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you may be thoroughly furnished, and be capaple of rendering a reason of the hope that is in you. A deficiency here will be injurious, render you unstable, and expose you to the attacks of infidels, wicked men, and subtle disputers. Hold all these doctrines fast, and mark their mutual dependence on each other. They may be compared to a beautiful chain, which if one link be missing, it destroys the connexion of the whole. It has been the great fault of some on their first setting out to fix on some one doctrine to which they have paid all their attention, while others have been neglected or but lightly studied; and hence have arisen the extremes to which some have run, the lamentable ignorance of some important points, and the bitter spirit which has been manifested towards those who have not discovered quite so much zeal for this one doctrine as they. Some talk much of this or that favourite doctrine; but, my dear reader, all the truths and doctrines of godliness ought to be valuable in our estimation. Truth is uniform; and it is not one part of it merely that should be dear to us, but all of it.
ing impetuously (says he) into notions beyond my experience, I hasted to make myself a christian by mere doctrine, adopting other men's opinions before I had tried them; and set up for a great light in religion, disregarding the internal work of grace begun in the soul by the Holy Ghost. This liberty, assumed by myself, and not given by Christ, soon grew into libertinism, in which I took large progressive strides, and advanced to a dreadful height, both in principle and practice. In a word, I ran such dangerous lengths both of carnal and spiritual wickedness, that I even out-went professed infidels, and shocked the irreligious and profane with my horrid blasphemies and monstrous impieties. Hardness of heart was with me a sign of good confidence, carelessness went for trust, empty notions for great faith, a seared conscience for assurance of faith, and rash presumption for christian courage." See Mr. Hart's Life.
Truth is like a handsome or well proportioned personage : every lineament is just; every feature admirable; while a perfect symmetry runs through and adorns the whole.
Labour to be well established, therefore, in all the doctrines, and watch against every thing that would divert your mind from the study of them. Here too it will be necessary to guard you against errors which will sometimes be presented to you under a specious but deceitful form ; for it is not open and decided opposition that you have, only to fear, but attacks will be made under the cover of truth, carrying the names of orthodoxy, sound sentiment, evangelical light, and great knowledge. You may meet with some of these that may try you by a soft insinuating manner, and, while pro. fessing to give you superior information, are only attempting to diffuse their deadly poison; but in general, perhaps, they act a contrary way. They will try to overwhelm you ; and by their clam. our, boldness, and conceited strength of argu. ment, raise such a storm, as for the present to confound you. These you will find to be a kind of people that always live in a tempest; arrogating to themselves the honour of being divinely taught; glad to lay hold of a young subject as a prey; setting up their own ignorant, unsanctified stand. ards, and ready to anathematize all who dissent from their opinions.
There are some, too, who are fickle, and constantly changing their opinions. They are as the apostle says, “ carried about with divers and. strange doctrines.” These you will do well to avoid, for, properly speaking, they have no tentiments of their own. They are like light ships
carried hither and thither by the wind. They are first in this course, then in that. Sometimes seemingly pursuing one port; then, by a contrary wind, aiming at another; and it is well if at last they are not dashed to pieces, and totally ruined. Indeed, as you advance, you will meet with the melancholy spectacle of many shipwrecked professors, who fond of novelty, * and attempt. ing to sail round the world of opinion without a compass, have fell a victim to their temerity, and brought to a sad and fatal end !
Hold fast, therefore, the faithful word, and while you avoid novelty and indifference, be not ashamed to own your principles. It is unreasonable, ungrateful, sinful, and dangerous, to be afraid of professing, defending, and propagating those truths on which we build our everlasting all. I mention this, because a degree of timidity operates sometimes on the minds of young con. verts. In proportion as you examine and understand, you will be convinced there is nothing of which you ought to be ashamed. Let the infidel be ashamed of his infidelity, the sceptic blush for his unbelief, the wicked grieve and tremble for his folly ; but never let it be said that you are ashamed of the doctrines of the cross, or afraid of being recognized as the follower of the Redeemer. Who is ashamed of their beauty, their wisdom, their honourable connexions, their riches, their influence? Who but the ungrateful will ever dare to disown their parents, their protectors, their benefactors, their best friends ? Be.
* See chap. vii.
hold in the gospel your highest ornament, your greatest felicity, your truest wisdom, your best riches, your most dignified connexion, your kindest parent, your most faithful friend. Come then, and sit down under the cross, and sing,
" Asham'd of Jesus ! yes, I may
Asham'd of Jesus ! that dear friend,
Let me, however, suggest one thing. Deci. ded, courageous, and zealous, as you may be for the doctrines of truth, do not imagine that you know every thing, or that every thing is clearly to be known. There are some grand truths revealed to us in the scriptures which we cannot fully comprehend, but must receive them upon the authority of revelation. It is often the case with the young convert, that he wants every thing to appear clear to him at first, and he puzzles himself with thoughts on some of the more mysterious doctrines, instead of beginning with first principles. I do not say you should not study such doctrines as the existence of God; the Trinity ; predestination and election; the union of the divine and human natures of Christ; his eternal generation; the permission of sin ; liberty and necessity, and inany others of the same kind. But this I say, they should be attended to with caution, and that it is neither for you to pronounce upon them rashly, nor to make yourself uneasy because you do not understand them. Every thing in nature is full of wonder, and he who sets about the task of accounting for every thing, will find, in the end, that he has accounted for nothing. As in the natural, so in the moral and spiritual world there are difficulties, which do not appear merely to such minds as yours, but to those who have obtained the most extensive knowledge. Go on, however, in humble enquiry after divine truths. Though some of them are so bright and radiant, that, like the sun, they cannot be beheld without dazzling the sight, yet you may walk in their light, and rejoice in their influence. Be thankful that every thing essential to salvation and happiness is clearly revealed. Admire that grace that has directed you into the way of truth; and though you cannot know all, encourage yourself with the thought, " that the path of the just is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."*
Religion not speculative. Experience explained and de
fended. Particular experiences. How abused. Not to be depended on. To be reviewed. Admiration of God's goodness.
REAL religion does not consist merely in knowledge and the belief of doctrines. There may be a speculative acquaintance with truth,
* Proy. iv, 18.