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ing or ridiculing those who held it. We can remember how strenuously we endeavoured to silence our convictions, and to answer the arguments which almost prevailed over our prejudices : how we tried to quiet our minds, either by reflecting on our supposed virtue ; by growing more punctual in a task of religion; or by listening to our own self-complacency and the flattery of our friends, in respect of the imagined superiority of our talents. When baffled on these grounds, we can recollect how we attempted to elude the conviction, by listening to disadvantageous reports coneerning those reputedly enthusiastical teachers, who maintained the humiliating doctrines of grace; and, by charging their principles, on some occasions with tending to licentiousness, on others, by blaming them as too precise and rigorous in their requirements and example! Nay, perhaps some present, when all these methods failed, have tried to forget the whole in the hurry of business, a succession of company and dissipation, an excess of riot, or even a close application to study. Indeed it would not be wonderful, if some individuals should be conscious that, after all other attempts to quiet their consciences, they have had recourse to an antinomian or enthusiastical abuse of the gospel, as the last and most desperate expedient for keeping upon good terms with themselves, without parting with their worldly idols.
Not one of these ways of eluding conviction can be mentioned, which has not been tried by one or another; not one of these snares in which some of us have not been successively entangled : yet in every one of them numbers are finally given up to
a strong delusion to believe a lie, that they might “all be damned, who believed not the truth, but “had pleasure in unrighteousness." How is it then, my brethren, that any of us have been “re
covered out of the snare of the devil, who had “ taken us captive at his will ?" We can in no other way account for it than by saying that God mercifully “ gave us repentance to the acknow
ledging of the truth.”2 “ God who is rich in “ mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, “ even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened “us together with Christ.” “For by grace are
ye saved through faith : and that not of your“selves ; it is the gift of God.”3 « The Giver of
every good and perfect gift,” not only bestowed the Saviour, and the free pardon and salvation of all that truly believe in him; but gave us repentance and faith likewise, and made us “ willing in “ the day of his power:” and thus he has a claim upon us for the highest possible gratitude and admiring praise.
Even since the time when we first were “ ed to flee from the wrath to come," and to “ lay “ hold for refuge on the hope set before us ;" how numerous have been our conflicts, difficulties, and dangers? Many, who appeared to the most competent judges far more promising than we were, “ in time of temptation have fallen away;" or “ they have been choked with cares, and riches, " and the lusts of other things, and have brought
no fruit to perfection.” Some have evidently returned to “ their wallowing in the mire, and
' 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.
2 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
'Eph. ii. 3-8.
“their last state is worse than the first." Others have been “ carried about with every wind of doc“ trine, by the sleight of men, and cunning crafti“ness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Thus they have proved “ unstable in all their ways," have become the zealous propagators of some pestilential heresy, or have “ turned aside to vain * jangling.” Many have grown lukewarm in the grand essentials of religion, and proportionably fierce and contentious in supporting certain dogmas, by which some parts of the truth are pushed to anti-scriptural extremes. In short, in a course of years, if we have accurately observed the affairs of the church, we have witnessed and lamented many astonishing changes, suited to excite our gratitude to God, who “ hath hitherto helped us,” and guided us at a distance from those rocks, quicksands, and whirlpools, which have proved fatal to numbers.
Our own experience likewise may help us to form a proper judgment of the divine goodness, in thus far protecting and upholding us. If we have for any length of time“ fought the good fight of
faith,” we must have a consciousness, that in many instances we were “ cast down, but not de“stroyed.” Our enemy has been sometimes ready to rejoice over us as actually vanquished. Outward circumstances gave force to our innate depravity, and our customary or easily besetting sins; the tempter was permitted “ to sift us as wheat ;"
had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that “ raiseth the dead” Perhaps temptation prevailed against us; and a guilty conscience united with an
unbelieving despondency to bring us into “ deep “ waters.” The insults of enemies, or the censures of friends, perhaps concurred with divine rebukes and corrections, to dismay our hearts. Yet amidst all we determined, even “ from the belly of hell,” to look unto the Lord, and to cry unto him, “ O “ Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul !” We waited on “ him, and he heard our prayer; he “ brought us out of the horrible pit, out of the “miry clay; he set our feet upon a rock and esta“blished our goings; and he hath put a new song “ into our mouth even praise unto our God.”] Thus “ he delivered us from so great a death, and “ in him we trust that he will yet deliver us.” 2 Even if our conflicts have not been so severe, if we have not been thus baffled and shamed, we know to whom we owe our preservation : and we have had so many humiliating proofs of our own perverseness, weakness, negligence, and relapses into idolatrous attachments and various evils, that we cannot but look upon our escapes as marvellous, and sometimes stand amazed that we have not been left to renounce or disgrace the gospel ! Every year, month, week, or even day, during which we have been preserved, and every declension from which we have been recovered, is an addition to obligations already great beyond all computation.
Indeed a general view of our situation in this evil world must increase our conviction that the Lord alone hath kept us, or can keep us, from evil. The countless dangers of our path ; the course of
I Psal. xl. 1-3. cxvi. 1-8. cxxx.
? 2 Cor. i. 9, 10.
the world, with its maxims, fashions, examples, and allurements; the influence of fear, hope, affection, and even gratitude to men, upon our religious conduct; our natural strong desire of honour, friendship, ease, wealth, or indulgence; our aversion to censure, reproach, contempt, and poverty; and the various ways, in which these propensities may
be addressed to turn us aside from the direct path, suggest many interesting reflections to the serious mind. The infectious examples even of some zealous preachers and professors of evangelical truth, and the worldly spirit sanctioned by them ; with the snares, which are laid in all our employments, connexions, and comforts; in solitude and in company, and even in religious duties : the number, power, subtlety, and unwearied malice of our enemies the powers of darkness: the fallibility of our judgment, the scantiness of our knowledge, the weakness of our purposes, and the deceitfulness and “ desperate wickedness” of our hearts : all remind us, how greatly we are indebted to the Lord, who hath“ hitherto helped us." It is indeed a marvellous
" Having obtained help of God, we continue to this “ day;" and have neither “made shipwreck” of our faith, nor brought a scandal upon the gospel ;
; but still desire with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord.
Much more might profitably be added, did time permit, .concerning the continued kindness we have received; in the friends raised up for us ; and, the way in which our heavenly Father hath made up our losses, extricated us out of difficulties, moderated our temptations, renewed our comforts,