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ments unless God should enlarge bis heart. Ps. cxix. 32. AU the hopes of Paul concerning his promising converts at Philippi depended upon his persuasion, that he that had begun a good work in them, would perform it until the day of Christ. Phil. i. 6. Nay, it was upon this he placed his own entire dependance.
We are not sufficient of ourselves, says he, to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Cor. iii. 5. If I am faithful, it is " because I have obtained mercy of the Lord to make me so." 1 Cor. vii. 25. By she grace of God I am what I am ; and if I have laboured more abundantly than others, it is not I, but the grace of God that was with me. I Cor. xv. 10. I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me. Phil. iv. 13. He was relieved under his despondencies by this answer, My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. xii. 9. This is more thap intimated in his prayers for himself and others : for example, May the God of peace make you perfect in every good work, to do his will ; working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ ! Heb. xiii. 21. And indeed all the prayers of the saints for the aids of divine grace imply the necessity of them ; for they would not pray for superfluities, or for what they already have in a sufficient measure. It is the Spirit that helps our infirmities in prayer, and other exercises of devotion. Rom. viii. 24. and all our preparation for the heavenly state and aspirations after it, are of God. He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God. 2 Cor. v. 5. In a word, it is God that worketh all our works in us, Isa. xxvi. 12. it is he that worketh in us both 10 will and to do, of his own good pleasure. Phil. ii. 13. Now the actual communication of divine influences, implies their necessity. Accordingly we find
The necessity of divine influences is asserted in the plainest terms in scripture. No man, says Christ, can come unto me, except the Father draw him, John vi. 44. He that hath heard and learned of the Father, and he only will come to him, ver. 45. ; and this influence is not purchased by our endeavours, but it is the free gift of grace. Hence Christ varies his former declarations into this form ; no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of my Father, ver. 65 ; and the agency of divine grace is necessary, pot only to draw sinners to Christ at first, but also to make them fruitsul afterwards. Hence Christ represents even the apostles as dependant upon him as the branch upon the vine ; and tells them plainly, that “ without him they can do nothing." John xv. 4, 5. Through all the stages of the christian life, we depend entirely upon him ; and without his influences, we should wither and die like a blasted flower, however blooming and fruitful we were before. Hence, says God to his people, in me is thy fruit, found, Hosea xiv. 8. Since then this is the case, it will follow that when God is pleased to withhold bis influences, all the means of grace will be unsuccessful. Accordingly we find,
The unsuccessfulness of the gospel is often resolved into the withholding or withdrawing of the influences of grace, as one cause of it. Thus Moses resolves the obstinacy of the Israelites under all the profusion of wonders that had attended them, into this, as one cause of it : The Lord hath not given you an heart 10 perecive, and eyes 10 see, and ears 10 hear, unto this day. Deut. xxix. 2, 3, 4. If none believe the report of the gospel, it is because the arm of the Lord is not revealed, Isa. liii. 1. “ If the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are hidden from the wise and prudent, while they are revealed to babes ; it is because God in his righteous judgment and sovereign pleasure, bides them from the one, and reveals them to the other.” Matt. xi. 25, 26. Nay, the evangelist speaks in yet more forcible terms, when speaking of the unbelief of the Jews, who were witnesses of Christ's convictive miracles and discourses ; therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias sa d he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, John xii. 39, 40. and in the same strain St. Paul speaks : he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneih, but of God that she weth mercy. Rom. ix. 18, &c. These passages are so opposite to the prevailing divinity of the age, that they are dangerous weapons to meddle with ; and it is well they are the very words of scripture, otherwise we should be charged with blasphemy for mentioning the truth contained in them. We must indeed be cautious that we do not infer from these scriptures any such horrid doctrine as this, that men are compelled to sin, and pushed on to ruin, by a necessitating decree, or the resistless impulse of providence ; or that, though they were disposed to turn to God, they are judicially kept back and hindered by the divine hand. This would be contrary to the whole current of scripture, which charges the sin and ruin of sinners upon themselves ; but these passages mean, that God denies to obstinate sinners those influences of his grace which are necessary to convert them, and which, if communicated, would have subdued their utmost obsti
nacy; and that in consequence of this denial, they will rush on in sin and irreclaimable impenitence, and perish; but yet that God, in denying them his grace, does not act merely as an arbitrary sovereign, but as a just judge, punishing them for their sin in abusing the blessings he has bestowed upon them, by judicially withdrawing the aids of his grace, and withholding farther infu, ences. And sure he may punish obstinate sinners with privative as well as positive punishment; he may as justly withhold or withdraw forfeited blessings, as inflict positive misery. This we all own be may do with respect to temporal blessings ; he may justly deny them to such as have forfeited them; and why he may not exercise the same sovereignty and justice with regard to spiritual blessings, is hard to say. His hardening the heart, blinding the eyes, &c. of sinners, signify his withdrawing the influ. ences of grace which they have abused, his withholding those additional influences which might irresistibly subdue their obstinacy, and his suffering them to fall into circumstances of temptation. These passages do but strongly and emphatically express thus much : thus much they may mean, without casting any injurious reflections upon God; and less than this they cannot mean, unless we would explain away their meaning.
From the whole then, we find that the doctrine of the reality and necessity of divine influences to render the administrations of the gospel effectual for saving purposes, is a doctrine familiar to the sacred oracles. This will receive additional confirmation, if we find it agreeable to matter of fact : which leads me to observe,
III. That the different success of the same means of grace in different periods of the church, sufficiently shews the necessity of gracious assistances to render them efficacious. The yarious states of the church in various ages are but comments upon the sacred pages, and accomplishments of scripture.
Now we find that religion has flourished or declined, not so much according to external means, as according to the degree of divine infuence. Alas! what could Noah, that zealous preacher of righteousness do, during the 120 years of his ministry? He might warn, he might persuade, he might weep over a secure world in vain : they would rush upon destruction before his eyes ; and he could only persuade his own family ; and even among them there was a cursed Ham. How little could Moses, the favourite messenger and intimate of God, prevail to make bis people duti ful? Alas! after all the astonishing wonders he wrought before
their eyes, they continued obstinate and rebellious ; for the Lord had not given them an heart to understand, &c. Deut. xxix. 4. This Moses mentions, as what was beyond his power, and could be effected by omnipotence only. What inconsiderable success had that zealous prophet Elijah, the eloquent Isaiah, or that tender-hearted, mourning, weeping prophet Jeremiah? Surely, many feeble servants of Christ, in all respects inferior to them, have been crowned with more extensive success ! Nay, when the Son of God descended from heaven, a teacher to the world, who spake as never man spake, who carried omnipotence along with him to attest his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles, how few, during his life, were brought seriously to regard his doctrine? He was pleased to defer the remarkable effusion of his Spirit till his return to his native heaven. And when it was poured out, what a glorious alteration followed ! then Peter, a poor fisherman, is the happy instrument of converting three thousand with one short sermon ; which is more perhaps than his divine Master had done by a hundred. Then, in spite of the united opposition of earth and hell, the humble doctrines of the cross triumphed over the nations, and subdued millions to the obedience of faith. Then the doctrines of Jesus, who was crucified at Jerusalem like an infamous malefactor, between two thieves, became the mighty, allconquering weapons, through God, to demolish the strong holds of Satan. 2 Cor. ii. 4. And whence this strange alteration ? It was from the more abundant effusion of the Spirit upon the minds of men ; upon their minds, I say, for, as to the external evidences from miracles, prophecies, &c. they were sufficiently clear before this happy season. But there was not the same degree of internal illumination by the Spirit. It is often intimated by Christ, in his last discourses with his disciples, that the holy Spirit was not yet given ; and hence it was that he and they laboured so much in vain. But upon his ascension, he performed the promise he had so often repeated, and sent the spirit both upon them and their hearers ; and then the aspect of affairs was happily altered : then the word had free course, and was glorified. Then the world was convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judg. ment.
This point might be illustrated farther, by a history of the various periods of the church, from the apostolic age to the present time ; but it would be too tedious; and what has been offered is sufficient to convince us that it is not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, that the interests of religion are carried on. Zech. iv, 6. Especially if we add,
IV. Our own experience and observation, which furnish us with many instances in which this great truth has been exemplified.
Our observation furnishes us with such instances as these Sometimes a minister, who is an universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal, sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labours in vain, and all his excellent discourses seem to have no effect; while another of much inferior accomplishments, is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. This cannot be accounted for, without ascribing the distinction to the peculiar concurrence of divine grace ; for if it depended upon the instruments, it would be quite the reverse.
etimes a clear convictive, and withal, solemn and warm discourse, has no effect; while, at another time, the same doctrines, delivered in a weak, incoherent manner, have strange efficacy, and reach the heart. Sometimes the read. ing of a sermon has been the means of awakening careless sinners, when, at other times, the most solemn and argumentative preaching has been in vain. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened, and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number, under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, or perhaps more so, have remained secure and thoughtless, as usual. And whence could this difference arise, but from special grace? We have seen persons struck to the heart with those doctrines which they had heard an hundred times without any effect. And in. deed there is something in the manner of persons being affected with the word, which shews that the impression is not made by the word itself, or by any other power than divine. The truths that make such deep impressions upon their hearts, are no new discoveries ; they are the old common repeated truths of the gospel, which they had heard before a thousand times ; and the manner in which they are represented by the minister, may not be clearer than usual. - But, to their sur-, prise, these familiar doctrines flash upon them as new discovo eries ; they appear to them in a quite different light, as though they had never heard them before : and they reach the conscience, and pierce the heart with such amazing energy, that the sinner is cast into a consternation at his own stupidity, that he