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ceding pages are not so much intended for the use of newly awakened persons, as for more established Christians; and especially for those who, by office or in charity, instruct and converse frequently with persons thus circumstanced. Indeed discussions on such topicks cannot be fully understood, except by those "who by rea
son of use have their senses exercised to discern good “ and evil :" and of course they are generally improper for the new-born babe. But the instructions publickly or privately given to enquirers, will accord to the sentiments and judgment of real Christians, and especially those of the pastors of the Lord's flock: whatever therefore tends to a sound understanding of Scripture, among those who already believe the gospel, will conduce to prevent self-deception in others, when first entering on a religious profession. And pretention is almost our only hope: for the most able and experienced ministers have agreed, that the undeceiving of one, whom satan has soothed into a false peace by an unsound profession of the gospel, is a thing which very seldom occurs.
It is commonly indeed answered, that many will deceive themselves, however we state and explain the doctrine of faith :' but surely we should dread, as the most awful calamity, being in any degree accessory to the destructive delusion! And if we do not dread it on their account; we have proportionable need to be alarmed on our own, lest “ their blood should be required at our “hands.” Even when the good seed, unmingled with tares, is sown; the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, the wiles of the tempter, and the fascinations of the world, will influence many to“ speak peace to them“ selves, when there is no peace :” but “ while the ser
rants slept the enemy sowed the tares; and all their subsequent vigilance could not eradicate them; for these “ children of the wicked one” must be left intermixed with true believers till the harvest. Some good men indeed, in their earnestness to gather up the tares, have endangered the wheat, and offended against the gene“ration of God's children:” bút may not vigilance and caution be used by way of prevention, without the least danger of that kind ?
If we do not, in the most careful and explicit manner, explain what we mean by salvation, and by faith; satan will prevail with men to catch at peace
and comfort prematurely, and to use our words for this purpose: and thus we shall incur the charge of "healing their hurt
deceitfully,” by speaking peace when there is no "peace." Men are exceedingly apt to conclude, even when the utmost caution is used in stating the doctrines of the gospel, that exemption from punishment and a title to future happiness constitute the whole of salvation, and that confidence in Christ to save them from' wrath and bring them to heaven, though they do not concur in other respects with the design of his incarnation and mediation, is faith in him. And if they once get so thoroughly possessed of these notions, through our inaccuracy and incautious language, as to quiet their consciences by them : whenever we afterwards insist on the fruits of faith, and its sanctifying effects in holy tempers and good works; they will (not altogether without reason,) charge us with inconsistency; and meet with numbers to encourage them in exclaiming against all these exhortations, as legal, and as tending to bring them into bondage.--So that while it is allowed that many, who give a very different description of faith from that which is here maintained, bestow much pains to guard their doctrine from abuse, and clearly shew that true faith always produces holiness : it is also asserted that 'in these attempts, they deviate from their own previous definition of faith, and substitute another idea in its place. True believers are doubtless holy in proportion to the degree of their faith: and if their hope be scriptural, the more assured it is, the more “ stedfast, unmovea“ble, and earnestly abounding in the work of the Lord,” they will certainly be found. But we enquire, whether many do not “ think themselves something when they
are nothing, and so deceive themselves ?” Whether many, who disclaim good works, do not satisfy their minds with visionary impulses, enthusiastical raptures, and a change of creed; though strangers to that holy calling of which the apostle spoke'? Whether there be
1 2 Tim. i. g.
not a dead faith as well as a living faith? Whether the former be not often more confident than the latter? Whether there be not a groundless presumption, as well
a hope that maketh not ashamed ?” And whether an unholy faith and confidence can be sanctifying? It is true that several of the persons, to whom these questions are proposed, are completely exculpated from all intention to loosen the believer's obligation to obedience: but good men may endorse and give currency to bad bills; and thus incautiously aid the dishonest to defraud their unsuspecting neighbours. Nor let it be forgotten, that we can only judge of the tendency of the doctrine, and are not at all required to decide on the intention of the teacher.
Shrewd men of corrupt minds, such “ as privily bring “ in damnable heresies," “ teaching things which they “ ought not, for filthy lucre's sake,” or from ambition and love of popularity, will avail themselves of every expression in the works of respectable writers, which can be made to serve their pernicious purposes. They will detach them from their connexion, explain them in their own way, and draw such inferences from them, as the Authors of them most heartily abhorred: and this especially after they are dead, and cannot explain themselves. And superficial readers or hearers, who want a cheap opiate to quiet conscience, will be emboldened, by a name of established reputation, to drink the fatal poison. The book whence the passage is quoted, and which, if fairly consulted, would furnish an antidote, is meanwhile neglected; and thus" satan, transformed into an “ angel of light,”: deceives the soul of the unwary.
Even while the apostles were yet alive, it was needful to guard professed christians against being " deceived “ by vain words:" nay,
perverse minds” distorted the very languaye of inspiration to bring on others and “on themselves, swift destruction.” We ought therefore to be extremely circumspect, not "to give oc“casion to those that seek occasion:" and we are expressly commanded to gather up the stumbling-blocks ** out of the way," of those who enquire after salvation. The enemy will, if possible, sow tares; he will do it while we sleep, by his own servants: but his triumph is in this respect complete, when he can prevail with the ministers of Christ to mix tares with the wheat, which they sow in their Master's field.
Ifit has then been proved that saving faith is a holy exercise of the soul, it is certainly of the greatest importance that this should be clearly understood; and that the servants of the Lord should be fully aware of the consequences which result from a contrary representation, and even from incautious and unguarded expressions on the subject. Without embarrassing enquirers by distinctions which they cannot possibly understand ; if a holy faith were constantly described in its nature and effects, and a holy salvation uniformly set before our auditories ; and if men were earnestly cautioned to beware of counterfeits, awakened persons would be far less liable to be deceived by a dead faith into vain confidence, than they are when such precautions are neglected. Without directly adverting to their own case, they would thus be imperceptibly formed to an habitual conviction, that salvation from wrath is inseparably connected with salvation from sin; and that true faith receives Christ in his whole character, and in all his offices, with cordial approbation and gratitude; and is in these respects widely different from a mere assent of the understanding to the doctrines of the gospel.
II. We insist on this subject thus earnestly, for the sake of such as are without. If men take offence at the real gospel of Christ, they alone are answerable for it: but if we state things unscripturally, and so needlessly stumble and prejudice them, we become accessory to their destruction. Now, they that are without are liable to be stumbled in various ways by the subject before us. The doctrine of salvation of free. grace, through faith alone, by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and an interest in his atonement, and not in any sense-by our own works, is sufficiently offensive to the pride and carnal enmity of man's heart, and entirely contrary to all his vain reasonings and imaginations. This cannot be avoided; and we ought not to keep back, or modify, any
part of the truth, to render it more palatable. But it must tend exceedingly to increase the prejudices of car- ' nal men against the gospel, (especially those of the more moral, sensible, and respectable among them,) if we maintain that saving faith is not holy in its nature: that it precedes repentance, and completely justifies the man, who to that moment has been destitute of godly sorrow for sin, and every degree of a disposition to amend his life; and that he is actually reconciled to God, as pardoned, accepted, and received to full
favour, before he begins to repent or to do works meet for repentance! Yet all this and much more to the same purpose may be collected from the scattered passages, contained in the writings of those who have espoused this cause; and not merely inferred from their principles ! Worldly men will not annex our appropriate ideas to the expressions we use : but they will generally put the least favourable construction on them of which they are capable, and then draw their own conclusions. Indeed facts demonstrate, that numbers, viewing Christianity only at a distance, are set against the gospel by those distorted representations of it, for which some pious men zealously contend! Many know enough of the Scriptures to perceive, that the doctrines of Christianity are there stated very differently, from what they hear or read in the discourses of several among those, who almost exclusively assume the title of evangelical. And being satisfied that some of their sentiments are unscriptural, their dislike to the whole plan. of the gospel shelters itself under that conviction : and supposing that they are only averse to the errors of the system, which in all respects they really dislike; they adhere to their own forms and notions with more decided self-congratulation. Others, on the contrary, perceiving that the doctrines justly called evangelicat, are certainly contained in the Scriptures, and hearing such exceptionable inférences drawn from them, hastily conclude, according to the dictates of a proud and carnal heart, that Christianity is chargeable with the whole, and that such a religion cannot be from God! Thus they are. prepared to hearken to the insinuations of infidels; who are more indebted for their success to the follies and vices