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righteously, and godly, in this present world.” We see this experimentally true, as the scriptures represent it, that their “faith works by love, purifies their hearts, and overcomes the world.” There are indeed some hypocritical pretenders to faith in Christ, in whom we do not find these fruits and effects of it: but then there are, through the goodness of God, numbers of others, the tenor of whose lives does fully evidence that their faith is sincere, and that it produces all the effects which the scriptures ascribe to it. There is no room to impute this work to the irregular sallies of an over-heated imagination, when we see a thorough and lasting change both of heart and life. There is no room to suppose, that enthusiasm or fanaticism can have any hand in this change, when we see the blessed effects of faith in Christ every way answer the description given thereof in the gospel; and when the believer, visibly and in reality, is become a new man, from the time of his receiving and relying upon the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness and strength. And as bad as the times are, as stupid and unbelieving as the world in general appears, we have yet repeated examples of the blessed effects of faith, which I have now described ; and of the verification of that precious truth, that to as many as receive the Lord Jesus Christ, to them is given power to become the children of God, even to them who believe in his name, John i. 12. And now, sir, if you will review what has been said, does it not evidently appear that he who believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself, when he finds the same change of heart, the same spiritual conflicts, the same joy, peace, and comfort of soul, and all these wrought in the very same way and method,
which the scriptures so plainly and particularly describes? Can I doubt of the skill of that physician, or the efficacy of that medicine, whereby I am recovered from a dangerous disease, to health and comfort, exactly in the same method as was foretold me?
And is not this truth made most clearly evident, not only to the persons themselves, but to all diligent observers, when they find the same experiences reported by all true believers in Christ, and all the same external and visible effects of their faith, conspicuous and open to every one's observation, not in one or two instances only, but in thousands of those who profess to have had these experiences? As we must necessarily acknowledge the skill of that physician who effectually cures all that submit to his directions and applications, so are we constrained to acknowledge him for our Saviour, who, in the very same way and manner which he has proposed and promised, does actually and effectually save all those who believe in him, and, in the way of his appointments, trust to him for salvation.
In my former letters, I have laid before you some of the external evidences of christianity; in this I have given you a very brief sketch of one class of its internal evidences, namely, those arising from the believer's experience of its power. By the former, the truth of the christian religion is laid open to the understanding; by the latter, it is made matter of sensible experience in the heart. That the glorious Redeemer may enable you to feel the force of this reasoning, to your unspeakable comfort here, and happiness hereafter, is the prayer of,
WHEREIN THE DOCTRINE OF GOD'S SOVEREIGN GRACE IS VINDICATED, AND SOME EXCEPTIONS AGAINST IT CONSIDERED AND ANSWERED.
SIR, YoU cannot imagine how much comfort you gave me by your last. I greatly rejoice to hear, that “the more strictly you examine the case, the greater evidence you find of the undoubted truth and certainty of the christian religion;” but that “you are filled with confusion, to think how long you have lived at a distance from that blessed Saviour, who has wrought out such a glorious redemption for us.” And I am not at all surprised to hear you complain, that “you cannot entertain clear apprehensions of my discourse of experimental religion:” that “though your last objections are silenced, there are others which fill your mind with greater difficulty; and are of much greater importance, if I have given you a just view of the case.” And that “you cannot tell how you can ever be brought to a feeling sense of the doctrines of sovereign grace, which I so much insist on, while they appear to you so inconsistent with truth, and so unreasonable.” I am not, I say, surprised at this ; for we are naturally prejudiced against these doctrines; and are not easily brought to receive them, by reason of the strong bias there is upon our minds to the contrary principles. I shall therefore endeavour to consider your several objections; and how strong and plausible soever they may appear, I do not despair of giving you satisfaction. §. object, that “if we are of ourselves capable of no qualifying conditions for the Divine favour, or (to use my own words) if we must feel that we lie at mercy, and that all our own refuges, and all out endeavours in our own strength to relieve our distressed souls, are fruitless and vain; you cannot tell to what purpose any of our endeavours are, or what good it will do us to use any means at all for our salvation.” In order to a clear solution of this difficulty, it seems needful to convince you, that this lost, impotent, deplorable state, is the case in fact of every unrenewed sinner, whatever objections we may frame in our minds against it; and therefore it is necessary, that he should sensibly perceive the case to be as it truly is: and then it will be proper to show you, that the consequence you draw from this doctrine is unjust, and even directly contrary to the improvement you ought to make of it. I begin with the first of these, and shall endeavour to convince you, that man is indeed in such a lost and helpless state, that he lies at mere mercy, and cannot bring himself into a claim to the Divine favour by any power or ability of his own. I shall not run into the scholastic controversies, and subtile distinctions, with which this doctrine has been clouded by many wrangling disputers; but shall endeavour to set it in the most plain, easy, and practical light that I am able. I think you must readily grant, that you cannot make an atonement for your sins by any performances within your power. You are, sir, to consider yourself as a sinner, as a criminal and delinquent in the sight of God. Your nature is corrupt and defiled. Your actual transgressions of the law of God have been very numerous; and perhaps some of them attended with special aggravations. All your sins are directly repugnant to the perfections of the Divine nature, and consequently offensive to a pure and hol
God. And what greatly increases the difficulty and danger of your case, is, that you are still continuing to act contrary to God in all you do, while your nature is unrenewed, and while you are without a principle of love to God. (I am sure, you will pardon this freedom; for it is necessary you should know the disease, in order to the cure.) Judge then yourself, whether it can be supposed, that an omniscient heart-searching God can be pleased with any, even the most devout of your overt actions, when he knows that your heart is estranged from him, and your nature has no conformity to him, but your affections are glued to your various idols. How then can you be reconciled to God, by virtue of your performances and attainments? Can you pay ten thousand talents with less than nothing? Can you please God by offending him, as you do by the obliquity of all your duties, the defects of your best devotions, and the sinful affections from whence they all flow 2 Or can you have such unworthy thoughts of an infinite, unchangeable God, as to hope you can make such impressions upon his affections, by acknowledging your offences, and imploring his mercy, as to excite his compassion and sympathy, and to make your impure and unholy nature agreeable to his infinite purity and holiness? Can your insincere and hypocritical duties (for such they are all at best, while they proceed from an unsanctified heart) bring the glorious God to take complacency in what is directly contrary to his own nature? You cannot