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art obftinate and thy neck is an iron finew, and thy brow brass,” Ila. xlviii. 4. and cannor be overcome, but by him, who hath « broken the gates of brass; and cut the bars of iron in funder.”? Hence is there such hard work in converting a fioder. Sometimes he seems to be caught in the net of the Gospel ; yet quickly he flips away again. The book catcherh hold of him; but he struggles, till getiing free of', it, he makes away with a bleeding wound. When good hopes are conceived of him, by these that travel in birth, for the forming of Christ in him ; there is oft-times nothing brought forth but wind. The deceitful heart makes many a shift to avoid a Saviour, and to cheat the man of his eternal happiness. Thus the natural man lies fuit in a fiate of fin and wrath, utterlys unable to se: cover himself,
Object. (1.) If we be under an utter inability to do any good, bow can God require us to do it? Anso God making man upright, Eccles. vii. 29. gave him a power to do every. thing he should require of him: this power man loft by his own faule. We were bound to serve God, and to do whatsoever he com. manded us, as being his creatures, and also, we were under the fuperadded tye of a covenant; for that effect. Now, we baring, by our own fault, disabled ourselves, shall God lose his right of requiring our task, because we have thrown away the ftrength he gave us, wherewithal to perform ir? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money, because the debitor' has squandered it away, and is not able to pay him? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do, we need no more to save us from wrath, but to make our.. selves unable for every dury; and to incapacitate ourselves for férving of God any manner of way; as profane men frequently do: and forne sleeper one is immersed in fin, he will be the more secure from wrath :. for where God can require no dury of us, we do not fin in omitting is: and where there is no sing there can be no wrath.. (As to what may be urged by the uabumbled foul agaiost the putting of our stock in Adam's hand, the righteousness of that difpenfation was cleared before.) But, moreover, the unrenewed man is daily throwing away the very remains of natural abilities ; that light and strength which are to be found amongst the ruins of mankind. Nay, farther, he will not believe his own uirer inability to help himielf; so that out of his own mouth be will be condemned. Even those who make thuir natural impoterey to good, a cover to their hoch, do, with others, delay the work of turning to God from time to time; under convictions, make large promises of reformation,
which that cafe
which afterwards they never regard; and delay their repentance to a death. bed, as if they could help themselves.in a moment ; which speaks, them to be far from a due sense of their natural inability, whatever they pretend.
Now, if God can require of men the duty they are not able to do:be can, in justice, punish them for their not doing it, notwithstanding of their inability. If he have power to exact the dubt of Obedience : he has also power to caft she insolvent debror into his prison, for his not paying it. Further, thor Qui regenerate meo have no gracious abilities, yet they want not natural abilities, which, nevertheless, they will not improve. There
are many thiogs they can do, which they do not; they will nuc'do them: and therefore their damnation witt be just. Ņay, all their inability to good is voluntary; they will not come to Christ, Jabo v. 40. They will not repent, they will die, Ezek. xviii. 51. So they will be justly condemned; because they will not turn to God, for come to Chrift; but love their ckains better than their liberty, and darkness rather than light, Joha.iii. 19.
Object. (2.) Why do you then preach Christ to us; call us to come to him; to believe, répent, and use the means of falvaLion?' Anf, Because it is your duty fo to do. It is your duty to accept
of Christ as he is offered in the Gospel; to repent of your iin, and to be holy in all manner of conversation : these ihings are commanded you of God; and his command, not your ability, is the measure of your duty. Moreover, these calls and exhortations, are the means that God is pleased to make use of, for converting his elect, and working grace in their hearts : to them, “ faith cometh by hearing,” Rom. x. 17. : while they are as upable to help themselves as the rest of mankind are. Upon very good grouods may we, at the command of God, “ who raiteth the dead, go to their graves, and cry in his name, « Awake thou that 11-epeft; and rise from the dead, and Christ thall give thee light,” Eph. V. 14. And seeing the elect are not to be known and distinguished from others, before conversion : as the sun shines on the blind man's face, and the rain ialls: oui ille rocks as well as on tbe fruitful plains ; so we preach Chrilt to all, and shoot the arrow at a venture, which God himself directs as he sees meet. Moreover, these calls and exhortations are not altogether in vain, even to those that are not converted by them. Such persons may be convinced, tho they be not converted: altho' they be not fanctified by these means, yet they may be restrained by them, from running into
that excess of wickedness, which therwise they would arrive at. The means of grace serve, as it were, to embalm many dead souls which are never quickned by them; tho? they do not restore them to life, yet they keeị them from smelling so rank as otherwise they would do. Finally, tho? ye cannot recover yourselves; nor take hold of the laving help offered to you io the Gospel ; yet, even by the power of nature, ye may use the outward and ordinary, means whereby Christ, communicates the benefits, of redemption to ruined fianers who are utterly unable to recover themselves out of the state of fin and wrath. Ye
may, and can, ifye please, do many things that would set you in a fair way for help from the Lord Jesus Christ. Ye
may go so far on, as to be not far from the kingdom of God, as the discreet scribe had done, Mark xii.-34. tho' (it would seem) he was deftitute of supernatural abilities. Tho' ye cannot cure yourselves, yet ye may come to the pool, where many such diseased persons as ye are, have been cured : ye have none to put you into it, yet ye may, ly, at the side of it ; and " who knows but the Lord may return, and leave a bleffing behind him," as in the case of the impotent man; recorded, Jolin V. 5, 6, 7, 8. I hope Satan does not chain you to your houses, por take you
fields on the Lord's day; but ye are at liberty, and can wait at the posts of wisdom's door, if ye will.. And when ye come thither, he doth not bear drums at your ears, that ye cannot hear what is said: there is no forge upon you,, obliging you to apply all you hear to others; ye may apply 10-yourselves what belongs to your state and condition: and when-you go home, you are not fettered in your houses, where perhaps no religious discourse is to be heard, but ye may -retire to some separate place, where ye can meditate, and pose your conscience with pertinent questions, upon what - ye have heard. Ye are not possessed with a dumb devil, that ye cannot get your mouths opened in prayer to God. Ye are aot so driven out of your bėds to your worldly business, and from your worldly business to your beds again; but ye might, if ye would, bestuw fame prayers to God upon the case of your perishing. suuls. Ye may examine yourselves, as to the state of your souls; in a folemn manner, as in the presence of God; ye may discern that ye have no grace, and that ye are lost and undone without it'; : and may cry unto God for iti . There things are within the compass of natural abilities, and may be practifed where there is no grace. It must aggravate your guilt, that you will not be at so much pains about the state and
down in your
your want of
case of your precious fouls. And if ye do not what you can do, ye
wiil be condemned not only for for your despising of it.
Object. (3.) But all this is needless, seeing we are utterly unable to keep ourselves out of the state of fin' and wrath. Anf, Give no place to that delusion, which puts alunder what God hath joined, namely, the use of means, and a sense of your own impotency. If ever the Spirit of God graciously influence your fouls, ye will become throughly fenfible of your absolute inability, and yet enter upon a vigorous use of ineans. Ye will do for yourselves, as if ye were to do all ; and yet overlook all ye do, as if ye had done nothing. Will ye do nothing for yourfelves, because ye canoot do all? Lay down no'fuch impious conclufion against your own souls. Do what you can ; and it may be, while ye are doing what ye can for yourselves, God will do for you what ye cannot. “Understandest chou what thou readest? faid Philip to the Eunuch : " How can I, kaid he, except fome man hould guide me,” Acts viii. 30, 31. He could not understand the Scripture he read; yet he could read it: he did what he could, 'he read and while he was reading, God sent him an interpreter. The. Ifraelites were in a great strait at the red sea : and how could they help themfelves, when upon the one hand were mountains, and on the other; the enemy's garrison : when Pharaoh and his hoft were behind them, and the red-fea befire them? What could they do? - Speak unto the children of Israel, faith the Lord to Mofes, " that they go forward,” Exod. xiv. 15 For what end should they go forward? Can they make a paffage to themselves through the sea? No: but let them go forward, faith the Lord : tho' they cannot turn fea to dry land, yet they can go forward to the shore : and so they did. And when they did what they could, God did for them whar they could not do.
Quest. Has God promised to convert and fave them, who in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief? Ant. We may not fpeak wickedly for God; natural men being strangers to the covenants of promise, Eph. ii. 12. hate no fuch promife made to them. Nevertheless they do not act rationally unless they exert the powers they have and do what they cana For, (1.) It is possible this course may fucceed with thema If ye do what ye can, it may be, God will do for you what.. you cannot do for yourfelves. This is fufficient to determine smad, in a niaster of the utmoft importance, such as this is
Ads. viii. 22. " Pray God it' perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee." Joel ij. 14.“ Who knoweth if he will return ??? If success may be, the trial should be. If in a wreck at Tea, all the failors and passengers had betaken them selves each to a brokep board, for safety; and one of them thould see all the reft-perish, notwithitanding of their utmost endeavours to save themselves: get, the very possibility of escaping by that means, would determine that one till to do his best with his board. Why then do ye not reason with yourselves, as the four lepers did, who fat at the gates of Samaria, 2 Kings vii. 3, 4, Why do ye not say, " If we sit fill, not doing what we can, we die let us put it to a trial, if we be saved, we shall live ; if not, we shall but die." is probable this course may succeed. God is good and merciful: he loves to surprise men with his grace, and is often “ found of them that sought him not,” Ifa. Ixv. I. IF
ye do thus, ye are so far in the road of your duty: and ye are using the means which the Lord is wont to bless for men's spiritual recovery : ye lay yourselves in the way of the great Physician ; and co it is probable ye may be healed. Lydia went, and others, to the place
“ where prayer was wont to be made ;” and “the Lord. opened her heart,". Acts xvi. 13, 14. Yexplow and low, tho' no body can tell you for certain, that ye will get so mech as your feed again : ye ufe means for the recovery
your health, tho? ye are not sure they will succeed. In these cases, .probability determines you ; and why not in this also ? Importunity, we fee, does very much with men : therefore pray, meditate, desire help of God: be much at the throne of grace, supplicating for grace ;
and do not faint. Tho' God regarded pot you, who in your present. Itaţen are but one mass of Sin; aniversally de. prayed, and vitiared in all the
may regard his own ordinarice. Tho? he regards not your prayers, your meditations, &c. yet he may regard prayer, meditation, and the like means of his own appointment, and so bless them
Wherefore, if ye will not do what ye can, ye are not Only dead, but you declare your felvès unworthy of eternal life.
To conclude, let the saints admire the freedom and power of grace, which came to them in their helpless condition, made their chains fall off, the iron gate to open to them ; raised the fallen creatures ; and brought them out of the state of fin and wrath, wherein they would have lain and perished, had they not been mercifully visited. Let the natural man be sensible of his utter inability to recover himself
. Know thou art with