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And do you not perceive that he, who has begun, does actually carry on the work of grace in your hearts ? And that all the external dispensations of providence and internal influences of the spirit concur in their operation, to humble you, and wean you from the world, and imbitter sin—to bring you nearer to God, and to love him, and to live to him, and to live upon him and to make you more serious.... more spiritually-minded and heavenly-minded....more watchful and prayerful, and more loving, and kind, and tender-hearted, and obliging to all mankind, both friends and foes and to make you daily attend upon the duties of your particular calling, and upon all the common business of life, as a servant of God, in singleness of heart, doing service to the Lord ?
And although you was once dead in sin, and wholly without strength, yet do you not now feel that you are spiritually alive, and so put into a capacity for a spiritual activity, and that you are engaged to be active for God ?.... Not that your sufficiency is of yourself, as once you thought it was : for you are not sufficient of yourself, as of yourself; but your sufficiency is of God: Yet do you not find that, through Christ's strengthening, you can do all things ? And do you not, from the heart, hate the way of lazy, dead-hearted hypocrites, who sit still, and carelessly cry, “We can do nothing—it is Christ that must do all;" and, under a notion of not doing any thing in their own strength, gratify their laziness, and do nothing at all! Accursed laziness! Accursed hypocrisy !— Do you not feel, I say, that you are put into a capacity for spiritual activity? And are you not engaged to be active for God ? For you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that you might walk in them.While the spirit of God is taking down the power of sin in your heart, and slaying your corruptions, are you not also crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts ? While God is working in you to will and to do, are you not working out your salvation with fear and trembling....with filial fear and holy concern ?While the spirit of God gives you might in the inner man, do not you put on the whole armour of God, and fight with flesh and
blood....with principalities and powers ? This is the way of believers. And the spirit does not come upon them by fits, as it did upon Balaam, but dwells in them and abides in them forever—to purify them from all iniquity, and make them a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Finally, do you not experience that your religion is some. thing real and perceptible, and see that it is specifically different from any thing that possibly can arise merely from a principle of self-love ? You perceive your views of God, and sense of his greatness, glory, and beauty; and you perceive your sense of the world's emptiness, and of your own natural vileness and wretchedness; and your love to God....your weanedness from the world, and your mourning for sin are perceptible : And is it not easy to perceive why you love God-are weaned from the world, and mourn for sin ; namely, because God is infinitely lovely, the world empty and worthless, and sin the greatest evil? And while these views and affections effectually influence you to all holy living, their genuineness is made still more ev. ident and plain : and, from the whole, you arise to a rational and scriptural knowledge of your gracious state.
From what has been said upon this subject, a great variety of other questions might be put to the believer ; but the whole has been treated so plainly and practically, that I need add no more : And if graceless persons had it in their hearts to be honest and impartial, they might easily know that they are strane gers to real religion : But if they have not the thing itself, they will either work up something like it, or else deny that there is any such thing: for he that doth evil, hateth the light ; and so does he who has a rotten heart. And hence some cry, “ The “ best have their failings;" and they watch and catch at the fail. ings of such as are accounted godly, and dwell upon them, and magnify them; and so quiet their consciences, and go on in their sins : Others cry, “ The best are dead sometimes ;” and so maintain their hopes, although they lie dead whole months and years together, and live in sin, and never come to sound repentance : Others cry, “ You will discourage weak christians ;"
meaning themselves.—Just as if there were a sort of christians that cannot bear the light, nor stand a scriptural trial. What will they do when they come before the awful bar of the heartscarching God! Others cry, " But every christian does not experience alike ;” and so, though they are destitute of the very essence and life of religion, yet they hope all is well ; and many are confident that these things are not so; “ For,” say they,
if these things be true, who then shall be saved ?"-I answer, Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life ; and few there be that find it : But wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many go in thereat....Mat. vii. 13, 14. And mark what follows in the next verse, (15)...Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's-clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves : (ver. 16).... Ye shall know them by their fruits. By what fruits? Why, this is the constant character of false prophets throughout the Bible, that they cry, Peace and safety, and heal the wound of poor sinners slightly, and daub with untempered mortar ; i. e. they make religion to be an easier thing than it is--more agreeable to corrupt nature ; and so encourage sinners to rest in something short of true grace. So the Pharisees did, notwithstanding all their pretended strictness ; and so the Arminians do, notwithstanding all their seeming zeal for good works ; and so the Antinomians do, notwithstanding all their pretences to extraordinary light, and joy, and zeal, and purity, and holiness. And this is the common character of all false prophets, and false teachers, and heretics, that, being enemies to true religion, they cut out a false scheme in their heads, to suit their own hearts; and so, however greatly they may differ, in many things, yet herein all agree,
, to make religion an easier thing than the Bible does, and to make the gate wider, and the way broader, than Christ and his apostles ; and, by this mark, the difference between them and the true prophets may always be certainly known: and therefore Christ having just said, Strait is the gate, and narrow the way, &c. immediately adds, Beware of false prophets--by their fruits ye shall know them ; for they all invent some easier way
to heaven, though it may be in sheep's clothing, i.e. under a show of great strictness : And this, their invention, being false, they are thus denominated
false prophets : And thus, what has been said concerning the nature of true religion, may serve to clear up the believer's gracious state ; and may afford matter of con. viction to others,
SECTION VII. WE HAVE GREAT REASON TO BE HUMBLE, AND THANKFUL,
AND LIVE ENTIRELY DEVOTED TO GOD. Use III. Of humiliation. What has been said may be improved by sinners and saints to promote their humiliation: For by the law is the knowledge of sin ; and a sight and sense of our sinfulness tends to abase us before the Lord.
In this glass of the law, sinners may see what they are, in heart and life ; and, by this rule, they may learn how God looks upon them. There is a knowledge of ourselves of our hearts and lives, that is natural to us. Men, by their power of selfreflection, have a sort of an acquaintance with themselves: they know their present views and designs-their present inclinations and way of living; and remember, more or less, how they have lived in years past : But men are naturally very ignorant of the nature of God, and of his holy law; and so, are very ignorant of themselves, in a moral sense—are very insensible how God looks upon them, and what their hearts and lives are, compared with God and his holy law. Natural conscience has some notions about right and wrong, and so does something towards accusing and condemning men, especially for their grosser sins ; but na. tural conscience is, for the most part, so blind, and so much asleep, and, in most men, has been so much abused, and browbeat, and kept under, that it lets men pretty much alone. Men hold the truth in unrighteousness, according to the Apostle's phrase, and keep their consciences in chains ; and so are, in a great measure, without the law; and hence, sin is dead : for where there is no law, there is no transgression : And when men know not the law in its true meaning and extent, they are insensible how they swerve from it, and how contrary they are
to it, and how sinful sin is : But when the commandment comes, sin revives.
Think of this, therefore, O sinner, that the infinitely glorious God, your Creator, Preserver, and Governor, deserves to be loved, and lived to, and delighted in with all your heart ; and that this is what he requires at your hands : and know it, he hates your hypocritical shows and pretences, so long as that, in heart, he sees you are an enemy to him: You may pretend that you cannot help your heart's being so bad; but God knows you love your corruptions, and hate to have them slain, and love to have them gratified : You love to be proud, and hence you love to be applauded ; and the praise of men is sweet, and of greater price with you than the praise of God : you will do more to please the world than to please God-yea, will displease God, to keep in with a wicked world, who hate God; and God knows it: You love to love the world; and hence love to lay worldly schemes, and are secretly ravished with worldly hopes when things are likely to go well, and account no pains too great in worldly pursuits ; but you hate to pray in secret-have no heart for God can take no delight in him ;, and God knows it. And will you now pretend, for your excuse, that you cannot help your heart's being so bad, when it is you yourself that are so bad, and love to be so bad, and hate to cease to be what you are ? If God has, by his spirit, awakened your conscience a little, and terrified you with the fears of hell and wrath, it may be your corruptions are somewhat stunned, and honor and worldly gains do not appear so tempting, and you are ready to say that you would willingly part with your reputation, and every thing you have in the world, for an interest in Christ and the divine favor ; and now you think
you are sincere : but God knows it is all hypocrisy; for he sees you do not care for him, but are only afraid of damnation. And God knows that, if once you should get a false confidence of pardon and the divine favor, you would soon return to folly, as the dog to his vomit, and set out after the world as eagerly as ever ; or else vent your corruptions in spiritual pride, and in ranting, enthus