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to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Mark to whom the term is here applied. Not to one, yet in “ the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity,” but to one of the highly privileged few whom the Lord chose to be with him. And was it applied to Peter, as denoting that change of heart which it was necessary he should undergo, to be made a child of God? Was he yet a stranger to God, notwithstanding the faith which was in him, faith even that could make the confession, “thou art the Christ?" Was it that Peter had yet to be born again? If not, then Peter being converted did not mean a renewal of his heart, but a reformation of his conduct. His heart had already been renewed, and he was still in a state of grace, though permitted to fall into temptation, that he might be sifted as wheat. Satan got the precious grain into his power, but all that he could retain of it was the chaff. Look at Peter, as trembling in the presence of a menial servant, “he devied with an oath, I do not know the man; ” and then see him, as he declares in the temple, before all the people, “the God of our fathers hath glorified his Son Jesus” and “sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” This is an illustration of what is meant by Peter's conversion. Paul uses the word in the same sense, 1 Thes. i. 9, where it is translated,“ ye turned to God from idols,” referring not to the new heart, but to the new object and ordinances of worship. James also, in the last two verses of his epistle, makes a similar use of the word, “converteth a sinner from the error of his ways,” turneth him from whatever course of wickedness he may hitherto have been persuing, the immediate reference being in all cases to the external conduct. Such is the meaning of prophets and apostles, when they use the word and call upon
convert themselves.” And if tutors of colleges, and professors, however eminent, understand it as meaning more than this, they may not, without the utmost peril, both to their own souls, as well as the souls of those whom they so address, bid sinners “convert themselves.” The unnoticed Paul has a more excellent version than the eminent professor, regarding "unassisted man.' He says, “it is God which worketh in-not with-you, both to will and to do.” Ye whose salvation is being wrought out, how do ye testify in this matter? Is it to what you and God are doing to. gether that you trust? You! what have you ever done, that you can make a ground of confidence ? Have a care Jest Christ should profit you nothing.
What is quoted as apostolic authority for crying to simer's “convert yourselves,” is nothing more than this, * repent ye of your opposition to the cause of Christ, and your resistance to the Spirit of grace, and show the reality of your repentance, by turning from your opposition. It is just what John had before said, “repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Self-conversion! many, by converting themselves, deceive and damn themselves. No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven; but many. who have been turned from the drunkard's cup may notwithstanding have gone to hell. The unclean may become chaste-the liar and dishonest may come to have a regard to truth, both in word and deed—the profaner of the name and day of God, and the despiser of the ordinances of grace, may be led to treat with respect the name and day of God, and beconie a regular attender upon his ordinances; and still be, not less a child of wrath, and an heir of hell than before. If the conversion be any thing else than the acting of the life of God, which he hath implantu anew within you; if it proceed from any thing else than supreme
love to God, then it shall profit you nothing. Paul's estimate is, “ though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, have all faith, bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity”-which is the love of God—“I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling symbal.” Sinner, beware of self-conversion ! Bain's Place.
DECREES OF GOD, AND THE FREE ACTS
Some, in order to make out that man is a moral and responsible agent, feel it needful to impose restrictions upon the decrees and agency of God. But when we know by our own consciousness, and by the word of God, in all förms implying it, that our moral freedom and responsibility are complete, this matter of fact will not be displaced if we assert another matter of fact, to wit, that God's decrees are universal and absolute. And we can show no inconsistency between these two facts, till we have first shown that it is impossible for God to execute his decrees, in full consistency with the freedom of human actions ; or, in other words, that we cannot be free in the action of our own minds, while we are fulfiling his decrees. It is not now our object to touch the metaphysics of this question. We purpose simply to show, by scriptural facts and assertions, that God does execute his purposes and will in those things in which men exercise their own freedom.
It is a fact, recognized in Scripture, that the purposes and thoughts of the hearts of men-- free as every one from his own consciousness knows them to be-are yet so under his control, as to fulfil his purpose. The Scripture says, “ The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it withersoever he will." This was exemplified in the case of some kings named in Scripture: Cyrus acted as freely as ever man acted, and yet it is said that the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, that he made a proclamation for ending the Babylonish captivity. And it is also said, that the Lord turned the heart of the king of Assyria, that he strengthened their bands. And in the belief that God had such a control over the hearts of kings, Nehemiah, when he was about to ask of Artaxerxes to be sent into Judea, prayed to the God of heaven to incline his heart to send him. In the same belief Jacob prayed, “God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.” In like manner, in the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, the Lord inclined the hearts of the Egyptians, their enemies, so that they lent them the choicest of their treasures, to such an extent, that they spoiled the Egyptians.
And the Scriptures teach, that God puts forth such a control the wicked thoughts and purposes of wicked men, not only by a mere negative permission, but by that which makes it certain that they will be such as to accomplish his end.
So that nothing is ever done, but what his hand and his council before had determined should be done. The efficacy of God's government, touching the designs of wicked men, so that they are sure to serve his
purpose, while they think not so, and so that they are employed as the instruments of chastising the saints, or effecting their own just condemna tion, is, in the strong figures of the oriental style, called a commandment of God; as in this, “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” So David, seeing the hand of God in the curses of Shimei, said, “Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him." So God said of the King of Assyria, that he had commanded him to take the spoil, when he only meant that he had purposed that he should. And what this Assyrian did of his own lusts, God declares that he did, as the staff in his hand, the rod of his indignation-the axe and the saw applied by himself.
Akin to this is what is said of the crucifixion of Christ. “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” And Joseph said to his brethren who sold him, "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God; God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth.”
The Scriptures also assert the infallible certainty of events occurring under this divine control of the hearts and counsels of men ; that it is impossible but that offences should come; and that the sufferings of Christ must take place, that the Scriptures and the counsels of God must be fulfilled. And yet all is done in such a way, that God compels or tempts none to do evil. But men do evil, from the promptings of their own desire. Nor do the thoughts of God conspire or concur with those of man, in the evil designs which God hates. For, of the Assyrian, he said, “For he meaneth not so, nor does his heart think so. God had one design, and he quite another. So God would punish the Assyrian for doing with wicked intent, what God purposed to turn to good account. So the prophet says, " When the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion, he will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria.” The same idea is recognized by Joseph.
“As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good." Here then is a universal