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Having rejected the doctrine of depravity, the individual supposed denies, of course, the kindred doctrine of regeneration. The most that men need is reformation, not regeneration; to bave their characters improved and amended, but not to be born again. And without the doctrines of depravity and regeneration, he cannot hold to any radical distinction between the righteous and the wicked in the present life. “There are differences, indeed, in the characters of men ; some are much better than others. But all have some good in them, and there is no radical difference or dis. tinction between the righteous and the wicked.” And if there are no radical distinctions among men in this life, the next inference is, that there will be none hereafter. "All may not be equally happy in the future life, but certainly none will be for ever miserable. The eternal burnings of which we hear are a mere bugbear."

Having descended to this point, the individual supposed has but another step to take, and if he is a consistent man, he will certainly take it. He will reject the divine authority of the Scriptures, and settle down in cold and cheerless infidelity. For when he looks into his Bible, he finds all those doctrines which one after another he has discarded, clearly there. They are in the Bible, and by no dint of honest interpretation can they be got out of it. And it only remains to reject the whole together, to put out the light of revealed truth, and commence sailing across the troubled sea of life, and the dark waters of death, and into the dread ocean of the future, with naught to direct him but the glimmering rays of misguided and perverted reason.

Instances like those bere supposed might be multiplied to any extent, and these taken, not from fancy, but from real life. The history of the Church. from the beginning downwards, is filled up with such cases ; strewed all the way with the wrecks of individ uals who baving wandered from the path of truth, have found afterwards no resting place. They have continued to wander more and more, till the whole mind has become corrupted, and the little leaven has leavened the whole lump.

And it is easy to account for these disastrous results, from the natural workings of error, and from the principles and operations of the human mind. Let a person get away from the Bible, and fall into error on almost any point of religious doctrine, and (if he has an active, inquisitive mind) the imbibed error will diffuse itself. It will not lie in the mind alone. It is inconsistent with whatever of truth there is in that mind, and to make room for it, this truth will gradually displaced. The one error will ere long become two, and the two three, and the three four, and so on till the whole mind is disordered, and faith and a good conscience are shipwrecked together.

I have thus far illustrated the apostle's maxim in the text, in its relation to Christian doctrine. We are to consider it, secondly, with regard to practice; or (which is the same) in regard to defects in moral and Christian character. It may be shown that in respect to character, as well as doctrine, "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

It is so with strictly religious character. Fatal declensions in re. ligion are not ordinarily accomplished at once. The fearful descent is not passed over at a bound. The first step in the declension is probabły slight scarcely perceptible. The next is greater, and the next greater, till Christian character is at length forfeited, and hope is gone. A young Christian-a recent convert-a recent professor of religion--with high hopes and animating prospects, begins, it may be, to neglect partially his secret devotions. His closet duties are from time to time omitted. Next, he is found to neglect the stated meetings of the church. Next, the company and conversation of Christians are shunned, and the company of the ungodly is frequented. Next, you hear of him as mingling in some scene of sinful pleasure and amusement; and it is not long, ordi. narily, before this man can swear with the profane, and drink with the drunken, and laugh at the censures of the church, and set his brethren at defiance.* How often has all this been acted over in the evangelical churches of our own country! How often, alas ! have my own eyes seen it, and wept over it in secret places !

And the same course of things is commonly observed, in respect to mere moral character. No one commences life with habits of confirmed vice. This is not possible. Nor are such habits fastened upon a person by a single act. The progress of degradation and ruin is gradual. It is at first a little leaven; but if suffered to remain and operate, it leaveneth the whole lump.

Here is a young man, we will suppose, who is vain of his person, and naturally fond of dress and show. This is his ruling passion, his easily besetting sin. As he has not the honest means of gratifying his unholy desire, he resorts to such as are disreputable—dishonest. He descends to deceit and fraud, and it may be to secret and petty larceny; and when his crime is sus. pected, he lies to conceal it; and if one lie will not answer his purpose, he lies again. By this time, his conscience has lost its power over him; his moral principle is well nigh gone; and he is prepared for any thing. He stops at nothing for which he has a strong temptation.

We may suppose the case of an older man-one who has entered on the active business of life. His passion is for wealth. He has an unconquerable desire to be rich. He sets out with the in. tention to be honest and honorable in all his dealings, but he will be rich, and so—trusting to his good fortune, and hoping for a favorable issue—he branches out into business beyond his means. His error, at the first, is simply one of imprudence, perhaps, but it soon runs him into grosser sins. To accomplish his plans, he has occasion for more money than he can get honestly, and what shall he do? Shall he suffer defeat? Shall he incur a failure? Or shall he descend to dishonesty and wickedness ? Shall he put another man's name to a little piece of paper; or cheat an honest, unsuspecting creditor; or obtain goods on false pretenses? The temptation is too strong for him, and he yields to it; and from the moment of his yielding, he enters on a downward path, from which there is no return. He founders on; he plunges along from bad to worse, till at length property, character, comfort, and perhaps life, are all sacrificed together. He learns, in his own terrible experience, the truth of one of Paul's assertions : " They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." He learns the truth of another of Paul's maxims : A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

* The apostle John has reference to cases such as this, when he says: “They went out from us, because they were not of us,” &c. 1 John 19.

Less than a hundred years ago, there lived in England a clergy. man of the Established Church, whose name was William Dodd. He was a popular writer and preacher, was settled in London, became one of the King's chaplains, and obtained other valuable preferments. But he was vain and extravagant, fond of show and popularity, and though his income (for a clergy man) was great, his expenses were greater. He became embarrassed, and to relieve himself from difficulty forged a draught on his friend and former pupil, the Earl of Chesterfield. He was soon detected and convicted; and as forgery was then a capital crime in England, he was publicly executed, in the year 1777. We have here a terrible example, in high life, of the truth I am endeavoring to impress upon you. You here see how sins not regarded as disreputable at first, and thought perhaps to be trivial, lead their unhappy victim along, till he perpetrates an act for which there is no reprieve; till he (in the full sense of the apostle) drowns himself in destruction and perdition.

The Scriptures abound with like examples, all going to show the downward tendency of sin, and the certainty of its issues in ruin and in death. Take the case of the first murderer, Cain. He began with envying his brother; then he quarrelled with him 1; then he slew him. David's fall commenced in the indulgence of lascivious desires. These led him into adultery; and in the hope of concealing his sin and shame, he plotted and perpetrated murder. Solomon - in accordance with oriental custom, but in dis


obedience to the express command of God-surrounded himself with outlandish women. He thought there was little harm or danger in what he was doing, but the event (as might have been expected) was most disastrous. To show his liberality, and at the same time to gratify his heathen wives, he must set up heathen temples in Jerusalem. He built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab; and for Moloch, the abomination of the children of Ammon; and likewise did he for all his strange wives, who sacrificed and burned incense to their gods.” And what was the consequence? The Lord, we are told, "was angry with Solo. mon, because bis heart was turned away from the God of Israel ;" and from this period we trace all the subsequent afflictions of his house.

The selling of his Master for thirty pieces of silver was not the first sin of Judas Iscariot. He could not have committed such a crime, without much previous training and preparation. Judas seems to have been an ardent lover of money, and to have bad some skill and tact in the use of it. It was on this account, perhaps, that he became a sort of treasurer or commissary for the apostles, carrying the bag, and receiving whatsoever was put therein; and it came out afterwards that he was in the constant habit of purloining from that bag. He took, as he had occasion, the property of the company, and used it for his own private pur. poses. By the continual indulgence of his thievish propensities, the heart of Judas became dreadfully hardened, his avarice and covetousness were confirmed, and he was prepared at length to perpetrate a deed unparalleled in the annals of human wickedness; a deed which will not only blacken his name, but consume and damn his soul for ever. "Good were it for that man if he had never been born."

In all these instances, we see illustrated the one great principle of the text, viz.: progress in wickedness. Little sins prepare the way for those which are greater, and these for others which are greater still, till a depth of iniquity is reached from which there is no return; till the character and the soul are entirely ruined. It is commonly said, that one lie draws ten more after it. With about an equal propriety, the same may be said of all other sins. Every act of wickedness may be expected to draw ten more after it; and each of these ten may be expected to draw ten more; and thus the transgressor goes on (unless Divine grace interpose to arrest him) multiplying and accumulating his transgressions, until iniquity proves his ruin.

We do not commonly see any great, enormous sin standing out upon the character of a man alone. Perhaps we never do. Others of a less flagrant character go before it, and prepare the way for it. Sins grow upon the characters of men, not alone,

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but in clusters, or rather they follow each other in continuous trains, the beginnings of which are comparatively slight, but the end of which, in every case, (unless averted by sovereign grace,) is destruction and perdition. “The little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

The subject suggests some important counsels, with which I close. And, 1. Let us all beware of seemingly slight aberrations, from the faith of the gospel. No one can doubt that the Bible inculcates a system of religious truth, and no one of us ought to doubt as to what this system of truth may be. It was clearly taught by the apostles and their immediate successors. It was as clearly taught by the Reformers of the sixteenth century, and is embodied in their published confessions of faith. It is held now for substance, and in much the same sense, by pious evangelical Christians, all over the world. We have the means, then, of knowing what the faith of the gospel is; and let all who hear me beware of seemingly slight aberrations from it. We are not in danger of departing at once, and cntirely, from the faith of the gospel; of becoming downright heretics and infidels at a bound. But we are in danger of relinquishing something of the form of sound words;" of substituting some error in the place of some truth which God has revealed; and of feeling that so slight a deviation from the established faith cannot be a matter of much im. portance. But be it remembered, that great and destructive here. sies have always begun with apparently slight deviations from the established faith. And be it further remembered, that the worst heretics have commonly pretended, at the first, that their deviations were but slight—too slight to demand either notice or censure. So it was with the Gnostics in the second and third cen. turies. So it was with the Arians in the fourth century. So it was with the Pelasgians in the fifth century. So it was with the Arminians in the seventeenth century; and so it has been with the Unitarians of modern times. When Unitarianism first showed itself in this country, the constant pretense was, that it was a very small innovation—too small to be made the subject of controversy, or to occasion any division or separation among Christians. And yet to what has it grown! And to what, unless renounced, is it destined to grow, but to an entire subversion of the gospel ?

The truth is, as I have before said, that a little error, once admitted into the mind, will not lie alone there. It will work and make room for itself; and not for itself only, but for other connected errors; and these will come in and make room for others; and so the work of depravation will go on, till the whole mind becomes corrupted, and the faith of the gospel is entirely displaced. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Let us beware then, I repeat, of the little leaven. Let us be

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