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SERM. and unconstant, yielding no folid and abid
XII. ing pleasure. Friendship founded in wifs o dom, and improved to the purposes of vir
tue, carrieth in it the best sentiments and affections, and the truest and highest pleasures that the human nature is capable of, and which will last to the utmost duration of our beings, even to perpetuity. If then we be sensible of our own frailty, and our danger of declining from the right way, should we not avoid the intimacies which may betray our integrity, and expose us to many temptations; and, on the contrary, chuse those which may be the means of correcting bad difpofitions, and strengthening good ones, and by which we may reasonably hope for daily good instructions, and an example to be set before us, which shall tend to our furtherance in every chris stian virtue ?
SERMON XIII. The FOUNDATION of CONFIDENCE
towards GOD, explained.
1 JOHN HII, 19, 20, 21. And bereby we know that we are of the truth,
and fhall assure our hearts before him. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our bearts condemn us not, then bave we confidence towards God.
MTOTHING can possibly be of greater SerM. IV importance to men, than to know XIII. how they may obtain the divine approbation, and upon what grounds they may hope for it; confequences of the last moment to our happiness or misery depend upon it; if God justifieth, who is he that condemneth? There is no fuperior tribunal to reverse his decrees, nothing to be dreaded from any adverse power; if he condemneth there is no defence against his wrath, and who knoweth its power? It can reach to the
SERM. whole of our being, and to a length of du. XIII. ration beyond what the jealous felf-con
demning mind can imagine. Now, seeing God, as the governor of mankind, hath given them a law (he was written it in their hearts, and at fundry times, and in divers manners revealed his will to them) we justly infer from his moral perfections, that he will judge them according to that law, rewarding the obedient, and punifhing the disobedient. But the question is, whether there be any rule whereby we may judge beforehand what sentence we are to expect? And if there be any such rule, and a poflibility of arriving at certainty in this judgment concerning ourselves, here is the proper subject of our most solicitous inquiry. Who would not employ all the powers of his mind in a matter of such concernment, postponing all other affairs as trifles in comparison? Who would not apply himself with the greatest earnestness to the trial of this one point, if it is to be known, what fentence he is to expect from the righteous and most awful tribunal of God, and upon what terms he is with the judge of the world? What inward confidence and security of mind, what comfortable enjoyment even of his present existence must the man possess,
who hath the solid hope of being acquitted SERM. by his supreme ruler, perfectly wise, power- X111. ful, and just, in whose favour is life? On the contrary, what horror, trembling, and confufion, must seize the heart which is even suspicious of being disapproved by him, and hath the foreboding apprehensions of a future condemnation ? · The apostle hath preremptorily determined this matter in my text, shewing us upon what grounds we may assure our hearts before God, as he speaketh, that is, fatiffy ourselves that we are entitled to his acceptance, as knowing that we are of the truth, or have fulfilled the obligations to obedience we are under, according to the true intent and meaning of lis law: and then he explaineth himself more fully by laying down this general doctrine, that the testimony of our own consciences is the only just measure of our expectations from God; if they condemn us, as wilfully and wickedly transgressing his law, and coming short of that duty which he requireth, we have nothing to look for but his displeasure; for he is greater than our hearts, which are immediately subject to his judgment, more impartial than they; and he knoweth all things, all the secret insincerity which is in
SERM. them, and every aggravating circumstance
XIII. which atendeth our offences. On the other Li hand, if our hearts do not condemn, but
acquit us, then we have confidence towards God; we may enjoy inward ferenity, and can look to the superior divine tribunal without terror ; we are persuaded that the services we now perform are acceptable to him, which feemeth to be the apostle's immediate design, for he addeth, ver. 22. and whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleahng to bim; not that he will grant us every thing we defire, which may not be best for us; but that he will accept our dutiful addresses, and beftow those blessings, which his infinite wisdom feeth fittest for us; and upon the fame foundation, we shall have boldness in the day of judgment, as this facred writer elsewhere fpeaketh, we shall not be afraid of Christ's coming, in the glory of his Father, to pronounce the laft decifive fentence, which shall finally determine the condition of every man. It is true, the preceding context relateth particularly to charity, which St.
John, after the example of his great master, earnestly recommendeth in all his writings; he layeth a mighty stress on the love of the