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AN OPENING APPEAL TO THE READER. Are you a Christian? This question deserves your most serious attention. Your consistency as a man, and your forgiveness as
a sinner; your usefulness in life, and your peace in death ; your acceptance at the bar of God, and your happiness in eternity, are all involved in your being a Christian. The Son of God became incarnate, and died upon the cross in ignominy and blood, that you might be a Christian. The Bible is in your hands, the sabbath periodically returns, and the ministers of Christ preach to you “the word of reconciliation,” that you may become a Christian. If this result do not follow, “it were better for you that you had not been born." Permit me, with sincere concern for your salvation, to fix your thoughts upon this solemn inquiry—are you a Christian ? Do not be angry that your Christianity seems to be called in question. "Thou
hast a name that thou livest;" but the New Testament applies the term Christian to none but sincere and practical disciples of "our Lord Jesus Christ ;" and it plainly teaches you that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” 2 Cor. v. 17. No man is born a Christian ; “ye must be born again,” John iii. 7. Baptism does not make a man a Christian ; “ that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” John iii. 6. Pious descent cannot entail the character and privileges of a Christian, nor can any mere human administration of sacraments convey to you the grace ; they who “believe on His name, are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” John i. 12, 13.
be moral and upright, amiable and charitable, and yet not be a Christian ; "he that hath the Son hath life," 1 John v. 12; and he only. You inay be regular in your attendance upon the public ordinances of religion, and be admired for your consistency, and commended for your zeal, and still not be a Christian ; “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love,” Gal. v. 6. Paul had much whereof to glory according to the flesh, but “ what things were gain to him, those he counted loss for Christ,” Phil. iii. 4--9. It is indeed true that on these several accounts you are called a Christian, but of what importance is a name, if you want the thing ? Will the sight of food, or the mere record of your name among the guests at a feast, satisfy your hunger? Will the knowledge that there is a heaven, insure your admission to it?
Will it profit you any thing, when you appear at “ the judgment seat of Christ,” to have been called of men a Christian, or to have called yourself such, if He should then say to you,
“Depart from me, I know you not ?” Matt. vii. 21-23. Reader, your soul is of unspeakable value. Opportunity to secure its salvation is now given to you. Light shines around your path, and God is waiting to be gracious to “all who call upon him in truth.” There is too much reason to fear that multitudes are deluded by the name of Christian, and perish without the blessing. Most earnestly do I invite you to " stand still and consider." I do not speak to you as "a heathen man,” knowing nothing of Christ; nor as a “profane person,” caring nothing about him; nor asan avowed infidel, despising or denying him ; it is sufficiently obvious that these are not Christians. You make a nearer approach to the gate of the kingdom than they do : but if you are only a Christian in name, your condition is still one that awakens deep anxiety. It is, alas, fatally defective, notwithstanding all your personal commendations, and your kinder thoughts and better feelings. Your position is fraught with danger, as well as surrounded with mercy. It involves the most weighty responsibility, and demands of you an immediate and thorough decision to be the Lord's alone. Bear with me; “I seek not yours, but you.” You must become something radically different, and essentially "new," or you will fall short of the kingdom of heaven. Sit down to the perusal of this short treatise, impressed with the unutterable importance of the question which it has started, and the object at which it aims. Read with seriousness, with candour, with sincere desire to know and obey the truth. Read alone, where you can give free vent to every struggling emotion, and every rising desire. Compare all you read with the Holy Scriptures, and pray to God to "
open your heart to attend to the things which are spoken.”
My first effort will be to put your position fairly before you.
THE POSITION OF THE NOMINAL CHRISTIAN
“ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” This is your position ; a state of peculiar mercy and privilege, but still one of affecting deficiency and imminent peril, demanding and deserving your most enlightened attention and anxious care. Perhaps it cannot better be brought before you, than by the case of the inquiring scribe to whom Jesus addressed the words which stand at the head of this section. “ And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he [Jesus] had answered them well, asked him which was the first commandment of all ?" He listened attentively whilst the Saviour showed him how the law is fulfilled in love ; in supreme love to God, and equal love to our neighbour; and then responded, “Well, master, thou hast said the truth : for there is one God, and there is none other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength,