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lives of multitudes, who had been thereby delivered from the love and power of sin, and filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. But it was likewise true that they were still encumbered with a depraved nature; they were in a world full of temptations and snares; and, as their numbers were very great, some instances had occurred of persons sincerely well disposed, who had too visibly declined from the rule by which they professed and desired to walk. Against their mistakes and faults he watchfully directed his exhortations and admonitions, as occasions offered; and they were generally attended with a good effect, to convince, humble, and restore the offenders, and to increase their circumspection for the time to come. It was true likewise, that there were some gathered by the preaching of the Gospel into the number of professors, who were not effectually called and changed by the Spirit of God. These, though for a time they had a name to live, were no better than dead; and one reason why the Lord permitted the offences and divisions we have mentioned to take place was, that, by the means of such heresies, those that were approved might be made manifest, and the chaff separated from the wheat. For, though the ignorant world would call even those persons Christians whose conduct proved them enemies to the cross of Christ, yet time, the test of truth, unanswerably evinced the difference. Thus St. John, who lived some years after the rest of the apostles, and saw many turn their backs upon the teachers and doctrines they had once owned, has observed to this purpose--" They went out from us, but they were not of us; for
h 2 Cor. iii. 2, 3.
i 2 Cor. vii. 9.
if they had been of us, they would, no douht, have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.” In a word, there were too many pretenders; some things amiss where the heart and views were right in the main; and imperfections in the best. The scorners and cavillers, who hated the light of the Gospel, and were always in search of something to confirm their prejudices against it, met with much answerable to their wishes, even in the first and best churches; but to men of candour, who were ingenuous seekers of the truth, the spirituality, humility, and brotherly love that prevailed among the Christians, and the powerful effects of their public ordinances, demonstrated that the truth was on their side, and that God was assuredly with them.
We offer the same apology, the same train of reasoning, in behalf of what is now so generally deemed the foolishness of preaching. The doctrines we defeud, which some (who cannot do it ignorantly) have the effrontery to misrepresent as novel opinions, are, we doubt not, the doctrines of Christ and his apostles, and, in substance, the doctrines taught from the word of God, by Wickliffe, Luther, and the venerable reformers of our church. We preach Christ crucified, Christ the end of the law for righteousness, and the power of God for sanctification, to every one that believeth.
We preach salvation by grace through faith in his blood, and we are sure that they who receive this doctrine unfeignedly, will, by their lives and conversations, demonstrate it to be a doctrine according to godliness. They are not indeed delivered from in
firmities, they are liable to mistakes and indiscretions, and see more amiss in themselves than their worst enemies can charge them with. But sin is their burden, they sigh to be delivered from it, and they expect a complete redemption. We cannot, indeed, say so much for all who outwardly avow a belief of this doctrine : there are pretenders, who, while they profess to believe in God, in works deny him : but it has been so from the beginning. The miscarriages of such persons are charged indiscriminately upon the societies among whom they are mixed, and upon the truths which they seem to approve; but there is a righteous God, who in due time will vindicate his own Gospel and his own people from all aspersions. St. Paul observed such things in his day, and he spoke of them likewise, but he spoke of them weeping. The true state of the mind may be determined from the temper with which the miscarriages of professors are observed. The profane expatiate on them with delight, the self-righteous with disdain ; but they who know themselves and love the Lord, cannot speak of them without the sincerest emotions of grief. They are concerned for the honour of the Gospel, which is defamed under this pretence; they are grieved for the unhappy and. dangerous state of those by whom such offences come; and they fear for themselves, lest the enemy should gain an advantage over them likewise, for they know they have no strength nor goodness of their own. Therefore, avoiding unnecessary reflections on others, they endeavour to maintain a watchful jealousy over themselves, and to fix their hearts and hopes upon Christ Jesus their Lord; who, they are persuaded, is able to keep them from falling, to save them to the uttermost, and at length to present them
faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Of the Heresies propagated by false Teachers in
the Apostles' Days.
The parables in the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew are prophetical of the reception and event of the Gospel in succeeding ages. In this view our Lord himself has explained them. Wherever it is preached, the hearers may be classed according to the distribution in the parable of the sower. Some hear without understanding or reflection, In some it excites a hasty emotion in the natural affections, and produces an observable and sudden change in their conduct, resembling the effects of a real conversion to God; but the truth not being rooted in the heart, nor the soul united to Christ by a living faith, these hopeful appearances are, sooner or later, blasted and come to nothing. Others are really convinced in their judgment of the truth and importance of what they hear; but their hearts cleave to the dust, and the love of this world, the care of what they have, the desire of what they have not, the calls of business, or the solicitations of pleasure, choke the word which they seem to receive, so that it brings forth no fruit to perfection. A part, however, (usually the smallest part) who are compared to the good ground, are disposed and enabled, by divine grace, to receive it thankfully, as life from the dead; and, though they meet with many difficulties, and, like the corn upon the ground, pass through a succession of trying and changing seasons, yet, having the love, promise, and power of God engaged on their behalf, in defiance of frosts, and blasts, and storms, they are brought to maturity, and, when fully ripe, are safely gathered into his garner.' This is an epitome of the ecclesiastical history of every nation, and of every parish, to which this word of salvation is
But the parable of the tares teaches ther to expect, that besides the general influence which Satan, as the god of this world, will exert to blind the eyes of mankind, lest the light of the glorious Gospel should shine upon them," he will take occasion, from the knowledge of the truth, to insinuate a variety of errors. His first attempts in this way are often so specious and unsuspected, that they are compared to a man's sowing seed by stealth and in the night, but, as the corn grew, a large crop of tares springing up with it, demonstrated that an enemy had been there. This, in fact, has been universally the case, in every country and age where the Gospel has been received; and we may remark, that the sowing the good seed was the occasion of the tares being cast into the same ground. When a people are involved in gross darkness and ignorance, sleeping in a false peace, and buried in the pleasures and pursuits of the world, they have neither leisure nor inclination to invent or attend to novelties in religion. Each one is satisfied with that form (if even the form of godliness is retained) which he has received from his parents, and neither pretends nor desires to be wiser than those who went before him. But when the truth has shone forth, and been reI Matt. iii, 12. m Matt. xiii. 24-30. n 2 Cor. iv. 4.