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continued ignorant of the enmity of his heart, until God taught him what he was. "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death." God opened his eyes to see himself and his holy law, by which he was bound and condemned; and this discovered the total corruption of his heart, and destroyed all his false and groundless hopes of the divine favour. But God takes different ways to make men know the plague of their own hearts. Very often he does this, by some special dispensation of providence. How many live at ease and unconscious of the total depravity of their hearts, until they are sorely afflicted and bereaved. This method God took to teach Manasseh, that prodigy of wickedness. He taught him by the briars and thorns, that saving knowledge, which none of the priests or prophets could teach him. He humbled him in the dust under a realizing sense of the aggravated guilt of his malignant heart.
3. God can teach men the most useful knowledge respecting the vanity of the world. Neither age, nor common experience, nor human instruction will make men sensible of the vanity of all earthly pursuits and enjoyments. But God can make them see and feel their vanity. He taught Solomon
that knowledge of the world, which all the learning of Egypt could not teach him. He made him see and feel that the world and the things of the world were vanities of vanities, and a vexation of spirit. God can effectually teach men the vanity of the world, by only opening their eyes, and causing them to look into eternity. He has taught thousands and thousands, in this way, to renounce the world and the things of the world, and to choose himself for their supreme portion.
4. God can teach men the most useful knowledge respecting their own frailty and mortality. Neither observation, nor human instruction will make them realize how frail and mortal they are. Naturally their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations, and that they shall live forever, and not see corruption; butGod can make them know their end, and the measure of their days, what it is, and how frail they are. David therefore prayed to God and said, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Though we see wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, we shall not realize that we are born to die, and are constantly walking on the side of the grave and verge of eternity, unless God effectually teaches us our frailty and mortality.
Finally, God can teach men the the gospel dispensation, Christ most profitable knowledge concerning the worth of the soul. The soul of every person is infinitely precious. It is capable of existing forever, and of enjoying eternal happiness, or suffering eternal misery. Nevertheless, all men naturally despise their own souls, and neglect their immortal interests for the sake of the trifles and vanities of this life. But God can make them realize the import of Christ's solemn question. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" When God undertakes to teach men himself effectually and savingly, he shows them the worth of their souls, and causes them to seek and secure the one thing needful. And this none can teach but God only.
I. If God can teach men better than they can teach one another, then there is no ground to despair of the effectual instruction of any under the light of the gospel. It appears from long and universal observation and experience, that mankind are naturally unwilling to receive instruction respecting spiritual and divine subjects.Under the Mosaic dispensation, God appointed priests and prophets to teach his people his character and their character, his commands and their duty. Under
has appointed his ministers to teach men the doctrines and duties of his religion, and to beseech them, in his name to become reconciled to God. But priests and prophets, and apostles, and their successors, have always been very unsuccessful in their religious instructions. Some have misunder. stood them, and many more have hated and rejected them, and chosen to live and die in fatal ignorance. Paul has planted, and Apollos has watered,but generally with little or no success. Men have always been able to resist all human instructions, and they are still able to resist them. But there is no ground to despair of the effectual instruction of any under the gospel. God can take the work into his own hands, and irresistibly and effectually teach the most stupid, careless, and obstinate. There is no ground to despair of the instruction of any nation, who enjoy the means of grace. God often instructed and reformed his own people, after they had fallen into a national deciension and stupidity, notwith standing all the efforts of their religious teachers to enlighten and restrain them.
The prophets, time after time, viewed them as incurable and in dispondence gave them up as past recovery by any mere human instructions and exertions. But God repeatedly brought about a national reformation. Though he does
not instruct without means; yet he can use new means or employ old ones, to instruct whole nations what they had long neglected or refused to learn. He can employ means and make them effect. ual, to instruct, to reform, and to convert heathen as well as christian nations, and it appears from his promises, that he will fill the whole world with the knowledge of his glory, as soon as his power, in consistency with his goodness and wisdom, can bring about such a great and happy reformation and revolution among the nations of the earth. There is no city, nor town, nor village, nor family so ignorant or corrupt but he can effectually teach and reform them. He can instruct by afflictions and bereavements those who have neglected and refused to read his word, or to hear his gospel, or to regard private instructions and admonitions. He can cause the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the stupid to feel. He has access to the understandings consciences, and hearts of all sinners at all times and in all places, and can form one and another, and as many as he pleases vessels of mercy. In times of darkness and declension, the friends of God have no right to despond, as Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah did. God can effectually teach, when other teachers apparently labour in vain, and spend their strength for nought. 2. If God instructs in the manwe have heard, then we
must conclude, that mankind are naturally very unwilling to be instructed. If they were willing to receive the instruction they might easily and early receive it from the common and ordinary means of instructions, which God is using with them. He is continually teaching them his being and perfections, by his works. "The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament sheweth his handy work; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." And the invisible things of him, from the crea tion of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God head. So that all in the christian, and even in the heathen world are without excuse, if they remain ignorant of their Creator, Preserver and Benefactor, and do not glorify him as God. God is continually teaching them in the common course of providence, their frailty and mortality, by frequently calling them around the sick, the dying, and the dead. And he is teaching them by his word, the depravity of their hearts, the worth of their souls, and the importance of secur ing their salvation, by repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If they were willing to be instructed, these and other outward and ordinary means of instruction would be sufficient to lead them to the knowledge and practice of their duty, withou
God's using other more powerful means of instruction. The truth is, mankind are born like the wild ass's colt, and choose to live in ignorance and stupidity. They say to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." They naturally hate parental instruction in their childhood and youth, and public in struction, in every succeeding period of life. The heathen world all live without the knowledge of the only living and true God, and much the largest portion of the christian world, live without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world, though they have line upon line, and precept upon precept. How very few learn their character, condition, and duty from the common and constant means of instruction.God is obliged to employ other and more energetic means to awaken those whom he intends to awaken, to convince those whom he intends to convince, and to convert those whom he intends to convert. No one ever knows his utter aversion to religious instruction, until God undertakes to instruct him himself. This E phraim acknowledged. God says, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastized me, and I was chas tized, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." The awakened and convinced sinner is astonished at his former stupidity and opposition to divine instruction.
3. If God instructs men in the manner that has been said; then they never can have any excuse for not harkening to his instructions. They often think they have reasons, and sometimes good reasons, for not harkening to hu man instructions. Children are apt to imagine, that they have good excuses for not regarding the instructions of their parents and others. They may think. that parental instructions are unnecessary, unwise, and unimportant, and therefore unworthy their attention and regard; or they may think, that they are given at an improper time and in an improper manner; and for such reasons imagine, that they are excusable in refusing to yield an obedient ear. But they can have no such excuses for disregarding divine instructions; for God never gives them any unnecessary, or unwise, or unimportant, or unseasonable instructions. A people may think, that their public teachers give them unprofitable, un. scriptural, or erroneous instructions; and feel themselves justified in disregarding them. But they never can find any excuse or palliation for disregarding the instructions which God gives them, by his word, or providence. He knows when to instruct them, how to instruct them, and what instructions to give them. He never teaches only when human instructions fail of producing their desired effect. He knows when men disregard or
misimprove human instruction, in this pointed language, "Why
and need his own instruction, and in such cases, he takes them into his own hand, and gives them that kind of instruction, which their case requires. If they need to be instructed by losses, or by sickness, or by bereavements, he employs such means to instruct them, though he knows they will be grievous and hard to be borne. He never sends too few nor too many, too light or too heavy afflictions. The instructed, therefore, never have any reason to disregard the time, or manner, or duration of the painful instructions he gives them. As soon as they learn what they need to learn by the things which they suffer, he will remove their burdens, and give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
4. If God teaches in such a manner as we have heard; then those who disregard or abuse his instructions are extremely criminal. They reject the best instructions and manifest the most obstinate and unteachable spirit, which is highly displeasing to God. He requires them to be still and humble themselves under his mighty hand; but their hearts rise in direct enmity and opposition to him, while he is using the most proper and powerful means to teach them humiliation and self-abasement. For such a spirit he severely reproves them. He upbraids them
should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more." He said to Ezekiel whom he sent to instruct his people, "My peo ple will not hear you, for they will not hear me." God tells them as. one man, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee." And again, be says, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would of none of my reproof. I will laugh at your ca lamity, I will mock when your fear cometh." There is another threatening still more expressive of God's displeasure towards every despiser and abuser of divine warnings, admonitions, and instructions. "He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Hence,
5. Those who are under the be reaving, chastising, and instructive hand of God, are in a very critical, trying, and dangerous situation. God does not afflict them willingly nor undesignedly. He does not take them under his own immediate instruction for nothing. He intends to answer some wise and holy purpose by all the trails, afflictions, and bereavements, with which he visits them. He always means to make them better or worse, by all the dispensations !