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OBJECT. XVI.

You cannot keep out hypocrites, when all is said and done; but as many graceless persons will be likely to get 475 into the church in the way of a profession of godliness, as if nothing were insisted on, but a freedom from public scandal.

Answ. It may possibly be so in some places through the misconduct of ministers and people, by remissness in their inquiries, carelessness as to the proper matter of a profession, or setting up some mistaken rules of judgment; neglecting those things which the Scripture insists upon as the most essential articles in the character of a real saint; and substituting others in the room of them; such as impressions on the imagination, instead of renewing influences on the heart; pangs of affection, instead of the habitual temper of the mind; a certain method and order of impressions and suggestions, instead of the nature of things experienced, &c. But to say, that in churches where the nature, the notes, and evidences of true Christianity, as described in the Scriptures, are well understood, taught, and observed, there as many hypocrites are likely to get in; or to suppose, that there as many persons of an honest character, who are well instructed in these rules, and well conducted by them—and judging of themselves by these rules, do think themselves true saints, and accordingly make profession of godliness, and are admitted as saints in a judgment of rational charity—are likely to be carnal, unconverted men, as of those who make no such pretence and have no such hope, nor exhibit any such evidences to the eye of a judicious charity, is not so much an objection against the doctrine I am defending, as a reflection upon the Scripture itself, with regard to the rules it gives, either for persons to judge of their own state, or for others to form a charitable judgment, as if they were of little or no service. We are in miserable circumstances indeed, if the rules of God’s holy word in things of such infinite importance, are so ambiguous and uncertain, like the heathen oracles. And it would be very strange, if in these days of the gospel, when God’s mind is revealed with such great plainness of speech, and the canon of Scripture is completed, it should ordinarily be the case in fact, that those who, having a right doctrinal understanding of the Scripture, and judging themselves by its rules, do probably conclude or seriously hope of themselves, that they are real saints, are as many of them in a state of sin and condemnation, as others who have no such rational hope concerning their good estate, nor pretend to any special experiences in religion.

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