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trines and relying on the promises of the gospel, as abundantly satisfy them that the Lord is faithful to his word, and that he both comforts and sanctifies his people by the truth. But numbers deceive themselves by a counterfeit experience. They have been alarmed, have changed the ground of their confidence, have had their imaginations heated or delighted by impressions and visionary representations: they have recollected the promises of the gospel, as if spoken to them with peculiar appropriation, to certify them that their sins were forgiven: and, having seen and heard such wonderful things, they think they must no more doubt their adoption into the family of God. They have also frequently heard all experience profanely ridiculed as enthusiasm: and this betrays them into the opposite extreme; so that they are emboldened to despise every caution, as the result of enmity to internal religion, and to act as if there were no delusive or counterfeit experience. But the event too plainly shews their awful mistake; and that they grounded their expectations upon the account given of the extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit on the minds of prophets, rather than on the promises of his renewing influences in the hearts of believers. When therefore they lose the impressions with which they once were elated, they relapse nearly into their old course of life, their creed and confidence alone excepted. The seed of the word, which had sprung up, "withers, because it hath no root:" they are "not doers, but hearers only, deceiving their own"selves."-But the seal of the Spirit, like that applied to the melted wax, leaves an indelible im
pression; and the image of Christ will in some measure be discernible in the temper and conduct of those who have received it, through all changes to the end of life.
We are but little acquainted with the real character and secret conduct of each other, except in the most intimate relations and connexions; especially in populous cities. We see men attend on public ordinances, we hear from them, in occasional conversation, the language of believers, and we know nothing concerning them inconsistent with these appearances. It is our duty to love the brethren, and to speak comfortably to them. Charity "hopeth all things," and "thinketh no "evil" we therefore behave to such men brethren; and this circumstance helps many to deceive themselves. The self-flattery of the human heart is inconceivable, and its effects prodigious: so that numbers put the candid opinion of ministers or Christians, who scarcely know any thing of them, in counterpoise against the accusations of their own conscience, respecting the secret sins which they habitually commit. They even persuade themselves that allowed crimes are of the same nature with the infirmities which believers humbly confess and deplore: and thus they maintain a confidence in direct opposition to scripture, and call it faith; nay, they deem this a high attainment, and "hope against hope," in a sense, with which neither Abraham nor Paul was at all acquainted.
Mistaken notions of liberty likewise lead men into fatal delusions: for, instead of counting the service of God 'perfect freedom,' and seeking de
liverance from the yoke of sin and Satan, from love of the world, and from the fear of man; they imagine liberty to consist in living according to their own inclinations, without remorse of conscience, or dread of consequences: just as numbers can have no idea that they enjoy civil liberty, unless they be allowed to indulge their selfish passions without restraint. When therefore we exhort them to submit to the easy yoke of Christ, and to serve him in holy obedience; they exclaim that this is legal, and leads them into bondage: and they choose such teachers as "promise them liberty, while they themselves are the slaves of corruption."-These are a few of the innumerable ways, in which men deceive themselves, by hearing the word of truth without reducing it to practice.
But whence arises this fatal propensity to selfdeception in a matter of infinite importance? Our Lord answered this question when he said "Every "one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither "cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be "reproved." The human heart is prone to idolize the world, and to seek happiness in the enjoyment of it; and is averse to a life of practical godliness. But, when a man is at all acquainted with the doctrines of the Bible, his conscience becomes an unquiet inmate, unless some way be taken to silence its remonstrances. Various methods have therefore been adopted of reconciling a worldly life with the hope of future happiness: and self-flattery, which palliates a man's vices, and enhances the value of his supposed virtues, is a powerful coadjutor in this attempt.-But among these plans per
haps no one is so cheap and convenient, as hearing and assenting to the gospel: if a man be able to persuade himself that such a faith will save him. This requires less trouble and self-denial than any other system: while it helps him to ascribe that decency of conduct, which secular motives impose, to his religious opinions; and to consider all his omissions and transgressions as defects which are common to believers. A superficial hearer of the word may thus casily suppose that he is in the way of salvation, while he lives in habitual disobedience to the known commandments of God: and, when the faithful address of a minister shakes this vain confidence, the man may be seduced to charge the blame on the doctrine, and to shrink from conviction by going to those places where smoother and more comfortable things are spoken.-Could we therefore witness all that passes in the retirement, the family, and the dealings of those who after a time forsake our ministry, we should perhaps not be at all surprised at losing them, though we must grieve to discover such awful self-deception.
These are the sources of this evil, which will certainly terminate in everlasting ruin unless it be previously discovered and remedied.
IV. We consider, lastly, the contrast here stated between the mere hearer and the practical student of scripture.
The word of God, that "perfect law of liberty" through which the believer is freed from bondage and condemnation, is compared by the apostle to a mirror; in which a man beholds the reflection of his person, and by which he may adjust every
thing in his appearance after the most becoming manner. The mere hearer resembles one who gives a transient look into this mirror; but, taking little notice of his appearance, and bestowing no pains to alter any thing in his attire," he goeth "his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner "of man he was." Thus many give a slight attention to the truth, and get a transient glimpse of their own state and character: but they dislike the mortifying discovery, are uneasy under the fleeting conviction, and have no inclination for that repentance and conversion, to which the scripture calls them. They therefore try to believe that approbation and assent may suffice, and that the gospel does not require practice. They go and plunge themselves into business or pleasure, and soon forget their convictions: and thus remain ignorant of their accumulated guilt and urgent danger, and strangers to regeneration, reconciliation to God, the life of faith, the sweet obedience of love, and all those "things that accompany sal"vation."
On the other hand, the man who stedfastly looks into the scriptures, comparing all his conduct, past and present, and even his thoughts, affections, tempers, motives, and words, with the holy law; who thus learns his whole duty to God and his neighbour, according to all his various relations and obligations; and who continues daily considering his ways, and contemplating himself in this faithful mirror; will soon become acquainted with his own heart and character, and perceive his need of the mercy and grace proposed in the gospel. By persevering in this course of self-exami