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prevent our being surprized at its continuance, we are plainly told, that there must be heresies; and the reason given for them is, “ that they which are approved may be made manifest.”
That we may not, therefore, be deceived by appearances in matters of this nature, the following consideration ought always to be kept alive in our minds; that sincerity in profession furnishes an argument only in favour of the earnestness of the professor; not of the truth of the opinion professed. It
proves no more in fact, than that the party really means what he professes. But as zeal is not always accompanied with knowledge, this sincerity may consist with a wrong as well as with a right opinion; and consequently no conclusion can be drawn from it, in confirmation of either. A man, for instance, may believe his own lie, with the same confidence that another believes the truth: and the Seripture tells us, that “ there is a way which seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Should, however, the error of those who vainly think they can do without a Saviour, tend to confirm our faith in Him, by making us better acquainted with the ground on which that Faith is built ; good in such case will be brought out of evil; and we have only to take heed that it be not thrown away upon us.
Whilst we are » watchfully guarding against the deception of others, it is possible that we may still deceive ourselves. Christian Faith, it is to be remembered, furnishes the most powerful motives to Christian practice. For what principles shall we suppose capable of working on the ingenuous mind, if love and gratitude do not? The doctrine of the Cross, therefore, considered in this point of view, is the most important doctrine, because the most calculated to produce effect on the human mind, that was ever preached. And if whilst engaged, as Christians ought frequently to be, in the contemplation of the stupendous work of Redemption, we can neglect to show forth in our lives the praise of the Redeemer; by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and
righteousness; we are of all others most unworthy to be saved by him.
But whoever believes sincerely, will seldom fail to practise conscientiously: for these two things, like cause and effect, do generally, though not necessarily accompany each other.
We may, indeed, deceive ourselves with a name: we may call ourselves Christians: and in some respects manifest a zeal for our profession; whilst at the same time “ we hold the truth in unrighteousness:" but it is the faith working by love, and producing such a transformation in our life and manners, which no other principle has power to do, that can alone entitle us to the benefit of the Gospel covenant. “ A mind that is conformed to this world, and given up to its pleasures, though it repeat the creed without questioning a single article of it, will be abhorred in the sight of God, as a vessel unfit for the master's use, because unprepared to stand in the most holy place.”
“ Without faith, we know, it is impossible to please God."-But by faith is not
to be understood a barren assent to the evidence of the Gospel, unaccompanied with its corresponding effects; but a term of enlarged signification, comprehensive of the whole extent of Christian obligation. It is not enough to believe that Jesus was that Lamb without spot, who offered up his life to reconcile the justice and mercy of an offended God; that man, through Him, might be saved; unless our lives are so ordered, as to correspond with another very important object Christ had in view on coming into the world; namely, “ to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Whilst therefore the pride and prejudice of the human understanding must be sacrificed to the irresistible evidence of Divine Revelation; the corruption of the heart must be equally sacrificed to the purity of the Divine precepts. Man must be made holy, in order that he may
be qualified to be made happy. And in his continued endeavour after that holiness, which constitutes the ground both of his present and future happiness, consists that