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brings on a relaxation, or fufpenfion of their diligence in duty; they give themfelves up to anxious, complaining thoughts; they ftanci ftill, and will go no farther in religion, till ihey are fatisfied whether they have as yet gone any length at all. But whatever good ground any peribn may have to be diffatisfied with himfelf, fo foon as he perceives that this is its effect, he ought to refill it as a temptation. I cannot better illullrate this, than by a fimilitucle borrowed from the fcripture language on the fame lubject. Whether do you think that child moll dutiful, under a fenfe of his father's difpleafure, who patiently and filently applies himlelf to his work, or he who faunters about in idlenefs, and with peevifh and fullen complaints, is constantly calling in qneftion his father's love?
This lays the foundation for a very neceffary and ufeful direction, which indeed flows naturally from all that has been laid on the evidence of regeneration. Endeavor, Chriftians, to preferve and increafe your hope in God, by further degrees of fanctification, by zeal and diligence in doing his will. The more the image of God in you is perfected, it will be the more eafily difcerned. If you are at any time ready to doubt whether luch or fuch corruptions are confiftent with real religion; if you find this a hard queftion to refolve, go another way to work, and ftrive by vigilance and prayer to mortify thefe corruptions, and then the difficulty is removed. If in a time of affliction and diftrefs, you find it hard to determine whether it ought to be confidered as the correction of a father, or the feverity of a judge, endeavor through divine grace to bear it with the patience of a child, and you will foon fee its merciful original by its falutary efl'ect. What Should be the daily fludy of a Chriftian, but to mortify fin in heart and converfation r and his comfort fhould arife from his apparent fuccefs in this important ftrife. When grain of different kinds is but Springing from the ground, it is not eafy to diftinguifh between one and another; but their growth afcertains their quality, which is ftill more fully difcerned as they approah nearer to maturity. Imitate in this the great apollle of the Gentiles, " Not as "though I had atready attained, either were atready per
"feft; but I follow after, if that T may apprehend that for "which alfo I am apprehended of Chrift Jefus. Brethren, "I count not myfelf to have apprehended, but this one "thing I do, forgetting thole things which are behind, "and reaching tbrth unto thofe things which are be"fore, I prefs toward the mark for the prize of the high "calling of God in Chrift Jefus !"*
Before clofing this fe&ion, I muft obferve that though the account I have given of the great mark of real reliirion, may ftill leave fome in the dark, yet furely it carries in it the cleareft and plaineft condemnation of many hearers of the gofpel. Oh, that it were poffible to faften a conviction of it upon their minds! Are there not many who appear from fabbath to fabbath in the houfe of God, who dare not affirm ferioufly to their own hearts, that God and his fervice has more of their habitual fettled affection than the world, or any of its enjoyments? I do not here, underftand grofs finners, whofe crimes are " open going "before unto judgment;" but I mean the more fober and regular profeffors of religion, who may have " a form "of godlinefs, and deny the power thereof." I am perfuaded this is a more proper trial of their flate, than any particular rule of duty. Many fuch perfons know io little of the extent and fpirituality of the law of God, that it is not impoffible they may be ready to affirm they do not allow themfelves in any known fin, as the young man in gofpel feems to have anftvered fincerelv, when he faid to our Saviour, " Mafter, all thefe have I obferved from my "youth."f
But I would farther afk them, Whether hath God or the world moft of your love, moft of your thoughts, and moft of your care? Can fuch of you pretend this, whole eager, ardent, nightly thought and daily plealure, is only to increafe your fubftance? who would not go to market without re-examining your tranfa&ions, and computing your gain; but can daily go to the houfe of God, witiiout obferving, enquiring after, or defiring to fee its proper fruits? Can fuch of you pretend this, to whom all ferious converfation is tedious and difguftful, and the fociety of good men a painful reltraint? to whom the fabbath is a dull, melancholy, and burdenfome feafon? Oh, my brethren, let me befeech you to be faithful to your own fouls. Your precious time is daily haftening on ; the day of your merciful vifitation is wearing faft away. Hear while there is yet peace, and intreat that God, for Chrifl's fake, would freely pardon all your fins; would renew you in the fpirit of your minds; would fit you for his fervice on earth, and for his prefence and enjoyment in heaven.
* Phil. iii. 12, 13, 14. t Mark x. 20.
Thus I have explained at confiderable length, and with all the care and accuracy in my power, the great and general evidence of regeneration, viz. the fuperiority of the intereft of God and the Redeemer in the heart, above the intereft of inferior good. This, I hope, will be of ufe in itfelf, to difHnguifh the precious from the vile, to preferve you from fin, and excite you to diligence in every part of your duty, that it may be more and more manifeft. At the fame time, it will be of the greateft fervice, in the ufe and application of other figns of real religion, by Slewing when they are conclufive, and when they are not.
QftHe stcf>s by which this change is accomplished.
ff TTE proceed now to confider by what fteps, and by Vy what means, this change is brought about. I am deeply fenfible how difficult a part of the fubject this is, and how hard it will be to treat of it in a diftinct and precife, and at the fame time, in a cautious and guarded manner. It is often complained of in thofe who write on this fubjeft, that they confine and limit the HOLY ONE, and that they give unnecellary alarms to thofe who have not had experience of every particular which they think proper to mention. There is no doubt but God acts in an*abfolute and fovereign manner in the difpenfation of his grace, as in every other part of his will. As he cannot be limited as to perfons, fo neither as to the time and manner of their reformation. To this purpofe, and in this preeife meaning, our Saviour fays, " The wind bloweth "where it lifteth, and thou heareit the found thereof, but "canfl not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; "(0 is every one that is born of the Spirit."!
Sometimes it pleafeth God to fnatch finners from the very brink of the pit, to raife up fome of the moft abandoned profligates, as trophies of his victorious grace and mercy; while he fuffers others, far more moderate and decent, who are " not far from the kingdom of God,"
• It will be proper to inform the reader, that the word "abfolute" ufed here, and in fome other places of this difconrfe, is by no means to be underftood as fignifying the fame thing with " arbitrary." He who a6ls arbitrarily, acts without any resfon at all. To fay this of the divine procedure, would be little lefs than blafuhemy. When we fay that God acts " in .' an abfolute and fovereign manner," the meaning is, that he acts upon the bed and ftrohgeft reafons, and for the nobleil and meft excellent end*; Mrt #hich are many or moft of them beyond our reach andtsoirtprehenfion; and particularly, that there is not the leaft foundation for fuppofmg that the reafons of preference are takeix from comparative human merit.
j John Hi; 8.
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