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be perfected in the same sense, chap. iv. 12. 66 If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Here, doubtless, the apostle has still respect to loving one another, in the same manner that he had explained in the preceding chapter, speaking of loving one another, as a sign of the love of God, verse 17, 18. 66 Whoso hath this world's goods, and shutteth up his bowels, &c. how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed (or in work) and in truth. By thus loving in work, the apostle says, the love of God is perfected in us.” Grace is said to be perfected or sin-' ished in holy practice, as therein it is brought to its proper effect, and to that exercise which is the end of the principle ; the tendency and design of grace herein is reached, and its operation completed and crowned. As the tree is made perfect in the fruit; it is not perfected in the seed's being planted in the ground; it is not perfected in the first quickening of the seed, and in its putting forth root and sprout ; nor is it perfected when it comes up out of the ground ; nor is it perfected in bringing forth leaves ; nor yet in putting forth blossoms : But, when it has brought forth good ripe fruit, then ii is perfected, therein it reaches its end, the design of the tree is finished : All that belongs to the tree is completed and brought to its proper effect in the fruit. So is grace in its practical exercises. Grace is said to be made perfect or finished in its work or fruit, in the same manner as it is said of sin, James i. 15. 66 When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin ; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Here are three steps ; first, sin in its principle or habit, in the being of lust in the heart; and nextly, here is its conceiving, consisting in the immanent exercises of it in the mind ; and lastly, here is the fruit that was conceived actually, brought forth in the wicked work and practice. And this the apostle calls the finishing or perfecting of sin : for the word, in the original, is the same that is translated perfected in those forementioned places.
Now, certainly if it be so, if grace be in this manner made perfect in its fruit, if these practical exercises of graco VOL. IV.
are those exercises wherein grace is brought to its proper effect and end, and the exercises wherein whatsoever belongs to its design, tendency and operation, is completed and crowned ; then these exercises must be the highest evidences of grace, above all other exercises. Certainly the proper nature and tendency of every principle must appear best and most fully in its most perfect exercises, or in those exercises wherein its nature is most completely exerted, and in its tendency most fully answered and crowned, in its proper effect and end. If we would see the proper nature of any thing whatsoever, and see it in its full distinction from other things ; let us look upon it in the finishing of it. The Apostle James says, by works is faith made perfect; and introduces this as an argument to prove, that works are the chief evidence of faith, whereby the sincerity of the professors of faith is justified, James ii. And the Apostle John, after he had once and again told us that love was made perfect in keeping Christ's commandments, observes, 1 John iv. 18. That perfect love casteth out fear; meaning (at least in part) love made perfect in this sense ; agreeable to what he had said in the foregoing chapter, “ That, by loving in deed, or work, we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts, verse 18, 19.
ARGUMENT IV ....Another thing which makes it evident, that holy practice is the principal evidence that we ought to make use of in judging both of our own and others' sincerity, is, that this evidence is above all others insisted on in scripture. A common acquaintance with the scripture, together with a little attention and observation, will be sufficient to shew to any one that this is ten times more insisted on as a note of true piety, throughout the scripture, from the beginning of Gencsis to the end of Revelations, than any thing else. And, in the New Testament, where Christ and his apostles do expressly, and of declared purpose, lay down signs of true godliness, this is almost wholly insisted on. It may be observed, that Christ, and his apostles, do not only often say those things, in their discoursing on the great doctrines of religion, which do shew what the nature of true
godliness must be, or from whence the nature and signs of it may be inferred by just consequence, and often occasionally mention many things which do appertain to godliness'; but they do also often, of set purpose, give signs and marks for the trial of professors, putting them upon trying themselves by the signs they give, introducing what they say, with such like expressions as these : “ By this you shall know, that you know God: By this are manifest the children of God, and the children of the devil : He that hath this, builds on a good foundation ; he that hath it not, builds on the sand : Hereby we shall assure our hearts : He is the man that lov. oth Christ,” &c. But I can find no place, where either Christ or his apostles do, in this manner, give signs of godlines, (though the places are many) but where Christian practice is almost the only thing insisted on. Indeed, in many of these places, love to the brethren i$ spoken of as a sign of godliness; and, as I have observed before, there is no one virtuous affection, or disposition, so often expressly spoken of as a sign of true grace, as our having love one to another : But then the scriptures explain themselves to intend chiefly this love as exercised and expressed in practice, or in deeds of love. So does the Apostle John, who, above all others, insists on love to the brethren as a sign of godliness, most expressly explain himself, in that 1 John iii. 14, &c, “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren : He that loveth not his brother, abidetii in death. Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ? My little children, let us love, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed (i. e. in deeds of love) and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts be. fore him.” So that when the scripture so much insists on our loving one another, as a great sign of godliness, we are not thereby to understand the immanent workings of affection which men feel one to another, so much as the soul's practising all the duties of the second table of the law ; all which the New Testament tells us again and again, a true love one
to another comprehends, Rom. xii. 8, and 10, Gal. v. 14, Matth. xxii, 39, 40. So that, really there is no place in the New Testament where the declared design is to give signs of godliness, but that holy practice, and keeping Christ's commandments, is the mark chosen out from all others to be insisted on. Which is an invincible argument, that it is the chief of all the evidences of godliness : Unless we suppose that when Christ and his apostles, on design set themselves about this business of giving signs, by which professing Christians, in all ages, might determine their state ; they did not know how to choose signs so well as we could have chosen for them. But, if we make the word of Christ our rule, then undoubtedly those marks which Christ and his apostles did chiefly lay down, and give to us, that we might try ourselves by them, those 'same marks we ought especially to receive, and chiefly to make use, of, in the trial of our. selves.* And surely those things, which Christ and his apostles chiefly insisted on, in the rules they gave, ministers ought chiefly to insist on in the rules they give. To insist much on those things that the scripture insists little on, and to insist very little on those things on which the scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing; because it is going out of God's way, and is to judge ourselves, and guide others, in an unscriptural manner. God knew which way of leading and guiding souls was safest and best for them : He insisted so much on some things, because he knew it to be needful that they should be insisted on; and let other things more alone as a wise God, because he knew it was not best for us, so much to lay the weight of the trial there. As the Sabbath was made for man, so the scriptures were made for man ; and they are, by infinite wisdom, fitted for our use and benefit. We should, therefore, make them our guide in all things, in our thoughts of religion, and of ourselves. And for us to make that great which the scripture makes little,
*" It is a sure rule, says Dr. Preston, that, what the scriptures bestow much words on, we should have much thoughts on : And what the Holy Ghost urgeth most, we should prize most." Church's Carriage.
and that little which the scripture makes great, tends to give us a monstrous idea of religion ; and (at least indirectly and gradually) to lead us wholly away from the right rule, and from a right opinion of ourselves, and to establish delusion and hypocrisy.
ARGUMENT V.....Christian practice is plainly spoken of in the word of God, as the main evidence of the truth of grace, not only to others, but to men's own consciences. It is not only more spoken of and insisted on than other signs, but in many places where it is spoken of, it is represented as the chief of all evidences. This is plain in the manner of expression from time to time. If God were now to speak from heaven to resolve our doubts concerning signs of godliness, and should give some particular sign, that by it all might know whether they were sincerely godly or not, with such emphatical expressions as these, the man that has such a qualification or mark, “that is the man that is a true saint, that is the very man, by this you may know, this is the thing by which it is manifest who are saints and who are sinners, such men as these are saints indeed ;" should not we look upon it as a thing beyond doubt, that this was given as a special, and eminently distinguishing note of true godliness? But this is the very case with respect to the sign of grace I am speaking of; God has again and again uttered himself in his word in this very manner, concerning Christian practice, as John xiv. “ he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." Thus Christ in this place gives to the disciples, not so much to guide them in judging of others, as to apply to themselves for their own comfort after his departure, as appears by every word of the context. And by the way I would observe, that not only the emphasis with which Christ utters himself is remarkable, but also his so much insisting on, and repeating the matter, as he does in the context ; verse 15.“ If ye love me, keep my commandments. Verse 23. If a man love me, lie will keep my words. And verse 24. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my say. ings. And in the next chapter over and over ; verse 2. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away ; and