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and that though the spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak; therefore, we shall maintain a humble sense of our dependence on divine aid to strengthen us with might in the inner man, and pray with earnestness and importunity, that “God would hold up our goings, so that our footsteps may not slide, and that he would lead us in the way everlasting.” Thus, trusting for support from the Almighty, we shall be enabled to go on our way rejoicing, till at last, we finish our course with joy, and receive in the end the crown of life. Such is the character superinduced by regeneration, and if we are born of the Spirit, we shall exhibit such unequivocal symptoms of newness of life.-If we possess such mental dispositions as these, which have been now described, the image of God has been in some measure renewed on our souls, we are brought from death unto life, and by perseverance in well-doing, shall at last be qualified through the merits of our Saviour, for the enjoyment of that happiness which is prepared for the faithful in a future state. If such be the case, may it not be justly said, that we are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost ?
Having explained this subject so fully in detail, I shall conclude the whole by a few practical inferences.
1. We may hence learn, what gratitude is due from us to God, for renewing us in the spirit of our minds, by the powerful influences of the Holy Ghost. Of oursclves we can do nothing effectually in working out our salvation, but his inspirations have excited us to give heed to the things which concern our welfare, and enabled us to enter upon a course of religious obedience. All the means of grace, such as religious education, the preaching of the gospel, and the advices of the godly, have produced in us the fruits of righteousness, because they have been accompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. If they have been blessed to our use, while they have been disregarded by others, let us acknowledge, “ that it is not of him who willeth, nor of him who runneth, but of God who hath shewed us mercy.”
Let us co-operate with him, in employing all our
faculties in the service of religion ; let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, since God worketh in us both to will, and to do his holy will. The divine Spirit does not supersede our own exertions, but strengthens our infirmities; “ he puts a new heart within us, that we may walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments to do them." Unless, therefore, we labour to make our calling and election sure, by adding to our faith virtue, and every good habit, we shall receive his grace in vain, and from us shall be taken away, even that which we have received.
3. Let us beware of grieving the Spirit who dwelleth in us, by resisting his suggestions, or continuing in the practice of any sin, whereby he might be induced to depart from us. If he remind us by the dictates of conscience, or by accidental reflections, or the precepts of scripture, that this is the way in which we should walk, let us comply with his admonitions, and do what is wellpleasing in his sight. And if he persuade us to forsake any wicked way, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
4. Let us constantly pray for his directing agency, and depend upon his assistance to help us in time of need. Since we feel the impotence of our own strength, the perversity of our hearts, and the inconstancy of our resolutions to engage in the service of God; we shall be led to trust in him who is able to save us from falling, and preserve us faultless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we do so, we shall be upheld in the ways of well-doing, and kept by his mighty power through faith unto salvation.
EXCELLENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.
JOHN VI. 67, 68, 69.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go
away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord! to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
WE are informed in the latter part of this chapter, that the doctrine of our Saviour respecting the influence of divine grace, had given such offence to several of his hearers, that many of those who had declared their at tachment to his religion, henceforth renounced it as incredible in itself, and requiring too much self-denial from those who professed it. As numbers had thus abandoned the profession of the gospel, our Lord was desirous to try the fidelity of his original disciples, by interrogating them whether they would follow the example of those apostates, whose conduct was so worthy of reprehension. To his question which was addressed to them all, St. Peter replied in their name, with that determined intrepidity for which he was distinguished, and declared his resolution to adhere to his Master through good report, and through bad report. He was persuaded, that the system of faith which Christ promulgated, was the most consonant to reason, of all that had ever before been discovered to mankind; that it alone imparted true information respecting the mode of the divine dispensations, the state of human nature in the present world, and our destination in the
world to come. It alone could afford consolation to the heart, amidst the various evils to which we are exposed, and mitigate the painful sensations which we feel from temporal and spiritual maladies, by teaching us, that they shall work together for our good; and that our light af flictions, which are but for a moment, shall be succeeded by "an exceeding great, even an eternal weight of glory." It alone delivered promises, of the continual support of divine providence during the casualties of our earthly condition, and assured us, that God will never leave nor forsake us, but be our guide, even unto death. The gospel of Christ alone contains precepts which are holy, just, and good; suited to the happiness of mankind, and intended to promote the perfection of those who endeavour to obey them by lives of piety and holiness.-It also contains the discovery of gracious influences imparted from on high to the minds of the faithful, by which they are enabled to run in the way of God's commandments, and not be weary, to walk, and not faint;-till at last they attain as the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.
Such being the important discoveries contained in that revelation which Christ delivered to the world, well may every true Christian adopt the sentiments of St. Peter in the text, Lord to whom shall we go, but unto thee, for thou hast the words of everlasting life. And yet, notwithstanding the superior excellence of Christianity, there are found men who either reject it as a superstitious system of religion, or who hold the truth in unrighteousness, by refusing to conform to its sacred laws. They either disbelieve those mysterious doctrines which it contains, as contrary to reason and common sense, or deem its duties too hard to be performed by the impotent powers of the human mind. The former of these classes of men embraces the principles of deism, and will not accede to any truth, unless it be intelligible to their understandings; the latter, though they are ready to believe any doctrine, will not so willingly undertake the performance of those duties, which are written in the book of the law to do them. But, if we would indeed partake of the blessings which
are promised in the gospel to every true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should be sensible of their value, and that we can only procure them by faith and obedience, which are the conditions required of us, in order to salvation. We cannot find any other religion, so well adapted as Christianity, to the circumstances in which we are placed ; and, therefore, it becomes us to receive it as worthy of all acceptation, and regulate our lives by its injunctions, as they are not the words of men, but in truth and reality, the words of the living God.
That we may be induced to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, let us consider, in the remainder of this discourse,
I. The miserable condition of mankind, without the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, and the importance of the doctrines which it reveals.
II. The excellence of Christianity, in discovering to us the existence of a future state, and the means of preparing ourselves for its enjoyment.
III. The divine character and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the reasonableness of believing in the revelation he has made.
IV. The application of the subject.
1. The miserable condition of mankind, without the knowledge and belief of the gospel, may appear by an investigation of the following particulars. In all those nations of the world, where the human mind has been left to form a system of religion, by the speculations of its own unassisted powers, the most absurd superstition has prevailed from age to age. Ignorant of the true God, they worship idols, the work of their own hands, as the representations of his invisible essence. Conscious of the depravity of their hearts and lives, and that they are thereby exposed to the indignation of their Maker, they sacrifice victims on the altars of their deities, and even offer the fruit of their body, for the sin of their soul. Uninstructed in right principles of moral obligation, they are addicted to every species of crimes, which the heart of man can devise, or the hand of man perpetrate. No