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destruction of his family, as the punishment of his sin, but points out to him two instances of great families having been destroyed for the very same reason. You afterwards read the full accomplishment of this sentence by the hand of Jehu. Now I consider these instances as in fact the execution of the second commandment, and as showing what sense that commandment bore. But if it were so; if the force of the threat was, that in the distribution and assignment of temporal prosperity and adversity, upon a man's family and race, respect would be had to his fidelity to God, or his rebellion against him in this article of false and idolatrous worship; then is the punishment, as to the nature and justice of it, agreeably to what we see in the constant and ordinary course of God's providence. The wealth and grandeur of families are commonly owing, not to the present generation, but to the industry, wisdom, or good conduct of a former ancestor. The poverty and depression of a family are not imputable to the present representatives of the family, but to the fault, the extravagance, or mismanagement, of those who went before them; of which nevertheless they feel the effects. All this we see every day; and we see it without surprise or complaint. What, therefore, accords with the state of things under the ordinary dispensations of Providence as to temporal prosperity and adversity, was by a special providence, and by a particular sentence, ordained to be the mode, and probably a most efficacious mode, of restraining and correcting an offence, from which it was of the utmost importance to deter the Jewish nation..

My third proposition is, that this commandment related particularly to the Jewish economy. In the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, you find Moses, with prodigious solemnity, pronouncing the blessings and cursings which awaited the children of Israel under the dispensation to which they were called; and you will observe, that these blessings consisted altogether of worldly benefits, and these curses of worldly punishments. Moses in effect declared, that with respect to this peculiar people, when they came into their own land, there should be amongst them such a signal and extraordinary and visible interposition of Providence, as to shower down blessings, and happiness, and prosperity, upon those who adhered faithfully to the

od of their fathers, and to punish, with exemplary misfortunes, those who disobeyed and deserted him. Such, Moses told them, would be the order of God's government over them. This dispensation dealt in temporal rewards and punishments. And the second commandment, which made the temporal prosperity and adversity of families depend, in many instances, upon the religious behaviour of the ancestor of such families, was a branch and consistent part of that dispen


But, lastly and principally, my fourth proposition is, that at no rate does it affect, or was ever meant to affect, the acceptance or salvation of individuals in a future life. My proof of this proposition I draw from the 18th chapter of Ezekiel. It should seem from this chapter, that some of the Jews, at that time, had put too large an interpretation upon the second commandment; for the prophet puts this question into the mouth of his countrymen; he supposes them to be thus, as it were, expostulating with God: "Ye say, Why? Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?"

that is the question he makes them ask. Now take notice of the answer; the answer which the prophet delivers in the name of God, is this: "When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him:” ver. 19, 20.

In the preceding part of the chapter, the prophet has dilated a good deal, and very expressly indeed, upon the same subject; all to confirm the great truth which he lays down. "Behold all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth it shall die." Now apply this to the second commandinent: and the only way of reconciling them together, is by supposing that the second commandment related solely to temporal, or rather family adversity and prosperity, and Ezekiel's chapter to the rewards and punishments of a future state. When to this is added what hath been observed, that the threat in the second commandment belongs to the crime forbidden in that commandment, namely, the going over to false gods, and deserting the one true God; and that it also formed a part or branch of the Mosaic system which dealt throughout in temporal rewards and punishments, at that time dispensed by a particular providence: when these considerations are laid together, much of the difficulty, and much of the objection, which our own minds may have raised against this commandment, will, I hope, be removed.



If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.-John vii. 17.

Ir does not, I think, at first sight appear, why our behaviour should influence our belief, or how any particular course of action, good or bad, should affect our assent to any particular propositions which are offered to us: for truth or probability can never depend upon our conduct; the credibility or incredibility of religion is the same, whether we act well or ill, whether we obey its laws or disobey them. Nor is it very manifest, how even our perception of evidence or credibility should be affected by our virtues or vices; because conduct is immediately voluntary, belief is not: one is an act of the will, under the power of motives; the other is an act of the understanding, upon which motives do not, primarily at least, operate, nor ought to operate at all. Yet our Lord, in the text, affirms this to be the case, namely, that our beha viour does influence our belief, and to have been the case from the beginning, that is, even during his own ministry upon earth. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." It becomes, therefore, a subject of serious and religious inquiry, how, why, and to what extent, the declaration of the text may be maintained.

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upon an act of known transgression, do expressly state to themselves the question, whether religion be true or not; and in order to get at the object of their desire, (for the real matter to be determined is, whether they shall have their desire gratified or not,) in order, I say, to get at the pleasure in some cases, or in other cases, the point of interest, upon which they have set their hearts, they choose to decide, and they do in fact decide with themselves, that these things are not so certain, as to be a reason for them to give up the pleasure which lies before them, or the advantage which is now, and which may never be again in their power to compass. This conclusion does actually take

Now the first and most striking observation is, that it corresponds with experience. The fact, so far as can be observed, is as the text represents it to be. I speak of the general course of human conduct, which is the thing to be considered. Good men are generally believers; bad men are generally unbelievers. This is the general state of the case, not without exceptions; for, on the one hand, there may be men of regular external morals, who are yet unbelievers, because though immorality be one cause of unbelief, it is not the only cause: and, on the other hand, there are undoubtedly many, who, although they believe and tremble, yet go on in their sins, because their faith doth not regulate their practice. But, having re-place, and, at various times, must almost necessaspect to the ordinary course and state of human rily take place, in the minds of men of bad morals. conduct, what our Saviour hath declared is veri- And now remark the effect which it has upon fied by experience. He that doeth the will of their thoughts afterwards. When they come at God, cometh to believe that Jesus Christ is of another future time to reflect upon religion, they God, namely, a messenger from God. A process reflect upon it as upon what they had before adsome how or other takes place in the understand-judged to be unfounded, and too uncertain to be ing, which brings the mind of him who acts acted upon, or to be depended upon; and reflecrightly to this conclusion. A conviction is formed, tions, accompanied with this adverse and unfaand every day made stronger and stronger. No vourable impression, naturally lead to infidelity. man ever comprehended the value of Christian Herein, therefore, is seen the fallacious operation precepts, but by conducting his life according to of sin; first, in the circumstances under which them. When, by so doing, he is brought to know men form their opinion and their conclusions contheir excellency, their perfection, I had almost cerning religion; and, secondly, in the effect, said, their divinity, he is necessarily also brought which conclusions, which doubts so formed, have to think well of the religion itself. Hear St. Paul: upon their judgment afterwards. First, what is "The night is far spent: the day is at hand: the situation of mind in which they decide conlet us, therefore cast off the works of darkness, cerning religion? and what can be expected from and let us put on the armour of light; let us walk such a situation? Some magnified and alluring honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunk-pleasure has stirred their desires and passions. It enness, not in chambering and wantonness, not cannot be enjoyed without sin. Here is religion, in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Je- denouncing and forbidding it on one side: there is sus Christ; and make not provision for the flesh opportunity drawing and pulling on the other. to fulfil the lusts thereof:" Rom. xiii. 11. It is With this drag and bias upon their thoughts, they recorded of this text, that it was the means of the pronounce and decide concerning the most imconversion of a very eminent father of the church, portant of all subjects, and of all questions. If St. Austin; for which reason I quote it, as an in-they should determine for the truth and reality of stance to my present purpose, since I apprehend religion, they must sit down disappointed of a it must have wrought with him in the manner gratification upon which they had set their hearts, here represented. I have no doubt but that others and of using an opportunity, which may never have been affected in like manner by this or other come again. Nevertheless they must determine particular portions of Scripture; and that still one way or other. And this process, viz. a simigreater numbers have been drawn to Christianity lar deliberation and a similar conclusion, is reby the general impression which our Lord's dis-newed and repeated, as often as occasions of sin courses, and the speeches and letters of his apos- offer. The effect, at length, is a settled persuatles, have left upon their minds. This is some- sion against religion. For what is it, in persons times called the internal evidence of our religion; who proceed in this manner, which rests and and it is very strong. But inasmuch as it is a dwells upon their memories? What is it which species of evidence which applies itself to the gives to their judgment its turn and bias? It is knowledge, love, and practice of virtue, it will ope- these occasional decisions often repeated; which rate most powerfully where it finds these qualities, decisions have the same power and influence over or even these tendencies and dispositions subsist- the man's after-opinion, as if they had been made ing. If this be the effect of virtuous conduct, and, ever so impartially, or ever so correctly; whereas, in some proportion, the effect also of each sepa- in fact, they are made under circumstances which rate act of virtue, the contrary effect must necessa- exclude, almost the possibility of their being made rily follow from a contrary course of behaviour. with fairness and with sufficient inquiry. Men And perhaps it may assist us in unfolding the decide under the power and influence of sinful subject, to take up the inquiry in this order; be- temptation; but, having decided, the decision is cause if it can be shown why, and in what man- afterwards remembered by them, and grows into ner, vice tends to obstruct, impair, and at length a settled and habitual opinion, as much as if they destroy our faith, it will not be difficult to allow, had proceeded in it without any bias or prejudice that virtue must facilitate, support, and confirm whatever. it: that, at least it will deliver us, or keep us free, from that weight of prejudice and resistance which is produced in the mind by vice, and which acts against the reception of religious truth.

Now the case appears to me to be no other than this: A great many persons, before they proceed

The extent to which this cause acts, that is, the numbers who are included in its influence, will be further known by the following observation. I have said, that sinners oftentimes expressly state to themselves the question, whether religion be true or not; and that they state to themselves this

From the doctrine which has been thus concisely proposed, various important rules and reflections arise.

question, at the time when they are about to enter | from practices which harden and indispose the upon some act of sin which religion condemns; mind against religion. I say, a mind so guarding and I believe the case so to be. I believe that and qualifying itself, and imploring with devout this statement is often expressly made, and in the earnestness and solicitude, the aid of God's holy manner which I have represented. But there is Spirit in its meditations and inquiries, seems, so also a tacit rejection of religion, which has nearly far as we can presume to judge, as meet an object the same effect. Whenever a man deliberately of divine help and favour as any of which we can ventures upon an action which he knows that re- form an idea; and it is not for us to narrow the ligion prohibits, he tacitly rejects religion. There promises of God, concerning his assisting grace, may not pass in his thoughts every step which we so as, without authority, to exclude such an obhave described, nor may he come expressly to the ject from it. conclusion: but he acts upon the conclusion; he practically adopts it. And the doing so will alienate his mind from religion, as surely, almost, as if he had formally argued himself into an opinion of its untruth. The effect of sin is necessarily, and highly, and in all cases, adverse to the production and existence of religious faith. Real difficulties are doubled and trebled, when they fall in with vicious propensities; imaginary difficulties are readily started. Vice is wonderfully acute in discovering reasons on its own side. This may be said of all kinds of vice; but, I think, it more particularly holds good of what are called licentious vices, that is, of vices of debauchery; for sins of debauchery have a tendency, which other species of sin have not so directly, to unsettle and weaken the powers of the understanding, as well as, in a greater degree, I think, than other vices, to render the heart thoroughly corrupt. In a mind so wholly depraved, the impression of any argument, relating to a moral or religious subject, is faint, and slight, and transitory. To a vitiated palate no meat has its right taste; with a debauched mind, no reasoning has its proper influence.

But, secondly: Have we not also from Scripture, reason to believe, that God's holy Spirit will be assisting to those who earnestly pray for it, and who sincerely prepare themselves for its reception; and that it will be assisting to them in this matter of faith in religion. The language of Scripture is, that God gives his holy Spirit to them that ask it; and moreover, that to them who use and improve it as they ought, it is given in more and more abundance. "He that hath, to him shall be given more. He that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath" Mat. xiii. 12. He who is studious to improve his measure of grace, shall find that measure increased upon him. He who neglects or stifles, neglects through irreligion, carelessness, and heedlessness, buries in sensuality, or stifles by the opposition of sin, the portion of grace, and assistance which is vouchsafed to him, he, the Scripture says, will find that portion withdrawn from him. Now, this being the general nature and economy of God's assisting grace, there is no reason why it should not extend to our faith, as well as to our practice; our perceiving the truth, as well as our obeying the truth, may be helped and succoured by it. God's Spirit can have access to our understandings, as well as our affections. He can render the mind sensible to the impressions of evidence, and the power of truth. If creatures, like us, might take upon themselves to judge what is a proper object of divine help, it should seem to be a serious, devout, humble, and apprehensive mind, anxiously desiring to learn and know the truth: and, in order to know it, keeping the heart and understanding pure and prepared for that purpose; that is to say, carefully abstaining from the indulgence of passions, and

First: Let not men, involved in sinful courses, wonder at the difficulties which they meet with in religion. It is an effect of sin, which is almost sure to follow. Sin never fails, both to magnify real difficulties, and to suggest imaginary ones. It rests and dwells upon objections, because they help the sinner, in some measure, to excuse his conduct to himself.-They cause him to come to a conclusion, which permits the gratification of his passions, or the compassing of his purpose. Deep and various is the deceitfulness of sin, of licentious sins most particularly; for they cloud the understanding; they disqualify men for serious meditation of any kind; above all, for the meditation of religion.

Secondly: Let them, who ask for more light, first take care to act up to the light which they have. Scripture and experience join their testimony to this point, namely, that they, who faithfully practise what they do know, and live agree ably to the belief which they have, and to the just and rational consequences of that belief, seldom fail to proceed further, and to acquire more and more confidence in the truth of religion; whereas, if they live in opposition to the degree of belief which they have, be it what it may, even it will gradually grow weaker and weaker, and, at length, die away in the soul.

Thirdly: Let them who are anxious to arrive at just sentiments of religion, keep their minds in a capable state; that is, free from the bias of former doubts, conceived at a time when the power and influence of sinful temptation was upon them; suggested, in fact, lest they should find themselves obliged to give up some gratification upon which they had set their hearts; and which decisions, nevertheless, and doubts, have the same operation upon their judgments, as if they had been the result of the most pure and impartial reasoning. It is not peculiar to religion; it is true of all subjects, that the mind is sure almost to be misled, which lies under a load of prejudice contracted from circumstances, in which it is next to impossible to weigh arguments justly, or to see clearly.

Fourthly: Let them, let all, especially those who find themselves in a dissatisfied state of mind, fly to prayer. Let them pray earnestly and incessantly for God's assisting grace and influence; assisting, if it be his good pleasure, as well our minds and understandings in searching after truth, as our hearts and affections in obeying it. I say again, let us pray unceasingly for grace and help from the Spirit of God. When we pray for any worldly object, we may pray mistakenly. We may be ignorant of our own good; we may err egregiously concerning it. But when we pray for spiritual aid and grace, we are sure that we pray

for what we want; for what, if granted, will be the greatest of all blessings. And we pray with hope, because we have this gracious assurance given us by the Lord himself of grace and mercy *If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?"-Matt. vii. 11.



Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?-Matt. xi. 2, 3.

Nain to life, when they were carrying him out to his funeral; miracles, which, it may be supposed, were much noised abroad in the country. What then did John the Baptist do, upon receiving this intelligence? He sent to Jesus two of his disciples, saying, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?"

It will appear odd that John should entertain any doubt, or require any satisfaction about this matter; he, who had himself publicly announced Jesus to be the Messiah looked for, and that also upon the most undeniable grounds, because he saw the Spirit descending and remaining upon him; the token which had been given him, whereby this person was to be distinguished by him.

It came to pass, that soon after our Lord's public appearance, John was cast into prison, and there remained, till, by a barbarous order from Herod, in wicked compliance with a wicked vow, this good and courageous servant of God was beheaded. It does not seem quite certain, whether he was not imprisoned twice. In prison, how ever, his disciples, as was natural, came to him, and related to him the great things which Jesus had lately been doing; and it appears, from the accounts of the different evangelists, and by laying these accounts together in order of time, that Jesus, a little before this, amongst other miracles, had cured the centurion's servant without coming near him, and had also raised the young man at

This was a difficulty which interpreters of Scripture, in very early times saw; and the answer which they gave to it I believe to be the true one; namely, that John sent this message, not from any doubt which he himself entertained of the matter, but in order that the doubts which his disciples had conceived about it, might receive an answer and satisfaction at the fountain head; from Jesus himself, who was best able to give it.

You will, therefore, now observe what this an

THESE words state a transaction, to say the least of it, of a singular kind, and well entitled to observation. Some time before our Lord's appearance, John the Baptist had produced himself to the country, as a messenger from God, and as a public preacher. The principal thing which he preached was, that a greater and more extra-swer was, and how, and under what circumstances ordinary person than himself, that is to say, no it was given. If you turn to St. Luke's statement other than the long-foretold and long-expected of the transaction, chap. vii. verse 20th, you will Messiah, was about shortly to appear in the world; there find it expressly asserted, what is only imthat for the appearance of this person, which plied and tacitly referred to by St. Matthew; (and would be the setting up of the kingdom of God this is one instance, amongst many, of the advanupon earth, all men were to prepare themselves tage of bringing the accounts of the different by repentance and reformation. Thus did John evangelists together;) you will find, I say, that it preach, before it was known or declared, and be- so happened, I ought to have said that it was so fore he (John himself) knew or declared who this ordered by Providence, that at the time, the preextraordinary person was. It was, as it should cise hour, when these messengers from John arseem, upon our Lord's offering himself to John to rived, our Lord was in the very act of working be baptized of him in Jordan, that John, for the miracles. In that same hour, says Luke, he cured first time, knew and published him to be that per- many of infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, son. This testimony and record John afterwards and unto many that were blind he gave sight: so repeated concerning him in this manner, and it is re- that the messengers themselves were eye-witnesses markable: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming of his powers, and of his gifts, and of his mighty unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, works; and to this evidence he refers them; and which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he a more decisive or dignified answer could not posof whom I said, After me cometh a man, which is sibly have been given. He neither says he was, preferred before me, for he was before me, and I nor he was not the person they inquired after, but knew him not; but that he should be made manifest bids them take notice and tell John of what they to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. saw, and make their own conclusion from it. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit "Go your way, and tell John what things ye have descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode seen and heard, how that the blind see, the lame upon him; and I knew him not; but he that sent walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending It does not, I think, appear, nor is it necessary to and remaining on him, the same is he which bap suppose, that all these species of miracles were tizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and performed then, or before their eyes. It is specibare record, that this is the Son of God." fically mentioned, that he then cured many of plagues and infirmities, cast out evil spirits, and restored sight to the blind: but it is not mentioned, for instance, that he then raised the dead, though that miracle be referred to in his answer. After having wrought, whilst they were present, many and various species of decisive miracles, he was well entitled to demand their credit and assent to others upon his own testimony and assertion.

Now from this answer of our Lord's, we are entitled to infer, (and this I think is the useful inference to be drawn from it,) that the faith which he required, the assent which he demanded, was a rational assent and faith founded upon proof and evidence. His exhortation was, "believe me for the very works' sake." He did not bid Philip,


Again: Our Lord put the truth of his preten sions, precisely and specifically upon the evidence of his miracles: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not: but if I do, though ye believe me not, believe the works:" John x. 37. What fairer appeal could be made? Could more be done to challenge inquiry, or place the question upon the right ground?

upon that occasion, or the disciples of John upon this, believe him, because he was the Son of God, because he came down from heaven, because he was in the Father and the Father in him, because he was with God and from God, because the Father had given unto him the Spirit without measure, because he was inspired in the fullest and largest sense of the word; for all these racters and pretensions, though the highest that could belong to any being whatsoever, to a prophet, or to more than a prophet, were nevertheless to be ascertained by facts. When ascertained, they were grounds of the most absolute confidence his word, of the most implicit and unlimited reliance upon his authority; but they were to be ascertained by facts. To facts, therefore, our Lord appeals; to facts he refers them, and to the demonstration which they afforded of his power and truth. For shutting their eyes against faith, or, more properly speaking, for shutting their hearts and understandings against the proof and conclusion which facts afforded, he pronounces them liable to condemnation. They were to believe his Lastly: In the xvth chapter and 24th verse, our word, because of his works: that was exactly what Lord fixes the guilt of the unbelieving Jews upon he required. "The works which the Father hath this article, that they rejected miraculous proof, given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear which ought to have convinced them; and that if witness of me, that the Father hath sent me; and they had not had such proof they might have been the Father himself who hath sent me beareth wit-excusable, or, comparatively speaking, they would ness of me:" John v. 36. It is remarkable that not have had sin. His words are very memoraJohn the Baptist wrought no miracle; therefore ble. "If I had not done among them the works the authority and confirming proof of his mission which none other man did, they had not had rested very much upon the evidences which were sin." exhibited, not by himself, but by the person whose appearance he professed to foretel. And undoubt edly the miracles of our Lord did, by a reflected operation, establish the preaching of John. For if a person in these days should appear, not working any miracle himself, but declaring that another and greater person was soon to follow, and if that other and greater person did accordingly soon follow, and show forth mighty deeds, the authority of the first person's mission would be ratified by the second person's works. They who might doubt, nay reasonably doubt, concerning the first person's truth and pretensions before, would be fully satisfied of them afterwards. And this was exactly the turn which some rational and considerate Jews gave to the matter: "And many sorted to him, and said, John did no miracle; but all things that John spake of this man were true." The effect of this observation was, what it ought to be, "many believed on him there:" John x. 41, 42.

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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 excha-cellent 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.

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 foreign and distant from the part of an impostor or enthusiast that can possibly be conceived. Was it for an impostor or enthusiast to refer messengers who came to him, to miraculous works performed before their eyes, to things done upon the spot: to the testimony of their own senses. "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 unbere-lievers, 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.

This distinction between our Lord and his forerunner, in one working miracles, and the other not, furnishes an account for two things which we meet with 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 barest 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 man. 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



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 over me.-Psalm xix. 12, 13.

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

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