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to be deluded; for perhaps they are not in reality such good Christians, as we imagine ; and if they are, yet it is not easy to make a just compar. ison between ourselves and them. We see in them many imperfections, and hear them complain of many more, equal, we think, to any of which we are conscious. But we know not what peculiar temptations may attend these Christians, what deep humiliation they may feel, what strict vigi. lance they may exercise, and what a pious temper and virtuous conduct they, in general maintain. Their life is hidden with Chrift in God, and but a small part of it is visible to us.
Or if we judge of our state by the convictions and terrors, which we have felt at particular times, and by the comforts and joys, which have ensued ; thefe perhaps were but transient. There may be sensible emotions of passion, which much refemble the workings of the mind in true repentance, but fall essentially short of that important change. If our hope rests in any temporary experience, we may be deceived.
But the anointing, which the true believer receives, and which abides in him, the apostle says, “ is truth, and is no lie." If the Christian temper be formed and remain in us, we may from thence draw an evidence, which will not deceive us. True religion in the heart is not light and flighty, but solid and substantial. Whether we possess this religion, we must judge by looking within us, by comparing ourselves with the word of God, by attending to the general tenor of our conduct, by inspecting the motives which
govern it, and by observing our tempers in the various changes and circumstances of life. If we find the gospel temper, in all its relations, operating steadily in us, and perceive a godly forrow fpon
taneously rising from our conscious failures in duty, and a humbleness of mind accompanying our known imperfections, then we have the belt evidence, which, in the present state, we can have, that we have passed from death to life. This is an evidence, which depends not on the opinion of others, but on our own experience—not on the occasional flow of affection, but on a permanent habit of holiness.
The apostle adds, “ As this anointing hath taught you, ye shall abide in him," in Christ, « that when he shall appear, ye may not be ashamed before him at his coming.'
The apostle refers Christians to their past experience of the power of religion.
« This anointing hath heretofore taught you. Seek comfort in the way, in which ye have found it already, You have received the gospel, and, with it, the fanctifying influence of the Spirit. Thus you have gained additional evidence of the truth of the gospel, and good hope of your title to eternal life. Why do you listen to those seducers, who would persuade you to seek a confirmation of your faith and hope in another way? Is there a more excellent way? If the gospel has been blefled of God to your fanctification, then you know it is divine ; for its efficacy on your hearts is God's testimony to its truth. If you have experienced God's fanctifying grace in your attendance on his institutions, then he has owned these inftitutions ; and will you forsake these for others, which seducers would substitute in their place ? Let this anointing abide, by which you have already been taught, and it will confirm what it has taught, and will teach you still more and more. complain of painful doubts concerning your state, and may long for higher comforts. But how did
you get the comforts which you have ? Was it not by attending to the gospel, and perceiving its fanctifying influence ? Then seek the grace of God to sanctify you more and more. Thus your comfort will increase. Thus you will have confidence before Christ at his coming.
This is the tenor, and force of the apostle's ar. gument. It is similar to that, which St. Paul uses with the Galatians to convince them of their fol. ly in turning from the grace of God unto another gospel. “This only would I learn of you ; Received
the spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish ? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye made perfect in the flesh ?"
This argument may be applied to all, who under the pretence of greater comfort and better ed. ification, forsake the administration of ordinances in the places where God has met them by his grace.
There are many Christians, who really believe that in their regular attendance on the ordinances of divine worship, they have received the anoint. ing of the Spirit ; and hence they have gained a comfortable hope of their title to eternal life. But a wicked seducer tells them, “ There are great crrors among the Christians with whom
aflem. ble ; and you will find more purity of doctrine, and more of the power of godliness among us." Tempted by such insinuations, they change their social connexion and their place of worship. Were I to speak with such Christians, on their change of relation, I should say, “ Consult your own experience. If you sincerely believe, that you have experienced the power of God's grace in the place, where you have fought it, why should
you forsake this place to find the grace of God some.
where elfe ? Why should you contemn the very means, which you think God has owned and bles sed to your fanctification and consolation ? You think, as some in John's time thought, that you can obtain greater comfort and improvement elfewhere ; and you choose to make the experiment; but it is a rath and dangerous experiment. John's advice is this, “ As the anointing hath taught you, abide in it. Thus when Christ shall appear, ye shall have confidence, and shall not be ashamed before him at his coming.
We see the way to obtain an evidence of our ti. tle to eternal life. It is to feek the sanctification of the Spirit. And this we are to seek by a regular attendance on the means of sanctification, which God has provided for us. Christ's prayer for his disciples was, “ Sanctify them by thy truth : thy word is truth.” It is by attending on the word of truth,
that we may hope to receive the fanctifi. cation of the Spirit. Christians are said to be “ begotten by the word of truth, and born of in. corruptible feed, even of the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
We perhaps hope, that we have received, what the apostle calls the anointing of the Spirit ; but doubts reft on our minds. And what shall we do? The apostle's advice is, “ Abide in this anointing ; in this holy life which is begun, and seek greater measures of grace, Take no other methods to dispel your fears, and establish your hopes.” This method is the most sure, and will be sufficient. Other methods may be deceptive; this is truth and is no lie. The more you increase in the temper, and abound in the fruits of holiness, the brighter will be your evidence of a title to eternal life, and the stronger will be your religious comforts. Whatever hopes you may obtain without Vol. y.
the inward work of sanctification, they will fail you. Every kind of hope, which is different from, and unconnected with this, is vain and de. lufive. But in this there is no deception. It is probable indeed that many deceive themselves, in answering the question, whether they are the subjects of this fanctification. But the evidence itself is sure. If there be an error, it arises not from the nature of the evidence, but from the blindness of the mind in applying it. Examine yourselves then, whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves ; for Christ is in you except ye be reprobates. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead with regard to fin ; and the Spirit is life with regard to righteousness ; for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
We who are ministers are taught, in what manher we should treat thofe, who apply to us for ad. vice under fpiritual doubts and fears. We are not to pronounce them in a converted state. This is affuming more than the apostles affumed. John intimates that seducers took this method to gain profelytes to their sect. The apostles were more cautious ; for they pretended to no certain knowledge of men's hearts, and they used no inticing and flattering words to bring men under their influence. The proper way of treating such inquirers is that which our apostle has exemplified; we are to explain the nature of religion, state the evidences of conversion, and direct men to examine their own hearts, and prove their own works. Thus we are to establish our own hopes ; thus our hearers must establish theirs. It is by, walking in the fear of God, that we walk in the comforts of the holy Ghoft. It is by abounding in the fruits of