one distemper, by contracting another equally inveterate, and as certainly mortal. What profit was it to the Pharifee that he was not an extortioner like the publican? his pride rendered him ftill more odious and detestable in the fight of God.

I may add here, that besides the common and neceffary change of age and temper, a change of situation, employment, and connections, will sometimes wean a man from one sin, and introduce an attachment to another. If the temptation is removed, the fire may be extinguished for want of fuel. The inclination to fin in some kinds may be thus occafionally weakened, or the commiflion of it rendered impossible. It is easy to see that such a change as this can be of no avail in the fight of God; or rather, to speak more properly, it is only an apparent, and no real change at all. It is a difference of effect from an alteration of circumftances, but arising from the very fame cause.

Are there not many who may apply this reflection to themselves ? Are there not many who have cealed to fin in some respects, because they have begun to fin in others ? Are there not many who are abused and deceived by this delusory view! who take comfort to themselves by remembering some species of fins or follies which they now sincerely and heartily despise? Take heed that this be not entirely owing C


to your progress through life, or a change of circumstances and situation. Are you not still living as much to yourselves as ever? as much averse from a life of love to, and communion with God, as ever? Remember, that though your conduct may be wiser and more prudent, and

your character more respectable in the world than before, this is no proof of regeneration ; and 66

except a man be born again, he cannot " see the kingdom of God.”

2. Sometimes a partial change is produced by strong occasional convictions, either from the word or providence of God. There are many instances in which convictions of fin are raised in the minds of the hearers of the gospel, which continue in great force for some time, and have a partial effect, which still remains. Even a Felix is sometimes made to tremble at the thoughts of a judgment to come. It is very certain that natural conscience, when awakened by the word of God, will both reftrain from sin, and excite to duty, even while fin hath the dominion upon the whole. As the spirit lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit, in believers, so conscience, the divine witness in the hearts of unbelievers, may urge to the practice of duty in a certain measure, when it is not able to change the heart inwardly and universally. It may deter from fins to which the attachment is less 7.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

strong, even whilft it is not able to expel a darling luft, or dethrone a favourite idol.

There is a remarkable example of this character in Herod, and his behaviour to John Baptist, We are told by the evangelist Mark, that Herod “ feared John, knowing that he was a jnst man and “ an holy, and observed him, and when he heard “ him he did many things, and heard him “ gladly *.” That is to say, he did many fach · things as were least contrary to the bent of corrupt affection. But that the change was not entire is plain ; for when he was reproved for his beloved lust, it only served to inflame his resentment, and he took away the life of his reprover. We find that Ahab king of Israel, of whom it is said, that he " did more to provoke ut the Lord God of Israel to anger than all that “ went before him," yet humbled himself on the denunciation of divine wrath, and was so far penitent as served to procure a suspenfion of the temporal stroke.

It appears, indeed, from innumerable instances in scripture, as well as from daily experience, that there are temporary convictions raised in the minds of many, both by the word and providence of God. It is also certain, that there are imperfect effects of these convictions, which often continue a confiderable time, or rather are per# Mark vi. 20.


C 2

petual, though they are still only partial. Many finners, though they continue unrenewed, yet dare not return to the same unbounded licence as before. Nay, there are some fins, under the penal effects of which they have severely smarted, which they never dare afterwards to indulge. We have a very remarkable national instance of this imperfect reformation in the Jews. They were at first shamefully and amazingly prone to idolatry, and continued so under repeated strokes, till the terrible desolation they met with at the Babylonish captivity : from that period, however, notwithstanding their great guilt in other particulars, they never returned to idolatry, but to this day continue to have the deepest abhorrence of that capital crime.

There are many particular persons in the same situation. Some fins which have lain heavy on their consciences, or for which they have severely suffered in the course of providence, they will not commit; but others, one or more, which may be called their “ own iniquity,” they hold fast, and will not let them go. Are there not different degrees of depravation and obstinacy to be found in different finners, as well as different degrees of holiness, obedience, and submission in the children of God? And though there is usually a progress in the first to the worse, as well as in the last to the better, yet still there may



ticular fins which they dare not commit, and particular duties which they diligently discharge. Nay, this partial character is often the very thing that blinds their minds, and continues their fecurity in an habitual alienation of heart from the life and power of true religion.

Are there not many customary Christians who have a form of godliness, and, though they are ute ter strangers to communion with God, yet nothing will induce them to part with their form. Are there not many whom it would be unjust to brand with the groffer crimes of prophane fwearing, sensual riot, or unclean luft, who yet have their hearts set upon the world, which they love and pursue, and on which they rest with complacency, as their sweetest portion ? Are all outwardly decent - and sober persons ready to take up the crofs, and follow their master without the camp ? Are they ready to forsake “ houses and brethren, and sisters 56 and lands, yea, and their own life also, for 66 his fake and the gospel's ?” And yet without this they cannot be his disciples. There are marty hard sayings in religion, which ordinary professors cannot bear, and with which they never comply. Remember the case of the young man who came to our Saviour, and spoke with fo much modesty and discretion, but could not bear this great trial : “ Then Jesus beholding him loved “ him, and said unto him, One thing thou


" lackest :

« ForrigeFortsett »