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have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after, that I may
dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Again he says, “The righteous
, shall flourish like the palm-tree ; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those, that he planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age ; they shall be fat and flourishing.” The subjects of special grace are commonly very desirous at first, and always afterwards, of growing in grace, and in the knowledge
, of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They esteem a day in the courts of the Lord better than a thousand, where divine truths are exhibited, and divine ordinances are administered, for their spiritual benefit and growth of grace. For the sake of enjoying such means of grace to the best advantage, those, who have become the subjects of special grace, desire to join the church and enjoy the special privileges of it. Besides,
6. They are so sensible of the deceitfulness of their own hearts, ond their proneness to forget and forsake God, they desire to bind themselves, by covenant vows and obligations, to be stedfast and unmovable in his service. They find their hearts are like a deceitful bow, always bent to backsliding. Their first joyful views and hopes are often soon sunk in clouds and darkness, and their ardent love to God, soon succeeded by an undue love to the world, and their warm attachment to the friends of God, interrupted and abated by mixing with his apparently amiable enemies. They feel, therefore, the need of binding themselves to God and to his friends, to check and restrain them from going backwards, instead of forward in their religious course. These and various other reasons, that might be mentioned, concur to lead them to enter into a solemn and perpetual covenant with God, never to be forgotten. I shall conclude at present with one remark, which is plainly suggested by the subject. It is this : Those, who have sincerely made a public profession of religion, must rejoice to see any, who appear to be the subjects of special grace, make a public profession of religion. There was great joy in Jerusalem in Hezekiah's day. There was great joy in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. And there was great joy in Samaria. And this great joy in all these instances was occasioned by those, who made a public and credible profession of religion. It is very desirable, that sinners should be turned from sin to holiness, and publicly declare they are the Lord's, and come and subscribe with their own hands a perpetual covenant never to be forgotten. It is very desirable, that all in this place, who have become the subjects of special grace, should spontaneously confess Christ before men, and add their names, their talents, their influence, and exertions to this church. We have need of them, and they have need of us. The spirit and the bride say come ; let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come, and partake of the rich provisions of Christ's table. Here a question arises, which every professor ought to put to himself. Do I desire the growth, the increase, and prosperity of this church ? Do I desire that those, who are not, might be the subjects of special grace ? This is a trying question ; and let no member of the church refuse to try himself by it,
1. If those who have become the subjects of special grace, desire to make a public profession of religion, and to enter into covenant with God; then none, who have really become subjects of special grace, have
any just excuse for neglecting to join the church, and neglecting to bind themselves to love and obey God forever. There are, undoubtedly, not a few, who have become the subjects of divine grace, that neglect to name the name of Christ, and to take the bond of the covenant upon them. I call this a neglect, because God has expressly required his friends to profess their love and obedience to him in a public manner, and to confirm their profession by a solemn, covenant transaction. And since the gospel day, Christ has expressly required his friends to confess him before men and celebrate the memorials of his death. His command applies to and binds all, who love him in sincerity. If any, therefore,
, who are become reconciled to him upon the terms of the gospel, do not profess him before the world, they neg. lect to perform a plain, positive, and important duty, for which it is impossible, that they should have any good excuse. But it is very evident, that such persons often do endeavor to excuse themselves before God and their own consciences. I proceed, therefore, to examine their excuses.
Some say, that they are in doubt whether they ever have become the subjects of special grace. But I am speaking to doubting christians, who are essentially different from doubting sinners, who never were the subjects of special grace. Doubting christians have been the subjects of special grace, for the love of God
has been shed abroad in their hearts. Such persons have no right to doubt, because they have the witness in themselves, that they have been born of God. This evidence, they ought to see, and renounce their doubts. Those, who plead their doubts for the neglect of their duty, often acknowledge, that at times, they do see evidence of a change of heart. They do sensibly exercise love to God, faith in Christ, and obedience to his commands ; and if such evidence and light should continue, without interruption, their hopes would overcome their doubts, and they should see their way clear to join the church. But have they any ground to ex-pect, if they are christians, that their holy exercises ever will become uniform and uninterrupted ? If not, why do they wait for that, which they know they shall never find ?
While they justify themselves by this excuse, their own mouth condemns them. They have evidence, and acknowledge they have evidence, of saving grace, which is the evidence upon which they ought to act in making a public profession of religion. They therefore neglect a known duty, and are utterly inexcusable. But they say, they are waiting for more grace, to give them more evidence ; but can they expect more grace to give them more evidence, while they neglect their duty, and resist the evidence, which God has graciously given them ? The truth is, those, who plead the want of evidence of grace, while they possess grace, assign a reason to themselves and others for their neglect, which is not the true cause of it. They are governed by some wrong, latent motive which they do not perceive, and for their blindness to it, they are wholly to blame.
Some, who are the subjects of special grace, plead in excuse for neglecting to join the church, that they are afraid the church would not receive them, if they should offer themselves to join. But let us examine what possible grounds they can reasonably have for such apprehensions. Are they afraid, that they are
, not capable of relating their internal views and exercises so clearly and intelligibly, as that others may understand them, and exercise charity towards them? There is no ground for this apprehension. For those, who have but little doctrinal knowledge are capable of expressing the views and exercises they have had, in respect to God, and their own hearts, and in respect to Christ, who suffered and died for them, and are quite as likely to give satisfactory evidence of a change of heart as others, who have much greater speculative knowledge. Or are they afraid, that the church will not judge candidly and impartially of the account they give of theirhearts and conduct ? This is an unreasonable fear, and looks like a groundless suspicion of the church. Though there may be undue prejudices in some individual or individuals, yet it is not to be supposed that the church as a body will be destitute of candour and impartiality. And the suspicion ought to be given up, as it ought never to have existed. Or does a fear of not being accepted arise from a low and humiliating sense of their own unworthiness ? If this be really the case, they will not fail to discover it, and when discovered, will be a recommendation, rather than an objection, in the minds of the church. The fear of not being received by the church, let it arise from what cause it may,
is no excuse for any persons not making a public profession and joining the church.