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brethren ; by it we know that we are paffedfrom S E R M. deathtolife; and while the oppofite difpofition XIII. ruleth in the hearts of men, they abide inf death; that is, in a flate of fervitude to fin, and liable to the wrath of God as the punifhment of it: By charity we imitate God, who is love; and when it is warm and vigorous . in the heart, expreffing itfelf in acts of beneficence, we mew a juft fenfe of that love which he hath fo glorioufly manifefted to us, in fending his Son to die for our redemption! But all this is not to be underftood as if charity were the whole of religion, and our hope towards God were founded on it in cxclufion of other virtues: Charity doth not hide a multitude of Jim in this fenfe, that it maketh amends for them, and, by its merit in God's fight, procureth the forgivenefs of them. There is an abfolute neceffity, in order to be approved of God, that we be juft, and temperate, and patient, and godly, as well as charitable; and our Saviour's doctrine, which his beloved difciple did not intend to contradict is, "John xiv. 23. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, not one or fome, but all of them, and they enjoin univerfal righteoufnefs, be it is that loveth me, and he Jhall be loved of my Father, and I will love him; without that we cannot Vol. III. Y aflure
Serm.aflure our hearts before God; and our XIII. knowledge of it is jufl the fame thing as 1 knowing 'we are of the truth. The plain meaning, therefore, of the text is, that if our hearts witnefs for us, that we are fincere in doing the will of God, or keeping his commandments, then we have confidence towards him; but if they witnefs the contrary, that we wilfully and wickedly break his laws, then the conclufion concerning ourfelves is alfo directly contrary, namely, that we have no reafon to hope for his approbation, but to expecl his difpleafure. This is the doctrine which I fhall endeavour in the following difcourfe to explain and eftablifh; and then I mall draw fome inferences from it, which, I think, are of great importance and ufefulnefs.
I am fenfible this doctrine needeth explication, when we apply it to the prefent ftate of human nature; a ftate of infirmity and imperfedtion, and to minds ignorant and weak, prejudiced and unattentive; and yet, I believe it may, notwithftanding all thefe difadvantages, be reduced to fuch a certainty, that every man who is truly difpofed to do it, may be able to pafs a right judgment upon his own ftate, his own temper and actions, whether they are approved of God "' or or not; in order to which, I fhall lay down S E R M. the following proportions^ XIII.
Firft, That the approbation and the condemnation of our own confcienees, upon which our hope towards God and the fear of his difpleafure depend, do not relate to abfolute innocence, and to every thing which; ftrictly fpeaking, may be called finful. If the queftion were concerning finlefs perfection, and concealing every kind and degree of moral evil, no man's heart could acquit him; for there is not a juft man that liveth upon the earth ^ and Jinneth not. The fame apoflle in this very epiftle teacheth us, that if we fay we have no Jin, we deceive ourJefaes, and the truth is not in .us. So far from knowing that we are of the truth, and afluring our hearts before God, by pretending to an unfinning obedience, men making fuch a prefumptuous claim, mew only their ignorance of themfelves and of the truth, not their innocence; for the very beft, who are always jealous over themfelves with a godly jealoufy, and look the moft flri&ly into their own hearts and lives, are always fenfible of their own frailties, and that they could not abide a trial by God's all-fearching eye, if he fhould mark every one of their Y 2 infirmi
Serm. infirmities, and therefore are ready to fay, XIII. in the words of the Pfalmift, Iftbou Jhouldft 'mark iniquity, O Lord, who Jhall Jland? Enter not into judgment with thy fervant, for in thy figbt Jhall no max living bejufti* fied. We muft therefore diftinguifh, and the fcripture hath taught us to do fo, between finning, and committing Jin or work* ing iniquity; that is, between unallowed failings, and wilful deliberate difobedienco to the laws of God againft the cwiviaion of our own minds; a confcjoufnefs of the latter deftroyeth our confidence towards God, and filleth our hearts with foreboding fear* of his wrath; but notwitflanding the former, we aflure our hearts before him.
Nor is this the peculiar doctrine of ehriftianity, tho' more fully and folemnly afcertained by it. No man who hath worthy fentiments of the fupreme Being, as the juft, and wile, and merciful ruler of bis reafonable creatures, can doubt that he maketh a difference between the obftinately wicked, who do not like to retain him in their kn&wledge, and who, with an high hand, prefumptuoufly violate his laws which they know; between them, I fay, and upright perfons who are fincerely difpofed to do his will as far as they can underftand it; who are diligent to know their duty, and heartily Serminclined to pra&ife it, though they have XIII. flill fome involuntary errors, and are charge-' able with fins of infirmity. Can we fuffer ourfelves to believe that the good God, who hath written the work of his law on the hearts of all men, and given them confciences to bear witnefs to it, in purfuance of which, he exercifeth a conftant care over them, by his goodnefs inviting finners to repentence, and obferving the difpofitions and behaviour of every one; can we fuffer ourfelves to believe that he doth not diftinguifh between them who defire to fear him, and in the general tenor of their lives, fhew a prevailing regard to virtue, though with fome imperfections, and the incorrigible offenders, who are contentious and obey not the the truth made known to them, but take pleafure in unrighteoufnefs? And that he doth not approve the former, and difapprove the other? To imagine that this merciful indulgence to the infirmities of the fincere, which they bewail, are daily ftriving againft, and endeavouring to amend, is a fpecial grace of the gofpel to them who are under that difpenfatlon from which others equally fincere are excluded, is to make the gofpel an inftrument of partiality, ¥3 and