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SERM. The consciousness of sin, and the dread XIV.
of the effects of it are so extremely burdensome, that the wicked are in general very desirous to persuade themselves that they are less guilty than they really are ; and as their conscience will not permit them to imagine that they are absolutely innocent, they are very eager to flatter themselves, that they are comparatively so; hence for the most part arises the desire to discover and to aggravate the faults of other men; and as there can be no clearer proof of a man's being enor, mously wicked, than his being declared so by heaven, there is a certain eagerness to interpret the calamities of our brethren into judgments, and thence to flatter ourselves, because we have escaped the like, that we are therefore comparatively virtuous. But this our Saviour tells us is a very false conclusion, and a far different consequence from that which we ought to
draw on such occasions: “Suppose ye that SERM. “ these Galileans were sinners above all ni “ the Galileans, because they suffered such “ things ? I tell you, Nay; but, except ye “ repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Ye are not to imagine that greater temporal sufferings peculiarly belong to greater sins ; ye are not to consider them at all in this light; but ye are to take warning by them, and hasten to forsake your own iniquities, lest the same or worse evils overtake you.
It is very absurd and unreasonable to fatter ourselves with the belief, that because we have escaped those afflictions, which we have seen fall on others, we are therefore innocent, and free from danger: for, supposing it true that these sufferers were certainly greater sinners than we are, we cannot argue from this that we are no sinners at all; it ought rather to put us on examining ourselves, on repenting of our iniquities, and reforming our lives, P3
SER M. lest we also be involved in similar judg
ments. But the argument is greatly strengthened, when we reflect on what is probably true, that those who have suffered were not more guilty than ourselves; nay, · perhaps, that they were holy and virtuous
persons. This latter supposition, which we know to be just in many instances, is a most awakening warning to us, to fly from our sins, for if this has been done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry! If this has been the lot of those, whom God loves, what shall be the portion of those, whom he hates !--if judgment begin at the house of God, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear!
No rational person, I should think, can hear of the terrible torments, which the first martyrs to our religion underwent holy and good men — who spent their whole lives in serving God, and endured death in its most terrible shapes rather
than forsake him,- no reasonable person SERM.
XIV.. can think of this, and not apprehend, that if men of this character, such peculiar fayourites of heaven, suffered so much, how, far greater sufferings must be in store for. the impenitently wicked! Many grievous sinners have enjoyed great and uninterrupted prosperity in this world, and many righteous persons have passed their whole lives in tribulation and distress; but in the world to come the scene will be directly reversed; those who have received their evil things, and have carried themselves patiently and piously, shall be comforted; those who have received their good things, and who have been ungrateful and irreligious, shall be tormented.
From what has been said then, I should hope that the propriety and wisdom of this mode of conduct is clear and evident; that when we see our brethren in tribulation, it is not for us to aggravate their disP4
SERM. tress by imputing it to their iniquities; it XIV.
does not at all concern us to pry curiously into the matter; but, instead of doing this, we are to think of ourselves, to take warning, to relinquish our evil ways, and amend our lives, since we have the word of our Saviour, that, “ unless we repent, we “ shall all likewise perish."