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ESSAY XVIII.

On the disposition and character, peculiar to the

true Believer.

When our Lord concluded his pathetick exhortations to his disconsolate disciples, just before bis crucifixion, by a comprehensive prayer for them; be made this one of his petitions to the Father in their behalf,“ Sanctify them through thy “ truth; thy word is truth:” and the scriptures always represent divine truth, as the seed in the believer's heart of every holy disposition ; the graft through which " the tree is made good and its fruit good;" and the mould into which the soul is cast, and from which it receives its form and exact impression, as the metal is fashioned by the artist's skill:* so that we are not only " justified by faith,” but also “sanctified by faith.3” The doctrine of Christ dwells in the regenerate soul, as an operative transforming principle, producing a peculiar state of the judgment, will, and affections, in proportion to the degree in which it is understood and believed. This may properly be called the christian temper.

It is the exact counterpart of the truths by which it is produced; it distin

? Rom. vi. 17. 3 Acts xxvi, 18,

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John xvji 17.

guishes the real believer from all other men; and it constitutes the standard of our proficiency in vital godliness, of our “growth in grace, and in the “ knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus “ Christ.” Alas! a great part of the acquaintance, that most have formed with the truths of revelation, is merely noțional : and if we do not perceive the genuine nature and tendency of the doctrines to which we assent, they must fail to exert their transforming efficacy on our hearts.

Thus “knowledge puffeth up,” even when the things known are evidently suited to produce the deepest humility; and though they never fail to have this effect, where they are received by a living faith as the nutriment and medicine of the soul. It may, therefore, be proper to consider more particularly those dispositions and affections, which constitute the appropriate teniper and character of the true believer; adverting, as we proceed, to the truths by which they are produced and nourished; and endeavouring to distinguish between the lamented failures and imperfections of the upright, and the allowed and indulged evils of the mere hypocrite or self-deceiver.

1. Humility may be considered as most essential to the christian temper, and as radical to every part of it. The believer’s principles continually present to his mind the greatness and majesty of God, and the comparative meanness of all crea

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tures; which cannot fail to abate his natural propensity to self-importance and self-exaltation, and to make him feel himself as nothing before the infinite Creator. Having received his being and all he possesses, from the hand of God, and holding every thing in the most absolute dependence on him, he cannot consistently glory as though " he had not received them.” He knows that

every benefit lays him under obligation ; that every talent demands a proportionable improvement; and that he must shortly be removed from his stewardship, and required to give an account of it: and he is conscious, that he has not been duly faithful to his trust, or properly improved the talents cominitted to his charge. This teaches him that all those things, of which he has been tempted to be proud, ought to cover him with shame, and increase his humility; for they have all proved occasions of additional transgression, and thus call upon him to repent, and deprecate the wrath of his offended Lord.

His principles also lead him to compare his conduct with the perfect law of God, and not with the examples and maxims of this sinful world; and to condemn every deviation from that strict and spiritual rule, even in thought or inclination, as sin, and as deserving the divine displeasure and abhorrence: so that every part of his past and present behaviour suggests to him reasons for selfabasement; for sin mixes with and defiles even his best duties, and he feels his need of repentance, of mercy, and of the atoning blood, in every action of his life. He is deeply convinced, that "it is “ of the Lord's mercies he is not consumed;" all his hopes of acceptance and happiness spring from faith in the Lamb of God and his expiatory sacrifice; and he receives every comfort, not only as the gift of God's bounty, but as purchased by his Redeemer for a bell-deserving sinner: and how can he, who lives under the influence of these principles, be proud of his possessions or attainments? He dares not venture even to the mercy seat of a forgiving God, except in the name of his beloved Son; and he deèms it an invaluable favour, that he may be allowed thus to pray for mercy and salvation. Indeed he cannot in general but perceive that he differs from ungodly men, and from himself in former years; but he knows that this difference is the effect of a divine influence on his mind: so that he sees abundant reason for thankfulness, but none for pride and self-complacency. Nay, he is sensible, that he has been kept from the gross immoralities, which render numbers equally mischievous and wretched, by a divine interposition, in various ways restraining him from listening to temptation, or following the devices of his own heart; so that his preservation is rather an occasion for gratituile, than for selfpreference; whilst his misconduct in less scandalous instances seems to him to be baser, when

“ prefer them.'»

compared with his advantages, than the crimes of unhappy outcasts from human society.

As he frequently and carefully views himself in the glass of the holy law, and diligently compares his whole behaviour with the perfect example of Christ; as he attentively considers his obligations and opportunities, and examines strictly his motives, affections, thoughts, words, and actions ; and as he is severe in judging himself, and candid in estimating the conduct of his brethren: so he is unavoidably led in his best hours, to “esteem “ others better than himself,” and “ in honour to

Thus he is habitually disposed to take the lowest place, instead of ambitiously aspiring to pre-eminence: for this haughty spirit always results from the want of consistency with evangelical principles. He also entertains a deep sense of his own ignorance and proneness to mistake; for his experience and observation confirm the declarations of Scripture in this respect; hence originates a teachable disposition; a willingness to “ receive the kingdom of God as a little child,” and “to become a fool” in order to obtain true

” wisdom. The most eminent saints have, therefore, always most sensibly felt and frankly owned, their want of wisdom; and been most ready to ask it of God,' and to enquire his will at every step, with the greatest simplicity and fervour. And though the well-instructed believer will not “call any

* Rom. xii. Phil. ii. 3.

2 Jam. i. 5

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