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by every religious man; viz. That God in accomplishing the salvation of mankind orders things in such a manner, as that those, who are renewed, are, to say the least, in almost all instances deceived with respect to the Author of their renovation ; and that, while employed, not with integrity merely, but with deep solicitude, in exploring the state of their own minds and lives. According to this supposition, not only must their apprehensions concerning these important facts be false, and, so far as I can see, necessarily false, but all their emotions of gratitude, and all their ascriptions of praise, to their Creator, for his agency in effectuating this happy change in their character, must be also false and unfounded. These ascriptions were begun in the early days of religion. Prophets and Apostles set the example. All that was morally good in themselves, or in others, they attributed to the efficacious Grace of God. In this attribution, Christians have followed them throughout every succeeding age. Thus, according to this supposition, a succession of false, and therefore indefensible, ascriptions of praise, has ascended to God from the great body of pious persons in all the ages of the Church; which, yet, they could not honestly, and in consistence with the best views, which they were able to form, have failed to render. At the same time, no instances have occurred, in which men have, by direct efforts of their own, without the efficacious influence of the Divine Spirit, changed their moral character from sin to holiness. Not only have no such instances occurred, which have been clear and unequivocal, and such as might be supposed to decide this point in favour of the supposition; but no collection of instances can he found, which lean towards it, in a sufficient degree, to render it probable. The whole stream of evidence, furnished both by the public and private history of experimental religion, is against the opinion, which I have endeavoured to disprove, and in favour of that, which l have asserted. Whatever may be the judgment, formed by the spirit of controversy, and cold metaphysical investigation, concerning this part of the subject, the doctrine will be readily admitted by all
men, who are afflicted by a deep sense of their guilt, and strugVol. IV. 50
gle hard to obtain a release from their sinful character; and by all, who, having thus suffered, and thus struggled, have felt themselves, in the end, actually released from the dominant control of a sinful disposition. This doctrine is elucidated by experience, also, in another manner. God, who requires our faith, repentance, and obedience to his Law, has set before us numberless and most powerful motives, to engage our compliance; motives, which, all sober men will acknowledge, ought to persuade us; motives, which are obviously of infinite import. Why do not men, who believe the Gospel to be the Word of God, and who have these motives presented to them, clearly and forcibly, from Sabbath to Sabbath, believe, repent, and obey 7 No answer, it is presumed, can be given to this question, which will accord with the supposition, against which I contend. 5. There is yet no more difficulty in obeying God, than in doing anything else, to which our inclination is opposed with equal strength and obstinacy. A child is equally unable to obey a parent, against whom his will is as much opposed, as to obey God. This inability of children to obey their parents does not, indeed, commonly last through life. But while it lasts, the child can no more obey his parent, than his Maker. In both cases, his inability is, I apprehend, of exactly the same nature. Sometimes, also, it continues while he lives. In such cases, it is, in all respects, the same; equally obstinate, equally enduring, equally preventing him from doing his duty. If, in this case, his filial duty be urged upon him in its religious nature, as required by the Law of God; his opposition to perform his duty to God and his Parent, will be found exactly coincident; to be the same indivisible thing; and to be regarded with the same obduracy of heart. These considerations will, to a considerable extent, explain many Scriptural passages, which relate to this subject. No man, saith our Saviour, can come unto me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him. The true meaning of this, he appears to me to explain in a parallel declaration to the Jews: Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life. That he, who is willing to come to Christ, will actually come to him, we are taught by Christ Himself in the last chapter of the Apocalypse: Whosoever will, or is willing, ("o Askøy,) let him come, and take the water of life freely. From these passages it is evident, that every one, who is willing, has the full permission of Christ to come to him, and partake of his blessings. Indisposition to come to Christ is, therefore, the true, and the only, difficulty, which lies in our way. Those, who cannot come, therefore, are those, and those only, who will not. The words can, and cannot, are used in the Scriptures, just as they are used in the common intercourse of mankind, to express willingness or unwillingness. Thus we customarily say, that we cannot lend, or give, or assist, or pay a debt; when we mean nothing more, than that we are disinclined to these offices. Thus Samuel says to God, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. That Samuel could have gone to Bethlehem, if he had pleased, needs no proof. As soon as his fear of Saul, which had made him unwilling, was removed, he went without any difficulty. 1 Samuel xvi. 2. How can this man give us his flesh? said the Jews to our Saviour: John vi. 52; that is, How can he be willing to give us his flesh?" This is a hard saying; who can hear it? John vi. 60. The answer is, Every one that is willing. Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized P Acts x. 47. Canye drink of the cup, that Ishall drink of 2 Mark X. 38. Can the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bride-groom is with them 2 Mark ii. 19. Can a maid forget her ornaments ; or a bride her attire 2 Jer. ii. 32. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb 2 Isaiah xlix. 15. Can I hear any more the voice of singing men, and singing women P 2 Sam. ii. 35. In all these, and the like, instances, there is plainly nothing meant, but inability of disposition, or a strong disinclination to the thing proposed. This is both the natural, and universal, language of men; found, equally, in their conversation and their writings. Children speak this language almost as soon as they begin to speak at all; and on every such occasion, utter it more naturally, than any other language. If the Scriptures would be intelligible to the great body of mankind, they must speak in the same manner. In this manner, therefore, God has directed them to be written.
1. From these observations it is evident, that the disobedience of mankind is their own fault. Wherever we understand the nature of our duty, and are hindered from performing it by disinclination only, Conscience and Common sense pronounce us to be guilty. Thus they have ever pronounced. The decision has been given in all ages and countries; in every conceivable form of language and conduct; with an universal acknowledgment of its soundness; in the most definite terms; and with the highest solemnity. 2. The degree of our Inability to obey the Divine Law does in no case lessen our guilt. Certainly he, who is more disinclined to obedience, is not less guilty than he, who is less disinclined. Disinclination to obey, is our inability, and our sin. The greater our disinclination is, the greater plainly, not the less, is our sin. 3. These observations teach us the propriety of urging sinners to immediate repentance. Their present state is a state of extreme guilt and danger. Of this, it is the duty of every Minister to produce, as far as may be, a strong conviction in their minds. Equally is it his duty to show them, what is equally true, that they are under the highest obligations to repent immediately. They are now, they always have been, sinners. Every sin, of which they have been guilty, demanded their immediate repentance. The only reason, which they can allege for delaying their repentance, is the very reason, why they have hitherto refused to obey the Divine Law: viz. their disinclination. But this is their sin: and sin is itself that, which demands their repentance, instead of being a justification of their delay. But it will be objected, that the sinner cannot, or in the very language of this discourse, will not, repent of himself. Why, then, should he be urged to immediate repentance 2 I will give
the answer. So long as the sinner feels himself in any degree excused in delaying this duty, there is every reason to fear, that he will be more and more at ease, and more and more disposed to delay. His views will be false, and dangerous; and his conduct will eagerly accord with his views. But a full conviction of his duty will create in him a sense of danger, a conviction of his guilt, and a trembling anxiety concerning his future being. In this situation he will naturally, and almost necessarily, commence those efforts of solemn reflection, that deep attention to the word of God, and those attempts to supplicate for Mercy, that conviction of his helplessness, and that strong sense of the absolute necessity of being sanctified by the Spirit of Grace, which, in the usual Providence of God, precede Regeneration.