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eth to all without distinction. But how is the heart purified? As we have already said, by the grace of God, which cometh through his word. This grace in the heart is the spring whence good works flow; and no works are acceptable to God unless they come from a pure heart.
God hath caused his word to be preached, that our hearts may be purified thereby, and our lives ordered according to the prescript thereof. Let us therefore not suffer ourselves to be discouraged or hindered by any difficulties we may encounter. Let us continue firm, and persevere unto the end, although we meet with persecutions and contempt, and suffer losses thereby. Let us break through all obstacles with boldness and manly courage ; and as we began not for man's sake, let us not be prevented by man from doing that which is acceptable to God. Let us be ready and willing at all times to discharge the duties which God requireth of us; and let us serve him with a pure heart, and with faith unfeigned.
Thus much I have thought proper to say concerning charity's proceeding out of a pure heart; and how the heart is purified, that it may produce this kind of charity. We will now briefly attend to the second thing to be considered; viz. a good conscience; for the text saith, “ The end of the commandment is charity, and of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."
By a good conscience is here meant, a conscience void of offence, not only before men, but also before God. To have a conscience void of offence before men, we must be able to glory as Paul did ; that he so lived that he offended no man, troubled no man, was an evil example or burthen to no man; but that all who witnessed his conduct, must needs say, that he indifferently served all, helped all, counselled all, and dealt honestly and friendly with all. Of such a
conscience, Moses also glorieth : Num. xvi. “I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.” And also Samuel; 1 Kings, xvij. “I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Behold here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed; whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken ? or whom have I defrauded ? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe ?"
Such a conscience must every christian possess, that he shall be conscious of having discharged his duty in all respects, and to all men; so that no one can have any just cause to complain of him ; but that all who will speak the truth, must confess, that he has been an example worthy to be followed by all who would live well. Let no christian therefore do any thing that shall deprive him of such a confidence; for he that liveth in such a manner, as to give just occasion to the world to reprove his conduct, is not yet a christian : as his heart cannot be pure. For we must not presume on the doctrine of faith, as though that being once obtained, we may live as we list; as it would thence be inferred that this doctrine giveth license and liberty to commit sin with impunity. But we must so conduct ourselves, that we have love flowing out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and that no man can justly accuse us of any sin.
Although such a conscience may render us just before men, yet it is another thing to be just before God: for good works, as we have elsewhere said, will not justify us before him. And still, in order to fulfil the commandment, we must be justified also before God. But how shall we attain unto this ? By faith ; and here we may bring in the last thing to be considered in our text; and of faith unfeigned. As we have already said, although I may have a good conscience before men, and so live that none can
have occasion to censure my conduct, yet the old Adam, that is, flesh and blood, still remain in me, and render me subject to sin. For as Paul saith, Gal. v. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye
would.” And also Romans vii. “I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do l.”
The spirit would indeed live perfectly and purely, according to the word of God, but the rebellious flesh resisteth the desire thereof, by tempting us to seek honour, riches, and pleasures, and to be remiss in our religious duties. Thus, on account of our carnal nature, we have to maintain a continual warfare against the many temptations that re constantly besetting us. Although we may discharge a clear conscience before men, we do many things that are not right in the sight of God, and neglect many duties which he requireth of us : so that the most righteous among men have much need of mercy and forgiveness. No one can so acquit himself, that he shall be able to contend with God in judgement, but all must acknowledge that they have not merited salvation by their works, and that if justice were executed toward them, they would be consigned to punishment.
But we have before said, that we must also be justified before God, and that this must be done by faith. The text not only implieth that we must have a pure heart, and a good conscience, but also faith unfeigned ; and this is the principal part, and chief precept contained therein ; and that which embraceth all the rest. We shall therefore examine this part of the subject a little more closely, and endeavour to explain the nature of this faith. All men being condemned by the law, it was ne
cessary that an atonemeut should be made, in order that we might be justified ; and therefore God, through his infinite mercy and goodness, sent his Son Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us ; that the justice of the Father being satisfied, we might obtain salvation through his merits. He, having fulfilled the whole law, suffered the ignominious death of crucifixion ; after which he rose and ascended up to heaven, where he still remaineth, making continual intercession for us, as for those that cannot obtain salvation by their own righteousness.
It therefore appeareth, that although we should be condemned before the judgement seat, we may obtain pardon by appealing to the mercy seat, which is Christ : whom God hath set before us as a refuge to which we may flee, when we find ourselves unable to stand before the judgement seat by our own righte
Thus, as Paul saith, Romans iii. we may be “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Thus God may be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Christ.
But if we will come to this mercy seat, we must not bring with us any of our own works to plead in extenuation of our guilt; but we must rely solely upon
the merits and righteousness of Christ. Our language must be, “Lord, I deserve thy wrath, and thy judgements. I have nothing of my own to offer, but I plead the merits of thy blessed Son, of whom it is said, he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." If we have this faith in Christ, we shall receive remission of our sins; for Christ himself saith, John iii. “God so loved the world, that he gave
his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life?
God having thus provided a mercy seat to which we may flee, let us leave at the judgement seat those proud, self-righteous contemners, and despisers of the word of God, who seek justification by their own works: let them remain there until they shall be humbled, or receive sentence according to their deeds. But let us depart therefrom as far as we are able, and appeal unto the mercy seat : for God hath threatened terrible judgements to those who, coming with their own righteousness, and trusting therein, presume to stand before him, the sovereign judge, and neglect to come to the mercy seat of Christ. Such are already condemned, as Christ himself hath said, John iii. 18. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” But at the mercy seat there is no wrath, severity, or condemnation ; but only grace, mercy, and forgiveness. All sins are there remitted, yea, blotted out and consumed, as a drop of water is consumed by the heat of the sun.
MATTHEW, Chap. xviii. From the 23d to the 35th verses, inclusive.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain
king which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him
which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold. and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, say
ing, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion,
and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow
servants, which owed him an hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.