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Having thus established and defended this doctrine, I would now draw some inferences from it.
1. We learn from this subject that we cannot be saved by our own works. The law of God requires perfect obedience, continually, in thought, word, and deed; and it denounces," cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law to do them;" Gal. iii. 10. We have not fully obeyed the law; but on the contrary, times and ways innumerable, have come short and transgressed. Yea we daily transgress in thought, word, and deed. By the law therefore we are condemned and must continue so to be; and are daily becoming more and more guilty, since we are daily adding new transgressions. How deplorable therefore is our state, considered in ourselves, and as under the law! If one transgression incurs the curse, what must be our guilt! For we have sinned, not merely once, but daily, hourly, and continually. Let us brethren, compare ourselves with the law, and be convinced of sin; "For by the law is the knowledge of sin ;" Rom. iii. 20. Let us also be deeply sensible of our inability to keep the law, or by our own obedience to escape the merited wrath of God; and therefore our ruined and helpless condition. Hence we infer,
2. The absolute necessity of a Saviour, and of an interest in him in order to salvation. The law must be maintained. And therefore man must perish unless one who has obeyed or engages to obey the law, and by suffering its penalty, has made or engages to make an adequate atonement for sin, becomes his surety. Such a surety, is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he alone. He perfectly obeyed the law; and he by his sufferings and death, endured its penalty and thus made a sufficient atonement for sin. And he has righteousness sufficient for the justification of all who will believe in him. While therefore, you are by the law convinced of sin and guilt, and your ruined and helpless condition; let this view of your state convince you of your need of a Saviour, make you thankful for such a remedy, and lead you to flee to Christ and by faith to receive him as the Lord your righteousness, that through his imputed righteousness you may receive the pardon of your sins and be delivered from the curse of the law, which you have incurred by your sins.
3. Though perfection, through the depravity of our nature is not attainable in the present life, it is nevertheless our duty, and christians ought to desire it, and to rest satisfied with nothing short of it. Although we cannot ob tain life by the law, it is nevertheless a rule of life; and it is our duty to endeavour to conform our lives to it. And he who is truly delivered from the curse of the law, through union to Christ by faith, will endeavour to keep the law, will desire perfect conformity, and will grieve that he comes short of perfect obedience thereunto. He will consent to the law that it is holy, just and good, and that therefore obedience is his duty; he will look to Christ for strength to enable him to obey it; under a sense of his failings and transgressions, he will be ready often to cry out with Paul," O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death," Rom. vii. 24 ; and he will never be fully satisfied with his attainments in holiness, until he awakes perfectly in the likeness of his Redeemer; and when his holiest works are done, sensible of his failings and his transgressions and that he has merited nothing; but on the contrary deserves the wrath of God for the imperfections of his best works, he will place his reliance for salvation, not on his own works, but entirely on the imputed righteousness of his Redeemer.
May we all be convinced by the law, of our wretched condition as sinners, and by it be driven to Christ for justification; and as an evidence of our interest in him, love the law of God, take it as the rule of our lives, endeavour to conform ourselves thereunto, and be humbled that we fall so far short of that perfect obedience which is our duty. AMEN.
AGGRAVATIONS OF SINS.
MATTHEW XI. 23, 24.
"And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shatt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for
Capernaum was a principal city of Galilee. This city had been in a distinguished manner favoured with spiritual privileges. Here Christ much resided; and here he had taught much, and performed many miracles. This city, therefore, was exalted to heaven: that is, it was highly distinguished for spiritual privileges. But, notwithstanding their superior privileges, the inhabitants of this city, generally, continued careless, impenitent and unbelieving. Therefore, the Saviour declared that their punishment should be greater in proportion to the privileges which they enjoyed." And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell;" that is to a deeper and more intolerable hell, in proportion to the height to which they were raised, by their privileges; as the higher any body is raised, if it fall, the heavier and the deeper will its fall be. The reason which he gave why he pronounced this heavy judgment upon Capernaum was, "For if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." Wicked as were the inhabitants of Sodom; yet they were not so wicked as the people of Capernaum. For they had not resisted so much light, nor abused such distinguished privileges; neither were their hearts so hard; for if Christ had appeared among them, preached to them, and wrought miracles in the midst
of them, as he had done in Capernaum, they would have repented of their sins, and thus escaped the judgments of God, and have continued until that day.Therefore, our Saviour added; " But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment than for thee."
Our text clearly teaches us that some sins are more aggravated than others.
The doctrine of the aggravations of sins, we have contained in the answer to the 83d question of our Catechism.
"Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others."
The object of the ensuing discourse is to illustrate the doctrine contained in this answer.
It is true that every sin, even the least, deserves the wrath and curse of God forever, and therefore an infinite punishment. This may appear at first view to be an objection against the doctrine, that some sins are more aggravated, and deserve a greater punishment than others. This difficulty is obviated by the consideration, that punishments may be equal in duration, and yet not in degree. Punishments may be without end, and thus be infinite in duration, and in this respect equal; but at the same time, one sinner may suffer in the same period much more than another; and thus, though both suffer an infinite punishment, one may suffer more than the other.— Hence, we conclude, that though every sin deserves an infinite punishment, there may be degrees in punishment, and consequently in guilt; and that the infinite heinousness of all sin, forms no objection against the doctrine that some sins are more aggravated, and deserve, and unless repented of, will receive a greater punishment than othThis doctrine is most clearly taught a great many times in the Scriptures.
We proceed to illustrate the doctrine.
"Some sins in themselves, are more heinous in the sight of God than others." These sins against the first table of the law, are more heinous than corresponding sins against the second table. Sins committed against God, are more heinous, than the same sins committed more immediately against man. As for instance, it is a greater sin in itself, to
speak evil against God, than to speak evil against our fellow men. It is a greater sin to rebel against God, or to disobey his cominands, than to rebel against human authority, or be disobedient to the commands of men. This is proved by the two following texts of Scripture, "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him :" 1 Sam. ii. 25. And, "against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight;" Ps. LI. 4. The last verse was spoken by David. In the sin to which he alluded, he had grievously sinned against man; but the sin against God was so much greater, that he seemed in view of it almost to lose sight of the sin committed against man. This is a truth which is very much overlooked; but which ought to be attended to. Many would esteem it very wrong, to do certain kind of actions towards men, when at the same time, they can commit the same kind of actions towards God, without remorse. But sins committed against God, are in themselves worse than the same sins committed against man.
Further, while showing that some sins in themselves are more heinous than others, I would observe, that some sins of the second table, are in themselves more heinous than some of the first. As for instance, murder is a greater sin than sabbath-breaking.
Again, there are some sins of the second table, which are in themselves more heinous than other sins of the same table. Thus murder is more heinous than mere anger, or theft, or lying.
We proceed now to consider the aggravations of sins. "Some sins by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others." In treating of the aggravations of sins, I shall take as my guide that excellent answer in the Larger Catechism, to the question,
"What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others."
The general heads of the answer to this question are the following;
"Sins receive their aggravations
1. From the persons offending,
2. From the parties offended,
3. From the nature and quality of the offence, and