« 上一頁繼續 »
in the most stammering and aukward manner; yet there may be such a concurrence of circumstances; for instance, such an apparent tenderness of conscience, in regard to sin; such a reliance on the gracious promises and watchful providence of God; such a regard to Jesus Christ and to all his people; and such a prevailing concern for the glory of God in the tenour of his conversation, as to leave no room justly to question the reality of his faith in the Son of God.-Thus much in the NEGATIVE. I shall now proceed, very briefly, to point out,
PositivELY, A few genuine evidences of faith in the Son of God. He who really believes in Jesus Christ, cordially and habitually depends upon him, for pardon and peace, for righteousness and strength.
. As faith is an evidence of regeneration, and as in regeneration a sinner is not only informed of his want of Jesus Christ, but has a new turn given to his will, in respect of God and sacred things; so he who sincerely believes on the Son of God, feels, if I may so speak, the bias of his will inclining toward him, for pardon, through his atoning sacritice; for justification, through his perfect obedience; and for strength, to perform the divine precepts. Thus the true believer stands distinguished from all self-righteous professors of every name.
He' who truly believes on the Son of God, habitually and cordially approves the way of salvation, by Jesus Christ, as being not only safe, with regard to the sinner, but worthy of God, as becoming his character. Many there are, it is to be feared, who care little what becomes of the glory of God, provided they be but saved from the wrath to come.
They approve of salvation by Jesus Christ, merely because there is no other way of escaping the punishment due to their crimes ; so that the regard which they have to the Lord Redeemer, is nothing more than an expression of self-love. Whereas true faith leads the converted to rejoice in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, because it displays, asserts, and maintains the honours of eternal justice and of infinite holiness, as well as of divine mercy, in the complete deliverance and consummate happiness of those who deserve to perish.
He who truly believes on the Son of God, sincerely approves of the divine revealed will, in regard to personal holiness and obedience. It is one thing to talk about our Maker's laws, and it is another to approve of them. It is one thing to acknowledge the necessity of holiness, and it is another to love it, Now, as it cannot be imagined how any one that is entirely destitute of love to holiness, can be considered as a believer in Jesus Christ; so we cannot but look upon a sincere and habitual desire of being conformed to the divine image and the divine will, as an evidence of true faith.
He who really believes in Jesus Christ, is habitually desirous, except in a time of backsliding, of having faith, and ope, and holy love in lively exercise. This, I humbly conceive, must be the case. That the true believer's faith, and hope, and love, are not always in lively exercise, is an undoubted, though lamentable fact; but that he sincerely and habitually desires they should be so, is an important truth, and one criterion by which he stands distinguished from formal professors of every sort.
Once more: He who really believes on the Son of God, when conscious of open or secret backslidings, will be sincerely desirous of exercising godly sorrow, and of humbling himself before the Lord. The true Christian regards the frame of his heart in the sight of Omniscience, as well as the course of his life in the sight of men. His latent backslidings—those which are internal, respecting the will and affections, are, therefore, the objects of his detestation, and sources of real sorrow, as well as those departures from the line of duty which are visible to his fellow creatures. Now, as these backslidings, whether open or secret, are principally from his innate depravity; so that depravity is considered by him as his greatest enemy, and his greatest sin, as being the malignant fountain from which all the streams of his actual transgression flow: and, consequently, is the grand occasion of holy shame and penitential sorrow in his daily intercourse with Heaven. Yes, the real Christian finds abundantly more reason to mourn from day to day over that sin which dwells in him, than over any thing else-than over all things besides. So fully am I convinced of this, that I cannot look upon him as a subject of regenerating grace, who does not find it to be the case, and actually so mourn. This, in my opinion, is one of the best evidences that we love God; and that is the most substantial proof of our faith in Jesus Christ.-Particulars might be multiplied, but these may suffice; I shall, therefore, only observe,
I do not mean, that every real believer in Jesus Christ must be conscious of possessing all these evidences of true faith, and that at the same time; nor yet that all real Christians have them at any time, in the same degree. No; in a time of temptation from Satan, in seasons of backsliding from God, and when under the power of melancholy disease; all may appear dark and gloomy in the breast and in the experience of a real Christian. It must also be admitted, that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are not equally strong, and lively, and active in all believers, nor yet in the same believer, at different times. It should be carefully remembered also, that the conclusion we form of ourselves, as believers, is not to be inferred from transient and merely occasional dispositions of mind toward holy or forbidden objects; but from the habitual, or generally prevailing turn of our hearts