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Epicurean poet. Even this poor wretch, in his sober intervals, is able to testify,
Oderunt peccare bone, rirtutis amore;
Oderunt peccare mali, formuline pana.* So that, if a man only abstains from doing evil in order to avoid punishment, Von pasces in cruce corvos, t saith the Pagan ; there, “ Thou hast thy reward.” But even be will not allow such a harmless man as this, to be so much as a good heathen. If then, any man, from the same motive, viz., to avoid punishment, to avoid the loss of his friends, or his gain, or his reputation, should not only abstain from doing evil, but also do ever so much good; yca, and use all the means of grace ; yet we could not, with any propriety, say, this man is even almost a Christian. If he has no better principle in his lieart, he is only a hypocrite altogether.
10. Sincerity, therefore, is necessarily implied in the being almost a Christian ; a real design to serve God, a hearty desire to do his will : it is necessarily implied, that a man have a sincere view of pleasing God in all things ; in all his conversation ; in all his actions; in all he does, or leaves undone. This design, if any man be alınost a Christian, runs through the whole tenor of his life. This is the moving principie, both in his doing good, his abstaining from evil, and his using the ordinances of God.
11. But here it will probably be inquired, Is it possible, that any man living should go so far as this, and nevertheless, be only almost a Christian? What more than this can be implied, in the being a Christian altogether? I answer, first, that it is possible to go thus far, and yet be but almost a Christian, I Icarn, not only from the Oracles of God, but also from the sure testimony of experience.
12. Brethren, great is “my boldness towards you in this behalf.” And “ forgive me this wrong," if I declare my own folly upon the house-top, for yours and the Gospel's sake. Suffer nic, then, to speak freely of myself, even as of another man. I am content to be abascd, so ye may be exalted, and to be yet more vilc, for the glory of my Lord.
13. I did go thus far for many years, as many of this place can testify; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavouring after a steady seriousness of behaviour, at all times, and in all places; and, God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do his will in all things; to please him, who had called me to “fight the good fight," and to "lay hold on eternal life.” Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian.
* Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue :
Wicked men avoid sin from a fear of punishment. + Thou shall not be hanged.
II. If it be inquired, What more than this is implied in the being altogether a Christian ? I answer,
(I.) 1. First, The Love of God. For thus saith his word, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Such a love of God is this, as engrosses the whole heart, as takes up all the affections, as fills the entire capacity of the soul, and employs the utmost extent of all its faculties. He that thus loves the Lord his God, his Spirit continually “ rejoiceth in God bis Saviour.” His delight is in the Lord, his Lord and his All, to whom “ in every thing he giveth thanks." "All his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name." His heart is ever crying out, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Indeed, what can he desire beside God ? Not the world, or the things of the world. For he is “ crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him.” He is crucified to the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. Yea, he is dead to pride of every kind; for “ love is pot puffed up;” but “he that, dwelling in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him," is less than nothing in his own eyes.
(II.) 2. The second thing implied' in the being altogether a Christian, is, the Love of our Neighbour. For thus said our Lord, in the following words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” If any man ask, Who is my neighbour; we reply, Every man in the world; every child of his, who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Nor may we in any wise except our enemies, or the enemies of God and their own souls. But every Christian loveth these also as himself, yea, “as Christ loved us." He that would more fully understand what manner of love this is, may consider St. Paul's description of it. It is “ longsuffering and kind." It “envieth not.” It is not raslı or hasty in judging. It “is not puffed up,” but maketh him that loves, the least, the servant of all. Love “ doth not behave itself unseemly,” but becometh “ all things to all wen." She “ seeketh not her own," but only the good of others, that they may be saved. “ Love is not provoked.” It casteth out wrath, which he who hath, is not “ made perfect in love." " It thinketh no cvil. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. It covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
(III.) 3. There is yet one thing more that may be separately considered, though it cannot actually be separate from the preceding, which is implied in the being altogether a Christian, and that is the ground of all, eren Faith. Very excellent things are spoken of this throughout the Oracles of God. “ Every one,” saith the beloved disciple, “ that believeth, is born of God.” “ To as many as received him, gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.” And “ this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Yea, our Lord himself declares, “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and cometh not into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
4. But here let no man deceive his own soul. “It is diligently to be noted, the faith, which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith which is here spoken of, but a dead and devilish one. For, even the Devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin ; that he wrought all kinds of miracles, declaring himself very God; that, for our sakes, he suffered a most painful death, to redeem us from death everlasting; that he rose again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, and at the end of the world shall come again to judge both the quick and dead. These articles of our faith the Devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet, for all this faith, they be but Devils. They remain still in their damnable estate, lacking the very truc Christian faith."**
5. “ The right and true Christian Faith is,” to go on in the words of our own Church, “not only to believe, that holy Scripture, and the Articles of our Faith, are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting
* Homily on the Salvation of Man.
damnation by Christ. It is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that by the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; whereof doth follow, a loving heart, to obey his commandments.”
6. Now, whosoever has this faith, which purifies the heart, (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein,) from pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness, from “all filthiness of flesh and spirit;” which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict; whosoever has this faith, thus working by love, is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian.
7. But who are the living witnesses of these things ? I beseech you, brethren, as in the presence of that God, before whom “hell and destruction are without a covering,-how much more the hearts of the children of men;"—that each of you would ask his own heart, “ Am I of that number? Do I so far practise justice, mercy, and truth, as even the rules of heathen honesty require ? If so, have I the very outside of a Christian ? The form of godliness? Do I abstain from evil, from whatsoever is forbidden in the written word of God ? Do I, whatever good my hand findeth to do, do it with my might? Do I seriously use all the ordinances of God at all opportunities? And, is all this done, with a sincere design and desire to please God in all things ?”
8. Are not many of you conscious, that you never came thus far; that you have not been even almost a Christian ; that you have not come up to the standard of heathen honesty; at least, not to the form of Christian godliness ?--much less hath God scen sincerity in you, a real design of pleasing him in all things. You never so much as intended to devote all your words and works, your business, studies, diversions, to his glory. You never even designed or desired, that whatsoever you did should be done “ in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and as such, should be a “spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God through Christ.”
9. But supposing you had, do good designs and good desires make a Christian? By no means, unless they are brought to good effect. “Hell is paved (saith one) with good inten
Vol. I. No. 1.
tions.” The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart ? Can you cry out, “ \y God, and my All?" Do you desire nothing but him ? Are you happy in God? Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing? And is this commandment written in your heart, That he who loveth God love bis brother also ? Do you then love your neighbour as yourself? Do you love every man, even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your own soul ? As Christ loved you ? Yca, dost thou believe that Christ loved thee, and gave himself for thee? Hast thou faith in his blood ? Believest thou the Lamb of God hath taken away thy sjus, and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea ? That he hath blotted out the hand-writing that was against thee, taking it out of the way, nailiug it to his cross? Hast thou indeed redemption througi: liis blood, cren the remission of thy sius? And doth his Spirit bear witness with thy spirit, that thou art a child of God?
10. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who now standeth in the midst of us, knoweth, that if any man die vrithout this faith and this love, good it rere for him that lie had berer been born. Awake, then, thon that sleepest, and call upon thy God: call in the day when he may be found. Let him not rest, till he make his goodness to pass before thec,” till lie proclain unto thee the name of the Lord; “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Let no man persuade thee, by vain words, to rest short of this prize of thy high calling. But cry unto lim day and night, who, “while we were without strength, died for the ungodly,” until thou kuowest in whom ihou hast believed, and canst say, “Mly Lord, and my God!” Remember, “always to pray, and not to faint, till thou also caust litt mp thy band unio hearen, and declare to him that liveto forever and ever, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou hrowest that I love thee."
11. May we all this experience what it is to be, not almost only; but, altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, tirough the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us!