صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

effect. Now, we having, by our own fault, difabled ourselves; fhall God lofe his right of requiring our talk, because we have thrown away the strength he gave us, wherewithal to perform it? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money, because the debitor has fquandered it away, and is not able to pay him? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do; we need no more to fave us from wrath, but to make ourselves unable for every duty, and to incapacitate ourselves for ferving of God any manner of way, as profane men frequently do: and fo the deeper one is immerfed in fin, he will be the more fecure from wrath; for where God can require no duty of us, we do not fin in omitting it; and where there is no fin, there can be no wrath. (As to what may be urged by the unhumbled foul, against the putting of our stock in Adam's hand; the righteoufnefs of that difpenfation was cleared before.) But moreover, the unrenewed man is daily throwing away the very remains of natural abilities; that light and strength which are to be found amongst the ruins of mankind. Nay, farther, he will not believe his own utter inability to help himself; fo that out of his own mouth he will be condemned. Even thofe who make their natural impotency to good, a cover to their floth, do, with others, delay the work of turning to God from time to time; under convictions, make large promises of reformation, which afterward they never regard; and delay their repentance to a death-bed, as if they could help themselves in a moment; which fpeaks them to be far from á due fenfe of their natural inability, whatever they pretend.

Now, if God can require of men, the duty they are not able to do; he can, in justice, punish them for their not doing it, notwithstanding of their inability. If he have power to exact the debt of obedience: he has alfo power to caft the infolvent debtor in his prifon, for his not paying it. Further, tho' unregenerate men have no gracious abilities; yet they want not natural abilities, which nevertheless they will not improve. There are many things they can do, which they do not, they will not do them; and therefore their damnation will be juft. Nay, all their inability to good is voluntary; they will not come to. Chrift, John v. 40. They will not repent, they will die, Ezek. xviii. 51. So they will be justly condemned: because they will not turn to God, nor come to Chrift; but love their chains better than their liberty, and darkness rather than light, John iii. 19.

Object. (2.) Why do you then preach Chrift to us; call us to come to him, to believe, repent, and ufe the means of falvation? Anf Becaufe it is your duty fo to do. It is your duty to accept of Chrift as he is offered in the gofpel; to repent of your fins, and to be holy in all manner of converfation: these things are commanded you of God; and his command, not your ability, is the meafure of your duty. Moreover, thefe calls and exhortations, are the means that God is pleafed to make ufe of, for converting his elect, and working grace in their hearts: to them, faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17. while they


are as unable to help themfelves as the rest of mankind are. Upon very good grounds may we, at the command of God, who raiseth the dead, go to their graves, and cry in his name, awake thou that fleepeft, and rife from the dead, and Chrift shall give thee light, Eph. v. 14. And feeing the elect are not to be known, and diftinguished from others before convertion: as the fun fhines on the blind man's face, and the rain falls on the rocks as well as on the fruitful plains; fo we preach Chrift to all, and fhoot the arrow at a venture, which God himself directs as he fees meet. Moreover, these calls and exhortations are not altogether in vain, even to those that are not converted by them. Such perfons may be convinced, tho' they be not converted: altho' they be not fanctified by thefe means; yet they may be restrained by them, from running into that excefs of wickedness, which otherwife they would arrive at. The means of grace ferve, as it were, to embalm many dead fouls, which are never quickned by them; tho' they do not restore them to life; yet they keep them from smelling fo rank as otherwife they would do. Finally, Tho' ye cannot recover yourselves; nor take hold of the faving help offered to you in the gofpel: yet even by the power of nature, ye may use the outward and ordinary means, whereby Chrift communicates the benefits of redemption to ruined finners, who are utterly unable to recover themselves out of the state of fin and wrath. Ye may, and can, if ye pleafe, do many things, that would fet you in a fair way for help from the Lord Jefus Chrift. Ye may go fo far on, as to be not far from the kingdom of God, as the difcreet fcribe had done, Mark xii. 34 tho' (it would feem), he was deftitute of fupernatural abilities. Tho' ye cannot cure yourselves; yet ye may come to the pool, where many fuch difeafed perfons as ye are, have been cured: ye have none to put you into it, yet ye may ly at the fide of it: and who knows but the Lord may return, and leave a bleffing behind him, as in the cafe of the impotent man, recorded, John v 5, 6, 7, 8. I hope Satan does not chain you to your houses, nor ftake you down in your fields on the Lord's day; but ye are at liberty, and can wait at the posts of wisdom's door, if ye will. And when ye come thither, he doth not beat drums at your ears, that ye cannot hear what is faid: there is no force upon you obliging you to apply all you hear to others; ye may apply to yourselves what belongs to your ftate and condition: and when you go home, you are not fettered in your houses, where perhaps no religious difcourfe is to be heard; but ye may retire to fome separate place, where ye can meditate, and pofe your confcience with pertinent queftions, upon what ye have heard. Ye are not poffelfed with a dumb devil, that ye cannot get your mouths opened in prayer to God. Ye are not fo driven out of your beds to your worldly bufinefs, and from your worldly business to your beds again; but ye might, if ye would, beftow fome prayers to God upon the cafe of your perithing fouls. Ye may examine yourselves, as to the ftate of your fouls, in a folemn manner, as in the prefence of God; ye may difcern that ye

have no grace, and that ye are loft and undone without it; and may cry unto God for it. These things are within the compass of natural abilities, and may be practifed where there is no grace. It muft aggravate your guilt, that you will not be at fo much pains about the ftate and cafe of your precious fouls. And if ye do not what you can do: ye will be condemned, not only for your want of grace, but for your defpifing of it.

[ocr errors]

Object. (3) But all this is needlefs, feeing we are utterly unable to keep ourselves out of the fate of fin and wrath. Anf. Give no place to that delufion, which puts afunder what God hath joined, namely, the use of means, and a fenfe of our own impotency. If ever the Spirit of God graciously influence your fouls, ye will become throughly fenfible of your abfoluté inability, and yet enter upon a vigorous ufe of means. Ye will do for yourselves, as if ye were to do all; and yet overlook all ye do, as if ye had done nothing. Will ye do nothing for yourselves, because ye cannot do all? Lay down no fuch impious conclufion against your own fouls. Do what you can; and it may be, while ye are doing what ye can for yourselves, God will do for you what ye cannot. Underftandeft thou what thou readeft? faid Philip to the eunuch: How can I, faid he, except fome man fhould guide me, Acts viii. 30, 31. He could not understand the fcripture he read: yet he could read it: he did what he could, he read; and while he was reading, God fent him an interpreter. The Ifraelites were in a great ftrait at the red-fea: and how could they help themfelves, when upon the one hand were mountains, and on the other, the enemies garrifon; when Pharaoh and his host were behind them, and the red-fea before them? What could they do? Speak unto the children of Ifrael, faith the LORD to Mofes, that they go forward, Exod. xiv. 15. For what end fhould they go forward? Can they make a paffage to themselves through the fea? No: but let them go forward, faith the Lord: tho' they cannot turn fea to dry land, yet they can go forward to the fhore: and fo they did: and when they did what they could, God did for them what they could not do.

Queft. Has God promised to convert and fave them, who in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief? Anf. We may hot fpeak, wickedly for God: natural men being strangers to the covenants of promife, Eph. ii. 12. have no fuch promife made to them. Nevertheless they do not act rationally, unless they exert the powers they have, and do what they can. For, (1.) It is poffible this courfe may fucceed with them. If ye do what ye can, it may be, God will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. This is fufficient to determine a man, in a matter of the utmost importance, fuch as this is, Acts viii. 22. Pray God if perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee. Joel ii 14. Who knoweth if he will return? If fuccefs may be, the trial fhould be. If in a wreck at fea, all the failors and passengers had betaken themselves, each to a broken board for fafety; and one of them thould fee all the rest perish, notwithstanding

of their utmost endeavours to fave themfelves: yet the very poffibility of escaping by that means, would determine that one, ftill to do his best with his board. Why then do ye not reafon with yourselves, as the four lepers did, who fat at the gates of Samaria, 2 Kings vii. 3,4. Why do ye not fay, If we fit ftill, not doing what we can, we die; let us put it to a trial, if we be faved, we shall live; if not, we shall but die. (2.) It is probable this courfe may fucceed. God is good and merciful: he loves to furprise men with his grace, and is often found of them, that fought him not, Ifa. lxv. 1. If ye do thus, ye are so far in the road of your duty; and ye are using the means, which the Lord is wont to blefs, for men's fpiritual recovery: ye lay yourfelves in the way of the great Phyfician; and fo it is probable ye may be healed. Lydia went, with others, to the place where prayer was wont to be made; and the Lord opened her heart, Acts xvi. 13, 14. Ye plow and fow, tho' no-body can tell you for certain, that ye will get fo much as your feed again: Ye ufe means for the recovery of your health, tho' ye are not fure they will fucceed. In thefe cafes, probability determines you; and why not in this alfo? Importunity, we fee, does very much with men: therefore pray, meditate, defire help of God; be much at the throne of grace, fupplicating for grace; and do not faint. Tho' God regard not you, who, in your prefent ftate, are but one mafs of fin; univerfally depraved, and vitiated in all the powers of your foul: yet he may regard his own ordinance. Tho' he regards not your prayers, your meditations, &c. yet he may regard prayer, meditation, and the like means of his own appointment, and fo blefs them to you. Wherefore, if ye will not do what ye can: ye are not only dead, but you declare your felves unworthy of eternal life. To conclude, let the faints admire the freedom and power of grace, which came to them in their helpless condition, made their chains fall off, the iron gate to open to them, raised the fallen creatures; brought them out of the ftate of fin and wrath, wherein they would have lain and perifhed, had they hot been mercifully vifited. Let the natural man be fenfible of his utter inability to recover himself. Know thou art without ftrength; and canst not come to Chrift, till thou be drawn. Thou art loft, and canft not help thy felf. This may fhake the foundation of thy nopes, who never faweft thy abfolute need of Chrift and his grace; but thinkeft to fhift for thyself, by thy civility, morality, drowfy wishes and duties; and by a faith and repentance, which have fprung up out of thy natural powers, without the power and efficacy of the grace of Christ. O be convinced of thỹ abfolute need of Chrift, and his overcoming grace; believe thy utter inability to recover thyfelf: and fo thou mayft be humbled, fhaken out of thy felf-confidence, and ly down in duft and afhes, groaning out thy mifer able cafe before the Lord. A kindly fenfe of thy natural impotency, the impotency of depraved human nature, would be a step towards a delivery,

Thus far of man's natural ftate, the ftate of entire depravation.




The STATE of GRACE; or Begun Recovery.



I PET. i.. 23.

Being born again, not of corruptible Se ́d, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

WE now to the fo which, all that fhall partake of eternal

7E proceed now to the ftate of grace, the ftate of begun recovery

happiness, are tranflated, fooner, or later, while in this world. It is the refult of a gracious change, made upon thefe who thall inherit eternal life; which change may be taken up in these two, (1) In oppofition to their natural realitate, the ftate of corruption, there is a change made upon them in regeneration; whereby their nature is changed. (2) In oppotition to their natural relative state, the state of wrath, there is a change made upon them, in their union with the Lord Jefus Chrit; by which they are fet beyond the reach of condemnation. These therefore, namely, regeneration, and union with Chriit, I defign to handle, as the great and comprehensive changes on a finer, conftituting him in the ftaté of grace.

The first of thefe we have in the text, together with the outward and ordinary means, by which it is brought about. The apoftle here, to excite the faints to the ftudy of ho'inefs, and particularly of brotherly love, put them in mind of their fpiritual original. He tells them they were born again; and that of incorruptible feed. the word of God. This fpeaks them to be brethren, partakers of the fame new nature; which is the root from which holiness, and particularly brotherly love, doth spring. We are once finners; we must be born again, that we may be faints. The fimple word fignifies to be begotten; and fo it may be read, Matth xi. 11. to be conceived, Matth. i. 20. and to be born, Matth it. According, the compound word used in the text, may be taken in its full latitude, the laft notion prefuppofing the two former; and fo regeneration is a fupernatural real change on the whole man, fitly compared to natural or corporal generation, as will afterward appear. The ordinary means of regeneration called



« السابقةمتابعة »