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of his subjects. Religion discovers to us a merciful God; a wicked man may embrace religion on this account, for the sake of calming those fears which his vicious practices excite, by ideas of divine mercy. The same may be said of other men. A man cannot conclude then, that he is a believer from his performance of virtuous actions, common to believers and unbelievers. He must have peculiar light into the deep depravity of his own heart, he must be placed, at least in design, in circumstances that distinguish a good from a bad man.
Again when we say a believer can never cease to believe, we do not mean to say, a Christian attached to religion only by external performances, and by appearances of piety, can never cast off his profession. The finest appearances of piety, the greatest knowledge, the most liberal alms-deeds, the most profound humiliations, may be sueceeded by foul and fatal practices.
Moreover, great knowledge, generous charity, profound humiliation, will aggravate the condemnation of those who cease to proceed in virtue, and to purify their motives of action; because the performance of these virtues, and the acquisition of this great knowledge, suppose greater aid, and more resistance. Hear St. Peter: It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment,' 2 Epist. ii. 21. The case of those who commit the unpardonable sin, attests the same. Hear these thundering words: If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful lookingfor of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries,' Heb. x. 26.
Here let us develope an ambiguity too common in our churches. For as we affirm, on the one side, that a believer has characters proper to himself; and by which he may determine his state; and as, the other side, we assert, that they who have these characters, can never cease to be true believer; a nominal Christian may imagine the following sophism: I fast, I pray, I give alms; these are the virtues of a believer; I may then persuade myself, that I am a believer. Now, it seems he who once becomes a true be Finally,The argument from the testimony liever, can never cease to believe; conse- of the Spirit of God for the assurance of a quently, I who have fasted, prayed, and true believer, ought to trouble the security given alms, can never cease to be a believer. of a nominal Christian. In effect, how does What is still more astonishing, this ridicu- the Holy Spirit work in our hearts? Does lous reasoning is often applied to others as he operate by magic? Does he present phanwell as to ourselves. A loose casuist asks toms to our view? Does he inculcate propohis penitent, Do you repent of your sins? sitions contrary to truth? This is all enthu The penitent answers, I do repent. Have siasm. The Holy Spirit bears witness in us you recourse to the divine clemency? The in a manner conformable to our state and to penitent replies, I have recourse to Do the nature of things in general. If then the you embrace the satisfaction of Christ? The Spirit of God testify in your hearts while penitent says, I do embrace it. On this you are unregenerate, he will testify that slight foundation our casuist builds his sys- you are unregenerate. If he bear witness tem. Publications of grace are lavished, while you are nominal Christians, he will bear sources of mercy pour forth in abundance, witness that you are nominal Christians. If and the penitent may, if he please, take his he bear witness while your faith is doubtful, scat in heaven. My God! in what a man- he will bear witness to the doubtfulness of your ner they enter into the spirit of thy gospel! faith. Such a testimony may be ascribed to But first, when we affirm, that only the the Spirit of God. But an assurance of salva true believer can perform acts of faith, and tion, which exceeds your evidences of Christhat the least good work supposes regenera- tianity, must be a vision, a fancy, a dream: tion: we do not affirm, that there are not and to suppose the Holy Spirit the author of many actions common to both real and no-uch an assurance, is to suppose in the same minal Christians. A nominal Christian Spirit testimony against testimony; it is to may pray, a nominal Christian may fast,ake the Spirit of God divided against huna nominal Christian may give alms It self, Matt. xii. 26, and so a destroyer of his may even happen that men may embrace re- own kingdom, it is to make his testimony in ligion on base principles Religion com aands the heart contradict his testimony in Scripture a subject to obey his king; a king may em In Scripture he declares, No man can serve brace religion on this account, and he inay two masters. chap. vi. 24; in your hearts be place his supreme happiness in the obedience declares, A man may serve two masters. In
conscience, as St. Paul words it, 2 Tim.
The third argument by which we establish the doctrine of assurance, and which also militates against carnal security, is Christian prerogative. Two propositions are contained in it. First, We may be persuaded that we have true faith Next, We may be sure true faith will be assisted to persevere. These propositions which assure the believer, ought to alarm a nominal Christian.
Scripture he attests, There is no concord between Christ and Belial,' 2 Cor. vi. 15; in your hearts he attests, There is concord between Christ and Belial. In Scripture he affirms, Neither fornicators, nor covetous, nor revilers, shall inherit the kingdom of God,' 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; in your hearts he affirms, Such shall inherit the kingdom of God. Thus the four arguments, that prove the doctrine of assurance in favour of true believers, destroy the security of a mere nominal Chris
through all the clouds which Satan uses to conceal heaven from the Christian eye, to lay all the ghosts, that the enemy of souls raises to haunt mankind into terror; a man who rests on that 'word of God, which standeth for ever, even when heaven and earth pass away, may say with St. Paul, I am persuaded;' such a man may assure himself that only glorified spirits enjoy a happiness superior to his; he is arrived at the highest degree of felicity, to which in this valley of
tears men can come.
But to consider religion always on the com
The consolations which arise from the doctrine of assurance, are not then for all Chris-fortable side; to congratulate one's self for tians indifferently. They are only for those having obtained the end before we have who continually study obedience; they are made use of the means; to stretch the hands for those only who have seen into a heart to receive the crown of righteousness, before deceitful above all things, and desperately they have been employed to fight the battle; wicked, Jer. xvii. 9, and have found even to be content with a false peace, and to use there marks of regeneration; they are for no efforts to obtain the graces, to which true those only, who, by a life entirely devoted consolation is annexed; this is a dreadful to the service of God, have domonstrated calm, like that which some voyagers describe, that they bear the characters of his children. and which is a very singular forerunner of a Is this your condition? The sophisms of very terrible event. All on a sudden, in the sin that we have endeavoured to refute, these wide ocean, the sea becomes calm, the surportraits of rash confidence, these false titles face of the water clear as crystal, smooth of virtue and regeneration, these images as glass, the air serene; the unskilled passenthat we have traced, whence have we taken ger becomes tranquil and happy; but the old them? Have we gathered them from books? mariner trembles. In an instant the waves have we invented them in our closets? have froth, the winds murmur, the heavens kinwe derived them from the study of theology? dle, a thousand gulfs open, a frightful light have we drawn them from monuments of an- inflames the air, and every wave threatens cient history? No, no, we have learnt them sudden death. This is an image of most in the world, in the church, in your families, men's assurance of salvation. in your sick beds, where nothing is so common as this false peace, nothing so rare as
Whence the evil comes, I know not: but the fact is certain. Of all the churches in the world, there are none which abuse the doctrine of Christian assurance, and which draw consequences from it directly contrary to those which ought to be drawn, like some of ours. We lull ourselves into a fanciful confidence: we place on imaginary systems an assurance which ought to be found ed only on the rock of ages; we scruple, even while we are engaged in the most criminal habits, to say, we doubt of our salvation; and, as if a persuasion of being saved, dispensed with the necessity of working out
our salvation, we consider an assurance of arriving at heavenly felicity as a privilege, that supplies the want of every virtue.
Certainly nothing is more great and happy than the disposition of a man who courageously expects to enjoy a glory to which he has a just title. A man who knows the misery of sin; a man who groans under the weight of his own depravity, and enters into the sentiment, while he utters the language, of the apostle, 'O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. vii. 24; a man, who, after he had experienced the terrible agitations of a conscience distressed on account of sin, has been freed from all his sins at the foot of the cross, has put on the yoke of Christ his Lord; a man, who having seen in himself the true characters of a Christian, and the never failing graces annexed to evangelical Inercy, has learned at length to pierce
So then, instead of applying the words of our text to a great number of you, we are obliged to shed tears of compassion over you. Yes, we must lament your misery. You live under an economy in which the most transporting joys are set before you, and you wilfully deprive yourselves of them. Yes, we must adopt the language of a prophet, O that my people had hearkened unto me!' We must say with Jesus Christ, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! Ps. Ixxx. 13; Luke xix. 42.
What can be happier, amidst the numberless vanities and vexations which accompany worldly pleasures, than to be able to derive from an assurance of our salvation pleasures suitable to intelligent creatures, immortal souls? What can be happier, amidst all the pains, labours, and miseries, with which life abounds, than to enjoy the plentiful consolations, that issue from a well-grounded hope of eternal felicity? Above all, what can be more capable of supporting us against the fear of death? Mortal and dying as we are, in a state, where the smallest alteration in the body reminds us of death, what can we wish for more conformable to our wants than to find, in a firm hope of eternal felicity, a shield to secure us against the enemy, and a sword to destroy him? let us strive, let us pray, let us venture all, my brethren, to arrive at this happy state. And if, after we have believingly and sincerely laboured in this good work, there remain any doubt and suspicion, let us assure ourselves, that even our suspicions and fears shall contribute to our confirmation. They will not be account
ed crimes, they will at most be only frailties; the conscience. So be it. To God be honthey will be infirmities productive of motives our and glory. Amen. to go on in virtue, and to establish peace in!
HEBREWS ix. 27.
It is appointed unto men once to die: but after this the judgment.
THE second proposition in my text conveys terror into the first. Judgment to come makes death terrible. I own, it is natural to love life. The Creator, it should seem, has supplied the want of satisfactory pleasures in the world, by giving us, I know not what, attachment to it. But when reason rises out of nature, when the good and evil of life are weighed, evil seems to outweigh good, and we can hardly help exclaiming with the wise man, The day of death is better than the day of one's birth! I hate life because of the work that is wrought under the sun!' Eccles. vii. 1, and ii. 17.
hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness,' Acts. xvii. 31. Whatever difference there may seem to be between these two hypotheses, it is easy to harmonize them. The general judgment will be a confirmation and a consummation of each particular judgment, and we ought to consider both as different parts of one whole.
Once more I repeat it, we will not divert your attention from the principal design of this discourse. I am going first, not to allege arguments in proof of a judgment to come, Isuppose them known to you, and that I am not preaching to novices: but I am go ing to assist you to carry them farther than you usually do, and so to guard you against skepticism and infidelity, the pest of our days, and the infamy of our age. In a second article, we will inquire, what will be the destiny of this assembly in that great day, in which God will declare the doom of all mankind. We discuss this question, not to indulge & vain curiosity but to derive practical inferences, and particularly to moderate the excessive fear, that an object so very terrible produces in some minds, and at the same time to trouble the extravagant security in which some sleep, in spite of sounds so proper to awake them.
I. We have three directions to give you. The first regards the arguments for judg ment taken from the disorders of society. The second regards that which is taken from conscience. The third, that which is taken from revelation.
But to go from a bed of infirmity to a tribunal of justice; to look through the languors of a mortal malady to torments that have no end; and, after we have heard this sentence, Return to destruction, ye children of men,' Ps. xc. 3, to hear this other, Give an account of thy stewardship,' Luke xvi. 2, these are just causes for intelligent beings to
Let us, however, acknowledge, although this fear is just, yet it may be excessive; and, though it be madness to resist the thought, yet it would be weakness to be overwhelmed with it. I would prove this to-day, while in this point of light I endeavour to exhibit to your view the judgment that follows death.
We will not divert your attention from the chief design. We will only hint, that the proposition in the text is incidental, and not immediately connected with the principal subject, which the apostle was discussing. His design was to show the pre-eminence of the sacrifice of the cross over all those of the Levitical economy. One article, which argues the superiority of the first, is, that it was offered but once, whereas the Jewish sacrifices were reiterated. Christ does not offer himself often, as the high-priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of other sacrifices: but once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. For, 'as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.'
Nor will we detain you longer by inquiring whether St. Paul speaks here of the particular judgment that each man undergoes immediately after death, or of that general judg. ment day, of which Scripture says, God
1. Our first direction regards the argument taken from the disorders of society. Do not confine your attention to those disorders which strike the senses, astonish reason, and subvert faith itself. Reflect on other irregularities, which, although they are less shocking to sense, and seemingly of much less consequence, are yet no less deserving the attention of the Judge of the whole earth, and require, no less than the first, a future judgment.
I grant, those notorious disorders, which human laws cannot repress, afford proof of a future judgment. A tyrant executes on a gibbet a poor unhappy man, whom the pain of hunger, and the frightful apprehension of sudden death, forced to break open a house. Here, if you will, disorder is punished, and society is satisfied. But who shall satisfy
the just vengeance of Society on this mad tyrant? This very tyrant, at the head of a hun dred thousand thieves, ravages the whole world; he pillages on the right and on the left; he violates the most sacred rights, the most solemn treaties; he knows neither religion nor good faith. Go, see, follow his steps, countries desolated, plains covered with the bodies of the dead, palaces reduced to ashes, and people run mad with despair. Inquire for the author of all these miseries. Will you find him, think you, confined in a dark dungeon, or expiring on a wheel? Lo! he sits on a throne, in a superb royal palace; nature and art contribute to his pleasures; a circle of courtiers minister to his passions, and erect altars to him, whose equals in iniquity, yea, if I may be allowed to say so, whose inferiors in vice, have justly suffered the most infamous punishments. And where is divine justice all this time? what is it doing? I answer with my text, After death comes judgment. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty,' James i. 12.
But, though the argument taken from the disorders of society is full and clear, when it is properly proposed, yet such examples as we have just mentioned do not exhaust it. It may be extended a great deal farther, and we may add thousands of disorders, which every day are seen in society, against which men can make no laws, and which cannot be redressed until the great day of judgment, when God will give clear evidence of all.
Have human laws ever been made against hypocrites? see that man artfully covering himself with the veil of religion, that hypocrite, who excels in his art! behold his eyes, what seraphical looks they roll towards heaven! observe his features, made up, if I may venture to s of those of Moses, Ezra, Daniel, and iah! see his vivacity, or his flaming zeat I call it? to maintain the doctrines of repn, to forge thunderbolts, and to pour out anathemas against heretics! Not one grain of religion, not the least shadow of piety, in all his whole conversation. It is a party spirit, or a sordid interest, or a barbarous disposition to revenge, which animates him, and produces all his pretended piety. And yet I hear every body exclaim, He is a miracle of religion! he is a pillar of the church! I see altars every where erecting to this man; panegyrists, I see, are composing his encomium; flowers are gathering to be strewed over his tomb. And the justice of God, what is it doing? My text tells you, After death comes judg-plex numbers, we feel, so to speak, that our minds inquire, examine, and labour. In like manner in morality. There are some duties, the right of which is so clear and palpable; and there are some conditions, in which we, ourselves, are in regard to these duties which are so easy to be known, that the mind instantly perceives them without examination and discussion. But there are some duties, the right of which is so enveloped in obscu
There are, I grant, some operations of conscience, which seem to be rather instinct. and sentiment than cool judgment arising from a train of reflections. Yet, we believe, all the operations of conscience proceed from judgment and reflection. But it sometimes happens, that the judgment of the mind is so ready, and its reflections so rapid, that it hardly sees what it judges, and reflects on, so that it seems to act by instinct and sentiment only. Thus when the mind compares two simple numbers together, the comparison is so easily made, that we think we know the difference by a kind of instinct belonging to our nature; whereas when we compare com
Have human laws ever been made against the ungrateful? While I was in prosperity, I studied to procure happiness to a man, who seemed entirely devoted to me; I was happier in imparting my abundance to him than in enjoying it myself; during that delightful period of my life he was faithful to me but when fortune abandoned me, and adopted him, he turned his back on me; now he suffers merity; and there are some stations, which are so very doubtful, that the mind requires great efforts of meditation before it can determine itself. For example, Ought a subject to obey his lawful sovereign? On this question, the mind instantly takes the affir
to languish in poverty; and, far from relieving my wants, he does not deign so much as to examine them. And divine justice, where is it? who shall punish this black crime? 1 answer again, After death comes judgment.'
Have men made laws against cowards? 1 do not mean cowardice in war; the infamy that follows this crime, is a just punishment of it. I speak of that mean cowardice of soul, which makes a man forsake an oppressed innocent sufferer, and keep a criminal silence in regard to the oppressor. Pursue this train of thought, and you will every where find arguments for a future judgment; because there will every where appear disorders, which establish the necessity of it.
Our second direction regards the argument taken from conscience. Let not your faith be shaken by the examples of those pretended superior geniuses, who boast of having freed themselves from this restraint. Tell them, if they have no conscience, they ought to have; and affirm, the truer their pretensions, the stronger your reason for taxing them with rage and extravagance There is no better mode of destroying an objection than by proving, that he who proposes and admits it is a fool for admitting and propos ing it. If, then, I prove that a man, who, to demonstrate that conscience is a fancy, declares, he is entirely exempt from it; if I prove, that such a man is a fool for proposing and admitting this proposition, shall I not subvert his whole system? Now I think I am able to prove such a man a fool, and you will admit the truth of what I say, if you will give a little attention to the nature of conscience, a little closer attention, I mean, than is usually given to sermons.
What is conscience? It is difficult to include an adequate idea of it in a definition. This appears to me at once the most general and the most exact: Conscience is that faculty of our minds, by which we are able to distinguish right from wrong, and to know whether we neglect our duties, or discharge them.
Being, to whom I owe my existence, and who holds my destiny in his mighty hands. Do we exceed the truth when we say, a man who ventures to affirm this principle is neither demonstrable nor probable, is a madman and a fool? I told you at the beginning of this discourse, that I intended to speak to you, not as scholars and novices: but as wellinformed Christians, who have made some considerable progress in the knowledge of those truths which equally support natural and revealed religion. But if you have any just notion of these truths, how can you form any other opinion of these men, of whom I am speaking, than that which I have formed? A man who pretends that arguments drawn from the order of seasons, from the arrangements of the various parts of the universe, from the harmony of the members of our bodies, and all the other works of nature, by which we have so often established the doctrine of the being and attributes of God; a man who affirms, that all these demonstrate nothing; what am I saying? a man who affirms that all these prove nothing; what am I saying again? a man who affirms that all these do not afford the least degree of probability in favour of the existence and perfections of a Supreme Being; who for his part is sure, for he has evidence to a demonstration, that all these originated in chance, and were not formed by the intervention of any intelligent cause; such a man, what is he but a madman and a fool? and consequently, is it not madness and folly to deny this first principle, I am in a state of dependance?
Try the second principle, There is a supreme law, or, what comes to the same, there is something just, and something unjust. Whether this just and right be founded in the nature But that which deserves particular regard, of things, or whether it proceeds from the will and in which partly consists the force of our of a superior Being, is not needful to examine reasoning, is, that it is not necessary to be now; be it as it may, there is a supreme law, able to demonstrate these principles, in order there is something right and something to prove, that conscience is not a fancy; if wrong. A man who pretends that this prothey be probable, it is sufficient. We cannot position is evidently false; a man who afreasonably free ourselves from conscience, firms, that all arguments brought in favour till we have demonstrated the falsehood of of this proposition are evidently false; a man these principles, and proved that the conse- who forms such an idea of all arguments quences drawn from them are chimerical. drawn from the nature of intelligent beings, For, if these principles be only probable; from the perfections of a first cause, from the if it be probable I may be happy, I have some laws that he has given, and which constitute reason to rejoice; as I have some reason for the body of religion; a man who pretends, uneasiness if my misery be probable. If the that all these argnments do not afford the enjoyment of a great benefit be probable, I least degree of probability, that a wise man have some reason for great pleasure; and I ought to infer nothing from them to direct have some reason for extreme distress, if it be his life: and that for his part, it is clear to a probable, that I shall fall into extreme misery. demonstration to him, that what is called just It is not necessary, therefore, in order to es- and unjust, right and wrong, is indifferent tablish the empire of conscience, that the in itself, and indifferent to the first cause: principles on which it is founded should be that it is perfectly indifferent in itself whe demonstrable; it is sufficient that they are ther we love a benefactor, or betray him, probable. Now I affirm, that every man who whether we be faithful to a friend or perfidimaintains the improbability of these princi- ous, whether we be tender parents or cruel, ples, and the vanity of the consequences that whether we nourish our children or smother are drawn from them, is a fool and a mad- them in the cradle; and that all these things man, whose obstinate attachment to vice has at the most, relate only to a present interest; blinded his eyes, and turned his brain. Con- a man wno advances such propositions, what sequently I affirm, that every man who main-is he but a fool and a madinan? Is it netains that conscience is a fancy, and who cessary to reason to discover the extravaboasts of having shaken off the restraint of it, gance and madness of these positions. Is it
is a fool and a madman.
not sufficient to name them?
mative side, on account of the clearness of the duty, and it seems to act by instinct, and without reflection. But here is another question, Is it lawful for subjects to dethrone a tyrant? Here the mind pauses, and before it determines enters into long discussions, and here we perceive, it acts by judgment and reflection. In both cases reflection and judgment are the ground of its operations. In the first case judgment is more rapid, reflection less slow but it is reflection however. We have, then, rightly defined conscience, that faculty of our souls, by which we are capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and of knowing whether we neglect our duties, or discharge them.
But this is too vague, we must go farther. We must examine the principles on which we ground our judgment of ourselves in regard to right and wrong. We must prove, by the nature of these principles, the truth of what we have affirmed; that is, that a man, who calls conscience a fancy, and who boasts of an entire freedom from it, is a fool for admitting and proposing this objection.
The judgment that constitutes the nature of conscience, is founded on three principles, either fully demonstrable or barely probable. First, I am in a state of dependance. Second, There is a supreme law; or what is the same thing, there is something right, and something wrong.
Third, I am either innocent or guilty. On these three principles an intelligent spirit grounds a judgment, whether it deserves to be happy or miserable; it rejoices, if it deserves to be happy; it mourns, if it deserves to be miserable; and this judgment, and this joy, or sorrow, which results from it, constitutes what we call conscience.
Take the first principle. I am in a state of dependance. I am subject to a Supreme
Take the third principle.... But, it is enough to have pointed out the most proper