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ordinary course of providence, there will, without the use of the means of
grace, be no spiritual harvest. There will be no instructions given, no impressions made, and no realizing convictions of guilt, danger, and dependence produced : and without these, there will be no regeneration of the soul, and no title obtained to eternal life.
THE MEANS OF GRACE.
ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
FOR THOUGH YE HAVE TEN THOUSAND INSTRUCTORS IN CHRIST, YET
HAVE YE NOT MANY FATHERS: FOR IN CHRIST JESUS I HAVE BE
GOTTEN YOU THROUGH THE GOSPEL.
I CORINTHIANS IV. 15.
In the first Discourse from these words I proposed,
1. To show that there are means of grace;
IV. To answer the principal objections to this scheme of doctrine.
The three first of these subjects have been already discussed.
I shall now,
IV. Answer the principal objections to this scheme of doctrine.
These, as they are customarily alleged, may be considered as chiefly made to two practical inferences, which I shall derive from the two preceding discourses.
1. It follows, from the observations made in these Discourses, that the means of grace ought to be used by sinners and by christians, for the purpose of promoting the salvation of sinners
If there are means of grace and salvation given by God, then they were given for the very purpose of promoting the salvation of sinners. As this was the end which God proposed in communicating them to mankind, it is an end in which all men are bound to rejoice, and which they are plainly obligated to pursue. But unless these means are used by sinners for their own salvation, they will ordinarily be of no benefit to them; and, unless Christians use them also for the purpose
of promoting the salvation of sinners, they will fail of their intended effect. Christian ministers must preach the Gospel to sinners. Christian parents must educate their sinful children
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Christians must live, and act, and converse with sinners : otherwise the salvation of sinners will usually be neglected, and therefore will be unattained.
Further; if there are means of grace, then the appointment of them is wise; the communication of them to mankind benevolent; and the use of them by those for whom they were appointed, proper. It can hardly be supposed, that God has provided and published means of salvation to mankind, and yet by his own authority made it improper that they should be used. According to this scheme, sinners, although expressly commanded to flee from the wrath to come,' to seek the Lord while he may be found,' and to turn from the error of. their way,' are yet by Divine authority precluded from the very measures which alone will, in the usual course of things, produce the effect enjoined.
That Christians are bound to employ the means of grace for the salvation of sinnets, will not, I suppose, be doubted. That sinners must employ them also in various respects, is evinced by this very position, as well as by the observations made in the preceding Discourses.
If the Gospel is to be preached to sinners, they must hear. If Christian parents are to train up' their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' they must listen to their instructions. If sinners are to become acquainted with the word of God, or even to know whether that which is preached to them is the word of God or not, they must read the Scrip
If sinners are to be informed of the reality, power, and excellency of religion, they must converse with religious men. If they are to understand and feel their guilt, they
must commune with their own hearts. If they are ever to know the real nature of their character and efforts, they must pray. From their own use of the means of
almost all their deep impressions of their guilt, danger, dependence on Christ, and absolute need of the regenerating influence of the Spirit of God, must be derived. In a word, if they are to obtain salvation, as most or all other Christians have obtained it; indeed, if they are to obtain it at all, in the ordinary course of providence, they must obtain it in the use of the means of grace. This is the way which God has ever blessed, and will undoubtedly bless hereafter. Nor are we warranted to hope for bis blessing in any other manner.
To the proofs of this point, alleged in this and the preceding Discourses, I shall add but one at the present time. God, in the dispensation which he revealed to Moses, required all the Israelites to use continually all the means of grace furnished to them in the then existing scriptural canon. The parent, however sinful he might be, who did not circumcise bis man. child upon the eighth day, was by the express law of God punished with the excision of that child. Every male was expressly required to present himself three times a year before the Lord ; that is, at the tabernacle, or in the temple. All were required to keep the appointed feasts, particularly to celebrate the passover. They were required without distinc
. tion to offer the various appointed sacrifices, to educate their children religiously, and to seek the law at the mouths of the priests, its ordinary ministers. It is remarkable, that for the omission of these duties they were, in several instances, to be punished with excision; particularly such as did not afflict themselves' on the great day of atonement; Lev. xxiii. 29; such as, being ceremonially clean, forbore to keep the passover: such as killed an ox, lamb, or goat, and did not bring it to the door of the tabernacle, to offer an offering unto the Lord ; Lev. xvii. 4. Thus the Israelites, and in some of the cases the strangers who resided with them, were not only required, but required under this terrible sanction, punctiliously to use the means of grace, both ordinary and extraordinary.
It is farther to be observed, that the Israelites are nowhere, either in the Old or New Testament, censured for the fact, that they attended on these various means of grace. They are
often censured for their impenitence and unbelief, indeed; and the more severely, for being impenitent and unbelieving in the midst of these solemn services, because the abuse of such privileges obviously enhanced their guilt. But not a hint is given us, either by Christ, the prophets, or the apostles, that they were censurable merely for being present when these means were employed by others, or for being active in employing them themselves for their own good. The Gospel therefore regards this subject exactly as it was regarded by the law; and has introduced no change in this respect into the
; Divine dispensations.
2. It follows, from the same Discourses, that minister's ought to advise and exhort sinners to use the means of grace.
If God has appointed these means, and is daily blessing them, if he has usually, and not improbably always, wherever the Gospel has been published, conveyed bis spiritual blessings to men in this way, then it cannot be reasonably doubted, that ministers ought to advise sinners to labour in this way to gain eternal life. As to sinners in general, this is the only way in which eternal life will be gained. Refusing them this advice, therefore, is no other than refusing them any advice concerning their salvation.
To this scheme it is however objected,
1. That regeneration, being immediately and solely the work of the Spirit of God, is not at all accomplished by means; and that therefore sinners, however strenuously they may use the means of grace, do in truth nothing towards this change of character.
That the act of regenerating man is an act of the Divine Spirit alone, I readily admit, and fully believe ; but I deny the consequence drawn from this doctrine. If I am not deceived, I have, in both the preceding Discourses, particularly in the first, proved it to be an error. The text itself, if I mistake not, is a decisive proof that it is an error. The text asserts, to say the least, that St. Paul, by his preaching, contributed to the regeneration of the Corinthian Christians. In a humbler sense he begat these Christians, as truly as God did in a higher
But if Paul contributed to the regeneration of these men by his preaching, the men themselves as certainly contributed to their own regeneration by being present at his discourses, by hearing them, by understanding them, and by feel