There may be a very remarkable external change from vile and blasphemous opinions, idolatrous and profane practices, to a profession of truth and suitableness of the outward conversation to it, where there is no saving or inward change made of the heart, from the love of secret lusts to the love of Christ and His grace; the one without the other may be occasioned by the power of example, the majesty and clearness of truth, which is in nothing contrary to nature’s light, the beauty of holiness shining in the conversation of professors, and outward advantages which sometimes may attend the profession of truth and holiness: for these here who were yet given to the lusts of their flesh and much wantonness had once clean escaped from the blasphemous opinion and profane and idolatrous practices of those without the church, who are here called “them that live in error.”
Men without any change of nature may seem for a while to forsake their sins and to become religious. They may reform past ways of wickedness that they used to live in. If vicious, they may become moral; if profane, they may become religious. They may refrain from the gratification of their lusts. They may escape the pollutions of the world through lust (2 Peter 2:20). They may curb violent appetites. They seem to be pretty thorough in their reformation of a profane and vicious and sensual life. 2. Men without any change of nature may be affected with sorrow and grief for their sins. They may be affected by reflecting on the injustice and unreasonableness or of the ingratitude of the things they have done or the folly of them. 3. Men without any change of nature for a while seem to have an affection for God and Christ, and therefore may be affected in prayer and have an affection for ministers, those who preach the Word, and have an affection for good people and have a zeal for religion. Or it may be that they flatter themselves that it is well with them. They think something they have experienced is conversion and there is no need to take any further care about it. So that faith, a belief of the Word of God men may have, won’t hold unless their natures are changed.
REASON 1 is from the powerfulness of unmortified corruption. Nature is a more powerful principle of action than anything that opposes it. Nature, whether it is corrupt nature or sanctified nature, is powerful and will overcome other things. If nature is not changed it is a difficult thing to overcome. Nature may be restrained and hindered for a while, but it won’t be conquered. The stream of a river may be stopped for a while with a dam, but it can’t be stopped always. It will have a course there or somewhere else. When natural men reform their lives, deny their lusts, and live a strict and religious life and are painful and earnest in religious duties, it is not natural, but it is against nature. ’Tis forced against nature. Now it may be observed in all cases that a force upon nature is not constant. It may be maintained and kept up a while, but nature at last will get the victory. So natural men may, while under an impression, and while the strength of a resolution lasts, restrain corrupt nature, but that will carry them away at last.
In this discussion we cover the characters of Simple, Sloth, and Presumption, then Formalist and Hypocrisy. We also discuss at length the temporary loss of assurance of salvation and distinguish it from God’s hiding of His face from His children to teach them to not live on their frames and feelings.