Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

life: the other aims only at so much holiness as he thinks will save him out of hell, but cares for nothing more; and what he has, is excited by fear, or constrained by force, contrary to the natural tendency and bias of his soul. In fine, the one makes it the endeavour of his life, to approve himself to a pure, holy, and omniscient God: the other rests in endeavours to quiet his conscience, and to silence bis clamours and accusations.

5. A saving faith works by love to God and man; but a dead faith always falls short of both. The Apostle assures, that “if we have all faith, so that we could remove mountains, and have not charity, we are nothing.” “Faith worketh by love;" and the true believer “keeps himself in the love of God, looking to the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.” He delights in contemplating the glorious perfections of the divine nature. His meditations

upon God are sweet, and the thoughts of him precious to his soul. He values the favour of God as life, and his loving-kindness as better than life. If he can have the glorious God for his portion, and live in the light of his countenance, he can be content with straits, difficulties, trials, and afflictions here in the world. He takes peculiar pleasure in the ordinances of God, and all the appointed means of a near approach unto his special presence, and he is especially pleased when favoured with sensible communion with God. Though he cannot always walk so near to God, and find such sensible delight in him; yet he laments his absence when he withdraws; heavily complains of his own deadness, worldliness, sensuality, which separates between God and his

soul; and can find no true rest or satisfaction, till he return to God, and God to him. This is at least the ordinary course and tenor of the believer's life; and if at any time he should be so left of God as to grow forgetful of him, and have any continuing prevalence of a dead, carnal, worldly frame in his soul, this darkens the evidence of his state, robs him of his comfort and peace, and will at length put him upon vigorous and active endeavours for obtaining a revival of his languishing graces, by a fresh supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Thus, the true believer hath the love of God dwelling in him; and, from the same principle, he likewise loves his neighbour as himself. He maintains a life of justice, meekness, kindness, and beneficence towards all men; bears injuries, is ready to forgive, entertains the best opinion of men's state and actions that the case will allow; and endeavours to live in the exercise of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness.”

And as he thus maintains a love of benevolence to all men, he has, in a special manner, a love of complacence towards those who bear the marks of the divine image. These he delights in, on account of their being (or at least appearing to be) the children of God. He loves them for their heavenly Father's sake, as well as for those gracious qualifications which make “the righteous more excellent than his neighbour.” He loves the company of the saints. These are the excellent, in whom is all his delight. He loves their piety; and studies an imitation of them, wherein they follow Christ; and studies to equal (if not excel) them in their highest

improvements in religion. He loves their persons, and hopes to join with them in the eternal praises of God.

This is the real and genuine character of every true believer; while the highest attainments of a dead faith do fall short of every part of this description. The false professor may imagine that he has something of the love of God in him ; but, upon a just view of the case, it will appear that it is only to an idol, the creature of his own imagination. If he seems to love God, under an apprehension of his goodness and mercy, he yet dreads him on account of his justice, and has an inward aversion to his purity and holiness; so that the object of his love is an imaginary being, of infinite goodness and mercy, without either justice or holiness. If, from the alarms of conscience, or some emotions of his natural affections, he may take some pleasure in religious exercises, this pleasure is short and transient, like the principle from whence it flows; he soon returns to carelessness and forgetfulness of God, and has his affections quickly engaged in worldly and sensual pursuits. And however he may deceive himself in any supposed progress in religion, he can never satisfy his soul with having God for his portion. He can never, of course, keep up a life of spiritualmindedness, and delight in God, and in a way of obedience to him, and communion with him.

The same defects are likewise found in the unsound believer, with respect to his love to his neighbour. If he be not (as it is too commonly found) unjust and deceitful, wrathful and contentious, hardhearted and unkind, bitter and censorious, revenge

ful and implacable, yet he never loves the children of God as such. Whatever love he may have to any such from special intimate acquaintance, or from their being in the same cause, party, or persuasion with himself, (which is indeed no more than the exercise of self-love or self-esteem,) he never loves the image of Christ in every sect or party in whom he finds it, nor can he love a conformity to the children of God in the holiness of their hearts and lives.

Here, then, you see an apparent difference in these two sorts of believers. The one loves God above all things—and indeed he that does not love him with a supreme love, does not love him as God, and, consequently, does not love him at all: but the other seeks the favour of God, from no other motive but fear of his displeasure, or some desire of happiness; and not from sense of the excellency of his glorious perfections, and the blessedness of an interest in his favour. The one loves what God loves; hates what he hates; and loves and esteems himself but in proportion to his conformity to God: the other retains his delight in his lusts and idols; and repairs to God because he durst not do otherwise. The one, like God himself, takes pleasure in doing good to all men; and takes special delight in all, without distinction, who are partakers of the divine nature: the other, at the best, has his love to man influenced by selfish principles, and therefore takes most delight in those who are most conformable to his own sentiments or dispositions.

Lest I should weary out your patience, I shall just mention but this one particular more.

6. A saving faith humbles the soul, and makes it low and vile in its own eyes; whereas a dead faith tends to exalt the mind with vain apprehensions of, or endeavours after, some sufficiency or excellency of its own.

The true believer has a deep sense of the greatness and aggravations of his sins, loathes himself on account of them, and adores the patience and long-suffering of God towards him, that has kept him out of hell. He is so sensible of the great defects of his duties, of the sinfulness of his heart, the imperfections of his life, and his utter unworthiness of any favour from God, that he cannot but entertain a most deep and sensible impression, that it must be a wonderful display of mere soyereign grace, if ever he obtains salvation. It is always true, that the greater manifestation of God's love is made to his soul, the greater sense he hath of his own nothingness and unworthiness, and the more he admires and adores the astonishing riches of free distinguishing grace to such a guilty polluted creature as he is. Though the true believer lives in the exercise of that charity towards others, which “thinketh no evil, but believeth all things, and hopeth all things;" yet he always finds occasion to condemn himself, and to censure his own inward affections and outward performances, religious duties and moral conduct; and therefore cannot but esteem others better than himself. In short, the true believer always, “ while in this tabernacle, groans, being burdened.”

He finds occasions of a renewed repentance every day: he every day finds new cause to complain of himself, and new cause to commit a

« PreviousContinue »