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and comfort, wisdom, and strength, which they were mercifully designed to convey. As a new-born babe, may I desire the sincere milk of the word, that I may grow thereby.
I find other declarations high and sublime; far surpassing man's understanding. From these, I would learn humility. To these, I would submit my reason with humble reverence. By these, I would exercise my faith, and place implicit confidence in the word of truth, although many things therein be difficult to comprehend, and many, past finding out.
Whilst St. Peter acknowledges, that in the epistles of his beloved brother Paul, are some things hard to be understood; he also declares, that the unlearned and unstable wrest them, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction. From these considerations I perceive, how wonderfully the holy Scriptures are calculated to instruct the humble believer, whilst they bewilder the proud sceptic.
Like the cloud in the wilderness, they afford light to the Israel of God, whilst "the disputer of this world" is left in darkness. "Who is wise and he shall understand these things, prudent and he shall know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein."
All speculative and practical errors originate in the unbelief and pride of our hearts. We are continually pained with instances illustrative of this truth.
Many who, to all outward appearance, set out well, holding the grand essentials of Christianity, and exhibiting the humble walk of the Christian; have by degrees got so high in doctrines, as to pass over the limits of the precepts, considering every
enforcement of the moral law as derogatory to the freeness and liberty of the Gospel.
The promises are to them like the the manna for sweetness; whilst the precepts resemble the bitter waters of Marah. By this perverted view of the Gospel of grace, which makes provision for the holiness, as well as the acceptance of the believer, they endeavour to disunite what God has inseparably joined together.
Advancing in their career of bold inquiry and daring investigation; leaving the precincts of the written word, and soaring into the interminable region of wild conjecture, they fall at length, giddy with their flight, into the fatal reveries of fanatical delusion, sceptical indifference, Socinian heresy, or deistical prophaneness.
Such wandering stars leaving their proper orbit, afford an awful warning to the church of Christ; and happy is he, who learns wisdom from their end; and thereby resists the first risings of pride and unhallowed speculation.
Some indeed are restored by that sovereign grace which they have abused; whilst others are left to the misery of their own delusions, according to St. Jude, who denominates them "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
In the midst of surrounding darkness and abounding iniquity; in the midst of distracting opinions and guilty fears :
Where must we look for saving help,
Who dare presume to plead our cause,
Before the throne on high?
'Tis Jesus pleads his people's cause,
Before the eternal throne;
And claims them for his own.
In this day of outward profession, it is most needful frequently to reflect how far a person may go in the way of religion, and yet prove nothing at the last, but an almost Christian. This will prove to us the importance of self-examination; since nothing is genuine, that will not stand the test of Scripture, that only touchstone of real godliness.
A person may have a clear knowledge of the Gospel way of salvation; be able to declare the truths of Christianity with interest and edification; have much fluency in prayer; be punctual in his attendance on the means of grace; engage actively in religious and benevolent institutions; maintain family worship; join the society of pious characters; abstain from worldly amusements, and all outward immoralities: aud yet, with all these shining appendages be only an almost Christian.
This, to many may appear uncharitable, and lead them to exclaim with the disciples: "Who then can be saved ?"
The fact is; all these important gifts and talents may be possessed, and these active exertions may be made, upon the principles of our fallen nature.
A man may have a taste for Scriptural studies, and a fondness for biblical criticism; he may have a natural fluency of discourse; his connections may be such as imperceptibly lead him to join the friends of religion in their activities; and by degrees influence him to establish family worship, to separate himself from worldly amusements and worldly associates; and yet, there may be a total destitution of evangelical principles. Faith working by love, may be a stranger to his heart.
The Gospel declares, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ;" that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" that, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The work of grace being altogether internal, its operations must be felt and experienced in the heart. This work consists in a deep humiliation on account of sin, both original and actual, whether of omission or commission; in a deep sense and feeling of spiritual helplessness and wretchedness; in a hearty reception of Jesus Christ, as revealed and offered in the Gospel to perishing sinners; in a supreme love of Him, who died to save the vilest who come unto him; in a childlike obedience to his will and commands, however self-denying.
If these things be wanting, all else is nothing but dross, in the sight of God. All short of this divine work in the soul, is only almost Christianity.
It is painful to the friends of Jesus to behold many droop and wither, who have given promising hopes of future excellence; and almost confirmed the expectations of pious friends concerning their religious sincerity.
These hopeful professors walk well for a season, but at length they begin to draw back, by slow degrees it may be at the first; but increasing in their speed, as they advance in the path of declension, they finally plunge into the world, and thus verify the true proverb: "the dog is turned to his vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire." With uneasy consciences, they endeavour to justify their return, by slandering the lives of professors, and speaking evil of those things, with which they were never savingly ac quainted. Such persons, if they die in their apostacy, give every reason to believe, that they never knew the grace of God in truth; that they never received the truth in the love of it. Hence the apostle John speaking of such characters, plainly says: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be manifest, that they were not all of us.”
We may equally presume, that they never tasted the inward blessedness of true religion, even peace with God and joy in the Holy Ghost, arising from a believing, self-appropriating view of the atonement of Jesus.
When, therefore, their new mode of thinking and acting subsided; when prosperity gilded their path, or persecution covered it with thorns; not having root in themselves, and being destitute of saving faith, they became weary of a service, in which their whole soul was never engaged. They cast off a yoke, to them galling and grievous, and ran back again with delight into the secretly-beloved pastures of the world. "Demas hath forsaken me," said the sorrowing apostle, "having loved this present evil world."
Where is the congregation of professing Chris