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own deceitfulness, and can dissemble habitually, even before God! What it ought to feel, and does not, it will still affect to feel, and this, not only before men, but under the searchings of Omniscience.
VAIN-GLORY has been noticed as another effect of spiritual declension. The strength of this passion will increase, in the exact proportion in which our zeal for the glory of God may have been impaired. The tenor of scriptural injunction on this point is, that, Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, all should be done to the glory of God, that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. This is godliness equally opposed to atheism, and to what our old divines call-self-seeking. According to the extent in which we fall away from the true spirit of our profession, will be our disposition to prefer our own credit, or gratification, to the divine glory. We learn also, at such times, to attach an improper value to the little we may have done, or suffered, on account of religion. Could we trace the fickleness, the boastings, or the ill-temper, of many professors to their source, they would be found to have derived their origin, and their main strength, from a low state of personal piety. Such persons are little with God, and learn, as a consequence, to think much of themselves. They have a very feeble sense of their obligation to Him who died for them, and this allows them to magnify any little sacrifice, or effort, in his cause. The backslider in heart will speak often of his tithe,
and mint, and anise, and cummin. The man who is just raised above poverty, is usually the most jealous of being thought poor. And the Christian is never so little disposed to value reproof, as when most needing it—that is, in the falling state in which we are now viewing him.
But it not unfrequently happens, that the spirit of the backslider is betrayed into a course, apparently the opposite of this leading not merely to the oversight, but to the grossest CORRUPTION of
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. This language expresses not the conviction of his reason, so much as the wish which naturally springs from ungodly inclinations. The depravity which induces men to say there is no God, leads them to wish, when it is less dominant, that he were, in all respects, such an one as themselves. In this state, the opposition directed against the nature of the deity, generally considered, is transferred to particular attributes, and the utmost ingenuity is sometimes employed, to avoid recognizing those properties of the Divine nature, which have failed to commend themselves to fallen humanity. The same thing frequently happens in the treatment of the sacred scriptures. It is not always practicable to reject the volume altogether; but whatever there be in it to which our benighted and grovelling nature may take exception, is too often overlooked, or explained away-so much so, that Christianity, instead of effecting any great change within us, is
frequently made to blend with our low estate, becoming dwarfed and earthly like ourselves. Not unlike this, in some instances, is the conduct of the backslider. He is aware that the christian character, as usually insisted on by preachers, and, apparently, by the inspired writers themselves, is not his own. Thus the motive is not wanting which may suggest, whether such a state of religious attainment be really necessary to his religious safety. Now a scheme has been devised which is perilously suited to this state of mind, and is in great part produced by it. It is a scheme which perverts the grace of the gospel; so as to exempt its disciples from all obligation in regard to its laws. It affirms, more or less directly, that the men who pay a due homage to divine grace, are those who never trouble themselves about the divine precepts. It makes the religion of the New Testament to be a system of privilege and enjoyment, but annihilates it as a code of obligation. It recognizes much that should be believed, something that should be anticipated, and a little that should be felt; but nothing that should be done. Its whole policy is, to construct a path to the heavenly state, that may be accessible to those who neither possess, nor, in fact, wish to possess, the dispositions suited to that state. The declining professor may not adopt all the extravagances of this malignant heresy at once; but he is too often induced to seek a soothing of his restlessness by embracing it in part: and if this attempt should
be successful, there is danger of his soon filling a prominent place among those who thus hold the truth in unrighteousness.
It is painful to conceive of the disciples of the gospel as becoming ensnared by evils so much at variance, not only with their obligations, but with their past experience. As certainly as the persons thus fallen have been taught of God, there has been no mean opposition made to the growing strength of these base elements of character, by the principles and affections to which they are opposed. The warmth of christian devotion has given place to the coldness of formality; godly sincerity has been supplanted by hollow pretension; and the lowliness and sorrow of the true penitent, have yielded to that pride and lightness of temper, which must nourish the spirit of vain-glory, and often lead to the grossest perversions of revealed truth. But at every move in this progress of decay, a voice has been heard within, saying, How is the gold become dim! how is the fine gold changed! This voice has not failed to proclaim the wretchedness of formality, the hideousness of hypocrisy, and the guilt, and coming punishment of those, who can forget the glory due to their Maker, in their thirstings after the gratification of their own vanity or lust. Against this inward monitor, the backslider has been constantly offending. These solemn utterances, in the secret places of his spirit, have been in behalf of better days, of happier feelings, of principles more holy, and of hopes full of
immortality; and, as Felix trembled before Paul, so does the declining Christian tremble, even in his worst state, when subject to the thrilling power of these unearthly counsellings! Even yet the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, if it be only in the fact that his faults are connected with this deeper feeling of self-condemnation. So long as this continues, there is hope.
Unhappily, there is still a lower degradation to which persons of this class may descend. To the guilt of all the evils we have named, that of FLAGRANT TRANSGRESSION is sometimes added. The gospel accomplishes its work of renovation by degrees. Its progress is like the morning light; or as the blade, and the ear, and the full corn in the ear. Hence it frequently happens, that the sin which ruled over us in our irreligious state, is that by which we are easily beset in our religious state; and in the season of spiritual declension, it too often recovers much of its old ascendancy. The history of the church demonstrates that there is no sin too awful to be committed by us, if we once forsake the unquestionable line of duty. Thus David, the sweet singer of Israel,- even he, has upon him the stains of adultery and murder. We all remember the case of Peter. And who has not been deeply afflicted by the instances of folly, fraud, or immorality, by which professors have sometimes destroyed, as in a moment, the reputation of a whole life? Surely this could not have happened, if they had been sufficiently mindful of that