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Kom. iii. 19-20.
13. Their throat is an open sepulchre ; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.
14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
19. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them, who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
In my last discourse upon this chapter, I en. deavoured to point out to you the source of that evil, which is found in man, and to shew how agreeable that doctrine, which the Church 1 of England calls original sin, is to the descrip. tion of the fall, which is given us in the Sacred Writings. I informed you that we were, as the Apostle speaks,“ by nature the children of wrath ;'* and that there was in all the de
* Eph. ii, 3,
scendants of Adam a radical defect, or a want of that principle of holiness, which constitutes the spiritual life, and enables a man to maintain a steady and uniform obedience to the divine will. In consequence of this constitutional evil the world has in every age been filled with wickedness; and though, by the mercy of what some call restraining grace, and others natural conscience, the floods of iniquity have in some measure been restrained, yet, more or less, a disposition to act independently of God, and to break in upon that beautiful order of things, which he has established, is manifest in all in such a manner as to render them guilty creatures; therefore it behoves them to be humbled on account of their transgressions, and to intreat the Lord to receive them into his favour through Jesus Christ, to create in them a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within them.
In the verses, which I have just read, and which are quoted from different passages in the Old Testament, we have a very lamentable representation given us of human nature, which, in its present state, is exceedingly corrupt, destitute of the Image of God, and polluted with every crime. We are not, however, to suppose, that the several individuals, of which the mass of mankind is composed,
are addicted to the same vices, or wicked in the same degree; only that there is in all a certain obliquity and want of rectitude, which makes it necessary, that they should confess themselves to be miserable sinners, and plead for salvation, on no other ground than the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. But, let us proceed to a more particular consideration of the human character, as it is represented by the Apostle: He begins his description of the fallen sons of Adam by saying, v. 13. “ Their throat is an open sepulchre.” As an uncovered grave sendeth forth the most horrid and pestilential vapours, so doth the heart of an unconverted sinner. From thence, according to the declaration of our Saviour, “ proceed evil thoughts, murders, fornications, adulteries, thefts, false witness, blasphemies," all of which are more pestiferous in their nature, and more fatal in their effects, than any plague or pestilence that has ever arisen from the most corrupted carcases. This is the fountain of all uncleanness. From this polluted source flows all the evil, which is afterwards mentioned. Hence it comes to pass, that many “ with their tongues have used deceit.” Who will affirm that this is not commonly done? How few are the people, even among those, who profess and call themselycs Christians, upon
whose word you can confidently rely, and of whose integrity you have no cause to entertain suspicions ! Say, my friends, are you all free from deceit? Do you desire to deal fairly and honourably with all mankind, and to take no advantage of their ignorance? Solomon, who well knew the human heart, tells us what was the iniquity of traffic in his day. “ It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, but when he is gone his way then he boastețh.”* And is not the same iniquity practised at this day in every fair, and in every market? Do not many make their bargains in buying and selling, as if they thought the persons, with whom they deal, would over-reach them, if they could? How often too, after a promise of speedy payment, is money withheld from those to whom it is due, by which many an honest man becomes a bankrupt, and his family is involved in ruin? Examine your. selves, my Brethren, and see, whether, in all your transactions with your fellow creatures, the language of deceit has never come forth from your lips. Have you avoided, not only direct falsehood, but even equivocation, and have you been always desirous, notwithstanding what you might suffer by it in your interest, or reputation, that the truth, and the truth only,
* Prov. xx. 10.