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the things which they before held for truths, are brought into that way of thinking which is agreeable to St. Paul's doctrine, and receive it gladly whenever it comes in their way.
It must be allowed, however, at the same time, that there are counterfeit professors, whose religion lies in notions, and who, while they profess to believe in God, in works deny him; by reason of whom the ways of truth are evil spoken of*. This the apostles have taught us to expect; nay, it was so from the beginning, even while the apostles were themselves personally with the churches. To such St. James addresses the passage I have been reading to you, of which my text is the conclusion; and as I dare not hope that there are none such in this great assembly, it is highly proper, that before I conclude I shall take notice of a second proposition which naturally offers from the subject we have had in hand; and more especially from the reasoning of St. James, and from the words of my text.
2. That true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has a prevailing and habitual influence upon the arts and lives of those who possess it; and that they are vain men, and deceivers of themselves, who pretend to faith in him, while their lives and conversations show them to be enslaved to the love of the world, and the dominion of sin. The apostle, to inspire us with a just abhorrence of this false profession, makes use of two comparisons which are exceeding striking. May God open the eyes of those who are concerned in it, to perceive and tremble at the justness and horror of the resemblance.
1st, He compares it to the faith of devils:
* 2 Pet. ii. 2.
Are there any
believest there is one God; thou dost well. The “ devils also believe, and tremble*.” here whom it is needful to address in this harsh manner? My dear brethren, bear with me; I wish you well, and would willingly rejoice in every good appearance; but, alas! how little does it signify what you believe, or what you say, unless your acknowledged principles have an effect upon your conduct !
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? so does Satan. Do you believe the election of God, the sovereignty of grace, the perseverance of the saints? It is possible the devil may have a more extensive knowledge in these doctrines than the wisest of men; yet this benefits him not; it is not want of knowledge, but want of love, that makes him what he is.
The only effect mentioned of the faith of devils is, that it increases their terror, and aggravates their guilt. They believe, (there are no sceptics in hell,) and tremble. Is not this too much the case of some of you? If you knew less, you would be easier at least, and less inexcusable; and yet perhaps you
and yet perhaps you mistake your state, and think yourselves on this account far less blaineable than you really are. Perhaps sometimes, when you reflect sincerely on your ways, and how strangely you are hurried to act contrary to the convictions wbich the preaching of the Gospel forces upon you, you are ready to charge the Lord and his dispensations hardly, and to say, () that he would give me his grace! but if not, what can I do without it? Let conscience now speak faithfully, and it will tell you, that if you are condemned, it will not be for what you cannot do, but for wilfully refusing to improve the power alrcady given you. When I tell you, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord with comfort, and that you must break off from your vain company and evil practices, if you expect or desire to be saved, you know that I speak the truth; and your looks often testify that you
* James ii. 19.
feel the force of it. Now, while the word of God is sounding in your ears, you perhaps are thinking, “ It is time,
high time indeed, to break off; though the Lord has
forborn me long, he will surely strike at last, if I go “on thus.” And yet, alas ! what I have formerly seen gives me much cause to fear, that to-morrow, or the next time they entice you, you will consent again. But could I tell you, that by going a different way you might gain a sum of money; or could I make it appear, that the next time you went to such a place your house would certainly be robbed, I make no doubt but you would forbear. And yet gold is not grace. It is then plain, that you have power,
will is in fault. God has enlightened your conscience ; but you rebel against it. O repent, while there is yet space afforded. Call upon the name of Jesus; who knows but he may even yet deliver you!
2dly, He compares it to a dead carcass, which is not only unprofitable, but loathsome and offensive. May God show you to-day, how odious your profession is in his sight! for by assenting to the truths of the Gospel, and outwardly favouring the cause, and the instruments whom the Lord has raised up to promote it, you are so far professors. May be enable
May be enable you to be not only almost, but altogether Christians ! for while you
thus halt between two opinions, and stand divided between God and the world, you are an abomination to God, a grief to his people, a stumblingblock to the ignorant, and are, (if this was of any weight in compa
rison of what I have already said,) secretly despised by those who pretend to court your acquaintance. Your guilt is in some respects more aggravated, and your example unspeakably more mischievous, than either would be if you openly rejected the truth. You stand in the rank of those wicked servants who know their master's will, but do it not. The great Judge has determined concerning these, that they shall be beaten with many stripes *. Awake to righteousness, and sin not ; look up to Jesus, who is exalted to bestow both faith and repentance, that you may no longer be torn in picces by those inward contentions, but experience that peace which passes all understanding t.
GUILT REMOVED, AND PEACE RESTORED.
Psalm li. 15.
O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth
thy praise. The history of David is full of instruction. Every thing recorded of him affords us either consolation or caution. In his example, we see much of the sovereign power and providence of God. When a youth, though the least of his father's house, he was singled out, and called from following sheep, to rule a kingdom. We see him supported through a variety of difficulties, and at length established in his throne, to the amazement could say,
* Luke xii. 48.
† Phil. iv. 7.
and confusion of his enemies. In him likewise we have a striking proof of the evil that is in the heart of man. Who would have thought it, that David, the man so highly favoured, so wonderfully preserved, the man after God's own heart, who in the time of his distress
My soul thirsteth for God, even for the “ living God* ;” that he should be in an unguarded hour seduced, surprised, and led captive of the devil ! From gazing he proceeds to adultery, from adultery to murder, and at length sinks into such a stupid frame of mind, that an express message from God was needful to convince him of his sin. And in this circumstance we further see the riches of divine and mercy; how tenderly the Lord watches over his sheep, how carefully he brings them back when wandering from him, and with what rich goodness he heals their backslidings, and loves them freely. David was fallen, but not lost.
The thing which he had done, displeased the Lordt: Yet his loving-kindness and faithfulness were unalterable. He was interested in that covenant, “which is “ well ordered in all things and sure $;" and therefore, when he confessed his sin, the Lord assured him, by bis servant Nathan, that “ he had put away his sin, “and he should not die for it G.”
llowever, though the Lord is thus gracious in passing by the iniquity of his children, yet he will let them know, by sorrowful experience, that “it is an evil and a * bitter thing to sin against him ll.” Though he will not cast off, he will chasten; he will withdraw his presence, and suspend his gracious influences; and this to a sensible heart is a heavy punishment. Though David was
2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
* Psal. xlii. 2.
2 Sam. xii. 13.
† 2 Sam. xi. 27.