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I have been, for some years, deeply impressed with the fact, that so many professors of religion are coming to the ripe conviction that they never knew Christ. There have been in this place almost continual developments of this fact; and I doubt, whether there is a minister in the land who will present Christ as the gospel presents Him, in all the fullness of his official relations to mankind, who will not be struck and agonized with developments that will assure him, that the great mass of professors of religion do not know the Savior. It has been to my mind a painful and serious question, what I ought to think of the spiritual state of those who know so little of the Blessed Jesus. That none of them have been converted, I dare not say. And yet, that they have been converted, I am afraid to say. I would not for the world "quench the smoking flax, or break the bruised reed" (Isaiah 42:3), or say anything to stumble, or weaken the feeblest lamb of Christ; and yet my heart is sore pained, my soul is sick; my bowels of compassion yearn over the church of the blessed God. O, the dear church of Christ! What does she in her present state know of the gospel-rest, of that "great and perfect peace" (Isaiah 26:3), which they have whose minds are stayed on God? The church in this place is composed, to a great extent, of professors of religion from different parts of the world, who have come hither for educational purposes, and from religious considerations. And as I said, I have sometimes been appalled at the disclosures which the Spirit of God has made of the real spiritual state of many who have come here, and were considered by others before they came, and by themselves, as truly converted to God.
9. If I am not mistaken, there is an extensive feeling among Christians and ministers, that much that ought to be known and may be known of the Savior, is not known. Many are beginning to find that the Savior is to them "as a root out of a dry ground, having neither form nor comeliness" (Isaiah 53:2), that the gospel which they preach or hear is not to them "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), from sin; that it is not to them "glad tidings of great joy" (Luke 1:19), that it is not to them a peace-giving gospel; and many are feeling that if Christ has done for them all that His grace is able to do in this life, the plan of salvation is sadly defective; that Christ is not after all a Savior suited to their necessities; that the religion which they have is not suited to the world in which they live; that it does not, cannot make them free, but leaves them in a state of perpetual bondage. Their souls are agonized, and tossed to and fro without a resting-place. Multitudes also are beginning to see, that there are many passages, both in the Old and the New Testament, which they do not understand; that the promises seem to mean much more than they have ever realized; and that the gospel and the plan of salvation, as a whole, must be something very different from that which they have as yet apprehended. There are, if I mistake not, great multitudes all over the country, who are inquiring more earnestly than ever before, after a knowledge of that Jesus who is to save His people from their sins.
10. If the doctrine of these lectures is true, you see the immense importance of preaching it clearly and fully, in revivals of religion. When the hearts of converts are warm with their first love, then is the time to make them fully acquainted with their Savior, to hold Him up in all His offices and relations, so as to break the power of every sin to lead them to break off forever from all self-dependence, and to receive Christ as a present, perfect, everlasting Savior, so far as this can possibly be done with their limited experience.
11. Unless this course be taken, their backsliding is inevitable. You might as well expect to roll back the waters of Niagara with your hand, as to stay the tide of their former habitudes of mind, surrounded as they are with temptation, without a deep, and thorough, and experimental acquaintance with the Savior. And if they are thrown upon their own watchfulness and resources, for strength against temptation, instead of being directed to the Savior, they are certain to become discouraged, and fall into dismal bondage.
12. But, before I conclude these remarks, I must not omit to notice the indispensable necessity of a willingness to do the will of God, in order rightly to understand this doctrine. If a man is unwilling to give up his sins, to deny himself all ungodliness and every worldly lust, if he is unwilling to be set apart wholly and forever to the service of the Lord, he will either reject it as doctrine altogether, or only intellectually admit it, without receiving it into his heart. It is an eminently dangerous state of mind to assent to this, or any other doctrine of the gospel, and not reduce it to practice.
13. Much evil has been done by those who have professedly embraced this doctrine in theory, and rejected it in practice. Their spirit and temper have been such as to lead those who saw them to infer, that the tendency of the doctrine itself was bad. And it is not to be doubted that some who have professed to have experienced the power of this doctrine in their hearts, have greatly disgraced religion, by exhibiting a very different spirit from that of an entirely sanctified one. But why in a Christian land should this be a stumbling block? When the heathen see persons from Christian nations who professedly adopt the Christian system, exhibit on their shores, and in their countries, the spirit which many of them do, they infer that this is the tendency of the Christian religion. To this our missionaries reply, that they are only nominal Christians, only speculative, not real believers. Should thousands of our church members go among them, they would have the same reason to complain; and might reply to the missionaries, these are not only nominal believers, but profess to have experienced the Christian religion in their own hearts. Now what would the missionaries reply? Why, to be sure, that they were professors of religion; but that they really did not know Christ, that they were deceiving themselves with a name to live, while in fact they were dead in trespasses and sins.