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"I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course, I “have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give « me at that day." These, with innumerable other authorities, confirm our doctrine.
These things are all involved in the covenant of grace, " which " is well ordered and sure." The promises of God to his people cannot fail, for he hath established them by an oath, that believers might have both hope and consolation. “Where. “ fore God willing more abundantly, to shew to the heirs « of proinise, the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it with “ an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible “ for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled "for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us." All these oaths and promises of consolation and hope, to what purpose can they serve, if a knowledge of their interest in them was not attainable. This doctrine is so certain, that the apostle expostulates with the Corinthian professors, why they had not obtained it; “ Prove “yourselves, know ye not your ownselves, how that Christ Jesus « is in yoá, except ye be reprobates ?” These christians he rebukes sharply, for their straggling, wicked, and profane way of the celebration of the Lords supper. Their conduct admitted not of comfort, peace of conscience or hope. But notwithstanding all these gross and abominable deviations of some christians, the declarations of heaven are sure. “Hereby we know that we are in him, 6 and shall assure our hearts before him. We know that he a" bideth in us, by the spirit, that he hath given us.”
· All these things shew to us to demonstration that assurance of grace has been attained by the children of God at all times, and may still be attained, if we are not failing in ourselves. Every christian who has not assurance, or a comfortable hope, the blame is on himself. Yet, let not the lambs of Christ's flock, or the feeble wishers to be christians, under this high doctrine, be discouraged or sink into despondency, only be exhorted to consecrate yourselves to God, and seek and serve him in the way of duty, and the comforts of your love, faith and repentance, will retura upon you with full Moods of pleasure, joy and sweet assurance. Let it ever renain as indelibly stamped upon the souls of all christians, if they enjoy not assurance, they are wholly to blame. The indispensable duty of all is, “ to give diligence to make theis calling and election surc."
A few inferences-must now close this important subject :
A First inference is, the folly, ignorance and absurdity of those who suppose that a comfortable assurance is not attainable by christians in this life. The ungodly profess it not, and as a feeble prop to themselves, they propagate it all around them, that no such blessing can be obtained, in this world; and too many dark and indolent professions unite with them in the unscriptural cry. The alarm raised against it is, that it is destructive of holiness, and tends to licentious living. Let no other judicature be appealed to, but the lives of the one and the other. See how the one conduct themselves, careless, thoughtless and easy; they ena joy themselves without hope, and too many professors are assimilated to this character ; hence multitudes unite in the condemnation and rejection of the sweet and precious doctrine of assu. rance. The scriptures declare, “Every one who hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure.” That is, every one who hath a comfortable confidence that he is in a state of grace, is strong after greater degrees of holiness, and conformity to God. The gracious soul desires not felicity without holiness, but his while heart is to be holy as God is holy, and perfect as he is perfect. The more assurance, the greater diligence in duty, the stronger breathings after heaven, and the more ardent desires to be assimilated to God. The nature of assurance is not to make christians remiss, but prayerful and industrious in the exercises and practice of religion. It quickens their zeal, in pressing for. tvard towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This is the tendency of that assurance, which can bring true comfort and substantial hope to the soul.
Secondly, This doctrine affords a solemn use of examination. Can we be careless and slothful in a natter of such infinite moInent? Shall we be diligent to secure our estates, our property, and make sure every thing, but our spiritual and everlasting salvation ? Is it nothing to neglect our souls and commanded duty? Will the man of the world rise early, and sit up late to obtain and secure the fading vanities of time, and the professors of religion carry themselves in a cold lukewarm indifference in respect to the concerns of eternity ? O drowsy christian, will your conscience never awake? Will you dose on till the flames of destruction by the hand of the king of terrors flash upon you ? How long will it be ere you cease from saying, “ A little sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep? Awake; for eternity, for heaven and hell is opening upon you. Soon you will enter upon the enjoyments of the one, or sink into the tor. ments of the other. Awake, awake, for the deciding day is at hand.
Are there any so far attentive as to be anxiously enquiring how they may acquire this grace of assurance. The answer hereto, and the directions relative to this matter are easy._First, obtain grace in your hearts. Secondly, settle some distinguishing marks of true religion from the word of God.-Thirdly, command your consciences to this application, and compare your experiences, your life and conduct, and the operations of your own hearts thereto.-Fourthly, press after higher measures of grace and holiness. And in a diligent attention to these rules, you will arrive at the assurance of faith. Set the example of St. Paul before you for imitation,“ Brethren, I count not myself to have appreWhended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are Så behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, « I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of “God in Christ Jesus.” Thus grow in grace, and in the knows ledge of the Saviour; and in this way you will obtain peace and comfort, and acquire all the blessings of a graviuus and joyful assurance.
Remember, assurance is desirable; it gives a relish to every mercy; lightens every burden, alleviates every sorrow; makes rich in poverty, and affords a sweet solace in affliction. It is the best cordial in sickness, and is the most sovereign remedy against the fears of death. Wherefore let the council in our text, be inscribed upon the hearts of all, “ give all diligence to make your calling and election sure.".
THE TESTIMONY OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
II. CORINTHIANS 1. 12. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that
in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly 10 you ward.
THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bringeth salvation ; and this salvation comprehends all blessings of this life, and that which is to come. The blessings of this life, beside temporal fa. vours which come alike to all, are not only conversion, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, &c. but many and great advantages and consolations originating from these radical graces. Among these secondary blessings flowing from love to God, and a comfortable assurance of his favour, here is one delineated with great beauty in our text, to wit, a good conscience and the testimony of the same.
This second epistle which the Apostle wrote to the church of opulent Corinth, was occasioned by incidents of high importance, such as the restoration to communion the incestuous person, who had ignorantly and wickedly seduced his step-mother, and had been broken down by repentance, and raised to reformation ; their amendment in the celebration of the Lord's supper, and a recom