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But let it never be forgot
ledge within our reach. ten by us, that all these means bring with them a proportional responsibility. We should consider every valuable book we read, every meeting we attend, every sermon we hear, every mercy we receive, as fur
nishing new calls and motives to obedience, and conferring additional and indispensible. obligations. Whenever we receive any new light, or means of light, we culd remember that our obligations are thereby increased, and that we cannot sin more without incurring an aggravated guilt.
2. If the sinfulness of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; then the same actions may not be equally sinful at different periods.-Different periods of the world have not been favored with the same degree of light. Duties, which once were obscure, and of doubtful obligation, are now illustrated and rendered plain ; and sins, which in other ages were little known, have since been exhibited in all their deformity. Consequently it must be much more unreasonable at the present day, either to neglect these duties, or commit these sins, than it has ever been before. For example, it was unquestionably wrong in itself for the patriarch Jacob to practise polygamy ; but his sin in this matter was a very trifle, compared with what it must be, in our enlightened age, for the head of a family to fall into the same offence.-Persecution for religion, which, two hundred years ago, was practised by nearly all denominations of Christians who possessed the power, was, without doubt, a flagrant sin; but the enormity of it, I think, was much less at that period, than it would be now. Liberty of conscience was not then understood. It was taken for granted that persons in power had the
right to bring the consciences of those who were under them to their own standard. It was in the exercise of this supposed right, that the flames of persecution were so often kindled, and the bodies of the saints consumed. The slave trade may be cited as a similar instance. This abominable traffic has been followed, within less than a hundred years, even by truly religious people; and without a suspicion on their part that they were doing wrong. The excellent Mr. John Newton was, for several years after he became pious, the commander of a slave ship. It is stated by his biographer, that "he had not the least scruple as to the lawfulness of the trade; considered it as the appointment of Providence ; and his employment in it as respectable and profitable." The enormities of the slave trade had not been unfolded; and it is not impossible that good people, who engaged in it, might regard it as a lawful and needful occupation. I do not say they conducted right in so doing; still, I think their sin was a trifle, compared with what it would now be for persons to do the same. None who now enlist in this horrible business, can pretend that its enormities are not well understood.
Is it not likely, my brethren, that succeeding generations may regard the subject of war very much as we now do that of burning heretics, and the slave trade? The subject of war has hitherto been involved in amazing darkness. It has been taken for granted, that rulers had a right, whenever they pleased, to bring their subjects together for the purpose of indiscriminate butchery and bloodshed. But the light has begun to shine upon this awful subject; and generations to come may be expected to see its enormity, clearer than we at present can. Upon the wars of
their fathers they will probably look back with astonishment and pity. And when that happy period arrives; the sin of engaging in war will be much greater, than it has been in any former age.
3. If the sinfulness of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed ; then the same things may not be equally sinful in different places.-Different nations, and different parts of the same nation, are favored with different degrees of light; and in those places, where people enjoy and abuse the greatest light, they must be proportionally most guilty. It is wrong for a heathen to prostrate himself before his idol; but this act is in no comparison so sinful in him, as it would be in one of us. It is wrong for the inhabitants of our Western country, who are in a measure destitute of Christian privileges, to persist in rejecting that Saviour whose name they occasionally hear; but it cannot be so sinful for them to do this, as it is for others, among whom the gospel is faithfully and almost daily preached. Is it not to be believed, my friends, that profane swearing, Sabbath breaking, and the various vices which disgrace our age, are more inexcusable and sinful in New-England than in any other part of the globe; and for this reason, the inhabitants of New-England have had more light, in respect to the enormity of these things, than perhaps any other people.-In estimating the sinfulness of a town, a state, a nation, or a section of country, we are to take into consideration, not only the vices which are practised, but the light and advantages in opposition to which they are practised. One town or nation may be more wicked than another, when their vices are in reality less palpable and glaring; for although their vices are less glaring, this difference in their favor may be more than counter
vailed, by the superior light and advantag es against which they have sinned.
4. If the sinfulness of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; then the same practices may not be equally sinful in different persons.-Different persons have different advantages, and are favored with different degrees of light. Consequently the same sinful practices, in different persons, cannot possess the same measure of guilt.-It is wrong for any person, who has the smallest acquaintance with the truths of the gospel, to be cold, indifferent, and unaffected under them; but his stupidity cannot be so sinful, as that of one who is greatly his superior in religious knowledge. President Edwards somewhere remarks," When others have come to talk with me about their souls concerns, and have expressed the sense they had of their own wickedness in very strong terms; I have thought their expressions seemed exceedingly faint and feeble, to represent my wickedness." When we take into view the superior light, and high knowledge of Divine things, for which this eminent servant of Christ was so much distinguished; it is not at all incredible, that his remaining sins should appear, in the eye of God, and in his own eyes, as peculiarly aggravated.-It is wrong for children, who have been trained up in ignorance, irreligion, and vice, to continue in those practices to which their education has addicted them; but such children cannot be so inexcusable or guilty, in breaking the Sabbath, neglecting the sanctuary, and profaning the name of God, as others must be in doing the same, who have been trained up" in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."-In estimating the characters of individuals, as well as communities, we must take into
consideration, not only their sinful practices, but the light and advantages, in opposition to which these practices are indulged. In this way also we should estimate our own characters. It is not certain that we are better than others, because our vices are less palpable and glaring; for our advantages may have exceeded theirs, far more than their vices can be thought to exceed ours.
5. If the guilt of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; ther we may see a reason why the pure gospel of Christ has not been perpetuated in any particular country or place. The gospel was first preached in Jerusalem and Palestine; but for many centuries, its joyful sound in those regions was no longer heard. Next, it extended itself into Grecce, Africa, and the lesser Asia. But the once flourishing Churches of Corinth, Ephesus, and Egypt, have long been prostrated, and their candlestick has been removed out of its place. The gospel was next preached, and numerous Churches were established, in Italy. But these gave place to a night of Papal usurpation and darkness, which is brooding over Italy to the present hour. Upon the reformation from Popery, the pure gospel was first preached in Germany and Switzerland. But in many of the Churches established by the Reformers, the light of truth has been quenched by a flood of errors; while in others, it has often seemed ready to expire. In this way, the gospel has been shifting from land to land, and from one quarter of the globe to another. It has been perpetuated; but not in any particular country or place. We do not inquire for the natural causes which have operated to bring about this state of things; but rather for the final cause. Why has it been the pleasure of the Supreme Disposer, to order