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CH A P. II. Wherein the first Doftrine is opened and proved briefly, as a preliminary Discourse to the principal Subject herein defigned.
That many professors of religion are under very great and
dangerous mistakes in their profesions,
LL flattery is dangerous; self-flattery is more danger.
ous; but self-flattery in the business of salvation, is the most dangerous of all.
To pretend to the good we know we have not, is grofs hy. pocrisy; to persuade ourselves of the good we have not, tho' we think we have it, is formal hypocrisy; and this was the case of those self-deceivers in the text.
My design in this discourse is not to shake the well-built hopes of any man, or beget groundless jealousies, but to difa cover the real dangerous flaws in the foundation of many mens hopes for heaven : Every thing is as its foundation is, and debile fundamentum fallit opus ; that failing, all fails.
There is a twofold self-suspicion or fear in God's own people: The one is a fear of caution, awaking the soul to the use of all the preventive means for avoiding danger; this is laudable : The other a groundless fufpicion of reigning hypocrisy, tending only to defpondency; this is culpable: By the former the soul is guarded against danger; by the latter it is betrayed into needless trouble, and debarred from peace.
Good men have sometimes more fear than they ought, and wicked men have less than they ought: The former do sometimes shut their eyes against the fair evidences of their own graces; the latter shut their eyes ag-inst the sad evidences of their sin and misery. This is an evil in both, but not equally dangerous ; for he that shuts his eyes against his own graces and privileges, loseth but his peace and comfort for a time; but he that shuts his eyes against the evidences of his fin and misery, loseth his precious soul to all eternity. Of this latter fort of self-deceivers the world is full, and these are the men I am concerned with in this point.
The great and dangerous Mistake of forme Profesors. 119
Oh! that some men had less trouble! and, oh! that some had more! If the foolish virgins had been less confident, they had certainly been more safe, Matth. xxv. If those glorious profeffors in Matth. vii. 22. had not shut their eyes against their own hypocrisy, Christ had not shut against them the door of salvation and glory. Ananias and Sapphira ; Hymeneus and Philetus ; Alexander and Demas, with multitudes more of that fort, are the fad instances and proofs of this point.' It is said, Prov. xxx. 12. “There is a generation that is pure in of their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Through what false spectacles do the men of that generatioņ look upon their own souls; the men of that generation are multiplied in this generation : Never was any age over-run with a generation of vain, felf-cozening, formal professors, as this generation is.
Three things I shall here endeavour to do: 1. To give evidence beyond contradiction to this sad truth, that among professors are found many self-deceivers.
(2.) To assign the true causes and reafons why it is fo. And,
(3.) Improve it in those practical inferences the point affords.
appear, T. First, By this, that there are every where to be found more professors than converts ; unregenerate professors, whose religion is but the effect of education. Christianity, by the favour of an early providence, was the first comer, it firft bespoke them for itself; these are Christianis of an human creation, rather born, than new-born, believers. Now all these are felf-deceived, and hasting to damnation, under the efficacy of a strong delusion; “ for if a man think himself to be some“ thing when he his nothing, he deceiveth himself," faith the apostle, Gal. vi. 3. Surely our birth-privilege, without the new birth, is nothing, yea, worse than nothing, as to our last and great account : That which stands for a great sum in our arithmetic, it is nothing, it is but a cypher you see in God's, * Except a man be born again (says the lips of truth) he cannot “ see the kingdom of God," John iii. 3.
Poor felf-deceivers, ponder those words of Christ ; you have hitherto thought your civil education, your dead and heartless duties, enough to denominate you Christians before
God; but, go now, and learn what that fcripture meaneth and be assured you must experience another manner of converfi on, or else it is impolible for you to escape eternal damna tion.
2. Secondly, It is too manifest by this, that many professors are only acquainted with the externals of religion ; and all their duties are no more but a compliance of the outward man with the commands of God: This is the superficial religion which deceives and betrays multitudes into eternal misery True religion feats itself in the inward man, and acts effee tually upon the vital powers, killing sin in the heart; and purging its designs and delights from carnality and felfilhness; en: gaging the heart for God ; and setting it as a bow in its full bent for him, in the approaches we make to him. But how little are many professors acquainted with these things ?
Alas! if this be all we have to stand upon, how dangerous à station is it? What is external conformity, but an artificial imitation of that which only lives in the souls of good inen? Thus was Jehu deceived; he did many acts of external obedience to God's command, “but Jehu took no heed to walk in “ the ways of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart, " 2 Kings x. 31. And this was his overthrow.
This also was the ruin of those formalifts; Ezek: xxxiii. 31. they came and fat before the Lord as his people: The word was to them as a lovely fong; mightily charmed with the modulation of the prophet's voice, and his lively gestures : but all the while their hearts vent after their covetousness And what abundance of fuch pharifaical, superficial religion is every where to be found ?
3. Thirdly, It appears by this, that every trial made by fufferings upon professors, blows away multitudes, like dry leaves in Autumn, by a ftormy wind ; many fall from their own ftedfastness in shaking times ; profperity multiplies vain pro feffors, and adverfity purges the church of them; “ Then Thall
many be offended,” Matth. xxiv. 10.
This the scripture every where marks as a fymptom of hype. crify; Pfalm 1xxviii. 8.'« A generation that fet not their " hearts aright, and whose spirit was not ftedfaft with God.” 1 John ii. 19. “But they went out, that they might be made « manifeft, that they were not of us.” Matth. xiii. 21. “ For " when tribulation or perfecution ariseth because of the words « hy. and by he is offended.” But should one have told them in che days of their first profession, that all their zeal and labour in religiou would have ended in this, it is like they would have
replied as Hazael to the man of God, 2 Kings viii. 13. “ But So what, isthy fervant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" Quantum mutatus ab illo ??
O how unlike is their dark and dirty evening to their glori. ous and hopeful morning! These profeffors have more of the -moon than of the sun, little light, less heat, but many changes : They decieve many, yea, they deceive themselves; but cannot deceive God. During the calm, what a flourish do they make? And with what gallantry, do they fail ? By and by you may hear horrendas tempeftates, and soon after you may fee flenda naufragia, a dreadful shipwreck after a furious storm ; and no wonder, for they wanted that idios sepaynor, that
1 Pet. iii. 17. ballast and establishment in themselves that would have kept them tight and stable.
4. Fourthly, it is too apparent by this, that many profef.fors fecretly indulge and shelter beloved lufts under the wings of their profession. This like a worm at the root, will wither and kill them at last, how fragrant soever they may seem to be for a season. Gideon had seventy fons, and one bastard; but that one bastard was the death of all his feventy fons.
Some men have many excellent gifts; and perform multitudes of duties ; but one secret fin indulged and allowed, will destroy them all at laft. He that is partial as to the mortifi. cation of his sins, is undoubtedly hypocritical in his profession. If David's evidence was good for his integrity, surely fuch profeflors will never clear themselves of hypocrisy. " I was also " upright before him, and kept myself from mine iniquity," faith he, Psalm xviii. 23. This is the right eye, and right hand which every sincere Christian must pluck out, and cut off, Matth. V. 29, 30.
Which is a metaphor from chirurgeons, whose manner it is, when the whole is in danger by any part, to cut it off, ne pars fincera trahatur ; left all
perish. Their suppressing some lusts, raiseth their confidence ; the indulging of one, razeth the foundation of their hopes ; and thus they deceive themselves.
5. Fifthly, This also manifests the self-deceits of mariy profeffors, that the secret duties of religion, or at least the secret intercourse of the soul with God in them, is a secret hid from the knowledge and experience of many profeffors.
To attend the ordinances of God in the feasons of them, they know; to pray in their families at the stated hours there
of, they know; but to retire from all the world into their closets, and there to pour out their hearts before the Lord, they know not.
To feel somewhat within, paining them like an empty hungry ftomach, until they have eaten that hidden manna, that bread in secret ; I mean refreshed their souls with real communiou with the Lord there; this is a myftery locked up from the acquaintance of many that call themselves Chriftians; and yet this is made a characteristical note of a fincere Christian by Christ himself, in Matth. vi. 6.
O reader! if thy heart were right with God, and thou didk not cheat thyself with a vain profession, thou wouldt have frequent business with God, which thou wouldst be loath thy dearest friend, or the wife of thy bofom should be privy to: Non eft religio ubi omnia patent ; religion doth not lay all open eyes
of men. Observed duties maintain our credit, but secret duties maintain our life. It was the saying of an heathen about his secret correspondency with his friends, what need the world be acquainted with it? Thou and I are theatre
enough to each other. There are inclofed pleasures in religion, which none but renewed souls do feelingly understand.
6. Lastly, How many more profefs religion in these days, than ever made religion their business ! Philosophy tells us, there is a to spyor and a mapipyov, a main business; and a byabufiness; the fame is found in religion also.
There are “ that give themselves to the Lord,” 2 Cor. vii. 5. whose conversation, or trade, is in heaven, Phil. iii. 18. the end or scope of whole life is Christ, Heb. xiii. 7, 8. who give religion the precedency both in time and affection, Psalm v. 3. Rom. xii. u. who are constant and indefatigable in the work of the Lord, 1 Cor. xv. 58.
And there are also that take up religior rather for ostentation than for an occupation, who never mind the duties of religion, but when they have nothing else to do; and when their outward man is engaged in the duties of it, yet their heart is not in it; they hear, they pray, y de luxen eğing as Chyryfoftome speaks, but their fouls, their thoughts, and minds are abroad. It is not their business to have fellowship with God in duties,
their lufts mortified, their hearts tried, thcir souls conformed to the image of God in holiness.
They pray as if they prayed not, and hear as if they heard not; and if they feel no power in ordinances, no quickening in duties, it is no disappointment at all to them; for these