« PreviousContinue »
he is offered in the gospel ; putting our trust in him alone for salvation. Having remarked these few things, respecting the import of coming to Christ : I proceed to show
II. That all may come to him ; the invitation of the gospel being indiscriminate and free.
By this is meant that sinners are not under any natural inability to come to Christ. The invitation is to all under the gospel-and the only reason why any do not come to him, and receive the salvation which he gives, is the want of a heart or disposition. This will appear by attending to a few passages of scripture. The text is full to the purpose : that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Hera is an implicit invitation to all, with an absolute declaration, that whoever comes shall be received. In connection with this, let me turn your thoughts to Christ's words in the 40th verse of the 5th chapter: “ Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Here again it is evident, that sinners are invited to come to Christ; that if, they were to come, they would have life; and that the only reason of their not coming is their unwillingness. It is their dislike of Christ, and the nature of the salvation proposed.But perhaps some of you may object, that in the same chapter, Christ says, " No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." A little attention will show, that these words are perfectly consistent with the sentiments now advanced, and that they even confirm them.
What is meant by the Father's drawing sinners to Christ ? Can we suppose any thing more is meant than giving a new heart or disposition ? If not, instead of opposing the idea, that there is nothing wanting in the sinner, but a disposition, it establishes it.
The only thing done to sinners, when they are drawn unto Christ, is rendering them willing or disposed to come ; of consequence, this is the only thing
wanting in any. The only difficulty lies in the sinner's heart. His heart is unholy-His affections are in a wrong direction-He has such a total want of inclination towards God, that he will not choose him for his portion. He sees no excellency~no form, or comeliness in the Saviour, and therefore desires him not.
The passages in which there is a free and indiscri. minate offer of salvation, or invitation to sinners, to come to Christ, that they may have life, are numerous.
To what has been mentioned, I shall only add the following : “ 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 inoney, and without price.” “ The Spirit and the bride say come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely.” The words of Christ are : “ If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." « Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In the parable of the supper, recorded Luke 14th chapter, Christ teaches us that all, who hear the gospel, are invited to come to him and have life, and that if any do not come, it is not from a natural inability, but a criminal disinclination.
“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servants at supper time, to say to them who were bidden), come, for all things are ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. Then the master of the house was angry, and resolved that none of them should taste of his supper. The idea conveyed is, that those men who were bidden were able to come to the feast if they had been disposed ; of course, we are taught, that all under the gospel may come to Christ, the invitation being to ail who hear the gospel ; and that if any do not come, it is solely from the want of a disposition ; they have no inability except a moral inability the
want of a heart. That the gospel invites all to come to Christ, and have life, or, which is the same thing, makes a free and impartial offer of salvation to all who hear it, appears not only from the plain meaning of scriptural expressions used for that purpose, but from this important fact, that men, considered as rational and moral beings, without resp to their temper of heart, are fully capable of accepting the blessings proposed. Were not this true, ro offer of salvation would be properly made to fallen man.
Nothing is offered fairly to any man, in whom something more is needful to his accepting of it, than a willingness to accept in view of its true nature. Nor is the case altered at all, by men's natural unwillingness, or disapprobation of the nature and plan of the gospel. If we admit that men are wholly opposed to the gospel, and will continue so, till their hearts are renewed in a day of God's power, still it is true, that unwillingness or opposition of heart is the only obstacle. And if men are ever found guilty, at the tribunal of conscience, or the tribunal of God, it will be, not for the want of natural ability (which would excuse them) but for the want of a willing mind. I pass in the
III. Place, to consider, in a brief manner, the good proposed and to be enjoyed, by all who truly come to the Saviour.
“ Him that cometh to me,” says the Saviour,“ I will in no wise cast out ;" i. e. I will certainly receive him, and bestow upon him eternal life and blessedness. He
ye might have life.” The good proposed in the gospel, to which sinners are invited, Christ has compared, in a parable, to a feast consisting of a rich variety, and prepared at a great expense. We are therefore in the gospel invited to a spiritual feast of good things, freely to partake and be filled. To receive through the merits of Christ, the pardon of sin, deliverance
from the power and dominion of it-peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and to enjoy a holy God, and a title to the heavenly inheritance. Such, in brief, is the good proposed, and which all who come to Christ will receive.
And in the first place, I would remark, to prevent misconception, or a misimprovement of this subject, that the ideas advanced respecting the free offer of salvation to sinners—and there being nothing to prevent their receiving it, but their own unwillingness, so that the matter will be decided by their own free choice, are perfectly consistent with their absolute dependence, and the necessity of divine influence. Perhaps some may consider these as inconsistent, and it may be difficult to convince them to the contrary. It is always a difficult task to reconcile any of the doctrines of the gospel to the conceptions of unholy men. If
any think to do this, so as to silence all their objections, they will meet with disappointmens. The minds of impenitent sinners are greatly confused upon religious subjects ; and for this there are sufficient reasons. The want of a careful, serious, prayerful attention to the holy scriptures, prevents their seeing the harmony of divine truth. The man, who would discover and embrace nothing but the pure doctrines of the gospel, must seriously and prayerfully examine the holy scripture. He must compare scripture with scripture. He must be honest and candid in his researches after truth. He must seek the truth, and be willing to receive it. But this the impenitent will not do. Hence their minds are commonly confused respecting the system of truth in the gospel. They frequently consider them as irreconcileable. They charge the ministers of the gospel with unsaying in one sermon, what they had said in another; and even contradicting themselves in the same discourse. It may be
that some minister's have been guilty of this, but not all who have been charged with it. Nothing more frequently occasions this charge, than holding up the doctrine contained in the foregoing discourse, that salvation is freely offered in the gospel ; that sinners are free agents; and that there is no obstacle to their salvation but their own unwillingness to receive it; and at the same time intimating that sinners are absolutely dependent, and that there is a necessity of divine influence, in order to their salvation. How often do we hear it said, that our minister in one sermon teaches us that we are free agents-that salvation is freely offered to us, and that our eternal state will be decided according to the free choice which we make; and yet in the next contradicts himself, by teaching the necessity of divine influence ; that we must be born again ; and that the salvation of sinners, under the gospel, depends on the sovereign pleasure of God. Some, when speaking of these supposed contradictions, seem unable to contain themselves; they break out in a passion, as if it were not to be endured, that the minds of people should be perplexed, troubled, and discouraged with such absurdities and contradictions ; not considering that all the absurdity or contradiction is in their own minds, and arises from the want of a humble, careful, and candid attention to the subject, in the light of scripture. What contradiction is there in saying, that sinners have salvation freely offered to them? or, that they are freely invited to come to Chrsit, and that nothing prevents their coming and receiving salvation but their own unwillingness; and yet saying that this unwillingness or opposition of heart to Christ, is so strong that nothing will overcome it but the power of God, renewing their hearts-thereby drawing them, or causing them to be willing in the day of his power? Or, on the other hand, where is the inconsistency of saying, that the divine influence is necessary to draw men to Christ, or make them willing in