« AnteriorContinuar »
choose life, as to choose death; to walk in the narrow way to heaven, as to walk in the broad way to hell; and to turn from sin to holiness; as to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Hence they are expressly required to begin to be holy, and to perform the very act of turning, repenting, and changing the heart. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord." Isaiah Iv, 7. "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die? Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord: wherefore turn yourselves; and live ye." Ezekiel xviii, 31, 32; and xxxiii, 11. "Therefore also now saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God." Joel ii, 12, 13. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you: cleanse your hands ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded." James iv, 8. "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the opening of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof." Proverbs i, 20, 21, 22. "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved: how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee." Jeremiah iv, 14. "Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well." Isaiah i, 16, 17. If there be any justice or propriety in these commands, then sinners are as
able to turn from sin, to change their hearts, or to begin to be holy; as to perform any other religious duty, or common action.
Besides, the sacred writers borrow similitudes from the common conduct of men, to illustrate the duty and obligation of sinners to repent and embrace the gospel. The evangelical Prophet cries, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price." These similitudes plainly suppose, that every sinner is as able to embrace the gospel, as a thirsty man is to drink water, or an hungry man to eat the most delicious food. In the parable of the marriage supper, God is represented as sending forth his servants, to invite sinners to come and receive the fruits of his love. This invitation carries the idea, that sinners are as able to come to the gospel feast, as to come to any other, to which they are kindly invited. Take away this point of resemblance, and the parable is totally unmeaning, or extremely impertinent. The parable of the prodigal son, is designed to illustrate the immediate duty of sinners to return to God, from whom they have unreasonably departed. But where is the beauty or propriety of the parable, unless sinners are as able to return to their heavenly Father, as an undutiful, wandering child is to return to his earthly parent? By the obedience of the Rechabites, God reproved the disobedience of his own people. But how did that example reach the case, unless the Israelites were as able to obey the commands of God, as the Rechabites were to obey the command of their father? It is the plain language of these similitudes, that sinners are as able to work out their own salvation, with fear and trembling, as to perform the most common and ordinary
actions of life. Hence there is the same propriety in exhorting them to eat, and drink, and do every thing to the glory of God, as there is in exhorting them to do any thing at all. And hence too that whole system of unregenerate duties, which has been built on the principle, that sinners are passive in regeneration, and of course are under an ethico-physical inability to do any thing in a holy and gracious manner, appears to be without the least foundation in Scripture,
INFERENCE 9.-Since God works in all mankind both to will and to do, there appears no reasonable objection against the doctrine of divine decrees. If God be a perfectly wise agent, he must determine all his own conduct. But he cannot determine all his own conduct without determining how he will work in us both to will and to do; and by determining this, he must necessarily determine how we shall will and do through every period of our existence. It is just as certain, therefore, that God determines all our actions, as that he determines all his own. But the divine decrees, so long as they lie in the divine mind unexecuted, have no more influence upon us, than they had before we existed. And when they actually reach us, or when God actually fulfils them upon us; he only works in us both to will and to do, agreeably to his eternal purpose; which operation we have seen is entirely consistent with our own free agency. Nor do the decrees of God subject us to the least disadvantage, with respect to time or eternity. For since God works in us both to will and to do, it absolutely depends upon his determination, whether we shall be holy and happy, or sinful and miserable, in this life and in that which is to come. And if all this depends upon his determination, it is of no consequence
to us, when he determines our characters and conditions, whether in time or eternity; because we know from the perfection of his nature, that his determination must be precisely the same, whether formed be fore, or since he brought us into existence. In a word, if there be no objection against God's working in us both to will and to do, there can be none against his decreeing from eternity to work in us both to will and to do. His decrees have no influence upon us until they reach us, and when they do reach us, they reach us by that divine agency, which coincides with all the liberty we are capable of exercising, or even of conceiving.
INFERENCE 10.-It appears from God's working in all men both to will and to do, that he governs the moral, as well as the natural, world. This is denied by many, who believe in divine providence. Though they acknowledge, that God has a controlling influence over all the material and animal creation; yet they suppose, that it is out of his power, to govern the free and voluntary actions of moral agents. But if he works in all men both to will and to do of his good pleasure; then he governs the moral, as well as the natural, world, and both by a positive agency, and not a bare permission. It is impossible for the Deity to govern any of his creatures or works, by permission; because his permission would be nothing short of annihilation. A prince may exercise permission towards his subjects, because they are able to act, without his support or assistance; but God cannot exercise permission towards his reasonable creatures, because they cannot act, without his working in them both to will and to do. The Deity, therefore, is so far from per mitting moral agents to act independently of himself; that, on the other hand, he puts forth a positive influ
ence to make them act, in every instance of their conduct, just as he pleases. He bends all the moral, as well as all the natural world to his own views; and makes all his creatures, as well as all his works, answer the ends for which they were created. Hence this will forever remain a just definition of his Providence; "His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions."
INFERENCE 11.-If sinners are able to act freely, while they are acted upon by the Deity; then they have no manner of excuse, for neglecting to obey any of his commands. They all acknowledge, that they have no excuse, for neglecting to obey any divine command, which they are able to obey; and that they should be able to obey all the divine commands, were it not for their dependence upon divine influence, in all their moral exercises: so that finally all their excuses centre and terminate in their absolute dependence upon God. If, therefore, this shelter fails them, all their excuses vanish, and every divine command lies upon them in its full force and obligation. But we have shown, that their dependence affords them no protection, because it is not the ground of their inability. They can act as freely, as if they were not dependent; and they are as able to obey the divine commands, as if they could act of themselves. They can love God, repent of sin, believe in Christ, and perform every religious duty, as well as they can think, or speak, or walk. They have no cloak for the least sin, whether internal or external. And if they are ever brought under conviction by the divine Spirit, their excuses will all forsake them, and their consciences will condemn them for impenitence, unbelief, and hardness of heart, as much as for any other sins, in the course of their lives. Their mouths will be stopped, and they will stand speechless