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Some, who are the subjects of special grace, often plead in excuse for neglecting to make a public profession of religion, that they fear they should do more dishonor, than honor to religion, if they should make a public profession and join the church. No christians ought to indulge such thoughts as these. As they have really embraced the gospel, they stand entitled to the spirit of promise, and are actually subjects of sanctifying as well as regenerating grace. He, that has begun a good work in them, will carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ. Their fear arises from a species of unbelief, which is entirely inexcusable. If they sincerely desire to honor religion, they have no more reason to fear that they shall not honor it, than other christians have. And if this were a good excuse in them, it would be as good an excuse for all others neglecting to make a public profession. Those, who make this excuse, may really fear, that they may suffer reproach and opposition from the world, if they should profess religion, and this is the secret cause of their neglect.--If they should discover this to be true, they must condemn themselves, and delay no longer. For no man
, can be a true disciple of Christ unless he is willing to take up his cross, and follow him. Some, who are the
, subjects of special grace, we hear plead in excuse for neglecting to profess religion and joining the church, that they see others, who appear to be the subjects of special
grace, and better qualified than they are to profess religion, live in the long neglect of this duty. This is a vain and and groundless excuse ; for they may be mistaken in respect to the qualifications of others; and if they are not, they have no right to follow their bad example. They are stumbling blocks, and must answer for the great injury they do to themselves, to others, and to the cause of Christ. It is to be feared, however, that this is one of the most common and most consoling excuses that many make for neglecting to join the church, But can any subject of special grace really believe that the neglect of others, will excuse his neglect ? The excuse is too grossly absurd ever to be made.
Some, who are the subjects of special grace, endeavour to excuse themselves for neglecting to join the church where they are, because some of the members are irregular, and the church neglect to watch over them, or to reprove them, or to cast them out from their communion. A church may be in such a feeble, declining, luke-warm state.
But this is no reason, why those, who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and desire to promote his sinking cause, should neglect to name his name, and promote his
But rather a strong reason for their uniting with his few friends, to purify, strengthen, and revive religion, and to rectify whatever is amiss in the church. The criminal neglect, imperfection, or insincerity of others, will not contaminate them, or prevent their holding communion with Christ at his table. The excuse savours too much of spiritual pride, and looks like trusting in themselves that they are righteous, and despising others. Neither this, nor any other excuse, that can be made, will justify any, who are subjects of special grace, for neglecting to make a public profession of religion and not joining the church. I have said so much upon this point, with a view to awaken the attention and convince the consciences of doubting and delaying christians, and not of doubting and delaying sinners; for they have no right to take God's covenant into their mouths. But it behoves the subjects of special grace, to join themselves to the Lord and to his people, in a perpetual covenant never to be forgotten.
2. If the subjects of special grace always desire to profess religion and partake of divine ordinances; then so long as they neglect their duty, they must necessarily feel unhappy. They continually experience a painful conflict in their minds. Their holy and unholy desires are opposed to each other, and their hearts are at variance with their conscience. Their conscience imperiously calls upon them to do their duty, and condemns them for their criminal neglect, and what gracious exercises they have, keep conscience awake and alive to do its office. So that they live in a state of constant self-condemnation. They experience an unhappiness, which they never experienced before they became the subjects of special grace. They feel an aversion to the world, which they once loved, and cannot enjoy it. They feel an aversion to the friendship of the world, which they once loved, and cannot enjoy it. Though they find some pleasure in thinking of God, and in reading his word ; yet that very pleasure condemns them for the neglect of a known duty. They lose an intimacy with those, with whom they were once intimate, and are afraid of an intimacy with the professed friends of God, lest they and the world should see and reproach them for their criminal inconsistency of conduct. Because they neglect other important duties, that they may appear less inconsistent to themselves and others. But still, they cannot get rid of their self-inconsistency, and self-condemnation, but
live a painful and unhappy life. That this is true, I appeal to such, as live in hope against hope, and in the habitual neglect of known duty.
3. While the subjects of special grace neglect to join the church, they live in a very sinful, as well as unhappy manner. They greatly injure both themselves and religion. They injure themselves, by depriv- . ing themselves of that peace and comfort, which they might enjoy in communion with God and his people. They injure religion by neglecting to perform those peculiar and important duties, by which it is to be promoted in the world. They injure the friends of God by practically joining with the world in neglecting and opposing the cause, which they desire to promote, and have bound themselves to promote. They practically justify the impenitent in their impenitence and unbelief. They practically justify the penitent and believing, in neglecting to profess their faith and love, and to bind themselves to obedience. The more upright and amiable they appear, the more they injure the cause of God and the souls of men, by the weight and influence of their criminal example. There are no persons, perhaps, whose example the world more applaud, and are more fond of employing in excuse and justification of their own faulty negligence. It highly concerns these persons in particular, to prepare the way of the Lord, by giving up themselves to him and his people in a perpetual covenant If they would come out from the world, and appear against them, they would carry conviction to their consciences, and awaken them to flee from the wrath to come.
. It has always been found, that professing religion and entering into covenant with God has had a greater effect than almost any other
scene or circumstance, to awaken and alarm the careless and secure. And do the negligent subjects of special grace, believe this to be true? And can they with any inward peace and comfort, still continue to neglect a duty so important to themselves, to others, and to the cause of Christ ?
4. It appears from what has been said, that some who have long entertained a hope of being the subjects of special grace, must soon give up their hope, if they continue to neglect joining the church. A well grounded hope of the grace of God, has in all ages and in all places, led the subjects of such a hope to join themselves to the Lord and to his people. And if the hope of any does not produce this effect, have they not reason to fear, that their hope is built on a false and sandy foundation, and ought to be given up? They have reason to fear, that they have mistaken nature for grace, and that they are still in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. If this be the case of any, their duty is plain and important, to renounce their self-righteousness and self-dependance, and cast themselves upon the unpromised mercy of God, and sincerely to commit their spiritual and eternal concerns to his wise and sovereign disposal.
Finally, it appears from the whole tenor of this discourse, that it highly concerns those, who have entered into covenant with God, to be stedfast in his covenant, and persevere in universal obedience. The bond, by which they have freely and voluntarily bound themselves, is extremely solemn, and infinitely and perpetually binding. It is death to go back from following the Lord, and it is highly displeasing to him, to be