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ance of Esther's request, and in the favour of the king unto her, and all this ordered by the immutable and efficacious providence of God (which moderates and guides causes and effects of all sorts to his own fore-appointed ends) for the deliverance of his people from that intended slaughter determined against them, the execution whereof would evidently have avoided that great promise of their returning out of captivity after seventy years: with relation unto which promise their deliverance at this time was, in regard of God's truth and purpose, necessary, though in regard of second causes, brought about by a cumulation of contingencies. In like manner, when the hearts of men do voluntarily dedicate and submit themselves to the kingdom of Christ, if we look upon it with relation unto the Spirit of grace, which is the principium quo,' the formal virtue, whereby it is wrought,--so it is an effect of power, and, as it were, an act of conquest; and yet look upon it with relation to the heart itself, which is principium quod,' the material efficient cause thereof; and so it is a most free, sweet, connatural action, exactly tempered to the exigency of the second cause, and proceeding therefrom with most exact delight, answerable to the measure of the grace of illumination, or spiritual evidence in the mind; whereby our natural blindness, prejudices, and mispersuasions may be removed ;—and to the measure of the grace of excitation, assistance, and co-operation in the heart, whereby the natural frowardness and reluctancy thereof may be subdued.
In one word, there are but three things, requisite to make up a free and voluntary action. First, It must be "cum judicio rationis,' with a preceding judgement. Secondly, It must be 'cum indifferentia ;' there must be an internal indeterminateness and equal disposition of itself unto several extremes. Thirdly, it must be cum dominio actus;' the will must have the power of her own work. And all these three do sweetly consist with the point of the text, That the heart is made willing to obey Christ by an act of power.
For, First, this power we speak of, is only the power of the Word and Spirit, both which do always work in the ordinary course of God's proceeding by them with men, secundum judicium,' by way of judgement and conviction, by a way of teaching and demonstration, which is suitable to a rational faculty.
Secondly, Which way soever the will is, by the Spirit of grace, directed and persuaded to move, it still retains an habitual or internal habitude unto the extremes; so that if it should have moved towards them, that motion would have been as natural and suitable to its condition, as this which it followeth: for the determination of the act, is no extinguishment of the liberty thereunto.
Thirdly, When the Spirit, by power of the word of grace, doth work the will in us, yet still the will hath the dominion of its own act; that is, it is not servilely or compulsorily thereunto overswayed, but worketh ‘ex motu proprio,' by a self-motion, unto which it is quickened and actuated by the sweetness of divine grace, as the seed of that action; according to that excellent known speech of St. Austin, “ Certum est nos velle cum volumus, sed Deus facit ut velimus." Thus we see how the subjection of Christ's people unto his kingdom, is a voluntary act in regard of man's will, and an act of power in regard of God's spirit, inwardly illightening the mind with the spiritual evidence, not only of the truth, but the excellency and superlative goodness of the gospel of Christ; and inwardly touching the heart, and framing it to a lovely conformity and obedience thereunto.
The ground of this point, why there is an act of power required to conquer the wills of sinners unto Christ, is that notable enmity, stoutness, reluctancy, rebellion, weariness, averseness ; in one word, fleshliness which possesseth the wills of men by nature : such forwardness unto evil, so much frowardness against good, such a spring and bias from private ends and worldly objects, such fears without, such fightings within, such allurements on the right hand, such frowns and affrightments on the left; such depths of Satan, such hellish and unsearchable plots of principalities and powers, to keep fast and faithful to themselves, this chief mistress of the soul of man; such sly and soaking, such furious and fiery temptations, to flatter or to fright it away from Christ; such strong prejudices, such deep reasonings, such high imaginations, such scornful and mean conceits of the purity and power of the ways of Christ, such deceitfulness of heart, such mispersuasions and presumptions of our present peace, or, at least, of the easiness of our future reformation, such strong surmises of carnal hopes which will be prevented, or worldly dangers incurred, or private ends disappointed; such lusts to be denied, such members to be hewed off, such friends to be forsaken, such passions to be subdued; such certain persecutions from the world, such endless solicitations of Satan, such irreconcilable contentions with the flesh; in the midst of all these pull-backs, how can we think the will should escape and break through, if God did not send his Spirit, as once the angel unto Lot", to lay hands upon it, while it lingers and hankers after its wonted course, to use a merciful conquest' over it, and, as the Scriptures express it, to leads it, to draw' it, to take it by the arm", to carry it in his bosom *, to bear it as an eagle her young ones y on her wings; nay, by the terrors of the Lord, and the power of his Word and wrath, to pull and snatch it as a brand out of the fire ? ? Certainly, there is so much extreme perverseness, so much hellishness, and devilish antipathy to God and his service, in the heart, by nature, that if it were left to its own stubbornness to kick and rebel, and fall back and harden itself, and were not set upon by the grace of Christ, no man living would turn unto him, or make use of his blood. By the same reason that any one man perisheth, every man would too,-hecause in all, there is as fundamental and original enmity to the ways of grace, as there is in any.
The consideration whereof may justly humble us, in our reflection upon ourselves, whom neither the promises of Heaven can allure, nor the blood and passion of Christ persuade, nor the flames of Hell affright from our sins, till the Lord, by the sweet and gracious power of his holy Spirit, subdue and conquer the soul unto himself. If a man should rise from the dead, and truly relate unto the conscience, the woful and everlasting horrors of Hell; if a man's natural capacity were made as wide to apprehend the wrath, fury, and vengeance of a provoked God, the foulness, guilt, and venom of a soul, fuller of sins than the Heaven of stars, as the most intelligent devils of Hell do conceive them; if an archangel or seraphim should be sent from Heaven to reveal unto the soul of a natural man, the infinite glory of God's presence, the full pleasures of his right hand, the admirable beauty of his ways, the intimate conformity and resemblance between his divine nature in himself, and the image of his holiness in the creature, the unsearchable and bottomless love of Christ in bis incarnation and sufferings, the endless incomprehensible virtue and preciousness of his blood and prayers ;-yet so desperately evil is the heart of man, that if, after all this, God should not afford the blessed operation and concurrence of his own gracious Spirit, the revelation of his own arm and power upon the soul, to set on those instrumental causes,—it would be invincible by any evidence, which all the cries and flames of Hell, which all the armies and hosts of Heaven, were able to beget. There is no might or power, able to snatch a man out of the hands of his sin, but only God's spirit. Notable are the expressions which the Holy Ghost everywhere useth to set forth this wretched condition of the heart by nature: Wilfulness and self-willedness ;
u Hosea xi.3.
I Gen. xix. 16. x Isai. xl. 11.
s Rom. vii. 14.
t John vi. 44.
& Jude ver. 23.
“ We will not hearken, we will not have this man to reign over us ";"-- Jeanuatu, many wills in one: Rebellion and stubbornness, stoutness of hearts, contestation with God, and gainsaying his Word; impudence, stiffness, and hard heartedness', mischievous profoundness, and deep reasonings against the law of God"; pertinacy, resolvedness, and abiding in mischief ; they hold fast deceit, obstinacy, and self-obduration, “They have hardened their necks, that they might not hear h:" Impotency, immovableness, and undocileness, -“ their heart is uncircumcised, they cannot bear, there is none that understandeth or seeketh after Godi." scorn and slighting of the messages of the Lord; “Where is his Word ? Where is the promise of his coming k?"-Incredulity and belying the Lord in his Word, saying, it is not he: “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed '?”—Wrestling, resisting, and fighting with the Word, rejecting the counsel of God, vexing and striving with his holy Spirit; “ Ye have always resisted the Holy Ghost m:"_Rage and fierceness of disordered affections, despising of goodness, traitorous, heady, and highminded thoughts": Brutishness of immoderate lusto, the untamed madness of an enraged beast, without restraint of reason or moderation : In one word, a Hell and gulf of unsearchable mischiefe, which is never satisfied. It is impossible that any reasonable man, duly considering all these difficulties, should conceive such a heart as this, to be overcome with mere moral persuasions, or by any thing less than the mighty power of God's own grace. To him, therefore, we should willingly acknowledge all our conversion and salvation. So extremely impotent are we, O Lord, unto any good, so utterly unprofitable, and unmeet for our master's use, and yet so strongly hurried by the impulsion of our own lust towards Hell, that no precipice, nor danger, no hope, nor reward, no man or angel is able to stop us, without thine own immediate power; and therefore “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name” only be attributed the glory of our conversion.
a Gen. xlix. 6. Jer. vi. 17. xliv. 15. Luke xix. 27. Ephes. ii. 3. bl Sam.
c Mal. jii. 13. d Rom. ix. 19. x. 21. e Ezek. ii. 3, 4. f Has. v. 2. 2 Cor. x. 5. 8 Jer. vii. 27. viii. 5, 6. xviii. 18. h Jer. xix. 15. Zech, vii. II. i Jer. vi, 10. Rom. iii. ll. 2 Thes. iii. 2. Isai, i. 3. k Jer. xvii. 15. 2 Chr. xxx. 10. 2 Pet. iii. 4.
1 Isai. lii. 1. Jer. v. 12.
Again, By this consideration we should be provoked to stir up and call together all our strength in the Lord's service, to recover our mispent time, to use the more contention and violence for the kingdom of Heaven, when we consider how abundant we have been in the works of sin, in the pursuing of vast desires which had neither end nor hope in them. O how happy a thing would it be, if men could serve God with the same proportion, and vigour, and willingness of mind, as they served Satan and themselves before! I was never tired in that way; I went on indefatigably towards Hell, like a swift dromedary, or an untamed heifer; I pursued those evil desires, which had vanity for their object, and misery for their end, no fruit but shame, and no wages but death. But, in the service of Christ, I have a price before me, an abiding city, an enduring substance, an immarcescible crown to fix the highest of my thoughts upon. I have the promises of Christ to strengthen me, his angels to guard, his Spirit to lead, his Word to illighten, me. In one word, I have a soul to save, and a God to honour. And why should
m Gen. vi. 3. Luke vii. 20. Isai. Ixiii. 10. Acts vii. 51. Rom. i. 29, 31. o Jer. ii. 24. viii. 6. Hos. viii. 9.
n 2 Tim. iii. 2, 3, 4. P Jer. xvii. 9. Habak,