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fer them; and, lastly, to the mean condition and guilty character of those upon whom they are conferred;—I solicited, I say, devout attention to all these enhancing and endearing circumstances, and if such attention has been given them, I may now be permitted to ask, if this grace doth not appear truly astonishing? Doth not its greatness exeeed all our powers of utterance? Nay are we not constrained to acknowledge, that its abundance is such, as neither man nor any finite being can adequately conceive.
But as the greatest and best of blessings may be abused, and as they are the greatest and best of blessings, which are generally most abused, I now proceed, in the SECOND PLACE, to guard men against the particularly dangerous abuse, which, by the ignorant and wicked, may be made of this grace, which, “where sin abounded, did much "more abound."
So corrupt is human nature, that the more kindly we are dealt with, the more ungrateful, often, do we become. We immoderately presume upon the generous and forgiving spirit of our benefactor, and instead ofendea
vouring to deserve his favour; and to act agreeably to his will, we, frequently, make no ceremony of neglecting what he commands, or of even wilfully doing what he has positively forbidden.-Now the same base and disingenuous returns which men make to their earthly benefactors, they have the unaccountable vileness, also, to make to their Heavenly Father, only with this difference; that to Him, their base and disingenuous returns, are much more numerous, and infinitely more deeply aggravated. As it is upon his goodness, that their existence is wholly dependant, so it is with his numberless blessings, that this existence is gladdened and adorned. Yet instead of making these blessings the means of their own true happiness, and of the promotion of his glory, they, to their disgrace, frequently make them the means of oppression, and devote them to the purposes of iniquity. And of none of his blessings, of no particular instance of his grace, has the abuse been more notorious than of that grace which he hath manifested to us in the gospel of his Son. Because it hath abounded, men have, often, made their sins also to abound. Because it hath been slow to
punish them, therefore have they been, often, so unnatural as to harden their hearts, and indulge themselves in their crimes. Even so early as in the days of the Apostles, the primitive preachers of this grace, did there appear some who, in this way, turned it into licentiousness. Mark how St. Peter describes their character, and in these emphatic words, pronounces their guilt and condemnation. "The Lord, (says he,) knoweth "how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished; but chiefly "them that walk after the flesh, in the lust "of uncleanness-They shall utterly perish "in their own corruption, and shall receive "the reward of unrighteousness: they "count it pleasure to riot in the day time: "spots they are and blemishes, sporting "themselves with their own deceivings:
having eyes full of adultery, and that can"not cease from sin, beguiling unstable "souls; an heart they have exercised with "covetous practices; cursed children!-to "whom the mist of darkness is reserved "for ever; for when they speak great "swelling words of vanity, they allure,
through the lusts of the flesh, through "much wantonness, those that were clean
"escaped from them who live in error. "While they promise them liberty, they "themselves are the servants of corruption; "for of whom a man is overcome, of the same "is he brought in bondage. For if after "they have escaped the pollutions of the "world, through the knowledge of the Lord "and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the lat"ter end is worse with them than the be"ginning; for it had been better for them "not to have known the way of righteous
ness, than after they have known it, to "turn from the holy commandment deli"vered unto them; but it is happened un"to them according to the true proverb,― "The dog is turned to his own vomit again, "and the sow that was washed, to her wal"lowing in the mire *." And to correct a similar abuse which some were then making of the grace of the gospel, St. Jude also states as the reason which induced him to write his epistle." It was needful for me "to write unto you, and exhort
you, (said he, to the Christians whom he addressed,) "that ye should earnestly contend for the "faith which was once delivered unto the
* 2 Peter, chap. ii. 9. &c. &c.
"saints, for there are certain men crept in 66 unawares, who were before of old ordained "to this condemnation; ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lascivious
Before the first preachers of Christianity had sealed their testimony with their blood, there were many known by the name of Gnostics and Nicolaitans, who had entered the Church, persons who were base pretenders to the faith of the gospel, who talked loudly indeed of its free grace, but abused what they affected to praise, by making it a handle for giving way to the most criminal indulgencies. They had the audacity, for instance, openly to maintain, that lewdness was lawful, that to equivocate was justifiable, and that to conform, occasionally, to the ceremonies of the heathen, perfectly harmless and embracing such abandoned principles, they, as might naturally be exdected, followed after all manner of vice and villainy with greediness. And this their impious and abominable system, they inherited from Simon Magus, the father of, almost, every heresy. That daring impos
* Jude, 3, 4.