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Full text of "The almost christian discovered : or, the false professor tried and cast"

m - 


Theological Seminary, 


BV A500 .MA2 1825 
Mead, Matthew, 1630?- 
The almost Christian 
discovered. Or, The 






■Wiliiam Heaih Vrax 

Then A,a;-i-ippa saidxmto Paul, 
Almost thoxv persuadest me to ie a Christian. 



















Printed by W. Collins & Co. 


It is a very possible thing for a man to talk about 
Christian experience, till he has talked himself 
out of every thing like sober thought, or tem- 
perate feeling. Forgetting the weightier bearings 
of his subject, the severe discipline which it incul- 
cates, and the progressive refinement of the moral 
principle to which it tends, he may work himself 
into the delusion that the whole of it is comprised 
in present sensible enjoyment. In this state of 
mind, he may find no difficulty in hiding himself 
under the still grosser delusion, that the revelation 
of mercy through Jesus Christ, has simply for its 
object the production of happiness, without any 
particular concern about the moral condition of its 
subjects. He may bring himself to applaud Chris- 
tianity, not because it yields an adequate atonement 
to the offended Majesty of Heaven, and " crucifies 
the flesh with the affections and lusts," but because 
it furnishes him, or is supposed to furnish him, with 
the means of immediate gratification. On this 
topic he may expatiate incessantly, to the neglect 
of every thing higher or collateral, till it is found 


that he has nothing to think about, or talk about, 
or supplicate, or extol in the whole range of Chris- 
tian exercise, or Christian ordinance, but his suc- 
cesses or reverses in the pursuit of pleasurable 
emotion. This line of conduct may be marked 
withal by a penury of thought, an incoherence of 
mind, a sickening sameness of sound and sentiment, 
and an imposing whine of ostentatious piety, which 
make it quite apparent that what he means hy plea- 
surable emotion is not the fruit of that genuine en- 
richment of intellect, and healthful exhilarations of 
heart, which comes forth as a consequence from 
subjection to the gospel, but the shallow illusion of 
a distempered imagination. All this may prevail 
and multiply, showing itself in the most disgusting 
deformity, and meriting the keenest sarcasm with 
which unoodliness has ever assailed it; but it is no 
proof whatever, that Christian experience is, in it- 
self, a thing to be despised. 

There may be cant associated with any thing 
which interests the heart of man, from the play-thing 
of his childhood to the gravest pursuit of his ripened 
years: and to discard the culture, or the develop- 
ment, or the guardianship of those specific im- 
pressions which Christianity engraves on the hearts 
of its subjects, because they have been leagued 
with absurdity, or hackneyed in the jargon of fools, 
would be to adopt a principle which goes to the sub- 
version of all confidence in human aflPairs — a pretext 
which would never be thought of but for a deep and 
deadly dislike to the spirit of Christianity itself. 
Instead of being an argument for discouraging such 


impressions, or slighting the means of promoting 
them, that they are often rendered ridiculous, or 
carried out into extravagance, it argues the very 
reverse; for affectation, in all cases, supposes ex- 
cellence in that on which it fixes; and were there 
not an intrinsic worth in the experiences of the 
Christian — were there not an abiding reality in 
that new order of things, which it establishes within 
him, the forms of distortion into which they are 
thrown, or the offensive mimicries which flutter 
around them, would speedily disappear. It is the 
existence of the genuine which gives currency to 
the spurious in any department; and, so far from 
allowing the latter to generate dislike at the former 
in the department of Christianity, it is the duty 
of every man who is the friend of practical piety, 
to increase his solicitude about it on this very ac- 

Thus much is required of him, in common justice 
to the subject itself; and, on this ground alone, he 
ought to feel himself interdicted from either joining 
the fellowship, or giving in to the sophistries of 
those who hold it in derision. Every thing else 
which is capable of touching the heart of man, is 
found to yield its experiences. To say nothing 
of the sciences or arts, or the fascinations of taste, 
or the varied kinds of innocent recreation, there is 
not an instance of forbidden indulgence, from the 
most excusable to the most debasing, but has its 
chambers of imagery within its votary, and in- 
variably renders him familiar with its own specific 
sensations ; and, surely, it were strange if Chris- 


tianity, which is fraught with an efficacy so 
thoroughly influential, were an exception to the 
general rule. But we have more to do here than 
to speak of what is due to the claims of the subject. 
This is a matter of personal interest to every man 
who prefers alliance with the Christian brotherhood, 
or hopes to share in their heritage, either present 
or to come. The possession of Christian principle, 
deep in its influence, and defined in its operation, is 
essential to the production, or the keeping alive of 
a warranted hope of immortality. The man who 
possesses such an experience, and preserves it in 
vigour, is refreshed with a well-spring of perennial 
joy, while the man who possesses it not, must either 
be the dupe of delusion, or the victim of constant 
alarm. To be in the former state of mind is to be 
shielded against all the calamities of the present 
precarious existence, and prepared to meet them 
with unshaken fortitude; but, to be in the latter, is 
to be exposed to all the miseries, and enveloped in 
all the gloom of infatuation or suspense. But to 
sustain the ascendency of Christian principle, to 
cherish its influence, and give way to its control, 
however desirable a thing in itself, or however well 
entitled to eager and continued exertion, is found 
to be very difficult by all who make the attempt. 
Christianity in hearts like ours, is not a plant of 
native growth. In its grand essential principles it 
is an exotic, transferred from a region of kindliness 
to one that is bleak and sterile, where the soil in 
which it is inserted, and the moral atmosphere 
which hovers over it, are alike at variance with its 


well-being. True, indeed, there is this peculiarity 
about it, that wlienever it takes root it remains, and 
can never altogether lose its vitality, but holds on its 
way, and rises to maturity in defiance of all resistance. 
The cause of this, however, is not in the soil; for so 
much has it been loosened and deadened by the wintry 
influence of ungodliness, that its tendency is not to 
cherish, but to heave out the seed of the word, as a 
thing uncongenial to its nature. Nor is it in 
Christianity itself as a thing absolutely indestruc- 
tible, but imparted by the sovereign will of him 
from whom it comes, and who has chosen to give 
it perpetuity by the special forthgoings of his 
quickening spirit. But, while it is true that Chris- 
tianity abides with the man to whom it comes, it is 
equally true, that it often abides with him in much 
weakness, and, instead of giving forth the decided 
indications of its residence, it is put under a de- 
pression which renders it next to impossible to dis- 
tinguish between the genuine Christian, and the 
nominal professor. The fascinations of pleasure, 
the power of local prejudice, the example of tem- 
porizing professors, the gale of this world's pros- 
perity, or the storm of its adversity, all superin- 
tended, and kept in motion by the agency of fallen 
spirits, are a few of the adverse elements which 
contribute to this effect. But to specify them in 
full enumeration, is beyond the power of man, for 
they are manifold as the creations of the human 
fancy, assuming different aspects, and forming them- 
selves into different modifications in the case of 
every individual, and under every new arrangement 
A 3 

of circumstances in which that individual is placed. 
So perilous is the lot of the Christian, and so artful, 
assiduous, and multiform, is the resistance which as- 
sails him, in the present penury of his resources and 
distance from his home. 

But that which arms the adversary with almost 
all his power, is the state of the Christian's heart. 
When the field of the husbandman is rich and fer- 
tile, cultivated to his mind, and suited to the nature 
of the seed which he casts into it, he has reason to 
hope that, though assailed by a considerable incle- 
mency of season, his crop may hold on to an average 
harvest. But if the soil be such as to conspire 
with such untowardness, instead of counteracting it, 
he relinquishes all hope, and awaits a harvest of 
sorrow, in the place of joy and gladness. The 
analogy holds, nay, increases in force, in application 
to the case before us. The moral elements around 
the Christian may be what they will, in point of 
power or tendency, to wither his graces; but they 
are nothing to him as instruments of injury, till they 
come into alliance with the affections of his heart. 
No man is the worse for being simply exposed to 
temptation, nor could such an exposure involve him 
in the slightest moral injury, were every thing trust- 
worthy in the citadel within him; for it is not in his 
power to commit sin, except in as far as he is snared 
into the love of sin. The heart is the man, for all 
moral purposes; and good or evil he cannot be till 
he has made choice of the one or the other, as that 
which his heart desires. It is a matter of course, 
then, that, were there a principle of thorough-going 


resistance within the man, the temptations which 
assail him from without would he reduced to abso- 
lute impotency. They might annoy him, perhaps, 
by their unsightly forms, or make him shrink within 
himself witii horror at their atrocities, or induce him 
to regret that his dwelling is so near to the taber- 
nacles of sin ; but their direct transitive malignity 
would be completely neutralized. 

Is it so, however, that this is a mere speculation, 
totally out of keeping with existing facts ? Is the 
spirit of temptation most potent and effective, as well 
as subtle, and active, and prevalent, among the chil- 
dren of our people ? Do we see the trophies of its 
victories rising up around us in frequent, and dis- 
mal, and ominous succession, and find it feasting it- 
self even to riot on the spoils of virtue and godliness? 
Has it invaded even the righteous, in every corner of 
the land, to the wounding of their spirits, the blight- 
ing of their goodiiness, and the desecration of their 
holy profession, while it holds the mastery undis- 
puted over the children of this world ? That such is 
the manner of its working, and the mighty extent of 
its devastations, is too notorious to admit of denial 
by any man who knows himself, or is acquainted 
with living society. But if so, how powerful an il- 
lustration is thus given of the evil bias of the human 
heart ! We fall, not because we are tempted, but 
because of a most inveterate affinity between the 
spirit of the temptation and our own prevailing pro- 
pensities; and if this be the root of the evil, what 
emphasis does it give to the inspired injunction, 
" Keep thy heart above all keeping; for out of it 
are the issues of life 1" 


It was said above, that by compliance with temp- 
tation, a man's Christianity may be so depres- 
sed as to render it impossible for mortals, at least, to 
trace the distinction between him and the nominal 
professor. Nor, we are afraid, is it any breach of 
charity to suppose, that such a state of things is oft- 
en to be met with even among good men. But 
this surely is a tremendous visitation to an heir of 
immortahty. It is equal to an extinction, for the 
time being, of all his hopes. Our faith in any 
thing is sustamed by evidence, as well as produced 
by evidence, and if the evidence of our Christianity 
has been suffered to disappear, our hope of immor- 
tality must perish along with it. A Christian in 
such circumstances may cling to his reminiscences, 
in default of his present consciousness, he may try 
to bring back to his relief the emotions or contem- 
plations, or transports, which once gladdened him 
for a little, and then passed away : but to confide 
in these, amidst present deficiencies, is at best pre- 
carious, and to apply them as an opiate to present 
fears or convictions, is dangerous in the extreme. 
When a man lias lost the tone of mind which the 
Scriptures designate spiritual, by falling back un- 
der the ascendancy of secular affections, and when 
such a state of things continues, to the rapid de- 
terioration of his internal character, there is no re- 
membrance of better days, however vivid or fondly 
cherished, which can yield him a warranted satisfac- 
tion. A present propensity to evil, indulged, obeyed, 
and gratified, till it has produced a broad and palpa- 
ble, although, perhaps, a disguised conformity to 


this world, is as forcible a testimony to ungodliness, 
as its opposite can be to saintship. We may view 
tbem, at least in practice, as quite in parity ; but 
in the case before us, the latter has this disadvan- 
tage, that it has passed away, and is available only 
as a matter of recollection, while the former is pre- 
sently felt as a matter of undoubted consciousness. 
We are aware, that however far a genuine Chris- 
tian may depart from his God, there will be a por- 
tion of spirituality working within him, and that if this 
could be felt by him even in his deepest depravities, 
it might, at least, modify, if not neutralize the other 
indications, however dark or ominous they may have 
become. But we are speaking at present of cases 
in which, happily for him, it cannot be felt, but is 
altogether hid from his view ; and in such cases 
we maintain, that existing facts, and these alone, 
ought to influence his belief and practice; for what- 
ever the reality may be as to his state before God, 
that reality is placed, for the time, by his own mis- 
doings, under a moral concealment. He cannot see 
it by intuition as a pure abstraction, for this is the 
province of his God, which it would be impious to in- 
vade, although an invasion of it were practicable. To 
him it is never illumined, and never visible, except in 
the light of moral evidence opening from his heart, 
and displaying itself in his conduct; and be what he 
may, in point of fact, whenever this evidence is lost, the 
continuity of his spiritual being as a matter of con- 
sciousness to himself is broken up, he is thrust back 
on the incipiency of the subject, and it is neither 
Scriptural, nor reasonable, nor desirable, to expect. 


that he can ever " come to himself,'* except by an 
immediate and wakeful return to those specific 
Christian exercises which, at first, made him to dif- 
fer, and which God has ordained for his relief. 
While it is true, therefore, that when a man is born 
of God, his seed remaineth in him, and can neither 
be eradicated nor made to die by any possible dis- 
aster, it is still to be remembered that we are evinced, 
and only evinced to be the subjects of this seed, 
" if we hold ftist the confidence and the rejoicing of 
the hope firm unto the end." The doctrine of per- 
severance is at once a practical and comfortable doc- 
trine, but the man who can recur to it as a palliative 
for irreligion, averts it from its practical tendency, 
and turns it into a minister of sin — a perversion so 
impious and so fearfully injurious, that the slightest 
approximation to it in any one instance ought to 
produce alarm. 

Is it so then that a Christian may approach so 
nearly to a level with the more reputable of the un- 
converted, as to obliterate from his view the line of 
demarcation between his character and theirs, and 
to merge him over again so far as he can see in the 
general mass of unsanctified human nature ? May 
a calamity so awful commence its inroads so easily, 
and steal in upon his mind by a process so slow and 
imperceptible, as to accomplish its purpose ere ever 
he is aware? Are its tendencies so disastrous as to 
provoke his God, to obstruct his usefulness, and to 
toss him back upon the ocean of uncertainty, after 
he was approaching the haven of repose, while mul- 
titudes, it may be, by his pestilent example, are lulled 


into a stupor which shall only end in eternal wo? 
Is the placidity of our times withal so favourable to 
its encroachments, while the general spirit of Chris- 
tians among us is so sickly and listless, and prone to 
temporize, as to constrain the apprehension that its 
deadening influence is abroad in the Church ? — 
Then surely it becomes us all to take this matter se- 
riously to heart, to rise above the common-places of 
our dull and monotonous piety, to resist tlie insi- 
dious approach of that bondage, which, although so 
silken in its touch, and so easily worn, is yet so fa- 
tal in its results, and to stand off from the world, 
that we may exult in the liberty, and put forth the 
nerve of Zion's free-born men. 

To this altitude, however, we cannot rise, except 
on the energies of our religion, and our religion it- 
self can neither give us propensity to rise, nor power 
to disengage ourselves, nor fortitude to make the at- 
tempt, except in so far as it is within us as a matter 
of experience, imbibed in its spirit, felt in its efficacy, 
digested in its heavenly nourishment, and obeyed in 
its paramount authority. We speak not of expe- 
rience, as a quiescent mood of mind, nor as a busi- 
ness of monastic retirement, consisting in visions 
and contemplations, which sicken the brain, and pa- 
ralyze the faculties, and either evanish in silence, or 
are expended in social colloquy, but we speak of it 
as that inward concoction of Christian principle into 
Christian feeling, which imbues and invigorates the 
soul, supplying it at once with power and propen- 
sity for discharging the duties of the Christian life. 
We speak of it, in short, as a clear conception of 


Christian principle, seen in its own light, and resting 
on its own foundation, derived in its purity from the 
word of God, freed from secular alliance, and se- 
cular commixture, and telling upon the soul, in its 
every faculty, to the decided formation of the Chris- 
tian man. This is what we want, and it must be 
honestly affirmed in the face of all our bluster, and 
all our boasted munificence, and all our increasing 
tendency to social good nature, that nothing short of 
this in large and speedy accession, can bring back 
the characters of the present race of professing men 
to a conformity with their pretensions. We are 
gliding on right pleasantly, with many an attractive 
in the scenery around us which former and hardier 
voyagers were not allowed to see, but the question 
is, are we keeping our course ? Are we merely out 
on an excursion of pleasure, or are we steering di- 
rect to the distant haven, which our profession says 
we desire to see ? 

If there be really cause for this inquir)^, and if a 
deeper feeling of the power of our religion be the 
only thing which can enable us to meet it with a sa- 
tisfactory reply, it is natural to ask what is to be 
done? The fountain of our resources is with our 
God, but the means of drawing from that fountain 
are with us, and as he has sanctioned the means as 
well as opened the fountain, it would be impious to 
expect supply in any other way, than by an indus- 
trious Christian use of these means. Ignorance of 
what they are, however, or of the necessity of using 
them, is not the prevailing cause of the existing ma- 
lady. There is an orthodox admission of the truth 


on these points, which requires little rectification in 
respect of doctrine : but the orthodoxy, however 
correct in speculation, is dry, and negative, and in- 
efficient, in point of practice, and we know of no- 
thing which is better fitted to disturb its neutrality, 
and arouse it into life and action throughout the 
whole circle of Christian duty, than the awakening 
of a spirit of jealousy among professors of religion — 
a jealousy, however, not of that selfish kind, which 
renders Christians suspicious of each other, as if 
they were rival candidates for a solitary prize, which 
if gained by one must be lost to all besides — nor of 
that censorious kind in which a man is so occupied 
in the detection, and exposure, and reprehension of 
other men's delinquencies as to have little time, and 
less desire to think about his own — nor of that dis- 
trustful kind in which a man enervates his soul by 
looking on the promises of grace, and the predictions 
of glory only as a cluster of interesting probabilities, 
which may be verified, or may not, but present not 
that solidity to his view, nor abiding claim upon his 
heart, which can arrest his thoughts, or call forth 
his religious aspirings — nor of that desponding kind 
in which a man distresses his soul by brooding in- 
cessantly over the contrast between the sublime of 
Christian requirement, and the deplorable depth of 
human impotency, forgetting in the fever of his 
musings, that the supplies of our religion are as 
abundant as its demands are broad and inflexible, 
and fretting himself even to despair, under the very 
meridian of encouragement and hope. In such 
jealousies as these there is no Christianity, and by 


either or all of them, a man may be actuated till they 
have consumed him, without gaining any thing but 
misery to himself, and the cordial avoidance of all 
who know him. 

But what we would recommend is the jealousy 
which the men of the world exemplify, when they 
feel themselves embarked on an enterprize which is 
momentous in its results, critical in its managements, 
and subject to many casualties in its progress to ma- 
turity. In such cases, their very souls are identified 
with their purpose. They are all scrutiny, and cir- 
cumspection, allowing no incident to disconcert them, 
nor any crisis to escape them, till the desire of their 
hearts is accomplished, or if in any of them it be 
otherwise, his discomfiture is predicted, and it usually 
comes to pass. They are " wise after their genera- 
tion." They act like men, were their aim but man- 
ly, and in the tact of their operations, the man of 
religious profession may see a similitude of what he 
ought to be. Is he not embarked on an enterprize 
of the highest possible moment for time, and for all 
futurity ? Is not the very possibility of frustration 
enough to cover him with dismay ? Has he not to 
work out his salvation amidst obstructions and coun- 
teractions the most subtle and insidious ? He has, 
and yet the want of this spirit-stirring element what- 
soever be its name, which is so potent and so well ap. 
plied among sublunary men, is paralyzing his efforts 
in thousands of instances, and spreading a shadow 
of death over all his movements. He is at his 
ease, he doubts not but the current of events in 
the Christian community, in which he takes so little 


interest, is carrying him securely on to the land of" 
uprightness, although, perhaps, there is no one thing 
which Christianity has achieved for him, of which he 
has any definite view, as a warrant for this expecta- 

Now it is this ease of mind of which we wish to 
see him bereft, not because we envy his enjoyment, 
but because we dread his infatuation; and in order to 
this it shall be our endeavour to provoke him to 
jealousy in the sense above described, in the £e\v re- 
maining pages of this Essay. Let it not be thought 
however, that the thing can be done merely by an 
argument made out to the conscience, and for the 
time adniitted to be fair or forcible. This, at best, 
is but conviction, and if the whole shall terminate 
here, the man is injured instead of being reformed, 
because, if, after feeling the force of argument, he 
has failed to give way to its moral impulse, he has 
sinned against light, which is the most heinous, and, 
therefore, the most hazardous of all the forms of hu- 
man trespass. After gaining access to the soul, the 
argument must abide with it in order to serve its 
purpose, subduing resistance, extending and deep- 
enin(T its hold of the conscience, and (Tuidinof the 
man to such a course of conduct as corresponds 
with its conclusions; and the man who is in earnest 
about such a consummation, will ever be careful that 
his convictions as they come, shall form themselves 
into aspirations for that influence from above, with- 
out which, in all its speciality, and in all its power, 
our clearest convictions and warmest desires are but 
as the morning cloud, or the early dew, which goeth 


When the truest friends of piety among us, who 
know the Christian world, and have carefully ob- 
served its present symptoms, are overheard in their 
prayers, on its behalf, the things which they uni- 
formly implore are a check to the prevalence of a 
worldly disposition, an antidote to the influence of 
unwarrantable expectations, and a permanent excite- 
ment to individual Christian activity. Now the 
exercise oi jealousy is not the check nor the antidote 
nor the excitement referred to, but if thoroughly 
awakened, we are persuaded it is the very instrument 
by which the Spirit of God would realize them all. 

It would check the prevalence of a worldly dis- 
position. The Spirit of this world, in the modifica- 
tion of it at present referred to, is not the Spirit of 
wickedness strictly so called. It is not that propen- 
sity to open impiety, or villany, or sensuality, which 
the mere civilian combines with the Christian in 
consigning to reprobation — but it is that inspiration 
from the world, in its wealth, or its business, or its 
moderated enjoyments, or its ties of relationship, 
which the civilian tolerates, and which Christianity 
stands alone in forbidding to her disciples. It is 
not, in short, the practice of obvious iniquity, but 
the pursuit of what is lawful — the doing of that 
which is not a sin, from a spirit which is unlawful, 
which is at present so adverse to the wellbeing of pro- 
fessing Christians. Instances of the grosser kind 
may occur even among the best of Christians, as nox- 
ious humours may be generated, and become erup- 
tive, in the healthiest constitutions, but in the very 
worst of times they are of rare occurrence. They can- 


not be habitual in any follower of Jesus Christ; for 
a wicked Christian, a habitually unholy saint, a uni- 
formly scandalous worshipper of God, are colloca- 
tions of thought to which our language is not fa- 
miliar ; the very sound of such a phraseology grates 
upon the ear ; it is an absurdity in logic, and an im- 
possibility in fact. From what may be called enor- 
mities of guilt, therefore, Christians in the mass are 
comparatively in little hazard. But there is a spirit 
which steals in upon the man under the goodly ex- 
terior of diligence in business, or concern for the 
support of a rising family, or a permissible aversion 
to manual labour, or a creditable desire to be rich or 
great, and just because these things are not only harm- 
less, but confessedly laudable; because the spirit which 
works in them arrives at the heart, under this au- 
spicious recommendation, do they succeed in secu- 
larizing the man within the very precincts of war- 
ranted indulgence. We can never be too deeply 
convinced of it that if we are at all sanctified men, 
if we are so much as in good earnest about religion, 
it is not " the works of the flesh," in their own un- 
vailed deformity, but the spirit which animates these 
works departing from them, but actuating us 
through a less offensive medium, which is most like- 
ly to entangle our souls, and snare them into sin, so 
long as we have to do with the affairs of this life. 
" The course of this world," in the grosser sense 
of the words, is an obvious course, which is easily 
seen, and must be abandoned, by all who so much 
as pretend to godliness, but to take part in the ne- 
cessary business of the world, to share in its useful 


enjoyments, to evade its noxious influence, and turn 
its good things to a Christian account, constitutes 
the great difficulty, and it is this region of subtile 
infection, so sickly, and yet so much frequented, 
where the malady is endemic, and the number of 
spiritual invalids so wofully multiplied. 

But why are they multiplied? Are the propen- 
sities of the spiritual man so different from those of 
the natural, that sickness is his element, and health 
the object of his aversion ? Or is his destiny so pe- 
culiar, as to entail upon him the former, and ex- 
clude him from the latter, by a necessary law of his 
being? By no means. Disease is grievous to the 
child of grace as really as to the child of nature. 
He avoids it, and seeks its opposite, under the im- 
pulse of a feeling which is steady and uniform as the 
workings of instinct. Its encroachments afflict him, 
and drink up his spirits, with a fierceness and acri- 
mony, which are so much the more intolerable that 
their seat is in the soul, and not in the body. Nor 
is the prevalence of the evil at all to be ascribed to 
any destination on the part of his God, inspiring 
him with spiritual life, but, at the same time, oppre_s- 
sing the functions and withholding the joys of that 
life; for in the economy under which he lives, there 
is a provision made for him, which is richer in its 
stores, and stronger in its securities, and healthier 
in its tendencies, and more minute in its adaptations, 
than the system of nature herself. Under the one 
economy, disaster may come, and the creature may 
perish, in despite of all the wisdom and all the care 
which it is possible for him to put forth; but under 


the latter, he can never perish, nor can he ever suffer 
distress, unless he has procured it by his own misdo- 
ings. But when he enters this infected region, he 
forgets himself ; the influence of its atmosphere stu- 
pifies his senses ; a moral lethargy pervades his soul ; 
and or ever he is aware, the principle of self-preserva- 
tion within him — a principle which is as much iden- 
tified with the spiritual as with the natural life — has 
sunk into dormancy. He may be quiet, or uncon- 
scious of pain, or pleased with his situation, and impa- 
tient of all remarks upon it; but is he the better for 
this? He is verily the vvorse for it. It is the most 
appalling symptom of the whole case. We pity our 
friend in his bodily malady, although he enjoys the 
use of his faculties, and is fully aware of his situation: 
but if the malady shall go on till it has disturbed his 
faculties ; if the dejection of countenance, which be- 
fits its character, has been changed into an unseemly 
liveliness, while the images of health are sporting with 
his fancy, and the language of incoherence dropping 
from his lips, — it is then that we tremble for the con- 
sequences. It is the delirium of the malady, or the 
greatness of its power, as indicated by that delirium, 
which distresses us most of all; and were the symptoms 
of the spiritual malady as correctly estimated, or were 
the springs of spiritual sympathy as easily opened 
as those of mere humanity, it would then be felt 
that the contentment or cheerfulness of that Chris- 
tian, who has caught the contagion of a worldly spi- 
rit, and is labouring under its delirium, is the very 
reason why all that is tender, and all that is sacred 
in the friendship of Christian brotherhood, should 
be excited on his behalf. 


What then is to be done for him, or rather what 
is he to do for himself? for here, as in other matters, 
he must " work out his own salvation," it being 
" God who worketh in him both to will and to do 
of his good pleasure." Why, he must be put in 
fear. That modification of jealousy, which springs 
from a sense of danger, must be awakened in his soul. 
In a moral sense, the man is insane — his heart is 
insnared, and his head is turned ; his repugnance to 
the imputation is but a symptom of its truth, and 
that distempered ease of mind, which has been thus 
superinduced upon him, is the very first thing which 
must be assailed. He must work out his salvation 
from this calamity, but he will not work, he cannot 
do so: to suppose that he could, till he is first actu- 
ated by fear and trembling, would be to violate all 
philosophy, and all experience, and all inspired deli- 
neation which apply to the case. He must think 
otherwise before he can act otherwise; he must see 
danger before he can flee from danger; he must 
feel it as a matter of pungent conviction, that he 
is " conformed to this world" before he can submit 
to be " transformed by the renewing of his mind." 
Were the danger in question but local and physical, 
confined to the body, and advancing upon it from 
without, he might be shielded against it, or carried 
away from it irrespective of the state of his mind, 
or kept in perfect safety by the vigilance of his 
friends, and, judging from practical indications, we 
are obliged to suspect that something akin to this 
is most impiously expected, even in cases of spiritual 
danger, by secularized professors of Christianity. 


The readiness with which they descend into moral 
contamination, and the complacency with which they 
remain there, seem to hespeak a latent helief that 
God will preserve them, and bring them up again, 
whether they will or not. But, this is grossly to 
materialize, and grievously to pervert the whole sys- 
tem of spiritual discipline. In some such way as 
this the Creator may act on the trees of the forest, 
or the beasts of the field, or the faculties of wicked 
men. He can make a man the instrument of his 
will, although that " man meaneth not, so neither 
doth his heart think so," and there are, confessedly, 
many things contributive to the preservation and 
ultimate maturity of a renovated man^ of which that 
man has no knowledge, and to which he gives no con- 
scious concurrence. This, however, is not the way 
in which he is either renewed at first, or educated 
afterwards. Although much may be done for crea- 
tures like us, among the good things of this life, 
while our hearts are at war with the doer, yet no- 
thing can be done in the application of salvation to 
our souls either at first, or in its subsequent stages, 
except in the way of bringing our souls to acquiesce 
in the will of our great Benefactor. It is souls 
which are lost, it is the rescue of souls " from 
Satan to God," in the exercise of thought, volition 
and love, which redemption contemplates, and to 
suppose that the work of salvation can be carried 
through, although disowned or counterwrought by 
the very soul which is the subject of it, is to harbour 
the wildest extravao-ance. 


No, ye degenerate Christians, who have come down 
from the pinnacle of ethereal inhalations, to stupify 

B 27 


your senses by brcatliing a corrupted atmosphere, 
and are projecting in your folly a forbidden alliance 
between the services of God and Mammon, ye can 
never succeed. Your faculties cannot be stretched 
between extremes so distant. You have a moral 
nature, and therefore you must serve some one. 
You have each but one soul, and therefore can serve 
but one master. Bethink yourselves then. You are 
sunk at present, into a deep abyss of infatuation and 
infamy, your leanness is testifying against you, 
heaven is frowning upon you in righteous displeasure, 
your spiritual kindred on earth are saddened at the 
sight of you, and hell herself, although pleased with 
yoi.r devisings, has penetration enough to hold you 
in derision. You are beset with dangers which 
would alarm an angel, could he be placed in your 
circumstances, and do not suppose that your escape 
can be effected without any concern on your part. 
You cannot be shielded, in your present predica- 
ment, nor drawn out of it against your will. Your 
Christian friends are not equal to this, the priiyers 
of all the saints cannot avail you, nor can God him- 
self, although rich in grace, and abounding in com- 
passion to them that fear him, come down for your 
deliverance in any other way than by changing the 
current of your propensities, and making you 
workers together with himself. Your slumberings 
must be broken, to dissipate your reveries, your 
eyes must be opened to gaze on realities, and your 
consciences must be smitten, and constrained to 
speak out, before you can so much as bestir your- 
selves in spiritual reformation. You cannot be 
caught away from the scene of secular indulgence 


by any effort of any power which acts merely iqmii 
you, but does not act "dcilhin you; you must come 
out of it by a movemcut which is your own, and 
commenced undcj' the impulse of choice and con- 
viction. Remerabei too, that this is tlie gosjJcl of 
the case as well as the /aiv of it. It invests you 
unduly with no power, while it urges you imperiously 
to duty; it ascribes to you no merit, while it loads 
you with responsibility; it gives countenance to no 
infraction on the entircness of the grace of God 
as the spring oi' every thing gracious in human 
operation, but it teaches you what in practice is 
greatly overlool;ed, — that it is not upon you by co- 
ercion or detached effective force, but within y..L by 
persuasion and cogent moral influence, that grace 
abounds to the accomplishment of its purpose. " It 
is God who worketh n/ you," first "/o w///," and 
then '' to do of his good pleasure;" and if so, then 
has he chosen by his Spirit to coalesce with your 
spirits, that, by putting youselves in motion, ac- 
cording to the rule of prescribed activity, you may 
regain the ascendency over all terrestrial entangle- 
ments. Still the work is yours, as a matter of 
indefeasible obligation, and if it is not done, the law 
of spiritual obedience is not kept, and the fruits of 
spiritual obedience cannot become apparent; for the 
Spirit of holiness, although the fountain of all that 
you aie, as "created anew in Christ Jesus," has 
not made himself a subject of law for you. He has 
not become your substitute for pollution, as Christ 
was for guilt and condemnation; and to give tole- 
rance within you to any such delusion, is to abuse the 
grace of God, and to ^'mill{fy the law through faith." 
B 2 


We speak not here of infants or imbeciles, or 
persons who are physically incapable of estimating 
the power of motives; for, as these are deprived of 
your privilege, they are also relieved from your 
obligations. God has denied us access to their 
understandings; and, leaving us nothing to do for 
them, he has hid from us the way in which they are 
made to share in the visitations of his mercy. But 
we speak of you, who are not in their circumstances, 
who have no claims whatever to be included in their 
exemptions : and, in recurring to the assertion that 
you must come out of your present predicament, we 
implore you to take up the case, and ask yourselves 
how you are to do so. Can the transition be ef- 
fected as a matter of course at any time you may 
choose to think of it? Surely, you are aware, that 
this is not its character — that there are habits to 
be subdued, and aversions to be surmounted, and 
propensities to be mortified, and alliances to be 
broken off — a formidable muster of obstruction and 
difficulty, for the mastering of which, indifference is 
but another name for imbecility. Your disease is 
numbness, occasioned by the action on your souls of 
those frosts in the moral world, into the region of 
which you ought not to have entered, and nothing 
can relieve you but a new impulse of heavenly vi- 
tality coming forth from the heart in re-action on its 
invader, and diffusing itself in warming and restora- 
tive influence over the whole soul. But, be as- 
sured of it, that this process, in the spiritual as in 
the animal system^ is searching and painful. It re- 
sembles not an awakening from sleep, but a rising 
from the dead. It is not a coalition, but a conflict 


between life and death, tlic one struggling to regain 
its own, and the other to retain its encroachment. 
You maij have slept into the disease, but sleep out 
of it you never can : and harbour not the thought, 
nor the delusion which lurks under it, that you are 
Christians, and cannot die; for it is not the fact 
which is secret, but the symptoms, which are ob- 
vious, with which you have at present to do. It 
is the things which are revealed in the develop- 
ment of our own characters, as well as in the oracles 
of heaven, which belong unto us ; and, mention it, 
if you can, what is it among all the appearances 
of your case, which prevents the wo with which 
Israel's prophet was burdened of old from alighting 
upon you in all its tremendous severity ? — " Go, 
and tell this peoj)h\ Hear ye indeed, but understand 
not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make 
the heart of this people fat, and make their ears 
heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their 
eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with 
their heart, and convert, and be healed — until the 
cities be wasted, without inhabitant, and the houses 
without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and 
the Lord have removed men far away, and there be 
a great forsaking in the midst of the land." 

Again, jealousy would furnish an antidote to the 
influence of unwarrantable expectations. The dis- 
position to keep up the heart amidst obvious signs 
of declension in the Christian life, by reverting to 
the experience of better days as evidence of con- 
version, and drawing from this evidence an argu- 
ment for safety founded on the doctrine of Chris- 
tian perseverance, although in very injurious opera- 


tion, is, perhaps, not so common in our times as a 
proneness to hope the hest, without any evidence at 
all, or any assignable cause I'or that uniform compo- 
sure ill which the multitude are carried along to the 
crisis of their destiny. The vast majority, it is to 
be feared, have not got so far as to reason the point, 
at least, in a positive way. The whole subject, as it 
floats before their minds, is loose and confused — there 
is nothing definite or tangible, about it, but still there 
is a hope on which the soul reposes itself amidst all 
the vicissitudes of time, and its concerns, and which 
they cannot bear to be persuaded either to examine 
or to dislodge. Or, if they come to specification at 
all, as perhaps they must at times in the privacy 
of their thoughts, the case which they make out 
for themselves, and on which they rest their expecta- 
tions is altogether of a negative kind. " I am not 
a Heathen, but a Christian," may be supposed to 
be the plea in such cases, " and a Christian too, 
not of the Greek or Roman school, but of the 
British and Protestant, where the streams of salu- 
brity which emanate from the Bible are purest, be- 
cause nearest the fountain. Among Protestants, I 
am not an infidel. The scorn which sceptical im- 
piety has cast upon religion, and the arts by which 
subtle ungodliness would undermine its principles 
are abhorrent to my soul, and neither enjoy my 
countenance, nor receive my co-operation. I ve- 
nerate the institutes of my religion, I concur in its 
sacred services, and disown the practice of public 
indecency in compliance with its prohibitions; and, 
although the business of this life, and its allowable 
recreations, and the aspirings of a spirit of enter- 


prize should engross my thoughts, or carry me into 
occasional excesses, yci; these are reproved by my 
better feelings, it' not outweighed by my Christian 
virtues, and why should I doubt but that all is well? 
The very state of things around me is nourishment 
to my hope. God has ordained salvation for man, 
and furnished its great pre-requisites in the mis- 
sion and death of his Son, he has caused the tidings 
of this salvation to come down, and the light of it to 
brighten for ages on the land of my nativity. My 
parents were Christians, and gave me to their God 
in the days of my earliest infancy, and although I 
may have been chargeable, on some occasions, with 
slips and delinquencies just like other people, yet 
my conscience acquits me of every thing which can 
fairly bo construed into a decided abandonment of 
the God of my fathers. I am a Christian, in short, 
if I be any tiling, and, although not initiated into 
those myijiiiied spiritualities, which others value so 
much, and which, if there be any tiling in them, 
seem to belonfj to heaven rathei than to the business 
of earth, the conclusion is warranted, and does 
honouv to the mercy of God, that I am a sharer in 
the common benefit." 

Nov/, leavin"' the merits of this claim in the ful- 
ness of its amount, to be estimated by the Author 
of the following Volume, let us put the question 
here, Wliat, if it be all a delusion? We shall not 
say it is so, although the ignorance which it be- 
trays, even of the dialect of scriptural feeling, goes 
far to destroy its pretensions; but it may be so: it 
is, at least, but the showing of an erring mortal in 
his own cause, and on a subject in which the wisest 


are often bewildered. To examine it anew is a 
dictate of every day wisdom, for men do not rest in 
their calculations of money, or merchandize, or 
science, till they have subjected them to a repeated 
inspection, although the results of error in these de- 
partments, at the very highest, are but trifles light 
as air when compared with the interest which is here 
at stake. Nor is it possible, that a review of the 
case, if conducted in a proper spirit, can fail to be 
profitable, whatsoever be the result to which it 
conducts you. Let it be supposed, that such a 
review confirms the belief that you are, in fact, 
what you hope you are, that it has given clearance 
and consolidation to the grounds of your previous 
opinion, or has augmented these by the discovery 
of some latent lineaments of the Christian charac- 
ter which really belong to you, but have hitherto 
escaped your notice, and this is profitable in as much 
as you thus procure for yourselves a warranted ac- 
cession of establishment and joy. Or, suppose the 
reverse of this to be the conclusion at which you ar- 
rive, that in the very act of examining the position on 
which you stand, you find it to give way from un- 
der you, and your hope to evanish like the imagery 
of a dream, and still you are gainers by the result. 
You may fall from the eminence on which your 
fancy had placed you, but you are just where you 
were in the sight of God, and you cannot fall as yet 
into actual perdition. You may be hurled down- 
wards to your proper standing among the children 
of this world, but the children of this world, and 
yourselves among them, are " prisoners of hope," 
in a region where mercy is proclaimed, and where 


the God who made you, is ready to redeem you. 
The disclosure then, although awful in its character, 
is yet of immense importance: it is not to be depre- 
cated, but made welcome in all the solemnity of its 
indications; for had the delusion continued, your 
ruin was certain, but now it is gone, and the way 
of escape is open before you. Besides all this, 
aversion to scrutiny in so weiglity a matter, would 
betray an indifference, which but ill comports with 
pretensions to Christianity, as well as induce a sus- 
picion, that you secretly shrink from the conse- 
quences in which it is likely to end. The man 
who cherishes such an aversion must either be reck- 
less of the whole matter, or afraid to set his own 
eyes on that which embodies his hopes for eternity. 
In either case, it is time to be suspicious, and to 
be^in the search for realities. 

We do not ask every man to agitate the question, 
Am I a Christian or am I not? for many, it is pre- 
sumable, have established the point on the surest 
of evidence, and having no need to " lay again the 
foundation of repentance from dead works and of 
faith towards God," they are not called upon to 
embarrass their exercise, or becloud their prospects, 
by attempting anew to clear out that foundation. 
Nor do we ask any man to make the ascertainment 
of this point the object of his exclusive and feverish 
pursuit, for, if he does so, if he turns his attention 
inward upon himself, and chains it down to the soli- 
tary function of watching and estimating the move- 
ments of his own heart, or developments of his own 
character, the commanded use of the Christian 
remedy being all the while suspended, it is beyond 



a question, that he will fret his own spirit, and 
multiply the perplexities which he wishes to clear 
away. If the case be inexplicable as it stands, it 
must be made to stand otherwise. The man must 
come out from himself, and go into the region of 
promise, and privilege, and definite prescription, 
which God has unfolded before him in the word of 
the truth of the gospel ; and having refreshed it- 
self there, his mind will acquire a new vigour, and 
be furnished with new material for coming to know 
" how 'hat Jesus Christ is in him ;" except as yet, he 
be unailested. But we urge it on you to agitate 
the question, because your claim to the attainment 
of the former of these classes, is very suspicious, 
while the fears which afflict the latter, are far away 
from you. Take care, however, how you manage 
the scrutiny, for on this, depends every thing for 
its practical advantage. If you content yourselves 
with surveying precisely the same features in your 
moral complexion, and with looking at these features 
at every repeated survey, in precisely the same 
point of view; it is a matter of course, that you 
can make no discoveries; and however often you re- 
peat the exercise, the last result will correspond 
with the first. Or although, after the manner of 
experienced calculators, you vary the process, and 
make your characters to appear before you in many 
a different attitude ; yet if you examine them in an 
easy, and reposing, and hoping state of mind, you 
have the best reason to suspect that the decision to 
which you are brought, will be less in accordance 
with the evidence of facts, than with the frame of 
spirit, in which you examined these facts; and, after 


all, your confidence is founded not on tlie intrinsic 
merits of the case, but on the fondness of a falla- 
cious wish in reference to that case. Hope is the 
soul of terrestrial enjoyment, but it is the opiate of 
fear, and where fear is asleep, there can be no im- 
partiality, and of course, no success in the examina- 
tion of religious character. It wouhl be absolutely 
senseless in any man to go into scrutiny, on any 
subject in the absence of all apprehension. It is a 
thing which he cannot do, the very laws of his con- 
stitution have put it out of his power, and if respect 
for authority, in any instance, induces him to attempt 
it, he is constrained to recur to an ideal apprehen- 
sion, as a substitute for belief in the reality of its 
existence. But where the apprehension is ideal, such 
also must be the scrutiny to which it gives rise; 
where there is no solid suspicion of danger or dis- 
appointment, there can be no earnestness of effort 
to avoid these evils. 

Now, all this enforces the thought, that, in or- 
der to a proper estimate of the foundation on which 
your hopes are at this moment resting for eternity, 
you must be actuated by the spirit of jealousy. 
Nothing can avail you but that upstirring of spirit 
which brings you in good earnest to have to do with 
realities. The view which you are called upon to 
take of yourselves is not imaginary, but sober and 
rational. It does not consist in censuring yourselves 
without cause, or in thinking yourselves more sinful, 
or vile, or ill-deserving, than you really are; for 
this would be meanness, and not modesty: but it is 
the produce of sound knowledge, applied to pious 
purposes. Fear it not, that your religious moni- 


tors would have you to feel what you do not believe . 
about yourselves, any more than about other men ; 
for you must have evidence here on which to ground 
your sentiment, as well as in every thing else. 
Their aim is to persuade you to search for facts, 
that you may know them, and be disciplined by them, 
and that, under the impression of all that is dismal 
in your present disease, you may come to the expe- 
rience of all that is heaUng in its proffered remedy. 
Well, a pious suspicion of yourselves is just the 
instrument by which this knowledge is acquired. 
That vulgar jealousy which is so offensively preva- 
lent in common life, is proverbially quicksighted in 
finding out the faults of its object. So eagerly 
does it search for deficiencies, that the mind which 
it actuates is sure to imagine blemishes which never 
had any existence, and are only attached to the 
character which it persecutes, by the taint of its 
own malevolence. This, you will say, is absolute 
vice. And so it is ; but it is nothing more than a 
human faculty — a constitutional instrument of vir- 
tue — first vitiated, and then misapplied. But let 
this same faculty be recalled from what is alien and 
outward, and made to settle on what is within ; let 
it be divested of its moral turpitude, and imbued 
with Christian feeling ; and then will it be found to 
be the very instrument by which the Almighty is 
pleased to work, when he rends the veil of delusion, 
and lays a man open to himself, teaching him first 
to know, and then to abhor himself, repenting in 
dust and ashes. It may be severe in its reprehen- 
sions, or vexatious in descrying deformities ; but it 
is the ally of truth, and the pioneer of holiness. 


Where the Christian neglects it, he cannot see 
himself; where he docs not see himself, he cannot 
be humble; and where he is not humble, he cannot 

Again, Jealousy gives a permanent excitement to 
individual Christian activity. However far the real 
Christian may have gone into apostacy, or to what- 
ever extent the lethargy of his disease may have 
overpowered his sensibilities, he is not absolutely 
dead ; and the Spirit of life being still within him, 
it is to be expected, that occasional twitches of con- 
viction will shoot across his soul, giving him a mo- 
mentary impulse, and startling him for the time 
being with a passing glimpse of his situation. But 
where these awakenings, however pungent, are of 
rare occurrence, and short continuance ; where they 
die away from his recollection, like the imagery of 
a frightful dream, without altering the mood of his 
mind, or giving any efficient stimulus to its powers 
of action ; they are not to be counted on, and argue 
nothing but increasing obduracy. The instances in 
which they occur, are numerous; for man is not bad 
enough, even in his degeneracy, to be always indif- 
ferent to the smitings of his conscience : but there 
is no instance in which a fitfulness of this kind is 
productive of that repentance and amendment of 
life, which brings the Christian back from his wan- 
derings, or the sinner to accept of the proffered 
salvation. In order to this, the excitement must 
not be transient and intermitting, but steady and 
enduring; not simply disturbing the sleep of insen- 
sibility, but counteracting its tendencies, and put- 
ting it altogether away. The thing wanted to 


arouse tlie man, and make him aspire and act, as 
well as think and feel, is not a gust of painful feel- 
ing, but the power of abiding principle, command- 
ino" the soul, and constraining the exertion of its 
energies, in obedience to its steady dictation. 
Nothing short of this can be of solid use, for giv- 
ino- tension and vioour to the nerve of Christian 
industry, after that nerve has been relaxed and en- 
feebled by the slumbers of insensibility. The soul 
must be made induslrious^ as well as awaked out of 
sleep; bui nothing Cc)n make it so, but living and 
practical piinciple, and principle, too, of that very 
kind, whether painful or pleasurable, terrific or at- 
tractive, which is fitted to give impulse, and to 
sustain activity, in the direction of present duty. 

Now, simple alarm is not fitted for this. By 
the grace of God, it may have power enough to 
impel the sinner, or the degenerate Christian, to 
flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before 
him ; but, having brought him to this, it has ex- 
pended itself, and leaves him in peace and comfort. 
Or, if it fails to carry him to the source of relief, 
although still retaining the ascendency within him, 
it oppresses his faculties, and sinks him into helpless 
despondency. But jealousy is a thorough-going 
principle, adapted to the sinner in the first awaken- 
ings of his religious concern, and abiding with him 
as his guide and monitor, throughout the journey 
of his earthly pilgrimage. Nor can he ever be safe 
in the absence of its guardianship, till he has ar- 
rived in the land of uprightness. When asleep, it 
awakes him ; when perplexed, it constrains him to 
search for relief; and, even when his prospects are 


bright and transpovting, solacing bis soul, and stretcb- 
ing it out by anticipation on tbe glories of immortal- 
ity, it reminds him tliat he has to run, in order to 
obtain ; that in proportion to the richness of the prize, 
should be the fear of coming short of it ; and in 
this way does it form him to industry, and give a 
decidedly practical bearing to the sweetest and most 
sublime of his contemplations. True enough, it 
will prove itself, in less or more, a ministration of 
fear ; for it belongs to its very nature, to preserve 
before the soul a reijular muster of all the facts and 
probabilities which are, or may be, opposed to its 
well-being ; but this is the very germ of its utility ; 
for its proper business is to speak truth ; — and if 
there be but one truth which ought to be feared in 
the whole history of a Christian's heart, or life, or 
prospects, that is the truth to which bis meditations 
ought to be steadily turned. In the whole busi- 
ness of religion, we must either be driven by fear, 
or drav/n by love, or actuated by both combined ; 
and by nothing whatever ought the influence of the 
former to be neutralized, but by the ascendency of 
the latter. The heaven which the Scriptures exhi- 
bit to the Christian, is indeed a powerful attraction ; 
and the sanctioned hope of arriving in it, is the 
kindliest impulse to duty; but how arduous is the 
transformation under which a man musi pass, before 
he can possibly enter it ! how v^ayward is his heart, 
and ready to misgive in all his preparations for it ! 
how great is his tendency to self-deception ! and how 
closely is he beset with snares and divertisements, 
at every step of his journey towards it ! For all 
this, it is true, there is a provision made, which is 

free as the heaven itself, and equal to his utmost 
necessities ; but, in order to appreciate this provi- 
sion, or to bring his soul to reliance on it in such a 
way as to be made active, he must feel his work 
to be formidable, and meet its many details with fear 
and tremblino;. 

It is the hazards of the Christian life, either pre- 
sent or prospective, which give birth to jealousy, as 
well as sustain its existence, and justify its opera- 
tions; and, as these hazards continue so long as 
the man continues in this world, it ought to conti- 
nue also, and its suggestions and maxims to be lis- 
tened to, even by the best conditioned of the saints, 
till the earthly house of this tabernacle is dis- 
solved ; but if ihey have a call to suspect them- 
selves, the same call must be louder, and more 
urgent, as addressed to those who have sunk into 
degeneracy. It were no doubt a higher attainment 
to be above the need of circumspection, and to have 
the soul attracted to the business of religion by its 
own intrinsic excellence ; and assuredly, the man 
who can rise to this, is warranted to do so in the 
spirit of gratitude and praise. But, vievving the 
matter generally, it may be safely affirmed, that this 
world is not the scene for such altitude of bliss, nor 
is the influence of iDure disinterested love, in all 
cases, the best excitement to those specific exercises 
which are characteristic of the present state. It 
partakes too much of quiescence and contemplation, 
for keeping alive those convictions, and sorrows, and 
severities of discipline, which tend most directly to 
the crucifying of the flesh. In one word, it is 
heaven ; and the man who is caught up into it here? 


is found, for the most part, to forget himself, and 
suddenly to relapse into sin. We plead not, of 
course, for the exclusion of love in its other modifi- 
cations ; for where it is absent, every thing is absent 
which ffives life to Christian exercise. But we 
plead for that attitude of soul, which lays open to 
its own inspection the actual state of things within 
it and around it, divesting it of subterfuge, and 
freeing it from illusion, and thus summoning its en- 
tire operations to the point of greatest danger. 

We count on it, then, that the awakening of 
this mood of mind, and the judicious Christian use 
of it in the present state of the religious world, is 
the very thing which is wanted, to check the preva- 
lence of a worldly spirit, and defeat the influence 
of unwarrantable expectations ; thus giving a per- 
manent excitement to individual Christian activity. 
And if it shall please God, by a visitation of his 
mercy, to send us deliverance from these woful 
evils, then may we hope to find in each other a 
depth of spiritual-mindedness, and an energy of re- 
ligious character, which is now but rarely to be met 
with ; as well as in the whole of us combined, a 
power for exterminating irreligion, whether at home 
or in distant lands, which has not as yet been exem- 

No one surely can suppose, that, in selecting the 
principle of jealousy, and setting it thus on high, 
we are meditating any neglect of the other kinds of 
exercise, which may be called the ancient and ef- 
fective allies of Christian godliness ; for in this one 
feeling, if we look at its component parts, we shall 
find a concentration of all that is competent to the 


man, or enjoined upon the Christian. There is 'rea- 
son in jealousy, for it is the instrument of sound 
information ; — there is wisdom in it, for it is the use 
of the fittest means for gaining the highest end ; 
— there is Christian behef in it, either in its prin- 
ciple, or its growth into principle ; for the man 
whom it actuates, is made alive to the realities of a 
world to come ; — there is repentance in it, for it 
gives rise to a sorrow which corresponds with its 
own nature, and leads the way to reformation ;— 
there is love in it, for it is a testimony to the excel- 
lence of religion, coming forth from the heart ;^ 
and there is hope in it, for it puts the soul in mo- 
tion after that which is seen to be attainable. Thus 
does it stimulate the sinner, however sullen or ob- 
durate, to think of his situation ; or arouse and 
bring together the living elements of piety, however 
fee])Ie or disordered ; constraining them to the very 
exercises which tend to their invigoration ; and 
thereby proving itself the censor of indolence, the 
harbinger of improvement, and the safeguard of 
Christian attainment. 

Is it allowable now to suppose, that the reader 
of these few pages has found himself the person to 
whom they apply ? Is he bound to confess it, as 
an honest man, that his spirit is worldly, or his 
hopes fallacious, or his religious activities relaxed 
or suspended ? Does he feel, withal, the workings 
of ingenuous desire to be delivered from the body 
of this death ? Then let him give himself to a 
prayerful perusal of " The Almost Christian;" 
for if there be one thing more than another, which 


its pages are fitted to produce, it is a godly jea- 
lousy. To awaken this, and realize the fruits of 
it, is the Author's chosen purpose. It is truly a 
searching volume. Its Author saw the havock 
which an easy credulity in matters of religion was 
spreading among professors of his own time ; his 
spirit was stirred within him, at the thought of the 
delusion which it propagated, and the immensity of 
the interests which it bartered away; and in dis- 
charging a duty to the men of his generation, he 
has put on record a word in season to us. The 
volume is now intercepted from the disuse into 
which it was sinking ; a laudable effort is made, to 
present it afresh to the religious public ; and most 
devoutly is it to be wished, that the exercises which 
it inculcates, and to which it so honestly leads the 
way, may become the characteristic of modern pro- 
fessors. The immediate effect of such a revulsion 
might be, an extensive overthrow of hopes and pur- 
poses ; but its latter end would be, righteousness 
and peace. It might lead to that fearfulness which 
surpriseth the hypocrite ; but nothing whatever 
would it demolish, except those refuges of lies 
which the hail of a judgment to come must ulti- 
mately sweep away. 

We cannot, indeed, withhold the remark, al- 
though it should be deemed censorious, that there 
is a very jpeculiar adaptation of the sentiments of 
this little book to the character of the times in 
which we are livintj. We all know the extent to 
which we set the fashion to each other in religion 
as in every thing else, and every wise man will take 
care so to estimate the spirit of his times, as to as- 


certain the precise kind of modification into which 
they tend to form his character. There are times 
when Christianity is newly introduced among a 
people, or when an important reformation in its gen- 
eral profession has been recently effected, or when 
professors are assailed by persecution, or when a gen- 
eral revival of religion in its life and power has 
taken place, and in these times there is a tendency 
to the production of a severe sanctity in morals, and 
a peculiarly fervent and decided piety. In this state 
of things, the man of neutrality cannot subsist, and 
must either make an effort to come up to the general 
standard, or see himself left in the congregation of 
sinners. Such, however, are not our times. We 
have grown old in the enjoyment of peace, and 
the use of external privilege; the public creeds 
of most of our churches are substantially ortho- 
dox : this has produced, and is still maintaining 
a general soundness of religious sentiment among 
the professing community at large. The continued 
enforcement of Christian doctrine on the minds of 
the people, is preserving, if not extending a com- 
mendable decency of deportment; the attention paid 
to religious training among the young, with the re- 
maining purity of Christian fellowship so far as it 
prevails, and the mingling influence of pious exam- 
ple from those who are decidedly Christian, have 
refined away the coarseness of the age, and induced 
even scepticism herself to speak with courtesy of the 
religion of the land. Now, let these things be put 
together and seriously thought of — let their ten- 
dency to induce a man to think well of himself, since 
he confessedly holds so much, and stands so well 


with others around him, be fairly estimated, and 
surely it will be granted that there is reason at least 
to inquire whether amidst the ease and tranquillity 
of our times, we are not egregiously forgetting our- 
selves, and singing a dismal lullaby over the slum- 
berings of piety. When a man gives himself to 
considerations like these in the deep seclusion of 
serious thought — when he connects them for illus- 
tration with what he sees and hears, and allows them 
to speak their native language to his understanding 
and his heart, he cannot suppress the working sus- 
picion — that we are setting a fashion to each other 
of a kind the most injurious, and that the very gen- 
eration to which we belong, more fearfully perhaps 
than any other, is abounding with " Almost Chris- 

For such a state of things, the reader has in his 
hands an admirable antidote, applied with a plain- 
ness, and point, and delightful I'elicity of scriptural 
illustration, which render it both impressive and 
memorable. Matthew Mead, it is very true, was 
a man of olden habits, and to the charms of modern 
diction, his book has no pretensions ; but we see him 
in the garb of his times, and that taste must be 
pettish indeed, which would wish to see him in any 
other. The style of the book, although unadorned, 
is yet perspicuous and striking, and the very home- 
liness of its phrases, in instances not a few, is hap- 
pily fitted to promote its efficiency. 

It is a book of topics, containing much meaning 
in few words; and the serious reader may often 
regret that more has not been said, on matters 
which he feels to be so very interesting. But this 


appearance of defect is in reality an excellence; its 
aim is to provoke a scrutiny of character; and the 
writer who proposes this, has done enough, when 
he has shown cause for such a scrutiny, digested 
maxims for conducting it, and impressed his reader 
with the importance of the subject. The thing 
wanted here, is not an agent to do the work for a 
man, but a guide and monitor to furnish him with 
facilities, and ply him with motives to do it for him- 

It is a book of dissections, in which every de- 
partment of the Christian character is skilfully di- 
vested of its covering, and laid open to impartial 
survey, and although it would be too much to say, 
that in the performance of a task, which exhibits 
such diversity, and requires such a nicety of spirit- 
ual discrimination, nothing has been done to dis- 
turb the peace of a saint ; yet the instances in which 
its Author is chargeable with this, we take to be 
very fevv^ ; while perhaps there is not one of them 
in which the pain produced, if rightly improven, is 
not salutary in its tendency, or fails to lead on to 
more exalted enjoyment. But supposing that in- 
stances do occur, in which the peace of conscience 
is unduly disturbed, or that a sentiment here and 
there, has dropped from the pen of the Author, which 
tends to a false or injurious alarm, still it is better 
that a reparable injury should be suffered, than that 
a delusion which is irreparable should remain unde- 
tected. It is the lot of the messenger, who either 
lifts up his voice or his pen to publish the counsel 
of God to man in the present complex state of society, 
that he cannot sound an alarm to the wicked, with- 


out putting some of the righteous in fear; nor can 
he minister consolation to the latter, without at 
least the hazard of having his message misapplied by 
the perversity oi' the latter. For these things, how- 
ever, he is not accountable, although it is well that 
they overawe him. The scene in which he la- 
bours, is adjusted to his hand, by a wisdom which 
cannot err, and which has lef( him no choice, but 
to take thini^s as he finds them ; euardinof himself 
as he can against either extreme, and imploring as 
he goes on, that, by the mercy of the Lord, he may 
be found I'aithl'ul. 

But leaving the Treatise to speak for itself, we 
beseech the man who is but almost a Christian, in 
travelling through its pages to avail himself of its 
aid. We ask him simply, to reason the matter on 
the principles ^uAJindings which it sets before him ; 
but to do this in that spirit of earnest and humble 
inquisitiveness, which befits so grave a subject: and 
if such a spirit be far from him, or appearing to 
evaporate as he proceeds, let him pause and invoke 
its return, from that God in Jesus Christ, who 
maketh the heart of the rash to understand doc- 
trine. As he wishes to prosper, let him nevei^ for- 
get, that while it is easy to show him the proper 
means, and possible to bring him into contact with 
these, yet the disposition to apply the means in 
such a way, as to gain their end, cometh forth from 
Him, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in 

D. Y. 
Perih, December, 1825. 



Dedication, 35 

To the Reader, 39 

Introduction, ....... 47 

QUEST. I. How Jar a man may go in the way to heaven, 

and yet be but almost a Christian : this shown in twenty 

several steps, ©3 

Sect. I. A man may have much knowled^^^e, and yet be but 

almost a Christian, ...... ib. 

Sect. 71. A man may have great and eminent gifts; yea, 

spiritual, and yet be but almost a Christian, . . G6 
Sect. III. A man may have a high profession of religion, 

be much in external duties of godliness, and yet be but 

almost a Christian, ...... 70 

Sect. IV. A man may go far in opposing his sin, and yet be 

but almost a Christian, 77 

Sect. V. A man may hate sin, and yet be but almost a 

Christian, 84 

Sect. VI. A man may make great vows and promises, 

strong piu-poses and resolutions against sin, and yet be but 

an almost Christian, ...... 86 

Sect. VII. A man may maintain a strife and combat against 

sin in himself, and yet be but almost a Christian, . 89 

Sect. VIII. A man may be a member of the church of 

Christ, and yet be but almost a Christian, . . 96 

Sect. IX. A man may have great hopes of heaven, and yet 

be but almost a Christian, ..... 97 

Sect. X. A man may be under visible changes, and yet be 

but almost a Christian, ..... 100 

Sect. XI. A man may be veiy zealous in matters of religion, 

and yet be but almost a Christian, . , . 104 

c 27 


Sect. XII. A man may be much in prayer, and yet be but 

almost a Christian, . . . . . . 110 

Sect. XIIL A man may suffer for Christ, and yet be but 

almost a Christian, 114< 

Sect. XIV. A man may be called of God and embrace his 

call, and yet be but an almost Christian, , . 116 

Sect. XV. A man may have the Spirit of God, and yet be 

but almost a Christian, . . . . . 118 

Sect. XVI. A man may have faith, and yet be but almost a 

Christian, 121 

Sect. XVII. A man may have a love to the people of God, 

and yet be but almost a Christian, . . . .125 

Sect. XVI IT. A man may obey the commands of God, and 

yet be but almost a Christian, . . . . 129 

Sect. XIX. A man maybe sanctified, and yet be but almost 

a Christian, 133 

Sect. XX. A man may do all (as to external duties and 

worship) that a true Christian can, and yet be but almost 

a Christian, 136 

QUEST. II. Whence it is that many go far and yet no 
farther? 140 

QUEST. III. What difference between a natural conscience 
and a renewed conscience ? — answered, in several particu- 
lars, 145 

QUEST. IV. Whence is it that many are but almost Chris- 
tians, when they have gone thus far ? , . 157 

QUEST. V. What is the reason that many go no farther in 
the profession of religion, than to be almost Christians? 166 

Application, 174 

Use of Examination, 177 

Use of Caution, 187 

Use of Exhortation, 200 




What the meaning of that providence was, that 
called me to the occupation of ray talent amongst 
you this summer, will be best read and understood 
by the effects of it upon your own souls. The 
kindly increase of grace and holiness in heart and 
life, can only prove it to have been in mercy. 
Where this is not the fruit of the word, there it 
becomes a judgment. The word travels with life 
or death, salvation or damnation, and bringeth 
forth one or the other in every soul that hears it. 
I would not for a world (were it in my power to 
make the choice) that my labours, which were meant 
and designed for the promotion of your immortal 
souls to the glory of the other world, in a present 
pursuance of the things of your peace, should be 
found to have been a ministration of death and con- 
demnation, in the great day of Jesus Christ. Yet 
this the Lord knoweth, is the too common effect of 
the most plain and powerful preaching of the gospel, 
" The waters of the sanctuary" do not always heal 
where they come, for there are " miry and marshy 
places that shall be given to salt." The same word is 
elsewhere in Scripture rendered " barrenness :" He 
" turneth a fruitful land into barrenness ;"— so that 
the judgment denounced upon these miry and marshy 
places is, that the curse of barrenness shall rest upon 


them, notwithstanding the " waters of the sanctuary 
overflow them." 

It is said, with certainty, that the gospel inflict- 
eth a death of its own, as well as the law; or else 
how are those trees in Jude said to be " twice dead, 
and plucked up by the roots." Yea, that which in 
itself is the greatest mercy, through the interposi- 
tion of men's lusts, and the efficacy of this cursed 
sin of unbelief, turns to the greatest judgment, as 
the richest and most generous wine makes the 
sharpest vinegar. Our Lord Christ himself, the 
choicest mercy with which the bowels of God could 
bless a perishing world; whose coming, himself 
bearing witness, was on no less an errand than that 
of eternal life and blessedness to the lost and cursed 
sons of Adam ; yet to how many was he a " stone of 
stumbling, and a rock of offence;" yea, " a gin, and 
a snare;" and that to both the houses of Israel, the 
only professing people of God at that day in the 
world ? And is he not a stone of stumbling in the 
ministry of the gospel to many professors to this 
very day, upon which they fall and are broken ? 
Whenhesaith, '' Blessed is he whosoever shall not 
be offended in me," he therein plainly supposes, 
that both in his person and doctrine the generality of 
men would be offended in him. 

Not that this is the design of Christ and the gos- 
pel, but it comes so to pass through the corruptions 
of the hearts of men, whereby they make light of 
Christ, and stand out against that life and grace 
which the Lord Jesus by his blood so dearly pur- 
chased, and is by the preaching of the gospel so 
freely tendered ; the wilful refusal whereof will as 


surely double our damnation, as the acceptance there- 
of will secure our eternal salvation. 

O consider, it is a thing of the most serious con- 
cern in the world, how we carry ourselves under the 
gospel, and with what dispositions and affections of 
heart soul-seasons of grace are entertained; this be- 
ing taken into the consideration to give it weight, 
that we are the nearer to heaven or hell, to salvation 
or damnation, by every ordinance we sit under. 
Boast not therefore of privileges enjoyed, with neg- 
lect of the important duties thereby required. Re- 
member Capernaum's case and tremble. As many 
go to heaven by the very gates of hell, so more go 
to hell by the gates of heaven ; in that the number 
of those that profess Christ is greater than the num- 
ber of those that truly close with Christ. 

Beloved, I know the preaching of the gospel 
hath proselyted many of you into a profession ; but 
1 fear that but few of you are brought by it to a 
true close with the Lord Christ for salvation. I 
beseech you bear with my jealousy, for it is the 
fruit of a tender love for your precious souls. Most 
men are good Christians in the verdict of their own 
opinion ; but you know the law alloweth no man to 
be a witness in his own case, because their affection 
usually overreacheth conscience, and self-love de- 
ceiveth truth for its own interest. 

The heart of man is the greatest impostor and 
cheat in the world; God himself states it — "The 
heart is deceitful above all thintjs." Some of the 
deceits thereof you will find discovered in this 
Treatise, which shows you, that every grace hath its 
counterfeit, and that the highest profession may be, 
where true conversion is not. 


The design of it is not to " break the bruised 
reed, nor to quench the smoking flax." Not to 
discourage the weakest believer, but to awaken for- 
mal professors. I would not sadden the hearts of 
any "whom God would not have made sad;" though 
I know it is hard to expose the dangerous state and 
condition of a professing hypocrite, but that the 
weak Christian will think himself concerned in the 
discovery. And therefore, as I preached a sermon 
on sincerity among you, for the support and en- 
couragement of such, so I purposed to have printed 
it with this. But who can be master of his own 
purposes ? That is, as I am under such daily variety 
of providences, your kindly acceptance of this, will 
make me a debtor for that. 

The dedication hereof belongs to you on a double 
account; for as it had not been preached, but that 
love to your souls caused it, so it had much less 
been printed, but that your importunate desire pro- 
cured it. And therefore what entertainment soever 
it finds in the world, yet 1 hope I may expect you 
will welcome it, especially considering it v/as born 
under your roof, and therefore hopes to find favour 
in your eyes, and room in your hearts. 

Accept it, I beseech you, as a public acknowledg- 
ment of the engagements which your great, and, I 
think I may say, unparalleled respects have laid me 
under, which I can no way compensate but by my 
prayers ; and if you will take them for satisfaction, 
I promise to be your remembrancer at the throne of 

grace, whilst I am 




I KNOW how customary it is for men to ascend the 
public stage with premised apologies for the weak- 
ness and unworthiness of their labours, which is an 
argument that their desires (either for the sake of 
others' profit, or their own credit, or both) are 
stretched beyond the bounds of their abilities; and 
that they covet to commend themselves to the 
world's censure, in a better dress than common 
infirmity will allow. For my own part, I may 
truly say with Gideon, " Behold, my thousand is 
the meanest," my talent is the smallest, " and I am 
the least in my Father's house;" and therefore this 
appearance in public is not the fruit of my own 
choice, which would rather have been on some other 
subject, wherein I stand in some sense indebted to 
the world, or else somewhat more digested, and pos- 
sibly better fitted for common acceptation. But this 
is but to consult the interest of a man's own name, 
which, in matters of this concern, is no better than 
a " sowing to the flesh," and the harvest of such a 
seed-time will be " in corruption." 

Thou hast here one of the saddest considerations 
imaginable presented to thee, and that is, " How 


far it is possible a man may go in a profession 
religion, and yet, after all, fall short of salvation; 
how far he may run, and yet not so run as to ob- 
tain." This, I say, is sad, but not so sad as true; 
for our Lord Christ doth plainly attest it: " Strive 
to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto 
you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." 

My design herein is, that the formal, sleepy pro- 
fessor may be awakened, and the close hypocrite 
discovered: but my fear is, that weak believers may 
be hereby discouraged; for, as it is hard to show 
how low a child of God may fall into sin, and yet 
have true grace, but that the sinner will be apt 
thereupon to presume; so it is as hard to show how 
high a hypocrite may rise in a profession, and yet 
have no grace, but that the believer will be apt 
thereupon to despond. The prevention whereof I 
have carefully endeavoured, by showing, that though 
a man may go thus far, and yet be but almost a 
Christian, yet a man may fall short of this, and be 
a true Christian notwithstanding. Judge not, there- 
fore, thy state by any one character thou findest laid 
down of a false professor; but read the whole, and 
then make a judgment: for I have cared, as not ta 
" give children's bread to dogs," so not to use the 
dog's whip to scare the children; yet I could wish 
that this book might fall into the hands of such 
only whom it chiefly concerns, who " have a name 
to live, and yet are dead;" being busy with the 
" form of godliness," but strangers to the " power 
of it." These are the proper subjects of this trea- 
tise: and the Lord follow it with his blessing wher- 



ever it comes, that it may be an awakening word to 
all such, and especially to that generation of profli- 
gate professors with which this age abounds; who, 
if they keep to their church, bow the knee, talk 
over a few prayers, and at a good time receive the 
sacrament; think they do enough for heaven, and 
hereupon judge their condition safe, and their sal- 
vation sure; though ther^ be a hell of sin in their 
hearts, " and the poison of asps is under their lips;" 
their minds being as yet carnal and unconverted, 
and their conversations filthy and unsanctified. If 
eternal life be of so easy attainment, and to be had 
at so cheap a rate, why did our Lord Christ tell us, 
" Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which 
leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it?'* 
And why should the apostle perplex us with such a 
needless injunction, " to give diligence to make our 
calling and election sure?" Certainly, therefore, it 
is no such easy thing to be saved, as many make it; 
and that thou wilt see plainly in the followincr dis- 
course. I have been somewhat short in the appli- 
cation of it; and therefore let me here be thy re- 
membrancer in five important duties: — 

First, " Take heed of resting in a form of godli- 
ness ; as if duties, ex oj)e7'e operato, could confer 
grace. A lifeless formality is advanced to a very high 
esteem in the world, as a " cab of dove's dung" was 
sold in the famine of Samaria at a very dear rate. 
Alas ! the profession of godliness is but a sandy 
foundation to build the hope of an immortal soul 
upon for eternity. Remember, the Lord Jesus Christ 
called him a fooHsh builder, " that founded his 


house upon the sand," and the sad event proved him 
so, " for it fell, and great was the fall of it." O 
therefore lay thy foundation by faith upon the rock 
Christ Jesus; look to Christ through all, and rest 
upon Christ in all. 

Secondly, " Labour to see an excellency in the 
power of godliness," a beauty in the life of Christ. 
If the means of grace have a loveliness in them, 
surely grace itself hath much more; for, " the good- 
ness of the means lies in its suitableness and service- 
ableness to the end." The form of godliness hath 
no goodness in it, any farther than it steads and be- 
comes useful to the soul in the power and practice 
of godliness. The life of holiness is the only ex- 
cellent life; it is the life of saints and angels in 
heaven ; yea, it is the life of God in himself. As it 
is a great proof of the baseness and filthiness of sin, 
that sinners seek to cover it; so it is a great proof 
of the excellency of godliness that so many pretend 
to it. The very hypocrite's fair profession pleads 
the cause of religion, although the hypocrite is then 
really worst, when he is seemingly best. 

Thirdly, " Look upon things to come as the 
greatest realities ;" for things that are not believed 
work no more upon the affections than if they had 
no being ; and this is the grand reason why the ge- 
nerality of men suffer their affections to go after the 
world, setting the creature in the place of God in 
their hearts. 

Most men judge of the reality of things by their 
visibility and proximity to sense; and, therefore, the 
choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their op- 


tion, who would not leave his part in Paris for his 
part in Paradise. Sure, whatever his interest might 
be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. 
Weil may covetousness be called idolatry, when it 
thus chooses the world for its god. 

O ! consider — eternity is no dream ; hell and the 
worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit. 
Heaven is no feigned Elysium ; there is the great- 
est reality imaginable in these things; though they 
are spiritual, and out of the keli of sense, yet they 
are real, and within the view of faith. " Look not 
therefore at the things which are seen, but look at 
the things which are not seen; for the things that 
are seen are temporal, but the things which are not 
seen are eternal." 

Fourthly, " Set a high rate upon thy soul." 
What we lightly prize, we easily part with. Many 
men sell their souls at the rate of profane Esau's 
birth-right, " for a morsel of bread ;" nay, " for that 
which," in the sense of the Holy Ghost, " is not 
bread." O consider thy soul is the most precious 
and invaluable jewel in the world ; it is the most 
beautiful piece of God's workmanship in the whole 
creation ; it is that which bears the image of God, 
and which was bought with the blood of the Son of 
God : and shall we not set a value upon it, and 
count it precious ? 

The apostle Peter speaks of three very precious 
things : — 

1. A precious Christ. 

2. Precious Promises. 

3. Precious Faith. 


Now, the preciousness of all these lies in their 
usefulness to the soul. Christ is precious, as being - 
the redeemer of precious souls, — the Promises are 
precious, as making over this precious Christ to 
precious souls, — Faith is precious, as bringing a 
precious soul to close with a precious Christ, as he 
is held forth in the precious promises. O take 
heed that thou art not found over-valuing other 
things, and under-valuing thy soul. Shall thy flesh, 
nay thy beast, be loved, and shall thy soul be 
slighted? Wilt thou clothe and pamper thy body, 
and yet take no care of thy soul? This is, as if a 
man should feed his dog, and starve his child. 
" Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but 
God will destroy both it and them." O let not a 
tottering, perishing carcass have all your time and 
care, as if the life and salvation of thy soul were not 
worth the while. 

Lastly, " Meditate much on the strictness and 
suddenness of that judgment-day, through which 
thou and I must pass into an everlasting state; 
wherein God, the impartial judge, will require an 
account at our hands of all our talents and intrust- 
ments. " We must then account for time, how we have 
spent that; for estate, how we have employed that; 
for strength, how we have laid out that; for af- 
flictions and mercies, how they have been improved; 
for the relations we stood in here, how they have 
been discharorcd; and for seasons and means of 
grace, how they have been husbanded. And look, 
how " we have sowed here, we shall reap here- 


Reader, these are things that of all others de- 
serve most of, and call loudest for, our utmost care 
and endeavours, though by the most least minded. 
To consider what a spirit of atheism (if we may 
judge the tree by the fruits, and the principle by 
the practice) the hearts of most men are filled with, 
who live, as if God were not to be served, nor 
Christ to be sought, nor lust to be mortified, nor 
self to be denied, nor the scripture to be believed, 
nor the judgment-day to be minded, nor hell to be 
feared, nor heaven to be desired, nor the soul to 
be valued; but give up themselves to a worse than 
brutish sensuality, " to work all uncleanness with 
greediness," living without God ui the world — 
this is a meditation fit enough to break our hearts, 
if at least we were of holy David's temper, who 
" beheld the transgressors, and was grieved," and 
had " rivers of waters running down his eyes, be- 
cause men kept not God's laws." 

The prevention and correction of this soul-de- 
stroying distemper, is not the least design of this 
Treatise now put into thy hand. Though the chief 
virtue of this receipt lies in its sovereign use to as- 
suage and cure the swelling tympany of hypocrisy, 
yet it may serve also, with God's blessing, as a 
plaster for the plague-sore of profaneness, if timely 
applied by serious meditation, and carefully kept on 
by constant prayer. 

Reader, expect nothing of curiosity or quaint- 
ness, for then I shall deceive thee; but if thou 
wouldst have a touch-stone for the trial of thy state., 
possibly this may serve thee. If thou art either a 


Stranger to a profession, or a hypocrite under a pro- 
fession, then read and tremble, for thou art the raan 
here pointed at. 

Mutato nomine de te 

Fabula narratur. Horat. 

But if the kingdom of God be come with power 
into thy soul; if Christ be formed in thee; if thy 
heart be upright and sincere with God, then read 
and rejoice. 

I fear I have transgressed the bounds of an 
epistle. The mighty God, whose prerogative it is 
to teach to profit, whether by the tongue or the pen, 
by speaking or writing, bless this tract, that it may 
be to thee as a cloud of rain to the dry ground, 
dropping fatness to thy soul, that so thy fleece be- 
ing watered with the " dew of heaven," thou raayest 
*' grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord 
and Saviour Jesus Christ." In whom I am thy 

Friend and Servant, 


London, October, 1661. 




Almost thou persiiadest me to be a C/iristia?i. 
Acts xxvi. 28. 

In this chapter you have the Apostle Paul's apology 
and defensive plea, which he makes for himself 
against those blind Jews which so maliciously prose- 
cuted him before Agrippa, Festus, Bernice, and the 
council. In which plea he chiefly insists upon 
three thino-s : 

1. The manner of his life before conversion. 

2. The manner of his conversion. 

3. The manner of his life after conversion. 
How he lived before conversion, he tells you, 

ver. 4 — 13. How God wrought on him to conver- 
sion, he tells you, ver. 13 — 18. How he lived 
after conversion, he tells you, ver. 19 — 23. Be- 
fore conversion he was very pharisaicaL The manner 
of his conversion was very wonderful. The fruit of 
his conversion was very remarkable. 

Before conversion he persecuted the gospel which 


others preached : after conversion, he preached tlie 
gospel which himself had persecuted. 

While he was a persecutor of the gospel, the 
Jews loved him ; hut now that, by the grace of God, 
he was become a preacher of the gospel, now the 
Jews hate him, and sought to kill him. 

He was once against Christ, and then many were 
for him ; but now that he was for Christ, all were 
against him ; his being an enemy to Jesus, made 
others his friends; but when he came to own Jesus, 
then they became his enemies. And this was the 
great charge they had against him, that of a great 
opposer he was become a great professor. Because 
God had changed him, therefore this enraged them: 
as if they would be the worse, because God had 
made him better. God had wrought on him by 
grace, and they seem to envy him the grace of God. 
He preached no treason, nor sowed no sedition ; 
only he preached repentance, and faith in Christ, 
and the resurrection, and for this he was " called in 

This is the breviate and sum of Paul's defence 
and plea for himself, which you find in the sequel of 
the chapter had a different effect upon his judges. 

Festus seems to censure him, ver. 24. Agrippa 
seems to be convinced by him, ver. 28. The 
whole bench seem to acquit him, ver. 30, 31. 
Festus thinks Paul was beside himself. Agrippa is 
almost persuaded to be such a one as himself. 

Festus thinks him mad, because he did not un- 
derstand the doctrine of Christ and the resurrection: 
" much learning hath made thee mad." Agrippa is 


SO afFected with his plea, that he is almost wrought 
into his principle : Paul pleads so effectually for his 
religion, that Agrippa seems to be upon the turning 
point to his profession. " Then Agrippa said to 
Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." 
" Almost." — The words make some debate among 
the learned. I shall not trouble you with the various 
hints upon them by Valla, Simplisius, Beza, Erasmus, 
and others. I take the words as we read them, and 
they show what an efficacy Paul's doctrine had upon 
Agrippa's conscience. Though he would not be 
converted, yet he could not but be convinced; his 
conscience was touched, though his heart was not 

Observatio7i. There is that in religion, which 
carries its own evidence along with it even to the 
consciences of ungodly men. 

" Thou persuadest me." — The word is from the 
Hebrew, and it signifies both suadere and persna- 
dere; either to use arguments to prevail, or to pre- 
vail by the arguments used. Now it is to be taken 
in the latter sense here, to show the influence of 
Paul's argument upon Agrippa, which had almost 
proselyted him to the profession of Christianity. 

Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." 
A Christian." — I hope I need not tell you what a 
Christian is, though I am persuaded many that are 
called Christians, do not know what a Christian is, 
or if they do, yet they do not know what it is to be 
a Christian. A Christian is a disciple of Jesus 
Christ, one that believes in, and follows Christ. 
As one that embraces the doctrine of Arminius, is 

C 27 


called an Arminian; and he that owns the doctrine 
and way of Luther, is called a Lutheran; so he that 
embraces, and owns, and follows the doctrine of 
Jesus Christ, he is called a Christian. 

The word is taken more largely, and more strict- 
ly : more largely, and so all that profess Christ come 
in the flesh, are called Christians, in opposition to 
heathens that do not know Christ; and to the poor 
blind Jews, that will not own Christ; and to the 
Mahometan, that prefers Mahomet, above Christ. 
But now in Scripture, the word is of a more strict 
and narrow acceptation, it is used only to denomi- 
nate the true disciples and followers of Christ; " the 
disciples were first called Christians at Antioch; if 
any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be 
ashamed;" that is, as a member and disciple of 
Christ; and so in the text, " Almost thou persuadest 
me to be a Christian." 

The word is used but in these three places, as I 
find, in all the New Testament, and in each of them 
it is used in the sense afore-mentioned. 

The Italians make the name to be a name of re- 
proach among them, and usually abuse the word 
Christian to signify a fool. But if, as the apostle 
saith, " the preaching of Christ is to the world fool- 
ishness," then it is no wonder that the disciples of 
Christ are to the world fools. Yet it is true, in a 
sound sense, that so they are; for the whole of godliness 
is a mystery. A man must die, that would live ; he 
must be empty, that would be full; he must be lost, 
that would be found; he must have nothing, that 
would have all things ; he must be blind, that would 


liave illumination; he must be condemned, that would 
have redemption; so he must be a fool, that would 
be a Christian. " If any man among you seems to 
be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." 
He is the true Christian that is the world's fool, but 
wise to salvation. 

Thus you have the sense and meaning of the 
words briefly explained. The text needs no di- 
vision, and yet it is a pity the almost should not be 
divided from the Christian, Though it is of little 
avail to divide them as they are linked in the text, 
unless I could divide them as they are united in your 
hearts; this would be a blessed division, if the almost 
might be taken from the Christian: that so you may 
not be only propemodum^ but admodiwi; not only 
almost, but altogether Christians. This is God's 
work to effect it, but is our duty to persuade to it; 
and O that God would help me to manage this 
subject so, that you may say, in the conclusion, 
" Thou persuadest me, not almost, but altogether 
to be a Christian !" 

The observation that I shall propound to handle 
is this: 

Doctrine, There are very many in the world 
that are almost,and yet but almost Christians ; many 
that are near heaven, and yet are never the nearer* 
many that are within a little of salvation, and yet 
shall never enjoy the least salvation; they are within 
sight of heaven, and yet shall never have a sight of 

There are two sad expressions in scripture, which 
I cannot but take notice of in this place. The oiie 



is concerning the truly righteous. The other is 
concerning the seemingly righteous. 

It is said of the truly righteous, he shall " scarcely 
be saved;" and it is said of the seemingly righteous, 
he shall be almost saved : " Thou art not far from 
the kingdom of God." 

The righteous shall be saved with a scarcely^ that 
is, through much difficulty; he shall go to heaven 
through many sad fears of hell. The hypocrite shall 
be saved with an almost, that is, he shall go to hell 
through many fair hopes of heaven. 

There are two things which arise from hence of 
very serious meditation. The one is, how often a 
believer may miscarry, how low he may fall, and yet 
have true grace. The other is, how far a hypo- 
crite may go in the way to heaven, how high he may 
attain, and yet have no grace. 

The saint may be cast down very near to hell, 
and yet shall never come there; and the hypocrite 
may be lifted up very near to heaven, and yet never 
come there. The saint may almost perish, and yet 
be saved eternally; the hypocrite may almost be sav- 
ed, and yet perish finally. For the saint at worst 
is really a believer, and the hypocrite at best is really 
a sinner. 

Before I handle the doctrine, I must premise 
three things, which are of great use for the esta- 
blishing of weak believers, that they may not be 
shaken and discouraged by this doctrine. 

First, There is nothing in the doctrine that 
should be matter of stumbling or discouragement to 
weak Christians. The gospel doth not speak these 


things to wound believers, but to awaken sinners and 
formal professors. 

As there are none more averse than weak believ- 
ers, to apply the promises and comforts of the gospel 
to themselves, for whom they are properly designed; 
so there are none more ready than they to apply the 
threats and severest things of the word to themselves, 
for whom they were never intended. As the dis- 
ciples, when Christ told them, " One of you shall 
betray me;" they that were innocent suspected them- 
selves most, and therefore cry out, " Master, is 
it I ?" So weak Christians, when they hear sinners 
reproved, or the hypocrite laid open, in the ministry 
of the word, they presently cry out, " Is it I?" 

It is the hypocrite's fault to sit under the trials 
and discoveries of the word, and yet not to mind 
them: and it is the weak Christian's fault to draw sad 
conclusions of their own state from premises which 
nothing concern them. 

There is indeed great use of such doctrine as this 
is to all believers: 

1. To make them look to their standing, upon 
what foundation they are, and to see that the foun- 
dation of their hope be well laid, that they build not 
upon the sand, but upon a rock. 

2. It helps to raise our admiration of the dis- 
tinguishing love of God, in bringing us into the 
way everlasting, when so many perish from the way, 
and in overpowering our souls into a true conver- 
sion, when so many take up with a graceless pro- 

3. It incites to that excellent duty of heart- 


searching, that so we approve ourselves to God in 

4. It engages the soul in double diligence, that 
it may be found not only believing, but persevering 
in faith to the end. 

These duties, and such as these, make this doc- 
trine of use to all believers; but they ought not to 
make use of it as a stumbling-block in the way of 
their peace and comfort. 

My design in preaching on this subject, is not to 
make sad the souls of those whom Christ will not 
have made sad; I would bring water not to " quench 
the flax that is smoking," but to put out that false 
fire that is of the sinner's own kindling, lest walking 
all his days by the light thereof, he shall at last " lie 
down in sorrow." My aim is to level the mountain 
of the sinner's confidence, not to weaken the hand 
of the believer's faith and dependence; to avvaken 
and brinop in secure formal sinners, not to discourage 
weak believers. 

Secondly, I would premise this; though many 
may go far, very far in the way to heaven, and yet 
fall short, yet that soul that hath the least true grace 
shall never fall short; " the righteous shall hold on 
his way." 

Though some may do very much in a way of 
duty, as I shall show hereafter, and yet miscarry; 
yet that soul that doth duty with the least sincerity, 
shall never miscarry; " for he saveth the upright in 

The least measure of true grace is as saving as 
the greatest; it saves as surely, though not so com- 


fortably. The least grace gives a full interest in 
the blood of Christ, whereby we are thoroughly 
purged; and it gives a full interest in the strength 
and power of Christ, whereby we shall be certainly 

Christ keeps faith in the soul, and faith keeps 
the soul in Clirist; and so " we are kept by the 
power of God, through faith unto salvation." 

Thirdli/^ I would premise this; they that can 
hear such truths as this, without serious reflection 
and self-examination, I must suspect the goodness 
of their condition. 

You will suspect that man to be next door to a 
bankrupt, that never casts up his accounts nor looks 
over his book; and I as verily think that man a 
hypocrite, that never searches nor deals with his 
own heart. He that goes on in a road of duties 
without any uneasiness or doubting of his state, I 
doubt no man's state more than his. 

When we see a man sick, and yet not sensible, 
we conclude the tokens of death are upon him. So 
when sinners have no sense of their spiritual condi- 
tion, it is plain that they are dead in sin ; the tokens 
of eternal death are upon them. These things be- 
ing premised, which I desire you would carry along 
in your mind while we travel through this subject, 
I come to speak to the proposition more distinctly 
and closely. 

Doctrine. That there are very many in the world 
that are almost, and yet hut almost Christians. 

I shall demonstrate the truth of the proposition, 
and then proceed to a more distinct prosecution. 


1. I shall demonstrate the truth of the proposi- 
tion; and I shall do it by scripture-evidence, which 
speaks plainly and fully to the case. 

First, The young man in the gospel is an emi- 
nent proof of this truth; there you read of one that 
came to Christ to learn of him the way to heaven : 
'* Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I 
may have eternal life?" Our Lord Christ tells him, 
" If thou wilt enter into life, keep the command- 
ments:" and when Christ tells him which, he 
answers, " Lord, all these I have kept from my 
youth up; what lack I yet?" 

Now do but see how far this man went. 

L He obeyed — he did not only hear the com- 
mands of God, but he kept them ; now the Scripture 
saith, " Blessed is he that hears the word of God, 
and keeps it." 

2. He obeyed universally — not this or that com- 
mand, but both this and that; he did not halve it 
with God, or pick and choose which were easiest to 
be done, and leave the rest; no, but he obeys all: 
" All these things have I kept." 

3. He obeyed constantly — not in a fit of zeal 
only, but in a continual series of duty; his goodness 
was not, as Ephraim's, " like the morning-dew that 
passes away;" no, " All these things have I kept 
from my youth up." 

4. He professeth his desire to know and do more— - 
to perfect that which was lacking of his obedience : 
and therefore he goes to Christ to instruct him in his 
duty: " Master, what lack I yet?" Now would you 
not think this a good man? Alas! how few go this 


far? And yet as far as he went, lie went not far 
enough ; " he was almost, and yet but almost a 
Christian;" for he was an unsound hypocrite; he 
forsakes Christ at last, and cleaves to his lust. This 
then is a full proof of the truth of the doctrine. 

Second, A second proof of it is that of the par- 
able of the virgins in St. Matthew : see what a pro- 
gress they make, how far they go in a profession of 

1. They are called " virgins." — Now this is a name 
given in the Scripture, Both in the Old Testament 
and the New, to the saints of Christ: " The virgins 
love thee:" so in the revelation, the " one hundred 
forty and four thousand" that stood with the Lamb 
on mount Zion, are called "virgins." They are called 
virgins, because they are not defiled with the *' cor- 
ruptions that are in the world through lust." Now 
these here seem to be of that sort, for they are 
called virgins. 

2. They take their lamps — that is, they make a 
profession of Christ. 

3. They had some kind of oil in their lamps. 
They had some convictions and some faith, though 
not the faith of God's elect, to keep their profession 
alive, to keep the lamp burning. 

4. They went — their profession was not an idle 
profession; they did perform duties, frequented or- 
dinances, and did many things commanded : they 
made a progress — they went. 

5. They went forth — they went and outwent, 
they left many behind them ; this speaks out their 
separation from the world. 



6. They went with the " wise virgins" — they 
joined themselves to those who had joined them- 
selves to the Lord, and were companions of them 
that were companions of Christ. 

7. They go " forth to meet the hridegroom"— 
this speaks out their owning and seeking after Christ. 

8. When they heard the cry of the hridegroom 
coming, " they arose and trimmed their lamps;" 
they profess Christ more highly, hoping now to go 
in with the bridegroom. 

9. They sought for true grace. Now do not we 
say, the desires of grace are grace ? and so they are, 
if true and timely ; if sound and seasonable. Why 
lo here a desire of grace in these virgins, " Give us 
of your oil." 

It was a desire of true grace, but it was not a 
true desire of grace; it was not true, because not 
timely ; unsound, as being unseasonable ; it was too 
late. Their folly was in not taking oil when they 
took their lamps; their time of seeking grace was 
when they came to Christ ; it was too late to seek it 
when Christ came to them. They should have 
sought for that when they took up their profession : 
it was too late to seek it at the coming of the bride- 
groom. And therefore " they were shut out ;" and 
though they cry for entrance, *' Lord, Lord, open 
to us;" yet the Lord Christ tells them, " I know 
you not." 

You see how far these virgins go in a profession 
of Jesus Christ, and how long they continue in it, 
even till the bridegroom came; they go to the very 
door of heaven, and there, like the Sodomites, perish 


with their lianils upon the very threshold of glory. 
They were almost Christians, and yet but almost ; 
almost saved, and yet perish. 

You that are professors of the gospel of Christ, 
stand and tremhle: if they that have gone beyond 
us fall short of heaven, what shall become of us that 
fall short of them ? If tliey that are virgins, that 
profess Christ, that have some faith in their profes- 
sion, such as it is, that have some fruit in their faith, 
that outstrip others that seek Christ, that improve 
their profession, and suit themselves to their profes- 
sion — nay, that seek grace ; if such as these be but 
almost Christians, Lord, what are we ? 

Thirds If these two witnesses be not sufficient to 
prove the truth, and confirm the credit of the pro- 
position, take a third; and that shall be from the 
Old Testament, Isaiah Iviii. 2. See what God 
saith of that people; he gives them a very high char- 
acter for a choice people, one would think : " They 
seek me daily ; they delight to know my ways, as a 
nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the 
ordinance of their God; they ask of me the ordin- 
ances of justice; they take delight in approaching to 

See how far these went; if God had not said 
they were rotten and unsound, we should have taken 
them for the " he-goats before the flock," and 
ranked them among the worthies. Pray observe, 

1. They seek God. — Now this is the proper 
character of a true saint— to seek God. True saints 
are called, " seekers of God." ** This is the gen- 
eration of them that seek him, that seek thy face. 


O Jacob ;" or, O God of Jacob. Lo, here a gen- 
eration of them that seek God; and are not these 
the saints of God ? — Nay, farther, 

2. They seek him daily. — Here is dihgence backed 
with continuance, day by day; that is, every day, 
from day to day. They did not seek him by fits 
and starts, nor in a time of trouble and affliction 
only, as many do. *' Lord, in trouble have they 
visited thee ; they poured out a prayer when thy 
chastening was upon them." Many when God 
visits them, then they visit him, but not till then; 
when God poureth out his afflictions, then they pour 
out their supplications. This is seamen's devotion; 
when the storms have brouglit them to " their wits* 
end, then they cry to the Lord in their trouble." 
Many never cry to God, till they are at their wits* 
end ; they never come to God for help, so long as 
they can help themselves. But now these here, 
whom God speaks of, are more zealous in their de- 
votion ; the others make a virtue of necessity, but 
these seem to make conscience of duty; for, saith 
God, " they seek me daily." Sure this is, one 
would think, a note of sincerity. Job saith of the 
hypocrite, " Will he always call upon God?" Surely 
not; but now this people call upon God always, 
" they seek him daily:" certainly these are no 

3. Saith God, " they delight to know my ways." 
Sure this frees them from the suspicion of hypocrisy; 
for, they say not unto God, " Depart from us; we 
desire not the knowledge of thy ways." 

4. They are " as a nation that did righteousness." 


Not only as a nation that spake righteousness, or 
knew righteousness, or professed righteousness; but 
as a nation that did righteousness, that practised 
nothing but wliat was just and riglit. They ap- 
peared, to the judgment of the world, as good as the 

5. They forsook not the ordinances of their God. 
—They seem true to their principles, constant to 
their profession, better than many among us, that 
cast off duties, and forsake the ordinances of God: 
but these hold out in their profession; " they for- 
sook not the ordinances of God." 

6. " They ask of me," saith God, " the ordinances 
of justice." They will not make their own will the rule 
of riffht and wroncr, but the law and will of God: 
and therefore, in all their dealings with men, they 
desire to be guided and counselled by God: " They 
ask of me the ordinances of justice." 

7. They take delight in approaching to God* 
Sure this cannot be the guise of a hypocrite. " Will 
he delight himself in the almighty?" saith Job: — 
no, he will not. Though God is the chief delight 
of man, (having every thing in him to render him 
lovely, as was said of Titus Vespasian,) yet the 
hypocrites will not delight in God. Till the affec- 
tions are made spiritual, there is no affection to things 
that are spiritual. God is a spiritual good, and there- 
fore hypocrites cannot delight in God. But these 
are a people that delight in approaching to God. 

8. They were a people that were much in fasting: 
" Wherefore have we fasted," say they, " and thou 
seest not?" Now this is a duty that doth not sup- 


pose and require truth of grace only in the heart, 
but strength of grace. 

" No man," saith our Lord Christ, " puts new 
wine into old bottles, lest the bottles break and the 
wine run out." New wine is strong, and old bot- 
tles weak; and the strong wine breaks the weak ves- 
sel: this is a reason Christ gives, why his disciples, 
who were newly converted, and but weak as yet, 
were not exercised with this austere discipline. But 
this people here mentioned were a people that fasted 
often, afflicted their souls much, wore themselves out 
by frequent practices of humiliation. Sure therefore 
this was " new wine in new bottles;" this must needs 
be a people strong in grace; there seems to be grace 
not only in truth, but also in growth. And yet, 
for all this, they were no better than a generation of 
hypocrites; they made a goodly progress, and went 
far, but yet they went not far enough; they were 
cast off by God after all. 

I hope by this time the truth of the point is suffi- 
ciently avouched and confirmed; " that a man may 
be, yea, very many are, almost, and yet no more 
than hut almost Christians." 

Now for the more distinct prosecution of the 

1. I shall show you, step by step, how far he 
may go, to what attainments he may reach, how spe- 
cious and singular a progress he may make in reli- 
gion, and yet be but almost a Christian when all is 

2. I will show whence it is, that many men go 
so far as that they are almost Christians. 


3. Why they are but almost Christians when 
they have gone thus far. 

4. What the reason is, why men that go thus 
far as to be almost Christians, yet go no farther 
than to be almost Christians. 

Question I. 

How far may a man go in tlie way to heaven, and 
t be but almost a Christian ? 

Answer. This I will show you in twenty several 

I. A man may have much knowledge, much light; 
he may know much of God and his will, much of 
Christ and his ways, and yet be but almost a Chris- 

For though there can be no grace without know- 
ledge, yet there may be much knowledge where 
there is no grace: illumination often goes before, 
when conversion never follows after. The subject 
of knowledge is the understanding; the subject of 
holiness is the will. Now a man may have his un- 
derstanding enlightened, and yet his will not at all 
sanctified. He may have an understanding to know 
God, and yet want a will to obey God. The apostle 
tells us of some, that, " when they knew God, they 
glorified him not as God." 

To make a man altogether a Christian, there 
must be hght in the head, and heat in the heart; 
knowledge in the understanding, and zeal in the af- 
fections. Some have zeal and no knowledge; that 


is, blind devotion: some have knowledge and no zeal; 
that is, fruitless speculation: but where knowledge 
is joined with zeal, that makes a true Christian. 

Objection, But is it not said, " This is life eter- 
nal — to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus 
Christ whom thou hast sent?" 

Answer. It is not every knowledge of God and 
Christ, that interests the soul in life eternal. For 
why then do the devils perish; they have more know- 
ledge of God than all the men in the world; for 
though, by their fall, they lost their holiness, yet 
they lost not their knowledge. They are called 
c/'az/zocec, from their knowledge, and yet they are 
\ia.QoKoi, from their malice, devils still. 

Knowledge may fill the head, but it will never 
better the heart, if there be not somewhat else. 
The Pharisees had much knowledge: " Behold, 
thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and 
makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will,"&c. 
and yet they were a generation of hypocrites. Alas ! 
how many have gone loaded with knowledge to hell ! 

Though it is true, that it is life eternal to know 
God and Jesus Christ; yet it is as true, that many 
do know God and Jesus Christ, that shall never see 
life eternal. There is, you must know, a twofold 
knowledge; the one is common, but not saving; the 
other is not common, but saving: common knowledge 
is that which floats in the head, but does not influ- 
ence the heart. This knowledge, reprobates may 
have: " Balaam savv Christ from the top of the 
rocks, and from the hills." 

Naturahsts say, that there is a pearl in the toad's 


head, and yet her belly is full of poison. The 
French have a berry which they call uve de spine, 
the grape of a thorn. The common knowledge of 
Christ is the pearl in the toad's head — the grape 
that grows upon thorns; it may be found in men un- 

And then there is a saving knowledge of God and 
Christ, which includes the assent of the mind, and 
the consent of the will; this is a knowledge that im- 
plies faith: " By his knowledge shall my righteous 
servant justify many." And this is that knowledge 
which leads to life eternal: now whatever that mea- 
sure of knowledge is, which a man may have of God, 
and of Jesus Christ, yet if it be not this saving 
knowledge — knowledge joined with affection and 
application — he is but almost a Christian. 

He only knows God aright, who knows how to 
obey him, and obeys according to his knowledge of 
him: " A good understanding have all they that do 
his commandments." All knowledo-e without this 
makes a man but like Nebuchadnezzar's image, with 
" a head of gold, and feet of clay." 

Some know, but to. know. 

Some know, to be known. 

Some know, to practise what they know. 

Now to know, but to know — that is curiosity. 

To know, to be known — that is vain glory. 

But to know, to practise what we know — that is 
gospel-duty. This makes a man a complete Chris- 
tian; the other, without this, makes a man almost, 
and yet but almost a Christian. 


II. A man may have great and eminent gifts, 
yea, spiritual gifts, and yet be but almost a Chris- 

The gift of prayer is a spiritual gift. Now this 
a man may have, and yet be but almost a Christian: 
for the gift of prayer is one thing; the grace of 
prayer is another. The gift of preaching and pro- 
phesying is a spiritual gift; now this a man may 
have, and yet be but almost a Christian. Judas was 
a great preacher; so were they that came to Christ, 
and said, " Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy 
name, and in thy name have cast out devils," &c. 

You must know that it is not gifts, but grace, 
which makes a Christian: For, 

1. Gifts are from a common work of the Spirit. 
Now a man may partake of all the common gifts of 
the Spirit, and yet be a reprobate ; for therefore they 
are called common, because they are indifFeiently 
dispensed by the Spirit to good and bad; to them 
that are believers, and to them that are not. 

They that have grace, have gifts; and they that 
have no grace, may have the same gifts; for the 
Spirit works in both; nay in this sense he that hath 
no grace, may be under a greater work of the Spirit 
[quod hoc) as to this thing, than he that hath most 
grace; a graceless professor may have greater gifts 
than the most holy believer : he may out-pray, and 
out-preach, and out-do them ; but they in sincerity 
and integrity out-go him. 

2. Gifts are for the use and good of others, they 
are given m ordinem almm, as the school-men speak, 
for the profiting and edifying of others: so says the 


apostle, " they are given to profit withal." Now a 
man may edify another hy his gifts, and yet be un- 
edified himself; he may be profitable to another, and 
yet unprofitable to himself. 

The raven was an unclean bird: God makes use 
of her to feed Elijah; though she was not good meat, 
yet it was good meat she brought. A lame man may 
with his crutch point to thee the right way, and yet 
not be able to walk in it himself. A crooked taylor 
may make a suit to fit a straight body, though it fit 
not him that made it, because of his crookedness. 
The church (Christ's garden enclosed) may be wa- 
tered through a wooden gutter; the sun may give 
light through a dusky window ; and the field may be 
well sowed vvith a dirty hand. 

The efficacy of the word doth not depend upon 
the authority of him that speaks it, but upon the 
authority of God that blesses it. So that another 
may be converted by my preaching, and yet I may 
be cast away notwithstanding. Balaam makes a 
clear and rare prophecy of Christ, and yet he hath 
no benefit by Christ: " There shall come a star out 
of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel;" — 
but yet Balaam shall have no benefit by it: "I shall 
see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not 

God may use a man's gifts to bring another to 
Christ, when he himself, whose gifts God uses, may 
be a stranger unto Christ; one man may confirm 
another in the faith, and yet himself may be a stran- 
ger to the faith. Pendleton strengthens and con- 
firms Sanders, in Queen Mary's days, to stand in 


the truth he had preached, and to seal it with his 
blood, and yet afterwards plays the apostate himself. 
Scultetus tells us of one Johannes Speiserus, a 
famous preacher of Augsburg in Germany, in the 
year 1523, who preached the gospel so powerfully 
that divers common harlots were converted, and be- 
came good Christians; and yet himself afterwards 
turned papist and came to a miserable end. Thus 
the candle may burn bright to light others in tlieir 
work, and yet afterwards go out in a stink. 

3. It is beyond the power of the greatest gifts to 
change the heart; a man may preach like an apostle, 
pray like an angel, and yet may have the heart of a 
devil. It is grace only that can change the heart; 
the greatest gifts cannot change it, but the least 
grace can; gifts may make a man a scholar, but 
grace makes a man a believer. Now if gifts cannot 
change the heart, then a man may have tlie greatest 
gifts, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

4. Many have gone laden with gifts to hell; no 
doubt Judas had great gifts, for he was a preacher 
of the gospel; and our Lord Jesus Christ would not 
set him to work, and not fit him for the work; yet 
" Judas is gone to his own place:" the Scribes and 
Pharisees were men of great gifts, and yet, " where 
is the wise? where is the scribe?" 

" The preaching of the cross is to them that per- 
ish foolishness." Them that perish, who are they? 
Who! the wise and the learned, both among Jews 
and Greeks; these are called " them that perish." 
A great bishop said, when he saw a poor shepherd 
weeping over a toad: " The poor iUiterate world at- 


tain to heaven, while we with all our learning fall 
into hell." 

There are three thin<^s must be clone for us, if 
ever we would avoid perishing. 

We must be thoroughly convinced of sin. 

We must be really united to Christ. 

W'e must be instated in the covenant of grace. 

Now, the greatest gifts cannot stead us in any of 

They cannot work thorough convictions. 

They cannot effect our union. 

They cannot bring us into covenant-relation. 
And consequently, they cannot preserve us from 
eternally perishing; and if so, then a man may have 
the greatest gifts, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

5. Gifts may decay and perish; they do not lie 
beyond the reach of corruption; indeed grace shall 
never perish, but gifts will; grace is incorruptible, 
though gifts are not; grace is " a spring, whose 
waters fail not," but the streams of gifts may be 
dried up. If grace be corruptible in its own nature, 
as being but a creature, yet it is incorruptible in re- 
gard of its conserver, as being the ?iew creature; he 
that did create it in us, will conserve it in us; he 
that did begin it will also finish it. 

Gifts have their root in nature, but grace hath 
its roots in Christ; and therefore though gifts may 
die and wither, yet grace shall abide for ever. Now 
if gifts are perishing, then, though he that hath the 
least grace is a Christian, he that hath the greatest 
gifts may be but almost a Christian. 

Objection. But doth not the Apostle bid us 


" covet earnestly the best gifts?" Why must we 
covet them, and covet them earnestly, if they avail 
not to salvation? 

Ans'wer. Gifts are good, though they are not the 
best good; they are excellent, but there is somewhat 
more excellent: so it follows in the same verse, " Yet 
I show unto you a more excellent way," and that is 
the way of grace. One dram of grace is more worth 
than a talent of gifts: gifts may make us rich towards 
men, but it is grace that makes us " rich towards 
God." Our gifts profit others, but grace profits 
ourselves; that whereby I profit another is good, but 
that by which I am profited myself is better. 

Now because gifts are good, therefore we ought 
to covet them; but because they are not the best 
good, therefore we ought not to rest in them, we 
must covet gifts for the good of others, that they 
may be edified; and we must covet grace for the 
good of our own souls, that they may be saved; for 
whosoever be bettered by our gifts, yet we shall 
miscarry without grace. 

III. A man may have a high profession of re- 
ligion, be much hi external duties of godliness, and 
yet be hut almost a Christian. 

Mark what our Lord tells them, " Not every one 
that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the 
kingdom of heaven;" that is, not every one that 
makes a profession of Christ, shall therefore be 
owned for a true disciple of Christ. " All are not 
Israel that are of Israel;" nor are all Christians that 
make a profession of religion. 

What a godly profession had Judas ! he followed 


Christ, left all for Christ, he preached the gospel of 
Christ, he cast out devils in the name of Christ, he 
eat and drank at the table of Christ; and yet Judas 
was but a hypocrite. 

Most professors are like lilies, fair in show, ]^ but 
foul in scent; or like pepper, hot in the mouth, but 
cold in the stomach. The finest lace may be upon 
the coarsest cloth. 

It is a great deceit to measure the substance of 
our religion by the bulk of our profession, and to 
judge of the strength of our graces by the length 
of our duties. The Scriptures speak of some who 
having " a form of godliness, yet deny the power 
thereof." Deny the power; that is, they do not 
live in the practice of those graces to which they 
pretend in their duties; he that pretends to godliness 
by a specious profession, and yet doth not practise 
godliness by a holy conversation, " he hath a form, 
but denies the power." Grotius compares such to 
the ostrich, which hath great wings, but yet flies not. 
Many have the wings of a fair profession, but yet 
use them not to mount upward in spiritual affections, 
and a heavenly conversation. 

But to clear the truth of this, that a man may 
make a high profession of religion, and yet be but 
almost a Christian, take a fourfold evidence. 

1. If a man may profess religion, and yet never 
have his heart changed, nor his state bettered, then 
he may be a great professor, and yet be but almost 
a Christian. But a man may profess religion, and 
yet never have his heart changed, nor his state 
renewed. He may be a constant hearer of the word, 


and yet be a sinner still ; he may come often to the 
Lord's table, and yet go away a sinner as he came; 
we must not think that duties can confer grace. 

Many a soul hath been converted by Christ in 
au ordinance, but never was any soul converted by 
an ordinance without Christ. And doth Christ 
convert all that sit under the ordinances? Surely not; 
for to some, " the word is a savour of death unto 
death." And if so, then it is plain, that a man 
may profess religion, and yet be but almost a Chris- 

2. A man may profess religion, and live in a form 
of godliness in hypocrisy. " Hear ye this, O house 
of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, 
and are come forth out of the waters of Judah; 
which swear by the name of the Lord, and make 
mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor 
in righteousness." What do you think of these? 
'5 They make mention of the name of the Lord, 
there is their profession but not in truth ; nor in 
righteousness," there is their dissimulation: and in- 
deed there could be no hypocrisy in a religious sense, 
were it not for a profession of religion; for he that 
is wicked and carnal, and vile inwardly, and appears 
to be so outwardly, he is no hypocrite, but is what 
he appears, and appears what he is. But he that is 
one thing really, and another thing seemingly, is 
carnal and unholy, and yet seems to be good and 
holy, he is a hypocrite. 

. Thus the Casuists define hypocrisy to be a coun- 
terfeiting of holiness; and this fits exactly with the 
Greek word, which is to counterfeit. And to this 


purpose, the Hebrews have two words for hypocrites; 
paninty which signifies faces-, and chanepim, which 
signifies counterfeits ; from chanapli^ to dissemble: so 
that he is a hypocrite that dissembles religion, and 
weareth the face of* holiness, and yet is without the 
grace of holiness. He appears to be in semblance, 
what he is not in substance; he wears a form of 
godliness without, only as a cover of a profane heart 
within. He hath a profession, that he may not be 
thought wicked ; but it is but a profession, and 
therefore he is wicked. He is the religious hypo- 
crite; religious, because he pretends to it; and yet 
a hypocrite, because he doth but pretend to it. 
He is like many men in a consumption, that have 
fresh looks, and yet rotten lungs: or like an apple 
that hath a fair skin, but a rotten core. Many ap- 
pear righteous, who are only righteous in appearance. 
And if so, then a man may profess religion, and yet 
be hut almost a Christian. 

3. Custom and fashion may make a man a pro- 
fessor; as you have many that wear this or that garb, 
not because it keeps them warmer, or hath any ex- 
cellency in it more than another, but merely for 

Many must have powdered hair, spotted faces, 
feathers in their caps, &c. for no other end, but be- 
cause they would be fools in fashion. So, many 
profess Christianity — not because the means of grace 
warm the heart, or that they see any excellencies in 
the ways of God above the world, but — merely to 
follow the fashion ! I wish I might not say, it hath 
been true of our days, because religion hath been 
D 27 


uppermost, therefore many have professed; it hath 
been the gaining trade, and then most will be of 
that trade. 

Religion in credit makes many professors, but 
few proselytes; but when religion suffers, then its 
confessors are no more than its converts; for custom 
makes the former, but conscience the latter. He 
that is a professor of religion merely for custom- 
sake, when it prospers, will never be a martyr, for 
Christ's sake, when religion suffers. He that owns 
the truth, to live upon that, will disown it, when it 
comes to live upon him. 

They say, that when a house is decaying or fall- 
ing, all the rats and mice will forsake it; while the 
house is firm, and they may shelter in the roof, they 
will stay, but no longer; lest, in the decay, the fall 
should be upon them, and they that lived at top 
should die at bottom. My brethren, may I not 
say, we have many that are the vermin, the rats 
and mice of religion, that would live under the roof 
of it, while they might have shelter in it; but when 
it suffers, forsake it, lest it should fall, and the fall 
should be upon them? I am persuaded this is not 
the least reason why God hath brought the wheel 
upon the profession of religion; namely to rid it of 
the vermin. He shakes the foundations of the house, 
that these rats and mice may quit the roof; not to 
overturn it, but to rid them of it; as the husbandman 
fans the wheat, that he may get rid of the chaff. 
The halcyon days of the gospel provoke hypocrisy, 
but the sufferings for religion prove sincerity. 

Now, then, if custom and fashion make many 


men professors, then a man may profess religion, and 
yet be but almost a Christian. 

4. If many may perish under a profession of 
godliness, then a man may profess religion and yet 
be but almost a Christian. 

Now, the scripture is clear, that a man may per- 
ish under the highest profession of religion. Christ 
cursed the fig-tree, that had leaves and no fruit. 
It is said, that " the children of the kingdom shall 
be cast out into outer darkness.'* Who were these, 
but they that were then the only people of God in 
the world by profession, that had made a " covenant 
with him by sacrifice" — and yet these were cast out. 

In St. Matthew, you read of some that came and 
made boast of their profession to Christ, hoping that 
might save them. " Lord," say they, " have we not 
prophesied in thy name, cast out devils in thy name, 
done many wonderful works in thy name?" Now 
what saith our Lord Christ to this? " Then I will 
profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from 

Mark, here are them that prophesy in his name, 
and yet perish in his wrath ; in his name cast out 
devils, and then are cast out themselves; in his name 
do many wonderful works, and yet perish for wicked 
workers. The profession of religion will no more 
keep a man from perishing, than calling a ship the 
Safe-guard, or the Good-speedy will keep her from 
drowning. As many go to heaven with the fear of 
hell in their hearts, so many go to hell with the name 
of Christ in their mouths. Now then, if many may 
perish under a profession of godliness, then may a 
D 2 


man be a high professor of religion, and yet be hut 
almost a Christian. 

Objection, But is it not said by the Lord Christ 
himself, " He that confesses me before men, him 
will I confess before my Father in heaven?" Now, 
for Christ to say, he will confess us before the 
Father, is equivalent to a promise of eternal life: for 
if Jesus Christ confess us, God the Father will 
never disown us. 

True, they that confess Christ, shall be confessed 
by him; and it is as true, that this confession is equi- 
valent to a promise of salvation. But now you 
must know, that professing Christ, is not confessing 
him; for to profess Christ is one thing — to coiifess 
Christ is another. Confession is a living testimony 
for Christ, in a time when religion suffers; profes- 
sion may be only a lifeless formality, in a time 
when religion prospers. To confess Christ, is to 
choose his ways, and own them. To profess Christ, 
is to plead for his ways, and yet live beside them. 
Profession may be from a feigned love to the ways 
of Christ; but confession is from a rooted love to 
the person of Christ. To profess Christ, is to own 
him when none deny him ; to confess Christ, is to 
plead for him, and suffer for him, when others op- 
pose him. Hypocrites may be professors ; but the 
martyrs are the true confessors. Profession is a 
swimming down the stream. Confession is a swim- 
ming against the stream. Now many may swim with 
the stream, like the dead fish, that cannot swim 
against the stream, with the living fish. Many may 
profess Christ, that cannot confess Christ ; and so, 


notwithstanding their profession, yet are hut almost 

IV. To come yet nearer; a man may go far in 
opposing his sin, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

How far a man may go in this work, I shall show 
you in seven gradual instances. 

First, A man may be convinced of sin, and yet 
be hut almost a Christian: for, 

1. Conviction may be rational, as well as spiritual; 
it may be from a natural conscience enlightened by 
the word, without the effectual work of the Spirit, 
applying sin to the heart. 

2. Convictions may be worn out; they many 
times go off, and end not in sound conversion. 
Saith the church, " We have been with child, we 
have been in pain, we have brought forth wind.'' 
This is the complaint of the church, in reference to 
the unprofitableness of their afflictions; and it may 
be the complaint in most, in reference to the un*- 
profitableness of their convictions. 

3. Many take conviction of sin, to be conversion 
from sin ; and to sit down and rest in their convic- 
tions. That is a sad complaint God makes of 
Ephraim: " Ephraim is an unwise son; for he 
should not stay long in the place of the breaking 
forth of children." Now then, if convictions may 
be only from natural conscience; if they may be worn 
out, or may be mistaken, and rested in for conver- 
sion, then a man may have convictions, and be hut 
ahnost a Christian. 

Secondly, A man may mourn for sin, and yet 
be hut almost a Christian. So did Saul; so did 


Esau, for the loss of his birthright, which was his 
sin, and therefore he is called, by the Spirit of God, 
"profane Esau;" yet, " he sought it again carefully 
with tears." 

Objection. But doth not Christ pronounce them 
blessed that mourn? " Blessed are they that mourn." 
Sure then, if a man mourn for sin, he is in a good 
condition: you see, saith Nazienzen, that salvation 
is joined with sorrow. 

Solution. I answer, it is true, that they who 
mourn for sin, in the sense Christ there speaks of, 
are blessed ; but all mourning for sin, doth not there- 
fore render us blessed. 

1. True mourning for sin must flow from spiri- 
tual convictions of the evil, and vileness, and dam- 
nable nature of sin. Now, all that mourn for sin, 
do not do it from a thorough work of spiritual con- 
viction upon the soul ; they have not a right sense 
of the evil and vileness of sin. 

2. True mourning for sin, is more for the evil 
that is in sin, than the evil that comes by sin ; more 
because it dishonours God, and wounds Christ, and 
grieves the Spirit, and makes the soul unlike God, 
than because it damns the soul. Now there are 
many that mourn for sin, not so much for the evil 
that is in it, as for the evil that it brings with it; 
there is mourning for sin in hell; you read of " weep- 
ing and wailing" there. The damned are weeping 
and mourning to eternity; there, is all sorrow, and 
no comfort. As in heaven there is peace without 
trouble, joy without mourning; so in hell there is 
trouble without peace, mourning without joy, weep- 


ing and wailing incessantly: but it is for the evil they 
feel by sin, and not for the evil that is in sin: so 
that a man may mourn for sin, and yet be hut almost 
a Christian : it may grieve him to think of perishing 
for sin, when it does not grieve him that he is de- 
filed and polluted by sin. 

Thirdly, A man may make large confession of 
sin, to God, to others, and yet be hut almost a 

How ingenuously doth Saul confess his sin to 
David? " 1 have sinned,'* saith he, " thou art more 
righteous than I ! Behold, I have played the fool, 
and have erred exceedingly." So Judas makes a 
full confession : " I have sinned in betraying inno- 
cent blood." Yet Saul and Judas were both re- 
jected of God ; so that a man may confess sin, and 
yet be hut almost a Christian. 

Objection. But is not confession of sin a charac- 
ter of a child of God? Doth not the apostle say, " If 
we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to for- 
give them:" no man was ever kept out of heaven for 
his confessed badness, though many are kept out of 
heaven for their supposed goodness. 

Judah, in Hebrew, signifies confession ; now Judah 
got the kingdom from Reuben ; confession of sin is 
the way to the kingdom of heaven. 

There are some that confess sin, and are saved ; 
there are others that confess sin, and perish. 

1. Many confess sin merely out of custom, and 
not out of conscience; you shall have many that will 
never pray, but they will make a long confession of 
sin, and yet never feel the weight or burden of it 
upon their consciences. 


2. Many will confess lesser sins, and yet coticeal 
greater; like the patient in Plutarch, that complained 
to his physician of his finger, when his liver was 

3. Many will confess sin in the general, or con- 
fess themselves sinners; and yet see little, and say 
less of their particular sins ; an implicit confession, 
as one saith, is almost as bad as an implicit faith. 

Where confession is right, it will be distinct, es- 
pecially of those sins that were our chief sins. So 
David confesses his blood-guiltiness and adultery : 
so Paul his blasphemy, persecution, and injury 
against the saints. It is bad to hear men confess 
they are great sinners, and yet cannot confess their 
sins. Though the least sin be too bad to be com- 
mitted, yet there is no sin too bad to be confessed. 

4. Many will confess sin, but it is only under ex- 
tremity, that is, not free and voluntary. Pharaoh 
confesses his sin, but it was when judgment com- 
pelled him. " I have sinned against the Lord," 
saith he; but it was when he had had eight plagues 
upon him. 

5. Many do by their sins as mariners do by their 
goods, cast them out in a storm, wishing for them 
again in a calm. Confession should come like water 
out of a spring, which runs freely; not like water 
out of a still, which is forced by fire. 

6. Many confess their sins, but with no intent 
to forsake sin; they confess the sins they have com- 
mitted, but do not leave the sins they have confessed. 

Many men use their confession as Lewis the 
eleventh of France did his crucifix; he would swear 


an oath, and then kiss it; and swear again, and then 
kiss it again. So many sin, and then confess they 
do not well, but yet never strive to do better. 

Mr. Torsel tells a story of a minister he knew, 
that would be often drunk, and when he came into 
the pulpit, would confess it very lamentingly; and 
yet no sooner was he out of the pulpit, but he would 
be drunk again; and this would he do as constantly 
as men follow their trades. 

Now then, if a man may confess sin merely out 
of custom ; if he may confess lesser sins, and yet 
conceal greater; if he may confess sin only in the 
general, or only under extremity, or if lie may con- 
fess sin without any intent to forsake sin, then surely 
a man may confess sin, and yet be hut almost a 

Fourthly, A man may forsake sin, and yet be 
hut almost a Christian; he may leave his lust, and 
his wicked ways, which he sometimes lived in, and 
in the judgment of the world become a new man, 
and yet not be a new creature. Simon Magus, 
when he hears Philip preaching concerning the king- 
dom of God, leaves his sorcery and witchcraft, and 

Ohjection. But you will say, this seems contrary 
to scripture; for he that says, " He that confesseth 
and forsaketh sin, shall have mercy :" but I confess 
sin, yea, not only so, but also I forsake sin ; sure 
therefore this mercy is my portion, it belongs to me. 

Answe?\ It is true, that where a soul forsakes sin 
from a right principle, after a right manner, to a 
right end; where he forsakes sin as sin, as being 


contrary to God, and the purity of his nature^ — this 
declares that soul to be right with God, and the pro- 
raise shall be made good to it, " He shall find mercy." 
But now pray mind, there is a forsaking sin that 
is not right, but unsound. 

1. Open sins may be deserted, and yet secret sins 
may be retained; now this is not a right forsaking; 
such a soul shall never find mercy. A man may be 
cured of a wound in his flesh, and yet may die of aii 
imposthume in his bowels. 

2. A man may forsake sin, but not as sin; for he 
that forsakes sin as sin, forsakes all sin. It is im- 
possible for a man to forsake sin as sin, unless he 
forsakes all that he knows to be sin. 

3. A man may let one sin go, to hold another 
the faster; as a man that goes to sea, would willingly 
save all his goods; but if the storm arises that he 
cannot, then he throws some over-board to lighten 
the vessel, and save the rest. So did they. Acts 
?ixvii. 38. So the sinner cliooses to keep all his 
sins; but if a storm arises in his conscience, why then 
he will heave one lust over-board, to save the life of 

4. A man may let all sin go, and yet be a sinner 
still; for there is the root of all sin in the heart, though 
the fruit be not seen in the life: the tree lives, though 
the boughs be lopped off. As a man is a sinner, 
before ever he acts sin, so (till grace renews him) he 
is a sinner, though he leaves sin; for there is original 
sin in him enough to damn and destroy him. 

5. Sin may be left, and yet be loved: a man may 
forsake the life of sin, and yet retain the love of sin: 


now, though leaving sin makes him almost a Chris- 
tian, yet loving sin shows he is but almost a Chris- 
tian. It is a less evil to do sin, and not love it, 
than to love sin and not do it; for to do sin may 
argue only weakness of grace, but to love sin argues 
strength of lust. " What 1 hate, tliat I do." Sin 
is bad in any part of man, but sin in the affection is 
worse than sin in the conversation; for sin in the 
conversation may be only from infirmity, but sin in 
the affection is the fruit of choice and unregeneracy. 

6. All sin may be chained, and yet the heart not 
changed ; and so the nature of the sinner is the same 
as ever. A dog chained up, is a dog still, as much 
as if he was let loose to devour. 

There may be a cessation of arms between ene- 
mies, and yet the quarrel may remain on foot still : 
there may be a making truce, where there is no 
making peace. 

A sinner may lay the weapons of sin out of his 
hand, and yet the enmity against God still remain 
in his heart. There may be a truce — he may not 
sin against him; but there can be no peace till he be 
united to him. 

. Restraining grace holds in the sinner, but it is 
renewing grace that changes his nature. Now 
many are held in by grace from being open sinners, 
that are not renewed by grace, and made true be- 

Now then, if a man may forsake open sins, and re- 
tain secret sins ; if he may forsake sin, but not as sin ; 
if he may let one sin go, to hold another the faster; 
if a man may let all sin go, and yet be a sinner still; 


if sin may be left, and yet be loved : finally, if all sin 
maybe chained, and yet the heart not changed;^ 
then a man may forsake sin, and yet be but almost 
a Christian. 

V. A man may hate sin, and yet be but almost 
a Christian. 

Absalom hated Amnon's uncleanness with his sis- 
ter Tamar; yea, his hatred was so great, that he 
slew him for it; and yet Absalom was but a wicked 

Objection. But the Scripture makes it a sign of a 
gracious heart, to hate sin; yea, thougli a man do, 
through infirmities, fall into sin, yet if he hates it, 
this is a proof of grace. Paul proves the sincerity 
of his heart, and the truth of his grace, by this ha- 
tred of sin, though he committed it: " What 1 hate, 
that I do." Nay, what is grace but a conformity 
of the soul to God; to love as God loves, to hate as 
God hates? Now God hates sin : it is one part of his 
holiness to hate all sin. And if I hate sin, then am 
I conformed to God ; and if I am conformed to God, 
then am I altogether a Christian. 

Answer. It is true, that there is a hatred of sin, 
which is a sign of grace, and which flows from a 
principle of grace, and is grace. As for instance: 

To hate sin, as it is an offence to God, a wrong 
to his majesty; to hate sin, as it is a breach of the 
command, and so a wicked controlling of God's will, 
which is the only rule of goodness; to hate sin, as 
being a disingenuous transgression of that law of 
love established in the blood and death of Christ, 
and so, in a degree, a crucifying of Christ afresh. 


To hate sin, as being a grieving anctt quenching 
the Spirit of God, as all sin in its nature is* — Thus 
to hate sin, is grace ; and thus every true Christian 
hates sin. 

But, thougli every man that hath grace, hates 
sin, yet every man that hates sin, hath not grace: 
for, a man may hate sin from other principles, not 
as it is a wrong to God, or a wounding Christ, or a 
grieving the Spirit; for then he would hate all sin; 
for there is no sin but hath this in the nature of it. 

1. A man may hate sin for the shame that attends 
it, more than for the evil that is in it. Some sin- 
ners there are, *' who declare their sin as Sodom, 
and hide it not." They are set down in the seat 
of the scornful ; " they glory in their shame." But 
now others there are who are ashamed of sin, and 
therefore hate it, not for the sin's sake, but for the 
shame's sake. This made Absalom hate Amnon's 
uncleanness, because it brought shame upon him and 
his sister. 

2. A man may hate sin more in others, than in 
himself: so doth the drunkard — he hates drunken- 
ness in another, and yet practises it himself! the 
liar hates falsehood in another, but likes it himself. 
Now he that hates sin from a piinciple of grace, 
hates sin most in himself; he hates sin in others, 
but he loathes most the sins of his own heart. 

3. A man may hate one sin as being contrary to 
another. There is a great contrariety between sin 
and sin, between lust and lust; it is the excellencv 
of the life of grace, that it is a uniform life; there 


is no one grace contrary to another. The graces 
of God's Spirit are different, but not differing. 
Faith, and love, and holiness, are all one: they con- 
sist together at the same time, in the same subject; 
nay, they cannot be parted. There can be no faith 
without love, no love without holiness; and so, on 
the other hand, no holiness without love; no love 
without faith. So that this makes the life of grace 
an easy and excellent life; but now the life of sin is 
a distracting contradictious life, wherein a man is a 
servant to contrary lusts: the lust of pride and pro- 
digality is contrary to the lust of covetousness, &c. 
Now, where one lust gets to be the master-lust of 
the soul, then that works a hatred of its contrary. 
Where covetousness gets the heart, there the heart 
hates pride; and where pride gets uppermost in the 
heart, there the heart hates covetousness. Thus a 
man may hate sin, not from a principle of grace, but 
from the contrariety of lust. He does not hate any 
sin, as it is sin; but he hates it, as being contrary to 
his beloved sin. 

Now then, if a man may hate sin for the shame 
that attends it ; if he may hate sin more in others 
than himself; if he may hate one sin as being 
contrary to another; — then he may hate sin, and yet 
be but almost a Christian. 

VI. A man may make great vows and promises 
— he may have strong purposes and resolutions 
against sin, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

Thus did Saul; he promises and resolves against 
his sin : " Return my son David," saith he, " for I 
will no more do thee harm." What promises and 


resolves did Pharaoh make against that sin of de- 
taining God's people? — saith he, " I will let the 
people go, that they may do sacrifice to the Lord." 
And again, " I will let ye go, and ye shall stay no 
longer." And yet Saul and Pharaoh both perished 
in their sins. The greatest purposes and promises 
against sin will not make a man a Christian : for, 

1. Purposes and promises against sin, never hurt 
sin : we say, " threatened folks live long;" and truly 
so do threatened sins. It is not new purposes, but 
a new nature, that must help us against sin: purposes 
may bring to the birth, but without a new nature, 
there is no strength to bring forth. The new na- 
ture is the best soil for holy purposes to grow in ; 
otherwise, they wither and die, like plants in an im- 
proper soil. 

2. Troubles and afflictions may provoke us to 
large purposes and promises against sin for the future. 
What more common, than to vow, and not to pay ? 
to make vows in the day of trouble, which we make 
no conscience to pay in the day of grace? Many 
covenant against sin, when trouble is upon them ; 
and then sin against their covenant, when it is re* 
moved from them. It was a brave rule that Pliny, 
in one of his epistles, gave his friend to live by, 
** That we should continue to be such when we are 
well, as we promise to be when we are sick." Many 
are our sick-bed promises, but we are no sooner well, 
than we grow sick of our promises. 

3. Purposes and resolves against sin for the fu- 
ture, may be only a temptation to put off repentance 
for the present. Satan may put a man on to good 


purposes, to keep him from present attempts. He 
knows whatever we purpose, yet the strength of per- 
formance is not in ourselves. He knows, that pur- 
poses for the future are a putting God off for the pre- 
sent; they are a secret \s)ill not, to a present oppor- 
tunity. That is a notable passage, " Follow me," 
saith Christ, to the two men. Now see what answers 
they gave to Christ : — " Suffer me first to go and 
bury my father," says one. This man purposes to 
follow Christ, only he would stay to bury his father. 
Says the other, " Lord, I will follow thee, but let 
me first go and bid them farewell which are at my 
house :" I will follow thee, but only I would first 
go and take my leave of my friends, or set my house 
in order; and yet we do not find that ever they fol- 
lowed Christ notwithstanding their fair purposes. 

4. Nature unsanctified may be so far wrought on, 
as to make great promises and purposes against sin. 

1st, A natural man may have great convictions of 
sin, from the workings of an enlightened conscience. 

gd. He may approve of the law of God. 

3d, He may have a desire to be saved. 

Now these three together — the workings of con- 
science : the sight of the goodness of the law ; a 
desire to be saved, — may bring forth in a man 
great purposes against sin, and yet he may have no 
heart to perform his own purposes. This was much 
like the case of them — say they to Moses, " Go 
thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God 
shall say: and tell thou it to us, and we will hear it, 
and do it." This is a fair promise, and so God 
takes it : " I have heard the words of this people ; 


they have well said all they have spoken.'* So said, 
and so done, had been well ; but it was better said 
than done : for though they had a tongue to promise, 
yet they had no heart to perform ; and this God 
saw : therefore said he, " O that there were such an 
heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep 
my commandments always, that it might be well with 
them !" They promised to fear God, and keep his 
commandments; but they wanted anew heart to 
perform what an unsanctified heart had promised. 
It fares with men in this case, as it did vvith that 
son in the gospel, that said, " He would go into the 
vineyard, but went not." 

Now then, if purposes and promises against sin, 
never hurt sin ; if present afflictions may draw out 
large promises ; if they may be the fruit of a tempta- 
tion — or, if from nature unsanctified ; surely then a 
man may promise and purpose much against sin, and 
yet be but almost a Christian. 

VII. A man may maintain a strife and combat 
against sin in himself, and yet be but almost a 
Christian. So did Balaam ; when he went to curse 
the people of God, he had a great strife within him- 
self. " How shall I curse," saith he, " whom God hath 
not cursed? or how shall I defy whom the Lord 
hath not defied?" And did not Pilate strive against 
his sin, when he said to the Jews, " Shall I crucify 
your king? what evil hath he done. I am innocent 
of the blood of this just man." 

Objection. But you will say, " Is not this an 
argument of grace, when there is a striving in the 
soul against sin ? for what should oppose sin in 


the heart but grace ? The apostle makes " the 
lusting of the flesh against the Spirit, and the Spirit 
against the flesh," to be an argument of grace in the 
heart. Now I find this strife in my heart, though 
the remainders of corruption sometimes break out 
into actual sins, yet I find a striving in my soul 
against sin. 

Answer, It is true, there is a striving against sin, 
which is only from grace, and is proper to believers; 
and their is a striving against sin, which is npt from 
grace, and therefore may be in them that are not 
believers. There is a strife against sin in one and 
the same faculty; the will against the will — the af- 
fection against the affection; and this is that which 
the apostle calls " the lusting of the flesh against 
the Spirit;" that is, the striving of the unregenerate 
part against the regenerate : and this is ever in the 
same facuhy, and is proper to believers only. 

An unbeliever never finds this strife in himself* 
This strife cannot be in him ; it is impossible, as 
such ; that is, while he is on this side a state of 
grace. But then there is a striving against sin in 
divers faculties ; and this is the strife that is in them 
that are not believers. There, the strife is between 
the will and the conscience; conscience enlightened 
and terrified with the fear of hell and damnation — 
that is against sin ; the will and affection, not being 
renewed, they are for sin. And this causes great 
tugging and combats many times in the sinner's 
heart. Thus it was with the Scribes and Pharisees. 
Conscience convinced them of the divinity of Christ, 
and of the truth of his being the Son of God ; and 


yet a perverse will, and carnal affections, cry out, 
" Crucify him ! Crucify him !" — Conscience pleaded 
for him. He had a witness in their bosoms; and 
yet their wills were bent against him : and therefore 
they are said " to have resisted the Spirit;" namely, 
the workings and convictions of the Spirit in their 
consciences. And this is the case of many sinners; 
when the will and affections are for sin, and plead for 
it, conscience is against it, and many times frights 
the soul from the doing of it. And hence men take 
that which opposes sin in them to be grace, when it 
is only the work of a natural conscience. They 
conclude the strife is between grace and sin — the 
regenerate and unregenerate part; when, alas ! it is 
no other than the contention of a natural conscience 
against a corrupt will and affections. — And if so, 
then a man may have great strifes and combats 
against sin in him ; and yet be hut almost a Chris- 

5. A man may desire grace, and yet be but al- 
most a Christian. So did the five foolish virgins: 
" Give us of your oil." What was that but true 
grace? It was that oil that lighted the wise virgins 
into the bridegroom's chamber. They do not only 
desire to enter in, but they desire oil to light them in. 
Wicked men may desire heaven — desire a Christ 
to save them : there is none so wicked upon earth, 
but desire to be happy in heaven. But now here 
are they that desire grace as well as glory, and yet 
these are but almost Christians. 

Objection. But is it not commonly taught that 
desires of grace are grace? nay, doth not our Lord 


Christ make it so? — " Blessed are they that hunger 
and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be 

Answer, It is true, that there are some desires of 
grace which are grace: as, 

1. When a man desires grace from a right sense 
of his natural state; when he sees the vileness of sin, 
and the woful, defiled, and loathsome condition he 
is in by reason of sin; and therefore desires the grace 
of Christ to renew and change him, — this is grace. 
This some make to be the lowest degree of saving 

2. When a man joins proportionable endeavours 
to his desires ; doth not only wish for grace, but 
work for grace; such desires are grace. 

3. When a man's desires are constant and inces- 
sant, that cease not but in the attainment of their 
object; such desires are true grace. They are a 
part of the especial work of the Spirit. They tlo 
really partake of the nature of grace; now it is 
a known maxim, " that which partakes of the nature 
of the whole, is a part of the whole ;" the filings of 
gold are gold. The sea is not more really water, 
than the least drop; the flame is not more really fire 
than the least spark. 

But though all true desires of grace, are grace ; 
yet all desires of grace, are not true : for, 

1. A man may desire grace, but not for itself, but 
for somewhat else; not for grace's sake, but for hea- 
ven's sake : he doth not desire grace, that his na- 
ture may be changed, his heart renewed, the image 
of God stamped upon him, and his lusts subdued in 


him. These are blessed desires, found only in true 
believers. The true Christian only can desire grace 
for grace's sake ; but the almost Christian may desire 
Grace for heaven's sake. 

2. A man may desire grace without proportion- 
able endeavours after grace; many are good at wish- 
in(T, but bad at working; like him that lay in the 
grass on a summer's day, crying out, " O that this 
were to work?" Solomon saith, " The desire of 
the slothful kills him." How so? " For his hands 
refuse to labour;" He perisheth in his desires. 
The believer joins desires and endeavours together: 
" One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that 
will I seek after." 

3. A man's desires of grace may be unseason- 
able: thus the foolish virgins desired oil when it was 
too late. The believer's desires are seasonable; he 
desires grace in the season of grace, and seeks in a 
time when it may be found. " The wise man's 
heart knows both time and judgment." He knows 
his season, and hath wisdom to improve it. The 
silly sinner doth all his works out of season ; he sends 
away the seasons of grace, and then desires grace 
when the season is over. The sinner doth all too late ; 
as Esau desired the blessing when it was too late, and 
therefore he lost it; whereas, had he come sooner, 
he had obtained it. Most men are like Epimetheus, 
wise too late, they come when the market is done ; 
when the shop is closed, then they have their oil to 
get. When they lie upon their death-beds, then 
they desire holy hearts. 

4. Desires of grace in many are very inconstant 


and fleeting, like the " morning dew, that quickly' 
passes away :" or like Jonah's gourd, that springs 
up in a night, and withers in a night ; they have no 
root in the heart, and therefore quickly perish. 
Now, if a man may desire grace, but not for grace's 
sake; if desires may be without endeavours: if a man 
may desire grace when it is too late ; if these desires 
may be but fleeting and inconstant; then may a man 
desire grace, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

5. A man may tremble at the word of God and 
yet be hut almost a Christian, as Belshazzar did at 
the hand-writing upon the wall. 

Objection. But is not that a note of sincerity 
and truth of grace, to tremble at the word? Doth not 
God say, " To him will I look that is of a poor and 
contrite spirit, and trembles at my word?" 

Answer, There is a two-fold trembling. 

1. One is, when the word discovers the guilt of sin, 
and the wrath of God that belongs to that guilt ; this, 
where conscience is awake, causes trembling and 
amazement: thus, when Paul preached of right- 
eousness and judgment, it is said Felix trembled. 

2. There is a trembling which arises from a holy 
dread and reverence of the majesty of God, speak- 
ing in his word ; this is only found in true believers, 
and is that which keeps the soul low in its own eyes. 
Therefore mark how the words run : " To him will 
I look that is of a poor and contrite spirit, and trem- 
bles at my word." God does not make the promise 
to him that trembles at the word ; for the devils 
believe and tremble; the word of God can make the 
proudest, stoutest sinner in the world to shake and 


tremble, — but it is " to the poor and contrite spirit 
that trembles." Where trembling is the fruit of a 
spirit broken for sin, and low in its own eyes; there 
will God look. Now many tremble at the word, 
but not from poverty of spirit, not from a heart 
broken for sin, and low in its own eyes ; not from a 
sense of the majesty and holiness of God : and there- 
fore, notwithstanding, they tremble at the word, yet 
they are but almost Christians. 

VII. A man may delight in the word and ordi- 
nances of God, and yet be but almost a Christian : 
" They take delight in approaching to God." And 
it is said of that ground, that it " received the word 
with joy," and yet it was but *' stony ground." 

Objection. But is it not made a character of a 
godly man, to delight in the word of God ? Doth not 
David say, " He is a blessed man that delights in 
the law of the Lord ?" 

Answer. There is a delighting in the word, 
which flows from grace, and is a proof of blessedness. 

1. He that delights in the word, because of its 
spirituality, he is a Christian indeed ; the more 
spiritual the ordinances are, the more doth a gracious 
heart delight in them. 

2. When the word comes close to the conscience, 
rips up the heart, and discovers sin, and yet the soul 
delights in it notwithstanding; this is a sign of 

3. When delight arises from that communion 
that is to be had with God there, this is from a 
principle of grace in the soul. 


But there may be a delight in the word, where 
there is no grace. 

1. There are many who delight in the word be- 
cause of the eloquence of the preacher: they delight 
not so much in the truths delivered, as in the dress 
in which they are delivered. Thus it is said of the 
prophet Ezekiel, that he was to them " as a very 
lovelv song of one that hath a pleasant voice." 

2. There are very many who delight to hear the 
word, that yet take no delight to do it : so saith 
God of them, " They delight to hear my words, 
but they do them not." 

Now then, if a man may delight in the word more, 
because of the eloquence of the preacher, than be- 
cause of the spirituality of the matter; if he may 
delight to hear the word, and yet not delight to do 
it, — then he may delight in the word, and yet be but 
almost a Christian. 

VIII. A man may be a member of the church of 
Christ, he may join himself to the people of God, 
partake with them in all ordinances, and share of 
all church privileges, and yet be but almost a 

So the five foolish virgins joined themselves to the 
wise, and walked together. Many may be mem- 
bers of the church of Christ, and yet not members 
of Christ, the head of the church. There was a 
mixed multitude came up with the church of Israel 
out of Egypt : they joined themselves to the Israel- 
ites, owned their God, left their own country, and 
yet were in heart Egyptians notwithstanding : " All 
are not Israel, that are of Israel." 


The church in all ages hath had unsound mem- 
bers : Cain had communion with Abel; Ishmael 
dwelt in the same house with Isaac; Judas was in 
fellowship with the apostles; and so was Demas with 
the rest of the disciples. There will be some bran 
in the finest meal: the drag-net of the Gospel 
catclies bad fish as well as good; the tares and the 
wheat grow together, and it will be so till the 

God hath a church where there are no members 
but such as are true members of Christ, but it is 
in heaven, it is the '' church of the first-born ;" 
there are no hypocrites, nor rotten, unsound profes- 
sors, none but the " spirits of just men made per- 
fect :" all is pure wheat that God layeth up in that 
garner; there the chaff is separated to unquenchable 

But in the church on earth the wheat and the 
chaff lie in the same heap together; the Samaritans 
will be near of kin to the Jews when they are in 
prosperity : so while the church of God flourisheth 
in the world, many will join to it; they will seem 
Jews, though they are Samaritans; and seem saints, 
though yet they are no better than almost Christians. 

IX. A man may have great hopes of heaven, 
great hopes of being saved, and yet be but almost a 

Indeed there is a hope of heaven which is " the 
anchor of the soul sure and steadfast," it never mis- 
carries, and it is known by four properties. 

First, It is a hope that purifies the heart, purges 
out sin : " He that hath this hope, purifies himself 

E 27 


even as God is pure." That soul that truly hopes 
to enjoy God, truly endeavours to be like God. 

Secondly, It is a hope which fills the heart with 
gladness: ** We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." 

Thirdly, It is a hope that is founded upon the 
promise : as there can be no true faith without a 
promise, so, nor any true hope. Faith applies the 
promise, and hope expects the fulfilling the promise: 
faith relies upon the truth of it, and hope waits for 
tbe good of it : faith gives interest, hope expects 
livery and seisin. 

Fourthly, It is a hope that is wrought by God 
himself in the soul; who is therefore called, " the 
God of hope," as being the Author as well as the 
Object of hope. Now, he that hath this hope shall 
never miscarry. This is a right hope; the hope of the 
true believer: " Christ in you, the hope of glory." 
But then, as there is a true and sound hope, so 
there is a false and rotten hope; and this is much 
more common, as bastard-pearls are more frequently 
worn than true pearls. 

There is nothing more common, than to see men 
big with groundless hopes of heaven : as, 

1. A man may have great hope that hath no 
grace; you read of the " hope of hypocrites." The 
performance of duties is a proof of their hope ; the 
foolish virgins would never have done what they did, 
had they thought they should have been shut out 
after all. Many professors would not be at such 
pains in duties as they are, if they did not hope for 
heaven. Hope is the great motive to action : des- 
pair cuts the sinews of all endeavours. That is one 


reason why the damned in hell cease acting toward 
an alteration of their state, because despair hath 
taken hold of them : if there were any hope in hell, 
they would up and be doing there. So that there 
may be great hope where there is no grace ; experi- 
ence proves this ; formal professors are men of no 
grace, but yet men of great hopes; nay, many times 
you shall find that none fear more about their eter- 
nal condition, than they that have most cause of 
hope ; and none hope more than they that have most 
cause of fear. As interest in hope may sometimes 
be without hope, so hope in God may be without 

2. A man may hope in the mercy and goodness, 
and power of God, without eyeing the promise; and 
this is the hope of most : God is full of mercy and 
goodness, and therefore willing to save; and he is 
infinite in power, and therefore able to save; why 
therefore should I not rest on him ? 

Now it is presumption, and therefore sin, to hope 
in the mercy of God, otherwise than by eyeing the 
promise ; for the promise is the channel of mercy, 
through which it is conveyed ; all the blessedness the 
saints enjoy in heaven, is no other than what is 
the fruit of promise relied on, and hoped for here on 
earth. A man hath no warrant to hope in God, 
but by virtue of the promise. 

3. A man may hope for heaven, and yet not 
cleanse his heart, nor depart from his secret sins; 
that hope of salvation that is not accompanied with 
heart-purification, is a vain hope. 

4. A man may hope for heaven, and yet be do- 



ing the work of hell ; he may hope for salvation, 
and yet be working out his own damnation, and so 
perish in his confidences. This is the case of many, 
like the water-man that looks one way, and rows 
another; many have their eyes on heaven whose 
hearts are in the earth; they hope in God, but 
choose him not for a portion; they hope in God, 
but do not love him as the best good, and therefore 
are like to have no portion in him, nor good by him; 
bat are like to perish without him, notwithstanding 
all their hopes: " What is the hope of the hypo- 
crite, though he hath gained, when God takes away 
his soul?" 

Now then, if a man may have great hope of hea- 
ven, that hath no grace; if he may hope in mercy, 
without eyeing the promise; if he may hope without 
heart-purifying ; if he may hope for heaven, and yet 
do the work of hell; surely then a man may have 
great hopes of heaven, and yet be but almost a 

X. A man may be under great and visible 
changes, and these wrought by the ministry of the 
word, and yet be but almost a Christian, as Herod 
was. It is said, " when he heard John Baptist, 
he did many things, and heard him gladly." Saul 
was under a great change when he met the Lord's 
prophets; he turned prophet too. Nay, it is said, 
verse 9th of that chapter, that " God gave him another 
heart." Now, was not this a work of grace ? and 
was not Saul here truly converted ? One would 
think he was ; but yet indeed he was not. For 
though it is said, God gave him another heart, yet 


it is not said, that God gave him a 7iex<o lieart. 
There is a great difference between another heart, 
and a new heart; God gave him another heart to fit 
him for a ruler, but gave him not a new heart to 
make him a beHever; another heart may make 
another man, but it is a new heart that makes a new 

Again Simon Magus is a great proof of this 
truth : he was under a great and visible change ; of 
a sorcerer he was turned to be a believer; he left his 
witchcrafts and sorceries, and embraced the gospel ; 
was not this a great change ? If the drunkard doth 
but leave his drunkenness, the swearer his oaths, 
the profane person his profaneness, they think this 
is a gracious change, and their state is now good. 
Alas ! Simon Magus did not only leave his sins, but 
had a kind of conversion ; for, " he believed, aitd 
was baptized." 

Objection. But is not that man that is changed, 
a true Christian ? 

Ansiver. Not every change makes a man a Chris- 
tian : indeed there is a change, that whoever is un- 
-der it is a true Christian. 

When a man's heart is so changed, as that it is 
renewed : when old things " are done away, and all 
is become new :" when the new creature is wrouo-ht 

in the soul, when a man is " turned from darkness 

to light, from the power of Satan to God;" when 
the mind is enlightened, the will renewed, the affec- 
tions made heavenly ; then a man is a Christian 

But now you must know that every change is not 
this change. For, 


J. There is a civil change, a moral change, as 
well as a spiritual and supernatural change. 

Many men are changed in a moral sense, and one 
may say, they are become ?iexv men ; but they are 
in heart and nature the same men still. They are 
not changed in a spiritual and supernatural sense, 
and therefore it cannot be said of them, they are be- 
come 7iew creatures. 

Restraining grace may cause a moral change; but 
it is renewing grace that must cause a saving 
change. Now, many are under restraining grace, 
and so changed morally, that are not under the 
power of saving grace, and so changed savingly, 

2. There is an outward change, as well as an in- 
ward change : the outward change is often without 
the inward, though the inward change is never with- 
out the outward. A man's heart cannot be sancti- 
fied, but it will influence the life; but a man's life 
may be reformed, and yet never affect or influence 
the heart. 

3. A man may be converted from a course of 
profaneness, to a form of godliness; from a filthy 
conversation, to a fair profession; and yet the heart 
be the same in one and the other. A rotten post 
may be gilt without, and yet unsound within. It 
is common to have the " outside of the cup and plat- 
ter" made clean, and yet the inside foul and fihhy. 

Now then, if a man may be changed morally, and 
yet not spiritually — outwardly, and yet not inwardly, 
from a course of profaneness, to a lifeless form of 
godliness; then a man may be under great and visible 
changes, and yet be no more than almost a Christian. 

I do not speak this to discountenance any change. 


short of that which is spiritual; but to awaken you 
to seek after that change vvliich is more than moral. 
It is good to be outwanily renewed, but it is better 
to be savingly renewed. I know how natural it is 
for men to take up with any thing like a work of 
conversion, though it be not conversion; and resting 
iu that, they eternally perish. 

Beloved, let me tell you, there is no change, no 
conversion, can stead your souls in the day of judg- 
ment, on this side that saving work, which is wrought 
on the soul by the Spirit .of God, renewing you 
throughout: the sober man, without this change, 
shall as surely go to hell, as the foolish drunkard. 
Morahty and civility may commend us to men, but 
not to God. They are of no value in the procure- 
ment of an eternal salvation. 

A man may go far in an outward change, and 
yet be not one step nearer heaven, than he that was 
never under any change; — nay, he may be, in some 
sense, further off'; as Christ saith, the Scribes and 
Pharisees were further from heaven, with all their 
show of godliness, than publicans and harlots, in 
all their sin and un cleanness. Because, resting in 
a false work, a partial change, we neglect to seek 
after a true and saving change. There is nothing 
more common than to mistake our state, and by 
overweening thoughts, misjudge our condition, and 
so perish in our own delusions. The world is full 
of these foolish builders, that lay the foundation of 
theii hopes of eternal salvation upon the sand. 

Now, my brethren, would you not mistake the 
way to heaven, and perish in a delusion? Would 


you not be found fools at last? for none are such 
fools as the spiritual fool, who is a fool in the great 
business of salvation. Would you not be fools for 
your souls, and for eternity? O then labour after, 
and pray for, a thorough work of conversion ! Beg 
of God that he would make a saving change in your 
souls, that ye may be altogether Christians! All 
other changes below this saving change, this heart- 
change, make us hut almost Christians. 

XI. A man may be very zealous in the matters 
of religion, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

Jehu did not only serve God, and do what he 
commanded him, but was very zealous in his service: 
" Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord of 
hosts !" and yet in all this Jehu Mas a very hypo- 
crite. Joash was a great reformer in Jehoiada's 
time; it is said, "He did that which was right in 
the sight of the Lord, all the days of Jehoiada the 
priest." But when Jehoiada died, Joash's zeal for 
God died with him, and he becomes a very wretch. 

Objection. But the apostle makes zeal to be a 
note of sound Christianity: " It is good to be zeal- 
ously affected in good things;" nay, it seems to be 
the non-such qualification for obtaining eternal life : 
" The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and 
the violent take it by force." 

Answer. It is true, there is a zeal which is good, 
and which renders the soul highly acceptable to 
God — a zeal, that never misses of heaven and sal- 
vation. Now this is a zeal which is a celestial fire; 
the true temper and heat of all the affections to 
God and Christ. It is a zeal wrought and kindled 


in the soul by the Spirit of God, who first works 
it, and then sets it on work. It is a zeal that hath 
the word of God for its guide, directing it in work- 
ing, both in regard of its object and end, manner 
and measure. It is a zeal that checks sin, and for- 
wards the heavenly life. It is a zeal that makes 
the glory of God its chief end ; which swallows up 
all by-ends : " The zeal of thy house hath eaten 
me up." 

But now all zeal is not this kind of zeal: there 
is a false zeal, as well as a true : every grace hath 
its counterfeit. As there is fire, which is true hea- 
venly fire, on the altar, so there is strange fire : Na- 
dab and Abihu offered strange fire upon God's altar. 

There are several kinds of zeal, none of which 
are true and sound, but false and counterfeit. 

I shall instance in eight particulars: 

First, There is a blind zeal, a zeal without 
knowledge. " They have a zeal," saith the apostle, 
" but not according to knowledge." Now as know- 
ledge, without zeal is fruitless, so zeal without know- 
ledije is dan^rerous. It is like wikUfire in the hand 
of a fool; or, like the devil in the man possessed, 
that threw him sometimes into the fire, sometimes 
into the water. 

The eye is the light of the body, and the under- 
standing is the light of the soul. Now, as the body, 
without the light of the eye, cannot go without 
stumbling ; so the soul, without the light of the 
mind, cannot act without erring. Zeal without 
knowledge, is like an ignis fatuus in a dark night, 
that leads a traveller out of his way, into the bogs 


and mire. This was the zeal of Paul, while he was 
a Pharisee : " I was zealous towards God, as ye are 
all this day; and I persecuted this way unto the 
death." And again, " I verily thought with my- 
self, I ought to do many things contrary to the 
name of Jesus of Nazareth." And, " Concerning 
zeal, persecuting the church." Such a zeal was 
that in John, *' They shall put you out of the syna- 
gogue," — silence you, you shall not be suffered to 
preach; — " yea, the time comes, that whoever kills 
you, will think that he doth God service." This 
is great zeal, but yet it is blind zeal; and that God 

Secondly, There is a partial zeal: in one thing, 
fire-hot — in another key-cold; zealous in this thing, 
and yet careless in another. Many are first-table 
Christians, zealous in the duties of the first table, 
and yet neglect the second. Thus the Pharisees 
were zealous in their Corban, and yet unnatural to 
their parents, suffering them to starve and perish. 
Others are second-table Christians, zealous in the 
duties of the second table, but neglect the first; 
more for righteousness among men, than for holi- 
ness towards God. But now he whose religion ends 
with the first table, or begins with the second, he is 
a fool in his profession ; for he is but almost a Chris- 

The woman that was for the dividing the child, 
was not the true mother; and he that is for dividing 
the commands, is not a true believer. 

Jehu was zealous against Ahab's house, but not 
so against Jeroboam's calves; many are zealous 


against sin of opinion, tliat yet use no zeal against 
the sins of their conversation. 

Now, as we know that the sweat of the wliole 
body is a sign of health, but the sweat of some one 
part only, shows a distemper, and therefore physi- 
cians do reckon such a heat to be symptomatica!. 
So where zeal reaches to every command of God 
alike, that is a sign of a sound constitution of soul; 
but where it is partial, where a man is hot in one 
part, and cold in another, that is symptomatica! of 
some inward spiritual distemper. 

Thirdly, There is a misplaced zeal; fixed upon 
unsuitable and disproportionable objects. Many are 
very zealous in trifling things that are not worth it, 
and trifling in the things that most require it; like 
the Pharisees that were diligent tythers of mint, 
anise, and cummin, but neglected the " weightier 
matters of the law; judgment, mercy, and faith." 
They had no zeal for these, though very liot for 
the other; many are more zealous for a ceremony, 
than for the substance of religion; more zealous for 
bowing at the name of Jesus, than for conformity 
to the life of Jesus ; more zealous for a lioly vest- 
ment, than for a holy life; more zealous for the in- 
ventions of men, than for the institutions of Christ. 
This is a superstitious zeal, and usually found in 
men unconverted, in whom grace never was wrought. 
Against such men heathens will rise up in judg- 
ment. When was it that Paul was so " exceeding 
zealous of the traditions of his fathers," as he 
saith, but only when he was in his wretched and 
unconverted state? as you may see in the next verses : 


" But when it pleased God to call me by his grace, 
then I conferred not with flesh and blood." Paul 
had another kind of zeal then, actuated by other 
kind of principles. 

Fourthly, There is a selfish zeal, that hath a 
man's own end for its motive ; Jehu was very zea- 
lous, but it was not so much for God, as for the 
kingdom; not so much in obedience to the command, 
as in design to step into the throne; and therefore 
God threatens to punish him for that very thing he 
commands him to do: "I will avenge the blood of 
Jezreel upon the house of Jehu:" because he shed 
that blood, to gratify his lust, not to obey God. 
So Simeon and Levi pretend great zeal for circum- 
cision, seem very zealous for the honour of God's 
ordinances, when in truth their zeal was covetous- 
ness, and revenge upon the Shechemites. 

Fifthly, There is an outside zeal: such was that 
of the Scribes and Pharisees; they would not eat 
with unwashed hands, but yet would live in unseen 
sins; they would wash the cup often, but the heart 
seldom; paint the outside, but neglect the inside. 
Jehu was a mighty outside reformer, but he re- 
formed nothing within, for he had a base heart 
under all. " Jehu took no heed to walk in the 
law of the Lord with all his heart." Though his 
fleece was fair, his liver was rotten. Our Lord 
Christ observes of the Pharisees, " They pray, to 
be seen of men;" and fast, so " that they may ap- 
pear to men to fast." 

Sixthly, There is a forensic zeal, that runs out 
upon others ; like the candle in the lantern, that 


sends all tlic heat out at the top; or as the lewd 
woman Solomon mentions, whose " feet abide not 
in her own house." 

Many are hot and high against the sins of others, 
and yet cannot see the same in themselves; like the 
Lamiae, that put on their spectacles when they went 
abroad, but pulled them off within doors. 

It is easy to see faults in others, and as hard to 
see them in ourselves. Jehu was zealous against 
Baal and his priests, because that was Ahab's sin; 
but not against the calves of Bethel, because that 
was his own sin. This zeal is the true character of 
a hypocrite; his own garden is overrun with weeds, 
while he is busy in looking over his neighbour's 

Seventhly, There is a sinful zeal: all the former 
may be called sinful from some defect; but this I 
call sinful in a more special notion, because against 
the life and chief of religion. It is a zeal, against zeal, 
that flies not dt profaneness, but at the very power 
of godliness; not at error, but at truth; and is most 
hot against the most spiritual and important truths 
of the times. Whence else are the sufFerin^js of 
men for the truth, but from the spirit of zeal against 
the truth? This may be called a devilish zeal; for 
as there is the faith of devils, so there is the zeal of 
devils : " Therefore his rage is great, because he 
knows his time is short." 

Eighthly, There is a scriptureless zeal, that is 
not butted and bounded by the word, but by some 
base and low end. Such was Saul's zeal, when God 
bids him destroy Amalek, " and spare neither man 


nor beast ;" when contrary to God's command, he 
spares the best of the sheep and oxen, under pre- 
tence of zeal for God's sacrifice. Another time, 
when he had no such command, t?ien he slew the 
Gibeonites " in zeal to the children of Israel and 

Many a man's zeal is greater then and there, 
when and where he hath the least warrant from God. 
The true spirit of zeal is bounded by Scripture; for 
it is for God, and the concerns of his glory: God 
hath no glory from that zeal that hath no scripture- 

Now then, if the zeal of a man in the things of 
God may be only a blind zeal, or a partial zeal, or a 
misplaced zeal, or a selfish zeal, or an outside zeal, 
or a forensic zeal, or a sinful zeal, or a scriptureless 
zeal ; then it is evident, that a man may be very 
zealous in the matters of religion, and yet be hut 
almost a Christian. 

XII. A man may be much in prayer — he may 
pray often, and pray much; and yet be but almost 
a Christian. So did the Pharisees, whom yet our 
Lord Christ rejects for hypocrites. 

Objection. But is not a praying-frame an argu- 
ment of a sincere heart? Are not the saints of 
God called " the generation of them that seek the 
face of God?" 

A?iswer. A man is not therefore a Christian, be- 
cause he is much in prayer. I grant that those 
prayers that are from the workings and sighings of 
God's Spirit in us; from sincere hearts lifted up to 
God ; from a sense of our own emptiness, and God's 


infinite fulness; that are suited to God's will, the 
great rule ot* prayer ; that are for spiritual things, 
more than temporal; that are accompanied with 
faith and dcpendance, — such prayers speak a man al- 
together a Christian. But now a man may be much 
in prayer, and yet be a stranger to such prayer ; as, 

1. Nature may put a man upon prayer; for it is a 
part of natural worsliip. It may put a child of God 
upon prayer; — so did Christ: " He went and fell 
on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father ! if it 
be possible, let this cup pass from me." This was 
a prayer of Christ which flowed from the sinless 
strugglings of nature, seeking its own preservation. 

2. A man may pray in pretence, for a covering 
to some sin: so did those devout Pharisees: " Wo 
to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye 
devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make 
long prayers: therefore ye shall receive the greater 
damnation." So the Papists seem very devout to 
pray a rich man's soul out of purgatory; but it is 
to cheat the heir of much of his estate, under pre- 
tence of praying for his father's soul. 

3. A man may pray, and yet love sin ; as Austin 
before conversion prayed against his sin, but was 
afraid God should hear him, and take him at his 
word. Now, God hears not such prayers: " If I 
regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear my 

4. A man may pray much for temporal things, 
and little for spiritual things; and such are the 
prayers of most men, crying out most for temporal 
things. More for, " Who will show us any good?" 


than for, " Lord, lift upon us the light of thy coun- 
tenance." David copies out the prayer of such : 
" That our sons may be as plants, and that our 
daughters may be as corner-stones, polished after 
the similitude of a palace : that our garners may be 
full, &c. Happy is the people that is in such a 
case!" This is the carnal prayer; and this David 
calls vanity — " They are strange children, whose 
mouth speaketh vanity." 

5. A man may pray, and yet be far from God in 
prayer: " This people draw nigh to me with their 
mouths, and honour me with their lips, but their 
heart is far from me.^' A man may pray, and yet 
have no heart in prayer; and that God chiefly looks 
at : " My son, give me thy heart." 

The Jews have this sentence written upon the 
walls of their synagogues : " Prayer, without the 
intention of the mind, is but a body without a soul." 

It is not enough to be conscionable to use prayer, 
but we must be conscionable to the use of prayer. 
Manv are so conscientious that they dare not but 
pray; and yet so irreligious, that they have no heart 
in prayer. A common work of God may make a 
man conscionable to do duties, but nothing less than 
giving grace in the heart, will make a man con- 
scionable in the doing of them. 

6. A man's prayer may be a lie. As a profession 
without sanctity is a lie to the world, so prayer 
without sincerity, is a lie to God. It is said of 
Israel, that they " sought God, and inquired early 
after him." They were much in prayer, and God 
calls all but a lie. " Nevertheless, they did flatter 


liim with their mouths, and they Hed to him with 
their tongues, for their heart was not with him." — 
" Hearken to my prayer, that goeth not out of 
feigned hps," saith David. 

7. Affliction and the pressure of outward evils, 
will make a man pray, and pray much. " When he 
slew them, then they sought him, and returned, and 
inquired early after God." The heathen mariners 
called every man upon his God when in a storm : 
when they fear drowning, then they fall to praying, 
Jonah i. 5. Mariners are for the most part none 
of the devoutest, nor much addicted to prayer. They 
will swear twice, where they pray once; and yet it is 
said, " They cry to the Lord in their trouble :" and 
hence you have a proverb, " He that cannot pray, 
let him go to sea." — " They poured out a prayer 
when thy chastening was upon them." 

Now then, if nature may put a man upon prayer; 
if a man may pray in pretence, and design ; if a man 
may pray, and yet love sin; if a man may pray mostly 
for temporal things; if a man may pray, and yet be 
far from God in prayer; if prayer may be a lie, or it 
may be only the cry of the soul under affliction, — 
sure then a man may be much in prayer, and yet be 
but almost a Christian. 

Objection. But suppose a man pray, and prevail 
with God in prayer, surely that is a witness from 
heaven of a man's sincerity in prayer: now, I pray, 
and prevail; I ask, and am answered. 

Answer, A man may pray, and be answered; for 
God many times answers prayers in judgment. As 
God is sometimes silent in mercy, so he speaks in 


wrath; and as he sometimes denies prayer in mercy, 
so he sometimes answers in judgment: when men 
are over-importunate in something their lusts are 
upon, and will take no nay, then God answers in 
judgment. " He gave them their own desire." 
They had desired quails, and God sent them: but 
now mark the judgment — " While the meat was in 
their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, 
and slew them." 

Objection. But suppose a man's affections are 
much stirred in prayer — how then ? Is not that a 
true note of Christianity? Now my affections are 
much stirred in prayer. 

Answer. So was Esau's, when he sought the bles- 
sing. " He sought it carefully with tears." A man 
may be affected with his own parts in a duty, while 
good notions pass through his head, and good words 
through his lips: some good motions also may stir 
in his heart, but they are but sparks which fly out 
at tlie tunnel of the chimney, which suddenly vanish; 
so that it is possible a man may pray, and prevail in 
prayer; pray, and be affected in prayer — and yet be 
but almost a Christian. 

XIII. A man may suffer for Christ in his goods, 
in his name, in his person; and yet be but almost a 

Every man that bears Christ's cross on his shoul- 
ders, doth not, therefore, bear Christ's image in his 

Objection. But doth not our Lord Christ make 
great promises to them that suffer, or lose any thing 
for him? Doth he not say, " Every one that hath 


forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or fiUher, or 
mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's 
sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit 
everlasting life?" Sure they are true Christians to 
whom Christ makes this promise ! 

Answer. There is a suffering for Christ, that is a 
note of sincerity, and shall have its reward. That 
is, when a man suffers for a good cause, upon a good 
call, and with a good conscience, for Christ's sake, 
and in Christ's strength; when his sufferings are a 
filling up " that which is behind of the sufferings of 
Christ;" when a man suffers as a Christian, as the 
apostle hath it, " If a man suffers as a Christian, let 
him not be ashamed;" when a man thrusts not him- 
self into sufferings, but stays God's call, such suffer- 
ing is a proof of integrity. 

But now, every suffering for Christ is not suffer- 
ing as a Christian: for, 

1. A man may suffer for Christ, for that profes- 
sion of religion that is upon him; the world hates 
the show of religion. Times may come, that it may 
cost a man as dear to wear the livery of Christ, as to 
wear Christ himself. Alexander had like to have 
lost his life for the gospel's sake, yet he was that 
Alexander, as is generally judged, that afterwards 
made shipwreck of faith, and greatly opposed Paul's 

2. A man may suffer for Christ, and yet have no 
true love to Christ. This is supposed: " Though 
I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, 
it profits nothing." 

Love to Christ is the only noble ground of suf- 
fering; but a man may suffer much upon other ends. 


1. Out of opinion of meriting by our sufferings, 
as the Papists; or, 

2. Out of vain glory, or for applause among pro- 
fessors: some have died, that their names might live; 

3. Out of a Roman resolution, or stoutness of 

4. Out of a design of profit, as Judas forsook all 
for Christ, hoping to mend his market by closing 
with him; or, 

5. Rather to maintain an opinion, than for truth's 
propagation. Socrates died for maintaining that 
there was but one God; but whether he died rather 
for his own opinion, than for God's sake, I think it 
is no hard matter to determine. Thus, a man may 
suffer for professing Christ, and yet suffer upon 
wrong principles. 

Now then, if a man may suffer for Christ, from 
the profession that is upon him, or suffer for Christ, 
and yet not truly love him; then a man may suffer 
for Christ, and yet be bul almost a Christian. 

XIV. A man may be called of God, and embrace 
this call, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

Judas is a famous instance of this truth: he was 
called by Christ himself, and came at the call of 
Christ; and yet Judas was hut almost a Christian. 

Objection. But is not the being under the call 
of God, a proof of our interest in the predestinating 
love of God? Doth not the apostle say, " Whom 
he predestinated, them he called?" Nay, doth he 
not say, in the next verse, " Whom he called, them 
he justified?" Nay, doth not God call all whom he 
intends to save? 


Answer, Though God calleth all those that shall 
be saved, yet all shall not be saved whom God cal- 
leth. Every man under the gospel is called of God 
in one sense or other, but yet every man under the 
gospel shall not therefore be saved: " For many 
are called, but few chosen." 

There is a twofold call of God — internal, and ex- 

1. There is an internal call of God. Now, 
this call is a special work of the Spirit, by the minis- 
try of the word, whereby a man is brought out of a 
state of nature, into a state of grace; " out of dark- 
ness into light, from being vessels of wrath, to be 
made heirs of life." I grant, that whoever is under 
this call of God, is called effectually and savingly, 
to be a Christian indeed. " Every man that hath 
heard and learned of the Father, comes to me." 

2. There is a call of God which a man may have, 
and yet not be this call: there is an external call of 
God, which is by the ministry of the word. 

Now every man that lives under the preaching of 
the gospel, is thus called. God calls every soul of 
you to repent, and lay a sure foundation for heaven 
and salvation, by the word you hear this day. 

But now every man that is thus called, is not 
therefore a Christian: for, 

1. Many under the call o£ God, come to Christ, 
but are not converted to Christ, have nothing of the 
grace and life of Christ; such as he, who, when 
Christ sent out his servants to bid guests unto the 
marriage, came in at the call of Christ, but yet " had 
not on the wedding garment;" that is, had none of 
the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ. 


2. Many that are under the call of the gospel, 
come to Christ, and yet afterwards fall away from 
Christ; as Judas and Demas did. It is said, when 
Christ preached a doctrine that his disciples did not 
like, that " from that time many of his disciples 
went back, and walked no more with him." 

Now then, if many are only under this external 
call of God; if many that come to Christ are not 
converted to Christ, but fall away from Christ ; then 
a man may be called of God, and yet be but almost 
Si. Christian. 

XV. A man may have the Spirit of God, and 
yet be hut almost a Christian. 

Balaam had the Spirit of God given him when 
he blessed Israel: " Balaam saw Israel abiding in 
tents, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him." 
Judas had; for by the Spirit he cast out devils; he 
was one of them that came to Christ, and said, 
" Lord, even the devils are subject to us." Saul 
Jiad — " Behold, a company of prophets met him; 
and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he pro- 
phesied among them." 

Objection. But you will say, " Can a man have 
the Spirit of God, and yet not be a Christian?" In- 
deed, the Scripture saith, " If any man have not 
the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" but surely 
if any man have the Spirit of Christ, he is his ! 

Answer. There is a having the Spirit, which is 
a sure mark of saintship. Where the Spirit is an 
effectual prevailing principle of grace and sanctifica- 
tion, renewing and regenerating the heart: where 
the Spirit is a potent worker, " helping the soul's 


infirmities: where the Spirit is so as to " abide for 
ever." But now every man that hath the Spirit, 
liath not the Spirit in this manner: for, 

1. A man may have the Spirit only transiently, 
not abidingly. The Spirit may be in a man, and 
yet not dwell in a man; the Spirit is wherever he 
dwells, but he does not dwell wherever he is; he is 
in all, but dwells in saints only. The hypocrite may 
have the Spirit for a season, but not to abide in 
him for ever. 

2. A man may have the Spirit, and yet not be 
born of the Spirit, Every true Christian is born 
of the Spirit. A hypocrite may have the gifts of 
the Spirit, but not the graces: the Spirit may be in 
him by the way of illumination^ but not by way of 
sandificatioji ; by way o^ conviction, but not by way 
o{ conversion. Though he may have much common 
grace for the good of others, yet he may have no 
special grace for the good of himself; though his 
profession be spiritual, yet his state and condition 
may be carnal. 

3. A man may have the Spirit only as a Spirit 
of bondage. Thus, many have the Spirit working 
only to bondage. " The Spirit of bondage is an 
operation of the Holy Gliost by the law, convincing 
the conscience of sin, and of the curse of the law, 
and working in the soul such an apprehension of the 
wrath of God, as makes the thoughts of God a ter- 
ror to him." 

This Spirit may be, and often is, without saving 
grace : this operation of the Spirit was in Cain and 
Judas. There are none that receive the Spirit of 


adoption, but they first receive the Spirit of bondage; 
yet many receive the Spirit of bondage, that never 
receive the Spirit of adoption. 

4. A man may have the Spirit of God working 
in him, and yet it may be resisted by him. It is 
said of the Jews, " They rebelled, and vexed his holy 
Spirit :" and the same sin is charged npon their 
children : " Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in 
heart, ye have always resisted the Holy Ghost; as your 
fathers did, so do ye." The hypocrite retains not 
the Spirit so long as to come up to regeneration and 
adoption, but quenches the motion of it, and thereby 
miscarries eternally. 

5. A man may have the Spirit, and yet sin that 
unpardonable sin : he may have the Holy Ghost, 
and yet sin the sin against the Holy Ghost ; — nay, 
no man can sin this sin against it, but he that hath 
some degree of it. 

The true believer hath so much of the Spirit, 
such a work of it in him, that he cannot sin that 
sin: '' He that is born of God, sins not;" to wit, 
that " sin unto death," for that is meant. The 
carnal professing sinner, he cannot sin that sin, be- 
cause he is carnal and sensual, having not the Spirit. 
A man must have some measure of the Spirit that 
sins this sin : so hath the hypocrite: he is said to be 
" partaker of the Holy Ghost," and he only is 
capable of sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost. 

Now then, if a man may have the Spirit tran- 
siently only, not abidingly; if a man may have the 
Spirit, and yet not be born of the Spirit ; if he may 
have the Spirit only as a Spirit of bondage ; if a man 

may have the Spirit working in him, and yet it may 
be resisted by him; if a man may have the Spirit, 
and yet sin that unpardonable sin against it; then 
surely a man may have the Spirit of God, and yet 
be but almost a Christian. 

XVI. A man may have faith, and yet be but al- 
most a Christian. 

The stony ground, that is, those hear- 
ers set out by the stony ground, " for a while 
believed." It is said, that many believed in the 
name of Christ, yet Christ durst not " commit himself 
to them." Though they trusted in Christ, yet 
Christ would not trust them; and why? " because 
he knew all men." He knew they were rotten at 
root, notwithstanding their faith. A man may have 
all faith, to the removing of mountains, and yet be 

Objection. But how can this be, that a man may 
have faith, and yet be but almost a Christian ? Doth 
not our Lord Christ promise life eternal and salva- 
tion to all that believe ? Is not this the Gospel that 
is to be preached to every creature, " He that be- 
lieves shall be saved?" 

Answer. Though it is true what our Lord Christ 
saith, that " he that believes shall be saved, " yet it 
is as true, that many believe that shall never be 
saved; for Simon Magus believed; yea, James saith, 
" The devils believe and tremble :" now none will 
say these shall be saved. As it is true, what the 
Apostle saith, " All men have not faith," so it is 
as true, that there are some men have faith, who are 
no whit the better for their faith. 

F 27 


You must know therefore there is a two-fold 

1. Special and saving. 

2. Common and not saving. 

1. There is a saving faith. 

This is called " faith of the operation of God." 
It is a work of God's own Spirit in the soul. It is 
such a faith as rests and casts the soul wholly upon 
Christ for grace and glory, pardon and peace, sanc- 
tification and salvation. It is a united act of the 
whole soul, understanding, will and affections, all 
concurring to unite the soul to an all-sufficient Re- 
deemer. It is such a faith as " purifies the heart," 
and makes it clean ; it influences and gives strength 
and life to all other graces. Now, whoever hath 
this faith, is a Christian indeed; this is the " faith 
of God's elect." But then, 

2. There is a common faith, not saving, a fading 
and temporary faith; there is the faith of Simon 
Magus, as well as the faith of Simon Peter : Simon 
Magus behoved, and yet he was in the " gall of bit- 
terness, and in the bond of iniquity." Now Simon 
Maffus hath more followers than Simon Peter: the 
faith of most men will at last be found to be no bet- 
ter than the faith of Simon Magus : for. 

First, The faith of most is but a temporary faith, 
endures for a while, and then dies and perisheth ; 
true and saving faith, such as is the faith of God's 
elect, cannot die: it may fail in the act, but not in 
the habit; the sap may not be in the branch, but it 
is always in the root. 


That faith that peiisheth, that faith a man may 
have and perish. 

Secondly, There is a faith that lies only in ge- 
nerals, not in particulars : as there is a general and 
particular object of faith, so there is a general and 
particular faith. The general object of faith is the 
whole scripture; the particular object of faith is 
Christ in the promise. Now many have a general 
faith to believe all the scripture, and yet have no 
faith to make particular application of Jesus Christ 
in the promise. Devils and reprobates may believe 
the truth of the scripture, and what is written of the 
dying and suffering of Christ for sinners; but there 
are but few that can close up themselves in the 
wounds of Christ, and by his stripes fetch inhealino- 
to their own souls. 

Thirdly, There is a faith that is seated in the 
understanding, but not in the will; this is a very 
common faith; many assent to the truth. They 
believe all the attributes of God, that he is just, 
holy, wise, faithful, good, merciful, &c. But yet 
they rest not on him notwithstanding. They be- 
lieve the commands are true, but yet do not obey 
them: they believe the promises are true, but yet 
do not embrace and apply them : they believe the 
threatenings are true, but yet do not flee from 

Thus their faith lies in assent, but not consent ; 
they have faith to confess a judgment, but none to 
take out execution : by assent they lay a foundation, 
but never build upon it by application. They be- 
lieve that Christ died to save them that believe, and 
F 2 


yet they believe not in Christ, that they may be 

O my brethren, it is not a believing head, but a 
believing heart that makes a Christian; " with the 
heart man believes to righteousness :" without this 
our " faith is in vain, we are yet in our sins." 

Fourthly, There is a faith without experience; 
many believe the word upon hearsay, to be the word 
of God; but they never felt the power and virtue of 
it upon their hearts and consciences. Now what 
0:ood is it to believe the truth of the word, if a man's 
conscience never felt the power of the word? what is 
it to believe the truth of the promise, if we never 
tasted the sweetness of the promise? We are in 
this case like a man that believes the description 
others make of strange countries, but never travelled 
them to know the truth : or as a patient that be- 
lieves all the physician says, but yet tries none of his 
potions. We believe the word, because we cannot 
gainsay it; but yet we have no experience of any 
saving good wrought by the word, and so are but 
almost Christians. 

Fifthly, There is a faith that is without broken- 
ness of heart, that does not avail to melt or soften 
the heart, and therefore is not true faith ; for the 
least true faith is ever joined with a bending will, 
and broken heart. 

Sixthly, There is a faith that transforms not the 
heart; faith without fruit, that doth not bring forth 
the new creature in the soul, but leaves it in a state 
of sin and death. This is a faith that makes a man 
a sound professor, but not a sound beHever; he be- 


lieves the truth, but not as it is in Jesus; for then it 
would change and transform him into the hkencss 
of Jesus. He bcHeves that a man must be changed 
that would be saved, but yet is not savingly changed 
by believing. Thus, while others believe to salva- 
tion, he believes to damnation : for " his web shall 
not become a garment; neither shall he cover him- 
self with his work." 

Now then, if a man*s faith may be but temporary, 
or may lie only in generals, or may be seated in the 
understanding only, or may be without experience, 
or may be without a broken heart, or without a new 
heart ; surely then a man may have faith, he may 
taste of this " heavenly gift," and yet be hiU almost 
a Christian. 

XVII. A man may go further yet: he may 
possibly have a love to the people of God, and yet 
be but almost a Christian. 

Every kind of love to those who are saints, is not 
a proof of our saintship. Pharaoh loved Joseph, 
and advanced him to the second place in the king- 
dom, and yet Pharaoh was but a wicked man : 
Ahab loved Jehoshaphat and made a league with 
him, and married his daughter Athaliah to Jeho- 
ram, Jehoshaphat's son, and yet Ahab was a wicked 

But you will say this seems to contradict the tes- 
timony of the Scriptures ; for that makes love to the 
saints and people of God, a sure proof of our regen- 
eration, and interest in life eternal : " We know 
that we have passed from death to life, because we 
love the brethren." Nay, the Spirit of God put- 


teth this as a characteristical distinction between 
saints and sinners : " In this the children of God are 
manifest, and the children of the devil : whosoever 
doth not righteousness, is not of God, neither he 
that loveth not his brother." By brethren we do 
not understand brethren by i^lacc^ those who are of 
the same country or nation, such as are called breth- 
ren in Rom. ix. 3. Acts vii. 23, 25. Nor do we 
understand brethren by race^ those who are de- 
scended of the same parents; such are called brethren 
in James i. 2. But by brethren we understand 
brethren by grace, and supernatural regeneration, 
such as are the children of God; and these are the 
brethren whom to love is a sure sign that we are 
the children of God. 

Answer. To this I answer, that there is a love to 
the children of God, which is a proof of our being 
the children of God. As for instance, when we 
love them as such, for that very reason, as being the 
saints of God, when we love them for the image of 
God, which appeareth in them, because of that grace 
and holiness which shineth forth in their conversa- 
tions ; this is truly commendable, to love the godly 
for godliness sake, the saints for saintship sake, this 
is a sure testimony of our Christianity. The love 
of grace in another, is a good proof of the life of 
grace in ourselves. There can be no better evidence 
of the Spirit of Christ in us, than to love the image 
of Christ in others. For this is a certain truth, that 
a sinner cannot love a saint as such ; " an Israelite 
is an abomination to an Egyptian." 

There is a contrariety and natural enmity be- 


tweeii the two seeds; between the chiklren of the 
world, and those whom the father in his eternal love 
hath " chosen out of the world." 

It is likeness which is the great ground of love ; 
now there is the highest dissimilitude and unlike- 
ness between an unregenerate sinner, and a child of 
God, and therefore a child of God cannot love a 
sinner as a sinner : " In whose eyes a vile person is 
contemned." He may, love him as a creature; he 
may love his soul, or he may love him under some 
relation that he stands in to him. Thus God loves 
the damned spirits, as they are his creatures, but as 
fallen angels he hateth them with an infinite hatred. 
So to love a sinner, quatentis a sinner, this a child 
of God cannot do; so neither can a sinner love a 
child of God as a child of God. That he may love 
a child of God, that I grant, but it is upon some 
other consideration ; he may love a person that is 
holy, not the person for his holiness, but for some 
other respect. As, 

1. A man may love a child of God for his loving, 
peaceable, courteous deportment to all with whom he 
converseth. Religion beautifies the conversation of 
a man, and sets him off to the eye of the world. 
The grace of God is no friend to morose, churlish, 
unmannerly behaviour among men; it promotes an 
affable demeanour and sweetness to all; and where 
this is found, it winneth respect and love from all. 

2. A man may love a saint for his outward great- 
ness and splendour in the world : men are very apt 
to honour worldly greatness, and therefore the rich 
saint shall be loved and honoured, whilst the poor 


saint is hated and despised. This is as if a man 
should value the goodness of his sword by the em- 
broidery of his belt; or his horse for the beauty of 
his trappings, rather than for his strength and swift- 

True love to the children of God, reaches to all 
the children of God, poor as well as rich, bound as 
well as free, ignoble as well as noble, for the image 
of Christ is alike amiable and lovely in all. 

3. A man may love a child of God for his fidelity 
and usefulness in his place: where religion in the 
power of it taketh hold of a man's heart, it makes 
him true to all his trusts, diligent in his business, 
faithful in all his relations; and this obligeth respect. 
A carnal master may prize a godly apprentice or ser- 
vant that makes conscience of pleasing his master, 
and is diligent in promoting his interest. 

I might instance in many things of the like na- 
ture, as charity, beauty, wit, learning, parts, &c. 
which may procure love to the people of God from 
the men of the world. But this love is no proof of 
charity : For, 

First, It is but a natural love arising from some 
carnal respect, or self- ends: that love which is made 
by the scripture an evidence of oui regeneration, 
is a spiritual love, the principal loadstone and 
attractive whereof is grace and holiness; it is a love 
which embraceth a " righteous man in the name of 
a righteous man." 

2. A carnal man's love to saints, is a limited and 
bounded love; it is not universal " to the seed,'* 
Now as in sin, he that doth not make conscience of 


every sin, maketh conscience of no sin as sin; so ho 
who doth not love all in whom the image of Christ 
is found, lovetli none for that of the image of Christ 
which is found in them. 

Now then, if the love we bear to the people of 
God may possibly arise from natural love only, or 
from some carnal respect ; or if it be a limited love, 
not extended to all the people of God, then it is 
possible that a man may love the people of God, and 
yet be no better than almost a Christian. 

XVIII. A man may obey the commands of God, 
yea, many of the commands of God, and yet be 
but almost a Christian. 

Balaam seems very conscientious of steering his 
course by the compass of God's command. When 
Balak sent to him to come and curse the people of 
God, saith Balaam, " If Balak would give me his 
house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond 
the word of the Lord my God:" and so saith he, 
" The word that God putteth in my mouth, that 
shall I speak.'' The young man went far in obe- 
dience, " All these have I observed from my youth 
up;" and yet he was but a hypocrite, for he forsook 
Christ after all. 

Objection. But is it not said, " He that hath my 
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that lov- 
eth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of 
my father; and I will love him, and manifest myself 
unto him." And doth not our Lord Christ tell us 
expressly, " Ye are my friends, if ye do whatever I 
command you." And can a man be a friend of 
Christ, and be hut almost a Christian ? 

F 3 


I answer — There is an obedience to the com- 
mands of Christ, which is a sure proof of Our Chris- 
tianity and friendship to Christ. 

This obedience hath a threefold property. 

It is, 1. Evangelical. 2. Universal. 3. Conti- 

First, It is evangelical obedience, and that both 
in matter and manner, ground and end. 

In the matter of it; and that is what God re- 
quires : " Ye are my friends, if ye do whatever I 
command you." 

In the manner of it ; and that is according as God 
requires: " God is a Spirit, and they that worship 
him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." 

In the ground of it; and that is, " a pure heart, 
a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned." 

In the end of it; and that is, the honour and 
glory of God : " Whatever ye do, do all to the 
glory of God." 

Secondly, It is a universal obedience, which ex- 
tendeth itself to all the commands of God alike: it 
respects the duties of both tables. Such was the 
obedience of Caleb, " who followed the Lord fully;" 
and of David, who had " respect to all his com- 

Thirdly, It is a continual obedience, a putting 
the hand to God's plough, without looking back: " I 
have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes al- 
ways, even to the end." 

He that thus obeys the command of God, is a 
Christian indeed; a friend of Christ indeed. But 
all obedience to the commands of God, is not this 
obedience; For, 


1. There is a partial obedience — a peace-meal 
religion, when a man obeys God in one command, 
and not in another ; owns him in one duty, and not 
in another; when a man seems to make conscience 
of the duties of one table, and not of the duties of 
another. This is the religion of most. 

Now this obedience is no obedience; for as he 
that doth not love God above all, doth not love God 
at all; so he that doth not obey all the commands 
universally, cannot be said to obey any command 
truly. It is said of those in Samaria that they 
" feared the Lord, and served their own gods after 
their own manner." And yet in the very next 
verse it is said, " They feared not the Lord ;" so 
that their fear of the Lord was no fear. In like 
manner, that obedience to God is no obedience, 
which is but a partial and piece-meal obedience. 

2. A man may obey much, and yet be in his old 
nature; and if so, then all his obedience in that es- 
tate is but a painted sin: " He that ofFereth an 
oblation, is as if he offered swine's blood; and he 
that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol." The 
nature must be renewed, before the command can be 
rightly obeyed; for " a corrupt tree cannot bring 
forth good fruit." Whatever a man's performances 
are, they cannot be called obedience, whilst the heart 
remaineth unregenerate, because the principle is false 
and unsound. Every duty done by a believer, is 
accepted of God, as part of his obedience to the will 
of God, though it be done in much weakness; be- 
cause, though the believer's hand is weak, yet " his 
heart is right." The hypocrite may have the most 


active hand, but the believer hath the most faithful 
and sincere heart. 

3. A man may obey the law, and yet have no 
love to the Lawgiver. A carnal heart may do the 
command of God, but he cannot love God, and 
therefore cannot do it aright; for love to God is the 
foundation and spring of all true obedience. Every 
command of God is to be done in love: this is the 
" fulfilHng of the law." The apostle saith, "Though 
I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though 
I give my body to be burned, (these seem to be acts 
of the highest obedience) yet if I had not love, it 
profits me nothing." 

4. I might add, that a man may be much in 
obedience from sinister and base selfish ends: as the 
Pharisees prayed much, gave much alms, fasted 
much: but our Lord Christ tells us, that it was 
" that they might be seen of men, and have glory 
of men." Most of the hypocrite's piety empties 
itself into vain-glory; and therefore he is but an 
empty vine in ail he does, because " he bringeth 
forth fruit to himself." It is the end that justifies 
the action: indeed, a good end cannot make a bad 
action good, but yet the want of a good end makes 
a good action bad. 

Now then, if a man may obey the commands of 
God partially, and by halves; if he may do it, and 
yet be in his natural state; if he may obey the com- 
mands of God, and yet not love God; if the ends of 
his obedience maybe sinful and unwarrantable,- — then 
a man may be much in obeying the commands of 
God, and yet be but almost a Christian. 


XIX. A man may be sanctified, and yet be Out 

almost a Christian. 

Every kind of sanctification doth not make a man 
a new creature; for many are sanctified that are never 
renewed. You read of them that " count the blood 
of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an 
unholy thing." 

Objection. But doth not the Scripture tell us, 
that " both he that sanctifieth, and they who are 
sanctified, are all one: for which cause, he is not 
ashamed to call them brethren." And can a man 
be one with Christ, and yet be but almost a. Chris- 

Ansxver. To this I answer — You must know 
there is a twofold work of sanctification spoken of 
in Scripture. 

The one, common and ineffectual. 

The other, special and effectual. 

That work of sanctification which is true and ef- 
fectual, is the working of the Spirit of God in the 
soul, enabling it to the mortifying of all sin, to the 
obeying of every command, " to walking with God 
in all well-pleasing." Now, whoever is thus sancti- 
fied, is one with him that sanctifieth. Christ will 
not be ashamed to call such brethren; for they are 
" flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone." 

But then there is a more common work of 
sanctification, wnich is ineffectual as to the two 
great works of dying to sin, and living to God. 
This kind of sanctification may help to restrain sin, 
but not to mortify sin; it may lop off the boughs, 
but it layeth not the axe to the root of the tree; 


it sweeps and garnishes the room with common vir- 
tues, but doth not adorn it with saving graces; so 
that a man is but almost a Christian, notwithstanding 
this sanctification. 

Or thus, there is an inward and outward sancti- 

Inward sanctification is that which deals with the 
soul and its faculties, understanding, conscience, 
will, memory, and afFections. Outward sanctifica- 
tion is that which deals with the life and conversa- 
tion. Both these must concur to make a man a 
Christian indeed: therefore, the apostle puts them 
together in his prayer for the Thessalonians: " The 
God of peace sanctify you wholly; and, I pray God, 
your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved 
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 
A man is then sanctified wholly, when he is sancti- 
fied both inwardly and outwardly — both in heart 
and afFections, and in life and conversation. Out- 
ward sanctification is not enough without inward, 
nor inward without outward: we must have both 
" clean hands, and a pure heart." The heart must 
be pure, that we may not incur blame from within ; 
and the hands must be clean, that we may not in- 
cur shame from without. We must have hearts 
" sprinkled from an evil conscience, and bodies 
washed with pure water." " We must cleanse 
ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit." 
Inward purity is the most excellent, but, without the 
outward, it is not sufficient; the true Christian is 
made up of both. 

Now many have clean hands, but unclean hearts. 


They wash the outside of the cup and platter, when 
all is filthy within. Now, the former without the 
latter, profiteth a man no more than it profited 
Pilate, who condemned Christ, to wash his hands in 
the presence of the people: he washed his hands of 
the blood of Christ, and yet had a hand in the 
death of Christ. The Egyptian temples were 
beautiful on the outside, but within you shall find 
nothing but some serpent, or crocodile. " He is 
not a Jew which is one outwardly." Judas was a 
saint without, but a sinner within; openly, a disciple, 
but secretly, a devil. 

Some pretend to inward sanctity without outward. 
This is the pretence of the open sinner: " Though 
I sometimes drop an idle, foolish word," saith he, '' or 
though I sometimes swear an oath, yet I think no 
hurt: — I thank God, my heart is as good as the 
best!" Such are like the sinner Moses mentions, 
that " blessed himself in his heart, saying, I shall 
have peace, though I walk in the imagination of 
mine own heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." 

Some pretend to outward sanctity, without inward. 
Such are like the Scribes and Pharisees, " who 
outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within 
are full of hypocrisy and iniquity;" fair professors, 
but foul sinners. 

Inward sanctity without outward, is impossible; 
for it will not reform the life. Outward sanctity 
without inward, is unprofitable; for it will not reform 
the heart: a man is not a true Christian without 
both. The body doth not make a man without the 
soul, nor the soul without the body; both are essen- 


tial to the being of man: so the sanctification of both, 
are essential to the being of the new man. True 
sanctification begins at the heart, but works out into 
the life and conversation; and if so, then man may- 
attain to an outward sanctification, and yet, for want 
of an inward, be no better than almost a Christian. 

And so I shall end this long pursuit of the almost 
Christian, in his progress heaven-ward, with this one 
general conclusion: — 

XX. A man may do all, as to external duties 
and worship, that a true Christian can; and, when 
he hath done all, be hut almost a Christian. 

You must know, all the commands of God have 
an intra, and an extra : there is, as I may say, the 
body and the soul of the command. And accord- 
ingly, there is an internal and an external worship 
of God. 

Now, the internal acts of worshipping of God, 
are to love God, to fear God, to delight in God, 
to trust in God, &c. 

The external acts of worshipping of God, are by 
praying, teaching, hearing, &c. 

Nov/ there is a vast difference between these in- 
ternal and external acts of worship; and such a dif- 
ference there is, that they distinguish the altogether 
from the almost Christian; the sincere believer from 
the unsound professor: and, indeed, in this very thing 
the main difference between them doth lie. 

1. Internal acts of worship are good propter 

Jieri ; the goodness doth adhere intrinsically to the 

thing done. A man cannot love God, nor fear God, 

but it will be imputed to him for a gracious act, and 


a great part of his holiness. But now, external acts 
of worship are not denominated good, so much from 
the matter done, propter Jicri^ as from the man- 
ner of doing them. A man cannot sin in loving and 
delighting in God, but he may sin in praying and 
hearing, 8:c. for want of a due manner. 

2. Internal acts of worship put a goodness into 
external: it is our faith, our love, our fear of God, 
that makes our duties good. 

3. They better the heart, and greater the degrees 
of a man's holiness. External duties do not always 
do this. A man may pray, and yet his heart never 
the holier; he may hear the word, and yet his heart 
never the softer: but now, the more a man fears 
God, the wiser he is: the more a man loves God, 
the holier he is. Love is the perfection of holiness: 
we shall never be perfect in holiness, until we come 
to be perfect in love. 

4. There is such an excellency in this internal 
worship, that he who mixes it with his external 
duties, is a true Christian when he doth least: but 
without this mixture, he is hut almost a Christian 
that doth most. 

Internal acts of worship, joined with outward, 
sanctify them, and make them accepted of God, 
though few : external acts of worship, without in- 
ward, make them abhorred of God, though they be 
never so many. So that, although the almost Chris- 
tian may do all those duties in hypocrisy, which a 
true Christian doth in sincerity; nay, though in do- 
ing external duties, he may out-do the true Chris- 
tian, as the comet makes a greater blaze than the 


true star: if Elijah fast and mourn, Baal's priests 
will cut their flesh; yet he cannot do those internal 
duties, that the meanest true Christian can. 

The almost Christian can pray, but he cannot 
love God; he can teach, or hear, &c. but he cannot 
take delight in God. Mark Job's query concern- 
ing the hypocrite: " Will he delight himself in the 
Almighty?" He will pray to the Almighty, but 
will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he 
take pleasure in God? Ah, no! he will not- — he 
cannot ! Delight in God ariseth from a suitable- 
ness between the faculty, and the object; now, none 
more unsuitable, than God and a carnal heart. De- 
light arising from the having what we desire, and 
from enjoying what we have. How then can he 
delight in God, that neither enjoyeth, nor hath, nor 
truly desireth God? Delight in God is one of the 
highest exercises of grace : and therefore, how can 
he delight in God, that hath no grace? 

Why, then, should any saint of God be discou- 
raged, when he hears how far the almost Christian 
may go in the way to heaven : whereas, he that is 
the weakest true believer, that hath the least true 
grace, goes farther than he; for he believes in, and 
loves God. 

Should the almost Christian do less, as to matter 
of external duties, yet, if he had but the least true 
faith, the least sincerity of love to Christ, he would 
surely be saved; and should the true Christian do 
ten times more duties than he doth, yet, had he not 
faith in Christ, and love to Christ, he would surely 
be rejected. 


0, therefore, let not any weak believer be dis- 
couraged, though hypocrites may out-do them, and 
go beyond them in duty; for all their duties are done 
in hypocrisy, but your faith and love to God in du- 
ties, is a proof of your sincerity. 

1. I do not speak this to discourage any soul in 
the doing of duties, or to beat down outward per- 
formances, but to rectify the soul in the doing of 
them. As the apostle saith, " Covet earnestly the 
best gifts; but yet I show you a more excellent way." 
So I say, covet the best gifts; covet much to be in 
duties, much in prayer, much in hearing, &c. " But 
I will show you a more excellent way;" and that is, 
the way of faith and love. Pray much, but then 
believe much too. Hear much; read much; but 
then love God much too. Delight in the word and 
ordinances of God much, but then delight in the 
God of ordinances more. 

And when you are most in duties, as to your use 
of them, O then be sure to be above duties, as to 
your resting and dependance upon them. Would 
you be Christians, indeed — altogether Christians? 
O then, be much in the use and exercise of ordinan- 
ces, but be much more in faith and dependance upon 
Christ and his righteousness. When your obe- 
dience is most to the command, then let your faith 
be most upon the promise. The professor rests in 
duties, and so is hut almost a Christian; but you 
must be sure to rest upon the Lord Christ. This 
is the way to be altogether Christians; for, if ye be- 
lieve, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs accord- 
ing to the promise. And thus I have answered the 


first query: to wit, how far a man may go in the way 
to heaven, and yet be but almost a Christian. 

1. He may have much knowledge. 

2. He may have great gifts. 

3. He may have a high profession. 

4. He may do much against sin. 

5. He may desire grace. 

6. He may tremble at the word. 

7. He may delight in the word. 

8. He may be a member of the church of Christ. 

9. He may have great hopes of heaven. 

10. He may be under great and visible changes. 
H. He may be very zealous in the matters of 


12. He may be much in prayer. 

13. He may suffer for Christ. 

14. He may be called of God. 

15. He may, in some sense, have the Spirit of 

16. He may have some kind of faith. 

17. He may love the people of God. 

18. He may go far in obeying the commands of 

19. He may be, in some sense, sanctified. 

20. He may do all, as to external duties, that a 
true Christian can, and yet be no better than almost 
a Christian. 

Question II. 

Why, or whence is it, that many men go so far, 
as that they come to be almost Christians? 


First, It may be to answer the call of conscience. 
Though few men have grace, yet all men have con- 
science. Now do but observe, and you shall see 
how far conscience may go in this work. 

1. Conscience owns a God, and that this God 
must be worshipped and served by the creature. 
Atheists in practice, we have many; such as the 
apostle speaks of: " They profess to know God, but 
in works they deny him." But atheists in judg- 
ment none can be. Tully, a heathen, could say, 
" Nulla gens tam barbara," &c. Now there being 
such a lio-ht in conscience, as to discover that there 
is a God, and that he must be worshipped by the 
help of farther light— the light of the word. A 
man may be enabled to do much in the ways of 
God, and yet his heart without a dram of grace. 

2. Know this, that natural conscience is capable 
of great improvements from the means of grace. 
Sitting under the ordinances may exceedingly 
heighten the endowments of conscience. It may 
be much regulated, though it be not at all renewed : 
it may be enlightened, convinced, and yet never sa- 
vingly converted and changed. You read in He- 
brews vi. 4. of some that were " once enlightened, 
and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made par- 
takers of the Holy Ghost." What work shall we 
call this? It could not be a saving work, a true 
change and conversion of state; for, notwithstanding 
this enlightening, and tasting, and partaking, yet 
they are here said to fall away, verse 6. Had it 
been a true work of grace, they could never have 
fallen away from that. A believer may fall, but he 


cannot fall away: he may fall foully, but lie cannot 
fall finally; for, " underneath are the everlasting 
arms." His faith is established in the strength of 
that prayer of Christ, that our faith fail not. Nay, 
he tells us expressly, that it is eternal life which he 
gives, from which we shall never perish. 

This work, then, here spoken of, cannot be any 
saving work, because it is not an abiding work ; for 
they that are under it, are said to fall away from it. 
But though it be not a saving grace, yet it is a 
supernatural work. It is an improvement made by 
the word upon the consciences of men, through the 
power of the Spirit ; and therefore they are said to 
" taste the good word of God," and to be made 
^^ partakers oi the Holy Ghost." They have not 
the Spirit abiding in them savingly, but striving 
Avith them, and working upon them convincingly, to 
the awakening and setting conscience on work. 
And conscience, thus stirred, may carry a man very 
far in religion, and in the duties of the gospel, and 
yet be but a natural conscience. 

A common work of the Spirit, may stead a man 
very much in the duties of religion, though it must 
be a special work of the Spirit that steads a man to 
salvation. A man may have the assisting presence 
of the Spirit, enabling him to preach and pray, and 
yet he may perish for want of the renewing presence 
of the Spirit, enabling him to beUeve. Judas had 
the former, and yet perished for want of the latter. 
He had the Spirit assisting him to cast out devils ; 
but yet he had not the Spirit renewing him; for he 
was cast out himself. Thus a man may have an 


improved conscience, and yet be a stranger to a re- 
newed conscience; and conscience, tlms improved, 
may put a man very much upon duty. I pray God, 
none of us mistake a conscience, thus improved by 
the word, for a conscience renewed by the Spirit. 
The mistake is very easy, especially when a Hfe of 
duties is the fruit of it. 

3. The conscience of a natural man is subject to 
distress and trouble. Though a natural conscience 
is not sanctified with grace, yet it is often troubled at 
sin. Trouble of conscience is not incident to believ- 
ers only, but sometimes to unbelievers also. A 
believer's conscience is sometimes troubled, when his 
sin is truly pardoned: and a natural man's conscience 
is troubled for sin, though it is never freed from sin. 
God sometimes sets the word home upon the sinner's 
conscience, and applies the terrors of the law to it; 
and this fills the soul with fear and horror of death 
and hell. Now, in this case, the soul usually be- 
takes itself to a life of duties, merely to fence trou- 
ble out of conscience. 

When Absalom sets on fire Joab's corn fields, 
then he runs to him, though he refused before: so 
when God lets a spark of hell, as it were, fall upon 
the sinner's conscience, in applying the terrors of 
the word, this drives the sinner to a life of duties, 
which he never minded before. The ground of 
many a man's engaging in religion, is the trouble of 
his conscience; and the end of his continuing in re- 
ligion, is the quieting of conscience. If concience 
would never check him, God should never hear 
from him. 


Natural conscience hath a voice, and speaks aloud 
many times in the sinner's ears, and telleth him. 
This ought not to be done: God must not be for- 
gotten: the commands of God ought not to be 
slighted: living in sin will be the ruin of the soul. 
And hence it is, that a natural man runs to duties, 
and takes up a lifeless and graceless profession, that 
lie may thereby silence conscience. As a man sick 
in his stomach, whatever sweet morsel he hach eaten, 
he brings up all ; and although it was sweet in the eat- 
ing, yet it is bitter in the rising; so it fareth with 
the sinner, when he is sermon-sick, or conscience- 
sick. Though his sin was sweet in the practice, yet 
the thought of it riseth bitter upon the conscience: 
and then his profession of religion is the pill he roll- 
eth about in his mouth, to take away the bitterness 
of sin's taste. 

4. Natural conscience, enlightened by the word, 
may discover to a man much of the misery of a natu- 
ral state; though not effectually to bring him out of 
it, yet so as to make him restless and weary in it. 
It may show a sinner his nakedness ; and hereupon 
the soul runneth to a life of duties; thinking hereby 
to stead the misery of his case, and to make a cover- 
ing for his nakedness. It is said, " that when Adam 
and Eve saw they were naked, they sewed fig-leaves 
together, and made themselves a covering." So 
when once the sinner seeth his nakedness and vile- 
ness by reason of sin, whereas he should run to 
Christ, and close with him, and beg his righteous- 
ness for a covering, " that the shame of his naked- 
ness doth not appear;" he rather runneth to a life of 


duties and performances, and thus maketh himself 
a covering with the fig-leaves of a profession, with- 
out Christ truly embraced, and conscience at all 
renewed. Natural man would fain be his own 
Saviour; and supposeth a change of state to be a 
thing within his own power ; and that the true 
work of grace lieth in leaving off the practice of sin, 
and taking up a life of duties: and, therefore, upon 
this principle, doth many a graceless professor out- 
strip a sound believer; for he resteth on his own 
performances, and hopeth these will commend him 
to God. 

Qiiestion. If a natural conscience may go thus 
far, then what difference is there between this 
natural conscience in hypocrites and sinners, and a 
renewed conscience in believers ? or, how may I 
know whether the working of my conscience be the 
working of nature only, or else of grace wrought 
in it? 

Afisiver. I grant that it is difficult to distinguish 
between the one and the other; and the difficulty 
hath a twofold rise. 

1. It ariseth from tliat hypocrisy that is in the 
best saints. The weakest believer is no hypocrite, 
but yet there is some hypocrisy in the strongest 
believer. Where there is most grace, there is 
some sin ; and where there is most sincerity, yet 
there is some hypocrisy. 

Now it is very incident to a tender conscience to 

misgive and mistrust its state, upon the sight of any 

sin. When he sees hypocrisy break out in any 

duty or performance, then he complains, " Surely 

G 27 


my aims are not sincere ! my conKcience is not re- 
newed ! it is but natural conscience enlightened, 
not by grace purged and changed."* 

2. It ariseth from that resemblance there is be- 
tween grace and hypocrisy; for hypocrisy is are- 
semblance of grace, without substance; the likeness 
of grace, without the life of grace. There is no 
grace but a hypocrite may have somewhat like it ; 
and there is no duty done by a Christian, but a 
hypocrite may outstrip him in it. Now, when one 
that hath not true grace shall go farther than one 
that hath, this may well make the believer question 
whether his grace be true or not ; or whether the 
workings of his conscience be not the workings of 
nature only, rather than of grace wrought in it. 

But to answer the question — You may make a 
judgment of this in these seven particulars: — 

1. If a natural man's conscience putteth liim 
upon duty, he doth usually bound himself in the 
work of God. His duties are limited ; his obedi- 
ence is a limited obedience. He doth one duty, 
and neglecteth another. He picketh and chooseth 
among the commands of God; obeyeth one, and 
slighteth another. Thus mucl\ is enough ; what 
need any more? U I do thus and thus, I shall go 
to heaven at last. But now, where conscience is 
renewed by grace, there it is otherwise. Though 
there may be many weaknesses which accompany its 
duties, yet that soul never bounds itself in working 

* Pygmalion made an image so lively that he deceived himself; 
and, taking the picture for a person, he fell in love with the 
pictiu'c! ■• 


after God : it never loves God so much, but still 
it would love him more; nor seeks him so much, 
but still it would seek him more; nor doth it serve 
God so well at any time, but it still makes con- 
science of serving him better. A renewed conscience 
is a spring of universal obedience : for it seeth an 
infinite excellency, and goodness, and holiness in 
God ; and therefore would fain have its service rise 
up towards some proportionableness to the object. 
A God of infinite excellency and goodness, should 
have infinite love, saith conscience : a holy God 
should have service from a holy heart, saith con- 

Now then, if I set bounds to my love to God, or 
to my service to God ; if I limit myself in my 
obedience to the holy God; love one command, 
and slight another; obey in one point, and yet lie 
cross in another; then is all I do but the workings 
of a natural conscience. But on the other hand, 
if I love the Lord with my whole heart, and whole 
soul, and serve him with all my might and strength ; 
if " I esteem all God's precepts concerning all things 
to be right, and have respect to all his commands ;" 
then is my Jove and service from a renewed con- 

2. If a natural man's conscience check or accuse 
for sin, then he seeketh to stop the mouth of it, 
but not to satisfy it. Most of the natural man's 
duties are to still and stifle conscience. But now, 
the believer chooseth rather to let conscience cry, 
than to stop the mouth of it, until he can do it upon 
good terms, and till he can fetch in satisfaction to it 


from the blood of Jesus Christ, by fresh acts of 
faith apprehended and applied. The natural man 
seeketh to still the noise of conscience, rather than 
to remove the guilt. The believer seeketh the 
removal of guilt by the application of Christ's 
blood; and then conscience is quiet of itself. As 
a foolish man, having a mote fallen into his eye, 
and making it water, he vi^ipeth away the water, and 
labours to keep it dry, but never searcheth his eye 
to get out the mote ; but a wise man mindeth not 
so much the vviping, as the searching his eye; some- 
what is got in, and that causeth the watering, and 
therefore the cause must be removed. Now then, 
if when conscience accuseth for sin, I take up a life 
of duties, a form of godliness, to stop the mouth of 
conscience; and if hereupon conscience be still and 
quiet ; then is this but a natural conscience : but if, 
when conscience checks, it will not be satisfied with 
any thing but the blood of Christ, and therefore I 
use duties to bring me to Christ; and if I beg the 
sprinkling of his blood upon conscience, and labour 
not so much to stop the mouth of it, as to remove 
guilt from it; then is this a renewed conscience. 

3. There is no natural man, let him go never so 
far, let him do never so much in the matters of 
religion, but still he has his Delilah, his bosom- 
lust. Judas went far, but he carried his covctous- 
ness along with him. Herod went far; he did 
many things under the force of John's ministry ; 
but yet there was one thing he did not; he did not 
put away his brother's wife — his Herodias lay in 
his bosom still. Nay, commonly all the natural 


man's duties are to hide some siii ; his profession is 
only made use of for a cover-shame. But now the 
renewed conscience hateth all sin, as David did : 
" I hate every false way;" — he regardeth no ini- 
quity in his heart : he useth duties, not to cover 
sin, but to help work down, and work out sin. 
Now then, if I profess religion ; if I make mention 
of the name of the Lord, and make my " boast of 
the law, and yet through breaking the law dis- 
honour God ;" if I live in the love of any sin, and 
make use of my profession to cover it, then am I a 
hypocrite, and my duties flow but from a natural 
conscience: but, on the other hand, if I "name the 
name of the Lord Jesus, and withal depart from ini- 
quity;" if I use duties, not to cover, but to dis- 
cover and mortify sin; then am I upright before 
God, and my duties flow from a renewed conscience. 

4. A natural man prides himself in his duties. 
If he be much in duty, then he is much lifted up 
under duty. So did the Pharisee : " God, I thank 
thee that I am not as other men are;" and why? 
where lay the difference? why, "I fast twice in the 
week: 1 give tithes of all," &c. 

But now take a gracious heart, a renewed con- 
science, and when his duties are at highest, then is 
his heart at lowest. Thus it was with the apostle 
Paul; he was much in service, " in season, and out 
of season ;" preaching up the Lord Jesus with all 
boldness and earnestness ; and yet very humble, in 
a sense of his own un worthiness, under all: " I am 
not worthy to be called an apostle. To me, who 
am less than the least of all saints, is this grace 


given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the 
unsearchable riches of Christ." And again, " Of 
sinners, I am chief." Thus a believer, when he is 
highest in duties, then is he lowest in humility. 
Duty puffeth up the hypocrite, but a believer comes 
away humbled ; and why ? because the hypocrite 
hath had no visions of God : he hath seen only his 
own gifts and parts, and this exalteth him; but the 
believer hath seen God, and enjoyed communion 
with God, and this humbleth him. Communion 
with God, though it be very refreshing, yet it is 
also very abasing and humbling to the creature. 
Hierome observeth on Zeph. i. 1. where it is said, 
that " Cushi was the son of Gedaliah, the son of 
Amariah ;" that '* Amariah signifieth ' the Word of 
the Lord ;' Gedaliah signifieth ' the Greatness of the 
Lord ;' and Cushi is interpreted ' Humility,' or ' my 
Ethiopian.' " So that," saith he, " from the Word 
of the Lord, cometh a sight of the Greatness of the 
Lord ; and from a sight of the greatness of the 
Lord, cometh humility." 

Now then, If I pride myself in any duty, and am 
puffed up under my performances ; then have I not 
seen nor met with God in any duty. But on the 
other hand, if when my gifts are at highest, my 
heart is at lowest; if when my spirit is most raised, 
my heart is then most humbled; if, in the midst of 
all my services, I can maintain a sense of my own 
unworthiness; if Cushi be the son of Gedaliah, 
then have I seen and had communion with God in 
duty, and my performances are from a renewed 


5. Look what that is to which the heart doth 
secretly render the glory of a duty, and that is the 
principle of the duty. In Hab. i. 16. we read of 
them that " sacrifice to their net, and burn incense 
to their drag." Where the glory of an action is 
rendered to a man's self, the principle of that action 
is self. All rivers run into the sea; that is an 
argument they came from the sea : so when all a 
man's duties terminate in self, then is self the prin- 
ciple of all. Now all the natural man's duties run 
into himself. He was never, by a thorough work 
of grace, truly cast out of himself, and brought to 
deny himself; and therefore he can rise no higher 
than himself in all he does. He was never brought 
to be poor in spirit, and so to live upon another; to 
be carried out of all duties to Jesus Christ. But 
the believer giveth the glory of all his services to 
God; whatever strength or life there is in duty. 
God hath all the glory; for he is by grace outed of 
himself, and therefore seeth no excellence or un- 
worthiness in self. 

" I laboured more abundantly than they all," 
saith the apostle; but to whom doth he ascribe the 
glory of this? to self? No: *< Yet not I," saith he, 
" but the grace of God which was with me." When- 
ever the grace of Christ is wrought in the heart as 
a principle of duty, you shall find the soul when it 
is most carried out, with a Yet not I, in the mouth 
of it. " I live, yet not I; I laboured more abun- 
dantly than all, yet not I." Self is disclaimed, and 
Christ most advanced, when it is from grace that 
the heart is quickened: the twenty-four elders cast 
their crowns at Christ's feet. 


There are two things very hard: one is, to take 
the shame of our sins to ourselves; the other is, to 
give the glory of our services to Christ. Now 
then, if I sacrifice to my own net; if I aim at my 
own credit or profit, and give the glory of all 1 do 
to self; then do I " sow to the flesh," and was 
never yet cast out of self, but act only from a natural 
conscience. But if I give the glory of all my 
strength and life in duty only to God ; if I magnify 
grace in all, and can truly say in all I do, Yet not I; 
then am I truly cast out of self, and do what I do 
with a renewed conscience. 

6. Though a natural conscience may put a man 
much upon service, yet it never presses to the at- 
tainment of holiness. So that he carrieth an un- 
sanctified heart under all. How long was Judas a 
professor, and not one dram of grace that he had 
got? The foolish virgins, you know, "took their 
lamps, but took no oil in their vessels;" that is, 
they looked more after a profession, than after a 
sanctification. But now, when a renewed con- 
science putteth a man upon duty, it is succeeded 
with the growth of holiness. As grace helpeth to 
the doing of duty, so duty helpeth to the growing 
of grace ; a believer is the more holy and the more 
heavenly, by his being much in duties. 

Now then, if I am much in a life of duties, and 
yet a stranger to a life of holiness; if I maintain a 
high profession, and yet have not a true work of 
sanctification; if, like children in the rickets, I grow 
big in the head, but weak in the feet; then have I 
gifts and parts, but no grace; and though I am 


much in service, yet have I but a natural conscience. 
But, on the other hand, if the holiness of my conver- 
sation carrieth a proportion to my profession ; if I 
am not " a hearer of the word only, but a doer of 
it;" if grace groweth in seasons of duty, then do I 
act in the things of God from a renewed conscience. 

7. And lastly. If a natural conscience be the 
spring of duty, why then tiiis spring runs fastest at 
first, and so abateth, and at last drieth up. But if 
a renewed conscience, a sanctified heart, be the 
spring of duty, then this spring will never dry up. 
It will run always, from first to last, and run quicker 
at last than first: " I know thy works, and the last 
to be more than the first. The righteous shall 
hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall 
be stronger and stronq;er." 

Qiiestion. But you will say, Why doth that man 
abate and languish in his duties, that doth them from 
a natural conscience, more than he that doth them 
from a renewed conscience? 

Answer. The reason is, because they grow upon 
a fallible root, a decaying root, and that is nature. 
Nature is a fading root, and so are all its fruits fad- 
ing; but the duties done by a renewed conscience, 
are fruits that grow upon a lasting root; and that is 
Christ. " Gifts have their root in nature, but grace 
hath its root in Christ:" and therefore the weakest 
grace shall outlive the greatest gifts and parts; be- 
cause there is life in the root of the one, and not in 
that of the other. Gifts and grace differ like the 
leather of your shoe, and the skin of your foot. 
Take a pair of shoes that have the thickest soles, 


and if you go much in them, the leather weareth 
out, and in a little time a man's foot cometh to the 
ground ; but now a man that goeth barefoot all his 
days, the skin of his feet does not wear out. Why 
should not the sole of his foot sooner wear out than 
the sole of his shoe; for the leather is much thicker 
than the skin? The reason is, because there is life 
in the one, and not in the other; there is life in the 
skin of the foot, and therefore that holdeth out, and 
groweth thicker and thicker, harder and harder; but 
there is no life in the sole of his shoe, and therefore 
that weareth out, and waxeth thinner and thinner: 
so it is with gifts and grace. Now then, if I decay 
and abate, and grow weary of a profession, and fall 
away at last; if I begin in the spirit, and end in the 
flesh; then was all I did from a natural conscience: 
but if I grow and hold out, if I persevere to the end, 
and my " last works be more than my first," then I 
act from a renewed conscience. 

And thus I have, in seven things, answered that 
question, namely. If conscience may go thus far in 
putting a man upon duties, then what difference is 
there between this natural conscience in hypocrites 
and sinners, and renewed conscience in believers? 

And that is the first answer to tlie main query, 
namely, " Whence is it that many men go so far, 
as that they come to be almost Christians?" It is 
to answer the call of conscience. 

Secondly, It is from the power of the word under 
which they live. Though the word doth not work 
effectually upon all, yet it hath a great power upon 
the hearts of sinners to reform them, though not to 
renew them. 


1. It hath a discerning, discovering power: 
** The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper 
than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing 
asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and mar- 
row; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents 
of the heart." This is the glass wherein every one 
may see what man he is. As the light of the sun 
discovers the little motes, so the light of the word, 
shining into conscience, discovers little sins. 

2. The word hath the power of a law. It gives 
law to the whole soul ; binds conscience. It is, 
therefore, frequently called the law in Scripture: 
*' Unless thy law had been my delight, &c. — To 
the law, and to the testimony." This is spoken of 
the whole word of God, which is therefore called a 
law, because of its binding power upon the con- 

3. It hath a judging power: " The vvord that I 
have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last 
day." The sentence that God will pass upon sin- 
ners hereafter, is no other than what the vvord pas- 
seth upon him here. The judgment of God, is not 
a day wherein God will pass any new sentence ; but 
it is such a day wherein God will make a solemn, 
public ratification of the judgment passed by the 
ministry of the word upon souls here. This I gather 
clearly from Matthew xviii. 18. " Whatsoever ye 
shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and 
whatsoever ye shall lose on earth, shall be loosed in 
heaven : so that, by bringing a man's heart to the 
word, and trying it by that, he may quickly know 
what that sentence is that God will pass upon his 


soul in the last day: for as the judgment of the word 
is now, such will the judgment of God be concerning 
him in the last day. 

Indeed, there is a two-fold power, farther than 
this, in the word. It hath a beijettincp and saving 
power: but this is put forth only upon some. But 
the other is more extensive, and hath a great cau- 
sality upon a profession of goodness, even among 
them that have no grace. 

A man that is under this threefold power of dis- 
cerning law and judgment, that hath his heait ran- 
sacked and discovered, his conscience bound and 
awed, his state and sinful condition judged and 
condemned; may take up a resolution of a new life, 
and convert himself to great profession of religion. 

Thirdly, A man mc\y go far in this course of 
profession from affectation of applause and credit, 
and to get a name in the world. As it is said of 
the Pharisees, they " love to pray in the market- 
places, and in the corners of the streets, to be seen 
of men." Many are of Macliiavel's principle — 
That the appearance of virtue is to be sought; be- 
cause, though the use of it is a trouble, yet the 
credit of it is a help. Jerome, in his Epistle to 
Julian, calls such, " the base bond-slaves of common 
fame." Many a man doth that for credit, that he 
will not do for conscience; and owns religion more 
for the sake of lust, than for the sake of Christ: 
thus making God's stream to turn the devil's mill. 

Fourthly, It is from a desire of salvation. There 
is in all men a desire of salvation: it is natural to 
every being to love and seek its own preservation. 


'* Who will show us any good?" — This is the lan- 
giiatre of nature, seeking happiness to itself. 

Many a man may be carried so far out in the de- 
sires of salvation, as to do many things to obtain it. 
So did the young man: " Good Master, what good 
thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?" 
He went far, and did much, obeying many com- 
mands, and all out of a desire of salvation. — So, 
then, put these together, and there is an answer to 
that question. 

" The call of conscience — the power of the word 
- — the affectation of credit — and the desire of salva- 
tion." These may carry a man so far as to be al- 
most a Christian. 

Question III. 

Whence is it that many are but almost Chris- 
tians when they have gone thus far? What is the 
cause of this? 

Answer. I might multiply answers to this ques- 
tion, but I shall instance in two only, which I judge 
the most material. 

First, It is for want of right and sound convic- 
tion. If a man be not thoroughly convinced of sin, 
and his heart truly broken, whatever his profession 
of godliness may be, yet he will be sure to miscarry. 
Every work of conviction is not a thorough work: 
there are convictions that are not only natural and 
rational, but not from the powerful work of the 
Spirit of God. 

Rational conviction is " that which proceeds from 


the working of a natural conscience, charging guilt 
from the light of nature, by the help of those com- 
mon principles of reason that are in all men." This 
is the conviction you read of, Rom. ii. 14, 15. It is 
said, that the Gentiles who had not the law, yet 
had their consciences bearing witness, and accusing 
or excusing one another. Though they had not 
the light of Scripture, yet they had convictions from 
the light of nature. Now, by the help of the Gos- 
pel light, these convictions may be much improved, 
and yet the heart not renewed. 

But then there is a spiritual conviction ; and this 
is that work of the Spirit of God upon the sinner's 
heart by the word, whereby the guilt and filth of sin 
is fully discovered, and the wo and misery of a natu- 
ral state distinctly set home upon the conscience, to 
the dread and terror of the sinner whilst he abides 
in that state and condition. And this is the con- 
viction that is a sound and thorough work. Many 
have their convictions, but not this spiritual convic- 

Query. Now you will say, " Suppose I am at any 
time under conviction, how shall 1 know whether my 
convictions be only from a natural conscience, or 
whether they be from the Spirit of God?" 

ji?2swer. I should digress too much to draw out 
the solution of this question to its just length. I 
shall, therefore, in five things only, lay down the 
most considerable difiPerence between the one and the 

1. Natural convictions reach chiefly to open and 
scandalous sins. Sins against the light of nature ; 


for natural conviction can reach no farther than na- 
tural light. But spiritual conviction reaches to 
secret, inward, and undiscerned sins: such as hy- 
pocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, deadness, and 
hardness of heart, &c. 

Observe then, whether your trouble for sin looks 
inward as well as outward, and reaches not only to 
open sins, but to secret lusts, to inward and spiritual 
sins: and if so, this is a sure sign of the work of the 
Spirit, because the trouble occasioned by these sins, 
bears a more immediate relation to the holiness of 
God, who only is offended by them; they being 
such as none else can see or know. 

2. Natural convictions deal only with a man's 
conversation, not with his state and condition : with 
sins actual, not original. But spiritual conviction 
reaches to all sins; to sins of heart, as well as sins of 
life; to the sin of our nature, as well as the sins of 
practice; to the sin that is born in us, as well as the 
sin that is done by us. Where the Spirit of the 
Lord Cometh to work effectually in any soul, he 
holdeth the glass of the law before the sinner's eyes, 
and openeth his eyes to look into the glass, and to 
see all that deformity and filthiness that is in his 
heart and nature. 

The apostle Paul said, " I had not known sin 
but by the law." How can this be true, that he 
had not known sin but by the law, when the light 
of nature discovers sin? It is said of the Gen- 
tiles, that having not the law, they had a law lo 
themselves. This sin, therefore, that the apostle 
speaks of, is not to be understood of sin actual, but 

1 60 

of sin original: " I had not known the pollution of 
nature, that fountain of sin that is within ; this I 
had not known but by the law." And, indeed, this 
is a discovery that natural light cannot make. 

It is trcie, the philosopher could say, " That lust 
is the first and chief of all sins." But I cannot 
think he meant it of original sin, but of the inordi- 
nancy of appetite and desire, at most; for I find 
that the wisest of the philosophers understood noth- 
insf of oriixinal sin. Hear Seneca : " Sin is not 
born with thee, but brouglit in since." 

Quintilian saith, " It is more marvel that any 
one man .sins, than that all men should live honest- 
ly ; sin is so against the nature of men." — How 
blind were they in this point! And so was Paul, 
till the Spirit of the Lord discovered it to him by 
the word. And indeed this is a discovery proper to 
the Spirit. It is he that makes the sinner see all 
the deformity and filthiness that is within; it is he 
that pulleth off all the sinner's rags, and makes him 
see his naked and wretched condition; it is he that 
shows us the blindness of the mind, the stubbornness 
of the will, the disorderedness of the affections, the 
searedness of the conscience, the plague of our hearts, 
and the sin of our natures, and therein the desper- 
ateness of our state. 

3. Natural convictions carry the soul out to look 
more on the evil that comes by sin, than on the evil 
that is in sin. So that the soul under this convic- 
tion is more troubled at the dread of hell, and wrath, 
and damnation, than at the vileness and heinous na- 
ture of sin. But now spiritual convictions work the 


soul into a greater sensibleness of the evil that is in 
sin, than of tiie evil that comes by sin: the dishon- 
our done to God by walking contrary to his will; 
the wounds that are made in the heart of Christ; the 
grief that the Holy Spirit of God is put to, — this 
wounds the soul more than a thousand hells. 

4. Natural convictions are not durable, they " are 
quickly worn out:" they are like a slight cut in the 
skin, that bleeds a little, and is sore for the present, 
but is soon healed again, and in a few days not so 
much as a scar to be seen. But spiritual convic- 
tions are durable, they cannot be worn out, they 
abide in the soul till they have reached their end, 
which is the change of the sinner. 

The convictions of the Spirit, are like a deep 
wound in the flesh, that goes to the bone, and seems 
to endanger the life of the patient, and is not healed 
but with great skill, and when it is healed leaves a 
scar behind it, that when the patient is well, yet he 
can say, " Here is the mark of my wound, which 
will never wear out." So a soul that is under spiri- 
tual conviction — his wound is deep, and not to be 
healed, but by the great skill of the heavenly Phy- 
sician: and when it is healed, there are the tokens 
of it remaining in the soul, that can never be worn 
out; so that the soul may say, " Here are the marks 
and signs of my conviction still in my soul." 

5. Natural convictions make the soul shy of God. 
Guilt works fear, and fear causes estrangedness. 
Thus it was with Adam, when he saw his nakedness 
he ran away and hid himself from God. Now spi- 
ritual convictions drive not the soul from God, but 


unto God. Ephraim's conviction was spiritual, and 
he runs to God: " Turn thou me, and I shall be 
turned." So that there is, you. see, a great differ- 
ence between conviction and conversion: between 
that which is natural and that which is spiritual; that 
which is common, and that which is saving. Yea, 
such is the difference, that though a man hath never 
so much of the former, yet if he be without the lat- 
ter, he is but almost a Christian, and therefore we 
have great reason to inquire more after this spiritual 
conviction. For, 

1. Spiritual conviction is an essential part of 
sound conversion. Conversion begins here; true 
conversion begins in convictions, and true convic- 
tions end in conversion. Till the sinner be con- 
vinced of sin, he can never be converted from sin ; 
Christ's coming was as a Saviour to die for sinners ; 
and the Spirit's coming is to convince us as sinners, 
that we may close with Christ as a Saviour : till sin 
he thoroughly discovered to us, interest in the blood 
o£ Christ cannot rightly be claimed by us ; nay, so 
long as sin is unseen, Christ will be unsought. 
** They that be whole need not the physician, but 
they that are sick.'* 

2. Slight and common convictions, when they 
are but skin-deep, are the cause of much hypocrisy : 
slight convictions may bring the soul to clasp about 
Christ, but not to close with Christ ; and this is 
the guise of a hypocrite. I know no other rise 
and spring of hypocrisy, like this of slight convic- 
tions : this hath filled the church of Christ with hy- 
pocrites. Nay, it is not only the spring of hypo- 


crisy, but it is also the spring of apostacy. What 
was the cause that the seed was said to wither 
away? It was because it had no deepness of 
earth. Where there is thorough conviction, there 
is a depth of earth in the heart, and there the seed 
of the word grows; but where convictions are slight 
and common, there the seed withers for want of 
depth : so that you see clearly, in this one instance, 
whence it is that many are but almost Christians, 
when they have gone so far in religion, to wit, for 
want of sound convictions. 

Secondly, And this hath a near relation to the 
former : " It is for want of a thorough work of grace 
first wrought in the heart :" where this is not, all a 
man's following profession comes to nothing; that 
scholar is never like to read well, that will needs be 
in his Grammar before he is out of his Primer: 
cloth that is not wrought well in the loom will never 
wear well, nor wear long, it will do little service ; so 
that Christian that doth not come well off the loom, 
that hath not a thorough work of grace in his heart; 
will never wear well; he will shrink in the wetting, 
and never do much service for God. It is not the 
pruning of a bad tree that will make it bring forth 
good fruit : but the tree must be made good, before 
the fruit can be good. 

He that takes up a profession of religion with an 
unbroken heart, will never serve Christ in that pro- 
fession with his whole heart. If there be not a true 
change in that man's heart, that yet goes far, and 
does much in the ways of God, to be sure he will 
either die a hypocrite or an apostate. 


Look, as in nature, if a man be not well born, 
but prove crooked or misshapen in the birth, why, he 
will be crooked as long as he lives: you may bolster 
or stuff out his clothes to conceal it, but the crooked- 
ness, the deformity remains still; you may hide it, 
but you cannot help it; it may be covered, but it 
cannot be cured. So it is in this case. If a man 
come into a profession of religion, but be not right 
born; if he be not " begotten of God, and born of 
the Spirit;" if there be not a thorough work of grace 
in his heart, all his profession of religion will never 
mend him; he may be bolstered out by a life of du- 
ties, but he will be but a hypocrite at last, for 
want of a thorough work at first; a form of godli- 
ness may cover his crookedness, but will never cure 

A man can never be a true Christian, nor accepted 
of God, though in the highest profession of religion, 
without a work of grace in the heart. For, 

1. There must be an answerableness in the frame 
of that man^s heart that would be accepted of God, 
to the duties done by him; the spirit and affections 
within, must carry a proportion to his profession 
without; prayer without faith, obedience to the law 
given, without fear and holy reverence of the law- 
giver, God abhors : acts of internal worship must 
answer the duties of external worship. Now where 
there is no grace wrought in the heart, there can 
never be any proportion or answerableness in the 
frame of that man's heart, to the duties done by 

2, Those duties that find acceptance with God, 


must be clone in sincerity. God doth not take our 
duties by talc, nor judge of us according to the fre- 
quency of our performances, but according to the 
sincerity of our hearts in the performance. It is 
this that commends both the doer and the duty to 
God ; with sincerity God accepts the least we do, 
without sincerity God rejects the most we do, or 
can do. This is that temper of spirit which God 
highly delights in: " They that are of a froward 
heart are an abomination to the Lord, but such as 
are upright in the way are his delight." The 
apostle gives it a great epithet; he calls it, in 2 Cor. 
i. 12. the sinceritij of God; that is, such a sincerity 
as is his special work upon the soul, setting the heart 
right and upright before him in all his ways. This 
is the crown of all our graces, and the condemnation 
of all our duties. Thousands perish, and go to 
hell in the midst of all their performances and du- 
ties, merely for want of a little sincerity of heart to 

Now where there is not a change of state, a work 
of grace in the heart, there can be no sincerity to 
God-ward; for this is not an herb that grows in na- 
ture's garden : " The heart of man is naturally de- 
ceitful and desperately wicked :" more opposite to 
sincerity than to any thing ; as things corrupted car- 
ry a greater dissimilitude to what they were than to 
any thing else which they never were. 

" God made man upright." Now man voluntarily 
losing this, is become more unlike himself than 
any thing below himself; he is more like a lion, 
a wolf, a bear, a serpent, a toad, than to a man in 


innocency. So that it is impossible to find sincerity 
ill any soul till there be a work of grace wrought 
there by the Spirit of God; and hence it is that a 
man is but almost a Christian when he hath done 

Question IV. 

What is the reason that many go no farther in 
the profession of religion, than to be almost Chris- 
tians ? 

Reason 1. It is because they deceive themselves 
in the truth of their own condition; they mistake 
their state, and think it good and safe, when it is 
bad and dangerous. A man may look upon himself 
as a member of Christ, and yet God may look upon 
him as a vessel of wrath; as a child of God, by look- 
ing more upon his sins than his graces, more upon 
his failings than his faith, more upon indwelling lusts 
than renewing grace, may think his case very bad 
when yet it is very good: " I am black," saith the 
spouse; "and yet," saith Christ, " O thou fairest 
among women !" So the sinner, by looking more 
upon his duties than his sins, may think he sees his 
name written in the book of life, and yet be in 
the account of God a very reprobate. 

There is nothing more common than for a man 
to " think himself something when he is nothing;" 
and so he " deceives himself." Many a man blesses 
himself in his interest in Christ, when he is indeed 
a stranger to him. Many a man thinks his sin par- 
doned, when alas! " he is still in the gall of bitter- 


ness, and bond of iniquity." Many a man thinks 
he liath grace, when he hath none : '' There is," 
saith Solomon, " that makes himself rich, and yet 
liath nothing." This was the very temper of Lao- 
dicea: " Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with 
goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not," 
(pray mind that,) " that thou art wretched, and 
miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." 

Thou knowest not; as bad as she was she thought 
her state good; as poor as she was in grace, she 
thoutrht she was rich; " as miserable and naked as 
she was, yet she thought she had need of nothing." 

Now there are several rises or grounds of this 
mistake. I will name five to you. 

First, The desperate deceitfulness of the heart of 
every natural man. " The heart is deceitful above 
all things." The Hebrew word is the same with 
Jacob's name. Now you know he was a supplanter 
of his brother Esau: " He is rightly called Jacob," 
saith he, " for he hath supplanted me these two 
times." So the word signifies, to be frauchdent, 
subtle^ deceitful^ and supplanting. Thus is the heart 
of every natural man, " deceitful above all things." 

You read of the deceitfulness of the tongue. 

And of the deceitfulness of riches. 

And of the deceitfulness of beauty. 

And of the deceitfulness of friends. 

But yet the heart is deceitful above them all. 
Nay, you read of the deceitfulness of Satan, yet truly 
a man's heart is a greater deceiver than he ; for he 
could never deceive a man, if his own heart did not 
deceive him. Now^ it is from hence that a man 


presumes upon the goodness of his case, from the 
desperate treachery of his own heart. 

How common is it for men to boast of the good- 
ness of their hearts? " I thank God, though I do 
not make such a show and pretence as some do, vet 
I have as good a heart as the best." O do but hear 
Solomon in this case : " He that trusteth in his own 
heart is a fooL" Will any wise man commit his 
money to the cut-purse? Will he trust a cheat? 
It is a good rule, Remember to distrust; — and it was 
Austin's prayer. That man that trusts to his own 
heart, shall be sure to find himself deceived at last. 

Secondly, This mistake arises from the pride of 
a man's spirit; there is a proud heart in every natu- 
ral man: there was much of this pride in Adam's 
sin, and there is much of it in all Adam's sons. It 
is a radical sin, and from hence arises this over- 
weening opinion of a man's state and condition. 
Solomon saith, " Be not righteous overmuch." 
Austin, speaking occasionally of these words, saith, 
it is " not meant of the righteousness of the wise 
man, but the pride of the presumptuous man." Now 
in this sense every carnal man is righteous over- 
much; though he hath none of that righteousness 
which commends him to God, to wit, the righteous- 
ness of Christ, yet he hath too much of that righte- 
ousness which commends him to himself, and that 
is self-righteousness. 

A proud man hath an eye to see his beauty, but 
not his deformity; his parts, but not his spots; his 
seeming righteousness, but not his real wretched- 
ness, " It must be a work of grace that must show 


a man the want of grace." The liauglity eye looks 
upward, but the humble eye looks downward, and 
therefore this is the believer's motto, " The least of 
saints, the greatest of sinners;" but the carnal man's 
motto is, " 1 thank God I am not as otiier men." 

Tlnrdly, Many deceive tliemselves with common 
grace instead of saving, through that resemblance 
that is between them. As many take counterfeit 
money for current coin, so do too many take com- 
mon ijrace for true. Saul took the devil for Samuel, 
because he appeared in the mantle of Samuel : so 
many take common grace for saving, because it is 
like saving grace; a man may be under a superna- 
tural work, and yet fall short of a saving work; the 
first raiseth nature, the second onlyrenewcth nature: 
though every saving work of the Spirit be superna- 
tural, yet every supernatural work of the Spirit is 
not saving; and hence many deceive their own souls, 
by taking a supernatural work for a saving work. 

Fourthly, Many mistake a profession of religion 
for a work of conversion, and outside reformation 
for a sure sign of inward regeneration. If the out- 
side of the cup be washed, then they think all is 
clean, though it be never so foul within. This is 
the common rock that so many souls split upon, to 
their eternal hazard, taking up a form of godliness, 
but denying the power thereof. 

Fifthly, Want'of a home application of the law 
of God to the heart and conscience, to discover to a 
man the true state and condition he is in. Where 
this is wanting, a man will sit down short of a true 
work of grace, and will reckon his case better than 
H 27 


it is. That is a notable passage which the apostle 
hints concerning himself: " I was alive without the 
law once; but when the commandment came, sin re- 
vived, and I died." Here you have an account of 
the different apprehensions Paul had of his condition 
with and without the word. 

1. Here is his apprehension of his condition with- 
out the word: " I was alive," saith he, *' without 
the law." Paul had the law, for he was a Pharisee; 
and they had the " form of knowledge, and of the 
truth of the law:" therefore, when he saith he was 
" without the law," you must not take him literally, 
but spiritually: he was without the power and effi- 
cacy of it upon his heart and conscience, convincing, 
and awakening, and discovering sin; and so long as 
this was his case, he doubted not of his state — he 
was confident of the goodness of his condition. This 
he hinted when he saith, " I was alive;" but then, 

2. Here is his apprehension of his condition with 
the word, and that is quite contrary to what it was 
before : " when the commandment came," saith he, 
" then sin revived, and I died." When the word 
of the Lord came with power upon his soul, when 
the Spirit of God set it home effectually upon his 
conscience, that is meant by the coming of the com- 
mandment; " then sin revived, and I died;" that is, 
I saw the desperateness of my case, and the filthiness 
of all my self-j-ighteousness. Then my hope ceased, 
and my confidence failed; and, as before, I thought 
myself alive, and my sin dead; sa when God had 
awakened conscience by the word, then I saw my sin 
alive and powerful, and myself dead and miserable. 


So that this is the first reason why men go no fur- 
ther in the profession of rehgion, than to be almost 
Christians. It is because they mistake their state, 
and think it good when it is not; which mistake is 

1. A deceitful heart. 

2. A proud spirit. 

3. Taking common grace for saving. 

4. Outward reformation, for true regeneration. 

5. Want of home application of the law of God 
to the heart and conscience. 

Reason 2. It is from Satan's cunning, who, if he 
cannot keep sinners in their open profaneness, then 
he labours to persuade them to take up with a form 
of godliness. If he cannot entice them on in their 
lusts, with a total neglect of heaven, then he entices 
them to such a profession as is sure to fall short of 
heaven. He will consent to the leaving some sin, 
so as we do but keep the rest; and to the doing of 
some duties, so as we neglect the rest. Nay, ra- 
ther than part with his interest in the soul, he will 
yield far to our profession of religion, and consent 
to any thing but our conversion, and closing with 
Christ for salvation: he cares not which way we 
come to hell, so as he gets us but thither at last. 

Reason 3. It is from worldly and carnal policy. 
This is a great hinderance to many : policy many 
times enters caveats against piety. Jehu will not 
part with his calves, lest he hazard his kingdom. 
Among many men there would be more zeal and 
honesty, were there less design and policy. There 


is an honest policy that helps religion, but carnal 
policy hinders it. 

We are commanded " to be wise as serpents :" 
now, ''the serpent is the subtlest of creatures:" but 
then we must be as " innocent as doves." If piety 
be without policy, it wants security; if policy be 
without piety, it wants integrity. Piety without 
policy is too simple to be safe; and policy without 
piety is too subtle to be good. Let men be as wise, 
as prudent, as subtle, as watchful as they will,, but 
then let it be in the way of God; let it be joined 
with holiness and integrity. That is a cursed wis- 
dom that forbids a man to launch any further out in 
the depth of religion, than he can see the land, lest 
he be taken in a storm before he can make safe to 
shore again. 

Reason 4. There are some lusts espoused in the 
heart, that hinder a hearty close with Christ. 
Though they bid fair yet they come not to God's 
terras: " The young man would have eternal life;" 
and he bid fair for it: a willing obedience to every 
command but one, but only one; and will not God 
abate him one? Is he so severe? Will he not 
come down a little in his terms, when man rises so 
high? Must man yield all? Will God yield noth- 
ing ? No, my brethren, he that underbids for hea- 
ven, shall as surely lose it as he that will give noth- 
ing for it. He that will not give all he hath — 
part with all for that '' pearl of price"— shall as sure- 
ly go without it, as he that never once cheapens it. 
The not coming up to God's terms is the ruin of 


thousands of souls; nay, it is that upon which all 
that perish, do perish. A naked sinner to a naked 
Christ; a hlecding, hroken sinner, to a hleeding, 
broken Christ — these are God's terms. 

Most professors arc like iron between two equal 
loadstones. God draws, and they propend towards 
God; and the world draws, and they incline to the 
world. They are between both ; they would not 
leave God for the world, if they might not be en- 
gaged to leave the world for God. But if tliey must 
part with all — with every lust, every darling, every 
beloved sin — why, then, the spirit of Demas possesses 
them, and God is forsaken by them. 

My brethren, this is the great reason why many 
that are come to be almost Christians go no farther. 
Some one beloved lust or other hinders them, and 
after a long and high profession, parts them and 
Christ for ever: they did run well, but here it is 
that they give out, and after all fall short, and perish 
to eternity. 

Thus having answered these four questions, 

1. How far a man may go in the w^ay to heaven, 
and yet be but almost a Christian. 

2. Whence it is that a man goeth so far as to be 
almost a Christian. 

3. When it is that a man is but almost a Chris- 
tian, when he has gone thus far ? 

4. What is the reason men go no farther in reli- 
gion, than to be almost Christians ? 


I proceed now to the Application. 

Inference 1. That salvation is not so easy a thing 
as it is imagined to be. — This is attested by our 
Lord Jesus Christ himself: " Strait is the gate, and 
narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there 
be that find it." The gate of conversion is a very 
strait gate, and yet every man that would he saved 
eternally, must enter in at this strait gate ; for salva- 
tion is impossible without it : " Except a man be 
born again," born from above, " he cannot see the 
kingdom of God." 

Not that this gate is strait simply, and in respect 
of itself: — No; for converting grace is free. The 
gate of mercy stands open all the day long. In 
the tenders of gospel grace, none are excluded, un- 
less they exclude themselves. Christ doth not say, 
" If such and such will come to me, I will ' not 
cast them out;'" but "him that cometh unto me," 
be he who or what he will, if he hath a heart to 
close with me, " I will in nowise cast him out." 
He saith not, " If this or that man will, here is 
water of life for him ;" but, " If any man will, let 
him take the water oflife freely." Christ grudgeth 
mercy to none ; though salvation was dearly pur- 
chased for us, yet it is freely proffered us. 

So that the gate which leadeth to life is not strait 
on Christ's part, or in respect of itself, but it is 
strait in respect of us, because of our lusts and cor- 
ruptions, which make the entrance difficult. A 
needle's eye is big enough for a thread to pass 
through, but it is a strait passage for a cable rope : 


either the needle's eye must be enlarged, or the ca- 
ble rope must be untwisted, or the entrance is impos- 
sible. So it is in this case — the gate of conversion 
is a very strait passage for a carnal corrupt sinner to 
go in at. The soul can never pass through with any 
one lust beloved and espoused; and, therefore, the 
sinner must be untwisted from every lust : he must 
lay aside the love of every sin, or he can never en- 
ter in at this gate, for it is a strait gate. And vvhen 
he is in at this strait gate, he meeteth with a nar- 
row way to walk in: so our Lord Christ saith, " Nar- 
row is the way that leadeth to life;" and what way is 
this, but the way of sanctification ? "For without 
holiness no man shall ever see the Lord." 

Now this way of sanctification is a very narrow 
way, for it lies over the neck of every lust, and in 
the exercise of every grace, subduing the one, and 
improving the other; dying daily, and yet living 
daily ; dying to sin and living to God : — this is the 
way of sanctification ! And O, how few are there 
that walk in this way ! The broad way hath many 
travellers in it, but this narrow way is like the ways 
of Canaan in the days of Shamgar. It is said, " In 
the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, the high- 
ways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked 
through by-ways." In the Hebrew, it is, " through 
crooked ways:" the way of holiness is by the most an 
unoccupied way — so saith the prophet. " A way 
shall there be, and it shall be called the way of holi- 
ness, the unclean shall not pass over it ; no lion 
shall be there, nor any ravenous beasts shall go up 
thereon ; but the redeemed shall walk there." The 


unclean, and the lion, and the ravenous beast, they 
are in the crooked ways : none but the redeemed of 
the Lord walk in the way of the Lord. 

It is no wonder, then, that our Lord Christ 
saith of life, that "few there be that find it," when 
the gate is strait, and the way narrow, that lead- 
eth to it. Many pretend to walk in the narrow 
way, but they never entered in at the strait gate; 
and many pretend to have entered in at the strait 
gate, but they walk not in the narrow way. 

It is a very common thing for a man to perish 
upon a mistake of his way ; to go on in those paths 
that take hold of hell, and yet hope to find heaven 
at last. Those twenty parts, fore-mentioned, run 
into destruction, and yet many choose them, and 
walk in them as the way of salvation. As many 
profane and open sinners perish by choosing the 
way of death, so many formal professors perish by 
mistaking the way of life. Tiiis I gather from 
what our Lord Christ saith — ^' Few there be that 
find it ;" which doth clearly imply what in Luke 
xii. 24. he doth plainly express, to wit, that many 
seek it; many seek to enter in, and yet are not 
able; many run flir, and yet do not " so run as to 
obtain ;" many bid fair for the Pearl of price, and 
yet go without it. Hell is had with ease; but the 
" kinjydom of heaven suffers violence." 

Inference 2. If many go thus flir in the way to 
heaven, and yet miscarry, O then, what shall be the 
end of them who fall short of these ! If he 
shall perish who is almost a Christian, what shall he 
do who is not at all a Christian. If he that owneth 



Christ, and professetli Christ, and Icavetli many si 
for Christ, may be damned notwithstanding ; what 
then shall his doom be that disowncth Christ, and 
refuseth to part with one sin, one lust, one oath for 
Christ ; nay, that openly blasphemeth the precious 
name of Christ ! If he that is outwardly sanctified 
shall yet be eternally rejected, what will the case be 
of such as are openly unsanctified — that have not 
only the plague of a hard heart within, but also the 
plague-sore of a profane life without ? If the formal 
professor must be shut out, surely then the filthy 
adulterer, swinish drunkard, the deep swearer, the 
profane sabbath-breaker, the foul-mouthed scoffer, 
yea, and every carnal sinner much more. If there 
be a wo to him that falleth short of heaven, then 
how sad is the wo to him who falls short of them 
that fall short of heaven ? Ah, that God would 
make this an awakening word to sinners that are 
asleep in sin, without the least fear of death, or 
dread of damnation ! 

Use of Examination, 

Are there many in the world that are almost and 
yet but almost Christians ? Why, then, " it is 
time for us to call our condition into question, and 
to make a more narrow scrutiny into the truth of 
our spiritual estate;" what it is, whether it be right 
or not; whether we are sound and sincere in our 
profession of religion, or not. When our Lord 
Christ told his disciples, " One of you shall betray 
me," every one began presently to reflect upon him- 
self: "Master, is it I? Master, is it I?" So 


should we do, when the Lord discovers to us from 
his word, how many there are under the profession 
of rehgion that are but almost Christians, we should 
straightway reflect upon our hearts, '* Lord is it I? 
Is my heart unsound ? Am I but almost a Chris- 
tian ? Am I one of them that shall miscarry at 
last ? Am I a hypocrite under a profession of 
religion ? Have I a form of godliness without the 
power : 

There are two questions of very great importance, 
which we should every one of us often put to our- 
selves : — 

What am I ? 

Where am I ? 

L What am I ? Am I a child of God or not ? 
Am I sincere in religion, or am I only a hypocrite 
under a profession ? 

2. Where am I ? Am I yet in a natural state, 
or a state of grace ? Am I yet in the old root, in 
old Adam; or am I in the root Christ Jesus ? Am 
I in the covenant of works that ministers only wrath 
and death ? or am I in the covenant of grace, that 
ministers life and peace ? 

Indeed, this is the first thing a man should look 
at : there must be a change of state, before there 
can be a change of heart : we must come under a 
change of covenant, before we can be under a 
change of condition; for the new heart and the 
new spirit is promised in the new covenant. There 
is nothing of that to be heard of in the old : now a 
man must be under the new covenant, before he can 
receive the blessing promised in the new covenant: 


he must be in a new covenant-state, before he can 
receive a new covenant-heart. No mercy, no par- 
don, no change, no conversion, no grace dispensed 
out of covenant ; therefore this should be our great 
inquiry ; for if we know not where we are, we can- 
not know what we are; and if we know not what 
we are, we cannot be what we should be; namely, 
altogether Christians. Let me then, I beseech 
you, press this duty upon you that are professors. — 
Try your own hearts; " examine yourselves whether 
you are in the faith; prove your ownselves." — I 
urge this upon most cogent arguments. 

I. Because many rest in a notion of godliness 
and outw^ard shows of religion, and yet remain in 
their natural condition. Many " are hearers of the 
word," but " not doers of it," " and so deceive their 
own souls." Some neither hear nor do; these are 
profane sinners. Some both hear and do; these are 
true believers. Some hear, but they do not do ; 
these are hypocritical professors. 

He that slights the ordinances cannot be a true 
Christian ; but yet it is possible a man may own 
them, and profess them, and yet be no true Christian. 
Who would trust to a profession, that shall see 
Judas a disciple, an apostle, a preacher of the gos- 
pel, one that cast out devils, to be cast out himself? 
" He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is 
that circumcision which is outward in the flesh : but 
he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision 
is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the 
letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." 

2. " Because errors in the first foundation are 
very dangerous." If we be not right in the main, 


in tlie fundamental work; if the foundation be not 
laid in grace in the heart, all our following profes- 
sion comes to nothing : the house is built upon a 
sandy foundation, and though it may stand for 
awhile, yet " when the floods come, and the winds 
blow and beat upon it, great will be the fall of it." 

3. Because many are the deceits that our souls 
are liable to in this case." There are many things 
like grace, that are not grace: now it is the likeness 
and similitude of things that deceives, and makes 
one thing to be taken for another. Many take 
gifts for grace, common knowledge for saving know- 
ledge ; when as a man may have great gifts, and yet 
no grace; great knowledge, and yet not know Jesus 

Some take common faith for saving; whereas, a 
man may believe all the truths of the gospel, all the 
promises, all the threatenings, all the articles of the 
creed, to be true, and yet perish for want of saving 

Some take morality and restraining grace for 
piety and renewing grace; whereas it is common to 
have sin much restrained, where the heart is not 

Some are deceived with a half work, taking con- 
viction for conversion, reformation for regeneration; 
we have many mermaid- Christians, Or, like Ne- 
buchadnezzar's image, head of gold, and feet of clay. 
The devil cheats most men by a synecdoche, putting 
a part for the whole: partial obedience to some com- 
mands, for universal obedience to all. Endless are 
the delusions that Satan fastens upon souls, for want 
of this self-search. It is necessary, therefore, that 


we try our state, lest wc take the shadow for the 
substance, and embrace a cloud instead of Juno. 

4. Satan will try us at one time or other. He 
will winnow us and sift us to the bottom; and if we 
no.v rest in a groundless confidence, it will then end 
in a comfortless despair. Nay, God himself will 
search and try us at the day of judgment especially; 
and who can abide that trial, that never tries his 
own heart? 

5. Whatsoever a man's state be, whether he be 
altogether a Christian or not, whether his principle 
be sound or not, yet it is good to examine his own 
heart. If he find his heart good, his principles 
right and sound, this will be matter of rejoicing. 
If he find his heart rotten, his principles false and 
unsound, the discovery is in order to a renewing. 
If a man have a disease upon him, and know it, he 
may send to the physician in time; but what a sad 
vexation will it be, not to see a disease till it be past 
cure? So for a man to be graceless, and not see it 
till it be too late, to think himself a Christian when 
he is not, and that he is in the right way to heaven, 
when he is in the ready way to hell, and yet not 
know it, till a death-bed or a judgment-day confute 
his confidence^ — this is the most irrecoverable misery. 

These are the grounds upon which I press this 
duty, of examining our state. O that God would 
help us in the doing this necessary duty ! 

Question. You say, " But how shall I come to 
know whether I am almost or altogether a Christian? 
If a man may go so far, and yet miscarry, how shall 
I know when my foundation is right — when I am a 
Christian indeed?" 


Ariswer 1. The altogether Christian closes with, 
and accepts of Christ upon gospel-terms. True 
union makes a true Christian: many close with 
Christ, but it is upon their own terms ; they take 
him, and own him, but not as God ofFers him. 
The terms upon which God in the gospel ofFers 
Christ, are, that we shall accept of a broken Christ 
with a broken heart, and yet a whole Christ with 
the whole heart. A broken Christ with a broken 
heart, as a witness of our humility; a whole Christ 
with a whole heart, as a witness of our sincerity. A 
broken Christ respects his suffering for sin; a broken 
heart respects our sense of sin; a whole Christ includes 
all his offices; a whole heart includes all our faculties. 
Christ is a King, Priest, and Prophet, and all as Me- 
diator. Without any one of these offices, the work 
of salvation could not have been completed. As a 
Priest, he redeems us; as a Prophet, he instructs us; 
as a King, he sanctifies and saves us. Tlierefore, 
the apostle says, " He is made to us of God, wis- 
dom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." 
Righteousness and redemption flow from him, as a 
Priest; wisdom, as a Prophet; sanctification, as a 

Now many embrace Christ as a Priest, but yet 
they own him not as a King and Prophet; they 
like to share in his righteousness, but not to par- 
take of his holiness; they would be redeemed by 
him, but they would not submit to him ; they would 
be saved by^ his blood, but not submit to his power. 
Many love the privileges of the gospel, but not the 
duties of the gospel. Now these are but almost 
Christians, notwithstanding their close with Christ j 


for it is upon their own terms, but not upon God's. 
The offices of Christ may be distinguished, but they 
can never be divided. But the true Christian owns 
Christ in all his offices : he doth not only close with 
him as Jesus, but as Lord Jesus: he says with 
Thomas, " My Lord, and my God." He doth 
not only believe in the merit of his death, but also 
conforms to the manner of his life. As he believes 
in him, so he lives to him : he takes him for his 
wisdom, as well as for his righteousness; for his 
sanctification, as well as his redemption. 

2. The altocjether Christian hath a thorough 
work of grace and sanctification wrought in the 
heart, as a spring of duties. Regeneration is a 
whole change ; " all old things are done away, and 
all things become new." It is a perfect work, as to 
parts, though not as to degrees. Carnal men do 
duties, but they are from an unsanctified heart, and 
that spoils all. A new piece of cloth never doth well 
in an old garment, for the rent is but made 
worse. When a man's heart is thoroughly re- 
newed by grace, the mind savingly enlightened, the 
conscience thoroughly convinced, the will truly 
humbled and subdued, the affections spiritually 
raised and sanctified; and when mind, and will, and 
conscience, and affections, all join issue to help on 
with the performance of the duties commanded; then 
is a man altogether a Christian. 

3. He that is altogether a Christian, looks to the 
manner, as well as to the matter, of his duties. Not 
only that they be done, but how they be done. He 
knows the Christian's privileges lie in pronouns, but 


his duty in adverbs: it must not be only honum^ 
good, but it must be bene, that good must be rightly 

Here the almost Christian fails, he doth the same 
duties that others do for the matter, but he doth 
them not in the same manner; while he minds the 
substance, he regards not the circumstance; if he 
pray, he regards not faith and fervency in prayer; 
if he hear, he doth not mind Christ's rule, " Take 
heed how you hear;" if he obey, he looks not to the 
frame of his heart in obeying, and therefore miscar- 
ries in all he doth: any of these defects spoil the 
good of every duty. 

4. " The altogether Christian is known by his 
sincerity, in all his performances." Whatever a 
man does in the duties of the gospel, he cannot be 
a Christian without sincerity. Now, the almost 
Christian fails in this; for though he doth much, 
prays much, hears much, obeys much, yet he is 
a hypocrite under all. 

5. He that is altogether a Christian, hath an 
" answerableness within to the lavv without." There 
is a connaturalness between the word of God and 
the will of a Christian; his heart is, as it were, the 
transcript of the law ; the same holiness that is 
commanded in his word, is implanted in the heart ; 
the same conformity to Christ, that is enjoined by 
the word of God, is wrought in the soul by the 
Spirit of God ; the same obedience which the word 
requireth of him, the Lord enableth him to perform, 
by his grace bestowed on him. This is that which 
is promised in the new covenant : " I will put my 


law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. 
Now the writino; his law in us, is nothino else but 
his workin<r tliat ffrace and hoHness in us which the 
law conimandeth and rcquireth of us. 

In the old-covenant administration, God wrote 
his laws only upon tables of stone, but not upon the 
heart ; and therefore, though God wrote them, yet 
they broke them ; but in the new-covenant adminis- 
tration, God provides new tables : not tables of 
stone, but " the fleshly tables of the heart," and 
writes his laws there, that there might be a law 
within, answerable to the law without. And this 
every true Christian hath. So that he may say in his 
measure, as our Lord Christ did, " I delight to do thy 
will, O my God ; thy law is within my heart." 
Every believer hath a light within him, not guiding 
him to despise and slight, but to prize and walk by 
the light without him ; the word commands him to 
walk in the light, and the light directs him to walk ac- 
cording to the word. Moreover, from this impres- 
sion of the law upon the heart, obedience and con- 
formity to God becomes the choice and delight of 
the soul ; for holiness is the very nature of the new 
creature ; so that if there were no scripture, no Bible 
to guide him, yet he would be holy, for he hath 
received "grace for grace;" there is a grace within 
to answer to the word of grace without. Now, the 
almost Christian is a stranger to this law of God 
within; he may have some conformity to the word 
in outwaid conversation, but he cannot have this an- 
swerableness to the word in inward constitution. 

6. The altogether Christian is much in duty, and 


yet much above duty: much in duty, in regard of 
performances, much above duty, in regard of depen- 
dance; much in duty by obeying; but much above 
duty by beUeving. He lives in his obedience, but 
he doth not Hve upon his obedience, but upon Christ 
and his righteousness. The almost Christian fails 
in this. He is much in duty, but not above it, but 
rests in it; he works for rest, and he rests in his 
works. He cannot come to beHeve and obey too; if 
he beUeves, then he thinks there is no need of obe- 
dience, and so casts off that ; if he be much in obe- 
dience, then he casts offbeheving, and thinks there 
is no need of that. He cannot say with David, " I 
have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy com- 
mandments." The more a man is in duty, and the 
more above it ; the more in doing, and more in be- 
lieving, the more a Christian. 

T. " He that is altogether a Christian is uni- 
versal in his obedience." He doth not obey one 
command and neglect another, do one duty and 
cast off another; but he hath respect to all the com- 
mands, he endeavotirs to leave every sin, and love 
every duty. 

The almost Christian fails in this, his obedience 
is partial and piece-meal; if he obeys one command, 
he breaks another ; the duties that least cross his 
lust, he is much in ; but those that do, he lays 

The Pharisees " fasted, prayed, paid tithes," &c. 
but they did not lay aside their covetousness, their 
oppression; they " devoured widows' houses," they 
were unnatural to parents. 


8. " The altogether Christian makes God's 
glory the cliief end of all his performances." If 
he pray, or hear, or give, or fast, or repent, or 
obey, &c. God's glory is the main end of all. It 
is true, he may have somewhat else at the hither 
end of his work, but God is at the further end: 
as Moses's rod swallowed up the magicians' rods, 
so God's glory is the ultimate end that swallows up 
all his other ends. Now the almost Christian fails 
in this, his ends are corrupt and selfish; God may 
possibly be at the hither end of his work, but self 
is at the other end; for he that was never truly 
cast out of himself, can have no higher end than 

Now then examine thyself by these characters, 
put the question to thy own soul. Dost thou close 
with Christ upon gospel terms? Is grace in the 
heart the principle of thy performances? Dost 
thou look to the manner, as well as the matter of 
thy duties? Dost thou do all in sincerity? Is there 
an answerableness within to the law without? Art 
thou much above duty, when much in duty? Is 
thy obedience universal? Lastly, is God's glory 
the end of all? If so, then thou art not only almost 
but altogether a Christian. 

Second Use of Caution. — " O take heed of be- 
ing almost, and yet but almost a Christian !" It is 
a great complaint of God against Ephraim, that 
" he is a cake not turned;" that is, half baked, 
neither raw nor roasted, neither cold nor hot, as 
Laodicea : " Because thou art neither hot nor cold, 
therefore I will spew thee out of my mouth." 


This is a condition that of all others is greatly un- 
profitable, exceedingly uncomfortablej and despe- 
rately dangerous. 

First, " It is greatly unprofitable to be but al- 
most a Christian;" for failing in any one point, 
will ruin us as surely as if we had never made any 
attempts for heaven. It is no advantage to the 
soul to be almost converted; for the little that we 
want, spoils the good of all our attainments. We 
say, as good never a whit as never the near; there 
is no profit in leaving this or that sin, unless we 
leave all sin. Herod heard John gladly, and did 
many things, but he kept his Herodias, and that 
ruined him. Judas did many things, prayed much, 
preached much, professed much, but yet his covet- 
ousness spoiled all; one sin ruined the young man, 
that had kept all the commands but one. Thus he 
" that offends in one point, is guilty of all." That 
is, that lives wilfully and allowedly in any one sin, 
he brincrs the o-uilt of the violation of the whole 
law of God upon his soul, and that upon a twofold 

1. Because he manifests the same contempt of 
the authority of God, in the wilful breach of one, 
as of all. 

2. By allowing himself in the breach of any one 
command he shows he kept none in obedience and 
conscience to God ; for he that hates sin as sin, 
hates all sin, and he that obeys the command as 
the express will of God, obeys every command. 
And for this cause the least sin, wilfully, and with 
allowance lived hi, spoils the good of all our obe- 


ilience and lays tlic soul under tlic wliole wratli of 
God. One leak in a ship will sink her, though 
she be tight every way else. " Gideon had seventy 
sons," and but one bastard, and yet that one bas- 
tard destroyed all his sons ; so may one sin spoil all 
our services; one lust beloved may spoil all our 
profession, as that one bastard slew all the sons of 

Secondly, " It is exceedingly uncomfortable;" as 
appears three ways. 

1. " In that such a one is hated of God and 
men." The world hates him because of his pro- 
fession, and God abhors him because of his dissimu- 
lation; the world hates him because he seems good, 
and God hates him because he doth but seem so. 
No person that God hates more than the almost 
Christian : " I would that thou wert either cold 
or hot;" either all a Christian,, or not at all a 
Christian. " Because thou art neither cold nor 
hot, therefore I will spew thee out of my mouth." 
What a loathsome expression doth God here use, 
to show what an utter abhorrency there is in him 
against lukewarm Christians ! How uncomfortable 
then must that condition needs be wherein a man 
is abhorred both of God and man? 

2. " It is uncomfortable in res^ard of sufFerino's." 
For being almost a Christian, will bring us into suf- 
fering ; but being but almost a Christian, will never 
carry us through suffering. In Matt. xiii. 20, 21. 
it is said, '' He that receiveth the seed into stony 
ground, the same is he that hears the word, and 
with joy receives it; yet hath he not root in himself, 


but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or per- 
secution ariseth because of the word, by-and-by he 
is offended." 

There are^owr things observable in these words. 

1. That the stony ground may receive the word 
with joy. 

2. That it may for some time abide in a pro- 
fession of it: He dureth for a while. 

3. That this profession will expose to suffering; 
for mark, persecution is said to arise because of the 

4. This suffering will cause an apostatizing from 
profession ; for that which is here called " offence," 
is in Luke viii. 13. called falling away: " which 
for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall 

I gather hence, a profession may expose a man 
as much to suffering as the power of godliness : but 
without the power of godliness there is no holding 
out in a profession under suffering. The world 
hates the show of godliness, and therefore perse- 
cutes it ; the almost Christian wants the substance, 
and therefore cannot hold out in it. 

Now this must needs be very uncomfortable; if I 
profess religion, I am like to suffer; if I do but pro- 
fess it, I am never like to endure. 

3. " It is uncomfortable, in regard of that de- 
ceit it lays our hopes under;" to be deceived of our 
hopes causeth sorrow as well as shame. He that is 
but almost a Christian, hopes for heaven; but unless 
he be altogether a Christian, he shall never come 
there. Now to perish with hopes of heaven, to go 


to hell by the gates of glory, to come to the very 
door, and then be shut out, as the five virgins 
were; to die in the wilderness, within the sight of 
the promised land, at the very brinks of Jordan ; 
this must needs be sad. To come within a stride of 
the goal, and yet miss it; to sink within sight of 
harbour; O how uncomfortable is this! 

4. " As it is greatly unprofitable, and exceed- 
ingly uncomfortable, to be but almost a Christian, 
so it is desperately dangerous." For, 

1. " This hinders the true work:" A man lies 
in a fairer capacity for conversion, that lies in open 
enmity and rebellion, than he that sooths up himself 
in the formalities of religion. This I gather from 
the parable of the two sons which our -Lord Christ 
urged to the professing Scribes and Pharisees. 
" There was a man had two sons; and he came 
to one, and said. Go work to day in my vineyard. 
He said, 1 will not; but afterwards repented and 
went. And he came to the second, and said like- 
wise; and he said, I go, Sir; but went not." The 
first represents the carnal open sinner, that is called 
by the word, but refuses, yet afterwards repents, 
and believes. The second represents the hypo- 
critical professor, that pretends much, but performs 
little. Now mark how Christ applies this parable: 
" Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the 
harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." 

And upon this account it is better not to be at 
all, than to be almost a Christian ; for the almost 
hinders the altogether. It is better, in this regard, 
to be a sinner without a profession, than to be a 


professor without conversion : for the one lies fairer 
for an inward change, when the other rests in an 
outward. Our Lord Christ tells the Scribe, " Thou 
art not far from the kingdom of God," yet never 
like to come there. None farther from the kino-- 


dom of God, than such as are not far from the 
kingdom of God. As for instance, when there 
lies but one lust, one sin between a soul and Christ, 
that soul is not far from Christ : but now, when the 
soul rests in this nearness to Christ, and yet will 
not part with that one lust for Christ, but thinks 
his condition secured, though that lust be not sub- 
dued ; who is farther from the kingdom of God 
than he ? So our Lord Christ tells the young 
man, " One thing thou lackest." Why he was very 
near heaven, near being a Christian altogether, he 
was very near being saved; he tells Christ he had 
kept all the commands. He lacked but one thing; I 
say, but one thing: but it was a great thing. That 
one thing he lacked was more than all things he had, 
for it was the one thing necessary ; it was a new 
heart, a work of grace in his soul, a cliange of state, 
a heart weaned frnm the world. This was the one 
thing, and he that lacks this one thing, perishes with 
his all things else. 

2. " This condition is so like a state of grace, 
that the mistake of it for grace is easy and com- 
mon;" and it is very dangerous to mistake any 
thing for grace that is not grace; for in that a man 
contents himself, as if it were grace. Formality 
doth often dwell next door to sincerity, and 
one sign serves both; and so the house may be 


easily mistaken, and by that means a man may take 
up his lodging there, and never find the way out 

What one saith of wisdom, (many might have 
been wise, had they not thought themselves so 
when they were otherwise) the same I may say of 
grace; many a formal professor might have been a 
sincere believer, had he not mistook his profession 
for conversion, his duties for grace, and so rested 
in that for sincerity that is but hypocrisy. 

3. " It is a degree of blasphemy to pretend to 
grace, and yet have no grace." I gather this from 
Rev. ii. 9. — " I know the blasphemy of them which 
say they are .Tews, and are not." This place un- 
dergoes variety of constructions; Grotius and Pa- 
rous do not make their blasphemy to lie in their 
saying they are Jews, and are not; but to lie in the 
reproaches that these Jews fastened upon Christ, 
calling him impostor, deceiver, one that hath a 
devil, &c. Brightman goes another way, and saith, 
this was the blasphemy of these Jews, they retained 
that way of worship that was abrogated, and thrust 
upon God those old rites and ceremonies which 
Jesus Christ had abolished, and nailed to his cross, 
by which they overthrew the glory of Christ, and 
denied his coming. But 1 conceive the blasphemy 
of these Jews to lie in this, that they said they were 
Jews and were not. A Jew here is not to be taken 
literally and strictly only, for one of the lineage of 
Abraham, but it is to be taken metonymically for a 
true believer, one of the spiritual seed of Abraham: 
*' He is a Jew who is one inwardly;" so that for 

I 27 


a iTian to say be is a Jew when he is not, to profess 
an interest in Christ when he hath none, to say he 
hath grace when he hath none, this Christ calls 

But why should Christ call this blasphemy? 
This is hypocrisy; but how may it be said to be 
blasphemy? Why, he blasphemes the great attri- 
bute of God's oranisciency, he doth implicitly deny 
that God sees and knows our hearts and thoughts; 
for if a man did believe the omnisciency of God, 
that he searches the heart, and sees and knows all 
within, he would not dare to rest in a graceless 
profession of godliness. This, therefore, is blas- 
phemy in the account of Christ. 

4. " It is dangerous to be almost a Christian, 
in that this stills and serves to quiet conscience." 
Now it is very dangerous to quiet conscience with 
any thing but the blood of Christ: it is bad being 
at peace, till Christ speak peace. Nothing can 
truly pacify conscience less than that which pacifies 
God, and that is the blood of the Lord Christ. 
Now the almost Christian quiets conscience, but 
not with the blood of Christ: it is not a peace flow- 
ing from Christ's propitiation, but a peace rising 
from a formal profession, not a peace of Christ's 
giving, but a peace of his own making; he silences 
and bridles conscience with a form of godliness, and 
so makes it give way to an undoing, soul-destroying 
peace; he rocks it asleep in the cradle of duties, and 
then it is a thousand to one it never awaketh more 
till death or judgment. 

Ah, my brethren, it is better to have conscience 


never quiet, than quieted any way but by *' the 
blood of sprinkling:" a good conscience unquiet, is 
the greatest affliction to saints; and an evil conscience 
quiet, is the greatest judgment to sinners. 

5. " It is dangerous to be almost a Christian, 
in respect of the unpardonable sin." The sin that 
the scripture saith, " can never be forgiven, neither 
in this world nor in the world to come;" I mean 
the sin against the Holy Ghost. Now such are 
only capable of sinning that sin as are but almost 
Christians. A true believer cannot, the work of 
grace in his heart, that seed of God which abideth 
in him, secures him against it. 

The profane, ignorant, open sinner cannot; 
though he live daily and hourly in sin, yet he can- 
not commit this sin, for it must be from an en- 
lightened mind. Every sinner, under the gospel, 
especially sins sadly against the Holy Ghost, against 
the strivings and motions of the Spirit: he " resists 
the Holy Ghost;" but yet this is not the sin against 
the Holy Ghost. 

There must be three ingredients to make up 
that sin. 

1st, It must be wilful. " If we sin wilfully after 
we have received the knowledge of the truth, there 
remains no more sacrifice for sin." 

2d, " It must be against light and conviction, 
after we have received the knowledge of the 

3d, It must be in resolved malice. Now you 
shall find all these ingredients in the sin of the 
Pharisees, Matt. xii. 22. Christ heals one that 

I 2 


was " possessed with a devil ;" a great work, which 
all the people wondered at, verse 23. But what 
say the Pharisees? see verse 24. "This fellow 
casteth out devils by the prince of devils." Now 
that this was the sin against the Holy Ghost, is 
clear ; for it was both wilful and malicious, and 
against clear convictions. They could not but 
see that he was the Son of God, and that this 
work was a peculiar work of the Spirit of God in 
him; and yet they say, he wrought by the devil! 
whereupon Christ charges them with this ^' sin 
against the Holy Ghost," verse 31, 32, 33.* Now 
the Pharisees were a sort of great professors; 
whence I gather this conclusion, that it is the pro- 
fessor of religion that is the subject of this sin; not 
the open carnal sinner, not the true believer, but 
the formal professor. Not the sinner, for he hath 
neither light nor grace; not the believer, for he 
hath both light and grace; therefore the formal 
professor, for he hath light but no grace. Here 
then, is the great danger of being almost a 
Christian — he is liable to this dreadful unpardon- 
able sin. 

6. " The being but almost a Christian, subjects 
us to apostacy." He that gets no good by walking 
in the ways of God, will quickly leave them and 
walk no more in them. This I gather from Hosea 
xiv. 9. " Who is wise, and he shall understand 
these things? prudent, and he shall know them? 

Compare this with Mark iii. 28, 29, 30. 


for the ways of the Lord are right, and tlie just 
shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall 

" The just shall walk in them." He whose heart 
is renewed and made right with God, he shall keep 
close to God in his ways. 

" But the transgressor shall fall therein." The 
word in the Hebrew is pcshangim^ from a word 
that signifies to jwevaricate : so that we may read 
the words thus, " The ways of the Lord are right, 
and the just shall walk in them ; but he that pre- 
varicates, (that is, a hypocrite) in the ways of God, 
he shall fall therein." 

An unsound heart will never hold out long in 
the ways of God : " He was a burning and a shining 
light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in 
that light." 

" For a season" — For an hour, a short space, 
and then they left him. It is a notable question 
Job puts concerning the hypocrite — " Will he de- 
light himself in the Almighty? will he always call 
upon God ?" 

He may do much, but those two things he can- 
not do : 

L He cannot make God his delight. 

2. He cannot persevere in duties at all times, 
and in all conditions. 

He will be an apostate at last : the scab of hy- 
pocrisy usually breaks out in the plague-sore of 
apostacy. Conversion ground is standing ground; 
it is terra Jirma ; but a graceless profession of re- 
ligion is a slippery ground, and falling ground; 


Julian the apostate, was first Julian the professor. 
I know it is possible a believer may fall, but yet 
" he rises again, the everlasting arms are under- 
neath;" but when the hypocrite fails, who shall 
help him up? Solomon saith, " Wo to him that is 
alone when he falls !" that is without interest in 
Christ. Why wo to him ? " For he hath none to 
help him up." If Jesus Christ do not recover him, 
who can ? David fell and was restored, for he had 
one to help him up ; but Judas fell and perished, 
for he was alone. 

7. " This being but almost a Christian, pro- 
vokes God to bring dreadful spiritual judgments 
upon a man. 

Barrenness is a spiritual judgment: now this 
provokes God to give us up to barrenness. When 
Christ found the fig-tree that had leaves but no 
fruit, he pronounces the curse of barrenness upon 
it: " Never fruit grow on thee more." And so 
Ezek. xlvii. 11. " The miry places thereof, and 
the marshy places thereof, shall not be healed; they 
shall be given to salt." 

A spirit of delusion is a sad judgment. Why, this 
is the almost Christian's judgment; that receives 
the truth, but not in the love of it: " Because they 
received not the love of the truth, that they might 
be saved; for this cause God shall send them strong 

To lose either light or sight, either ordinances 
or eyes, is a great spiritual judgment. Why, this 
is the almost Christian's judgment: he that profits 
not under the means, provokes God to take away 


either light or sight; cither the ordinances from 
before his eyes, or else to bind his eyes under 
the ordinances. 

To have a hard heart, is a dreadful judgment, 
and there is no hypocrite but he hath a hard heart. 

My brethren, it is a dreadful thing for God to 
give a man up to spiritual judgments ! Now this 
being almost a Christian, provokes God to give a 
man up to spiritual judgments : surely, there- 
fore, it is a very dangerous thing to be almost a 
Christian ! 

8. " Being almost and but almost Christians, 
will exceedingly aggravate our damnation." The 
higher a man rises under the means, the lower he 
falls if he miscarries : he that falls but a little short 
of heaven, will fall deepest into hell ; he that hath 
been nearest to conversion, being not converted, 
shall have the deepest damnation when he is judged. 
Capernaum's sentence shall exceed Sodom's for se- 
verity; because she exceeded Sodom in the enjoy- 
ment of mercy — she received more from God, she 
knew more of God, she professed much for God, 
and yet was not right with God; therefore, she shall 
be punished more by God. The higher the rise, 
the greater the fall; the higher the profession, the 
lower the damnation. He miscarrieth with a light 
in his hand: he perisheth under many convictions; 
and convictions never end but in a sound conversion, 
as in all saints; or in a sad damnation, as in all 
hypocrites. Praying-ground, hearing-ground, pro- 
fessing-ground, and conviction-ground, is, of all, 
the worst ground to perish upon. 


Now tlien, to sum up all under this head. 

If to be almost a Christian hinders the true work 
of conversion ; if it be easily mistaken for con- 
version ; if it be a degree of blasphemy ; if this be 
that which quiets conscience; if this subjects a man 
to commit the unpardonable sin ; if it lays us liable 
to apostacy ; if it provokes God to give us up to 
spiritual judgments ; and if it be that which exceed- 
ingly aggravates our damnation ; sure then it is a 
very dangerous thing to be almost and but almost a 
Christian ! 

O labour to be altogether Christians, to go far- 
ther than they who have gone farthest, and yet fall 
short ! This is the great counsel of the Holy Ghost, 
" So run that ye may obtain. — Give diligence to 
make your calling and election sure." 

Need you any motives to quicken you up to this 
important duty ? 

Consideration 1. " This is that which is not only 
commanded by God, but that whereunto all the 
commands of God tend." A perfect conformity of 
heart and life to God, is the sum and substance of 
all the commands both of the Old and the New 
Testament. As the harlot was for the dividing of 
the child, so Satan is for dividing the heart. He 
would have our love and affections shared between 
Christ and our lusts ; for he knows that Christ 
reckons we love him not at all, unless we love him 
above all. But God will have all or none: " My 
son, give me thy heart. — Thou shalt love the Lord 
thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and 
with all thy might." Look into the Scripture, 


and see what that is upon which you onli/ stand, 
and you shall find that God hath fixed it upon those 
great duties which alone tend to the perfection of 
your state as Christians. God hath fixed your only 
upon believing; only believe. God hath fixed your 
only upon obedience: " Thou slialt worship the 
Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." 
" Only let your conversation be such as becometh 
the gospel of Christ." So that your only is fixed 
by God upon these two great duties of believing 
and obeying; both which tend to the perfection of 
your state as Christians. Now, shall God com- 
mand, and shall not we obey? Can there be a 
higher motive to duty than the authority of the 
great God, whose will is the eternal rule of righ- 
teousness? " O let us fear God, and keep his 
commandments;" for this is the whole duty of man ! 
Consideration 2. " The Lord Christ is a Savi- 
our throughout, a perfect and complete Mediator." 
He hath not shed his blood by halves, nor satisfied 
the justice of God, and redeemed sinners by halves. 
No! but he went through with his undertakino; 
he bore all our sins, and shed all his blood: he died 
to the utmost, satisfied the justice of God to the 
utmost, redeemed sinners to the utmost, and now 
that he is in heaven he intercedeth to the utmost, 
and is able to save to the utmost. 

It is observed, that our Lord Christ, when he 
was upon the earth, in the days of his flesh, he 
wrought no half-cures; but whomsoever they brought 
to him for healing, he healed them throughout: 
" They brought unto him all that were diseased, 
I 3 


and besought him that they might only touch the 
hem of his garment, and as many as touched were 
made perfectly whole." 

O what an excellent physician is here! none 
like him ! he cureth infallibly, suddenly, and per- 
fectly ! 

He cureth infallibly. None ever came to him for 
healing that went without it; he never practised 
upon any that miscarried under his hand. 

He cureth suddenly. No sooner is his garment 
touched, but his patient is healed. The leper, 
Matt. viii. 3. is no sooner touched, but immediately 
cured; the two blind men. Matt. xx. 34. are no 
sooner touched, but their eyes were immediately 

He cureth perfectly: " As many as were touched, 
were made perfectly whole." 

Now all this was to show what a perfect and 
complete Saviour Jesus Christ would be to all sin- 
ners that would come to him. They should find 
healing in his blood, virtue in his righteousness, and 
pardon for all their sins, whatever they were. Look ! 
as Christ healed all the diseases of all that came to 
him, when he was on earth, so he pardons all the 
sins, and healeth all the wounds of all those souls 
that come to him, now he is in heaven. He is a 
Saviour throughout; and shall not we be saints 
throughout? Shall he be altogether a Redeemer; 
and shall not we be altogether believers ? O, what 
a shame is this ! 

Consideration 3. " There is enough in religion 
to engage us to be altogether Christians;" and that 


whether we respect profit or comfort, for grace brings 

First, " Religion is a gainful thing;" and this is 
a compelling motive that becomes effectual upon all. 
Gain is the god whom the world worships. What 
will not men do, what will they not suffer for gain? 
What journeys do men take by land, what voyages 
by sea, through hot and cold, through fair and foul, 
through storm and shine, through day and night, 
and all for gain ! Now there is no calling so gain- 
ful as this of religion ; it is the most profitable em- 
ployment we can take up. " Godliness is profit- 
able unto all things." It is a great revenue. If 
it be closely followed, it brings in the greatest in- 
come. Indeed, some men are religious for the 
world's sake; such shall be sure not to gain : but 
they who are religious for religion's sake, shall be 
sure not to lose, if heaven and earth can recom- 
pense them; for " godliness hath the promise both 
of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 

Ah, who would not be a Christian, when the 
gain of godliness is so great ! Many gain much in 
their worldly calling, but the profit which the true 
believer hath from one hour's communion with God 
in Christ, weigheth down all the (yum of the world. 
" Cursed be that man who counts all the gain of 
the world worth one hour's communion with Jesus 
Christ," saith that noble Marquis, Galeacius Carac- 
ciola. It is no where said in Scripture, " Happy 
is the man that findeth silver, and the man that o-et- 
teth fine gold." These are of no weight in the ba- 
lance of the sanctuary ; but it is said, " Happy is 


the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that 
getteth understanding; for the merchandise of it is 
better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain 
thereof than fine gold." By wisdom and under- 
standing here, we are to understand the grace of 
Christ; and so the spirit of God interpreteth it. 
" Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and 
to depart from evil is understanding." Now of all 
m.erchants, he that trades in this wisdom and under- 
standing will prove the richest man: one grain of 
godliness outweigheth all the gold of Ophir. There 
is no riches like being rich in grace : for, 

1. This is the most necessary riches; other things 
are not so. Silver and gold are not so : we may be 
happy without them. There is but one thing ne- 
cessary, and that is the grace of Jesus Christ in the 
heart. Have this, and have all; want this, and 
want all. 

2. It is the most substantial gain. The things 
of this world are more shadow than substance. 
Pleasure, honour, and profit, comprehend all things 
in this world, and therefore are the carnal man's 
trinity. The apostle John calls them " the lust of 
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life ;" 
this (saith he) is all that is in the world: and truly, 
if this be all, all is nothing ; for what is pleasure but 
a dream and conceit ? what is honour, but fancy and 
opinion? and what is profit, but a thing of nought? 
" Why wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is 
not ?" The things of the world have in them no 
sound substance, though foolish carnal men call 
them substance. But now grace is a substantial 


good; so our Lord Christ calls it: " That I may 
cause those that love me to inherit substance/' to 
inherit that wliich is. Grace is a reality : other 
things are but show and fancy. 

3. Godliness is the safest gain. The gain of 
worldly things is always with difficulty, but seldom 
with safety. The soul is often hazarded in the 
over-eager pursuit of worldly things; nay, thousands 
do pawn, and lose, and damn their precious souls 
eternally, for a little silver and gold, which are but 
the guts and garbage of the earth : " and what is a 
man profited, to gain the whole world, if he lose his 
own soul ?" But the gain of godliness is ever with 
safety to the soul ; nay, the soul is lost and undone 
without it, and not saved but by the attainment of 
it. A soul without grace is in a lost and perishing 
condition : the hazard of eternity is never over with 
us until the grace of Christ Jesus be sought by us, 
and wrought in us. 

4. " Godliness is the surest profit :" as it is safe, 
so it is sure. Men make great ventures for the 
world, but all runs upon uncertainty. Many ven- 
ture much, and wait long, and yet find no return 
but disappointment: they sow much, and yet reap 
nothing. But the gain of godliness is sure ; " to 
him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure re- 

And as the things of this world are uncertain in 
the getting; so they are uncertain in the keeping. 
If men do not undo us, moths may; if robbery doth 
not, rust may; if rust doth not, fire may; to which 
all earthly treasures are incident, as our Lord Christ 


teaches us, Matt. vi. 19. Solomon limneth the 
world with wings : " Riches make themselves wings, 
and fly as an eagle towards heaven." A man may 
be rich as Dives to-day, and yet poor as Lazarus 
to-morrow. O how uncertain are all worldly things ! 
But now the true treasure of grace is in the heart, that 
can never be lost. It is out of the reach both of rust 
and robber. " He that gets the world, gets a good 
he can never keep ; but he that gets grace, gets a 
good he shall never lose." 

5. " The profit of godliness lieth not only in this 
world, but in the world to come." All other profit 
lieth in this world only : riches and honour, &c. are 
called this world's goods, but the riches of godliness 
is chiefly in the other world's goods; in the enjoy- 
ment of God, and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spi- 
rit, among saints and angels in glory. Lo, this is 
the gain of godliness; " such honour have all his 

6. " The gain of godliness is a durable and eter- 
nal gain." All this world's goods are perishing; 
perishing pleasures, perishing honours, perishing 
profits, and perishing comforts. " Riches are not 
for ever," saith Job : " Hast thou entered into the 
treasures of the snow?" Gregory upon these words 
observes, that earthly treasures are treasures of snow. 
What pains do children take to scrape and roll the 
snow together to make a snow-ball, which is no sooner 
done, but the heat of the sun dissolves it, and it 
comes to nothing. Why, the treasures of worldly 
men are but treasures of snow. When death and 
judgment come, they melt away, and come to no- 


thing. " Riches profit not in the clay of wrath, but 
righteousness delivers from death." 

You sec here the great advantage of godliness; 
so that if we look at profit, we shall find enough in 
religion to engage us to be altogether Christians. 

2. " If we look at comfort," religion is the most 
comfortable profession." There are no comforts to 
be compared to the comforts of grace and godliness. 

1. " Worldly comfort is only outward;" it is but 
skin-deep: " In the midst of laughter the heart is 
sorrowful." But now the comfort that flows from 
godliness is an inward comfort, a spiritual joy ; 
therefore it is called gladness of heart. " Thou hast 
put gladness in my heart:" other joy smooths the 
brow, but this fills the breast. 

2. " Worldly comfort hath a nether spring." 
The spring of worldly comfort is in the creature, 
in some earthly enjoyment ; and, therefore, the 
comfort of worldly men must needs be mixed and 
muddy : " an unclean fountain cannot send forth 
pure water." But spiritual comfort hath an upper 
spring : the comfort that accompanies godhness, 
flows from the manifestations of the love of God in 
Christ, from the workings of the blessed Spirit in 
the heart, which is first a counsellor, and then a 
comforter: and therefore the comforts of the saints 
must needs be pure and unmixed comforts; for they 
flow from a pure spring. 

3. " Worldly comfort is very fading and transi- 
tory." " The triumphing of the wicked is but 
short, and the joy of the hypocrite is but for a mo- 


inent." Solomon compares it to the " crackling of 
thorns under a pot," which is but a blaze, and soon 
out : so is the comfort of carnal hearts. But now 
the comfort of godliness is a durable and abiding 
comfort; "your heart shall rejoice, and your joy 
no man shall take from you." The comfort of god- 
liness is lasting, and everlasting: it abides by us in 
life, in death, and after death. 

First, " It abides by us in life :" grace and 
peace go together. Godliness naturally brings forth 
comfort and peace: "The effect of righteousness 
shall be peace." It is said of the primitive Chris- 
tians, " They walked in the fear of the Lord, and 
in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." Every duty 
done in uprightness and sincerity, reflects some 
comfort upon the soul. " In keeping the com- 
mands, there is great reward;" not only for keep- 
ing of them, but in keeping of them. As every 
flower, so every duty carries sweetness and refresh- 
ing with it. 

Objection. " But who more dejected and dis- 
consolate than saints and believers ? whose lives are 
more uncomfortable ? whose mouths are more filled 
with complaints, than theirs ? If a condition of 
godliness and Christianity be a condition of so much 
comfort, then why are they thus ?" 

Solution. That the people of God are oftentimes 
without comfort, I grant : " They may walk in the 
dark, and have no light." But this is none of 
the products of godliness : grace brings forth no 
such fruit as this; thfere is a threefold rise and 
spring of it : — Sin within, Desertion and Tempta- 
tion without. 


1. Sin within. The saints of God are not all 
spirit, and no flesh ; all grace, and no sin. They 
are made up of contrary principles : there is light 
and darkness in the same mind; sin and grace iu 
the same will ; carnal and spiritual in the same af- 
fections ; there is " the flesh lusting against the 
Spirit." In all these, and too oft the Lord knows, 
is the believer led away captive by these warring 
lusts. So was the holy apostle himself: " I find 
then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is 
present with me. I see another law in my mem- 
bers, warring against the law of my mind, and 
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin ;" — 
and this was that which broke his spiritual peace, 
and filled his soul with trouble and complaints, as 
you see : " O wretched man that I am ! who shall 
deliver me from this body of death ?" So that it 
is sin that interrupts the peace of God's people. 
Indwelling lust, stirring and breaking forth, must 
needs cause trouble and grief in the soul of a be- 
liever; for it is as natural for sin to bring forth 
trouble, as it is for grace to bring forth peace. 
Every sin contracts a new guilt upon the soul, and 
guilt provokes God ; and where there is a sense of 
guilt contracted, and God provoked, there can be 
no peace, no quiet in that soul, till faith procures 
fresh sprinklings of the blood of Jesus Christ upon 
the conscience. 

2. " Another spring of the believer's trouble 
and disconsolateness of spirit, is the desertions of 
God;" and this follows upon the former. God 
doth sometimes disappear, and hide himself from 


his people : " Verily, thou art a God that hideth 
thyself." But the cause of God's hiding, is the 
believer's sinning : " Your iniquities have separated 
between you and your God, and your sins have hid 
his face from you." In heaven, where there is no 
sinning, there is no losing the light of God's coun- 
tenance for a moment; and if saints here could 
serve God without corruption, they should enjoy 
God without desertion; but this cannot be. While 
we are in this state, remaining lusts will stir and 
break forth, and then God will hide his face ; and 
this must needs be trouble : " Thou didst hide thy 
face, and I was troubled." 

The light of God's countenance, shining upon 
the soul, is the Christian's heaven on this side 
heaven ; and therefore it is no wonder if the hid- 
ing of his face be looked upon by the soul, as 
one of the days of hell. So it was by David : 
" The sorrows of death compassed me, the pains 
of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sor- 

3. " A third spring of that trouble and complaint 
that brims the banks of the Christian's spirit, is the 
temptations of Satan." He is the great enemy of 
saints, and he envieth the quiet and comfort that 
their hearts are filled with, when his conscience is 
brimmed with horror and terror; and, therefore, 
though he knows that he cannot destroy their peace, 
yet he labours to disturb their peace. As the bles- 
sed Spirit of God is first a sanctifier, and then a 
comforter, working grace in order to peace ; so this 
cursed spirit of hell is first a tempter, and then a 


troubler; first persuading to act sin, and then ac- 
cusing for sin; and this is his constant practice 
upon the spirits of God's people. He cannot en- 
dure that they should live in the light of God's 
countenance, when himself is doomed to eternal, 
intolerable darkness. 

And thus you see whence it is that the people of 
God are often under trouble and complaint. All 
arises from these three springs of Sin within, De- 
sertions and Temptations without. 

If the saints could serve God without sinning, 
and enjoy God without withdrawing, and resist 
Satan without yielding, they might enjoy peace and 
comfort without sorrowing. This must be endea- 
voured constantly here, but it will never be attained 
fully but in heaven. But yet so far as grace is 
the prevailing principle in the heart, and so far as 
the power of godliness is exercised in this life; so 
far the condition of a child of God is a condition of 
peace; for it is an undoubted truth, that the fruit of 
righteousness shall be peace. But suppose the 
people of God experience little of this comfort in 
this life, yet, 

2. " They find it in the day of death." Grace 
and holiness will minister unto us then, and that 
ministration will be peace. A believer hath a two- 
fold spring of comfort, each one emptying itself into 
his soul in a dying season: one is from above him, 
the other is from within him. The spring that 
runs comfort from above him, is the blood of Christ 
sprinkled upon the conscience; the spring that runs 
comfort from within him, is the sincerity of his heart 


in God's service. When we lie upon a death-bed, 
and can reflect upon our principles and performances 
in the service of God, and there find uprightness 
and sincerity of heart running through all, this must 
needs be comfort. It was so to Hezekiah: " Re- 
member, O Lord, how I have walked before thee in 
truth, and with a perfect heart; and have done that 
which is good in thy sight." 

Nothing maketh a death-bed so uneasy and hard, 
as a life spent in the service of sin and lust; nothing 
makes a death-bed so soft and sweet, as a life spent 
in the service of God and Christ. Or put the case, 
the people of God should not meet with this com- 
fort then ; yet, 

3. " They shall be sure to find it after death." 
If time bring none of this fruit to ripeness, yet 
eternity shall; grace in time will be glory in eter- 
nity; holiness now will be happiness then: " What- 
ever it is a man soweth in this world, that he shall 
be sure to reap in the next world: he that soweth 
to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but 
he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap 
life everlasting." When sin shall end in sorrow 
and misery, holiness shall end in joy and glory : 
" Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter 
thou into the joy of thy Lord." Whoever shareth 
in the grace of Christ in this world, shall share in 
the joys of Christ in the world to come; and that 
joy " is joy unspeakable, and full of glory." Lo, 
here is the fruit of godliness. Say now, if there be 
not enough in religion, whether we respect profit or 
comfort, to engage us to be Christians throughout? 


Cojisidcraliou 4. " What an entire resignation 
wicked men make of themselves to their lusts! and 
shall not we do so to the Lord Cinist?" They 
give up themselves without reserve to the pleasures 
of sin; and shall we have our reserves in the service 
of God? They are altogether sinners; and shall 
not we be altogether saints? They run, and faint 
not, in the service of their lusts; and shall we faint, 
and not run, in the service of Christ? Shall the 
servants of corruption have their ears bored to the 
door-posts of sin, in token of an entire and per- 
petual service, and shall we not give up ourselves to 
the Lord Christ, to be his for ever? Shall others 
make a " covenant with hell and death," and shall 
not we " join ourselves to God in an everlasting 
covenant that cannot be forgotten ?" Shall they 
take more pains to damn their souls, than we do to 
save ours ? an<l make more speed to a place of ven- 
geance, than we do to a crown of righteousness ? 
Which do you judge best, to be saved everlastingly, 
or to perish everlastingly ? X^Hiich do you count 
the best master, God or the devil? Christ or your 
lusts? I know you will determine it on Christ's 
side. O then ! when others serve their lusts with 
all their hearts, do you serve Christ with all your 
hearts. " If the hearts of the sons of men be fully 
set in them to do evil, then much more let the hearts 
of the sons of God be fully set in them to do good. 

Consideratio7i 5. " If ye be not altogether Chris- 
tians, ye will never be able to appear with comfort 
before God, nor to stand in the judgment of the last 
and great day." For this sad dilemma will silence 


every hypocrite : If my commands were not holy, 
just, and good, why didst thou own them? If they 
were holy, just, and good, why dost thou not obey 
them? If Jesus Christ was not worth the having, 
why didst thou profess him? If he was, then why 
didst thou not cleave to him, and close with him ? 
If my ordinances were not appointed to convert and 
save souls, why didst thou sit under them, and rest 
in the performance of them? Or if they were, then 
why didst thou not submit to the power of them ? 
If religion be not good, why dost thou profess it ? 
If it be good, why dost thou not practise it ? 
" Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on 
a wedding-garment?" If it was not a wedding- 
feast, why didst thou come at the invitation ? If it 
was, then why didst thou come without a wedding- 
garment ? 

I would but ask a hypocritical professor of the 
Gospel, what he will answer in that day? Verily 
you deprive yourselves of all possibility of apology 
in " the day of the righteous judgment of God." It 
is said of the man that had no wedding-garment on, 
that when Christ came and examined him, he was 
speechless. He that is graceless in a day of grace, 
will be speechless in a day of judgment : professing 
Christ without a heart to close with Christ, will 
leave our souls inexcusable, and make our dam- 
nation unavoidable and more intolerable. 

These are the motives to enforce the duty ; and 
O that God would set them home upon your hearts 
and consciences, that you might not dare to rest a 
moment longer in a half-work, or in being Chris- 


tians vvitliin a little, but that you might be alto- 
gether Christians ! 

Qiiestion. " But you will say possibly, how shall 
I do? What means shall I use, that I may attain 
to a thorough work in my heart; that I may be no 
longer almost, but altogether a Christian?" 

Ansivcr. Now I shall lay down three rules of 
direction instead of many, to further and help you 
in this important duty, and so leave this work to 
God's blessing. 

Direction 1, " Break off all false peace of con- 
science ;" this is the devil's bond to hold the soul 
from seeking after Christ. As there is the peace 
of God, so there is the peace of Satan ; but they are 
easily known, for they are as contrary as heaven and 
hell, as light and darkness. The peace of God 
flows from a work of grace in the soul, and is the 
peace of a regenerate state ; but the peace of Sata-n 
is the peace of an unregenerate state, it is the peace 
of death ; in the grave Job saith there is peace — 
*' There the wicked cease from troublini^ :" so a soul 
dead in sin is full of peace, the wicked one troubleth 
him not. The peace of God in the soul is a peace 
flowing from removal of guilt, by justifying grace— 
" Being justified by faith in his blood, we have peace 
with God ;" but the peace of Satan in the soul 
arises and is maintained by a stupidity of spirit, and 
insensibility of guilt upon the conscience. The 
peace of God is a peace from sin, that fortifies the 
heart against it : " The peace of God that passeth 
all men's understanding, shall keep your hearts 
and minds through Christ Jesus." The more of 


this peace there is in the soul, the more is the soul 
fortified against sin ; but the peace of Satan is peace 
in sin : " The strong man armed keeps the house, 
and there is all at peace." The saint's peace is a 
peace with God, but not with sin ; the sinner's peace 
is a peace with sin, but not with God : and this is a 
peace better broken than kept. It is a false, a dan- 
gerous, an undoing peace. My brethren, death 
and judgment will break all peace of conscience, 
but not that which is wrought by Christ in the 
sou], and is the fruit of the "blood of sprinkling :" 
" when he gives quietness, who can make trouble?" 
Now that peace that death will break, why should 
you keep? Who would be fond of that quietness 
which the flames of hell will burn in sunder? and 
yet how many travel to hell through the fool's para- 
dise of a false peace ! O break off this peace ! for 
we can have no peace with God in Christ, whilst 
this peace remains in our hearts. The Lord Christ 
gives no peace to them that will not seek it; and 
that man will never seek it, that does not see his 
need of it; and he that is at peace in his lusts, sees 
no need of the peace of Christ. The sinner 
must be wounded for sin, and troubled under it, 
before Christ will heal his wounds, and give him 
peace from it. 

Direction 2. Labour after a thorough work of 
conviction; every conviction will not do it. The 
almost Christian hath his convictions as well as the 
true Christian, or else he had never gone so far ; 
but they are not sound and right convictions, or 
else he had gone farther : God will have the soul 


truly sensible of the bitterness of sin, before it shall 
taste the sweetness of mercy. The plough of con- 
viction must go deep, and make deep furrows in the 
heart, before God will sow the precious seed of 
grace, and comfort there, that so it may have depth 
of earth to grow in. This is the constant method 
of God ; first to show man his sin, then his Savi- 
our ; first his danger, then his Redeemer; first his 
wound, then his cure ; first his own vileness, then 
Christ's righteousness. We must be brought to 
cry out, " Unclean, unclean !" to mourn for Him 
wlyom we have pierced, and then he sets open for 
us a fountain to wash in for sin, and for unclean- 
ness. That is a notable place. Job xxxiii. 27, 28. 
" He looked upon men; and if any say, I have sin- 
ned, and perverted that which was right, and it pro- 
fited me not; he will deliver his soul from going 
into the pit, and his life shall see the light." The 
sinner must see the unprofitableness of his unrighte- 
ousness, before he profit by Christ's righteousness. 
The Israelites are first stung with the fiery serpents, 
and then the brazen serpent is set up. Ephraim is 
first thoroughly convinced, and then God's bowels 
of mercy work toward him. Thus it was with Paul, 
Manasseh, the jailor, &c. So that this is the un- 
changeable method of God in working grace, to 
begin with conviction of sin. O therefore labour 
for thorough conviction ; and there are three things 
we should especially be convinced of. 

First, Be convinced of the evil of sin ; the filthy 
and heinous nature of it. This is the greatest evil in 
K 27 


the world; it wrongs God, it wounds Christ, it 
grieves the Holy Spirit, it ruineth a precious soul ; 
all other evils are not to be named with this. My 
brethren, though to do sin is the worst work, yet to 
see sin is the best sight; for sin discovered in its 
vileness, makes Christ to be desired in his fulness. 
But above all, labour to be convinced of the mischief 
of an unsound heart; what an abhorrence it is to God, 
what certain ruin it brings upon the soul. O think 
often upon the hypocrite's hell. " For this people's 
heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hear- 
ing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest at any time 
they should see with their eyes, and hear with their 
ears, and should understand with their heart, and 
should be converted, and I should heal them." 

Secondly, Be convinced of the misery and des- 
perate danger of a natural condition ; for till we see 
the plague of our hearts and the misery of our state 
by nature, we shall never be brought off ourselves to 
seek help in another. 

Thirdly, Be convinced of the utter insufficiency 
and inability of any thing below Christ Jesus to 
minister relief to thy soul in this case. All things 
besides Jesus Christ are " physicians of no value;" 
duties, performances, prayers, tears, self-righteous- 
ness, avail nothing in this case ; they make us like 
the troops of Tema, to return " ashamed at our dis- 
appointment" from such " failing brooks." 

Alas ! it is an infinite righteousness that must 
satisfy for us, for it is an infinite God that is offended 
by us. If ever thy sin be pardoned, it is infinite 


mercy that must pardon it ; if ever thou be recon- 
ciled to God, it is infinite merit must do it : if ever 
tliy heart be changed, and tliy state renewed, it is 
infinite power must effect it ; and if ever thy soul 
escape hell, and be saved at last, it is infinite grace 
must save it. 

In these three things right and sound conviction 
lieth : and wherever the Spirit of God worketh these 
thorough convictions, it is in order to a true and 
sound conversion : for by this means the soul is 
brought under a right qualification for the receiving 
of Christ. 

You must know, that a sinner can never come 
to Christ; for he is dead in sin, in enmity against 
Christ, an enemy to God, and the grace of God ; 
but there are certain qualifications that come be- 
tween the soul's dead state in sin, and the work of 
conversion and closing with Christ, whereby the 
soul is put into a capacity of receiving the Lord 
Jesus Christ; for no man is brought immediately 
out of his dead state, and made to believe in Jesus 
Christ; there are some qualifications coming in be- 
tween. Now sound convictions are the right qualifi- 
cations for the sinner's receiving Christ; " for he 
came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repen- 
tance ;" that is, such as see themselves sinners, and 
thereby in a lost condition. So Luke exemplifies it: 
** The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that 
which was lost." " He is anointed, and sent to bind 
up the broken-hearted," to comfort all that mourn. 

O therefore, if you would be sound Christians, 


get sound convictions : ask those that are believers 
indeed, and they will tell you, had it not been for 
their convictions, they had never sought after Christ 
for sanctification and salvation ; they will tell you, 
they had perished, if they had not perished ; they 
had been in eternal bondage, but for their spiritual 
bondage ; had they not been lost as to Christ. 

JDirectionfi 3. Never rest in convictions till they 
end in conversion. This is that wherein most men 
miscarry, they rest in their convictions, and take 
them for conversion, as if sin seen were therefore 
forgiven, or as if a sight of the want of grace were 
the truth of the work of grace. 

That is a notable place in Hosea xiii. 13. " Eph- 
raim is an unwise son, for he should not stay long 
in the place of the breaking forth of children." 
The place of the breaking forth of children is the 
womb; as the child comes out of the womb, so is 
conversion born out of the womb of conviction. 
Now when the child sticks between the womb and 
the world, it is dangerous, it hazards the life both of 
mother a,nd child ; so when a sinner rests in convic- 
tion, and goes no farther, but sticks " in the place of 
the breaking forth of children ;" this is very danger- 
ous, and hazards the life of the soul. 

You that are at any time under convictions, O 
take heed of resting in them, do not stay long in the 
place of the breaking forth of children : though it is 
true, that conviction is the first step to conversion, 
yet it is not conversion ; a man may carry his con- 
victions along with him into hell. 


What is that which troubleth poor creatures, 
when they come to die, but this — I have not im- 
proved my convictions ; at such a time I was con- 
vinced of sin, but yet I went on in sin in the face of 
my convictions; in such a sermon I was convinced 
of such a duty, but I slighted the conviction ; I was 
convinced of my want of Christ, and of the readiness 
of Christ to pardon and save ; but alas ! I followed 
not the conviction. 

My brethren, remember this ; slighted convic- 
tions are the worst death-bed companions. There 
are tvvo things especially, which above all others, 
make a death-bed very uncomfortable : 

1. Purposes and promises not performed. 

2. Convictions slighted and not improved. 
When a man takes up purposes to close with 

Christ, and yet puts them not into execution; and 
when he is convinced of sin and duty, and yet im- 
proves not his convictions, — O this will sting and 
wound at last ! 

Now therefore, hath the Spirit of the Lord been 
at work in your souls ? Have you ever been con- 
vinced of the evil of sin, of the misery of a natural 
state, of the insufficiency of all things under heaven 
to help, of the fulness and righteousness of Jesus 
Christ, of the necessity of resting upon him for par- 
don and peace, for sanctification and salvation ? 
Have you ever been really convinced of these things? 
O then, as you love your own souls, as ever you 
hope to be saved at last, and enjoy God for ever, 
improve these convictions, and be sure you rest not 


in them till they rise up to a thorough close with 
the Lord Jesus Christ, and so end in a sound and 
perfect conversion ! Thus shall you be not only 
almost, but altogether a Christian. 


Printed by W. Collins & Ccv 


Theoloaical Seminarv LW^^^^ 

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