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Chapter XXXVIII.

Showing That An Unchristian Life Leads To False Doctrine, Hardness Of Heart, And Blindness; Also, Treating Of The Eternal Election Of Grace.

Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.John 12:35.

Since Christ, and faith in him are denied, and almost wholly extirpated by an ungodly life, what shall his doctrine profit us? For his doctrine, with the Word and Sacraments, is delivered to us for no other end, than that it be inwardly digested, and converted, as it were, into our very life and spirit. As from a good seed springs up good fruit, so from the Word and Sacraments should spring up within us the noble life of regeneration, or the new birth; the new, holy, and spiritual man; or, to speak all in one word, a true and real Christian. For he that is a Christian, must needs be born again of the Spirit, the Word, and the Sacraments, and believe and live in Christ, as in the primary principle of the life of grace. As certainly as a child is begotten by his father, so truly must the Christian be begotten of God and of Christ, through faith. James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:3, 5; Titus 3:5.

2. When, therefore, we do not resolve to strive against the depraved bent of our flesh, and to digest the doctrine of Christ into our life and nature; nay, when we contradict the Christian doctrine by an anti-Christian life, by irreligion and profaneness; is it not plain that we are not begotten of God, nor born of Christ? What will Christ's doctrine profit us, when we are sure that our life does not correspond with it at all? Will our vain boasts of the light of the Gospel do any good, when we evidently walk in darkness? It is on this account that the light deservedly retires from us, and the world begins to be overspread with darkness and false doctrines, with errors and with seducing spirits. And that we might beware of these, our blessed Saviour hath left us this warning: “While ye have the light, walk in the light, lest darkness come upon you” (John 12:35); that is, lest ye be led away into all kinds of errors and delusions, into blindness and hardness of heart, into darkness and prejudices, which indispose the mind for the very reception of the light of the Gospel. This was the case with Pharaoh, the Jews, and also of Julian the Apostate; who, being in the end convicted by the reproaches of his own conscience, exclaimed openly, and to his own confusion, that Christ both lived and reigned, and was both Lord and God; saying, “Thou hast overcome, O Galilean; thou hast overcome.” It would have been better for him to have said, “Lord, have mercy upon me!” But, alas! this was entirely out of his reach, in consequence of the hardness of his heart, contracted by an uninterrupted course of sinning, and by having rejected and despised the mercy of Christ.

3. This hardness of heart, is that 130 terrible darkness which, in the end, overtakes all such as refuse to walk in the light whilst they have it. It is the just punishment inflicted on those that blaspheme the truth, as Pharaoh did, when he asked: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord.” Exodus 5:2. Therefore it was but just that he should the more grievously feel the overruling power of God, by being made an example to the whole world, and a lasting monument of the indignation of the Lord, and of the weakness of men who vainly presume to oppose him.

4. In like manner were the Jews of old struck with blindness and hardness of heart, when they refused to hearken to the voice of the Lord, having been warned by Moses long before, that this would certainly come to pass. “The Lord,” says he, “shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.” Deut. 28:28. This actually did befall them, as may be seen, Isaiah, chap. 6:9-12. Whereby it is manifest, that such hardness of heart is the most righteous punishment of unbelief, of contempt of God, and the heavenly truth declared by him; according to the words of St. Paul: “With all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 2 Thess. 2:10, 11. Whence it plainly appears, why God is used to strike men with such terrible blindness and hardness of heart; namely, because they “receive not the love of the truth.”

5. And, indeed, the man from whom God takes away his offered grace, is surely most wretched and miserable; neither can he of himself at any time return into the right way. As a proof of this, we have the examples of Pharaoh and Julian. He from whom the Lord removes his light, must of necessity live in darkness. God removes it, however, from those only who refuse to walk in it; neither does he take his grace from any, but from those that boldly reject it.

6. It is in this sense that the words of St. Paul are to be taken: “ ‘I will have mercy (saith he) on whom I will have mercy.’ Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth.” Rom. 9:15, 18. But truly the Lord hath pity on all them who freely receive his mercy; as, on the contrary, he hardeneth those that reject and blaspheme the offer of his grace. And it is this wilful resistance for which St. Paul reproves the Jews: “It was necessary,” says he, “that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:46, 48): that is, as many as did not resist and obstinately cast away the word of grace, as the means of faith. It was because the Jews were guilty of this, that they could not believe: for the Lord hath not ordained any one to eternal salvation, who disdainfully rejects his word, and proves disobedient to the offer of his grace.

7. The ordination to life eternal, or the election of grace (Rom. 11:5), is fully brought to pass in Jesus Christ, with this promise annexed, that God 131 offers his grace to all by the Gospel; those who receive it are ordained to eternal life; and whosoever reject it thereby “judge themselves unworthy of eternal life,” as St. Paul expresses it. That is, by their own fault they make themselves unworthy of that blessing, and debar themselves from that universal grace which is displayed in the Gospel; and so putting their own names out of the book of life, which is Christ, they resist the good work of God by their own contumacy, and, consequently, cannot obtain that true saving faith, which the Word begets.

8. And here let us not deceive ourselves, by vainly supposing that they only reject the word of God, who do not outwardly embrace the faith and doctrine of Christ (such as Mahometans and Jews); and that those who profess the Christian faith, and adhere to the doctrine of the Gospel, cannot possibly be deemed wilful despisers of the offer of mercy. Certain it is, that all who will not follow the footsteps of Christ, nor take his life upon them, nor walk in the light, fall under this heavy charge. And for this cause God is moved to take from them the light of his word, and of pure doctrine. “I,” saith Christ, “am the light of the world: he that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.

9. Hence we learn that whoever follows the example of Christ, and lives his life, shall be in no danger of being misled by any delusion and error. He shall also escape that blindness and hardness of heart, which an empty confessor of the Christian faith draws upon himself. Consider here, on the one hand, the many proud, noble, learned, ingenious, and mighty men of this world; and, on the other, the errors, blindness, and delusions, into which they are plunged. Truly, those delusions arise from no other source, than because men do not live in Christ, but are averse to the imitation of his holy life; and therefore cannot have the light of life.

10. From the same source also proceed those “workings of Satan,” and those “strong delusions,” together with all the “lying wonders” mentioned by St. Paul (2 Thess. 2:9-11), and which more and more increase upon us, because the world is not willing to follow Christ, and by this means, to be preserved from delusion and error. “For what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord (therefore) hath Christ with Belial?” 2 Cor. 6:14, 15. That is to say, Purity of doctrine, and divine knowledge, cannot remain with those that live in the devil, in darkness, in pride, in covetousness, and filthy pleasure. How should the pure doctrine dwell with those who exhibit impurity of life and manners? Nothing, certainly, can be more irreconcilable, than purity of doctrine and an impure life.

11. If, therefore, we would preserve pure doctrine, we must be wholly changed in our minds, and have no part with the world, and with unchristian actions. We must “awake” (Eph. 5:14) from the lethargy of sin, and shake off the works of darkness, that so Christ may enlighten us again with the light of true faith. Whence it is plain, that whosoever does not follow the footsteps of Christ, nor imitate him in his love, humility, meekness, patience, and obedience, he must necessarily be deceived, and stray from the knowledge of God; since he does not walk in the way which leads to truth.

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12. On the contrary, if we but lived in Christ, if we walked in his love and humility, and directed all our endeavors and studies purely to this one object, that the flesh be mortified, and the life of Christ raised within us; that through him we might overcome ourselves, and triumph over the flesh, the world, and the devil; if this were but once effected, there would then remain very little contention and strife about the doctrine, and heresies would of themselves fall to the ground.

13. We have an example of most strange delusion in Ahab, who, on account of his wicked and tyrannical life, was seduced by four hundred false prophets. 1 Kings 22. It was by their encouragement that he undertook that fatal expedition against the Syrians, in contempt of the true prophet Micaiah, who positively foretold his death in that battle. But being led by a false light, he rejected the truth, and gave credit to lying prophets, who prophesied nothing but peace and prosperity to him. Hence the justice of God met him, according to the word of the true prophet, and by due desert the dogs licked his blood.

14. In this is verified the word of St. Paul: “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.” 2 Cor. 4:4. And is not the same judgment threatened against all hypocrites, who boast of Christ and his doctrine, but deny him in their life and actions? For thus saith the Lord through the prophet: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me; therefore the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Isa. 29:13, 14. Concerning the prophets in particular, the Lord has plainly declared, that he has “covered the prophets, the rulers, and seers.” Hence the vision shall become as a “sealed book,” etc. Verse 10, 11. And as for the Jews themselves, the apostle has told us, that there is a “vail upon their heart,” preventing their eyes from beholding the true Messiah; which, however, shall be “taken away when they turn to the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:15, 16.

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