Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[ The True Christian Characterized. ]



Excerpted from:



No. I.

MARCH, 1837.


TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Note.

Dear Reader,—It is no secret to either believers or unbelievers, that Christianity today, as practiced and professed by men, is not what it once was. Yet, while we have today great danger by the abundance of false Christianity and false Christians, compared to true Christianity and true Christians, this is nothing unique to our own day. That plague is an old plague. We may say with sorrow however, that spiritual efforts to deliver sinners from mistakes in this matter, are greatly lacking in our day, compared to former generations. To speak of means to discern between true Christianity and what is not so, is not desired by the generality of professors; and those who seek to please them will not dare take such a task in hand honestly according to the rule of Holy Scripture. The effort is seen by some as Arrogant in its implied identification of fellow-christians as either phoney or inferiour. By others the topic is accounted Morbid, while they are pleased to be flattered in the broad way to hell.  But this method of instructing souls and drawing them unto the Lord, as unpleasant as it may seem to some, is precisely that which we find in the preaching of our Lord Jesus, John 13.1-23, John 7.16-20, and which we find demonstrated in his faithful Apostles, especially in the first epistle of John, and in the epistle of James.  Do we wish to be in the dark whether our way is right and our life is real? What is the reason? (John 3.19-21.)  Flattery and ease in the way to perdition shall not make our destination the more comfortable when we are arrived.  So too, a little discomfort, while we examine our hearts by a good rule and fair trial, cannot make our heaven the less comfortable. Rather, a good trial may be useful to set us in a better way, more safe than we are in, or else confirm us with yet more certain hope, that we may better enjoy those things which now we enjoy only by hope. 1 John 3.20,21. Rom. 8.24-25.



MANY millions of men, in Pagan and Mahometan [Muslim] nations, “are without God and without hope in the world.”  They are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and from the covenants of promise. [Eph. 2.12.]  They know nothing of the Christian system, and are utterly ignorant of Christ its author.  They cannot, in any sense, claim the name of Christian; and though some, without authority from either Scripture or reason, have maintained that the less grossly immoral, and more orderly and intelligent, among them, may be saved, yet none has adventured to call them Christians.  In seeking after the characteristics of the true Christian, they are to be left out of the enquiry. {8}

In those nations, that are called Christian, there are also many millions, who, though they would consider it a reproach to be called Pagans or Mahometans, yet do not claim to be true Christians; and did they put in such a claim, it could not even be recorded for examination.  Their sins go before them for their condemnation, even without formal trial, at the bar of Christian opinion.  They have the name unchristian written on their foreheads, so plainly, that he who runs may read.  Not a few of these ungodly men profess to entertain a speculative belief in the truth and divine origin of the Christian revelation, acknowledge its excellency as a system of morals, and profess an intention, probably in some degree sincere, to embrace, profess, and practice it, when they find a convenient season.  They know and admit that at present they are not true Christians, and are not offended when the disciples of Jesus refuse to number them among his faithful followers.  At the same time such persons wish to be comprehended in some general manner under the name Christian, as applicable to doctrinal, not practical believers.  Their knowledge and theoretical belief affecting the natural conscience, and the regard which they entertain for their character, among “the people of the saints of the Most High,” lead them to avoid the more gross and scandalous sins of the profligate, and to obey, as to their outward form, many precepts of the gospel.  In numerous ways these collateral effects of the doctrines of grace are productive of good to human society and even to the church.  They may be in many respects amiable and worthy of respect, for their decency of deportment, public spirit, and social affections.  Yet, however near they are to the kingdom of Heaven, they have never yet entered, and there is reason to fear many of them never will enter by the straight gate into the city.  In characterizing the true Christian, we must, however painful it is, leave them where they leave themselves, altogether out of the account.

There is left, after all this exclusion, a vast assemblage, whose claims to be true Christians remain to be tried by the law and the testimony. [Isa. 8.20; Ps. 78.5.]  This trial of character is of the highest, most solemn and most interesting import to all who seek to participate in the blessings of God’s salvation—to all who would not be deceived in relation to their real condition before God, and their prospect of attaining to the blessedness and the glory of the kingdom of Heaven.  Delicacy and great caution in a business of this nature are very necessary, that, on the one hand, the presumptuous may not be encouraged in their self-deception and false hopes; on the other, that distressed, {9} timid and weak believers may not be perplexed with still greater doubts and fears.  Guided by the light of Scripture let us proceed.

1. A sanctified understanding and belief of pure gospel truth, is a characteristic of the true Christian.  This is often called “soundness in the faith.”  For this David prays:—“Let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed.” Psalm 119.80.  The term “heart,” in this prayer, is nearly equivalent to the word mind.  It embraces the soul and all its faculties.  The word “statutes,” as commonly in the 119th Psalm, embraces the whole system of gospel truth and law.  It is a prayer, then, that he may be orthodox in the doctrines that he receives.  The danger of error is intimated in the latter clause of the verse. “He that believeth shall not be ashamed” “The hope of the Christian maketh not ashamed.” “Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed.”  This soundness of the heart, then, is vital in the true Christian.  If he were permitted to embrace error for truth, his discipleship would be put in jeopardy.  One only and certain means of preserving the professor of the faith of Jesus from shame, is the soundness of the heart in the statutes of the Lord.

Christ asserts this principle: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8.32.  Those that remain in sin are in bondage to their lusts and to the devil.  The true Christian alone is emancipated from this bondage and brought “into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” The means employed by our great Deliverer, he tells us himself, is the knowledge of the truth.  All this is in harmony with what the Holy Ghost says in Isaiah 53.11, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” The knowledge of which he speaks is saving faith. “Being justified by faith.” Rom. 5.1.  And faith is so called because it embraces a sanctified perception of the truth of Christ as its first and one of its chief ingredients.  It must be so, for “we are born again by the word of God that liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Pet. 1.23,25.  When the Holy Spirit “convinces of sin, of righteousness and of judgment to come,” it is by the application of the truth contained in the Holy Scriptures.  It is never by a new revelation, or by impressions made on the mind without the word.  He takes of the things which are Christ’s as they are recorded in the pages of inspiration, and shews them to the sinner.  Now, as this conviction by which the sinner discovers his need of a Savior is wrought by means of the truth, it must be known, and in theory believed, antecedently to conversion, and this belief of the {10} truth—the same truth, becomes saving, when the principle of new life is implanted in regeneration.  The sinner cannot believe in him of whom he has not heard, or accept of a Savior of whose person, offices, and worth, he is ignorant. “They that know thy name, shall trust in thee.” So then, as the whole work of conversion from sin to holiness and progressive sanctification, until the believer arrives at the stature of [a] perfect man in Christ Jesus [Eph. 4.13,] is effected by the saving application of gospel doctrine: a sanctified apprehension of the truth is characteristic of the true Christian.

Though saving grace is not the test of fitness, in the courts of the church, for admission to ecclesiastical privileges[1], yet, in the court of Heaven it is indispensable.  And in the judgment of charity every one admitted to sealing ordinances must be considered a real disciple of the Lord Jesus.  Hence, the church has formed creeds and confessions as tests of orthodoxy, not merely to ascertain what doctrines are maintained by those who apply for admission to her communion, but, as far as can be known, what evidence applicants can give of the genuineness of their christianity, by their knowledge of the doctrines of these formularies and their profession of faith in them.  In one word, the use made of subordinate standards by the church from the days of the apostles to the present hour, has been on the ground that soundness in the faith is one most prominent characteristic of the true Christian.

[Francis] Turretine, in his very elaborate and conclusive argument against the Papists and in vindication of the Protestant reformation, rests the chief weight of his conclusion on the purity of doctrine in the Reformed church.  His maxim is, that wherever the truths of the gospel are embraced without adulteration, there is the church of Christ.  This is the stronghold of Protestantism.  It is as impossible that an individual should be a true Christian without a saving knowledge of the truth, as that there should be a true church where the gospel doctrine is lost or unknown.

To all this some one may reply:—How can I know that the principles which I embrace are indeed the very truth of God?  The difficulty arises from ignorance of the perspicuity of the Holy Scriptures, which are “so plain that he who runs may read.” [Hab. 2.2.]  But in addition to the clearness of the light which shines in the gospel, we have the footsteps of the flock to guide us.  To say nothing of remoter ages, it is consolatory to reflect on the wonderful and almost divine harmony of the confessions of faith adopted by the reformed church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Some of them as the {11} Confession of the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession, are more ampler, better digested, and more luminous than others.  But among them all, as far as they go, there can scarcely be detected the smallest discrepancy.  How is this to be accounted for in systems exhibited by nations remote from each other, of different manners and speaking different languages, as the Genevans, the French, the Germans, the Bohemians, the Hungarians, the Hollanders, and the Britains?  In no other way than that they all derive these pure waters of life from the same fountain—the infallible word of God.  In them all there is nothing Popish, nothing Arminian, nothing Hopkinsian, nothing Socinian or Arian.  There is no danger of error when following in the footsteps of that great cloud of witnesses who have travelled onward and upward to realms of glory. [Heb. 12.1.]

Again some latitudinarian, who is ready to admit the genuineness of his christianity to every claimant, however corrupt in doctrine, may exclaim—What! do you require of every man to know and believe all that is contained in the creeds of the Protestant churches before you will admit his title to be esteemed a true Christian?  Are there not some doctrines revealed in the Scriptures that are mere circumstantials?  Do you call them all essentials?  The zealous witnesses for the truth are often assailed by such unmeaning clamour, which “darkens counsel by words without knowledge.” [Job 38.2.]  That there are babes in Christ, as well as full-grown men, all will admit. But even “a babe desires the sincere milk of the word.”  He who does not is not even a babe in Christ. [1 Pet. 2.2.]  When the true Christian has access to the means of knowing “the way of God more perfectly” he will embrace the truth which he is taught as certainly as the living child will desire the pure milk for its nourishment. [Acts 18.26.]  We all see through a glass darkly, for there is still some darkness remaining in the understanding of the most enlightened Christian.  But surely if soundness in the faith is in the least admitted as a test of true christianity, it cannot be gainsaid; that the more extensive the knowledge and pure the faith of any one is, the more luminous is the evidence that he is a true Christian.  As this outcry is usually made in relation to terms of admission into the church, it is utterly out of place.  For we ought to have the best evidence the nature of the case will admit, that in receiving an applicant to the fellowship of the saints we do not give the bread of children to dogs, or cast pearls before swine.  In this matter we go no farther than our fathers in the church have gone. {12}

Those who go out from the church, because they are not of it, are said “to make shipwreck of the faith.” [1 Tim. 1.19.] They forsake the profession of sound doctrine that they may accommodate themselves to worldly and carnal men, and so lose the evidence given, in their former orthodox profession, that their christianity was genuine.  The strength of the evidence against such backsliders is proportional to their dereliction of truth.

As to essentials, God has given in his word no truth that is not a part of the system of revealed religion, and so every truth is essential to the beauty and symmetry of the whole.  And though a good man is ignorant of much that God has made known, yet no one may reject any truth, however men may call it little, circumstantial, or by any other epithet of reproach.  And as to fundamental truths, “The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” Eph. 2.20,21.  In this text, “The apostles and prophets,” are words designating the whole doctrine which they taught. All the truths taught by them are in the foundation, and in this view are fundamental.  He who removes one of these foundation-stones in so far weakens the edifice.  This noise, for it is nothing more, relative to essentials and circumstantials, is designed to sew pillows under all arm-holes [Ezek. 13.18]; it endangers the souls of men by teaching them lightly to esteem the doctrines of the apostles and prophets, and it corrupts the church by bringing into her communion the ignorant, the unstable, the erroneous, and the unholy.

2. Saving faith in the promises.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” [Mark 16.16.]  Were saving faith no more than the assent of the understanding to the truth of all that is revealed in the gospel; this, our second characteristic of the true Christian, would be identical with the first.  But though there is no exercise of justifying faith without a holy perception of the truth, and assent to it by the understanding, yet much more is required in order to the existence of that grace of the Spirit.  Were the mere belief of the truth of the proposition “he that believeth shall be saved” all that is meant by the word “believeth” in the text, it would require very little self-examination in many, perhaps in most cases, to ascertain whether one is a true believer or not.  Perhaps most men, who give any reflection to the subject, know what they think as to the truth of the proposition, and yet thousands, both of regenerate and unregenerate, have doubted as to the reality of their saving faith.  “With the heart man believeth {13} unto righteousness.” [Rom. 10.10.]  Here, as often in other texts, the word “heart” means not the understanding only, but all the faculties of the soul.  “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”  Ps. 110.3.  This willingness, wrought in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost, in regeneration, involves the renovation of the will, by which it is enabled to choose what it formerly rejected.  Men approve of what they choose, so far, at least, as to esteem it a present good; for the will is always moved in its choice by motives.  When the sinner receives Christ by faith, the act is performed in the cordial approbation of him, as an infinitely excellent and suitable Saviour. “With my soul have I desired thee,” [Isa. 26.9,] is the language of faith. The whole plan of salvation through the covenant is perceived to be desirable and is desired.  “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation and all my desire. [2 Sam. 23.5.]  All this, so desirable in the eyes of the believer, is perceived through the medium of gospel truth, or rather, it is the truth itself; for every gospel doctrine is an article in the covenant of grace.  This covenant, embodying all the principles of evangelical truth, is desirable,—and it is fully and cordially approved as lovely, because Christ is its sum and substance.  Love of the truth—of the way of salvation, and of Christ, is embraced in the faith of God’s elect.  It is impossible that all this should exist in the soul without more.  Christ is actually received, by an act that appropriates him and his salvation to the sinner himself who believes.  “Look unto me and be ye saved,” is the call of God.  The sinner in faith does look for himself in the hope of salvation.  He has an assurance in the truth of the promise, that relying on it he shall not be disappointed.  So that faith is opposed to doubting.  “O! thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” [Matt. 14.31.]  Many doubts, indeed, there are, and these most painful in the hearts of the best believers; but they are as opposite to the nature of faith, as indwelling sin is to the principle of saving grace.  It is only by appropriating Christ and the blessings of God’s covenant, as these are offered in the gospel and conveyed in the promises, that doubts are dispelled, and the night of darkness that they bring over the soul, turned into day.

When, by faith, the alarmed, convinced, and distressed sinner finds the Saviour “a very present help in time of trouble,” he holds him fast, which is otherwise defined, “resting on him alone for salvation, as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.”  “I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived {14} me.” Cant. 3.4.  So that faith is not a transient act, but an abiding principle.  In brief, in saving faith, Christ and the covenant-way of salvation through him, being perceived by the understanding, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, is cordially approved, embraced with assured confidence, and relied on for salvation.&nbsbp; This is a peculiar endowment of the Christian, by which he is mystically united to his Redeeming Head, partakes of all the benefits of the covenant of grace, and is called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath named.

3. This faith worketh by love, and purifieth the heart.—Though the approbation of Christ as a Saviour, which enters into the essence of justifying faith, is of the nature of love, and though faith never is and never can be separated from love, yet love is a distinct operation of the will.  As God in Christ is infinitely amiable, and an object worthy of all the heart, so the believer loves him for this excellency.  The language of his soul is:—“Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips.”  Psalm 45.2.  “Because of the savor of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.” Cant. 1.3.  “How great is his beauty!” Zech. 9.17.  “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.”  Psalm 73.25.  That love to God, which the law requires, “with the whole heart, soul, strength, and mind,” is awakened by the view which a believer has of His glory and beauty; but yet there never has been an exercise of this principle in any of the creatures separate from a perception of his goodness, of which the person who loves him is made to partake.  Angels love God not only for his infinite loveliness, but for the goodness by which he replenishes them with the perfection of blessedness.  It is evidently impossible for them to separate these motives to love their Creator.  David says:—“I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplication.”  Psalm 116.1. That is, for all the mercies of which he had been made to partake.  That “disinterested love[2] of being in general,” of which Hopkinsians treat so largely in their sermons and theological works, never existed any where but in the mouths of men and on paper.  It is in view of the goodness and mercy of Jehovah, that Paul exclaims in the transports of love and admiration:—“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!” Rom. 11.33.  It is in the plan and work of redemption, wherein he bestows the greatest blessing on us, that the {15} most glorious display of the divine excellency is made both to angels and men.  “To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Eph. 3.10.  So that the view of those divine glories of the Godhead, which excites the emotion of love, is presented together with his ineffable goodness to the believer.  That love, which is characteristic of the true Christian, diffuses itself over all the exercises of his affections.  It is that charity, which the apostle of the Gentiles so graphically and feelingly extols in the 13th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, without which all other gifts are nothing.  The truth which reveals the excellency of the divine perfections, the saints who are created anew after the image of God, and the church in which is revealed his manifold wisdom, are all, in their own order, the objects of his love.  On this love to God and man “hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matt. 22.40.]  It is in the exercise of this holy and heavenly emotion that the soul of the believer is “filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  “We love him because he first loved us.”  “O love the Lord, all ye his saints.” [1 Pet. 1.8; 1 John 4.19; Psalm 31.23.]

4. Heavenly mindedness—heavenly affections, prevail in the true believer. “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Phil. 3.20.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Col. 3.1,2.  The true Christian considers himself a stranger and pilgrim on the earth; and he seeks a better country, even an heavenly.  By the fall, in which man preferred the gratification of an earthly appetite to the favour of God, and the eternal glory and felicity of all his posterity, his affections became corrupt and disorderly, so that having become carnally minded, he prefers earthly things.  Hence God is not in all the thoughts of the natural man.  His treasure is on earth, and there are his meditations, his plans, his affections, his desires, his all.  “He minds earthly things.” [Phil. 3.19.]  His affections never rise on high, or ascend above the grovelling enjoyments of sensual gratification.  However learned, however orderly, however liberal, however kind, his affections are all earthly.  All his aspirations are after worldly riches, honour, and pleasure.  The Christian is of another spirit.  Renewed in the whole man, other and higher and holier and nobler objects occupy the first place in his soul.  Hence he is ready, when God calls, to yield up property and “take joyfully the spoiling of his goods.” [Heb. 10.34,] for the honor {16} of Christ, a good conscience, and the interests of the church.  What he surrenders is not his inheritance; that is secured where moth and rust corrupt not, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  He parts not with things that have the uppermost room in his heart, but with what he esteems as less than nothing and vanity, in comparison of the excellency of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He will part with life, and with a good name, dearer to him than life, at the call of God; and even “rejoice and be exceeding glad” when men say all manner of evil against him falsely for Christ’s sake. [Matt. 5.11,12.] For none of all these things are the leading objects of his affection; and he counts his life not precious when the honor of the church’s Head, the cause of truth, or the testimony of Jesus demands its surrender.  While ungodly men desire no other heaven than what they seek to enjoy on earth, the true Christian says with Job, “I would not live always.” 7.16.  Though he cannot attain in full to the strength of Paul’s faith and desire after heaven, yet he knows well that “to depart and be with Christ is far better.”  How many are there in this carnal age who will bear to be tried by this test? How many are there, alas! who profess the name of Christ that, after all, are habitually saying,—“Who will shew us any good thing?” [Psalm 4.6.]

5. Lowliness of mind distinguishes the man of God.  He esteems himself “less than the least of all saints,” and says with Job, “Behold! I am vile,” and with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.”  He is “of a meek and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is of great price.”  While he holds fast the form of sound words, and surrenders no truth to please any man or nation, and “contends earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” [Jude v. 3,] he does not strive contentiously, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets. [Isa. 42.2.]  All this he has learned of Christ, “who was meek and lowly.” [Matt. 11.29.]  His humble, meek, and quiet temper is far from that spirit of insubordination, which glories in resisting all parental, ecclesiastical, and civil authority.  He has, by the grace given to him, subdued the riotous, tumultuous and fierce passions which agitate the bosoms of the wicked.  By faith he sees the glory of God and is self-abased; he knows his own many infirmities, and has compassion on the frailty of others; he has subjected himself to the yoke of Christ, and is submissive to them that are over him in the Lord.

6. The true Christian is zealous for the glory of God and for the purity and prosperity of the church.  Like Elijah, he {17} is “very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.” [1 Kings 19.10.]  In this respect he has the image of Christ, who says:—“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” [John 2.17.]  He gives himself not up to detestable neutrality in the cause of God. [SL&C Art. 6.]  His zeal is according to knowledge, not ignorant, bigotted, or fiery.  It is burning, indeed, like that of the seraphim, kindled by fire taken from the altar of the Lord.  Hence it warms and enlightens, but does not scorch or wither.  It is sober, grave, and instinct with dignity and greatness of soul; for it is imparted by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.  Passion and petulance are as unlike it as the lurid fires of Etna and Vesuvius are unlike the genial warmth and light of the sun.  We have illustrious examples of it in the splendid constellation of martyrs that shine in the firmament of the church’s history.

7. The last characteristic of the true Christian, that we specify, is holiness of life.  “He walks in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord blameless.”  “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” [James 2.18.]  He prays in secret morning and evening.  If the head of a family, he worships evening and morning in his household.  He attends the fellowship meetings of the saints.  He sanctifies the Sabbath, attends on the Lord’s day of rest to all Sabbath-day duties, and avoids worldly reading, thoughts, conversation, company and business.  He maintains a conscience void of offence towards God and man.  He is a friend to the rights of man, and “will not follow a multitude to do evil.” [Exod. 23.2.]


1. That is, Church Membership, participation in the Lord’s Supper, etc.—JTKer.

2. The following excerpt from the Reformed Presbyterian Act, Declaration, and Testimony, 1761, may be of value in shedding edifying light on this subject, without running to the extremes of either impractical philosophers, or Antinomian grace-mongers. They declare,

that the spring and principle motive of true love to God, and acceptable obedience to him, is not self-interest or love to our own felicity, nor yet a slavish fear of punishment; but the glorious perfections, and transcendent excellencies of the deity, manifested in the face of JESUS CHRIST, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and express image of his person, are the prime and chief motives both of love, fear and obedience unto God; all who really love God loving him principally for himself. As also, that all acceptable service to God, performed by believers, is principally influenced by the authority of a God of grace stamped upon his word, springs from faith in JESUS CHRIST, as an animating and active principle in their souls, and is ultimately directed to the glory of God in CHRIST, as the great end thereof.  Hence therefore altho’ God has graciously connected his own glory and his people’s felicity inseparably together, that yet no actions, however good in themselves or beneficial to others, which arise only from a principle of self-interest, love to one’s own bliss, or fear of hell, are evidential of saving grace in the soul, or any more, than what one in a state of nature may perform;  according to Gen. 4.5. Heb. 11.4,6; Matth. 6.2,5,16. Hag. 2.14. Amos 5.21,22. Titus 1.15, and 3.5. Rom. 3.20, and 4.2,4,6. Job 22.2,3. Eph. 1.6. 1 Pet. 2.5. Exod. 28.38. Confes. chap. 16 throughout. Larg. Cat. quest. 73, 101. Sh. Cat. quest. 44.

Which sentiments and expressions may be a helpful corrective to the doctrines taught and implied in such writings as Walter Marshall’s Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. But if it shall seem that such self-less love, as is described by the Reformed Presbytery, is impossible, let the reader consider: How impossible? Is it so impossible that a miracle of God’s grace cannot effect and produce such love? The Bible teaches us that man is dead in trespasses and sins, and that he is not persuaded to love God truly until he is born again by the work of God’s Spirit. His way, whatever it seem to the eye, is a way of hatred, until the love of God our Saviour toward man appear, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saves us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. See Titus 3.3-7.  This change does not depend upon persuasive arguments that concern our self-interest. It is true, reason would say those in danger of the wrath of God should heed such arguments. But rebels are stubborn, and rebels we are, until this change is effected by means more powerful—indeed miraculous—and depending on a sovereign gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. This, the Scriptures teach, and every True Christian professes. He knows what his master has done unto him. John 13.12. Eph. 1.18,19. John 14.15-17, 6.63-65.  If sinners had what is called by Arminians free-will, they might indeed be induced to love God by self-interest. (And it would remain to be seen whether such love should prove acceptable unto him.) But if sinners are in bondage to sin as servants, John 8.34—if sin has dominion over them, Rom. 6.14—then a miracle of regeneration and new life is required in the matter. And if this be so, the question may follow and be answered with ease: Will the God who is jealous of the honour of his name and the glory of his Son,—that Son who pleased him in all things and yielded his life upon the cross;—will that God by a miracle of divine operation produce such love in sinners as has regard to him only for his goodness to sinners? or, such love as adores his excellency both in himself, and towards the sinner, so far as these are each revealed?  John 5.20-23 tells us plainly that all of the works of love and grace which God works towards man, are works which have their final operation and end in love, honour, and praise, to him to whom these things are due.—JTKer.