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sings may be withheld from a kind regard to our ultimate and more durable happiness; but this is a privation, yea the only privation which transforms existence itself into the greatest of evils, and renders it “ better not to have been born.” On this point, therefore, the scrip. tures are full and explicit. “ Draw nigh to God, and he shall draw nigh to you.” For as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die ? Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you : for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
These and other declarations of the same import, are constantly verified in fact. Every one, who has made the experiment can testify, that in proportion to the vigilance and activity with which he has sought to understand and perform his duty, he has been enabled to resist temptation, and go from strength to strength in the practice of religion and virtue.
Were it, however, conceded, that for spe. cial reasons, God sometimes reclaims men in
a different way, the concession would not war. rant us to conclude ; that means are useless or unsuccessful. A few in every age are permitted to inherit estates, for which they never laboured : shall we therefore deny that “ the diligent hand maketh rich ?” Ask your hearts, or let your daily practice decide. It is still more certain, “ if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasure, that then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
In reviewing this subject, we are led,
1. To remark the wisdom and goodness of God in appointing a method for the recovery of apostate man, which is visibly adapted to his condition and capacities, and perfectly analogous to what reason dictates, and experience sanctions in all other cases. Every argument that proves the necessity of vigilance and activity for the advancement of our temporal interests, demonstrates the utility of means in quest of religious improvement ; and every objection which can be brought against the one, lies with equal weight against the other. Is it alleged that faith is the gift of God ? So are all the outward mercies which we seek and enjoy. “Both riches and honour come of him. It is he that giveth power to get wealth.” Is it
alleged, that nothing that we can perform will render us disciples of Christ, unless the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the holy spirit be afforded us ? Neither will the utmost care and toil, of which we are capable, defend us from the casualties, or insure to us the conveniences of this life, if divine co-operation be withheld. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it : Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Is it alleged, that to believe our exertions needful and salutary militates with the doctrine of free grace, and betrays into self confidence ? This goes to prove it criminal to practise industry in pursuit of temporal prosperity. For God is the beneficent author of all our blessings ; and it is not less evidently a crime to refuse him the honour due to his name, on account of his providential goodness, than to withhold that which results from his redeeming love. Are we then to indulge a supine inattention to all our wants, and, without once essaying to procure a supply, to expect miraculous relief from heaven ? “ It is written thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Equally absurd and ungrateful is the plea of inability. For,“ suppose the worst; that
we are utterly destitute of any supernatural principle, and want that taste by which we should discern and abhor perverse things : yet surely we are capable of some considerations which may be of force to persuade us to the reformation of our lives. If the inward deformity and hateful nature of sin cannot effect us, at least we may be affrighted by the dreadful consequences that attend it. That same selfish principle, which pushes us forward to the pursuit of sinful pleasures, will make us loth to procure them at the rate of everlasting misery. Thus we may encounter self love with its own weapons, and employ one natural inclination for repressing the exorbitances of another."*
The degree of human depravity is a question, which, however decided, cannot materially affect religious means. Its full extent is certainly known to an omniscient God. The regimen which he has prescribed must, therefore, be practicable in itself, and adapted to the nature of the disease. Can we conceive that he has ordained means, of which it is impossible for us to avail ourselves with effect; and yet holds us responsible and guilty for their
* Scougal's Life of God in the Soul of Man, p. 69, 70. NO. 3.
failure? The scriptures represent him, as giving talents “to every one according to his several ability,” and invariably requiring “ according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” Having sent his son “to seek and save that which was lost,” he accommodates his dealings and demands to our fallen state ; and encourages, succeeds, and accepts such feeble efforts for deliverance as our perverted faculties will admit. Without these efforts, we have no just ground of hope. As well might we presume on a plentiful harvest, independent of all care to deposit seed and cherish its growth. If we “hide our talents. in the earth,” can we expect a miracle to be the recompense of our sloth? Or will it avail us to plead, that we believed the law giver and Judge of creation “an austere and hard master, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not strowed”? Let us not harbour a sentiment so derogatory to the adorable majesty of the universe ; but convinced as well of his willingness and power to serve as of the absolute necessity of pardon and sancti.' fication, let us surmount every doubt and discouragement; and iimpotent as we are, “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling;