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sistent with his being godly, and yet neither any great positive evidence that he is so. But there may be great positive appearances of holiness in men's visible behaviour; their life devoted to the service of God. They may appear to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and come up in a great measure to those excellent rules in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of Matthew, and 12th of Romans, and many other parts of the New Testament. There may be a great appearance of their being universal in their obedience to Christ's commands and the rules of the gospel; in the performance of the duties of the first table, manifesting the fear and love of God; and also universal in fulfilling rules of love to men, love to saints, and love to enemies; rules of meekness and forgiveness, rules of mercy and charity, and looking not only at our own things, but also at the things of others ; rules of doing good to men's souls and bodies, to particular persons and to the public; rules of temperance and mortification, and of an bumble conversation ; rules of bridling the tongue, and improving it to glorify God and bless men, shewing that in their tongues is the law of kindness. They may appear to walk as Christians, in all places, and at all seasons ; in the house of God, and in their families, among their neighbours, on Sabbath days, and every day, in business and in conversation, towards friends and enemies, towards superiors, inferiors, and equals. Persons in their visible walk may appear to be very earnestly engaged in the service of God and mankind, much to labour and lay out themselves in this work of a Christian, and to be very constant and stedfast in it, under all circumstances and temptations. There may be great manifestations of a spirit to deny themselves, and suffer for God and Christ; the interest of religion, and the benefit of their brethren. There may be great appearances in a man's walk, of a disposition to forsake any thing, rather than to forsake Christ, and to make every thing give place to his honour. There may be great manifestations in a man's behaviour of such religion as this being bis element, and of his placing the delight and happiness of his life in it; and his conversation may be such, as to carry with him a sweet odour of Christian graces and heavenly dispositions, wherever he goes. And when it is thus in the professors of Christianity, liere is an evidence to others of their sincerity in their profession, to which all other manifestations are not worthy to be compared.
There is doubtless a great variety in the degrees of evidence that professors exhibit of their sincerity, in their life and practice; as there is a variety in the fairness and clearness of accounts persons give of the manner and method of their experiences: but undoubtedly such a manifestation as has been described, of a Christian spirit in practice, is vastly beyond the fairest and brightest story of particular steps and passages of experience, that ever was told. And in general, a manifestation of the sincerity of a Christian profession in practice, is far better than a relation of experiences. But yet,
Thirdly, It must be noted agreeable to what was formerly observed, that no external appearances whatsoever, that are visible to the world, are infallible evidences of grace. The manifestations that have been mentioned, are the best that mankind can have; and they are such as oblige Christians entirely to embrace professors as saints, to love and rejoice in them as the children of God; and they are sufficient to give as great satisfaction concerning them as ever is needful to guide them in their conduct, or for any purpose that needs to be answered in this world. But nothing that appears to them in their neighbour, can be sufficient to beget an absolute certainty concerning the state of his soul. They see not his heart, nor can they see all his external behaviour; for much of it is in secret, and hid from the eye of the world: and it is impossible certainly to determine, how far a man may go in many external appearances and imitations of grace, from other principles. Though undoubtedly, if others could see so much of what belongs to men's practice, as their own consciences inay know of it, it might be an infallible evidence of their state, as will appear
from what follows,
Christian practice is a distinguishing and sure evidence of grace
to persons own consciences.
This is very plain in 1 John ii. 3. Hereby we do know that se know him, if we keep his commandments. And the testimony of our consciences, with respect to our good deeds, is spoken of as thạt which may give us assurance of our own godliness; 1 John iii. 18. 19. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed, (in the original it is Ern, in work), and in truth. And hereby we hnow that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. And the apostle Paul, (Heb. vi.) speaks of the work and labour of love of the Christian Hebrews, as that which both gave him a per
suasion that they had something above the highest common illuminations, and also as that evidence which tended to give them the highest assurance of hope concerning themselves; Ver. 9. &c. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed towards his name, in that ye have miristered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end.
So the apostle directs the Galatians to examine their behaviour or practice, that they might have rejoicing in themselves, in their own happy state; Gal. vi. 4, Let every man prove his own work, so shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another. And the Psalmist says, Psal. cxix, 6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments; i.e. then shall I be bold, and assured, and stedfast in my hope. And in that of our Saviour, Matth. vii. 19. 20. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Though Christ gives this, first, as a rule by which we should judge of others, yet in the words that next follow, be plainly shews, that he intends it aiso as a rule by which we should judge ourselves; Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven : but he that DOTH THE WILL of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, &c.—And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : depart from me, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and Doth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock.—And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and do1H THEM NOT, shall be likened unto a foolish man which, built kis house upon the sand. I shall have occasion to mention other texts that shew the same thing, hereafter.
But for the greater clearness in this matter, I would first, shew how Christian practice, doing good works, or keeping Christ's commandments, is to be taken, when the scripture represents it as a sure sign to our own consciences, that we are real Christians. And, secondly, will prove, that this is the chief of all evidences that men can have of their own sincere godliness.
First, I would shew how Christian practice, or keeping Christ's commandments, is to be taken, when the scripture represents it as a sure evidence to our own consciences, that we are sincere Christians.
And here I would observe, that we cannot reasonably suppose, when the scripture in this case speaks of good works, good fruit, and keeping Christ's commandments, that it has respect merely to what is external; or the motion and action of the body, without including respect to any aim or intention of the agent, or any act of his understanding or will. For consider men's actions so, and they are no more good works or acts of obedience, than the regular motions of a clock; nor are they considered as any human actions at all. The actions of the body, taken thus, are neither acts of obedience, nor disobedience; any more than the motions of the body in a convulsion. But the obedience and fruit that is spoken of, is the obedience and fruit of the man; and therefore not only the acts of the body, but the obedience of the soul, consisting in the acts and practice of the soul. Not that I suppose, that when the scripture speaks, in this case, of gracious works, fruit and practice, that in these expressions is included all inward piety and holiness of heart, both principle and exercise, both spirit and practice : because then, in these things being given as signs of a gracious principle in the heart, the same thing would be given as a sign of itself, and there would be no distinction between root and fruit. But only the gracious exer. cise, and holy act of the soul is meant, and given as the sign of the holy principle, and good estate. Neither is every kind of inward exercise of grace meant; but the practical exercise, that exercise of the soul, and exertion of inward holiness, which there is in an obediential act; or that exertion of the mind, and act of grace, which issues and terminates in what they call the imperate acts of the will; in which' something is directed and commanded by the soul to be done, and brought to pass in practice,
Here, for a clearer understanding, I would observe, that there are two kinds of exercises of grace. 1. There are what some call immanent acts; that is, those exercises of
that remain within the soul, that begin and are terminated there, without any immediate relation to any thing to be done out. wardly, or to be brought to pass in practice. Such are the exercises of grace, which the saints often have in contemplation: when the exercise in the heart, does not directly proceed to, or terminate in any thing beyond the thoughts of the mind : however they may tend to practice (as all exercises of grace do) more remotely. 2. There are acts of grace, that are more strictly called practical, or effective exercises; because they
immediately respect something to be done. They are the exertions of grace in the commanding acts of the will, directing the outward actions. As when a saint gives a cup of cold water to a disciple, in and from the exercise of the grace of charity; or voluntarily endures persecution, in the way of his duty, imniediately from the exercise of a supreme love to Christ. Here is the exertion of grace producing its effect in outward actions. These exercises of grace are practical and productive of good works, not only because they are of a productive nature, (for so are all exercises of true grace), but they are the producing acts. This is properly the exercise of grace in the act of the will; and this is properly the practice of the soul. And the soul is the immediate actor of no other practice but this: the motions of the body follow from the laws of union between the soul and body, which God, and not the soul, has fixed, and does maintain. The act of the soul, and the exercise of grace, exerted in the performance of a good work, is the good work itself, so far as the soul is concerned in it, or so far as it is the soul's good work. The determinations of the will, are indeed our very actions, so far as they are properly ours, as Dr. DODDRIDGE observes *. In this practice of the soul, is included the aim and intention of the soul which is the agent. For not only should we not look on the motions of a statue, doing justice or distributing alins by clock-work, as any acts of obedience to Christ in that statue; but neither would any body call the voluntary actions of a man, externally and materially agreeable to a command of Christ, by the name of obedience to Christ, if he had never heard of Christ, or any of his commands, or had no thought of his commands in what he did. If the acts of obedience and good fruits spoken of, be looked upon, not as mere motions of the body, but as acts of the soul; the whole exercise of the spirit of the mind, in the action, must be taken in, with the end acted for, and the respect the soul then bas to God, &c. otherwise they are no acts of denial of ourselves, or obedience to God, or service done to him, but something else. Such effective exercises of grace as these, many of the martyrs have experienced in a bigb degree. And all true saints live a life of such acts of grace as these; as they all live a life of gracious works, of which these operative exertions of grace are the life and soul. And this is the obedience and fruit that God mainly looks at, as he looks at the soul, more than the body; as much as the soul, in the con
* Scripture-doctrine of salvation, Sermon I. p. 11.