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wise man: and this will appear to all the world; when the folly of those who build upon the sand by a dead faith, by hearing and not doing, will be exposed to universal contempt. Alas, my brethren, how nu
, merous are such nominal Christians; “ who call “ Christ, Lord, yet do not the things that he says!" But unless the design of the gospel be answered in our hearts and lives, the gospel itself will increase our condemnation.
Are any of you then sensible, that your hearing has hitherto failed to influence your practice? Let me conjure you, by the love you bear to your own happi. ness, not to put off the alarming conviction, by saying, “Go thy way, at this time, when I have a con“ venient opportunity I will call for thee.” It is not yet too late: “ Now is the accepted time, now is the “ day of salvation:” But you know not how soon the Master of the house may shut to the door; and then it will be too late to begin to say, “Lord, Lord, open “ to us;” for he will silence every plea, and bid you “ depart as workers of iniquity.”
But have you, my brethren, begun seriously to practise what you know, and to enquire the will of God that you may do it? Blessed be the Lord, for his grace bestowed on you! Go on in this way, my beloved brethren; and even the most humiliating discoveries you make of yourselves, will serve to endear the gospel of salvation to you.
“ Then shall you “know, if you follow on to know the Lord:” “ For " the path of the just shineth more and more to the
perfect day.” The practice of duty will prepare your hearts for the reception of truth; by removing those prejudices, with which the prevalence of carnal affections closes the understandings of the disobedient; and every accession of spiritual knowledge will have a sanctifying and comforting effect upon your hearts.
Finally, were we as desirous of having our souls adorned with holiness, as most persons are of deco rating the poor dying body; we should certainly make continual discoveries of our remaining uncomeliness, and be thankful for assistance in such researches: and we should make daily progress in sanctification; by “ putting off the old man, which is corrupt according “ to the deceitful lusts, and putting on the new man, “ which after God is created in righteousness and true " holiness,'
1 CORINTHIANS xüï. 13.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but
the greatest of these is charity.
THE apostle, in this remarkable chapter, shews the Corinthians, that the most splendid and useful of those miraculous powers, which they emulously coveted and ostentatiously displayed, were far inferior in value to sanctifying grace; yea, that when united with the deepest knowledge of divine mysteries, the most selfdenying liberality, and the most vehement zeal, they were nothing without charity; and did not so much as prove the possessor to be a real Christian of the lowest order. He then describes charity, as a man would define gold, by its distinguishing properties, which are the same in a grain as in a ton; but the more a man possesses, and the less alloy is found in the mass, the richer he is.--And having shewn, that charity would never fail; whereas miraculous powers would cease, and knowledge itself would be swallowed up and lost in the perfect light of heaven, be adds, “ And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; “ but the greatest of these is charity.”—It is evident, that he meant to sum up, in these three radical graces, the grand essentials of vital Christianity, to which all other holy affections may be referred. But as the word charity is now used for one peculiar expression of love, which is equivocal, and may be counterfeit: it will render our discussion more perspicuous to substitute love in the place of it; it being well known that the original word is generally thus translated. I shall endeavour, therefore,
1. To consider separately, the peculiar nature, exercise, and use of faith, hope, and love.
II. To shew in what respects love is the greatest of the three; and how this agrees with the doctrines of salvation by grace, and justifica
cation by faith alone. The subject before us, my brethren, is of the greatest importance, and often fatally misunderstood. Let me then beg a peculiar measure of your attention; and let us lift up our hearts to God, beseeching him to
open our understandings, that we may understand the scriptures,” and be guided into the knowledge of his holy truth.
I. Let us consider separately the peculiar nature, exercise, and use of faith, hope, and love.
We begin with faith. That peculiar act of the un. derstanding, by which we avail ourselves of information, in those things which fall not under our own observation, and which do not admit of proof in a way of reasoning, is called faith or believing. If we credit
testimony without sufficient grounds, we are unreasonably credulous: if we refuse to believe testimony, which has sufficient grounds of credibility, we are unreasonably incredulous. It is therefore extremely absurd to oppose reason and faith, as if contrary to each other; when in fact, faith is the use of reason in a certain way, and in cases which confine us to that peculiar exercise of our rational powers. Believing may be distinguished from reasoning, and in some cases opposed to it: but in opposing faith and reason, the friends of Christianity have given its enemies an advantage, to which they are by no means entitled.
It is evident to all observing men, that the compli. cated machine of human society is moved, almost exelusively, by that very principle, which numbers oppose and deride in speaking on religion. Testimony received and credited, directs the determinations of princes and councils, of senates and military com. manders, of tribunals and commercial companies, in their most important deliberations: and did they refuse to act, without self-evidence, demonstration, or personal knowledge; all their grand affairs must stagnate. But hum.in testimony, though often fallacious, is deemed credible: they believe, decide, and carry their decisions into execution. In the common concerns of life too, we believe a guide, a physician, a lawyer, and even those who provide our food; and the incredulous sceptick in such cases must be ruined, or starved, or perish by disease.
But “if the testimony of man be great, the testimony of God is greater.” “ The scripture is the sure