Графични страници
PDF файл

apostle Paul tells us he knew that in him, that is in his flesh, dwelt no good thing. Now, whether one be wholly sinful, or has some real virtue and religion, it is reasonable to suppose may be known, on thorough examination, by one who has eyes to see and a heart to understand.

(3.) There are many infallible marks of grace given in the holy scriptures, whereby the heirs of glory are to be known. Several of these are laid down by our Saviour in the beginning of his sermon on the mount: as humility; godly sorrow; a sincere desire of personal holiness; meekness, mercifulness, and purity of heart, The apostle John mentions brotherly kindness as a certain evidence of

saving grace. "We know that we have passed from death unto life," says he, "because we love the brethren." And the love of God and of Christ, are much insisted on in this view. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."-" Blessed is the man that endureth temptation for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." And, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."

(4.) Christians commonly pass through various changes, which are designed for their trial, that they may better understand their true character. They are tried frequently by prosperity and adversity: by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report, to prove them, and to let them know what is in their hearts. Now, under all these trials of their gratitude and moderation, of their meekness, humility, patience and submission, it is reasonable to believe that, in due time, with proper attention, it may be known what manner of spirit they are of. But,

(5.) That the full assurance of hope is a possible attainment in this life, we have unquestionable evi

dence from instances recorded in scripture of those by whom it was actually attained. David speaks the language of assurance respecting his future happiness, Psal. xvii. 15, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." Peter said to his risen Saviour, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." And Paul says, "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.-Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

2. To induce christians to diligence in seeking this assurance, it ought to be considered that it is a difficult attainment; and one not to be expected without laborious application.

The want of a conviction and belief of this, is probably the occasion of remissness in professors, and of their neglecting the diligent use of those means which such an attainment requires, as often as their discouragement from an apprehension of its impossibility. As long as people are looking for miracles, or for something of the nature of immediate revelations to assure them of their salvation, and imagine that little or nothing done by them is necessary, they will naturally be slothful in this business. God may, in some instances, have given the assurance of hope to particular persons, by suddenly lifting upon them the light of his countenance, when they were taking no great pains in religion; but I am persuaded that this is not his ordinary way; and that generally, it is only by much diligence that christians arrive to a well-grounded assurance of their being in a state of grace. Of this we may be convinced,

(1.) By the many pressing calls to self-examination, which we find in the holy scriptures. To this purpose, besides our text, see 2 Cor. xiii. 5, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves." And Gal. vi. 4, "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have confidence in himself alone, and not in another." That is, in the evidence of his good estate which he himself perceives; and not merely, or mainly in the charitable opinion of others concerning him. See also, 2 Pet. i. 10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election


It is evident from such exhortations as these, that the ordinary, if not the only way for christians to obtain the confidence of a well-grounded hope, is by painful diligence. If assurance of one's own salvation were of the essence of saving faith, as some have taught; or if it were God's ordinary way to give this assurance by impulses, or immediate suggestions; or by bringing comfortable texts of scripture, unsought for, into the minds of persons, as others seem to have supposed; or if the full assurance of hope were a common and easy attainment, what occasion could there be for these earnest admonitions?

[ocr errors]

(2.) There is reason to believe that giving diligence is necessary in christians, to make their calling and election sure, because of the many specious appearances of virtue and religion, which are often found in false professors.

Some are ready to say, A man is at no loss to know when he loves his children, or when he loves the world and the things of the world, or when his appetite is pleased with certain kinds of meats and drinks why then should one who loves God and Christ in sincerity, or who has a true relish for heavenly things, be at any loss about it; or be obliged to take much pains before he can be certain of it?

But to this it is replied, There are many counterfeits of the love of God, and Christ, and things heavenly; which, at first sight, or on a cursory examination, have a very plausible and fair appearance. It is to be observed that the objects of religious affections are things invisible; and things concerning which men are very liable to entertain erroneous conceptions. As the heathen had gods many, and lords many; so there may be as many different ideas of God and Christ, among the professors of christianity. And such gods and christs as exist only in the imaginations of men, may be very pleasing to the carnal mind. It may be thought impossible that so great a change as being brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light, should not be perceived and known by a person at the time: but every great change in the views and feelings of a man, is not a saving conversion. When it is considered how many sorts of religion there are in the world, and even in the christian world; how many kinds of conversion, and in how many different ways men imagine that they are going to heaven: it may well be believed to be no easy matter for one to know that his religion is pure and undefiled, or not essentially false; that his conversion has been sound and genuine, and that he is certainly in the narrow way to eternal life, which few there are who find.

(3.) The great imperfection of good men, renders it much more difficult for them to be well assured that they have any real goodness.

The beginning of true holiness in the regenerate may be compared to a little leaven hid in three measures of meal;, or to a grain of mustard seed sown in the earth. And even after more than common growth in grace, for a considerable length of time, there is still a law of sin-a remaining body of spiritual death, which may well occasion many doubts, as well as much grief and trouble. "Perfect love


casteth out fear :" but who, in this life, is made perfect in the love of God, or in any other grace?

(4.) That the full assurance of hope is an attainment which requires much diligence, may well be believed, because of the many subtile windings of self-love, and the extreme difficulty of knowing what is the bottom principle of action in men.

It is said, Psal. Ixiv. 6, "The inward thought of every one of them, and the heart is deep." It is said, Jer. xvii. 9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" There may be much seeming zeal for God, much apparent brotherly kindness and charity, and much external righteousness, as well as religion, when all springs, at bottom, from selfish principles, or merely interested motives. I may add,

(5.) That the difficulty of certainly knowing one's own true character and state, is much increased by the great proneness in men, and even in good men, to err in judgment, more especially respecting themselves. From pride, and the partiality of self-love, we are very apt to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think; and can more readily perceive the least mote in our brother's eye, than a beam in our own. This makes it easy for one to get a hope in regard to his own goodness; and difficult to know that one is not deceived.

3. The vast importance of this attainment, is the last motive which I shall mention, to give diligence to get and maintain a well-grounded, full assurance of hope.

Unless persons are convinced of this, they will not be persuaded to be at the necessary trouble and pains, however they may be made to believe there is a possibility of attaining to such an assurance. But it is obviously so great a happiness to feel certain, on Bbb

« ПредишнаНапред »