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with the hidden man of the heart, is, in the ordinary methods of its aeting, so gentle and : imperceptible, that what is transacted there might seem to be the sole result of our reason and better choice ; did not experience as well as scripture abundantly testify, that in ourselves, że. in our flesh dwelleth no good thing: so that we are obliged, in reason and justice, to write upon every good action which we perform that confession of St. Paul: Not I, but the grace of God that is in me. .
But however weak and unequal we may prove in the fight between the flesh and the spirit, yet we may be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, who spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly ; leading them as so many pinioned captives after the chariot of his cross. · But if the supernatural assistances of God's grace are so necessary to man's obedience, and withal so powerful in their operation, it may be asked, how comes it to pass that they are not always effectual? The answer to this question was the second thing proposed.
That all things are alike to an omnipotent Being; and that the spirit of God can work so forceably as to make all opposition fall before it, must be granted. But we have no reason to infer from thence, that this Almighty Being acts to the utmost stretch and extent of his power.
He was pleased once to .create man at full stature; is there any reason that he should always do so ? He converted St. Paul in a most
miraculous manner; has any man a right to hope for the like favour? Frequent instances of such overpowering grace we must not expect to meet with; because, to invert the nature of things, to break through the fundamental laws of the creation, though it may serve to demonstrate the power of the Almighty, yet, with reverence be it spoken, it does not equally commend his wisdom. But, manifold as the works of God are, in wisdom hath he made them all. :
And since it was agreeable to his wisdom that man should be furnished with a principle to discern between good and evil, and a liberty of acting in pursuance of that principle, unless God should alter our nature, pluck out the essentials of a man, and make him another creature, he cannot deal with us otherwise than as voluntary agents, in a manner suitable to our faculties: by persuasion, not constraint; by exercising our powers, not over-ruling them; in such a way and by such methods as may im. prove human nature, not supersede and destroy it. Therefore, though the grace of God be mighty, it is not violent to compel; though strong, it is not irresistible: it demands a ready entertainment, and when we perform our part, the end is answered. For, as Mary was the mother of Christ, so the Christian soul must be the parent of its divine productions.
Whereas, if a man will obstinately hold out against the means of grace'; abuse and resist the holy Spirit, and refuse to be overcome, those gracious assistances may, in the event,
prove ineffectual; not because grace was wanting to us, but because we were wanting to grace: as the sun in its meridian brightness cannot make a man see, if he will shut his eyes and obstinately wink hard against it. I now proceed,
Thirdly, To lay before you the justice 'of God in withdrawing the slightest offers of his gracę.
Simon, Simon, (saith our blessed Lord) behold Satan hath desired to have thee, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. The devil is not more vigilant to work our destruction, than the Spirit of God is to defeat his attempts. -- But when men are obstinately attached to the enemy, and betray the succours of grace ; when neither the judgments of God can learn them righteousness, nor his goodness lead them to repentance, then the controversy is decided. Just is it with God to give them up as unworthy of his future care.
The doctrine of God's consigning men over to a reprobate mind, in pursuance of an absolute irrespective decree, draws consequences after it too horrid to be mentioned, and turns his gracious dealings with men into downright mockery. Contrary to this pernicious doctrine, how does the good God wait that he may be gracious ? Pay attendance upon us through the tedious stages of our folly and yanity; knocking at the door of our hearts, and importuning for admittance? How does he become a supplicant to his creatures, and court the work of his own hand ? He that shed tears
at the grave of Lazarus; wept over the city of Jerusalem, saying, o Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean, when shall it více be? In what affectionate and endearing terms does he expostulate with them: IVhy will ye die? As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; turn yourselves and live ! How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not ! Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their seed for ever.
Now, if all the methods of his goodness cannot reform them; if all his loving kindness he repaid with ingratitude and contempt; and the offers of his grace produce no other effect than abuse and scorn ; no wonder if God withdraw his mercy from us, and shut up his loving kindness in displeasure.
We may expect, that like an abused friend, he will ply us ho more with unwelcome importunities, but suffer the unkind design against ourselves to prosper. And what injustice can we charge this proceeding with, which amounts to no more than, after many unsuccessful and Treglected offices of kindness, to cease contending with wretches who will not be persuaded to their own 'advahtage? Which leads me to the
Fourth and last proposal, which is to consider the dreadful condition of those from whom the grace of God is withdrawn. . .
A condition, such as might justify the liberty of the speaker, should be use those peremptory Words of Elisha, concerning Benhadad, king of Syria, The Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die. For how can their case be other than desperate, whom the unerring physician of our souls hath given over unto death, as men who have no appetite to do good ; have lost all sense of their duty, and in whom the spiritual pulse is gone? They would not accept of God's grace to prevent their sins, and now they are denied that grace to repent of them. They have extinguished the light of reason, blotted out the law of their nature, and effaced the notions of good and evil. And what principle, I pray, remains to curb and restrain the violence of their lusts? What should hinder, but that they go on with an uninterrupted sanguine security, to work all manner of iniquity and uncleanliness with greediness; treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath ; which, when the measure of their iniquity is filled up, shall come upon them to the uttermost.
Sleep on now and take your rest, are the . words of the Son of Man to his disciples, when the hour was come that he should be taken away from them. And if we are deaf to the repeated calls of the holy Spirit; if they cannot rouse us to watchfulness and prayer; the time will come when he shall be taken away from us, and then we shall be suffered to sleep on, and take our rest, 'till we awake either in this or another world (not to escape) but to see our eternal destruction. Then, perhaps, we shall call upon God, but he will not hear, or if he vouchsafe.us any answer, we must expect that sarcastical