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But in order to deceive souls, it has been (no doubt at the suggestion of the wicked one,) maintained by some false teachers, that there is a purgatorial fire, by which those who die in sin, may yet be purified and cleansed, and at some future period received into heaven ; and it has been taught by others, no less in error, that the punishment of hell is not eternal : but this they cannot prove from the Bible, nor can those who are well acquainted with the text, and context of the Scripture, be led away by their errors ; for they know that every line of Scripture which relates to pardon of sin, and to purification from sin, clearly proves, that it is by being justified by faith here, that we have peace with God; and that it is the blood of Christ alone, that cleanseth from all sin ;" so that if we are not pardoned and cleansed from sin in this world, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain, fearful, looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries :" have we not cause then to lift up our voices, and cry aloud, and endeavour to persuade men, not to give heed to lying spirits, but to search the Scriptures, to find out the way of escape, that having found it, they may immediately in that way, flee from the wrath to come ? But I said, there were two accounts, on which a Christian minister would endeavour to persuade men; I have mentioned one of them, his knowledge of the terrors of the Lord. I shall now state the other; his firm belief in, and persuasion of the mercies of God; this was à subject on which our Apostle delighted to dwell, and from this source he drew his chief motives of persuasion. “I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God;" and again, “ the love of Christ constraineth us." If then we would
persuade you not to be almost, but altogether Christians, in order that you may escape that dreadful and eternal wrath, we would now persuade you to be so, from more worthy, and more exalted motives ; even from gratitude and love to him who first loved you, and gave himself for you; and “ who has prepared for them that love him, such good things as pass man's understanding," for “ God has not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, I would observe, that this salvation is not a future thing, and merely a deliverance from the place of torment when we die; but it is a present thing ; it is in fact a saving and delivering us from all that prevents, and would prevent our being altogether Christians; in fact, a Christian is a sinner saved-from want of considering and understanding this, many have been deceived, and many have deceived themselves ; some seem to think, that it is time enough yet, to give up what they must acknowledge to be sinful; and that they can give it up, at any time they please ;
but while they are thus indulging themselves, they are suffering their souls to be more strongly bound in chains, which they can never break; and which God on account of their continuing in sin, may permit to be riveted on them for ever. Such persons must have entirely forgotten or discarded their baptismal promise, and engagement;
which was “to renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh;" it is to the fulfilment of this solemn engagement, that we would persuade you; and we would tell you, that your doing so, is the evidence of your spiritual regeneration ; while your not doing so, proves that you are yet in your sins, and a child of wrath. You may see then, that if you would be a Christian indeed, you must become so, by spiritual regeneration; you must be made so by adoption and grace, “ye must be born again,” if you would enter into the kingdom of God. There is a living principle planted in the heart of the real christian, by which his nature and character are changed.
“ Old things pass away, and all things become new ;" he neither lives by himself, nor to himself; but Christ lives in him, and he lives to the praise and glory of that God, who has called him out of darkness into his marvellous light. In persuading you then to be a Christian, we would call upon you to examine carefully, whether you have yet received this living principle, by which alone this change is produced ; and from which alone, that cheerful obedience which is acceptable to God through Christ, can proceed. You might as well expect to gather fruit before you had planted the tree, as to be able to live the life of a Christian, before that living principle was ingrafted in your heart. If
you will impartially examine yourself as to this matter, you will find no great difficulty in ascertaining whether you have received this principle or not; the Apostle considered it a matter, which might and ought to be ascertained ; and therefore when writing to the Corinthians, he exhorted them to "examine themselves, whether they were in the faith, and to prove themselves;" and he adds this solemn declaration, “know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ;” in this he seems to allude to the custom of trying metals, whether they were genuine or not; those that stood the test, were pronounced to be so; while such as did not, were rejected as disapproved, or reprobate. Now the Christian professor has one test, by which to examine and judge himself, even that word, by which we shall all be judged in the last day; in that book he may find the marks and character of the sincere Christian plainly and clearly set forth and described. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affec
tions and lusts”——" so that they no longer live the rest of their time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” Here then there is no great difficulty in determining your statehave you crucified the flesh, that is, your carnal and corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts; and, in consequence of having done so, is it your study and pleasure to live to the will of God? this also is a matter in which you cannot be mistaken : a man could not be crucified without painfully feeling it; nor can the evil desires and sinful lusts of the flesh, be resisted and overcome, without many a painful struggle, and power derived from on high, by constant earnest prayer. This is the conflict which every believer encounters, in his very first entrance on the Christian course; and which is figuratively and strikingly described by our Lord as a striving, or as it might better be translated, agonizing to enter into the straight gate ; and surely it is such as no man could have gone through, without being sensible of it: but there is an infallible mark or test by which those may be known who have endured this conflict, and passed through this gate; they walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; that is, their conduct and conversation is spiritual; they walk in a path different from that of the world, even the “narrow path which leadeth to everlasting life :” and the consequence is this, that their former companions think it strange