Abbildungen der Seite

them. Such is the nature of that faith of which the Scripture speaks, when it says, “ That we are justified by faith ;" that “ the just shall live by faith;" “ that " it makes us the children of God," &c.-namely, that it is a faith, which produces all good works.


With regard to the other great branch of our duty, the keeping the commandments, we must never forget, that the obedience required of us is a steady and universal one, without any exception or re

We must not therefore pretend to select out of God's laws, which we will keep, and which we will break; or think to commute, or compound, with our Maker for the breach of one law, by our punctual observance of all the rest; since we must know, that he who offendeth in one point is guilty of all. He that continueth in the practice of one wilful and presumptuous sin, is as liable to eternal damnation, though not to the same degree of punishment, as he that transgresseth the whole law. If therefore we would enter into life, we must have an VOL. IV,


equal equal respect to all God's commandments, not allowing ourselves in the practice of any known sin, but heartily repenting of, and thoroughly forsaking, all wicked courses, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living. In a word:--the whole business of securing our salvation is comprized under these two short rules: that we sincerely endeavour to get the best knowledge we can of our duty; and then be firmly resolved to live and act accordingly. If we observe the first rule, we must attend diligently to all the means of instruction, which our several abilities and circumstances in life afford us; such as a constant and careful study of the Holy Scriptures ; frequent meditations upon our spiritual concerns, daily communing with our own hearts, constant attendance upon the public service of the Church, and all holy ordinances; and above all, we must constantly address ourselves in private prayer to God, that he would be pleased by his good Spirit to guide and keep us in the way which leadeth unto life. And by the proper use of these means, even the


most illiterate may be sufficiently instructed in their whole duty, and made wise unto salvation.

As to the other rule, of acting in all cases according to the best of our knowledge, this is certainly the wisest and safest rule we can walk by; since this is all that we can do, and therefore all which a just and merciful God will require of us; who will no more condemn any man for not doing such things as he did not know to be his duty, than he will punish the blind for not seeing, or the lame for not walking : provided always, that a man's ignorance be unavoidable, and not owing to any fault or neglect of his own.

And now, having seen what are the best means we can use to attain salvation, Let us consider, in the next place, how we may assure ourselves, whether we are in a state of salvation or not. And this is a point of such consequence, that no man, (if I may use the expression) ought ever to close his eyes in sleep, before he is satisfied concerning it. For, since no man

Y 2


can tell how soon, or how suddenly, he may be taken out of the world, he should before all things endeavour to attain a reasonable assurance, that such is the state and condition of his soul, that, if it should please God to call him hence the very next moment, he can depart in peace, and with a well-grounded hope of seeing the salvation of God. Happy, beyond all expression happy, is the man, who enjoys this assurance, and miserable indeed is the man, who wants it; and doubly so is he, who even does not know that he wants it!

How then is it, that this comfortable assurance is to be acquired ? Not by any high conceits of our being the saints and chosen of God, of our being moved and directed by the immediate and miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit; since these, though the common boasts of enthusiasm, may be nothing but the flights and transports of an over-heated imagination; but by soberly attending to the plain words of Scripture :

“ He that doth righteousness 65 is of God," and he that committeth sin is of the devil: And hereby know we, that we are of and in God, if we keep his commandments: The tree is known by its fruits, and he that abideth in Christ bringeth forth much fruit.

The plain meaning of all which is, that if any man would be satisfied, whether he is in the love and favour of God, and consequently in a state of salvation, he has nothing more to do than coolly and impartially to examine the whole tenor of his life and conversation, and to see, whether it be such as becomes the Gospel of Christ. Has he fairly and honestly applied him-' self to the use of all those means, which I have just mentioned ? Has he sincerely endeavoured both to know, and to practise, God's will ? Doth he believe in the Lord Jesus with all his heart, and that there is no other name given unto man, by which he can be saved ? Hath he no favourite lusts, no beloved vices, which he refuses to part with ? Hath he thoroughly repented of, and entirely forsaken, all the gross and wilful transgressions he has formerly been guilty of, not living in a continual round of sinning and re


Y 3

« ZurückWeiter »