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L E C T U RE
Of Man's Inability, God's Grace, and Prayer to
Him for it.
Have now proceeded, in the Course of these Lec
tures, to the End of the Commandments; and explained the Nature of that Repentance, Faith and Obedience, which were promised for us in our Baptisın, and which we are bound to exercise, in Proportion as we come to understand the Obligations incumbent on us. You cannot but see by this Time, that the Duties, which God enjoins us, are not only very important, but very extensive. And therefore a Consideration will almost unavoidably present itself to your Minds in the next Place, what Abilities we have to perform them. Now this Question our Catechism decides, without asking it, by a Declaration, extremely discouraging in Appearance; that we are not able, of ourfelves, to walk in the Commandments of God, and to serve bim.
Indeed, had we ever so great Abilities, we must have them, not of ourselves, but of our Maker: from whom all the Powers of all Creatures are derived. But something further than this, is plainly meant here: that there are no Powers, belonging to human Nature in its present State, sufficient for so great a Purpose. The Law of God is spiritual : but we are carnal, fold under Sin". And that such is our Condition, will appear by
reflecting, first what it was at our Birth; secondly, what we have made it since.
1. As to the first: we all give Proofs, greater or less, of an inbred Disorder and Wrongness in our Understandings, Will and Affections. Possibly one Proof, that some may give of it, may be a Backwardness to own it. But they little confider, how levere a Sentence they would pass, by denying it, on themselves, and all Mankind. Even with our natural bad Inclinations for fome Excuse, we are blameable enough for the ill Things that we do. But how much more should we be so, if we did them all, without the Solicitation of any inward Depravity to plead afterwards in our Favour? In Point of Interest therefore, as well as Truth, we are concerned to admit an original Proneness to Evil in our Frame : while yet Reason plainly teaches, at the same Time, that whatever God created was originally, in its Kind, perfect and good.
To reconcile these two Things would have been a great Difficulty, had not Revelation pointed out the Way, by informing us, that Man was indeed made upright", but that the very first of human Race lost their Innocence and their Happiness together; and tainting, by wilful Transgression, their own Nature, tainted, by Consequence, that of their whole Pofterity. Thus by one Man, Sin entered into the World, and Death by Sin; ond fo Death palled upon all Men, for that all have sinned. We find in fact, however difficult it may be to account for it in Speculation, that the Difpofitions of Parents, both in Body and Mind, very commonly descend, in some Degree, to their Children. And therefore it is intirely credible, that so great a Change in the Minds of our first Parents from absolute Rightness of Temper to presumptuous Wickedness; accompanied with an equal Change of Body, from an immortal Condition to a mortal ore, produced perhaps, in Part, by the physical Effects of the forbidden Fruit ; that
► Eccl. vii.
¢ Rom. v. 12.
these Things, I say, lould derive their fatal Infuences to every succeeding Generation. For though God will never impute any thing to us, as our personas Fault, which is not our own Doing; yet he may very justly withhold from us those Privileges, which he granted to our first Parents only on Condition of their faultless Obedience, and leave us subject to those In-conveniences, which followed of Course from their Dila obedience : : as, in Mukitudes of other Cafes, we see Children in far worfe Circumstances by the Faults of their diftant Forefathers, than they otherwise would have been. And most evidently it is no more a Hardship upon us, to become such as we are by means of Adam's Tranfgrefsion, than to suffer what we often do for the Transgressions of our other Ancestors; or to have been created such as we are, without any one's Tranfgreffion : which laft, all, who disbelieve original Sin, muft affirm to be our Case.
But unhappy for us as the Failure of the first Man was, we should be happy in Comparison, if this were all, that we had to lament. Great as the native Difa order of our Frame is; yet either the Fall of Adam left in it, or God restored to it, fome Degree of Difposition to Obedience, and of Strength against Sin: fo that thought in us, that is in our Fiefh, divelteth ng good Thing", yet after the inward Man, (the Mind) we delight in the Law of God; and there are (ccasions, on which even the Gentiles, which have niet the Law, do by Nature the Things contained in the Law", though nei. ther all, nor any, without Fault. And on us Christians our heavenly Father confers, in our Baptism, the Afarance of much greater Strength, to obey his Commands, than they have. But then, if we consider
2. What we have made our Condition since,. we. shall find, that instead of using well the Abilities which we had, and taking the Methods, which our Maker hath appointed for the Increase of them, we have often
& Rom. vii, 18.
6. Ver. 22, 23.
F.Rom. ji. 140
carelessly, and too often wilfully, misemployed the former, and neglected the latter. Now by every Instance of such Behaviour, we displease God, weaken our right Affections, and add new Strength to wrong Paffions : and by Habits of such Behaviour, corrupting our Hearts, and blinding cur Underftandings, we bring ourselves into a much worse Condition, than that, in which we were born; and thus become doubly incapable of doing our Duty. This, Experience proves but too plainly; though Ścripture did not teach, as it doth, that the Imagination of Man's Heart is Evil from his Youths: that we were mapen in Iniquity, and in Sin did our Mother conceive us that the carnal Mind is Enmity against Godi: that without Chrif we can do Nothing"; and that we are not sufficient to think any Thing, as of ourselves'.
Yet, notwithstanding this, we feel within us an Obligation of Conscience to do every Thing that is right and good. For that Obligation is in its Nature unchangeable: and we cannot be made happy otherwise,
than by endeavouring to fulfil it; though God, for the „Sake of our blessed Redeemer, will make fit Allowances for our coming short of it. But then we must not hope for such Allowances as would really be unfit. Our original Weakness indeed is not our Fault: but our New glect of being relieved from it, and the Additions that we have made to it, are. And whatever we might have had the Power of doing, if we would; it is no Injustice to punish us for not doing : especially when the Means of enabling ourselves continue to be offered to us through our Lives. Now, in fact, the whole Race of Mankind, I charitably hope and believe, have, by the general Grace or Favour of God, the Means of doing so much, at least, as may exempt them from future Sufferings. But Christians, by the Special Grace mentioned in this Part of the Catechism, are qualified
& Gen. viii, 21. * John XV. 5.
n Pf. li. 5. 12 Cor, iii. 5.
i Rom. viii. 74
to do so much more, as will intitle them, not for their own Worthiness, but that of the holy Jesus, to a dirtinguishing Share of future Reward.
Now the special Grace of the Gospel consists, partly in the outward Revelation, which it makes to us, of divine Truths; partly in the inward Allistance, which it bestows on us for obeying the divine Will. The latter is the Point, here to be considered.
That God is able, by fecret Influences on our Minds, to dispose us powerfully in Favour of what is right, there can be no Doubt: for we are able in some Degree to influence one another thus. That there is Need of his doing it, we have all but too much Experience: and that therefore we may reasonably hope for it, evidently follows. He interposes continually by his Providence, to carry on the Course of Nature in the material World: is it not then very likely, that he should interpose in a Case, which, as far as we can judge, is yet more worthy of his Interposition ; and incline and strengthen his poor Creatures to become. good and happy, by gracious Impressions on their Souls, as Occasions require? But still, Hope and Likelihood are not Certainty : and God, whose Ways are past finding out ", might have left all Men to their own Strength, or rather indeed their own Weakness.. But: whatever he doth in Relation to others, which is not our Concern, he hath czarly promised to us Christians, that his Grace shall be sufficient for us " ; his Holy Spirit shall enable us effectually to do every Thing which his Word requires.
We may resisto his Motions: or we may receive them into our Souls, and act in Consequence of them. Every one hath Power enough to do-right: Scripture, as well as Reason, shews it : only we have it not resident in. uş by Nature; but bestowed on us continually by our Maker, as we want it. In all good Actions that
to Rom. xi. 33.
2 Cor. xii. go
Ads vii. 51.