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mation than either zeal, knowledge, eloquence, almsgiving, or sincerity; therefore, where there is real love, though there may be such erroneous doctrines as are compared by the apostle to “wood, hay, stubble," and which shall be destroyed or burnt up, yet the man himself may escape. It must, however, be admitted that those doctrines which, for their superior excellency, he calls “gold, silver, precious stones,” will, when attended with love, and, as ought to be the case, with love in all its height, depth, length, and breadth, render their possessor more acceptable to God, and will be followed with proportionable rewards. On this account all persons should be particularly cautious what prineiples they embrace, with what party of professing christians they unite themselves, and what forms or ceremonies they adopt. As these things will have some influence on our hearts and lives, we should choose those which will produce the best, that is, those which are the most calculated to promote the greatest and purest love to God, and the most fervent love to mankind.-Each, perhaps, believes his system contains the truth, as I do of mine ; but while we all adhere to what we believe is right, and contend that others are wrong, it is needful, while we reject, or attempt to refute their sentiments, to exercise great candour toward their persons. Such as think much the same as ourselves will be grieved, offended, and driven farther off by uncharitableness; and such as are, in our judgment, wide of truth, are more deserving of our compassion than our vengeance.
Having made these observations concerning sin, and shewn how many ways it is discovered, I now purpose to speak of the means instituted by the mercy of God, for its destruction ; and hope that what has been already advanced will prove useful, as a mirror to discover how far it has prevailed ju us, and cause us the more thankfully to receive all the help afforded us by the gospel, in facilitating our escape.
TIE NATURE OF CONVERSION
The natural Man opposed to God-cannot change his own
Nature-effected by Divine grace.
MAN OPPOSED TO GOD.
Before any man is capable of entering aright into the service of God, or of receiving the rewards of that service, either in this world or in that which is to come, he must possess dispositions of mind for the same: otherwise his heart will assuredly cleave to another master, and other lords will have dominion over him, and lead him captive at their will. These dispositions are wrought in the heart by conversion. Conversion is properly turning from sin to God; which includes several things of considerable importance, as this mournful truth, that the heart of man is naturally set in direct opposition to God-that there is some preponderating. cause which removes that opposition—that that cause is the grace of God. There are also other things which shall be spoken of in their order.
One of Job's friends compares the birth of man to a wild ass's colt, and though a simile coarse enough, it is sufficiently expressive; for what does an infant know of the fear, love, wisdom, or service of God, more than a wild ass's colt? Nor is it without considerable labour, even after the mental powers begin to expand, that a proper and lasting
impression of these subjects is made upon the mind, by those who are most concerned that it should take place in their children; and when it is done, it rarely happens that the success is at all proportioned to the labour. The thoughts, inclinations, and desires, are chiefly directed to sensible objects; and to these they readily and willingly cleave. It is not so with God, and what appertains to his kingdom. Ilere all is constraint, except where our curiosity seeks to be indulged; and, in general, that curiosity is soon satisfied, and runs with equal or greater ardour after other objects. Though the Lord has kindly assumed many titles which set forth the greatness, constancy, and durability of his love, yet there is a strange unwillingness in us to observe or acknowledge it: nay, many appear more disposed blasphemously to prate against him and his government, than to honour and submit themselves to him. They regard his perfections with an evil eye, and remain insensible amidst his gracious or sin-avenging dispensations.
The same unwillingness appears in us to know our true selves. Self-acquaintance, in a moral sense, is highly expedient; but, to many, it is the most irksome of all studies. There is something, perhaps, more pleasing, though less profitable, in ourselves, physically considered; as our nature, manner of existence, connecting medium, and dependencies, &c. Yet this is a subject more interesting to ingenious and learned men than to persons in general, who have as little inclination for this kind of study as the other. This stupidity is greatly to be deplored, and confirms the wise man's saying, that “the heart of the sons of men is FULLY set in them to do evil,” and consequently leads them in all their ways to act contrary to God. Nor will this language appear too strong, if we weigh ourselves in the impartial balance of the sanctuary; by which means it will be easily discovered how much we are wanting. Let us begin with the understanding. This, which was intended to be the seat of Divine knowledge is so overspread by the clouds and mists of spiritual darkness, that the rays of truth can scarcely penetrate them, and are often neither loved nor desired when they do, since they expose as evil what the carnal mind considers as good. We are not easily prevailed upon to relinquish what we love; and this accounts for men continuing in their iniquity amidst the warnings and threatenings of the scriptures. Few persons are careful to improve the light they have into the nature of God, their souls, or eternity ; though they will be called to account for this talent as well as others. Flow greatly this is opposed to God, St. John informs us in these words, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” He is all light, truth, wisdom, holiness, and goodness; our minds the reverse of all. So far are those in opposition to him who continue in a state of nature.
The will is perverse, opposing itself to good, and inclined to evil; or why is such decided preference given to that which is displeasing to God, and that abhorred and neglected which he approves of and commands ? Whence arises the enmity we feel in our hearts to his service and communion with Him? And why such dislike to those who depart from evil? What a long and obstinate resistance of grace appears in some, and what shocking exploits of wickedness in others! Numbers appear bent on their own destruction, and that kind expostulation, “Why will ye die?” has, apparently, no other effect than to increase their condemnation, by their rejection of it, as they do all other attempts to reclaim and make them holy. To sin is a great evil, but obstinately to persist therein, is exceedingly provoking to the Lord.
The passions and affections are disorderly.--When the mind is not under the controul and direction of the Spirit of truth, it is like the inconstant ocean, shaken by every ruffling wind; sometimes elevated by excessive joy, and then sunk in bitter sorrow; now charmed by deceitful hopes, and anon overwhelmed with distressing fears ; at one time under the influence of inordinate love, and at another breathing the most deadly hatred, and both, perhaps, towards the same object; full of admiration to-day at the discovery of something new, and to-morrow our praises are turned into equal disgust; now eager in the pursuit of some criminal gratification, and soon blushing for shame at the accomplishment of our premeditated wickedness. Can peace dwell in such hearts ? Can such be prepared for the service of God: These inclinations, passions, and pursuits, lead the soul into a labyrinth of trouble and vanity; and like continual ploughing, without sowing and reaping, they have their labour for reward, and are made to lie down in sorrow. Such a state of mind is altogether in opposition to the will of Heaven.
The memory.—The ideas treasured up in the mind are chiefly such images of objects as have more particularly affected us in a pleasing or painful sense from time to time, according to existing circumstances; and as the actions of such as have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and the subjects which have engaged their attention, and in which they have considered themselves most interested, have been of a worldly nature ; what cages of " unclean birds” are the hearts of sinful men! What a storehouse of light, deceitful, and impure thoughts and ideas, is the unchanged heart of every rebellious creature! Who can say how often sin is committed by the recollection of past sin? We look back, and retracing our misconduct, many scenes of forbidden pleasure, and weakness on our part, and unkindness on the part of others, re-kindle in our carnal hearts the fires of pride, passion, and revenge. The places we have visited, the company we have kept, the books we have read, the things which have amused us, the secret sins we have committeil ourselves, and promoted in others, have left those images, and made those impressions, which are not easily removed. If an inventory could be taken of all that we have treasured up in the memory, what lots of whimsical, frothy, vain, ridiculous, unholy, malicious, covetous, idolatrous, revengeful thoughts would appear, and other matters too disgusting, painful, and tedious to relate, be discovered! As all lies open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do,