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image of the Saviour, it is by the energy of the same predestinating God, whose good pleasure it is to give unto us the kingdom prepared for us before the foundation of the world. Thus it is that some are elected to everlasting life. This is an obvious doctrine of Scripture. The Bible brings it forward, and it is not for us, the interpreters of the Bible, to keep it back from you. God could, if it pleased him, read out, at this moment, the names of those in this congregation, who are ordained to eternal life, and are written in his book. In reference to their deliverance from shipwreck, he enabled Paul to say of the whole ship's company, that they were to be saved. In reference to your deliverance from wrath and from punishment, he could reveal to us the names of the elect among you, and enable us to say of them that they are certainly to be saved. But again, the same God who ordains the end, ordains also the means which go before it. In virtue of the end being ordained and made known to him, Paul could say that all the men's lives were to be saved. And in virtue of the means being ordained and made known to him, he could also say, that unless the sailors abode in the ship, they should not be saved. In the same manner, if the ordained end were made known to us, we could, perhaps, say of some individual among you, that you are certainly to be saved. And if the ordained means were made known to us, we could say, that unless you are rendered meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, you shall not be saved. Now, the ordination of the end, God has not been pleased to reveal to us. He has not told us who among you are to be saved, as he told Paul of the deliverance of his ship's company. This is one of the secret things which belong to him, and we dare not meddle with it. But he has told us about the ordained means, and we know, through the medium of the Bible, that unless you do such and such things, you shall not be saved. This is one of the revealed things which belong to us, and with as great truth and practical urgency as Paul made use of, when he said to the centurion and soldiers, that unless these men abide in the ship ye shall not be saved, do we say to one and to all of you, unless ye repent ye shall not be saved—unless ye do works meet for repentance, ye shall not be saved—unless ye believe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, ye shall not be saved—unless ye are born again, ye shall not be saved—unless the deeds done in your body be good deeds, and ye bring forth those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God, ye shall not be saved. Mark the difference between the situation
of Paul urging upon the people of the ship the immediate adoption of the only way by which their lives could be saved, and the situation of an ordinary minister urging it
upon the people of his church, to take to
that way of faith and repentance, by which alone they can save their souls from the wrath that is now abiding on them. Paul did know that the people were certainly to escape with their lives, and that did not prevent him from pressing upon them the measures which they ought to adopt for their preservation. Even, then, though a minister did know those of his people whose names are written in the book of life, that ought not to hinder him from pressing it upon them to lay hold of eternal life—to lay up their treasure in heaven —to labour for the meat that endureth—to follow after that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord——to be strong in the faith, and such a faith too as availeth, even faith which worketh by love, and of
which we may say, even those whom we .
assuredly know to be the chosen heirs of immortality, that unless this faith abideth in them, they shall not be saved. But it so happens, that we do not know who are, and who are not, the children of election. This is a secret thing belonging to God, and which is not imparted to us; still it would be our part to say to those of whose final salvation we were assured, believe the Gospel, or you shall not be saved—repent, or you shall not be saved--purify yourselves, even as God is pure, or you shall not be saved. But we are not in possession of the secret—and how much more then does it lie upon us to ply with earnestness the fears and the consciences of our hearers, by those revealed things which God hath becn pleased to make known to us? What!. if Paul, though assured by an angel from heaven of the final deliverance of this ship's company, still persists in telling them, that if they leave certain things undone, their deliverance will be impossible—shall we, utterly in the dark about the final state of a single hearer we are addressing, let down for a single instant the practical urgency of the New Testament 7 The predestination of God respecting the final escape of Paul and his fellow-travellers from shipwreck, though made known to the Apostle, did not betray him into the indolence which is ascribed, and falsely ascribed, to the belief of this doctrine; nor did it restrain him from spiriting on the people to the most strenuous and fatiguing exertions. And shall we, who only know in general that God does predestinate, but cannot carry it home with assurance to a single individual, convert this doctrine into a plea of indolence and security ? Even should we see the mark of God upon their foreheads, it would be our duty to labour
them with the necessity of doing those things, which, is left undone, will exclude from the kingdom of God. But, we make no such pretensions. We see no mark upon any of your foreheads. We possess no more than the Bible, and access through the Mediator to him, who, by his Spirit, can open our understandings to understand it. The revealed things which we find there belong to us, and we press them upon you —“ Unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” “If ye believe not in the Son of God, the wrath of God abideth on you.” “Be not deceived, neither covetous, nor thieves, nor extortioners, nor drunkards, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” “He who forsaketh not all, shall not be a disciple of Christ.” “The fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” These are plain declarations, and apart from the doctrine of predestination altogether, they - ought, and if they are believed and listened to, they will have a practical influence upon ou. We call upon you not to resist this influence, but to cherish it. If any of you are the children of election, it is by the right influence of revealed things upon your understandings and your consciences, that this secret thing will be brought to pass. Paul said as much to the centurion and the soldiers, as that if you do the things, I call upon you to do, you will certainly be saved. They did what he bade them, and the decree of God respecting their deliverance from shipwreck, a decree which Paul had the previous knowledge of, was accomplished. We also feel ourselves warranted to say to one and to all of you, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved.” - “Repent and be converted, and your sins shall be forgiven you.” Return unto God, and he will be reconciled. If you do as we bid you, God’s decree respecting your deliverance from hell, a decree which we have not the previous knowledge of, will be made known by its accomplishment. Again, we call upon you, our hearers, to compare your situation with that of the centurion and the soldiers. They were told by a prophet that they were to be saved, and when that prophet told them what they were to do for the purpose of saving themselves, they obeyed him. They did not say, “O it is all predestinated, and we may give up our anxieties and do nothing.” They were just as strenuous and active, as if there had been no predestination in the matter. Paul's previous assurrance, that all was to end well, had no effect in lulling them to indolence. It did end well, not however without their exertions,
ness upon the business of doing. We can give you no assurance of its being the decree of God, that any of you shall be saved. But we can give you the assurance, that you will be saved, if you do such and such things. Surely, if the people whom Paul addressed, did not feel themselves exempted by their knowledge of God's decree, from practically entering upon those measures which carried forward its accomplishment, you, who have no such knowledge, must feel doubly impelled by the uncertainty which hangs over you, to the work of making your calling and your election sure. You know in general, that predestination is a doctrine of the Bible, but there is not one of you who can say of himself, that God has made known his decrees to me, and given me directly to understand, that I am the object of a blessed predestination. This is one point of which you know nothing; but there is another point of which you know something—and that is, if I believe, if I repent, if I be made like unto Christ, if I obtain the Holy Spirit to work in me a conformity to his image—and I am told, that I shall obtain it if I ask it– then by this I become an heir of life, and the decree of which I know nothing at the outset of my concern about salvation, will become more and more apparent to me as I advance in a meetness for heaven, and will, at length, become fully, and finally, and conclusively made known by its accomplishment. I may suffer my curiosity to expatiate on the question, “Am I, or am I not, of the election of God?” But my wisdom tells me that this is not the business on hand. It is not the matter which I am called on to do with at present. After Paul said to his companions, that it was quite indispensable to their safety that the sailors should be kept in the vessel, what did the centurion and his men do? Did they fall a speculating about the decrees? Did they hug themselves in the confidence, that as their safety was a point sure and determined upon, they need to take no trouble at all in the concern ? O no No sooner did Paul give the word, than they acted upon it. They gave themselves up with all the promptitude of men whose lives were at stake, to the business on hand. They cut the ropes—they let go the boatthey kept in the sailors—and from the very first moment of Paul's address to them on the subject, all was bustling, and strenuous, and unremitting activity; till, by the un: wearied perseverance of those living and operative instruments, the decree of God was accomplished. Now, they were much better acquainted with the decree which respected them, than you are with the decree respecting you. They had the beDo, therefore, betake yourselves to the business on hand. Let our exhortations to embrace the free offer of the Gospel—to - rely on Christ as your Saviour—to resolve against all your iniquities, and turn unto him—to ply the throne of grace for the strengthening influence of the Spirit, by which alone you are enabled to die unto all sin, and live unto all righteousness—let this have an immediate, and a stirring, and a practical influence upon you. If you put this influence away from you, you are in a direct way now of proving what we tremble to think may be o clear and indisputable at last, on the great day of the revelation of hidden things, that you have neither part nor lot in the matter. Whatever the employment be which takes you up, and hinders you from entering immediately on the work of faith and repentance, it is an alarming symptom of your soul, that you are so taken up—and should the employment be an idle dreaming, and amusing of yourselves with the decrees and counsels of heaven, it is not the less alarming. Some will spend their time in inquiries about the number of the saved, when they ought to be striving for themselves, that they might obtain an entrance into the strait gate; and some will waste those precious moments in speculating about the secrets of the book of life, which they should fill up by |...; themselves, and making proress through the narrowness of the way that leads to it. The plain business we lay upon you, is to put away from you the evil of your doings—to submit yourselves to Christ as he is offered to you—to fly to his atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of your offences—to place yo. under the guidance of his word, and a dependence on the influences of his Spirit—to live no longer to yourselves, but to him—and to fill up your weeks and your days with those fruits of righteousness, by which God is glorified. We stand here by the decree of heaven, and it is by the same decree that you are now sitting round and listening to us. We feel the importance of the situation we occupy; and though we believe in the sovereignty of God, and the unfailingness of all his appointments, this, instead of restraining, impels us to bring the message of the Gospel, with all the practical urgency of its invitations, and its warnings, to bear upon you. We feel, with all our belief in predestination, that our business is not to forbear this urgency, but to ply you with it most anxiously, and earnestly, and unceasingly; and you should feel, with the same belief in your mind, that your business is not to resist this urgency, but to be guided by its impulse. ho knows but we may be the humble instrument, and you the undeserved subjects of some high and heavenly ordination? The cutting of the ropes was the turning point
but by their exertions. How much more forehand knowledge of it, and will you be does it lie upon you to enter with earnest- less active, or less strenuous, than they?
on which the deliverance of Paul's company from shipwreck was suspended. Who knows but the urgency we now ply you with, telling upon you, and carrying your purposes along with it, may be the very step in the wonderful progress of God's operations, on which your conversion hinges? We, therefore, press the Gospel with all its duties, and all its promises, and all its privileges upon you. O listen, and resolve, and, mansully forsaking all that keeps you from the Saviour, we call upon you, from this moment, to give yourselves up unto him; and be assured, it is only by acting in obedience to such calls laid before you in the Bible, and sounded in your ear from the pulpit, that your election unto life can ever be made known in this world, or reach its positive consummation in eternity. And now you can have no difficulty in understanding how it is that we make our calling and our election sure. It is not in the power of the elect to make their election surer in itself than it really is; for this is a sureness which is not capable of receiving any addition. It is not in the power of the elect to make it surer to God—for all futurity is submitted to his all-seeing eye, and his absolute knowledge slands in need of no confirmation. But there is such a thing as the elect being ignorant for a time of their own election, and their being made sure of it in the progress of evidence and discovery. And therefore it is that they are called to make their election sure to themselves, or to make themselves sure of their election. And how is this to be done? Not by reading it in the book of God's decrees—not by obtaining from him any direct information about his counsels—not by conferring with prophet or angel, gisted with the revelation of hidden things. But the same God who elects some unto everlasting life, and keeps back from them all direct information about it, tells them that he who believeth, and he who repenteth, and he who obeyeth the Gospel, shall obtain everlasting life. We shall never in this world have an immediate communication from him, whether we are of the elect or not—but let us believe—let us repent—let us obey the Saviour, and from the first moment of our setting ourselves to these things in good earnest, we may conceive the hope of a place among the heirs of immortality. In the progress and success of our endeavours, this hope may advance and grow brighter within us. As we grow in the exercises of faith and obedience, the light of a cheering manifestation is more sensibly felt, and our hope ripens into assurance. “Hereby do we know that we know him, by our keeping his commandments,” is an evidence which every year becomes clearer and more encouraging; and thus, by a well-sustained perseverance in the exerciscs of the Christian life, do we labour with all diligence to make our calling and election sure... We call upon you, in the language of the Apostle, to have faith, and to this faith add virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity. It is by the doing of these things, that you are made sure of your calling and election, “for if ye do these things,” says Peter, “ye shall never fail, and an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” - - If there be any of you who have not followed this train of observation—if it still remain one of those things of Paul which, are hard to be understood—let us beseech you, at least, that you wrest it not to your own destruction, by remitting your activity, and your diligence, and your pains-taking in the service of Christ. Why, the doctrine of election leaves our duty to exhort, and your duty to obey, on the same footing on which it found them. We are commissioned to lay before you the free offer of the Gospel—to press it on the acceptance of one and all of you—to assure every individual amongst you of a hearly welcome from the more, who, though active and astir on that living scene of population which is around us, have an iron hardness upon their souls, which makes them, in reference to the things of God, dark and sullen as the grave, and fast locks them in all the insensibility of spiritual death. Is there no old man of your acquaintance, who realizes this sad picture of one left to himself that we have now attempted so rapidly to set before you? Then know, that by every deed of wilful sin, that by every moment of wilful delay in the
Lord God merciful and gracious—to call you to the service of Christ, that great Master of the household of faith—to urge it upon you, that you must renounce every other master, and, casting all your idols, and vanities, and iniquities away from you, to close with the invitation, and be diligent in all the duties and performances of the Gospel. If you resist, or put off—is, blind to the goodness of God in Christ Jesus, you suffer it not to lead you to repentance—if the call of “awake to righteousness, and sin not,” make no practical impression on you —if the true assurance of pardon for the sins of the past, do not fill your heart with the desire of sanctification for the future— if the word of Christ be not so received by you as to lead to the doing of it—then you are just leaving undone those things, of which we say in the words of the text, “Except these things be done, ye cannot be saved”—and to all the guilt of your past disobedience, you add the aggravation of putting away from you both the offered atonement and the commanded repentance of the Gospel, and “how can you escape if you neglect so great a salvation?”
- SERMON XII.
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blas
phemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven
the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Ho forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."—Matthew xii.
Let us never suspend the practical influence of what we do know, by idly rambling in a vain and impertinent pursuit after what we do not know. Thus much we know from the Bible, that God refuses not his Holy Spirit to them who ask it—that every right movement of principle within us is from him—that when we feel an impulse of conscience, we feel the Spirit of God knocking at the door of our hearts, and challenging from us that attention and that obedience which are due to the great Lawgiver—that if we follow not the impulse, we provoke and dissatisfy him who is the Author of it—and that there is such a thing as tempting him to abandon us altogether, and to surrender the friendly office of plying us any longer with his admonitions and his warnings. Hence, an emphatic argument for immediate repentance. By every moment of delay, we hasten upon ourselves the awful crisis of being let alone. The conscience is every day getting harder; and he who sits behind, and is the unseen Author of all its instigations, is lifting every day a
unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against ly Ghost, it shall not be 3. 32.
feebler voice; and coming always nearer and nearer to that point in the history of every determined sinner, when, left to his own infatuation, he can hold up a stubborn and unyielding front to all that instrumen. tality of advice and of expostulation which is brought to bear upon him. The preacher plies him with his weekly voice, but the Spirit refuses to lend it his constraining energy; and all that is tender, and all that is terrifying in his Sabbath argument plays around his heart, without reaching it. judgments of God go abroad against him, and as he carries his friends or his children
great matter of repentance, that by every
stifled warning of conscience, that by every deafening of its authoritative voice among the temptations of the world, and the riot of lawless acquaintances, you are just moving yourself to the limits of this helpless and irrecoverable condition. We have no doubt, that you may have the intention of making a violent step, and suddenly turning round to the right pathere you die. But this you will not do but by an act of obedience to the reproaches of a conscience that is ever getting harder. This you will not do without the constraining influence of that Spirit, who is gradually dying away from you. This you will not do but in virtue of some overpowering persuasion from that monitor who is now stirring within you, but with whom you are now taking the most effectual method of drowning his voice, and disarming him of all his authority. Do not you perceive, that in these circumstances, every act of delay is madness—that you are getting by every hour of it into deeper water—that you are consolidating a barrier against your future return to the paths of righteousness, which you vainly think you will be able to surmount when the languor and infirmity of old age have got hold of you—that you are strengthening and multiplying around you, the wiles of an entanglement, which all the strugglings of deathbed terror cannot break asunder—that you are insulting the Spirit of God by this daily habit of stifling and neglecting the other and the other call that he is sounding to your moral ear, through the organ of conscience. And O the desperate hazard and folly of such a calculation! Think you, think you, that this is the way of gaining his friendly presence at that awful moment, when the urgent sense of guilt and of danger forces from the sinner an imploring cry as he stands on the brink of eternity? - “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge o Turn ye at my reproof. Behold I will pour out my spirit unto you; I will make known m words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at
your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as deso lation, and your destruction cometh as a
whirlwind; when distress and anguish
cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.”
You see, then, how a man may shut against himself all the avenues of reconciliation. There is nothing mysterious in the kind of sin by which the Holy Spirit is tempted to abandon him to that state in which there can be no forgiveness, and no return unto God... It is by a movement of conscience within him, that the man is made sensible of sin—that he is visited with the desire of reformation—that he is given to feel his need both of mercy to pardon, and of grace to help him—in a word, that he is drawn unto the Saviour, and brought into that intimate alliance with him by faith, which brings down npon him both acceptance with the Father, and all the power of a new and a constraining impulse, to the way of obedience. But this movement is a suggestion of the Spirit of God, and if it be resisted by any man, the Spirit is resisted. The God who offers to draw him unto Christ, is resisted. The man refuses to believe, because his deeds are evil; and by every day of perseverance in these deeds the voice which tells him of their guilt, and urges him to abandon them, is resisted; and thus, the Spirit ceases to suggest, and the Father, from whom the Spirit proceedeth, ceases to draw, and the inward voice ceases to remonstrate; and all this because their authority has been so often put forth, and so often turned from. This is the deadly offence which has reared an impassable wall against the return of the obstimately impenitent. This is the blasphemy to which no forgiveness can be granted, because in its very nature, the man who has come this length, feels no movement of conscience towards that ground on which alone for giveness can be awarded to him—and where it is never refused even to the very worst and most malignant of human iniquities. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost. It is not peculiar to any one age. It does not lie in any one unfathomable mystery. It may be seen at this day in thousands and thousands more, who, by that most familiar and most frequently exemplified of all ha
bits, a habit of resistance to a sense of duty,
have at length stifled it altogether, and driven their inward monitor away from them, and have sunk into a profound moral lethargy, and so will never obtain forgiveness– not because forgiveness is ever refused to any who repent and believe the Gospel, but because they have made their faith and their repentance impracticable. They choose not to repent; and this choice has been made so often and so perseveringly, that the Spirit