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cepts of the gospel do not require perfect holiness. But if all holiness consists in the exercises of the heart, then every exercise of holiness is perfect holiness. Every exercise of true love is perfect love. Every exercise of true repentance is perfect repentance. Every exercise of true faith is perfect faith. And every exercise of true submission is perfect submission.--The precepts of the gospel, therefore, require perfect holiness, as much as the precepts of the law. The difference between the law and the gospel does not lic in their precepts, but in their promises. The law promises eternal life to nothing short of the constant, uninterrupted exercise of holy affections, and condemns the man, who indulges one selfish, sinful affection ; but
; the gospel promises eternal life to every one, who perseveres in holy exercises, though they are interrupted in a thousand instances. The gospel requires constant exercises of holy affections; yet, nevertheless, it pardons in case of failure. The gospel does not allow, or approve of one sin ; yet it pardons innumerable transgressions, upon the condition of faith and repentance. The gospel has made no abatement, in respect to the requisition and obligation of duty ; but it has made provision for the salvation of those, who do not yield that perfect obedience to God, which his law requires. In this respect, the law and gospel differ ; but not in their precepts, prohibitions and penalties. The gospel requires the same supreme and constant love to God, that the law requires.
5. If the hearts of saints consist altogether in moral and voluntary exercises ; then they never have any more holiness, than they have holy exercises. Many suppose, that good men are much better, than their
good exercises. For when their exercises are not good; still they have a good principle, or good heart abiding in them, which is indeed the essence of all goodness. But if they have no good principle or good heart distinct from their good exercises, then they cannot have any more goodness, than they have good affections. Some have supposed, that christians may i live days, and months, and even years, in a dull, stupid, lifeless state, their principle of grace continuing, but not in proper, sensible exercises. This is both a groundless and dangerous doctrine. It is groundless, because christians have no such principle of grace, all grace consisting in exercise. And it is dangerous, because, it has a direct tendency to make men think they are christians, who were never subjects of saving grace ; and to make real christians imagine, that they are better than they are, and sincerely doing their duty, while they live in the total neglect of it. It is probable, that those methodists, who profess to believe, that they have attained to sinless perfection, build their absurd opinion upon the supposition, that grace essentially consists in principle, and not in exercise. For it is difficult to suppose, that any man in his right mind, can make himself believe, that all his thoughts, words, and actions are constantly and perfectly agreeable to the law of love. It is easy to conceive, however, that if holiness consists altogether in a holy principle, any one, who believes this to be true, may persuade himself, that he has really ceased from sin, and attained to sinless perfection. Indeed, the doctrine, that holiness, grace, or a good heart, consists in a principle, and not in exercise, is a fruitful source of many great doctrinal and practical errors.
6. If the hearts of saints consist altogether in free, voluntary exercises ; then there is a foundation in their hearts for a spiritual warfare. The contrariety between their holy and unholy exercises, naturally produces a spiritual conflict. Sinners often find a struggle between sin and conscience; but the warfare, which christians experience, arises from the mutual opposition between holy and unholy affections. Their hearts are composed of holy and selfish exercises, which mutually hate and oppose each other. In the exercise of benevolence, they hate selfishness; and in the exercise of selfishness, they hate benevolence. And as they are sensible of the instability of their hearts, they feel a propriety, a necessity, and moral obligation, to keep them with all diligence, to repel the assaults and intrusion of sinful exercises. They dread the approaching enemy, and find occasion to watch and guard their hearts against every hostile affection, lest they should be brought into captivity to sin.-Christians find two contending powers in their hearts, which subject them to a painful conflict, which will never cease, as long as their moral imperfection remains, or their hearts are composed of both holy and unholy affections. But we cannot account for this spiritual warfare in christians, if their holiness consisted in a holy principle, and their sinfulness consisted in a sinful principle ; for two dormant, inactive principles could never hate, resist, and oppose each other; nor could one ever gain the ascendency over the other. Christians know, by experience, that their spiritual warfare arises wholly from their discordant and conflicting exercises. In the exercise of holiness they hate, and oppose all sin ; but in the exercise of
selfishness, they hate and oppose holy and benevolent exercises. When they love God, they hate and oppose the love of the world; but when they love the world, the love of God is not in them : or as our Savior says, while they serve God, they hate to serve mammon; and while they serve mammon, they hate to serve God. The breast of every christian is a field of battle, where sometimes benevolence, and sometimes selfishness gains the victory; but there is no solid peace till benevolence repels and excludes selfishness.
7. In the view of this subject, christians may see their great moral imperfection. Though they sometimes love God supremely, and serve him with a perfect heart and the whole heart, though sometimes their holy affections run on cheerfully and uninterruptedly; and though for a while they find a pleasure in doing the will of God; yet they often experience as long a series of unholy, as holy affections, and find more pleasure in serving themselves, than in serving God. Their hearts are bent to backsliding. They rarely find their hearts perfectly united in their best duties. They often wait upon the Lord with much distraction and confusion of thought. Were the whole train of their affections presented to their own view, as they appear to the omniscient eye of God, they would be shocked and confounded. Were the whole series of their thoughts and internal exercises printed in a book, or engraven on a rock, as Job desired some of his thoughts and exercises might be, how inconsistent, absurd and criminal would they appear? Or were their meditations and devotions in their most retired and solemn intervals, registered in their own minds, as they
are registered in the book of God's remembrance, how painful would their reflections be on such occasions ? Would they not read in some such language as this? “O Lord, thy ways are equal, but my ways are unequal. O Lord, my ways are equal, but thy ways are unequal. O Lord, thou art good ; O Lord,
; thou art an hard master. O Lord, I am unworthy of the least of thy mercies ; O Lord, I do well to complain of thee, in taking away my mercies. O Lord, thy will be done ; O Lord, let my will be done. i
0 Lord, let me be thy servant ; O Lord, be thou my servant. O Lord, forgive my enemies. O Lord, forgive them not. O Lord, make me to serve my generation according to thy will. O Lord, make my generation serve me contrary to thy will.” Now, whether any good man be able, or not, to recollect the whole train of his past exercises, in both his secular and religious concerns ; yet God always sees and observes every thought and imagination of his heart, and views its mixture of holy and unholy affections. How great then, and how displeasing to God, is the moral imperfections of the best of saints ? And how much reason have they to humble themselves before him, and walk softly in his sight? And with what watchfulness and constancy should every christian offer unto God the prayer
of the devout psalmist; “ Unite my heart to fear thy name.”