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a right understanding of God, as revealed in the original law of works, without any intimation of that great sacrifice for sins revealed in the law of faith, we should have had only “a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Hence the holy apostle Paul, after all his personal attainments and distinctions, said; “ But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
6. Men must come to the knowledge of the truth concerning the terms of the gospel ; or concerning what a sinner must do to be saved. The nature of repentance, and faith, and new obedience, must be rightly understood.
7. It is very necessary that the truth should be known, concerning the Holy Spirit ; and his saving operations in effectual calling, regeneration, and progressive sanctification. Concerning his sealing believers unto the day of redemption ; and his promised efficacious influence, preserving them from apos. tacy, and enabling them to endure unto the end. A right understanding of these things is requisite, at least, in order to the comforts of that hope which is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, if not absolutely necessary to salvation.
Respecting the kind of knowledge of the truth which is required, I would just observe, that men must have something more than right ideas in the head; and something more than sensible convictions of conscience, in order to their being saved. They must so come to the knowledge of the truth, as to embrace it with the heart, and obey it in the life. Without this, no doctrinal knowledge, nor convictions, however absolutely necessary, however clear, or however deeply impressive, will save men. Felix
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so far understood and was convinced that he trembled, when“ Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” “The devils also be. lieve, and tremble.”
It is said, “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,-neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. This spiritual discernment consists, in seeing God and Christ, the law and gospel, and the promised heavenly happiness, with cordial complacency: in order to which, men must be renewed in the spirit of their minds. A disposition must be created in them, conformable to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
Let us now endeavor to collect some useful inferences, from the preceding discourse.
1. We may hence judge, whether the doctrine of universal salvation, lately propagated among us with assiduity, be a benevolent, or an unfriendly doctrine.
This doctrine has indeed a smiling aspect, at first view, and looks exceedingly charitable. The de. scription of a strange woman given by Solomon, may, however, be applied to it with great propriety. “Her lips drop as an honey-comb, and her mouth is smoother than oil ; But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold on hell.” The obvious tendency of this doctrine is to the destruction of men, both for time and eternity.
By taking away the powerful restraints arising from the dread of a judgment to come, it gives full liberty to the lusts of wicked men, as far as they can hope to hide their crimes from human cognizance. “ Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men, set in them to do evil,” is emboldened ; and many shocking enormities are commited. What then would be the case, if they could be fully assured that such sentence would never be executed ! Were it firmly and universally believed, either that no worker of iniquity would be punished at all in another world ; or not any further than will be for his own greater happiness; what perilous times must we naturally expect ! What frauds, what debaucheries, perjuries, robberies, and murders would every where abound! What safety would there be to him that goeth out, or to him that cometh in ?
But all these are only the beginning of sorrows, in the train of so licentious a doctrine. If false, as certainly it is, if the Bible bc true, its manifest tendency, is to drown men in eternal perdition. Paul gloried in preaching the gospel of Christ, it being the power of God unto salvation, as he thought ; because the righteousness of God, and his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, is therein so terribly revealed. What then will be the effect of this other opposite gospel ; that God hath no wrath nor righteousness, of which the greatest sinner need be afraid ? Will it not be the power of Satan, to lull men in se, curity, that they may be damned ? Will those by whom it is believed, hearken to any preacher of re. pentance, or pay attention to any news of pardoning mercy? As far as the terror of the Lord can be of any use to persuade men ; as far as any are to be saved with fear; so far the doctrine that all wil infallibly be saved, tends evidently to prevent men's salvation.
Instead of thirking it strange therefore, that men who have any universal benevolence should be opposed to this doctrine ; it may well be thought wonderful, that the bold propagation of so fatal a delusion, should not excite a more general alarm, and awaken a much warmer opposition! It looks as if few understood and believed the scriptures; or as if there were little concern among us for the salvation of souls, or even for the present good of society. .
2. If any ask in earnest what they shall do to be saved, our subject furnishes an answer ; that to be in the serious use of all proper means to come to the knowledge of the truth, is one thing necessary.
This is the counsel of Solomon : “ Take fast hold of instruction ; let her not go : keep her ; for she is thy life.” And he represents instruction in wisdom, as saying, “ Blessed is he that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.”
Think not that coming to the necessary knowledge of what you are to believe, concerning God, and Christ, and yourselves, is an easy acquisition. The way in which the Bible encourages us to expect the attainment of this knowledge, is to cry after it, and lift up our voice for it ; to seek it as silver, and search for it as for bid treasures.
3. From the things now said it may be seen, that we ought to be as universal in our prayers and endeavors for the salvation of men, as if we believed that all mankind were to be saved. We are not indeed to pray, or desire, that God would save the whole world, when we are persuaded he hath determined the contrary. But there is no man on earth for whom we should not pray, or whose salvation we should not promote, as far as we have power and opportunity. Since we know not which of mankind will be saved, and which will not, we may warrantably desire and seek the salvation of every one, individually considered. And we know that this is God's commanding will to us; whatever may be the secret counsel of his will, respecting his own bestowment of saving grace.
Let it then be our heart's desire and prayer to God, for all sorts of men, that they may be saved. And let us, in a particular manner, pray for kings, consuls, presidents, and all that are in authority ; since their influence will be great, for the furtherance or obstruction of the gospel. Let us pray that they may be christians, if they are not ; and if they are, that they may act more like christians. That they may be nursing fathers to the trųe church ; and not treat the religion of Christ with neglect, because his kingdom is not of this world.
And let us spare no reasonable pains or expense, that the gospel may be preached to every human creature ; and that every one, both in heathen lands, and among ourselves, may be recovered from the errors of his thoughts and ways, to the wisdom of the just. There has been of late an uncommon spirit of exertion awakened, both in Europe and America, for a more extensive promulgation of the gospel, in the dark places of the earth. And certainly, there is a loud call upon christians, who are able, to contribute liberally to the furtherance of so laudable a design. But even among ourselves, great exertions are still necessary, lest gross darkness should cover the people; and lest, while the gospel is sent to others, the truth and purity of it should be taken from us. Many are the instructions which cause to err from the words of knowledge. Many, from a misunder. standing of the first principles of christianity, are fall. ing off into fatal systems of delusion on every side, God seems to be now saying to his evangelical ministers, as it is in Hosea; “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” And as he says in Isaiah; “ Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-blocks out of the way of my people.”
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