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their own way? How tremendous are these words of our Lord Jesus Christ! "When the evil spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return unto my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they come and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than his first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." That wicked generation enjoyed such means of grace as had never been enjoyed, the ministry of John Baptist, who was greater than any that had been ever born of women before him, and the ministry of Jesus himself. Many were willing for a season to rejoice in the light of John, and came and were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins, and promising to renounce them. Many heard the words of Jesus likewise with joy, and promised to bring forth much fruit. But the impressions made upon them were transient. The devil was, in appearance, cast out of them, and they refused to perform that service to him which they had formerly done. But their religious affections decayed. They forgot that they were purged from their old sins, and plunged themselves deeper than ever in the horrible
pit of iniquity. The Spirit, whom they had vexed and quenched, left them. The devil recovered his former possession, and carried them captive at his will.
Far be it from us, you will say, to entertain the thought of seeking that rest in the gratification of earthly or sensual desires, which can be found only in Christ. But we find ourselves in danger of sinking into despondency from frequent disappointments. We have sought to enter into the way of life, but have not been able; and why should we wait for the Lord any longer?
But why have so many sought to enter in, and have not been able? The great reason why the Jews did not enter in, was because they sought righteousness, not by faith, but by the works of the law. "Labor to enter into God's rest, that you fall not after the same example of unbelief." One great reason why you have not hitherto sought, by faith unfeigned, to enter into the way of life, was, that you entertained secret hopes that you might at last, by your own exertions, obtain what you sought. You were not perhaps sufficiently sensible of the great truths we have been endeavoring to impress upon your minds, your utter inability either to work faith in yourselves, or to do any thing to move the compassion of God, or to merit his favor. Experience of your inability to do, or to merit any thing truly good, may
shut you up to the faith. Commit your way wholly unto the Lord. Look to Christ for power to believe. Attend to his quickening voice. The words which he speaks are spirit and life. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
Have you believed through grace? You see to whom all the glory is to be ascribed. Magnify him who hath done great things for you; and never forget, that not for your sakes but for his own name's sake, he hath made a happy change in your condition. Let that grace which hath done wonders for you be your trust, your joy, your praise. Walk humbly with your God, and shew the truth of your faith, and the efficacy of the doctrine of free grace, by all holy conversation and godliness.
Finally, learn from this subject how needful it is to join earnest prayer to God with all the means that you may use for the conversion and salvation of others. You may persuade them to do many things, as Herod was persuaded by John to do much, but you cannot persuade any man into a state of salvation. Instruct, correct, admonish your children in obedience to God; but do these things under the persuasion, that if they are born again,it must be not of the will ofthe flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Whatever you do for the advantage of any souls
will be of no use but to render them more inexcusable, unless the grace of God maketh effectual; for "it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
-But of God that sheweth mercy. Rom. ix. 16.
WHEN WE Confine our views to ourselves, we find nothing but sorrow and vexation; but when we look to the blessed God, we see light and gladness. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth." If we stop here, we sink into despair. We are utterly lost. We can do nothing to relieve ourselves, or to procure the favor of him who alone can help us. "But of God that sheweth mercy. The sound of mercy is music to our ears, sweet as the songs of angels. Let us rejoice and be glad. The mercy, not of a creature, but of God, is our hope and our exceeding joy.
Of our own utter inability to help ourselves, or to entitle ourselves to favor from God, we have already heard. And if we have been humbled to the dust by the view of our own weakness and worthlessness, we will attend with transports of joy to what
the apostle says concerning the mercy of God. His words in this place teach us, that the free and sovereign mercy of God is the spring of our conversion and salvation.
More particularly, the following instructions are comprehended in this text.
1. That our salvation is to be ascribed to the mercy of God.
2. That the mercy of God shines with a distinguished lustre in our salvation. 3. That this mercy is free. 4. That it is sovereign.
5. That our dependence on the mercy of God for our salvation is a capital doctrine of the Bible, taught by all the inspired writers, from Moses to the last of them.
1. That our salvation is to be ascribed to the mercy of God.
This appears from the account which Scripture gives, and which experience too well confirms, of the misery of our natural condition. We are fallen so low, that nothing but divine power can raise us up; and what but mercy in God, equal to his power, could have moved him to raise us up from that wretched condition which was the just punishment of our unprovoked rebellion against his government? We find the saints in Scripture frequently ascribing to the mercy of God their deliverance from sickness, their preservation in danger, their exaltation from a low to a prosperous condition,