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Satan sinned in tempting Judas, and Judas sinned in betraying Christ. Yet God so overruled these sins, that most blessed results to the universe followed from Christ's betrayal and consequent death. Shall the sins of Satan and Judas be estimated from the evils actually resulting from them? If it should appear that the good immensely overbalanced the evil, does their sin thereby become holiness-meritorious holiness? Is their guilt at all the less for God's wisdom and love in overruling it for good?
It is not therefore the amount of resulting good or evil which determines the amount of guilt, but is the degree of light enjoyed under which the sin is committed.
4. Nor again can guilt be measured by the common opinions of men. Men associated in society are wont to form among themselves a sort of public sentiment which becomes a standard for estimating guilt; yet how often is it erroneous! Christ warns us against adopting this standard, and also against ever judging according to the outward appearance. Who does not know that the common opinions of men are exceedingly incorrect? It is indeed wonderful to see how far they diverge in all directions from the Bible standard.
5. The amount of guilt can be determined, as I have said, only by the degree in which those ideas are developed which throw light upon obligation. Just here sin lies, in resisting the light and acting in opposition to it, and therefore the degree of light should naturally measure the amount of guilt incurred.
1. We see from this subject the principle on which many passages of scripture are to be explained. It might seem strange that Christ should charge the blood of all the martyred prophets of past ages on that generation. But the subject before us reveals the principle upon which this is done and ought to be done.
Whatever of apparent mystery may attach to the fact declared in our text "The times of this ignorance God winked at"-finds in our subject an adequate explanation. Does it seem strange that for ages God should pass over almost without apparent notice the monstrous and reeking abominations of the heathen world? The reason is found in their ignorance. Therefore God winks at those odious and cruel idolatries. For all, taken together, are a trifle compared with the guilt of a single generation of enlightend men.
2. One sinner may be in such circumstances as to have
more light and knowledge than the whole heathen world. Alas! how little the heathen know! How little compared with what is known by sinners in this land, even by very young sinners!
Let me call up and question some impenitent sinner of Oberlin. It matters but little whom-let it be any Sabbath School child.
What do you know about God? I know that there is one God and only one. The heathen believe there are hundreds of thousands.
What do you know about God?
I know that he is infinitely great and good.-But the heathen thinks some of his gods are both mean and mischievouswicked as can be and the very patrons of wickedness among
What do you know about salvation? I know that God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son that whosoever would believe on him might live forever. O, the heathen never heard of that. They would faint away methinks in amazement if they should hear and really believe the startling, glorious fact. And that Sabbath School child knows that God gives his Spirit to convince of sin. He has perhaps often been sensible of the presence and power of that Spirit. But the heathen know nothing of this.
You too know that you are immortal-that beyond death there is still a conscious unchanging state of existence, blissful or wretched according to the deeds done here. But the heathen have no just ideas on this subject. It is to them as if all were a blank.
The amount of it then is that you know every thing-the heathen almost nothing. You know all you need to know to be saved, to be useful to honor God and serve your generation according to his will. The heathen sit in deep darkness, wedded to their abominations, groping, yet finding nothing.
As your light, therefore, so is your guilt immeasurably greater than theirs. Be it so that their idolatries are monstrousguilt in your impenitence under the light you have is vastly more so. See that heathen mother dragging her shrieking child and tumbling it into the Ganges! See her rush with another to throw him into the burning arms of Moloch. Mark; see that pile of wood flashing, lifting up its lurid flames toward heaven. Those men are dragging a dead husbandthey heave his senseless corpse on that burning pile.
There comes the widow-her hair all disheveled and flying— gaily festooned for such a sacrifice;-she dances on;-she rends the air with her howls and her wailings; she shrinks and yet she does not shrink-she leaps on the pile, and the din of music with the yell of spectators buries her shrieks of agony; she is gone! O, my blood curdles and runs cold in my veins;-my hair stands on end; I am horrified with such scenes-but what shall we say of their guilt? Ah yes-what do they know of God-of worship-of the claims of God upon their heart and life? Ah, you may well spare your censure of the Heathen for their fearful orgies of cruelty and lust, and give it where light has been enjoyed and resisted.
3. You see then that often a sinner in some of our congregations may know more than all the heathen world know. If this be true, what follows from it as to the amount of his comparative guilt? This, inevitably, that such a sinner deserves a direr and deeper damnation than all the heathen world! This conclusion may seem startling; but how can we escape from it? We can not escape. It is as plain as any mathematical demonstration. This is the principle asserted by Christ when he said-"That servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes." How solemn and how pungent the application of this doctrine would be in this congregation! I could call out many a sinner in this place and show him that beyond question his guilt is greater than that of all the heathen world. Yet how few ever estimated their own guilt.
Not long since, an ungodly young man, trained in this country, wrote back from the Sandwich Islands a glowing and perhaps a just description of their horrible abominations, moralizing on their monstrous enormities, and thanking God that he had been born and taught in a Christian land. Indeed! he might well have spared this censure of the dark-minded heathen! His own guilt in remaining an impenitent sinner under all the light of Christian America was greater than the whole aggregate guilt of all those Islands.
So we may all well spare our expressions of abhorrence at the guilty abominations of idolatry. You are often perhaps saying in your heart: Why does God endure these horrid abominations another day? See that rolling car of Juggernaut. Its wheels move axle-deep in the gushing blood and crushed bones of its deluded worshipers! And yet God looks on and
no red bolt leaps from his right hand to smite such wickedness. They are indeed guilty; but O how small their guilt compared with the guilt of those who know their duty perfectly, yet never do it! God sees their horrible abominations, yet does he wink at them because they are done in so much ignorance.
But see that impenitent sinner. Convicted of his sin under the clear gospel light that shines all around him, he is driven to pray. He knows he ought to repent, and almost thinks he is willing to, and will try. Yet still he clings to his sins and will not give up his heart to God. Still he holds his heart in a state of impenitence. Now mark me;-his sin, in thus withholding his heart from God under so much light, involves greater guilt than all the abominations of the heathen world. Put together the guilt of all those widows who immolate themselves on the funeral pile-of those who hurl their children into the Ganges, or into the burning arms of Moloch-all does not begin to approach the guilt of that convicted sinner's prayer who comes before God under the pressure of his conscience, and prays a heartless prayer, determined all the while to withhold his heart from God. O, why does this sinner thus tempt God, and thus abuse his love, and thus trample on his authority? O, that moment of impenitence, while his prayers are forced by conscience from his burning lips, and yet he will not yield the controversy with his Maker -that moment involves direr guilt than rests on all the heathen world together! He knows more than they all, yet sins despite of all his knowledge. The many stripes belong to him the few to them.
4. This leads me to remark again that the Christian world may very well spare their revilings and condemnations of the heathen. Of all the portions of earth's population, Christendom is infinitely the most guilty-Christendom, where the gospel peals from ten thousand pulpits-where its praises are sung by a thousand choirs, but where many thousand hearts that know God and duty, refuse either to reverence the one or perform the other! All the abominations of the heathen world are a mere trifle compared with the guilt of Christendom. We may look down upon the filth and meanness and degredation of a heathen people, and feel a most polite disgust at the spectacle and far be it from me to excuse these degra ding, filthy or cruel practices; but how small their light and consequently their guilt, compared with our own! We therefore ask the Christian world to turn away from the spectacle of
Heathen degradation, and look nearer home upon the spectacle of Christian guilt! Let us look upon ourselves.
5. Again: let us not fear to say what you must all see to be true, that the nominal church is the most guilty part of Christendom. It can not for a moment be questioned, that the church has more light than any other portion; therefore has she more guilt. Of course I speak of the nominal churchnot the real church whom He has pardoned, and cleansed from her sins. But in the nominal church, think of the sins that live and riot in their corruption. See that backslider. He has tasted the waters of life. He has been greatly enlightened. Perhaps he has really known the Lord by true faith-and then see, he turns away to eat the husks of earthly pleasure! He turns his back on the bleeding Lamb! Now, put together all the guilt of every Heathen soul that has gone to hell-of every soul that has gone from a state of utter moral darkness; and your guilt, backsliding Christian, is greater than all theirs!
Do you, therefore, say: may God then have mercy on my soul? So say we all; but we must add, if it be possible; for who can say that such guilt as yours can be forgiven! Can Christ pray for you as he prayed for his murderers-"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?" Can he plead in your behalf that you know not what you are doing? Awful! awful!! Where is the sounding line that shall measure the ocean-depth of your guilt!
6. Again: if our children remain in sin we may cease to congratulate ourselves that they were not born in Heathenism or Slavery! How often have I done this! How often, as I have looked upon my sons and daughters, have I thanked God that they were not born to be thrown into the burning arms of a Moloch, or to be crushed under the wheels of Juggernaut! But if they will live in sin, we must suspend our self-congratulations for their having Christian light and privileges. If they will not repent, it were infinitely better for them to have been born in the thickest Pagan darknessbetter to have been thrown in their tender years into the Ganges, or into the fires which idolatry kindles-better be any thing else, or suffer any thing earthly, than have the gospel's light only to shut it out and go to hell despite of its admonitions.
Let us not, then, be hasty in congratulating ourselves, as if this great light enjoyed by us and by our children, were of course a certain good to them; but this we may do—we may