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bation and regret. To real and evangelical worth they attach high consideration. Over the feuds and janglings which have so extensively prevailed among the professed followers of Christ, and often about subjects of little moment, they cast an eye of compassion; and lament that those whom Christ has loved, for whom he died, who will finally be placed at the right hand of the Judge, and who will be united for ever in the friendship of heaven, should be kept asunder, alienated, engaged in contention, and at times even embarked in hostilities, for reasons which they will blush to recite before the last tribunal, and which will awaken shame, if shame can be awakened, in heaven itself.
These men furnish one illustrious practical proof; that the holiness of Christians increases through life.
THE PATH OF THE JUST IS AS THE SHINING LIGHT, THAT SHINETH MORE AND MORE UNTO THE PERFECT DAY.
PROVERBS IV. 18.
IN the preceding Discourse I observed, that the text naturally teaches us the following doctrines :
I. That the holiness of the Christian is a beautiful object;
The two first of these doctrines I have already examined. I will now proceed to a consideration of the third.
As this doctrine has been and still is vigorously disputed, it will be necessary to make it the subject of a particular examination. In doing this I shall first adduce several arguments as a direct proof of the doctrine; and shall then answer the principal objections.
1. It is irrational to suppose that God would leave a work, towards which so much has been done, unaccomplished.
To effectuate the salvation of such as believe in Christ, God has sent him to become incarnate, to live a life of humiliation
and suffering, and to die upon the cross. He has raised him from the dead, exalted him to his own right hand, and constituted him at once an intercessor for his children, and the head over all things unto the church. He has also sent the Spirit of Grace, to complete by his almighty energy this work of infinite mercy, in sanctifying, enlightening, and quickening the soul, and conducting it to heaven. Now, let me ask, Is it not in the nature of the case incredible, that Jehovah should commence and carry on this work with such an amazing apparatus of labour and splendour, and leave it unfinished? Is it not incredible, that an omniscient and omnipotent Being should form a purpose of this nature, should discover in this wonderful manner that he had it so much at heart, and should yet suffer himself to be frustrated in the end? Who can reconcile this supposition with the perfections of God?
2. The continuance of saints in holiness follows irresistibly from their election.
It is unnecessary for the purposes of this Discourse that I should inquire into the metaphysical nature of election. It is sufficient for my design, that saints are declared abundantly throughout the Scriptures, to be chosen of God. Thus, Rev. xvii. 14, the angel declares to John, concerning the followers of the Lamb, that they are called, chosen, and faithful.' Thus, Luke xviii. 7, Christ, speaking of his followers, says, ' And shall not God avenge his own elect,' or chosen? Thus St. Paul, Rom. viii. 33, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' Thus St. Peter, in his first Epistle, ch. ii. 9, Ye are a chosen generation:' and thus throughout the Scriptures.
It is to be remembered that this appellation is given to Christians universally. In the passages already quoted it is plain, that the names elect and chosen, which you know are the same in the Greek, are equivalent to saints, or Christians; and accordingly are addressed to them without distinction. The same observation is, with the same truth, applicable to the numerous passages of Scripture in which this language is adopted.
Of all these persons it is often said, that they were chosen from the beginning;' or from before the foundation of the world.' Thus St. Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 13, addressing the members of that Church, says God hath from the beginning
chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.' Thus also, Eph. i. 4, the same apostle addressing the Christians at Ephesus, says, According as he hath chosen us in him (that is, Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.' From these passages, and from many others of similar import, it is clear that Christians are 'chosen by God unto salvation from the beginning;' or 'from before the foundation of the world.' But can it be supposed that a purpose of God, thus formed, will be frustrated? As this is declared of Christians as such, it is evident that it is alike applicable to all Christians. If therefore any Christian ceases to be holy, this purpose of God, solemnly adopted and declared, will in one instance be frustrated, and in every instance in which this event takes place. Thus far then God will be finally disappointed of one end of his government really proposed by him, and expressly announced to the universe. Who can believe this concerning the Creator.
3. If Christians continue not in holiness unto the end, the intercession of Christ will be frustrated.
In John xvii. Christ, after having prayed for his apostles, says, verse 20, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee: that they also may be one in us.' In this petition Christ prays the Father, that all those, who should believe on him through the word of the apostles, that is, all Christians, may become partakers of that divine union which in the heavens is the most perfect created resemblance of the ineffable union of the Father and the Son. If then any Christian fails of sharing in this union, the prayer of Christ here recited will not be an
4. If the holiness of Christians does not continue unto the end, the joy of heaven over their conversion is groundless, and
Our Saviour informs us, that there is joy over one, (that is, over every,) sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.' No error
exists in heaven. All the perceptions of its inhabitants are accordant with truth; all their emotions are founded in truth. The joy excited there by the continuance of ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance (that is, persons perfectly just) in their holiness, is a joy founded on the everlasting holiness of these persons, and the everlasting happiness by which it is inseparably attended. The joy excited by the repentance of a sinner is, however, greater than even this. As this is unconditionally asserted by Christ, it is unnecessary for me, in the present case, to inquire into the reasons of the fact. But a joy excited by the repentance of a sinner whose everlasting holiness, and consequent everlasting happiness, is uncertain; nay, who may never be holy nor happy at all beyond the first and feeblest efforts and enjoyments of a Christian in his infantine state, cannot be founded in truth nor dictated by wisdom; nay, it cannot be accordant with common sense. Upon the plan here adopted, the object on which this joy is founded, although a penitent to-day, may be a reprobate to-morrow; may thus finally lose both his holiness and his happiness; and, becoming a more guilty, may of course become a more miserable wretch than if he had never repented. In this case there would be, upon the whole, no foundation for joy at all; and the inhabitants of heaven would, in many instances, instead of rejoicing rationally and on solid grounds, be merely tantalized by the expectation of good which they were never to realize.
What in this case would be the conduct of rational men in the present world? We have instances enough of their conduct, in cases substantially of a similar nature, to furnish us with an unerring answer to this question. They would, as in all cases of such uncertainty they actually do, indulge a timorous, trembling hope that the case might end well; that the penitent might persevere, and finally become safe. They would experience a degree of satisfaction that this first step had been taken because it was indispensable to the rest; and would feel a continual anxious suspense, lest others equally indispensable should not follow. What wise and good men in this world would feel on such an occasion, wiser and better men in the world to come must of necessity also feel, and feel much more intensely, because they comprehend the subject in a manner so much clearer, juster and more perfect. Of course,