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is, to set yourselves diligently to attain Christian knowledge ; I suppose you have especially made it your business to be acquainted with the tenor of the covenant, or what in the sense of the gospel is acceptable religion ; that without which, men have no title to the blessings and privileges of the children of God; but
upon which they are in a state of acceptance. This is expressed sometimes by regeneration, or being born again, sometimes by conversion : by faith, or by faith and repentance joined together, as in Acts xx. 21. "by yielding ourselves to God,” &c. It is very plain, that sincerity, and not absolute perfection, is intended by these or any the like phrases. I would offer my apprehension in a few words, concerning the claim of the gospel in this matter. Then a man is truly born again, and in a state of acceptance, “when he hath such a persuasion of the truth of the gospel, as engages him to accept Jesus Christ, as he is proposed there ; and upon the motives of the gospel, to renounce the practice of every known sin, in hearty purpose and resolution, and to devote himself in upright design to the service of God, and to the practice of universal holiness." Now that which I would exhort convinced sinners to, is, not to stop short when they have taken the former steps, as if they must leave the matter there ; but still to proceed on, in the strength of grace received, and not doubting of more, to exert the several acts of a solemn surrender to God in Christ. It was prophesied that sinful Israel should take such a course upon their return from captivity, Jer. 1. 5. “ They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten.” If find
hearts consenting, doubt not. but this is the special grace of the Spirit, making you a willing people in the day of his power.
I shall make at present but two reflections.
1. All true converts have reason to magnify the grace of God in making them to differ from others. Some are met with in the very high road to destruction. And even those, who were found in the of means, must ever own,
that not desert, gave success. And they must be conscious to themselves, of many great defects in the use they made of the means in their
power. So that they will ever have reason to say, “ By the grace of God, I am what I am," 1 Cor. xv. 10.
2. Every unreclaimed sinner will be absolutely inexcusable.
God would be justified in the ruin of sinners, if he had made no proposals of mercy. But sinners under the gospel must be much more speechless, since a prize was put in their hands, but they had not a heart to make use of it. When Naaman expressed a resentment at Elijah's sending him to wash seven times in Jordan, in order to the cure of his leprosy, his servants expostulated with him thus, 2 Kings v. 13. “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it ? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, wash and be clean ?” So may not I say, had more difficult means been prescribed by God, should not you, sinners, seriously attempt and try? How much more inexcusable must you be, when there is a visible way, wherein you may hope to come at the greatest blessing ; if you shall live in a proud contempt of it, as if it were not worth seeking, or in a lazy supine negligence, when promising means are within reach ?
BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
Eph. v. 18.
-Be filled with the Spirit.
VOR the three general heads proposed at the first entrance upon this subject
I. The sense and import of the terms hath been distinctly explained; what we are to understand by the Spirit, and then by being filled with the Spirit.
II. A considerable progress hath been made upon the next head ; viz. What is implied in such an exhortation being addressed to us. Be ye filled with the Spirit. This intimates the desirableness of it; the attainableness of it; and that something is incumbent upon us as oựr duty in order to it.
In the last discourse it was shewn, That there are duties incumbent even upon those who are not yet in a state of acceptance, in order to their partaking of the Spirit so far as to introduce them into a state of grace.
I ņow proceed to the case of those, who are already in such a state, to whom the exhortation in the text, is most directly addressed ; and to shew,
That something farther is incumbent upon those who are born again, in order to their being filled with the Spirit.
And certainly the rule of their expectation is more clear and explicit, than in the case of unconverted sinners. I know no sober divines, who are not ready to own, that the promises of improvement and progress in holiness, to those in whom a good work is begun, are conditional. If this were not allowed, in their case at least, I could not put any tolerable sense upon that maxim, which Christ more than once delivers.; "that whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance : but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath,” Matt. xii. 12. chap. xxv. 29. It is plain that by having, is not meant merely having in possession ; but having so, as to use and improve what a man hath. The scope of both the places necessarily fixes this sense.
In the former passage, the disciples asked Christ, why he spake to the multitude only in parables, without giving the explication of them, ver. 10. Christ answers, ver. 11. “ Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, &c. As if he had said, .. This practice of mine is agreeable to a stated rule : That they, who with honesty and simplicity receive instruction, and improve the advantages which God hath given them, to the ends of religion and the increase of goodness, shall have farther instruction and greater assistances still afforded them; but they, who make no improvement of the advantages they have, may rather expect to be deprived of what they have, than to obtain more.' In the following verses he shews, that this latter was the case of the greatest part of his common hearers, ver. 13. “ Therefore speak I to them in parables ; because they seeing, see not, and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand.” Though they see the greatest aniracles, yet they are not convinced ; and when they hear the plainest doctrines, they do not attend to them, or set themselves to understand them. On the other hand, to his disciples he
“ But blessed are your eyes, for they see ; and your ears, for they hear."
You are convinced by what you see, and are desirous to understand what you hear.
hear. And so he goes on to explain to them the parable he had delivered. It is equally plain, that we are to understand haviny, in the same sense of a conscientious improvement, in the parable of the talents, chap. xxv. For this is the whole scope of that parable ; wherein men's characters are drawn by their improve
says, ver. 16.
ment or non-improvement of talents received, and sentence is pronounced upon them accordingly; and then this rule is annexed. The improvements indeed made by good men, deserve not farther grace, yet the gift of it is plainly connected with them by divine promise ; and they have the greatest reason to expect eminent decays in every part of the renewed temper, and that the Spirit will in a great measure withdraw, if they are negligent in the duties required of them, in order to their being filled with him. What these are, I am now to represent ?
1. Christians are concerned to maintain strong and habitual desires of the Spirit's farther influences and fruits. acts with such pleasure and power in any soul, as where he is a welcome guest; and enlarged desires make way for enlarged communications : whereas indifference damps his motions. The rule is, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,' Psal. lxxxi. 10. " Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled,” Matt. v. 6. “ He filleth the hungry with good things, but sendeth the rich empty away,” Luke i. 53. When a Christian hath his heart full of the world, or fondly apprehends himself to have so large a share of the Spirit already, as to have no need of more; he is in a very unlikely posture to receive much from above. The Spirit of God loves to act in a soul, neither conceitedly full of itself
, nor contentedly full of inferior good; but that sees an emptiness in every thing else without him, and such an inexhaustible fulness in him, as keeps desire fresh and lively. If we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
” he will be ready at hand to such a seeker : for earthly things are the great rivals with the Spirit for our affections, and strong affections one way will blunt the edge of the other. To keep under our earthly affections therefore, is the way to have much of the Spirit. And we should frequently meditate on the blessedness of being filled with him, how worthy he is of our most ardent desires. All the representation made of him in scripture shews him to be so, his benignity, his all-sufficiency, the gracious tendency of all his operations, and their suitableness to our wants : And our own experience already, “if we have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious," confirms this. What pleasant hours have those been, when he has come and blown upon his garden ? How