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of having communicated unworthily, because they are not conscious of having felt, at the Lord's table, all those effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
To Christians of this description it is, that I address my first advice, That they distinguish the degrees of that disposition of mind of which our apostle speaks in the text. A man may be quickened, may be raised up, may be made to sit together with Christ Jesus, in heavenly places, without having all the joy which results from this blessed state. The most infallible mark of our being made partakers in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, is our striving in, good earnest, to fulfil the conditions under which that participation is promised us. Let us fortify ourselves in this disposition of mind, and wait patiently till it shall please God to smoothe the difficulties which we encounter in this work, by the pleasure derived from a consciousness of having surmounted them in part, and by the assurance which we have of at length surmounting them altogether.
2. The second advice which I presume to suggest is this, Be on your guard against the love of the marvellous. It is far from being impossible that a man should confound the effects of an imagination heated by its own visionary workings, with those which the Holy Spirit produces in a soul of which he has taken entire possession. A person animated by the Spirit of God, can easily distinguish his state from that of an enthusiast : but the enthusiast cannot always distinguish his state from that of one animated by the Spirit of God. In general, the road
of discussion is incomparably more sure and direct to reach the conscience, and to form a right judgment of it, than the road of feeling. I know that there are certain feelings superior to discussion. I know that the Holy Spirit sometimes diffuses his influence through the soul, in such abundance, with so much fervour, with so much activity, that it is not possible the persons thus highly favoured should be ignorant that they are the objects of his tenderest and most particular care. But in order to our being warranted to promise ourselves such communications, the practice of piety must have been carried farther, beyond all comparison, than is commonly the case with most of those who flatter themselves that they have been favoured with singular coinmunications of the Spirit. And, once more, the method of discussion is by much the surer, to arrive at a true judgment of the real dispositions of the conscience, than the test of feeling; in which the temperament, or the imagination have frequently a larger share than real illumination.
Weigh in the balance the proofs on which the ideas you have formed of yourselves are founded. Compare your thoughts, your words, your actions, , with the august rules and decisions which God has laid down in his holy word. Regulate your hopes and your fears, according to the characters which you may have discovered in yourselves, after you have studied the subject in this manner. So much for the second advice, which I thought it of importance to suggest.
3. Permit me to subjoin a third. tence of guarding against the reveries of the enthusiast, and against the love of the marvellous, presume not to call in question certain extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit, and neglect not the means of obtaining them. Dispute not with saints of a superior order, what they know by experience to be real. Presume not to establish that measure of grace wbich you may have received, as the standard for determining that which God is pleased to grant to persons more devoted than you are to his service. Form not your judgment from the pleasure which you may at present derive from religion, of that which you may hereafter enjoy, when religion shall have acquired a more powerful influence over your heart. Be not discouraged by the dryness and discomfort which you may now find in the practice of virtue; in time you will experience it to be a perennial source of delight. This is my third advice.
Having premised these necessary precautions, let us attempt to justify the idea which is here given us of the Christian. Let us place in contrast, the condition in which he was, previous to his being converted to Christianity, and that which he has attained in virtue of his having become a Christian. Before he embraced the religion of Jesus Christ, he was dead in trespasses and sins. This is a figurative expression, denoting, that sinners are as incapable of themselves, to shake off the dominion of sin, and the misery inseparable from it, as a dead person is to defend himself against corruption, and to restore his own life. But by becoming a Christian, the believer is, through the mercy of God, not only set free from the dominion of sin, but is put in possession of the highest recompence of reward that justice ever bestowed on the most perfect virtue which ever existed, namely, that of Jesus Christ.
If“ never man spake like this man,” John vii. 46. never man lived and acted like this man. Accordingly, never was there a man exalted to such a height of felicity and glory. Now to this very height of felicity and glory the grace of God exalts the Christian. How? In more ways than we are able to indicate, in the time now left us. I satisfy myself with pointing out three of these. The believer is “quickened, he is raised up, he is made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
I. By the proofs which assure him of the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
II. By the means supplied to satisfy him that he is fulfilling the conditions under which he may promise himself, that he shall become a partaker of that exaltation.
IJI. By the forestate which he now enjoys of it on the earth.
I. By the proofs which assure him of the exaltation of Jesus Christ. It is not necessary here to detail thein in their full extent. This has been already done on former occasions. *
We have shewn you, that, in support of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (and the same reasonings apply, with
* Consult the Sermon on Christ's Resurrection, the eighth of Vol. II. of Mr. Robinson's Selection, and Sermon V. of this volume, page 154, &c.
nearly the same force, to all the particulars of his exaltation) we have presumptions, proofs, demonstrations. But, as I have just said, it is not necessary here to make a minute recapitulation.
But I would wish to unfold under this head, the true causes which prevent those proofs, irresistible as they are, from producing, on the mind of the greater part of Christians, that lively impression which would justify the hyperbolical language employed by our apostle, That Christians have a conviction as complete of the truth of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, as if they had been “ quickened,” as if they had been “raised up,” as if they were “ made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The following are the principal causes of this sore evil.
1. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, do not produce impressions so lively as they ought, from the abuse of a distinction between mathematical evidence, and moral evidence. A scruple in point of precision, has given rise to this distinction. We call that mathematical evidence, which is founded on the clear idea of a subject. I have a clear idea of two even numbers. This proposition, From the addition of two even numbers there results an even number, is founded upon an evidence which arises from the clear idea of that number. That is called moral evidence, which is founded on testimony worthy of eredit. I have, naturally, no idea of the city of Constantinople. I can decide the question of its existence, only upon testimony of a certain kind. This distinction is undoubtedly a real one, But it is