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him and the gospel, we cannot be fruitsul in holiness or good works; and are very thanksul for the provision he hath made, and the assistances he hath afforded us by his word, that we may bring forth much
, Philip, ii. 13. For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do 0/ his good pleasure.
In this passage 'ne apostle exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, from a grateful sense of the goodness of God in granting them, for that purpose, the instructions and motives of the gospel, by which such convictions had already been awakened in them, as had excited them both to choose and perform what God required. The energy, or operation of God here spoken of, seems to be the energy of infiruBion and perfuafion. No doubt it is a very reasonable and powersul motive to us all to work out our salvation, that God, in unspeakable love and good-will, is continually working in us, by the truths and motives of the gospel, to choose and perform what he hath required of us.
1 Cor. xv. 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am.
- Let any one caresully attend to the whole case of Paul's conversion, from being a persecutor to become a preacher and an apostle of Jesus Christ, and then
'say whether it is reasonable to draw general conclusions respecting all men from such a case. However we will-all readily adopt his words, and say, through H 3 the the grace es God, and his savours freely bestowed uport
us by the gospel, we are what we are.
Eph. ii. 8. For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
The word that doth not reser to saith, as is evident from the original, but to the preceding clause of the sentence. That ye are saved by grace through faiths this is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. He is the sole author of this method of salvation. Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, 26, 27. Then will I sprinkle clean
water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your flthiness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart also will 1 give you, and a new spirit will I
fut within you: and I will take away thefony heart
out os your fiesh, and I will give you a heart offlesl). And 1 will put my spirit within you, and cause you ta
,tjuik in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and
Look into the prophet himself, and I think it will appear, that this is a prediction of the restoration of the people of the jews to their own country at the end of the babylonish captivity, and that asterwards they should no more return to the practice of idolatry, to which their sathers had been so prone. Now, the history of that people informs us that this prediction was verified in sact. When God promises to give them a new heart,, and to put a new spirit within them, it relates to the particular subject spoken of, viz. idolatry: and, in reality, there was a wondersul
change wrought in the dispositions and practice of that people in this respect. This was essected by the deep impressions made upon them by the righteous judgments of God for the idolatries of their forefathers and of themselves. But the new heart and new spirit must not be understood of an universal, or general change from evil to good, because the whole subsequent history of the jews, and particularly in the gospel-times, contradicts it. It may, however, reser to some greater change to be produced in the moral character of the Jewish nation, on their return from their present dispersion, produced by the consideration of the hand of God in it, as the just punishment of their former vices. But it seems a strange perversion, to make this particular prediction to the returning captives, a general promise to mankind,at least to christians, of producing in them a thorough change of heart and lise by the immediate operation of the spirit of God. This may be called accommodate ing scripture-paflages, but it seems taking very bold liberties of making what we please out of them, very inconsistent with, a sincere belief in them, as con taining the word of God.
Psalm li. 10. Create in me a clean heart, 0 Goa, and renew a right spirit within me.
We ought not to interpret the figurative expressions of Hebrew poetry too literally, or to expect in it the rigid accuracy of expression of our western prose. The psalmist seems to mean no more by create, than produce, or cause; which docs not exclude elude'the instrumentality of ordinary means, any more than the word renew. Nay, the psalmist seems to expect that the clean heart must be created and the right spirit renewed, not by an immediate operation os sovereign and almighty grace, but by the instrumentality of those ordinary and usual means of grace which he had long enjoyed, and experienced the good effects of; and therefore he adds in the following words, v. u. Casl- me not away from thy presence, i. e. deprive me not of the ordinances of thy worship in the tabernacle, where thou manisestest thy presence in a glorious manner, and take not thy holy spirit from me, i. e. that holy spirit with the illuminations of which he had, as a prophet, been so often savoured, and from which he had reaped great spiritual improvement. - Luke xxiii. 43. To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.
Although certain writers and teachers of religion prosess not to mention the case of the penitent thief to encourage presumption and carelessness in any ©ne, yet they mention it so often, and insist on it so much, as an instance of a great and sudden' change taking place at the last hour of a poor sinner's lise, at the same time insinuating that the same change may take place in others (for the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear) that I sear' they do, in sact, unhappily encourage presumption
and carelessness in many. Let us therefore consider this case with a little attention.
The abovementioned writers,- &c. take for granted what is by no means certain, that the penitent thief's knowledge of Christ, and repentance of his own sins, commenced only at the time of his crucifixion along with Jesus. But is it not possible, that the crime for which he suffered might have been committed a long time before, though he had been apprehended for it only very lately; when, whatever change mmht in the mean time have been wrought in his character and conversation, the law must take its course, and he must suffer the punishment due to his misdeeds, though he had repented of them very sincerely, and become a new man I The evangelist has said nothing that precludes this supposition, and therefore we are at liberty to make it, especially if it will contribute to render the circumstances of the narrative more consistent and accountable. Let us see then what those circumstances are.
First, observe that this penitent, in the reproof which he gave to his sellow-criminal, makes a candid and ingenuous consession of his crimes, and the justice of his punifliment, and that grounded upon a just and proper principle, the fear of God. Dost not thou sear God, seeing that thou also art in the same condemnation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds. This seems