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other enjoyment. Now what chiefly occafions difficulty in discerning the reality of this change is, that there is much unsubdued sin remaining in the children of God, and that there are many counterfeit graces, or appearances of religion, in those who are, notwithstanding, in the “ gall of .“ bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”,• That there is a great degree of unmortified corruption still remaining in the saints of God, and that not so much as one is wholly free from it, is apparent from too many melancholy proofs. It appears from the pathetic complaint of the apostle Paul, formerly referred to, of the law in his members warring against the law of God in his mind. It appears, also, from the grofs sins into which fome eminently holy persons have been suffered occafionally to fall, through the strength of temptation, as David's adultery and murder, Solomon's idolatry, the apostle Peter's denial of his master, and several others recorded in fcripture. : :
On the other hand, there are also counterfeit graces, common or imperfect operations of the Spirit, which do not iffue in a real conversion and saving change. This it will be proper to keep in mind, and perhaps, alfo, to attend a little to the proofs of it both from fcripture and experience. That the word of God has fome effect even upon those who continue unrenewed, is plain from many examples recorded in the sacred' volume. We read of a Felix trembling at the thoughts of a judgment to come : " And as he “ reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and “ judgment to come, Felix trembled, and an“ swered, Go thy way for this time, when I " have a convenient season I will call for thee *." But we are not informed that he ever found that convenient season, or desired to hear any more of such words.
In the parable of the lower we have a character defcribed of those who not only heard" the word, but " received" it with joy, and on whom it had an immediate and visible, though only a temporary effect. *« Some fell upon stony " places, where they had not much earth, and u forthwith they sprung up, because they had u no deepnefs of earth; and when the sun was “ up they were scorched, and, because they had « not root, they withered away f. - He that re
ceived the seed into ftony places, the same is “ he that heareth the word, and anon with joy « receiveth it; yer hath he not root in himfelf,
but dureth for a while': for when tribulation
or perfecution arifeth because of the word, by " and by' he is offended I." We read also of a Herod, who not only heard the word gladly, but
• Als xxiv, asi" ! Mátt. xiii. 5, 6, 1 lbid. · ver, 20, 21,
" did many things.”_" For Herod feared John, “ knowing that he was a just man, and an holy, « and observed him, and when he heard him he “ did many things, and heard him gladly *.” Nay, we see even Ahab, the profane prince of Ifrael, humbling himself, and putting on fackeloch, under the denunciation of divine wrath. Neither have we any reason, from the circumstances of the story, to believe that this was wholly hypocritical, but the contrary. “ And “ it came to pass when Ahab heard these words, “ that he rent his clothes, and put fackcloth on « his felh, and fasted, and lay in fackcloth, and “ went softly +." These things, and all others of the same kind, even in wicked mer, are represented as the effect of the operation of the Spirit, in many passages of scripture. I shall only mention one, which is pretty remarkable, and well merits our attention. « For it is impossible “ for those who were once enlightened, and have " tafted of the heavenly gift, and were made “ partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tafted “ the good word of God, and the power of the “ world to come, if they should fall away, to
renew them again to repentance, seeing they “ crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh,
and put him to an open shame 1." .. :
The same thing indeed appears plainly from the state of the world, and in a particular manner from that variety of partial characters which I have formerly described. There are many things which have a religious appearance, and are taken by the deluded poffeffor for religion, when at bottom there is no real religion at all. ; and " mene tekel" shall be written upon them in the day of trial. There is a long gradation of characters between the openly profane sinner, with a hardened heart, a seared confci. ence, and a shameless countenance, on the one hand; and the refined, self-deceiving hypocrite, with his duties and his forms, on the other : be, tween those who are furious, violent, and malignant enemies to religion in profession and practice; and those, who answer discreetly with the young man in the gospel ; and of whom it may be said, as our Saviour says of him, that they is are not far from the kingdom of God.” This Thews at once the importance and difficulty of pointing out the great and distinguishing characters of real religion, and shewing how it efsentially differs from all counterfeits.
But now, from the account given above of the nature of regeneration, and what hath been further added in illustration of it, we may see how cbis distinction is to be made, as far as it can
be be made by any, excepting the great Searcher of hearts. I apprehend, that the great and distinguishing mark of the cruth and sincerity of religion in general, and of every gracious disposition in particular, arises from comparing it with its oppofite. It is “ the prevailing interest of God and the Re
deemer in the heart, abore the interest of infe“rior good; the habitual comparative preference " we give to his service and enjoyment, before • every other object of desire.” This must be proved by its effects daily. And agreeably to this, our bleffed Lord says, " He that loveth “ father or mother more than me, is not worthy " of me; and he 'that loveth fon or daughter to more than me, is not worthy of me; and he « that taketh not his cross, and followeth after “ me, is not worthy of me *.” And again, in yet stronger terms, “ If any man come to me, " and hate not his father and mother, and “' wife and children, and brethren and sisters; " yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my is disciple t." 'Would you therefore know whether you are born again? Are you in doubt, when you find the spirit lufting against the flesh, and the fielh against the spirit? Try, by diligent and universal examination, which of them is, upon the whole, the strongert; which of * Matt. x, 37, 38. † Luke xiv, 26.