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stowed any serious thoughts on their spiritual condition, they often quit these earthly scenes, not in the lowliness and abasement of contrite sinners, but with a degree of confidence and exultation, which would be very unbecoming even in the Christian whose life had been the best and most perfect. But surely, to encourage such feelings and to hold out such expectations, is very far to depart from the true doctrine of the Gospel. Certain it is, that even the worst of sinners are forbidden to despair of receiving the merciful forgiveness of their Saviour; and all should be earnestly exhorted to spend whatever portion may remain to them of life, in sincere repentance and humble prayer. The forgiving Father may at any time receive His returning prodigal. The good Shepherd may, even at the latest period, receive the wandering sheep into His fold. All is concealed from the knowledge of man; all rests with that mercy which knows no bounds. But, since there is no warranty in holy writ for encouraging any Christians to expect a distinct previous notice of the forgiveness of their sins, so it must be, on every ground, most improper to instil into them such an expectation. By so doing, delusion will be propagated both in the minds of the individuals themselves, and of others. False security and spiritual pride will be too certainly ge

nerated; and the sinner be brought to a frame and temper ill consisting with that true contrition and humility which his condition requires.

But, while we thus believe, on grounds apparently the most solid, that the expectation of a distinct and perceptible assurance in the minds of individuals of their own salvation is an error no less unscriptural and unsound in its foundation than pernicious in its obvious consequences; still there is an assurance of another description which every faithful Christian may reasonably hope to experience; still there is another sense, in which the Holy Spirit does “ bear witness with the spirits of good Christians, that they are the children of God." This Holy Spirit does exercise His availing influence in giving strength to their faith, warmth to their devotion, and extension to their hopes. He does enable them so to persevere with steadiness in their spiritual course, so to produce the genuine fruits of true holiness, so to exhibit the fairest graces of the Christian character, as to obtain in this life a happy foretaste of those joys which are the promised recompense of sincere obedience. The Holy Spirit does impart to the faithful Christian that steady assurance of a rich and animating hope which is built on a true faith in the merits of Christ, and on a consciousness of sincere endeavours to obey His commands; that assurance

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which, instead of generating false security or careless indifference, or slumbering inattention, or self-sufficient arrogance, urges by the most operative of all motives towards increasing endeavours after holiness, increasing watchfulness against temptations, increasing piety towards God: which, presenting to his view, as he advances towards the goal of life, a nearer and more certain prospect of “ the prize of his high calling,” enables him to dart forward a glance of joyful anticipation towards the bright scenes of futurity, and to meet, at the last, the hour of his dissolution, in the well-grounded trust of receiving “ a crown of righteousness," with the saints which are made perfect in heaven.

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SERMON VIII.

ON THE INDISCREET APPLICATION OF

SCRIPTURAL PROPHECY.

2 Peter i. 20.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of

any private interpretation. St. Peter, in this his farewell epistle, is exhorting his disciples to continue firm in the belief of Christian doctrines, and the practice of Christian virtues. After conveying to them the intimation that he himself must shortly put off his earthly tabernacle, that is, must be removed from them by death, he recalls to their recollection in an impressive manner the sure and solid foundation on which their faith is built, and thereby suggests to them availing topics of hope and consolation. Knowing,” he says, " that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me; I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance

After adverting to the sanction which was

2 Pet. i. 14, 15.

ON THE INDISCREET APPLICATION, &c.

179

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afforded to the divine mission and character of our blessed Lord, by open attestation from heaven-at one signal instance of which he had himself been personally present, when, at the period of the transfiguration, there came a voice from God the Father, saying, “ This is my

beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” —he proceeds to mention the second great head of Christian evidence which they possessed, namely, the more sure word of prophecy.” " We have also,” he

says, a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your

hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.'

As the term “prophecy” is here used without any limitation, it seems clearly designed to comprehend all those prophetical enunciations which have been vouchsafed by the Holy Spirit of

as well those of the Old Testament, which directed the minds of men to the office and kingdom of the Saviour, and to the circumstances which should attend His appearance upon earth, as those of the New Testament, delivered by our Lord and His Apostles, which marked out the future fortunes of the Christian church. Indeed, it should be remarked,

b 2 Pet. i. 19.

God;

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