« PreviousContinue »
accepting it, this side of eternity. They are not merely unwilling to be saved, but extremely unwilling to be saved. They are so unwilling, that no temporal good that God can bestow upon them, can make them willing; that no eternal good he can offer to them, can make them willing; and that no eternal evil he can threaten to them, can make them willing. They had rather die than live; they choose eternal death rather than eternal life. God has been so willing to save them, and done so much for them to demonstrate his sincere and ardent desire to save them, that he has set their unwillingness to be saved in the most visible and striking light. He has a right to ask them, and to ask the whole universe What more could I have done to save my incorrigible enemies, that I have not done? What more could he have done for Pharaoh ? What more could he have done for those whom he miraculously led through the Red Sea, and fed, and clothed, and preserved, in the dreary wilderness where they fell ? What more could he have done for Judas, whom he allowed to live with Christ and his apostles ? What more can he do for sinners at this day, than to preserve their lives, pour continual instructions into their minds, wait to be gracious to them, and fill their hearts and their houses with the bounties of providence? Let the conduct of sinners speak; let the conduct of God speak; and the voice of conduct will finally be heard. The conduct of God will confirm the sincerity of his solemn declaration, “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." But the conduct of impenitent and incorrigible sinners will proclaim the insincerity of their pretensions, of being more willing to be saved than God was willing to save them. Hence,
7. We learn the astonishing grace of God in making any sinners willing to be saved. The grace of God, indeed, appears in every step he takes in actually saving sinners; but it appears more visible and illustrious in some steps than in othHis
grace appears in giving his Son to die for sinners. His
grace appears in his free and universal offers of salvation to sinners. His grace appears in the peculiar and powerful means which he uses to bring sinners to repentance. But he gives a brighter and more glorious display of his sovereign grace, in changing the hearts of sinners after they have abused all previous acts of his grace, in providing salvation for them, in offering salvation to them, in calling upon them by his word and providence to accept of salvation. It is conquering grace, which overcomes not only their unworthiness, but their unwillingness and obstinacy, at the very time they were resolved to destroy themselves. Renewing grace is, in the strictest sense,
special, irresistible grace. It demonstrates that God is infinitely more willing to save sinners than they are to be saved. It is subduing their unwillingness, and making them willing in the day of his power to be saved. It is softening the heart of one, while he is hardening the heart of another. It is forming one a vessel of honor, while he is forming another a vessel of dishonor. It is displaying the riches of his grace upon one, while he is fitting another for destruction. God's making the unwilling to be willing to be saved, is the most special, sovereign, discriminating act of grace that he ever displays in the salvation of sinners. And it ought to fill the subjects of it with the sincerest and warmest gratitude to the God of all grace.
The subject now calls upon every one to inquire, whether he has been made to experience the renewing grace of God. He has, you know, graciously provided a Saviour for you, tendered salvation to you, and gives you a day of grace and space for repentance; and perhaps, made you to see your danger and guilt. But has he made you willing to be saved ?
THE NATURE AND EFFECT OF DIVINE TEACHING,
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father,
cometh'unto me. - JOEN, vi. 45.
The mere outward means of religious instruction have never had a saving effect upon the minds of men. This has been verified in all ages, and in all nations of the world. The works and providence of God are proper means of religious instruction, which have been afforded to all mankind; but they have not received much knowledge of divine things from them. In addition to these means of divine instruction, God gave the Jews his word, his ordinances, bis priests, and his extraordinary prophets; and yet, notwithstanding all these means of light, when our Saviour appeared among them, he found them enveloped in gross darkness. Though he referred them to plain prophecies respecting himself, yet they could not discover his character, nor perceive his divine mission. And though he plainly told them that he came into the world to save sinners, yet they could not be persuaded to come to him, and rely upon him for salvation. This, he knew, was owing to their moral impotency, which flowed from their moral depravity, and therefore he said unto them, “ No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." But, at the same time, he informed them in the words of the text, that God could make them able and willing to come to him for life. 6 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” These words lead us to consider two things.
I. How God teaches men; and,
I. Let us consider how God teaches men. The inspired writer evidently supposes that God teaches in a manner different from all other teachers. The works of God and the creatures of God may be said to teach, but yet they do not teach like God himself. He has a peculiar way of teaching, which is superior to all other teaching. To be taught of God is something very different from being taught of men. So Christ intimated to Peter, when he acknowledged his divinity. “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” The question then which still lies before us, is, How does God himself teach mankind ? To this I answer,
1. He teaches them by bringing divine and invisible objects near to them. Men have the power of describing, but not of presenting divine and spiritual objects to the mind. Men are naturally disposed to put these objects far away out of their sight. If they think of God and of invisible and eternal realities, they do not realize their relation to them, and connection with them; but view them as objects at a great distance, with which they have little or no concern. But when God teaches men concerning himself, he draws near to them, and draws them near to himself, so that they cannot help realizing his being and presence. And when he teaches them concerning things unseen and eternal, he makes them realize that there is such a place as heaven, and such a place as hell, and that they stand upon the verge of eternity, and know not how soon they may be called into it. Men may describe the divine perfections, but God can show them to sinners. He can bring his power, his wisdom, his justice, his sovereignty, and his mercy so near to them, as to make them feel their reality and weight from day to day and from week to week. Men may describe the righteousness, holiness and goodness of the divine law. But God can bring it home to the conscience, and cause sinners to realize the infinite weight and authority of its awful sanctions. He can make them sensible that it is a living law of the ever living God, which never has been repealed or abated, but stands in full force, and clothed with all the authority of the supreme Sovereign of the universe. Men can describe the vanity of the world, and all its enjoyments. But God can show sinners the world just as it is, in comparison with the great objects of eternity, and cause them to realize that it is vanity of vanities, and lighter than a feather in contrast with eternity. Men can describe the heart and lives of sinners; but God can turn their attention inward, and make them see their hearts and lives in all their criminality and ill desert. They
naturally overlook themselves, and are strangers to their hearts and the nature of their conduct. But when God teaches them, he makes them realize the corruption of their hearts, and the criminality of their lives.
2. God teaches men, by operating upon their minds, as well as by bringing divine objects near to their view. He does both these things at once. While he brings divine objects near, he opens all the powers and faculties of their minds to attend to them. He opens their understanding to perceive clearly the truths and objects he presents to their view. As he opened the understanding of the two disciples to understand Christ's teaching, so he opens the understandings of sinners, whom he teaches the truth concerning his own character, law, and government. He makes them understand what he has said concerning himself, and concerning themselves, in his word. He causes them to realize that he is what he has said he is, and that they are what he has said they are; that he is just in requiring them to love and serve him, and that they are guilty in refusing to love and serve him ; that they stand condemned by the law they have broken, and are constantly exposed to deserved destruction. He opens their understanding to perceive the full meaning of these great and solemn truths which they had often heard, but never clearly understood and regarded. He not only enlightens their understanding, but awakens their conscience to do its office; and teaches them what is right and what is wrong, what is duty and what is sin. He takes away the mists and clouds which their corrupt heart had thrown over their conscience, and makes it speak with authority, in approving and condemning according to truth. Thus he awakened the conscience of the malefactor on the cross, who had long remained stupid and blind to his own character and condition. His conscience constrained him to feel and say that he deserved both temporal and eternal death. Those who had resisted the light and truth which Christ had exhibited before them by his miracles, and by his conversation and preaching, were taught of God to see and feel their danger and guilt, by a divine influence upon their understanding and conscience. God awakened their conscience, which condemned them for their aggravated guilt in crucifying the Lord of glory, of whose person, character and gracious design, they had been voluntarily and criminally ignorant. After Paul had blindly and obstinately resisted the knowledge of Christ and of himself, God enlightened his understanding, and awakened his conscience, to know and feel the truth respecting Christ and himself; which threw him into the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. But after God