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vors by the Spirit to mortify sin, you say right. But if you mean, that you can enjoy peace with God while you share your favorite sins, however little they may appear, you are fatally mistaken. - Whosoever," says Christ, 66 shall break one of the least of my command. ments, shall be called the faast in the kingdom of heaven.” i, e. in the church, not in its heavenly, but in its earthly state. In that place which we ordinarily call heaven, they can be neither great nor little ; for nothing that defi. leth, or worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, can enter into the gates of the celestial city.
If errors in judgment or practice are so dangerous, with what vigilance ought we to watch, with what earnestness to pray, that we may be preserved from the paths of the destroyer ?
Nor are we to confine our concern to ourselves, orto those of our own household. If we see a man drawn unto death, or ready to be slain, and hide our eyes from his danger, or make frivolous excuses for withholding our help, the Searcher of hearts will take a severe account of our conduct. But the death of the body is a momentary evil. The second death is infinitely more dreadful than the first. If we can do any thing that may have a tendency to prevent this dreadful death, what awful punishment may we expect from God, if we suffer opportunities for this beneficent purpose to pass unimproved ?
But it is the business of the clergyman, some will say, to labor for the conversion of sinners, and let every man abide in the calling wherewith he is called of God. True ; it is the work of ministers to preach the saving truths, and to call loudly upon sinners to be reconciled to God. Every man ought to abide in the calling wherewith he is called of God. I do not desire husbandmen and mechanics to take upon them the work of public preachers; but can nothing be done for sinners, to reclaim them from the evil of their ways, except what ministers are called to do in the exercise of their office ? You have a double calling in which you ought to walk with God. You have a calling in which you ought diligently to employ yourselves, that you may support yourselves and your families; that you may have something to give to your poor neighbors; and that, by your industry and uprightness, you may adorn your profession, But are you not also partakers of a heavenly calling ? If you say that you are not, you say that you are not Chrisrians. Walk therefore worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called," as the apostle Paul enjoins, Eph. iv. 1. Among other exhortations included in this general injunction, mutual edification is recommended, Eph. iv.
The apostle James, speaking of the erring Christians, does not say, If any preacher of the gospel convert him, but, If any of you convert him, he shall save a soul from death.
I will say something,
I. Of the method by which ordinary Christians may convert a sinner from the error of his ways.
II. Of the great benefit of converting a sinner from these errors.
1. Ofthe method by which ordinary Christians may convert a sinner from the error of his ways,
1. Ordinary Christians may have some influence in rectifying the erroneous opinions of those who depart from the truth. Yet they ought to behave wisely in their attempts to reclaim men from errors, lest they harden those whom they wish to reclaim. Many of those who err from the truth are very full of self conceit. Some of them are possessed of abilities superior to many serious Christians. If a good man should enter into a debate with such persons, he may find his talents unequal to bis zeal, and then his good, will be evil spoken of. . . .
Those who depart from the truth generally professed in their neighborhood, sensible that they are exposing themselves to opposition, will take care to be provided with as plausible reasonings as they can invent or collect for self defence, and inay ibus puzzle and confound a plain Christian, who perhaps could scarcely suspect that any thing, with the slightest appearance of reason, could be produced against those truths which he found plainly taught in the lively oracles.
Others who depart from the truth, make up in loquacity what they want in sense. Although they can say little in their own defence ihat has any appearance of argument, they can pour out a torrent of words, anu put to si. jen e those who are much their superiors in serise as well as piety. ?
A Christian of ordinary endowments will, for the most part, act wisely in avoiding religious disputes with men of superior abilities, or with men who have an high opinion of themselves, and who take more pleasure in victory than truth. Paul teaches us to mark them who cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrines which we have learned, and to avoid them. He requires those who minister in holy things, to furnish themselves with a sufficient degree of knowlege, to be able by sound doctrine, to convince gainsayers. Other members of the church may pos.ess good abilities, and they ought to use them for the advantage of others, especially of the members of the same body. But the great inequality of natural and acquired endowments among the members of the church, inakes it evident that the great Dispenser of gifts has designed them for different services.
Let it not however be supposed, that Christians of the meanest class in abilities are not
bound to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. We all ought, with one spirit and with one mind, to strive for the faith of the gospel, and to oppose new and strange doctrines, which tend to the subversion of souls.
You must not, under pretence of inability to defend the truth, betray it, by holding your peace, when it is opposed or ridiculed. The truths of chief importance to the souls of men, are so plainly taught in Scripture, that every serious Christian may be easily furnished with an answer to those who oppose them. Although you ought not to run about the country to question men about their faith, and to rectify their mistakes, you are bound to give a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear, 1 Pet. iii. 15.
You cannot perhaps answer one of many objections that men of corrupt minds may suggest, to discredit the truth. But this is not always necessary. Plausible arguments may be advanced to shew that men are to expect salvation only, or in part, through their own works; but one or two plain texts of Scrip. ture are sufficient to set aside a thousand of such arguments. If your opponent should ever produce arguments pretended to be taken from the Scripture itself, you can tell him that spiritual things are to be compared with spiritual, and that the law, whatever be the design of the giving of it, cannot be against the promises of God.