« PreviousContinue »
them, but they would not be cleansed! Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. Isai. xlviii. 18.
4. Our own unwillingness is the great hindrance to our sanctification. When the will is gained, the man is gained; and those who will be made clean are in part made so already. When the perverseness of the will is removed, the new creature commences. Every gracious act of the will is efficiently the act of the Spirit of God, who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. Not indeed by a compulsive power, for that would destroy the nature of the will; but by the sweet and attractive influence of his grace, overcoming all our prejudices, and the enmity of the heart: The unrenewed mind is in all its inclinations contrary to God; but the renewed mind is on his side, and that sometimes when the actions are not wholly correspondent. An apostle indeed had to lament, and say, "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." The spirit was willing, though the flesh was weak. The corrupt will has an enmity to holiness: the renewed will has a love to and delight in it, whether it can fully attain it or not.
5. Yet the obstinacy of the will shall not prevent the purposes of grace: God's design shall be accomplished, notwithstanding all. Christ says, Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. God says, Unto him shall men come; and when he is lifted up, he will draw all men unto him. It is not to be imagined that the accomplishment of God's will depends upon the compliance of ours: nothing can be more unscriptural and absurd. His power is irresistable; and what his soul desireth, that doth he. When he girds his sword upon his thigh, and rides forth, it shall be prosperously his arrows are sharp in the hearts of his enemies, and the people shall fall under
him. All opposition is vain: the two-leaved gates of brass fly open, and the bars of iron are broken asunder.
II. Consider the various answers which will be made to the question before us-Wilt thou not be made elean; when shall it once, be?
1. Some are willing to be delivered from the punishment of sin, but not from its power. They would wish to be justified, but not sanctified; to be delivered from the wrath to come, but not from their vain conversation. These blessings, however, are inseparably connected. Whom God did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified. Christ came by water and blood, to make us holy as well as happy; and if we think otherwise, we make him the minister of sin. We must share in the power of his cross for the mortification of sin, as well as in the merit of it for its forgiveness: for they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts. Conformity to Christ is an essential part of our salvation, nor would the christian think himself happy in heaven without it. Some indeed have thought sanctification to be a greater blessing than justification; the one freeing us from natural evil only, but the other from moral evil. The one is the pledge of glory, the other the beginning of it. Those who would have the latter without the former, are likely to have neither.
2. Others would be cleansed outwardly, but not inwardly. Like the pharisees, they would make a fair show in the flesh, and clean the outside of the platter, though the inside is full of all manner of filthiness. If their character be unspotted, and their outward conduct irreprovable, they are not concerned to have their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, nor the image of God impressed upon their souls. In those things which come under the observation
of their neighbours, they are very exact; but a thousand abominations in the heart are disregarded. They would be clear in the eyes of men, but do not care how they appear in the sight of an omniscient and infinitely holy God. They desire only an external conformity to the divine law; while the truly good man earnestly pants after an internal conformity to the divine nature. Create in me (says the devout Psalmist) a clean heart: thou desirest truth in the inward parts! The inner man is the proper subject of good and evil, virtue and vice; and therefore to it regeneration and sanctification in scripture are always ascribed. If the disposition of the mind be pure and holy, the whole man is accounted so: but those are altogether impure whose mind and conscience are defiled. No prayers, fastings, pilgrimages penances, nor any other external performances can supply the want of internal holiness. The sepulchre, however painted and adorned, is but a sepulchre still.
3. Some would be made partly clean, but not wholly so. They would not only part with outward sins, but some inward sins too; but there is a Delilah, a bosom and beloved sin, which they cannot relinquish. This they roll under their tongue as a sweet morsel, and are ready to say of it as Naaman the Syrian did concerning his bowing in the house of Rimmon; "The Lord pardon thy servant concerning this thing." When a truly regenerate person prays against sin, it is universally; because the same grace that inclines him to hate one sin, inclines him to hate all sins, as being equally odious in their nature, and baleful in their consequences. He that is sanctified in part longs to be sanctified wholly. But it is otherwise with the hypocrite: there are some duties to which he will still make an exception; some sins of which he will make a reservation; and say, as Lot did of Zoar, "Is it not a little one; and my soul shall live,"
4. Some would be made clean, but they do not like God's way of doing it, or the means he uses for this purpose. They would make themselves clean; or if this be impracticable, they would share in the work, and bear away a part of the glory. God's way of cleansing is so humiliating, that proud nature rises up against it; and rather than submit to it, would choose not to be cleansed at all. He uses the refining pot of affliction; but carnal men prefer pros perity to adversity, ease to pain; and had rather lose Canaan than go through a waste howling wilderness in order to possess it. Cannot God, say they, purify us without threatening us; and deliver us from hell hereafter, without plunging us into misery here? But as God will do his own work, so also he will do it in bis own way.
5. There are some who would be made clean, but it must be hereafter. Like saint Austin, who prayed to be delivered from his easily besetting sin, but added, "Not yet, Lord!" No, they are young; and surely young people may be allowed to indulge themselves awhile. They will take their swing of pleasure a little longer, and gratify this or the other appetite...... and what then? Why, if God will accept of the dregs of life, the faint efforts of old age, well and good. But if not, they are come to a point: they have loved strangers, and after them they will go. We had used to say, that delays are dangerous; and they are in nothing more so than in religion." Not only if we consider the uncertainty of time, but also that custom in sin strengthens the habit; and every delay of repentance is a step towards final impenitence. Go thy way for this time, says Felix to Paul: when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee. But did that convenient season ever come? No. It is probabie, as is often the case, that having stifled his convictions, he grew less fearful of the commission of sin, more stupid under the
guilt of it; and that as he lived, so he died, without Christ, and without hope!
6. More awful still some speak out and say, they will not be cleansed at all. They prefer sin and hell to holiness and heaven. No, say they; but we will do whatsoever goeth out of our own mouth. These are they of whom God says, they are joined to idols, let them alone. Because sentence is not speedily executed against an evil work, they flatter themselves with hopes of impunity, and their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. They are so enslaved to their lusts, that no considerations will avail. In a word, they sin with a kind of desperation ; and though often reproved, harden their necks, and therefore shall perish without remedy. They impiously sin against it, obstinately refuse it, and therefore shall perish without it.
7. Put this question to the real christian, or the truly awakened sinner, whose conscience has been filled with remorse for his past transgressions, and who has found a compliance with the call of every Just to be the severest bondage. Wilt thou be made clean? Yea, Lord, says he, with all my heart! When shall it once be? This very instant, if I might have my wish. It is what I pray for, wait for, and strive after; nor can I have a moment's rest till I obtain it. Oh thou physician of souls, heal me, and I shall be healed! Oh thou Saviour of sinners, save me! I am totally defiled, oh wash me in thy blood! Let no iniquity have dominion over me. From this time may I hate every sin, and forsake every false way! In thy pierced side, oh my blessed Redeemer, I see a fountain opened for my cleansing: when wilt thou make me clean? I have often attempted it, but in vain. Thou alone canst do it; and when shall it once be!
Hence we may learn, that sin is uncleanness; yea, the worst kind of uncleanness. The heart of man is