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would farther ask them, Whether hath God or the world moft of your love, moft of your thoughts, and moft of your care? Can fuch of you pretend this, whofe eager, ardent, nightly thought, and daily pleasure, is only to increase your fubftance? who would not go to market without re-examining your tranfactions, and computing your gain; but can daily go to the houfe of God, without obferving, enquiring af ter, or defiring to fee its proper fruits? Can fuch of you pretend this, to whom all ferious converfation is tedious and difguftful, and the fociety of good men a painful reftraint? to whom the fabbath is a dull, melancholy, and burdenfome season? Oh, my brethren, let me befeech you to be faithful to your own fouls. Your precious time is daily hastening on; the day of your merciful vifitation is wearing faft away. Hear while there is yet peace, and intreat that God, for Chrift's fake, would freely pardon all your fins; would renew you in the spirit of your minds; would fit you for his service on earth, and for his prefence and enjoyment in heaven.

Thus I have explained at confiderable length, and with all the care and accuracy in my power, the great and general evidence of regeneration, viz. the fuperiority of the intereft of God and H 6

the

the Redeemer in the heart, above the intereft of inferior good. This, I hope, will be of use in itself, to diftinguish the precious from the vile to preserve you from fin, and excite you to diligence in every part of your duty, that it may be more and more manifeft. At the fame time, it will be of the greatest service, in the use and application of other figns of real religion, by fhewing when they are conclufive, and when they

are not.

CHAP.

CHAP. III.

Of the fteps by which this change is accomplished.

W

E proceed now to confider by what steps, and by what means, this change is brought about. I am deeply fenfible how difficult a part of the subject this is, and how hard it will be to treat of it in a diftinct and precife, and at the fame time, in a cautious and guarded manner. It is often complained of in those who write on this fubject, that they confine and limit the HOLY ONE, and that they give unneceffary alarms to those who have not had experience of every particular which they think proper to mention. There is no doubt but God acts in an * abfolute and fovereign manner in the dispensation of his

It will be proper to inform the reader, that the word "ab"folate" nfed here, and in fome other places of this discourse, is by no means to be understood as fignifying the fame thing with arbitrary." He who acts arbitrarily, acts without any reason at all. To fay this of the divine procedure, would be little less than blafphemy. When we fay that God acts "in an abfolute " and fovereign manner," the meaning is, that he acts upon the best and ftrongest reafons, and for the nobleft and most excellent ends; but which are many or most of them beyond our reach and comprehenfion; and particularly, that there is not the leaft foundation for fuppofing that the reasons of preference are taken from comparative human merit,

5

grace

grace, as in every other part of his will. As he cannot be limited as to perfons, so neither as to the time and manner of their reformation. To this purpose, and in this precife meaning, our Saviour fays, "The wind bloweth where it "lifteth, and thou heareft the found thereof, "but canft not tell whence it cometh, and whi"ther it goeth: fo is every one that is born of "the Spirit *."

""

Sometimes it pleafeth God to fnatch finners from the very brink of the pit, to raise up fome of the most abandoned profligates, as trophies of his victorious grace and mercy; while he fuffers others, far more moderate and decent, who are "not far from the kingdom of God," finally to fall fhort of it. He fometimes glorifies his power and mercy at once, by converting his moft inveterate enemies, and making them the most zealous, active, and fuccefsful advocates for his caufe. Such an inftance was the apostle Paul, who from a perfecutor became a preacher. Some · times converfion is fpeedily and fuddenly brought about, and the times and circumftances of the change may be eafily afcertained. This was the cafe with the jailor recorded in the hiftory of the Acts of the Apoftles. The fame may be faid of the apostle Paul; and there have been particular examples of it in every age. Some* John iii. 8.

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times, on the other hand, the reception of the truth, and renovation of the heart, goes on by flow and infenfible degrees; nor is it eafy to fay by what means the change was begun, or at what time it was compleated. This was perhaps the case with most, if not all, the disciples of our Lord, during his personal ministry.

Sometimes the change is very fignal and fenfible, the growth and improvement of the fpiriritual life speedy and remarkable, the greatest finners becoming the moft eminent faints; like the woman mentioned in the gospel, to whom many fins were forgiven, and who loved her Redeemer much. Sometimes, on the other hand, the change is very doubtful, and the progress of the believer hardly difcernible. Some of this fort are reproved by the apoftle Paul in the following words, which are but too applicable to many profeffing Chriftians of the prefent age: " For

when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye "have need that one teach you again, which "be the first principles of the oracles of God, "and are become fuch as have need of milk, "and not of ftrong meat *.' Sometimes the convert hath much peace and fenfible comfort, rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; and sometimes, on the other hand, he is diftref

""

Heb. v. 12,

fed

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