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human nature is the same in all ages) must be the convictions of every one, whom the Holy Spirit condescends to instruct. are not, indeed, to imagine, that the sincerity of a man's conversion is to be estimated by the strength of his feelings. The converted profligate will naturally be more deeply sensible of those stings which a consciousness of the violated Law inflicts upon the soul, than the decent moral man who begins to suspect the safety of relying upon his own righteousness: and, the warmer a man's natural feelings are, the stronger will be his terror when labouring under a sense of guilt; for Christianity does not so much eradicate the passions, as enlist them into her service. But, whatever their feelings may be on the occasion, men of all temperaments must be thoroughly convinced of their own exceeding vileness: or their understandings will never be sufficiently enlightened to perceive the necessity of a mediator. They may, indeed, previous to this conviction, acknowledge the want of a Saviour with their lips, and own in general
terms that their lives are not perfectly free from sin: but, with respect to the hopes which they entertain of their salvation, they will ever be found to place their principal dependence on the blamelessness of their lives, their benevolence towards their fellow-creatures, and (in their more thoughtful hours) on some vague notions of God's mercy.
4. Observe the workings of a really humbled mind in the confession of Bp. Beveridge.
If, says he, there be not a bitter root in my heart, whence proceeds so much bitter fruit in my life and conversation? Alas! I can neither set my head nor heart about any thing, but I still show myself to be the sinful offspring of sinful parents, by being the sinful parent of a sinful offspring. Nay, I do not only betray the inbred venom of my heart, by poisoning my common actions, but even my most religious performances also, with sin. I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot hear or preach a sermon, but I sin; I cannot give an alms, or receive the sacrament, but I sin; nay, I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still
aggravations of them; my repentance needs to be repented of, my tears want washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer. Thus, not only the worst of my sins, but even the best of my duties, speak me a child of Adam: insomuch, that, whensoever I reflect upon my past actions, methinks I cannot but look upon my whole life, from the time of my conception to this very moment, to be but as one continued act of sin'.
5. When a person is once brought into this state of mind, he will then, and not till then, begin to think seriously of another world. He will perceive himself to be a miserable, helpless, undone sinner, justly obnoxious to the wrath of God. Instead of attempting to excuse and palliate his depravity, he will anticipate the sentence of his judge, and be the first to pronounce condemnation upon himself. He will see the impossibility of cleansing his impurity and the vanity of expecting
1 Priv. Thoughts, Art. IV.
to purchase salvation by any inherent righteousness of his own. It costs more to redeem his soul, so that he must let that alone for ever. When he considers his past life, he will be astonished at his former ignorance and insensibility. He will seem to himself like one roused from a deep sleep, in which every faculty of his soul had been completely locked up but he will awake only to perceive himself destitute, bare, and miserable. He will now, with the astonished jailor, be ready to cry out, What shall I do to be saved? Driven from every strong-hold of vanity and presumption, he will leave the absurdly proud notion of self-justification to the blind Socinian and to the arrogant Pelagian. However he may once have indulged in the fantastic airy dream of his own excellence and dignity, he will now clearly perceive, that there is no hope, no comfort, no solid expectation of future happiness, but in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ.
A DESCRIPTION OF TWO DIFFERENT CLASSES OF MEN,
WHILE THEIR HEARTS REMAIN UNAFFECTED.
Two very different classes of men frequently attain to a considerable, I had almost said an equal, degree of spiritual knowledge, with respect to the sinfulness of sin and the requisitions of the divine Law. They are both deeply convinced of the depravity of the human heart. They are both conscious of their manifold aberrations and deficiencies in practice. They both feel the load of their iniquity to be grievous, and its burden to be intolerable. Neither of these classes attempts to justify itself. Each is forced by conscience to cry out: Unclean, unclean. Each is secretly constrained to acknowledge the righteousness of God. Thus far, the parallel holds good between them but here it terminates; and a