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" that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."*-
Thus he separates his elect by new-creating grace, and makes them “ a willing people in the day of his pow" er, in the beauties of holiness.” “ We ourselves “ were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, ser“ ving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and “ envy, hateful and hating one another. But after that “ the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards " man appeared; not by works of righteousness which “ we have done, but according to his mercy he saved “us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of 66 the Holy Ghost.” “ He hath saved us, and called us “ with an holy calling, not according to our works, " but according to his purpose and grace, which was “ given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”+ Others are invited, but these only are made willing to come; the rest make light of it and go their ways to their favourite pursuits. This leads me,
III. To observe, THAT ALL THESE SHALL COME to Christ, AND NONE ELSE WILL.
This is illustrated by the decree of Cyrus to the captive Jews. † “ Who is there among you, of all his “ people? his God be with him, and let him go up to «• Jerusalem.” This was general for all. But many had got comfortable settlements at Babylon, and did not care enough for the ashes of the holy city, or for the interests of religion, to encounter the perils and hardships of such an expedition. Who then eventually availed them.
• Eph. ii 1-10.
+ 2 Tim. i. 9. Tit. iii. 2—9.
selves of the king's permission?“ All they, whose “ spirit God had raised to go,” and none else. The others might and could, had they possessed a willing mind; but they had not, and therefore they went not. Nor would any have gone, had not God interposed to make some of them willing. *
May not sinners come to Christ? How runs the pro. clamation? “ How long ye simple ones will ye love "simplicity, and the scorners delight in their scorning, “and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: "behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you; I will " make known my words unto you.”—“Ho, every “ one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters: and he " that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, “ come buy wine and milk, without money and with“out price. Wherefore do ye spend your money for “ that which is not bread? and your labour for that
“ which satisfieth not?” “Seek ye the Lord while 1" he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near;
“ let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous « man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, " and he will have mercy on him: and to our God, " and he will abundantly pardon.”I-“Now then we " are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did be. " seech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be “ ye reconciled unto God.”“ Webeseech you, that
* See a letter of Archbishop Usher's, for a more full discus. sion of this point; and for this and several other illustrations and arguments. † Prov. i. 22, 23.
Isaiah lv. 1-3, 6, 7.
“ ye receive not the grace of God in vain."* " Let “ him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him “ take of the water of life freely.”+ Who is excepted by name or character in these general proclamations? -Christ complains of men, that “ they will not come “to him, that they might have life;" and he thus pa. thetically laments over Jerusalem, “How often would “ I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her “ chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” JEHOVAH says with the greatest solemnity and earnest. ness; “ As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of “ the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, “ and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for “ why will ye die?”- Justice indeed demands the exe. cution of the criminal; but the merciful Prince, as it were, sheds tears, whilst as a matter of necessity, (if he will maintain the honour of his kingdom,) he signs the death-warrant. The reason of the destruction of sin. ners is therefore thus stated:-"Because I have called,
and ye refused, I have stretched forth my hands, and “ no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my “ counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will “ laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear * cometh.”I
But sinners cannot obey the call. This is a truth, if truly understood. They are under a moral, not a natural, inability. Is this distinction useless and unintelligible? Is there no difference betwixt a covetous wretch, who with a full purse hath no heart, and a
* 2 Cor. v. vi.
† Rev. xxii. 17.
Prov. i. 24–33.
compassionate man who hath no money to relieve a fellow-creature in distress? Both are effectually pre. vented, but the one from himself, the other by an ex. ternal hindrance. Every generous man at once indig. nantly condemns the one, and wholly justifies the other. When the case is put, divested of all false colouring, the one could if he would, and the other would if he could. It is said of God that he cannot lie. But whence arises this impossibility? Surely not from ex. ternal restraint, but from the perfection of his essential holiness. Satan cannot but hate his Maker. Not be. cause of outward force put upon him, but through the borrid malignity of his disposition.*
* If there is no real difference betwixt the want of natural faculties, and the want of moral dispositions; there can be nothing culpable even in Satan's opposing God, and endeavour. ing the destruction of men; for it is as impossible at least that he should do otherwise, as that sinners should perfectly obey the law, or of themselves repent and believe the gospel: and if they are excusable, Satan is consequently so too. Indeed, on this supposition, all characters are reduced to a level: for in proportion to the degree of evil disposition, or moral inability to good, evil actions become excusable; and by parity of reason, in proportion to the degree of moral excellency of disposition, or of moral inability to evil, good actions being unavoidable become less praiseworthy. Thus, the more inwardly holy any an is, the less esteem are his piety, justice, and charity ened to; for he can scarcely do otherwise. An angel, as con
a in holiness, is still less entitled to commendation; for in sense it is impossible he should do otherwise than be hely. of sin. And through necessary excellency of nature, it impossible God should do any thing inconsistent with
He cannot sin. And is strictly impossible
Sinners are not of themselves willing to stoop so low, and to leave so much, as the gospel requires; or
the most consummate wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness. He cannot: and shall we say, this inability (which is the incom-'. municable glory of his nature) renders him less entitled to our admiring, adoring, grateful love, than otherwise he would be?
Every one must see what confusion would be introduced into civil and domestick concerns, if no regard were paid to this distinction, and an inveterate propensity were allowed as an ex. cuse for crimes: and it introduces equal perplexity into all our discourses on divine things; because it runs directly counter to all our rules of judging characters and actions. A good outward action, without the least correspondent disposition, is in reality mere hypocrisy: as the disposition to good and aversion to evil increase, good actions have more genuine sincerity, and the character more amiableness. When we can say with the apostles, “ We cannot but do," so, and so we are entitled to as much esteem and approbation as mere men can be. This moral inability to evil is much stronger in angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; and therefore we are taught to look forward to such a holy estate and temper, as the summit of our wishes and desires: and God himself, who, being under no restraint, but doing his whole pleasure, cannot but be perfectly and unchangeably holy, is proposed as the object of entire love, acl. miring gratitude, and adoring praise.
On the other hand, a bad action, if done without intention, or the least disposition to such moral evil, is deemed purely accidental, and not culpable. When it is contrary to a man's gente. ral disposition and character, and the effect of sudden temptation, it is considered as more venial than when the effect of a rooted disposition: and for a criminal to plead, “ I am so propense to theft and cruelty, that I could not help it,' would be to condemn himself as the vilest miscreant, not fit to live, in the opinion of judge, jury, and spectators.