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There is a hope that is as an anchor to the soul; and there is a hope that is as the spider's web. The former is built on the Rock of Ages; the latter on the sand. The one frerisheth when God taketh away the soul; the other is sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the veil.
The hope of the Christian is founded on evidence. The disciple of Jesus is ready to give an answer to every one that asketh him a REASON of the hope that is in him. He is born of the incorruptible seed. His hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him.
The hope of the self-deceived is founded on presumption. He is wrapt up in false security. A deceived heart hath turned him aside. There is a lie in his right hand. He imagines he is right, while he is fatally wrong; he hopes he is going to heaven, while he is in the broad way to hell.
It is no inconsiderable thing, therefore, to possess the spirit of real religion. Multitudes substitute the shadow for the substance, and rest satisfied with a mere name to live. It is indeed no inconsiderable thing to have actually passed from death unto life. Multitudes cherish the hope of the divine favor, who will at last bc confounded with
disappointment, and sunk deep in despair. Let the reader, therefore, sit down to the following pages with this solemn question before him: Am I the friend of God, or am I His enemy? It will be too late to put this question by and by. Perhaps you fear that you are God's enemy. Perhaps you hope you are His friend. To aid you in deciding this interesting point, is the design of the following pages. There are some things that are neither for nor against you; there are others that are decisively in your favor. The first five Essays will exhibit several traits of character, that cannot be relied on as conclusive evidence of genuine religion. The last ten will exhibit several that may be relied on, without danger of deception.
The importance of the subject constrains the writer to use great freedom and plainness. The plainness which he has used, also constrains him to beg his readers to suspend their decision of the solemn question before them, until they shall have taken a full view of the subject. If any thing should be said that wounds them, let them remember, it is the “wound of a friend.” The honor of God, the value of the soul, the awful retributions of eternity, all make me more solicitous to save you, than to please you.
Searcher of hearts! send out thy light truth, and let them lead me. Discover their deception to the self-deceived, and make thy dear children strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
New-York, October 5th, 1813.
MAN looketh on the outward appearance. It is not by a few that visible morality is viewed as the narrow way which leadeth to life. It would be an impeachment of the understanding of my readers, to say that mere morality is not conclusive evidence of Christian Char. acter, were it not for the multitude of hopes that are built upon this crumbling basis. An unblemished moral character is in itself so amiable, that it not only commands the respect and esteem of others, but secures the confidence of those who possess it. If a man is honest, industrious and temperate; faithful to his promises, and punctual in his engagements; if he possesses a friendly, humane, kind, generous, and noble spirit; he views himself, and is viewed by the world around him, to be a good-bearted man," and in a fair way to heaven! If he is correct in his external demeanor; if he avoids all overt acts of immorality; if he is innocent and harmless; if his honor is unsullied and his name without reproach; though he may confess that he is not so good as he should be, yet he believes he is much better than he is. He sees nothing to shake his hopes, or alarm
bis fears. Look abroad into the world, and see the thousands that rest here for eternity. Melancholy view! The heart is indeed deceitful above all things, as well as desperately wicked.
The man who is merely moral is a stranger to the living God. While he sustains an unimpeached character in the view of the world, he may neither believe the principles of the Gospel, nor practise the duties of piety. He may be invincibly averse to every species of immorality on the one hand; but he is equally so to the exactness and spirituality of religion on the other. The infinitely important duties which he owes to God, he keeps entirely out of sight. Of loving and serving Him, he knows nothing. Whatever he does, or wbatever he leaves undone, he does nothing for God. He may be honest in his dealings with every body except God. He robs none but God. He is thankless and faithless to none but God. He speaks reproachfully of none but God.
A just view of the relation which he bears to God, forms no part of his principles, and the duties which result from that relation, form no part of his morality. He contents himself with mere external conformity to the duties of the second table. Like the young man in the Gospel, he may not have committed murder, nor adultery, por theft, nor perjury, from his youth up; while, like him, he may have laid up treasures for himself, and not be ricla