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returns to God through Christ, by true repentance, and continues to serve him in newness of life.
The first of these cases needs no illustration; the sense of fin in all such persons being not so properly weakened as destroyed. In the second, the finner is under great restraints for a season, but, when the terror is over, his obedience and diligence is immediately relaxed. This shows plainly, that he had no fincere or cordial affection to the law of God, but was afraid of his power. It shew's that his convictions never were of a right kind, and, therefore, it is no wonder their strength should decay. But, in eve. ry true penitent, a sense of sin not only continues, but daily increases. His growing discovery of the glory of God, points out more clearly to him his own corruption and de. pravity, both in its quantity and its malignity, so to speak. The very mercies of God, whatever delight or sweetness they afford, take nothing away from his senfe of the evil of his doings, but rather melt him down in penitential for. row. They serve to cover him with confusion at his own unworthiness, and to fill him with wonder at the divine patience and condescension.
The first work of a convinced finner is, to mourn over the gross enormities of a profligate life, or a life devoted to worldly pursuits. And his continued employment af. ter conversion is, to resist and wrestle with that inherent corruption which was hidden from his view before, but becomes daily more and more sensible. So true is this, that I have known many instances in which the most genuine expressions of self-abasenient happening to fall from aged experienced Christians, have appeared to others as little better than affectation. They were not able to conceive the propriety of these sentiments, which long acquaintance with God and with ourselves doth naturally and infallibly inspire.
From these remarks, let me beg the reader to judge of the reality and progress of the spiritual life. Does your fense of the evil of sin not only continue, but grow? Do you now see fin in many things which you never suspected before? Do you see more of the boldness, ingratitude, and fottish folly of finners and despisers of God? Are you
daily making new discoveries of the vanity, sensuality, and treachery of your own hearts? Be not discouraged at it, but humbled loy it. Let it empty you of all self-esteem and self-dependence, and give you a higher relish of the gospel of peace. The substance of the gospel is “ falvati" on to the chief of sinners, by the riches of divine grace, " and the fanctification of your polluted natures by the " power of the Holy Gholt.”
As I would willingly gives as much imformnation and instruction as possible, I shall, before quitting this part of the subject, speak a few words of a pretty extraordinary opinion to be found in some of the practical writers of the last age. It is, that genuine conviction, and the soul's subjection to God, ought to be carried fo far in every true penitent, as to m..ke him willing, satisfied, and, some say, even “ pleased,” that God Thould glorify his justice in his everlasting perdition. This is so repugnant to nature, and to that very solicitude about our eternal happiness, by which the conscience is first laid hold of, that it appears to be utterly impollible. There have been many to whom this requisition has given inexpressible concern, has been a daily snare to their conscience, and an obstruction to their peace. There is such an inseparable connection be. tween our duty and happiness, that the question should never have been moved ; but, for the satisfaction of those who may have met, or may still meet with it in authors, otherwise deservedly esteemed, I shall make some remarks which I hope will either explain it in a sound fense, or thew it to be at bottom falle.
Men do often differ more in words than in substance. Perhaps what these authors chiefly mean, is no more than what has been explained above at considerable length, viz. That the finner finds himself without excuse, his “ mouth “ is stopped,” he feeth the holiness of the law, he con. fesseth the justice of the sentence, he quits every claim but mercy. Thus he may be said to absolve or justify God, though he should leave him to perish for ever. So far, I apprehend, it is undeniably just; otherwise, the very foundation of the gospel is overthrown, and salvation is not " of grace,” but “ of debt.” If we impartially examine the word mercy, and the many strong declarations in fcripture of our obligations to God for the gift of eternal life, we shall find that they cannot, consistently, imply less, than that the finner " deserved,” and was liable, to " eternal death,”
But to carry the thing farther, and to say that the peni. tent must be pleased and satisfied with damnation itself, as he is pleased with suffering in another view, as it is his heavenly Father's sanctified roc, appears to me to be at once unnatural, unreasonable, unlawful, and impoflible. It is plainly contrary to that desire of our own happiness which is so deeply implanted in our natures, and which seems to be inseparable from a rational creature. No such thing is, either directly or consequentially, asserted in the holy scriptures, which so often urge us to a due care of our own best interests. “Wherefore, says the prophet, do “ you spend your money for that which is not bread, and " your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken dili“ gently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let “ your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and “ come unto me, hear, and your souls fall live, and I “ will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the “ sure mercies of David."* Further, the propofition seems to me necessarily to imply an impossibility in itself. For what is damnation? It is to be for ever separated from, and deprived of, the fruition of God. Is this then, a dutiful object either of desire or acquiescence? It is to hate God and blaspheme his name, as well as to be banished from his presence, Can this be tolerable to any true penitent? or is it reconcileable to, or consistent with, fub. jection to his righteous will? Can any creature be suppo. sed to please God, by giving up all hope of his favor? Or is it less absurd than “disobeying” him from a sense of “ duty,” and “ hating" him from a principle of " love ?"
We must, therefore, carefully separate the acknowledg. ment of divine justice, and most unconditional subjection to the divine sovereignty, from an absolute despair, or giving up all hope in the divine mercy. We have a very
* Ifa. lv. 2, 3.
beautiful scripture instance of humble, yet persisting in. portunity, in the woman of Canaan, who met with many repulses, confessed the justice of every thing that made against her, and yet continued to urge her plea. Neither is there any difference between the way in which she fupplicated of the Saviour a cure for her distressed daughter, and the way in which an awakened finner will implore from the fame Saviour more necessary relief to an afflicted conscience. “ And behold a woman of Canaan came out “ of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have “ mercy on me, () Lord, thou son of David, my daughter “is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her “ not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, “ saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us. But he "answered and said, I am not sent but unto the loft sheep “ of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped “ him, saying, Lord help me. But he answered and said, “ It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to “ dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of “ the crumbs which fall froin their master's table. Then “ Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is “ thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."* I shall conclude with mentioning an instance of a similar character in a foreigner of eminent station, who had been a great profligate, and afterwards became a great penitent.t He composed a little piece of poetry after his conversion, the leading sentiment of which was what I have recommended above, and in his own language was to the following pur. pose: “ Great God, thy judgments are full of righteous. “ ness, thou takeft pleasure in the exercise of mercy; but “ I have sinned to such a height, that justice demands “ my destruction, and mercy itself seems to folicit my per“ dition. Disdain my tears, strike the blow, and execute " thy judgment. I am willing to submit, and adore, even “ in perishing, the equity of thy procedure. But on "what place will the stroke fall, that is not covered with " the blood of Christ?" .
* Matth. xv. 22–28.
† Des Barreaux.
Acceptance of salvation through the cross of Christ.
THE next great step in a sinner's change is a discove. t ry and acceptance of salvation from fin and misery through Jesus Christ. This is the last and finishing step of the glorious work. When this is attained, the change is coinpleated, the new nature is fully formed in all its parts. The spiritual seed is implanted, and hath taken root; and it will arrive by degrees, in every vessel of mer. cy, to that measure of maturity and strength, that it pleafeih God each shall possess before he be carried hence.
It is eafy to fee, that conviction of fin which hath been before illustrated, prepares and paves the way for a discovery and acceptance of salvation by Christ. Before conviction of fin, or when conviction is but imperfect, the gofpel of Christ, and particularly the doctrine of the cross, almost constantly appears to be foolishness. Or if, as fometimes happens, education and example prompts the finner to speak with some degree of reverence of the name, character and undertaking of a Saviour, there is no cliftinct perception of the meaning, nor any inward relish of the sweetness of the salutary truths. But those who have been “wounded in their spirits, and grieved in their “ minds,” begin to perceive their unspeakable importance and value. That mystery which was hid from ages and generations, begins to open upon the soul in its lustre and glory. The helpless and hopeless state of the finner makes him earnestly and anxiously enquire, whether there is any way to escape, whether there is any door of mercy or of hope. He says, with the awakened and trembling jailor,
What must I do to be saved ?"* And with the Psalmist, “ Innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine ini. “ quities have taken hold upon me, fo that I am not able 4. to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head, " therefore my heart faileth me.f I have no excuse to "offer, nor any shelter to fly to: the works, the word,
* A&s xvi. 30. + Pfal. xi. 12. VOL. I.