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2 Observ. That a perceiving heart is totally and entirely the free gift of God: free, 1. in respect of the motive; 2. in respect of the persons on whom it is conferred, 63.
3 Observ. That God's denial of such a perceiving heart does certainly infer (but not cause) the unsuccessfulness of all the means of grace, 64. In handling of which is shewn,
1. What is meant by God's giving to the soul a perceiving heart; which is here set out by such acts as are properly acts of knowledge, as understanding, seeing, hearing; not because grace is placed only in the understanding, as some imagine; but, 1. Because the understanding has the precedency and first stroke in holy actions, as well as others, 65. 2. Because the means of grace are most frequently expressed by the word of truth, and the understanding is that faculty, whose proper office it is to close in with truth as such, 65.
To have a perceiving heart is not, 1. To understand and receive the word according to the letter and notion, by a bare assent to the truth of it, 67. But, 2. To have a light begot in the mind by an immediate work of the Spirit, whereby alone the soul is enabled to apprehend and discern the things of God spiritually, and to practise them effectually, 67.
II. Whence it is, that without this gift the soul cannot make any improvement of the means of grace. It arises from two reasons ;
1. From its exceeding impotence and inability to apprehend these things, 70.
2. From its contrariety to them, which chiefly consists, (1.) In carnal corruptions, 73. (2.) In carnal wisdom, 75.
III. That although, upon God's denial of a perceiving heart, the soul remain unprofitable. under the means of grace, so as not to hear nor perceive ; yet this unprofitableness cannot at all be ascribed to God as the chief author of it, 77.
God's denial of a perceiving heart admits of a double acceptation.
(1.) It implies only a bare denial of grace. Now it is not this denial that causes us to reject the means of grace, but the immediate sinfulness of the heart, 77.
(2.) It includes also a positive act of induration. Now God, without begetting any evil disposition in the heart, may harden it to sin; first, By affording a general influence or concurrence to the persuasions or suggestions of Satan or sinful men, so far as they are natural acts, 79. Secondly, By disposing and offering such objects and occasions, which though good in themselves, yet concurring with a corrupt heart have a fitness to educe that corruption into act, 79. Thirdly, By affording his concurrence to those motions that such objects and occasions stir up in the soul, so far as they are positive and natural, 80.
IV. How God can justly reprehend men for not hearing nor perceiving, when upon his denial of an heart there is a necessity lying upon them to do neither, 81.
For clearing this, it is already shewn, that God's denial of an heart is not the cause of the necessity of the soul's not perceiving, but its own native hardness. Now this hardness is the immediate product of the sin of Adam, which was most free and voluntary; and every man is as really guilty of this sin, as he was really represented in Adam, 81.
Application. Use 1. This doctrine speaks refutation to that opinion, that states a sufficiency of grace in the bare proposal of things to be believed and practised, 82.
Use 2. is of exhortation; that in the enjoyment of the means of grace we should not terminate in the means, but look up to God, who alone is able to give an heart to im
prove them, 85.
PREACHED MAY 29.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto
you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. P. 87. These words contain two general parts.
I. The promise of sending the Spirit: wherein we have a full description of him, . 1. In respect of his person ; he is said to proceed from the Father. There has been great controversy between the Latin and Greek churches concerning his procession : the former holding that he proceeds equally from the Father and the Son; and the latter, that he proceeds from the Father only by the Son, 87.
2. In respect of his office or employment in these two things. (1.) That he is a Comforter, 89. (2.) That he is the Spirit of truth, 92.
He is a Comforter, because he is the Spirit of truth : and truth has this comforting influence upon the mind; (1.) From the native congenial suitableness that it has to man's understanding, 93. (2.) From the sovereign virtue it has to clear the conscience; first, from guilt, 95. secondly, from doubt, 96.
II. The end of his being sent, which was to testify of Christ.
In which are considered,
1. What the Spirit was to testify of Christ ; which was, that he was the Son of God, the Messias, and Saviour of the world, 97.
2. By what ways and means he was to testify this of him ; which were the gifts conferred by him upon the disciples; three of which seem more eminently designed for the
great purpose of preaching the gospel. (1.). The gift of miracles, 97. (2.) The gift of tongues, 98. (3.) That strange, undaunted, and supernatural courage he infused into the disciples, 98.
A full reflection upon what has been said will furnish an infallible rule for trying men's pretences of the Spirit. If they find not only comment, but text also, and plead the spirit in defiance of the letter; it is not God's Spirit tha acts them, but the spirit of darkness and desolation, that ruins government and subverts kingdoms. But thankfully and forgetfully to accept our oppression, the king's restoration is commemorated as the work of the Holy Ghost, carrying in it such bright testimonies of a supernatural power, so much above, nay against the means and actors visibly appearing in it, that it may properly be expressed in those words, Zech. iv. 6. Not by might, nor by strength, but by my spirit, saith the Lord, 100.
Trinity Sunday. Now, though the chief subject of the text was the Holy Spirit, yet it seems to point both at the Pentecost and the Trinity; for in the words we have,
1. The person sent, which was the Holy Ghost. 2. The person sending him, which was the Son.
3. The person from whom he is said to proceed, which was the Father. All employed in man's salvation: the Father contriving, the Son ordering, and the Spirit performing, 102.
From the whole passage may be collected two things: 1. God's gracious love and condescension to man, 104.
2. The worth of souls: the salvation of which is never left to chance; all the persons of the Trinity being solicitous to comfort them in this world, and at length to waft them to a better, 104.
PROV. xviii. 14.
But a wounded spirit who can bear ? P. 106. Few men being kept from sin but merely by the check of their fears representing to them the endless, insupportable torments of another world, as the certain, consequent, and terrible reward of it; atheists, who shake these fears off, are admonished, that God can antedate the torments they disbelieve, and, by what he can make them feel, teach them the certainty of what they refuse to fear, 106.
By way of explanation of the words is premised, 1. That by spirit is meant the soul, in which there is a lower or in
ferior part, the sensitive faculties and appetites; and a more noble portion, purely intellectual in operation, as well as in substance, perfectly spiritual, 108. 2. By being wounded is to be understood, its being deeply and intimately possessed with a lively sense of God's wrath for sin, 109.
The sense of the words then lies full and clear in this one proposition, viz. That the trouble and anguish of a soul, labouring under a sense of God's displeasure for sin, is inexpressibly greater than any other grief or trouble whatsoever, 109. which is prosecuted under the following particulars; shewing,
I. What kind of persons are the proper subjects of this trouble, viz. both the righteous and the wicked, but with a very different issue, 110.
II. Wherein the excessive greatness of this trouble doth appear; which may be collected, 1st, From the behaviour of our Saviour himself in this condition, 112. 2dly, From those raised and passionate expressions that have been uttered by persons eminent in the ways of God, while they were labouring under it, 114. 3dly, From the uninterrupted, incessant continuance of it, 119. 4thly, From its violent and more than ordinary manifestation of itself on outward signs and effects, 120. 5thly, From those horrid effects it has had upon persons not upheld under it by divine grace, 122.
III. By what ways and means this trouble is brought upon the soul: four ways instanced, 1st, By dreadful reflections upon divine justice, as provoked, 124. 2dly, By fearful apprehensions of the divine mercy, as abused, 125. 3dly, By God's withdrawing his presence, and the sense of his love from the spirit, 127. 4thly, By God's giving commission to the tempter more than usually to trouble and disquiet it, 129.
IV. What is God's end and design in casting men into such a perplexed condition, 131. 1st, For the wicked or reprobate, it is but the first-fruits of hell, and the earnest of their damnation, 132. 2dly, For the pious and sincere. God