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The Almost Christian Discovered

or the False Professor Tried and Cast

Being the Substance of Seven Sermons Preached at St. Sepulchre’s in London, 1661.


Matthew Mead

Originally Published 1661

1819 Edition

Hail & Fire REPRINTS 2009


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The Almost Christian Discovered, or the False Professor Tried and Cast, being the Substance of Seven Sermons Preached at St. Sepulchre’s in London, 1661 by Matthew Mead (Originally Published 1661, 1819 Edition)

"And the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things; and they derided him. And Jesus said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; For that which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16: 14-15

Edited & Updated by HAIL & FIRE 2009.







THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN or The False Professor Tried and Cast


QUESTION I: How far a man may go in the way to heaven, and yet be but almost a Christian

A man may have much knowledge

A man may have great and eminent gifts, yea spiritual

A man may have a high profession of religion, be much in external duties of godliness

A man may go far in opposing his sin

A man may hate sin

A man may make great vows and promises, strong purposes and resolutions against sin

A man may maintain a strife and combat against sin in himself

A man may be a member of the church of Christ

A man may have great hopes of heaven

A man may be under visible changes

A man may be very zealous in matters of religion

A man may be much in prayer

A man may suffer for Christ

A man may be called of God and embrace his call

A man may have the Spirit of God

A man may have faith

A man may have a love to the people of God

A man may obey the commands of God

A man may be sanctified

A man may do all (as to external duties and worship) that a true Christian can

QUESTION II: Why is it that many go far and yet no farther?

QUESTION III: What difference is there between a natural conscience and a renewed conscience?

QUESTION IV: Why is it that many are but almost Christians when they have gone thus far?


APPLICATION - inferences that may be made regarding the almost Christian

Inference I: Salvation is not so easy a thing as it is imagined to be

Inference II: If many miscarry, what shall be the end of those who fall short?





Grace and Peace be multiplied.


What the meaning of that providence was, that called me to the occupation of my talent among you this summer, will be best read and understood by the effects of it upon your own souls: the kindly





increase of grace and holiness in heart and life, can only prove it to have been in mercy. Where this is not the fruit of the word, there it becomes a judgment. The Word travels with life or death, salvation or damnation; and brings forth one or another in every soul that hears it. I would not for a world, (were it in my power to make the choice,) that my labours, which were meant and designed for the promotion of your immortal souls to the glory of the other world, in a present pursuance of the things of your peace, should be found to have been a ministration of death and condemnation, in the great day of Jesus Christ. Yet this the Lord knoweth, is the too common effect of the most plain and powerful preaching of the Gospel. “The waters of the sanctuary," do not always heal where they come, for there are "miry and marshy places that shall be given to salt,” - the same word is elsewhere in Scripture rendered barrenness; he "turneth a fruitful land into barrenness," Ps. 108:34: so that the judgment denounced upon these miry and marshy places is, that the curse of barrenness, shall rest upon them, notwithstanding the waters of the sanctuary overflow them.

It is sad, but certain, that the Gospel inflicts a death of its own, as well as the Law, or else how are those trees in Jude said to be "twice dead, and plucked up by the roots." Yea, that which in itself is the greatest mercy, through the interposition of men's lusts, and the efficacy of this cursed sin of unbelief, turns to the greatest judgment, as the richest and most generous wine makes the sharpest vinegar. Our Lord himself, the choicest mercy that the bowels of a God could bless a perishing world with; whose coming, himself bearing witness, was no less an errand than that of eternal life and blessedness to the lost and cursed sons of Adam; yet to how many was he a "stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence;" yea, "a gin, and a snare;" and that to both the houses of Israel, the only professing people of God at that day in the world? And is he not a stone of stumbling in the ministry of the Gospel to many professors to this very day, upon which they fall and are broken? When he saith, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me:" he doth therein plainly suppose, that both in his person and doctrine, the generality of men would be offended in him.

Not that this is the design of Christ and the Gospel, but it so comes to pass through the corruptions of the hearts of men, whereby they make light of Christ, and stand out against that life and grace which the Lord Jesus by his blood so dearly purchased, and is by the preaching of the Gospel so freely tendered; the willful refusal whereof will as surely double our damnation, as the acceptance thereof will secure our eternal salvation.

Oh! Consider, it is a thing of the most serious concernment in the world, how we carry ourselves under the Gospel, and with what dispositions
"The Word travels with life or death, salvation or damnation; and brings forth one or another in every soul that hears it."

"A man may hate sin more in others than in himself: so does the drunkard, he hates drunkenness in another, and yet practices it himself: the liar hates falsehood in another, but likes it in himself. Now, he that hates sin from a principle of grace, hates sin most in himself; he hates sin in others, but he loathes most the sins of his own heart." - Matthew Mead

and affections of heart, soul-seasons of grace are entertained: this being taken into the consideration to give it weight, that we are the nearer to heaven or to hell, to salvation or damnation, by every ordinance we sit under: boast not therefore, of privileges enjoyed, with neglect of the important duties thereby required.

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Illustration of the Burning of English Bible Translations in 15th century England. READ LOLLARD WRITINGS online


"When they burned the New Testament they pretended a zeal very fervent to maintain only God’s honor, which they said with protestation, was obscured by translation in English, causing much error. But the truth plainly to be said, this was the cause why they were afraid, least laymen should know their iniquity."

A Lollard (1450ad)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A Proper Dialogue between a Gentleman and Husbandman each complaining to other their miserable calamite, through the ambition of the clergy.

A 15th century Apology written by an English Lollard.


Illustration of the Burning of English Bible Translations in 15th century England. READ LOLLARD WRITINGS online

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Remember Capernaum's case, and tremble: as many go to heaven by the very gates of hell, so more go to hell by the gates of heaven; in that the number of them that profess Christ, is greater than the number of them that truly close with Christ. Beloved, I know the preaching of the Gospel has made proselytes of many of you into a profession; yet I fear that but few of you are brought by it to a true faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation. (I beseech you, bear with my jealousy, for it is the fruit of a tender love for your precious souls.) Most men are good Christians in the verdict of their own opinion; but you know the law allows no man to be a witness in his own case, because their affection usually outruns conscience, and self-love mars truth for its own interest.

The heart of man is the greatest impostor and cheat in the world; God himself declares it, Jer. 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things." Some of the deceits thereof you will find discovered in this Treatise, which shows you, that every grace hath its counterfeit, and that the highest profession may be, where true conversion is not.

The design hereof is not to "break the bruised reed, nor to quench the smoking flax." Not to discourage the weakest believer, but to awaken formal professors. I would not sadden the hearts of any "whom God would not have made sad;" though I know it is hard to rip up the dangerous state and condition of a professing hypocrite, so but that the weak Christian will think himself concerned in the discovery. And therefore, as 1 preached a sermon on sincerity among you, for the support and encouragement of such, at the end of these; so I did purpose to have printed it with these. But who can be master of his own purposes: that is, as I am under such daily variety of providences! Your kindly acceptance of this, will make me a debtor for that.

The dedication hereof belongs to you on a double account; for as it had not been preached, but that love to your souls caused it; so it had much less been printed, but that your importunate desire procured it: and therefore, what reception soever it meets with in the world, yet I hope I may expect you will welcome it, especially considering it was born under your roof, and therefore hopes to find favor in your eyes and room in your hearts.

Accept it, I beseech you, as a public acknowledgment of the engagements which your great and, I think I may say, unparalleled expressions of regard have laid me under, which I can no way compensate but by my prayers; and if you will take them for satisfaction, I do promise to be your remembrancer at the throne of grace, while I am.



I know how customary it is for men to ascend the public stage, with premised apologies for the weakness and unworthiness of their labors, which is an argument that their desires, (either for the sake of others profit, or their own credit, or both,) are stretched beyond the bounds of their abilities; and that they covet to commend themselves to the world's censure, in a better dress than common infirmity will allow. For my own part, I may truly say with Gideon, "Behold, my thousand is the meanest," my talent is the smallest, "and I am the least in my Father's house;" and therefore this appearance in public is not the fruit of my own choice, which would rather have been on some other subject, wherein I stand in some sense indebted to the world; or else in somewhat more digested, and possibly better fitted for common acceptation; but this is but to consult the interest of a man's own name, which in matters of this concern, is no better than a "sowing to the flesh," and the harvest of such a seed-time will be "in corruption," Gal. 6:8.

Thou hast here one of the saddest considerations imaginable presented to thee, and that is, "How far it is possible a man may go in a profession of religion, and yet, after all, fall short of salvation; how far he may run, and yet not so run as to obtain." This, I say, is sad, but not so sad as true; for our Lord doth plainly attest it: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

My design herein is, that the formal, sleepy professor may be awakened, and the close hypocrite discovered; but my fear is, that weak believers may be hereby discouraged; for as it is hard to show how low a child of God may fall into sin, and yet have true grace, but that the sinner will be apt thereupon to presume; so it is as hard to show how high a hypocrite may rise in a profession, and yet have no grace, but that the believer will be apt thereupon to despond. The prevention whereof I have carefully endeavored by showing that though a man may go thus far, and yet be but almost a Christian; yet a man may fall short of this, and be a true Christian notwithstanding. Judge not, therefore, your state by any one character you find laid down of a false professor; but read the whole and then make a judgment; for I have cared, as not to "give children's bread to dogs," so not to use the dog's whip to scare the children; yet this book would not have been composed, but with a view to such only as it chiefly concerns, those who "have a name to live, and yet are dead;" being busy with the form of godliness, but strangers to the power of it. These are the proper subjects of this treatise: and the Lord follow it with his blessing wherever it comes, that it may be an awakening word to all such and especially to that generation of profligate professors with which this age abounds; who if they keep to their church, bow the knee, talk out a few prayers, and at a good time receive the sacrament, think they do enough for heaven, and hereupon judge their condition safe, and their salvation sure; though there be a hell of sin in their hearts, "and the poison of asps is under their lips;" their minds being as yet carnal and unconverted, and their conversations filthy and unsanctified. If eternal life be of so easy attainment, and to be had at so cheap a rate, why did our Lord tell us, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it?" And why should the apostle perplex us with such a needless injunction, "To give diligence to make our calling and election sure?" Certainly therefore, it is no such easy thing to be saved, as many make it; and that thou wilt see plainly in the following discourse: I have been somewhat short in the application of it; and therefore let me here be your remembrancer in five important duties.

First, "Take heed of resting in a form of godliness;" as if a round of duties could confer grace; a lifeless formality is advanced to a very high esteem in the world, as a kab of dove's dung was sold in the famine of Samaria at a very dear rate, 2 Kings 6:25. Alas! The profession of godliness is but a sandy foundation to build the hope of an immortal soul upon for eternity; remember, the Lord Jesus Christ called him a foolish builder, "that founded his house upon the sand," and the sad event proved him so, "for it fell, and great was the fall of it." Oh! Therefore, lay thy foundation by faith upon the rock Christ Jesus; look to Christ through all, and rest upon Christ in all.

Secondly, “Labor to see an excellency in the power of godliness," a beauty in the life of Christ. If the means of grace have a loveliness in them, surely grace itself has much more; for, "the goodness of the means lies in its suitableness and serviceableness to the end;" the form of godliness has no goodness in it any farther than it aids and becomes useful to the soul in the power and practice of godliness. The life of holiness is the only excellent life, it is the life of saints and angels in heaven; yea, it is the life of God in himself. As it is a great proof of the baseness and filthiness of sin, that sinners seek to cover it; so it is a great proof of the excellency of godliness, that so many pretend to it. The very hypocrite's fair profession pleads the cause of religion, although the hypocrite is then really worst, when he is seemingly best.

Thirdly, "Look upon things to come as the greatest realities;" for things that are not believed, work no more upon the affections than if they had no being; and this is the grand reason why the generality of men suffer their affections to go after the world, setting the creature in the place of God in their hearts.

Most men judge of the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to sense; and therefore the choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their option, who would not leave his part in Paris, for his part in Paradise. Sure, whatever his interest might be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. Well may covetousness be called idolatry, when it thus chooses the world for its God.

Oh! Consider, eternity is no dream! Hell and the worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit! Heaven is no feigned elysium: [1] there is the greatest reality imaginable in these things; though they are spiritual, and out of the ken [2] of sense, yet they are real and within the view of faith! "Look not therefore, at the things which are seen, but look at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen, are eternal."

Fourthly, "Set a high rate upon thy soul;'' what we lightly prize, we easily part with: many men sell their souls as profane Esau did his birth-right, "for a morsel of bread;" nay, “for that which," in the sense of the Holy Spirit, "is not bread." Oh! Consider your soul as the most precious and invaluable jewel in the world; it is the most beautiful piece of God's workmanship in the whole creation, it is that which bears the image of God, and which was bought with the blood of the Son of God; and shall we not set a value upon it, and count it precious?

The apostle Peter speaks of three very precious thing.

1. A precious Christ.

2. Precious Promises.

3. Precious Faith.

Now the preciousness of all these lies in their usefulness to the soul. Christ is precious, as being the Redeemer of precious souls; the promises are precious, as making over this precious Christ to precious souls. Faith is precious, as bringing a precious soul to close with a precious Christ, as he is held forth in the precious promises. Oh! Take heed that you are not found overvaluing other things, and undervaluing your soul. Shall your flesh, nay, your beast, be loved and shall your soul be slighted? Wilt you clothe and pamper your body and take no care of your soul? This is as if a man should feed his dog and starve his child. "Meats for the belly and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them." Oh! Let not a tottering, perishing carcass have all your time and care, as if the life and salvation of your soul were not worth attending to!

Lastly, "Meditate much on the strictness and suddenness of the Judgment Day, which you and I must pass through into an everlasting state;" wherein God, the impartial judge, will require an account at our hands of all our talents and advantages; we must then account for time, how we have spent that; for estate, how we have employed that; for strength, how we have laid out that; for afflictions and mercies, how they have been improved; for the relations we stood in here, how they have been discharged; and for seasons and means of grace, how they have been husbanded; and remember, as "we have sowed here, we shall reap hereafter."

Reader, these are things that of all others deserve most of, and call loudest for our utmost care and endeavors, though by the most least minded: to consider what a spirit of atheism, (if we may judge the tree by the fruits, and the principle by the practice,) the hearts of most men are filled with, who live, as if God were not to be served, nor Christ to be sought, nor lust to be mortified, nor self to be denied, nor the Scripture to be believed, nor the Judgment Day to be minded, nor hell to be feared, nor heaven to be desired, nor the soul to be valued; but give up themselves to a worse than brutish sensuality, "to work all uncleanness with greediness," living without God in the world. This is a meditation fit enough to break our hearts, if at least we were of holy David's temper, who, "beheld the transgressors and was grieved," and from whose eyes, "rivers of water ran down, because men kept not God's laws."

The prevention and correction of this soul-destroying distemper is not the least design of this treatise now put into your hand: though it is particularly adapted to the discovery and correction of hypocrisy, yet it may serve also, with God's blessing, as a check to profaneness, if seconded by serious meditation and constant prayer.

Reader, expect nothing of curiosity or quaintness, for then I shall deceive you; but if you would have a touchstone for the trial of your state, possibly this may serve you. If you are either a stranger to a profession, or an hypocrite under a profession, then read and tremble, for you are the man here pointed at.

But if the kingdom of God has come with power into your soul; if Christ be formed in you; if your heart be upright and sincere with God, then read and rejoice.

I fear I have transgressed the bounds of an epistle: the mighty God, whose prerogative it is to teach to profit, whether by the tongue or the pen, by speaking or writing, bless this tract, that it may be to you as a cloud of rain to the dry ground, that so being watered with the "dew of heaven," you may "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." In whom I am your Friend and Servant,

London, 22nd October, 1661.




[1] elysium: a mythological place where happy souls arrive after death; a place of happiness (H&F).

[2] ken: sight or that within view (H&F).

The Almost Christian


or the

False Professor Tried and Cast

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Act 26:28

In this chapter you have the Apostle Paul's apology and defensive plea, which he makes for himself against those blind Jews which did so maliciously prosecute him before Agrippa. Festus, Bernice, and the council.

In which plea he doth chiefly insist upon three things:

1. The manner of his life before conversion.

2. The manner of his conversion.

3. The manner of his life after conversion.

How he lived before conversion, he tells you from verse 4 to 13. How God wrought on him to conversion, he tells you from verse 13 to 18. How he lived after conversion, he tells you from verse 19 to 23.

Before conversion he was very pharasaical. The manner of his conversion was very wonderful. The fruit of his conversion was very remarkable. Before conversion he persecuted the Gospel which others preached: after conversion he preached the Gospel which himself had persecuted. While he was a persecutor of the Gospel, the Jews loved him; but now that, by the grace of God, he was become a preacher of the Gospel, now the Jews hated him, and sought to kill him.

He was once against Christ, and then many were for him; but now that he was for Christ, all were against him; his being an enemy to Jesus, made others his friends; but when he came to own Jesus, then they became his enemies. And this was the great charge they had against him, that from a great opposer he was become a great professor.

Because God had changed him, therefore this enraged them: as if they would be the worse, because God had made him better. God had wrought on him by grace and they seem to envy him the grace of God.

He preached no treason, nor sowed any sedition; only he preached repentance, and faith in Christ, and the resurrection, and for this he was "called in question."

This is the substance of Paul's defense and plea for himself, which you find in the sequel of the chapter had a different effect upon his judges.

Festus seems to censure him, verse 24. Agrippa seems to be convinced by him, verse 28. The whole bench seem to acquit him, verse 30 - 31. Festus thinks Paul was beside himself. Agrippa is almost persuaded to be such a one as himself. Festus, not understanding the doctrine of Christ and the resurrection, thinks him mad: "much learning hath made thee mad." Agrippa is so affected with his plea that he is almost wrought into his principles: Paul pleads so effectually for his religion, that Agrippa seems to be upon the turning point to his profession.

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Almost - the words make some debate among the learned. I shall not trouble you with the various hints upon them by Valla, Simplicius, Beza, Erasmus and others. I take the words as we read them and they show what an efficacy Paul's doctrine had upon Agrippa's conscience. Though he would not be converted, yet he could not but be convinced; his conscience was touched, though his heart was not renewed.

Observation. "There is that in religion which carries its own evidence along with it even to the conscience of ungodly men."

Thou persuadest me” - the word is from the Hebrew, and it signifies either to use arguments to prevail or to prevail by the arguments used. Now it is to be taken in the latter sense here, to show the influence of Paul's argument upon Agrippa, which had almost proselyted him to the profession of Christianity. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

A Christian - I hope I need not tell you what a Christian is, though I am persuaded many that are called Christians do not know what a Christian is, or if they do, yet they do not know what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ; one that believes in and follows Christ. As one that embraces the doctrine of Arminius, is called an Armenian and, as he that owns the doctrine and way of Luther, is called a Lutheran; so he that embraces and owns and follows the doctrine of Jesus Christ, he is called a Christian.

The word is taken more largely and more strictly; more largely, and so all that profess Christ come in the flesh are called Christians, in opposition to heathens that do not know Christ and to the poor blind Jews that will not own Christ, and to the Mahometan that prefers Mahomet above Christ.

But now in Scripture the word is of a more strict and narrow signification: it is used only to denominate the true disciples and followers of Christ; "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch; if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed;" that is, as a member and disciple of Christ. And so in the text, "almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." The word is used but in these three places, as I find in all the New Testament, and in each of them it signifies in the sense aforementioned.

The Italians make the name to be a name of reproach among them and do usually abuse the word Christian to signify a fool. But if, as the Apostle saith, "the preaching of Christ is to the world foolishness," then it is no wonder that the disciples of Christ are to the world fools. Yet it is true, in a sound sense, that so they are. For the whole of godliness is a mystery. A man must die that would live; he must be empty that would be full; he must be lost that would be found; he must have nothing that would have all things; he must be blind that would have illumination; he must be condemned that would have redemption; so he must be a fool that would be a Christian. "If any man among you seems to be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise."

He is the true Christian that is the world's fool, but wise to salvation. Thus you have the sense and meaning of the words briefly explained. The text needs no division, and yet it is pity the almost should not be divided from the Christian. Though it is of little avail to divide them as they are linked in the text, unless I could divide them as they are united in your hearts; this would be a blessed division, if the almost might be taken from the Christian; that so you may not be only almost but altogether Christians.

This is God's work to effect it, but it is our duty to persuade to it. And oh! That God would help me to manage this subject so, that you may say in the conclusion, "Thou persuadest me not almost but altogether to be a Christian."

The observation that I shall propound to handle is this:

Doctrine. "There are very many in the world that are almost and yet but almost Christians; many that are near heaven and yet are never the nearer; many that are within a little of salvation, and yet shall never enjoy the least salvation; they are within sight of heaven and yet shall never have a sight of God."

There are two sad expressions in Scripture, which I cannot but take notice of in this place. The one is concerning the truly righteous; the other is concerning the seemingly righteous.

It is said of the truly righteous, he shall scarcely be saved; and it is said of the seemingly righteous, he shall be almost saved: ”Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."

The righteous shall be saved with a scarcely, that is, through much difficulty; he shall go to heaven through many sad fears of hell. The hypocrite shall be saved with an almost, that is, he shall go to hell through many fair hopes of heaven. Two things arise from hence, which deserve very serious meditation. The one is, how often a believer may miscarry, how low he may fall, and yet have true grace. The other is, how far a hypocrite may go in the way to heaven, how high he may attain, and yet have no grace.

The saint may be cast down very near to hell and yet shall never come there; and the hypocrite may be lifted up very near to heaven and yet never come there. The saint may almost perish, and yet be saved eternally; the hypocrite may almost be saved, and yet perish finally. For the saint, at worst, is really a believer, and the hypocrite, at best, is really a sinner.

Before I handle the doctrine, I must premise three things, which are of great use for the establishing of weak believers that they may not be shaken and discouraged by this doctrine.

First, there is nothing in the doctrine that should be matter of stumbling or discouragement to weak Christians. The Gospel does not speak these things to wound believers, but to awaken sinners and formal professors. As there are none more averse than weak believers, to apply the promises and comforts of the Gospel to themselves, for whom they are properly designed; so there are none more ready than they to apply the threats and severest things of the world to themselves, for whom they were never intended. As the disciples, when Christ told them, "One of you shall betray me;" they that were innocent suspected themselves most and therefore cry out, "Master, is it I?" So weak Christians, when they hear sinners reproved or the hypocrite laid open in the ministry of the Word, they presently cry out, Is it I?

It is the hypocrite's fault to sit under the trials and discoveries of the Word and yet not to mind them: and it is the weak Christian's fault to draw sad conclusions of their own state from premises which nothing concern them. There is indeed great use of such doctrine as this is to all believers:

1. To make them look to their standing, upon what bottom they are, and to see that the foundation of their hope be well laid that they build not upon the sand, but upon a rock.

2. It helps to raise our admiration of the distinguishing love of God in bringing us into the way everlasting, when so many perish from the way and in overpowering our souls into a true conversion, when so many take up with a graceless profession.

3. It incites to that excellent duty of heart searching, so that we may approve ourselves to God in sincerity.

4. It engages the soul in double diligence that it may be found not only believing, but persevering in faith to the end.

These duties, and such as these are, make this doctrine of use to all believers; but they ought not to make use of it as a stumbling-block in the way of their peace and comfort.

My design in preaching on this subject is not to make sad the souls of those whom Christ will not have made sad; I would bring water not to "quench the flax that is smoking," but to put out that false fire that is of the sinner's own kindling, lest walking all his days by the light thereof, he shall at last "lie down in sorrow." My aim is to level the mountain of the sinner's confidence, not to weaken the hand of the believer's faith and dependence; to awaken and bring in secure formal sinners, not to discourage weak believers.

Secondly, I would premise this: though many may go far, very far, in the way to heaven, and yet fall short, yet that, soul that has the least true grace shall never fall short; “the righteous shall hold on his way." Though some may do very much in a way of duty, as I shall show hereafter, and yet miscarry; yet that soul that doth duty with the least sincerity, shall never miscarry, "for he saveth the upright in heart." The least measure of true grace is as saving as the greatest; it saves as surely, though not so comfortably. The least grace gives a full interest in the blood of Christ, whereby we are thoroughly purged, and it gives a full interest in the strength and power of Christ, whereby we shall be certainly preserved. Christ keeps faith in the soul and faith keeps the soul in Christ, and so, "we are kept by the power of God, through faith to salvation."

Thirdly, I would premise this: they that can hear such truths as this, without serious reflection and self-examination, I must suspect the goodness of their condition.

You will suspect that man to be next door to be bankrupt that never takes his inventory nor looks over his books; and I as verily think that man an hypocrite that never searches nor deals with his own heart. He that goes on in a road of duties without any rub or doubting of his state, I doubt no man's state more than his. When we see a man sick and yet not sensible, we conclude the tokens of death are upon him. So when sinners have no sense of their spiritual condition it is plain that they are dead in sin: the tokens of eternal death are upon them.

These things being premised, which I desire you would carry along in your mind while we travel through this subject, I come to speak to the proposition more distinctly and closely.

Doctrine. "That there are very many in the world that are almost, and yet but almost Christians." I shall demonstrate the truth of the proposition and then proceed to a more distinct consideration of it.

1. I shall demonstrate the truth of the proposition and I shall do it by scripture evidence, which speaks plainly and fully to the case.

First, the young man in the Gospel is an eminent proof of this truth: there you read of one that came to Christ to learn of him the way to heaven, "Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Our Lord tells him, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;" and when Christ tells him which, he answers, "Lord, all these have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet?"

Now do but see how far this man went:

1. He obeyed - he did not only hear the commands of God, but he kept them; now the Scripture saith,"Blessed is he that hears the word of God, and keeps it."

2. He obeyed universally - not this or that command but both this and that: he did not halve it with God or pick and choose which were easiest to be done and leave the rest, no, but he obeys all: "All these things have I kept."

3. He obeyed constantly - not in a fit of zeal only, but in a continual series of duty: his goodness was not, as Ephraim's, "like the morning dew that passes away," no, "All these things have I kept from my youth up."

4. He professes his desire to know and do more - to perfect that which was lacking of his obedience, and therefore he goes to Christ to instruct him in his duty. "Master, what lack I yet?" Now would you not think this a good man? Alas! How few go this far! And yet, as far as he went, he went not far enough: “he was almost, and yet but almost a Christian!" For he was an unsound hypocrite; he forsakes Christ at last, and cleaves to his lust.

This then is a full proof of the truth of the doctrine. A second proof of it is that of the parable of the virgins in St. Matthew: see what a progress they make, how far they go in a profession of Christ, Matt. 25:1.

1. They are called virgins - now this is a name given in the Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, to the saints of Christ: “the virgins love thee” Cant. 1:3. So also in the Revelation: the "one hundred forty and four thousand" that stood with the Lamb on mount Sion are called virgins. They are called virgins because they are not defiled with the "corruptions that are in the world through lust." Now these seem to be of that sort, for they are called virgins.

2. They take their lamp - that is, they make a profession of Christ.

3. They had some kind of oil in their lamps - as appears ver. 8: they had some convictions and some faith, though not the faith of God's elect, to keep their profession alive, to keep the lamp burning.

4. They went - their profession was not an idle profession: they did perform duties, frequent ordinances, and do many things commanded; they made a progress, they went.

5. They went forth - they went and out went; they left many behind them; this speaks their separation from the world.

6. They went with the wise virgins - they joined themselves to those who had joined themselves to the Lord and were companions of them that were companions of Christ.

7. They go forth to meet the bridegroom - this speaks their owning and seeking after Christ.

8. When they heard the cry of the bridegroom coming, "They arose and trimmed their lamps." They profess Christ more highly, hoping now to go in with the bridegroom.

9. They sought the true grace - now do not we say, the desires of grace are grace? And so they are, if true and timely, if sound and seasonable.

Why, lo, here a desire of grace in these virgins, "Give us of your oil." It was a desire of true grace, but it was not a true desire of grace. It was not true, because not timely; unsound, as being unseasonable. It was too late. Their folly was in not taking oil when they took their lamps: their time of seeking grace was when they came to Christ. It was too late to seek it when Christ came to them. They should have sought for that when they took up their profession. It was too late to seek it at the coming of the bridegroom. And therefore, "they were shut out," and though they cry for entrance, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us," yet Christ tells them, "I know you not."

You see how far these virgins go in a profession of Jesus Christ and how long they continue in it, even till the bridegroom came: they go to the very doors of heaven and there, like the Sodomites, perish with their hands upon the very threshold of glory. They were almost Christians, and yet but almost; almost saved, and yet perish.

You that are professors of the Gospel of Christ, stand and tremble: if they that have gone beyond us fall short of heaven, what shall become of us that fall short of them? If they that are virgins, that profess Christ, that have some faith in their profession, such as it is, that have some fruit in their faith that outstrip others that seek Christ, that improve their profession, and suit themselves to their profession, nay, that seek grace; if such as these be but almost Christians, Lord, what are we?

If these two witnesses be not sufficient to prove the truth and confirm the credit of the proposition, take a third. And that shall be from the Old Testament, Isaiah 58:2. See what God saith of that people: he gives them a very high character for a choice people, one would think: "They seek me daily, they delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God."

See how far these went; if God had not said they were rotten and unsound, we should have took them for the he-goats before the flock," (Jer. 1: 8) and ranked them among the worthies. Pray observe,

1. They seek God - Now this is the proper character of a true saint, to seek God. True saints are called seekers of God: "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob," or O God of Jacob.

Lo, here a generation of them that seek God, and are not these the saints of God? Nay, further:

2. They seek him daily – Here is diligence backed with continuance day by day; that is, every day, from day to day. They did not seek him by fits and starts, nor in a time of trouble and affliction only, as many do. “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them." Many, when God visits them, then they visit him, but not until then. When God pours out his afflictions, then they pour out their supplications. This is seamen's devotion; when the storms have brought them to "their wit's end, then they cry to the Lord in their trouble." Many never cry to God until they are at their wit's end; they never come to God for help, so long as they can help themselves.

But now these, whom God speaks of, are more zealous in their devotion: the others make a virtue of necessity, but these seem to make conscience of duty; for, saith God, “they seek me daily." Sure this is, one would think, a note of sincerity.

Job saith of the hypocrite, "Will he always call upon God?" Surely no; but now this people call upon God always, "they seek him daily:" certainly these are no hypocrites.

3. Saith God, “they delight to know my ways." Sure this frees them from the suspicion of hypocrisy: for, “they say unto God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy way." (Job. 21:14).

4. They are as a nation that did righteousness - Not only as a nation that spoke righteousness, or knew righteousness, or professed righteousness, but as a nation that did righteousness, that practiced nothing but what was just and right. They appeared to the judgment of the world as good as the best.

5. They forsook not the ordinances of their God - They seem true to their principles, constant to their profession, better than many among us, that cast off duties, and forsake the ordinances of God: but these hold out in their profession; "they forsook not the ordinances of God."

6. They ask of me, saith God, the ordinances of justice - They will not make their own will the rule of right and wrong, but the law God: and therefore in all their dealings with men, they desire to be guided and counseled by God: “they ask of me the ordinances of justice."

7. They take delight in approaching to God - Sure this cannot be the guise of an hypo-crite: “will he delight himself in the almighty?" saith Job: no, he will not.

Though God is the chief delight of man, (having everything in him to render him lovely, as was said of Titus Vespasian), yet the hypocrite will not delight in God.

Till the affections are made spiritual, there is no affection to things that are spiritual. God is a spiritual good, and therefore hypocrites cannot delight in God. But these are a people that delight in approaching to God.

8. They were a people that were much in fasting, as you may see, ver. 3, “Wherefore, have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?" Now, this is a duty that does not suppose and require truth of grace only in the heart, but strength of grace.

"No man, said our Lord, puts new wine into old bottles, lest the bottles break and the wine run out." New wine is strong, and old bottles weak; and the strong wine breaks the weak vessel: this is a reason Christ gives, why his disciples. who were newly converted, and but weak as yet, were not exercised with this austere discipline.

But this people here mentioned, were a people that fasted often, afflicted their souls much, wore themselves out by frequent practices of humiliation.

Sure therefore, this was "new wine in new bottles;” this must needs be a people strong in grace; there seems to be grace not only in truth but also in growth. And yet, for all this, they were no better than a generation of hypocrites; they made a goodly progress, and went far, but yet they went not far enough; they were cast off by God after all.

I hope by this time, the truth of the point is sufficiently avouched and confirmed, "that a man may be, yea, very many are, almost and yet no more than almost Christians."

Now, for the more distinct prosecution of the point:

1. “I shall show you, step by step, how far he may go, what attainments he may reach unto, how specious and singular a progress he may make in religion, and yet be but almost a Christian when all is done."

2. “I will show you whence it is, that many men go so far as that they are almost Christians.”

3. “Why they are but almost Christians when they have gone thus far."

4. “What the reason is, why men that go a thus far as to be almost Christians, yet go no further than to be almost Christians."

Question 1."How far may a man go in the way to heaven, and yet be but almost Christian."

Answer. This I shall show you in twenty several steps.

1. "A man may have much knowledge, much light; he may know much of God and his will, much of Christ and his ways, and yet be but almost a Christian."

For though there can be no grace without knowledge, yet there may be much knowledge where there is no grace; illumination often goes before, when conversion never follows after. The subject of knowledge is the understanding; the subject of holiness is the will. Now, a man may have his understanding enlightened, and yet his will not at all sanctified. He may have an understanding to know God, and yet be without a will to obey God. The apostle tells us of some, that "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God."

T o make a man altogether a Christian, there must be light in the head, and heat in the heart; knowledge in the understanding and zeal in the affections.

Some have zeal and no knowledge; that is, blind devotion: some have knowledge and no zeal; that is fruitless speculation; but where knowledge is joined with zeal, that makes a true Christian.

Objection. But is it not said, “this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?"

Answer It is not every knowledge of God and Christ that interests the soul in life eternal. For why then do the devils perish, they have more knowledge of God than all the men the world; for though by their fall they lost their holiness, yet they lost not their knowedge.

They are called daimones from their knowledge, and yet they are diaboloi from their malice, devils still.

Knowledge may fill the head, but it will better the heart, if there be not somewhat else. The Pharisees had much knowledge; "behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, &c.," and yet they were a generation of hypocrites.

Alas! How many have gone loaded with knowledge to hell.

Though it is true, that it is life eternal to know God and Jesus Christ; yet it is as true that many do know God and Jesus Christ, shall never see life eternal.

There is, you must know, a two-fold knowledge; the one is common, but not saving; that other is not common, but saving; common knowledge is that which floats in the head, but does not influence the heart. This knowledge reprobates may have: “Balaam saw Christ from the top of the rocks, and that hills."

And then there is a saving knowledge of God and Christ which does include the assent of the mind, and the consent of the will; this is a knowledge that implies faith; "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.”

And this is that knowledge which leads to life eternal; now, whatever that measure of knowledge is, which a man may have of God, and of Jesus Christ, yet if it be not this saving knowledge, knowledge joined with affection and application, he is but almost a Christian.

He only knows God aright, who knows how to obey him, and obeys according to his knowledge of him; "a good understanding have all they that do his commandments."

All knowledge without this makes a man but like Nebucbadnezzar's image, with "a head of gold, and feet of clay."

Some know, but to know.
Some know, to be known.
Some know, to practice what they know.
Now to know, but to know, that is curiosity.
To know, to be known, that is vain-glory.
But to know, to practice what we know, that is Gospel duty.
This makes a man a complete Christian; the other, without this, makes a man almost and yet but almost a Christian.

2. "A man may have great and eminent gifts, and yet be but almost a Christian." The gift of prayer is a spiritual gift; now this a man may have, and yet be but almost a Christian, for the gift of prayer is one thing, the grace of prayer is another.

The gift of preaching and prophesying is a spiritual gift; now this a man may have, yet be but but almost a Christian. Judas was a great preacher, so were they that came to Christ and said, “Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils," &c.

You must know that it is not gifts, but grace, which makes a Christian: For,

1. Gifts are from a common work of the Spirit - man may partake of all the common gifts of the Spirit, and yet be a reprobate, for, therefore they are called common, because they are indifferently dispensed by the Spirit to good and bad; to them that are believers, and to them that are not. They that have grace, have gifts, and they that have no grace, may have the same gifts; for the Spirit works in both; nay, in this sense, he that has no grace, may be under a greater work of the Spirit in this respect, than he that has most grace; a graceless professor may have greater gifts than the most holy believer: he may out-pray, and out-preach, and out-do them; but they, in sincerity and integrity out-go him.

Gifts are for the use and good of others, they are given in ordine ad alium, as the schoolmen speak, for the profiting and edifying of others; so says the apostle, “they are given to profit withal."

Now, a man may edify another by his gifts, and yet be unedified himself; he may be profitable to another, and yet unprofitable to himself.

The raven was an unclean bird: God makes use of her to feed Elijah; though she was not good meat, yet it was good meat she brought.

A lame man may with his crutch point to thee the right way, and yet not be able to walk in it himself.

A crooked tailor may make a suit to fit a straight body, though it fit not him that made it, because of his crookedness.

The church, (Christ 's garden enclosed) may be watered through a wooden gutter: the sun may give light through a dusky window; and the field may be well sowed with a dirty hand.

The efficacy of the Word does not depend upon the authority of him that speaks it, but upon the authority of the God that blesses it. So that another may be converted by my 'preaching, and yet I may be a cast-away notwithstanding. Balaam makes a clear and rare prophesy of Christ, and yet he has no benefit by Christ; “There shall come a star of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;" but yet Balaam shall have no benefit by it; "I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh," (Numbers 4:17).

God may use a man's gifts to bring another to Christ, when he himself, whose gifts God uses, may be a stranger unto Christ; one man may confirm another in the faith, and yet himself may be a stranger unto the faith. Pendleton strengthens and confirms Sanders, in Queen Mary’s days, to stand in the truth he had preached, and to seal it with his blood, and yet afterwards plays the apostate himself.

Scultetus tells us of one Johannes Speiserus, a famous preacher of Augsburgh in Germany, in the year 1523, who preached the Gospel so powerfully that divers common harlots were converted, and became good Christians; and yet himself afterwards turned papist and came a miserable end.

The candle may burn bright to light others in their work, and yet afterwards go out in a stink.

3. It is beyond the power of the greatest gifts to change the heart; a man may preach like an apostle, pray like an angel, and yet may have the heart of a devil. It is grace only that can change the heart; the greatest gifts cannot change it, but the least grace can; gifts may make a man a scholar, but grace makes a man a believer.

Now, if gifts cannot change the heart, then a man may have the greatest gifts, and yet be but almost a Christian.

4. Many have gone laden with gifts to hell; no doubt Judas had great gifts, for he was a preacher of the Gospel; and our Lord Jesus Christ would not set him to the work, and not fit him for the work; yet “Judas is gone to his own place." The Scribes and Pharisees were men of great gifts, and yet, where is the wise? where is the scribe?"

“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness." Them that perish, who are they? Who? The wise and the learned, but among Jews and Greeks, these are called “them that perish." A great bishop said when he saw a poor shepherd weeping over a toad: “The poor illiterate world attain to heaven, while we, with all our learning fall into hell."

There are three things that must be done for us, if ever we would avoid perishing.

We must be thoroughly convinced of sin.
We must be really united to Christ.
We must be instated in the Covenant of Grace.
Now, the greatest gifts cannot serve us in anv one of these.
They cannot work thorough convictions.
They cannot effect our union.
They cannot bring us into covenant-relation.

And consequently they cannot preserve eternal from eternal perishing; and if so, then a man may have the greatest gifts and yet be but amost a Christian.

5. Gifts may decay and perish: they do not lie beyond the reach of corruption; indeed grace shall never perish, but gifts will; grace is incorruptible, though gifts are not; grace is “a spring, whose waters fail not," but the streams of gifts may be dried up. If grace be corruptible in its own nature, as being but a creature; yet it is incorruptible in regard of its preserver, as being the new creature. He that did create it in us, will preserve it in us; he that did begin it, will also finish it, (Hebrews 12:2).

Gifts have their root in nature, but grace has its root in Christ; and therefore though gifts may die and wither, yet grace shall abide forever.

Now, if gifts are perishing. then, though he that has the least grace is a Christian, he that has the greatest gifts may be but almost Christian.

Objection. But does not the apostle bid us “covet earnestly the best gifts?" Why must we covet them, and covet them earnestly, if they avail not to salvation?

Answer. Gifts are good, though they are not the best good; they are excellent, but there is somewhat more excellent; so it follows in the same verse; "yet I show unto you a more excellent way,” and that is the way of grace; one dram of grace is of more worth than a talent of gifts: gifts may make us rich towards men, but it is grace that makes us "rich towards God."

Our gifts profit others, but grace profits ourselves; that whereby I profit another is good, but that whereby I am profited myself is better.

Now, because gifts are good, therefore we ought to covet them; but because they are not the best good, therefore we ought not to rest in them; we must covet gifts for the good of others, that they may be edified; and we must covet grace for the good of our own souls, that they may be saved; for whosoever be bettered by our gifts, yet we shall miscarry without grace.

3. "A man may have a high profession of religion, be much in external duties of godliness, and yet be but almost a Christian." Mark what our Lord tells them, "not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;" that is, not everyone that makes a profession of Christ shall therefore be owned for a true disciple of Christ. "All are not Israel that are of Israel;" nor are all Christians that make a profession of religion.

What a goodly profession had Judas! He followed Christ, left all for Christ, he preached the Gospel of Christ, he cast out devils in the name of Christ, he ate and drank at the table of Christ; and yet Judas was but an hypocrite.

Most professors are like lilies: fair in show, but foul in scent; or like pepper, hot in the mouth, but cold in the stomach. The finest lace may be upon the coarsest cloth.

It is a great deceit to measure the substance of our religion by the bulk of our profession, and to judge of the strength of our graces by the length of our duties. Scripture speaks of some who, having "a form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof." Deny the power; that is, they do not live in the practice of those graces which they pretend to in their duties: he that pretends to godliness by a specious profession, and yet cloth not practice godliness by a holy conversation, "he hath a form, but denies the power."

Grotius compares such to the ostrich, which has great wings, but yet flies not: many have the wings of a fair profession, but yet use them not to mount upward in spiritual affections, and a heavenly conversation.

But to clear the truth of this, that a man may make a high profession of religion, and yet be but almost a Christian; take a fourfold evidence.

1. If a man may profess religion, and yet never have his heart changed, nor his state bettered, then he may be a great professor, and yet be but almost a Christian.

But a man may profess religion, and yet never have his heart changed, nor his state renewed. He may be a constant hearer of the Word, and yet be a sinner still; he may come often to the Lord's table, and yet go away a sinner as he came; we must not think that duties can confer grace.

Many a soul has been converted by Christ in an ordinance, but never was any soul converted by an ordinance without Christ.

And does Christ convert all that sit under the ordinances? Surely no, for to some, "the Word is a savor of death unto death." And if so, then it is plain, that a man may profess religion, and yet be but almost a Christian.

2. A man may profess religion and live in a form of godliness in hypocrisy. "Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness." What do you think of these? "They make mention of the name of the Lord, there is their profession, but not in truth, nor in righteousness." There is their dissimulation, and indeed there could be no hypocrisy in a religious sense, were it not for a profession of religion; for he that is wicked and carnal, and vile inwardly, and appears to be so outwardly, he is no hypocrite, but is what he appears, and appears what he is. But he that is one thing really, and another thing seemingly, is carnal and unholy, and yet seem to be good and holy, he is an hypocrite.

Thus the Casuists define hypocrisy to be a counterfeiting of holiness; and this fits exactly with the Greek word which is to counterfeit.

And, to this purpose, the Hebrews have two words for hypocrites, panim. which signifies facies; and chanepim, which signifies counterfeits, from chanaph, to dissemble; so that he is an hypocrite that dissembles religion, and wears the face of holiness, and yet is without the grace of holiness; he appears in semblance to be what he is not in substance: he wears a form of godliness without, only as a cover of a profane heart within.

He has a profession that he may not be thought wicked; but it is but a profession, and therefore he is wicked.

He is the religious hypocrite; religious, because he pretends to it; and yet an hypocrite because be does but pretend to it; be is like many men in consumption, that have fresh looks, and yet rotten lungs: or like an apple that has a fair skin, but a rotten core; many appear righteous, who are only right in appearance.

And if so, then a man may profess religion, and yet be but almost a Christian.

3. Custom and fashion may make a man a professor; as you have many that wear this or that garb, not because it keeps them warmer, or has any excellency in it more than another, but merely for fashion.

Many must have powdered hair, spotted faces, feathers in their caps. &c. for no other end, but because they would be fools in fashion.

So, many profess Christianity, not because the means of grace warm the heart, or that they see any excellency in the way of God above the world, but merely to follow the fashion; I wish I might not say, it has been true of our days, because religion has been uppermost, therefore many have professed; it has been the gaining trade, and then most will be of that trade.

Religion in credit makes many professors, but few proselytes; but when religion suffers, then its confessors are no more than its converts, for custom makes the former, but conscience the latter.

He that is a professor of religion merely for custom-sake, when it prospers, will never be a martyr, for Christ's sake, when religion suffers.

He that owns the truth, to live upon that, will disown it, when it comes to live upon him.

They say, that when a house is decaying and falling, all the rats and mice will forsake it: while the house is firm, and they may take shelter in the roof, they will stay, but no longer, lest in the decay, the fall should be upon them, and they that lived at top should die at bottom.

My brethren, may I not say, we have many that are the vermin, the rats and mice of religion, that would live under the roof of it, while they might have shelter in it, but when it suffers, forsake it, lest it should fall and the fall should be upon them. I am persuaded that this is not the least reason why God has brought the wheel upon the profession of religion, namely to rid it of the vermin.

He shakes the foundation of the house that these rats and mice may quit the roof; not to overturn it, but to rid them out of it, as the husbandman fans the wheat, that he may get rid of the chaff. The halcyon days of the Gospel provoke hypocrisy, but the sufferings for religion prove sincerity.

Now then, if custom and fashion make many men professors, then a man may profess religion, and yet be but almost a Christian.

4. If many may perish under a profession of godliness, then a man may profess religion, and yet be but almost a Christian.

Now the Scripture is clear, that a man may perish under the highest profession of religion. Christ cursed the fig-tree that had leaves and no fruit. It is said, Matthew 8:12, “that the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness." Who were these, but they that were then the only people of God in the world by profession, that had made a covenant with him by sacrifice and yet these were cast out.

In St. Matthew you read of some that came and made boast of their profession to Christ, hoping that might save them: “Lord,” say they, “have we not prophesied in thy name, cast out devils in thy name, done many wonderful works in thy name?"

Now what saith our Lord to this? "Then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me."

Mark, here are they that prophesy in his name, and yet perish in his wrath; in his name cast out devils, and then are cast out themselves; in his name do many wonderful works, and yet perish for wicked workers.

The profession of religion will no more keep a man from perishing, than calling a ship the ‘Safeguard’, or the ‘Goodspeed,’ will keep her from foundering.

As many go to heaven with the fear of hell in their hearts; so, many go to hell with the name of Christ in their mouths. Now then, if many may perish under a profession of godliness, then may a man be a high professor of religion and yet be but almost a Christian.

Objection. But is it not said by Christ himself, "he that confesses me before men, him will I confess before my father in heaven?"

Now, for Christ to say that he will confess us before the Father, is equivalent to a promise of eternal life; for if Jesus Christ confess us, God the Father will never disown us.

True, they that confess Christ shall be confessed by him; and it is as true that this confession is equivalent to a promise of salvation. But now you must know that professing Christ, is not confessing him; for to profess Christ is one thing, to confess Christ is another: confession is a living testimony for Christ in a time when religion suffers; profession may be only a lifeless formality in a time when religion prospers. To confess Christ is to choose his ways and own them. T o profess Christ is to plead for his ways and yet live besides them. Profession may be from a feigned love to the ways of Christ, but confession is from a rooted love to the person of Christ.

To profess Christ is to own him when none deny him; to confess Christ, is to plead for him, and suffer for him, when others oppose him. Hypocrites may be professors, but the martyrs are the true confessors: profession is swimming down the stream, confession is a swimming against the stream. Now, many may swim with the stream like the dead fish that cannot swim against the stream with the living fish; many may profess Christ that cannot confess Christ; and so, notwithstanding their profession are but almost Christians.

4. To come yet nearer: “A man may go far in opposing his sin, and yet be but almost a Christian." How far a man may go in this work, I shall show you in seven progressive instances.

1. A man "may be convinced of sin and yet be but almost a Christian:" For,

1. Conviction may be rational, as well as spiritual; it may be from a natural conscience enlightened by the Word, without the effectual work of the Spirit, applying sin to the heart.

2. Convictions may be worn out; they many times go off and end not in sound conversion; saith the church, "We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have brought forth wind." (Isaiah 26:18). This is the complaint of the church in reference to the unprofitableness of their afflictions; and it may be the complaint of most in reference to the unprofitableness of their convictions.

3. Many take convictions of sin to be conversion from sin and so, sit down and rest in their convictions. That is a sad complaint God makes of Ephraim: Ephraim is an unwise son, for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children. Now then, if convictions may be only from natural conscience, if they may be worn out or may be mistaken and rested in for conversion, then a man may have convictions and be but almost a Christian.

Secondly, "A man may mourn for sin, and yet be but almost a Christian;" so did Saul, so did Esau, for the loss of his birth-right, which was his sin, and therefore he is called by the Spirit of God profane Esau; yet, he sought it again carefully with tears.

Objection. But does not Christ pronounce them blessed that mourn? Blessed are they that mourn.

Sure then, if a man mourn for sin, he is in a good condition: you see, saith Nazianzen, that salvation is joined with sorrow.

Solution. I answer, it is true, that they who mourn for sin in the sense Christ there speaks of, are blessed; but all mourning for sin, does not therefore render us blessed.

1. True mourning for sin must flow from spiritual convictions of the evil and vileness, and damnable nature of sin.

Now, all that mourn for sin do not do it from a thorough work of spiritual conviction upon the soul; they have not a right sense of the evil and vileness of sin.

2. True mourning for sin, is more for the evil that is in sin, than the evil that comes by sin; more because it dishonors God and wounds Christ, and grieves the Spirit, and makes the soul unlike God, than because it damns the soul.

Now, there are many that mourn for sin, not so much for the evil that is in it, as for the evil that it brings with it; there is mourning for sin in hell: you read of weeping and wailing there. The damned are weeping and mourning to eternity; there is all sorrow and no comfort, as in heaven, there is peace without trouble, joy without mourning, so in hell there is trouble without peace, mourning without joy, weeping and wailing incessantly; but it is for the evil they feel by sin and not for the evil that is in sin. So that a man may mourn for sin and yet be but almost a Christian: it may grieve him to think of perishing for sin, when it does not grieve him that he is defiled and polluted by sin.

Thirdly, “A man may make large confession of sin to God and to others, and yet be but almost a Christian.”

How ingenuously does Saul confess his sin to David? I have sinned, saith he, thou art more righteous than I! Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.

So Judas makes a full confession; "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood."

Yet Saul and Judas were both rejected of God; so that a man may confess sin, and yet he but almost a Christian.

Objection. But is not confession of sin, a character of a child of God? Does not the apostle say, “If we confess our sins, God is

Objection. But is not confession of sin, a character of a child of God? Does not the apostle say, “If we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive them: "no man was ever kept out of heaven for his confessed badness, though many are kept out of heaven for their supposed goodness.

Judah, in Hebrew, signifies confession; now Judah got the kingdom from Reuben; confession of sin is the way to the kingdom of heaven.

There are some that confess sin, and are saved; there are others that confess sin, and perish.

1. Many confess sin merely cut of custom, and not out of conscience: you shall have many that will never pray, but they will make a long confession of sin, and yet never feel the weight or burden of it upon their consciences.

2. Many will confess lesser sins, and yet conceal greater; like the patient in Plutarch, that complained to his physician of his finger when his liver was rotten.

3. Many will confess sin in the general, or confess themselves sinners, and yet see little and say less of their particular sins; an implicit confession, as one saith, is almost as bad as an implicit faith.

Where confession is right, it will be distinct, especially of those sins that were our chief sins.

So David confesses his blood-guiltiness and adultery, so Paul his blasphemy, persecution, and injury against the saints. It is bad to hear men confess that they are great sinners and yet cannot confess their sins. Though the least sin be too bad to be committed, yet there is no sin too bad to be confessed.

4. Many will confess sin, but it is only under extremity, that is, not free and voluntary. Pharaoh confesses his sin, but it was when judgment compelled him. "I have sinned against the Lord," saith he; but it was when he had eight plagues upon him.

Many do by their sins as mariners do by their goods, cast them out in a storm, wishing for them again in a calm. Confession should come like water out of a spring, which runs freely; not like water out of a still, which is forced by fire.

5. Many confess their sins, but with no intent to forsake sin; they confess the sins they have committed, but do not leave the sins they have confessed.

Many men use confession as Lewis XI of France did his crucifix: he would swear an oath and then kiss it, and swear again and then kiss it again. So many sin and then confess that they do not well, but yet never strive to do better.

Mr. Torshel tells a story of a minister he knew that would be often drunk, and when he came into the pulpit, would confess it very lamentingly, and yet, no sooner was be out of the pulpit, but he would be drunk again; and this he would do as constantly as men follow their trades.

Now then, if a man may confess sin merely out of custom; if he may confess lesser sins, and yet conceal greater; if he may confess sin only in the general or only under extremity, or if he may confess sin without any intent to forsake sin, then surely a man may confess sin and yet be but almost a Christian.

Fourthly. "A man may forsake sin and yet be but almost a Christian;" he may leave his lust and his wicked ways, which he sometimes lived in and, in the judgment of the world, become a new man, and yet not be a new creature. Simon Magus, when he hears Philip preaching concerning the kingdom of God, leaves his sorcery and witchcraft, and believes (Acts 8:13).

Objection. But you will say, this seems contrary to Scripture, for that says, “He that confesseth and forsaketh sin shall have mercy;" but I confess sin, yea, not only so, but also I forsake sin; sure therefore this mercy is my portion, it belongs to me.

Answer. It is true, that where the soul forsakes sin from a right principle, after a right manner, to a right end; where he forsakes sin as sin, as being contrary to God, and the purity of his nature - this declares that soul to be right with God and the promise shall be made good to it, “He shall find mercy."


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