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tute of that knowledge which is gained by experience. An apostle has said, “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." He has no proper discovery of the beauty of holiness, in any of its manifestations. All altempts to give him the same inward perception of this beauty, which the Holy Ghost has imparted to the true believer, will prove wholly unavailing. But is it a legitimate inference, that he can receive no instruction on this subject ? May he not receive doctrinal light concerning Chris. tian experiences, as well as concerning doctrines themselves ?
In the first place, the natural man is capable of seeing, that inward feeling is as necessary a part of the gospel religion, as belief and prac. tice. In the next place, he can be made to see, that the feelings of the heart, in order to be right, must be in harmony with the truth; and that no affection, except that which is of a disinterested nature, can be in harmony with it. Though he has not known, by his own experience, what such a generous affection is, he can easily see that it must be the contrast of that selfishness, of which every human heart has large experience. He is also capable of perceiving, that it must be right to extend our benevolent regard to all, good and bad, while we restrict our complacency to the good. He can be instructed into the nature and reasonableness of reconciliation to God. He can be so instructed concerning the nature and obligation of repentance, as to feel himself inexcusable that he does not exercise it. He can be made theoretically acquainted with faith, as well as with the atonement, which is its object. In fine, he may receive definite ideas in relation to all the parts of Christian experience, as well as in relation to the articles of Christian doctrine.
Great evils will manifestly result from saying to the unregenerate, Experimental religion is a subject so far above your reach, that you are incapable of forming any correct sentiments concerning it. Two of these evils I will now point out.
First. Such representations are calculated to make men feel inno. cent, for being destitute of inward religion,-as innocent, as for being destitute of the knowledge of the philosopher's stone. But let us tell them what such religion is, and that they can acquire all the knowledge of it that the Christian possesses, save that which is obtained by the exercise of it. Then let us proceed to tell them that they are under present and pressing obligation to exercise those feelings of heart, which are in accordance with what they know to be eternal truth : and they can be made to feel guilty before God. The unconverted can be made to feel as guilty for not loving the truth, as for not believing it; for not loving God, his law, and the grace displayed in the sacrifice of his Son, as for becoming infidels, with all the light of a divine revelation shining around them.
Secondly. If you tell men, that, while destitute of experimental religion, they can know nothing about it, nor be profited by hearing any instructions on the subject, do you not, by this means, put them in the power of the enemy, and prepare the way for their being grossly deceived ? The sinner has heard there is such a thing as regeneration, and that he must experience it, or never see the kingdom of God; but
he has also heard, that the change is of such a nature as to be altogether inexplicable to him, until he has himself experienced it. In such a state of things, is he not in the utmost danger of being deceived by Satan, who is able to transform himself into an angel of light? If he should have an extraordinary dream, especially if it be of a religious character, he will be in danger of saying within himself, Is not this that great change, which I have been told I must experience, to prepare me for heaven; and which I have also been told I could form no conception of, until I had actually experienced it? Surely, he may say, I now feel very differently on the subject of religion from what I ever felt before. Or if, instead of a dream, he should have a waking vision, he might be led to the same conclusion. Or should he have a pleasant sensation, not felt before, in the literal heart; or a sudden impression made upon the sensorium, either with or without a comforting text of scripture simultaneously occurring to mind, what would prevent him from drawing the conclusion, that the thing he had experienced was the new birth? If you once adopt the sentiment, that the unconverted can, in no sense, be enlightened on this subject, you prepare the
way for the deceiver to come, in any form he pleases, and induce them to think they are something, when they are nothing.
Now it is certain that very much may be done to counteract the deceiver, and to prevent his drawing into this ruinous snare, such a multitude of souls. Let us tell sinners, (for it is a truth,) that they are capable of receiving instruction on the subject of religious experiences, as well as on other points in divinity; and let us proceed to give them the instruction which they need. Let us show them what and how great the difference is between true and false experiences.-between such as are the fruit of the Spirit of God, and such as are the work of the deceiver. I know they are liable to be deceived, when we have done our best ; but there is reason to hope that our labor will not be utterly in vain. If an unconverted man could form no correct opinions concern. ing the evidences of conversion, he would not, on experiencing that change, be in a condition to test its genuineness. It is granted, that we can not make him so know the feelings of a convert, as he will know them, should they ever become his own. But we can furnish him with those discriminating marks between disinterested and selfish religion, which may help him, with some accuracy to distinguish between true and false experiences, when he hears them related by others. These discriminating marks will enable him, not only to determine the unregeneracy of his present state, but to discern the genuineness of his conversion, should he, through grace, ever become experimentally acquainted with that desirable change.
TRUTH IN PRACTICE.
We have seen what truth is in doctrine, and what it is in experience. It now remains to be shown what it is in practice. By practice, I mean risible obedience. Experience, as the word has been used in this work, is the inward obedience of the heart, or conformity of heart to the truth. By practical religion, I mean all that goodness of char. acter which appears outwardly; consisting in words and actions. It is holiness of heart, rendered visible by the members of the body: or, as the apostle expresses it, by yielding our members servants to right eousness unto holiness. Rom. vi. 19.
The scriptures frequently recognize the distinction between experi. mental and practical religion; or between internal and external purity. When, in the 24th Psalm, the demand is made, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? and who shall stand in his holy place ?” the answer given is this : “ He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart." “Clean hands” are here designed to express all that part of religion, which is comprised in external conformity to the law; and “ a pure heart,” all that which has its seat within. This distinction was made by our divine Teacher, when he said, “ Cleanse that which is within the cup and splatter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” The scriptures distinguish between a good tree, and its good fruit ; between repentance, and the fruits worthy of repentance; between believing in God, which is the religion of the heart, and a carefulness to maintain good works, which is the religion of the life; between loving God, and keeping his commandments.
The Bible sometimes makes a distinction between good works, and good words. The apostle says to the Thessalonians ; "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, stablish you in every good word and work :” and to the Colossians ; “ Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." But though in these, and other passages, a distinction is made between words and works, yet works is a term so general in its signification, as to include words, together with all other external manifestations of the feelings of our hearts. All exhibitions of inward purity, whether consisting in words or actions, will here be comprehended under the head of good works, or practical religion.
There is a certain course of external conduct, which purity of heart will naturally prompt us to pursue. This course is what is termed by Isaiah, “ the way of holiness." All other courses are considered as devious paths and crooked ways, leading to destruction. When Paul said to the Philippians, “ Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ," he meant to be understood as enjoining a course of regular and consistent conduct, comprehending actions as well as words; for in the scriptures, conversation always means conductwhat one does, as well as what he says. They whose behavior is in accordance with the precepts of the gospel, are, in scripture, said to do the truth, and to walk in the truth. The way of holiness is distin. guished from all devious paths, by its agreement with the truth, as ex. hibited in the commandments of God. David declares his resolution to live a holy life, by saying, "I will run in the way of thy commandments.” Christ required his disciples to manifest the purity of their hearts, by the purity of their lives ; to demonstrate their inward attach. ment to him, by conforming their actions to his precepts. "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
The most convincing proof of an obedient heart, is an obedient life; as appears by such passages as these: “ Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” “I will show thee my faith by my works.” “In this the children of God are man. ifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteous. ness, is not of God.” Ps. cxix. 6. Jam. ii. 18. 1 John, iji. 10. The text last quoted establishes the point, that the grand mark of distinction between saints and sinners, is the difference in their practice-their external behavior. It is certain that no external conduct whatever will please God, unless the heart be right; but the scriptures lead us to conclude, that the more exactly and uniformly our external conduct is conformed to the rules prescribed in the word of God, the more reason there is to believe that the heart is right. It is acknowledged there is such a thing as hypocritical obedience; but it is commonly maimed and deficient in its parts. Some duties are performed, and that perhaps with uncommon punctiliousness; while other, and not unfrequently far weightier ones, are wholly omitted. It is not com mon for hypocrisy to have respect to all the commands, even in their external forms.
As Christian doctrine, or the truth we believe, lays the foundation for our inward experiences; so our experiences lay a foundation for all our holy practice. The agreement between a sanctified heart and a holy life, is very intimate. When the tree is made good, you may be sure of good fruit; and when the fountain is made sweet, the streams Aowing from it will be sweet also. So if, through grace, we have