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of its divine original, to which the Bible lays claim. But it belongs more to our present design to observe, that a person may admit the authenticity and even the inspiration of the scriptures, and yet, as to any spiritual, experimental, and practical view of them, be an unbeliever.
The Apostle describes some who hold* the truth in unrighteousness, Rom. i. 18; who imprison it, as it were, by their other pernicious principles, which they have imbibed, and which, being more suited to their sensual inclinations, they nourish and indulge, to such a degree as to circumvest and keep under those views which they have derived from the gospel. But there are others, who make the truth subservient to the purposes of sin; Jude calls them, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Ver. 4. This is indeed holding the truth in unrighteousness, and receiving it for no other end, than, by a sad prostitution thereof, to cover their sins; to hide the criminality of them, and to enable them the more easily to give enlarged and hellish scope to their unhallowed desires and pursuits. O my soul, come not thou into their secret ; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou
* From xarixw. It is used in a good sense, 1 Thess. V. 21. Hold fast that which is good.
united.-Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. Gen. xlix, 6.
When, moreover, Paul, addressing Titus, says of some, but even their mind and conscience is defiled, he tells us he is speaking of such as were professors; they profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Dr. DODDRIDGE represents these characters as glorying in their relation to God as his peculiar people; * while in their hearts they rancoured against the truth they professed, and in their lives were a disgrace to the very name of believers. From hence we may clearly perceive, that it is most easy to profess religion, and yet our hearts have no experience of its sacred and awakening influence. But what does such a profession avail us? Alas, it saves us not from the love and power of sin here, nor will it in the least benefit us at the bar of God. The passages here cited show us, that persons may outwardly class with the people of God, and at the same time be so desperately in love with sin, as to work all uncleanness with greediness. Eph. iv. 19. And our Lord tells us, that many will say to him in that day, Lord, Lord, to whom he will profess, I never knew you ; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matt. vii. 23.
* Expos. in loco.
It is the peculiar work of faith to purify the heart. This equally applies to Jew and Gentile. Acts xv. 9. We all need it, and it will be sure to discover itself in all who possess it. Whatever profession, then, I make, whatever I do, however I may pass as current among men, I am in God's sight but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, unless I am pure in heart. How many are there, who in our days make profession of love to God, and yet live in every sin that characterizes, those who, are evidently of the world! All the difference perhaps is, that the profession of the one obliges him to be less public in his sin than the other; but he can be equally frothy in worldly company--equally light, gay, and sprightly-enter as deeply into the foolish talking and jesting of the ungodlyfrequent every place of vain amusement and, if detection can be avoided, will even sit in the seat of the scorner! But, supposing the unbeliever may not have gone thus far into the world, yet his attention to religion is confined almost solely to his occupying a place in the assembly of God's people. He never asks how marters stand between God and his soul; he feels no remorse for, or hatred to, sin; if ever he bends the knee before God, it is by constraint, not wil
lingly; his prayer is not the pouring out of the heart before God, but the dull, insipid, and unmeaning offering of the formalist. From the same slavish impulse that he attends to prayer, he may occasionally read a chapter in his family, but, in general, the word of God is neglected. He may find a half awakening thought about his soul, when hearing of the terrors of the Lord, and such seasons may frequently occur; but the vibration soon subsides, and anon he is as true to his religious sloth as the needle is to the polar star. Nothing can long divert him from it: he is wedded to some besetting evil, and he makes every thing, that would disturb his pursuit of it, give place, that he may follow it again. Awful character! and such is the unbeliever; such is the person who hears, and obeys not, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But why, my fellow sinner, why revert again so easily, so frequently, to that path which you know leads to eternal death? is because of unbelief. Did you
believe what hell is, you would so dread it, that, without delay, you would seek deliverance from it: did you believe what sin is, you would hate it with perfect hatred : did you believe what Christ is, as revealed in the gospel, you would instantly, cry, My Lord, and my God : did you believe the happiness found in the ways of religion, you would be daily making it your prayer, that like Enoch of old you might walk with God.
Seek to know the evil of unbelief, The Apostle calls the heart under the influence of it, an evil heart. Heb. iii. 12. And surely nothing can be a greater evil; for it is an opposition to all truth; a sin that derogates from the honour of God, to a greater extent than any other : it is a refusal to acknowledge God in any one of those glorious perfections, which are so fully made known in the Redemption of sinners. It is a denying the whole of the Saviour's precious character, and accounting the office of the Holy Spirit an unnecessary thing.
It is a sin without excuse. We cannot plead want of evidence as to the truth of that which we are called to believe. We have the testimony of Patriarchs and Prophets, who lived and died in the faith of a promised Messiah. Their faith enabled them to see his day : they saw it, and were glad. We have the testimony of Apostles and primitive christians, and of believers in every age subsequent to the ministry of Christ, who have rejoiced in being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Eph. ii. 20. This is a threefold cord which is not quickly broken. Yea, we have the testimony of God himself, who raised up Jesus, whereof