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Is this the behaviour of thoughtful people? Very far from it. You will be convinced it is not, if you will go and see a serious Christian labouring under any mortal ailment, which he is sure will put an end to his life in a month's time, or perhaps sooner: you will find such a man very serious, very indifferent for all the profits or pleasures this world can afford him; resolving to do every thing that may recommend him to the favour of God, whenever he shall die: and you would count him worse than a madman, if you should find him otherwise disposed, if you should find him under no concern for his soul, but by all manner of ways diverting his thoughts from what is sure to befal him, whether he thinks of it or not.
And yet the generality of Christians will not consider, that this is their own case. They believe, they know, they are sure, they must die, and sooner perhaps than they imagine. The gospel, which they say they believe, tells them what for certain must follow; either eternal happiness, if they have led good lives, or eternal misery, if they die unconverted: and yet they put the thoughts of death far from them, because they will not prepare for it; at the same time they would die with fear, if they did not hope to be saved.
But be assured of it, Christians, that no man must flatter himself with these hopes. He only who is convinced of his own misery and danger, through the corruption of his
nature, and understanding, by his Christian faith, the way to get out of this sad condition; he only who can sincerely resolve-I must not, I dare not, I will not be any longer indifferent how I lead my life; I will, through the grace of God, live by faith; I will endeavour to know what God requires me to do, what I may hope for if I strive to please him, and what I am to fear, if I continue to provoke him by my sins.
Every Christian, who thus believes, refolves, and lives accordingly, is in the way
We come now to consider what we believe concerning God, that we may know whether our faith be such as it should be.
We believe that God is infinitely great and good; and that we stand indebted to him for every thing we have, or value, or hope for.
Now, let us consider, if we were half so much obliged to any man on earth, how highly should we value him; how dearly should we love him; how much should we think of him; how should we strive to please him; and how should we be troubled, when we should be so unhappy as to offend him! Why now, Christians, if you thus believe, if
thus value, if you thus love, and desire to please God, and are careful not to offend him, your faith hath its saving fruits; it is such as it should be.
To proceed:-You believe of God, that he is most holy; and that as such he cannot but be
displeased with every thing that is impure or wicked. Fix this truth in your heart; and your faith will keep you at the greatest distance from all sins of impurity and uncleanness, and from all temptations that lead to them; especially when the same faith assures you, that such fins, if not bitterly repented of, will not only shut you out of heaven, but will cause
you to have your portion with unclean devils.
You profess to believe, that God is infinitely just, and that he hates all injustice, oppression, and wrong. Now, if you really believe this of God, you will never füffer yourself to be led, through covetousness, malice, or revenge, to injure any man living:
We all profess to believe, that God sees every thing that passes in the world; that the very thoughts of our hearts, our most secret designs, are known to him: and ought not every Christian, who believes this, to live and act as having God the constant-witness of his conduct?
Lastly; we have the liberty, through faith, to call, to apply to this great, this good, this just, this holy God, as to a father. A most glorious privilege this, provided we live so as becomes the dutiful children of so good, so great, so holy a father; provided we resolve, with those mentioned in the book of Wifdom, We will not fin, knowing that we are accounted thine. And are we not under the greatest obligations to do so, when, by our
Chap, xv. 26
own confession, he can reward or punish men beyond what they can conceive?
So that if our faith in God be such as it should be, we should part with any thing, as dear as a right hand or a right eye, rather than displease, rather than provoke, this great, and good, and holy God.
We now come to examine our faith in Jesus Christ; and that we may fee whether our faith be right, by the fruits it produceth.
We profess to believe what Jesus Christ has made known to us, That no man can come unto God, but by him; he being the way, the truth, , and the life; that is, the author of the way, the teacher of the truth, and the giver of life. That God has given him power over all flesh. That therefore, as we believe in God, we must believe also in him. For that it would be but an uncomfortable article of faith, for a finner to believe in a God who is holy, just, and powerful, and who hateth all iniquity, if he did not know how to make his
with him, We believe, therefore, in Jesus Christ, who took our nature upon him, and has made our peace with God by suffering, in our stead, what we for our fins had deserved. He has also prevailed with God to accept of our repentance, if sincere; to give us all necessary affiftance to do our duty, and to accept of our best endeavours, (instead of a perfect obedience) in order to our being made eternally happy. John xiv. 6. e John xvii. 2.
Let us now examine our faith upon this article of our Creed; let us consider how our hearts and lives are affected with this exceeding great love of Christ for his poor creatures. . Does this love of Christ, (as the apostle speaks)' does this love of Christ constrain us? Does it constrain us to confecrate our lives to him, who, by his death, has redeemed us from eternal death? Does our love for Christ constrain us to take him for our pattern, for our Lord, our master, and teacher? If it does, we shall receive his gospel as the word of our salvation; we shall observe the laws, the rules, the ordinances, which he has given us, as the only means to secure us from perdition. Does our faith, as the same apostle speaks, work by love? Does it appear by works of love and charity ?
Does the love of Christ constrain us to imitate his sufferings, to take up the cross daily, and follow him as he requires us to do;" that is, to deny our corrupt inclinations, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, to resist all inclinations to fin, and to subject our will to the will of God, by stedfastly purposing to do whatever we believe will please him?
Does the love of Christ, and what he has done and suffered for us, constrain us not to be alhamed of him, his word, his humility, and sufferings, in this untoward, unbelieving generation; nor to set a greater value upon the
2. Cor. y. 14.
& Gal. y. 6.
n Luke ix. 23.