Page images

“God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him < with their mouth, they lied unto him with their tongues; " for their heart was not right with him, neither were they “ stedfast in his covenant."'* Hence it appears, that to a discovery of the glory and excellence that is in God, it is necessary that we be in fome measure changed into the fame image. To say that this is the effect of our own at. . tempts and endeavors in the way of duty, without the constraining power of divine grace, is, when thoroughly examined, a manifest contradiction. If persons endeavor to force or oblige themselves to love any one, it is a sure fign that he is very unlovely in their eyes. Love cannot be forced, or rather to speak more properly, forced love is not love at all, In a word, it is our indispensable duty to attend to every dictate of conscience, and to follow it so far as it goes; but I cannot help thinking, that for a sin. ner truly and sincerely to desire a change of nature, would be an evidence of a change begun. Therefore, till a sin. ner get a supernatural illumination, he can never see the glory and beauty of the divine character. Before this, he may seek to propitiate God's favor, he may wish to avoid his wrath ; he may desire a change in God for his own safety, but he cannot be satisfied with him as he really is. It must be the fame almighty power, which brought the world out of nothing into being, that must bring back the sinner from his rebellion and apostacy, according to that promise, evidently applicable to the Saviour; “ Thy peo“ ple shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beau“ ties of holiness.”+ Neither is the same thing less clearly allerted in the New Testament; “ For it is God which

worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good plea. “ sure.”I

3. Hence we may see wherein lies the fundamental essential difference between common or imperfect convicti. ons, and the effectual sanctifying and saving influences of the Holy Ghost. The first arise from a view of the natural perfections of God, from a belief of his power and se. verity, without any discovery of his righteousness and

Phil. ij. 13.

* Pf. lxxviii. 34, 35, 36, 37. † Pf. cx. 3. Vol. I.


glory. Therefore, however great a length they may pro. ceed, however different or opposite their effects may be, they never produce any real change in the heart. It is of great consequence to attend to this important distinc. tion; for though imperfect convictions fometimes are entirely effaced, and are followed by no lasting effect at all, yet it is often otherwise, They frequently produce a counterfeit religion, which not only continues for a time, but is carried down by some to the grave as a lie in their right-hand. So subtle are the deceits of satan, that there are many hollow forms of religion, not only upon a legal, but an evangelical bottom. I shall give the reader a sketch of the principles and outlines of both.

There are some legal hypocrites. Awakened to a sense of their danger merely from the irresistible power of God, they fall to the exercise of repentance, and hope that by so doing they may live. Hence the whole system of bodi. ly penance and mortification. Hence also fo strong an attachment, in some worldly persons, to the external forms of religion, and veneration for the places of divine worship. Being now somewhat more regular and decent in their ordinary carriage than before, they entertain a fond hope that all shall be well. In the mean time, they are so far from being restored to the image of God, or being governed by his love, that all this is a burden to them; and indeed it is because it is a burden, that they are so prone to think it meritorious. Conscience checks them, and they dare not run to the same excess with others, or even repeat what they themselves did forinerly; and by this comparison, cannot help thinking they are in a hope. ful way. But did such persons reflect a little on the nature of God, they would see their error. They would learn, that they are so far from being renewed in the spirit of their minds, that whatever lengths they go, they are dragged or driven against their will; and whenever they can find a plausible excuse, they are ready to withdraw their neck from the yoke. A just view of the glory of God, and the obligation upon every rational creature to love and imitate him, would effectually cure them of all selfrighteousness and self-dependance; would lead them to

this comp But did tvould see the

himself and the grace treasured up in his Son, to “ work " in them the whole good pleasure of his goodness, and the “ work of faith with power.”

On the other hand, there are evangelical hypocrites. These begin upon the same principles, and their views have the same radical defect with the former. They are awakened to a sense of danger, and sometimes made to tremble through fear of divine judgments, but without any discovery of the glory and amiableness of the divine nature. If such persons happen to live in a family or congregation, where they hear much of the doctrine of redemption, it may have its place in their scheme. They may be so convinced of their own manifold transgressions, as to be satisfied to throw their guilt upon the surety, and rely on the sufferings and death of Christ, for deliverance from the wrath of an offended God. Nay, I have not the least doubt that some may, by a confident presumption, imitate the faith of God's elect, and believe that Christ died for themselves in particular. So long as this per. fuafion can maintain its ground, it may, and must give them great joy and satisfaction. Who would not find confolation in thinking themselves in safety from divine wrath? Yet all this while they never see the evil of fin in itself, as an opposition to the nature, and a breach of the law of God. They are never brought to love an infinitely holy God in sincerity of heart. They may love him, because they suppose themselves the peculiar objects of his love, with some obfcure, confused, sensual idea of the de. lights of heaven; but they know not or consider not, the nature of that salvation he hath provided for his chosen.

All such love, it is plain, ariseth from a false confidence in their own state, and not from a true knowledge of God. Their notions of God's love to them contain more of a partial indulgence to them as they are, than of his infinite compassion in forgiving what they have been. The ef. fects of such religion are just what might be expected from its nature, violent and passionate for a seafon, and commonly oftentatious, but temporary and changeable. Selflove lies at the root, and therefore, while they are pleased and gratified, they will continue their pofellion of attachment; but when self-denial or bearing the cross is requir. ed, they reject the terms, they lose their transporting views, and return to their fins.

There are many examples of this, not only in scripture, but in the history of the church in every age. Many of those disciples who seemed gladly to embrace the doctrine, and highly to honor the person of Christ, when they heard some of the most mortifying precepts, " went back and “ walked no more with him."* The character is little different, which we find described under the image of the ftony ground hearers, who “ having not root in them. “ selves, when persecution or tribulation arose because of " the word, by and by were offended,” I hope this, with the explication above given of its cause, may be of use to account for some appearances in a time of the revival of religion. Persons who seem to have the same exercises with real converts, yet afterwards fall away, and “ return “ with the dog to his vomit again, and with the fow that “ was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” This gives occasion to adversaries to speak reproachfully, and is greatly distressing to those who truly fear God. But would men carefully attend to what the holy scriptures teach us to expect, their surprise in all such cases would cease. « For it must needs be that offences must comet.” And though there are many counterfeits, there will still be suf ficient means to distinguish the gold from the dross.

- was washed, to nie to speak reproach cod. But would


There must be a conviction of sin and danger.

THE next great step in a faving change, is a deep

humiliation of mind, and conviction of fin and danger. The absolute necessity of this is very evident, and indeed generally confessed. It is equally evident, whether we consider the nature of the change itself, the means of its production, or the motives to all future duty. If an entire change is necessary, there must be an entire and thorough dissatisfaction with, and disapprobation of, our past character and state. Whoever is pleased with his present character, will neither desire, endeavor, nor even accept of a change. If we consider the means of our recovery, by Jesus Christ suffering in the room of finners, the same thing will appear with increasing evidence. Those who are not humbled under a sense of guilt and cor. ruption, will treat with great contempt a purchased par. don and a crucified Savior. This our Lord himself often tells us in the plainest terms. “ They that are whole “ need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came " not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."*

* John vị. 60.

Matt. xviii. 7,

To these indeed his invitation and call is particularly addressed; “ Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy “ laden, and I will give you rest.”+ • To the same purpose, we shall find many other passa. ges, both of the prophetic and apostolic writings. The glad tidings of salvation are always directed to the humble, miserable, broken-hearted, thirsty, perishing foul. Thus in the prophet Isaiah, “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, “come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, " come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk, “ without money and without price.”I When Christ entered on his personal ministry, he opened his commission in the following terms. « The spirit of the Lord " is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the “ gospel to the poor : he hath sent me to heal the broken. " hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and re“ covering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that “ are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”'|| I shall only mention one other paslage : “And I will give " to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life • freely."

From these passages, and many others in the same strain, it is evident beyond contradiction, that there must be a deep humiliation of mind, and sense of guilt and wretchedness, before a sinner can be brought unto God. This

* Luke v. 31, 32. † Matth. xi. 29. I. || Luke iv. 18.

| Rev. xxi. 6.

« PreviousContinue »