Page images
PDF
EPUB

us.

honours, power; to imitate, if circumstances will permit, the children of pride and of impiety, in elegance and show; to mingle, when opportunity presents, in the gay circles of polite amusement; and to live in the practice of sensuality, or under the government of immoral tempers; are equally unbecoming the gospel avowed by us, as they would have been in the conduct of Paul. For he who was Lord, and that which was Law, to him, are so to

His apostolic office, his extraordinary gifts, and his uncommon spiritual enjoyments, might, perhaps, afford certain motives to holiness, different from any possessed by us; but we have the same rule of moral conduct, and the same example of Christ for our imitation, that he had. We are under the obligation of divine law, to love God with all the force of our natural powers: nor could the holy apostle's delight in God exceed the requisitions of that law.

Were the spirit of this admirable saying approved by professors in general, and its influence felt on their hearts, they would not conform to the customs of a world which lies in wickedness, as they frequently do. No; for as all the ensnarements and pleasures of sin arise from things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; so, in proportion as the heart is filled with the cross of Christ, or as the doctrine of the cross is incorporated with their affections; it will induce death and loathsome deformity on those things which had previously been snares and idols, leaving no appearance of beauty, or of desirableness, in them. Were this the experience of professors in common, fondness of dress, and pride

of show; a desire of riches, and a lust of pre-eminence; would be much less apparent than they are, among the avowed followers of Jesus Christ. For it is manifest, by the vanity and self-importance of some, by the avarice and want of integrity in others; by the formality in worship, and the earthly-mindedness of multitudes, who hear the gospel, that a conversation becoming it is far from being general, among the professors of Christianity: and, consequently, that real Christians are comparatively very few. It is, however, equally clear, that the doctrine of grace • which bringeth salvation, teacheth us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should Jive soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Amen.

[ocr errors]

ESSAY III.

EVIDENCES OF FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, BOTH NEGA

TIVELY AND POSITIVELY CONSIDERED.

Examine yourselves whether you be in the Faith.

PAUL.

First, negatively. As it would be unwarrantable Ito affirm, that a full persuasion of interest in Christ enters into the essence of true faith ; so we should be equally far from concluding, that a simple desire to believe is an evidence of believing: or, to use a phrase which, in the account of some, is little short of a theological axiom, That a desire of grace, is grace. For a well-grounded persuasion of interest in Christ is to be considered rather as a happy effect of believing on the Son of God, than as faith itself. Because the gospel does not exhibit Jesus to an awakened sinner, under the notion of his having died for him, in particular; or so as to warrant an immediate conclusion, that Christ and all the blessings of grace are his : but under the consideration of his being a guilty, condemned, perishing creature; that the Lord Redeemer is mighty to save, and the only object of hope for the guilty: that the chief of sinners, the most detestable of human characters, are welcome to him! The first question that should engage the awakened sinner's attention, is not, Did Christ die for me in particular? But, Is he able to save? And, are the chief of sinners-sinners in similar circumstances with myself-encouraged by the gospel to put their trust in him? For, to rely on the Lord Redeemer, as able to save the very worst of sinners; as perfectly suitable to relieve the most pressing wants, and as free for the vilest of our apostate race, is, I humbly conceive, the faith of God's elect. The converted sinner has reason, in: deed, to infer his interest in Christ; but this is a secondary consideration; and the assurance he has, if it arise from its proper source, is rather a fruit of faith, than faith itself.

On the other hand, we should not imagine, that a mere desire of grace, is grace; or, that a simple desire to believe, is believing. This, far from being an axiom of divine truth, or an undoubted theological pripciple, must not be admitted without great limitations. If, indeed, there were no such thing as a sinner desiring grace, or desiring to believe in Christ, for any other than holy purposes, it might be allowed in its full extent: for whoever desires an interest in Jesus, to answer all those purposes which the divine Father intended should be answered by it, may, I think, be justly considered as interested in him: and whoever desires grace, or the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, that the great end of communicating those influences may be fully answered, is, doubtless, a subject of divine grace. But then it is equally manifest, that a sinner may desire grace, and an interest in Jesus Christ, not because he sees and approves the beauty of holiness, or the excellence and glory of the Lord Redeemer, but because he loves himself, and is desirous of escaping that misery of which he apprehends himself in danger. To desire Christ and grace, merely because we tremble at the apprehension of damnation, and know that we cannot be saved without the great atonement, and the regenerating energy of the Holy Spirit, has nothing spiritual in it. No; it is nothing more than an effort of natural conscience awakened, attended with some degree of knowledge in the system of divine truth. The case of the foolish virgins in the parable, requesting oil of their wiser companions, is, I conceive, a full proof of the point.

I have sometimes heard popular preachers ask their doubting hearers, Whether they are willing to part with Christ, or to give up their hope in him?' To which they generally suppose

the persons

addressed will answer, No, not for the world! On which the querists immediately infer, “Then you may assure yourselves that Christ is yours.' But this way of talking seems to be an unscriptural method of relieving distressed consciences, and extremely fallacious. For what self-righteous person, what profligate in the world, that calls himself a Christian, is willing to give up his hope, or entirely to part with Jesus Christ? No man is, no man can be willing to part with his hope, till he is convinced of its falsehood, and another foundation of hope that appears more eligible be presented to him. Nor can any man, without renouncing the christian character, hope for eternal happiness, independent of Jesus Christ and his mediation. Even Socinians, who deny the atonement, and almost all the capital truths of the gospel, will not say, 'We hope to be completely saved, without the least assistance from the mediation of Jesus Christ.'

« PreviousContinue »