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ON THE EVIL OF SIN, AS COMMITTED AGAINST GOD.
PSALM LI. 4.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned!
THE Occasion on which this Psalm was composed is well known. The awful fall of David, and the most aggravated crimes which he committed, have attracted very general notice. But many remember his sins, who do not appear properly to consider his humiliation and deep repentance. Numbers, on this ground, suppose themselves superior characters, because they are exempt from such flagrant criminality; though there are no evidences that they possess any positive excellence. And not a few who disgrace the religious opinions which they avow, by evident and habitual misconduct, yet satisfy their own consciences, and expect others to entertain a favourable opinion of them; as the 'best,' say they, 'have their faults, and even David "committed adultery and murder!' But, if they would have us form the same judgment of their case as Nathan did of David's, they must shew the same spirit of deep repentance that he did. A renowned monarch, having given public scandal by his crimes, composes and publishes this Psalm, and, before his own subjects and the whole world,
gives honour to God by proclaiming his own
The Psalm is throughout the language of the deepest contrition; and has been not improperly called, The portrait of a penitent.' The royal Psalmist's crimes had been of such a nature, that they were both deeply injurious to mankind, and also most scandalous in the eyes of the world: yet. his views of the obligations he lay under to God, and of his most aggravated violation of them, seem to have swallowed up every other consideration. All else in this comparison appeared trivial in his eyes and the address of Nathan to him shews that, in this respect, his judgment accorded with that of God himself. "Thou art the man! Thus "saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the "hand of Saul; and I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom; "and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah :
and, if that had been too little, I would more"over have given thee such and such things. "Wherefore then hast thou despised the command"ment of the Lord to do evil in his sight? Thou "hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, " and hast taken his wife to be thy wife.-There "fore the sword shall never depart from thine "house; because thou hast despised me."1
Observe, my friends, the prophet does not rest the weight of the charge, brought against David, on the injury done to men; but on the ungrateful contempt shewn to God and to his law and authority.
12 Sam. xii. 7-10.
The prophet adds, " Howbeit, because by this "deed thou hast caused the enemies of the Lord "to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto "thee shall surely die." Here again the crime of David is aggravated by the dishonour it had brought on the name of God, through the blasphemies of his enemies.
These considerations may throw light on the words of our text, "Against thee, thee only, have "I sinned!" The wrong done to man by our offences is not to be overlooked, or thought slightly of: but our attention must not be so confined to the evil of them in this respect, as to interfere with a sense of those higher obligations to God which we have violated.-In what I have further to offer on the subject, I shall,
I. Make some introductory remarks:
II. Illustrate the emphatical words here used; "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned:"
III. Consider the evil of sin, as committed against God, and as violating all our obligations to him: And,
IV. Adduce several instances in which this doctrine brings those in deeply guilty, who otherwise would scarcely appear guilty at all; and thus shew how it cuts up by the very roots a selfjustifying spirit.
I. I proceed to make some introductory remarks.
In general, the text clearly proves, that the believing penitent's view of the evil of his sins is proportioned to the degree in which he considers the extent of his obligations to God.
1 2 Sam. xii. 14.
In the present age and nation, systems of morality, and discourses on moral virtues, have almost excluded, not only the doctrines of Christianity, but even the preceptive part of scripture : though they fall vastly below the high standard of the divine law, and are destitute of its sanctions; and of the motives, encouragements, and assistances proposed to us in the gospel. In many of these books utility to man is made the test and measure of virtue, and the criminality of vice is supposed to consist in the injury done to our fellow creatures.
And this seems to be one of the most dangerous and ruinous evils of the day: as, if carried to its evident consequences, it would supersede the whole religion of Christ, and in fact abrogate the Bible. For it cannot be denied, that the sacred oracles address us in far different language. The first and great commandment of the law is, "Thou "shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, "and mind, and soul, and strength." The first requirement of the gospel is, "My son, give me "thy heart." "Repent and turn to God." "Be"lieve in the Lord Jesus Christ." And the general rules laid down for a Christian's conduct are such as these: "Whether therefore ye eat, or "drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory "of God." "Whatsoever ye do, in word or in "deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus "Christ." "With good will doing service, as to "the Lord, and not unto men."
No doubt, such are the holy commands of God, and the way in which we are required to glorify him, that, the more exactly we fulfil these supe
rior obligations, the greater benefit we shall eventually render to mankind: but to reverse the order of scripture, is "turning things upside "down,"1 and placing the glory of the great God below the petty interests of sinful man! Certainly we ought to do good to man "for the Lord's "sake;" and not to glorify God for the sake of
But it will soon appear that these anti-scriptural views in great measure supersede the necessity of the gospel; and by feeding self-complacency, and the pride of virtue, have had a powerful effect in producing that disregard to evangelical principles, which forms in many places the peculiar character of the age. "If righteousness come by the law, "then Christ died in vain ;" and he who feels no need of his salvation is already prepared, not only to neglect, but to reject and oppose the Gospel.
There is in the natural consciences of men a far greater susceptibility of conviction and guilt, in what relates to their conduct towards each other, than in respect to their behaviour towards God. For too commonly "God is not in all their "thoughts." And, besides this, the sense of the injury done to society by several crimes associates itself with all the ideas on these subjects, which we receive from education, study, and conversation because the sentiment prevails in the world. Men generally cry shame of those who grossly violate their obligations to their neighbours; and consider them as unfit for society: but they are not thus affected by the conduct of those who
Isa. xxix. 15.