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No, my objecting, my serious friend, except you can prove that they-hese disciples were never of the world; then indeed I should be convinced they were of necessity excluded, and that Christ Jesus did not give his life for them.
But our Saviour, addressing the Divine Nature, thus expresses himself, John xvii. 6, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.”
And you, says the apostle, were sometimes darkness and walked after the course of this world; nay, we all, says he, had our conver, sation in times past amongst them, and was there ever a person in this world, however irreproachable his character, or however early and splendid his attainments, but entered upon existence one of the world, and continued in that character some time at least, before he commenced a disciple of the Redeemer? If this be the case, as it certainly is, no individual is excluded from the love of God, nor from tlie redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Every individual is called upon to behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world; and shall we not call upon every faculty of our souls to extol, and to magnify the wonderful goodness of our Creator, our Redeemer and Preserver?
But, that we may be more feelingly and deeply impressed, by this astonishing exhibition that we are called upon to behold, let us for a moment, pause to consider the character of the world. The world may be divided into two classes, prophane, and pious.
First, The prophane or irreligious members of the community; they are generally considered as persons, in whose thoughts the God who made them finds no place; who surrender themselves to the gratification of every sensual appetite, who will not hesitate tu sacrifice every tie of honour or honesty, to gain the vile purposes which, unacquainted with remorse, they so frequently pursue, and in their hearts they impiously say, “ Tush, the Lord doth not know, or he regardeth it not.” Such is the character of the prophane world.
On the other hand, those who have been converted from an openly vicious, and scandalous course of life, who regard their God in all their ways, who were, while they conceived themselves sinners, in continual dread of his avenging power, who had no peace in their bosoms, until they believed themselves more righteous than others, even than these publicans, of whom we have been
speaking, who in order to obtain those riches, which rust nor moth do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal, apply themselves to such good rules, as their religious guides, in every age and place, have thought proper to embody, and if they make any good proficiency in the pursuit, derive abundance of peace and joy from the consideration : who imagаine that God was, but is not now their enemy, that they are beloved by him who created them, and that if they continue in the practice of those things, that first gained his approbation, he will continue to love them: or, if I may so speak, they conceive they have converted God! For as conversion is acknowledged to be a change of heart, and conduct, I see not why, on the principles of the religious world God, is not converted, as well as the creature who is the work of his hand.
Is it not better so to guard our expressions, as that we may not, cre we are aware, be precipitated into the sin of blasphemy? Is it not better invariably to describe our Creator', as the implacable enemy of sin, as the unalterable and unchanging friend of the deceived Being, whom his almighty fiat commanded into existence ?
But the principle is, if the creature be sufficiently firm, to continue in the same good disposition he was in, when God beheld him with complacency, he will continue to behold him with the same affectionate regard. This consideration occasionally fills him with peace and joy, which peace and joy is not seldom succeeded by terrifying apprehensions. If at any time he glances at the iniquity of his heart, which heart he believes is open to the inspection of the piercing eye of Deity, if the iniquity of this heart breaketh out, as it too often will, either in word, or in deed, his distress is indescribable, and he is tempted to think his faith was fancy, his recti. tude delusion.
Ultimately, however, by long habit, he becomes familiarized with the plague of the heart, he is less eagle-eyed to its deformity, he dismisses his fears, he is fully persuaded that he is elected to salvation, that he is a converted man, and therefore he is as well assured that he can never wholly lose the favour of the supreme Being, as he is of his existence.
This religion has its consolations, and its joys, as well as its pains, and its sorrows; all which partake the same leaven. The sorrows attending this religion, arise from the fear that we are not what we ought to be : and its joys are the result of a cherished hope that we are advancing in the paths of peace. Flattering our
selves that we have performed the duties required of us, we exultingly demand the reward, and our felicity is indescribable.
But all this time we have no knowledge of God, although we have abundance of piety, and many no doubt are truly sincere. I remember the time, when such was my situation, and by a religion of this description, I was most powerfully wrought upon, I was converted from one state to another, from the wickedness of this world to the righteousness of this world ; and when I attained to the latter character, I adored the Omnipotent Power, which had caught me as a brand out of the burning, I gave glory to God that I was not as other men, and I was right happy in my soul that God loved me better than he did other men. I have frequently quitted my tabernacle devotions, with a heart overflowing with delight, and abundance of joy, and while pacing the streets of London, to my own dwelling, I have looked down with ineffable contempt, upon the first peers of the realm. I considered the multitude as I passed along, as more beneath me, than the meanest reptile, I was the chosen of God, the elect precious, while they were consigned from the foundation of the world to eternal perdition. How infinite the riches I possessed, how incalculable iny elevation. Of the world of mankind I spake with strong abhorrence, and I believed it my duty to keep myself as much as possible from the contagion of their society.
And if at any time I were oppressed with doubts and fears respecting my own state, I have taken consolation from a strong assurance that I had indubitably passed from death to life, because I loved the brethren, and the foundation on which I grounded this supposition, was the warm affection which glowed in my bosom, as I quitted the tabernacle in which I worshipped, for those pleasing friendly acquaintance, who thought and expressed themselves exactly as I thought and expressed myself ; who united with me in sentiment, and gratified me by the flattery of their lips. Such persons I unfeignedly loved, and hence, I say, I concluded I had passed from a state, where I was in danger of suffering eternal death, to a state of eternal life, because I loved the brethren.
Yet I say, at the very inoment when I indulged such consolatory conclusions, my heart was filled with enmity against one of God's children, whom I had neither seen nor heard, nor did intend to see or hear, merely because I had heard my religious brethren pronounce him a heretic! This was quite enough to fill me with wrath against him, so that in the most placid situation of my mind, I could with as much pleasure have held the garments of those who would have killed him, as ever the youthful zealot, Saul, held the clothes of those who stoned the martyr Stephen ; and I verily believed it would be doing God essential service to remove him from the present world. I have spoken of him with the utmost warmth and bitterness, seeking to prejudice all those to whom I could obtain access, against him : when it was a fact that the city of London contained not a more exemplary character.
Thus I was really a very pious man, but as effectually dwelling in the wicked one, as any individual in that world, to which I belonged. I still followed the course of the religious world, worshipping I knew not what, while, ignorant as I was, in fact possessing nothing, I fancied myself rich, and encreased in goods, infinitely surpassing those, who were in every respect my superiors, and while I was proud as Lucifer, conceited myself teachable, humble, and what not.
To the believer in Christ Jesus, it will be unnecessary to observe, that with all this religion, I had no acquaintance with the comprehensive character of the Redeemer. It is true his name was for ever in my mouth ; but, while I professed to love God whom I had not seen, I hated my brethren, whom I had seen.
Let me not be misunderstood ; I love rectitude, and I honour the character of the moral man. Sin, while it abideth in the heart, will assuredly pierce the bosom with many sorrows; there is much propriety, much virtue, much of human excellence, much consistency, much beauty, in the character of many individuals. I do homage to those, who holding fast their integrity, have made good progress in the paths of honour, and of wisdom. The way of the transgressor is most undoubtedly hard. The way of virtue is strewed with flowers; it is rich in rewards. Its growth is a plenteous harvest of that sweet peace which goodness bosoms over. I know that if my father's children forsake those laws, which he hath ordained for the regulation of his lousehold, if they walk not agreeably to his commandments, he will punish their deviations with a rod, and their continued wanderings with stripes : yet I am assured that his love ing kindness he will not take away, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.
All this I do most feelingly, most religiously believe ; I would take for my pattern an inspired Apostle, I would lay as the founda'
tion, the birth, life, sufferings, and death of the world's Saviour, and I would then add as a beautiful superstructure, the life of honour, the life of virtue. I would emphatically say, “Because ye are washed, because ye are cleansed, therefore be careful to perform good works for these things are good, and profitable uuto men.”
God forbid that I should ever deserve to be stigmatized as the advocate of sin, as the promoter of licentiousness. I shrink even from the implied censure of those worthy individuals of my species, who yet set their faces indignantly against me. But I am jealous for the Saviour of men, with a godly jealousy; and while I have breath I wil lift my voice as a trumpet against every thought, word, or deed, which, taking the crown from the head of my Redeemer would place it upon the assuming front of human excellence.
I distinguish, my beloved hearers, I distinguish between that finished righteousness, which I receive by my union with our second federal head, which is the result of the birth, life, sufferings, and death of Emmanuel, which is the matter of my justification before . God, before him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and in whose sight the very heavens are not clean.
I distinguish, I say, between this complete work, and the adorning of the doctrine of God our Saviour, so strongly recommended by the precepts and example of all who are taught of God: I do firmly believe, that whenever the glad tidings of the gospel are faithfully received, the life restoring truth which is proclaimed, becomes an operative principle, which consecrates the heart a little sanctuary, in which dwelleth “Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoerer things arc true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things arc pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Yet the true believer will never place those good and lovely things, in the stead of Christ Jesus, and while he regards them as highly estimable in their proper place, as indispensable requisites; while he shrinks from those transgressions, which crucifying the Lord afresh, cannot fail of putting him to open shame, he will not, however, allow to the Lamb of God the shadow of a rival. The birth of Jesus is his new creation, the innocence of the babe at Bethleham his justification, the splendid career of the Redeemer, that perfect righteousness by which he becomes perfect as his Father, who is in heaven, is perfect.
The sufferings and death of Christ he regards as that expiatory sacrifice, which a broken law, which offended justice, in a voice of