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are too deep for them: for the fruit of " the tree of know
ledge,” in respect of religious opinions not expressly revealed, is still forbidden; and men vainly thinking it “ good for food, and a tree to be desired to make one wise;" and desiring “to be as gods," understanding and accounting for
every thing, fall into destructive heresics, do immense mischief, and become awful examples for the warning of their contemporaries and successors.
149..6. A stile...Many professors, turning aside from the line of conscientious obedience to escape difficulties, experience great distress of mind; which not being able to endure, they desperately endeavour to disbelieve or pervert all they have learned concerning religion: thus they are blinded by Satan through their despondings, and are given over to strong delusions, as the just punishment of their wickedness'. Notwithstanding their profession, and the hopes long formed of them, they return to the company of those who are dead in sin, and buried in worldly pursuits; differing from them merely in a few speculative notions, and being far more hopeless than they. This is not only the case with many, at the first beginning of a religious profession, as of PLIABLE at the slough of DESPOND, but with some at every stage of the journey. Such examples may very properly demand our tears of godly sorrow and fervent gratitude, when we reflect on our own misconduct and the loving kindness of the Lord, who hath made us to differ, by first implanting, and then preserving, faith in our hearts.
150..4. This is...No man can see the heart of another, or certainly know him to be a true believer: it is, therefore, proper to warn the most approved persons," while they " think they stand, to take heed lest they fall." Such cau. tions, with the diligence, watchfulness, self-examination, and prayer which they excite, are the means of perseverance and establishment to the upright.-An event may be certain in itself, and yet inseparable from the method in which it is to
Thess. i. 11-13
be accomplished"; and it may appear very uncertain to the persons concerned, especially if they yield to remissness?: so that prayer to the Almighty God for strength, with continual watchfulness and attention to every part of practical religion, is absolutely necessary to “ the full assurance of “ hope unto the end 3."
151..2. The last... Such is the infirmity of our nature, even when in a measure renovated, that it is almost impossible for us vigorously to exercise one holy affection, without failing in some other. When we confide in God with assured faith and hope, we commonly are defective in reverence, humility, and caution : on the other hand, a jealousy of ourselves, and a salutary fear of coming short or drawing back generally weaken our confidence in God, and interfere with a joyful anticipation of our future inheritance. But, notwithstanding this deduction through our remaining unbelief, such experiences are very advantageous." Be not “ high-minded but fear;" for “ blessed is he that feareth
..20. Now a little...Multitudes of ignorant persons entirely disregard God and religion: others have a show of piety; which is grave, reserved, austere, distant, and connected with contemptuous enmity to evangelical truth: but there are some persons of a sprightly disposition, who are more conceited and vain-glorious than haughty and arrogant; think well of themselves, and presume on the good opinion of their acquaintance; are open and communicative, though they expose their ignorance continually; fancy themselves very religious, and expect to be thought sp by others; are willing to asso. ciate with evangelical professors, as if they all meant the same thing; and do not express contempt or enmity, unless urged to it in self-defence. This description of men seems to be represented by the character next introduced, about which the author has repeatedly bestowed much pains. CHRISTIAN had soon done with OBSTINATE and
I Acts, xxvii, 22-3%.
% i Fet. iv. 18. 3 Heb, vi. 10-12,
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: for such men, being outrageous against the gospel, shun all intercourse with established professors, and little can be done to warn or undeceive them : but brisk, conceited, shallow persons, who are ambitious of being thought religious, are shaken off with great difficulty ; they are continually found among the hearers of the gospel; often intrude themselves at the most sacred ordinances, when they have it in their power; and sometimes are favourably thought of, till further acquaintance proves their entire ignorance.-Pride, in one form or another, is the universal fault of human nature; but the frivolous vain-glory of empty talkers differs exceedingly from the arrogance and formal self-importance of scribes and pharisees, and arises from a different constitution and education, and other habits and associations. This is the town of Concert, where IGNORANCE resided. A lively disposition, a weak capacity, a confused judgement; the want of information about religion and almost every other subject; a proportionable blindness to these manifold deficiencies, and a pert forward self-sufo. ficiency, are the prominent features in this portrait: and if a full purse, secular influence, the ability of conferring favours, and power to excite fears, be added, the whole receives its highest finishing.–With these observations on this peculiar character, and a few hints as we proceed, the plain language of the author on this subject will be perfectly intelligible to the attentive reader.
153..2. What, shall... It is best not to converse much at once with persons of this character; but after a few warnings to leave them to their reflections: for their self-conceit is often cherished by altercations, in which they deem themselves very expert, however disgusting their discourse may be to others.
..19. Dark lane... This seems to mean a season of prevalent impiety, and of great affliction to the people of God. Here the impartial author takes occasion to contrast the character of IGNORANCE with that of TURN-AWAY. Loose evan
gelical professors look down with supercilious disdain on those who do not understand the doctrines of grace; and think themselves more enlightened, and better acquainted with the liberty of the gospel, than more practical christians: but in dark times such wanton professors often turn out damnable apostates, and the detection of their hypocrisy makes them ashamed to show their faces among those believers, over whom they before affected a kind of superiority. When convictions subside, and CHRIST has not set up his kingdom in the heart, the unclean spirit resumes his former habitation, and takes to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, who bind the poor wretch faster than ever in the cords of sin and delusion; so that his last state is more hopeless than the first. Such apostacies make the hearts of the upright to tremble:--but a recollection of the nature of TURN-AWAY's profession and confidence explains the matter, and they recover their hope, and learn to take heed to themselves.
154..2. Then... The ensuing episode concerning LITTLE FAITH was evidently intended to prevent weak christians being dismayed by the awful things spoken of loose profes
In times of persecution, many professors openly return into the broad way to destruction: thus SATAN murders the souls of men, by threatening to kill their bodies: this is DEAD-MAN'S-LANE, leading back to BROAD-WAY GATE. Believers indeed are preserved from thus drawing back to perdition: but the weak in faith, being faint-hearted and mistrusting the promises and faithfulness of God, are betrayed into sinful compliances or negligences: they lie down to sleep when they have special need to watch and be sober : they conceal, or perhaps deny, their profession, are timid and inactive in duty, or in other respects act contrary to their consciences, and thus contract guilt. So that FAINTHEART threatens and assaults them; MISTRUST plunders them; and GUILT beats them down, and makes them almost despair of life. As the robbery was committed in the dark
lane before mentioned, this seems to have been the author's precise meaning : but any unbelieving fears, that induce men to neglect the means of grace, or to adopt sinful expedients of securing themselves, which on the review must bring guilt and terror upon their consciences, may also be intended.
155..1. At last... As these robbers represent the inward effects of unbelief, and disobedience, and not any outward enemies, GREAT-GRACE seems to be the emblem of those believers, or ministers, who having honourably stood their ground, endeavour to restore the fallen in the spirit of meekness, by suitable encouragements. The remembrance of such persons, and their compassionate exhortations or honourable examples, help to drive away entire despondency, and to inspire the trembling penitent with some hope of finding mercy and grace in this time of urgent need. This may be allegorically represented by the flight of the robbers, when they heard that GREAT-GRACE was on the road.
..9. Jewels... The believer's union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, sealing his acceptance and ren. dering him meet for heaven, are his invaluable and unalien. able jewels. But he may by sin lose his comforts, and not be able to perceive the evidences of his own safety: and even if he be again enabled to hope that it will be well with him in the event, he may be so harassed by the recollection of the loss he has sustained, the effects of his misconduct on others, and the obstructions he hath thrown in the way of his own comfort and usefulness, that his future life may be rendered a constant scene of disquietude and painful reflections. Thus the doctrine of the believer's final perseverance is both maintained and guarded from abuse: and it is not owing to a man's own care, but to the Lord's free mercy, powerful interposition, and new covenant engagements, that unbelief and guilt do not rob him of his title to heaven, as well as of his comfort and confidence.
156..24. Wonder... Many profesors, meeting with discou. ragements, give up their religion for the sake of this present