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pointing, but in one of their own devising; he hath a right to withhold it from them: even though the consequence be, that they are left to mistake impressions, feelings, change of opinions, convictions, or high af. fections of a mere selfish kind, for a new creation un. to holiness. Nor can their delusions be any impeachment of his justice, truth, and goodness.
Divine influences are absolutely needful to change a reasonable creature from carnal to spiritual: and the nature of them will best appear, by considering their effects; as they lead men to take pleasure in every part of God's worship and service; to hate and forsake all sin; to receive Christ as their Prophet, Priest, and King; and to produce the fruits of righteousness, from evangelical motives; in every part of their conduct;. uprightly and without reserve, though not perfectly. These are “the fruits of the Spirit:” and it is not at all necessary that we should be able to answer questions, or solve difficulties, concerning the modus opea randi, or the manner in which the divine Agent produces this new creation: for we scarcely know any thing of the manner, in which the process of nature in vegetation, and the communication of natural life, is conducted in the ordinary course of things. It is more important for us to know, that if we would possess a spiritual judgment, with holy dispositions and affections, and perform any acceptable service to God; we must depend on the Holy Spirit, to illuminate, renovate, strengthen, help, and comfort us; we must seek this blessing by faith in Christ, using all appoint
ed means, and avoiding impediments and hindrances; . and we must be willing to give him the whole glory,
of “ working in us to will and to do, according to “ his pleasure." This may suffice for every practical purpose; :d we should thus seek our meetness for heaven, as well as our title to it, by faith in the Lord Jesus, and his meritorious intercession for sinners.
V. The Lord hath a right to appoint the means of grace, in attending on which sinners shall receive from him the blessings of salvation, and render to him the tribute of honour and gratitude due to him for them. This subject coincides in good measure with a topick insisted on in the former part of this treatise. * Yet the sinner's approach to God, and acceptable worship of him; his application for the supply of all his wants from the Saviour's fulness; and the glory ascribed by him to the God of all grace, even the God and Fa. ther of our Lord Jesus Christ, form a consideration distinct from that of the services required of holy crea. tures. The appointments before considered are still obligatory: but the redeemed must attend on them in some respects after a different manner, and for other purposes; whilst there are others, peculiar to the religion of a sinner. The ordinances of the New Testament suit the ends proposed by them: and whist they ascribe glory to God our Saviour, and honour all his perfections and wonderful works; they are calculated to illuminate the mind, to affect and meliorate the heart, and to form that spiritual judgment and disposition, which hath been proved essential to true re. ligion.
This might be distinctly shewn to be the tendency of daily and diligent searching the sciptures, in hum. ble dependence on the teaching of the Spirit of truth, to enable us to understand, believe, love and obey them: of prayer, secret, social, and publick, united with humble confessions, adoring praises and thanksgivings, and affectionate supplications for our brethren and neighbours: of meditation on the cross of Christ, the attributes and works of God, death, judgment, and the eternal world: of the communion that be. lievers maintain with each other, in edifying conver. sation and acts of worship: of baptism, (the initiatory ordinance of christianity,) in the one “ name of the • Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” with water, (the universal purifier,) as the outward sign of the washing away of sin; and as the profession of our reliance on the Father's mercy, through the Redemption of the Son, and by the sanctification of the Spi. rit; our devotedness to the service of the triune God our Saviour; and an earnest desire that our children also may share the blessings, and sustain the character, of christians. And finally, of the Lord's Supper, where we unite in confessing our lost estate as sin. ners, in avowing our belief of evangelical truth, our obligations to him who ransomed our souls with his blood, and our purpose of yielding ourselves to his service, and joining ourselves to him and his people, to walk with them in peace and holiness. All these institutions, if properly and seriously attended on, are admirably suited to produce the intended effects, and to subserve the manifestation of the divine glory and the salvation of our souls.
But if this were less evident, the Lord would ne. vertheless have an undeniable right to appoint the means of grace; and it would be our bounden duty to approach him by them. Nor can we reasonably ques. tion his right to withhold his grace and salvation from all those, who neglect these means: whether they substitute human inventions in their stead; or, confiding in their superior talents, conclude that such helps are not necessary for them; or neglect all godliness, supa posing moral decency of conduct to be sufficient; or whatever else may be the pretence of their disobedi. ence.
When this matter shall be fully investigated, it will be found that all those who have come short of salvation, in places favoured with the light of revelation, in one way or other neglected the due attendance on instituted means: and that the Lord left them, in his righteous sovereignty, under the influence of pride, sloth, and ungodliness, to the fatal consequences of their own perverse choice. ,
Among the appointed means of rendering sinners wise.unto salvation, the publick preaching of the gos: pel has a peculiar pre-eminence; for “ faith comes by " hearing.” The world has indeed at all times treated it with contempt, as “the foolishness of preaching:" yet every age has experienced it to be “ the power of “ God unto salvation," because “ it pleases him by “ it to save them that believe:” and the prevalence of genuine piety has at all times and in all places, born proportion to the degree, in which the whole doctrine of Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King, (in respect of his person, atonement, mediation, grace, love, au
thority, and faithfulness, with his truths, invitations, promises, warnings, precepts, and counsels;) has thus been made known to mankind: or in the emphatical words of the apostle, to the degree in which, “ Christ hath been set forth- as evidently crucified “ among them.” The power of God is engaged to give efficacy to this kind of preaching; but all other doctrines are left to their native energy, whether that be more or less. The suitableness of the institution might be shewn; but it suffices to say, that God hath prescribed it. His right to do this cannot be disputed; and our wisdom and duty consist in submitting to his authority. The minister, therefore, is required to preach the gospel of salvation faithfully and zealously, to the utmost of his ability and opportunity: and others ought to promote the preaching of it, as far as they have it in their power; and to attend on it statedly and occasionally, on the Lord's day, and at other times, when no real hindrance prevents, and when other duties do not interfere.
The Lord hath also a right to confine the blessing to those, who honour his appointed medium of com. munication; and to exclude all such as despise and neglect it. Some persons, (perhaps overrating their own abilities or attainments,) deem it beneath them to attend on preachers, who are considered as incompetent to give them instruction; or they think reading and study better calculated to answer the design. Others prefer those teachers, who deliver moral essays, or discuss philosophical questions, to such as preach of regeneration and redemption, with the dis. tinguishing nature and effects of them. Others speak