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I shall briefly propound and answer the pleas, that many make for their pretence.
1 Plea. I have heard that the new creature consists in knowledge, and I thank God that he hath given me a large share of that.
Answ. We know that we all have knowledge; what kind of knowledge is yours? devils have more knowledge than you, yet are not, nor ever will be new creatures; a toad it is said, hath a pearl in its head, but poison in its body; thousands go knowingly to hell, and the more knowledge without grace, the more torment. *
2 Plea. But I believe the revelation of God, and give credit to the gospel, I am no heretic, I can say the creed, and am orthodox.
Ansu. That is well so far; but read Rom. ii. 1725. What canst thou say of thyself more than this professing Jew, that “rested in the law, made his boast of God, and approved of things more excellent," who yet was condemned as a perfidious, self-contradicting, God-dishonouring wretch ; but thou believest, so doth “ the devil believe, and tremble," James ii. 19. Thou mayest have an orthodox head, and heterodox feet.
3 Plea. I am come of religious parents, who improved and pleaded the covenant for me, and trained me up in the fear of God.
Answ. John the Baptist anticipates this plea, Matt. iii. 9, “ Think not to say in your hearts, We have Abraham to our father," Matt. viii. 12, “The children
” of the kingdom may be sent to outer darkness.” Alas, parental privileges, without parent's principles, signify nothing. Let our Lord Christ, who will be judge, answer this vain plea, John viii. 33-44. This may
* 1 Cor. viii. 1. Tit. i. 16. Luke xii. 47.
aggravate your sin, but never save your souls without personal piety.
4 Plea. I have made a credible profession of my faith, am baptized, and have been admitted to the Lord's supper, to unite with God's people.
, Answ. So did Simon Magus believe, he professed his faith, and was baptized, Acts viii. 13, 20—23. He deceived the purest church on earth, for he proved a base hypocrite; so did Judas, so did he that wanted the wedding garment, Matt. xxii. 12.
And how easy it is to spread a mist before the eyes of fallible men, daily experience testifies. See an instance of some that partook of extraordinary privileges and ordinances, but yet rejected, 1 Cor. x. 5.
5 Plea. I am not only admitted, but continue along with them, and keep up intercourse with them in public and private exercises of religion.
Answ. So did the foolish virgins accompany the wise, till the last hour, with shining lamps, and when the bridegroom came, they all trimmed their lamps, but at last it was found that they had no oil in their vessels, and so were shut out, see Matt. xxv. 1-12. And do you not read of some that pertinaciously maintain their plea to the very last, even when the door is shut? they begin to say, “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence,” Luke xiii. 25—27.
6 Plea. But I have had great convictions of conscience for the evil of sin, and strong apprehensions of the justice of God; these surely were signs of a change.
Answ. Cain had these legal terrors, yet was an obstinate transgressor; so had Saul, so Judas; yea, Felix trembled upon Paul's preaching, Acts xxiv. 25. And all these were but as præjudicium judicii, prelibations of horrible vengeance in the other world. Some sinners have a “ fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation,” Heb. x. 27. Oh! look to your coming out of your horrors of conscience; see you close with Christ.
Plea. Yes, I have had strong persuasions in my breast to close with Christ, and do take him by faith to be my Saviour.
Answ. An almost persuasion is one thing, and a thorough resolution is another, Acts xxvi. 27, 28. Some barter for, but buy not this pearl of price; some are content with a Christ to pardon and save them, but like him not as a king to rule them, and subdue their lusts. Look to it, there are more sorts of faith than saving; the apostle supposeth a man to have all faith, 1 Cor. xiii. 2; yet not that which worketh by love; feigned faith is one thing, unfeigned is another, 1 Tim. i. 5.
8 Plea. But I confess all my sins, from the bottom of my heart, repent of them, and am heartily sorry I have done amiss.
Answ. So have many hypocrites and reprobates; so did Pharaoh, “I have sinned this time, the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked."* Twice did Saul confess his folly; yea, lift up his voice and wept, and ingenuously said, “ I have sinned.” So did Ahab humble himself. And you find Judas repenting himself; yea, restoring, and saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” Oh see that yours be not a worldly sorrow!!
9 Plea. But I make strong resolutions of better and new obedience, and do actually reform : is not this evidence of a new creature ?
Answ. No, the new creature always produceth reformation, but reformation may be without the new creature. “ Herod feared John the Baptist, and when
* Exod. ix. 27. 1 Sam. xxiv. 16, 17. xxvi. 21.
he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Partial reformation is no sound evidence of regeneration : the unclean spirit of scandalous sinning may go out of the devil's slave for a season. Men may escape gross pollutions, yet be entangled in the devil's fetters. *
10 Plea. I do not only reform, but also conform to the will of God in keeping all his commands; this surely discovers grace.
Answ. Yes, if done from a right principle, according to rule, for a right end, with faith in Jesus Christ: but deceive not yourselves, outward compliance doth not always prove the existence of a new creature; the young gentleman, Matt. xix. 20, said concerning the commandments, “ All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet?” Alas, poor man, he lacked the main thing: Paul, before conversion, saith of himself, “ touching the righteousness of the law, blameless, Phil. iii. 6.
11 Plea. Besides, I do not only reform and conform, but perform many important duties; I read, pray, fast, and am serious in God's worship.
Answ. It is well so far; all do not so: but remember those hypocrites, “That sought God daily, and delighted to know his ways"-"yea, the Pharisees made long prayers ;” they even “ fasted, and that twice a week.” † They were famous for religious exercises, yet gross hypocrites.
12 Plea. Those were only for things external in religion, but I am for internal also, that God may have
Answ. Very well; but it is one thing to be sound in doctrines, another to be sincere in what is practical and experimental : it is one thing to say it, another thing to feel it, and do it. The scribe, Mark xii. 32, 33, subscribed to the truth of the great doctrine of “ loving the Lord with all the heart, understanding, soul, and strength, and repeats it,” yet was not of, but only, “not far from the kingdom of God,” ver. 34. Yea, you may take delight in approaching to God, yet be deficient, Isa. lviii. 2.
* Mark vi. 20. Matt. xii. 43–45. 2 Pet. ii. 20-23. † Isa. lviii. 2. Matt. xxiji. 14. Luke xviii. 11, 12.
13 Plea. But I am upright in what I do; I know nothing of myself but integrity: conscience doth not accuse me of being a hypocrite.
Answ. It may be so, conscience may be asleep, and saith nothing, or nothing to the purpose, being blinded with ignorance, or besotted with self-conceit and want of self-examination. But know, there may be a moral integrity in particular acts, when there is not a gospelintegrity in point of state, as in heathen Abimelech. See God's attestation to it, Gen. xx. 5, 6.
14 Plea. I have a love to God, and Jesus Christ, and follow him out of a dear and tender regard for him.
Answ. It is well if so; but is it not self-love that engageth you to follow him ? as those, John vi. 26, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Augustine complained 1200 years ago, Jesus is scarcely loved for Jesus' sake.* He pays well for his entertainment in the world's coin. Let Christ and carnal interest part, and then you will see which is the master you will follow; then a discovery will be made.
15 Plea. Well, but I have suffered much for Christ, his cause, and a good conscience, a trial hath been made of my integrity.
Answ. You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin, Heb. xii. 4. Yea, the apostle seems
* Vix diligitur Jesus propter Jesum.