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finners, and a blafphemer, a perfecutor, and S E R M. injurious. What judgment is to be made of XIII. fuch an heart not condemning, it is hard for us precifely to determine. We are fure that God will make all the favourable allowances for the weaknefs of his creatures, that the moft perfect equity and goodnefs require; but the cafe particularly referred to, leads us to this farther obfervation. •
Laftly, That there are different degrees of fincerity, which is the only objecT: of the heart, or the confcience's approbation, and that only which God will accept. It not only impketh that we do not act againft the prefent conviction of our minds, but that they are not chargeable with grofs careleflhefs, or wilful, obftinate prejudices, mifleading the judgment. It is true, that as fincerity may well be called the whole of religion, it is imperfect in this life. There is no man fo happy as to be wholly and univerfally free from the leaft degree of faulty inattention, or any bias upon his mind drawing him into failings. But this is not to be carried fo far as that we may not have fufficient affurance of our own fincerity to be a juft ground of confidence towards God. That which the mind muft approve, _ which will afford it true fatisfaction in itfelf,
Z 3 and
S E R M. and which God will accept, is, the habir
XIII. tual prevalence of good difpofitions againfl the contrary, though infirmities ftill remain. And this is what every man may difcern concerning himfelf who carefully attendeth to whatpafleth in his own mind. May not one who is accuftomed to felf reflection, knOw what are the affections that rule the. general tenor of his conduft? And in particular infkances, which have been the fubje£t of deliberation, wherein there are fenfible oppofite tendencies in the heart, may he not be able to judge which of them prevaileth, whether prejudice, paffion, and felfifh defire, fhunhing a diligent inquiry; or if the voice of conscience be heard againft their clamour, and that judgment followed which is the refult of an attentive and im
partial examination I
I cannot in this difcourfe finifh what I intended to fay from the text, and therefore I fhall for the prefent conclude with this refle&ion, that as fmcerity admitteth of various degrees, we fhould always endeavour to grow in it. By a vigorous attention of mind, and the diligent ufe of proper means, efpecially a careful improvement of the gofpel grace, our conqueft over paffions and lufts which darken and miflead the . .. mind.
mind, will advance gradually; they thatSERM. have pure hearts, and clean hands, Jkallwax XIII. Jlronger and ft ranger in holinefs and virtue, that is, become more and more fincere; and as fincerity increafeth, fo will the evidences of it to the mind itfelf; the path of the juft is like the Jhining light, which Jhineth more and more unto the perfect day., ftill more apparent by its genuine fruits before men, and in a more fenfible manner inwardly perceived by its own confpicuous. luftre, fo as to leave no room for hefita"tion concerning its reality, nor any remaining doubts of the divine approbation, confid ering the merciful terms ©f the gofpel.
The Foundation of Confidence towards GOD, explained.
i JOHN III. 19, 20, 21.
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, andJhall affure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.
Serm. r~I~"v H E defign of this text is to teach us XIV. JL upon what grounds we may hope for the divine approbation, or have juft reafon to fear his difpleafure, namely, the teftimony of our confciences concerning our obedience or difobedience to his law, either that which he hath engraved on our hearts, zn&JJjewed us to be good by the light of nature, or which he hath given us by a pofitive and exprefs revelation. As this dqctrine is liable to be mifapprehended, I explained it in a former difcQurfe in feveral propofitions; the
fum of which is, that the fubjecl of the S E R M. heart's teftimony upon which it acquitteth XIV. men, is not perfect innocence; and that for' which it condemneth them, is not every the leaft failure which flrictly may be called a fin; if that were the meafure of the divine judgment, no man living could hope to be juflified in the fight of God. But as he will accept of fmcere obedience, tho* not without fome infirmities, and will only' condemn for wilful tranfgreflions; this fheweth upon what teflimony of confcience we have reafon to hope for his favour, or dread his indignation: That as unallowed failures will not be imputed, fo God will be merciful to the unrighteoufnefs of the penitent, and remember their fins no more, as the gofpel expreflly aflureth us; and therefore the man whofe heart witnefleth for him. that he hath forfaken his wicked ways, hath ceafed to do evil, and learned to do well; that he hath not only purpofed to amend, but brought forth, and continues to bring forth, fruits meet for repentance and amendment of life, hath a jufl foundation for confidence towards God: That as this confidence is appropriated to the judgment of the heart already mentioned, the hope of
divine acceptance, which is formed upon