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comply with the gospel, they will never feel their dependence on Him who alone is able to work in them " the whole good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” Nor will they feel disposed, or see the occasion they have, to “ give unto God the glory,” which is indeed " due unto his name,” in their salvation. Accordingly, the depravily, blindness and deadness of mankind, in things of a spiritual nature, and their utter inability to comply with the gospel, as well as to obtain salvation by the deeds of the law, are much inculcated and insisted on in the sacred scriptures.
But then, there is a difficulty in the minds of many, how to reconcile this total helplessness of sinners with the sincerity of the gospel call, or with the justice of men's being condemned and punished, for their impenitence and unbelief. And indeed it does seem as if men could not be to blame, for not doing impossibilities: nor should we, in other cases, think there was much kindness or sincerity in offering a favour on conditions that were known to be impracticable.
There is scarce any one, I believe, that has ever thought much about religion, but what has, at one time or other, felt himself pinched with this difficulty. And it is wont to have a most pernicious influence upon the minds of sinners in general; but more especially when they come to be under awakenings, and begin to enquire, " what they shall do to be saved.” According to what they hear in sermons, yea, and according to what they read in their bibles, they are at a loss to see how the ways of the Lord can be equal.
« The carnal mind," they are told, “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." "And that, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” They are therefore under a necessity of sinning, yea, of doing
nothing else but sin. And yet, “every transgression and disobedience,” is to receive a most dreadfui “recompence of reward,” the wrath of God being "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness dt men.” And no relief, no deliverance from wrath, is to be hoped for through the gospel, but upon impossible conditions : Such conditions às no natui al men, no one who is dead in trespasses and sins ever did, ever will, or can comply with. And yet a non-compliance with these conditions exposes to an amazingly aggravated, additional condemnation ; insomuch that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Go. morrah, in the day of judgment, than for those who enjoy the light of the gospel, and do not embrace the salvation it offers.
But how these things are consistent with reason ; how they can ever be reconciled with the goodness or the justice of God, they are greatly at a loss. Such a view of the matter seems to them to make the most high indeed, what the slothful servant said, a hard master, “ reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed.” Or, like the cruel Egyp. tian task-masters, requiring the full tale of brick without allowing the necessary straw; requiring that of his creatures which he knows exceeds their utmost strength, and then they are beaten; yea, must be punished with everlasting destruction, for not doing what they would do with all their hearts; but it is no more in their power, than it is to make a world.
Now, until this difficulty can be fairly got over in the minds of people, it seems impossible they should, in their consciences, justify God, or condemn themselves as he condemns them. Or that they should understand, either the justice of the divine law, or the grace of the gospel. It is therefore certainly highly necessary, That is, they suppose, if sinners will seek and pray, use the means of grace, and do the best that persons under their circumstances, and having such hearts as they have, may do ; God will not be wanting on his part, or leave them to perish: That if they exert all the strength, and make a good improvement of all the assistance they have, they shall have more and more given them; till in the end they are enabled to obtain mercy, and to lay hold on eternal life. That although there are no absolute promises to such earnest and sincere, though feeble efforts of the unregenerate, yet certainly there are many very precious encouragements; which may indeed, securely enough be relied on. So that, on the whole no sinner is under any real impossibility, of any kind, of obtaining salvation. For every one, let his impotence be as great as it may, can certainly do what he can, And if upon his doing this, God will not fail to help, as to what he cannot do ; then every one may be saved, whatever sin and weakness, or depravity he labours under, notwithstanding. Nor do they see how we can vindicate the divine justice, or fairly cast the blame of the sinner's perdition on him. self, without supposing such a universal sufficiency of
grace as this.
Now, if this can be made out to be really the case, that all are actually, and in every view, enabled to do those things which are certainly connected with eternal life, there will be no difficulty, perhaps with any one, to see that the ways of the I.ord are equal. For according to this there seems to be no respect of persons with God, even in the distribution of his freest favours, any more than in his judicial proceedings. The difference between him that is saved, and him that perisheth, not originating from any inequality in the bestowment of divine grace; but solely from the better it;
improvement one sinner makes of the same grace, than another does.
But, I am afraid, it will be as hard to reconcile this way of solving matters with the scriptures, and with the truth of fact, as it is the former, with reason. Certainly the scriptures seem to speak a language quite different from this. In them we are taught, “ That it is God that maketh one man to differ from another, for the better, and not he himself. That it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” and “ that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth.” And in our text, our Saviour accounts for the murmuring and opposition of the unbelieving Jews, by making this observation to his disciples upon
no man can come unto me, except the Father who hath sent me, draw him." By which he evidently meant to intimate, that the conduct of his opposers, considering what human nature was, was not to be wondered at. That they acted no otherwise than all other men would, if left to themselves as they were. That those who now followed and obeyed him, would never have come to him, or become his disciples, had it not been for a gracious divine influence upon their minds, which was not granted to those murmurers and opposers; had they not been effectually drawn by him in whose hand are the hearts of men, and who turneth them as rivers of water are turned. We are plainly taught in this text, taken in the connection in which it stands, as we are also in a multitude of other places that men do not first distinguish themselves, by hearkening to the calls of the gospel; but it is God that makes one to differ from another, in this respect, by his sovereign and distinguishing grace. The point of