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death; nor have they ever received an invitation to become members of his redeemed family. But surely this is not the condition of our race, or of any part of it. We are all invited to the gospel feast. For us it was provided ; and if we do not eat of it, the only reason will be, that we will not accept the invitation he has sent us.
This Article has no disagreement with the fourth, which relates to the fall and ruined state of man. Although a general atonement, to be accompanied with a free offer of salvation to all men, could not have been inferred from the general depravity of the race, yet their depravity can be inferred, with the greatest certainty, from a general atonement, accompanied with a command to preach the gospel to every creature. On this subject the apostle reasons thus : “ Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." In his view, the death of Christ for all men, proved that all were spiritually dead, and under the curse of the broken law. The command, to offer salvation to all men, even to the ends of the earth, is also full proof that the reign of sin is thus extensive.
The present Article is not at variance with the third, which states this important fact, that God has given a perfect moral law to regulate the conduct of his intelligent creatures. This perfect law is not set aside by the gracious offers made to transgressors : For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God has accomplished, by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin, by making an atonement for it, in his flesh. The law is so magnified and honored by the infinite atonement, that neither the strictness of its requirements, nor the severity of its threatenings, need embarrass the minister of reconciliation, in preaching the gospel of the grace of God to every nation, grade, and character.
If this Article is in harmony with the three which immediately go before it, there can be no dispute concerning its agreement with the other two. If the atonement has made such a full declaration of the righteousness of God, considered as the giver of the law and the supporter of government, that there will be no danger that the law will be relaxed by his promising to forgive the sinner who returns to him through Jesus Christ, there can be no doubt that this gracious promise is in harmony with his whole character.
Our heavenly Father has manifested his goodness in providing the atonement, and making all things ready for our salvation; and also, in proclaiming it to us, and bidding us to come and partake of this enduring good. His goodness appears in the many kind invitations which he has caused to be inserted in his word; also, by commissioning his ministers to present these invitations in his name, and urge them on our attention. He requires them to make such unwearied exertions to induce a compliance with their invitation, that he calls it by the name of compulsion : “ Compel them to come in.”
1. The compassion of the Lord to our rebellious race is gloriously displayed, not only in the institution of the ministry of reconciliation, but also in actually raising up and qualifying men in the different ages
of the world, to engage in this important work. What a proof did he give of his good will to men, in raising up in the first age of the Christian church, such a minister of the word as Paul. Who can calculate the amount of good which has resulted and will yet result from his being put into the ministry? The merciful hand of God is to be acknow. ledged in the missionary movement of the present day. It is a glorious display of the good will of God towards the nations which are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, that young men of talents, learning and piety, are freely consenting to forsake all,
and to go to these destitute regions with the news of salvation : and that some of the daughters of our Zion, who are as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace, have also consented to join them in this holy enterprise. How will the glory of his benevolence be displayed, whon he shall fill the world with the messengers of his grace; when he shall stir up his people fully to obey his neglected commands, by sending forth a host of devoted men, who shall go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
2. If the gospel offer may be made to every man, then may it be made to every one of my readers, and particularly to the individual who is now perusing these pages. My office makes it my duty, and I esteem it my privilege, to invite guests to the marriage. You perceive, my commission gives me full liberty to invite every man, woman, youth and child, whom I find. And now, since it has been so ordered in providence that I have found you, my dear reader, I would take the opportunity sincerely and affectionately to present you the gospel invi. tation, in the name of my Master; and I entreat you not to make light of it. An invitation to be an eternal guest at the marriage supper of the Lamb, is too great a boon to be trifled with. If you accept, your soul shall live; if you continue to refuse, you will never taste of the supper.
But perhaps the individual whom I now address is one who has ac. cepted the invitation, and put on the wedding garment. If so, it is a matter of rejoicing; since he has chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from him.. Such a one will allow me to solicit his fervent prayers in behalf of that class of my readers who have hitherto received the grace of God in vain. O that they knew in this their day the things of their peace!
ALL MANKIND, WITHOUT A SINGLE EXCEPTION, WULLE IN THEIR NA: TURAL OR UNRENEWED STATE, REJECT THE FREE OFFER OF SALVATION
WHICII IS MADE THEM IN THE GOSPEL.
In the preceding Article we saw salvation freely offered to every man : and here we shall sec every unrenewed man obstinately reject. ing the offer. As it is important we should be convirced of the free. ness of the offer, so it behooves us to be apprised of the unwelcome reception which it every where meets. When we take a view of the exposed and perilous condition into which inan has fallen, and the divine benevolence manifested in providing him relief; also the fullness of the provision, together with the unspeakably blessed consequences of an acceptance of the proffered mercy, and the remediless ruin connected with its refusal, we should be apt to conclude, that the gospel offer need only to be made, and it would immediately be accepted by all. But both scripture and fact prove that it is not so. These faithful wit. nesses agree in their testimony, that this infinitely gracious offer is rejected rejected universally, and with unyielding obstinacy, so long as men are left to the inclination of their own natural hearts. The scripture furnishes such abundance of proof in support of the doctrine of this Article, that my plan will permit me to produce but a small portion of it.
1. The scriptures represent us as naturally averse to a reconciliation to God. They speak of God as beseeching us to be reconciled; which imports our great aversion to reconciliation. He says to a world of fallen creatures, “ Return unto me, and I will return unto you ;” but they do not return. “ The fool (who, in scripture language, means the unsanctified man,) hath said in his heart, No God.” This is the lan. guage of every unsanctified heart, whatever may be the convictions of the understanding. When the Son of God came in his Father's name, to reduce this revolted world to subjection, in a way as merciful to us as it was honorable to his Father's authority, a mighty combination was formed between men of all ranks, (so that a fair exhibition of the character of fallen man was made,) and the object of this combination was to free themselves from the restraints of divine government. Let us, say they, break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us ; i. e. « Let us maintain our independence of God. We will not have King Messiah reign over us; we will not be reconciled to God; neither to the Father, nor to the Son." If I have not altogether misapprehend. ed the representation which the Holy Ghost has made concerning this combination, it is a solemn truth, however humiliating, that such is the disaffection of our revolted world, that we would sooner dethrone the Almighty, than submit to the proffered terms of reconciliation. 2 Cor. v. 20. Mal. iii. 7. Ps. xiv. 1, and ii. 3. Luke xix. 14.
2. Unrenewed men are totally averse to the exercise of unfeigned repentance for their sins ; but without such repentance the gospel offer can not be received. That, which is spoken of the Jezebel of the New Testament, is true in relation to all the unregenerate ; "I
her space to repent—and she repented not.” Rev. ii. 21. The space given us for repentance, we are inclined to fill up with sinful gratifications. “ Not knowing," says the apostle, " that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; but after thy hardness and impenitent heart trea. surest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath,” It would seem as if the goodness of God was enough to allure his enemies to repent of the sins they have committed against him; but the hardness and impenitency of their heart resists its influence. Our natural aversion to repentance is spoken of as the thing that renders us insensible to the obligation. When God says, “ Return unto me,” we say, " Wherein
shall we return !” “ Ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth." Natural men not unfrequently exercise a repentance which is of the same selfish nature as the sin that is deplored; but they have not the least degree of that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto sal. vation, not to be repented of. 2 Cor. vii. 10.
3. Unrenewed men are wholly inclined to establish heir own righteousness, and therefore can have no willingness to accept the gospel offer; since a renunciation of their own righteousness is a condition without which the offer can never be accepted. The salvation offered in the gospel is all of grace. The justification which it proposes, is through another's righteousness, and not our own. But no unrenered man is willing to cast away his own garment, and come to Christ. “And ye will not come to me, that ye might bave life." John v. 40. This is the testimony of Him who knew what was in man. · Nor did his testimony relate merely to a few individuals, of an uncommonly perverse character. Had the whole Jewish nation been before him, he would have said the same. The apostle applies the character of self-righteousness to the whole nation : “ But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righte. ousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." Again he says, “ They being igno. rant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Rom. ix. 31, 32, and x. 3. Here we are presented with a whole nation, who preferred a righteousness of their own to that which God had provided to satisfy the claims of his holy law. And the preference they gave it was very decided; since they went about to establish their own, while they refused the righteousness of God, which required only to be submitied to. In this self-righteous spirit, let us remember, they illustrated not the Jewish character alone, but the character of all nations. While remaining in unregeneracy, we are all too proud to submit to the righteousness which God has provided for us—a righteousness, which shows our character to be so vile as justly to expose us to shame and everlasting contempt; and so vile as to shut out all hope of our ever restoring ourselves to his favor, by virtue of our own deservings.
4. That the unregenerate are altogether indisposed to accept the offer of salvation, is proved by their total aversion to humble prayer. That man who is not willing to come before the throne of grace in prayer, is unwilling to be saved by grace. "Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." “ Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” But it is declared to be characteristic of the wicked man, that through the pride of his countenance he will not seek after God.” The wicked are charged with saying unto God, “ Depart from us ; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him ? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” Ps. X. 4. Job xxi. 14, 15.
Should it be objected, that some of the unregenerate pray, and even importunately ask to be favored with an interest in Christ; I would answer, the scripture foresaw it would be so, even when it condemned
them all as prayerless characters; therefore it exposed the defective nature of the prayers which they would offer. It is written, “ Ye ask, and ye receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Again it is written, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law," (and this is done by every one who has that carnal unrenewed mind which is not subject to the law,) “even his prayer shall be abomination.” Jam. iv. 3. Prov. xxviii. 9.
5. The scripture represents a fallen world as decidedly preferring the service of idols to the service of Jehovah : and this furnishes evidence that they must possess an utter aversion to the terms of reconciliation ; for these oblige them utterly to renounce their idols. “Hath a nation,” says the God of Israel, "changed their gods, which yet are no gods ? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” He represents this backsliding people as saying, “ I have loved stran. gers,” (i. e, strange gods) " and after them will I go.” Jer. ii. 11, 25. Idolatry does not owe its origin to an ignorance of the true God, but rather to a dreadful aversion to his holy service. The time was, when Jebovah, the true God, was known to all the children of Adam; but they did not like to retain him in their knowledge: and this gave rise to idolatry. The heathen preferred their senseless idols to the living and true God; and even the Israelites themselves (i. e. such of them as were uncircumsised in heart,) manifested a constant propensity to forsake their own God for the idols of the nations. Some may think that human nature is greatly changed from what it was in ancient times, especially in its propensity to idolatry. But what reason have we to think so? Is it not still true, that the greater part of the human race are the avowed worshipers of idols ? Is it not also true, that those countries where Jehovah is professedly worshiped are full of a species of idols, which their inhabitants are as unwilling to renounce, as pagans are to give up the worship of their images ? Riches, Honor, and Pleasure are the principal idols of christendom. And how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God ? How can they believe which receive honor one of another ! Nor is it any less difficult for them to become believers in the holy Jesus, who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Mark x. 23. John v. 44. 2 Tim. iii. 4.
6. We cannot accept the proffered salvation, unless we break off from our sins; and this “the servants of sin,” “the children of diso. bedience,” are entirely unwilling to do. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isa. lv. 7. The relinquishment of sin, both in external practice and in the thoughts or affections of the heart, is here made a needful requisite to our obtaining pardoning mercy. But it is a requisite with which none of the unregenerate world are willing to comply. Their heart is fully set to do evil. Simple ones love sim. plicity, scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. Therefore it comes to pass, that when God calls they refuse; when he stretches out his hand no man regards it. When in great mercy he points them to the good way, requiring them to walk therein, with an assurance, that in so doing they shall find rest unto their souls, they