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So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, Rom. ix. 16.
THAT God, and not ourselves, nor any creature, must be our trust and our hope, if we seek happiness in this world or the next, is abundantly evident from every part of the Scripture. But that we may learn for what, and how we are to trust in God, it is necessary for us to give earnest heed to those instructions which the word of God gives us, and at the same time, to attend 'carefully to the workings of our own proud hearts, that we may not, under their perverting influence, depart from the living God.
The unbelieving Jews trusted to themselves that they were righteous, and would not accept of the gift of righteousness set before them in the gospel. Thus Israel, who sought after the law of righteousness, did not attain to it, because they placed their dependence on
their own works, and not upon that grace which reigns through righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord. Beware of imitating them, lest Christ become of no effect to you. "Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.'
But to trust to your own strength is no less dangerous than to trust to your own right. cousness. The almighty grace of the Spirit of God is no less needful for you than the redemption of Christ. Salvation is "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
All men, say some, have a sufficiency of grace given them for Christ's sake, who died for all. They may improve or neglect, or misimprove it as they please. All that the Spirit of God has further to do with any man, is to spread motives before his mind, or to urge them, perhaps, upon his heart. But it depends upon himself, whether he will comply with the calls of the gospel, or the inward suggestions of the Spirit.
If this is all that the Spirit of God finds it necessary to do in the hearts of those that shall be saved, true believers are under great obligations, no doubt, to him; but not under peculiar obligations. Many that shall perish. forever, are as much indebted to him as the greatest saints. The songs of salvation in the heavenly world will be sung with joy, but they will not be ascriptions of praise to God
for distinguishing mercy. What greater mercy was bestowed upon them, than upon many in the burning lake, who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, but fell away, never to be recovered to repentance? Peter was not more indebted to God for eternal life than Judas, who heard the sermons of Jesus, and no doubt was a partaker of the Holy Ghost in the same way with others who will, at the last, say, "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wondrous works?" to whom he will say, "Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity."
That our wills are naturally so perverse, and our power to do what is spiritually good is so entirely annihilated in our fallen state, that we cannot believe or repent without the effectual wo king of the divine power to make us partakers of the divine nature, we have already shewed. But there is another doc
trine on which I intend to discourse from this text, namely, That we cannot by moral seriousness, excited to the highest degree which can be expected from men, procure for ourselves a title to that working of the divine power which is necessary for conver
When the pride of the human heart is compelled to leave one of its strong holds, it will retreat to another. When men find that they cannot convert themselves, they will plead
that they can do many things which give them a title in equity, if not in strict justice, to the favor of God. They will so far reform their conduct, that if they cannot plead the righteousness of God as the ground of their hope, they may form a claim to his favor from his goodness, which, they think, would be dishonored if he did not shew his mercy to those who do as well as they can, although they do not all that they should.
We may indeed found valid pleas for favor upon the goodness of God, and upon his righteousness as well as his goodness; but these pleas must be managed by faith in Christ. The promises of the word of God, which "are yea and amen in Christ," are directed. to sinners in general, that they may be warranted to take hold of God's covenant. And God will be unrighteous, to forget or to violate his gracious promise to the meanest or weakest believer in Christ. But where there is no true faith in Christ, men have no actual interest in the promises that are addressed to them. A gift does not make any thing our property when it is not received. Unbelief says to God, Let thy gifts be to thyself.' Can the unbeliever then have any pretence to find fault with God, because he leaves him destitute of those blessings which he bestows in abundance upon them that believe? Could that generation of Israelites which was delivered from the bondage of Egypt, blame the
God of Israel because they were not brought into the promised land? When they found that they must die in the wilderness, they repented of their rebeliion; but the oath of God stood fast, that they should not enter into his rest. Unto us are the glad tidings of rest published, as well as to them, and those who believe do enter into that rest; but unbelievers must come short of it, not because there was not a promise left them of entering into that rest, but because their unbelief rejects the promise, Heb, iv. 1.
That we may more clearly explain the point in question, let us consider,
I. What religious exertions may be found among persons destitute of saving grace.
II. Whether such religious exertions give them any claim upon that grace, which is absolutely necessary to their salvation.
I. What religious inclinations or exertions are to be found in persons destitute of saving grace?
"It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that sheweth mercy." The meaning of these words may be, that men can neither will nor do, till God is pleased to work in them both to will and to do. It is certain, that without divine grace, the will of men, naturally perverse, cannot be truly inclined to faith and holiness. will not come unto me," says Christ, "that ye may have life." These words imply, that