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Sermons for the New Life 17 - RESPECTABLE SIN

By Horace Bushnell


      John viii. 9.-"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out, one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last, and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."

      IT is with sins as with men or families, some have pedigree and some have not; for there are kinds and modes of sin that have, in all ages, been held in respect and embalmed with all the honors of history; and there are others that never were and never can be raised above the level even of disgust. The noble sins will, of course, be judged in a very different manner from the humble, baseborn sins. The sins of fame, honor, place, power, bravery, genius, always in good repute, will not seldom be admired and applauded. But the low-blooded sins of felony, and vice, and base depravity are associated with brutality, and are universally held in contempt. Whether the real demerit of the two classes of sin is measured by such distinctions is more questionable. Such distinctions certainly had little weight with Christ. He was even more severe upon the sins of learning, wealth, station, and religious sanctimony, than upon the more plebeian, or more despised class of sins. Indeed, he seems to look directly through all the fair conventionalities, and to bring his judgment down upon come point more interior and deeper. He appears, in general, to be thoroughly disgusted with all the mere respectabilities, whether men or sins. The hypocrisies of religion, the impostures of learning, the gilded shows of wealth gotten by extortion, the proud airs of authority and power employed in acts of oppression, provoke his indignation, and he deals with them in such terms of emphasis as indicate the profoundest possible abhorrence.

      Hence the jealousy with which he was watched by the elders, and priests, and rulers; for every few days some Rabbi, Scribe, lawyer, or committee of such, was sent out to observe him, or question him, or draw him, if possible, into some kind of treason in his doctrine; because they feared his influence with the people, lest he might put himself at their head and raise a great revolution that would even subvert the present social order.

      The cunning plot his enemies are working, in my text, is instigated by this kind of fear. He is teaching, it appears, a great multitude of people in the temple, when suddenly a company of Scribes and Pharisees are seen hustling in through the crowd, leading up a woman, to set her before him. She has been guilty, they say, of a base crime which the law of Moses punishes with public stoning and death, and they demand of him what shall be done with her? hoping that, out of the same perverse favor he is wont to show to low people, he will take the woman's part, and so give them the desired opportunity to throw contempt on his character, and exasperate the popular superstition against him.

      Christ, perceiving apparently their design, determines to put them to confusion. He remains a long time silent, making no answer, and of course none that can be taken hold of. They press him for a reply; still no reply is given. They wait, and still it is not given. There they stand in the center of the great concourse, all looking at them, and, as they soon begin to fancy, looking directly into them. It is a most uncomfortable position for them. To give still greater pungency to their thoughts, Christ withdraws his eyes from them, and, as if waiting for their complete confusion, writes abstractedly on the pavement At length they grow perplexed, and begin to ask themselves how they shall get out of their very awkward predicament. They press him still more vehemently, but he refuses to speak, save simply to say,-Let the man of you that is without sin throw the first stone at the woman, if she is guilty; and immediately falls to writing abstractedly on the ground again. The arrow sticks, and the suspense of silence makes them more and more conscious of the pain; till finally they can bear it no longer. Convicted thus by their own conscience, they went out, as the text has it, one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last, and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

      Look upon them now, as they withdraw, and follow them with your eye, as probably Christ and the whole assembly did. Observe the mannerly order of their shame,-beginning at the eldest, even unto the last! See how carefully they keep the sacred rules of good breeding and deference to age, even in their sniveling defeat, and the chagrin of their baffled conspiracy, and you will begin to find how base a thing may take on airs of dignity, and how contemptible, in fact, these airs of dignity may be.

      The subject thus presented is respectable sin, sin that takes on the semblance of goodness and judges itself by the dignity of its manner and appearance. Almost all the really great or sublime sins of the world are of this class, and I shall undertake to show that this more respectable type of sin is often, if not generally, deepest in the spirit of sin, and, in the sight of God, most guilty.

      Just this, I think, has been the impression of you all, in the remarkable scene referred to in my text. These plausible accusers, pressing in with their victim in such airs of dignity, and retiring in such careful deference to age as not to allow even a year's difference to be disregarded, have yet been virtually detected and foiled in a thoroughly wicked conspiracy. Had they been a gang of thieves, their transaction would have been more base only in the name; for it was, in fact, a kind of dramatic lie, deliberately planned, to snare an artless, worthy, and visibly holy man. Accordingly, now that they are gone, driven out by the recoil of their own base trick, the Saviour, without using any word of reproach, quietly proceeds to bring out the scene just where their real character will be most impressively displayed. He says to the woman, "Where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" "No man, Lord." "Neither do I; go, sin no more." Sinner that she was, not even these sanctimonious conspirators could stand the challenge of their own sins long enough to accuse her. And the result is, that we are left by Christ in the impression, and that designedly, that on the whole, the woman, in her most shameful sin, was really less of a sinner than they. Her, therefore, we pity. Them we denounce and despise. How many things are we ready to imagine, that might soften our judgment of her fall, if we only knew the secret of her sad history. Our judgment of their stratagem, on the other hand, permits no softening, but we approve ourselves only the more confidently, the more heartily we despise and the more unrestrainedly we detest their hypocrisy in it. In pursuing now this very serious subject, we need,-

      First of all, to clear the influence of a false or defective impression, growing out of the fact, that we ourselves are persons that live so entirely in the atmosphere of character and decency. Our range of life is so walled in by the respectability of our associations, that what is on the other side of the wall is very much a world unknown. Hence we have no such opinion or impression of sin, anywhere, as we ought to have. It is with us all our life long and in all our associations; much as it is with us here in our assembly for worship. The offensive and repulsive forms of sin are almost never here, by so much as any one sign, or symptom. The sin is here, and sin that wants salvation; but it is sin so thoroughly respectable as to make it very nearly impossible to produce any just impression of its deformity. Sitting here in this atmosphere of decency and order, how can you suffer any just impression of the dreadful nature of that evil which, after all, wears a look so plausible. If there came in with you, to mingle in your audience, a fair representation only of the town; if you heard, in the porch, the profane oaths of the cellars and hells of gambling; if you looked about with a cautious feeling, right and left, in the seat, lest some one might rifle your dress, or pick your pocket; if the victims of drink were seen reeling into the seats, here and there, and their hungry, shivering children were crying at the door, for bread; if the diseased and loathsome relics of vice, recognized sometimes as the sons and daughters of families once living in respect and affluence, were sprinkled about you, tainting the air you breathe; in a word, if actual life were here, in correct representation, how different a matter would it be for me to speak of sin, how different for you to hear! And the same holds true of the associations of your life generally. Sin, in its really revolting, shocking forms, seldom gets near enough to you to meet your eye. What you know of it is mostly gotten from the newspapers, and is scarcely more of a reality to you, many times, than the volcanoes you hear of in the moon.

      Secondly, we need also to clear another false or defective impression, growing out of the general tendency in mankind to identify sin with vice; and, of course, to judge that whatever is clear of vice is clear also of sin; which, in fact, is the same as to judge that whatever sin is respectable is no sin at all. Or, sometimes, we identify sin with acts of wrong, or personal injury, such as deeds of robbery, fraud, seduction, slander, and the like. In this view, again, whatever sin is respectable enough to be clear of all such deeds of wrong is, of course, no sin. Whereas, there may be great sin where there is no vice, bitter and deep guiltiness before God where there is never one act of personal wrong or injury committed. All vice, all wrong, presupposes sin, but sin may be the reigning principle of the life, from childhood to the grave, and never produce one scar of vice, or blamable injury to a fellow-being. Indeed we must go further, we must definitely say that even virtue itself, as the term is commonly used, classes under sin, or has its root in sin. Virtue, as men speak, is conduct approved irrespectively of any good principle of conduct; and it is, for the most part, a goodness wholly negative, consisting in the not doing, the abstaining, and keeping off from whatever is confessedly base and vicious. Sin, on the other hand, is the negation of good as respects the principle of good. Any thing is sin, as God judges, which is not in the positive, all-dominating power of universal love. Any thing called virtue, therefore, which consists in barely not doing, is sin of course; because it is not in any positive principle of love, or duty to God. Half the sin of mankind, therefore, consists, or is made up of virtue; that is, of what is generally called virtue, and passes for a virtuous character in the common speech of men. It is, in fact, respectable sin, nothing more; and has exactly the same root with all sin, even the worst; viz., the not being in God's love and a state of positive allegiance to God.

      Consider now, thirdly, and make due account of the fact, that respectable sin is not less guilty because it has a less revolting aspect. A feeling is very generally indulged, even by such as are confessedly blamable for not being in the christian life, that their blame or guilt is a thing of higher and finer quality than it would be under the excesses and degrading vices many practice. They measure their sin by their outward standing and conduct, whereas all sin is of the same principle. The sin of one class is, in fact, the sin of the other, as respects every thing but manner and degree. There are different kinds of vice, but only one kind of sin; viz., the state of being without God, or cut of allegiance to God. All evil and sin, as we just now saw, are of this same negative root; the want of any holy principle; the state set off from God, and disempowered and degraded by the separation. The respectable sin, therefore, shades into the unrespectable, not as being different in kind, but only as twilight shades into the night. The evil spirit, called sin, may be trained up to politeness, and made to be genteel sin; it may be elegant, cultivated sih; it may be very exclusive and fashionable sin; it may be industrious, thrifty sin; it may be a great political manager, a great commercial operator, a great inventor; it may be learned, scientific, eloquent, highly poetic sin; still it is sin, and, being that, has in fact the same radical or fundamental quality that, in its ranker and less restrained conditions, produce all the most hideous and revolting crimes of the world.

      There is a very great difference, I admit, between a courteous man and one who is ill-natured and insulting, between a generous man and a niggard, a pure and a lewd, a man who lives in thought and a man who lives in appetite, a great and wise operator in the market and a thief; and yet, taken as apart from all accidental modifications, or degrees, the sin-quality or principle is exactly the same in all. As in water face answereth to face, so one class of hearts to the other. The respectable and the disgusting are twin brothers; only you see in one how well he can be made to look, and in the other how both would look, if that which is in both were allowed to have its bent and work its own results unrestrained.

      Again, fourthly, it is often true that what is looked upon as respectable sin is really more base in spirit, or internal quality, than that which is more and more universally despised. And yet this is not the judgment of those who are most apt to rule the judgments of the world. The lies of high life, for example, are the liberties asserted by power and respectable audacity. The lies of commoners and humble persons are a fatal, irredeemable dishonor. The fashionable, who spurns the obligation of an honest debt, is only asserting the right and title of fashion; but the merchant, or the tradesman, who avoids the payment of his bond, loses his honor and becomes a knave. The conqueror, who overruns and desolates a kingdom, will be named with respect or admiration by history, wh1en, probably enough, God will look upon him with as much greater abhorrence, than if he had robbed a hen-roost, as his crime is bloodier and more afflictive to the good of the world, How very respectable those learned impostors the Scribes, and those sanctimonious extortioners the Pharisees! How base those knavish tax-gatherers and sinners in low life! But Christ, who respected not the appearance, but judged righteous judgment, had a different opinion. It is not the show of a sin, my friends, which makes it base, but it is its interior quality,-what it is in motive, feeling, thought. It is the gloat of inward passion, the stringent pinch of meanness, the foulness of inward desire and conception, the fire of inward malignity, the rot of lust and hypocrisy. It is not for me, as public inspector of sins, to pass on their relative quality, or fix the brand of their degree. I will only say that the outwardly respectable look of them is no good test of their quality; leaving it, as a question between you and your God, whether, if all the inward shapes of your thought, motive, feeling, desire, and passion were brought out into the open sight of this community, and all the false and factitious rules of judgment accepted by us were swept away, it might not possibly appear that there are characters here, in this very respectable assembly, as base in real demerit as many that are classed among the outcasts of the town.

      It is obvious, fifthly, that what I am calling respectable sin is commonly more inexcusable,-not always, but commonly. Sometimes the most depraved and abandoned characters are those who have cast themselves down, bv their perversity, from the highest standing of privilege. But, however this may be, it can not be denied that the depraved and abject classes of society have, to a great extent, been trained up to the very life they lead; to be idle and beg, to be cunning, sharp, predatory, in one way or another, thieves; to look upon the base pleasures of self-indulgence and appetite as the highest rewards of existence. They are ignorant by right of their origin, brutal in manners and feeling, accustomed only to what is lowest in the possible range of human character. Sometimes, alas I the real want of bread has made them desperate. I will not become the sponsor of their crime; enough that they are criminal, and consciously so. But who is there of you that does not pity their hard lot; who of you that, considering their most sad history, is not often more ready to weep over than to judge them. Is it incredible to you that, in your own respectable aid decent life of sin, taken as related to your high advantages, there may even be a degree of criminality, which, as God estimates crime, is far more inexcusable than that for which many are doomed to suffer the severest and most ignominious penalties of public law?

      I add a single consideration further; viz., that respectable sin is more injurious, or a greater mischief, than the baser and more disgusting forms of vicious abandonment. The latter create for us greater public burdens, in the way of charity and taxation for the poor, and of judicial proceedings and punishments for public malefactors. They annoy us more too by their miseries and the crimes by which they disturb the security and peace of society. And vet it is really a fair subject of doubt, whether, in a moral point of view, they have not a wholesome influence and are not a social benefit. They tempt no one. Contrary to this, they repel and warn away from vice every one that looks upon them. They hang out a flag of distress upon every shoal of temptation. They show us the last results of all sin, and the colors in which they exhibit sin are always disgusting, never attractive. In this view they are really one of the moral wants of the world. We should never conceive the inherent baseness of sin, if it were not shown by their experiment; revealed in their delirium, their rags, their bloated faces, and bleared eyes, and tottering bodies, and, more than all, in the extinction of their human feeling, and the substitution of a habit or type of being so essentially brutal. We look down into this hell that vice opens, and with a shudder turn away! Meantime, respectable sin,-how attractive, how fascinating its pleasures. Its gay hours, its shows and equipages, its courteous society, its entertainments, its surroundings of courtly form and incident,-how delicious to the inspection of fancy. Even its excesses seem to be only a name for spirit. The places of temptation too are not the hells and brothels, but the saloons of pleasure and elegant dissipation. Vice is the daughter of pleasure; all unrespectable sin the daughter of respectable. Nay, if we go to the bottom, church-going sin is the most plausible form of sin that was ever invented, and, in that view, the most dangerous. For, if a man never goes to the place of worship, we take his sin with a warning, or at least with some little sense of caution; but, if he is regular at church, a respectful hearer of the word, a sober, correct, thoughtful man, still, (though never a Christian,) a safe, successful, always respected, never-faltering character,-then how many will be ready to imagine that there is one form of sin that is about as good as piety itself, and possibly even better than piety. And so this church-going sin gives countenance and courage to all other,-all the better and more effective countenance because no such thing is intended. There is, in short, no such thing as taking away the evil of sin by making it respectable. Make it even virtuous, as men speak, and it will only be the worse in its power, as regards the enticements it offers to evil. It will not shock any one by deeds of robbery and murder, it will not revolt any one by its disgusting spectacles of shame and misery, but how many will it encourage and shield, in just that rejection of God, which is to be their bitter fall and their eternal overthrow.

      It is scarcely possible, in closing this very serious subject, to name and duly set forth all the applications of which it is capable, or which it even presses on our attention.

      With how little reason, for example, are Christian people, and indeed all others, cowed by the mere name and standing of men, who are living still under the power of sin, and resisting or neglecting still the grace of their salvation. Doubtless it is well enough to look on them with respect, and treat them with a just deference; but however high they may seem, allow them never to overtop your pity. For what is the fair show they make, but a most sorrowful appeal to your compassions and your prayers? How can a true Christian, one who is consciously ennobled by the glorious heirship in which he is set, ever be intimidated, or awed, or kept back in his approaches or his prayers, by respect to that which is only respectable sin? If he goes to God, entering even into the holiest with boldness, how much more will he be able to stand before these princes of name and title and power, and speak to them of Christ and his great salvation. To falter in this boldness, brethren, is even a great wrong to our Master's gospel, which puts us, even the humblest of us, in a higher plane of dignity; far far above any most honored sinner of mankind.

      Again, it is impossible in such a subject as this, no, to raise the question of morality, what it is, and is worth, and where it will land us in the great allotments of eternity. Morality, taken as apart from religion, is but another name for decency in sin. It is just that negative species of virtue, which consists in not doing what is scandalously depraved or wicked. But there is no heart of holy principle in it, any more than there is in the worst of felonies. It is the very same thing, as respects the denial of God, or the state of personal separation from God, that distinguishes all the most reprobate forms of character. A correct, outwardly virtuous man is the principle of sin well-dressed and respectably kept-nothing more. And will that save you? You can, I am sure, be in no great danger of believing that. A far greater danger is that the decent, outwardly respectable manner of your sin will keep you from the discovery of its real nature, as a root of character in you. If we undertake to set forth the inherent weakness and baseness of sin, to open up the vile and disgustful qualities which make it, as the scriptures declare, abominable and hateful to God, if we speak of its poisonous and bitter effects within, and the inevitable and awful bondage it works in all the powers of choice and character, who of you can believe what we say? Such representations, you will think if you do not openly say, partake of extravagance. What can you know of sin, what can you feel of your deep spiritual need, when you are living so respectably and maintain, in the outward life, a show of so great integrity, and even so much of refinement often in what is called virtue. True conviction of sin-how difficult is it, when its appearances and modes of life are so fair, when it twines itself so cunningly about, or creeps so insidiously into, our amiable qualities, and sets off its internal disorders by so many outward charms and attractions!

      If then we are right in this estimate of morality and the very great dangers involved in it, how necessary is it, for a similar reason, that every man out of Christ, not living in any vicious practice, should set himself to the deliberate canvassing of his own moral state. Make a study of this subtle, cunningly veiled character, the state of reputable sin, and study it long enough to fathom its real import. Look into the secret motives and springs of your character; inspect and study long enough to really perceive the strange, wild current of your thoughts; detect the subtle canker in your feeling; comprehend the deep ferment of your lusts, enmities, and passions; hunt down the selfish principle which instigates and misdirects and turns off your whole life from God, setting all your aims on issues that reject Him; ask, in a word, how this respectable sin appears, when viewed inwardly; how, if unrestrained by pride, and the conventional rules of decency and character, it would appear outwardly. Fathom the deep hunger of your soul, and listen to its inward wail of bondage, its mournful, unuttered cry of want after God. Ask it of the enlightening Spirit of God, that he will open to your view yourself, and make you to know all that is inmost, deepest, most hidden in the habitually veiled deformity of your sin. Make it your prayer even to God-Search me, O God, and try me!

      You have a motive also in making this inquest, that is even more pressing than many of you will suspect. For no matter how respectable your sin is, you never can tell where it will carry you-how long it will be respectable, or where it will end. Enough to know that it is sin, and. that the principle of all sin is one and the same. In its very germ you have, potentially, whatever is abhorrent, abominable, disgusting; and when the fruit is ripe, no man can guess into what shape of debasement and moral infamy, or public crime, it may finally bring him. If he hears of a murder, like that of Webster, for example, he may be very confident that, in his particular and particularly virtuous case of unreligious living, there is no liability to any such result. And perhaps there is not. Perhaps the danger is different. Avoiding what is bloody, he may fall into what is false or low-some damning dishonesty or fraud, some violation of trust, some falsification of accounts, some debauchery of lust or appetite, some brutality which makes his very name and person a disgust. Sin works by no set methods. It has a way of ruin for every man, that is original and proper only to himself. Suffice it to say that, as long as you are in it and under its power, you can never tell what you are in danger of. This one thing you may have as a truth eternally fixed, that respectable sin is, in principle, the mother of all basest crime. Follow it on to the bitter end, and there is ignominy eternal. There is a law of retribution that keeps it company, and is never parted from it; by which law the end is being shaped and the hideous result prepared. If the delicate, pretentious, always correct sinner keeps to his decency here, the proper end will show itself hereafter, and then it will be seen how dark, after all, how deep in criminality, how bronzed in guilty thought, is every soul becoming under even the fairest shows of virtue, coupled with neglect of God, and separated from his personal love.

      Advancing now a stage, observe again that it is on just this view of the world and of human character under sin, chat the whole superstructure of Christianity is based Christ comes forth to the world as a lost world. He makes no distinction of respectable and unrespectable as regards the common want of salvation. Nay, it is plain from his searching rebukes laid on the heads of the priests, the rulers, and others in high life, that he is sometimes moved with greatest abhorrence by the sin of those who are most respectable and even sanctimonious. Hence the solemn universality of his terms of salvation. Hence the declared impossibility of eternal life to any, save by the same great radical change of character; a fact which he testifies directly to Nicodemus, the conscientious inquirer after truth, the sober and just senator, one of the very highest, noblest men in the nation,-Except a man be born, again, he can not see the kingdom of God. He asks not how you appear, but whether you are human. Nay, if you come to him, like the young ruler, clothed in all such comely virtues that he is constrained to look on you ingenuous, conscientious character with love, he will tell you, when you ask him what you are to do to have eternal life, that you must forsake all and come and follow him. Decency, correctness, praise-all these are but the guise of your sin, which guise he will tell you must be forever abandoned as a ground of confidence before God, and the sin, which now it only adorns and covers, must be itself removed and forever taken away by the blood of the Lamb.

      Have I now in my audience any forlorn one, like the woman of my text, any youth, or older person, who is consciously sinking into the toils of vice and beginning to taste its bitter humiliations; any that has consciously lost or begun to lose the condition of respect and reputable living; any that begins to scorn himself, or seems to be sinking under the pitiless scorn of the world's judgments? To such an one I rejoice to say, in the name of Jesus Christ, that there is no scorn with him. He does not measure sin by our conventional and often false rules of judgment. The basest sin he was even wont to find, in many cases, under the finest covering of respect. He will judge you rightly, not harshly. If you have fallen, or begun to fall, he wants to raise you. He offers you his free sympathy and support, and, if others lay their look of contempt upon your soul, he invites you kindly, whispers love and courage, and if you are ready to receive him, waits also to say-Thou art mine, go, son; go, daughter; sin no more!

      Brethren professed in the name and gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is him I follow, and not any want of charity I indulge, when I remind you that a still more mournful application of this subject is possibly required. What, alas! and apart from all severity of judgment, is the profession of many disciples but a state of serious and repeatable sin? They are virtuous persons, as that term is commonly used, good always on the negative side of prudence and caution. They have no vices. They bring no scandal on the cause of Christ by their walk. But to what does all this amount, if there be nothing farther and more positive to go with it? Does the mere keeping out of vice and scandalous misdoing, does the exactest possible life, in fact, if we speak only of its correctness, constitute a living and true piety? What is it, even at the best, but a reputable, or possibly a somewhat christian-looking state of sin? The Pharisees and other religious persons of the Saviour's time were abundantly and even sanctimoniously exact persons. And yet the Saviour discovered in them. if we can judge from the tone of his rebukes; the worst and most incurable type of moral abandonment. They had so little sense of holiness, and so little sympathy with it, that they were his bitterest enemies, and even became his betrayers and murderers. He saw all this beforehand, wrapped up in their character;-their washings, sacrifices, long prayers, and scrupulous tithings did not conceal it. You certainly have no such ceremonies; you do not believe in them, but you have covenants, communions, baptisms, family altars. Have you, in company with these, and answering to these, the new man of love, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works? If you have not, if you live a dumb, unpositive life, under the power of the world, selfish still as before, and self-pursuing; if the old man is not crucified, and the new man, Christ, is certainly not being formed within you, then your profession signifies nothing but the mere respectability of your sin What is your supposed piety but this, if it have no spiritual and inwardly transforming power? Christ is redemption only as he actually redeems and delivers our nature from sin. If he is not the law and spring of a new spirit of life, he is nothing. Beware, let me say to you in Christ's name,-beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The true principle, my brethren, is this, and if this will yield us no just title to the Christian name, what we call our piety is in honest truth nothing more or better than a decent shape of sin;-For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God-as many, no more. Are we so led, do we so live?

      To dismiss this subject without some prospective reference, or glance of forecast on the future, is impossible, however painful and appalling the contemplations it will raise. When you go to stand before God, my friends, it will not be your dress, or your house, or your titles, or your wealth, no, nor even your virtues, however much commended here, that will give you a title of entrance among the glorified. Respectable sin will not pass then and there as here., The honor, the nobility of it is now gone by. The degrees, indeed, of sin are many, but the kind is one, and that a poor, dejected, emptied form of shame and sorrow. How appalling such a thought to any one who is capable of thought, and not absolutely brutalized by his guilt. Furthermore, as sin is sin, everywhere and in all forms, the respectable and the unrespectable, the same in principle, and when the appearances are different, the same often in criminality, the world of future retribution must, of course, be a world of strange companionships. We are expressly told, and it seems a matter of reason also to suppose, that the spirits of guilty men will not be assorted there by their tastes, but by their character and demerits. Death is the limit and end of all mere conventionalities. The fictitious assortments of the earthly state never pass that limit. Rank, caste, fashion, disgust, fastidiousness, delicacy of sin-these are able to draw their social lines no longer. Proximity now is held to the stern, impartial principle of inward demerit;-That all may receive according to the deeds done in the body. This is the level of adjustment, and there appears to be no other. The standing of the high priests, the Scribes. and Pharisees, and the forlorn woman of my text, may be inverted now, or they may all take rank together. And so also many of you, that are now pleasing yourselves in the dignity of your virtues, and the honors of your social standing, may fall there into group and gradation, with such as now you even look away from with profoundest distaste or revulsion. The subject is painful; I will not pursue it. I will only remind you that where the lines of justice lead, there you must yourselves follow; and if that just award of respectable sin yields you only the promise of a scale of companionships from which your soul recoils with disgust, there is no wisdom for you but to be as disgustful of the sin as of the companionships, and draw yourself, at once, to Him who is Purity, and Peace, and Glory, and, in all, Eternal Life.

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See Also:
   1 - EVERY MAN'S LIFE A PLAN OF GOD
   2 - THE SPIRIT IN MAN
   3 - DIGNITY OF HUMAN NATURE SHOWN FROM ITS RUINS
   4 - THE HUNGER OF THE SOUL
   5 - THE REASON OF FAITH
   6 - REGENERATION
   7 - THE PERSONAL LOVE AND LEAD OF CHRIST
   8 - LIGHT ON THE CLOUD
   9 - THE CAPACITY OF RELIGION EXTIRPATED BY DISUSE
   10 - UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE
   11 - OBLIGATION A PRIVILEGE
   12 - HAPPINESS AND JOY
   13 - THE TRUE PROBLEM OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
   14 - THE LOST PURITY RESTORED
   15 - LIVING TO GOD IN SMALL THINGS
   16 - THE POWER OF AN ENDLESS LIFE
   17 - RESPECTABLE SIN
   18 - THE POWER OF GOD IN SELF-SACRIFICE
   19 - DUTY NOT MEASURED BY OUR OWN ABILITY
   20 - HE THAT KNOWS GOD WILL CONFESS HIM
   21 - THE EFFICIENCY OF THE PASSIVE VIRTUES
   22 - SPIRITUAL DISLODGEMENTS
   23 - CHRIST AS SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD

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