Page images

doctrine, in direct opposition to the well known sentiments of those Divines, who, by their writings and preaching, teach the true Order of gracious affections in the renewed heart. People generally are much more fond of hearing their errour, than the opposite truth; and consequently their preaching is calculated to make many converts, and to make them rapidly. They firstendeavour toalarm sinners with a deep sense of their perishing condition by nature; and then most affectionately urge them to believe, that Christ loves them, and is willing to save them just as they are, unholy and impenitent. And as soon as awakened, impenitent, selfish sinnerscome to believethis, their faith fills their hearts with love, and gratitude, and the most ravishing joys. There are many ministers, and some who affect to be the most learned, the most eloquent, and the most sincere friends of vital piety, who are using every method in their power, to propagate through the country, sentiments whichare directly suited to promote such unholy, unsound, and dangerous conversions.

Finally, this subject teaches all, who have entertained a hope of having experienced a saving change, the great importance of examining themselves, whether they have ever exereised that precious faith, which flows from supreme love to God. There has been a great deal of false religion in the world, and many have been fatally deceived, in respect to the nature of their religious experiences. The vast multitudes, who entered into covenant with God at mount Sinai, were deeply impressed with what they had heard and seen, and probably thought they were sincere friends to Jehovah; but they deceived and destroyed themselves; and are set up as awful monuments, to deter others from the same self-deception. Many who followed John and Christ, and heard them gladly, and thought they

were true converts; soon lost all their religious affections, and turned bitter enemies to the gospel of Christ. This gave Christ occasion to warn his hearers against the danger of entertaining false hopes, which would not stand the test of the last day. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Men are in as much danger of forming and living upon false hopes now, as ever they were. They are in danger of being deceived, by the great enemy of souls, who often appears in the form of an angel of light, to deceive and destroy. They are in danger of being deceived by false teachers, who come to them under the garb of the ministers of Christ, and of the friends of truth, And they are in still greater danger of being deceived, by the deceitfulness of their own hearts. Surrounded by so many dangers of deceiving themselves, in respect to their religious hopes, they need to be very strict and impartial in examining the nature of theirreligious affections. Hence says the apostle, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ, isin you, except ye be reprobates.” And again he says to the same professors of religion, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealously. I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” This he said in direct reference to false teachers. It is commonly through the means of some false doctrines, that men deceive themselves, with false hopes of being the subjects of grace. They have no right to hope, that they have experienced a saving

change, merely because they have been in great anxiety, and distress, and afterwards felt peculiar love, and joy, and peace. For love, and joy, and peace, may flow from an appropriating faith, or a belief, which has no evidence from scripture, sense, or reason, that Christ died for them in particular, and intends to save them. Such religious affections, which flow from such a false faith, afford no evidence of the renovation of the heart. But on the other hand, those have a right to hope, that they have passed from death to life, if they are conscious of having loved God for what he is in himself, of having hated sin because of its odious nature, and of having loved Christ for honouring God, and opening the door of mercy to perishing sinners. Such repentance and faith flowing from such supreme love to the divine character, afford good evidence of a sound conversion. For these are the love, the repentance, and the faith, which the holy Spirit always produces in those whom he renews and sanctifies. And such sanctification of heart is the only evidence of justification, and a title to eternal life. The Antinomian faith precludes all self examination. Those who place faith before love, hold that it is a sin for those who have once believed, that Christ died for them in particular, to doubt of their gracious state. The reason is obvious. If a faith before love, and without love, be a justifying faith; then assurance belongs to the essence of faith, and consequently, there is no occasion for sanctification, to prove a believer's justification. But let no man be deceived; for if he have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

1. They must exercise grace more constantly. It is generally and justly supposed, that the best of christians in their present state of imperfection, are not always in the actual exercise of grace. Whether there can be any such thing as grace, without exercise, I shall not stand to consider; but supposing the common opinion to be true, that christians are not always in the exercise of grace, it must be allowed, that they ought to exercise grace more constantly, which is actually growing in grace. For the more constantly and uninterruptedly they exercise purely holy affections, the more they conform to the divine will, and do really advance in the divine life. They follow the example of the apostle Paul, while growing in grace and pressing forward towards the mark of sinless perfection. So far as they fail in the constancy of their gracious exercises; just so far they fall short of that moral perfection, which is their indispensable duty. If they let their thoughts wander with the fool's eyes to the ends of the earth, their gracious affections will certainly be interrupted, and vain thoughts and evil affections will creep into their hearts. Some christians, who are circumspect and watchful, and keep their hearts with diligence, have many more right affections than others, who are in a low and declining state of religion. They carry about with them the spirit of the gospel, and pursue their secular concerns, as well as perform their religious duties, with gracious sincerity. Whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they mean to do all to the glory of God. They live as seeing Him who is invisible, and endeavour to keep themselves in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is what all christians ought to do, to grow in grace, and make progress in a holy and devout life,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

2. Uniformity, as well as constancy, is implied in growing in grace. By uniformity is meant, the exercise of all the various christian graces. These are numerous, according to the vast variety of objects with which christians are surrounded, and the great variety of circumstances in which they are placed. Want of uniformity is a very great and common imperfection, of christians. They are often like Ephraim, “a cake not turned.” They are sound in some respects, but unsound in other respects. Their beauties are mixed with blemishes. They may be devout in their religious performances; but not so serious and circumspect in their common intercourse with the world. They may be very conscientious in some points; but more lax and inconsiderate in matters of equal, or higher importance. Some seem to have more love to God, than to man; while others seem to have more love to man, than to God. Some shine in one grace, and some in another; while very few shine in all the beauties of holiness. But Christ was uniform as well as constant in the exercise of every species of holy affections. And his followers ought to have grace for grace, and be as uniform as he was, in exercising right affections on all occasions and under all circumstances. This the apostle Peter plainly intimates is necessary in order to grow


“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, ar.d to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherlykindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The more uniform christians become in their holy affections, the more they grow in grace, and the nearer they approach

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »