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4. From circumstances of time and place.”
I. "Sins receive their aggravations from the persons offending. If they be of riper age, greater experience, or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others."
It is an aggravation of sin, if it be committed by persons of riper age. For we are told," with the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days, understanding;" Job. xii. 12. 66 Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom;" Job. xxxii. 7. It is natural that matured age should have more knowledge, a riper judgment, more prudence, and more stability than youth. And therefore many things which we would be ready to overlook in youth, we would consider very blameable in riper years. As said Paul, "When I was a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things;" 1 Cor. xiii. 11.
It is an aggravation of sin if it be committed by persons of experience, who have seen much of the world, and have observed or felt the sad consequences of evil courSin in such, other things being equal, is worse, than in the inexperienced. For "that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes ;" Luk. xii. 47. 48. And our own feelings testify that sin in such a character is worse than in one of less experience.
And especially is it an aggravation of sin, if the person has experienced the grace of God. This forms such a powerful check to sin, which the unregenerate have not; and sin in such is the violation of so much greater obligations, arising from the distinguishing goodness and mercy of God, and of such solemn vows and engagements; and it casts such a stumbling-block in the way of others, that in a gracious person it must be more aggravated than in others. And thus our own consciences, when we hearken to their voice teach us; and thus the feelings of mankind generally teach us; for the world generally feel that sin in a christian, and especially in one who has given evidence by his life that he is possessed of true religion, is worse than in one who has never professed nor manifested that he has
experienced the rich grace of God. And sin becomes aggravated in proportion as a person is eminent for profession. This we are taught in what Nathan said to David," by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme;" 2 Sam. xii. 14. David had been eminent and forward in his profession, and by how much the more eminent he was in this respect, by so much the deeper was the wound inflicted on relig ion. He had experienced much, and had often spoken of his experiences, and he had instructed and reproved others; and therefore his sin was the greater, as he had stronger restraints to break through, and as it did the more injury. And so it is still, other things being equal, (which I wish understood in every case) sin in professors of religion is more aggravated than in non-professors; and the more eminent a person is in profession, the worse is sin in him.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin if the person committing it, be possessed of great gifts. Thus we read, "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" Jam. iv. 17. That is, in an eminent degree. And that servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required;" Luk. xii. 47. 48. And this is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, as appears from what our Saviour immediately added," To whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." If a person has great natural talents, to acquire a knowledge of his duty, and fitting him for eminent usefulness in the world, more is reasonably expected from him, and he is more criminal for neglecting his duty, or acting contrary thereunto than one who has not such gifts.
Again, it is an aggravation of sin, if the person committing it be in an eminent place or station, hold a high office, is a guide to others, and his example is likely to be. followed by others. The same sin in a ruler is greater than in the subject. Thus David's station was mentioned by the prophet Nathan, as an aggravation of his sin. "And Nathan said to David,-thus saith the Lord God of Israel. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight." 2 Sam. xii. 7, 9. Magistrates are ordained to be a terror to evil-doers. Their
business is to punish crimes in others. Therefore sin in them, is, in addition to what it is in others, a violation of the duties of their office, as it unfits them to perform these duties aright; or if they do attempt to perform them, they undo with one hand, what they attempt to do with the other. And as their station gives them great influence in society, their example is the more pernicious.
The same is true of parents and masters; for their children and servants look up to them for example, and their evil example will be likely to do more injury than if they did not stand in these relations. Besides, by their own sins, their mouths will be stopped, so that they will scarcely be able to reprove or restrain sin in those under their
The same remarks may be made with respect to officers in the church. Sin in them is more aggravated than in a private christian. For they are peculiarly a city set on an hill, that cannot be hid. Superior circumspection is expected from them, their example has great influence, and their sins give great offence, and are calculated to do great mischief. Especially is sin more aggravated in a minister of the gospel, than in private christians, or than in inferior church officers. For they are especially looked up to as examples of holy living; and their example if if it be wrong, is calculated to do more injury, and to wound the cause of Christ more, than that of any other christian. That sin in a minister is aggravated by the of fice which he sustains, the apostle Paul taught when he said, "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that makest thy boast of the law,through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you;" Rom. ii. 21, &c.
II. Sins receive their aggravations-from the parties offended. If immediately against God, his attributes and worship; against Christ and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them or any other; and the common good of all or of many."
Some sins are, more than others, immediately against
God, his being, perfections, and worship. These sins are on this account more aggravated than the same kind of sins committed against man. Thus it was mentioned by Peter as a great aggravation of the sin of Ananias," thou hast not lied unto men but unto God;" Acts v. 4. The sins of this class are such as strike at the being of a God, or of the true God, as atheism and idolatry; such as either speculatively or practically deny any of the perfections of God, as his power, wisdom, omniscience, goodness, mercy, &c.; and such as profane and cast contempt upon his ordinances, like the deceiver spoken of by Malachi, against whom he pronounced a curse, Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King saith the Lord of hosts;" Mal. i. 14. And like the Corinthians who were severely blamed and threatened for their disorderly and irreverent approach to the Lord's table,
Some sins are more immediately against Christ as a Saviour, and against the grace which he has provided, and which he offers to sinners. These sins are on this account aggravated. Such are the sins of denying the divine nature of Christ, and the atonement which he made for sin. The aggravated nature of these sins is taught in the following passage, 2 Pet. ii. 1; "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." Such also is the sin of despising the Saviour, as said the apostle Paul,
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing;" Heb. x. 29. Such also is the sin of neglecting the Saviour and his salvation; as said the Saviour, "If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin;" John xv. 22. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light;" John iii. 19. And the Apostle said, "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?" Heb. ii. 2, 3. To the same class
also belongs the sin of unbelief, as our Saviour taught when he said, "And when he (that is the Holy Spirit) is come he will reprove the world of sin-of sin, because they believe not on me;" John xvi. 8, 9.
Some sins again are more immediately against the Holy Spirit, in the exercise of his office in the work of redemption. Such sins are also very aggravated, from the circumstance of the object against whom they are immediately committed. Such are the sins of resisting, grieving, or quenching the Holy Spirit in his operations, and especially of doing despite unto him. The aggravated nature of such sins, we are taught by the following texts: "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, he shall be thought worthy who hath done despite unto the spirit of grace?" Heb. x. 29. "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come;" Mat. xii. 31, 32.
Again, sins are aggravated, by being committed against superiors and men of eminency. The law of God requires of us to pay respect and deference to age, to eminent characters, and to those clothed with office; and the same sin against such, is worse from the circumstance of the object against whom it is committed, than if it had been committed against an equal or an inferior. Witness God's judgment upon the children of Bethel for their disrespect of Elisha, who was an eminent prophet of the Lord, and a man in years. "There came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him and said unto him, go up thou bald head. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood; and tare forty and two children of them ;" 2 Kings ii. 23, 24. It is not probable that the same judgment would have fallen on these children, if they had thus mocked a younger man, and one of inferior character. In proof of the same, the Lord when he reproved Aaron and Miriam for their sedition. against Moses, represented the heinousness of their sin, and enforced his reproof by the character of Moses, And the apostle Jude representing the great wickedness