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on his wisdom to contrive a way to accomplish it, and on his power to bring it to pass, but we are dependent on his mere will and pleasure in the affair. We depend on the sovereign will of God for every thing belonging to it, from the foundation to the top-stone. It was of the sovereign pleasure of God, that he contrived a way to save any of mankind, and gave us Jesus Christ, his onlybegotten Son, to be our Redeemer. Why did he look on us, and send us a Saviour, and not the fallen angels? It was from the sovereign pleasure of God. It was of his sovereign pleasure what means to appoint. His giving us the Bible, and the ordinances of religion, is of his sovereign grace. His giving those means to us rather than to others, his giving the awakening influences of his Spirit, and his bestowing saving grace, are all of his sovereign pleasure. When he says, “Let there be light in the soul of such a one,” it is a word of infinite power and sovereign grace.
2. Let us with the greatest humility adore the awful and absolute sovereignty of God. As we have just shown, it is an eminent attribute of the Divine Being, that he is sovereign over such excellent beings as the souls of men, and that in every respect, even in that of their eternal salvation. The infinite greatness of God, and his exaltation above us, appears in nothing more than in his sore reignty. It is spoken of in Scripture as a great part of his glory. Deut. xxxii
. 39, “ See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no God with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Psal. cxv. 3,"Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he pleased.” Daniel iv. 34, 35, “Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou ?" Our Lord Jesus Christ praised and glorified the Father for the exercise of his sovereignty in the salva. tion of men. Matt. xi. 25, 26, “ I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Let us therefore give God the glory of his sovereignty, as adoring him, whose sovereign will orders all things, beholding ourselves as nothing in comparison with him. Dominion and sovereignty require humble reverence and honor in the subject. The absolute, universal, and unlimited sovereignty of God requires, that we should adore him with all possible humility and reverence. It is impossible that we should go to excess in lowliness and reverence of that Being who may dispose of us to all eternity, as he pleases.
3. Those who are in a state of salvation are to attribute it to sovereign grace alone, and to give all the praise to him, who maketh them to differ from others Godliness is no cause for glorying, except it be in God. 1 Cor. i. 29, 30, 31, “That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Such are not, by any means, in any degree to attribute their godliness, their safe and happy state and condition, to any natural difference between them and other men, or to any strength or righteousness of their own. They have no reason to exalt themselves in the least degree; but God is the being whom they should exalt. They should exalt God the Father, who chose them in Christ, who set his love upon them, and gave them salvation, before they were born, and even before the world was. If they inquire, why God set his love on them, and chose them rather than others, if they think they can see
any cause out of God, they are greatly mistaken. They should exalt God the Son, who bore their names on his heart, when he came into the world, and hung on the cross, and in whom alone they have righteousness and strength. They should exalt God the Holy Ghost, who of sovereign grace has called them out of darkness into marvellous light; who has by his own immediate and free operation, led thein into an understanding of the evil and danger of sin, and brought them off from their own righteousness, and opened their eyes to discover the glory of God, and the wonderful riches of God in Jesus Christ, and bas sanctified them, and made them new creatures. When they hear of the wickedness of others, or look upon vicious persons, they should think how wicked they once were, and how much they provoked God, and how they deserved forever to be left by him to perish in sin, and that it is only sovereign grace which has made the difference, 1 Cor. vi. 10. Many sorts of sinners are there enumerated; fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind. And then in the eleventh verse, the apostle tells them, “ Such were some of
ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The people of God have the greater cause of thankfulness, more reason to love God, who hath bestowed such great and unspeakable mercy upon them of his mere sove reign pleasure.
4. Hence we learn what cause we have to admire the grace of God, that he should condescend to become bound to us by covenant; that he, who is naturally supreme in his dominion over us, who is our absolute proprietor, and may do with us as he pleases, and is under no obligation to us; that he should, as it were, relinquish his absolute freedom, and should cease to be merely sovereign in his dispensations towards believers, when once they have believed in Christ, and should, for their more abundant consolation, become bound. So that they can challenge salvation of this Sovereign; they can demand it through Christ, as a debt. And it would be prejudicial to the glory of God's attributes, to deny it to them ; it would be contrary to his justice and faithfulness. What wonderful condescension is it in such a Being, thus to become bound to us, worms of the dust, for our consolation ! He bound himself by his word, his promise. But he was not satisfied with that; but that we might have stronger consolation still, he hath bound himself by his oath. Heb. vi. 13, &c., "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself; saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”
Let us, therefore, labor to submit to the sovereignty of God. God insists, that his sovereignty be acknowledged by us, and that even in this great matter, a matter which so nearly and infinitely concerns us, as our own eternal salvation. This is the stumbling-block on which thousands fall and perish; and if we go on contending with God about his sovereignty, it will be our eternal ruin. It is absolutely necessary that we should submit to Gol, as our absolute sovereign,
and the sovereign over our souls; as one who may have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and harden whom he will.
5. And lastly. We may make use of this doctrine to guard those who seek salvation from two opposite extremespresumption and discouragement. Do not presume upon the mercy of God, and so encourage yourself in sin. Many hear that God's mercy is infinite, and therefore think, that if they delay seeking salvation for the present, and seek it hereafter, that God will bestow his grace upon them. But consider, that though God's grace is sufficient, yet he is sovereign, and will use his own pleasure whether he will save you or not. If you put off salvation till hereafter, salvation will not be in your power. It will be as a sovereign God pleases, whether you shall obtain it or not. Seeing, therefore, that in this affair you are so absolutely dependent on God, it is best to follow his direction in seeking it, which is to hear his voice to-day: “To-day if ye wil hear his voice, harden not your heart.” Beware also of discouragement. Take heed of despairing thoughts, because you are a great sinner, because you have persevered so long in sin, have backslidden, and resisted the Holy Ghost. Remember that, let your case be what it may, and you ever so great a sinner, if you have not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, God can bestow mercy upon you without the least prejudice to the honor of his holiness, which you have offended, or to the honor of his majesty, which you have insulted, or of his justice which you have made your enemy, or of his truth, or of any of his aitributes. Let you be what sinner you may, God can, if he pleases, greatly glorify himself in your salvation.
THE MOST HIGH A PRAYER HEARING GOD.
Psalm lxv. 2.-- thou that hearest prayer.
Tuis psalm seems to be a psalm of praise to God for some remarkable answer of prayer, in the bestowment of some public mercy; or else was written on occasion of some special faith and confidence which David had, that his prayer would be answered. It is probable that this mercy bestowed, or expected to be bestowed, was some great public mercy, for which David had been very earnest and importunate, and had annexed a vow to his prayer; and that he had vowed a vow to God, that if he would grant him his request, he would do thus or thus, to praise and glorify God.
This seems to be the reason why he expresses himself as he does in the first verse of the psalm: “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed;" i. e., that praise which I have vowed to give thee, on the answer of my prayer, waiteth for thee, to be given thee as soon as thou shalt have answered my prayer; and the vow which I made to thee shall be performed.
In the verse of the text, is a prophecy of the glorious times of the gospel, when “all flesh shall come to the true God, as to the God who heareth prayer ; which is here mentioned as what distinguishes the true God from the gods to whom the nations prayed and sought, those gods who cannot hear, and cannot answer their prayer. The time was coming when all flesh should come to that God who doth hear prayer.
DOCTRINE. It is the character of the Most High, that he is a God that hears prayers. I shall handle this point in the following method. 1. Show that the Most High is a God that hears prayer. 2. That he is eminently such a God.
3. That he is so distinguishingly, or that herein he is distinguished from all false gods.
4. Give the reasons of the doctrine.
I. The Most High is a God that hears prayer. Though he is infinitely above all, and stands in no need of creatures; yet he is graciously pleased to take a merciful notice of poor worms of the dust. He manifests and presents himself as the object of prayer, appears as sitting on a mercy seat, that men may come to him by prayer. When they stand in need of any thing, he allows them to come to him, and ask it of him; and he is wont to hear their prayers. God in his word hath given many promises that he will hear their prayers; the Scripture is full of examples of it; and God, in his dispensations towards his church, manifests himself to be a God that hears prayer.
Here it may be inquired, What is meant by God's hearing prayer? There are two things implied in it.
1. His accepting the supplications of those who pray to him. He accepts them when they come to him; their address to him is well taken, he is well pleased with it. He approves of their coming to him, and approves of their
asking such mercies as they request of him, and approves of their manner of doing it. He accepts of their prayers as an offering to him; he accepts the honor they do him in prayer.
2. He acts agreeably to his acceptance; and that two ways.
(1.) He sometimes manifests his acceptance of their prayers, by, special discoveries of his mercy and sufficiency which he makes in prayer, or immediately after. God is soinetimes pleased to manifest his acceptance of his people's prayers: he gives them special communion with him in prayer. While they are praying, he as it were comes to them, and discovers himself to them ; gives thern sweet views of his glorious grace, purity, sufficiency, and sovereignty; and enables them, with great quietness, to rest in him, and leave themselves and prayers with him, submitting to his will, and trusting in his grace and faithfulness. Such a manifestation God seems to have made of himself in prayer to HANNAH, which so quieted and composed her mind, and took away her sadness. We read in the first chapter of the first book of Samuel, how earnest she was, how exercised in her mind, and that she was a woman of a sorrowful spirit
. But she came and poured out her soul before God, and spake out of the abundance of her complaint and grief; then we read, that she went away, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad, verse 13, which seems to have been from some refreshing discoveies which God had made of himself to her, to enable her quietly to submit to his will, and trust in his mercy, whereby God manifested his acceptance of her.
Not that I conclude that persons can hence argue, that the particular thing which they ask will certainly be given them, or that they can particularly foretell from it what God will do in answer to their prayers, any farther than he has promised in his word; yet God may, and doubtless does, thus testify his acceptance of their prayers, and from hence they may confidently rest in his providence, in his merciful ordering and disposing with respect to the thing which
(2) God manifests his acceptance of their prayers, by answering them, by doing for them agreeably to their needs and supplications. He not only inwardly and spiritually discovers his mercy to their souls by his Spirit, but outwardly in his providence, by dealing mercifully with them in his providence, in consequence of their prayers, and by causing an agreeableness between his providence and their prayers.
I proceed now,
II. To show that it is eminently the character of the true God, that he is a God that hears prayer. This appears in several things.
1. In his giving such free access to him by prayer. God in his word manifests himself ready at all times to allow us to come to him. He sits on a throne of grace; and there is no vail to hide this throne, and keep us from it. The vail is rent from the top to the bottom ; the way is open at all times, and we may go to God as often as we will. Although God be infinitely above us, yet we may come with boldness. Heb. iv. 14, 16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” How wonderful is it that such worms as we should be allowed to come boldly at all times to so great a God!
Thus God indulges all kinds of persons, of all nations, Jews or Gentiles: 1 Cor. i. 2, 3,“ Unto all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours; grace be unto you,” &c. God allows such access to all of all ranks; none are so mean but that they may come boldly to God by prayer. Yea, God allows the most vile and unworthy; the greatest sinners