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degree of heavenly affection; inclined to learn his law, and to perform his will. On the other hand, they, who remain willingly subject to all the force of their natural corruption, and are the unresisting slaves of sin, are said by St. John, in his first Epistle, to be of the devil. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning-whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin-whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God. So our Lord himself reproached the unbelieving Jews; Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do. Whereas they, who were of God, strove to do the will of God; and were qualified and disposed to hear those words, which the others could not receive, because they were not of God, but of the devil; and wilful transgressors, like him, of the divine law.
This appears to me to be a more natural and probable interpretation of our Saviour's expression, than to refer the words, He that is of God, to him that is regenerated, and made the child of God by the Holy Spirit; and for this obvious reason, that in the case of those, to whom our Saviour spoke, such regeneration could not take
place, till after the hearing, the effectual hearing of the Word. Let us then advert to the consequences to be inferred from the truth asserted in the text; that a godly disposition, or, if I may so describe it, a disposition towards God, is necessary to the right hearing of his Word; an indispensable preliminary to the reception of a true faith. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and before it can so believe, as to obtain the righteousness which is by Christ, it must be disposed towards such a belief. But if there be one truth more certain than another, it is, that the heart cannot effectually so dispose itself; for it is deceitful above all things, and so far gone from its original perfection, as to render hopeless any attempt, fully to illuminate, or thoroughly to purify it, by the natural force of reason and conscience. Man's spiritual resemblance to the attributes of God, (conformable to which is the revelation of those attributes,) has been so impaired by the fall, that he is no longer naturally drawn, by an inherent principle of attraction, to divine truth; but rather has an involuntary dislike and fear of that knowledge, which is to convince him of his own
sinfulness and danger; and which lays upon him duties and constraints, at variance with his habits and affections. By his nature, degenerated as it is from its primitive integrity and perfection, he is not a child of God in feeling or practice; yet our Saviour says, that he must be of God, in order to hear his word. What conclusion then remains to be drawn, but that this is the work of God himself? He reveals his will and purposes to mankind: He requires all men to take notice of that revelation, and to lay it to heart: but they are not of themselves thoroughly disposed so to receive his words, although they may perhaps make an effort to attend to them. therefore himself, in order that his revelation may be effectual, and his work complete, influences their hearts, by the power of his Spirit, to a favourable and cordial reception of his Word; and then the work goes on with the promise of a blessed result.
This doctrine, so important to man, as the object of a divine revelation, was upon other occasions laid down by our Saviour, with greater emphasis and distinctness of expression. When the Jews murmured at a saying, which was too spiritual for their comprehension, he said, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to
me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.5 St. Paul declares that the faith, through which we are saved by grace, is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. With respect to those moral dispositions of the heart, which are absolutely necessary to a right understanding, as well as to a practical exemplification of the Word of God, our Saviour's expression is very remarkable; If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself;" from which it appears, that, in order to form a right judgment of the evidences of revelation, a man must be sincerely desirous of doing the will of God, and of resigning himself implicitly to his direction. But such a desire, pure and efficacious, is not a natural desire of the human heart; and must therefore be infused into it by Him, who alone can regulate, as well as read, the thoughts and inclinations of the inner man: No man can come unto me, said our Lord, except it were given unto him of my Father.
5 John vi. 43.
Eph. ii. 3.
7 John vii. 17.
John vi. 65.
From all these declarations of Him, who knew the counsels of God, and the method of his dealings with men, we may infer, that to be of God, to be drawn of God, to be willing to do the will of God, are, as to the effect implied, equivalent expressions; and that all, who are rightly and effectually disposed to receive and embrace the doctrine of Jesus, are so, not by nature, not by reason only, not by reflection, not by the tendencies of the heart, but by the grace of God's Holy Spirit. A striking instance of this truth is recorded in the case of Lydia. She had beforetime worshipped God in sincerity: but when Paul preached the Gospel, it was not her understanding, which, by its own natural light, enabled her all at once to discern the truth; but the Lord opened her heart, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul;10 inclined her to hear, and enabled her to examine with sincerity, the new doctrines which were then proposed for her acceptance. On the contrary, an insensibility to the convincing evidences, and sublime revelations of the Gospel, is ascribed, in Scripture, to that desperate and reckless hardness of heart, which has never been softened
• See Sherlock's Sermons, Vol. II.