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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE RELIGION,
JEREMIAH XX111. 28.
What is the chaff to the Wheat ?
The difference we all know. Wheat is solid grain, nourishing to the body and agreeable to the taste. Chaff is the reverse. It is light, insipid and void of nutritive qualities. The metaphors are aptly chosen to illustrate the difference between true and false religion.
The prophets of God, faithful in their office, reproved the people for their sins; warned them of their dangers ; exhorted them to repentance; assured them of God's favor on this condition, and confirmed their declarations by the precepts, promises and threatenings of the law delivered to Moses, and by the works performed by themselves. Thus they endeavored to reform the manners, and prevent the ruin of the nation.
The false prophets, of whom there were many, counteracted the ministry of the true prophets. They prophesied by Baal and caused the people to err; they walked in lies and strengthened the hands of evil doers, that none should return from his wickedness. To every one who walked in the imagination of his heart, they said, “Ye shall have peace; no evil shall come to you.” They deceived the people by fictitious visions and dreams, and by forging lies out of their own hearts. And many were so simple and credulous as to believe them. Men of corrupt minds easily believe what they wish to be true, that there is no danger in a course of sin. .
God says, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. I have heard what the prophets said, who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed; I have dreamed.” They prophesy the deceit of their own heart. They think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor. The prophet that hath a dream,” which is accompanied with evdence of Divine communication, “ let him tell a dream; he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.” A dream is nothing, unless it be a suggestion consonant to the Divine word. " What is the chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord.”
This similitude illustrates the difference between true and false doctrines-between sincerity and hypocrisy in religion-between a sound and an empty hope-between a godly and ungodly life in the final result.
I. False opinions in religion are to true, as chaff is to the wheat.
The doctrines taught in Divine revelation are adapted to the moral condition of fallen men, as wheat is adapted to the wants of the human body.
What the scripture teaches us concerning the state of human nature, is agreeable to universal experience and observation, " that we are all gone out of the way—that there is none who doeth good and sinneth not; no, not one.” With every thinking man this is a natural enquiry; 6 How shall we obtain the favor of an offended God? How shall we secure felicity in the future state of our existence ?”
To all inquiries on this important subject the gospel gives a complete and satisfactory answer. From this we learn, that as God is just and holy, so he is merciful and gracious—that as he will support his own moral government by testifying his displease ure against sin, so he will pardon every penitent soul, and receive him to everlasting favor—that to open a way both for the manifes
tation of his holiness and for the exercise of his mercy, he has appointed a Mediator, who has once suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, that we might be saved through him—that under a conscious sense of native impotence we may resort with confidence to God's throne, and obtain grace to help in time of need that guilty and unworthy as we are, we may, in the name of the constituted Redeemer, come acceptably to God, and successfully seek the blessings of his goodness-that God will give all good things to them who humbly and diligently seek him, even the pardon of sin, the grace of the Spirit, and the happiness of eternal life.
These are doctrines perfectly suited to our case. If we are guilty, we need pardon ; if we are ignorant, we need instruction; if we are weak, we need assistance; if we are polluted, we need cleansing ; if we are to exist in another state, we shall need happiness there; if this is our time of probation, we here need a preparation for that happiness which we hope for; if by sin we have cut ourselves off from all claim on God's justice, we are dependent wholly on mercy; if human reason can give us no assurance of these blessings, then for the foundation of our hope we need explicit promises.
Every thing in the gospel scheme is adapted to the human condition. If we reject this, there is no substitute. If you reject the wheat, what is left but chaff? Examine and judge.
Will you say, “God, as a merciful Creator, will make all hiscreatures happy ?" Merciful most certainly he is. But creatures may become so corrupt, that he who made them will not have mercy on them, and he who formed them will shew them no favor. In the present state, you see that vice tends to miserý.. Will its nature be reversed in another state? Malignant passions and vile affections destroy human enjoyment now. Will they be a source of enjoyment hereafter? Experience teaches, that without a holy temper and virtuous life, there is no rational felicity. If you hope for future felicity without such a temper and life, you oppose the sense of your own mind, as well as the dictates of the Divine word.
God is merciful; but mercy is free; it is not mechanical. It is guided by wisdom, not by caprice. It is just for God to pun ish the sinner. And no man can be sure, that God will exercise his mercy in the forgiveness of sin, unless he can find some Divine promise for the ground of his assurance. If we reject the promises of the gospel, we reject all our security. If we make these the foundation of our hope, very well. But then we must. take them as we find them. They assure us of God's mercy to pardon. But at the same time, they state the terms of pardon. If we refuse to comply with the terms, we cast away the promises.
You think, perhaps, that you may comply with the terms at any time, when the occasion shall require. But is there not hazard in this presumption ? Have you always kept your former resolutions ? Have you always acted as wisely as you intended ? May you not happen to fail in the present case ? Are you not depende ent on the grace of God for a future disposition, as well as on his providence for a future opportunity, to comply with the terins of his mercy? Can you see any safety, but in an immediate com, pliance with the terms, and in an immediate application to grace ?
-Here only your safety lies. All other devices are but chaff; light, vain, unsubstantial. They may flatter and amuse you, but cannot support and comfort you. They may blind your eyes, but cannot avert your real dangers, nor extinguish your rational fears. They may continue while the season is calm; but the first storm will blow them away.
II. The metaphor in the text illustrates the difference between sincerity and hypocrisy in religion. The former is as wheat; the latter is mere chaff.
The sincere christian has not only learned the truth as it is in Jesus, but has received the love of the truth; and he feels its influence in purifying his heart, regulating his affections and gove erning his life. Convinced, that in himself he is impotent, guilty and unworthy, he humbly resorts to the mercy of God revealed in the gospel. Conscious that no future works of his own can expiate his guilt, he relies on the righteousness of the Redeemer as the ground of his justification before God; and sensible that no resolutions of his own can secure his future obedience, he apo
plies to the grace of the Divine Spirit for help in the time of need. Viewing the precepts of the gospel as holy and good, he laments his deviations from them, and studies a nearer conformity to them. Adıniring the excellence of the doctrines of the gospel, he acts under their influence, and regards them as the grand motives to works of righteousness. Feeling still the corruptions remaining within him, he carries on a continual warfare against them. Aware of the temptations to which he is exposed, he watches to avoid them; if they assault him, he firmly opposes them; if, in any instances, they prevail, he laments his weakness, and seeks pardon for past offences, and grace for future security. Not reckoning himself to be already perfect, he forgets the things which are behind; not contenting himself with present attainments, he looks forward to the things which are before, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling. The eternal world he keeps in view, and lives by faith in unseen things. He sets his affections on things above. These he regards and seeks in preference to all earthly interests. He reckons not his life dear to him, that so he may finish his course with joy. He counts all worldly things but loss in comparison with the glory which shall be revealed.
This is the present life of the good christian. And such a life his reason and conscience approve. He is satisfied from himself, so far as he finds himself conformed to the gospel. The work of righteousness is peace. The testimony of his conscience to his simplicity and godly sincerity affords him the rejoicing of hope. He here receives some first fruits of the coming harvest; 'and these fruits are wheat—they are solid grain-they nourish, refresh and strengthen him.
What is the religion of the hypocrite ?-It is but as chaff to the wheat.
Under certain alarming circumstances he has perhaps experienced some exercises of mind, which he calls conversion ; and, recurring to these as his security, he lives as he did before. He feels some occasional emotions, which he imagines to be the workings of grace; but still he walks according to the course of the world. If he preserves a decency of manners, in the sight of men, yet the hidden man of the heart is still corrupt in the