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the great hindrance to the obtaining of life by Christ lies in men's own wills. They cannot, because they will not, come unto him. When his people are made willing in the day of his power, then, and not sooner, they are adorned with the beauties of holiness, John vi. 40. Psal. cx. ii.
It is no less certain, that men will not run, nor so much as walk a single step in the way of God's commandments, till God draw them, and entice their hearts, John vi. 44. Psal. cxix. 22.
Yet the most natural meaning of the words of the text seems to be, that however men may wish, or with whatever earnestness they may endeavor to be religious, yet their wishes and efforts will be vain, without that mercy from God, which he dispenses according to his own sovereign pleasure, ver. 15.
According to this explication, men may both will and run without sanctifying grace, but neither their willing nor their running can change their unhappy state, or bring the sovereign disposer of the states of men under any obligations, from his equity or his faithfulness, to bestow upon them that blessedness which they seek.
1. There may be inclinations of a religious mature in unconverted persons.
I do not say that there are holy tempers or dispositions to be found in them. But religion, of some kind, is so natural to man, that even in his fallen state, he wishes to enjoy the favor of his Maker, and to have his wrath averted from him,
6 When the gentiles,” says the apostle, 66 which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, are a law to themselves.” If even among heathens, conscience powerfully prompted men to the performance of things enjoined by the law, must it not possess a greater authority, when it is enlightened and invigorated by the Scripture, which so clearly reveals the wrath of God a. gainst all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men ?
Our consciences must be "i seared with a hot iron," if we are not desirous to escape from the wrath to come. All of you, good and bad, wish to escape those everlasting burnings that are prepared for the ungodly. Your very appearance in this place is a proof that you desire to be saved.
Unconverted persons may not only wish to escape future punishments, but to enjoy future blessedness in heaven. They cannot sincerely desire that blessedness which, according to Scripture, constitutes the felicity of the redeemed of the Lord. The enjoyments which this world affords, or which it might afford, if they had every thing their hearts could wish, are preferable, in their estimation, to the vision and likeness of the Lord God and the Lamb. But we know that we must die, and go
to the regions of perdition or of bliss; and if we must leave the present world, who would not rather be received into the paradise of God, to dwell with the holy angels, than be thrust down into those regions of fire, which were prepared for the devil and his angels ?
But can unconverted sinners really wish to forsake sin, to live holy lives? We know that Balaam wished to die the death of the righteous, but he did not wish to live their life.
Balaam indeed had not any sincere desire to live the life of the righteous, for he “loved the wages of unrighteousness ;" and
and yet there were times when he expressed strong resolutions to live obediently to the will of God. “If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the commandment of the Lord my God, to speak good or evil," Numb. xxii. Unconverted persons may certainly detest
All Israel abhorred the iniquity of the men of Gibeah, who abused the Levite's concubine, and of their brethren, the tribe of Benjamin, who refused to deliver them up to condign punishment. “He that withholdeth corn,” says Solomon, “the people shall curse him; but blessings shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.” " He that, in these things," says Paul, (in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,) “serveth Christ, is accepted of God, and approved of men." He is not only approved of saints, but of men in general. Hazael, before he was king of Syria, detested those very crimes which he afterwards perpetrated in the fulness of his pride and power.
Unconverted persons may even wish to be freed from the chains of those corrupt lusts, which have long held them fast. I have known a drunkard, who, for months, perhaps for a whole year, would avoid temptations to his favorite sin, and be again entangled therein, and overcome, when a strong temptation presented itself. I believe there are few drunk. ards, or gluttons, that do not frequently wish and resolve to reform. When they feel the bitter effects of their sin, in those diseases which a kind Providence has annexed to it, they will condemn their folly. What have we any more to do with this idol, which has bewitched us, impoverished, enfeebled us, and which threatens to cut short our days. Yet, when a little time has elapsed, their brutish, or worse than brutish appetite returns in' all its strength. .The shame, the pain, are forgotten; reason, religion, present and eternal interests, must all give way to the cursed gratification of a few moments. Idolatry was the favorite sin of the children of Israel, and yet, when they were sore oppressed by their enemies, they returned, and enquired early after their own God, and put away their strange gods, till returning prosperity banished the remembrance of their afflictions, and of all the resolutions they had formed in the time of distress,
Persons may wish, in a certain sense, to be delivered from all sin, because they have often heard that it is an essential part of the character of one who is born of God, that he doth not commit sin. There is a great difference between vague and general views of things, and a particular inspection of them. Sin appears to the ordinary bearers of the gospel a very bad and dangerous thing, which brings death after it; and as they hate death, they must hate sin as the cause of death. But let ihose things that are sinful be particularly considered, and the deception will appear. They will not live in the practice of what is sinful, and yet they will think their own thoughts, and speak their own words on the Lord's day. They will roll proud, earthly, vile imaginations in their minds, and yet they desire to renounce every sin. Thus men deceive them elves by unmeaning words no less than their neighbors. You will not live in sin, because you wish not to be damned. But what is sin ? Every thing, you will say, that is contrary to the law of God. But is there not a secret reservation of exceptions? You will have nothing to do, as far as you can help it, with any sin; only there are one, or two, or three secret workings of inoidinate desire, for which you must have a license to amuse yourselves with them, at some tinies, if you cannot be per milted to indulge them at all times. The Lord pardon his servants