Page images
PDF
EPUB

incline us to revere his authority, and makes us willing to fuffer the lofs of all things for his fake; choofing rather to fuffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleafures of fin for a season ; this is a proper experiment of the truth and power of what we believe. And all experience without this is worse than nothing. If a man fay he loves his brother for the fake of the truth, and yet fees him in need and fhuts up his bowels of compaffion from him; it is plain he has no experience of the love of God dwelling in him. He profeffes, it may be, to know the grace of our Lord Jefus Chrift, who tho': he was rich yet for our fakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich, but when He fees his brother in needy circumftances he finds no heart to imitate the divine goodness; from whence it is plain, that he does not stand in the true grace of God." He profefles to truft in the Lord, but in refufing to lend unto him, by giving unto the poor, the hypocrify of his profeffion is laid fufficiently open; it is plain he trufts in uncertain riches and not in the living God, and his heart goes after covetoufnefs.— They know moft of gospel-experience who are moft devoted in their lives to God; who are of a humble, meek, forgiving, loving, compaffionate fpirit, who deny themfelves for the fake of Chrift, and to promote the welfare of his church; who walk with God in their families, provide things honeft in the fight of all men, obferve the things Chrift has commanded, and count all things but lofs for the excellent knowledge of HIM. But alas! inftead of the generality of profeffors proving their faith by their works, they offer no better evidence of it than either a confident affertion that they have exerted the appropriating act, or a long detail of their convictions, difcoveries, experiences, and fo on; all of which amount to nothing more than what the apoftle James ftiles a man's SAYING he has faith; which in fact is no evidence at all, unless it be confirmed

by

A

by a good converfation. But what is the reafon why practical Antinomianifm, or a neglecting to: obferve Chrift's commands, fo much abounds a mongst those profeffors who inveigh against the name? Various reafons have been given, fuch as Ministers dwelling too much upon doctrinal points, and profeffors neglecting felf-examination, and closet devotion; and conforming too much to the world, &c. I fhall not at present take upon me to fay any thing about these things, but close this section with the fentiment of an Affociation letter, † not long ago published; the writer of which, after obferving that a legal fpirit has contributed much to the injury of vital godliness, adds, "By a fpirit of legality, we mean, fuch a temper and difpofition of mind, as tends, in a measure, to eclipfe, and to keep the glory of the everlafting gofpel fo far from our fight; as, that we fear to believe its freeness and fulness, its riches and glory, as relating to ourfelves, on account of our own unworthiness, which frightens and drives us from our clofets; which drives us from family duty; which drives us from the table of the Lord; which drives us from our places in the house of God; which drives us into a fpirit of wrangling and difputing with our brethren about trifles; which drives us into the world; which drives us into fin, and which would, if it were not for the covenant of grace, at laft drive us into hell. Hence the complaints to often made of orthodox worldlings, gofpel heads and legal hearts, dry doctrines, empty notions, and the like. But why all this? Are the doctrines of Chrift dry, infipid, and unfavory? Are thofe precious truths empty and void. of life, power, and fpirituality? We anfwer, No. Why then thefe complaints? The reafon is, because it is too vifible that we are upon a fad decline, in regard to the life and power of religion among us

and

1.5

Kentish Affociation in the year 1782, written by Mr. Lloyd of Tenterdon,

and indeed how can it be otherwife, till we return to him from whom we have revolted? But how fhall we return? Where does the obftacle lie?-A legal fpirit lies concealed and unfufpected in our breafts. We wish you to confider, dear brethren, whether when you have had a sense of fin, with all its horrors, and found a defire to return to Chrift, your only help; whether this evil spirit we have now been defcribing, has not ftopped you at the clofet door; where you have, perhaps, had a debate in your own mind, whether a perfon in your circumftances might come fo boldly and freely to a throne of grace, as you take upon you to do without fome pre-requifites, in order to qualify you for the fame. Whether the gospel is free to finners, as fuch; or whether you have any right to Chrift and his grace at all. Now it is easy to see how fuch a debate as this will end, (viz.) greatly to your prejudice; and your future conduct, perhaps, in the family, in the church, and in the world, will be too ftriking a proof of it. Take this for a never failing rule that where legality is thus fuffered to get the better of us, carnality, fenfuality, and worldly-mindedness will be fure to follow upon it.-If you would keep near. to God, and often frequent the throne of grace; if you would wish to be useful and honorable christians in your day and generation; then remember you are to go to God as finners, with all your guilt and filth, without washing yourself firft, and then coming to the fountain to be further cleanfed. It would Be the extremity of folly to complain of the deadnefs of the times in which we live; the judgments of God upon us as a nation; and to exaggerate the great and crying fins that have brought thefe judgments upon us, without ftriking at the root of all thefe evils, (viz) a flight and contempt of the gofpel, which is done, either more or lefs, when we do not enter into the spirit and design of it. -The man who enters into the spirit and defign of the gospel

will live upon it by the day; will conftantly deal with the blood and righteoufnefs of Chrift for pardon and acceptance, and will conftantly find help, and of courfe will walk worthy of his high calling, and fo be an honor and credit to his profeffion."

SECTION

III.

Wherein fome QUESTIONS are ftated and confidered relative to the Sentiment contained in this ESSAY.

QUESTION.

A

1

RE there no further joys to be experienced, than what arife from the hope of the gofpel?"-Answer. There are no true joys but the joys of the Holy Ghoft; and the only way in which he leads to joy unfpeakable and full of glory, is by teftifying of the things of Chrift which are written in the word of truth fo that unless the joys which we have are founded upon, or flow from the hope fet before us in the gofpel, we have great reafon to think they are not the joys of the Holy Ghoft. Rom. v. 3. 1. Cor. xiii. 6. Pfalm v. 11. But it will be inquired, "Am I to take no joy from perceiving the work of God in my foul diftinguishing me from others? And can I come to no other certainty of my perfonal intereft in Chrift than what arifes from the belief of the gofpel proclaimed equally to all?" In reply to this it is needful to inquire, whether your confcience bear witnefs, before God who knoweth all things, that Chrift as the free re- ̈ fuge of the guilty is your only hope, the free promife of life thro' his name your only encouragement to draw near to God, and his righteoufnefs your only title to heaven. If this be not the cafe, it is in vain for you to look for any other kind of joy ;:

for

66

for it is impoffible there fhould be any diftinguishing evidences, or genuine experience in the foul, till Chrift is formed there the hope of glory; without this all our duties are legal and felfifh, and our hope and experience delufive. But if you have the teftimony of your confcience before God, that the blood of Chrift gives you peace, and that all the bleffings you hope for, are viewed as the reward of his work; if the free gospel comforts, quickens, and rejoices your heart; then you must be in a measure confcious, that Chrift alone is your life, light, peace, and joy; and that of course a vital union is formed between your foul and him; and this being accompanied by the genuine fpirit of the gofpel, and the fruits of righteoufnefs, it is confirmed, fo far as this evidence goes, that you are born of God; and to the truth of this the Holy Spirit bears witness, by fhowing that these are the genuine internal and external effects of understanding the truth of Chrift, under a confcioufnefs of which, you may rejoice that your name is written in heaven; blefs God for his diftinguishing grace, and take comfort from, and rejoice in the doctrines of election, final perfeverance, and eternal glorification. But even in this the true believer does not lofe fight of the common falvation, nor does he build his affurance of eternal life, either upon his experiences, or the fruits of his life. This is an important point of doctrine, and should be

well confidered.

The believer is affured, by the gospel teftimony, that eternal life is infeparably connected with the belief of the truth; fo that he that believes 'SHALL be faved. He looks upon the genuine effects of the gofpel, only as proving his connection with Chrift, or that he is a child of God by faith in him, and then justly argues, If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Chrift. He does not view his experience or obedience as an intervening righteousnefs intitling him to Chrift and eternal life, and therefore

« PreviousContinue »