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Christ's word are his disciples indeed.". To obo tain this evidence there must be time. We are to hope, where we see ground of hope. But to pronounce men in a state of safety, because we see a present favourable alteration, is to flatter delusion, feed spiritual pride, strengthen hypocrisy, and hinder conversion.
It is still worse to call men converts, when they are not at all altered for the better. Conversion makes a spiritual change in the heart, and a moral change in the life, where the life has been immoral. If then we judge and pronounce men converted, only because they pretend to some new feelings which they never had before, or because they discover a zeal for some new opinions, which they never thought of before, or because they have joined themselves to a new sect which they never followed before ; when they are not at all more meek, humble, peaceable, benevolent, or sober than they were before, we take a rash and dangerous method to make converts. Such converts as these will not stand the trial, when the Lord shall come.
5. We cannot be sure of forming a pure church on earth.
Every christian, and every church ought to aim at purity ; yea, at perfection. The christian must indulge no known sin, but cleanse himself from all filthiness. The church must countenance no vis. ible transgressor, but either reclaim, or put away the wicked person. But the idea of excluding from the church all hypocrites and all unsound professors, is irrational, because it is judging before the time.
Christ directs, that we invite all to come into his church; and that we invite them to come with faith, repentance and sincere resolutions of obedience. "We must warn them against presumption and hypocrisy. If they manifest the wicked,
ness of their hearts by visible immorality, we must labour for their amendment, and ultimately exclude the irreclaimable. But to exclude them, because they give not certain evidence of their sincerity, is arbitrary and unjust ; for such evidence can no man give, and no church receive.
Let us then judge nothing before the time, but labour that we ourselves may be accepted, when the Lord shall come. The difficulty of knowing our own hearts, should teach us humility, excite us to watchfulness over ourselves, and urge us to frequent, serious and prayerful examination.
“The kingdom of God is like a net cast into the sea, which gathered of every kind ; and when it was full they drew it to the shore, and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad away. So shall it be in the end of the world. Then the wick. ed shall be severed froin among the just, and cast into a furnace of fire." Let us therefore judge our. selves, that we may not be condemned with the impenitent and guilty world.
The Exoellence of the Scriptures.
ACTS vii. 38.
Who received the lively Oracles to give unto us.
STEPHEN, in his defence before the Jewish council, gives a compendious history of God's dealings toward the seed of Abraham, from the days of that patriarch to the time of Solomon. From this history he proves, that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been rejected and crucified by the Jews, was the prophet, who, as Moses foretold, was to be raised up in that nation to instruct them in the will of God." He says, Moses in his day declared to the children of Israel, “ A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me ;
Him shall ye hear." “ This” Moses“ is he who was in the church in the wilderness, and with the angel who spake to him in mount Sinai, and to our fathers, who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”
Moses, by the ministration of angels, received from God his lively oracles for the benefit, not only of the then present generation, but of their succes.
sors also to the end of time. They were committed to the fathers, that by them, and by their children af. ter them in succeeding ages, they might be transmitted to distant posterity. In the same way these oracles, and the additional oracles of the gospel-revelation are brought down to our days, and by us they are still to be communicated to those, who shall live in future days.
My design, from these words, is to shew the excellence of the Scriptures. And the obligation of parents to convey them to their children.
I. I shall shew the excellence of the scriptures.
The revelations given to the Jews are called Lively Oracles, because they proceeded not, like heathen oracles, from the pretended responses of senseless idols, or of departed spirits, under the artful management of designing impostors, but from the voice of the living and true God, commu. nicated in a publick manner by the ministry of angels.
They may also be called lively oracles, because they instruct men in the way to eternal life, and foretel and describe that glorious Saviour, whom God has since sent to give life to the world.
As the scriptures of the Old Testament, so those of the New, are called by this name, because they are the mea' s by which God communicates to us the knowledge of his will, and of the way of salvation. The excellence ascribed to the former, may be more eminently ascribed to the latter, in which God has spoken to us by his Son sent down from heaven, and by the Apostles of his Son, who spake by the spirit, which dwelt in him.
The scriptures come to us as a revelation from God, and their important contents demonstrate their author to be Divine. “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness,
and able to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.”
If we consider the sacred volume merely as a history, it is the most complete, instructive and entertaining history, which can be found, or ever was written. There is none which, within so small a compass, contains so various and useful matter.
It narrates the origin of the world; the beginning of nations;. the institution of government; the invention of arts; the settlement of various portions of the globe; the foundation of the church; God's dealings toward it in all ages of its existence; the rise and fall of empires, and the effects which these changes have had on the state of religion ; the means used by providence for spreading the knowledge of the truth, and their various success; the preparation made for the coming of the Saviour ; his character, works, doctrines, death and resurrection; the min. istry of his Apostles, and the extensive spread of his doctrines under their ministry. And if to these accounts we add the prophecies of scripture, we have, in this book, a view of the world from its creu. tion to its final dissolution,
If we were to read merely for the improvement of knowledge and the entertainment of the mind, no book could come in competition with this. But when we consider it as containing instructions re. lative to our conduct in life, and happiness in eternity, it rises in importance beyond all conception.
How grand, solemn, and interesting are its doctrines!
It directs our eyes to the earth, the heavens and the wonderful works around us, and bids us learn from thence, that there is one infinite, eternal, all. perfect Being, who created, sustains and fills the universe. It teaches us that this Being by his allpowerful word brought our world into existence, and in his wisdom peopled it with all its various in