Page images
PDF
EPUB

godliness must be, or from whence the nature and signs of it may be inferred by just consequence, and often occasionally mention many things which do appertain to godliness; but they do also often, of set purpose, give signs and marks for the trial of professors, putting them upon trying themselves by the signs they give, introducing what they say, with such like expressions as these : “ By this you shall know, that you know God : By this are manifest the children of God, and the children of the devil : He that hath this, builds on a good foundation ; he that hath it not, builds on the sand : Hereby we shall assure our hearts : He is the man that loveth Christ,” &c. But I can find no place, where either Christ or his apostles do, in this manner, give signs of godliness, (though the places are many) but where Christian practice is almost the only thing insisted on. Indeed, in many of these places, love to the brethren is spoken of as a sign of godliness; and, as I have observed before, there is no one virtuous affection, or disposition, so often expressly spoken of as a sign of true grace, as our having love one to another : But then the scriptures explain themselves to intend chiefly this love as exercised and expressed in practice, or in deeds of love. So does the Apostle John, who, above all others, in sists on love to the brethren as a sign of godliness, most ex: pressly explain himself, in that i John iii. 14, &c. “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren : He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelļeth the love of God in him ? My little children, let us love, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed (i. e. in deeds of love) and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts be: fore him." So that when the scripture so much insists on our loving one another, as a great sign of godliness, we are not thereby to understand the immanent workings of affection which men feel one to another, so much as the soul's practising all the duties of the second table of the law ; all which the New Tostament tells us again and again, a true love one

to another comprehends, Rom. xii. 8, and 10, Gal. v. i4, Matth. xxii. 39, 40. So that, really there is no place in the New Testament where the declared design is to give signs of godiiness, but that holy practice, and keeping Christ's commandments, is the mark chosen out from all others to be insisted on. Which is an invincible argument, that it is the chief of all the evidences of godliness : Unless we suppose that when Christ and his apostles, on design set themselves about this business of giving signs, by which professing Christians, in all ages, might determine their state ; they did not know how to choose signs so well as we could have chosen for them. But, if we make the word of Christ our ruie, then undoubtedly those marks which Christ and his apostles did chiefly lay down, and give to us, that we might try ourselves by them, those same marks we ought especially to receivc, and chiesly to make use of, in the trial of our selves. * And surely those things, which Christ and his apostles chiefly insisted on, in the rules they gave, ministers ought chiefly to insist on in the rules they give. To insist much on those things that the scripture insists little on, and to insist very liitle on those things on which the scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing ; because it is going out of God's way, and is to judge ourselves, and guide others, in an unscriptural manner. God knew which way of leading and guiding souls was safest and best for them : He insisted so much on some things, because he knew it to be needful that they should be insisted on; and let other things more alone as a wise God, because he knew it was not best for us, so mucli to lay the weight of the trial there. As the Sab: bath was made for man, so the scriptures were made for man ; and they are, by infinite wisdom, fitted for our use and benefit. We should, therefore, make them our guide in all things, in our thoughts of religion, and of ourselves. And for us to make that great which the scripture makes little,

*" It is a sure rule, says Dr. Preston, that, what the scriptures bestoy much words on, we should have much thoughts on : And what the Holy Ghost urgeth most, we should prize most." Church's Carriage,

and that little which the scripture makes great, tends to give us a monstrous idea of religion ; and (at least indirectly and gradually) to lead us wholly away from the right rule, and from a right opinion of ourselves, and to establish delusion and hypocrisy.

ARGUMENT V .....Christian practice is plainly spoken of in the word of God, as the main evidence of the truth of grace, not only to others, but to men's own consciences. It is not only more spoken of and insisted on than other signs, but in many places where it is spoken of, it is represented as the chief of all evidences. This is plain in the manner of expression from time to time. If God were now to speak from heaven to resolve our doubts concerning signs of godliness, and should give some particular sign, that by it all might know whether they were sincerely godly or not, with such emphatical expressions as these, the man that has such a qualification or mark, “that is the man that is a true saint, that is the very man, by this you may know, this is the thing by which it is manifest who are saints and who are sinners, such men as these are saints indeed ;" should not we look upon it as a thing beyond doubt, that this was given as a special, and eminently distinguishing note of true godliness? But this is the very case with respect to the sign of grace I am speaking of; God has again and again uttered himself in his word in this very manner, concerning Christian practice, as John xiv. “ he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” Thus Christ in this place gives to ihe disciples, not so much to guide them in judging of others, as to apply to themselves for their own comfort af. ter his departure, as appears by every word of the context And by the way I would observe, that not only the emphasis with which Christ utters himself is remarkable, but also his so much insisting op, and repeating the matter, as he does in the context; verse 15.“ If ye love me, keep my commandments. Verse 23. If a man love me, he will keep my words. And verse 24. He that loveth me not, kecpeth not my sayings. And in the next chapter over and over ; verse 2. Eve ery branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away ; and

every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it. Verse 8, Herein is my Father glorificd, that ye bear much fruit, so shall yc be my disciples. Verse 14. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. We have this mark laid down with the same emphasis again, John viii. 31. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. And again, 1 John ii. 3, hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. And verse 5. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we, that we are in him. And chapter iii. 18, 19, let us love in deed, and, in truth; hereby we know that we are of the truth.” What is translated hereby would have been a little more emphatical, if it had been rendered more literally from the original, by this we do know.....And how evidently is holy practice spoken as the grand note of distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil, in verse 10, of the same chapter ? « In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” Speaking of a holy, and a wicked practice, as may be seen in all the context ; as verse 3. “ Every man that hathi this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Verse 6.... 10. “ Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not; whosoever sinnetb, hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous : He that committeth sin is of the devil..... Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not..... Whosoever doth not righteousness, is not of God. So we have the like emphasis, 2 John, 6. This is love, that we walk after his commandments; that is as (as we must understand it) this is the proper evidence of love. So 1 Jolin v. iii. This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” So the Apostle James, speaking of the proper evidences of true and pure religion, says, James i, 27. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their amiction, and to kcep himself unspotted from the world.” We have the like emphatical espressions used about the same thing in the Old Testament, Job xxviii. 28. “ And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of

the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. Jer. xxii. 15, 16. Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice? He judged the cause of tho poor and needy: Was not this to know me? Saith the Lord. Psal. xxxiv. 11, &c. Come, ye children, unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.....Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guilc ; depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

it.” Psal. xv, at the beginning, « Who shall abide in thy tabernacle ? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill ? He that walketh uprightly, &c. Psal. xxiv. 3, 4. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? And who shall stand in his holy place ? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, &c. Psal. cxix. 1. Blessed are the unde filed in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Verse vi. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commandments. Proy. viii. 13. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil."

So the scripture never uses such emphatical expressions concerning any other signs of hypocrisy, and unsoundness of heart, as concerning an unholy practice. So Gal. vi. 7. “ Be not deceived ; God is not mocked ; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Be not deceived ; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God. Eph. v. 5, 6. For this ye know, that no whoremonger nor unclean person, &c. hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. 1 John iii. 7, 8. Little children, let no man deceive you ; he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous; he that committeth sin, is of the devil. Chap. ii. 4. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. And chap. i. 6. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. James i. 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Chap. iii. 14, 15. If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom decendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, dey.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »