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the source of all the corruptions that are in the world. The devil is called "an unclean spirit," and it is sin that hath made him so.-We should also labour to be more and more sensible of this; for till we are convinced of our pollution, we shall not seek after cleansing. God reproves the insensibility of Israel, and mentions it as a very dangerous symptom: How canst thou say, I am not polluted? (Jer. ii. 23.)Let me put the question also to each of you this day: Wilt thou, or wilt thou not, be made clean? Let the question go round: let conscience speak: let your conduct speak. If you are not made clean, you cannot be made happy. If there is no end of your sin in this world, there will be no end of your torment in the next. Either God must change, or you must change for the lip of truth hath declared, that no unclean person hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God: and without holiness no man shall see the Lord! Ephes. v. 15. Heb. xii. 14.
'Tis sin disorders all my frame,
'Tis in his grace, 'tis in his blood,
Submissive at his feet I wait,
The Important Question.
JOHN ix. 25.
Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
THIS is a question which we may with propriety put to others, especially in two cases. First, when persons make a profession of religion, and do not act in character, for faith without works is dead, being alone and secondly, when their outward conduct is irreproachable, but they appear to depend too much upon their own performances, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Above all, this is a question which every one of us ought to apply to ourselves, if our eternal interests be deemed worthy of any attention. Oh my soul, dost thou believe on the Son of God!
Let us first consider the importance of the question, and then see whether we can answer it in a satisfactory manner for ourselves.
I. The importance of the question: "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Here the following things may be remarked.
1. It is a question of great extent, and includes things of the highest moment. It is not, am I a churchman or a dissenter, of this denomination or that; but am I a believer in Christ? Am I called, or uncalled; regenerate, or unregenerate; quickened by
the Spirit, or dead in sin; a child of wrath, or an heir of heaven? Is God my friend, or my enemy; am I under the law, or under grace? Were I to die this moment, what would become of me? Would angels. convey me to the realms of bliss; or devils, as the instruments of divine vengeance, plunge me into an abyss of misery? All this is included in our present enquiry.
2. We are apt to take it for granted that we believe in Christ without sufficient evidence. This should enforce the question upon all those who are solicitous to know their real state, and awakened to a serious thoughtfulness about their eternal concerns. Do we hate to be imposed upon in little matters? Oh let us not impose upon ourselves in this! Is a cheat an object of public contempt? Oh how will it be with them hereafter, who put a cheat upon their own souls now! When our everlasting all lies at stake, it becomes us not to be too confident; we can scarcely be too suspicious. We cannot be too jealous of our own hearts, for they are deceitful above all things; nor too watchful against self-love and selfflattery, the influence of which is so strong and prevailing. Have we no faith but what we brought into the world, or have worked ourselves up to? Then we have no real faith at all.
3. The decision of this question can be in no way hurtful to us, but may be much for our advantage. Suppose we are convinced that we have no faith; such a conviction may alarm and humble us, and drive us to the throne of grace, and engage us diligently to use the appointed means for obtaining it. When a sick man is sensible of his disease, and the danger attending it, it is one step towards a cure. But suppose, on the other hand, that a diligent enquiry, attended with fervent prayer to God for his direction and assistance, should end in a comfortable persuasion that we are possessed of this precious grace,
still we should have abundant reason to be thankful for the time and labour thus bestowed. Such a persuasion would be a defence against the fiery darts of Satan, a motive to gratitude, a spur to duty, and a great means of forwarding us in our christian race.
4. This question will be decided another day. Whether we are believers or unbelievers, will be known not only to ourselves, but to all the world, when we come to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. Every man's true character will then appear. Jacob was afraid lest his father should feel him, and he should be found a deceiver: and should not the same fear possess every one with respect to God? It is probable the foolish virgins had no suspicion of their being such, till they sought to enter in, and the door was shut. If God will search us, it is both our duty and interest to search ourselves; nay, to beg of him that he would do that now, which he will certainly do hereafter; saying with David, Examine me, oh Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart! Where the truth of faith was never questioned, there is ground of fear that true faith was never obtained.
Having briefly considered the importance of the question, let us now observe
II. Its application.-In order to a satisfactory answer to this solemn enquiry, with respect to ourselves, there are a few particulars which require our serious attention, as things which accompany our believing in Christ, and are evidences of it.
1. Have we ever been convinced of sin, and the deplorable condition into which it has brought us? There was a shaking among the dry bones, before they came bone to his bone: and an earthquake, whirlwind, and fire preceded the small still voice. There is a casting down previous to a lifting up; a a storm raised in the soul before a comfortable calm.
Persons do not step immediately out of a state of quietness in sin, into a state of salvation. They must have a fearful apprehension of wrath, before they will fly from it; a painful sense of their disease, before they will apply to the physician; and none will seek after life and righteousness from another, till they have seen themselves in a state of guilt and condemnation. Nothing but absolute necessity will drive a soul to Christ. Has the commandment so entered as to make sin appear exceedingly sinful, and produce a kind of spiritual death in the soul? As acceptable obedience is impossible without faith, so faith is equally impossible without a preceding work of humility. High imaginations must be cast down, before every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We must see ourselves to be lost and miserable sinners, before we shall cry out with the jailor, What must we do to be saved! As there is a repentance which follows after faith, so there is a repentance that goes before it. The former is excited by our looking on him whom we have pierced, and this is truly evangelical: the latter is not so. There may be a great deal of distress and sorrow on account of sin, and it may only be the sorrow of the world that worketh death. That only is genuine repentance which flows from the cross of Christ. Impenitence and unbelief always go together. Among Paul's hearers, divers were hardened, and believed not. If we have not been weary and heavy laden, it is not likely that we have come to Christ for rest; and if not convinced of sin, we have not yet believed on him.
2. Have we ever been stripped of our vain hopes, and carnal confidences? We read of the day of the Lord being upon every one that is high and lifted up, upon the mountains and hills, the cedars of Lebanon, and oaks of Bashan, and all pleasant pictures: and this generally precedes the comfortable manifestation