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soever thou art, that delayest to obey the call of God's messenger, and forsake thy sins, and avoid the consequences of them, while thou mayest, thou art that man. Is eternal damnation so light a matter, that our escape from it must be made a work of convenience ? Look at the example of our Apostle: he stood not arguing with the Angel about a proper season, though it were then midnight, but complied immediately. A circumstance meets us here, which merits a particular attention. The Angel bids him rise up: but to what purpose,
when two heavy chains fastened him down to the floor? and what would the soldiers say, who lay by the side of him? yet he made no difficulty; God never commands any thing that will prove to be impossible : so he rose up in faith, and in the attempt the chains that bowed him down fell off from his hands. And though you,
in your own case, may think the power of sin which holds you down is so strong as to render all your struggles ineffectual, yet, you are to remember, that all things are possible with God: and that it is not your own strength, but a divine miracle that must save you at last. Fear not then the companions that lie by the side of you, whether they are evil men or evil spirits, whose office it is to keep you where you are, and confine you to your bondage: God can defend you against their attempts: the light which comes from heaven to guide you may bring upon them either terror or stupefaction, so that they shall become like dead men, and make no resistance. Neither look with despair. upon your chains, nor pretend to say you cannot help your sins: hath he not said, my grace is sufficient for thee? His power, and the di. rections he hath given thee in his word, are to accomplish this great work, for which all the abilities of man are insufficient. It is required of the captive sinner, only that he should be willing and try to raise himself up: strength will come to him in the attempt, and the power of the adversary will fail; as the fetters and chains, which confined the Apostle, fell away to the ground when he obeyed the voice of the Angel.
This case throws so much light on a theological question of great importance, that I shall take a little time to insist farther upon it, with your leave. It shews us, how the endeavours of man are consistent with the help and grace of God; and so confutes, as well the error of those who exclude the free will of man, as of others who reject the grace of God, because they think it would make human reason unne
cessary. But this is not the case : for, doubtless, Peter might have refused to obey the summons of the Angel, if his reason had been weak enough: but he attempted to rise, and found himself released. We have other cases in the scripture of the same kind. When Peter healed a cripple at the gate of the temple, he bid him stand up upon his feet : but how should he do so, when he had no ability? his feet and ancle bones were doubled under him, and become useless: yet he believed, endeavoured, and stood upright. A man with a withered hand presented himself to Christ: he bid him stretch it out: but how could that be? might he not have said, “ Lord, thou art an hard man, to « command me thus to stretch out an arm, of « which, as thou seest, I have lost the use." However, he had the heart to try; and in the trial his arm become whole as the other. The moral therefore is this ; that you are not to be so foolish as to oppose the work of your own deliverance : only be willing to be saved; put yourself into action; try to get up; and the power of God will be present to help you through. With this the doctrine of the scripture agrees, as well in its precepts as its miracles; work out your own salvation--For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do
of his good pleasure. Work for yourselves ; but then remember, that your labour is not in vain, because it is God that worketh with you. I thought it proper to take this opportunity of illustrating the concurrence of divine grace with human endeavours; a very weighty and (as some have made it) a difficult subject. How far the act of man proceeds, and where the power of God comes in, we cannot exactly determine ; nor is there any occasion; the fact is as I have set it before you; and one fact gives more light than all the metaphysical disquisitions in the world. · But to return to the case of St. Peter; after whose example, the soul being set at liberty, has recovered the use of its faculties, which fatan had bound with the bond of iniquity. God having begun the good work, the convert must proceed to do something for himself, under the direction of his guide, who will not yet forsake him. If we go on with the account of St. Peter's deliverance, we read in the next place, that “the Angel said unto him, gird thyself, “ and bind on thy sandals: and so he did; and “ he saith unto him, cast thy garment about thee “ and follow me.” The same advice is given to us, when we are brought from darkness into light. We are commanded to have our loins H4
girt girt about with truth; to be right and ready in our faith ; taking care that no folds and impediments of error hang loose about the feet to retard our progress, and become an occasion of falling. Whatever may hinder our steps is to be gathered out of the way, and the girdle of truth is to be put on. This done, we are to bind on our sandals ; that is, we are to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace ; without which preparation, the Christian can no more pursue his way in peace and safety through the trials of the world, than a poor traveller can walk with naked feet over rough stones and burning sands without being hurt. The man of the world is galled by every trifling accident; against which the peaceable spirit of the Gospel would be a sure defence. It is called the Gospel of Peace, not only as it contains the glad tidings of peace between heaven and earth; but likewise as it is a rule of peace to us in our conversation with the world; and oh, how beautiful are the feet that have put it on and wear it! The loins being girded about, and the feet shod, we are commanded to cast our garment about us; to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and become spiritual men, clothed with his righteousness, whereby our sins are covered, and we are accepted in the beloved.