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ible in his conversation; Matt. v. 16. In whom an impartial infidel might perceive the true nature of the Christian faith and godliness. If the world were fuller of such living images of Christ, who, like true regenerate children, represent their heavenly Father, Christianity would not have met with so much prejudice, nor had so many enemies in the world, nor would so many millions have been kept in the darkness of heathenism and infidelity, by flying from Christians, as a sort of people that are common and unclean.
Among Christians, there are babes, that must be fed with milk, and not with strong meat, that are "unskilful in the word of righteousness;" (1 John ii. 2. 12-14. Heb. v. 12-14.) and novices, who are unsettled, and in danger of an overthrow; 1 Tim. iii. 6. John xv.3.5. &c. In these the nature and excellency of Christianity, is little more apparent than reason in a little child. And there are strong, confirmed Christians, who, by "reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil," (Heb. v. 13, 14.) and who shew forth the glory of him that hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light; of whom God himself may say to satan and their malicious enemies, as once of Job, "Hast thou not seen my servant Job," &c. This Christian indeed I shall now describe to you, both to confute the infidel's slanders of Christianity, and to unteach men those false descriptions which have caused the presumption of the profane, and the irregularities of erroneous sectaries; and to tell you what manner of persons they be, that God is honoured by; and what you must be, if you will understand your own religion. Be Christians indeed, and you will have the comforts indeed of Christianity; and will find that its fruits and joys are not dreams, and shadows, and imaginations, if you content not yourselves with an imagination, dream, and shadow of Christianity, or with some clouded spark, or buried seed.
1. A Christian indeed (by which I still mean, a sound, confirmed Christian), is one that contenteth not himself to have a seed, or habit of faith, but he liveth by faith, as the sensualist by sight or sense. Not putting out the eye of sense, nor living as if he had no body, or lived not in a world of
sensible objects; but as he is a reasonable creature, which exalteth him above the sensitive nature, so faith is the true information of his reason, about those high and excellent things, which must take him up above things sensible. He hath so firm a belief of the life to come, as procured by Christ, and promised in the Gospel, as that it serveth him for the government of his soul, as his bodily sight doth for the conduct of his body. I say not, that he is assaulted with no temptations, nor that his faith is perfect in degree, nor that believing moveth him as passionately as sight or sense would do: but it doth effectually move him through the course and tenour of his life, to do those things for the life to come, which he would do if he saw the glory of heaven; and to shun those things for the avoiding of damnation, which he would shun if he saw the flames of hell. Whether he do these things so fervently or not, his belief is powerful, effectual, and victorious. Let sight and sense invite him to their objects, and entice him to sin, and forsake his God, the objects of faith shall prevail against them, in the bent of an even, a constant, and resolved life. It is things unseen which he taketh for his treasure, and which have his heart and hope, and chiefest labours. All things else which he hath to do, are but subservient to his faith and heavenly interest, as his sensitive faculties are ruled by his reason. His faith is not only his opinion, which teacheth him to choose what church or party he will be of; but it is his intellectual light, by which he liveth, and in the confidence and comfort of which he dieth. "For we walk by faith, not by sight. We groan to be clothed upon with our heavenly house. Wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him ;" 2 Cor. v. 7-9. Now the just shall live by faith;" Heb. x.3. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;" Heb. xi. 1. Most of the examples in Heb. xi. do shew you this truth, that true Christians live and govern their actions, by the firm belief of the promise of God, and of another life when this is ended. "By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark, to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith ;" ver. 7. "Abraham looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and ma
ker is God;" ver. 10. "Moses feared not the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible;” ver. 27. So the three witnesses (Dan. iii.), and Daniel himself, (chap. vi.) and all believers have lived this life, as Abraham the father of the faithful did; who, as it is said of him, Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;" Rom. iv. 20. The faith of a Christian is truly divine; and he knoweth that God's truth is as certain as sight itself can be; however sight be apter to move the passions. Therefore, if you can judge but what a rational man would be, if he saw heaven and hell, and all that God had appointed us to believe, then you may conjecture what a confirmed Christian is; though sense do cause more sensible apprehensions.
2. The weak Christian also, hath a faith that is divine, as caused by God, and resting on his word and truth. ́ And he so far liveth by this faith, as that it commandeth and guideth the scope and drift of his heart and life. But he believeth with a great deal of staggering and unbelief; and therefore his hopes are interrupted by his troublesome doubts and fears; and the dimness and languor of his faith is seen in the faintness of his desires, and the many blemishes of his heart and life. And sight and sensual objects are so much the more powerful with him, by how much the light and life of faith is dark and weak.
3. The hypocrite, or best of the unregenerate, believeth but either with a human faith, which resteth but on the word of man, or else with a dead, opinionative faith, which is overpowered by infidelity, or is like the dreaming thoughts of man asleep, which stir him not to action. He liveth by sight, and not by faith: for he hath not a faith that will overpower sense and sensual objects; James ii. 14. Matt. xiii. 22.
II. 1. A Christian indeed not only knoweth why he is a Christian, but seeth those reasons for his religion, which disgrace all that the most cunning atheist or infidel can say against it; and so far satisfy, confirm, and establish him, that emergent difficulties, temptations, and objections, do not at all stagger him, or raise any deliberate doubts in him of the truth of the word of God. He seeth first the natural evidence of those foundation-truths which nature itself maketh known; as that there is a God of infinite being, power,
wisdom, and goodness, the Creator, the Owner, the Ruler, and the Father, felicity and end of man; that we owe him all our love and service; that none of our fidelity shall be in ̧vain, or unrewarded, and none shall be finally a loser by his duty; that man who is naturally governed by the hopes and fears of another life, is made and liveth for that other life, where his soul shall be sentenced by God his Judge, to happiness or misery, &c. And then he discerneth the attestation of God to those supernatural, superadded revelations of the Gospel, containing the doctrine of man's redemption. And he seeth how wonderfully these are built upon the former, and how excellently the Creator's and Redeemer's doctrine and laws agree; and how much countenance supernatural truths receive from the presupposed naturals; so that he doth not adhere to Christ and religion by the mere engagement of education, friends, or worldly advantages; nor by a blind resolution, which wanteth nothing but a strong temptation (from a deceiver or a worldly interest) to shake or overthrow it. But he is built upon the rock, which will stand in the assault of satan's storms, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; Matt. xvi. 18. xiii. 23. vii. 25. John vi. 68, 69.
2. But a weak Christian hath but a dim and general kind of knowledge of the reasons of his religion; or, at least, but a weak apprehension of them, though he have the best, and most unanswerable reasons. And either he is confident in the dark upon grounds which he cannot make good, and which want but a strong assault to shake them; or else he is troubled and ready to stagger at every difficulty which occurreth. Every hard saying in the Scripture doth offend him; and every seeming contradiction shaketh him. And the depth of mysteries, which pass his understanding, do make him say as Nicodemus of regeneration, "How can these things be?" And if he meet with the objections of a cunning infidel, he is unable so to defend the truth, and clear his way through them, as to come off unwounded and unshaken, and to be the more confirmed in the truth of his belief, by discerning the vanity of all that is said against it; Heb. v. 12, 13. Matt. xv. 16. 1 Cor. xiv. 20. John xii. 16.
3. The seeming Christian either hath no solid reasons at all for his religion, or else if he have the best, he hath no
sound apprehension of them; but though he be never so learned and orthodox, and can preach and defend the faith, it is not so rooted in him as to endure the trial; but if a strong temptation from subtlety or carnal interest assault him, you shall see that he was built upon the sand, and that there was in him a secret root of bitterness, and an evil heart of unbelief, which causeth him to depart from the living God; Heb. iii. 12. Matt. xiii. 20-22. vii. 26, 27. Heb. xii. 15. John vi. 60. 64. 66. 1 Tim. vi. 10, 11.
III. 1. A Christian indeed, is not only confirmed in the essentials of Christianity, but he hath a clear, delightful sight of those useful truths, which are the integrals of Christianity, and are built upon the fundamentals, and are the branches of the master-points of faith. Though he see not all the lesser truths (which are branched out at last into innumerable particles), yet he seeth the main body of sacred verities, delivered by Christ for man's sanctification; and seeth them methodically in their proper places; and seeth how one supports another, and in how beautiful an order and contexture they are placed. And as he sticketh not in the bare principles, so he receiveth all these additions of knowledge, not notionally only, but practically, as the food on which his soul must live; Heb. v. 13, 14. vi. 1, 2. &c. Matt. xiii. 11. Eph. i. 18. iii. 18, 19. John xiii. 17.
2. A weak Christian (in knowledge) besides the principles or essentials of religion, doth know but a few disordered, scattered truths; which are also but half known, because while he hath some knowledge of those points, he is ignorant of many others, which are needful to the supporting, and clearing, and improving of them; and because he knoweth them not in their places, and order, and relation, and aspect upon other truths. And, therefore, if temptations be strong, and come with advantage, the weak Christian, in such points, is easily drawn into many errors; and thence into great confidence and conceitedness in those errors; and thence into sinful, dangerous courses in the prosecution and practice of those errors. Such are like "children tossed up and down, and carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine, through the cunning sleight and subtlety of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" Eph. iv. 14. 2. Cor. xi. 3. Col. ii. 4. 2 Tim. iii. 7.
3. The seeming Christian having no saving, practical