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III. To consider the MARKS OF DISTINCTION between these characters. «In This the children of “'God are manifest, and the children of the devil.”. · In what? Not in temporal success. This is given or withheld too indiscriminately to allow of our knowing love or hatred. In this “all things come alike to all : " there is one event to the righteous and to the wick« ed. "As is the good so is the finner, and he that “ fweareth as he that feareth an oath.” . .
In what ? Not in religious profession. Judas and Demas were both visible members of the church of God. There have always been many who had a name to live while they were dead ; and assumed a form of godliness while they denied the power thereof. In our day all this is too cheap to be valuable ; too comṁon to be distinguishing. I * In what? Not in talking ; not in controversy; not in a found creed'; not in the pronunciation of the Shibboleths of a particular party. How few in answer ing this question would have adduced THE PRÀCTICE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THE EXERCISE OF LOVE! But such is the distinction of our Apostle. In this the children'of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; he that doeTH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS is not of God, neither he that LOVETH NOT HIS BROTHER.
And here we may observe, First. The manner in which the subject is expressed. It is held forth NEGATIVELY; nor is this without design. It reminds üs that omissions decide the character even where there is no positive vice. It is the representation of the ungodly “that he hath left off to be wise and to do “good." The is unprofitable" servant is called a “ Wicked” one ; and condemned, not because he abused his talent, but because he “ hid it in a napkin." And “ every tree that BRINGETH NOT FORTH GOOD • FRUIT is hewn down and cast into the fire : he that 66 doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he " that loveth not his brother,"
Secondly. The UNION of these excellencies is worthy of our notice. We commonly see them com.. bined in the Scripture. It is said of a good man, '“ He is gracious and full of compassion and righteous.” “ He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his « righteousness endureth for ever.” It is said also, that " Pure and undefiled religion before God and « the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and wid. 66 ows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotc ted from the world.” And this enables us to recti. fy the mistake of those who are always endeavouring to separate what God has joined together. Some place their religion entirely in charity, and in one equivocal exercise of it ; for all they mean by cbarity is alms-giving, and “this covers a multitude of 6 fins.” And some trust in themselves that they are righteous and despise others, who never seem to hav read that “ the end of the commandment is charity 6 out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith 5 unfeigned ;” that “ charity is the bond of perfect. * nefs ;” that “ by this shall all men know that we “are his disciples if we love one another.”
Thirdly. From these arises a CRITERION, by which we are to judge of the reality and genuineness of religion. Not that these are the only marks which we are to employ; there are many other evidences
in the Scriptures, and some of them of a more experimental kind, which we dare not depreciate ; but all the rest will be vain and delusive if unaccompanied with this righteousness and this love. These are the never-failing consequences of Divine Grace. These enter deeply into the character. These are indispenfabler By these we shall be tried hereafter ; by these we should form our judgment here. The judge himself proposes this rule. “ In this the children of God u are manifest, and the children of the devil : he that “ doeth not righteousnefs is not of God, neither he :66 that loveth not his brother.”
Let me conclude by calling upon you to think of this, in forming a judgment of OTHERS. It is a seri. ous thing to deprive a fellow-creature of religion, and to exclude him from eternal life ; and what authority have you for doing so, if his life be exemplary, and righteousness and charity blend and prevail in his character? You say, perhaps, a man may appear to pofsess these things when he is a stranger to the reality, or his practice may flow from no inward or gracious principle. We allow this ; and it becomes such a person to examine himself, to see whether his heart be right with God, and whether his views and his difpositions be such as the Gospel requires; but when I form a judgment concerning him, the case is materially altered ; I have nothing to do with his motives; I cannot search his heart ; his life and conversation only fall under my cognizance, and these are my rules, “ by their fruits ye shall know them.” When will this necessary difference influence the opinions of individu. . als ? When will it be regarded by our churches in the
admission of members to communion ? When we find nothing objectionable in a candidate, who tells us to keep him back till we find something fatisfactory ? c. In this " the children of God are manifest, and the children cs of the devil : he that doeth not righteousness is not w of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” . Above all, do not forget thisin judging YOURSELVES. I présume you wish to know your fpiritual condition, and that you are not willing to leave your eternal falvation to a mere 'peradventure-Perhaps, I shall be faved'; perhaps, I shall be loft !! “ Wherefore, Breth“ren, give all diligence to make your calling and elec« tion sure.". But beware how you proceed in the inquiry. Remember that there are marks and evi.. dences' which cannot lead you to a certain and safe conclufion. Do not place your confidence in fpeculative opinions ; be not influenced by particular feelings, which having much of animal nature in them, may sometimes elevate and sometimes depress you while your state is the same ; do not wait for sudden impressions, and visionary suggestions ; but remember that the witness and the seal of the spirit' are his work and influences , “ hereby we know that we dwell in 6 him and he in us, because he hath given us of his “Spirit ;" “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, 6 he is none of his."....
Here then lay the stress. Try yours by your prevailing difpofitions, and the tenour of your lives. Many I know deride such a standard ; it is legal." They derive their assurance from some other source ; especially from sa direct act of faith ;” or in other words, from a persuasion into which they work themselves, without being able to assign any reason whatever to justify it, save the, consciousness itself. They not only reject good works like others as causes of salvation, but they reject them even as evidences too. They are not satisfied like others to exclude them from their justification ; they exclude them even from their fanctification too, which, with themi means only a relative change. May you be preserved, my dear Brethren, from this dreadful perversion of “ ungodly men, who “ turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.” Remember nothing can be so awful as final deception ; and nothing can more certainly expose you to it, than imagining yourselves the favourites of Heaven, while you are strangers to the renewing power of divine Grace, and your tempers and lives are under none of the PURIFYING and, AFFECTIONATE influences of the Gospel..". The secret of the Lord is with them that “ FEAR him.” « The Meek will he guide in judgment, " and the MEEK will he teach his way.” They, to whom there is no condemnation because they are in Christ, ' WALK not after THE FLESH, but after THE “SPIRIT.” “ He that is born of God OVERCOM“ETH THE WORLD.” “ By this we know that we do 66 KNOW him, if we XEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.!! These are the true fayings of God; and such is the invariable reference of the Scripture. - Suffer me then to ask you what you know of these things. Are you doing righteousness ? and are you doing it, not reluctantly, but with pleasure ? not occasionally, but constantly? not partially, but withouy reserve ? Do you " efteem all his commandments con“ cerning all things to be right,” and do you hate