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too many who profess these doctrines, confirm these fatal prejudices, and furnish them with anecdotes and objections, with which to oppose the truth. But when a man soberly avows his belief of the gospel, and “ is ready to give a reason of the hope that is in “ him, with meekness and fear:” when he discourses rationally on other subjects, and behaves with increas: ing propriety and consistency in all its various relations and engagements: the prejudices of observers gradually subside, and they begin to allow that his principles are not so intolerable as they conceived them to be. Finding, that, while he decidedly re. solves“ to obey God rather than man,” he also is ready to serve or oblige others, when he can do it with a good conscience; and that his conduct when most exactly scrutinized, appears to the greatest advantage; and feeling perhaps that their own interest and comfort have been materially advanced by the change: they are prepared to receive more favourably any hint he may drop concerning the salvation of Christ; to read a book that he earnestly recommends, or to give the preachers of the gospel an occasional hearing. Thus many are led to an acquaintance with the truths of Christianity in the most attractive manner: their aversion and contempt are almost imper: ceptibly removed; and one after another is brought to the knowledge of Christ, and faith in his blood. Then a new light is set up to shine before men, that others may see his good works also, and be won over to join in glorifying our God and Father.
The Lord alone, it is true, can open the under, standing and change the heart: but he almost alırars VOL.1.
uses means and instruments; and the pious example and zealous endeavours of Christians, as well as the pre.ching of the gospel, are blessed to the conversion of sinners. Every believer therefore should habitually design and endeavour to be useful in this manner, within his proper sphere; and propose it to himself as the grand object of his future life, to which all other pursuits ought to be subordinated, and if possible rendered subservient. He should watch over his tempers, words, and actions; and endeavour to regulate them in such a manner, that they may give the utmost energy to his attempts to recommend the gospel to his family and acquaintance. It should be his constant aim, to strengthen the hands of faithful ministers; and to shew in his own conduct, the reality, 'excellency, and beauty of pure religion, and its tendency to render men happy and useful.
When this is carefully and generally attended to, the number of real Christians will commonly be mul. tiplied, the light of life will be more widely diffused; and the grain of mustard seed will become a large plant. ..We cannot reflect seriously on this subject, without lamenting, that there are but few Christians, even in nations professing Christianity. The man, who hlars an express command of Christ with contemptuous neglect, and habitually disobeys it, cannot reasonably expect to be thought his true disciple; yet, who can deny that immense multitudes of professed Christians do thus treat the exhortation contained in the text?-Let none then be offended with us, for dis. tinguishing between true believers, and those who san
to Christ, “ Lord, Lord, but do not the things which " he says:” for as he will shortly come, and make a complete and final separation; it is of the utmost consequence to every one, that he learn his real character and condition, before the door of mercy and hope be for ever shut against him.
Let each individual, therefore, seriously and impartially enquire, whether he have that inward evidence of having believed and obeyed the gospel, which arises from a fervent desire that God may be glorified in the conversion of sinners, and from an uniform endeavour to “ let his light shine before men,” for that purpose. If this be wholly wanting, the most exact creed and the strictest form of godliness will prove entirely unavailing. The Judge, at his appearance will silence all such pleas, by saying with awful indignation, " Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” In proportion, as we are doubtful, whether this be indeed the ruling principle of our hearts and the plan of our lives; we should question whether our faith bę living, and our hope warranted. We are, however, invited to come to Christ, as sinners for salvation: and if we really accept of this invitation, “ giving diligence
to make our calling and election sure;” the subsequent change will constitute a 'witness in ourselves,' that we are partakers of Christ, and that his Spirit dwelleth in us.
Finally, my Christian brethren, we all need to be deeply humbled, that we have not “ let our light shine before men,” in that measure, and to that effect, which our peculiar advantages and obligation rendered in. cumbent on us.
Let us then confess and lament our
unfruitfulness: and while we humbly crave forgiveness of the past, let us earnestly beseech the Lord for a larger measure of his grace; that we may henceforth “ walk more worthy of God, who hath called us to his * kingdom and glory.”
JAMES i. 22-25.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,
deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he be- . holdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed,
THE apostle James seems to have especially intended his epistle, as an antidote to the delusion of those, who abused the doctrines of grace; and who, expecting salvation by a dead faith, considered good works as altogether superfluous. This may account for the remarkable difference, between his language and that of St. Paul; who was chiefly employed in contending against such as ran into the opposite extreme. Having