« AnteriorContinuar »
their prayers, are from him, from whom comes every good gift. In their corrupt and depraved state, they are not sufficient to think any thing as of themselves, but their sufficiency is of God. But then, it should be thankfully remembered, that where God sends his word, he sends his Spirit to accompany it; and that there is an influence of the Spirit common to those, who enjoy the word. When the gospel is called a ministration of the Spirit, and the Spirit is said to be ministered in the hearing of faith—when Christ is said to stand at men's door and knock, that they may hear his voice and open the door-when the Spirit is said to strive with sinners, in order to their conversion-when God promises the people whom he has taken into his covenant, that he will pour his Spirit on their seed and his blessing on their offspring, and that his Spirit which is upon them, and his words which he has put in their mouths, shall not depart from them nor from their seed-when sinners are reproved for having always resisted the Holy Ghost, and for having rebelled and vexed the Spirit of God—when men are cautioned not to grieve and quench the Spirit—when they who oppose the gospel are said to do despite to the Spirit; it is manifestly supposed and implied, that there is a common and promiscuous agency of the Spirit, which attends the publication of God's word, and which is, in some degree, afforded to all who attend on the dispensation of the word; and that, in consequence of this agency, of which they are the subjects, they are capable of such a use of appointed means, as may, through the farther work of the Spirit, issue in their real conversion.'
It is often asked, Whether the unregenerate can do any thing of themselves, and whether any thing is expected, or required of them. But the answer is, They who enjoy the gospel are not left to themselves,
Suppose a man under the power of vicious propensities and habits, a stranger to gospel instructions and motives, and destitute of all divine influence ; and then you will have the idea of a sinner, properly left to himself. But this is not your case. You have the gospel; and where this comes, there is an influence of the Spirit which attends it. You have been, and, it may be hoped, you still are the subjects of its influence. With these means and excitements, there is something which you may do. You are not to confound your case with that of the heathens. “God has given you all things which pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called you to glory and virtue.” Your case is different from theirs “who are without Christ, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Whatever kind, or degree of imbecility you may think to plead, this cannot be admitted as an excuse, when you are assured, that God grants his Spirit even to sinners; for Christ sent his Spirit to convince the world of sin; and, in respect of his awakening and convincing influences, he is beforehand with you, and anticipates your requests. Jesus knocks at your door, before you invite him to come in. He stretches out his hand even to the disobedient and gainsaying.
If you ask then, what you must do to obtain a new heart, the answer is, Exercise yourselves in serious consideration. Meditate on the purity and extent of God's commands, and compare your hearts and lives with them, that you may gain a knowledge of your sins. Think on the awful issue of a guilty and impenitent life, that you may apprehend your danger. Contemplate the invitations and promises of the gospel, that you may see the hope which is set before you. Consideration is a necessary step to repentance. David thought on his ways, and turned his feet unto God's testimonies. It is God's complaint of sinners, that they do not consider. It is his command, that they consider their ways.
Apply yourselves to the means of knowledge; for it is in knowledge that the new man is created. He is begotten by the word of truth. It is by hearing this word, that faith comes. Paul was sent that he might turn men from darkness to light. Cry after knowledge; thus shall you understand the fear of the Lord.
Abstain from every thing which has a tendency to suppress the honest convictions of your minds, and to obstruct the gracious influences of the Divine Spirit. This is the exhortation of the Prophet, “ Cast away all your transgressions, and make you a new heart.” Similar is the advice of the Apostle, “ Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”
Encourage serious sentiments awakened in you, pursue tħe good resolutions which you have formed, and hold fast what you have received.
Implore the grace of God to create in you a new heart; for, after the promise in the text, he expressly declares, “I will for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them."
Say not, that until you have this new heart, your prayers will be vain. God has said no such thing. He says, “ He will be enquired of.” He who hears the ravens when they cry, will also hear sinners, when, awakened by his own word and Spirit to a sense of their danger, they call on him in the use of appointed means, to put a new spirit within them.
Give yourselves up to God through Jesus Christ. Follow the example of those, whose repentance the prophet thus describes ; “ They shall go weeping and mourning, and shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, and shall say, come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten.
SINNERS CONTRADICTING THEIR PRAYERS.
JEREMIAH XXXVII. 3.
And Zedekiah the king sont Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and
Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, PRAY NOW UNTO The LORD OUR GOD FOR US.
Not long before the time here referred to, the king of Babylon, who had brought the kingdom of Judah under his power, appointed Zedekiah to be king or viceroy of the country.
He swore allegiance to the king of Babylon, and bound himself to pay him a certain tribute. But afterward, with an intention to throw off the yoke, he made a treaty with the king of Egypt, who agreed to send an army for his support. On this encouragement, Zedekiah revolted from the king of Babylon, who, to reduce him, came and besieged Jerusalem. On hearing of the approach of the Egyptian army, he raised the siege, marched against the Egyptians, defeated them, and then renewed the siege which issued in the reduction of the city, and the capture of the king, and all the people who were with him.
Jeremiah had been a faithful reprover and monitor. But it is observed, in the words preceding the text, that neither the king, nor his servants, nor the people of the land hearkened to the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah. la this time of distress however, he sent messengers to the prophet, requesting his prayers. He said, “ Pray now to the Lord for us.”
There were many idolatrous prophets in Jerusalem, who had promised the people deliverance from their enemies, and had
raised a clamor against Jeremiah for his faithful warnings. Why · did not the king send to them, and ask their prayers!—The truth
is, he had no confidence in them now. He saw that their predictions had failed; that they had only flattered the people with false promises, and deceived them with lying words: and he applied to Jeremiah, who had spoken with honest plainness, and whose words were now verified. He hoped that the prayers of such a righteous man would avail much. He saw no help but in God, and no intercessor so good as a prophet of God.
There was a time, when Jeremiah was taken up as a traitordenounced as an enemy to his country—imprisoned—thrown into a dungeon, and there confined till he was half dead; and all this for no other cause, than his fidelity in his office, good will to his country, and prudent advice to the rulers of the people. But at this time, when the city was besieged, his prayers were solicited by the king and his servants, as what, they hoped, might save them and their country in so dangerous a crisis.
We see the inconsistency of these wicked men, and we condemn it. It may be proper to inquire, whether there be not the same inconsistency in others, or even in ourselves.
1. They persecuted a good prophet while they thought themselves safe ; and sought his prayers when they found themselves in danger.
There is in most men an inward conviction of the truth and importance of religion. If the men of the world ridicule the strict piety, and resent the just reproofs of the friends of religion-if they endeavor to blast their reputation and destroy their influence; still, in their sober judgment, they esteem these as the excellent of the earth, and place much more confidence in them, than in men like themselves. These are the men whose advice they ask in cases of difficulty, to whose justice they apply for redress of injuries, and whose prayers they solicit in seasons of distress. If