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times continued so long to hear his gracious words, that they were in danger of fainting through weariness and hunger, although few of them were converted by his ministry.
"Ye did run well," says Paul to the Galatians. He not only says that they run, but that they run well. They heard the apostle's discourses with such pleasure, and thought themselves so greatly indebted to him, for bringing to their ears the glad tidings of salvation, that they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him. Yet he says to them, “I stand in doubt of you." All their uncommon fervor was not sufficient to assure him of their happy condition. If he had seen certain evidences of their conversion, at the time when they were running well, he could not have doubted of the reality of their conversion, because he knew that he who begins the good work will perform it unto the day of Christ.
When Caligula gave orders to set up his own image in the temple of Jerusalem, the whole body of the people were inflamed with such extravagant zeal, that the emperor, who never hesitated, before or after, at the doing of any thing that was frantic or wicked, found it necessary to alter his purpose. He was sensible that they would all rather lose their lives, and sell them at a dear rate, than permit such indignity to be
done to the God of their fathers. This was zeal for God, and it was zeal in a good cause, and yet the men who were so zealous for God were the most determined enemies to Christ and his gospel. in the whole world.
On the whole, you see what necessity there is for a careful search of your hearts and practice, that you may not deceive yourselves with empty appearances of religion. Examine your desires and your performances, whether they are such as characterize the true fearers of the name of God. Men may escape, through the knowlege of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the corruptions that are in the world through lust, and yet continue dogs and swine, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. What will it avail us that we desire to die the death of the righteous, if our latter end be with the uncircumcised that go down to the pit? To what purpose do we run, if we do not keep the path of life? Why should we suffer many things, and do many things in vain? Herod heard John gladly, and did many things because of him. Could all that he had done at the persuasion of John give relief to his mind, when it charged him with the guilt of shedding the blood of a great prophet?
But there is another mistake incident to the hearers of the gospel, which I caution you against. What I mean, is the presumptuous supposition, that although your relig
ious affections and attainments will not prove that you are in a state of grace, they may give you some better title to the grace of God than you had before, or than other sinners of your race. When you are awakened to a sense of your sins, you look about on every side to see if there is any hope for you. When you dare not hope in the mercy of God as a sufficient ground of confidence, you will turn to yourselves, and fondly grasp at every thing in your conduct and experience which may afford the shadow of relief. Your eager desire of comfort, joined to that self esteem which is natural to man, will tempt you to dream that now there is something in you which may embolden your hope in God.What is this but a contrivance of our proud spirit to obtain salvation from the grace of God, and to be as little in its debt as possible? We find that we cannot live wholly by our works, but to beg from God himself we are ashamed; or if we must beg, we will bribe or flatter the Almighty, that we may draw forth his liberality, by such good words, or such small services as we can afford.
The best things will become snares and traps to us, if the Lord himself do not take the direction of our hearts. It is of God's mercy that we are awakened to a consideration of our ways, that we are convinced of the great evil of our sins, that we are disposed to make use of the means of grace. But if we turn the
effects of common operations of the Spirit into grounds of hope in divine grace, we endeavor, in part, to work out a justifying righteousness for ourselves, instead of placing our whole dependence upon that grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
"By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. If it be of grace, it is no more of works," in a lesser or greater degree. Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. God grant that our eyes may be opened to a sense of the infinite distance between God and us, and of the wretchedness of our condition as sinners, that all our hope may be fixed on him who came to save sinners, and of sinners the chief.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy, Rom. ix. 16. that any of onr guilty race are received into the number of the children of God, and entitled to the blessings of salvation. I have already endeavored to give you some account of those religions affections and performances which are consistent with a state of irregeneracy. I proposed,
II. To shew you that our utmost endeav ors, and the most ardent wishes for salvation that are consistent with an unconverted state, give us no title of any kind to a participation of that grace which is necessary for our salvation.
I formerly discoursed on another doctrine from this text, That the almighty grace of God is absolutely necessary for our conversion, which cannot be effectuated by the utmost exertion of our own natural powers. This doctrine I endeavored to prove from the consideration of plain passages of Scripture which assert this truth, from the account which Scripture gives us of the natural state of man, from the very strong expressions used in Scripture to denote the mode of divine operation in the conversion of men, from the promises of conversion found in the Bible, from the account given us in Scripture of the power by which many were converted under the ministry of Christ and his apostles, from the models of prayer and thanksgiving for conversion which we find in Scripture. Many other arguments of unconquerable force might be produced to prove this point, from the plainest declarations of Scripture, and from the other capital doctrines which are every where taught in it.
Perhaps it may be alleged, that when this point is proved, nothing farther remains to be said on the subject. The doctrine, that