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by the way side; which, being taken away by Satan, does not strike root: those who received it in stony ground, in an unhumbled heart; whose temporary faith, and ostentatious profession, sooner or later will come to nought: and those who receive it among thorns; who are so attached to and encumbered by worldly things, that they bear no fruit: all these, having no grace, can persevere in nothing but open sin or specious hypocrisy. The word of God gives us reason to suspect that, even of those professors who stand very high in the estimation of the most experienced and judicious servants of God, some will end no better than Ahithophel, Judas, or Demas; whether they persevere in their unsound profession or apostatize from it. God alone can see the heart; and, though he has given us such rules of judgment as suffice to direct us in our duty, yet he never meant to communicate his divine prerogative of certainly knowing others to be true Christians. How then can we certainly know of any man that he will infallibly so persevere as to be saved? "Let God be true, though every man "be a liar." If any professor, however eminent, apostatize, and live and die an apostate, (which, by the way, it is not very easy for another man to be sure of;) let us not bring it as a matter of fact to overturn the truth of God, by saying, ' A child ' of God has fallen away finally; ' nor let us rashly suppose an impenitent apostate has been saved; rather let us say, a very specious hypocrite has been unmasked.
But, though we cannot certainly know concerning others whether they have real grace,
because we have no consciousness of what passes in their hearts; yet, as conscious of what passes in our own, we may, in some cases at least, certainly know that we have true grace, and therefore shall finally persevere. While grace is very small, and the discerning faculty very dim, and sin prevails very much; the minuteness of the object, the imperfection of the organ, and the surrounding obstacles, must make it difficult to decide absolutely: but, when the judgment is matured, and grace increased, and corruptions more brought under, I apprehend we may determine in a more confident manner.
This premised, the matter comes to an issue. The true Christian shall finally persevere. He who is sure of his Christian state, may thence certainly infer his perseverance.
Now true Christians perceive a vast importance in eternal things, and judge temporal things comparatively worthless.
True Christians see great hatefulness in sin, and much sin in their past lives, in their present conduct, and in their hearts; which produces deep humiliation, sorrow for sin, and unfeigned repentance, and causes them to set themselves against all sin, especially that sin which has been most customary to them; to watch against it, to pray against it, and to dread it; and to consider sin as the worst thing that can come to them.
True Christians are influenced in their daily walk by a realizing belief, that things are, have been, and will be, as the word of God declares them,
True Christians especially believe the whole
testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ, and humbly conscious of their need of such a salvation, and of its suitableness, freeness, and sufficiency, renounce all other hopes to flee to, lay hold of, apply for, and trust in Jesus Christ, and God's grace and mercy through him.
True Christians count every personal endowment, attainment, or performance, and every worldly interest, connexion, and comfort, worthless in comparison of Christ; and are thus prepared to part with any or all of them, when they come in competition with him, and have actually given up many things for his sake.
True Christians receive him unreservedly in all his offices, and live by faith in him, as their Prophet, Priest, and King, for the pardon of all their sins, and the supply of all their wants.
True Christians have the law of God written in their hearts, inwardly delight in it, though they cannot obey it as they would; they are then most in their element, and happiest, when they are engaged in religious exercises and holy services. They allow of no known sin, and neglect no known duty; but " by the grace of God, which "bringeth salvation, are taught to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." Now, as far as any man is inwardly conscious that this is his experience, these his desires, this his daily aim, his character, and conduct, he may be sure that he possesses what no hypocrite ever yet attained; and he may be sure that the same distinguishing grace, which has wrought this decisive difference, will preserve and perfect its own
good work. But, whilst this matter remains doubtful, the other cannot be certain; for how can he be sure of perseverance who is not sure of conversion? Such should be exhorted to " give diligence, to make their calling and election "sure;" and be encouraged by the promise, that they who seek shall find." But let them not prematurely grasp at what neither belongs to them, nor would yet be profitable to them. Nay, if the established Christian grows very slothful, or sinks into allowed sin; by thus weakening his evidence of conversion, he loses the warranted comfort of this doctrine; which, in this case, would operate as a most dangerous opiate, when stimulants alone are requisite. It is the wise appointment of God, that when love declines fear should rouse the torpid soul: and none should counteract this appointment. Is the backslider alarmed and distressed? It is well. Let him
repent and do his first works;" and in due time God will restore his former consolations: but let none encourage themselves in sloth and sin by this doctrine, lest, being deceived, they perish with a lie in their right hand."
The true believer then, in the habitual exercise of grace and practice of his duty, is the only person who can warrantably be confident of perseverance. Having so fully resolved this first question, the others will more readily be dispatched.
II. What need has the person above described of this encouragement, seeing he may be supposed otherwise comforted?
The more a man values spiritual blessings, the greater will be his dread of losing them. The more conscientious, circumspect, and watchful he is, the greater will be his acquaintance with the treachery of his own heart, the fascinations of the world, and the artifice of Satan. The falls of others, whom he has preferred far before himself, will much alarm and distress him. He will not always, even when most diligent, walk in light and comfort; and he will be conscious of much sloth and evil, though he cause no scandal to the gospel, nor much bring the reality of his conversion into doubt. On all these accounts he will be anxious about the future, and distressed about the event of the important warfare: even to the discouraging of his heart, and the weakening of his hands at some times. But this doctrine is sweetly suited to encourage him to commit the keeping of his soul for the remnant of his days, into the hands of a faithful covenant God, that without distraction he may attend to his present duty. For the Lord takes pleasure in seeing his servants joyful in their work, though not in sin and sloth. But,
III. In what shall they persevere ?
1. In that state of grace wherein they stand, so as not finally to perish or come short of glory: for their good Shepherd shall keep them, and "none shall pluck them out of his hand," by temptation or persecution, living or dying. 2. In an habitual course of holy obedience, progressively "waxing stronger and stronger," and bringing forth fruit more and more even to the