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endowed with a capacity of apprehending and reasoning upon the motives or moral considerations which are presented to their minds, whether by the contemplation of the works of God, or by the ministry of his word. Hence I observe,
2. That there is an evident propriety in calling upon all men, without distinction, who are favoured with the gospel, seriously to consider their ways, to repent of their sins, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they may be saved.
But, notwithstanding the evident propriety of this mode of procedure, some who pretend to preach the gospel have argued against it, with an imposing air of confidence and plausibility. •ff; say they, “it be a scriptural truth, that men, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, without strength, and dead in trespasses and sins-cannot, till they are enlightened, renewed, and sanctified by divine grace, perform any spiritual act, or yield any true obedience to the authority of Christ in the gospel ; it must surely contradict all the principles of reason and common sense, to consider men, while in that state, as proper subjects of exhortation, or as any way blameable for non-compliance with the gospel invitations
The whole force of every such argument, or rather sophistry, is at once destroyed by the simple matter of fact that our Lord and his apostles conducted their public ministrations in this manner; and never once hesitated, on account of any evidence that men gave of their being in a carnal unregenerate state, to enforce the obligations of faith, repentance, and holiness, in order to their salvation.
Wherever we find the Saviour of sinners either personally addressing men, or directing the exertions of his apostles, the language in which they expressed themselves had frequently à latitude, and sometimes an universality, which included all characters and conditions of men, ás being aliké involved in the consequences of sin, and equally needing the interposition of sovereign mercy : so that none had reason to consider themselves excluded from the benevolent object of his heavenly mission, but such as through pride or blindness of heart pleaded their own innocence before God, or relied on their own righteousness, and counted the gospel method of salvation inapplicable to their circumstances. And when he was asked, on one occasion, concerning the extent to which the benefits of redemption were meant to be applied, and whether few only should be saved, he taught us how to act when questions are agitated of mere curiosity, and which, according to the design of those who propose them, might lead to abstruse and mysterious speculations, by giving a reply not perhaps such as the curious enquirer expects, but one far more salutary and beneficial-Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
Certain it is, that nothing could be more general or unlimited than the commission which he
to his apostles, to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. In obedience to this command, they called upon men every where to repent, and believe the gospel. Peter, for instance, on the day of Pentecost, exhorted the convicted Jews thus: Repent, and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins; and with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. And, lest it should be thought that this exhortation belongs to those only who are under conviction, we find him addressing those among them who were in a state of impenitence, in similar terms. After shewing that God had raised up and glorified his Son Jesus, whom they had denied and crucified, he says to them, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. And do we not find him on another occasion most earnestly exhorting one, both to repent of his wickedness, and to pray unto God for pardoning mercy, who at the very time gave indubitable evidence that he was in the deepest state of moral depravity? And Peter said unto Simon Magus, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter : for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. When, therefore, it is said that the prayer of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord, we are not surely to understand it as if it were sinful in them to pray, and what they ought, therefore, to decline: for then it would follow, that scripture principles were at variance with scripture precedent, and that an inspired teacher exhorted his hearers to sinful conduct. If we cannot account for the conduct of the apostle in any other way than this, it would be more becoming in us humbly to acknowledge our ignorance, than to venture upon any such presumptuous and impious assertion. But there is no inconsistency in the conduct of the apostle, if we consider, that the prayer which is declared to be odious in the sight of God, is that which is offered up by men while continuing and persisting in their wickedness. Repentance and prayer to God for mercy must go hand in hand. Repent of thy wickedness, says the apostle, and pray to God. The prayer which is an abomination in the sight of God is the prayer of impenitence and hypocrisy—the prayer of those who draw nigh to God with their mouth, and honour him with their lips, whilst they are persisting in their enmity and rebellion against him. But, that it should be deemed improper to exhort the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and to pray to God for pardon and reconciliation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is a strange perversion of the language of scripture, which every where holds forth the strongest encouragement to the chief of sinners to turn unto the Lord that he may have mercy upon him, and to our God that he may abundantly pardon him. Nor do we believe it possible, from among the millions of mankind, to select a single instance to impeach his veracity ; not one who could appeal to Omniscience, and affirm that he had sought the Lord with his whole heart in the ways of his appointment, and yet was finally rejected,
The scriptures, therefore, very emphatically characterize the inability of men to comply with the calls and invitations of the gospel, as a wilful inability : Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life: an inability which arises from their unwillingness to honour Christ as a Saviour, and from the rooted enmity which they cherish in their hearts, against that serious and vital godliness which they know to be the direct and proper effect of submission to the gospel scheme of salvation. They are unwilling to be indebted to the meritorious obedience of that Mighty One on whom God hath laid their help, or to take his yoke upon them in the holy observance of all his precepts and ordinances. They are unwilling to supplicate the merey of God to pardon their sins, in the only way in which pardon can be extended to them, or the gracious aids of his Holy Spirit to renew and sanotify their hearts
to enable them to do the will of Gød here, and to fit and qualify them for his presence and glory hereafter,
While, therefore, we maintain, that all who believe and obey the gospel are under the highest obligations to ascribe their salvation, from its commencement to its consummation, to, the free and sovereign grace of God in Christ Jesus; we are as. clearly authorized to affirm, that all are justly chargeable as guilty of the basest ingratitude and rebellion of heart against the authority of God's