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sin, whether he act in conformity with his principles, or in opposition to them. If he follow them, he is, of course, wrong, for he follows a false guide. On the other hand, if he act contrary to his deliberate and conscientious convictions, he no less certainly acts wrong; nay, perhaps, still more criminally; because he directly contravenes the dictate of conscience. Thus Paul, before his conversion, "verily thought within himself, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." His conscience was honest, in the popular sense of that term; but it was blinded and erroneous. And, of course, as long as it continued such, he could not but sin, whether he obeyed or resisted its dictates.
Can any thing place in a stronger light the importance of our receiving and obeying truth, and nothing but the truth, in reference to the great questions of faith and practice, than the considerations which have been stated? If the human mind is so constituted that no false opinion, no corrupt principle, can be adopted, without a corresponding practical mischief, and a mischief proportioned to the importance and the moral bearing of the principle in question;-then, surely, it behooves every one who values his own temporal or eternal well-being, to give all diligence to know and receive the truth; to "seek it as silver, and search for it as for hid treasures." The infatuation and the injury of daily swallowing poison, are not more unquestionable, than the infatuation and the injury of imbibing corrupt sentiments; of embracing as truth doctrinal and practical error. To the precise extent of their influence, they must, of necessity, prevent the very springs of action, and lead the mind away from God, from duty, and, consequently, from happiness. And, unhappily, in this case, the more sincere the individual, the greater his danger. That is, the more unfeigned and deep his belief of the error supposed, the more powerful and mischievous will be its influence on his mind, and the more extensive and permanent the evil to which it will be likely to lead. But further,
II. The essential importance of truth, as a means of sanctification, is also rendered manifest by considering THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION. What is true religion, but conformity to the will of God! And what is the will of God, but truth, the essence of truth? In this view of the subject, were we to define genuine sanctification, we might say, it essentially consists in knowledge of the truth, in love of the truth, and in walking according to the truth. In other words, it consists in having just apprehensions of things, temporal and spiritual; in cherishing right affections and desires toward them; and in acting out these affections and desires in the temper and life. God himself is truth. His word, our text tells us, is truth; and it must be so; for it is a transcript of his own most holy character. To know and love the word of God, then, is to know and love the truth; and, of course, is to know and love God himself. The word of God,
therefore, that which daily exhibits to the believer the great objects of his love, joy and confidence, is, of consequence, the aliment on which he lives. It is the "meat and drink" by which he is nourished and sustained. The more he contemplates the truth of God, with an humble and teachable spirit, the more he grows in grace, that is, in sanctification. The more his faith is confirmed; his repentance increased; his hope strengthened; his love enkindled; his confidence in God established; and his whole soul brought into a blessed conformity to the divine image. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
If such be the nature of true religion;-if it essentially consist in affections, desires, and conduct conformed to the will of God, which is his word, his truth; then it is self-evident, that no real sanctification can be either begun or carried on in any heart, but by bringing the mind in contact with truth, and into subjection to its power. Without this, we might just as well expect to "gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." To sanctify men, is, as we have seen, to excite in them just apprehensions, desires and affections toward those great realities which ought to be supremely regarded by rational beings. Of course, the more we believe in the reality and glory of these great objects; the more we love them, and seek them; the more we may be said to receive and obey the truth;-the more the truth may be said to pervade, to influence, and to govern the mind. The entrance of the word of God into the heart, gives light, and life, and joy, and hope, and peace, and "brings the whole man into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Yes, the word of God, when applied by the Holy Spirit, has a mighty sanctifying power. It enlightens the understanding; it awakens the conscience; it softens the heart; it" cleanses from all filthiness of flesh and spirit." And how does it become instrumental in accomplishing all this? It sets before the mind the most excellent and glorious objects. It presents the strongest motives for the attainment of holiness. It furnishes the most effectual encouragements to seek holiness. It offers the plainest and only effectual directions for the culture of holiness. And it is accompanied with "power from on high," impressing it upon the mind, and giving it, if I may so speak, an effectual lodgment and a holy energy there. This POWER FROM ON HIGH is that which imparts to it all its enlightening, purifying, and healing influence. And yet, from the very nature of true religion, while it is certain that nothing truly sanctifying will occur until this divine power is applied; it is, at the same time, equally certain that the application of truth to the mind in some manner, ordinary or extraordinary, is no less indispensable.
III. Again; the importance of knowing and receiving divine truth is placed in the strongest light BY THE EXPRESS DECLARATIONS OF SCRIPTURE. All those passages of the word of God which represent true religion under the beautiful and appropriate figure of "walking in the truth," and of "walking with God," who is the great source and model of all truth; may be considered as indirectly, but most emphatically, teaching the doctrine of our text. But the sacred oracles abound with declarations on this subject still more direct, pointed and solemn;-declarations which proclaim, at once, the value of truth, the necessity of its being known and received, and the fatal consequences of turning away from it. The following specimen of the manner in which the inspired writers express themselves on the subject, surely marks the deep importance of that which they inculcate. "Hold fast," says one apostle," the form of sound words which thou hast received." "Contend earnestly," says another apostle, "for the faith once delivered to the saints." "Whosoever," says a third apostle, "abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." And again, "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is a partaker of his evil deeds." And in the same strain it is pronounced,-"if any man come unto you, and bring any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed." And again," Hold fast the faithful word, that you may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." Nay, departure from "sound doctrine," is every where represented as the seed of all corruption. "In the latter times," we are told, "some SHALL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." And again," As there were false prophets among the people (the Jews;) so there shall be false teachers among you (Christians,) who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom THE WAY OF TRUTH SHALL BE EVIL SPOKEN OF. And, to crown all, the account given in prophecy of the great Romish apostacy is in the following language: "Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, in them that perish; BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who BELIEVED NOT THE TRUTH, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
To the same effect are all those passages of scripture which represent "repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," as essential to salvation; which proclaim, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but that he who believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but that the wrath of God abideth on him;" which declare that "other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ;" and which exhort the impenitent and unbelieving to "flee from the wrath to come," to "lay hold of eternal life," and having accepted of proffered mercy, to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Now, what are all the exercises of mind here described and enjoined, but so many enlightened and practical views of the radical truths of religion? What is Repentance, but a holy sorrow for sin, founded on a spiritual perception of those doctrines concerning God, his character, his law, and the plan of mercy which his word proclaims? What is Faith, but believing, with cordial love and confidence, those great truths which the scriptures reveal, especially those which relate to the person, glory, and work of the Divine Redeemer? And what are all the other graces of the Spirit, which his word represents as indispensable to salvation, but so many exercises in all of which the soul lays hold of truth, follows truth, obeys truth, and enjoys the consolations of truth? Hence it is that the scriptures every where represent bringing the knowledge of the gospel, in some way, to men, as absolutely necessary to their conversion and salvation. "How shall they believe in him of whom their have not heard?" Hence it is, also, that when the impenitent are converted, they are said to "come to the knowledge of the truth;" to be" born again by the word of truth;" to be" made free by the truth;" and to "obey the truth;" by all which expressions we are plainly taught, that truth, or, which is the same thing, Christian doctrine, is the grand instrument, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, by which spiritual life is begun, carried on, and completed in every subject of redeeming grace.
IV. Once more; the great importance of knowing and receiving gospel truth, is manifest from the undoubted fact, that WHENEVER
THE FUNDAMENTAL AND PECULIAR DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL HAVE BEEN EITHER WITHHELD OR OPPOSED, THE INTERESTS OF VITAL PIETY AND HOLY LIVING HAVE ALWAYS, IN A CORRESPONDING DEGREE, DECLINED.
Not only does the Bible represent all departures from the faith, as evil, and, if they be essential, as destructive of Christian character and hope; but all ecclesiastical history serves at once to illustrate and confirm the melancholy representation. When we open the apostolical epistles to the churches of Corinth, Galatia, and the Hebrews, we shall find, by carefully attending to the strain of address, that many of the members of those churches, had listened to the persuasions of false teachers, and had materially departed from "the faith once delivered to the saints;" and that they had no less degenerated in zeal and practical godliness. Some of the errors which they had embraced, are specifically stated; and the pictures given of their practical influence, are indeed melancholy! In the second and third centuries, when the ministers of religion began to swerve from the simple and genuine doctrines of the gospel, the benign influence of their ministry, and all the most
precious interests of vital piety, and of holy living began, in the very same proportion, to decline. When Augustine arose, toward the close of the fourth century, the doctrines of the gospel had been very imperfectly preached for nearly two hundred years. Of course, he found both orthodoxy and piety, at a very low ebb. He and his pious coadjutors, grieved at the degeneracy of the Church, consecrated their whole strength to the great cause of gospel truth. They opposed, with unwearied zeal, the Pelagian and Semi-pelagian errors of the day; and did more to refute heresy, and to extend and establish sound doctrine, than had been done by any since the apostolic age. The consequence of this revival of orthodoxy, was the immediate revival of vital piety, and of gospel purity; the blessings of which, on a large part of the church, were precious and lasting. In several subsequent periods, whenever there was a revival of the knowledge and preaching of sound doctrine, good morals and practical godliness never failed to be. revived in a corresponding degree. In the days of Godeschalcus; of Claudius of Turin; of the Waldenses; of Wickliffe; and of Huss and Jerome, it was manifest that practical piety rose or sunk, just as sound or erroneous doctrines bore sway. The same great fact was most impressively exemplified at the period of the Reformation. When the great doctrines of the gospel, which had been so long withheld or perverted by the corrupters of the church, began to be proclaimed by the Reformers, in something of their scriptural simplicity, pure and undefiled religion began immediately to spring forth, from this living seed, in the same proportion. And, on the contrary, when, toward the close of the sixteenth century, and during the seventeenth, orthodoxy declined in all the Protestant churches, and in some of them to a deplorable degree; there was a corresponding depression, in every one of them, of zeal, and of all the great interests of practical religion. Of these churches, the history of few is more melancholy and more solemnly instructive, than that of the Huguenots of France. For more than three quarters of a century after their emancipation from the thraldom of Popery, they were among the most pure and flourishing churches in the Protestant world. And, as long as their pious pastors continued to be sound in doctrine; faithful in adhering to their excellent Confession of Faith; and indefatigable in instructing their children and youth, and all classes of the people in gospel truth, in private as well as in public;-notwithstanding all the frowns and persecu tion of a hostile government, they prospered, multiplied, and were comparatively happy. But no sooner did orthodoxy decline in those churches; no sooner did Cameron, Amyraut, and other divines of talents, learning, and influence, begin to verge towards Semipelagian opinions, than an immediate and sensible decay ensued in piety, in zeal, and in pure morals. Indeed it seemed as if, from the time that the infection of these errors became in a considerable degrée extended, their peace was interrupted; their unity broken;