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the word, and, anon, with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while : for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by, he is offended.”
But such unhappy instances, while they admonish him that thinketh he standeth, to take heed lest he fall, furnish no solid objection to the work, as being, upon the whole, a work of God, for which he is greatly to be praised, in the assemblies of his saints.
If these observations be just, then a revival of religion ought to be regarded by every Christian congregation, as one of the richest of heaven’s blessings. The power of the Holy Ghost should be sought, by prayer and supplication, as the only effectual agency, in the resuscitation of souls that are dead in trespasses and sins. “Come from thc four winds, O breath of the Lord, and breathe upon the slain, that they may live!”
uncharitable, and presumptuous, to claim the title of the gospel of Jesus Christ exclusively for any one of them. It must, however, be evident to every candid inquirer, that many of these schemes of doctrine are diametrically opposed to each other; and if one is right, the opposite to it is wrong. If one is | gospel lan of salvation, any other, which is fundamentally repugnant to it, cannot be the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It would give us pleasure to be deemed candid and liberal; but we advocate Christian liberality alone; and that we may have a conscience void of offence towards God and man, we must clearly state, what we apprehend to be o fundamental doctrines of the only evangelical system; and what course of conduct ought to be pursued in relation to all persons who publicly preach any o gospel, in the name of Christ. In conformity with this arrangement, we shall, in the FIRST place, show what the apostle John, speaking by divine authority, intended by this doctrine. He was a servant of Jesus Christ, an apostle by his commission, and a public minister of his religion. By this doctrine, in the words quoted, he evidently intended, the system of theology which he preached, in conjunction with all his holy brethren in the ministerial office. If there come unto you, the elect lady and her children, any preacher, professing to be a minister of the religion of Jesus, and bring not this doctrine, which I write, and which I have preached, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, receive him not. 1. It is an essential doctrine of the gospel which John proclaimed, that there exists one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and that he is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him. “ For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” 1 John, v. 7. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb. xi. 6. The DEITY is one JMind, one uncreated substance, in the essence of which, there is a foundation for all those tripersonal relations, operations, and manifestations, of which - we read in the holy scriptures. This God, from whose immutable nature emanated the mediatorial office, person and work; this God of justice, mercy, and redemption, is the only, living and true God, who made, governs, and will-judge mankind. The 'God of the Deist and Socinian, is not our Jehovah, but the idol of their imaginations. 2. The deity and humanity of the médiatorial person, Jesus Christ, is an essential part of this doctrine, which John inculcated. A considerable portion of his writings is specially devoted to this all important tenet. Jesus Christ he calls the Word; and affirms, that “the Word was GoD ;” and that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John, i. 1–14. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” 1 John, v. 20. He is at the same time called “the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 2, 5. Rom. v. 15. His “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah, v. 2. 3. It is another position in this doctrine of John, that all moral agents, of the human race, have actually sinned, are depraved in their nature; are unable to obtain justifio cation by their own actions; and are, in their natural state, under a o sentence of legal, spiritual, and eternal death. “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and Vol. I. o
the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar.” 1 John, i. 8, 10. “There is none righteous, no, not one;”— “therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:”—“for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. iii. 10, 20, 23. “You were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath.” Eph. ii. 1, 2, 3. 4. It is another essential article of the gospel, that Jesus Christ was, by the eternal counsel of the Godhead, constituted Mediator; and that in this office he obeyed the precepts of the law and suffered its penalty, in the place of sinners, so as to complete a perfect righteousness, for the justification, adoption, and ultimate salvation of his people. The Redeemer, in the character of wisdom, says, “ The Lord o me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up (or anointed to office) from everlasting,”—“ and my delights were with the sons of men.” Prov. viii.22, 31. Hence he became “the Lord our righteousness,” by giving himself the just for the unjust, and bearing the sins of many. “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” “Christ died for us.” God “hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” “Neither is there salvation in any other.”
5. It is an equally essential doctrine, that the agency of the o Spirit, operating ordinarily throug the instrumentality of the means of grace, and especially o the word of truth, is requisite for the conversion of a sinner; so that he may by faith receive Jesus Christ, in his mediatorial office, for his Saviour; and in the moment of regeneration be adopted and justified, according to the harmony of the mercy and justice of Jehovah. “Ye must be born again.” “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of i.eaven.” “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “He that hath the Son hath life.” “I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.” Psalm cxix. 93. Men must experience regenerating influence, so as to be converted, have new hearts, become new creatures, pass from spiritual death to spiritual life, and be made partakers of the divine nature. 6. Sanctification, or holiness of soul and life, is the only sufficient proof of any person’s being savingly united to Jesus Christ for eternal life. “He that doeth good is of God.” “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” “If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature.” “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself
also so to walk, even as he walked.” Without holiness mo man shall see the Lord. 7. Every truly sanctified person, and only such a person, may know, that God elected him, before the foundation of the world, to everlasting life; and he shall, after death, be received in spirit, and after the resurrection, in body and in spirit both, into heaven, where he shall be perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: but every person who departs this life without having been regenerated, adopted, justified, and sanctified in part, shall, after death, become perfectly miserable in spirit; and after the resurrection and general |. ment, in body and in spirit both, shall be cast into hell, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. These are fundamental doctrines of Christianity. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy:-having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus
Christ to himself, according to the
good pleasure of his will:—in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.” Eph. i.4—11. “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, . he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” 1 John, iv. 13. “The Son quickeneth whom he will:—he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation ; but is |..." from death unto life.” “The
our is coming, and now is, when the dead shall fear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” “To die is gain.” “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a
desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” “These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” Every public preacher who does not bring this scheme of doctrine, must preach something else. We now inquire, second Ly, what is the duty of Christians in relation to those PUBLIC INSTRUCTERS who inculcate any other system, under pretence that it is the gospel. We must treat them in the manner in which John required the elect lad and her children to treat all . “deceivers;” who confess not the true Messiah, and abide not in the doctrine of Christ. We have a general instruction, not to receive such persons into our house; and not to say to them, by way of encouragement, “God speed you.” It is in the character of ministers of the gospel, that we are forbidden to receive them into our house; for if our enemy, and the enemy of Christ hunger, we may feed him, and show him every kind civility as a man. This is the spirit of the text. JVo Christian ought to receive any man as a minister of Christ, or to wish him success, through a divine blessing on his labours, who teaches any other doctrinal system than the one which the apostles inculcated. 1. We should not acknowledge them to be ministers of Christ at all ; for this would be receiving them, in an official character, to which they have no scriptural claim. Christ Jesus has neither called them
to be his heralds, nor invested them with the ministry of reconciliation. 2. We ought to maintain, that their ministrations of the ordinances of the New Testament, when they are publicly known to preach another gospel, are all invalid. No one but a minister of Christ has any right to dispense the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper; and these teachers are not ministers of Christ. If those who are not to be publicly owned as gospel ministers, attempt to do any ministerial actin the name of Christ, we should account the rites which they perform to be idle ceremonies. 3. No Christian, who believes that any man is a public teacher of another system of doctrine than the one which the apostles held, ought to hear such an one preach; for that is calculated to encourage him. It is bidding him God speed; unless it be distinctly understood, and generally known, that we deny his ministerial character, and hear him with an intention to refute his errors. To receive him as a minister of the gospel, exposes our fellow men to delusion, and renders us partakers of his evil deeds. If we should wait on his ministering, it would naturally be inferred, by all who did not know our sentiments, that we received him as a teacher of righteousness. Men who do not know what the gospel of Christ is, have the excuse of ignorance, for hearing Deistical, Socinian, and Antitrinitarian preachers; but professing Christians, and especially Christian ministers, should be careful not to sin against the injunction contained in the text. In conclusion, we remark, 1st, That it is a fearful thing to preach a false system as the gospel; 2dly, That every one who is now undecided, ought to ascertain, for the guidance of his own conduct, what the true system of theology is; 3dly, That indifference to the promulgation of false doctrine is criminal and dangerous; and 4thly, That every one should seriously search his own heart, that he may know whether he has cordially embraced the truth, so as to become interested in the great salvation by the Son of God. If it is so important as has been represented, not to countenance erroneous doctrine; it must be more important for every one to realize the being and government of God; the deity of Jesus Christ; the depravity, guilt and misery of man in his unrenewed estate; the fulness and sufficiency of the great atonement; the necessity and nature of regeneration; the work of sanctification upon his own soul and life; and the certainty that heaven or hell will be his own personal portion for ever. We may discountenance errorists; we may have a correct theory of religion; and yet, never apply the truth to our own hearts; siever so believe as to feel and act aright. O! let us attend to this subject, before it is forever too late. Let us neither be lost through heresy, nor damned in orthodoxy.
Sheppard's Sincere Convert: discovering the small.Mumber of True Believers, and the great Difficulty of Saving Conversion: abridged.
PREFACE TO THIS ABRIDGMENT.
The author of the work, which I design to abridge, was the Rev. Thomas Sheppard, the faithful pastor of the church of Christ in Cambridge, in Massachusetts. During his lifetime, his name was “as ointment poured forth,” both in Old and New England; and the savour of it continues to this day, among the friends of evangelical religion. He wrote the works, entitled, the “Saint’s Jewel,” and “ The Sound Believer,” and a commentary on “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.”
The Sincere Convert was, I believe, last published in 1657; and has, consequently, in the lapse of one hundred and sixty-four years, become a scarce book. It seems de
sirable, that the pious of the present age should have the opportunity of perusing, at least, the most important parts of it. A part of what the Rev. William Greenhill wrote in a preface to this work, as applicable to the people of his day, is more pointedly appropriate to the American churches in 1821. He says, “In these evil and perilous times, God hath not left us without some choice mercies. Our sins abound, and his mercies superabound. If the bottomless pit be open, and smoke rise thence, to darken the air and obscure the way of the saints (Rev. ix. 2.), heaven also is opened (Rev. xi. 19.), and there are lightnings, and voices, to enlighten their spirits, and direct their paths.” It would be as a well in the valley of Baca, to thousands, who love the good old ways of Zion, could we add, in relation to our generation, “Had ever any age such lightnings as we have? Did ever any speak since Christ and his apostles, as men now speak? We may truly and safely say of our divines and writers, The voice of God, and not of mam; such abundance of the Spirit hath God poured into some men, that it is not they, but the Spirit of the Father that speaks in them.” Mr. Greenhill proceeds to praise the treatises which were published in the age of the fathers of New England, because they were full of searching, precious, soul-comforting and soul-improving truths, which discovered and prevented dangerous errors, and distinguished “true grace from all seemings.” He then asks, “Shall we, that abound in truths, be penurious in praises? Consider, reader, whether spiritual truths be not worthy of thy choicest praises, Every divine truth is one of God’s eternal thoughts: it is heaven-born, and bears the image of God. Truth is the glory of the sacred Trinity. Hence the Spirit is called truth (1