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a hearing ear, than that of the gospel trumpet : no one ever charmed more wisely than he who speaks from Calvary,“ Look unto me, and be ye saved, for I am God.” “ Let the wicked, then, forsake his way, and the unrighteDus man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
That we may duly estimate the value of this invitation, let us consider, in the first place, by whom it is made. This is ascertained, by adverting to the preceding verse.
Jesus, have sent mine angel, to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. We here learn, that this invitation is made by the Lord Jesus Christ; a Being, in whom the fullest confidence may be reposed. He is able to bestow the blessings which he offers, and he never tantalizes his creatures with insincere invitations.
Let us consider, in the next place, the blessing offered :- The water of life. Not that water, of which if a man drink, he shall thirst again ; but that living, water, of which if a man drink, he shall never thirst ; but it shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. This figurative language was designed to express all that is included in the term salvation :- pardon, sanctification, adoption, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, in the present life; and glory immortal beyond the grave.
The value of this invitation will be still more strikingly apparent, if we consider, in the third place, the extent of it. Whosoever will-whether he be Jew or Gentile, bond or free, old or young, rich or poor ; or whatever may be his character~Whosoever will, let him take the water of life. Where then is the individual, who can say, that this invitation was not ad. dressed to him ?
But once more : Observe the terms on which the blessing is offered. Freely. No recompense is demanded. To the poor the gospel is preached. All the blessings of religion in this life, and all that heaven contains, are gifts of grace. 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 without price. The Spirit and the bride say, come ; and let him that heareth, say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY. Could Infinite Mercy stoop lower than this ? Could guilty man desire to treat with his offended God on better terms ?
The doctrine elearly revealed in this passage of scripture, is, that all men may be saved if they will : in other words, there is nothing to hinder the salvation of any man, but his own will.
I am aware, that sinners often imagine, that there are serious obstacles in the way of their salvation ; and obstacles altogether different from the one here supposed. It may be useful, therefore, to spend a few moments in examining some of these supposed obstacles.
1. The divine law may be supposed by some, to stand in the way of their salvation. This, indeed, would have presented an insuperable obstacle, had no atonement been provided. Like the flaming sword, which guarded the tree of life, it would for ever have barred the gates of paradise against apostate man. But have you not heard the glad tidings of the gospel ? Why did the Son of God come down from heaven ? Was it not to honour the law which man had broken, and to prepare the way for the consistent exercise of mercy ? Have you never read, that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit ? and that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth? What though Sinai utters its thunders ;-W
-what though the law proclaims, The soul that sinneth, it shall die; and cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them :-THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION TO THEM THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS.
% Some may perhaps imagine, that the greatness of their sinë renders their salvation impossible. But can you set any bounds to the mercy of God? Is not the blood of Christ sufficient to cleanse from all sin? Are your sins great ? There is a great and glorious Saviour. Who is this, that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah ; this, that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength ? I THAT SPEAK IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, MIGHTY TO SAVE. Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. Are
“ They don't surpass The power and glory of his grace." Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he WILL HAVE MERCY UPON HIM, and to our God, and he WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
3. Several doctrines of the gospel, have been regarded by some, as pre senting insuperable obstacles to their salvation.
The doctrine of Human Depravity, has been thus regarded. If I am entirely depraved, the sinner sometimes says, then I am utterly helpless. It is beyond my power to do any thing which God requires; and, consequently, it is totally impossible that I should comply with the terms of salvation revealed in the gospel. This representation proceeds upon an entire misapprehension as to the nature of depravity. Depravity does not destroy moral agency. It does not so impair the natural faculties of man, as to disable him from doing his duty, if he will. It has its seat in the heart, and consists in a perverse and sinful inclination. When we say, that man is entirely depraved, we do not mean, that he is a poor, unfortunate being, who is commanded
to do impossibilities ; but we mean, that he is a guilty rebel, who voluntarily refuses to yield allegiance to the God who made him. We
that he loves sin, and is unwilling to abandon it ; that he hates his duty, and is unwilling to perform it; that he dislikes the terms of salvation, and is unwilling to comply with them. We do not mean, that all the powers
and faculties of his soul, are so impaired, that he could not do his duty if he would ; but we mean, that he will not do his duty when he can—that in the full possession of all the powers of moral agency, and with perfect ability to comply with the terms of salvation, if he will, he chooses the road that leads to death, and will not come to Christ that he might have life. This supposes no difficulty in the way of his salvation, except what lies in a perverse and obstinate will.
Again : The doctrine of Regeneration, is supposed to imply an insuperable obstacle in the way of the sinner's salvation. We often hear the sinner reasoning thusms If I must be born again, in order to enter into the kingdom of God; and if this change is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit ; a work which he is under no obligations to perform, and which my own efforts will never accomplish ; then, there is a difficulty in the way of my salvation, which it is beyond my power to remove. It does not depend on my will, but on the will of God, whether I shall be saved.” But here, again, the sinner labours under an entire inisapprehension, as to the nature of the change in question, and as to the reason why this change is necessary. What is it to be born again? Simply, to be made willing to do what God requires. It is thus represented in the scriptures, Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. Why is it necessary, that men should be born again ? Not because they are unable to do their duty, if they will ; but because they are unwilling to do it. It is their depravity which renders this supernatural change necessary. But their depravity is not their calamity merely, but their crime. It consists, as we have seen, in a perverse inclination; in a voluntary and obstinate refusal to yield obedience to the reasonable commands of Jehovah. What the sinner needs, therefore, is to have this perverse inclination changed ; that is, to be made willing to do what God requires. The necessity of this change, therefore, supposes no obstacle in the way of his salvation, except his own unwillingness to do his duty.
To make the point perfectly plain, I will illustrate it by an example. The prodigal son left the house of his father, and wasted his substance in riotous living. When he had spent all, he began to be in want. In these circumstances, what ought he to have done ? Ought he not to have returned immediately to his father, with penitent confession of his guilt ? And had he chosen to have done so, might he not have executed his purpose ? Was there any thing to hinder his return? Had he lost his free agency? Had his limbs become palsied ? Was any obstacle thrown in his way? No : but he was unwilling to return. His proud heart could not brook the thought of taking such a humiliating step. Rather than go home, and acknowledge his fault, he chose to submit to the most menial employment, and to attempt to satisfy his hunger with the food of swine. But when he came to himself ; that is, when his heart was changed he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare; and
I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father. He was now willing to return. He was before unwilling; and hence we see wherein consisted the change in his regeneration. So in every other case. Every sinner is capable of obeying the gospel. There is nothing to hinder his obedience, but his own unwillingness; and consequently there is no other obstacle in the way of his salvation. But his proud heart will not submit. He cleaves to his rebellion, and will not give up the controversy. Rather than comply with the humbling terms of the gospel, he will shut his eyes to every danger, resist every warning, and rush with presumptuous boldness, on the thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler. This is the reason, and the only reason, that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Again : The doctrine of Election, is supposed by many to imply an insuperable obstacle in the way of their salvation. But this doctrine, like the others which have been named, is often entirely misunderstood ; and the consequences, which it has been supposed to involve, have been deduced, not from the doctrine, as taught in the scriptures; but from the erroneous and distorted views which have been given of it, by its opposers. What is the doctrine of election? It is simply this: That God has determined to make some of the human race willing to embrace the gospel. This, you will at once perceive, supposes no obstacle in the sinner's way to heaven, but his own will. The doctrine of election rests on the same foundation as the doctrine of regeneration. Regeneration, indeed, is election carried into effect. What God decreed in election, in regeneration he executes; and if the doctrine of regeneration implies no obstacle in the way of the sinner's salvation, except what lies in his own will, the doctrine of election, implies no other obstacle.
Many, however, seem to suppose, that if this doctrine be true, a part of the human race are bound over to irrevocable ruin, without any power of helping themselves. Hence the excuse, which is so often in the mouth of the profane and the stupid sinner ; " If I am elected, I shall be saved, do what I will; and if I am not elected, I shall not be saved, do what I can." A more gross and palpable perversion of the doctrine, could not be invented ; and the declaration is as absurd, as if I were to say,
66 If I am to live another year, I shall, even if I should die to-morrow.” The doctrine of elec, tion binds no man over to perdition. It throws no obstacles in the way of any man's salvation. It hinders no man from coming to Christ, who is willing to come; or from taking the water of life freely.
To make the matter plain, let us suppose for a moment, that the doctrine is not true. We will suppose, what those who deny the doctrine will be willing to grant; that mankind are free agents, that an 'atonement has been provided, and that salvation is freely offered to all. But we will suppose, that God has not determined to make any of the human race willing to comply with the terms of salvation; but has left this point to be decided by each individual for himself. If this were the real state of the case, it will be easily seen by all, that there would be no obstacle in the way
any man's salvation but his own will. Now, what alteration in the circumstances of mankind, does the doctrine of election make? It renders it