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upon them to believe in Jesus to the remis sion of their sins; but warns them that they must perish with a double destruction if they despised the word of grace. "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. But beware lest that come upon you which is written in the prophets, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though a man told it unto you," Acts xiii.
Do you hear ministers explaining and enforcing the duties of the law? Hear with reverence and faith. Behold your face in that glass which is set before you, See what need you have to be washed in that fountain which is opened to you for sin and uncleanness. Do you hear them speaking of the excellent glories of the holiness and majesty of God? See what need you have of a better righteousness than your own, that you may come without terror into the presence of him before whom the heavens are not pure. Do they speak of the person, the offices, the blood, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? What precious encouragements to faith are set before you! Are you not filled with indignation at that evil heart of unbelief which keeps you in your perishing state, at a distance from one so able, so willing to save you? Will you suffer such precious truths to slip away from your minds, without looking to
Jesus for salvation, without earnest endeavors to commit your souls to him, who is in every respect so well fitted to be the object of your confidence? When you hear the motives and obligation to faith set before your eyes, endeavor to understand and feel the constraining power of these motives, that you may not be found enemies to God and to yourselves.
The reading of the word of God is another means of salvation; and although the preaching of the word is necessary, and is ordinarily blessed by God for conversion, yet the entrance of the word read, as well as preached, has often given light and understanding to the simple. The Bereans are commended for joining the reading to the hearing of the word. They received the word preached, with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, Acts xvii. 12. Wherefore were eyes given us? Wherefore were we taught to read; Will not our eyes, and the privileges of our education, testify against us before the tribunal of our Judge, if our Bible is neglected? But if we read, and do not obey and believe, the Bible itself will be a swift witness against us.
Religious converse is a means of salvation. Be swift to hear. The words of the wise are pleasant and healing words. "The man who walketh with wise men shall be wise, for the
fruit of the righteous is like the fruit of the tree of life. What knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife? What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?" While we labor that we may not fall after the same example of unbelief spoken of Heb. iii. 4. we are required to exhort one another daily, lest any of us should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Pray for faith, and for that salvation which you are called to receive by faith, and be not moved by those vain reasonings which some zealots for their own peculiarities set in direct opposition to plain directions of the Spirit of God." O Israel," says God to a very wicked generation of men, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn unto the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, so will we render the calves of our lips." They are indeed required, in taking these words, to return unto the Lord by faith in Christ, and repentance towards God; but they are not required to make sure work that they have received grace to believe, and repent before they take these words into their mouths. If God enable you to use such words, with those sentiments and affections. which they are intended to excite, the great work is accomplished. The prayer of faith is presented to God, and is graciously heard.
But this is your fear, perhaps, that although you have taken these words into your mouths, and endeavored to make them the expressions of your sincere desires, still you apprehend that the inward exercise of your minds is not suitable to them. This may be a mistake originating in your own anxiety. The disci ples, when they saw Jesus with their eyes after his resurrection, would not believe their own senses, but thought they had seen a spirit; and when he had shewed them his hands and feet, they still believed not for joy, and wondered, till by eating in their presence he banished every remaining doubt. They may, their first conversion, have thought it impossible that what was done in them and by them should be a reality. They called unto God, and he answered them, and yet they would not believe that he had hearkened unto their voice.
Yet it may be true that you have often attempted in vain to present this prayer, or other prayers of the like import, to God, and it is certainly much to be desired to know whether you have prayed in faith or not.But there is another thing no less necessary to persuade yourselves of, that your obligation to believe on Christ is not suspended on the resolution of this question. Whether your faith hitherto is only such a faith as many are possessed of that afterwards fall away, or the faith of God's elect, it is unquestiona
ble that it is still your duty to believe. you had been ten thousand times disappointed in your expectations, that the Spirit would work powerfully in you by his word, when you were endeavoring to make it the ground. of your hope, still endeavour to believe and pray, and say not, like the wicked king of Israel, "This evil is of the Lord, why should I wait for the Lord any longer ?" Do you not remember our Lord's parable for your encouragement to pray without ceasing ? Luke xviii. Even the unjust judge, who neither feared God nor regarded man, did justice to the widow that wearied him with her importunities. He did not value the woman; he was angry with her because she would give him no rest : and yet her importunities had the desired effect. And may not God regard his own ordinance of importunate prayer, although prayer, as it comes from your vile mouths, cannot be pleasing to him? Why does he pre scribe forms of prayer for unconverted persons? Certainly for a good and merciful reason. When Ephraim came before him with those petitions which God prescribed for him, Jer. xxxi. 18. he is heard, he is instructed, he is powerfully disposed to repent. He hears from God the language of more than parental tenderness. "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled