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stress upon it; and yet it is so little regarded, that were we to judge by the practice of christians, one should be tempted to think there were no such verses in the Bible.

But to proceed in the character of an almost christian : If we consider him in respect of himself; as we said he was ftri&tly honest to his neighbour, so he is likewise strictly sober in himself: but then both his honesty and sobriety proceed from the same principle of a false self-love. It is tjue, he runs not into the same excess of riot with other men ; but then it is not out of obedience to the laws of God, but either because his conftitution will not away with intemperance ; or rather because he is cautious of for:eiting his reputation, or unfitting himself for temporal business. But though he is so prudent as to avoid intemperance and excess, for the reasons before mentioned; yet he always goes to the extremity of what is lawful. It is true, he is no drunkard; but then he has no christian self-denial. He cannot think our Saviour to be so auftere a Master, as to deny us to indulge ourselves in some particulars : and so by this means he is destitute of a sense of true religion, as much as if he lived in debauchery, or any other crime whatever. As to settling his principles as well as practice, he is guided more by the world, than by the word of God: for his part, he cannot think the way to heaven so narrow as some would make it; and therefore confiders not so much what scripture requires, as what such and such a good man does, or what will best suit his own corrupt inclinations. Upon this account, he is not only very cautious himself, but likewise very careful of young converts, whose faces are set heavenward; and therefore is always acling the devil's part, and bidding them spare themselves, though they are doing no more than what the scripture stridly requires them to do : The consequence of which is, that “ he fuffers not himself to enter into the kingdom of God, and those that are entering in he hinders.”

Thus lives the almost christian : not that I can say, I have fully described him to you; but from these outlines and sketches of his character, if your consciences have done their proper office, and made a particular application of what has been said to your own hearts, I cannoć but fear that some of you may observe some features in his picture, odious as it is, too near resembling your own; and therefore I cannot but hope, that you will join with the apostle in the words immediately following the text, and wish yourselves “ to be not only almost, but altogether christians.”


II. I proceed to the second general thing proposed to consider the reasons why so many are no more than almost christians.

1. And the firft reason I shall mention is, because so many fet out with false notions of religion ; though they live in a christian country, yet they know not what christianity is. This perhaps may be esteemed

be esteemed a hard saying, but experience sadly evinces the truth of it; for some place religion in being of this or that communion ; more in morality'; moft in a round of duties, and a model of performances; and few, very few acknowledge it to be, what it really is, a thorough inward change of nature, a divine life, a vital participation of Jesus CHRIST, an union of the foul with God; which the apostle expresses by saying, “ He that is joined to the LORD is one fpirit.” Hence it happens, that so many; even of the most knowing professors, when you come to converse with them concerning the effence, the life, the soul of religion, I mean our new birth in Jesus CHRIST, confess themselves, quite ignorant of the matter, and cry out with Nicodemus, “How can this thing be?” And no wonder then, that so many are only almost christians, when so many know not what christianity is: no marvel, that fo many take up with the form, when they are quite strangers to the power of gode liness; or content themselves with the shadow; when they know so little about the substance of it. And this is one cause why so many are almoft, and so few are altogether christians.

2. A second reason that may be affigned why so many are no more than almost christians, is a servile fear of man: multitudes there are and have been, who, though awakened to a sense of the divine life, and have tasted and felt the powers of the world to come; yet out of a base sinful fear of being


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counted singular, or contemned by men, have suffered all those good impressions to wear off. It is true, they have some esteem for Jesus CHRIST; but then, like Nicodemus, they would come to him only by night: they are willing to serve him ; but then they would do it secretly, for fear of the. Jews: they have a mind to see Jesus, but then they cannot come to him because of the press, and for fear of being laughed at, and ridiculed by the fe with whom they used to fit at meat. But well did our Saviour prophesy of such persons, “ How can ye love me, who receive honour one of another ?” Alas ! have they never read, that “the friendship of this world is enmity with God;" and that our LORD himself has threatened, “ Whosoever shall be ashamed of me or of my words, in this wicked and adulterous generation, of him shall the Son of man be alhamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father and of his holy angels ?" No wonder that so many are no more than almost christians, fince so many “ love the praise of men more than the honour which comech of God.”

3. A third reason why so many are no more than almost christians, is a reigning love of money. This was the pitiable case of that forward young man in the gospel, who came running to our blessed Lord, and kneeling before him, enquired " what he must do to inherit eternal life;" to whom our blessed Mafter replied, “ Thou knowelt the commandments, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal:" To which the young man replied, “ All these have I kept from my youth.” But when our LORD proceeded to tell him, “Yet lackest thou one thing; Go fell all that thou haft, and give to the poor ; he was grieved at that saying, and went away sorrowful, for he had great poffeffions !” Poor youth ! he had a good mind to be a christian, and to inherit eternal life, but thought it too dear, if it could be purchased at no less an expence than of his estate! And thus many, buth young and old, now-a-days, come running to worship our blessed LORD in public, and kneel before him in private, and enquire at his gospel, what they muft do to inherit eternal Jife: but when they find they must renounce the self-enjoyment of riches, and forsake all in affection to follow him, they cry, « The LORD pardon us in this thing! We pray thee, have us excufed.”


But is heaven so small a trifle in men's esteem, as not to be worth a little gilded earth? Is eternal life so məan a purchase, as not to deserve the temporary renunciation of a few tranfitory riches? Surely it is. But however inconsistent such a behaviour may be, this inordinate love of money is too evidently the common and fatal cause, why so many are no more than almoft christians.

4. Nor is the love of pleasure a less uncommon, or a less fatal cause why so many are no more than almost christians. Thousands and ten thousands there are, who despise riches, and would willingly be true disciples of Jesus CHRIST, if parting with their money would make them so; but when they are told that our blessed LORD has said, “ Whosoever will come after him must deny himself;" like the pitiable young man before-mentioned, " they go away sorrowful :" for they have too great a love for sensual pleasures. They will perhaps send for the ministers of Christ, as Herod did for John, and hear them gladly: but touch them in their Herodias, tell them they must part with such or such a darling pleasure; and with wicked Ahab they cry out, “ Halt thou found us, O our enemy?” Tell them of the necessity of mortification and self-denial, and it is as difficult for them to hear, as if you was to bid them “ cut off a right-hand, or pluck out a right-eye.” They cannot think our blessed LORD requires so much at their hands, though an inspired apostle has commanded us to “ mortify our members which are upon earth.” And who himself, even after he had converted thou{ands, and was very near arrived to the end of his race, yet professed that it was his daily practice to “ keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, left after he had preached to others, he himself thould be a cast-away !"

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But some men would be wiser than this great apostle, and chalk out to us what they falsely imagine an easier way to happiness. They would Alatter us, we may go to heaven without offering violence to our sensual appetites, and enter


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into the strait gate without striving against our carnal inclina, tions. And this is another reason why so many are only almost, and not altogether christians.

5. The fifth and last reason I shall aflign why so many are only almost christians, is a fickleness and instability of temper.

It has been, no doubt, a misfortune that many a minister and fincere christian has met with, to weep and wail over numbers of promising converts, who seemingly began in the Spirit, but after a while fell away, and bafely ended in the felh ; and this not for want of right notions in religion, nof out of a servile fear of man, nor from the love of money, or of sensual pleasure, but through an inftability and fickleness of temper. They looked upon religion merely for novelty, as something which pleased them for a while; but after their curiosity was satisfied, they laid it aside again : like the young man that came to see Jesus with a linen cloth about his naked body, they have foilowed him for a season, but when temptations came to take hold on them, for want of a little more resolution, they have been stripped of all their good intentions, and fed away naked. They at first, like a tree planted by the water-fide, grew up and flourished for a while; but having no rooś in themselves, no inward principle of holiness and piety, like Jonah's gourd, they were soon dried up and withered. Their good intentions are too like the violent motions of the animal spirits of a body newly beheaded, which, though impetuous, are not lasting. In hort, they set out well in their journey to heaven, but finding the way either narrower or longer than they expected, through an unsteadiness of teinper, they have made an eternal balt, and so “returned like the dog to his vomit, or like the fow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire !”

But I tremble to pronounce the fate of such unstable profeflors, who having put their hands to the plough, for want of a little more reiolution, shamefully look back. How shall JI repeat to them that dreadful threatening, “ If any man draw baik, my loui thall have no plcasure in him :" And again,

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