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Guilt before God

Just as no one seeks a cure who doesn’t know he is sick, no one seeks forgiveness, grace, and mercy who doesn’t first know he is guilty. To that end, Doddridge writes The sinner arraigned and convicted.


As I am attempting to lead you to true religion and not merely to some superficial form of it, I am sensible I can do it no otherwise than in the way of deep humiliation. And therefore supposing you are persuaded, through the divine blessing on what you have before read, to take it into consideration, I would now endeavor, in the first place, with all the seriousness I can, to make you heartily sensible of your guilt before God. For I well know, that, unless you are convinced of this, and affected with the conviction, all the provisions of Gospel grace will be slighted, and your soul infallibly destroyed . . .

Permit me therefore, O sinner, to consider myself at this time as an advocate for God, as one employed in his name to plead against thee and to charge thee with nothing less than being a rebel and a traitor against the Sovereign Majesty or heaven and earth. However thou mayest be dignified or distinguished among men; if the noblest blood run in thy veins; if thy seat were among princes, and thine arm were “the terror of the mighty in the land of the living, Ezek. xxxii. 27.” it would be necessary thou shouldst be told plainly, thou hast broken the laws of the King of kings and by the breach of them art become obnoxious to his righteous condemnation.

Your conscience tells you that you were born the natural subject of God, born under the indispensable obligations of his law. . . . And it is equally evident and certain that you have not exactly obeyed this law, nay, that you have violated it in many aggravated instances.

Will you dare to deny this? Will you dare to assert your innocence? Remember, it must be a complete innocence; yea, and a perfect righteousness too, or it can stand you in no stead, farther than to prove, that, though a condemned sinner, you are not quite so criminal as some others . . .

Supposing, as before, you have been free from those gross acts of immorality which are so pernicious to society that they have generally been punishable by human laws; can you pretend that you have not, in smaller instances, violated the rules of piety, of temperance, and charity? Is there any one person, who has intimately known you, that would not be able to testify you had said or done something amiss? . . . Does not conscience condemn you of some one breach of the law at least? And by one breach of it you are, in a sense, a Scriptural sense, “become guilty of all, James ii. 19.” and are as incapable of being justified before God, by any obedience of your own, as if you had committed ten thousand offences. . . .

And say, sinner, is it a little thing that you have presumed to set light by the authority of the God of heaven, and to violate his law, if it had been by mere carelessness and inattention? How much more heinous, therefore, is the guilt, when in an many instances you have done it knowingly and willfully! . . . Nay, sinner, thou wouldst not have dared to treat a temporal prince as thou hast treated the “King Eternal, Immortal and Invisible 1 Tim. i. 17.” No price could have hired thee to deal by the majesty of an earthly sovereign, as thou hast dealt by that God before whom the cherubim and seraphim are continually bowing. Not one opposing or complaining, disputing or murmuring word is heard among all the celestial legions, when the intimations of his will are published to them. And who art thou, O wretched man! who art thou, that thou shouldst oppose him? . . .

If knowledge be an aggravation of guilt, thy guilt, O sinner, is greatly aggravated! For thou wast born in Emmanuel’s land, and God hath “written to thee the great things of his law, yet thou hast accounted them as a strange thing Hosea viii. 12.” Thou hast “known to do good, and hast not done it James iv. 17,” and therefore to thee the omission of it has been sin indeed. . . .

Nay more, if Divine love and mercy be any aggravation of the sins committed against it, thy crimes, O sinner, are heinously aggravated. Must thou not acknowledge it, O foolish creature and unwise? hast thou not been “nourished and brought up by him as his child, and yet hast rebelled against him Isa. i. 2.” Did not God “take you out of the womb Psa. xxii. 9.” did he not watch over you in your infant days, and guard you from a multitude of dangers which the most careful parent or nurse could not have observed or warded off? Has he not given you your rational powers? And is it not by him you have been favored with every opportunity of improving them? Has he not every day supplied your wants with an unwearied liberality . . . Add to all this, the kind notice of his will which he hath sent you; the tender expostulations which he hath used with you, to bring you to a wiser and better temper; and the discoveries and gracious invitations of his Gospel which you have heard, and which you have despised; and then say, whether your rebellion has not been aggravated by the vilest ingratitude, and whether that aggravation can be accounted small?

. . .

And now, O sinner, think seriously with thyself what defence thou wilt make to all this. Prepare thine apology; call thy witnesses; make thine appeal from him whom thou hast thus offended, to some superior judge, if such there be. Alas! those apologies are so weak and vain, that one of thy fellow-worms may easily detect and confound them . . . But thy foreboding conscience already knows the issue. Thou art convicted . . . O waste not so precious a moment, but enter attentively, and as humbly us thou canst, into these reflections which suit a case so lamentable and so terrible as thine.

—Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 38–43, 45–46.

Posted 2017·04·14 by David Kjos
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