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THERE is a hope that is as an anchor to the soul; and there is a hope that is as the spider's web. The former is built on the Rock of Ages; the latter on the sand. The one perisheth when God taketh away the soul; the other is sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the vail.
The hope of the Christian is founded on evidence. The disciple of Jesus is ready to give an answer to every one that asketh him a REASON of the hope that is in him. He is born of the incorruptible seed. His hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him.
The hope of the self-deceived is founded on presumption. He is wrapt up in false security. A deceived heart hath turned him aside. There is a lie in his right hand. He imagines he is right, while he is fatally wrong; he hopes he is going to heaven, while he is in the broad way to hell.
It is no inconsiderable thing, therefore, to possess the spirit of real religion. Multitudes substitute the shadow for the substance, and rest satisfied with a mere name to live. It is indeed no inconsiderable thing to have actually passed from death unto life. Multitudes cherish the hope of the divine favour, who will at last be confounded with disappointment, and sunk deep in despair. Let the reader, therefore, sit down to the following pages with this solemn question before him: Am I the friend of God, or am I His enemy? It will be too late to put this question by and by. Perhaps you fear that you are God's enemy. Perhaps you hope you are His friend. To aid you in deciding this interesting point, is the design of the following pages. There are some things that are neither for nor against you; there are others that are decisively in your favour. The first five Essays will exhibit several traits of character, that cannot be relied on as conclusive evidence of genuine religion. The last ten will exhibit several that may be relied on, without danger of deception.
The importance of the subject constrains the writer to use great freedom and plainness. The plainness which he has used, also constrains
him to beg his readers to suspend their decision of the solemn question before them, until they shall have taken a full view of the subject. If any thing should be said that wounds them, let them remember, it is the "wound of a friend." The honour of God, the value of the soul, the awful retributions of eternity, all make me more solicitous to save you, than to please you.
Searcher of hearts! send out thy light and thy truth, and let them lead me. Discover their deception to the self-deceived, and make thy dear children strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
New-York, October 5th, 1813.