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original, is A LITTLE thou persuadest me &c. So, in the reply, which St. Paul makes, with a holy kind of gallantry, in the ensuing verse, you find it is opposed to much, which we render altogether; but the grammatical construction is, Would to God they were both ALL, AND IN MUCH, such as I am, except these bonds! So, then, IN A LITTLE, thou persuadest me; that is, "I could, methinks, be contented to be a Christian in a little, in some few things: some part of the way I could willingly go," saith Agrippa: but St. Paul concludes, it must not be only in a little, but in much, in all.
If we follow this sense and interpretation of the words; then observe,
Doct. 1. THERE GOES MUCH TO THE MAKING OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN; A LITTLE WILL NOT SERVE.
It is not a little will serve: for many precious ingredients go to the making of a true Christian; and much of each ingredient goes to the making of a strong Christian. There must be profession, faith, obedience, self-denial, patience, humility, outward preparation and inward graces, outward embellishments and inward ornaments; and a little of it is but little worth. There are many, that are persuaded to be Christians in name and profession, to be Christians in outward participation of ordinances and communion with saints, and the like: yea, but this is to be a Christian but only in a little. Are you persuaded to obey Christ.in all, to take up his cross and deny yourselves, to oppose and mortify your lusts, and to perform the harshest and severest part of religion? this is indeed to be a Christian, not only in a little, but in much; yea, in all, to be such as St. Paul himself was.
But, then, if you take the words according to our translation, which the original also will very well bear; so it is, Within a little or ALMOST thou persuadest me: for King Agrippa was fully convinced of the truth of those things, which Paul related; as you may see, v. 26. He knew these things, and was ignorant of none of them: they were not hidden from him; for these things were not done in a corner. He could not be ignorant of the miraculous conversion of him, who had been so furious and notorious a persecutor of Christians. He, who was expert in all the customs that were among the Jews, v. 3. could not be
ignorant of what the Apostle affirms, vv. 22, 23. This, that Moses and the Prophets foretold, that Christ should suffer and be raised from the dead, and should give life to the Gentiles, of all this King Agrippa was fully convinced: and, yet, when Paul so insinuatingly presseth upon him, Believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest, the result of all is this, that he was but almost persuaded, not fully persuaded of the truth of what St. Paul speaks concerning Christ, concerning himself, and concerning Christians; yet, for all that, he was but almost persuaded to be a Christian.
Hence, likewise, observe,
Doct. 2. THAT PERSONS, WHO ARE FULLY AND TRULY CONVINCED, ARE MANY TIMES BUT ALMOST AND HALF-PERSUADED.
There may be a powerful persuasion in the judgment and the conscience concerning Christ and his ways, when there is but half a persuasion in the will and affections to close with them.
These observations I gather up, as they lie strewed in my passage. I shall not insist upon them, but only as they are subservient to the fuller prosecution of the General Doctrine, which you may take thus:
Doct. 3. THAT THOSE, WHo never were in christ, YET MAY
BE ALMOST CHRISTIANS.
I need not here stand to tell you, that Christianity may be taken either,
First. For an outward profession of Christ, as it is opposed to all other religions in the world, whether Heathenish idolatry, Mahometan stupidity, or Jewish ceremony: or,
Secondly. For an inward and cordial embracing of Jesus Christ, thus professed, as it stands opposed, either to the profaneness or hypocrisy of carnal gospellers.
Evident it is, that the Christianity, that Agrippa was almost persuaded into, was of the first sort; not excluding the second. Nay, it was seldom seen, that, in those primitive times, wherein no carnal respect or outward advantage could commend the Gospel to the interests of men, when the reward of professing Christ was persecution and martyrdom; then, I say, it
was seldom seen, that any would take Christ by profession, who would not also take him by faith and adherence: few there were, that would take up religion, even upon this condition, to lay down their lives for Christ; who yet, through their own profaneness or hypocrisy, were to receive no benefit from the death of Christ: so that, to persuade men then to be Christians in profession, was the same with persuading them to be Christians in reality. But now, when the name of Christ is so much courted, when the denying of Christ would be repaid with the same punishment that formerly the owning of Christ underwent, you need not so much persuasion to take upon you the outward profession of Christianity: for you are not only almost, but altogether Christians, in the external garb; but our persuasion to you must be, that, as you own Christ in an outward profession of him, so you would cleave to him by a true faith in him and obedience to him.
We are not, then, to speak to Pagans, to convert them to a new religion; but, if I may so say, we are to speak to Christian Infidels, to convert them to a new life and conversation. Nor yet, among these, doth my subject lead me to the profane and looser sort; whose being called Christians doth not more honour them, than they disgrace and reproach that holy name: but to those, who are more elevated and more refined; who go far in Christianity, so as to be near the kingdom of God; in a word, such as are almost Christian; and yet are strangers to Christ, and remain in their sinful state and unregenerate condition.
In the prosecution of this point, I shall inquire into these following particulars, in this method:
What progress men may make towards Christianity, and yet fall short of it.
Whence they are enabled to proceed so far; and what it is, that carries them out to all their attainments. What it is, that hinders them from proceeding further; and, when they are almost Christians, what keeps them from being such altogether.
To shew you the folly and misery of those, who proceed thus far only, as to be almost Christians, and no farther.
I. Let us see WHAT PROGRESS A NATURAL MAN MAY MAKE TOWARDS GRACE AND CHRISTIANITY, AND YET REMAIN IN A SINFUL STATE,
i. Before I can come, in particular, to determine this, I must PREMISE these Three particulars.
1. That when we inquire what progress an unregenerate man may make towards grace, this supposes, that there is a tendency in what such a man doth or may do, towards the obtaining of grace: or how else can he make any progress towards it, if that, which he doth, hath no tendency to it?
Let us, therefore, enquire what kind of tendency this is. There may be a Twofold tendency supposed in the actions of an unregenerate man, towards the acquisition of grace, Effective: Subjective,
(1) Actions may be said to have an Effective Tendency, when they do, by their own efficiency and causality, produce that, which they tend to.
And, in this sense, it must be denied that the actions of an unregenerate man have any tendency towards grace: be their progress what it will, thereby he cannot efficiently produce or cause grace in himself: and, therefore, grace is called the new creature, as being the effect only of creating power, which is the sole prerogative of God; and it is as utterly impossible, for a man to create grace in the soul, as to create the soul itself.
Take but this one demonstration to evince it. If an unregenerate man, by his own power and efficiency, can produce grace in himself, then one of these two gross absurdities must needs follow, either,
That there are still left holy habits and principles in the
will, which were never lost by the fall of man: or, That a man may make himself truly holy, by a will that is totally corrupt and sinful.
But either of these is very gross.
 There are no holy nor divine habits left in the will of a carnal man, whereby he should be able to regenerate and convert himself.
For what holy habit can there be in the will of one, that is wholly corrupted? If any such be supposed, it may also be. supposed that it is true grace: and, to affirm that a man, in a state of nature, hath true grace inherent in him, whereby he is able to convert and regenerate himself, is double nonsense and a flat contradiction; for it is to affirm, that he hath grace before he hath it.
 A will, totally corrupted, cannot make a holy man, cannot produce grace, nor make a man holy.
Grace is beyond and above its sphere. The motions of the will in its fallen estate, what through defect of a right principle from whence they flow and a right end to which they tend, are all evil and sinful and it is very strange to affirm, that a gracious habit may be wrought in us by sinful actions. And, besides, the will of man, by the fall, is a fleshly will; but, in regeneration, it is made spiritual: now it were a strange kind of production, if fleshly could beget spiritual; nor would it any longer hold true, that our Saviour saith in John iii. 6. That, which is born of the flesh, is flesh. So that I think it is very evident, that all that a man can do by the power of nature cannot tend efficiently to produce grace in him.
(2) There is a Subjective Tendency towards grace.
And this lies in those moral preparations, and those dispositions of the heart, which fit it for the receiving of grace, though it be wrought there only by the Holy Ghost. And thus we affirm, that, while men are in an unregenerate state, they may have and do somewhat that hath a tendency in it to grace: that is, one unregenerate man may have more of these previous dispositions, and of these preparations for the receiving of grace, than another hath: for, though it be not in itself singly necessary that such previous dispositions should be wrought in the soul before the implantation of divine grace; since such a subject, as the soul is in respect of grace, doth not, as the schoolmen determine, require its previous dispositions for the production of its form; yet this is the usual common way of the Spirit's work, first to prepare the heart by some common works of conviction, legal terrors and remorse of conscience, before it works any saving and real work of grace in it. And, therefore, when any unregenerate man hath much of these previous preparations, we say that he goes very far towards grace, and he may be said to be almost a Christian. And this is all that tendency, that an unregenerate man hath, or can possibly do towards it viz. a preparatory, and not an effective operative tendency unto saving grace and regeneration.
2. Another thing premised is this: That, what through wilful sloth and wretched negligence, no unregenerate man doth make so great a progress towards grace as he is able and can possibly do.
None go so far as they can do, in those previous preparations and dispositions towards it. When they find difficulty in op