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(in the use of appointed means) as any unregenerate person in the world. Your defects and demerits need not be any discouragement; for his mercy triumphs over the guilt and unworthiness of the greatest sinners. Is it therefore not your greatest safety to lie at his feet, in the way of his appointments, where there is a blessed hope set before you ? In this way you have the infinite mercy of God, the gracious encouragements of the gospel
, the glorious success of so many thousands who have tried this method, to animate your diligence and hope; and there is no other way in which
any encouragement to expect renewing grace, and pardoning, saving mercy.
Since you wholly depend upon God's free sovereign mercy, you should use the more diligent and earnest application, in all the ways of his appointment, that you may obtain it. Since you must obtain mercy of God or perish, oh, with what diligence and importunity, with what ardour of soul, should. you address the throne of grace, for deliverance from your guilt and danger! Since in a way of sovereignty, God is pleased to bestow his special grace, with an interest in his Son and his great salvation, at what time and by what means it shall seem best in his sight; you
should therefore, at all times, and in the use of all the means of grace, seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.
Can it be thought just reasoning, that because you cannot help yourself, and there is none but God can help you, it is therefore in vain to apply to him for help? that because you have no claim to his favour, but lie at his mercy, you will not therefore seek mercy
at his hands ? Does not this, at the first view, appear contrary to all the methods of reasoning we should use in any other case ? Can you promise
yourself comfort, from such reasonings and such conclusions as these, in your last expiring moments, when your soul is entering upon its eternal and unchangeable state ?
But you object, “ If God in sovereignty designs mercy for us, we shall obtain it, whether we seek or not; and if not, it is in vain to strive.” To this it is sufficient answer, that God never does in sovereignty appoint salvation for any, in the final wilful neglect of gospel means. He is sovereign in the appointment of the means, as well as of the end. The same glorious Sovereign, who assures us it is not for our sakes that he bestows his special grace upon us, but for his own name's sake, does also let us know, that he “ will be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do this for them.” God will make us feel the want of his
mercy, and will make us esteem his salvation worthy of our care and pains, or leave us to the unhappy effects of our own madness and folly. But if we have hearts given us to be humbly and earnestly attending upon the means of grace, it is an encouraging sign, that he who has excited our diligence, intends to crown it with
You see, sir, I have obeyed your commands; and have addressed you with as much plainness and familiarity as the case requires, and you yourself have demanded.
That God may bestow his grace upon you, and enable you so to run, as that you may obtain, is the
FAITH, AND A DEAD TEMPORARY FAITH, IS DISTINCTLY CONSIDERED.
SIR, Your complaints do exactly answer my expectations. It is not your case alone, to have“ unworthy apprehensions of God, vain trifling imaginations, and strange confusion of mind, accompanying the exercises of religion.” It is no new thing for those who are setting out in earnest in a religious course to find by experience, that their “progress in religion bears no proportion to their purposes; and that their good designs and resolutions come to but little more than outside appearances, and no way answer their hopes.” It is matter of thankfulness, that you have a feeling sense of this. I hope, if no other arguments will convince you of the truth of what was insisted on in my last, you will at least be convinced, by your own experience, that you
You “thank me for my plainness and faithfulness to a poor wretched infidel, who yet breathes, out of hell, by the mere patience of an affronted Saviour.” I had not only the warrant of your commands, but the vast importance of the concern before us, to imbolden me to lay by all reserves, in my former letters. And you need not “conjure me to retain the same freedom.' I am no courtier, nor am I at all acquainted with the fashionable methods of the beau monde. I shall therefore apply myself, according to my capacity, in my accustomed methods of address, to answer your desires.
lie at mercy
You “ observe, that I insinuate as if men may believe the truth of the gospel, without a saving faith in Christ, without an interest in him, or a claim to the benefits of his redemption. You therefore desire I would give you the distinguishing characters of a saving faith, and show you wherein the difference lies, between a true faith, and that which is common to hypocrites, as well as to christians indeed.”
I do indeed insist upon it, that men may notionally and doctrinally believe the truth of the gospel, without a saving faith in Christ, and without an interest in him, or a claim to the benefits of his redemption, This is a truth clearly taught in the scriptures, and abundantly evident from the reason and nature of things. If any, therefore, should expect salvation, from a mere doctrinal and historical faith in Christ, they will in the conclusion find themselves disappointed, and ashamed of their hope.
We read in John xii. 42, 43, of many of the chief rulers who believed in Christ, but dared not confess him ; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. And will any man imagine, that such believers, who dare not confess Christ before men, shall be confessed by him before his heavenly Father and his holy angels, in the great day of retribution ? Will any man imagine, that our blessed Lord will own such for his sincere disciples and followers, who love the praise of men more than the praise of God ? Here then is a clear instance of a doctrinal and historical faith, which was not saving, and could give no claim to the promise made to true believers. We have this matter further illustrated and confirmed by the apostle James, in the second chapter of his epistle ; where we are shown, that such a faith “ is dead, being alone;" that it is but a carcass without
breath. As the body without the spirit is dead, so “faith without works is dead also.” Of such a faith we
say with the same apostle, “ What doch it profit, though a man say that he has faith ?
Can faith save him?"
But I need not multiply scripture quotations in this case. It is what is continually confirmed to us by our own observation. How many do we see every day, who acknowledge the truth of the gospel, and yet live worldly, sensual, and vicious lives; “ who profess they know Christ, but in works deny him ;" who call themselves by his name, and yet value their lusts and idols above all the hopes of his salvation; and even run the venture of eternal perdition, rather than “ deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him !” Now there can be nothing more certain, than that these men are utterly unqualified for the kingdom of God; and that they can have no special interest in Him,“ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
As, on the one hand, there is a gracious promise of final salvation to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ—" he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved-he that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life;" so, on the other hand, there is a sort of believers, who can have no claim to this promise, nor any interest in the salvation by Christ. It must therefore be of infinite consequence, that we have indeed the faith of God's elect, that we may
ecome the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ ; and therefore that our faith be distinct in its nature and operations, from such an empty, lifeless, and fruitless belief, with which the formal, worldly, and sensual professor may deceive and destroy his own soul. From whence it appears, that your