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men cannot believe in Christ, or turn to God, without the effectual working of the mighty power of God, is the same, in effect, with the doctrine of which we now propose to speak. If it be true that we cannot repent or believe unto salvation without the effectual working of divine grace, it must of course be true that none of our attainments, in a natural state, can give us any shadow of title to the grace of God, because no man in his senses can suppose any obligation lying upon the MostHigh to bestow the best of his blessings upon men for works that have no real goodness in them.
I allow that the two doctrines are, in effect, the same, or so nearly related that they must stand or fall together. It is the height of absurdity to suppose that God can be brought under any obligations to bestow upon us a gift as valuable as the heavenly felicity, in consideration of works that are purely the effects of self love, of works done by a man in whom there dwelleth no good thing, and who is in such a wretched condition, that till he is saved by a miracle of grace, he will still add sin to sin, to augment the fierce anger of the Lord. Yet it is far from being needless. to combat a prevailing practical error, because to serious consideration it appears a gross absurdity. The arguments to be used for shewing its unreasonableness will be, in a great measure, the same by which we have proved
the necessity of effectual grace; but it will be proper to shew how they bare upon the subject under our present consideration. May God make what is to be said effectual to cast down the high imaginations of men, that they may bow before the footstool of his throne of grace, and may learn to look for every good thing from his rich and free grace, without pretending to claim as a debt, what must be received as a free gift.
1. Express passages of Scripture shew that God not only performs the work of converting men by his divine power, but that he does it according to his own pleasure. We need not go any farther than our text for a proof. He saith to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion," The same truth is asserted no less plainly in the eighteenth verse," Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth," The obvious sense of these places of Scripture is, that our holiness and salvation depend, not on the will of man, but on the will of God, who doubtless has his reasons for what he does, but finds them in himself, and not in us.
Strong objections start up in the minds of men to this doctrine, and therefore they will endeavor to find some other sense for the apostle's words than we have given them. But let it be observed, that Paul himself knew
that an objection would be started to it, precisely such as may be expected according to our interpretation of them, and in his answer, he is so far from giving a different turn to his meaning, that he plainly takes it for granted to be the true one. "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?" The Lord is the potter, we are the clay. Some of us are made vessels to honor, others to dishonor. The reason of the difference did not lie in the clay, but in the potter. He makes the different vessels according to his own pleasure.
The same truth is evidently taught, Phil. ii. 13. "God worketh in you both to will and to do." Every good principle, every good action is here plainly attributed to the power of God. But how is his power regulated? By his own good pleasure, and not by quali ties found in those in whom he works. The words of John, chap. i. 13. are strongly expressive of this truth."We are born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
2. When we consider the natural sinfulness and misery of man, as it is described from the
Scripture in our Shorter Catechism, it is apparent that we must be converted, if we are at all converted, by the sovereign grace of God.
Such is the power of sin, that nothing can deliver us from this accursed tyrant but the power of God, Matt. xii. 29. and the divine power is never exerted for this end till the day of effectual calling. God may do much for men before the day of his power. The Holy Spirit awakens and convinces them that are to be saved; but his awakening and converting influence is not confined to the elect, nor do those influences upon the elect that precede their conversion change their state. Sin may be powerfully checked, but it is still deeply rooted in the heart, where there is no principle of holiness to oppose it. "Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or else the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruits. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? These words may appear strange to some of you. Cannot an evil man speak good things? Do we not read of some whose words were smoother than oil, although war was in their hearts? Have we not heard men speak good things, of whom we had reason to entertain a very unfavorable opinion? Who could speak better things than Balaam, the son of Beor? And yet our Lord says, that those who are evil cannot speak good things. But it is to be remarked, that good things are evil
things in evil men. Their corruption of heart poisons their best words and actions, for to the defiled and unbelieving there is nothing pure. Thus said the Lord of Hosts to Haggai, his messenger, "Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord, and so is every work of their hands, and that which they offer there is unclean," Hag. ii. 11,-14.
Not only their openly sinful works, but all their works were unclean. Their sacrifices presented on the altar of the Lord were unclean, because their persons were unclean. Although they did not bring blind and lame beasts, like the people in. Malachi's time, although they did not offer them, like Nadab and Abihu, with strange fire, but observed every rite prescribed by the law, their sacrifices could not be accepted till they put away the evil of their doings from before God's eyes. Are you in a state of sin? Whatever desires you feel of deliverance from it, whatever