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......therefore, those that this day profess the Gospel, for the generality of them they are such, that, notwithstanding their profession, they are very ignorant of that glorious influence and luster of the same; I say, they are ignorant of the virtue and efficacy of the glorious things of Christ held forth by and in the Gospel, which doth argue their not being under the Covenant of Grace, but rather under the law or old covenant ( Corinthians 4:3).

As, for instance, if you do come among some professors of the Gospel, in general you shall have them pretty busy and ripe; also able to hold you in a very large discourse in several points of the same glorious Gospel; but if you come to the same people and ask them concerning heart-work, or what work the Gospel hath wrought on them, and what appearance they have had of the sweet influences and virtues on their souls and consciences, it may be they will give you such an answer as this — I do find by the preaching thereof that I am changed, and turned from my sins in a good measure, and also have learned (but only in tongue), to distinguish between the law and the Gospel, so that for the one — that is, for the Gospel — I can plead, and also can show the weakness and unprofitableness of the other.

And thus far, it is like they may go, which is not far enough to prove them under the Covenant of Grace, though they may have their tongues so largely tipped with the profession of the same ( 2 Peter 2:20) where he saith “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which was not a saving knowledge, “they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end” of that man “is worse than the beginning” ( Matthew 25:1-4, etc.; Matthew 7:22).

Objection. But, you will say, is not this a fair declaring of the work of grace, or doth it not discover that, without all gainsaying, we are under the Covenant of Grace, when we are able, not only to speak of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to tell, and that by experience, that we have been changed from worse to better, from sin to a holy life, by leaving of the same, and that by hearing of the Word preached? Answer

1. A man may, in the first place, be able to talk of all the mysteries of the Gospel, and that like an angel of God, and yet be no more in God’s account than the sounding of a drum, brass, or the tinkling of a cymbal, which are things that, notwithstanding their sound and great noise, are absolutely void of life and motion, and so are accounted with God as nothing — that is, no Christians, no believers, not under the Covenant of Grace for all that ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-4).

2. Men may not only do this, but may also be changed in reality, for a season, from what they formerly were, and yet be nothing at all in the Lord’s account as to an eternal blessing. Read 2 Peter 2:20, the Scripture which I mentioned before; for, indeed, that one Scripture is enough to prove all that I desire to say as to this very thing; for, if you observe, there is enfolded therein these following things —

(1.) That reprobates may attain to a knowledge of Christ.

(2.) This knowledge may be of such weight and force, that, for the present, it may make them escape the pollutions of the world, and this by hearing the Gospel. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end of that man is worse than the beginning.”

[Some professors, take them at the best, they are but like dogs, spewing out their filth for a time.] Now that they are reprobates, dogs, or sows, read further; “But,” saith he, “it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” ( 2 Peter 2:22).

Objection. The last part of the objection. But, say you, our practices in the worship of God shall testify for us that we are not under the law; for we have by God’s goodness attained to as exact a way of waking in the ordinances of God, and as near the examples of the Apostles, as ever any churches since the primitive times, as we judge. Answer. What then? Do you think that the walking in the order of the churches of old, as to matter of outward worship, is sufficient to clear you of your sins at the judgment-day? or, do you think that God will be contented with a little bodily subjection to that which shall vanish and fade like a flower, when the Lord shall come from Heaven in flaming fire, with His mighty angels ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8).

Alas, alas, how will such professors as these are fall before the judgment-seat of Christ! Then such a question as this, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” will make them be speechless, and fall down into everlasting burnings, thousands on a heap; for you must know that it is not then your crying, Lord, Lord, that will stand you in stead; not your saying, We have ate and drank in Thy presence, that will keep you from standing on the left hand of Christ. It is the principle as well as the practice that shall be inquired into at that day. Question. The principle, you will say, what do you mean by that? Answer. My meaning is, the Lord Jesus Christ will then inquire and examine whether the spirit from which you acted was legal or evangelical — that is, whether it was the Spirit of adoption that did draw you out to the thing you took in hand, or a mere moral principle, together with some shallow and common illuminations into the outward way of the worship of God, according to Gospel rule.

Question. But, you will say, it is like, How should this be made manifest and appear? Answer. I shall speak briefly in answer hereunto as followeth — First, then, that man that doth take up any of the ordinances of God — namely, as prayer, baptism, breaking of bread, reading, hearing, alms-deeds, or the like; I say, he that doth practice any of these, or such like, supposing thereby to procure the love of Christ to his own soul, he doth do what he doth from a legal, and not from an evangelical or Gospel spirit: as thus — for a man to suppose that God will hear him for his prayer’s sake, for his alm’s sake, for his humiliation’s sake, or because he hath promised to make God amends hereafter, whereas there is no such thing as a satisfaction to be made to God by our prayers or whatever we can do; I say, there is no such way to have reconciliation with God in. And so also for men to think, because they are got into such and such an ordinance, and have crowded themselves into such and such a society, that therefore they have got pretty good shelter from the wrath of the Almighty; when, alas, poor souls, there is no such thing. No, but God will so set His face against such professors, that His very looks will make them to tear their very flesh; yea, make them to wish would they had the biggest millstone in the world hanged about their neck, and they cast into the midst of the sea. For, friends, let me tell you, though you can now content yourselves without the holy, harmless, undefiled, perfect righteousness of Christ; yet there is a day a-coming in which there is not one of you shall be saved but those that are and shall be found clothed with that righteousness; God will say to all the rest, “Take them, bind them hand and foot, and cast them into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” ( Matthew 22:13).

For Christ will not say unto men in that day, Come, which of you made a profession of Me, and walked in church-fellowship with My saints: no; but then it shall be inquired into, who have the reality of the truth of grace wrought in their hearts.

And, for certain, he that misseth of that shall surely be cast into the Lake of Fire, there to burn with the devils and damned men and women; there to undergo the wrath of an eternal God, and that not for a day, a month, a year, but for ever, for ever, for ever and ever; there is that which cutteth to the quick. Therefore, look to it, and consider now what you do, and whereon you hang your souls; for it is not every pin that will hold in the judgment, not every foundation that will be able to hold up the house against those mighty, terrible, soul-drowning floods and destroying tempests which then will roar against the soul and body of a sinner ( Luke 6:47-49). And, if the principle be rotten, all will fall, all will come to nothing. Now, the principle is this — Not to do things because we would be saved, but to do them from this — namely, because we do really believe that we are and shall be saved.

But do not mistake me; I do not say we should slight any holy duties; God forbid; but I say, he that doth look for life because he doth do good duties, he is under the Covenant of Works, the law; let his duties be never so eminent, so often, so fervent, so zealous. Ay, and I say, as I said before, that if any man or men, or multitudes of people, do get into never so high, so eminent; and clear practices and Gospel order, as to church discipline, if it be done to this end I have been speaking of, from this principle, they must and shall have these sad things fall to their share which I have made mention of. Objection. But, you will say, can a man use Gospel ordinances with a legal spirit? Answer. Yes, as easily as the Jews could use and practice circumcision, though not the moral or Ten Commandments. For this I shall be bold to affirm, that it is not the commands of the New Testament administration that can keep a man from using of its self [that administration] in a legal spirit; for know this for certain, that it is the principle, not the command, that makes the subjector to the same either legal or evangelical, and so his obedience from that command to be from legal convictions or evangelical principles.

An excerpt from Bunyan.