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absolute source of all the blessings of nature, providence, and grace; in whose infinite wisdom, goodness, and benevolence, have originated all the moral dispensations to man.
5. That man is a free agent, never being impelled by any necessitating influence either to do good or evil, but has it continually in his
power to choose the life or death set before him; on which ground he is an accountable being, and answerable for all his actions; and on this ground alone he is the proper subject of rewards and punishments.
6. That all men, in every age, country, and condition of society, sin and come short of the glory of God.
7. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world ; that there is salvation in no other name, and that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him.
8. That Jesus Christ, in pursuance of the glorious plan of salvation, and for the benefit of all mankind, without distinction, submitted to the painful and ignominious death of the cross; by which death the new covenant was sealed, ratified, and confirmed; so that, henceforth, his blood is the blood of the everlasting covenant, and the gospel is the new covenant in his blood; and that, on the third day after his crucifixion, he was raised from the dead, by the power of God.
9. That the pardon of sin is communicated through the mediation of Jesus Christ, through his sufferings and death ; and is received by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
10. That God freely forgives sin, on the ground of his own rich mercy, and not on account of any merit or worthiness in the creature; so that we are justified freely by his grace.
11. That the Holy Spirit is the power and energy of God—that holy influence of God, by whose agency, in the use of means, the wicked are regenerated, sanctified, and converted to a holy and virtuous life; and that the saints, by the same Spirit, in the use of means, are comforted, strengthened, and led in the path of duty.
12. That the souls of all truly penitent believers may be cleansed from all the defilements of sin, and be brought into a state of holiness and purity with God, and, by continued obedience, live in a justified state before him.
13. That the whole period of human life is a state of probation, in every part of which a sinner may repent and turn to God, and also in every part of which a believer may relapse into sin, and fall from the grace of God; and that this possibility of rising, and . liability to falling, are essential to a state of trial or probation.
14. "That all the promises and threatenings of the gospel are con-. ditional, as they regard man with reference to his well-being, here and hereafter; and that on this ground alone, the sacred writings can be consistently interpreted, or rightly understood.
15. That Jesus Christ has ordained two institutions, which are to be perpetually observed, baptism and the Lord's supper: baptism is to be administered on a profession of faith in the Christian religion, by which the candidate engages to renounce his sins and walk in newness of life; the Lord's supper is to be frequently observed by all true believers, in commemoration of his sufferings and death, by which death the new covenant was confirmed.
16. That there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the jist and the unjust.
17. That there will be a day of judgment, after which, all will be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body.
This summary, it is believed, contains all the essential principles of Christianity, which properly come under the rule of faith." In these principles, we should, therefore, be fixed and decided. If we consult the opinions of those around us, we shall be continually wavering in our judgment, and fluctuating in our practice. It is not from the vain conjectures of men that we are to form our sentiments, but from the testimony of God. Let them speak as they will respecting these things, our judgment must not be in the least altered, unless they will undertake to convince us from the Holy Scriptures. The word of God is the only standard of true doctrine, and to this we must adhere, though the whole world should oppose us. Truth is the same, whether its advocates are few or many; and when we have ascertained and embraced it, we should suffer no considerations to invalidate its force, or obstruct its influence.
Permit me, then, to urge upon you the importance of being true to your principles, and of maintaining them by a well-regulated life and conversation; for he who is not true to his principles, is not true to his God, nor to his own soul.
We should, also, have correct views on religious experience; for the service which God requires of us is not a mere bodily service, but the service of the heart, and the entire devotion of the soul. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. By Christian experience, we mean that religious knowledge which is acquired by any exercises, enjoyments, or sufferings, either of body or of mind. Nothing, however, is more common than to despise what is termed religious experience. Infidels sneer, the cold-hearted condemn, and the ungodly ridicule it. Being unacquainted with it themselves, they suppose it all the work of imagination, or the heat of enthusiasm, in others. But it seems not a little remarkable, that while the term is admitted when applied to those parts of science which are founded on sensible trial, it should be rejected when applied to religion. Why should not experimental divinity be equally as reasonable as experimental philosophy? Indeed, we must be at a loss to know what real religion is, without experience; for, however excellent it may be as a theory, we know it is nothing except it engage the affections, and regu
late the conduct. To become, then, experimental Christians, we must not only be made acquainted with the theory of religion, but enjoy its power ; subduing our corruptions, animating our affections, and regulating our actions. Hence, in the language of Scripture, experience is tasting, eating, and drinking. O, taste and see the Lord is good. A person who has tasted of aliment, has some experimental knowledge of its qualities. So he who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, cannot be ignorant of Christian experience.
If we examine the character of man in his lost state, us described in the word of God, and the nature of that holy religion by which he is saved, it must appear evident to every reflecting mind, that no person can become a Christian, and remain ignorant of religious experience. The Scriptures fully testify that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All unregenerate men are described as being in a state of moral degradation and depravity, under the influence of irregular desires and corrupt appetites. They are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, and are his enemies by wicked works. The moral energies of the soul are paralyzed ; and, therefore, the wicked are said to be without strength. This is that lost and perishing condition, in which the Scriptures represent the world of unregenerate men. Christianity proposes a remedy for this sinful and perishing world, and is, therefore, suited to its character and condition. Jesus Christ is to be regarded as sustaining a higher relation to us than a moral Teacher; he is a Saviour, he is a Redeemer. A work of grace must be wrought in us. The fountain of iniquity and corruption
Salvation is a deliverance from the power and dominion of sin. Hence the Scriptures testify that God has wrought all our work in us. Christ in you, the hope of glory. He effectually worketh in them that believe. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistles of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart
. Christianity proposes to reform a wicked and sinful world; and, therefore, all its divine precepts are aimed directly at the heart. It never goes about to change the exterior of man. To merely external duties, it is a stranger. It forms the lives of men no otherwise than by forming their dispositions. It never addresses itself to their vanity, caprice, selfishness, or any other corrupt proPensity. On the contrary, it declares open war against every evil disposition of the human heart. It tolerates none. Of the most odious vices, such as disobedience to parents, dishonesty, injustice, and murder, it speaks with abhorrence. It says they ought not to be named among Christians. But this is not all. It descends into the heart; it puts forth its hand, and plucks out every root of bitterness, which, springing up, would pollute the soul, and defile the life. Many principles, which the world approyes, and on many
of sin is in us.
occasions considers to be harmless—as pride, envy, revenge, ambition, the eager pursuit of wealth, fondness for pleasure, contempt for others, and a disposition to filthy jesting—the gospel condemns, in every form and degree. It forbids the indulgence of them in thought; it prohibits the adultery of the eye, and the murder of the heart; and commands the desire to be strangled in its birth. Neither the hands, the tongue, the head, nor the heart, must be guilty of one iniquity. However the world may applaud the heroic ambition of one, the love of glory in another, the successful pursuits of affluence in a third—the high-minded pride, the glowing patriotism which would compel the world to bow the neck, the steady pursuit of revenge for injuries received, and a sovereign contempt for the ignoble vulgar-Christianity condemns them all, and enjoins the disciples of Christ to crucify them without delay. Not one is to be spared, though dear as a right eye for pleasure, or necessary as a right hand for defence or labor. T'he gospel enjoins upon men what is just and right, and what is necessary to their well-being, regardless of the opinions of their fellow-men, or of their temporal interests. If a man would comply with its precepts, he must be a Christian in reality, and not merely by profession. It is the heart that is required; and all the different forms of prescribed worship and obedience, are but so many varied expressions or modifications of it. If this divine energy, this holy influence of the gospel, has touched the heart, purified the conscience, and regulated the life of an individual, be must have acquired some knowledge by experience; he cannot be ignorant of the power of Christianity, in the salvation of the soul.
Christianity excites new dispositions in the heart of a regenerated man, by making him a partaker of the divine nature. All the affections of the heart are directed in a new channel. Old things pass away, and all things become new. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit which is given unto him. The Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God. He truly possesses a peace that passeth all understanding. Being justified by faith, he has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He also has the testimony of a good conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God, he has had his conversation in the world. And as he progresses onward in the path of the just, the shining light shines more and more to the perfect day.
It is the peculiar glory of the Christian religion, that it inspires in the heart of a believer, that temper and disposition suited to every rank and station in life. Is the Christian favored with temporal blessings? He is instructed how to enjoy them aright, and to distribute to the necessities of those who are in want. Are his circumstances contracted ? It preserves him from a spirit of repining. He has learned in whatever state he is, therewith to be content. He knows both how to be abased, and how to abound; every
where, and in all things, he is instructed, both to be full and to be hungry-both to abound and to suffer need. Nor does Christianity only produce contentment, but it gives to its possessors a certain dignity and authority, which the greatest can never attain without it. The terrors of men may make us afraid, and extort an outward reverence; but nothing commands the hearts and affections of men, like real piety and true godliness. Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come. A strict and conscientious discharge of the duties of the Christian religion conciliates the esteem and love of mankind, and establishes a fair reputation and an unblemished character. While the real Christian fears God, and obeys the laws of his country, he is honest in his dealings, frugal in his expenses, and industrious in the proper calling of his life, and aims to adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things. Real Christians, whatever be their station in life, have a peculiar enjoyment in the possession of temporal goods, while the ungodly find emptiness in all their possessions: for the mind, rendered holy and happy by the excellent principles that govern it, mixes its own sweetness with whatever good is received, and imparts an extraordinary relish to it; while the unholy tempers and dispositions of those who are not in a Christian state of mind, must, by their very nature, prevent such persons from enjoying what they possess.
But the happy effects of Christian experience are not confined to prosperity ; it qualifies the mind to face the storms and to meet the adversities of life. The experience of every day proves that man is born to trouble ; and religion will not prevent the Christian from being made to feel what it is to share in the common lot of mankind. But what support will Christianity afford him, when the cup of affliction is put into his hand ? Supports to which mere men of the world are utter strangers. These are, for the most part, miserable in their afflictions. If they be kept from complaining, it is the summit of their attainments; while the Christian is enabled to glory even in tribulation, and cordially to approve all the dispensations of God towards him. Animated by a sense of the divine presence and approbation, and fully persuaded of an overruling providence, he adopts the expressive language of the prophet :-although the fig tree should not blossom, neither shall fruit be in their vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat ; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls ; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. This is a joy with which a stranger intermeddleth not-a joy inspired by the influence of Christianity over the heart and the affections—a joy unspeakable and full of glory. What trouble, indeed, can overwhelm, what fear can discompose, that man whose mind is stayed on God, and whose hope the Lord is? What earthly power can make such a man unhappy? Will you take away his riches ? His treasure is