« AnteriorContinuar »
active in every good word and work. This mark serves to distinguish true converts from what may be called evangelical hypocrites. Such hypocrites abuse the doctrine of their natural inability to do what is spiritually good as a pretext or excuse for their wilful neglect of duty. Whereas as the faith of this truth in true converts excites them to cleave to Christ alone as th ir strength ; and thus they are animated to the practise of duty, as knowing, that, however weak in themselves, they have a sufficiency of strength in him. He that abideth in me, says Christ, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit : and then he adds as the reason, For without me, ye can do nothing ; thus intimating, that the deeper sense his followers have of their weakness or inability in themselves, they will be the more dependant on him ; and the more dependant they are on him, they will be the more fruitsul in good works. The notion, which hypocrites have, of justification by free grace through the imputed righteousness of Christ, flatters them in their sinful security. Let us continue in sin, say they, that grace may abound. Wfereas true converts find nothing so effectual to stir them up to the mortification of sin as faith's views of Christ's obedience unto death, which procured the death of sin, in them. O, say they, shall we harbour sin, which Christ came to destroy? How can we spare these lusts, on account of which God spared not his own son ! The faith of deliverance through the imputed righteousness of Christ from the law as a covenant or condition of life is the animating principle of their obedience to the law as a rule of life. This persuasion, that they are not their own, but that they are bought with a price, engages them to glorify God in their bodies and their spirits which are his. Farther, hypocrites abuse the doc. trine concerning the work of the grace and Spirit of Christ in effectually determining and enabling us to do what is spiritually good, while they make it a pretence for giving themselves up to sloth and the neglect of the appointed means of salvation. But sincere converts, who truly understand and believe this doctrine, find it to be the most powerful incentive and incouragement to the diligent use of these means. The more clearly they see, that God worketh in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; they are the more incited to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Thus the Christian self-abasement and a single dependance on the grace of God in Christ, which the blind world consider as good for nothing but to make men slothful, are the true principles of all holy obedience.
4. True converts seek to partake of the benefits of Christ's purchase universally and in the way of union to his person. They are not for dividing the benefits of Christ from one another. They desire sanctification as well as pardon ; a present as well as a future salvation. Nor are they for dividing his benefits from himself. Their great concern is to be found in him, and to receive his benefits in him and with him, 1. Corinth. i. 30. This is the great and fatal error of hypocrites, that they seek some of his benefits but not all ; not a marriage union with himself. They seek the loaves, or some carnal, selfish gratification, but not himself. Or if they seem to seek himself, it is not for his own sake, but for the sake of something else.
5. The work of the Holy Spirit in conversion is a secret work, though every member of the church ought to seek and may attain the certain knowledge of his own conversion. It is still represented in scripture as a hidden and mysterious work, Eccles. xi. 5. As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even 80 thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. John iii. 8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Hence every one is enjoined to use diligence, all diligence in order to attain the knowledge of his effectual calling or conversion*. The opinion, that little care or attention to our own hearts and ways is necessary to the attainment of this knowledge is both contrary to scripture and of a soul ruining tendency, as it leads persons to take up with a counterfeit conversion ; which is one of the deep devices of Satan for preventing a real cone version. It is however a great truth, that we ought to get this knowledge; and while we want it, or so far as we are in the dark about our gracious state, we ought to be deeply humbled, on that account, before the Lord; and we ought to wait upon the Lord and look continually to him for this blessed attainment, in the use of the appointed means. We are to assure ourselves that, though it may be withheld from a true believer for a time, yet it will be at length attained by those that continue in the exercise of faith, in a holy watchfulness against whatever tends to darken their evidences, in self-examination, and in prayer for the Holy Spirit to shine upon his own work in their souls as well as upon his own word. For the Lord will not be a barren wilderness or a land of darkness to any that truly seek his face.
Instances of a decline in purity of doc- .
trine. Causes of that decline. CHRISTIAN BRETHREN,
OUR holy relişion is greatly recommended by a just comparison of it with other schemes of religion. What a horrible representation of the Deity was given by the Pagan idolatry, changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, to birds and four.footed beasts and creeping things! How manifestly are the Jews condemned of themselves, in their obstinate rejection of Jesus Christ, whilst they acknow. ledge the Divine authority of the Old Testament! What an absurd medley of falsehood, superstition, and sensuality is the system exhibited in Mahomed's Koran ! With regard to the Socinians, I make little difference, said the celebrated Grotius*, between them and the Mahomedans. They retain the name, but renounce the substance of Christianity. They are chargeable with blasphemy in denying the truth concerning the Divine simplicity, eternity, omnipresence and foreknowledge; in denying the Deity and satisfaction of Christ, and the Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit. As to the Papists, they make the word of God of none effect by their traditions. They corrupt the spiritual authority, which Christ hath appointed in his Church, by adding to it an exorbitant worldly dominion in the offices of
* In a letter to Walleus, written in the earlier part of his life, he has these words concerning the Socinians : Christianitatem (quantum ego intelligo) nomine retinent, re destruunt. Itaque hos a Mahumetistis non longe separo.
their pope, cardinals and other ecclesiastical dignitaries : they make their inherent grace or the pretended merit of their works the ground of their justification before God. They have introduced a multitude of men’s inventions into every part of religious worship. They have other objects of religious worship than the only true God; and other Mediators than Jesus Christ. And then, in order to carry their obstinacy and impudence in maintaining such gross corruptions to the highest pitch, they ascribe infallibility to the judgment of their church. As to the Arminian scheme it manjfestly sacrifices the independency of God in his decrees, and the glory of his free and sovereign grace to the idol of man's free-will*. It detracts from the efficacy of the blood and Spirit of Christ, in order that the creature may have some ground of glorification, as making itself differ. In this respect, it is diametrically opposite to the design of the gospel, Rom. iii. 27. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By' what law ? of works ? nay, but by the law of faith. 1 Corinth. i. 29, 30. That no Aesh may glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto
*“ Right reason,” says a truly philosophical writer, “ gives « its voice most decisively in favor of the doctrine of the Re. “ formed churches, and in favor of it alone. What is taught “ about God and Divine things by the various opposers of that « doctrine is not only without reason but contrary to it. Their “ first and radical error is their denying, that God alone is ab. " solutely independent: this is a truth, which, as it is constant, “ ly maintained by the orthodox, establishes the victorious “ grace of God, and overthrows its great enemy, the pride of « man's depraved nature.” Reformatæ nostræ fidei, atque uni nostræ, plaudit ac testimonium efficacissimum dicit ipsa recta ratio ; dum circa Deum et res Divinas modis indignissimis, sine ratione ac contra rationem, delirat universa secus sentien. tium cohors, &c. Gerardi De Vries Exercitationes rationales. Exercit. iv. Sect. 7.