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the sacrifice of Christ, make it useless, make it vain ; deny the truth of the Scriptures, the corruption of man, the nature of sin, and the faithfulness of God in what he has revealed, and sink Christianity to a level with Deism or Mahometanism, which each has a code of morals of its own. The subject of this volume is the fruits of faith, the Christian character--the very test by which they have chosen to be tried. We cannot deny it is a Scripture test: “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” I bespeak only that the fruit the branches bear shall resemble that which grew upon the stem; that there be no choosing of it by our tastes and habits, or the maxims and conventions of society; that there be no judgment of it but the judgment of God as declared in holy Scripture.
I am aware that amongst the number who thus suspend their religious opinions upon some indefinite notions of character, there are persons neither so light nor so careless, though perhaps not less mistaken than those I have described These are they who read the Bible with seriousness, who seek truth with a willing and desiring mind, do reverence to their own abstract idea of religion, and think that if they could see it exemplified, they should love it and bow down before it. But because they have formed their beau idéal of a Christian from some fancy of their own, rather than from the word of God, they are baffled and puzzled by what they see. In the people of this world they frequently perceive a dignified uprightness, a polished amiability, very strikingly contrasted with the rugged humours and defective conduct of some of the children of God. Could the heart of each be unclosed, and the springs and motives of action be brought to the test of Scripture, there would be little difficulty, I believe, in deciding which of them approaches nearest to our great Example. But the exterior only is perceived, and this is measured by the
measure of a man,” and not of God; and the honest inquirer after Christian character, still persuading himself he shall love it when he finds it, either takes that for it which is not it,
and does homage to a counterfeit; or, failing to recognize the reality, when he finds it, learns to doubt if it has existence anywhere. I shall be very glad if I can show to any such that they mistake the character they are in search of; that they have not examined the Divine Original with sufficient minuteness to know the traces of his image when they see them. Some part of the difficulty that opposes their acceptance of a profession so little borne out by the character of the professors, may perhaps be removed if I can convince them that, however beautiful appears the character of the upright and amiable of this world, it bears not the slightest resemblance to the character of Him, to be conformed to whose likeness we were redeemed, while, in the rude, the indistinct, the unformed lines sketched in the bosom of the weakest believer, there are some traces of what will be a likeness, though as yet indistinct and unattractive.
In opposition to the virtual Socinianism I have described, the evangelical church has
extensively maintained the incapacity of man in his natural state to do any thing good in the sight of God; the condemnation under which he lies to everlasting misery; the necessity of an entire change of heart, a new principle, a new nature, before he can begin the Christian course; also that this change does not take place by formal admission into the external church, but by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, given by God, according to the good pleasure of his will, of his free mercy, and for Christ's sake-repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, being the first evidences of this vital change of the heart, this new existence. Conversion has quently become the prominent object in the teaching of the gospel, the theme of the preacher's exhortation and the believer's hope.
Repent and be converted,” is the universal command. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins," is the precious assurance, the earnest of all future good. This conversion, this change of heart, this new birth,
has been compared in Scripture to many things, which in its completeness, and sometimes in its suddenness, it resembles. It is the giving of eyesight to the blind, without which he cannot begin to see. It is the bringing of the dead to life, without which he cannot begin to exercise the functions of life. It is the release of a slave from bondage, without which he cannot enter the service of another master. the figures used in Scripture for the conversion, the spiritual regeneration of the soul-all implying commencement, a beginning, on which everything else is consequent. While the heart is unchanged and the spirit unrenewed, vain is every exhortation to serve God and lead a good and Christian life. This is to demand the fruit before the tree is planted-to reap the harvest before the field is sown. It is not the language of Scripture. “Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” be conscious of your need of such a change, and believe that it is the gift and purchase of redeeming love. This is the first exhortation addressed to every