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are as unable to help themselves as the reft of mankind are. Upon very good grounds may we, as the command of God, who raiseth the dead, go to their graves, and cry in his name, „wake thou that fleepeft, and rise from the dead, and Christ hall give thee light, Eph. v. 14. And seeing the elect are not to be known, and distinguished from others before conversion: as the sun shines on the blind man's face, and the rain falls on the rocks as well as on the fruitful plains ; fo we
preach Chrift to all, and shoot the arrow at a venture, which God • himself directs as he sees meet. Moreover these calls and exhortati.
ons are not alcogether in vain, even to those that are not converted by them. Such persons may be convinced, tho' they be not converted: altho’they be not sanctified by these means; yet they may be restrained by thein, from running into chat excess of wickedness, which other. wise they would arrive ar. The means of grace ferve, as it were, to embalm many dead souls, which are never quickned by them; tho they do not restore them to life ; yet they keep thein ftom smelling so rank as orherwise they would do.' Finally, Tho' ye cannot recover yourselves; nor take hold of the saving help offered to you in the gospel : yet even by the power of nature, ye may use the ontward and ordinary means, whereby Chrift communicates the benefits of redemp. tion to ruined (inners, who are utterly unable to recover themselves out of the itate of sin and wrach. Ye may, and can, if ye please, do many things, that would let you in a fair way for help from the Lord Jesus Christ. Ye may go so far on, as to be not far from the kingdoin of God, as the discreet scribe had done, Mark xii. 34- tho' (it would seem) he was 'destitute of supernatural abilities. Tho' ye cannot cure yourselves; yet ye may come to the pool, where many such diseased persons as ye are, have been cured: ye have none to put you into it, yet ye may ly at the side of it: and who knows but the Lord may return, and leave a blefling behind him, as in the case of the impotent man, recorded, John v 5, 6, 7, 8. I hope Satan does not chain you to your houses, nor itake you down in your fields on the Lord's day; 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 re. ligious 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 are not posseiled with a dainb devil, that ye cannot get your mouths opened in prayer to God. Ye are not fo 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 fome prayers to God upon the case of your perilhing souls. Ye may examine yourselves, as to the state of your souls, in a folemn manner, as in the presenceof God; ye may discern that ye
have no grace, and that ye are loft and undone without it; and may cry into God for it. These things are within the compass of patural abilities, and may be practised where there is no grace. It must acgravate 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
Object (3.) But all this is needless, seeing we' are utterly unable to keep ourselves out of the state of in and wrath. Ans. Give no place to that delusion, which puts alunder 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 absoluté 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, becaufe 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 cunuch: How can I, said he, except fome 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 Ifraelites were in a great ftrait at the red-sea: 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 thould they go forward? Can they make a passage to themselves through the sea? No: but let theni ge forward, faith the Lord: tho they cannot turn sea to dry land, yet they can go forward to the shore: and so they did: and when they did what they could, God did for then what they could not do.
Quest. Has God promised to convert and save them, who in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief? Ans. We may Kot speak, wickedly for God: natural men being strangers to the covenants of promise, Eph. ï. 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 sufficient to deterinine a man, in a matter of the utmost importance, fuch as this is, Acts viï. 22. Pray God if perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee. Joel i 14. Who knoweth if he will return? If fuccefs may be, the trial should be. If in a wreck at sea, all the sailors and passengers had betaken themselves, each to a broken board for safety; and one of them thould 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 best 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 sit still, not doing what we can, we die ; let us put it to a trial, if we be saved, we all 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 sought him not, Ifa. lxv. 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 fo 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 sure 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, supplicating 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 fun and wrath, wherein they would have lain and perished, had they not been mercifully visited. Let the natural man be sensible of his utter inability to recover himself. Know thou art without strength; and canft not come to Christ, till thou be drawn. Thou art loft, and canst not help thyself. This may shake, the foundation of thy nopes, who never saweft thy absolute need of Christ and his grace; but thinkeit to shift for 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 thy absolute need of Christ, and his overcoming grace ; believe thy utter inability to recover thyself: and so thou mayit be humbled, ihaken out of thy felf-confidence, and ly down in dust 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 state of entire depravation,
S T A TE III.
NAMEL Y, The STATE of ĞRACE; or Begun Recovery. '
. 1 Pet. i. 23. Being born again, not of corruptible Sed, but of incorruptible, by the
Word of God, which liveth.and abideth for tver.
W E proceed now to che state of grace, the state of begun recovery
V of human nature, into which, all that fhall partake of eternal 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 chan ge may be taken up in chese two, (1) In opposition to their natural realitate, the state of corruprion, there is a . change made upon them in regeneration; whereby their nature is changed. (2 ) In opposition to their natural relative state, 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 condernnation. These therefore, namely, regeneration, and union with Chriit. I design to handle, as the great and comprehensive changes on a fio.jer, constitucing 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 sportle here, to excite the saints to the study of ho'iness, and particularly of bro. therly 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 same new nature; which is the root froin 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 he begotten; and so it may be read, Match xi. 11. to be conceived, Matth. i. 20. and to b: born, Matth i i. According, the compound word u'ed in the text, may be taken in its full latitude, ch last notion presupposing the two former: and so 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
the seed, whereof the new creature is formed, is not corruptible feed. Of such indeed, our bodies are generated : but the spiritual feed, of 'which the new creature is generated, is incorruptible; namely, the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. The sound of the word of God, paslech even as other sounds de : but the word lafteth, liveth and abidech, in respect of its everlasting effects on all upon whom it operates. This word, which by the gospel is preached unto you, (ver.25.) impregnated by the Spirit of God, is the means of regeneration ; and by it are dead sinners raised to life.
DOCTRINE. All men in the state of grace are born again. All gracious persons, namely, such as are in a state of favour with God, and endued with gracious qualities and dispositions, are regenerate persons. In discoursing this subject, I shall shew what regeneration is : Next, Why it is so called, and then apply the doctrine.
Of the Nature of Regeneration.
I. For the better understanding of the nature of regeneration, take this along with you in the first place. That as there are false conceptions in nature, so there are also in grace: and by these many are deluded, mistaking some partial changes made upon them, for this great and thorough change. To remove such mistakes, let these few things be considered. (1.) Many call the church their mother, whom God will not:own to be his children, Cant. i. 6. My mother's children (i.e. false brethren) were angry with me. All that are baptized are not born again. Simon was baptized, yet still in the gall of bitterness, and in the hond of iniquity, Acts viii. 13, 23. Where Christianity is the religion of the country, many, will be called by the name of Christ, who have no more of him, but the name : and no wonder, seeing the devil had his goats among Christ's Theep, in these places, where but few professed the Christian religion, 1 John ii. 19. They went out from us, but they were not of us. (2.) Good education is not regeneration. Education may chain up myen's lusts, but cannot change their hearts. A wolf is still a ravenous beast, though it be in chains. Joash was very devout during the life of his good tutor Fehoiada; but afterwards he quickly shewed what fpirit he was of, by his sudden apoftasy, 2 Chron. xxiv. 2, 17, 18. Good example is of mighty influence to change the outward man; but that change often goes off, when one changes his company; of which the world affords many fad instances. (3.) A , turning from open profanity, to civility and fobriety, falls short of this saving change. Some are, for a while, very loose, especially in their younger years: but at length they reform, and leave their profane courses. Here is a changé , yet but such an one, as may be found in men, utterly void of the race of God, and whose righteousness is fo Far from exceeding, that it doth not come up to the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharifecs. (4.) One may engage in all the outward duties of religion, and yet not be born again. Tho' lead be cast into