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the Apostle ; “ That men should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Sinners in general cherish the idea, that there are many preparatory steps, and good endeavors, by which they hope to come, by degrees, to the discharge of real christian duty. These preparatory measures, they consider as pleasing to God ; though performed in a state of unregeneracy. This is a gross delusion. For without faith, which is a fruit of the Spirit," it is impossible to please him.” It is absurd to
" suppose, that, with a perfectly selfish heart, and with a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, sinners can read and pray, seek and strive acceptably to God; and so as to inherit the promises, “ Ask and ye shall receive, seek and
shall find.” No such promises are made to the impenitent. To them are applicable the declarations of the Apostle James ; 66 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it on your lusts." Notwithstanding sinners ought to pray, and attend to every duty ; yet they do nothing acceptably, nothing which entitles them to any of the promises, while in a state of impenitency. They make no advances, no progress towards a state of favor with God. Yea, they make progress in sin, and add daily to their guilt, until they begin to offer the sacrifices of a broken heart, and a contrite spirit. Not all the terrors of a broken law, not the most pungent conviction of sin, not even the nearest approaches of death and hell, which excite their loudest cries for mercy, can produce any services which are acceptable to God, antecedently to the exercise of sincere repentance. The sam and substance of all the sacrifices which are pleasing to God, and to which the divine promises are annexed, we have in the words of the Apostle Paul. 66 I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,"_" testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." All that precedes these, is of the nature of sin. The first commandment in the gospel is, “ Repent ;" and the next is, “ Believe the gos
2. This subject, which requires both saints and sinners to attend most solemnly to the duties of religion; leads us to the proper idea of the use of means, in the work of man's salvation. The efficacious use of means, is only when God uses them with sinners ; and not when sinners use them with themselves. The work of regeneration, conversion, and salvation, is wholly a work of God; and with him it is optional, whether to perform the great work with, or without the use of means. The means of grace, which God uses with sinners, to bring them into his spiritual kingdom, are exceedingly various. His holy word, his sabbaths, the ministry of the gospel ; and preparatory to all these, and perhaps the most successful of all means whatever, is parental faithfulness. It has been said, that the efficacious use of means is when God uses them with sinners. But God has a multitude of servants, acting in his name and behalf. Ministers, parents, mag; istrates, and christian neighbors. “As though God did beseech you by us,” said Paul to impenitent sinners, “ we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." God also makes use of all the various dispensations of his Providence, merciful and afflictive, as means of grace, He sometimes makes use of a man's own wickedness and folly, to alarm his conscience, and bring him to repentance. The means of grace, in the hands of the Apostles, being faithfully improved by them, constituted the planting and the watering ; and God gave the increase. Speaking of regeneration, which is the very work of salvation, the Apostle considers it as being wholly of God; and yet it was by the word of God. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God." Again, “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth."
Sinners do indeed attend to the means and motives of the gospel. Even infidels are excited to attend, and to learn the truth. And were not this the case, how could they ever be convicted and conyerted to Christ? But they never attend with a hearty approbation of divine truth ; and with a desire to be holy. For they often cavil
with the doctrines of salvation; and if they are overcome at last, it is by the exceeding greatness of the power of the Holy Spirit. These appear to be some of the scriptural ideas respecting the means of grace and salvation. This is God's general method of calling his elect into his kingdom.
On this important point, we may further observe; As respects those who live under the light of the gospel in particular, and perhaps, as respects all mankind, of adult age, the means of grace are represented in the scriptures, as being necessary to salvation. This doctrine appears to be stated and proved in the tenth chapter to the Romans. Here a general maxim is stated ; “ Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." To such is salvation limited, both in the old and new testaments. 6 But how shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear, without a preacher P” The conclusion is, “ So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing, by the word of God.” And is it not a fact, verified by universal observation, that without the means of grace, none of the fruits of
grace appear ? No convictions of sin, no conversions are witnessed ; no accessions to the visible church, none of the fruits of the Spirit; and in short, NO RELIGION. When God's ancient people forsook his word and ordinances, he declared, that they perished for lack of knowledge ; and it is expressed, as a general truth, that, 6 Where there is no vision,” no divine revelation, the people perish.” This is a truth obvious to us all. For who does not see, and deplore, the perishing state of the heathen ? And who that has any latent spark of benevolence and compassion, does not feel the importance of making every possible effort to spread the gospel throughout a perishing world ? Inexpressibly important are the means of grace! By them, mankind are enlightened, and indoctrinated; so that, if they ever become the subjects of special grace, they are, at once, prepared for duty and usefulness. The means of grace, under the common influences of the Holy Spirit, keep alive some degree of convic
DUTIES OF THE UNREGENERATE, &c.
tion of sin, and some sense of the importance of real religion. They are also the principal barriers of civilization and morality. They therefore, claim the attention of all, however inclined the wicked are to pervert them to their own aggravated condemnation.
3. From this subject we learn, that for sinners to flatter themselves, that they are waiting and wishing for a spirit of prayer, and for converting grace, while they live in the neglect of all religious duty, and improvement, is a gross and dangerous delusion. They demonstrate, by their conduct, that there is no such wish in their hearts. The language of their conduct is, “ I pray thee, , have me excused." 66 I desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” If, in the neglect of all duty, any flatter themselves that they love the brethren, and desire to become the subjects of divine grace; they confirm the testimony of the prophet, that “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it ?"
4. No sinner is willing to be pronounced utterly inexcusable. The support and comfort of all sinners are their excuses. But excuse, in the neglect of duty, is an absurdity. Sinners in general, profess to be well disposed, and to do the best they can, hoping that God will enable them to persevere. Thus the blame is cast on God. And instead of doing their best, they do their worst. hold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldst."
Finally. The consideration of this subject ought to produce, at least, an amendment of morals. To this, there is no want of motives. To this no objection can be offered. In a depravity of morals, no one can dare to excuse himself. All profess to be advocates for morality. Happy would it be, if all should practice according to this profession! But, in fact, true religion and morality are inseparable; as appears by the noted exhortation of the prophet; “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, who will have mercy on him, and unto our God, who will abundantly pardon."....AMEN,
66 BeESSAY XXVI.
The holy Sabbath.
In the whole system of practical subjects, none holds a higher rank, none claims a more profound attention, than that of the holy sabbath. The sabbath is to be cal. led a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable! If, in point of importance, one command has the preference to another, the sabbath has the preference to all others, No other command is so abundantly repeated in scripture, nor expressed in terms so peremptory.“ Verily, my sabbaths ye shall keep.” Still we are challenged, by some who profess the christian religion, to prove, that the law of the sabbath is in force, at the present day.-To prove this great practical point, we inay attend to the following arguments.
1. That the church has a weekly sabbath established by divine authority, under the present dispensation of the gospel, as well as under all former dispensations, is evident from the scriptures. Heb. iv. 9.
66 There remaineth therefore, a rest to the people of God.” The word, rest, is several times used in this chapter and its connections, and in every other instance, a greek word is used which signifies rest in the ordinary meaning of the word. But here the Greek word is different, and is a word, strictly meaning the holy sabbath. “ There re.
. maineth therefore, a sabbath to the people of God; or to the christian church.” This text alone, proves distinctly, that the christian church has a sabbath, which remaineth to them. It is not a new institution ; but it is the essence of the original institution which remains, and will remain perpetually. In the verse next to the one quoted, we have a sufficient reason assigned, why a sabbath should remain to the people of God.
66 For he that is entered into his rest," that is, Jesus Christ, 66 hath ceased from his own work,” that is, the work of redemption, “ as God did from his;" that is, from the
' work of creation. God ceased from the great work of