Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion for us." And I am not at all surprised to beat you complain, that "you cannot entertain clear apprehensions of my discourse of experimental religion ;” that, “ though your last objections are silenced, there are others which fill your mind with greater difficulty, and are of much greater importance, if I have given you a just view of the case;" and that 66

you cannot tell how you can ever be brought to a feeling sense of the doctrines of sovereign grace, which I so much insist on, while they appear to you so inconsistent with truth, and so unreasonable.” I am not, I say, surprised at this: for we are naturally prejudiced against these doctrines; and are not easily brought to receive them, by reason of the strong bias there is upon our minds to the contrary principles. I shall, therefore, endeavour to consider your several objections; and how strong and plausible soever they may appear, I do not despair of giving you satisfaction.

You object, that, “ if we are of ourselves capable of no qualifying conditions for the divine favour, or (to use my own words) if we must feel that we lie at mercy, and that all our own refuges, and all our endeavours in our own strength to relieve our distressed souls, are fruitless and vain; you cannot tell to what purpose any of our endeavours are, or what good it will do us to use any means at all for our salvation.”

In order to a clear solution of this difficulty, it seems needful to convince you, that this lost, impotent, deplorable state, is the case, in fact, of every unrenewed sinner, whatever objections we may frame in our minds against it; and therefore it is necessary that he should sensibly-perceive the case to be as it

truly is: and then it will be proper to show you, that the consequence you draw froin this doctrine is unjust, and even directly contrary to the improvement you ought to make of it.

I begin with the first of these; and shall endeavour to convince you, that man is indeed in such a lost and helpless state, that he lies at mere mercy, and cannot bring himself into a claim to the divine favour by any power or ability of his own.

I sball not run into the scholastic controversies, and subtile distinctions, with which this doctrine has been clouded by many of our wrangling disputers; but shall endeavour to set it in the most plain, easy, and practical light that I am able.

I think you must readily grant, that you cannot make an atonement for your sins by any performances within your power. You are, Sir, to consider yourself as a sinner, as a criminal and delinquent, in the sight of God. Your nature is corrupt and defiled. Your actual transgressions of the law of God have been very numerous; and perhaps some of them attended with special aggravations. All your sins are directly repugnant to the perfections of the divine nature, and consequently offensive to a pure and holy God. And what greatly increases the difficulty and danger of your case, is, that you are still continuing to act contrary to God in all you do, while your nature is unrenewed, and while you are without a principle of love to God. (I am sure you will pardon this freedom; for it is necessary you should know the disease, in order to the cure.) Judge then yourself, whether it can be supposed, that an omniscient heart-searching God can be pleased with

any, even the most devoạt of your overt actions, when he knows that your heart is estranged from him, and your nature has no conformity to him, but your affections are glued to your several idols. How then can you be reconciled to God, by virtue of your performances and attainments? Can you pay ten thousand talents with less than nothing? Can you please God by offending him, as you do by the obliquity of all your duties, the defects of your best devotions, and the sinful affections from whence they all flow? Or can you have those unworthy thoughts of an infinite, unchangeable God, as to hope you can make such impressions upon his affections, by acknowledging your offences, and imploring his mercy, as to excite his compassion and sympathy, and to make your impure and unholy nature agreeable to his infinite purity and holiness ? Can your insincere and hypocritical duties (for such they are all at best, while they proceed from an unsanctified heart) bring the glorious God to take complacency in what is directly contrary to his own nature ? You cannot but see that these proposals are most unreasonable and absurd. One of these things must certainly be true; either, first, that you have naturally, whilst in an unrenewed state, a principle of holiness and love to God; or, secondly, that works flowing from an impure fountain, and from a principle of opposition and alienation to God, are yet pleasing to God, will serve to appease him, and will entitle you to his favour; or, thirdly, that you cannot, by any thing you do, have a claim to God's favour, until your nature is renewed, and you can act from a principle of holiness and love to God. I think

I think every man's experi

[ocr errors]

ence will confute the first of these, who gives any attention at all to the natural dispositions of his own soul: the second is altogether inconsistent, both with the nature of things, and with the nature of an infinitely pure and holy God; and therefore the third is necessarily true. It will not at all help the case, to allege, in bar of what is here said, that Christ Jesus has made an atonement for us. For what is that to you,

while you remain without an interest in him? Did Christ purchase for you a capacity to make an atonement for yourself? Did he die, that God might be pleased with what is contrary to his own nature, and pacified with such duties as can be no better than impure streams from a corrupt fountain ? Let reason sit judge in the case before us,

and you must allow

your case to be as I have described it. And it is equally evident, that you have no power to change your own heart, and to produce in yourself a new principle of love to God, and conformity to him, by any endeavours of your own. It is visible from what has been already said, that our hearts and affections must be renewed and sanctified, before either our persons or services can be acceptable in the sight of God. And which way can this.be compassed ? If

you
take

up resolutions, these will no longer stand you in stead than the principle of fear, from which they proceed, is kept in action. · If you execute these resolutions in some external reformations, this is but lopping off the branches, while the stock and the root of the tree are still alive, the affections and dispositions of the soul being still the same. If by fear, or other selfish motives, you something restrain the present more sensible exercise

of your sinful appetites or passions, this is but damming up the stream, and forcing it into another channel; pull down the dam, and it will run where it did before. Certain it is, that every man naturally loves the world, and the things of the world, the objects of his sensual appetites, and loves his lusts and idols more than God; and it is equally certain, that whatever restraints he may sometimes put upon these dispositions, an omniscient eye beholds the same principle in him notwithstanding; and consequently he can never please God, till there be in this respect a real and thorough change wrought in all the powers of his soul; such a change as the Scriptures describe by a “translation from darkness unto light, from death to life, and from the power of Satan unto God.” And to

And to suppose that any, but He who first gave being to our souls, can give them a new being in all spiritual and moral respects; and make their dispositions, appetites, passions, contemplations, desires, and delights, not only differing from, but directly and lastingly contrary to, what they were, is to ascribe to the creature what is the peculiar property and prerogative of the glorious God himself. Do you, Sir, but make the trial, and you will find, after all your endeavours, that the violation of your promises and resolutions, the deadness and hypocrisy of your duties, the prevalence of your sins, and the continued estrangement of your affections from God and godliness, will give you more sensible conviction, than any methods of reasoning can do, that there is a greater power needful than your own to make you a new creature.

It must therefore necessarily follow, that there is

« PreviousContinue »