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the attainment of everlasting life. He trusts not in his own righteousness, conscious that even the most perfect man living will have more than sufficient reason to exclaim with the Publican in the Gospel,-" God be merciful to me a sinner:" but his sure trust is in the one great sacrifice made by the Son of God, who "came into the world to save sinners," who by his death hath redeemed us from eternal death, and "delivered us from the wrath to come." "Through Him," saith the Apostle, "is preached unto us forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Of the necessity of such faith, in order to salvation, no real Christian can doubt, because without it he cannot, in fact, be a Christian. It is, however, of the utmost importance to recollect, that we are "to hold this saving faith in a pure conscience," which is also enjoined by the Apostle as an essential part of the character of a Christian,—of one who is authorized to rely with confidence on the merits of his Redeemer, for pardon and acceptance-for salvation and
Agreeably to the spirit of this injunction, it is the decisive rule of holy writ, that we prove the sincerity and soundness of our faith by the obedience and holiness it produces. If we would ascertain whether we are in possession of such a
sterling faith, it is the constant exhortation of our Saviour and his Apostles, that we examine our ownselves,--that every man should prove his own work, whether he be indeed "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience;" —that we search and try whether our conduct be really such as Christianity teaches; and whether our conversation in the world be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ.
The short, plain, and infallible test proposed by St. James is this," shew thy faith by thy works;" that is, prove thyself a real Christian by a holy, pure, and blameless life. The integrity of a man's professions must be evidenced by the integrity of his conduct. This is, in most instances, an unexceptionable rule for determining the sincerity of our faith; for, the sounder our faith, the more perfect will be our morals— and on the other hand, the purer our morals, the more perfect will be our faith. Good works are the natural fruits of true Christian faith, and wherever these fruits are wanting, it is certain there can be no living or healthy root of faith implanted in the heart it is either dead or imperfect. Without these practical, effective proofs of sincerity, all pretences to saving faith are vain. They may be the deception of hypocrisy, or the delusion of ignorance; but their fallacy is shewn in almost every page of the Gospel of Christ. "By their fruits," saith our
Saviour, speaking of false prophets, or false professors of his religion,-" by their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Faith is the tree of life, which produceth all Christian virtues: by its fruits it is known; in its fruits it is manifested. Christ is the vine; and, if our faith be right, we shall be fruitful branches, abiding in him, and deriving every thing that is lovely and of good report from him. Therefore, by this criterion let us ascertain whether we are in the faith. Are our minds set upon righteousness? Are our hands clean in all our dealings with men? and our hearts (through grace) pure before God? Are our thoughts, words, and actions regulated by the laws of God? Do we, as much as possible, avoid and abhor all wickedness, whether in will or in deed? Have we no licentious and sinful wishes cherished in the secret recesses of our hearts? Is no malicious evil speaking, no impious profanation, the language of our tongue? Are we fervent and regular in the exercises of Christian piety? faithful and diligent in the discharge of our moral and social duties,wishing well to all, and ill to none?-being persuaded, upon the Apostle's authority, that the end of the commandment is "charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and
faith unfeigned." Let us I say, thus examine, are we in perfect charity with our neighbours; and do we exercise ourselves to have a conscience void of offence towards God and man? "Beloved" saith the Apostle, "if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God."
Yet, be it ever remembered, these questions should be put as they apply to frail and fallen creatures, who are not to consider themselves as being already perfect, however strong may be their “faith and hope in God;"-however they may have sought through the Spirit's aid, to "purify their souls in obeying the truth," and to "be holy even as He which hath called them is holy." If, upon a strict examination, conscience do not pronounce, as most assuredly no man's conscience can, that our lives have been in every respect conformable to the standard of Gospel duty, then are we to enquire diligently whether a sense of our sacred and moral obligations-a sense of our duty to God and man, and of our future responsibility at the judgment seat of Christ-be leading us to strive to correct our failings, to repent and amend our lives; and whether all this be the result of a firm conviction of the truth of the Gospel, of an entire distrust of ourselves, and of a sure and steady reliance on God's mercy and promises through Jesus Christ?
If such be our condition, though weak and
unprofitable servants, still we need not despond. If we do "truly and earnestly repent us of our sins past, if we sincerely intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways," his blessed Word assures us that we shall not be rejected; and that "them who thus come unto Him, through Christ, he will in no wise cast out." A sense of manifold imperfections,—a distrust of spiritual attainments and proficiency—a diffidence in himself, will always characterize the sincere and humble Christian. Agreeably to St. Paul's exhortation, he is not "high-minded, but fears:"-he fears, as did the Apostle himself, lest after all his endeavours he should finally come short of the glory of God; and therefore, whatever progress he may hitherto have made, or however he may already have grown in grace, and in the knowledge of his only Lord and Saviour, he will still labour diligently to “make his calling and election sure."
I know that upon this subject a persuasion. exists very different from this-and very different, too, from anything warranted by Scripture. The persuasion to which I allude is, that the true followers of Christ are always favoured with certain inward feelings or convictions of their being in a state of salvation from which they cannot fall-and that these feelings are a sure—~ nay the only sure proof of a sound and saving