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tle Paul, who, while they are not the children of the Lord, yet “ know the will of God, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and are confident that they themselves are guides of the blind, lights to them that are in darkness, instructers of the foolish, teachers of babes; since they have the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law.” (Rom. ii. 18. 20.) He may be among the number of those servants mentioned by our Redeemer, who, though they knew their Master's will, yet did it not, and therefore, are sentenced to be beaten with many stripes. Without such a knowledge of the truths of God, as will enable us understandingly to embrace the offers of salvation through the Redeemer, we cannot obtain heaven; but with much greater speculative knowledge than is possessed by thousands of humble believers, we may descend into hell. If the mere illumination of the mind could save us, the devils, whose powers are so much greater, and whose knowledge is so much more extensive than those of mortals, had long since left the burning abyss, and ascended to the regions of glory

2. He that is only almost a Christian, may have great and splendid spiritual gifts. These result from the common, and not the special operations of the Holy Ghost, and have often been seen in those whose hearts were unrenewed. Do you pray with so much fervour and apparent earnestness, as to interest those believers who hear you? do you explain the word of God so as to enlighten the minds of others ? Do you illustrate the truths of religion in such a manner as to warm and animate those who listen to you? For these gifts you owe your thanks to God, who gave them for the benefit of the church; but with them all, you may be an unpardoned sinner. Suppose not that you are safe, because you have benefited others: the Lord can employ an unclean raven to nourish an Elijah. Paul supposes it possible that he, who preaches the gospel with the eloquence and force of an apostle, may himself be a cast-away; (1 Cor. ix. 27.) and the awful history of Judas confirms this declaration. The scribes and pharisees were not without spiritual gifts, which shone in the length and seeming warmth of their prayers; yet the most terrible woes were denounced against them by the Redeemer. Those possessed eminent gifts, who, at the last day shall cry, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?" but they shall hear with horror that sentence of their Judge, “ Depart from me: I know you not !” Yes, “ though we speak with the tongues of men and of angels; and though we have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though we have all faith, so that we could remove mountains, and have not charity,” true love to God and to man, “ we are nothing."

3. He that is only almost a Christian, may make a high profession of religion, may unite himself visibly with the church, and be frequent in the worship of God. The foolish virgins, as well as the wise, carried their lamps in token that they waited for the bridegroom. There were leaves on that symbolical fig-tree which bore no fruit, and was accursed. In the field of the church, the wheat and the tares will remain intermingled, till the separation takes place at the judgment-day, when the Lord will “ gather. the wheat into his garner, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." There are many who

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have - the form of godliness, and not the power;" (2 Tim. iii. 5.) who, like the Israelites spoken of by the prophet, “ are called by the name of Israel, and swear by the name of the Lord ; who call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.” (Is. xlviii. 1, 2.) But you not only profess religion; you are also frequent in worshipping God; so did the insincere and wicked Israelites, whose character is drawn by the Lord, in Is. Iviïi. 2. ; notwithstanding their transgression and their sins, “ yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.” Ah! when you bring to God the sermons you have so often heard, you bring Uriah's letters, the ground of death and damnation! Do you add to all this, frequent fastings, and the most humbling ceremonies of religion? So did these same Israelitics,“ bowing down their head as a bullrush, and sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”. (ver. 3.) So did that proud pharisee who “fasted twice in every week,” and yet was not justified. (Luke xviii. 11—13.) So did Ahab, who “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” (1 Kings xxi. 27.) Do you macerate your bodies, and exercise much severity upon yourselves? So did the priests of Baal; so did those mentioned by the apostle, (Col. ii. 22, 23.) who inflicted the greatest sufferings upon themselves, " after the commandments and doctrines of men; in things which have a show of wisdom, in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."

4. He that is only almost a Christian, may in some degree, mourn for his sin ; from the common operations of the Spirit upon his mind, and from a fear of the wrath of God, he may lament his transgressions. Of this we cannot doubt, when we mark the anguish of Cain, of Esau, of Ahab, of Judas; when we observe the distress of those whose consciences are at times alarmed, but whose convictions pass away “ like the morning cloud and the early dew;" when in imagination we descend into the regions of despair, and mark with horror the bitter weeping, the hopeless wailing among the damned. He may go further; and in the anguish of his mind, confess his sin: like Pharoah, who cried, “ I have sinned ; the Lord is. righteous ; entreat the Lord for me;" (Ex. ix. 27.) but again hardened his heart, when the pressure of affliction was removed; like Balaam, who exclaimed to the angel who obstructed his progress, “ I have sinned;" (Num. xxii. 34.) but who still sought to obtain the wages of corruption : like Saul, who, touched with the generous forbearance of David, acknowledged, “I have sinned; thouart more righteous thanI;" (1Sa .xv. 24) but who soon forgot these emotions, and sought the life of him whose righteousness he had acknowledged: like Judas, who, agonized by the remembrance of his treachery, threw from him with abhorrence the reward of his guilt, and cried, “ I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood !" and then rushed forward to commit that last crime which cuts off every possibility of repentance, and “ went to his own place.” He may

often form the most solemn vows and resolutions against sin; as did the greater part of those whose histories have just been recalled to you; as did the Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea, and

on Mount Sinai; as many of you, who are yet at a distance from God, have done when you have been alarmed by some awful providence, or faid on the bed of sickness, and apparently brought near to the eternal world. He may forsake many of his sins, as did Herod : the unclean spirit may for a time appear to be cast out of his soul. (Matt. xii.) So great an alteration may take place in his conduct, that he may be supposed by others, even by the wisest and the best, to be converted; as was the case with Ananias, Sapphira, Nicholas the deacon, and many others, who were admitted even by the apostles into the church, but whose subsequent conduct showed that there “ was no root in them."

5. He that is only almost a Christian, may have some desires of grace, and of the blessings which God communicates to his children; with the Jews, who, immediately after, murmured at the doctrine of Jesus, he may cry, “Lord, evermore give us of this bread;” (John vi.) with a profane Esau, may seek the blessing with tears; with the foolish virgins, may cry for the oil of grace; with a covetous Balaam, may exclaim, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !" He may tremble at the word of God, like a Felix; like so many of you, my brethren, who at times have been alarmed by the denunciations of the Almighty, but who have not been converted. He may take some delight in the holy word, like the stony-ground hearers, who received the word with joy; like the Jews, who rejoiced in the light of John's ministry; like those described in Ezekiel, xxxiii. 31.; (and there are many in every age who would serve as originals of the picture :) “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before me as my people; and

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VOL. III.

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