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will not walk therein. And did this induce him to desist? No; he proceedeth to read their doom, and calls the world to witness its justice-Hear 0 earth! Behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it* Many of those who attended the ministry of Christ, were of the same spirit. Their eyes were blinded, and their hearts hardened, so that they COULD NOT BELIEVE: yet, paying no manner of regard to this kind of inability, he exhorted them to believe in the light while they had the light. And when they had heard and believed not, he proceeded without hesitation to declare, He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.t
· Such also were many of Paul's hearers at Rome.
They believed not : but did Paul, seeing they could not receive the gospel, recommend to them something which they could receive? No, he gave them one word at parting: Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their
hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it 'known, therefore, unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the gentiles, and that they will hear it !*
When did Jesus, or his apostles go about merely to form the manners of men ? Where do they exhort to duties which a man may comply with, and yet miss of the kingdom of heaven? If a man kept their sayings, he was assured that he should never see death. In addressing the unconverted, they began by admonishing them to repent and believe the gospel; and in the course of their labours exhorted to all manner of duties: but all were to be done spiritually, or they would not have acknowl. edged them to have been done at all. Carnal duties, or duties to be performed otherwise than to the glory of God, had no place in their system.
The answer of our Lord to those carnal Jews, who enquired of him, What they must do to work the works of God? is worthy of special notice. Did Jesus give them to understand, that as to believing in him, however willing they might be, it was a matter entirely beyond their power: all the direc.. tions he had to give were, that they should attend the means, and wait for the moving of the waters? No; Jesus answered, This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. This was the gate at the head of the way, as the author of The
Pilgrim's Progress has admirably represented it,'to which sinners must be directed. A worldly-wise instructor may inculcate other duties; but the true evangelist after the example of his Lord, will point to this as the first concern, and as that upon which every thing else depends.
There is another species of preaching which pro. ceeds upon much the same principle. Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, are allowed to be duties; but not immediate duties. The sinner is considered as unable to comply with them, and therefore they are not urged upon him : but instead of them, he is directed to pray for the holy Spirit to enable him to repent and believe: and this it seems he can do, notwithstand. ing the aversion of his heart to every thing of the kind. But if any man be required to pray for the holy Spirit, it must be either sincerely, and in the name of Jesus, or insincerely, and in some other way. The latter, I suppose will be allowed to be an abomination in the sight of God; he cannot, therefore, be required to do this: and as to the former, it is just as difficult, and as opposite to the carnal heart, as repentance and faith themselves. Indeed, it amounts to the same thing: for a sincere desire after a spiritual blessing, presented in the name of Jesus, is no other than the prayer of faith.
Peter exhorted Simon to pray, but not with an impenitent heart that he might obtain repentance; but with a penitent one, that he might obtain for. giveness; and this, no doubt, in the only way in
which it was to be obtained, through Jesus Christ. REPENT, saith he, and pray to the Lord, if so be the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. Our Saviour directed his disciples to pray for the holy Spirit: bụt surely the prayer which they were encouraged to offer was to be sincere, and with an eye to the Saviour; that is, it was the prayer of faith, and therefore could not be a duty directed to be performed antecedent, and in order to the obtaining of it.
The mischief arising from this way of preaching is considerable. First, It gives up a very important question to the sinner, even that question which is at issue between God and conscience, on the one hand ; and a self-righteous heart on the other: namely, Whether he be obliged immediately to repent and believe the gospel? “I could find nothing in the scriptures, says he, that would give me any comfort in my present condition : nothing short of repent and believe which are things I cannot comply with: but I have gained it from my good minister. Now my heart is at ease. I am not obliged immediately to repent, and sue for mercy in the name of Jesus. It is not therefore my sin that I do not. All I am obliged to, is to pray God to help me to do so, and that I do. Thus, after a bitter conflict with scripture and conscience, which have pursued him through all his windings, and pressed upon him the call of the gospel, he finds a shelter in the house of God! Such counsel, instead of aiding the sinner's convictions, and which as
labourers with God is our proper business, has many a time been equal to a victory over them, or at least, to the purchase of an armistice.-Secondly, It deceives the soul. He understands it as a compromise, and so acts upon it. For though he be: in fact as far from sincerely praying for repentance, as from repenting; and just as unable to desire faith in Christ, as to exercise it; yet he does not think so. He reckons himself very desirous of these things. The reason is, he takes that indirect desire after them, (which consists in wishing to be converted, or any thing, however disagreeable in itself, that he may escape the wrath to come) to be the desire of grace; and being conscious of pos. sessing this, he considers himself in a fair way, at least, of being converted. Thus he deceives his soul; and thus he is helped forward in his delusion! Nor is this all; he feels himself set at liberty from the hard requirement of returning immediately to God, by Jesus Christ, as utterly unworthy; and being told to pray that he may be enabled to do so, he supposes that such prayer will avail him, or that God will give him the power of repenting and be. lieving, in answer to his prayers ; prayers, be it observed, which must necessarily be offered up, with an impenitent, unbelieving heart. This just suits' his-self-righteous spirit: but alas, all is delusion !
You have no relief then, say some, for the sinner. I answer, if the gospel, or any of its blessings, will relieve him, there is no want of relief. But if there be nothing in Christ, or grace, or heaven,