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speaketh? or with declaring that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those who reject the gospel? What, inconsistent with exhorting men to “ examine themselves whether
they be in the faith?” and to “ look diligently “lest any man fail of the grace of God?” “ to
give diligence, to make thair calling and election
sure,” and to be careful that no man deceive them, and that they do not deceive themselves ? What, inconsistent with distinguishing between the true christian and the hypocrite? with exhorting cliristians to adorn their profession, to glorify God, to let their light shine before men, to be faithful in the unrighteous mammon, to redeem their time, to walk circumspectly, 'to beware of growing negligent; to press forward, and to be ready to every good work? What inconsistent, with declaring that “ hereby we know the children “ of God, and the children of the devil; every “ one'that doeth not righteousness, is not of God,” Every one that committeth sin is of the devil?”
Finally, what is there inconsistent with discoursing to christians very particularly concerning the christian temper and walk? concerning relative duties and all other duties; and admonishing, persuading, reproving, beseeching, exhorting them, in every method, and by every motive, "" to walk “worthy of God, who bath called them to his
kingdom and glory?" There must be a vast xlisadvantage in arguing against these things,
which are so fully handled in the Scriptures, and are so naturally expressed in scriptural terms: and if we be proved inconsistent, we have this consolation, that every writer in the sacred Scriptures will share the same censure. But in one word, are means any part of God's plan?' If they are not: the argument not only concludes against practical preaching, but against all preaching: and we may give over ploughing our fields, eating our food, and taking medicine. But if means as well as ends are provided for in the divine counsels; then these doctrines form as firm a foundation for all exhortations, instructions, warnings, invitations, and expostulations of the preacher, and for all diligence, and watchfulness, and activity of the hearer, as the opposite tenets: and if true, no doubt
That is, Did God predestinate the end, with or without reference to the means, by which he intended to accomplish it?
* The apostle Paul was assured, in a vision, that the life of every individual who sailed with him should be preserved: yet afterwards he declared as positively, That “ except the seamen " continued in the ship, they could not be saved.” (Acts xxvii. 24. 31.) Was the event then doubtful? Was there any alteration in the purpose of God? Was the apostle inconsistent? Or did the passengers act rationally, when, without hesitation, they went and cut the cords, and let the boat fall into the sea, thus defeating the intention of the sailors?
This was (as a friend observed to me) common sense, which is a very different thing from the vain reasonings of men in matters of religion. The truth is, God determined to save the lives of Paul and those that sailed with him; but he determined to save them in this precise manner, and in no other; and the means were as infallibly decreed as the event.
they give an advantage in enforcing all these topicks; for error can never promote holiness, and truth can never subvert it. Indeed, besides the native tendency of these means, there appears a more close connexion of the means with the blessing, from the consideration that the same Lord who appointed them, hath promised the blessing, and inclines the heart to use them.
And now in applying the subject I would observe,
1. That while numbers argue with the greatest vehemence against the points in question, and groundlessly charge them with implying the most dishonourable thoughts of God, and tending to the most pernicious consequences: others are ready to say, in extravagant zeal, to any one of greater moderation, ' If you really believe these doctrines, why do you preach them so sparingly, cautiously, and practically?'-I would desire such a man carefully to study even St. Paul's Epistles, and to answer the objection himself. Perhaps he may find that there is not a less proportion on such subjects in our sermons and publications, than in his writings; and that he as carefully guards them from abuse, and connects them as much with holy practice, as we can do. We generally meet with a few verses in an Epistle upon the doctrines in question; a much larger proportion upon the person, love, and sufferings
of Christ, and on faith in him; and whole chapters upon a holy life and conversation: and if we do not in the same manner proportion, guard, and connect them, hypocrites will abuse them, infidels will despise them, and the weak will be stumbled. Indeed they are not at all proper subjects to insist on, when we preach to sinners, to prejudiced hearers, or newly-awakened persons; and are seldom if ever found in Scripture explicitly thus addressed: yet a great part of our more publick ministry is exercised among such persons. .
Let it not then be thought carnal policy to adapt our discourses to the occasions and wants of the hearers, while nothing inconsistent with truth is spoken, nothing profitable kept back. Our Lord himself
“I have yet many things to say “ unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:” and Paul writes to some, who were prone to be " wise in their own conceits." "I could not
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but asunto "carnal.--I have fed you with milk, and not with
meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it; “ neither yet are ye now able:” and he gives a reason for this conduct, which proves that many in most congregations are not able; namely the prevalence of strife and contention among them.'
2. God's secret purposes are consistent with his revealed declarations: let then no sinner vainly
11 Cor. ii. 14.
2 Peter iii. 16,
endeavour to excuse his sins, or quiet bis conscience by an abuse of these doctrines. Though the salvation of the righteous is wholly of the Lord, the damnation of the wicked is wholly of themselvęs: and if the lustre of these truths dazzles the eyes of some poor distressed souls, some weak believers or enquirers; let them turn their attention to another part of divine truth. Still, still this is true, “Every one that asketh receiveth, and "he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knock“eth it shall be opened.""
3. How careful should we be to ascertain the reality of our conversion, before we take the comfort of perseverance! An error in this matter proves fatal to thousands, who, mistaking some transient emotions and affections for a saving change, buoy up their hopes to the end by abusing these truths, and perish with “a lie in their right “ hand.” And let it be especially observed, that the scriptural way of making our calling and election sure, is, by giving all diligence, not only in the means of grace, but in following after boliness, and abounding in every good work,
4. The native tendency of these doctrines, (as
"We must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in holy Scripture: and in our doings the will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God. (17th Article.)
* 2 Peter, i. 3-11.