end in the fall and ruin of the whole fabric. If there be any among you, as possibly there are, infected with the poison of infidelity, all exhortation and warning will be treated by such with dildain, while their objections, however weak, have not been brought into view. On the other hand, there are multitudes of finners borne away by luft and passion, who are incapable of understanding the force of speculative reasoning, and who have an unhappy tendency to overlook, as what does not concern them, every thing that is treated in that way. I Thall be obliged, therefore, to have an eye to both : and oh ! that it may please Gol to enable me so to propose to the judgment, and fo to press upon the conscience, this necessary truth, as that some careless persons may be awakened, and brought to an attention to the one thing needful; and that if any have hitherto taken up with imperfect notions of religion, and built their hope upon the fand, they may be persuaded in time to distrust that dangerous situation, and to found it upon the Rock of ages.
For the reason above assigned, it is difficult to determine, what use is to be made of scripture-testimony on such a fubject. The charge of guilt upon the finner, seems to be only preparatory 10, and must, as it were, pave the way for the reception of scripture-truths. If the testimony of God in scripture is to be rested on, this one passage is sufficient; but the unbelieving heart is ready to challenge and call in question every such scripture-declaration. I find the worthy author of a well-know catechism, commonly used in the instruction of children, joins together scripture and experience, in the answer to that question, " How do you know, that you are born in a state of fin "and misery ?" Ans. “ God's word tells me so. Besides, “ I find my heart naturally backward to that which is good, " and prone to that which is evil.” After this example, and considering, that by the law is the knowledge of fin, VOL. I.