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of altering and changing; but no sooner is this faithful mirror taken away, than all his views of his sinfulness are forgotten, he soon loses sight of himself, and remains unchanged, and unconverted.
There is a great self-deception in all this. Such a man's attention to religious duties makes him fancy himself religious, and he thus blinds his own eyes to his true state; he willingly shuts out the light, and perishes in the mid-day blaze of Gospel privileges. Satan could never ensure his destruction, did he not willingly concur with Satan by wilful blindness. Such persons do not, as they often imagine they do, much mislead others. A man who is living in sinful tempers aud practices, who is neglecting his relative duties, and is worldly and earthly minded, does not impose on the discerning. They see his profession to be a mere cloke, and readily deteet his hypocrisy; but he awfully deceiveth his own heart.
For instance, he hears the doctrine of salvation by grace through Christ, and disregarding the plain and declared truth, that it is a salvation from sin as well as from guilt, he thinks only of the comfort of free pardon, concludes that he is safe, because he admits a single truth, and passes by all that holiness which is ever connected with real salvation.
He hears the doctrine of faith only as the means of justification, and either wholly disregards the fruit of faith and the plain expressions of St. James, Even so faith without works is dead being alone, or satisfies himself with very slight, superficial, and unscriptural evidences of salvation.
He hears the necessity of good works, and rests in his own scanty obedience; in an outward morality, without a new heart. He hears of the work of the Spirit,
and thinks that he has received that Spirit, because he has had some warm emotions and feelings on religion, entirely disregarding the great proof of having received the Spirit in the steady course of a holy life. Others deceive themselves because religious friends think well of them, and speak kindly to them, forgetting that no human judgment will clear us before God-he that judgeth us is the Lord.
O how fatal is this delusion! Such a man is ready to think his is especially the wise and prudent course; he imagines that there is no plan of reconciling a worldly life with the hope of future happiness, so cheap and convenient as hearing and perhaps assenting to the Gospel. When a man has persuaded himself that such an unprofitable hearing will save him, and goes on so, and ends so, how awful is the idea, that the very things on which he founded his hopes will be his ruin; the very hearing in which he trusted, and boasted, will only rise up in judgment against him to aggravate his sins, and increase his condemnation and misery. Not that it is better to neglect the word.
"If men that hear the word
of God and do it not, are
"how it opens the
hear and neglect what they hear,
covert for all villany. Let it not be said, 'Such hear sermons every week, but how do they live!'
Such are some of the various methods in which persons fail of that practical obedience which the word of God tends to produce, and which is of such immense moment. How then may we avoid these evils? and how may we obtain that full and practical good which the word is intended to effect?
The Apostle James, whose writings are remarkably practical, again assists us here. He says, Whose looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James i, 25. Christian truth is a law of LIBERTY: it shews us the way of deliverance from the bondage of sin, and of access to spiritual freedom. It finds us in worse than Egyptian bondage, guilty, enslaved, condemned, and ruined. It proclaims to us, through the merit of Christ and the grace of his Spirit, pardon for our sins, and freedom from our slavery. It is PERFECT, as it reaches every case, embraces every circumstance, and nothing human can, or need be added to it, to render it more effectual. The blood of Christ alone cleanses from all sin, the righteousness of Christ alone justifies, the word of Christ is the only rule of life, the Spirit of Christ alone sanctifies. It is perfect, as it shews us man's only and man's highest bliss, and that all interested in its saving blessings shall be kept by the power of God to the end, and shall enjoy after death an eternal felicity. It is a LAW, as it is a constitution of divine grace that will never be altered, the only authorised way that must be received and embraced, at the hazard, if we neglest it, of eternal ruin.
Now the way to practical obedience is to LOOK
INTO THIS LAW AND CONTINUE THEREIN, just as a person anxious to correct any deformity in his appearance, bends to the glass, and looks narrowly, and carefully, and removes what was unsightly, and adjusts what was disordered; so the obedient Christian carefully listens to the word, and searches the Scriptures to alter whatever may be wrong, and to regulate his whole life. It discovers to him, it is true, a very humbling picture of his own heart, it lays him low in the dust, it calls him to a pure and holy life, and these things are not naturally pleasant to us, but by the grace of God he continues therein. It is not a transient glimpse, but he comes again and again, inspects himself by the mirror, and learns more and more of his true character, and to conform himself to that which is his real excellence. See how a female, vain of her person and dress, makes use of the mirror again and again. O were we as solicitous to have our souls adorned with righteousness and holiness, and, abiding in Christ and receiving his Spirit, looked thus patiently and earnestly, again and again, into the divine mirror, our defects would be removed, and we should be adorned with the infinitely more valuable ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, and other Christian grace.
Such a man is not a forgetful hearer. Here is a special danger intimated. We are very apt to forget. It is quite natural to us, as soon as the word ceases to sound in our ears, to lose its impressions on our hearts. Therefore Moses says, Take heed to thyself, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thine heart all the days of thy life. Deut. iv, 9. He who by the grace of the Holy Spirit remembers what has been said, (John xiv, 26.) becomes.
acquainted with his true state, is deeply humbled under the sense of his sins, repents, believes, and obeys; gladly embraces the doctrines of salvation, and then makes steady advances in all the self-denying and arduous duties of the Christian life. He is not a forget
ful hearer, but a doer of the work.
This DOING OF THE work, or, in others words, practical obedience, is the main promise of the new covenant, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their heart. Heb. viii, 10. It is the aim of the Christian that his conduct should be a living and daily exhibition of the divine law. President Edwards remarked it as his experience in a happy state of mind, "I do certainly know that I love holiness such as the Gospel prescribes. It appeared to me ravishingly lovely; as the highest beauty and amiableness; far purer than any thing here upon earth, and that every thing else was like mire and defilement in comparison of it;-it brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, and peacefulness to the soul. There was no part of creature holiness that I had so great a sense of its loveliness, as humility, and brokenness of heart, and poverty of spirit, and there was nothing that I so earnestly longed for." Here we see the desire of the soul of the advanced Christian. As he grows in the knowledge of divine truth, every grace advances. He becomes more simply dependent on Christ, more tender in his conscience, and more grateful to his Redeemer. He is more humble before God, and more compassionate, forgiving, and loving to his fellow creatures. The doer of the work will be specially attentive in the discharge of all those relative duties, the fulfilment of which, eminently adorn the doctrine of Christ. He seeks, in short, that the law should be written on the fleshly tables of the heart,