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where the heart is called an heart of stone. Where the prophet asks, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are ac. customed to do evil. A direct confirmation consists of passages in which our conversion is formally ascribed to God and to the efficacy of his spirit, which are also very numerous,
While you are confirming this proposition by Scripture, you may mix an illustration of it by reasoning, by shewing that our attachments to the world are so many and so strong, that supernatural grace is absolutely necessary to dissolve them; that the obscurities of our minds, arising either from our prejudices, or passions, or old habits, or the colours under which the Gospel first presents itself to us, are such as render it impossible for us to judge rightly. This may be particularly inserted in the indirect way.
In the direct way you may also mix reasoning, by shewing that the Divine wisdom determines qur regeneration should be all heavenly—that neither flesh nor blood, nor natural principles, contribute any thing—that the new man, being the pure work of the Holy Spirit, renders us more conformable to Jesus Christ; for, according to St. Paul, God has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son. When Jesus Christ came into the world, he came not in the ordinary natural way, but by a law above all laws in the world: he was made of a virgin, formed by the power of the Holy Ghost. God declares, that Christians are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of himself; and on this account they are emphatically styled the children of God, and the brethren of Christ.
In confirming this proposition, you may also illustrate it by some examples, as by that of the converted thiefthat of St. Paul that of the Jews, converted on the day of Pentecost, at the preaching of St. Peter, &c.-in short, by any examples in which the power of grace remarkably shone in conversion.
The subject may be illustrated by comparing conversion with the almighty work of God in creating the universe; and you may remark, in a few words, their comformities and differences.
You may illustrate by its consequences, shewing the greatness and importance of the change wrought in men, when God opens the eyes of their understandings.
The illustration may flow from inevidence, by shewing, that Jesus Christ alone has taught men this truth, that conversion is of God. All false religions attribute this work to man himself: Philosophy is not acquainted with this grace-from on high.
Finally, you may illustrate the subject by the person who proposes it, Who is St. Paul? He had felt all its efficacy; fathomed, as it were, all its depth; and, consequently, could well speak of it. Or by the persons to whom it was addressed, the Ephesians, who had been reclaimed from the greatest superstition that was among the Pagans, that is to say, the worship of Diana.
The manner in which St. Paul proposes this truth must not be forgotten; it is in the form of a wish or prayer: May God give you an illumination of the eyes of your understanding! which shews the necessity and importance of grace, without which all the other mercies of God would be rather hurtful than profitable.
You may also remark the circumstances of time and place; for St. Paul wrote this epistle when he was in prison at Rome, when he was loaded with chains, and when the Gospel was every where persecuted. Under such forbidding circumstances, the Holy Ghost must needs display a mighty power in conversion.'
Secondly, to give an example of propositions, including divers truths, which must be distinguished from each other. We cannot choose a more proper text than the remaining part of the passage which was just now explained: That you may know, says St. Paul, what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. The apostle's proposition is, that, by the illumination of grace, we understand the innumerable blessings to the enjoyment of which God calls us by his Gospel. Now this proposition includes many truths, which it will be necessary to distinguish.
1. That the Gospel is a divine vocation, a loud voice, which cries, Awake thou that sleepest, arise from the dead,
'p Out of these various methods of illustration, Mr. Claude would have the preacher choose the most proper, and not attempt to crowd all into one sermon.
and Christ shall give thee light. Therefore it is said in the fiftieth Psalm, The Lord kath called the earth, from the rising of the sun, unto the going down thereof. The church is not a rash tumultuous assembly, produced by hazard, as many societies seem to be. It is not an human society, which reason and natural interests have associated. It is a society that has God for its author; for it is his word which calls, and his command that assembles us.
2. It is a vocation wherein God proposes something to our hope; for which reason we are said to be begotten again to a lively hope. This may be discussed, either in opposition to a vocation of simple authority, where we are called to service without any recompence proposed (thus princes frequently command their subjects;) or in opposition to a seduction to sin, which punishes our services with death: The wages of sin is death, says St. Paul. (These words represent Sin as a tyrant, who calls us to obey him in order to destroy us.) Or it may be considered in opposition to our natural birth, which introduces us to a scene of numberless distresses and miseries. All these vocations are either uncomfortable or hopeless, or dangerous, and tending to despair: but the call of the Gospel is a call to hope; not like Adam's, when God called him to be judged and condemned; Adam, where art thou? but like Abraham's, when the Lord said to him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and I will give thee the land whither thou goest: not like that which Isaiah addressed to Hezekiah, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die; but like that which Jesus sound. ed to Lazarus, Lazarus come forth!
3. That this call proposes to our hope an inheritance, not a recompence proportioned to our merit; but a good, which God, as a father, bestows on us in virtue of adopting grace; a good which we have by communion with Jesus Christ; for we are heirs of God only as we are jointheirs of Jesus Christ. Farther, this is an unalienable inheritance, which we ourselves can never lose, and of which no other can deprive us. The ancient Jewish inheritances could never pass from families into foreign hands. This is an inheritance, in fine, in opposition to that felicity which God gave Adam as an hireling, under the title of wages; and not as a son, under the title of inheritance.
4. That this is a heavenly inheritance, (for so must the last word saints be understood—in sanctis, in holy, or heavenly places.) The apostle intends, not only to point out the nature of divine blessings, which are spiritual and heavenly, but to signify the place where we shall possess them, heaven, the mansion of the majesty of God.
5. That these are blessings of an infinite abundance, of an inexpressible value, for this is the meaning of these terms, The riches of the glory of his inheritance, a way of speaking proper to the Hebrews, who, to express the grandeur or excellence of a thing, heap many synonimous expressions on each other. 'Thus the apostle, to represent to the Corinthians this same felicity of which he speaks here, calls it A weight of glory excellently excel. lent. And in this chapter, a little after our text, he speaks of the exceeding greatness of his power, the working of his mighty power. Here then the riches of the glory of his inheritance signifies the value, the excellence, the abundance, the plenitude of this inheritance.
6. The apostle would have us know the admirable greatness of this hope; for all our deviations from virtue, and attachments to the world, arise only from our ignorance of this glory: when we become acquainted with it, it is a chain that fastens, an attractive which allures, an invincible force that renders itself governess of all our affections. An ancient poet tells us of a golden chain which his Jupiter let down from heaven to earth: this thought may be sanctified, and applied to this subject, by saying, that the divine hope of our calling, and the riches of the glory of this inheritance, which God has prepared for us, is a golden chain descending from heaven to us. Similar to this is Christ's saying to his apostles, I will make you fishers of men.
When they cast their mysti. cal line into the sea, the wide world, they took an infinite number of fishes: but the hook, which alone rendered them successful in their divine fishing, was this great hope of the calling of God, these riches of the glory of his inheritance in the heavens.
7. Finally, the apostle means that the knowledge which We have of this matter comes from divine illumination.
It can come from no other influence, as we have already
It comes also infallibly from this: and when God illuminates us, it is not possible that we should be igno. rant of what he designs to inform us of.9
There are some propositions which must be considered in different views. For example, let us take these words, Psal. Ixix. 21. They gave me gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. This passage must be considered in four different views: 1. In regard to David. 2. In regard to Jesus Christ. 3. In regard to the church in general. 4. In regard to every believer in particular.
So again in these words, Psal. cxxix. Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth; yet have they not prevailed against me. These words belong, as to the Jewish, so the Christian church; and must be applied to both. In short, it is the same with all typical prophecies.
Of propositions, which have degrees to be remarked, take this example: And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters: for I know their sorrows, and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Exod. iii. 7, 8. The propositions contained in this text, one touching the affliction, and the other concerning the deliverance of the people of God, must be considered according to their different degrees of accomplishment. For,
1. They were accomplished in the servitude and deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
2. In the divers, servitudes and deliverances which af. terward befel Israel, particularly in that of Babylon, which was a second Egypt.
3. They have been accomplished in a more excellent şense, in the servitude and deliverance of the church at the coming of Jesus Christ, and at the preaching of the Gospel.
4. In the deliverance of the church from the bondage of Antichrist.
9 Perhaps these seven heads might have been more profitably included in the three following: 1. That Christians have a very glorious portion. 2. That it is their privilege to know their title to it. 3. That they must attain this knowledge by spiritual illumination.