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scarce; and that most of those, who are called Christians, are wholly strangers to this habitual purpose and conduct. The few, who answer the description, are not confined to any single sect, but are scattered about in the visible church, as “ men wondered at” for their singularity and preciseness. Now, at whatever period of life any man is thus brought " to seek glory, and honour, “and immortality,” he enters on a new state, and constitutes a new character: “ being made free “ from sin, he becomes the servant of God, has “ his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting
These persons seek the desired good“ by patient “continuance in well doing.” A sinner cannot be said “ to do well,” until he humbles himself before God for his transgressions, mourns for them in true repentance, confesses them with self-abhorrence and a sincere purpose of forsaking them, and seeks mercy in the way which God hath appointed, for the glory of his own name and the honour of his violated law. A rebel can do nothing well so long as he vindicates and persists in his rebellion, refuses mercy because the terms of it are too humiliating, and is wholly averse to submission and renewed allegiance. The prodigal son, when he “ came to himself,” and determined to return home and humbly crave his father's forgiveness, began “ to do well.” The proud morality, formal devotion, or ostentatious liberality of an impenitent sinner will never meet the approbation of that God, who sent his Son into the world, “ not to call the righteous but sinners to “ repentance.” Humble penitents, and they alone,
begin to answer to the character described by the apostle.
All such persons will likewise credit the testimony of God concerning his Son, and the way of acceptance through his atonement and mediation. Whatever modern reasoners may plausibly advance concerning the innocence of error,' and the small importance of doctrinal truth: the inspired writers uniformly consider unbelief as springing from an evil heart; and false doctrines, as “ damnable heresies,” and “strong delusions," which God permits for the punishment of those who hate the truth, because they love sin. “How “ can ye believe, who receive honour one of ano“ther?" “ This is the condemnation, that light “is come into the world, and men love darkness “ rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting “ life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not
see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”l This is a fair specimen of the scriptural declarations on this subject; and, as Christ“ is the way, the
truth, and the life, and no man cometh to the “ Father but by him ;" we may assuredly infer that no one“ does well,” according to the apostle's meaning, who believes not in the Son of God, but refuses to seek eternal life as the gift of God in him.
The Lord hath instituted in his holy word certain ordinances, as means of grace to our souls, and that in them we may render him the glory due unto his name. The characters of whom we speak will certainly honour the Lord and seek his
John ïïi. 16–21, 36.
blessing, by a diligent and conscientious observance of these ordinances. They will also separate from bad company, avoid temptations and occasions of sin, exercise self-denial, and renounce all pleasures or interests, which interfere with the exercise of divine love and the “ obedience of faith ;" and they will prove the sincerity of their religious profession, by observing the directions, and copying the example of the Lord Jesus, and by walking in newness of life.
Numbers, like the stony ground-hearers, shew much earnestness in these things, and express great confidence and joy; yet they are “partial” in obedience, and “ continue but for a time.” They readily perform such duties as are creditable, cheap, and easy; but they refuse to part with Herodias, or to cut off the offending right hand; they do not mortify constitutional or customary evils, reject unhallowed gain, venture the displeasure of rich and powerful friends, or attend to those things in religion, which would expose them to contempt, reproach, and hardship. Thus they maintain a religious profession while exempted from peculiar trials; and many pass through life unsuspected by themselves or others : but," if persecution or tri“ bulation arise because of the word, by and by" persons of this character “ are offended.”—On the contrary, they, of whom we now speak, have “ re“ceived the good seed into an honest and good “ heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” They are not partial in their religion, but shew themselves the friends of Christ by doing whatsoever he commands them. They have indeed many infirmities, and may fall into sin through inadver
tency; they may even live in some sinful neglect or practice, through ignorance or mistake; but they cannot habitually commit known sin. They search out thcir faults; and, as they discover any, repent of and forsake them.
" Their hearts are “sound in the Lord's statutes, and they shall “ never be ashamed."
In this course of believing obedience, the disciples of Christ encounter many temptations, struggle with various discouragements, and are exposed to sharp trials. The contempt and hatred of the world, the assaults of the tempter, the peculiarities of their circumstances, dispositions, and habits, and the chastisements of their heavenly Father, combine to try their patience. Perseverance and constancy, in following the dictates of conscience, expose them to the charge of obstinacy and perverseness, or subject them to heavy losses and difficulties; while inward conflicts, permitted to humble and prove them, sometimes make them ready to faint and despond. Yet they“ patiently “ continue in well-doing ;” they submit to the will of God under afflictions, meekly bear injuries, wait the appointed time for the fulfilment of the Lord's promises, and persevere in the path of upright obedience. They seek for blessings which cannot be expected in any other way: and are ready to say, “ Lord to whom shall we go? thou “ hast the words of eternal life.” Their religion resembles a river, which still continues to flow, though sometimes with a fuller current, and at others with a diminished stream: while that of the hypocrite resembles a land-flood, now impetuously deluging the fields, and then wholly dis
appearing. But to those who thus“ patiently “ continue in well-doing,” and to them only, will the righteous Judge at last assign the eternal inheritance. " He that continueth to the end shall « be saved."
We need not enlarge on the reverse of this character.“ Unto them that are contentious, and do “ not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness;
indignation and wrath ; tribulation and anguish
upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Such persons, instead of believing the gospel, and in humble repentance embracing the promised salvation," contend” against it,“ contradicting and “blaspheming.” They dispute against the strictness of the divine law or justice, and the sentence denounced against transgressors. They oppose their own reasonings against the express testimony of God, in respect of the mysteries of redemption ; and venture to “ charge him foolishly,” as if they were more wise and righteous than He. Being thus “contentious,” “they do not obey the truth; they will not submit to God, repent of sin, believe in Christ, separate from the world, or “walk in “newness of life.” For “ they obey unrighteous
ness :" sin, in one form or other, has dominion over them; and their unbelief is the effect of a depraved heart and a rebellious will, which it tends reciprocally to confirm and render more desperate. To all these the righteous Judge will recompense “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; not regarding their outward privileges or distinctions, but deciding impartially according to their works : for, “ there is no respect of persons with " God.”—Let us then,