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them by their hatred, in heartily despising him who is a hearer of the word, and not a doer.
But let us consider some of the methods, by which such men deceive themselves. The sacred scriptures ascribe the salvation of sinners wholly to grace, or free unmerited mercy; and declare that none of our own righteousness has contributed, or can contribute, to procure the inestimable blessing: now, some general notions of this fundamental truth help numbers to deceive themselves. Not considering salvation in its extensive meaning, as comprising the whole of our reconciliation to God and recovery to holiness; but confining their thoughts merely to pardon and justification, they infer that good works must in all respects be excluded from our views of the gospel. It is indeed most true, that “we are justified freely by the
grace of God, through the redemption that is in “ Christ Jesus:” but it is equally true, that the will and power to perform real good works is an essential part of our salvation. “ By grace are ye saved, “ through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God: not of works, lest any man should “ boast. For we are his workmanship, created in “ Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath be. “ fore ordained, that we should walk in them.” “ The grace of God, which bringeth salvation, teaches “ us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we " should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this
* Eph. i. 8-10. Tit. ii. 11-14. Vol. I,
This is the uniform language of the new testament; and it is most evidently rational: for the renewal of a fallen creature to holiness is as needful, important, and unmerited a favour, as pardon and the gift of righteousness by faith: but for want of attending to this, numbers take occasion from the doctrines of grace to deceive themselves. Indeed many use unscriptural expressions, which are extremely liable to misconstruction; and give a disproportionate statement of the truth: yet it must also be allowed, that the very words of scripture may in this manner be perverted.
Thus Peter observed, concerning the writings of his beloved brother Paul, tha “in them were some " things hard to be understood, which they, that were “ unlearned and unstable, wrested, as they did the “ other scriptures, to their own destruction."**
The language of the sacred writers concerning faith is likewise most decided : “ He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not " shall be damned.”--By faith alone, and by no other operation of the mind or action of the life, can the sinner be made partaker of the righteousness and redemption of Christ. But while numbers presumptuously use language diametrically opposite to that of holy writ; there are many who deceive themselves by a misapprehension of the scriptural doctrine. Various arguments have convinced them that certain opinions are true, and they dispute earnestly for them. Surely, say they, we believe; and if we believe, we have all things in Christ, “ who of God is made to us, wis
* 2 Pet. iii. 16.
“ dom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemp"tion.” Hence they conclude, that practice should only be insisted upon in general terms; and while se. cular motives restrain them from scandalous immo. ralities they imagine that all is well, and nothing turther is required. But they do not duly consider the difference between dead and living faith: and that justitying faith works by love, purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and produces unreserved and zealous obedience. And while they give peculiar attention to St. Paul's argument concerning justification by faith, they overlook the account he gives of the holy fruits produced by faith; especially in the conduct of Abraham and Moses, and other ancient believers, as stated in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews.
The word of God gives us abundant reason to expect, that the true believer's experience will confirm and attest the sincerity of his faith. “ He that believeth
on the Son of God hath the witness in himself:”
Having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit “ of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” “ The day dawn and the day-star shall arise in your « hearts."* The meaning of these scriptures, and many others to the same effect, is very important; and teaches us, that the real disciples of Christ experience such effects in their own souls, from believing the doctrines and relying on the promises of the gospel, as abundantly satisfy them, that the Lord is faithful to his word, and that he both comforts and sanctifies his people by the truth. But numbers deceive them
Eph. i. 13. 2 Pet. i. 19. 1 John v. 10.
selves by a counterfeit experience. They have been alarmed, have changed the ground of their confidence, have had their imaginations heated or delighted by impressions and visionary representations: they have recollected the promises of the gospel, as if spoken to them with peculiar appropriation, to certify them that their sins were forgiven: and having seen and heard such wonderful things, they think they must no more doubt their adoption into the family of God. They have also frequently heard all experience profanely ridiculed as enthusiasm: and this betrays them into the opposite extreme; so that they are emboldened to despise every caution, as the result of enmity to internal religion, and to act as if there were no delusive or counterfeit experience. But the event too plainly shews their awful mistake; and that they grounded their expectations upon the account given of the extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit on the minds of prophets, rather than on the promises of his renewing influences in the hearts of believers. When therefore they lose the impressions with which they once were elated, they relapse nearly into their old course of life, their creed and confidence alone ex. cepted. The seed of the word, which had sprung up, withers, because it hath no root: they are not doers, but hearers only, deceiving their ownselves. — But the seal of the Spirit, like that affixed to the melt. ed wax, leaves an indelible impression; and the image of Christ will in some measure be discernible, in the temper and conduct of those who have received it, through all changes to the end of life,
We are but little acquainted with the real character and secret conduct of each other, except in the most intimate relations and connexions; especially in populous cities. We see men attend on publick ordinan. ces, we hear from them, in occasional conversation, the language of believers, and we know nothing concerning them inconsistent with these appearances. It is our duty to love the brethren, and to speak comfortably to them. Charity hopeth all things, and thinketh no evil: we therefore behave to such men as brethren; and this circumstance helps many to deceive themselves. The self-fattery of the human heart is inconceivable, and its effects prodigious: so that numbers put the candid opinion of ministers or christians, who scarcely knoiv any thing of them, in counterpoise against the accusations of their own conscience, respecting the secret sins which they habitually commit. They even persuade themselves that allowed crimes are of the same nature with the infirmities, which believers humbly confess and deplore: and thus they maintain a confidence in direct opposition to scripture, and call it faith; nay, they deem this a high attainment, and “hope against hope,” in a sense, with which neither Abraham nor Paul were at all acquainted.
Mistaken notions of liberty likewise lead men into fatal delusions: for instead of counting the service of God perfect freedom, and secking deliverance from the yoke of sin and Satan, from love of the world, and from the fear of man; they imagine liberty to consist in living according to their own inclinations, withput remorse of conscience, or dread of consequences: