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necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." Founded on the truth, St. Paul thus warns the Christian converts to whom he wrote:"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."*" Quench not the Spirit."+
How pathetically does the God of all grace expostulate with his fallen creatures "Why will ye die, O house of Israel ?" "O! that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." "O! that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me and keep all my commandments, always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever." "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."
Impressed with a deep sense of the blessedness of obedience, how solemnly, yet affectionately, does David charge his son Solomon: "And thou Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imagination of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever." Thus, all who perish, perish through wilful disobedience to the divine command. The sinner will be condemned, because he wilfully rejected the offers of mercy, so lovingly made to him, through Christ in the Gospel; because he stifled the convictions of the Spirit; because his will was uniformly opposed to the will of God. "This," said our Lord to Nicodemus, "is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their . Ephes. iv. 30. +1 Thess. v. 19.
deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." St. Paul declares: "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be:""to be carnally-minded is death."
How, then, comes it to pass that any are saved? Because God is love. "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Thus the Holy Spirit overcomes the natural enmity of the will, and influences the sinner, by enlightening his understanding, to choose the way of life, opened to him through the Atonement of Christ, as revealed in the Gospel.
But, does the Spirit of God never force the will of the sinner to accept of salvation? No, never. The sinner is not dragged against his will to the foot of the Cross, but he is drawn thither through the sweet constraining power of love. "It is in the nature of the will, to will freely whatsoever it wills; for the will cannot be compelled." Compulsion and willingness are directly opposed to each other. God, therefore, in the conversion of sinners, acts upon them, by his grace, not as machines, but as rational creatures. If man chooses death, it is owing to his moral depravity, and the fault is entirely his own, because he wills it, as a free agent. "I have loved
strangers, and after them I will go. But if he chooses life, it is through the enlightening and awakening influences of the Spirit of God, who worketh in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. Yet, be it ever remembered, the choice is his own. It is
* Jer. ii. 25.
the voluntary act of the renewed will;-" When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”* So, when Saul was converted, he cried out-"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" He was now made willing in the day of God's power to perform a cheerful and willing obedience.
If the view now taken of man's condition here, be scripturally correct, we must come to this conclusion that man is a free agent, a responsible being, justly chargeable with the guilt of wilfully refusing the offers of divine mercy through Christ; and yet, that it is wholly of grace, if he become willing to accept of these offers and is finally saved.
Fallen man, if left to himself, would never love God; he would never come to God; his rebellious will would for ever oppose his approach to God. On this account it was, that the Redeemer said: “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life,”—and, "No man can come unto me except the Father who hath sent me draw him." "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out."
Now, O my soul! praise the Lord, who hath showed thee in his word these precious truths. Use the means which he hath appointed for obtaining the blessings of salvation. Go to thy God through Jesus Christ. Beg earnestly the pardon of thy sins through his atoning blood. Implore the Spirit's aid to illuminate thy mind, to rectify thy will, to purify thy affections, to take away the serpent's enmity, the serpent's poison from thy heart, to guide thee into all truth, to give thee an unshaken faith in the Saviour, a delight in holiness, a cleaving unto God while life and being last.
But, O my soul, never dare to fathom with thy scanty line the deep things of God. While standing on the brink of the vast profound, unite with Paul in his self-abasing exclamation: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and know
* Psa. xxvii. 8.
ledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." And with David : Thy judgments are a great deep." "Thy way in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known." Act upon this great truth, that the mysteries of redemption are revealed to us as objects of faith, not as subjects for doubtful disputation. They are made known to us for our salvation, not for the indulgence of unhallowed speculation. Vain man would be wise, but "the world by wisdom knew not God." "All thy children shall be taught of God and great shall be the peace of thy children, is the sweet promise made to the Church in every age. Eve wished to be wiser than infinite wisdom ordained, and her knowledge was dearly bought. Eden, with all its holiness and happiness, its peace and joy, was lost; a thorny wilderness, with cares and sorrows, disease and death, became her portion. Learn, then, O my soul! to bow with child-like submission before the Great Eternal. Though clouds and darkness veil his vast designs, Judgment and Justice form the basis of his throne:
"Not angels that stand round the Lord
Can search his secret will,
Yet they perform his heavenly word,
Go, and do thou likewise, relying on Him who hath said, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
VIII. SALVATION BY GRACE.
"By grace are ye saved."—Ephes. ii. 8.
AWFUL Would have been the condition of fallen man, had he been left to work out his deliverance by the Covenant of works. The command,-Do this, and
live, as well as the threatening,-Transgress and die, -would have fast barred the door of hope against him. If his conformity to the divine law had been the only way of escape, despair would have made him its prey, and his doleful cry would have been: Farewell glory and happiness; farewell heaven for ever!
But, blessed be God, adored be his grace, he has not left us in this hopeless, helpless, and undone condition. By his Gospel he has revealed Himself to us as a just God and a Saviour; just, and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus. A way of escape is now opened to us through the Cross of Christ. A city of refuge is prepared to receive every trembling sinner who is pursued by the avenger of blood. Lord! I feel more and more that I am a sinner; yea, the chief of sinners. Every day brings fresh proof of my corruption, and lays me in the dust before thee. My just desert is everlasting burning; nothing less than this do I deserve; nothing more than this can I ever merit. Lord, my name is sinner; my nature is depravity; my heart is sin itself. What, then, can I hope for, when I thus contemplate myself, but repulsion from thy presence, when I appear before Thee seated on thy throne of Justice, surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand pure and happy spirits. These angelic beings will acknowledge the justice of that sentence which frowns me into hell. O! my God, and is this indeed my dreadful state by nature? Alas! it is. But on this darkened cloud, whose bosom is filled with elements of destruction, shines the bow of mercy. In the midst of the earthquake, the whirlwind, and the fire, I hear a still small voice, speaking accents of grace, and, bidding me not to fear, only to believe. O! my soul, can this be true? Does mercy rejoice against judgment. Can God be gracious to the vilest of the vile, and yet remain unsullied in his holiness, uninjured in his justice? Can he receive sinners, and yet manifest his hatred against sin? Well may angels desire to look into these things.