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effect. Now, we having, by our own fault, disabled ourselves; shall God lose his right of requiring our talk, because we have thrown. away the strength he gave us, wherewithal to perforin it? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money, because the debitor has squandered it away, and is not able to pay him? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do;, we need no more to save us from wrath, but to make ourselves unable for every duty, and to incapacitate ourselves for serving of God any manner of 'vay, as profanc men frequently do: and fo the deeper one is immersed in sin, he will be the more secure from wrath; for where God can require no duty of us, we do not fin in o:nitting it; and where there is no sin, there can be no wrath. (As to what may be urged by the unhumbled soul, againit the putting of our stock in Adam's hand; the righteousness of that dispensation was cleared before.) But more. over, the unrenewed man is daily throwing away the very remains of natural abilities; that light and strength which are to be found amongit the ruins of mankind. Nay, farther, he will not believe his own utter, inability to help himself; fo that out of his own mouth he will be condemned. Even those who make their natural impotency to good, a cover to their floth, do, with others, delay the work of turning to God from time to time; under convictions, make large promises of reformation, which afterward they never regard; and delay their repentance to a death-bed, as if they could help theinselves in a moment; which fpeaks them to be far from á due sense of their natural inability, whatever they pretend.
Now, if God can require of men, the duty they are not able to do; he can, in justice, punish them for their not doing it, notwithstanding of their inability. If he have power to exact the debt of obedience: he has also power to cast the infolvent debtor in his prison, for his not paying it. Further, tho’unregenerate men have no gracious abilities; yet they want not natural abilities, which nevertheless they will not improve. There are many things they can do, which they do not, they will not do them; and therefore their damnation will be just. Nay, all their inability to good is voluntary; they will not come to Christ, John v. 40. They will not repent, they will die, Ezek. xviii. So they will be justly condemned: because they will not turn to God, nor come to Christ; but love their chains better than their liberty, and darkness rather than light, John iii
. 19. Object. (2.) Why do you then preach Christ to us; call us to come to him, to believe, repent, and use the means of falvation? Ans. Because it is your duty fo to do. It is your duty to accept of Christ as he is offered in the gospel; to repent of your sins, and to be holy in all manner of conversation: these things are commanded you and his command, not your ability, is the measure of your duty, Moreover, these calls and exhortations, are the means that God is pleased to make use of, for converting his elect, and working grace in their hearts: to them, faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17. while they
are as unable to help chemselves as the rest of mankind are. Upon
fields on the but ye are at liberty, and can wait at the posts of wisdom's door, if ye will. And when ye come thither, he doth not beat drums at your ears, that ye cannot hear what is said: there is no force upon you obliging you to apply all you hear to others; ye may apply to yourselves what belongs to your state and condition: and when you go home, you are not fettered in your houses, where perhaps no religious discourse is to be heard; but ye may retire to some separate place, where ye can meditate, and pose your conscience with pertinent questions, upon what ye have heard.
ye have heard. Ye are not posseised with a danb devil, that ye cannot get your mouths opened in prayer to God. Ye are not so driven out of your beds to your worldly business, and from your worldly business to your beds again ; but ye might, if ye would, bestow some prayers to God upon the case of your perilhing fouls. Ye may examine yourselves, as to the state of your souls, in a folemn manner, as in the presenceof God; ye may difcern that ye
have no grace, and that ye are loli and undone without it; and may cry into God for it. These things are within the compass of watural abilities, and may be practised where there is no grace. It must aggravate your guilt, that you will not be at so much pains about the ftate and case of your precious souls. And if ye do not what you can do: ye will be condemned, not only for your want of grace, but for your defpifing of it.
Object (3.) But all this is needless, seeing we are utterly unable to keep ourselves out of the state of fin and wrath. Anf. Give no place to that delusion, which puts asunder what God hath joined, namely, the use of means, and a sense of our own impotency. If ever the Spirit of God graciously influence your souls, ye will become throughly sensible of your absolute inability, and yet enter upon a vigorous use of means. Ye will do for yourselves, as if ye were to do all; and yet overlook all ye do, as if ye had done nothing. Will ye do nothing for yourselves, because ye cannot do all ? Lay down no fuch impious conclusion againit your own souls.
Do what you can; and it may be, while ye are doing what ye can for yourselves, God will do for you what ye cannot. Understandeft thou what thou readest? faid Philip to the eunuch: How can I, said he, except some man should guide me, Acts viii. 30, 31. He could not understand the scripture he read: yet he could read it: he did what he could, he read; and while he was reading, God sent him an interpreter. The Israelites were in a great ftrait at the red-fea: and how could they help them. felves, when upon the one hand were mountains, and on the other, the enemies garrison; when Pharaoh and his host were behind them, and the red-lea before them? What could they do? Speak unto the children of Ifrael, faith the LORD to Moses, that they go forward, Exod. xiv. 15. For what end should they go forward? Can they make a passage to themselves through the sea? No: but let them go forward, faith the Lord: tho they cannot turn sea to dry land, yet they can go forward to the fore: and fo they did: and when they did what they could, God did for thein what they could not do.
Queft. Has God promised to convert and save them, who in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief? Anf. We may not speak wickedly for God: natural men being strangers to the covenants of promise, Eph. ii. 12. have no such promise made to them. Nevertheless they do not act rationally, unless they exert the powers they have, and do what they can. For, (1.). It is possible this course may succeed with them. If ye do what ye can, it may be, God will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. This is fufficient to deterinine a man, in a matter of the utmost importance, such as this is, Acts viii. 22. Pray God if perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee. Joel ü 14. Who knoweth if he will return? If success may be, the trial Ahould be. If in a wreck at sea, all the failors and passengers 'had betaken themselves, each to a broken board for safety; and one of them should see all the rest perish, notwithstanding of their utmost endeavours to save themselves: yet the very possibility of escaping by that means, would determine that one, still to do his beft with his board. Why then do ye not reason with yourselves, as the four lepers did, who sat at the gates of Samaria, 2 Kings vii. 3,4. Why do ye not say, If we fit still, not doing what we can, we die ; let us put it to a trial, if we be saved, we shall live ; if not, we shall but die. (2.) It is probable this course may succeed. God is good and merciful: he loves to surprise men with his grace, and is often found of them, that fought him not, Ifa. Ixv. J. If ye do thus, ye are so far in the road of your duty; and ye are using the means, which the Lord is wont to bless, for men's spiritual recovery: ye lay yourselves in the way of the great Physician; and so it is probable ye may be healed. Lydia went, with others, to the place where prayer was wont to be made; and the Lord opened her heart, A&s xvi. 13, 14. Ye plow and low, tho' no-body can tell you for certain, that ye will get so much as your feed again: Ye use means for the recovery of your health, tho? ye are not fure they will succeed. In these cases, probability determines you; and why not in this also? Importunity, we fee, does very much with men: therefore pray, meditate, desire help of God; be much at the throne of grace, fupplicating for grace; and do not faint. Tho' God regard not you, who, in your present state, are but one mass of sin; universally depraved, and vitiated in all the powers of your soul: yet he may regard his own ordinance. Tho? he regards not your prayers, your meditations, &c. yet he may regard prayer, meditation, and the like means of his own appointment, and so bless them to you.
Wherefore, if ye will not do what ye can: ye are not only dead, but you declare yourselves unworthy of eternal life.
To conclude, let the saints admire the freedom and power of grace, which came to them in their helpless condition, made their chains fall off, the iron gate to open to them, raised the fallen creatures; and brought them out of the state of fin and wrath, wherein they would have lain and perilhed, had they not been mercifully visited. Let the natural man be sensible of his utter inability to recover himself. Know thou art without ftrength; and canst not come to Christ, till thou be drawn. Thou art loft, and canst not help thyself. This may fake the foundation of thy nopes, who never sawelt thy absolute need of Christ and his grace; but thinkest to thift fór thyself, by thy civility, morality, drowsy wilhes and duties; and by a faith and repentance, which have sprung up out of thy natural powers, without the power and efficacy of the grace of Christ. Obe convinced of tlıý absolute need of Christ, and his overcoming grace ; believe thy utter inability to recover thyself: and so thou mayit be humbled, thaken out of thy felf-confidence, and ly down in duit and ashes, groaning out thy miserable case before the Lord. A kindly sense of thy natural impotency, the impotency of depraved human nature, would be a step towards a delivery,
Thus far of man's natural state, the fate of entire depravation.
1 Pet. i. 23 Being born again, not of corruptible Sed, but of incorruptible, by the
Word of God, which liveth and abideih for ever.
happiness, are translated, sooner, or later, while in this world. It is the result of a gracious change, made upon these who thall inherit eternal life ; which change may be taken up in these two, (1.) In opposition to their natural real itate, the state of corruprion, there is a change made upon them in regeneration; whereby their nature is changed. (2 ) In oppotition to their natural relative sture, the state of wrath, there is a change made upon them, in their union with the Lord Jesus Chriit; by which they are set beyond the reach of condemnation. These therefore, namely, regeneration, and union with ChriitI design to handle, as the great and comprehensive changes on a fi..jer, constituting him in the itaté of grace.
The first of these we have in the text, together with the outward and ordinary means, by which it is brought about. The postle here, to excite the faints to the study of ho'iness, and particularly of brotherly love, put them in mind of their spiritual original. He tells then they were born again; and that of incorruptible feed the word of God. This speaks them to be brethren, partakers of the fame new nature ; which is the root fro:n which holiness, and particularly bro. therly love, doch spring. We are once finners; we must be born again, that we may be saints. The simple word signifies 10 be begolten; and so it may be read, Match xi. 11. to be conceived, Marth. i. 20. and to b: born, Matth ii. According, the compound word u'ed in the text, may be taken in its full latitude, ih- last notion presupposing the two former: and fo regeneration is a supernatural real change on the whole man, fitly compared to natural or corporal generation, as will afterward appear. The ordinary means of regeneration called