Page images

any real change in the heart. It is of great confequence to attend to this important diftinction; for tho' imperfect convictions fometimes are entirely effaced, and are followed by no lafting effect at all, yet it is often otherwife. They frequently produce a counterfeit religion, which not only continues for a time, but is carried down by fome to the grave as a lie in their righthand. So fubtle are the deceits of fatan, that there are many hollow forms of religion, not only upon a legal, but an evangelical bottom. I fhall give the reader a sketch of the principles and outlines of both.

There are fome legal hypocrites. Awakened to a sense of their danger merely from the irrefiftible power of God, they fall to the exercife of repentance, and hope that by doing they may live. Hence the whole fystem of bodily penance and mortification. Hence alfo fo ftrong an attachment, in fome worldly perfons, to the external forms of religion, and veneration for the places of divine worship. Being now fomewhat more regular and decent in their ordinary carriage than before, they entertain a fond hope that all fhall be well. In the mean time, they are fo far from being reftored to the image of God, or being governed by his love, that all this is a burden to them; and indeed it is because it is a burden, that they are so prone


to think it meritorious. Confcience checks them, and they dare not run to the fame excess with others, or even repeat what they themselves did formerly; and by this comparison, cannot help thinking they are in a hopeful way. But did fuch perfons reflect a little on the nature of God, they would fee their error. They would learn, that they are so far from being renewed in the fpirit of their minds, that whatever lengths they go, they are dragged or driven against their will; and, whenever they can find a plausible excufe, they are ready to withdraw their neck from the yoke. A juft view of the glory of God, and the obligation upon every rational creature to love -and imitate him, would effectually cure them of all felf-righteoufnefs and felf-dependance; would lead them to himself and the grace trea-fured up in his Son, to "work in them the "whole good pleafure of his goodness, and "the work of faith with power."

On the other hand, there are evangelical hypocrites. These begin upon the fame principles, and their views have the fame radical defect with the former. They are awakened to a sense of danger, and fometimes made to tremble thro' fear of divine judgments, but without any difcovery of the glory and amiableness of the divine nature. If fuch perfons happen to live in a family or congregation, where they hear much of the doctrine


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

of redemption, it may have its place in their fcheme. They may be fo convinced of their own manifold tranfgreffions, as to be fatisfied to throw their guilt upon the furety, and rely on the fufferings and death of Chrift, for deliverance from the wrath of an offended God. Nay, I have not the least doubt that some may, by a confident prefumption, imitate the faith of God's elect, and believe that Chrift died for themselves in particular. So long as this perfuafion can maintain its ground, it may, and must give them great joy and fatisfaction. Who would not find confolation in thinking themfelves in fafety from divine wrath? Yet all this while they never see the evil of fin in itself, as an oppofition to the nature, and a breach of the law of God. They are never brought to love an infinitely holy God in fincerity of heart. They may love him, because they suppose themselves the peculiar objects of his love, with fome obscure, confused, fenfual idea of the delights of heaven; but they know not or confider not, the nature of that falvation he hath provided for his chofen.

All fuch love, it is plain, arifeth from a false confidence in their own ftate, and not from a true knowledge of God. Their notions of God's love to them contain more of a partial indulgence to them as they are, than of his infinite compaf


fion in forgiving what they have been. The effects of fuch religion are juft what might be expected from its nature, violent and paffionate for a feason, and commonly oftentatious, but temporary and changeable. Self-love lies at the root, and therefore, while they are pleafed and gratified, they will continue their profeffion of attachment; but when felf-denial or bearing the crofs is required, they reject the terms, they lose their transporting views, and return to their fins.

There are many examples of this, not only in fcripture, but in the hiftory of the church in every age. Many of thofe difciples who feemed gladly to embrace the doctrine, and highly to honour the person of Chrift, when they heard fome of the moft mortifying precepts, "went "back and walked no more with him *." The character is little different, which we find defcribed under the image of the stony ground hearers, who "having not root in themselves, "when perfecution or tribulation arose because "of the word, by and by were offended." I hope this, with the explication above given of its caufe, may be of use to account for fome appearances in a time of the revival of religion. Perfons who feem to have the fame exercises with real converts, yet afterwards fall away, and return with the dog to his vomit again, * John xi. 60.

" and

" and with the fow that was washed to her "wallowing in the mire." This gives occafion to adversaries to speak reproachfully, and is greatly diftreffing to thofe who truly fear God, But would men carefully attend to what the holy fcriptures teach us to expect, their furprise in all fuch cafes would ceafe. "For it must needs "be that offences must come +." And though there are many counterfeits, there will ftill be fufficient means to diftinguifh the gold from the drofs.


There must be a conviction of fin and danger.

THE HE next great ftep in a faving change, is a deep humiliation of mind, and conviction of fin and danger. The abfolute neceffity of this is very evident, and indeed generally confeffed. It is equally evident, whether we confider the nature of the change itself, the means of its production, or the motives to all future duty. If an entire change is neceffary, there must be an entire and thorough diffatisfaction with, and difapprobation of, our paft character and ftate. Whoever is pleased with his prefent character, will neither defire, endeavour, nor even accept of a change. If we confider the means of our recovery, by Jefus Christ suffering in the room * Matt. xviii. 7.


« PreviousContinue »