« السابقةمتابعة »
timent as an article of your belief, but should consider it as a truth according to godliness, and seek for the advantages resulting from it. For you will find it of little avail another day that you adopted the sentiment into your theological system, if you have never experienced any benefit from it in a way of humility and love, of consolation and joy. Viewed in such a connexion with experimental religion, you should meditate on it; considered as thus important, you should endeavour to vindicate it from the hateful charges of the sons of pride.
Again: Are you, on divine authority, not only convinced that the doctrine is true, but also persuaded of your interest in the love it reveals? Remember, then, the exalted privileges to which you are chosen. Chosen you are to a participation of grace, with all its immense donations; to the fruition of glory, with all its eternal felicity. Regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and perseverance in faith-these, Christian, with all that inconceivable bliss which results from the enjoyment of God himself, are the blessings designed for you in the decree of election. Surely, then, with such blessings in hand, and such prospects in view, it is but reasonable that you should be entirely devoted to God, and live his obedient servant. If gratitude have any persuasive energy, if love have any constraining influence, here they should operate with all their force. Henceforth the glory of God, and the honour of that adorable person by whose mediation you come to enjoy these wonderful favours, should be your main concern, and the end of all your actions. Remember also the honourable character conferred upon you in the sacred writings. Among those names of distinction which the people of God bear, that of the elect is none of the least remarkable. Of this character, the Spirit of Wisdom reminds believers, when he urges upon them the duties to which they are called, "Ye are a chosen generation, a peculiar people. Would we know to what end they were chosen, and why they are a people distinguished from
others as God's peculiar property? The following words inform us, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who,' as a fruit of his electing love, ‘hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.'* Here is the Christian's duty in general, and to perform it should be his constant business; for he was ' chosen in Christ, that he might be holy and without blame before him in love.'
Or is my reader one of those to whom the remark would be applicable, This man entertains high notions in religion, and pretends to sublime attainments in knowledge. Eternal purposes and absolute sovereignty, unchangeable love and distinguishing grace, are his favourite topics. Yet he lives in the open neglect of the plainest precepts and the most important duties; while pride and covetousness, wrath and malice, with various other unsanctified tempers, govern his conduct, and render him a scandal to a religious profession.' The very thought of such a reflection is grieving to godly persons; and woe to that professor to whom it may be justly applied! If this be your case, your state is awful indeed. You may dispute, as long as you please, in vindication of divine sovereignty in the affairs of grace; but it will all be to little purpose, either to yourself or to others. For it is plain that you are an enemy in your heart, and a rebel in your life, against that infinite Sovereign whose rights you pretend to maintain. You virtually deny his absolute authority, and renounce his supreme dominion, by such a neglect of his precepts, and such a transgression of his laws. Sinful appetites are the law you obey, and carnal pleasure the end you pursue; while your Maker and Lord has neither the affection of your heart, nor the service of your hands. May that omnipotent, sovereign grace, of which you talk without any experience, deliver and save your sinking soul! For, verily, it would be hard to find a more shocking character out of hell.
* 1 Peter, ii. 9.
Of Grace, as it reigns in our Effectual CALLING.
We have seen, in the preceding chapter, that grace presided in the eternal counsels, and reigned, as an absolute sovereign, in the decree of election. Let us now consider the same glorious grace as exerting its benign influence in the regeneration and Effectual Calling of all who shall ever be saved. Election makes no alteration in the real state of its objects; for as they were considered, in that gracious purpose, in a sinful, dying condition, so they continue in that situation till the energy of the Holy Spirit, and the power of evangelical truth, reach their hearts. The means being decreed, as well as the end, it is absolutely necessary, in order to accomplish the great design of election, that all the chosen, in their several generations, should be born of the Spirit and converted to Jesus; called of God, and bearing his image.
That important change which takes place in the mind and views of a sinner when converted to Christ, is frequently signified in the infallible word by being 'called of God; called by grace, called by the gospel.'* In performing this work of heavenly mercy, the eternal Spirit is the grand agent, and the divine Word is the honoured instrument. Are men in a natural state considered as asleep in sin, and dead to God? When they are called, their minds are enlightened, and spiritual life is communicated. The Spirit of God, speaking to the conscience by the truth, quickens the dead sinner, shows him his awful state, and alarms his fears. 'I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live.-The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. -Awake, thou that sleepest.'-Are they considered as having departed from God, and at a distance from
* 1 Cor. i. 9. Gal. i. 15. 2 Thess. ii. 14.
him; in the way of destruction, yet afraid to return? then the language of the gospel is, 'Return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' Such a revelation of grace being made in the gospel, such invitations being addressed to perishing sinners, the Spirit of truth, in effectual calling, gives them encouragement, from these declarations, to return to God, and enables them to look for life, and expect salvation, from the hand of Him against whom they have sinned, and from whom they have so deeply revolted. Such, in a general view, is the nature of that heavenly blessing which is the subject of our present inquiry.
That any sinner is called out of darkness into marvellous light,' is entirely owing to divine grace. 'God called me by his grace,'* is the language of Paul; nor do any of the saints ascribe their conversion to any other cause. Man, being by nature dead in sin, unacquainted with its evil, elated with a fond conceit of his own abilities, looks upon his offences against God rather as pitiable failings than shocking crimes. He extenuates his faults, and overrates his duties. He depreciates the work of Christ, and places his dependence on his own supposed good performances. Being entirely ignorant of his own moral weakness, the total corruption of his nature, and the extensive demands of the divine law, he endeavours, if he has any concern at all about his soul, to establish his own righteousness, as the principal ground of his acceptance with the high and holy God. He trusts in some general mercy to be exercised towards him through Jesus Christ, to make up the deficiencies attending his own sincere and well-meant attempts to perform his duty. In case of a relapse into open and scandalous sins, he flatters himself with the hopes of pardon, and of having an interest in the love of God, if he does but forsake his past transgressions, be sorry for them, and amend his ways for the future. This,
* Gal. i. 15.
he thinks, is the obvious and easy way of placating an offended God, and obtaining the divine favour. On such a sandy foundation are the hopes of the generality built. Thus we lie asleep in sin, and dreaming of happiness, on the verge of a dreadful precipice, yet unapprehensive of danger, till reigning grace exert its influence to recover us from our native ruin.
But when the Spirit of God convinces of sin by the holy law, and manifests its extensive demands to the conscience of a sinner; when he is informed that every sin subjects the offender to a dreadful curse; then his fears are alarmed, and his endeavours are quickened. Being aroused from his spiritual slumber, he is more earnest and punctual in the performance of religious duties, in endeavours after holiness, and in the pursuit of happiness. He is not content with that careless and superficial way of performing devotional services, which before satisfied his conscience and gratified his pride. For guilt now burdens his soul, and conscience sharpens her sting; while the terrors of the Almighty seem to be set in array against him. The duties he has neglected, the mercies he has abused, and the daring acts of rebellion he has committed against his Maker and Sovereign, crowd in upon his mind, and rack his very soul. The justice of the Lawgiver appears ready to vindicate the law as holy and good, and, like an incensed adversary, unsheaths the sword, and makes a loud demand for vengeance. In such a situation, he cannot but earnestly seek to escape the impending ruin. But yet, his heart being deeply leavened with legal pride, and unacquainted with the divine righteousness, he labours to obtain salvation, as it were, by the works of the law.' When, by the Spirit and word of truth, he is. further made sensible of his natural depravity, and of the defects attending his best performances--when he considers how very imperfect they all appear in his own eye, and that a perfect righteousness is absolutely necessary to his acceptance with the eternalJudge