Графични страници
PDF файл

shall loath themselves in their own sight for their iniquities; and shall keep his statutes, and do them. As a further consequence, he says, that they shall be his people,' and that he will be their God.' The nature of this renovation cannot here be mistaken. It consists in having a new heart, differing from that which they originally possessed, as a heart of flesh differs from a heart of stone. It is also a heart cleansed from the filthiness of sin, and inclined to walk in the statutes and judgments of God. It is also a heart which will induce him to whom it is given to remember his own evil ways, to loath himself for his own iniquities, and to keep the judgments, or commands of God, and do them. That this is the moral character exhibited everywhere in the Scriptures, as required by the law of God, as unpossessed by man in his original or natural state, and as given him in what is called the new birth, cannot, if the words be allowed to have their own meaning, or any meaning consistent with their use elsewhere in the Scriptures, be questioned. But of this change in the Israelites at the period specified, God, in the most determinate language, declares himself to be the efficient. Of this change then, he. certainly will, and man certainly will not, be the efficient. But if God will be the author of this change in the Israelites, he is unquestionably the author of it wherever it is experienced. Thus it is completely evident from the Scriptures, that the natural disinclination of man to obey the Divine law is so obstinate, that it will not be overcome or removed by itself.

The proof of this truth from experience is, I acknowledge, less decisive, than that from Revelation ; and is formed by an induction of too many particulars, as I observed in a former discourse, to be adduced on such an occasion as the present. The evidence furnished by reason and experience concerning this doctrine must be merely auxiliary. Concerning subjects of this kind, concerning the agency of voluntary beings, the nature of causation universally, and the manner in which causes operate, metaphysically considered, our knowledge must be confessed to be very imperfect. It deserves our attention, however, that the whole evidence furnished by experience goes to support this doctrine. All men of plainly acknowledged piety, so far as my information extends, have agreed in attributing their own renovation to the agency of the Divine Spirit. To this attribution they have been led also by VOL. IV.

2 G

a deep and solicitous attention to facts existing in their own minds. Although these facts have been greatly diversified in many respects, yet such meu testify with a single voice, that they have been greatly alarmed on account of their guilt and danger; that, with an obvious or secret, but ultimately discovered, reliance on their own efforts, they have laboured with great earnestness to escape from both; that in the end they have clearly discerned all these efforts to be vain; that, with a full conviction of their own insufficiency, they have cast themselves upon the Divine mercy; realizing that all their sufficiency for the great purpose in view must be of God. In this situation, they unitedly testify, they found, commencing in them sooner or later, a disposition, not perceptibly connected, as an effect, with any efforts of their own, prompting them to loath themselves for their iniquities, to confide in Christ as their Saviour, to love and fear God, and to keep his commandments, and do them.' This disposition also, they unitedly declare, irregularly but really increased as they advanced in life ; while the propensity to disobedience lessened in the same manner. Now, let me ask, Is it credible, that all these men should radically err with respect to this subject? Is it credible, that they should all mistake the facts? Is it credible, that all should draw from them the same, and yet a false conclusion ? This supposition involves another, which must I think be reluctantly admitted by every religious man; viz. That God in accomplishing the salvation of mankind orders things in such a manner, as that those who are renewed are, to say the least, in almost all instances deceived with respect to the author of their renovation ; and that, while employed, not with integrity merely, but with deep solicitude, in exploring the state of their own minds and lives. According to this supposition, not only must their apprehensions concerning these important facts be false, and, so far as I can see, necessarily falsa, but all their emotions of gratitude, and all their ascriptions of praise to their Creator, for his agency in effectuating this happy change in their character, inust be also false and unfounded. These ascriptions were begun in the early days of religion. Prophets and apostles set the example. All that was morally good in themselves, or in others, they attributed to the efficacious grace of God. In this attribution Christians have followed them throughout every succeeding


age. Thus, according to this supposition, a succession of false, and therefore indefensible, ascriptions of praise bas ascended to God from the great body of pious persons in all the ages of the church; which yet they could not honestly, and in consistence with the best views which they were able to form, have failed to render.

At the same time, no instances have occurred in which men have by direct efforts of their own, without the efficacious influence of the Divine Spirit, changed their moral character from sin to holiness. Not only have no such instances occurred which have been clear and unequivocal, and such as might be supposed to decide this point in favour of the supposition ; but no collection of instances can be found, which lean towards it, in a sufficient degree to render it probable. The whole stream of evidence, furnished both by the public and private history of experimental religion, is against the opinion which I have endeavoured to disprove, and in favour of that which I have asserted.

Whatever may be the judgment formed by the spirit of controversy, and cold metaphysical investigation, concerning this part of the subject, the doctrine will be readily admitted by all men who are afflicted by a deep sense of their guilt, and struggle bard to obtain a release from their sinful character; and by all who, having thus suffered and thus struggled, have felt themselves in the end actually released from the dominant control of a sinful disposition.

This doctrine is elucidated by experience also in another manner. God, who requires our faith, repentance, and obedience to his law, has set before us numberless and most powerful motives to engage our compliance; motives which all sober men will acknowledge ought to persuade us, motives which are obviously of infinite, import. Why do not men who believe the Gospel to be the word of God, and who have these motives presented to them, clearly and forcibly, from Sabbath to Sabbath, believe, repent and obey? No answer, it is presumed, can be given to this question, which will accord with the supposition against which I contend.

5. There is yet no more difficulty in obeying God, than in doing any thing else, to which our inclination is opposed with equal strength and obstinacy. A child is equally unable to obey a parent, against whom

his will is as much opposed, as to obey God. This inability of children to obey their parents does not, indeed, commonly last through life. But while it lasts, the child can no more obey his parent, than his Maker. In both cases his inability is, I apprehend, of exactly the same nature. Sometimes also it continues while he lives. In such cases it is, in all respects, the same ; equally obstinate, equally enduring, equally preventing him from doing his duty. If in this case his filial duty be urged upon him in its religious nature, as required by the law of God; bis opposition to perform his duty to God and his parent will be found exactly coincident; to be the same indivisible thing, and to be regarded as the same obduracy of heart.

These considerations will, to a considerable extent, explain many scriptural passages which relate to this subject. No man,' saith our Saviour, ' can come unto me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.' The true meaning of this, he appears to me to explain in a parallel declaration to the Jews : · Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.' That he who is willing to come to Christ, will actually come to him, we are taught by Christ himself in the last chapter of the Apocalypse : · Whosoever will,' (or is willing, • Drawo,) • let him come, and take the water of life freely. From these passages it is evident, that every one who is willing has the full permission of Christ to come to bim, and partake of his blessings. Indisposition to come to Christ, is therefore the true and the only difficulty which lies in our way. Those who cannot come therefore are those, and those only, who will not.

The words can, and cannot, are used in the Scriptures just as they are used in the common intercourse of mankind, to express willingness or unwillingness. Thus we customarily say, that we cannot lend, or give, or assist, or pay a debt; when we mean nothing more, than that we are disinclined to these offices. Thus Samuel says to God, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. That Samuel could have gone to Bethlehem, if he had pleased, needs no proof. As soon as his fear of Saul, which had made him unwilling, was removed, he went without any difficulty ; 1 Samuel xvi. 2. How can this man give us his flesh?' said the Jews to our Saviour : John vi. 52; that is, How can he be willing to give us his


Can a

flesh? • This is a hard saying ; who can hear it?' John vi. 60. The answer is, every one that is willing.

• Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized ? Acts x.,47.

Can ye drink of the cup that I shall drink of?' Mark x. 38. Can the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?' Mark ii. 19. •Can a maid forget her ornaments; or a bride her attire?' Jer. ii. 32. woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?' Isaiah xlix. 15. Can I hear any, more the voice of singing men, and singing women ?' 2 Sam. ii. 35.

In all these and the like instances there is plainly nothing -meant but inability of disposition, or a strong disinclination to the thing proposed. This is both the natural and universal language of men ; found equally in their conversation and their writings. Children speak this language almost as soon as they begin to speak at all; and on every such occasion utter it more naturally than any other language. If the Scriptures would be intelligible to the great body of mankind, they must speak in the same manner. In this manner therefore God has directed them to be written.


1. From these observations it is evident, that the disobedience of mankind is their own fault.

Wherever we understand the nature of our duty, and are hindered from performing it by disinclination only, conscience and common sense pronounce us to be guilty. Thus they have ever pronounced. The decision has been given in all ages and countries, in every conceivable form of language and conduct, with an universal acknowledgment of its soundness, in the most definite terms, and with the highest-solemnity.

2. The degree of our inability to obey the Divine law does in no case lessen our guilt.

Certainly, he who is more disinclined to obedience, is not less guilty than he who is less disinclined. Disinclination to obey is our inability, and our sin. The greater our disinclination is, the greater plainly, not the less, is our sin.

« ПредишнаНапред »