Page images
PDF
EPUB

he cannot properly be said to venture himself upon it; he runs no venture in the case ; he does nothing, otherwise than he would do, if he had received no such tidings, by which he would be exposed to any suffering in case all should fail. So he that, on the credit of what he hears of a future world, and, in a dependence on the report of the gospel, concerning life and immortality, forsakes all, or does so at least, so far as there is occasion, making every thing entirely give place to his eternal interest ; he, and he only, may properly be said to venture himself on the report of the gospel. And this is the proper evidence of a true trust in Christ for salyation.

Practice is the proper evidence of a gracious love, both to God and men. The tests that plainly teach this, have been so often mentioned already, that it is needless to repeat them.

Practice is the proper evidence of humility. That expression, and manifestation of humility of heart, which God speaks of, as the great expression of it, that he insists on ; that we should look upon as the proper expression and mari. festation of it : But this is walking humbly. Micah vi. 8. “ He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

This is also the proper evidence of the true fear of God, Proy. viii. 13. 6. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, Psal. xxxiv. 11, &c. Come, ye children, hearken unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile : Depart from evil, and do good ; seek peace and pursue it. Proy. iii. 7. Fear the Lord, and depart from evil, Prov. xvi. 6. By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil. Job i. 8. Hast thou considered my servant Job....a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil ? Chap. ii. 3. Hast thou considered my servant Job....a perfect and an upright man, one that feareih God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him. Psal. xxxvi. 1. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, There is no fear of God before his eyes."

So practice, in rendering again according to betiefits received, is the proper evidence of true thankfulness. Psal. cxvi. 12. 6 What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me ? % Chron. xxxii. 25. But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him.” Paying our vows tnto God, and ordering our conversation aright, seem to be spoken of as the proper expression and evidence of true thankfulness, in the 50th Psalm, verse 14. « Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High. Verse 23. Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me: And to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of God."

So the proper evidence of graciotis desires and longings, and that which distinguishes them from those that are false and vain, is, that they are not idle wishes and wouldings like Balaam's ; but effectuat in practice, to stir up persons earnesto ly and thoroughly to seek the things they long for. Psalm *xvii. 4. « One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after." Psat. lxiii. 1, 2. « O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee : My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh fongeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, fo see thy power and thy glory. Verse 8. My soul followeth hard after thee. Cant. i. 4. Draw me, we will run after thee.”

Practice is the proper' evidence of a gracious hope. 1 John ini. 3. Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure." Patient continúance in well doing, through the difficulties and trials of the Christian course, is often mentioned as the proper expression and fruit of a Christian hope, 1 Thess. i. 3. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope. 1 Pet. 1, 13, 14. Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, &c. Psal. cxix. 166. Lord, I have hoped in thy salvation, and done thy commandments. Psal. lxxviii. 7. That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of the Lord, but keep his commandments." VOL. IV.

3C

A cheerful practice of our duty, and doing the will of God, is the proper evidence of a truly holy joy. Isa. Ixiv. 5. “ Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteous. ness. Psal. cxix. 111, 112. Thy testimonies have I taken for my heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even to the end. Verse 14. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches. 1 Cor. xii. 6. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. 2 Cor. viii. 2. The abundance of their joy abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

Practice also is the proper evidence of Christian fortitude. The trial of a good soldier is not in his chimney corner, but in the field of battle, 1 Cor. ix. 25, 26. 2 Tim. ii. 3, 4, 5.

And, as the fruit of holy practice is the chief evidence of the truth of grace, so the degree in which experiences have influence on a person's practice, is the surest evidence of the degree of that which is spiritual and divine in his experiences. Whatever pretences persons may make to great discoveries, great love and joys, they are no further to be regarded than they have influence on their practice. Not but that allowances must be made for the natural temper. But that does not hinder, but that the degree of grace is justly measured, by the degree of the effect in practice. For the effect of grace is as great, and the alteration as remarkable, in a very ill natural temper, as another. Although a person of such a temper will not behave himself so well, with the same degree of grace as another, the diversity from what was before conversion, may be as great ; because a person of a good natural temper did not behave himself so ill before conversion.

Thus I have endeavored to represent the evidence there is, that Christian practice is the chief of all the signs of saving grace.

And, before I conclude this discourse, I would · say something briefly in answer to two objections that may possibly be made by some against what has been said upon this head.

OBJECTION I....Some may be ready to say, this seems to be contrary to that opinion, so much received among good people; that professors should judge of their state, chiefly by their inward experience, and that spiritual experiences are the main evidences of true grace.

I answer, it is doubtless a true opinion, and justly much received among good people, that professors should chiefly judge of their state by their experience. But it is a great mistake, that what has been said is at all contrary to that opinion. The chief sign of grace to the consciences of Christians, being Christian practice, in the sense that has been explained, and according to what has been shewn to be the true notion of Christian practice, is not at all inconsistent with Christian experience being the chief evidence of grace. Christian or holy practice is spiritual practice ; and that is not the motion of a body that knows not how, nor when, nor wherefore it moves : But spiritual practice in man is the practice of a spirit and body jointly, or the prac: tice of a spirit animating, commanding, and actuating a ·body to which it is united, and over which it has power given it by the Creator. And, therefore, the main thing, in this holy practice, is the holy action of the mind, directing and overning the motions of the body. And the motions of the body are to be looked upon as belonging to Christian practice, only secondarily, and as they are dependent and consequent on the acts of the soul. The exercises of

grace that Christians find, or are conscious to within themselves, are what they experience within themselves; and herein therefore lies Christian experience : And this Christian experience consists as much in those operative exercises of grace in the will, that are immediately concerned in the management of the behavior of the body, as in other exercises. These inward exercises are not the less a part of Christian experience, because they have outward behavior immediately connected with them. A strong act of love to God, is not the less a part of spiritual experience, because it is the act that immediately produces and effects some self;

denying and expensive outward action, which is much to the honor and glory of God.

To speak of Christian experience and practice, as if they were two things, properly and entirely distinct, is to make a distinction without consideration or reason. Indeed, all Christ. ian experience is not properly called practice, but all Christian practice is properly experience. And the distinction that is made belween them, is not only an unreasonable, but an unscriptural distinction. Holy practice is one kind or part of Christian experience ; and both reason and scripture represent it as the chief, and most important and most distinguishing part of it. So it is represented in Jer. xxii, 15, 16. “ Did not thy father eat and drink, and do justice and judgment ? He judged the cause of the poor and needy :..... Was not this to know me, saith the Lord ?" Our inward acquaintance with God surely belongs to the head of experimental religion : But this, God represents as consisting chiefly in that experience which there is in holy practice. So the exercises of those graces of the love of God, and the fear of God, are a part of experimental religion : But these the scripture represents as consisting chiefly in practice, in those forementioned texts, 1 John v. 3. « This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. ? John 6. This is love, that we walk after his commandments. Psal. xxxiv. 11, &c. Come, ye children, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord : Depart from evil, and do good.” Such experiences as these Hezekiah took comfort in, chiefly on his sick bed, when he said, “ Remember, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart.” And such experiences as these, the Psalmist chiefly insists upon, in the 119th Psalms and elsewhere.

Such experiences as these the Apostle Paul mainly insists upon, when he speaks of his experiences in his epistles ; as, Rom. i. 9. « God is my witness, whom I serye with my spirit in the gospel of his Son. ? Cor. i. 12, For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that....by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world. Chap. ir. 13. We, having the same spirit of faith, accordipg

« PreviousContinue »