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recovered, to arise from the dead. Fulfilling the law of God, “ Unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; and from him that hath not shall be taken even that he hath ;"-and that other, “He that is faithful over the least is faithful over the greatest: and if ye have not been faithful over the mammon of unrighteousness, who will give unto you the true riches?”
Thus, dearly beloved brethren, have we endeavoured to set forth in order, and to justify from Scripture, the doctrine that there are natural means, under the Divine blessing, and according to the Divine appointment, to work together towards the creation of that good soil of an honest heart, in which the seed of the word will take root, and bring forth fruit in much abundance, to the honour and glory of God. And, throughout the whole argument, we can with a safe conscience affirm, that we have sought simply to interpret the words of our Lord, taking for our guide therein the great lineaments of revelation, and the great principles of natural reason. And we might now conclude the subject, but that we are anxious to guard your mind against certain misconstructions to which the doctrine is exceedingly liable, and to which we foresee it may easily be wrested. And this we shall now do after having briefly set before you the sum and substance of the doctrine itself.
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE DOCTRINE. We have maintained from the whole parable, but especially from this last part of it, that there is in men, as they are found in all ages, and in all countries, some who are prepared, and some who are unprepared, by the state of their hearts and minds, for receiving the seed of everlasting truth, which Christ, first by himself, and now by his church, is sowing in the world, and which the Holy Spirit is continually watering ; that this difference is due to their wise or their unwise, their honest or their dishonest, use of those principles of reason which God hath created in them, and of those opportunities of exercising them which he hath put within their power. But when our creation, gifts, or talents, and these occasions of providence, have been improved to the utmost, they can go no further than to prepare a soil for bearing Divine fruit; but which in itself is utterly incapable of bringing forth any thing pertaining to the redemption; and whether God shall sow any Divine seed in it at all, is wholly according to the good pleasure of his own will. Such a soil I believe to exist, wherever man exists; and upon this faith I would go and preach the Gospel to every nation under heaven, and sow in hope: yet God in his providence hath not ordered it so that there should be preachers of his Gospel in every place. Because God will exercise his own sovereign pleasure in bestowing his gifts : and “ those not having the law, are a law unto themselves, and will be judged without law.” Thus far the power of man can go, and no farther : and here he must hope and expect. And even in Christian countries, which possess both the written and the preached word, with all the other ordinances of the church, man can go no farther by all his wisdom and power than to prepare the soil. And thus we draw a broad impassable gulf
around the realm and region of human power. In order to produce one act, which may be called good in the language of the Gospel, the power of God must be put forth ; every good work is a fruit of redemption. It is not within the region of natural life, but beyond an insuperable and impassable barrier, which nothing but Almighty power prevaileth to pass over. The first grain of wheat which was fit for the garner of heaven was Christ; that sprung up from death and the grave, and it carried many along with it, of which no one without it would ever have flourished again, and the same Almighty power which was required to quicken Christ, the first fruits, is required to quicken all the rest. If there were one good work capable of being produced by all the efforts of natural reason, then would Christ have died in vain. It is of the utmost necessity that this be understood : for it is the corner-stone of the whole system of revealed truth. Now, my subject did not call me to go a step beyond this : but if it had, I would have taken up the párable of the vine, and shewn from thence the work of God whereby fruits are ripened ;-how that the Father is the Husbandman, or Vine-dresser, Christ the Vine, and believers the branches; that is to say, the Father plants the seed, which is Christ, and raises it up to stature, out of which, when branches grow, he prunes them, and dresses them, and doth to them whatever seemeth good in his sight. And, to complete the figure, I would add, that the Holy Spirit which sustained Christ, doth sustain all the branches in union with him, doth take them out of their natural wild stock, and graft them on this good stock; and thus the Father, by the
generation of the word, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, doth work the work of bringing forth fruits unto the glory of God. Such is the doctrine which we have taught : and all our discourse hath bent itself to shew you how you might best use the faculties of your reason, the advantages of your condition, and the means of grace for preparing that good soil which may thus be made productive by the combined power of the three persons of the Godhead.
Now, upon considering in what way this important doctrine is liable to misapprehension of well-disposed, and misrepresentation of ill-disposed men, the two following arise before my mind : the one, coming in the form of an objection, is, And how then is it that we see the most reprobate and ill-conditioned men oft seized
upon by the grace of God, and made to be abundant in the fruits of holiness ; while at the same time we behold the children of the most pious and best educated families, wholly departing from the ways of godliness? To this I reply, by stating the doctrine over again; which is, not that the soil can produce fruit of itself, but only if it should please God to sow his word in it. This is a sufficient reply to that part of the objection which respects the children of pious parents ; of whom I will say, however, that out of these the church is commonly gathered, though not exclusively ; for this were to make the sons of God hereditary, which they never were, and never will be. Though the promises of God unto the children, and the children's children of his people, be sufficiently abundant to encourage the heart of every parent to travail diligently in rearing them up in his nurture and admonition, and though without any promise, it be the bounden duty of every parent under the sacrament of baptism so to do. Yet God doth never, no nor never can, by his promises bring himself under what we call a necessity to carry himself so and so to any man. The promise is a general expression of God's will, and every instance in which the promise is fulfilled, is an expression of the same free-will; which the promise doth not hamper in the least, so that it should not be free to God to do according to the promise, or not according to it, as seemeth to him good. It is sufficient for the fulfilment of a promise, that his providence should proceed according to that method : but in every instance of its application, there is an exercise of sovereign, free, and unbiassed will. God is never brought under an obligation, so as to take out of the way, and supersede, the exercise of his free grace. We can never rest upon a promise, a claim of right, otherwise grace were dethroned and overthrown. Besides God can never make a promise to any spirit, so as to preclude the responsibility of another spirit. To our own God we all do stand and fall for ourselves, whatever our fathers may have been. And therefore, though the children are no doubt visited for their fathers' sake, they are not by such visitation displaced from their own relation unto God, from the standing of every creature towards God; which standing is, that he cannot be saved otherwise than by free grace,—that is, by the acknowledgment of God's will as the only law, and the only blessedness, and the only security of every creature. For every one must, before he can be saved, be brought to the condition of acknowledging the