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should not follow upon disobedience? “ Ye shall not die,” said the serpent. By suggestions of the same blasphemous kind, he still leads sinners captive at his will. How often does he deceive men to imagine, sin is not the cursed, detestable thing, which the word of God constantly affirms it to be ? that our Maker will never punish the indulgence of our natural passions, to which we are so strongly excited by that very situation in which he hath placed us ? that the gate of heaven is not so strait, nor the way so narrow, that only a few, out of many,
should find it? that all will not be lost, who die condemned by the verdict of the bible ? Entertain more honourable notions of God, be more kind and liberal in your sentiments....be assured all will be happy....the universal parent has taken effectual care, that vice shall ever find its own sufficient punishment here....no need can there be for the shocking idea of damnation. It is but the pillar of priestcraft.
By this soothing temptation....this syren song....licentious ears grow quite ravished ; and flattered, like Eve, with the insidious promise of security, “ Eat, and thou shalt not die :” they give the reigns to their lusts, rebel, and in their rebellion perish.
From this snare, the Lord, the Horn of Salvation, delivers his people, by giving them firmly to believe the words he has spoken unto them. True faith at once possesses their minds with just, indelible conceptions of the evil of sin, the essential holiness of God, and his avenging justice. Through this conviction, not the effect of education, or customary assent to the truth, but of di. vine teaching, they baffle these suggestions of satan, as Christ himself repelled his assaults, with, “ Thus it is written,” By this
. means also, all the wild dreams about infir. mities, temptations, &c. as if they would indemnify usthough we commit iniqạity, vanish away. Sin is known to be the poison of the soul. Consequently a principle of self-preservation excites us to seek deliverance from it....to take alarm at its approach, and feel painful apprehensions when we have been overcome by some surprise, or violent assault. After much experience of this kind, the understanding is more enlightened, God is more known, the nature and qualities of sin clearly discovered, and its tyranny becomes hateful to the soul.
Where the case is not thus (such terrors being unnecessary with respect to many).... where the heart, like Lydia's, is sweetly
opened to receive divine counsel, and just ideas of the love of God and Christ take place from the first awakenings....still believers in him are preserved no less securely from the wiles of Satan, than if the sharpest pangs, for fear of perishing, had wrung the heart. Both those who have suffered much terror, and those who have felt none, are equally persuaded, that “the wages of sin is death”....every prohibition against it a tender mercy....its service base, like the life of thieves and ruffians; and obedience to God in all things infinitely desirable.
Though this knowledge does not preserve his people from ever offending at all, yet it keeps them from ever being at peace with sin. They groan under its first motions in the heart, and complain against themselves for what others account no evil....it is the vexation of their lives that they are no more holy.
In this manner the subtilty of satan, as a tempter, liar, seducer, and murderer, is defeated....and the faithful are saved out of his hands,
The other grand artifice by which the old serpent at first erected, and still upholds his empire, is by offering delicious flattery to our pride. “ Ye shall be as Gods, knowing good
and evil,” dazzled Eve. The towering thought of independence, an amazing exaltation, even above her high condition, caught her in satan's snare.
What is tantamount to this he insinuates to her posterity : You have powers within yourself, sufficient to acquire wisdom, to practise virtue, and to attain happiness. By industry in cultivating your natural faculties, moderating your passions, by self-command and self-improvement, your mind shall brighten incessantly with new charms,* and you shall be conscious they are all your own acquisition. Though indeed you must stand indebted to another for your creation, you shall be beholden to yourself alone for moral excellency, and rectitude of conduct, which is the whole of man.
Away then with the supplicating knee, the atonement, and intercessor for transgressors. Away with the aids of grace, and the dictates of revelation. What are these but engines, used by knaves to maintain themselves in affluence and authority. sured, where mystery begins, religion ends.
Such artful suggestions of man's native dignity, the powers of reason, and our own
* See Mr. Hume's Moral Essays, or any of the So-, cinian writers...who abound with this self-sufficient language.
sufficiency to perform our duty, naturally captivate all, who were before smitten with admiration of their own understanding, good life, and good heart. And these high thoughts which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, and create implacable hatred of his truth, are ascribed upon the best warrant to satanic influence.
“ For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto them,” 2 Cor. iv.
But this snare, so sure to catch the vain and arrogant, cannot take the people of God, because their own experience is a living proof, stronger than a thousand arguments, of the falsehood of such high thoughts. They feel inconstancy, weakness, ignorance, folly, defilement, and corruptions, notwithstanding their unfeigned desires, their fervent prayers, their watchfulness, self-denial, and labour to become what they well know they ought to be. Light makes manifest. Where: fore the greater their progress is in copying the perfect example set before them, the quicker discernment and sensibility they possess of their own manifold deficiencies. Of consequence, the nearer they approach to