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TO MR. AND MRS. M..........N.
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed....John viii. 31.
AGREEABLE to my promise, I now sit down to write to you; and, according to your request, have taken for a motto the text I mentioned to you when at our house: it affords me, I assure you, no little pleasure to see you both setting out in the good ways of God; you may remember I told you, I hoped to meet you, not only at, but also in the kingdom of heaven. This is a pleasing hope; may it be fully accomplished in due time. In the first place, give me leave to assure you, that I did not mention this text with any view to discourage you; perhaps you are already troubled upon this subject, and afraid lest you should not continue....I know young converts are very apt to be cast down upon this account, but would not wish you at present to be troubled about this; your princi
pal concern should be, to see that you set out right, for all depends upon that....Many set out in the profession of religion who do not continue, and are presently blown away by the wind of temptation and trial; the reason is, they did not begin aright, they were not disciples indeed. "If," says Christ, "ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."
This is a consolatory text, for it proves, that they who are real disciples, or disciples indeed, do continue; the great thing then is, to become disciples indeed; they who are such, are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5. A disciple indeed, is that in heart which others are in shew; he has not only the leaves of profession, but he has also the root of grace; without that root the leaves will presently wither, and the fairest blossoms fade: but, where that root is, though it may sometimes experience a spiritual winter, yet it shall, notwithstanding, bud and blossom, and bring forth fruit, even unto old age. Mere professors are very well contented with their profession, and however others may fear and tremble for them, they seldom fear and tremble for themselves; but those who are disciples indeed, especially when first called by divine grace, are deeply concerned to know whether they are right; they are subject to many fears and doubts about this matter, and are frequently much troubled and distressed, with the apprehensions of being deceived, or mistaken; and are, in the general, much more perplexed with doubts about the reality of the work of grace in their hearts, than either of the power or willingness of
Christ to save them: you, perhaps, may feel something of this. Now there is none, but the Holy Ghost himself, that can put this matter entirely out of doubt, but it has pleased him to lay down in his word some characteristics of those who are disciples indeed, and it is our duty to examine whether those characteristics belong to us; if they do, it becomes our privilege to draw the most obvious conclusion from them, viz. that God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation, by our Lord Jesus Christ. The first characteristic I shall mention, is this, (and I mention this because, twenty-one years ago, I myself experienced the sweetness and consolation of it) "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," Acts ii. 21, Joel ii. 32.... This is an absolute promise to, as well as a description of, the people of God. Here is one great difference between the disciple indeed, and the mere professor; the one prays, and the other appears to pray; could you look into the heart of a mere professor of religion, you would not find one grain of the spirit of grace and supplication in it, though perhaps, he may be able to say much by way of prayer, even in the great congregation; but the disciple indeed, though he may not be able to say much in public, yet could you take a peep into his heart, you would find him a` wrestling Jacob. Some of God's people have much of the gift of prayer, but they all have the grace of prayer; the experiences of God's people are various in some things; some are led by the deep waters of conviction, and much sorrow upon the account of sin; others are gently led forth out of a state of nature,
into a state of grace, by the still waters, and drawn by the cords of love; but which ever of these is the case, they unite in this, viz. being wrestling Jacobs, before they become prevailing Israels: and the reason of this is evident; every disciple indeed, feels the importance of everlasting things, feels the necessity of salvation, of being born again, of being washed in the blood of the lamb, and cloathed in his righteousness, for he finds he has none of his own, and according to the degree of the sense he has of these wants, he becomes a wrestler with God for a supply of them; he cannot be easy, he cannot be contented, he cannot be happy in time or eternity, without these ble ssings; he finds, in his flesh dwelleth no good thing, but he sees that in Christ all fulness dwells; and he hears him say, "Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son," John xiv. 10. This encourages his hope, the desires of his soul aspire after heaven and heavenly things; and the earnest, the constant language of his heart and lips is," I will not let thee go until thou bless me." He loses all relish for the pleasures of the world: he despises them as trifling trash, unworthy of a soul that is born for eternity; the things which he formerly loved, he now hates, and the things which before were disgustful and disagreeable to him, now become objects of his delight; he now finds wisdom's ways to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace....this is the disciple indeed. The mere professor, though he may attend to all the outward forms of religion, yet remains destitute of the
power of it; his heart feels no want, and consequently he seeks no supply; but when God says to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye my face;" their hearts reply, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." And then says the promise, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; your hearts shall live that seek God." Psalm lxix. 32.
Now, my dear friends, I hope and believe, that in the above little description of a disciple indeed, you will find something of your own picture. Do you feel the importance of everlasting things? Do you feel the necessity of being born again of God, of being washed in the blood, and clothed in the righteousness of Jehovah Jesus, and so interested in his complete salvation? Do you so feel the necessity of these things as earnestly to desire them? and do these desires lead you to call upon God for them, in the name of Jesus? Are the secret breathings of your soul aspiring to him, when no eye but his is upon you? If so, remember the promise....all who call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved; for none but disciples indeed, so call upon him. Have the pleasures of the world lost their relish in your esteem? Can you, will you chuse affliction with the people of God, before the pleasures of sin for a season? This must be done, but none can do it, but those who are disciples indeed; if it is the choice of your heart, happy are you; the family of God, both in heaven and earth, will give you the right hand of fellowship. Is it the sincere wish, the unfeigned desire of your inmost souls to be devoted to God; that he may purify your hearts by faith, and make