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made use of, that of death. A dead man cannot raise himself to life again; it must be by an energy from without; by the help and power of some other than himself that life is recovered, if it be recovered at all. In like manner, the voluntary powers, without being aided and strengthened by the holy influence of God's spirit, may be entirely unable to restore a dead conscience to its office in the human breast.
What is intimated by the language and manner of speaking, on the subject in Scripture, is confirmed by our own consciousness, and by our experience. Nothing is so hard to be accomplished as reformation; nothing so difficult as to change the heart : nothing in this world so arduous as to rouse a dead and sleeping conscience, to bring back lost principles, to rectify depraved affections, to break vicious habits; more especially, vicious habits of mind and thought. Vicious habits of action, though difficult, are more easy to be managed than vicious habits of mind and thought. In proportion to the difficulty is the necessity for help. In proportion to the difficulty, must we have recourse to his all powerful help, with whom all things are possible, all things are easy. “ Who then shall be saved ?" was the Apostle's question. “ With God all things are possible,” was our Lord's answer.
What then is the practical use of these reflections? What are the fit sentiments to entertain, the fit conduct to pursue ?
We know that conscience may be silent and dead : is it silent and dead in us? We know that it may be so weak and feeble, that in point of fact, it does not govern our lives at all. Is this our case? If it be, we have a great work to go through before we can be in a state to form any reasonable hopes of salvation ; namely, the restoring conscience to its office and its energy. The first thing to be done towards it is to sue earnestly for the help of God Almighty's spirit: that is the first thing. Our prayers obtaining, and our endeavours sincerely co-operating with that help, will carry us through the work; nothing else will.
Secondly, when we find the whisperings of conscience renewed ; when we find sensations of religion, after a long absence and forgetfulness, returning ; when we find spiritual emotions, unfound and unfelt before, or, if formerly felt, long disused; when we find the quickening and stirring of good principles and good thoughts within us, then may we be assured that the work is begun. We may then take comfort: we have much cause for rejoicing: we are in the hands of God: we experience the first sign at least of a renewed, regenerated soul. It is our business to rejoice in it, to cherish it most carefully.
The first sign, I said—but it must still depend upon ourselves. From what we perceive, we have good reason to hope that power is given us from above, if we will use it. Whilst we were without all thought, all concern, all fear, all anxiety about our religious state, we were in the worst of all possible conditions, we were in the condition which the Scripture calls being dead in sin. That is not our condition now. We trust that we are quickened, that we are raised again to a spiritual life by the operation of God's spirit.
But what is the duty belonging to this situation, supposing us to be right in our judgement ? “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do.” This is the text for us to meditate deeply upon : this text describes our duty. St. Paul, who wrote it, so far from thinking that any promise, any assurance, any perception of the assistance of God's spirit, was a reason for negligence, remissness, want of firmness, and care and perseverance on our part; makes it the very ground of his exhortation to exert ourselves to the uttermost. We are not only to work, but to work out, that is, to persist to the end in working, our salvation ; and why? why particularly? even because “it is God that worketh in us." For this is the argument: spare no efforts, no endeavours on your part, that you may not lose, that you may not forfeit, that you may not miss of the incalculable benefit of that spiritual succour which God in his mercy is now vouchsafing unto you—of that regeneration which is now beginning.
OUR DEAREST INTERESTS TO BE PARTED WITH
RATHER THAN ENDANGER OUR DUTY.
MATTHEW v. 29.
If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
I SHALL first set about to explain these words, which may seem a little difficult to understand; then consider the advice they contain ; and lastly, the reason that is given for it.
Now the word “offend,” in this expression, thy right eye offend thee,” signifies corrupt, seduce, tempt to sin. If thy right eye tempt thee to sin, pluck it out; otherwise what has the eye to do with being cast into hell, or how should the plucking it out save the whole body from being cast into hell ? I suppose likewise, that the right eye in this verse, and the right hand in the verse following, is said of any thing we set our hearts upon, or take delight in. The right eye and the right hand are mentioned as being most dear to us, most precious for their use and strength, and so properly represent to us some of our pleasures, habits, or gains, which become almost as dear to us, and as difficult to part with. The body being cast into hell, signifies our being condemned at the day of judgement to the punishment of hell; so that our Saviour's admonition is this, that whatever in any manner draws us into vice, however unwilling we be to part with it, must nevertheless be given up and quitted, rather than suffer it to endanger our salvation. A rule perfectly reasonable in itself, as any man can see and own upon the bare mention of it: a rule it is of great consequence to be observed, and yet in fact and in practice very little, if at all, regarded; for where shall you find a man sacrificing an advantage or pleasure, any profit or amusement he is engaged in, to his virtue? Men have a different way of satisfying themselves. Provided a pleasure, situation, or profession be not in itself, strictly speaking, criminal, whatever crimes it may lead to, or tempt them to, they venture upon it; they see no reason for avoid. ing it, and when they are engaged in it, they find the comfort in vice so strong, that there is no power in them to withstand it; they soon begin to hope that God, who knoweth whereof we are made, will make allowance for their frailties and infirmities, and will not require more purity and exactness than such a man in such a situation is capable of.