Page images
PDF
EPUB

The same defects are likewife found in the unfound believer with respect to his love to his neighbour. If he be not (as its too commonly found) unjust and de. ceitful, wiathful, and contentious, hard-hearted and un: kind, bitter and cenforious, revengeful and implacable, yet he never loves the children of God as fuch. W bat ever love he may have to any fuch from special intimate acquaintance, or from their being in the fame cause, party, or persuafion with himfelf (which is indeed no more than the exercise of self-love or felf esteem) he never loves the image of Christ in every fect or party, in whom he finds it, nor can he love a conformity to the children of God in the holiness of their hearts and lives.

Here then you fee an apparent difference in these two forts of believers. The one loves God above all things: and indeed he that does not love him with a supreme love, does not love him as God; and confequently does not love him at all. But the other feeks the favour of God, from no other motive but fear of his displeasure, or fome desire of happiness ; and not from fenfe of the excellency of his glorious perfections, and the blessed. ness of an interest in his favour. The one loves what God loves ; hates what he hates ; and loves and efteems Himself but in proportion to his conformity unto God. The other retains his delight in his lusts and idols; and repairs to God because he durft nos do otherwise. The one, like God himfelf, takes pleasure in doing good to all men; and takes fpecial delight in all without distinction, who are partakers of the divine nature. The other at the bek has his love to man influenced by selfiltı principles: and therefore takes most delight in those, who are most conformable to his own sentiments or dispositions.

Left I should weary out your patience, I fhall just. mention but this one particular more.

6. A faving faith humbles the foul, and makes it low and vile in its own eyes: whereas a dead faith tends to exalt the mind with vain apprehensions of, or endeavours after, fome fufficiency or excellency of its own. The true believer bas a deep sense of the greatness and aggravations of his fins, loathes himself on account of them; and adores the patience and long-suffering of

God towards him, that has kept him out of hell. He is fo sensible of the great defects of his duties, of the finfulness of his heart, the imperfections of his life, and his utter unworthiness of any favour from God, that he can. not but entertain a most deep and sensible impression, that it must be a wonderful display of mere fovereign grace, if ever he obtains falvation. It is ahvays true, that the greater manifestation of God's love is made to his soul, the greater fense he hath of his own nothing. ness and unworthiness, and the more he admires and aldores the astonifhing riches of free diftinguishing grace to such a guilty polluted creature as he is. Though the true believer lives in the exercise of that charity towards others, which thinketh no evil, but believeth all things, and hopeth all things : yer he always finds occasion to condemn himfelf, and to cenfure his own inward affections, and outward performances, religious daties, and moral conduct; and therefore cannot but esteem others better than himself. In fhort, the true believer always, while in this tabernacle, groans being burdened. He finds occasions of a renewed repentance every day : he every day finds .new caose to complain of himself; and new cause to commit a finful and unworthy soul to the mere mercy of God in Chrift.

On the contrary, a dead faith always either puffs up the vain mind with a haughty pleasing apprehension of its own attainments, makes it cenforious and uncharitable, and inspires it with that proud Pharisaical language, I thank God, tam not as other men : or elfe from the fame haughty principle, either leaves the soul secure and easy, in its good designs and purposes of future repen. tance; or impatient and defponding, through want of those good qualifications which it supposes neceffary,

I think I need not enlarge upon this diftin&ion; it is fo apparent and manifeft, and the characters fo easy to be known.

And now, Sir, to sum up the whole in a short and easy view. If you have good evidence of a saving faith in Christ, you must have such a fenfible impression of the truth of the gospel, as makes you feel the importance of

concerns,

and your necefsity of an inte. relt in Chrift; and puts your soul upon carnett and active

[ocr errors]

your eternal

desires after him, as your only hope and-safety. You must heartily approve the way of salvation which the gospel reveals ; and heartily consent to the terms on which it is offered. You must accept of Christ as a free gift; bringing nothing with you of your own, to recommend you to his acceptance. You must accept of him as your only righteousness to justify you before God; and as your prince, as well as Saviour ; confenting as well to be governed as to be saved, to be fanctified as to be justified by him. And as you must receive him, so you muft confidently trust in him alone, as a fure foun. dation of safety and hope; and as a continuing fountain of all fupplies of grace to your soul, whatever difficulties and discouragements you may meet with. And you must have this standing evidence of the fincerity of your faith, that it purifies your heart; and brings you to an carnet delire of, and endeavour after, habitual holinefs of heart and life: tlsat it works by love to God and man; and keeps up in your soul an abasing sense of your own vileness and utter unworthiness, after all. This is that precious faith, to which the promises of the gospel are made, and to which no false profeffor can make any just pretence.

To conclude with a still shorter view of this case, when a realizing belief of the gospel, and a despair of all help in yourself brings you to repair to Christ as your only safety; and to venture your soul, guilty as it is, u. pon the merit of his obedience, the sufficiency of his grace and strength, and the faithfulness of his promise : and heartily to submit to his rule and government, now you cannot fail of the fanctifying influences of his Spiiit, to qualify you for the eternal inheritance: For the Amen, the true and faithful witness, has given you his word for it, that if you thus come to him, he will in no wife cast you cut.

I might füm up this important point in a yet shorter view. If you so heartily approve of, and delight in the gospel-way of salvation by Christ alone, that you can chearfully venture your soul and your eternal interests upon it, as the fure and only foundation of hope and Safety, you have then the faith of God's elect. And in this cafe he that has bestowed such grace upon your

[ocr errors]

will carry on his own work in your soul, will give you those several qualifications and evidences of a gracious state, which I have before described ; and will at last present you faultless before his throne, with exceeding jay. That you may have the delightful experience of such a progress of grace in your soul, is the prayer of,

Sir,

Yours, . LETTER IX, Wherein the DIFFERENCE be.

tween a LEGAL and an EVANGELICAL R£PENTANCE is distinctly confidered.

[ocr errors]

SIR,

TOU juftly observe, It is of infinite concern, that

your repentance towards God (as well as your faish towards the Lord Jesus Chrilt) be fincere; and

that you have therefore cause to be folicitous, not to be • deceived with a repentance which must be repented

óf.' And you have therefore just seafoor to desire « a clear apprehension of the difference between a legal and an evangelical repentance.' I shalf therefore en i deavour according to your desire, 'to shew you the dif'ference, in as easy and familiar a light as I can." And perhaps it may give you a clearer view of the case, if I fhould thew you first negatively, wherein the distinction does not confift, under a few particulars, before I proceed to a direct illustration of it.

It may then be observed, that a deep distress of mind on account of sinning against God, is common both to a legal and evangelical repentance. Even Judas could crv out with agony of foul, I have sinned in betraying innocent blood, as well as the Psalmist groans out his complaint, that there was no rest in his bones because of kis fins. A distresfing sense of sin, in itself considered, is therefore no evidence for nor against the truth and fincerity of repentance.

Moreover a fearful apprehension of the divine displeasure, may be common to both forts of penitents. Mere legal convictions may make finners in Zion afraid, and fearfulness surprize the hypocrite; And destruction from

God may be a terror to a holy Job, in as great reality, though not with such despairing infidelity, as to a Cain or Judas ; but this can be no distinguishing mark of a true or false repentance.

I may add, dread of, and a temporary reformation from outward and known courses of sinning, may like. wise be the consequence of both a legal and evangelical repentance. Ahab humbled himself, lay in fackloth, and went softly; and Herod reformed many things, as well as David refrain'd his feet from every evil way. It's impossible for a sinner to give the reins to his lusts, while under the severe lashes of an awaken'd conscience : that a mere legal conviction must, while it lastes, procure an external reformation. Such a reformation, of itself, can therefore be no evidence of a sincere repentance, how great foever it may appear, and be sure it can be no evidence against it.

Besides, men may be put upon diligence and activity in duty, by both a legal and evangelical repentance. An unsincere repentance may bring men with the hypocritical Jews, to seek the Lord daily ; and delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness. In their afflictions they may seek bim early. They may seek him and return; and enquire early after God.' This may be the fruit of a legal repentance : as well as that a true repentance may and always does bring men to lift up their hearts and their hands to God in the heavens. This therefore can be no distinguishing criterion, in the case before us.

Once more, a comforting persuasion of having obtained pardoning mercy, is common to both kinds of penitents. God's ancient peop!e, when most incorrigible in their impiety, would trust in lying words, come and Nand before him in the house that was called by his name, and say, we are delivered to do all these abominations. The Ifraelites in the wilderness concluded, that God was their Rock, and the most high God their Redeemer, when they flattered him with their lips, and lyed to him with their tongues ; and their hearts were not right with him. And on the other hand, the true penitent may say with David, I laid I will confefs my transgressions' unto the Lord. and thou forgavelt me the iniquity of my fin. A mere

« PreviousContinue »