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to have lost its former power. sual lusts become bitter and loathsome, by the impressions of the law upon their consciences, enmity against the purity of the law, which 18 the same thing as enmity against the holy God; rages with uncontroled violence. This Paul himself found to be the case when he was under the convincing power of the law. What worlds would he not then have given for salvation? and yet he was so far from thinking that he had any claim to it from God that his heart appeared to himself a strong hold of devils, Rom. vii. 8,-14. "Sin, by the commandment, became exceeding sinful," and death had possession of his soul.
Facts are unanswerable arguments. It is toɔ certain that many have sought to enter in at the strait gate, and have not been able; that many have sought after the law of righteousness, and have not attained to the law of righteousnes, Luke xiii. 24. Rom. ix. 30. The seed of the word has sprung up, and promised rich fruit in many, and yet when the day of trial came, it has come to nothing, Luke viii.
I have heard of a gentleman who felt, in a season of dangerous sickness, great terror at the review of his former life, and was advised to send for the minister of the parish, who might be able to set his mind at rest The minister came. The gentleman told him, that if God would be pleased to preserve him from death, his conduct should be the reverse
of what it had been. He would regularly attend church; he would catechize his servants; he would regularly worship God in his family, and in his closet; he would, in short, do every thing a good Christian would do. His wishes were accomplished. He was thankful for his deliverance, and did not forget his promises. For many months he continued, as far as his conduct could be judged by the world, to perform his vows. At last, however, he thought so much religion superfluous. He first left off the duties of the closet and family. Public duties at last became likewise too wearisome, and he became again the same man he formerly was. After some time he was again seized with a dangerous distemper, and was advised by his friends to send again for the minister, that he might afford fresh consolation to his wounded spirit. No, said he; after breaking all the promises. I made to God, I cannot expect mercy from him. Death found him in this unhappy state of mind, and carried him to that world where there are no changes.
This story, with some variations of no consequence, may be told of thousands. Impressions are made upon the minds of sinners which are attended with visible consequences that give rise to favorable hopes; but these hopes are illusions. Their "goodness is like the morning cloud, and like the carly dew that passeth away." When the
Lord slew the children of Israel, "then they sought him, and they returned and enquired early after God. And they remembered that the Lord had been their rock, and the High God their redeemer; yet they lied unto God. with their mouths, and flattered him with their tongues." They did. not intentionally lie. They seemed frequently to have been sincere. in their promises, not indeed with "a godly sincerity," 2 Cor. i. 12. yet" their hearts were not right with God, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." Psal. lxxviii. 34-37.
This doctrine, that man can have no claim upon God by any thing he can do, is so plain from Scripture and reason, that the truth of it can scarcely be denied in words, by any considerate person; and yet it is more necessary to be spread out to view, and confirmed by arguments, than some doctrines less generally acknowledged, because the operation of it is opposed by that pride, which is natural to the human heart, and the contrary error may have a secret influence upon those who confess the truth, and may be very pernicious to their souls when it is not discerned. As all men know that they must. die, and yet all men (as the poet says) think all men mortal but themselves," so all sound Protestants confess that they must be justified freely, without any cause in themselves, through the grace of God; and yet, if they are left under the guidance of their own de
ceitful hearts, they hope to recommend themselves to God's pity by something in themselves. They will do all they can, and Christ will supply their lack of service.
There is a distinction made in the doctrine of the church of Rome, between the merit of condignity, and the merit of congruity. And those who think the former too high an attainment for sinful mortals, allow of the latter. They will not say, that man can deserve any thing from God in justice; but he may however be entitled in equity to his favor. He can perform such services, that although he could expect no recompense, if God were strictly just to demand a proper price for his favors, yet he cannot, without impairing the glory of his goodness, withhold an abundant reward. But those who renounce in words the whole doctrine of merit, hold it in reality, if they imagine that it would be unworthy of the divine generosity, not to give them that salvation, which they labor by all means in their power to obtain.
"Who hath first given to the Lord, and it shall be recompensed to him again?" Say not, that though your goodness cannot reach unto him, yet he cannot refuse to give you what you seek, because you can plead his own word. "Seek, and ye shall find." His word is true and faithful. But what is the meaning of it? Are your prayers and duties such as are meant in these words? "Many shall seek to enter in
and shall not be able." This is no less a true saying of God, than the words on which you ground your plea; and from the two passages compared, it will appear, that there are two very different ways of seeking God. Many have cried aloud to God, and he would not hear them, although he never forsook them that truely sought him. "All that call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," Rom. x. 11. This is a text of the same import with the words of our Lord, “Seek, and ye shall find;" but mark Paul's comment upon it: "How then shall they call on him, on whom they have not believed?" Faith in Christ is essentially necessary to acceptable prayer; James i. 5. and therefore God is true to his promise, and answers the prayers of all faithful petitioners, whether he bestows his grace on unbelievers, or withholds it after all the exertions they can make in the use of the best means for obtaining it.
God deceives no man. If men deceive themselves, they must bear the consequences of their own folly. When they read of God's regard to the voice of prayer, if they apply what is said to what they are pleased to call prayer, although it may be an abomination to the Lord, they are not trusting to his word, but to their own misrepresentations of it. The prayer of faith is his delight; but surely the prayer of unbelievers cannot be entitled to his acceptance, for he that believeth not is under the wrath of God,