Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

He must satisfy for their sin, by suffering the punishment due to it; he must do what they cannot do, viz. obey the law perfectly, and so fulfil all righteousness. Accord. ingly, all this he did, and so became the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, Rom. x. 4. And now dost thou think God will abate of these terms to thee, when his own Son got no abatement of them? Expect it not, though thou shouidst beg it with tears of blood; for, if they prevailed, they behoved to prevail against the truth, justice, and honour of God, Gal. iii. 10. 22. “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them. And the law is not of faith, but the man that doth them shall live in them." It is true, that God is merciful; he cannot but be merciful, unless he save you in a way that is neither consistent with his law nor gospel., Hath not his goodness and mercy sufficiently appeared, in sending the Son of his love, to do what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh? He has provided help for them that fanisot help themselves ; but thou, insensible of thine own weakness, wilt needs think to recover thyself by thine own works; while thou art no more able to do it, than to remove mountains of brass out of their place.

Wherefore, I conclude thou art utterly unable to recover thyself, by the way of works, or of the law. O that thou wouldst conclude the same concerning thyself!

II. Let us try next, what the sinner can do to recover himself, in the way of the gospel. It is likely, thou thinkest, that howbeit thou canst not do all, by thyself alone ; yet Jesus Christ offering thee help, thou canst of thyself embrace it, and use it to thy recovery. But, O sinner, be convinced of thine absolute need of the grace of Christ, for truly there is help offered, but thou canst not accept of it; there is a rope cast out to hail ship. wrecked sinners to land ; but, alas! they have no hands to catch hold of it. They are like infants exposed in the open field that must starve, though their food be lying by them, unless one put it into their mouths. To convince natural men of this, let it be considered,

*First, That although Christ is offered in the gospel, yet they cannot believe in him. Saving faith is the faith of God's elect; the special gift of God to them, wrought

in them by his Spirit. Salvation is offered to them that will believe in Christ; but how can ye believe? John v: 44. It is offered to those that will come to Christ; but no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him. It is offered to them that will look to him, as lifted up on the pole of the gospel, Isa. xlv. 22. but the natural man is spiritually blind, Rey. iii. 17. and as to the things of the Spirit of God, he cannot know them, for they are spiritually discerned, 1 Cor. ii. 14. Nay, whosoever will, he is welcome ; let him come, Rev. xxii, 17. But there must be a clay of power on the sinner, before the will be willing, Psalm cx. 3.

Secondly, Man naturally has nothing wherewithal to improve, to his recovery, the help brought in by the gospel. He is cast away in a state of wrath ; but is bound hand and foot, so that he cannot lay hold of the cords of love, thrown out to him in the gospel. The most skilful artificer Cannot work without instruments, nor can the most cunning musician play well on an instrument that is out of tune. How can one believe, how can he repent, whose understanding is darkness, Eph. 5. 8. whose heart is a stony heart, inflexible, insensible, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. whose affections are wholly disordered and distempered; who is averse to good, and bent to evil ? The arms of natural abilities are too short to reach supernatural help; hence those who most excel in them, are oft-times most estranged from spiritual things, Matth. -xi. 24. « Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.

Thirdly, Man cannot work a saving change on himself; but so changed he must be,else he can neither believe nor repent, nor ever see heaven. No action can be without a suitable principle. Believing, repenting, and the like, are the product of the new nature; and can never be produced by the old corrupt nature. Now, what can the natural man do in this matter? He must be unregenerate, begotten again into a lively hope ; but as the child cannot be active in his own generation, so a man cannot be active, but passive only, in his own regeneration. The heart is shut against Christ; men cannot open it, only God can do it by his grace, Acts xvi:14. He is dead in sin; he must be quickened, raised out of his grave;

[ocr errors]

who can do this but God himself? Eph. ii. 1, 3. Nay, he must be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Eph. ii. 10. These are works of onnipotency, and can be done by no less power.

Fourthly, Man, in his depraved state, is under an utter inability to do any thing truly good, as was cleared before at large; how then can he obey the gospel? His nature is the very reverse of the gospel ; how can he, of himself, fall in with that device of salvation, and accept the offered remedy ? The corruption of man's nature infallibly concludes his utter inability to recover himself any manner of way; and whoso is convinced of the one, must needs admit the other ; for they stand and fall together. Were all the purchase of Christ offered to the unregenerate man, for one good thought ; he cannot command it, 2 Cor. iii. 5. “ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves.” Were it offered on condition of a good word, yet how can ye, being evil, speak good things ? Matth. xii. 35. Nay, were it left to yourselves, to chuse what is easiest ; Christ himself tells you, John xv. 5. Without me, ye can do nothing.

Lastly, The natural man cannot but resist the Lord, offering to help him ; howbeit that resistance is infallibly overcome in the elect, by converting grace. Can the stony heart chuse but to resist the stroke? There is not only an inability, but an enmity and obstinacy in man's will by nature. God knows, natural man, (whether thou knowest it or not, that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass, Isa. xlviii. 4. and cannot be overcome, but by him, who hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. Hence is there such hard work in converting a sinner. Sometimes he seems to be caught in the net of the gospel ; yet quickly he slips away again. The hook catcheth hold of him ; but he struggles, till getting free of it, he makes away with a bleeding wound. When good hopes are conceived of him, by those that travail in birth, for the forming of Christ in him ; there is oft-times nothing brought forth but wind. The deceitful heart makes many a shift to avoid a Saviour, and to cheat the man of his eternal happiness. Thus the natural man lies sunk in a state of sin and wrath, utterly unable to recover himself.:

Object. (1.) If we be under an utter inability to do any good, how can God require us to do it ?-Ans. God making man upright, Eccles. vii. 29. gave him a power to do every thing he should require of him; this power man lost by his own fault. We were bound to serve God, and do whatsoever he commanded us, as being his creatures ; and also, ye were under the superadded tie of a covenant, for that effect. Now, we having, by our own fault, disabled ourselves, shall God lose his right of requiring our task, because we have thrown away the strength he gave us, wherewithal to perform it? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money, because the debtor has squandered it away, and is not able to pay him ? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do, we need no more to save us from wrath, but to make ourselves unable for every duty, and to incapacitate ourselves for serving of God any manner of way, as profane men frequently do; and so the deeper one is immersed in sin, he will be the more secure from wrath; for where God can require nó duty of us, we do not sin in omitting it; . and where there is no sin, there can be no wrath. (As to what may be urged by the unhumbled soul, against the putting of our stock in Adam's hand, the righteousness of that dispensation was cleared before.) But, moreoper, the unrenewed man is daily throwing away the very remains of natural abilities; that light and strength which are to be found amongst the ruins of mankind. Nay, farther, he will not believe his own utter inability to help himself; so that out of his own mouth he will be condemned. Even those who make their natural impotency too good a cover to their sloth, do, with others, delay the work of turning to God from time to time ; under convictions, make large promises of reformation, which afterward they never regard; and delay their repentance to a death-bed, as if they could help themselves in a moment; which speaks them to be far from a due sense of their natural inability, whatever they pretend.

Now, if God can require of men the duty they are not able to do ; he can in justice punish them for their not doing it, notwithstanding of their inability. If he have power to exact the debt of obedience, he has also power to cast the insolvent debtor into prison, for his not

[graphic]

paying it. Further, though unregenerate men have no gracious abilities, yet they want not natural abilities, which nevertheless they will not improve, There are many things they can do, which they do not, they will not do them; and, therefore, their damnation will be just. Nay, all their inability to good is voluntary ; they will not come to Christ, John v. 40. They will not repent, they will die, Ezek. xviii. 51. So they will be justly condemned ; because they will not turn to God, nor come to Christ, but love their chains better than their liberty, and darkness rather than light, John iii. 19.

Object. (2.) Why do you then preach Christ to us; call us to come to him, to believe, repent, and use the means of salvation ?-Ans. Because it is your duty so to do. It is your duty to accept of Christ as he is offered in the gospel ; to repent of your sins, and to be holy in all manner of conversation : These things are commanded you of God; and his command, not your ability, is the measure of your duty. Moreover, these calls and exhortations are the means that God is pleased to make use of, for converting his elect, and working grace in their hearts; to them, faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17. while they are unable to help themselves, as the rest of mankind are. Upon very good grounds may we, at the commard of God, who raiseth the dead, go to their graves and cry in his name, “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light," Eph. v. 14. And seeing the elect are not to be known and distinzuished from others before conversion, as the sun shines on the blind man's face, and the rain falls on the rocks as well as on the fruitful plains ; so we preach Christ to all, and shoot the arrow at a venture, which God himself directs as he sees meet. Moreover, these calls and cxhortations are not altogether in vain, even to those that are not converted by them. Such persons may be convinced, though they be not converted, although they be not sanctified by these means, yet they may be re: strained by them, from running into that excess of wickedness which otherwise they would arrive at. The means of grace serve, as it were, to embalm many dead souls which are never quickened by them, though they do not restore them to life ; yet they keep them from smeil

« ForrigeFortsett »