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the heart and understanding pure and prepared for that purpose ; that is to say, carefully abstaining from the indulgence of passions, and from practices which harden and indispose the mind against religion. I say, a mind, so guarding and qualifying itself, and imploring, with devout earnestness and solicitude, the aid of God's holy Spirit in its meditations and inquiries, seems, so far as we can presume to judge, as meet an object of divine help and favour,
of which we can form an idea : and it is not for us to narrow the promises of God concerning his assisting grace, so as, without authority, to exclude such an object from it.
From the doctrine which has been thus concisely proposed, various important rules and reflections arise.
First ; let not men, involved in sinful courses, wonder at the difficulties which they meet with in religion. It is an effect of sin, which is almost sure to follow. Sin never fails, both to magnify real difficulties and to suggest imaginary ones. It rests
and dwells upon objections, because they help the sinner, in some measure, to excuse his conduct to himself. They cause him to come to a conclusion, which permits the gratification of his passions, or the compassing of his purpose. Deep and various is the deceitfulness of sin, of licentious sins most particularly; for they cloud the understanding; they disqualify men for serious meditation of any kind ; above all, for the meditation of religion.
Secondly ; let them, who ask for more light, first take care to act up to the light which they have. Scripture and experience join their testimony to this point, namely, that they, who faithfully practise what they do know, and live agreeably to the belief which they have, and to the just and rational consequences of that belief, seldom fail to proceed further, and to acquire more and more confidence in the truth of religion ; whereas, if they live in opposition to the degree of belief which they have, be it what it may, even it will gradually grow weaker and weaker, and, at length, die away in the soul.
Thirdly; let them, who are anxious to arrive at just sentiments of religion, keep their minds in a capable state ; that is, free from the bias of former decisions made, or of former doubts conceived, at a time, when the power and influence of sinful temptation was upon them ; suggested, in fact, lest they should find themselves obliged to give up some gratification upon which they had set their hearts ; and which decisions, nevertheless, and doubts, have the same operation upon their judgments, as if they had been the result of the most pure and impartial reasoning. It is not peculiar to religion ; it is true of all subjects, that the mind is sure almost to be misled, which lies under a load of prejudice contracted from circumstances, in which it is next to impossible to weigh arguments justly, or to see clearly.
Fourthly; let them, let all, especially those who find themselves in a dissatisfied state of mind, fly to prayer. Let them pray earnestly and incessantly for God's assisting grace and influence; assisting, if it be his, good pleasure, as well our minds and understandings in searching after truth, as our hearts and affections in obeying it. I say again, let us pray unceasingly for grace and help from the Spirit of God. When we pray for any worldly object, we may pray mistakenly.
We may be ignorant of our own good; we may err egregiously concerning it. But when we pray for spiritual aid and grace, we are sure that we pray for what we want; for what, if granted, will be the greatest of all blessings. And we pray with hope, because we have this gracious assurance given us by the Lord himself of grace
mercy; “ if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” Matt. vii. 11. SERMON XV.
JOHN'S MESSAGE TO JESUS.
Matt. xi. 2, 3.
Now when John had heard in prison the
works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that
should come, or do we look for another ? TH
HESE words state a transaction, to say
the least of it, of a singular kind, and well entitled to observation. Some time before our Lord's appearance, John the Baptist had produced himself to the country, as a messenger from God, and as a public preacher. The principal thing which he preached was, that a greater and more extraordinary person than himself, that is to say, no other than the long-foretold and longexpected Messiah, was about shortly to appear in the world ; that for the appearance of this person, which would be the