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All mankind by nature under fin.

ROMANS iii. 23.

For all have finned, and come bort of the glory of God.

HE whole revelation of the will of


God to mankind, both in the Old Teftament and the New, proceeds upon the fuppofition that they are finners; that is to fay, tranfgreffors of his law, and liable to the stroke of his juftice. This only can give meaning to the doctrine of redemption. None can understand, at least none can relish or embrace it, unless they believe, and are perfuaded of this preliminary truth.

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What I have now faid, appears from many exprefs paffages of the holy fcriptures; and is particularly evident from the general strain, and from the very structure of the epistle to the Romans. In it the apoftle, who had never been at Rome, gives a full and particular account of the doctrine of Chrift; and he lays the foundation for this by a distinct and laboured proof, that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, are under fin. In imitation of his example, I intend to begin my difcourfes on practical religion, by endeavouring to impress your minds with a fenfe of the fame truth. This muft lead the way to the faving knowledge of the Redeemer; and as he only can build fecurely, who takes care that every part of the fuperftructure reft immediately or ultimately upon the foundation, it is as neceffary to be remembered by faints, as to be received by finners.

It may perhaps, on a flight view, appear to be fuperfluous. All mankind,' fome will fay, are ready to acknowledge that they are finners; and there is great reason

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to believe they are fincere in this confes 'fion.' But, my brethren, a little reflection may convince you, that this general acknowledgement is either very infincere, or very imperfect and defective. It is plainly a light fenfe of fin that enables the multitude to fleep in fecurity. It is plainly a light sense of fin


that betrays men into the commiffion of it, and emboldens them to continue in it. It is plainly a light fenfe of fin that blunts the edge of all the threatenings in the word of God, and the admonitions of his providence. Is it not from a light fenfe of fin, that when the preaching of the gospel is not wholly deferted, its ineftimable truths are received without thankfulness, and heard without profit?

For thefe reafons, I propofe, through the affistance of divine grace, to difcourfe a little on the words of the apoitle now read: "For "all have finned, and come fhort of the glo"ry of God:" And, in fo doing, fhall

1. Endeavour to confirm the truth con. tained in them, That all mankind are finners, or tranfgreffors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgement. And,

2. Shall make a practical improvement of the fubject.

I. IN the first place, then, let us endeavour to confirm the truth contained in the text, That all mankind are finners, or tranfgreffors of the law of God, and liable to his righteous judgement. And here, my brethren, it puts me a little to a stand, in what manner to handle this important fubject; whether in the way of reafon or affection; whether in the way of cool and conclufive arguments directed to the judgement, or pointed interrogatories

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interrogatories directed to the confcience. Many, nay, innumerable, are the cavils that have been brought by men of corrupt minds against this fundamental truth. The father of lies, indeed, feems to confider it, and justly, as the corner-ftone of true religion, which, if, he is able to weaken or undermine, it must end in the fall and ruin of the whole fabric. If there be any among you, as poffibly there are, infected with the poifon of infidelity, all exhortation and warning will be treated by fuch with difdain, while their objections, however weak, have not been brought into view. On the other hand, there are multitudes of finners borne away by luft and paffion, who are incapable of understanding the force of speculative reafoning, and who have an unhappy tendency to overlook, as what does not concern them, every thing that is treated-in that way. I fhall be obliged, therefore, to have an eye to both: and oh! that it may pleafe God to enable me fo to propofe to the judgement, and fo to prefs upon the confcience, this neceffary truth, as that fome careless perfons may be awakened, and brought to an attention to the one thing needful; and that if any have hitherto taken up with imperfect notions of religion, and built their hope upon the fand, they may be perfuaded in time to diftruft that dangerous fituation, and to found it upon the rock of ages.


For the reafon above affigned, it is difficult to determine, what ufe is to be made of fcripture-teftimony on fuch a fubject. The charge of guilt upon the finner, feems to be only preparatory to, and muft, as it were, pave the way for the reception of fcripturetruths. If the teftimony of God in scripture is to be refted on, this one paffage is fufficient; but the unbelieving heart is ready to challenge and call in queftion every fuch fcripture-declaration. I find the worthy author of a well-known catechifm, commonly used in the inftruction of children, joins together fcripture and experience, in the answer to that question, "How do you know, that you


are born in a ftate of fin and mifery?” Anf. "God's word tells me fo. Befides, I "find my heart naturally backward to that "which is good, and prone to that which is "evil." After this example, and confidering, that by the law is the knowledge of fin, we fhall not feparate them; the rather, that God is able to make his own word, even in the bare repetition of it, quick and powerful, Heb. iv. 12. In the further illuftration of this head, therefore, I fhall, first, briefly lay before you fome of the fcripture-declarations on this fubject; and, 2dly, confirm them from experience, the vifible ftate of the world, and the teftimony of our own hearts.

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