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excellency; our relations to him as our Creator, Governor, Benefactor, and Judge; and all our obligations to him, ás rational creatures, as distinguished in his providence, as favoured with his gospel, and, some of us, at least, as having been made joyful in his salvation; and then form your estimate of the evil of sin, as committed against God; and endeavour to enter into the spirit of the emphatic language used in the text, "Against "thee, thee only, have I sinned."
III. I proceed to consider the evil of sin, as committed against God, and as violating all our obligations to him.
After what has been already stated, there is no occasion to be very particular on this part of our subject. For who does not perceive, that, however moral, amiable, or respectable, he may have been in his conduct among men; yet if he treat God with neglect, or set him at defiance, he must be the object of his indignation and abhorrence? If we consult the scripture, we shall find one crime in particular which is constantly called "an abo"mination," and treated as the most heinous and provoking of all, affording the clearest proof of men's hating God. Yet it is a crime not directly and necessarily injurious to men, at least in their temporal concerns: I mean idolatry. That this should be the highest offence, may be easily understood on our principles: but on those which make utility the standard and test it is entirely unaccountable. And therefore those pagan moralists, who had some notions concerning the unity of God, and the vanity of the popular theology; not only saw very little evil in the grossest idolatry,
but, by precepts and example, shewed that they even thought they did right in conforming to it!
In every government, submission to the supreme authority is the first social duty, and treason the highest crime; nay, other crimes in general are punished, not merely because injurious to individuals, but because they are acts of disobedience against the sovereign, or the state.
If a person be ever so amiable in private life; if he be punctual in his payments, upright in his dealings, faithful to his engagements, kind to his relations, a good master or a good landlord, compassionate and liberal to the poor, and courteous to all yet, if he have committed high treason, having failed in his highest obligation, the other parts of his conduct are not considered by his judges; his life is forfeited, and nothing but mercy, even the mercy of the prince against whom he has offended, can deliver him from condign punishment.
The same might be fully shewn by other illus trations. Nothing can make amends for a failure in the leading obligation: nothing can excuse or counterbalance unfaithfulness in a wife, or disobedience in a son: while the more affectionate and excellent the husband or father the more aggravated is the offence. And to persist, against repeated pardons and kindnesses, in such conduct, would stamp the offender as a monster of ingratitude, however moral and well-behaved in other respects.
But many endeavour to excuse themselves by saying, that they do not mean to offend God in this or the other action; for they never thought
about him. And thus the very sin, with which they are especially charged, is pleaded in extenuation of other crimes! It is the grand criminality in the conduct of men, that they forget God. Every object we behold proclaims his existence and glory our own consciousness, nay, reflection on our own bodies and souls, is suited to bring him to our thoughts. We live every hour on his bounty, and are continually upheld by his arm; yet we forget him, and excuse our other sins on the ground of that forgetfulness! But remember, my fellow sinners, that "the wicked shall be "turned into hell; and all the people that forget "God." Can there be a more unequivocal proof of ingratitude, contempt, and aversion, than this habitual forgetfulness of our glorious Sovereign, and our daily Benefactor?
If your child loves you, does he forget you? And should a son, whom you had tenderly and carefully educated, and with great expense placed in a very comfortable situation, and then charged, as he valued your favour and happiness, to avoid this, and to attend to that, particular: should he, I say, persist in a conduct in all respects diametrically opposite to your will; and then plead that indeed he did not mean to offend you, for he had forgotten both you, and your kindness, and your counsel; what would you think of his behaviour? Would you not suppose, that he meant to add insult to disobedience? "The carnal mind is "enmity against God." This carnal enmity is the source of our forgetfulness; and it is also an aggravation of our guilt.
Ingratitude is generally allowed to be one of
the basest and most detestable of crimes, where man only is concerned but what are our obligations to our best earthly benefactors, compared with those which are hourly conferred on us by our heavenly Father and Friend? yet who can justly say that he has not been ungrateful to God?
It is indeed a melancholy truth that, the more benefits God bestows in his providence, the greater neglect and ingratitude do men commonly manifest. Hence it is that the prosperous are far more apt to forget God than the afflicted; the rich more in general than the poor; the healthy more than the sick; and we are never in so much danger of impious contempt of him, as when he lavishes so many benefits upon us that we have every thing according to our own mind, and "more than "heart can wish."
This is not only the case, in respect of different persons placed in more or less prosperous circumstances, but in the same persons; even he that is truly pious in general acts better when afflicted than when successful. David behaved more honourably when persecuted by Saul, and when Absalom rose in rebellion against him, than he did "when the Lord had given him rest from all his "enemies round about."-Religion commonly flourishes most under persecution and affliction; and it seems almost an universal rule, that the more providence indulges, either individuals or collective bodies, the more negligent and ungrateful they become?" When thy riches increase, and "when thy gold, and thy silver, and all that thou "hast are multiplied, then beware lest thou forget
"the Lord thy God." And is not this undeniable fact an awful demonstration of our extreme depravity? Will any man seriously set himself to excuse such a temper and conduct?
Man's forgetfulness of God arises, in no small degree, from his inordinate love of worldly objects. He idolatrously values wealth, pleasure, power, or the honour which cometh from men. I say, idolatrously, for covetousness is idolatry, and sensual indulgence is idolatry. They are so called in scripture. And he who loves either wealth, pleasure, pomp, or any earthly object, more than God, is as really an idolater as if he had formed his gold into an image, and prostrated himself before it in stupid adoration. "Ye have forsaken "the fountain of living waters, and have hewn "out to yourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, which "can hold no water." "The world and the
things of the world" are put in the place of God and in this way even innocent and needful pursuits and employments often become the occasions of great guilt.
Judas sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver: and the Jews preferred Barabbas, a thief and robber, to Christ. We stand astonished at their baseness: but have we not, in some respects, preferred as mean or as vile objects to the infinite God, and to the gracious Saviour of lost sinners?
In short, if the human heart were not "deceit"ful above all things," as well as "desperately "wicked," our conduct in this respect towards God would never have been palliated. The criminality of man consists in rebellion against God, and in setting his own will in opposition to that of