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learned and unstable, that is (as I told you) those who, being not well grounded in the faith, were cafy to be drawn aside into pernicious opinions and deftructive errors. From whence it follows, that the best way to fecure ourselves from thus perverting what is obfcure in fcripture is, firft, to render ourfelveslearned and ftable in what is plain;and fixing that as our center, from whence we are not to be removed, we may extend our thoughts and opinions to what circumference we pleafe. That fath which we keep pure and undefiled in fundamentals, fhall either enable us to find out those truths of leffer moment, that perfectly agree with it, or fhall excufe us before God, if we fhould mifs of them. There will be a probability from hence of our understanding obfcure texts rightly; or if we do not, yet there will be a certainty of our not incurring the guilt of of "wrefting fcripture to our own destruction."
Thus have I difpatched the fecond general obfervation, which I raised from the text, (viz.) to confider from thence, what temper and qualifications of mind, what precaution and degrees of knowledge are requifite, in order to make our enquiries into the obfcure parts of holy writ innocent and useful to us.
I might obferve alfo from hence, in the
3d Place, That if perverting obfcure paffages of fcripture be a thing in itfelf damnable, as t. Peter affures us, it is; how much more certainly damnable is it to pervert plain ones? And then infer,
4thly, and laftly alfo, that if fuch a sentence be pronounced upon those, who wrest scripture;
then surely a much higher degree of punishment is reserved for thofe, wno affront and ridicule it. But because the first of these points has been already in fome measure intimated in the preceding difcourfe, and there occafionally explained; and because the second is of too extenfive and concerning a nature to be now confidered; I fhall therefore at present infist upon neither of them, They may perhaps employ our reflexions on fome other opportunity.
October 15, 1710.
A Difcourfe on Religious Sincerity, wherein the true Marks and Tefts of it are fully fet forth.
2 CORINTH. xiii. 5.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith prove your own felves.
HERE are three feveral ranks and orders of men, into which thofe "that name the name of Chrift, and profefs his religion, may be divided. Some have nothing more than the mere name and profeffion of Christianity, for in their works they deny it; "being alienated from the life of Chrift," Ephef. iv. 18. and paying no manner of obedience to his laws; but living in the open and avowed practice of all kind of pollutions
lutions. Others there are who as manifeftly adorn the doctrine they embrace, and live up to the rule which they profefs, fo far as human infirmity will fuffer them. They have by the grace God concurring with their fincere endeavours, fubdued the power of their corrupt lufts and affections, fo that little or no disturbance doth from thence arise to them; but they go on in the paths of virtue, and the duties of piety, evenly and regularly; glorifying God, aud benefiting men, and "fhining more and more unto a perfect day." Prov. iv. 1. And to each of thefe the ftate and condition of their own fouls is known certainly and clearly. Aftrong conviction of guilt terrifies the one, without any offer of excufe, or hope of pardon; and the confcience of the other bears witness to their uprightness, without doubts, or mifgivings. Between these there is a middle ftate of men, who are neither notoriously evil, nor yet remarkably virtuous; neither entirely given over to work wickednefs, nor yet thoroughly confirmed in goodness; but in a doubtful uncertain way of living, and thinking; fometimes ftanding firm in virtue, and fometimes failing; fometimes finning, and fometimes repenting; fometimes hoping and fometimes defponding.
To fuch as thefe the exhortation of the apoftle in my text is directed: "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own felves;" That is, confider your condition impartially and thoroughly, try it by the rules of the gofpel; fatisfy yourfelves once for all, whether you be true fincere believers, fuch as God will accept. If you find that you are, refolve by his