« PreviousContinue »
midst of thine enemies." This is the true character of all sinners, without exception. Our Saviour, who was perfectly acquainted with the hearts of the unregenerate, plainly told them that they were serpents, a generation of vipers, and the children of the devil. And speaking of the same persons, to whom he had preached, and before whose eyes he had done many mighty works, he says, “ Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulțlled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause." The elect, as well as the non-elect, naturally possess a spirit of opposition to Christ; and so long as they remain enemies to him, they say in their hearts, “ We will not have this man to reign over us.”
2. It appears from the conduct of sinners under the gospel, that they are unwilling to be saved. When Christ called upon them to come to him for life, they soon discovered a strong disposition to reject his gracious invitations. This led him to tell them in plain terms, “ Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." And he foretold, in the parable of the gospel feast, that sinners would, in time to come, treat the offers of salvation with the same neglect and contempt. " Then said he unto them, a certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servants at supper time to say to them that were bidden, come, for all things are now ready.- · And they all with one consent began to make excuse." This prediction has been fulfilled throughout the christian world. How many thousands of the fallen race have been invited to accept of salvation, who have finally refused! And where has one been found who was naturally willing to submit to the terms of life ? Universal experience proves that all men are naturally unwilling to believe in Christ. Though some sinners seem to be more friendly to the gospel than others, yet it appears from the conduct of all, that they are naturally and equally unwilling to comply with the terms of life. They do, indeed, make different excuses for slighting the gospel; but it is the same evil heart of unbelief which leads them to reject the counsel of God against themselves. The three thousand, who were converted on the day of Pentecost were as heartily opposed to Christ before their conversion, as any who imbrued their hands in his blood. Paul persisted in despising and opposing the gospel, until his heart was effectually subdued by an act of irresistible grace. And all who are now the friends of Christ, were once his real enemies, and totally unwilling to embrace the offers of salvation. The elect are no better by nature, than the non-elect; and were they left to themselves, they would finally refuse to be saved, and perish in their sins for ever. But yet,
III. God is able, by an act of his power, to make them willing to accept of salvation. Since this is a point of great importance in the present discourse, I shall endeavor to establish it by a number of plain and conclusive arguments.
1. God has promised to make those willing to be saved, whom he has given to Christ. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” The thing here promised is to be performed by the Father, though it seems to be ascribed to the Son. Any divine work may be ascribed to either person in the sacred Trinity. Accordingly we find in scripture, that the renovation of the heart is sometimes ascribed to the Father, sometimes to the Son, and sometimes to the Holy Ghost. In the text, the Father is speaking, and therefore he must be the person promising to make Christ's people willing, in the day of his power. And this farther appears to be the meaning of the text, from the preceding words.“ The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” At another time, God the Father promised to subdue the hearts of sinners among his own people. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh, and cause you to walk in my statutes." Also by the prophet Joel, God promised to pour out his Spirit in the last days upon all flesh, and bring them to a cordial reception of the peculiar blessings of the gospel. Now can we suppose that God would thus expressly promise to make men willing to be saved, unless he were able to bow their wills by an act of his power? Would it be consistent with his holiness and truth, to promise to subdue the hearts of sinners at a certain time and in a certain place, if he knew this to be an effect above his power to produce ? Unless he had the supreme control over the hearts of men, we may presume
he would never have promised to make his own and his Son's enemies willing to be saved, in the day of his power. Hence all his promises to renew the hearts of sinners, are so many proofs of his power to produce this saving change.
2. God has actually softened the hearts of the most hardened and obstinate sinners. As he promised to change the hearts of sinners in Babylon, so he punctually fulfilled his promise. He poured out his Spirit upon them, and raised them from spiritual death to spiritual life. He took away their hard and stony hearts, and gave them hearts of flesh. Though they had long repined at the ways of his providence, yet he brought them to a cheerful submission to his sovereignty. Nor was he less faithful to fulfil the promise made to Christ in the text.
At the time appointed, which was the day of Pentecost, he brought three thou
sand of his enemies to his footstool. This the apostle Peter declares to be a fulfilment of the promise contained in the text and context, which he quoted and explained on that great occasion. “ Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens; but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool." When Peter preached to Cornelius and to those at his house, God poured out his Spirit upon them, and gave them "repentance unto life.” God opened the heart of Lydia, and made her willing to embrace the gospel preached by Paul. And before this, he made a still more signal display of irresistible grace, in the conversion of Paul himself. He was a blasphemer and persecutor. He determined to resist all means and motives to conversion. And he felt superior to .
any divine influence. But the King eternal, invisible and omnipotent, was able to lay him prostrate at the feet of that Jesus whom he had despised and persecuted. These, and many other instances of conversion which are recorded in the Bible, demonstrate the power of God to make men willing to be saved.
3. The scripture represents God as not only making men willing to be saved, but as making them willing by an act of his power. Paul speaking of himself and of other christians who were prepared for heaven, says, “Now he that hath wrought us for the self same thing is God.” He inculcates the same sentiment upon the minds of the saints of Ephesus. “ That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." And in the next chapter he goes on to say,
“ You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” “ Even
ve were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ
" Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In one place he says, any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." This he explains, in the
” next words, to be God's making men willing to be saved. “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” In another place he says, “ In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Farthermore, he represents God as beginning and carrying on a work of grace, by a powerful op
eration on the minds of men. To the Philippians he says, “ Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And in the next chapter he says again, “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." And for this gracious and powerful operation on the hearts of believers, he prays in the thirteenth of Hebrews : “ Now the God of peace — make you perfect — to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight." According to these and
" many other passages of scripture, God makes men willing to be saved by an act of his power. He not only addresses their eyes and ears by external objects, and their understandings and consciences by moral motives, but he actually operates upon their hearts, and there produces new feelings or affections by the same almighty power which he exerted in creating the world, and in raising Christ from the dead. Nothing short of this can be meant by his raising men to spiritual life, making them new creatures, and working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight. To explain away such expressions, and make them mean moral suasion only, is to do violence to scripture, and wrest it in such a manner as to destroy at once both its meaning and usefulness.
4. The scripture represents God as making men willing to be saved, by an act of his power, in distinction from all other ways of producing this effect. To this purpose is that noted passage in the first of John. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Here the renovation of the heart is ascribed to a divine operation, in distinction from all other means or second causes. resentation we find in the ninth of Romans. "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” The apostle's words, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, are still more expressive and definitive on this point. “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” He adds, “ Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." The inspired writers all speak the same language upon this subject. They totally exclude men and means in the
A like rep
conversion of sinners, and ascribe the production of this effect to the immediate power of the Deity. I may add,
5. It appears from universal observation and experience, that nothing short of a divine operation upon the hearts of sinners is sufficient to draw them to Christ. Some suppose there are various ways in which God can make sinners willing to be saved, without any immediate operation upon their hearts. But it appears from fact, that this is the only way in which even Omnipotence can bring them to a cordial compliance with the gospel.
For, in the first place, God cannot make them willing to be saved by giving them a sense of guilt. He may awaken their consciences, and set their sins in order before them, and make them feel that they justly deserve his wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come. But will such a sense of criminality and ill desert reconcile them to the way of salvation by Christ? There is no necessary connection between conviction and conversion. Those under conviction have often expressed their sensible and violent opposition to God, to Christ, and even to heaven itself. Their sense of guilt, instead of diminishing, greatly increased the native enmity of their hearts against every thing holy and divine. It will be universally allowed that the hearts of the damned grow worse and worse under conviction. And from this we may conclude that should God give sinners in this world as great a sense of guilt as the damned actually feel, it would directly tend to harden, instead of softening their hearts. It does not appear possible, therefore, that God should change the hearts of sinners, by giving them a sense of guilt.
Nor does it appear possible that he should make them willing to be saved, by giving them a sense of danger. He often does give them as great a sense of danger as of guilt. He often uncovers destruction before them, and makes them feel from day to day that they are constantly exposed to drop into the bottomless pit. Though, in this situation, they anxiously desire to escape the damnation of hell, yet they have no disposition to repent and believe the gospel. But, on the other hand, the more clearly God shows them that he is able and disposed to punish them according to their deserts, the more vigorously and sensibly they oppose his holy and amiable sovereignty. And surely God cannot destroy the enmity of their hearts by that sense of danger which directly tends to increase it.
Nor, in the last place, can he make them willing to be saved by giving them a sense of the worth of their souls, and the importance of eternal happiness. He always gives them a sense of these things, when he awakens their consciences to