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in the Gospels : one is, John's declaring that, when the person of whom he spoke should appear, his own ministry, which was then much followed and attended, would sink in importance and esteem,“ He must
“ increase, I must decrease—He that cometh after me, is preferred before me—He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness ; behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” The other is our Lord's own reflection upon John's testimony in his favour, which was exactly agreeable to the truth of the case.
“ Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth : but I receive not testimony from He was a burning and a shining light; and
ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John--the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of me.” As if he had said : My own performance of miracles is a higher and surer proof of my mission than any testimony
. which could be given to me by another, who did not perform miracles, however great or praiseworthy or excellent his character and his preaching were in all respects, or however much his followers confided in him : the one was the testimony of men, the other of God. “ I receive not testimony of man;" the proofs, which I myself exhibit before your eyes of Divine power, supersede human testimony.
Again, our Lord put the truth of his pretensions, precisely and specifically, upon the evidence of his miracles (John x. 37). “ If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not : but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works.” What fairer appeal could be made ? Could more be done to challenge inquiry, or place the question upon the right ground ?
Lastly, in the xvth chapter and 24th verse, our Lord fixes the guilt of the unbelieving Jews upon this arti. cle, that they rejected miraculous proof, which ought to have convinced them : and that, if they had not had such proof, they might have been excusable, or, comparatively speaking, they would not have had sin. His words are very memorable : “ If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.”
It appears, therefore, that, as well in the answer to John's messengers as in the other passages of his history and discourses which resemble this, our Lord acted a part the most consistent with his professed character. He referred the messenger who came to him to miraculous works performed before their eyes, to things done upon the spot; to the testimony of their " Show John those things which ye
do see and hear.” Would, could, any other than a prophet come from God do this? In like manner, was it for any other than a Divine messenger to bid his very disciples not believe in him, if he did not these works; or to tell unbelievers that, if he had not done among them works which none other man did, their unbelief might have been excusable ? In all this we discern conviction and sincerity, fairness, truth, and evidence.
ON INSENSIBILITY TO OFFENCES.
Psalm xix. 12, 13.
Who can tell how. oft he offendeth ? O cleanse thou
me from my secret faults. Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion
These words express a rational and affecting prayer, according to the sense which they carry with them at first sight, and without entering into any interpretation of them whatsoever. Who is there that will not join heartily in this prayer? for who is there that has not occasion to pray against his sins ? We are laden with the weight of our sins. “ The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.” But, beyond this, these same words, when they come to be fully understood, have a still stronger meaning, and still more applicable to the state and condition of our souls ; which I will endeavour to set
You will observe the expression, “my secret faults: O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.” Now the question is, to whom are these faults a secret? to myself, or to others ? whether the prayer relates to faults which are concealed from mankind, and are in that sense secret ; or to faults which are concealed from the offender himself, and are therefore secret in the most full and strict sense of which the term is capable ? Now, I say that the contents, or whole passage taken together, oblige us to understand the word “ secret” in
this latter sense : for observe two particulars. The first verse of the text runs thus:-“Who can tell how oft he offendeth ? O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.” Now, to give a connexion to the two parts of this verse, it is necessary to suppose that one reason, why it was so difficult for any man to know how oft he offendeth, was, that many of his faults were secret ; but in what way, and to whom, secret ? to himself undoubtedly: otherwise the secrecy would have been no reason or cause of that difficulty. The merely being concealed from others would be nothing to the present purpose : because the most concealed sins, in that sense, are as well known to the sinner himself as those which are detected or most open ; and therefore such concealment would not account for the sinner's difficulty in understanding the state of his soul and of his conscience. To me it appears very plain that the train of the Psalmist's thoughts went thus :-He is lead to cast back his recollection upon the sins of his life : he finds himself, as many of us must do, lost and bewildered in their number and frequency; because, beside all other reasons of confusion, there were many which were unnoticed, unreckoned, and unobserved. Against this class of sins, which, for this reason, he calls his secret faults, he raises up his voic
his voice to God in prayer. This is evi. dently, as I think, the train and connexion of thought; and this requires that the secret faults here spoken of be explained of such faults as were secret to the person himself. It makes no connexion, it carries with it no consistent meaning to interpret them of those faults which were concealed from others. This is one argument for the exposition contended for; another is the following: You will observe, in the text, that two kinds of sins are distinctly spoken of, under the name of secret faults and presumptuous sins. The words are, “O cleanse thou me from my secret faults; keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” Now, it will not do to consider these secret faults as merely concealed faults, because they are not necessarily distinguished from, or can be placed in opposition to, presumptuous sins. The Psalmist is here addressing God: he is deeply affected with the state of his soul, and with his sins, considered in relation to God. Now, with respect to God, there may be, and there often is, as much presumption, as much daring, in committing a concealed sin, as in committing a sin which is open to the world. The circumstance of concealment or detection makes no difference at all in this respect; and therefore they could not properly be placed in different classes : nor would it be natural so to place them: but offences which escape the sinner's own notice at the time may certainly be distinguished from those which are committed with a high hand, with a full knowledge of the guilt and defiance of the consequences; and that is, as I believe, the distinction here intended, and the one the Psalmist called his secret faults, the other his presumptuous sins. Upon the whole, therefore, I conclude that the secret sins, against which the Psalmist prayed, were sins secret to himself.
But here, therefore, comes the principal question -How there can be any sins of this sort? how that can be a sin, which is neither observed nor known to be so by the person who commits it? And then there comes also a second consideration, which is, if there be such, what ought to be done with respect to them? Now, as well upon the authority of the text, as upon what is the real case with human nature, when that case is rightly understood, I contend, first, that there are many violations of God's laws, which the men who are guilty of them are not sensible of at the time: