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tians. But they deceive themselves; and I will endeavour to explain the ground of their delusion. They doubtless desire to escape future punishment, and to be made eternally happy; and as they are convinced that religion is necessary to the attainment of future happiness, they flatter themselves that they desire to possess it. But observe-religion itself is not the object of their desire; but its future rewards. The drunkard may sincerely desire the blessing of temperance, while he has no desire to abandon his cups. So sinners may desire the rewards of piety, while they have no desire for piety itself. They see no beauty in holiness. It is the object of their aversion; and all their desire for it, is like the desire of a sick man for a loathsome medicine, which, he knows, he must take, or die. Do any of you, my hearers, flatter yourselves that you desire to be Christians ?-Have you seriously thought, what it is to be a Christian? The Christian hates sin, and loves holiness. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He delights in the service of God. It is his meat and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father. Do you desire to possess such a character? No man truly desires to be a Christian, who is not willing to forsake his sins, and to walk in newness of life. Are you willing to do this? Call up to view the sins which you habitually indulge. Are you willing to forsake them? If you are, you will forsake them immediately. Look at the duties of religion. Are you willing to perform them? If you are, you will commence a life of obedience without delay. If you are not willing to do these things, you are not willing to be Christians; for these things are essential to the Christian character. Cast away, then, this vain delusion. Be willing to see your own hearts, and to acknowledge your true character. No longer attempt to exculpate yourselves, and to impute unrighteousness to Jehovah When you say, that you should be glad to be Christians, if you could, you virtually say, that it is not your fault that you remain in impenitence. And whose fault is it, my hearers? It is either your fault or the fault of God. While therefore you exculpate yourselves, you cast all the blame of your impenitence upon your Maker. And is not this impiety?
3. How utterly inexcusable are those who reject the gospel. If there is nothing but their own unwillingness to prevent them from receiving pardon, what excuse can they plead in their justification? There is one excuse, however, which the sinner sometimes pleads, when the subject is thus presented, which it may be important to notice. He says, Granting it to be so-granting that there is nothing but my own unwillingness to prevent me from complying with the terms of salvation: still, I cannot change my own will, and if God does not make me willing, how can I be culpable? When the sinner pleads this excuse, he always takes it for granted, that he really desires to change his own will; that is, that he really has a will, to have a different will from that which he has in other words, that he really chooses to choose differently from what he actually does choose. But is not this absurd? The truth is, the sinner has no desire to change his will; for such a desire would itself be a change of the will. He chooses not to come to Christ: and while he thus chooses, he has no desire to choose otherwise; for he may as well choose to come to Christ, as to desire to make such a choice.
But the sinner goes farther. He says, If God does not change my will, how can I be blameable? That is, it is my fixed purpose to persist in rebellion against Heaven; and if God does not stop me in my career, and change my purpose, how can he consistently blame me? If this excuse is valid, it will annihilate at once all the sin in the universe. But let us put
this excuse to the test. A man refuses to pay his honest debts, and says, I am unwilling to pay, and if God does not change my will, how can I be blamed? A child refuses to obey his parent, and says, I am unwilling to obey, and if God does not change my will, how can I be blamed? A drunkard refuses to abandon his cups, and says, I am unwilling to abandon them, and if God does not change my will, how can I be blamed? A man murders his neighbour, and says, I had an inclination to murder him, and as God did not change my will, how can I be blamed? Are these pleas valid? Are they not impious? Will they be admitted at the bar of conscience? If not, neither will the sinner's plea be admitted at the bar of God.
And what excuse have you, my fellow-sinners, which you will dare plead at the judgment seat of Christ? What can you say, when God shall deal with you? Will you not be speechless? If you persist in unbelief, will not the throne of God be guiltless in your condemnation? If a man, who has reduced himself to beggary by his vices, now spurns from him the hand that offers to feed him; whose fault is it, if he perish with hunger? If a criminal who is justly sentenced to death, refuses a pardon which is freely offered him, whose fault is it, if he is executed? If a prisoner refuses to leave his dungeon, when the doors are thrown open, and he is offered his liberty, whose fault is it, if he perish in his dungeon? And if sinners who have deserved eternal banishment from God, now despise the riches of his goodness, and set at nought the blood-bought salvation, which he freely offers them, whose fault will it be, if they perish? Fellow-sinner, are you slumbering in impenitence? Do you know that you are slumbering on the verge of eternity? Do you know that there is but a step between you and death? Do you know that the momentous question is soon to be decided, whether you are to be saved or lost? Awake, I beseech you, from this guilty repose! Look around you, and survey your your condition. Think what God has done for you. have abused his mercy, and wearied his patience. judgment, and to that state of retribution to which you are hastening. How must you feel, if you should lift up your eyes in torment, and see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the saints rejoicing in the paradise above? All this glory, you may then say, I have lost by my own folly. Once it was offered to me, but I despised it, and spurned it from me; and now I must eat of the fruit of my own way, and be filled with my own devices. O, for another season of probation! But it is too late. My day of grace
Heaven is lost-lost for ever.
prospects. Think of Think how long you Look forward to the
My hearers, it is not yet too late to secure eternal life. There is yet a mercy-seat. God is still waiting to be gracious. The Spirit and the bride still say, come; and let him that heareth, say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY.
By THOMAS SNELL, A. M.
ROMANS IX. 21.-Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
THESE words are used by the Apostle to illustrate and defend God's absolute sovereignty in his dealings with mankind. The argument is this: If the potter, who forms vessels of clay, has power to make of the same lump one vessel for a more, and another for a less honourable use, according to his own discretion; then, surely, God, the Proprietor of all things, has the same power over the fallen race of men, who were formed of the dust of the earth. He has a right to exercise his own discretion in raising what part of the human race he sees fit to the honours and privileges of the gospel; and, out of the same corrupt mass of mankind, to form whom he will for glory, and leave whom he will to pursue their chosen way of disobedience. That this is the reasoning of the apostle, is evident from the verses which immediately follow. There God is said to have "endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and made known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory." A word is used in the original, which signifies, that the vessels of wrath fitted themselves for destruction. This they did by their obstinacy in sin. But with respect to the vessels of mercy, it is written, that God prepared them unto glory. Out of the great mass of mankind, universally corrupted and ruined by sin, God, in his infinite mercy, by the energies of his Holy Spirit attending the gospel, sanctifies and prepares a people for heaven. In this work of grace, he exercises his sovereign power in selecting what portion of the deformed mass he pleases, no less than the potter does in forming his vessels of clay.
That God does exercise a sovereign pleasure in converting and saving sinners, cannot escape the notice of any, who attentively read the scriptures of truth. He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Accordingly, God had mercy upon Jacob in distinction from Esau, no less than upon his posterity in distinction from all other nations. Among his descendants were many pious men, in consequence of their special privileges accompanied with the Holy Spirit; while all other nations remained in ignorance and sin.
In view of Pharaoh's hardness under divine rebukes, St. Paul observes, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth ;" or leaveth without mercy, giving them up to their own wilful hardness of heart. He expresses the same sentiment, when speaking of the vessels of wrath, who under God's patience fitted themselves for de
struction, and the vessels of mercy whom God prepared for heaven; Even us, says the apostle, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. These vessels, in succeeding verses, are called, God's people, his beloved, and his children. They were sinners of the Gentiles, whom God in sovereign mercy had sanctified; while most of the Jews and many of the Gentiles continued in the service of sin. The Son of God has the Father's promise, that, in the day of his power, his people hall be willing, in the beauties of holiness. This promise is fulfilling in all revivals of religion; in which sovereign grace overcomes the obstinacy of sinners, and disposes them to serve God in holy love.
When we look at facts, recorded in sacred history, we are still further confirmed in the idea of God's sovereignty in the conversion of sinners. Among all the kings of Judah, no one was more hostile to the prophets and worship of God, or more engaged in putting down religion, than Manasseh. He had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, established idolatry in his kingdom, set up an image in God's house, and seduced the people to do worse than the heathen. When divinely admonished, he would receive no instruction, neither would he take warning. Considering the pious example of his father, and his peculiar advantages for religious instruction, together with his cruelty, idolatry, and sin, we should think him one of the most improbable candidates for heaven, among all the crowned heads in that -land; not Jereboam, nor even Ahab, excepted. Yet, while many, less vile than Manasseh, were left to persevere in sin and perish in the way of their choice, he was humbled into a spirit of repentance, and enlisted in the service of that God, whose altars he had demolished, whose prophets he had slain, and whose name he had cast out as evil. This notoriously wicked man was thus made a vessel of mercy, prepared for the glories of heaven.
The malefactors, who had the honour of suffering with our Lord, afford another striking illustration of our subject. They were both probably born and educated under the light of divine truth, and lived in the same general course of sin. Being detected in crime, they were condemned to die. While upon the cross, they both reviled the Saviour. Before they expired, however, one of them in a spirit of penitence acknowledged the justice of his sentence, reproved his companion, testified to the innocence of our Lord, plead with him for mercy, and left the world' with the assurance of salvation ; while the other died as he had lived. To what shall we ascribe this difference, but to the sovereign grace of God?
I would mention but one other instance recorded in scripture, and that is Saul of Tarsus. He was learnedly educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a master in Israel. No man could be more shielded in self-righteousness, or more confident of his personal goodness and safety-and no one more bitter against the Christian cause. His zeal against the way of salvation by grace through a crucified Saviour, was, perhaps, never surpassed. He gloried in his privileges, his heartless morality, and his imagined perfection, and even in his opposition to the cross. Such a man must be a very improbable candidate for conversion to Christianity. No evidence could convince him of his error-no human influence control his feelings-no persuasion win him to Christ. Against conviction by argument, or persua
sion by entreaty, he was effectually guarded by the strength of his prejudices, the blindness of his mind, and the confidence of his hope. Still, in the space of one week, from breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church, he became a warm advocate of the faith and cause of Christ. Thus he lived and died, sealing his testimony by his blood, and rejoicing in hope of glory through rich grace in a bleeding Saviour.
But what convinced this self-righteous pharisee of sin, broke down his bigotry and prejudices, opened his eyes upon his error, humbled his pride, and brought him to sue for mercy at the feet of Jesus; while multitudes, of the same general character, remained enemies of the cross? Not the influence of friends, surely; for they, if possible, would have hindered itnot the fear of enemies; for Christians were indisposed to harm him as a persecutor; and a powerful band he arrayed against him by becoming a Christian—not the lure of gain, nor the prospect of worldly honour; for his conversion, instead of promising honour and profit, would incur poverty and disgrace-not imbecility of mind or want of education; for his intellect was powerful and his education finished. To what then could this change be attributed? Were Paul himself to answer, from that world of light where he no longer sees through a glass darkly, would he not still say, By the grace of God I am what I am?
The whole history of the church bears testimony to the truth, that God selects the subjects of his special grace in a sovereign manner. He convinces and converts whom he will. We sometimes see the most irreligious families visited by his Spirit, and the most profane and thoughtless brought to repentance, while others who have passed for civil and correct men, have remained heedless amid the most affecting manifestations of God's power and grace. And why is it thus ? We can neither assign nor perceive the reason; but can only say, Even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.
But notwithstanding this truth is so evident, there are certain general rules observed by the Great Head of the church, in perpetuating and extending his empire in this world of sinners.
God operates by his Spirit through the instrumentality of his word. His special work is therefore not to be expected where the Gospel is not published. How can men believe on him of whom they have not heard?
Sinners are rarely, if ever, converted where the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel are kept out of sight-or where its peculiarities are treated as absurdities. God honours his own truth, and not the inventions of men, in abasing the proud and preparing vessels for glory.
The men of the world usually lie wrapped in the slumbers of spiritual death, till the people of God arise to trim their lamps and pray for the Spirit.
The subjects of divine grace are more generally found among those who have been religiously educated, and set apart by pious parents to be the Lord's. Still there are some such signal exceptions to most of these rules, as show, that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
But the doctrine, THAT GOD ACTS AS A SOVEREIGN IN SELECTING AND PREPARING FALLEN MEN FOR GLORY, instead of furnishing any just occasion for complaint, is matter of joy and praise.