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stones, but by shining into the heart, to give light and knowledge. If it is said, the love of Christ constrains us, the meaning is not, that it forces men to obey Christ against their wills; but that it makes them have such a strong will and inclination to serve him as no other thing can resist. The Spirit of God makes use of rational motives, in order to excite holy affections : “ The love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if Christ died for all, then were all dead."
5. Some are ready to ask, If it be the power of God that makes us willing to believe and repent, why are we exhorted to it? I reply, these exhortations are useful, were it for no more but to show us our weakness. But to consider this more particularly. 1. Those things to which God exhorts us, as was already said, are the most just things in the world; nay, they are necessary, and we are miserable unless we do them. 2. Consider the holiness of God's nature, and his right over us. Though we be wicked, sinful, and corrupt, God is holy; he hates wickedness, and manifests his hatred against it; he loves holiness, and manifests it in all these exhortations. 3. Those exhortations are necessary for us, as well as they are just and righteous; because, what if some did not believe? what it some did not repent ? shall their unbelief and impenitence make the goodness of God of none effect ? yea, rather “ let God be true and every man a liar," as the apostle says. 4. Those exhortations are useful to show us, first our duty, then our danger. It is necessary for us to know them, to show us what God approves of, what he hates, what he desires, what is necessary for salvation; and to show us the evil of sin, that it may appear to be exceeding sinful. The corruption of man's nature would never have appeared to be so evil as it is, if it were not for the offers of God's grace. Were it not that experience proves it, men might be ready to think, that it is impossible wicked corrupt creatures, shortly to die, shortly to receive a sentence to endless
misery, would refuse or despise the offers of reconciliation and mercy on the most reasonable terms. They show us the greatness of the corruption of our nature. “ If I had not come,” says our Saviour,
they had had no sin ; but now they have no cloak for their sin.” They would have been innocent comparatively.
6. Another prejudice against this doctrine, and which at the same time shows us the bad use that some make of it, is this, That it is a means to encourage sloth, and hinder men from diligence. Some are ready to make an excuse for their sloth and lazi. ness, because that it is the power of God that makes his word effectual.
(1.) In answer to this, it is rather the contrary er. ror that should tend to make us not only be negligent about one principal duty, but wholly omit it; the duty I mean, of seeking after the power and strength of God; for he who does not believe the reality of God's power accompanying his word, cannot, in true faith, pray for it, or seek after it. They that mock and ridicule all pretensions to the grace of God as enthusiasm, they mock God when they pray to him to make them holy: for if there be not a divine Operation upon the soul of a sinner to give just and holy inclinations, it is a mocking God to seek these things from him, to pray to him to mortify our sins, and to cleanse our hearts, or to praise bim.
(2.) This doctrine, when duly considered, is a doctrine that tends to excite us to the greatest diligence. The need of God's power is the very reason that should excite us to diligent seeking after it. The necessity of a thing is never, in any other case, made a reason for being indifferent about it, or neglecting it. Though the increase does not depend upon our power, but upon God's blessing; yet we ought to consider the promises made to them that seek, and to them that ask : they shall receive. We should seek, and then bless God that has made us seek; we should long, and bless God that inclines us to long. Let us consider what men do in other cases. The plough• man knows very well, that though he plough the ground, and sow the seed, it will be to no purpose, unless there come rain down from heaven, the fornier and the latter rain. The ploughman knows, that it is not in his power to bring that rain when he pleases; but he does what belongs to him, looks to God, waits for rain, ploughs the ground, and sows his seed. The seaman knows, that he cannot sail without wind, and the wind is not in his power, nor in the power of any creature: yet though it is not in his power to command a favourable gale when he pleases, he does not therefore neglect every thing concerning his ship; he fits it out, and makes preparation, till that wind wbich depends upon the power of the Creator come. These and many other common examples, frequently adduced, might be enlarged upon,
show how unreasonable we are, if we make this doctrine an excuse for ne. gligence and sloth. It is our part to make use of means, meditation, reading in private, and hearing with attention in public, and the like : and we have unspeakably precious encouragement, if we be in the use of means, that the Lord will not be wanting on
VII. I proceed briefly to make some use and application of this doctrine.
1. It informs us of the high esteem that we ought to have of the doctrine of Christ Jesus, and of his word, because it is the instrument of God's power to our salvation. Thus does he magnify his word, above his other name, as the means of converting and sanctifying immortal souls, as was shown before. It is an unspeakable honour and dignity put upon that blessed doctrine, and that blessed volume of God's book, whether written, explained, or enlarged upon. “ I am not ashamed," says Paul, “ of the gospel ; because it is the power of God to salvation.” That is the reason why we should not be ashamed of it; nay, for there is more meant than expressed, that we should have a high esteem of it. It is not only in
this purpose :
public, though there be a special blessing promised to that, but even in private, we may expect God's power accompanying that doctrine. When the Ethiopian eunuch was in his chariot alone, it is said, Philip came to him, and preached Christ Jesus, from that same text of Scripture. People may, as it were, preach Christ Jesus to themselves when alone, and to their near neighbours, speaking one to another.
2. When we highly esteem the word, let us beware of giving it that esteem that belongs to the power
of God itself. It is a means ; but it is to the power of God we are to look for the increase.
To excite us to wait upon that, we should consider, that the Lord stretcheth out his hand to us all the day long. It is from our neglecting to seek and desire it, that his hand is not actually upon us to turn us to God, the living God. Ezra's expression is remarkable to
66 That the hand of the Lord was upon all them that seek him for good.” To seek him earnestly, is the great direction for that end, to seek the power of God; but then to seek it, as was ex. plained before, as the power of the Spirit of God, and as the purchase of the blood of Christ Jesus. This is a living a life of faith on the Son of God. Nor should we think this a natter of small consequence. We should not think, that if we seek the grace of God, what is the matter whether we frequently or habitually acknowledge the fulness of Christ, bis fulness of merit ? It is all one as if we should say, What is the matter whether we be guilty of ingratitude, and dishonouring of the greatest mercy? It is that infinitely gloricus sacrifice of his, and his perfect righteousness, that is the cause of every the least degree of strength that we receive ; and therefore it is out of his fulness that we are to seek that grace. When the Spirit comes, says Christ, “ he shall receive of mine, and give it to you; for he shall come in my name.” We cannot have a right view of the grace of the Spirit, otherwise than as the gift of Christ, and the fruit of his death and resurrection.
Therefore we see, in the 6th and 7th chapters of the epistle to the Romans, after the apostle had discoursed about justification, and pardon of sin, he comes to speak of sanctification. Some would have been ready to think he would have treated only of the grace of the Holy Ghost; but what he treats of there as the way to sanctification, is the exercise of faith, by which we look upon ourselves as dead with Christ, and alive with him, being planted together in the likeness of his death, and then in the likeness of his resurrection. As in turning from sin to God, there is a dying to sin, putting away the old man, and rising to newness of life ; so there is still a looking to the virtue of that: death and resurrection that has raised such a number of souls, in all ages, out of their graves.
3. I shall next consider briefly some evidences and signs of the power of God accompanying his word, signs of it that are related plainly in the Scripture, and serve for the consolation of them that find those signs, and for the awakening of others.
(1.) We are told, 1 Thess. i. 5. that when the word came in power, and in the Holy Ghost, it was accompanied with much assurance, assurance of the truth of it, a strong persuasion of it, and joy in the Holy Ghost. You heard in the lecture of David, to whom God himself was a teacher of his sta es.
66 These statutes were the rejoicing of David's heart, and sweet to his taste.” He had a delight, not only in meditating on them, but in practising them; he took them for his beritage.
(2.) Where the word of God comes with power, it is as a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces, Jer. xxiii. 29. There is this great difference betwist the teaching we get from men and what we get from God: when we get it only from men, without the grace of God, it generally puffs up ; whereas that knowledge, that teaching, which comes from God, tends to humble the sinner more and more. It is said, when God puts his law in the heart, he takes away