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and renovation of men; if faith comes by hearing, it is ab surd to deny, that the general probability of conversion is greater to those, who attend religious services, than to those, who neglect them.

Further, the probability of obtainining converting grace is in some degree, affected by self examination. This is so generally believed, that I apprehend, there is scarcely a pious man on earth, who would not rejoice at observing an irreligious child or neighbor, comparing his own character, with the christian standard.

That the performance or neglect of this exercise is not immaterial, even while men are unregenerate, will appear by the following command of St. Paul, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in faith." From the very nature of this exhortation it could not have been given on supposition of the picty of those to whom it was directed. Uncertainty on this point, rendered investigation necessary. Whatever were the result of this inquiry, i. c. whether it led those, who made it, to perceive that they were, or that they were not in the faith, its immediate object was answered. The discovery, however unwelcome to those, who were unbelievers, rendered this state, at least, in some degree more hopeful, than it was previously.

Again, it is not a matter wholly indifferent, whether men live in the maintenance or neglect of prayer. The Lord said by Ezekiel, "For this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them." The blessing to be conferred, was "a new heart and a new spirit." The bestowment of this, the prophet attributes to divine mercy, and declares it to be a thing, which God should do for them. Yet he would be previously sought to. They were required to ask of God, that he would "take from them the heart of stone, and give them a heart of flesh."

But even if the requirement had not been made in so many words, would not, even in that case, the propriety and expedience of the thing have been obvious? Granting

these two propositions, 1st, that sinners need a new heart; and, 2d, that the bestowment of this is the perogative of God; will it be denied, that such bestowment should be sought in prayer? If I am in the greatest possible need of a favor, which it is in the power of but one being in the universe to grant; would it not, beyond all question, be a point of prudence to make application to him?

That prayer is to be resorted to by all men, even by the unregenerate, receives countenance, to say the least, from that well known passage in our Saviour's sermon on the mount, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened." In the meaning of these words, we believe, is comprehended, that a sedulous use of the means, and a dilligent inquiry about salvation, are the way, in which God and eternal life are usually found. The truth of this is generally allowed, even by those who do not believe that the words, which we have cited, prove it. President Edwards, whom no persons suspects of having entertained lax notions of human depravity, uses the following language: "Though God has not bound, himself to any thing, which a person does, while destitute of saving faith, and out of Christ, there is yet great probability, that in hearkening to this counsel you will live."

You will object perhaps, that the words of Christ," ask and ye shall receive," &c, if applied to the unregenerate, are not true. I answer, that in the most rigid sense, they are not true, even in application to the renewed: but in a general sense they are true in application to all. If you say that the faithfulness of God requires him to fulfil all his promises, as soon as the conditions of them are complied with; and therefore, as many unrenewed sinners do not find, it is certain that they do not seek; I answer, that pious believers frequently do not receive the things for which they pray; and yet they do not think that the fidelity of God is to be impeached. Because one sinner, or ten, or a hundred, have been lost, after paying, for a while, some earnest at

tention to their spiritual concerns, will by no means follow, that earnest and persevering endeavours do not usually issue in the attainment of that grace, which is effectual.

There are various passages of scripture, both promises and declarations of a general, indefinite nature; and it may be very difficult to ascertain, when those, who claim an interest in them, are entitled to it. Still those passages may be, in a general view, both intelligible and weighty. I will name some of them. A "diligent hand maketh rich." We know that some, who are diligent in business, do not become rich. Yet, generally speaking, diligence procures wealth. "If ye be willing and obedient," said God to Israel," ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword." It would assuredly be difficult to fix on the precise degree of disobedience, which should bring destruction on the Jews, or to define that degree of obedience, which would keep it off: but the meaning in general is extremely plain.

To mention but one example more: "He that walketh with wise men, shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Should these words be taken without any limitation, they would prove what is contrary to fact, that no person, not pious himself, has associated with those, who are and that no person, who is not destroyed, has associated with the profligate. They would prove, that when any person becomes the companion of fools, he will perish : whereas some, who have been many years thus connected, have afterwards been renewed and saved.

In like manner, the general object of our Saviour's words "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find," is to encourage men to seek God for the bestowment of necessary blessings, whether pertaining to this life, to the renewing of the heart, or to progressive sanctification.

The time will not permit me to notice several other arguments of no inconsiderable weight. Against the sentiments now defended, the following objection is made:

It has not only been conceded, but proved, that unrenewed men are destitute of holiness, or real virtue; how then, it may be asked, can any of their actions contribute to their advantage? In answer, I allow that none of those actions merit the least favor; nay, that there is a criminal, and therefore punishable defect in the disposition, with which any of them is performed. But God bestows his grace on what terms he pleases, always, however, agreeably to wisdom. When we are inquiring into the manner in which these are bestowed, facts are of more importance than a thousand objections. Now, it is fact, that because Ahab, an unrenewed sinner, humbled himself, and walked softly, the evil threatened, was not sent in his day. (1. Kings, xxi. 29.) "Seest thou, said God to Elijah," How Ahab humbleth himself? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house."

In the book of Proverbs, we find two remarkable expressions. One is, "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination to the Lord. (xv. 8.) The other is this, "The plowing of the wicked is sin." (xxi. 4.)

Now, in whatever manner these passages are understood, it will not be doubted, that the common labours of a wicked man have the same moral complexion, as his prayers. If therefore, unrenewed men do receive advantage from their industry, they may from their prayers. God may bestow favors in consequence of the one, as well as of the other.

IV. Our next inquiry is, whether it be right to direct unrenewed persons to the use of means with a view to regeneration.

The question is not, you will observe, whether any atten tion to external duties can be a substitute for regeneration; nor whether there be in scripture any promise of renewing grace, which the unregenerate can claim: but merely whether it be right to direct persons of this description to

consult the sacred writings, to hear them explained, and to offer prayer, that the heart that the heart may be transformed.

To establish the negative, has been attempted with less success, than ingenuity. The argument on the affirmative side is extremely plain, and, so far as I can perceive, perfectly conclusive. St. Paul asserts, that "faith comes by hearing." If so, those who hear, are more likely to obtain faith, than those who do not. This we have endeavoured to prove and it is in fact almost universally conceded. Yes; but a thing may be true, you will say, and yet the declaration of it may be inexpedient. Then the only question is, whether it be a truth to be concealed or divulged. I really know not how it can be concealed, since the apostle has made it so public. But surely his authority is as good to prove the expedience of making it known, as to prove the truth of the doctrine. And it is perfectly immaterial, whether I advise a person to a particular measure, or only propose to him the strongest arguments in favour of it.

It may be objected,

I. To prescribe the use of means for the obtainment of conversion, seems to imply that impenitence proceeds rather from the want of power, than the want of will: else, why are they not required to exercise immediate repentance?

I reply, that the objection lies with equal force against the christian's using means to promote personal sanctifica. tion. For the will is as much, and natural power as little concerned in the sinful actions of a believer, as in those of an unbeliever. You may as well, therefore, ask the christian why he is not perfectly holy, and at this very instant, without the use of means and ordinances !

II. It may be further objected, that if you advise persons to any actions, that they may become renewed, you advise them to remain unrenewed at least during the continuance of that action.

I answer, that this objection, however specious, cannot be much valued even by those by whom it is brought, because

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