Page images

O house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel, xxxiii. 11. and xviii. 31, 32. “Therefore also now saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.” Joel, ii. 12, 13. “ Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you; cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James, iv. 8. “ Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity; and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge ? Turn you at my reproof.” Proverbs, i. 20, 21, 22. “O Jerusalem wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved; how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?Jeremiah, iv. 14. “ Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well.” Isaiah, i. 16, 17. If there be any justice or propriety in these commands, then sinners are as able to turn from sin, to change their hearts, or to begin to be holy, as to perform any other religious duty or common action.

Besides, the sacred writers borrow similitudes from the common conduct of men, to illustrate the duty and obligation of sinners to repent and embrace the gospel. The evangelical prophet cries, “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price." These similitudes plainly suppose that every sinner is as able to embrace the gospel as a thirsty man is to drink water, or a hungry man to eat the most delicious food. In the parable of the marriage supper, God is represented as sending forth his servants to invite sinners to come and receive the fruits of his love. This invitation carries the idea that sinners are as able to come to the gospel feast, as to come to any other to which they are kindly invited. Take away this point of resemblance, and the parable is totally unmeaning, or extremely impertinent. The parable of the prodigal son is designed to illustrate the immediate duty of sinners to return to God, from whom they have unreasonably departed. But where is the beauty or propriety of the parable, unless sinners are as able to return to their heavenly Father as an undutiful, wandering child is to return to his earthly parent? By the obedience of the Rechabites, God reproved the disobedience of his own people. But how did that example reach the case, unless the Israelites were as able to obey the commands of God, as the Rechabites were to obey the command of their father? It is the plain language of these similitudes, that sinners are as able to work out their own salvation, with fear and trembling, as to perform the most common and ordinary actions of life. Hence there is the same propriety in exhorting them to eat, and drink, and do every thing to the glory of God, as there is in exhorting them to do any thing at all. And hence too that whole system of unregenerate duties, which has been built on the principle that sinners are passive in regeneration, and of course are under an ethico-physical inability to do any thing in a holy and gracious manner, appears to be without the least foundation in scripture or reason.

9. Since God works in all mankind both to will and to do, there appears no reasonable objection against the doctrine of divine decrees. If God be a perfectly wise agent, he must determine all his own conduct. But he cannot determine all his own conduct, without determining how he will work in us both to will and to do; and by determining this, he must necessarily determine how we shall will and do, through every period of our existence. It is just as certain, therefore, that God determines all our actions, as that he determines all his own. But the divine decrees, so long as they lie in the divine mind unexecuted, have no more influence upon us than they had before we existed. And when they actually reach us, or when God actually fulfils them upon us, he only works in us both to will and to do, agreeably to his eternal purpose; which operation, we have seen, is entirely consistent with our own free agency. Nor do the decrees of God subject us to the least disadvantage with respect to time, or eternity. For since God works in us both to will and to do, it absolutely depends upon his determination, whether we shall be holy and happy, or sinful and miserable, in this life and in that which is to come. And if all this depends upon his determination, it is of no consequence to us when he determines our characters and conditions, whether in time or eternity ; because we know from the perfection of his nature, that his determination must be precisely the same, whether formed before or since he brought us into existence. In a word, if there be no objection against God's working in us both to will and to do, there can be none against his decreeing from eternity to work in us both to will and to do. His decrees have no influence upon us until they reach us, and when they do reach us, they reach us by that divine agency which coincides with all the liberty we are capable of exercising, or even of conceiving.

10. It appears from God's working in all men both to will and to do, that he governs the moral as well as the natural world. This is denied by many who believe in divine providence. Though they acknowledge that God has a controlling influence over all the material and animal creation, yet they suppose that it is out of his power to govern the free and voluntary actions of moral agents. But if he works in all men both to will and to do of his good pleasure, then he governs the moral as well as the natural world, and both by a positive agency, and not a bare permission. It is impossible for the Deity to govern any of his creatures or works by permission, because his permission would be nothing short of annihilation. A prince may exercise permission towards his subjects, because they are able to act without his support or assistance; but God cannot exercise permission towards his rational creatures, because they cannot act without his working in them both to will and to do. The Deity, therefore, is so far from permitting moral agents to act independently of himself, that, on the other hand, he puts forth a positive influence to make them act, in every instance of their conduct, just as he pleases. He bends all the moral, as well as all the natural world, to his own views; and makes all his creatures, as well as all his works, answer the ends for which they were created. Hence this will for ever remain a just definition of his providence: “ His most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions."

11. If sinners are able to act freely while they are acted upon by the Deity, then they have no manner of excuse for neglecting to obey any of his commands. They all acknowledge that they have no excuse for neglecting to obey any divine command which they are able to obey, and that they should be able to obey all the divine commands, were it not for their dependence upon divine influence in all their moral exercises; so that finally all their excuses centre and terminate in their absolute dependence upon God. If, therefore, this shelter fails them, all their excuses vanish, and every divine command lies upon them in its full force and obligation. But we have shown that their dependence affords them no protection, because it is not the ground of their inability. They can act as freely as if they were not dependent; and they are as able to obey the divine commands as if they could act of themselves. They can love God, repent of sin, believe in Christ, and perform every religious duty, as well as they can think, or speak, or walk. They have no cloak for the least sin, whether internal or external. And if they are ever brought under conviction by the divine Spirit, their excuses will all forsake them, and their consciences will condemn them for impenitence, unbelief and



hardness of heart, as much as for any other sins in the course of their lives. Their mouths will be stopped, and they will stand speechless and self condemned before God. They will feel that their inability is a crime, and not a calamity. They will feel that they have been free and voluntary in all their disobedience, and therefore deserve God's wrath and curse both in this life and in that which is to come. Such are the views and feelings which sinners must have sooner or later, if they ever embrace the gospel and secure the salvation of their souls. Let them, therefore, immediately give up all their excuses, which cannot stand before the bar of God, nor even before the bar of their own enlightened consciences. Let them no longer cast the blame of their sins upon God, but take it to themselves, and repent in dust and ashes. God now commandeth all men every where to repent; and except they do repent, they must unavoidably and eternally perish.

12. If God works in saints both to will and to do in all their gracious exercises, then they ought to be clothed with humility, and walk softly before him. Who hath made them to differ? and what have they that they have not received ? All their future exercises are under the divine influence, without which they can do nothing. Let them always acknowledge God in all their ways, that he may direct their paths. Let them watch and pray without ceasing, and work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Renouncing all self dependence, and remembering Noah, Lot, David, Peter and themselves, let them trust in God alone, who is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. Amen.




Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither;

for God did send me before you to preserve life. — GENESI6, xlv. 5.

It is the peculiar excellence of sacred history to display the hand and counsel of God in the government of the moral world. The inspired writers relate not only the free and voluntary actions of men, but represent them as inseparably connected with the free and voluntary agency of the Deity. This circumstance renders sacred history much more interesting and instructive than profane, which contains little more than the bare recital of past actions and events. The agency and design of God in all the concerns of men give them their greatest importance. Though the history of Joseph contains a great variety of singular and surprising events, yet these would appear comparatively trifling, were they not related in connection with the ultimate design and superintendency of God in bringing them to pass. In this view, there is something extremely interesting in the account of Joseph's making himself known to his brethren. “ Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me; and there stood no man with him, while Joseph made hirnself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud; and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth father

yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you; and they came


« PreviousContinue »