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passes and sins, having been, like those of old, pierced to the heart, and then filled with comfort, from a believing knowledge of him on whom their sins were laid, find themselves, as it were, in a new world; old things are past away; the objects of time and sense appear hardly worth their notice; the love of Christ constrains them, and they burn in love to all who join with them in praising their Saviour. Here, indeed, is a striking change wrought; yet the infirmities inseparable from human nature, though for the present overpowered, will, as occasions arise, discover themselves again, so far as to prove two things universally. 1. That the best of men are still liable to mistakes and weaknesses, for which they will have cause to mourn to the end of their lives. 2. That in the best times there will be some intruders, who, for a season, may make a profession, and yet, in the end, appear to have neither part nor lot in the matter. Thus it was in the church of Jerusalem. The pleasing state of things mentioned above did not continue very long: an Ananias and a Sapphira were soon found amongst them, who sought the praise of men, and made their profession a cloak for covetousness and hypocrisy*; grudgings and murmurings arose in a little time between the Jews and the Hellenists: and it was not long before they were thrown into strong debates, and in danger of divisions, upon account of the question first started at Antioch, whether the law of Moses was still in force to believers or not.

In these later times, when it has been attempted to vindicate and illustrate a revival of religion, by appealing to the writings of St. Paul, and the delineation he has given us of the faith and practice of a Christian, the

+ Acts xv.

* Acts v.

† Acts vi.

attempt has often excited disdain. It has been thought a sufficient answer to enumerate and exaggerate the faults, mistakes, and inconsistencies, (or what the world is pleased to account such,) that are charged upon the persons concerned in such an appeal, as necessarily proving that, where these blemishes are found, there can be no resemblance to the first Christians. If the frequency did not lessen the wonder, it might seem very unaccountable that any person who has read the New-Testament, should venture upon this method in a Protestant country, where the people have the Scripture in their hands, and are at liberty to judge for themselves. But as there are not a few, even among Protestants, who seem to expect their assertions will pass for proofs, I propose, in this chapter, to point out several things, which, though undoubtedly wrong, had a considerable prevalence among the first Christians, leaving the application to the judicious reader. I acknowledge my firm persuasion that a certatn system of doctrine, revived of late years, is the doctrine of the reformation, and of the New-Testament, which though not suited to the general and prevailing taste, is attended, more or less, with the blessing and power of God, in turning sinners from darkness to light. I confess, that both ministers and people who espouse this despised cause, have sufficient ground for humiliation. We have seen, we still see, many things amongst us which we cannot approve; we fear that too many are a real discredit to the cause they profess; and we are conscious that the best of us fall mournfully short of what might be expected from the sublime principles which, by the grace of God, we have been taught from his word. We desire to be open to conviction, not to contend for errors, or even to vindicate any thing that

can be proved contrary to the Scripture; but if some things not justifiable, which we must own have accompanied what we verily believe to be a work of the Spirit of God, are, (as some would represent them,) sufficient to discredit this work, to impeach the truth of the doctrines or the sincerity of the instruments in the gross-then we are sure it will follow, upon the same principles, that the Jews and Heathens had just ground and warrant to reject the doctrine of the apostles, and to treat their persons with contempt.

A complete knowledge and consideration of the present state of man, in himself, and of the circumstances in which he is placed, are necessary to preserve us from being offended with the Gospel of Christ, on account of the imperfections that may be found in the conduct of those who have sincerely received it. Due allowances must be made for the remains of ignorance and prejudice, the power of habit, temper, and constitution, in different persons. The various combinations of these, and other particulars, make each individual character, though agreeing in one common nature, and influenced by the same general principles, in some respects an original. The power and subtilty of Satan, and his address in suiting his temptations to the peculiar inclinations and situation of every person, must be taken into the account; and likewise the immense variety of occasions arising from without, such as the provocations and arts of enemies, the influence of mistaken friends, the necessary engagements, connexions, and relations of common life, the artifices of seducers, and the scandals of false professors. These things, and others which might be named, concur to make the path of duty exceeding difficult, especially to young beginners; who, so soon as they become sincerely desirous

to serve the Lord, find themselves immediately in the midst of scenes, in which they can only be fitted to act their parts aright by a gradual and painful experience. They whose intentions are right, usually set out with warm hearts and sanguine expectations, little aware of the difficulties that are before them. They have, indeed a sure rule to act by in the Scripture, and they have a sure promise, that the Spirit of God will be their guide and teacher; but at first they have but little acquaintance with the Scripture, and till they are humbled, by being left to commit many mortifying mistakes, they are too prone to lean to their own understandings. Every day brings them into some new difficulty, wherein they can get little direction from what they have passed through before; and often emergencies are so pressing as hardly to leave room for deliberation in short, it seems to be the Lord's pleasure, not so much to preserve them from mistakes and indiscretions at first, as to take occasion to humble them upon this account, and to show them how to correct them when made. Thus they are more confirmed in a sense of their own weakness and of his goodness, and are trained up, by time, observation, and repeated trials, to a more perfect exercise of every branch of Christian wisdom. By degrees their judgments are formed to greater. maturity; they are more jealous of themselves, more acquainted with Satan's devices, more capable of distinguishing the spirit and conduct of mankind, and especially more simply dependent upon God for his teaching and direction: and thus they grow into a participation of the spirit of the Gospel, and are enabled to act and speak as becomes the servants of Christ. When his Gospel is faithfully preached and cordially received, there always will be some who are able, by the grace of God, to put

to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and to demean themselves so, that if any will speak evil of them, the shame is retorted upon themselves. But, among the numbers who are forming in the same school, there will likewise be some, (for the reasons I have suggested,) whose conduct will, in some respects, be liable to censure, though their hearts are sincere, and there will frequently be others, who, (like the hearers compared by our Lord to seed sown upon rocky ground,) will thrust themselves amongst professors, be called by the same name, and accounted by the world the same people, who at length discover themselves to be mere hypocrites. These, indeed, will furnish occasion enough for exception; and they who are glad to have it so, will readily suppose, or pretend, that they are all alike. It remains to show that, in this sense, there is no new thing under the sun. It was so from the beginning.

The apostle Paul bears an honourable testimony to the sincerity, zeal, and grace of the believers amongst whom he had preached, and to whom he had written. He commends their work of faith and labour of love; he styles them his joy, his glory, and his crown; and expresses his confidence that the Lord, who had begun a good work in them, would assuredly complete it. But though he knew there were many persons among them who were established in the truth, and judicious in their conduct; his admonitions, upon several occasions, show there were others whose judgments were weak, and behaviour unwarrantable.

He speaks of the Corinthians as a people enriched in the knowledge of Christ, and honoured with an eminency of gifts. Yet he takes notice of many things

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