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this is all that you have experienced, it is none at all.
If you are not sensible that you are so vile as to deserve the everlasting displeasure of God, you are not even a convinced sinner; but if you are sensible of this, you may not be a converted sinner. Vital religion does not consist in the approbation of the conscience to the condemning sentence of the law. Does not the conscience of every sinner, whether renewed or unrenewed, tell him that God would be just in abandoning him to misery without measure and with out end? Do not the damned in hell feel that they are justly condemned? Was not the man without the wedding garment speechless? Will not the whole world become guilty before God, at the Last Day?
If the view which we have given of this solemn subject will bear the test of God's word, then the reader has a right to the plain result, that no degree of conviction for sin is conclusive evidence of Christian Character. Look at the feelings of a convinced sinner, and find, if you can, one spark of genuine holiness. Find, if you can, one Christian grace. Find, if you can, any thing more than all those bave felt, who have gone down to the pit in their blood.
But may not these be the feelings of real Christians? I answer, they may be; but they are not the feelings which constitute the essential difference between real Christians and impenitent sinuers. All that have passed
from death unto life, have in a greater or less degree, been convinced of their total corruption, alarmed at their danger, and made to acknowledge the justice of God in the penalty of his law. Indeed, it may be said, that the greater part of real Christians have never been the subjects of conviction, in the degree which has been here exbibited. Still, every Christian has experienced some of it; every Christian has felt the same con- viction in kind. If, therefore, you are without any thing like this conviction, you may be sure that you are without religion. Still, it does not follow, that because you have this conviction, you therefore have real religion. It is true, that in the course of God's providence, conviction always precedes conversion; but it is not always true, that conversion follows conviction. There is no necessary connexion between conviction and conversion. A sense of sin and danger does not slay the enmity of the heart. The conscience may be convinced while the hcart is not renewed. The carnal mind not only may, but does hate what the awakened conscience approves.
It is no certain evidence, that because the conscience feels the weiglit of sin, the heart is humbled on account of it; that because the conscience approves of the rectitude of divine justice, the leart bows to the divine sovereignty. The most powerful conviction of sin, therefore, is not conclusive evidence of Christian Character.
CONFIDENCE IN GOOD ESTATE.
It is easy for a hypocrito to deceive himself with false hopes and carnal presumptions." You may be strongly persuaded that you are a Christian; but this persuasion does not make you so. You may cherish the most unwavering confidence of your personal interest in the great salvation; while you have no part nor lot in this matter.
The confidence of a man's own good estate is attained in different ways. Both the confidence itself and the mode of attaining it are often scriptural. A man may be persuaded that he is a Christian, because he has reason to believe that he possesses the Spirit of Christ. Hereby KNOW WE, that we dwell in him and, he in us, because he hath given us. af his Spirit. A man may be persuaded that he is a child of God, because lie discerns in himself those graces that are peculiar to the childlike character. He may have received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries, Abba, Father. The spirit itself, saith the apostle, beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. A persuasion arising from such evidence, is well grounded. Such a persuasion cannot be too confident. It not only may, but ought to rise to the full
assurance of hope. It did in Job. “I know” saith he, “that my Redeemer liveth; and though after my skin, worms destroy this. body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” It did in David. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness.” It did in Asaph. “Thou shalt guide me," saith he, “with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.” It did in the Apostle. "[AM PERSUADED, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, for height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The comfortable assurance of believers enables them both to glorify and enjoy the Ever-Blessed God. It is as honorable to God to trust in his grace, as to submit to his authority. When the hopes of believers are low and languishing, they know not how deep the shade they cast on the lustre of divine forgiveness; how much they detract from the glory of the Cl'oss. The want of a chcerfui hope, and humble reliance on the mercy of God, cannot fail to unman the most unwavering firmness, and unnerve the most vigorous exertion, For those who have the witness of theira good estate within them, to sink down into a state of darkness that ends in the gloom
of solitude and inactivity, is sin. Many a good man, by having unhappily imbibed mistaken views of this subject, has rendered himself a mere cypher in the church, and a stumbling-block to those who are out of it. Real Christians need not be afraid to cherish the full assurance of hope. There is something wrong in the state of that soul that refuses to be comforted. It is the duty of believers to make their calling and election SURE. Assurance ought always to exist, and to be supported by corresponding testimony.
But this is not the vain confidence to wbich I allude in this essay.
It bears no alliance to the presumption of the hypocrite and the self-deceived. There is a confidence which is obtained without the aid of God's Spirit, and cherished without the evidence of his V ord.
Some rest this presumption on an warrantable notion which they entertain of the mercy of God. They are in the habit of viewing it as a general, indefinite, undistinguishing attribute. They imagine, that because God is declared to be no respecter of parsons, He exercises His mercy indiscriminately. They view Him as a being so fondly attached to the interest of His creatures, as to pardon them without reference to the terms of the Gospel, and save them without regard either to their own moral character, to the honor of His law, or to the well-being of His Kingdom. They rely on