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honest purpose and resolution, every sudden act of contrition and humiliation, and instances of the like nature, which are but the beginnings of religion, are not to be efteem'd and character'd as fit conditions of acceptance and discipleship. If they stay there, the duty is only in its greens, in the first draught and shadows; and if it never come to finishing, the men are like those creatures which imperfectly resemble the human shape, the more deformed for the rude conformity. A picture of this we have in the description * St. Paul has given
where he brings in one justifying the law of God, that it is holy; just and good, but yet he did not observe it; he accuses himself for what he did, and what he did not: For the good that I would, that I do not; and the evil that I would not, that I do; that by virtue of his inward man he delighted in the law of God; but yet by the strength of another law in his members, contending and struggling against the force of this, he was enslaved and captivated to the law of sin; he had many good affections by times, but no good thing abiding in him; his will was often right, and he resolved and purposed many excellent things, but still he was defective in the performance. This is the character of one who is set forward in his work, but goes not on with it : And of this temper we shall mect with many in the world, who have their fits of repentance, prayer and fásting; who hear much, and are angry with themselves, condemn their own follies, and think it reasonable they should live better: All which are excellent lines of duty, and fair beginnings; but then they fill them up with such a mixture of impurity, such ill colours, and foul blemishes, and frequent apostacies, that they destroy their own foundation : They would
* Rom. vii.
fain be better, but yet they are not; nay, they go as far as Herod, who not only heard John Baptist gladly, but did many things; and farther than Felix, being fully persuaded they should be Chriftians; and they do thus much towards it, that they correct some follies, put a stop to some vicious habits, use the solemnities of religion, and are very punctual and severe in some external observations of it; but then they are weary, they will go no farther, they grow confident and careless, and having done something, fancy they have done enough for heaven, while sin still retains its hold, and the strong man keeps possession. All this is represented by our Saviour, in the parable of the seed, where that which fell on the stony ground, or amongst thorns, or by the way-side ; although it spring up for a time, grows into some degrees of height and fairness, yet is loft before the time of harveit, and there is no fruit arises from it. These are so far from being true disciples, that they are the stain and the reproach of their profession; and instead of the rewards assured unto that fellowship, they shall find those contrary ones, of him who knew his master's will, and did it not, they shall be beaten with many stripes
. But here, this caution is to be interposed, that since the strength and power of religion grows by the measures of a man, by easy and undiscernable degrecs, that we be careful not to give an ill? name to every state of imperfection: The Apostles used the compellation of babes and little children to such as were in this infancy of religion; and such may be allowed, because they are growing up, their strength encreases, they still rise higher in their profession, and these are kindly and tenderly to be treated; but we are not speaking of the children, but the dwarfs in religion; people of no ftature, and of as little hopes, who are already risen to their full pitch, when they may be said to have but begun: and surely these are very unworthy the stile of disciples, whose measure it is to be perfect, as their Father which is in heaven is perfect. But then,
III. Thirdly, Since neither of these will fatisfy the condition, what it is that will ? And here the answer must be in general, doing the will of God, or a life of holiness and good works, springing from a principle of faith in Chrift. For thus stand the terms of the new covenant, which God has made with us through Christ our Redeemer.
* He that believeth on the Son bath everlasting life ; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. Here is everlasting life promised by God, but faith in Christ exacted as the condition to be performed on our part. But St. James has told us, that faith without works is dead, and left we should mistake in so important a concern as the terms of our falvation, St. Paul (who has said as much of justification by faith as any body) has most clearly opend the terms of this covenant, with regard to works also, when he thus represents the engagement both on God's part and ours. † The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity. God is pleased to engage on his part to take care of us in a particular manner, and to fave us; but then our part of the covenant is, to depart from iniquity; that is, to live in an entire obedience to the commands and prohibitions laid before us in the Gospel. And this is a condition so absolutely necessary, that he elsewhere represents it as the great design and end of our redemption.
Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem
* John iii. 36.
+ 2 Tim. ii. 19.
# Tit. ii, 14.
us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. The grace of God appeard for this purpose, to teach us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live Soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. So that when we speak of faith, as that which saves us, we mean such a belief in Christ, our Saviour and Law-giver, as makes us chearfully give up our selves to the conduct of his spirit; obedience to his laws, and dependance upon his facrifice, to render us and all that we can do acceptable to his heavenly Father. When we insist upon good works, 'tis as the genuine effect of such a true faith; and such an effect, as if it do not follow and
appear, our faith is vain, and all our hopes of heaven deceitful. From this close connexion between faith and good works, it is, that when either are named, as the condition of salvation, the other is understood. And therefore, doing the will of God, includes both believing in Christ, and living up to that practical rule of righteousness, which he has ordain'd for us to walk by. For thus our Saviour determined in answer to the question of those auditors, who demanded what they must do to work the works of God? * This is the work of God (says he) that ye believe on him, whom he hath sent. Here then we have a large prospect: for that we may be the disciples of Christ, we are to believe his revelation, and to obey his commands, and to reverence him as our Saviour and Law-giver, and in imitation of him to put on the form and habit of a new creature; in newness of life, a course of christian holiness and virtues ; fobriety with regard to our selves, justice and charity towards our neighbour, piety and zeal towards God. This is the great purpose of St. James, in his discourse con
* John vi. 29.
cerning the perfection of the christian life, in the strict union of faith and good works, where he assigns a just portion of duty to both: for he who believes, does what he ought. * Thou believest, says he, that there is one God, thou dost well; but then believing alone is not enough, for faith without works is dead, and the religion of it is no more than the evil spirits are able to practise, the devils also believe and tremble. The Apostle represents it by the insignificancy of the kind words of him, who bids his needy brother depart in peace, and get him better cloaths and fuller provisions, but still assists him not in either; the neglect betrays the charity, and the man is yet as naked as before; Even so faith, altho’ it be the profession of the truth, and those found words which Christ revealed ; yet when it stands thus by it felf, assists nothing to virtue and the perfection of religion; it is but naked, nay, worse than that, says the Apostle, it is dead : But when it inspires and actuates all the remaining parts of duty, when it is an argument and a principle, when it provokes to holiness, when it convinces the man, and supports his religion; then a Christian may be said to be doing the will of God: and this is to arrive to the degree of a new creature, viz. to live the life of Christ, to keep the commandments of God, to do the work and business of renewed and transform'd people, to live after the spirit, and not after the flesh; which being the old and natural principle, is unfit to govern the new life. And now that we have gone thus far, ye may imagine, that there is nothing farther to be added : But there is one word remaining, which can by no means be spared from this argument. Our endeavours must extend to ALL the will of God, and not to some parts only. Therefore,
* Jam. ii. 19.