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And here, by the way, my dear Theron, it is worthy of your diligent attention, that it is a common thing, in the New Testament, to promise salvation to those who believe the truth of the gospel with all their hearts, and to speak of such as true saints; because where this is, every thing else will follow of course. In this view, you may at your leisure read the following Scriptures: Matt. xvi. 16, 17. Mark xvi. 15, 16. John vi. 68, 69; xvii. 3, 8; xx. 30, 31. Acts viii. 37. Rom. x. 9. 1 Cor. xii. 3. 1 John iv. 15; v. 1, 5. Some of which are sadly perverted by some writers; particularly Rom. x. 9.

Ther. The clock strikes nine; it is time for me to retire. However, before I go, pray point out, in brief, the chief differences between what you call true faith and the faith I have been pleading for, that I may have them to consider at my leisure ; for I design more thoroughly to look into this matter than ever yet I have done.

Paul. Among the many differences which might be mentioned, I will only point these twelve.

1. Regeneration is necessarily previous to the first act of true faith. But your faith may exist in an unregenerate heart.

2. True faith supposes the law and gospel are rightly understood and beheld in their glory: the law approved with all the heart, as holy, just, and good; the gospel believed, and complied with, with all the heart. But your faith is consistent with a reigning enmity against both law and gospel.

3. True faith is a holy act; but yours has nothing of the nature of holiness in it; arises from no higher principle than self-love.

4. In true faith, nothing is believed but what is plainly revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But in your faith, the main things believed are nowhere contained in the Bible. « Pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine."

5. In true faith, the things believed were as true before they were believed as after; being all contained in the Scriptures of truth. But in your faith, the things believed were not true before they were believed; not being contained in the Bible.

6. True faith is founded wholly on that revelation which is made in the written word. But your faith, having no support from Scripture, sense, or reason, is founded wholly in a heated imagination; or, which is no better, on a new revelation, not contained in the written word; that is, one is founded on good evidence, the other not.

7. The great difficulty in the way of true faith arises from the wickedness of the heart; but the great difficulty in the way of your faith is, that there is no evidence of the truth of the thing believed, from Scripture, sense, or reason; but rather, a man is obliged to go contrary to them all.

8. True faith is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, imparting divine life to the dead soul, opening the eyes to behold divine truths in their glory and reality; in consequence of which, the gospel is understood, believed, and embraced with all the heart. But your faith is wrought by your being made, by some means or other, to believe some things as true that are not revealed in Scripture.

9. In true faith, the way of salvation, by free grace through Jesus Christ, being understood and believed, is heartily approved of, and acquiesced in, as being glorious for God and safe for the sinner; and our entire dependence for acceptance with God is on the free grace of God through Jesus Christ, as exhibited in the written word. Whereas, your faith does not properly consist in dependence, but in confidence; not in looking to the free grace of God through Jesus Christ, that

you may be pardoned, sanctified, and saved; not in flying for refuge, and laying hold on this hope set before you; but in being confident that “pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine;” in being “readily persuaded in my heart that Christ is mine, and that I shall have life and salvation by him," without any evidence “ from Scripture, sense or reason.

10. True faith is always attended with love to God, arising from a sense of his own infinite amiableness, as its inseparable concomitant. Your faith is sometimes followed with a seeming love to God, arising merely from believing that he loves you.

11. But the most remarkable difference of all is, that true faith actually unites the man to Jesus Christ, as the “branch is united to the vine." In consequence of which, every true believer actually receives the spirit of Christ to dwell in him.

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I grant, that writers on that side of the question speak much of trusting in Christ, and resting upon him, etc. Yet, according to them, previous to this trust, and that which encourages to it, is a belief that pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine.” And so I believe that my sins åre pardoned before I begin to trust in Christ. I do not come to Christ, but rather stand off and keep at a distance, till I see he is mine, and can call God my God. So that, strictly speaking, I am justified, and know that I am justified, before I dare come to Christ, and trust in him. Thus the matter is stated, in H. p. 312.

+ Although it is plain from Scripture, that regeneration is before the first act of saving faith, (John i. 12, 13,) and that faith is wrought by the influences of

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(Rom. viii. 9. Eph. i. 13. Gal. iii. 2, 14. 1 John iv. 13; ii. 27. Rom. viii. 14. Gal. v. 18.) In consequence of this, a certain foundation is laid, to bring forth fruit unto God, (Rom. vii. 4,) in every instance. (Matt. xiii. 23.) And “the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." "If he falleth, he riseth up again." “Every branch that beareth fruit, God purgeth it, and so it bringeth forth more fruit." Whence, near or quite all the saints we read of in Scripture, usually speak the language of assurance, as being conscious to this divine habitual change wrought in them by God's Holy Spirit. But thus it is not with your kind of faith; nor is assurance this way to be obtained on your scheme.

12. As a natural consequence of the whole, the several systems of experimental religion, resulting from these two kinds of faith, however in appearance they may be alike, yet in reality are essentially different throughout. While the true believer is striving to grow in grace, the false pretender is striving to maintain his delusion.

Ther. I thank you, sir, for present instructions: and with your leave I will return to-morrow evening; as I want to hear your thoughts on one subject more.

Paul. The evening shall be at your service, God willing.

So ended the second conversation, and I retired again to my closet; with what views of my spiritual state, you may easily guess. O my dear Aspasio! What! Are we all wrong? Or have I misunderstood your scheme? I hope, I wish, no poor sinner on earth was ever so deluded as I have been. The Lord have mercy on me! O my dear Aspasio, that you had been present, and heard all that passed! But, alas, the wide ocean keeps us three thousand miles apart ! However, with you, even now with you, is the distressed heart of

Your disconsolate

THERON.

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the Holy Spirit, (Eph. i. 19,) yet it is equally plain, that the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in us, as an abiding principle of divine life, is after we are united to Christ by faith. (Eph. i. 13. Gal. iii. 14.) After union to Christ, we have a covenant right to the Holy Spirit, (Gal. iii. 29 ;) may have divine grace at any time, for asking. (Luke xi. 13.) But before union with Christ, we have no right; God is at absolute liberty; we lie at his sovereign mercy. (Rom. ix. 15, 18.) And accordingly, regenerating grace is the effect of his sovereign good pleasure. (Matt. xi. 25, 26.) No promises of saving grace are made to the prayers or doings of sinners out of Christ. (Gal. iii. 10. 2 Cor. i. 20. John iii. 18, 36.)

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DIALOGUE III.

WEDNESDAY EVENING, Dec. 13, 1758. ACCORDING to appointment, I made my third visit. The subject proposed was the doctrine of Assurance.

We soon entered upon it; and this is the sum of what passed.

Ther. May the people of God, in this life, attain to a certain assurance, that they are in a state of favor with God, and entitled to eternal glory?

Paul. As there is a specific difference between true grace and all counterfeits; as true grace in the heart is naturally discernible, like all our other inward biases; as the saints in Scripture usually speak the language of assurance; as saints in all ages are exhorted to seek assurance, (2 Pet. i. 10,) and as there are many rules laid down in Scripture to determine in this case, and many promises made for the encouragement of saints, the designed advantage of which cannot be enjoyed without assurance; so, for these and other reasons, I believe that assurance is attainable in this life, in all ordinary cases at least.

Ther. How, and by what means, may the children of God attain assurance ?

Paul. Sanctification, taking the word in a large and comprehensive sense, is the evidence, the only Scripture evidence, of a good estate.

Ther. What do you mean by sanctification, in this large and comprehensive sense?

Paul. It is usual for divines to distinguish between regeneration and conversion; 'between first conversion and progressive sanctification; between divine views and holy affections; between grace in the heart and an holy life and conversation; but I mean to comprehend all under one general name.

You may call it the image of God, or holiness of heart and life, or a real conformity to the divine law, and a genuine compliance with the gospel of Christ. I have already let you see what I apprehend to be the nature of law and gospel, of love to God, and faith in Christ. When I say this is the only evidence, I mean that this is the only thing wherein saints and sinners in every instance differ. One has the image of God, the other has not. Or, to express myself in the language of inspiration, “ This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent;" and "hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a

liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him."

Ther. What is the best method a true saint can take, to maintain a constant assurance of his good estate? Paul. To live in the exercise of all Christian

graces

in his own heart every day, and to be constantly influenced and governed by them in all his external conduct in the world ; "growing in grace," and "pressing forward to perfection."

Ther. But is it possible that all true saints should live so ?

Paul. Why not? for they are all delivered from the power of sin, (Rom. vi. 2, 14,) are married to Christ, in whom all fulness dwells, (Rom. vii. 4,) have already every principle of grace in their hearts, (John i. 15,) and the Spirit of God actually dwelling in them, (Rom. viii. 9,) and constantly influencing them to such a degree, that they do not, they even cannot, feel and live as others do, (1 John iii. 9 ;) * yea, actually carrying on the work of sanctification, (John xv. 2;) the God of all grace ready, meanwhile, to grant all further needful help, as ready as ever a kind parent was to give bread to a hungry child. (Matt. vii. 7, 11.) So that they are completely furnished to live daily in the exercise of every grace. (Eph. ii. 10.) Yea, this is expected of them, as they would act up to their proper character. (Eph iv. 1.) Yea, I will venture to add, having so good an authority as the Son of God, that, though there are different degrees of grace and fruitfulness among true saints,

• 1 John iü. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God: he doth not, and he cannot, at any time, for his seed always remaineth in him; so that these words teach us, that there is at all times a real difference between a saint and a sinner.

It is true, there is no particular bias or inclination, whether natural or gracious, in the heart of man, but may be counteracted. But to counteract the habitual bias of the heart, is quite different from acting agreeably to the habitual bias of the heart. The saint counteracts the habitual bias of his heart when he sins. The sinner acts agreeable to the habitual bias of his whole heart when he sins. So a saint never sins with all his heart, as the wicked man does. He cannot, because his seed remains in him; because he is born of God. The Spirit lusteth against the flesh; so that he cannot. (Gal. v. 17.)

Therefore, good men, when they fall, are restless till they come to repentance, as was the case with David. (Ps. xxxii. 3—5.) For they are out of their element; "all is vanity and vexation of spirit," as was the case with Solomon, As, when Haman led Mordecai through the street of Shushan on the king's horse, dressed in the royal apparel, and proclaimed his honors in the ears of the people, he

acted exceeding contrary to the habitual bias of his heart. (Esth. vi.) So did Peter, when he denied his Master; and therefore, at one look of Christ, he went out and wept bitterly. So that these instances, though often alleged, are not to the purpose of stony-ground hearers; for they have no root in themselves. They is receive the word with joy, endure for a while, and fall away." See Mr. Ed. wards on Religious Affections, p. 274, 277

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