What is it like to live fully as a Christian in comparison to the “almost Christian” who Matthew Meade discusses here?
The altogether Christian is much in duty and yet much above duty in regard of dependence. He lives in his obedience, but not upon his obedience. He lives upon Christ and His righteousness. The almost Christian fails in this: He is much in duty, but not above it, but rests in it. He works for rest, and he rests in his works. He cannot come to believe and obey too. If he believes, then he thinks there is no need of obedience, and so casts off that; if he be much in obedience, then he casts off believing, and thinks there is no need of that. He cannot say with David: “I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments” (Psa 119:166).
The altogether Christian is universal in his obedience. He does not obey one command and neglect another, do one duty and cast off another; but he has respect to all the commandments. He endeavors to leave every sin, and love every duty. The almost Christian fails in this. His obedience is partial and piece-meal. If he obeys one command, he breaks another. The duties that least cross his lust, he is much in; but those that do, he lays aside. The Pharisees fasted, paid tithes etc., but they did not lay aside their covetousness, their oppression; they “devoured widows’ houses;” they were unnatural to parents.
The altogether Christian makes God the chief end of all his performances. Now the almost Christian fails in this. For he that was never truly cast out of himself, can have no higher end than himself. It is dangerous to be almost a Christian, in that it stills and serves to quiet conscience. Now it is very dangerous to quiet conscience with anything but the blood of Christ. It is bad being at peace till Christ speaks peace. Nothing can truly pacify conscience less than that which pacifies God, and that is the blood of Christ (Heb 9:14). Now the almost Christian quiets conscience but not with the blood of Christ; it is not a peace flowing from Christ’s propitiation, but a peace rising from a formal profession; not a peace of Christ’s giving, but a peace of his own making. He silences and bridles conscience with a form of godliness and so makes it give way to an undoing soul destroying peace. He rocks it asleep in the cradle of duties, and probably never wakes more till death or judgment. Ah, my brethren, it is better to have a conscience never quiet than quieted any way but by the blood of sprinkling. A good conscience is the greatest affliction to the saints, and an evil conscience, quiet, is the greatest judgment to sinners.