Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

do well ; Relieve the oppressed, precede others; whether conver&c. How is a man to know, that sion begins always with repentance, his heart, his affections are right, if or faith, or love. If there is any they excite to no holy purposes ? invariable order in these exercises, And how can he know that his they may succeed one another so purposes are holy, if they all relate rapidly, that the necessity of this to the future, and have no reference order can furnish no excuse for any to the present performance of duty ? perceptible delay, with respect to He that doeth righteousness is right- either of them, or with respect to eous ; not he who merely intends the commencement of practical to do his duty, at some future pe- godliness. riod.

But how, it may be asked, is the Is the sinner to be called upon including of Christian practice to do any thing preparatory to faith among the duties required of the and repentance ? To begin to re- sinner, consistent with the orthopent, no preparation is necessary, dox doctrine, that the first duty to except that he know that he is a be pressed upon every sinner, is sinner. And to begin to believe, no immediate repentance? “God compreparation is necessary, except mandeth all men--now to repent.” that he have the proper object of I answer, that according to the faith in view. This may fairly be statement which I have made, imsupposed to be the case, in some mediate repentance is required. degree at least, with every one in a But if repentance be understood in Christian land, whose attention is the limited sense, as consisting in excited to the concerns of the soul. sorrow for sin, this is not the only But it is proper to call upon him to duty immediately required, as is do that which is preparatory to manisest from the texts which have deeper repentance, and higher de- been quoted. It ought to be obgrees of faith: that is, to obtain served, however, that according to more adequate views of his own scriptural usage, the word repentguilt, and more exalted apprehen- ance has commonly a much more sions of the grace of the Saviour. extensive signification ; especially It is the duty of the Christian to be when the Greek is Mstavoia. It in the exercise of increasing re- includes Christian practice. It is pentance and faith, during life; turning from sin to holiness. It and therefore to be in the diligent is reformation of heart and life. It use of the means calculated to bring is ceasing to do evil and learning to the objects of these graces more do well. In the scriptural sense, fully before the mind. He can re- therefore, to call upon a man to repent, only so far as he knows what pent, is to call upon him to enter he is to repent of; and he can be- immediately upon a life of holy obelieve, only so far as he learns what dience. When the wicked man he is to believe.

turneth away from his wickedness, Is the sinner to be directed to do and doeth that which is lawful and any thing before he repents and be- right, he shall save his soul alive.* lieves ? He is neither to delay re- It may be farther objected, that pentance and faith till he has done a man must first have faith, before something else ; nor is he to delay you set him upon the performance the performance of practical du- of external duties. Without faith, ties on the ground that he has not it is impossible to please God.yet repented and believed. I would But what is the nature of the faith not be understood as intending to which is spoken of in this passage? decide the question, whether, in It is undoubtedly saving faith : for the order of nature, certain exercises of the renewed mind must not

* Ezek. xviii. 27.

[ocr errors]

the apostle says the just shall live full and fair proportions in which it by faith; and adds, We are of is presented in the scriptures. them—that believe to the saving of It may be said again, if the sinner the soul; and then immediately en- should not mistake external moraliters upon that description of faith ty for real holiness ; yet he will be shich is continued through the in danger of relying upon his works, Ilth chapter of Hebrews; and as recommending him to the mercy which is by far the most particular of God, and preparing him to reaccount of this grace, any where to ceive renewing grace. This is very be found in the scriptures. And possible, and I fear very common. what is the representation here giv. Yet the proper way to counteract en of the faith without which it is the destructive influence of error, impossible to please God? Is it is not to conceal the truth ; but to described as a faith which is exer- bring it forward in such a manner, eised solely or principally in con- as to correct the error. templation, or acts of devotion ; Again it may be asked, is it not which is confined to abstract feel expedient to chain down the atten. ings, unconnected with conduct; tion of the awakened sinner to the which precedes all attempts at prac- single point of his guilt and danger? tical godliness? Is it not rather is not this the way to give the deepspoken of as chiefly expressed in est tone to his feelings ; to bring the life; as accompanying external his distress and convictions to a criduties? By faith, Noah prepared sis? Is it not best to omit, for the an ark. By faith, Abraham obeyed, present, any mention of external and sojourned in the land of pro- duties, lest this should divcrt his mise. By faith, he offered up Isaac. attention from the immediate and As James expresses it, faith pressing demands of conscience ? wrought with his works. By faith, The most direct answer to this is, Moses forsook Egypt. By faith, that so far as the plan of address others subdued kingdoms, wrought here proposed varies from that righteousness, wandered in deserts which is presented to us in the and mountains, &c.

scriptures, it is a scheme of human But by exhorting impenitent sin- invention ; and therefore we ought ners to practical duties, shall we not to expect, that it will be more not be in danger of leading them to efficacious than that which has rely on mere external morality, as come to us from heaven. No a substitute for inward piety? We mode of addressing the conscience, shall, undoubtedly, if we confine our no process of conviction, will be of exhortations to external conduct; any avail, without the renewing inif we do not insist upon the neces- fluence of the Spirit. And which sity of love, and faith, and peni- have we reason to believe he will tence, to render any action accept- most readily bless, the plan of inable to God. But enjoining upon struction and exhortation pointod sinners the immediate performance out in his word, or that which is of every duty, both internal and ex. substituted by the ingenuity of ternal, is not encouraging them to man? The Christian minister who believe, that the latter class alone is really in earnest, in seeking the will entitle them to salvation.-- salvation of his impenitent hearers, They may perdert the truth, in this will not be satisfied with merely case, as well as in others. Yet the stating to them the terms, which, proper way to guard against this if complied with, will ensure their perversion, is to exhibit the truth to salvation. He must be unfaithful chem, not in any mutilated and dis- indeed, if he does less than this. torted representations, but in the But he is bound to do more; to give such a scriptural exhibition of the made to exhorting sinners to the truth, as is best calculated, in con- immediate performance of practinexion with the influence of the cal duties ; That it is exposing Spirit, to obtain the eompliance of them to the danger of indulging a his hearers.

false hope ; of resting upon exterIs it true, that external conduct nal morality, as evidence of Chrisis not included under the immedi- tian character. To guard against ate demands of conscience ? And this, it may be said, that they ought will he have a juster sense of his first to be satisfied that their hearts guilt, whose mind is turned to a part are right, by looking in upon the afonly of the duties which he fails to fections, without reference to prac. perform, than he upon whom every tice. If we take the scriptures for violation and omission is distinctly our guide, however, we shall find pressed

that the danger lies the other way; It may be very proper, for a in coming to a decision respecting preacher, on particular occasions, our character, from the affections for the sake of exciting emotion, to alone, before there is sufficient opconfine himself to a single topic. portunity for the trial by practice. The practice of the apostles was We ought to judge of our piety, not not inconsistent with this. They by feelings alone, nor by external vary their mode of address, to adapt conduct alone, but by both together. it to persons and circumstances. On this point, I have taken the It may be proper to confine the at. liberty to quote largely from Presitention of an awakened sinner, for dent Edwards's Treatise on the Afdays, perhaps, to one simple view fections. I place great reliance on of his case. But if this does not his authority, as he not only has produce the desired effect, you will written this laboured and profound in vain hope to deepen his emo- work, on the evidences of Christian tions, by repeating the same character, but had great experience thoughts in nearly the same forms in powerful and extensive revivals of expression, after the influence of religion. The Treatise on the of novelty has ceased. If you Affections was published ten or would still reach his heart, you twelve years after the great revimust change the nature, or the val in his own congregation at manner, of your address ; without Northampton ; and in the interval, yielding, however, any one point, the writer had the advantage of in the demands of the law or the great experience of the results of gospel. The Christian preacher that remarkable work of grace; and has no reason to complain, that he also, of a more general revival in has not an ample field for the ex- 1740, extending over most parts of ercise of his powers, in dealing New-England. That which he so with sinners; that he has nothing much insists upon, as being espeto say to them, but simply “Re- cially scriptural evidence of Christpent and believe.” He may spend ian character, and of vastly greater a life, in explaining and enforcing importance than every thing else, even these duties ; and that, with- is Christian practice, consisting in out treading always in the same external obedience, together with beaten track.

those holy purposes which he terms every sin which his hearers are re- imperative acts of the mind, in disquired to forsake; upon every duty tinction from the views and feelings which they are bound to perform; which are principally experienced upon every truth which they are in contemplation. Having enucommanded to believe.

merated various traits of Christ. One other objection may be ian character, as they appear in the

He may

dwell upon

life, he adds, “Such a manifesta- sion; but his works will be brought tion as has been described, of a forth as evidence of what he is." Christian spirit in practice, is vastly Once more, “I think it to be beyond the fairest and brightest abundantly manifest, that Christian story of particular steps, and pas- practice is the most proper evidence sages of experience, that was ever of the gracious sincerity of profestold." “ Christian practice, in sors, to themselves and others; and the sense that has been explained, the chief of all the works of grace, is the chief of all the evidences of the sign of signs, the evidence of a saving sincerity in religion, to the evidences, that which seals and consciences of the professors of it; crowns all other signs. I had rathmuch to be preferred to the meth- er have the testimony of my conod of the first convictions, enlight- science, that I have such a saying enings, and comforts in conversion; of my supreme Judge on my side, of any immanent discoveries or ex- as that John xiv. 21. He that ercises of grace whatsoever, that hath my commandments and keepbegin and end in contemplation.”+ eth them, he it is that loveth me; " True grace is not an inactive than the judgment and fullest apthing. There is nothing in heaven probation of all the wise, sound, or earth, of a more active nature. and experienced divines, that have It is the very nature or notion of lived this thousand years, on the grace, that it is a principle of holy most exact and critical examination action or practice. Regeneration of my experiences, as to the manhas a direct relation to practice. ner of my conversion.” We are created unto good works." If the views of Edwards on this Again,“ holy practice is ten subject are correct, is it not evident times more insisted on, as a note that the danger of deception is far of true piety. throughout the scrip- greater, when self-examination is ture, from the beginning of Gene. confined to the state of the affecsis to the end of Revelation, than tions, at the commencement of a any thing else. And in the New religious course, than when the Testament, where Christ and his practical duties of life are taken apostles do expressly, and of de- into the account, in connection with clared purpose, lay down the signs the feelings of the heart? And of true godliness, this is almost have we not reason to believe, that wholly insisted on." " Christ no many fail of finding peace in reli

.

'S where says, ye shall know the tree gion, by seeking it in the affections by its leaves or flowers, or ye shall only, while they live in the neglect know men by their talk, or ye shall of outward acts of obedience. Can krow them by the good story they we be justified in leading any tell of their experiences ;-but by to suppose that a well grounded their fruits shall ye know them."| evidence of their own Christian So men's practice is the only evi- character, can be obtained, while dence, that Christ represents the they are living in the omission of future judgment as regulated by, in those practical duties, from which that most particular description of scriptural evidence is principally to the day, Matthew ixv. The Judge be derived ? will not go about to examine men, " It is greatly to the hurt of relias to the method of their experien- gion,” says President Edwards, ces, or set every man to tell his “ for persons to make light of, and story of the manner of his conver- insist little on those things which

the scripture insists most upon, as * Works, vol. iv. 368—9. Same vol. p. 376. I p.346. p. 386. p. 354.

* Vol. iv. 393.

p. 394.

[ocr errors]

of most importance in the evidence any directions concerning practical of our interest in Christ ;-depend- duties ? that he must first learn that ing on our ability to make nice dis- his heart is changed; that he must tinctions in these matters, and a show us bis faith without his works ; faculty of accurate discerning in and then we will put him in the them, from philosophy or experi- way of deciding by the scriptural ence. It is in vain to seek for any rule, what has been previously debetter or any further signs than cided without this rule ? Is there those that the scriptures have most no danger in thus hurrying him to expressly mentioned, and most fre- settle this most momentous point, quently insisted on, as signs of before he has even an opportunity godliness. They who pretend to a of applying the test of character greater accuracy in giving signs, given in the Bible ? Is he to be are bat subtil to darken their own called upon, not only to repent imminds and the minds of others; mediately, but immediately to entheir refinings and nice discernings tertain a hope that he is converted ? are, in God's sight, but refined As on the one hand, the salvation foolishness and a sagacious delu- of the soul is hazarded by a mosion."* " Unless we suppose, that ment's delay of repentance; may it when Christ and his apostles, on not, on the other hand, be hazarded design, set themselves about this by want of delay, in coming to the business of giving signs, by which conclusion, that heaven is already professing Christians in all ages secured? If we may not directa man might determine their state, they to the performance of practical dudid not know how to choose signs, ties till we are convinced that he is so well as we could have chosen a Christian ; we must either judge for them.”+ “ It is strange how of his state by other rules than those hardly men are brought to be con- of scripture ; or we must wait till tented with the rules and directions he has found his way to a godly life, which Christ has given them, but without our directions. Are we they must needs go by other rules not getting too much into the way of their own inventing, that seem of looking, for evidences of grace, to them wiser and better. I know principally to the commencement and of no directions or counsels which the close of a religious life ; to the Christ ever delivered more plainly · first comforts of the supposed conthan the rules he has given us, to vert, and the last broken expresguide us in our judging of others' sions of his dying bed ? sincerity, viz. that we should judge In the application of the promof the tree chiefly by the fruit. But ises and the threatenings of the Biyet this will not do ; but other ways ble, a wide difference is to be made are found out, which are imagined between saints and sinners. to be more distinguishing and cer- ye to the righteous, it shall be rell tain. And woful have been the with him. Woe to the wicked, mischievous consequences of this for it shall be ill with him.” But arrogant setting up men's wisdom in prescribing duties to be performabove the wisdom of Christ. I” ed, it is not always necessary that

But if a life of godliness is the the preacher should know, whether grand evidence of grace in the those whom he addresses are pious heart, are we to tell the sinner he or not. Immediate repentance, must first ascertain that he is a obedience, and faith, are to be enChristian, before we can give him joined upon both saints and sinners.

NATHAN. * Vol.iv. 414. tp.338. I pp. 113, 114.

“Say

« PoprzedniaDalej »