Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

awful guilt of impenitence and unbelief, as set forth in God's word, and applied to their hearts by his Holy Spirit, they often find it difficult to believe that a God of infinite holiness will ever receive and save them on any terms.

Third. Some conclude that they have faith, because they live what they call “ good moral lives.” This is an exceedingly common delusion. If we weigh this kind of faith in the balance of God's sanctuary, we find it wanting. Not that we are to think lightly of a “good moral life.” Not to live such a life would give evidence of a want of faith. But because the profane and immoral do not believe, we must not hence conclude that all who are not profane and immoral do believe. While a man's external conduct is regular and moral, he may be plotting the blackest crimes in his heart. Pride, ambition, envy, malice, worldliness, and “covetousness, which is idolatry," may reign there. There are lusts of the mind as well as lusts of the flesh. And if we do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, we may still revel in the lusts of the mind, and thus be “ the children of wrath, even as others.” Indeed, the eyes of some are so dazzled with the fancied goodness of their own morality, that it becomes to them a barrier between the Saviour and their souls. O, that

this fond conceit were banished from the world! Good morality is an indispensable part, but it is not the whole of vital religion.

Fourth. Others conclude that they have faith, because they have had convictions of sin. If peace

follow these seasons of anxiety, many conclude at once that it is peace from the Holy Spirit. But because the work of faith begins in conviction of sin, it does not follow that all who have ever had convictions are savingly converted. Judas, Pilate, Simon Magus, and many others, have had pungent convictions, without faith. Indeed it is possible for men to grow worse, instead of better, by convictions of sin. Sins against light are greatly aggravated; and he who sins under the lashes of an awakened conscience, sins against light. And sinning under such circumstances produces its effect on the heart. By their convictions some are driven from the more gross into the more secret sins, or from profaneness into morality; where they stop, without ever arriving at faith. Some go through their whole life under the painful vicissitude of sin and conviction. Some put their convictions in the place of Christ, They think, because they have been concerned for their souls, and God's Spirit has dealt with them, that God loves them, and therefore will

save them. Others despise and quench convictions, and thus harden their hearts till they provoke the Lord to give them up to vile affections, “ because that when they knew God they glorified him not as God.” Others give themselves up to despair, and plunge headlong into ruin; as did Judas.

Fifth. Some conclude that they have fe ih, because they have some knowledge of the things of God. But because knowledge is necessary to faith, it does not follow that all are believers who have some knowledge of the letter of the Gospel. Men may have much of this kind of knowledge, without saving faith. Knowledge may be obtained without special aid from the Holy Spirit: but faith cannot. Hence it is called “ the faith of the operation of God;" “the work of faith with power;" “ the working of his mighty power," &c. Indeed, many who have lived in open profaneness have been eminent for some of the gifts that are of use to the edification of the Church. Judas was of this description. The devil probably has more knowledge of the mystery of the Gospel, as to the letter of it, than any man on earth: and more than this, it is said, that " the devils believe and tremble.” So men may have their minds full of truth, and their hearts destitute

of saving power; like the reptile which is said to have a precious gem in its head, but its body full of deadly poison.

Sixth. There may be delight in the Gospel without faith. For when the work of faith is wrought in the heart, it is commonly, if not always preceded by convictions of sin, which cause distress in a greater or less degree. And as this distress, so faith and these transient de. lights (for they are usually transient) come by the instrumentality of the word; and if some emotions of joy follow a little awakening; if there be but a little relish of the word : a little taste of the sweetness of heavenly things, it is immediately mistaken for faith. Faith also, like this spurious joy, produces desire to enjoy the ordinances of religion; and hence the liability to deception from counterfeit appearances. The parable of the stony ground hearers shows that there may be a high degree of joy; a kind of delight in approaching to God, when there is no work of grace in the heart. Christ said to the Jews of John the Baptist : “ He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." And these emotions, which so much resemble the joys of the true believer, may proceed from various With some it may be the effect of

causes.

novelty. We are ever fond of something new. To persons who have had little or no instruction in religion, or to those who have thought but little on it, the things of the gospel are something new; and they are surprised at the greatness of the advantages promised to believers. This, especially till the novelty be worn off, produces delight. A person may be under distress of mind ; and in this condition may be entertained with an account of the gift and benefits of a Saviour to lost sinners, and of the joys of heaven. Now, this may not only occasion a diversion from trouble, but produce great delight. We may experience worldly disappointments, and be diverted from them by the same spurious joy. Young persons particularly, in the fervour of youthful passion, are liable to be carried away with false joy, under the presentation of the glorious promises of the Gospel. Some preachers have such a fluency of language and warmth of affection, that they occasion, even in impenitent hearers, something of the feelings which glow in their own bosoms; or a sudden and agreeable surprise at an ingenious turn of expression, or the expression of a novel and striking thought, may awaken attention, and produce feelings of pleasure, which many will mistake for gracious affec

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »