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destruction, and they will not preserve the reprobate from misery. If we would be saved by the gospel, we must obey its laws, become sober in our lives, and moral in our habits. Good works are eloquent intercessors at the throne of justice, and will be found the best advocates in the day of trial. It is this last feature, which especially distinguishes the gospel. Pagan deities are invoked as the authors of injustice and the patrons of crime: Christianity vindicates the importance of good morals; and makes virtue the only power, which can carry a soul triumphantly through the world, which can open the gates of paradise, and confer the honours of a spotless and happy immortality.
While we lament, therefore, the idolatry of the Pagans, and leave the infidel to his comfortless scepticism, we attach ourselves to the gospel. We rally under its banners without fear: we meet its adversaries boldly, or rather with mingled indignation and pity, for we stand on a higher moral foundation, we move in a sublimer sphere than they. We believe, and they deny ; their hearts are cold, and ours are warm with devotion ; they go down to the dust like brutes; we ascend upwards like angels : their souls are chained to earth; ours have their walks in heaven.
Who then will not glory in the gospel ? Tell the infidel, that while he professes principles, which paralyze the faculties of the mind, repress the desire of improvement, and strike at the root of public prosperity and domestic happiness, we maintain a faith, which connects our natures with God, and our hopes with another world, while it prompts us to active virtue in this.— The tenets of infidelity are not only not divine-they deny the existence of any thing divine. They not only have no eloquent defenders, no resolute martyrs—by destroying the moral affections they dry up the springs of moral eloquence, and no cause seems worthy of being defended at the sacrifice of life. We profess a religion, which has God for its author, and the Son of God for its herald ; a religion which we embrace with our hearts, and for which we are ready to shed our blood; a religion contirmed by prophecies and supported by miracles; and professed by the wisest and purest of all ages, by men the most enlightened, the most rational and the most holy; a religion which has cherished the piety and subdued the passions of millions, bridled the insolence of despotic power, protected the humble against the tyranny of the wealthy, and appeared as the guardian of social order, the tutelary genius of domestic life; a religion which hastriumphed over ancient superstition, has dethroned the heathen deities, and established spiritual worship, with a purity of service; a religion which has been reverenced by its enemies
themselves; bas been confirmed by the testimony of innumerable witnesses, cemented by the blood of martyrs, preserved and extended by the visible Providence of God; a religion against which the gates of hell and of earth never have prevailed and never will prevail: and if such be Christianity, who will blush to be a Christian? Who is so timid, that he will fear to profess it? Who is so heartless, that he will not boast of the cross ? Who is so ungrateful, that he will not glory in the gospel ?
HUMAN ABILITY AND DIVINE GRACE.
What is to be inferred concerning the moral capacities of men, and the nature of spiritual influences, from that declaration of our Lord ; . No man can come to me, except the Father, who bath sent me, draw bim?'
These words have been often employed to prove, that men are in a peculiar sense dependent with respect to their spiritual interests and duties. All admit, that it is our duty to come to Christ: that is, to believe on him, or to become his true disciples. But many suppose, that there is a special and insuperable obstacle in the way; and that this consists not in the want of either natural or intellectual power, but in a depravity of beart, or stubboroness of will, which we cannot overcome, which our utmost efforts cannot remove. In other words, they believe that mankind bave by nature such a disposition, that they cannot come to Christ, or believe his gospel, until they are visited with an extraordinary or supernatural influence. This influence, they further suppose, is given, not in consequence of their efforts to obtain it, but according to an eternal decree, which has no respect to the character of men. The whole of this system may be exhibited in the following series of questions and answers. • Is it the duty of men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? It is. "Can they in their natural state exercise this faith? They cannot. In what does this inability consist? In opposition or depravity of heart. "Can they remove this disposition, or do any thing, which shall incliné God to remove it for them?" They cannot; because all their actions, and all their attention to outward duties, while they have in them this disposition, is sin. Even their prayers are an abomination. How then can they become exempt from this depravity of nature, and exercise faith in Christ?" By the special influences of God's Holy Spirit
, “Will this influence be granted to those who seek it? It will
be granted only to the prayer of faith. Can we pray in this manner unless we first have this special influence? We cannot. The question then returns, “How can we obtain that supernatural grace, which alone can remove our depravity, and bring us to Christ? God will grant it to his elect, and the rest of mankind must remain inevitably under condemnation. Though they are commanded to come to Christ, yet this is as much above their power, as it would be to create a world; because they cannot come without a will, and this will is the gift of God. To make them willing is as much the act of God, and as great an exhibition of divine power, as to raise the dead. • What then can we do to promote our salvation ? Nothing. Our strength and our wisdom are in God. But are we commanded to do nothing ? On the contrary, we are commanded to do our whole duty, though we are unable of ourselves to do any part of it. At the same time, God is just in laying these commands upon us, because we lost our power by Adam's apostasy, and our inability is of a moral nature, belonging to the will, or heart, and not to the understanding. The most learned philosophers are as unable to come to Christ as the feeblest child. All men by nature are equally destitute of that, without which they cannot come to Christ. It is the work of God to give them that special qualification, the gift of his special grace; and their own efforts to obtain it, are altogether unavailing, because altogether sinful. Yet are they justly condemned, for being destitute of it.
We believe, that the preceding questions and answers exhibit a clear and just view of the prevailing system respecting the dependence of man, and the special grace of God. It is impossible not to perceive the apparent inconsistencies, which are involved in this system. In all common cases, we feel the fullest assurance that men cannot justly be blamed for that, which is given them by nature; that, which is their original constitution ; that, which depended wholly on the will of another, and respecting which they exercised no choice. But here, if the sentiments or doctrine involved in these answers be correct, there is a very important exception to this principle, and we are required to bring our feelings to acquiesce in that, at which, in all other similar cases, they strongly revolt; and our reason, which is a good guide in other respects, must here be denounced as depraved, because it protests against the principles of an established creed. If the nature of men be such, that they must have a supernatural influence in order to be prepared for heaven, the blame surely must fall on bim, who gave them that nature, and not on men, who necessarily must be what they are created. If that supernatural influence be not within their reach, or attainNew Series-Vol. V.
able on conditions, which they are able to perform, they catinot justly be blamed for being destitute of it: for no man can be blamed for not having that, which it is not in his power to obtain. If any, by the use of appointed means, cannot subdue their propensity to sin, and bring themselves to the exercise of repentance and faith, with that common or general aid, which God grants them, then, by the simplest reasoning, it is unjust to blame them, for continuing to sin, or to command them to come to Christ.
But it is urged, that the language of scripture plainly supports this system, inconsistent as it may seem with the dictates of reason, and backward as our hearts may be to admit its truth. It may be useful to examine the foundations of this plea, and to enquire, first, in what sense men are incapable of coming to Christ, and, secondly, in what manner the Father draws them.
In what sense, we may first enquire, are men incapable of coming to Christ? It should be replied, they are incapable, in the same sense, in which they are incapable of performing the most comir.on actions of life. We are incapable of walking without divine aid, support, and guidance. We cannot, independent of God, procure ihe common comforts of life. We are indebted to him for power to make progress in knowledge, to exercise the kind and benevolent affections, and to perform beneficent and charitable deeds. In a similar manner are we dependent on him for capacity to come to Christ, or to exercise repentance and faith. But when he commands us to walk, he gives us the power of walking. Were we without the power, we should not be under the obligation to walk. A service of this kind is never required of an infant, or of one, whose strength is destroyed by sickness. Whenever God requires us to procure for ourselves, or our families, the comforts of life, he gives us the power and the means of so doing. If any thing in our constitution, or in the course of his Providence, hinders us, we are of course free from the obligation. If he commands us to acquire knowledge, to be charitable and useful, he gives us all the capacities, which are requisite to the fulfilment of these duties. If at any period, or in any condition in life, our power to perform these services ceases, the obligation to do them ceases also. In all these cases, we see, that it would be utterly unjust, to recommend men to do what they are unable to do. In like manner, whenever God requires us to come to Christ, he gives us the means and the power
of coming. If he requires us to have certain dispositions and affections, such as love to God and men, and faith in Jesus Christ
, he gives us the means and the power of forming within ourselves these dispositions, and of cherishing these affections. If he calls
upon us to repent and to be converted, to make to ourselves a new heart and a new spirit, to cleanse our hands and to purify our hearts, to become new creatures, then he gives us the power of effecting this change in our characters. It would be as unjust, as absurd, as cruel, to require these things of men, without giving them the requisite means and capacities, as to require any other service, which they are incapable of performing. If they are unable to change their hearts, and to come to Christ, they might, with the same propriety, be commanded to fly, or to create a world, as to perform these duties. The scriptures never intimate that men are in a peculiar sense dependent, or incapable with respect to the duties of religion, and the concerns of their salvation. Their uniform and explicit instruction is, that we are wholly and equally dependent upon God for every thing, for the good things of this life, as well as for virtue and future happi
We may indeed say, with the Psalmist of old, Open mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.' And we may also pray, as our Saviour has taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.' But the former prayer, and others resembling it, no more denote a natural blindness or incapacity for spiritual things, than the latter denotes that we are naturally incapable of tilling the ground, or pursuing those common employments, by which we obtain a subsistence. It has often been thought, that the prayer for spiritual blessings, such as holiness, love, submission, and a new heart, and the promises God has made to bestow these favours on man, imply a peculiar inability or dependence, and the necessity of a special influence or extraordinary grace. With as much propriety might it be pretended, that the prayers for temporal blessings, and the promises God has made to bestow them, imply a peculiar inability, and the need of a special assistance. The truth is, that the inference is alike unwarrantable in both cases. Our dependence with regard to temporal blessings is not such as to render us incapable of performing our whole duty with respect to them; and in like manner our dependence on the grace of God, with regard to the exercise of repentance and faith, does not render us incapable of discharging these duties. It is indeed true, that no man can come to Christ except the Father draw him; and it is equally true, that no man can procure the necessaries and comforts of life, unless God grant him aid, strength, and success. But, as he never commands them to obtain these necessaries and comforts, without giving them the needed strength, aid, and success, so he never commands them to come to Christ, without granting them the needed drawing, or influence. In other words, he never commands them to perform any duty, without giving them adequate ability, or means to perform it.