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anything approximating the same jealousy of conscience, the same notions of uprightness, the same character of integrity, honour, and benevolence, which those who now boast that they are men of the world often exhibit ? Surely not; and the explanation is found in this fact, that the moral influence of Christ has extended far beyond the circle of His professed followers, that the moral principles which human nature needs and the type of character for which it is pining travel faster than the truth on which they rest, and men receive much of the influence of these things without stopping to inquire whence it
Thus I think it can be shewn that what is good in heathenism is the dim reflection of a brighter light, that what is life-giving in human thought everywhere is the product of the Divine Mind, the stirrings in humanity of the Spirit of grace. It is capable of historic verification that the high moral influences which have animated some forms of heathen philosophy and religion have emanated from the great foci of light and spiritual intelligence which exerted their first and almighty influence upon Hebrew and Christian mind, and that age after age “ the light has shone in the darkness though the darkness comprehended it not.”
In Christian nations the spiritual religion of which even scepticism boasts in these days is due to the influence of heavenly truth upon acute and anxious minds, and reveals the secondary results which the character of Christ has produced upon those who do not acknowledge his paramount claims. If worldly men are competent judges of Christian principle, if the great world knows the conclusions to which Christian truth ought to lead all its professors, it is because the atmosphere breathed by true Christians has stimulated its life and awakened its conscience. The world is indebted to the Christianity it is ready to revile for the power it possesses to call Christians to its bar.
I. Let us proceed to discuss the contrast of the two kinds of life here spoken of. In spite of the elevation of the world's standard, and of the practical depression of the Christian's standard, there is comparatively little difficulty in saying what the Apostle meant, and what we must mean, by “living in sin.”
(1) We must admit that the conventional meaning of the phrase obscures its true application. It has been almost appropriated to describe certain forms of bold and unblushing transgression of moral law, which merit the chastisement of human power, and call for the indignant remonstrance of society. If a man indulges in gross sensuality, if he yields to the appetites of which every man has the germ, if he puts no rein upon his lusts, if he gives way to the hungry solicitations of his flesh, if he is in the habit of seeking forbidden pleasures, if he defies public opinion and divine law, he is said to “ live in sin.” If a man is known to transgress the law of God in spite of public opinion and of the lines placed by divine and social law for the maintenance of order,
if he is detected in the practice of dishonesty, if he is found to spend and speculate with other people's money, but to elude the grasp of law by artifice and cunning, he is said to “ live in sin.” In plainer words, if a man is a known drunkard, adulterer, or rogue, he is said to "live in sin;" and there is no folly, no impudence, that dares henceforth to excuse or palliate his conduct. No man in a Christian country would dream of defending, still less of recommending such conduct. It is condemned without reserve by every conscience that is not utterly seared. Humanity, into whatever abysses it may sink, whatever degradation it may contract, will be found ready to denounce those who do such things. But the corruption of human nature goes down deeper, and the ravages of sin are far more extensive than this.
(2) It must be admitted that that man is “living in sin” who can ever, even occasionally, commit such acts as these without the bitterest compunction and remorse. If under the pressure of grievous temptation any man so far forgets himself and his destiny as to commit mournful offences against the law of God and man, and if his only thought is, 'How shall I escape detec
, tion ? how shall I be secure against the indignant scorn of the world ?' if his weakness does not humble him, if his sense of guilt does not overpower him, however virtuous he may appear in the interval, however loud may be his profession of religious feeling, he is "living in sin,” he is taking pleasure in ungodliness, he is only happy in the absence of God. The disposition of his mind is prone to the very form of transgression which by his attempt to conceal it he acknowledges to be heinous, and which by his continued profession of religion he openly denounces.
(3) That man is “ living in sin” who habitually does what he knows to be wrong, but endeavours to palliate it by pleading the force of circumstances, the nature of society, or the custom of the world. Let it be in personal habits, in the government of the tongue, in the working of evil passions, of pride, vanity, or self-indulgence; let it be in the management of his household, the education of his children, or in his domestic expenditure; let it be in the customs of trade and commerce, in the way of transacting business or conducting a profession, in the maintenance of his political principles, the carrying out of his party purposes, or in his denominational and ecclesiastical preferences; we say, if a man under any of these circumstances is doing what he knows to be wrong, but excuses the doing of it on the ground that his neighbours do the same, or that the little evil is overbalanced by what he deems a greater good, to all intents and purposes he is “living in sin.” Nor is the evil diminished by the force of habit obliterating the trace of moral delinquency. If he has by frequent commission of his sin lost the sense of its evil he is only proving how closely the Evil One has intertwined himself about his nature, and how his transgression, instead of appearing as a foul blot upon his character, has become a dark shade
over his own eye. “ The light that is in him is darkness, and great is that darkness."
(4) That man is “living in sin" who habitually neglects to do that which God and his conscience have often called upon him to accomplish. Sins of omission are as numerous, as heinous, as sins of commission. “To him who knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." The neglected chance, the lost opportunity, will often indicate that a man is “living in sin.” If it is sin for him to leave undone those things which he ought to have done, then that life is a life of sin which habitually neglects the practice of charity, patience, self-sacrifice, and worship. It is not enough that a man should avoid the practice of evil, or abstain from the excesses which ruin the character of others; it is obvious that he must not be habitually lacking in generosity, in good temper, in charitable impulse, in self-restraint, in religious emotion, in consecration to Christ, in zeal and work for God and man. If it is sin to leave undone those things which he ought to have done, and he habitually leaves such acts of worship or self-sacrifice to the so-called “saints,” pleading exemption on the ground of press of business or worldly custom, he is “ living in sin.” On the same principle the habitual neglect of the means of grace is a “life of sin.” There are multitudes who raise no intelligent objection to the truth of God or the claims of His holy worship; and who, with no cause but sheer indifference to the eternal life, openly refuse the practice of