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per to be made of a right understanding of our nature and our redemption; that we may not merely know the truths themselves, that "in "Adam all die," and "all in Jesus Christ are "made alive," but may know also how this death and restoration severally are accomplished; may know the power of our Saviour's resurrection; and knowing this, may make our portion good in him through keeping of his covenant.
§. 2. Consider the matter in another light. The Scripture tells us, Jesus Christ has "set us "an example, that we should follow his steps"." And every body knows at least enough to have a general notion, that this example of our Lord is something very good, and very holy. A man may be most miserably ignorant of its particulars, and yet know this.
But now-what need of an example unto holiness, if either holiness can be dispensed with, or if our nature still be left incapable of reaching unto holiness? I mean, at least in such a measure and degree as shall be found acceptable to the Most High, who hath sent this example to
Brethren, there are hard things in the Scrip
r 1 Pet. ii. 21.
See, Sermon IV.
tures, without doubt; but these are plain questions. Only let us follow in the track where these may lead us, (if they be answered fairly by the voice within,) and we shall have a goodly view in prospect. God give us grace, and more grace, to follow it in earnest, as it will then from time to time expand itself before us, until we shall behold its end-even in the blessedness of heaven!
But again I say, beware of trusting other hopes and other promises than such as these. There is unhappily a course too prevalent among us in religious matters, by which men are too apt to "begin where they should end. They
begin with the unintelligible points, those "secrets that are out of reach and past finding "out; and because religion is the common "science of all men, they make it common by
dispute and discourse," fancying themselves wise and well-instructed in the things of the kingdom of God. "And what is the effect and
consequence? They, from whom instruction in "their tender years has been withheld, whose religion has formed no part of their education,
t Hamilton's Dissertation on the Scheme of Human Redemption, ch. vii.
"whose sins have multiplied faster than their repentance, go out armed with a few sentences "of Scripture, to gather proselytes from the highways and hedges, and suppose they are
rendering God service and honour in converting a sinner from the error of his ways by "other methods than those which God has 'appointed;" by holding out or by receiving (as the case may be) all manner of deceitful expectations and unsound confidences. Alas! such conversions and such hopes "are only capable "of enkindling a flame that it is impossible to keep alive; and expose the soul naked and
unprovided to those inward commotions to "which humility is altogether a stranger, and "of which the parent and the nurse is pride."
But would we, in our own case, not be left without a sound and certain knowledge how to make advancement in our restoration toward the divine image? St. Paul's own practical directions, for "putting on the new man which after God is "created in righteousness and true holiness," as given, you will see, expressly to that end in his Epistle to the Ephesians", will serve as an unerring guide. Read, mark, and inwardly digest these;
and, as the several particulars proceed, let each man of us ask himself if he may not comply, in spirit and effect, with every one of them, if he will leave off looking to his neighbour's conduct, and to all other wrong and insufficient standards, and take his lessons and his model only from the word of truth.
I shall not quote at length now a place of Scripture which should be familiar to us all; but let me beg of you to turn to it and weigh it well at home. At present I shall only add, as a concluding word of exhortation, that we may well be satisfied of this that follows;-that while we feel the weakness and corruption of our nature, and seek not any means to heal it; while any make their natural depravity a cloke for continuing in sin, perverting it to an excuse for loving the depravity itself, and keeping it by evident choice;-while any do such things as this, such persons can be neither right nor safe, any how. But it may be alleged that few do this, and that such statement goes too far. I would the evidence of things we see around us might admit of such belief! But that we may be sure of not exceeding the proportions of truth, let us present the warning in a more distinct shape.
Where any might have knowledge of divine things, and prefer ignorance; where they might follow after holiness, and choose profaneness ; where they might seek after righteousness, but do consent unto iniquity; where they might be pure, and will be filthy; where they might be merciful, and yet are cruel; where they might speak truth, and do speak lies; where they might cherish and uphold the spirit of love, and yet live in malice and in batred ;-sure we may be, that these are copying no image that is fit for heaven; and what can happen then, but that in day of trial they must be cast out from thence, among the things that do offend!