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that they are not saved ? If a poor beggar spurns from him the hand that offers to feed him, whose fault is it that he perishes with hunger ? If a criminal, who is justly condemned refuses to accept a pardon which is freely offered to him, whose fault is it if he is not pardoned? And if sinners who are justly condemned refuse to accept the salvation which is freely offered to them, whose fault is it if they perish? What has God done to hinder their salvation ? Has he compelled them to sin ? Has he laid them under restraint ? Has he hedged up the path of life so that they cannot walk in it if they choose ? No. They are laid under no restraint. Life and death are set before them, and they are capable of choosing between them. The reason that they perish is, that they reject the counsel of God against themselves. They choose the road that leads to death, and will not come to Christ, that they might have life. Thus they perish wholly through their own fault, and will have none to blame but themselves.
But the question returns,—Is this all which God ever does for the salvation of any of the human race? On the supposition that it is all, the question at once arises, how comes it to pass that some obey the gospel, while others disebey? To what are we to attribute this difference? If all which God does is to prepare the way for all, and place suitable motives before them; why do not all comply, or all refuse? They are alike free agents, and capable of being influenced by motives. Why then do some yield to the motives, while others resist them? Why do some make a right use of their free agency, while others pervert it? If God does no more to give efficacy to motives in one case than in another, why do not the same motives produce the same effects in all cases? Why did Peter believe in Christ, while Judas remained an unbeliever? Why did Paul become a diseiple, while multitudes of the Pharisees persisted in unbelief? Why did one of the thieves on the cross embrace Christ, while the other continued to revile him? And why is it, that wherever the gospel has been preached, some have believed, while others have believed not ?
Will it be said, that those who believe are by nature less depraved, less averse to holiness, and more inclined to yield to the motives of the Gospel, than others? This cannot be said with truth ; for as in water, face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. They are all by nature children of wrath. Besides, not a few who have been distinguished for their wickedness, and for their hostility to the truth, have been made the subjects of renewing grace. Paul testifies that he was the chief of sinners, and yet he obtained mercy, while many who manifested far less opposition to Christianity continued in unbelief. How is this fact to be explained? Besides, if God only presents motives to the mind, why is it that the same motives which have long been resisted, sometinies prove effectual ? Why is a sinner sometimes converted, after having long abused the means of grace, and resisted every motive presented to his mind? If God does no more to render means efficacious at one time than at another, why were they not effectual upon the individual supposed, while his heart was less hard, and his-habits in sin less confirmed ? These facts are utterly inexplicable, without admitting a special Divine agency in the conversion of sinners.
But, to the law, and to the testimony. The apostle says, By the grace of God I um what I am. He felt that it was owing to the distinguishing grace of God, that he was brought to embrace that Savior whom he had rejected and despised. And to the same grace he ascribed the salvation of all true believers. Not by works of righteous. ness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regencration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, bul ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? "To the Ephesian believers he
says, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins ; wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ; among whom also we all had our conversai:ion in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, arid of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye ure saved): und hath raised us up together, and maile us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. To the Philippians he says in the text, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you to will, and to do, of his good pleasure
. Is this doing no more than to prepare the way of salvation, to enable men to accept offered mercy, and to present motives to their minds ? God is here represented as performing a work in them. And what is the work? It is God that worketh in you TO WILL
This surely is something different from giving them ability to do their duty ; it is making them willing to do it. Agreeably to the declaration of the Psalmist,— Thy people shall be willing in the duy of thy power. The great point of difference between the saint and the sinner is, the one is willing to do his duty, the other is not willing. It does not lie in the fact that one has opportunity and ability to secure eternal lise, while the other has not. Both are alike free agents. Both have the same opportunity and ability to obtain an interest in Christ. But one is willing to obey the gospel, and the other is not.
Sinners will not come to Christ that they might have life. Hence it is necessary, not only that the way of salvation should be prepared, and mercy offered, and motives presented; but that God should work in men 'ro WILL AND TO DO, that is, that he should incline their hearts to accept the mercy offered. That he actually does this for all those who are the subjects of his grace, the Scriptures explicitly
A new heart will I give you, and a right spirit will I put within
you, and I will take away the slony heart out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. I unll put my spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my juilgments, and do them.
If we look through the Bible, we shall find, that all the Christian graces are ascribed to God as their author.
He is the author of repentance. Him hath God exalted at his own right hand, TO GIVE REPENTANCE unto Israel and remission of sins.
AND TO DO.
THE GIFT OF GOD.
Then hath God also to the gentiles GRANTED REPENTANCE unto life. In meekness instructing them that oppose themselves, if peradventure God will GIVE THEM REPENTANCE.
Faith, in no less explicit terms, is ascribed to God as its author. By grace are ye saded through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is
Looking unto Jesus THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF
Wherein also ye are risen with him through THE FAITH OF THE OPERATION OF GOD.
Love is the gift of God. The fruit of the Spirit is love. The lore of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
A spirit of prayer is the gift of God. IVe know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a spirit of grace and of supplication.
God is the author of all the Christian graces. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentlene88, meekness, temperance, patience, faith.
In short, the Christian character is of his formation. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God, who hath also gicen to us the earnest of the Spirit.
We are now prepared to form some opinion of the nature of that work which God performs in effecting the salvation of sinners. It is not merely an outward work, as some have supposed. It does not consist merely in providing a Savior, offering salvation, giving ability to accept, and presenting motives to the mind. In addition to all this, there is an inward effectual work. God renews the heart. He influences the will. He changes enmity into love, melts the hard heart into penitence, and transforms the rebel into a loyal and obedient subject of his kingdom. In short, he works in his people to uill and to do.
But in the mean time they must rrork out their oion salration with fear and trembling. The agency of God does not destroy the agency of men.
On the contrary, it puts their agency into operation, and guides and directs it to a proper end. When God works in men to will and to do—they will and do. They act, and act voluntarily—as much so as if they were entirely independent. To show that this is not impossible, let it be observed, that we act upon the minds of our fellowmen by arguments and persuasions; and we influence their conduct by the motives which we present to their minds. The whole system of intercourse between man and man is a system of mutual influence. But who ever supposed that his agency was destroyed, or his freedom impaired, by the influence exerted upon him by his fellow-men? I do not mean to assert that the manner in which God acts upon our minds, is the same as that in which one man acts upon the mind of another. But whatever the manner be, it does not impair our free agency, any more than the influence exerted upon us by our fellow-men.
When the sinner is made willing 10 comply with the invitations of the Gospel, he complies as freely as a man ever complies with the solicitations of a friend.
And here let it be particularly noted, that the special dependence of sinners on God for salvation results entirely from the perverseness of their hearts. The reason that a supernatural Divine influence is necessary to bring them to the belief and obedience of the truth, is not because they are incapable of obeying the Gospel; but because they will not come to Christ that they might have life. It is necessary that God should give them repentance, because they will not repent of them. selves. If they were inclined to do their duty, they would need no supernatural Divine influence. They are dependent on God for salvation, not because they are not free agents, but because they abuse and pervert their free agency.
Permit me here to correct a mistake into which multitudes have fallen. They always associate the idea of dependence with that of inability to do their duty. When they read in the Scriptures such declarations as the following: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselres, it is the gift of God: they conclude that until God shall grant the influences of his Spirit, they are really unable to do their duty; and that they need these influences to give them power to do their duty. But this is altogether a mistake, and a mistake of very dangerous tendency; for it tends directly to blind the eyes of the sinner to his true character and condition. While he feels that he is unable to do his duty, in any other sense than that he is unwilling, he does not feel guilty for neglecting it. He views his depravity as a calamity merely, and not as a criine. He does not take the blame to himself, but casts it upon his Maker. He feels that he has a good excuse for neglecting the great salvation, because he persuades himself that he cannot do otherwise. He feels that it is not his fault that he is not a Christian , but that it is owing entirely to the fact that God does not grant his regenerating grace.
Now the truth is, the influences of the Divine Spirit are never granted to give the sinner ability to do his duty. He is able without them. The sinner has all the natural ability which the saint possesses; and it is wholly his own fault that he does not immediately embrace the Gospel. He is not dependent on God in any such sense, as to furnish him with the least excuse for continuing another moment a rebel against God. God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. This is a reasonable command; and every sinner is under obligation to obey it. If he does not obey, he sins. Every moment that he refuses to obey, he sins. He sins voluntarily, and is without excuse. It will not avail him to plead that he has no power to obey. He
If he has power to sin, he has power to cease from sinning—if he has power to rebel against God, he has power to submit
He has all the power which he needs : all, indeed, which he can possess. If God were to renew his heart this moment, his power would not be increased; he would only be willing to use aright the power which he now abuses and perverts.
It will not avail him to plead that God has not granted him the influences of his Spirit. Those influences God is under no obligation
to grant; and if he never grants them, the sinner's duty remains the same. When God works in men to will and to do, it is not to enable them to do their duty; but to incline them to do what they are able to do, and what they ought to do, without any supernatural Divine influence.
But the sinner sometimes says, “ Am I able to change my own will ?" I know of no better way to answer this inquiry than to apply it to a familiar case. Suppose you have a stubborn, disobedient child, who utterly refuses to obey your commands. You expostulate with him : you show him the reasonableness of your commands, and the consequences of persisting in disobedience : you show him clearly that he is able to obey, and that his continued disobedience is owing solely to his perverse and obstinate will. But still he objects, and justifies himself; and, as his last resort, says, “ Can I change my will ?" Would you feel that he has now a good excuse? And if you should perceive that his obstinacy was so great as to render fruitless all your persuasions, would you feel that he was really unable to obey you, and that he ought to be exonerated from blame? On the contrary, would you not feel that this stubbornness was the very thing for which he was criminal, and that his guilt was in proportion to the degree of his obstinacy. So in the case of sinners; their dependence on divine grace, so far from rendering them guiltless, shows that their guilt is exceedingly heinous, for their dependence results solely from the desperate wickedness of their hearts.
But here another inquiry arises. If it be a fact that sinners will not obey the Gospel till made willing in the day of God's power, why preach to them the Gospel ?—Why exhort, and warn, and beseech them to lay hold on eternal life, if nothing short of Divine power will ever influence them to comply with the conditions of pardon ?
I answer,—we preach to them the Gospel, because God commands us to do it; and because this is a means which he has ordained to effect the purposes of his grace. His kingdom is a kingdom of means, and it pleases him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, the instrument which he employs in subduing the heart. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. When the truth comes home to the heart and conscience, and the sinner yields to its influence, then it is that God works in him to will and to do. And when any individual finds himself inclined to yield to the motives of the Gospel, he may conclude that God is influencing his mind. It is a secret, silent influence, which is known only by its effects.
How many have the Gospel, upon whom it produces no salutary effect. And why? Not because they are incapable of yielding to the motives of the Gospel ; but because they resist these motives. They are unwilling to break off their sins by righteousness—they are unwilling to renounce the world, and take up their cross and follow Christ. And when all the solemn and affecting motives of the Gospel are presented to their minds, they still resist, and with one consent begin to make excuse.
Such is human nature. Such is the desperate wickedness of the human heart. Hence it is that the sovereign interposition of God is necessary to effect the salvation of apostate man.