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If a man's life be bad, his faith cannot be such as it should be; if a man's life be truly christian, it is a good sign his faith is so too; that therefore which I would most earnestly press upon you, and which I would charge myself with, is this:-1st, To examine every man himself, and consider the great truths which we know, and profess to believe. And 2dly, To examine very particularly what effect this faith has upon our lives?
To begin with what we know and believe concerning ourselves; that is, that we are a race of sinful creatures, sadly fallen from the condition in which we were most certainly at first created; that we have within us the seed of every sin whatever; that we are prone to evil continually; that we are by nature the children of wrath; and that, as such, God can take no pleasure in us.
Will it not be expected, that every one, who knows and believes this, should be very humble, and very thankful to God, who did not overlook lost mankind, when they had brought themselves into this sad condition.
In the next place, we profess to believe, that we are in this life in a state of trial, in order to mend our corrupt nature, that we may be capable of that happiness for which God at first created us.
Will any Christian, who professeth to believe this, and that he is utterly unfit for heaven anti his nature be mended; will he, notwith standing, sit still, and be unconcerned, and lose this time of trial, and defeat the gracious designs of God; and live only to make his condition
worse, by contracting evil habits, and offending his Maker continually?
Every Christian must see, that such a belief, and such a life, are most hateful to God; and that such a Christian (if he will call himself a Christian) is in a much worse condition than the most abandoned heathen.
We all believe, and know for certain, that all mankind are under the righteous sentence of death; that this sentence is sure to be executed, but at a time we know not of; and that, when we die, we shall either be very happy or very miserable for ever and ever.
Now, will any Christian, who professeth in earnest to believe this, live as if we were never to die; or will he think it best to endeavour to lose the remembrance of death, and of what must follow, by diverting himself with other fooleries, by the hurry of business, or by bewitching pleasures?
Is this the behaviour of thoughtful people? very far from it. You will be convinced it is not, if will you go and see a serious Christian labouring under any mortal ailment, which he is sure will put an end to his life in a month's time, or perhaps sooner; you will find such a man very serious, very indifferent for all the profits or pleasures, this world can afford him; resolving to do every thing that may recommend him to the favour of God, whenever he shall die: and you would count him worse than a madman, if you should find him otherwise disposed, if should find him under no concern for his soul, but by all manner of ways
diverting his thoughts from what is sure to befal him, whether he thinks of it or not.
And yet the generality of Christians will not consider, that this is their own case. They believe, they know, they are sure, they must die, and sooner perhaps than they imagine. The gospel, which they say they believe, tells them what for certain must follow; either eternal happiness, if they have led good lives, or eternal misery, if they die unconverted: and yet they put the thoughts of death far from them, because they will not prepare for it; at the same time they would die with fear, if they did not hope to be saved.
But be assured of it, Christians, that no man must flatter himself with these hopes. He only who is convinced of his own misery and danger, through the corruption of his nature, and understanding, by his Christian faith, the way to get out of this sad condition; he only who can sincerely resolve-I must not, I dare not, I will not, be any longer indifferent how I lead my life; life; I will, through the grace of God, live by faith; I will endeavour to know what God requires me to do, what I may hope for, if I strive to please him, and what I am to fear, if I continue to provoke him by my sins.
Every Christian, who thus believes, resolves, and lives accordingly, is in the way of salvation.
We come now to consider, what we believe concerning God, that we may know whether our faith be such as it should be.
We believe that God is infinitely great and
good; and that we stand indebted to him for every thing we have, or value, or hope for.
Now, let us consider, if we were half so much obliged to any man on earth, how highly should we value him; how dearly should we love him; how much should we think of him; how should we strive to please him; and how should we be troubled, when we should be so unhappy as to offend him! Why now, Christians, if you thus believe, if you thus value, if you thus love, and desire to please God, and are careful not to offend him, your faith hath its saving fruits; it is such as it should be.
To proceed:-You believe of God, that he is most holy; and that as such he cannot but be displeased with every thing that is impure or wicked. Fix this truth in your heart; and your faith will keep you at the greatest distance from all sins of impurity and uncleanness, and from all temptations that lead to them; especially when the same faith assures you, that such sins, if not bitterly repented of, will not only shut you out of heaven, but will cause you to have your portion with unclean devils.
You profess to believe that God is infinitely just, and that he hates all injustice, oppression, and wrong. Now, if you really believe this of God, you will never suffer yourself to be led, through covetousness, malice, or revenge, to injure any man living.
We all profess to believe, that God sees every thing that passes in the world; that the very thoughts of our hearts, our most secret designs, are known to him: and ought not every Christ
ian, who believes this, to live and act as having God the constant witness of his conduct?
Lastly; we have the liberty, through faith, to call, to apply, to this great, this good, this just, this holy God, as to a father. A most glorious privilege this, provided we live so as becomes the dutiful children of so good, so great, so holy a father; provided we resolve, with those mentioned in the Book of Wisdom,* We will not sin knowing that we are accounted thine. And are we not under the greatest obligations to do so, when, by our own confession, he can reward or punish men beyond what they can conceive?
So that if our faith in God be such as it should be, we should part with any thing, as dear as a right hand or a right eye, rather than displease, rather than provoke, this great, and good, and holy God.
We now come to examine our faith in Jesus Christ; and that we may see whether our faith be right, by the fruits it produceth.
We profess to believe what Jesus Christ has made known to us,† That no man can come unto God, but by him; he being the way, the truth, and the life; that is, the author of the way, the teacher of the truth, and the giver of life. That God has given him power over all flesh.‡ That therefore, as we believe in God, we must believe also in him. For that it would be but an uncomfortable article of faith, for a sinner to believe in a God who is holy, just, and powerful, and who hateth all iniquity, if he did not know how to make his peace with him.
* Chap. xv. 2.
+ John xiv. 6.
1 John xvii. 2.