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these respects; and so translates us from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son*. Here then begins our new creation or birth : and our remaining concern is, to behave as dutiful children to our heavenly Father; and by using the prescribed means of spiritual growth, be careful to arrive at fulness of stature and strength in Christ. The first creation was not completed in a moment, but gradually finished in the space of six days: after which, Adam was left to cultivate the garden, that God had planted. The second hath no certain time prescribed it : but advances faster or slower, with fewer or more frequent interruptions, to greater or less perfection, according as men lay hold on, or neglect, the assistances always ready for them. Some are trained up, and walk from the first, in the

, way, wherein they should got: and though guilty of many small errors, through infirmity and surprise, yet, avoiding great and wilful deviations, they advance continually to a happy end of their journey. Now these cannot well perceive any sudden change in the condition of their souls; for their improvement is usually very gradual : much less any change in it from bad to good; for it hath always been good from their earlier acquaintance with it. Too many indeed may imagine this falsely: but others, through God's mercy, may know it to be true, that they have always lived religiously, from genuine Christian principles. Like Timothy, they have known the Holy Scriptures from children, which are able to make them wise unto salvation 1. And such, far from having reason to doubt their acceptance with God, because they have never experienced grievous terrors and bitter sorrows, have the highest reason to rejoice, • Col. i. 13. † Prov. xxii. 6. I 2 Tim. iii. 15.

that they have found the ways of wisdom pleasantness and peace*, from their very entrance upon them: and shall be rewarded in the end for a whole life, spent as it ought.

But far more commonly, men have committed heinous offences, or indulged themselves in the omission of important duties. And then more particular and deep repentance is necessary: followed by a change of dispositions within, as well as external behaviour: else their baptismal regeneration will only aggravate their guilt. But even the conversion of such is not always accompanied with extremely vehement agitations of mind : but these differ, according to their various tempers, and the free operations of the divine spirit. Nay, indeed, some feel the most tormenting agonies, yet harden their hearts against them and go on: while others are effectually amended by the influence of mild convictions and a calm concern.

And whether it be a call loud as thunder, or whether it be a still small voicef that speaks : if we do but hearken to it, all is well.

Nor is the recovery of sinners always equally sudden. Some, like St. Paul, are awakened and enlightened instantaneously, throw off a habit of wickedness at one effort, and are changed that moment into newness of life. Others, after their first alarm, long maintain a doubtful struggle with their vicious inclinations : one while seeming to have fought the good fight successfully, then entangled anew in their former bondage: a painful and dangerous situation: out of which notwithstanding, through almighty grace, there are those who escape into the glorious liberty of the children of God I. And to a third sort, whose disorders, though but too

# Prov. ii. 17. + 1 Kings xix. 12. Rom. viii, 21.

threatening, are less violent, health is restored by slow, and gentle, and almost imperceptible steps. Now it may be as impossible for these to fix the precise time, when their faith and penitence were carried just far enough to make them objects of God's forgiveness, as it often is to determine exactly the moment when the sun rises upon the earth, though it hath evidently been growing light a great while. Without question, as soon as any one hath that faith in Christ, which will produce a life of good works, he is justified by his faith alone, and his sins forgiven. But though God always knows this time exactly, men very often may not, or rather very seldom can.

. They may have comfortable hopes and persuasions, first weaker, then stronger : and yet, through mere humility, may entertain some doubts, not of the divine promises, but of their own qualifications, longer than they have cause.

And these doubts may be graciously permitted, as very useful incitements both to diligence and caution. Our Bible no where teaches, that every one, who is forgiven, knows the hour of his forgiveness: or even knows with certainty, that God hath granted it. He must indeed, as he amends, perceive the alteration made in him: and in general, a pleasing hope and faith of sharing in the divine mercy must increase along with it: but he may still not be sure, whether it is yet complete enough to be a proof, that he hath obtained pardon. Some are weak in faith* : others are strong † and abound in it. But conceiving ourselves to be of the latter sort, gives us no title to pass sentence against the former. And we should be very fearful of judging our brethren rashly; who, with all their modest apprehensions, may perhaps have as real, And yet,

† Rom. iv. 20. | Col. iji. ï.

* Rom. xiv. 1.

perhaps a greater interest in God's favour, than some of those, who declare them to have none. if these hard censures proceed, not from ill-will, or bitterness of spirit, but from the warmth of a wellmeaning zeal, even the persons injured by them should think mildly, and in the main, well, of the authors of them, lest they retaliate hardship, while they complain of it. But further, as the spiritual life may,

in different persons, be attended with different degrees of evidence, it may likewise advance to different degrees of perfection. Indeed, when God created the heavens and the earth, he saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good *. Nor, in the new creation, is any part of what he doth defective. But even pious persons are wanting to themselves : and hence some of them come greatly short of others; and the best, of what they might and ought to have been. For, though all Christians are exhorted to perfection, and all real Christians labour after it, and, in God's gracious construction, finally arrive at it; and some have the title given them by way of eminence, on account of their uncommon proficiency: yet speaking strictly, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in ust; nor did even St. Paul think, he had already attained, or was already perfect 1.

But here, as before, it is of the utmost importance not to err. They, who allow themselves in the habitual omission of any one known duty, or the habitual practice of any one known sin; they who have committed any single act of deliberate gross sin, without heartily repenting of it, and carefully avoiding it * Gen. i. 31.

I Phil. iii. 12.

+ 1 John i. 8.

afterwards; are not good persons with imperfections, but wicked ones under guilt and condemnation. The imperfections of the good are of quite another kind : slight weaknesses, sudden surprises, inconsiderate failures, undiscerned unreasonableness in temper and behaviour; honestly watched against upon the whole, yet returning from time to time, are subjects of daily concern and general humiliation. Let no one therefore flatter himself, that because all men have their faults, he may wilfully indulge his without danger. Nor let any one be so absurdly cunning, as to think of making a near bargain in religion: and contriving to be just so good, as to escape future misery; and yet no better, than he needs must. Though we aim to do our utmost we shall be sure to fall beneath the rule of our duty: but, if we aim at less, we shall be too likely to fail of the acceptance of our Maker. True goodness includes in it the love of goodness. No one can be religious and virtuous in earnest, without sincerely desiring to be more so; and feeling the truth of what wisdom, in the son of Sirach, asserts of herself: They, that eat me, shall yet be hungry; and they, that drink me, shall yet be thirsty: for my memorial is sweeter than honey; and mine inheritance, than the honey-comb *. Such therefore, as are, perhaps in no respect, positively either vicious or profane, but negligent and thoughtless; willing to go to Heaven, with as little trouble, and as much indulgence, as ever they can; and, of the two, rather more afraid of being over good, than downright bad; are already, to speak the most favourable of them, in a very unpromising condition; and, unless they make haste to get into a better, will soon be in a worse. Another thing still, to be observed concerning the

* Ecclus. xxiv. 20, 21.

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