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2. Grace in the heart, in proportion as it reigns, destroys those things which lead men to avoid the light. The corrupt appetites, lusts, and passions of men, render them opposed to the light of truth, and disposed to pervert or deny it. But grace tends to destroy these lusts and evil propensities of the soul, removes prejudices, and opens the mind to receive and rejoice in the truth, whenever it appears. Were grace perfect, the love of the truth would be perfect. Indeed, grace in the heart is but another word for love to the truth, respecting God and religion.
3. Grace in the heart, enables a person accurately to discern and distinguish truth from error.
If of two particular kinds of food or fruit, we have a peculiar appetite and relish for one, and dislike for the other, we can very quick distinguish between them, and every thing that savors of them. Thus grace in the heart, which is an appetite or love for the truth, will render us discerning with respect to truth and error, and enable us to distinguish accurately between them. Those who have grace in their heart, or a love of the truth, are led to be much conversant with the truth; examining the scriptures, and comparing every thing with that standard; and So, "by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
For the same reason, grace in the heart will render the memory tenacious of the truth, when it is discovered and known. Wicked men do not like to retain God in their knowledge, and therefore they forget him and his word and ways. Nothing is more évident, than that the more we take complacency in any objects, the more apt we are to retain the remembrance of them in our minds. The great reason, undoubtedly, why men so soon forget what they have learnt, concerning God and Christ, the law and gospel, and are easily led into divers and strange doctrines, on religious subjects, is the depravity of their hearts.
This leads me to observe, lastly, that grace in the heart regulates the life, and thus renders the great truths of revealed religion, instead of being painful, delightsome to men. When the hearts of men are renewed by divine grace, they keep the commandments of God, and his commandments are not grievous. The purity of the divine law, as well as the grace of the gospel, speaks peace and comfort to them. With the ungodly, it is altogether the reverse. Hence, as our Saviour hath said, "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God."
Thus the importance of grace in the heart, and its leading men into, and continuing them in, a firm belief of the truth, appears, as it implies the love of the truth, removes prejudices against it, renders the mind open and candid in searching the scriptures, enables persons more readily to understand the doctrines they contain, makes the mind more tenacious of them when understood, and causes obedience to the truth, as well as an attention to it, to become a delightful service. I proceed,
II. To prove the doctrine laid down, and show the importance of the duty, of being established, and continuing steadfast in the faith. On this we may observe,
1. That God requires stability in right religious opinions, and manifests his pointed displeasure against such as are wavering or unsettled, in believing the truths of his word.
In addition to the command in our text, we may adduce the words of the same apostle, 1 Cor. i. 10. Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same
thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. This exhortation evidently implies, that there is but one consistent scheme of doctrines in the word of God, and but one right judgment, which can be made respecting them that there is sufficient light and evidence to lead every candid and unprejudiced enquirer, into all essential truth; and consequently, that all those who are wavering and unsettled in the truth, sometimes believing one thing and sometimes another, being carried about by every wind of doctrine, are entirely without excuse, and greatly reprehensible in the sight of God.
Again, we are exhorted by the apostle Peter, to "be sober and vigilant, because," says he, " your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." The apostle adds, "Whom resist steadfast in the faith." This supposes that Satan and his adherents would be pleased to see us unestablished and unsettled, with respect to the great doctrines of the gospel; and will endeavor to lead us into such a state. But we are commanded to resist him steadfast in the faith; being unshaken, and not tossed to and fro, as children, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. And God's disapprobation of those who are unstable in the truth, and carried about by divers and strange doctrines, is strongly expressed by the apostle Jude; who denominates them, " clouds without water, carried of winds; raging waves of the sea, and wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
These few passages, together with our text, abundantly establish the doctrine, and evince the impor tance of the duty of all, to become acquainted with the system of truth in God's word; and to be established and unwavering in the belief, profession, and practice of it.
But this will be further evident, and the great importance of the duty more fully appear, when we consider,
2. That to bring men acquainted with the system of gospel truth, was one principal end for which the word of God, and a preached gospel were given. The scriptures not only in many places exhort and command us to be settled and steadfast in the faith, but a principal end of giving the word, and especially the institution of a preached gospel, was to settle and establish men in the truth, and keep them from fatal delusions. Thus we are told, Eph. iv. 11, 12. “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ :" and ver. 14. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Now, certainly, that which God not only requires, but for the attainment of which he has given such ample means, must be a matter of high importance. And if any, through a neglect or an abuse of those means, fail of attaining this end, they must be without excuse before God.
3. To be established and unwavering in the doctrines of the gospel, is the Christian's excellency and honor. Every unestablished and wavering Christian, if any such there can be, may be addressed in the words of Jacob to Reuben, his first born: "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." There can certainly be no strength or excellency in instability; there can be nothing in it but weakness and meanness. On the contrary, to be established in the truth, and to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, in the spiri: of meekness, is an excellence in
the character of the professing Christian. It was so considered by the apostle Paul; writing to the Colossians, he says, "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and be holding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ: As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught." Hear also to this purpose, the words of the apostle John, in his short letter to the elect lady: "I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in the truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father." And again, in his epistle "unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom," says he, "I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish, above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth: For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came, and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth."
4. To be steadfast in the Christian faith, is necessary in order to growth in grace. Says the apostle to the Ephesians, in a passage partly forecited, "That we henceforth be no more children.-But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." While unstable as water, and ready to change with every wind of doctrine, we shall be so far from growing up into Christ in all things, as the head, that we shall make no progress in grace, or in the divine life. Persons who are continually changing from one opinion to another, are like trees or plants, which, being often transplanted, have not time to take root, and grow, and bear fruit, let the soil be ever so good.
Lastly, to receive the truth, and persevere in it, that is in a firm belief of the essential doctrines of the