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Affecting changes may likewise take place in our families; our beloved relatives may be torn from us, our friends alienated, and our property lost; poverty, contempt, and sickness may oppress us; and we may fall under unmerited censure and reproach, so that even our brethren may mistake our case and character, as Job's friends did his: but, "if our conversation be as it becometh the gospel "of Christ," none of these things can hurt us. The Lord will enable us "to rejoice in the testimony "of our conscience;" he will plead our cause, and vindicate our reputation; he will not leave us comfortless, but will afford us proportionable supports: "No weapon formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against us in 'judgment we shall condemn;" and "when we have been tried we shall come forth as gold" purified from the furnace.
Changes may likewise take place in the church: many who have been useful to us, may be removed, and among them the very "ministers by whom we "believed:" nay, such persons as we most looked up to may "forsake Christ having loved this pre"sent world:" or may become zealous teachers of destructive heresies. But, if our conversation be consistent with our profession, our own experience of the Lord's faithfulness, and the sanctifying efficacy of his word, will preserve us from fatal effects, and teach us by such events to be more watchful, and simple in our dependence on divine grace.
Some persons may be perplexed with difficulties, in respect of certain points of doctrine: but, if they truly embrace the salvation of Christ, and walk worthy of it, they will be at length led to esta
blishment in the truth. "If any man will do the "will of God, he shall know of the doctrine, whe"ther it be of God." An upright heart and an obedient will directly tend to free the mind from the clouds of various prejudices and passions, to produce teachableness, and to improve spiritual discernment: and there are numerous promises of divine teaching to persons of this description. But they, "who love darkness rather than light "because their deeds are evil," are given up to strong delusions, and fall into final condemnation.
Difficulties also occur to many in determining whether they be in a state of salvation or not: nor are they able, after much self-examination, to decide the important question. To these likewise we may say, "Only let your conversation be as it "becometh the gospel of Christ," and this will have a powerful though gradual efficacy in producing the desired satisfaction. "Then shall ye "know if ye follow on to know the Lord :" for "the path of the just shineth more and more unto "the perfect day."
The exhortation before us also points out, to those who are labouring to do good in their families and connexions, or in a more extensive sphere, the grand method of obtaining the desired success: and when the interest of the gospel in any place seems greatly declined, the consistent conduct of the few who adhere to it will have the happiest effects in promoting a revival.-Finally some persons are harassed with apprehensions of future trials and temptations, or with the dread of death: but let all such trembling believers attend to the
apostle's exhortation, and they may rest assured that the grace of the Lord Jesus will be "sufficient "for them;" and "his strength be perfected "in their weakness." "For I am persuaded "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, "nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us "from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus "our Lord."
Seeing we address those only who expect to be thought Christians, the exhortation may be applicable to every individual. Let a becoming conversation prove that you are Christians in reality. But, alas, what gloomy reflections crowd into the mind when this subject comes in our way! Do the generality of nominal Christians live as becomes the gospel Is not the conversation of a vast majority diametrically opposite to the spirit and precepts of our holy religion? Who can imagine that Christ will own such men as his true disciples? Who can doubt that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for them?
There are persons, who say, 'When you instruct us in our duty, we regard you; we are not infidels; we have already believed the doctrines of Christianity.' But let me ask you, Have these doctrines properly influenced your heart and life? If they have not, the surely you have "believed "in vain!" You would say to an antinomian professor of justification by faith alone, who lived an immoral life, "Know, O vain man, that faith
"without works is dead." Beware then lest you slide into antinomianism of a more reputable kind. Faith and practice are not like grapes tied upon a vine-branch; but like grapes growing upon a living vine. True faith receives the doctrines of the gospel into the heart, where they produce a change in the judgment, dispositions, and affections: thus the tree becomes good, and good fruit is the genuine consequence.
This is real Christianity: and all that comes short of this, however distinguished, is a mere name, notion, or form. But if we have thus received the gospel; we shall be conscious that we have in many things fallen short of a becoming conversation. Let us then humbly seek forgiveness of the past; and beg to be enabled henceforth so to abide in Christ, "that we may bring "forth much fruit," "and walk worthy of God, "who hath called us to his kingdom and glory." Amen.
ON REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE.
ACTS XI. 18.
Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
I HAVE taken this text, my brethren, in consequence of a letter which I received from an unknown correspondent, written in a very serious manner, and desiring a public answer to several interesting questions on the subject of repentance; a subject undoubtedly of great importance, in which we are all most deeply concerned.
The apostles and Christians in Judea, having heard that Peter had associated with Cornelius and other uncircumcised persons, expressed much surprise at his conduct: but, when he had related all the circumstances that attended it, "They held "their peace and glorified God, saying, Then "hath God also to the gentiles granted repentance
unto life:" yet it is remarkable that there is nothing expressly about repentance in the account which Peter had given.
On another occasion, when Paul and Silas returned from Asia to Antioch, "They gathered "the church together, and rehearsed all that God "had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." Mark now these