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promise of eternal life. " This is truth, and is no lie.” This is a solid and substantial kind of evidence. There is no deception in it. It is an evidence within yourselves ; and you may more safe. ly depend on this, than on the opinions of men.
As the subject under the apostle's consideration was the believer's title to eternal life, so the teaching, of which he speaks, must relate to this subject.
There are two things here observable. First, that we are never to depend on the opinions of others concerning our claim to eternal life. And secondly, that the anointing or fanctification of the Spirit, is the best, and the only solid evidence of our claim; and if we have this, we have no need, that any man should teach us. First
. The apostle cautions us not to rely on the opinions of other men concerning our claim to eternal life.
Persons under strong exercises of religious fear, often resort to others, and especially to those, whom they think to be experienced Christians, for their opinion and advice, relative to their own spiritual state. And they feel themselves much relieved and comforted by the judgment of such Christians in their favour. Fear is a painful pas. fion, and peculiarly so, when the object of it is the misery of the world to come. In this anxious ftate many are too easily flattered ; and they too easily find some who are disposed to flatter them. Great injury is often done to such people by an officious kind of pity in haftily pronouncing them converted. It would be much better to state before them the nature of religion, the fruits of conversion, and the evidences of holiness, and to point out to them their duty, advising them to seek the full assurance of hope, in the way which Vol. V.
the apostle prescribes, by following them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Paul thought it a small thing to be judged of man's judgment. He advises every man to prove his own work, that he may have rejoicing in himself, in his own experience, and not in the opinion of another. We may lay before anxious and enquiring persons the rules, by which they are to try themselves ; but we must leave them to apply the rules. We should not assume to be judges of their state, but rather assist them to judge their
We are to entertain a charitable hope of them, as far as there is evidence to justify it. But that they may confirm their own hope we must refer them to personal examination, and advise them to religious improvement. However sudden conversion itself may be, the evidence of it to the subject must be his own experience ; the evidence of it to others must be its visible fruits.
The apostle here says, that he gave the instruction in the text, as a caution against certain feducers, who, in that day had crept into the church. As these seducers endeavoured to make divisions, and form fects among Christians, so one artifice, which they used to gain profelytes, was hastily pronouncing men in a state of safety. And this has been an artifice of impostors in all ages.
Every religious sect has its own distinguishing peculiarities, either in doctrines, or forms. And an adoption of these peculiarities, is too often made a criterion of saving grace. The feducer, zealous to make profelytes to his sect, condemns all sects but his own, as alienated from God, and exposed to destruction. Thus he disturbs the peace and shocks the hope of many ferious and tender minds. If he hears of an uncommon attention to religion in any place, he will think
there is a field prepared to receive the seeds of divifion, and will not fail there to bestow his labors. Persons agitated with fears and perplexed with doubts, are anxiously looking for direction and comfort. Among such the impostor promises himself greatest success. Having gained them over to his fect, he pronounces them children of God and heirs of heaven. He tells them, that all natural men are enemies to that religion, which he teaches, and consequently, that all who embrace the doctrines, and conform to the practices, which he inculcates, must be savingly renewed. Thus anxious minds fee a hort and easy way to obtain the peace and hope which they are seeking. It is only to change their sect, and join a new party. Such an expeditious method to gain comfort is tempting to many. They embrace the new forms and doctrines proposed to them, not on rational conviction, but for the fake of present relief. The sure way to peace, prescribed in the gospel, is too flow and tedious for their impatient feelings. Hence they eagerly hear, and implicitly adopt the instructions,
which cause to err from the words of knowledge.
Now St. John shows us, Secondly, a more excellent way. “ We have no need, that any man should teach us,” whether we are entitled to heaven. This is a question, which, after all advice, we must decide for ourselves. If we have the anointing of the Spirit, this teaches us all that we need to know in relation to the matter of our enquiry.
“ We are chosen to falvation through fanctifica. tion of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” This sanctification consists in a temper conformed to the character of God and the pattern of Christ ; or in an habitual opposition to fin, and love of
universal holiness. It comprehends all those gra. ces and virtues, which are called the fruits of the Spirit, and which are opposite to the works of the flesh. These are enumerated by St. Paul in his epistle to the Galatians. “ The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Against these there is no law." " There is no condemna. tion to them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “ Whatsoever things are true, honest, juit, pure, lovely and of good report, think on these things.” St. Peter, instructing us how we may obtain the promises, says, “ that, having escaped the pollutions which are in the world, we must become partakers of a divine nature ; and besides, this, giving all diligence, we must to our faith add fortitude, knowledge, tem, perance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.” St. James gives a similar description of the gospel
temper. “ The wisdom, which is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." All thefe graces are included in that anointing, which, the scripture tells us, is the evidence of our title to eternal life. This is an evidence, because to this, the promise is expressly made. " The
pure in heart ihall see God.” “ To be spiritually mind. ed is life and peace.”
This anointing is the earnest of the Spirit. It is a qualification for, and anticipation of the heav. enly inheritance. As the happiness of heaven consists in seeing and enjoying God, so our prepa. ration for heaven muit consist in that holiness which afsimilates us to God. And all, in whom the Spirit of God has wrought this holiness, have a pledge and earnest of their admission to heaven.
Their heaven is in some measure begun. They have some sensible foretastes of it while they are on earth. The pleasures, which result from the temper of religion in the heart, are of the same kind with those, which are to be enjoyed in the world above. They are, indeed, much inferior in degree; but their nature is the fame. And the grace of God in fanctifying us to a meetness for heaven, is an evidence that he will bring us to it. His preparing us for the inheritance is our best proof of his gracious intention to put us in pofsefGon of it. He who thus begins the good work, will perform it to the day of Christ.
The apostle obferves, that this kind of evidence will not deceive us. " It is truth, and is no lie.”
All other kinds of evidence are uncertain, and may be delusive,
We cannot safely rely on the judgment of others in our favor; for they cannot know our hearts. Their judgment, if founded in our external conduct, must be uncertain ; for it is but a small part, and perhaps only the best part of our conduct, which falls under their observation; and that which they fee, may proceed from motives wholly undiscerned and unsuspected. If we give them information concerning the state of our minds, this information is too imperfect to be the ground of an infallible judgment. We may by examination gain that knowledge of ourselves, which we cannot communicate to another. If others think and speak favorably of us, yet we know not but they are blinded by friendship, or biassed by perfonal attachment; nor can we say, but they aim to flatter and deceive us for their own unworthy ends.
If we judge of ourselves by a comparison with some reputed Christians, here again we are liable