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beast or a devil. This therefore is a preparative, a previous qualification, and a sure pledge and earnest of everlasting life. How highly then are you distinguished, and what cause have you for gratitude and praise !
4. Let us all be sensible of this important truth, that it is entirely by grace we are saved. *This is the inference the apostle expressly makes from this doctrine: and he is so full of it, that he throws it into a parenthesis, (verse the 5th) though it breaks the connection of his discourse : and as soon as he has room he resumes it again, (verse 8th) and repeats it over and over, in various forms, in the compass of a few verses. By grace ye are saved. By grace are you saved through faith. It is the gift of God - not of yourselves—not of works. (verse 9th.) This, you see, is an inference that seemed of great importance to the apostle; and what can more naturally follow from the premises? If we were once dead in sin, certainly it is owing to the freest grace that we have been quickened ; therefore, when we survey the change, let us cry, “Grace, grace unto it."
THE NATURE AND PROCESS OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.
EPHES. ii. 4, 5.—But God, who is rich in mercy, for his
great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.
It is not my usual method to weary your attention by a long confinement to one subject; and our religion furnishes us with such a boundless variety of important topics, that a minister who makes them his study will find no temptation to cloy you with repetitions, but rather finds it difficult to speak so concisely on one subject, as to leave room for others of equal importance ; however, the subject of my last discourse was so copious and interesting, that I cannot dismiss it without a sup
plement. I there showed you some of the symptoms of spiritual death ; but I would not leave you dead as I found you; and therefore I intend now to consider the counterpart of that subject, and show you the nature and symptoms of spiritual life.
I doubt not but a number of you have been made alive to God by his quickening spirit; but many, I fear, still continue dead in trespasses and sins ; and, while such are around me, I cannot help imagining my situation something like that of the prophet Ezekiel (chap. xxxvii.) in the midst of the valley full of dry bones, spread far and wide around him: and should I be asked, Can these dry bones, can these dead souls live? I must answer with him, -0 Lord God, thou knowest. Lord, I see no symptoms of life in them, no tendency towards it. I know nothing is impossible to thee; I firmly believe thou canst inspire them with life, dry and dead as they are ; and what thy designs are towards them, whether thou intendest to exert thy all-quickening power upon them, thou only knowest, and I would not presume to determine; but this I know, that, if they are left to themselves, they will continue dead to all eternity; for, o Lord, the experiment has been repeatedly tried ; thy servant has over and over made those quickening applications to them, which thy word, that sacred dispensary, prescribes ; but all in vain : they still continue dead towards thee, and lie putrefying more and more in trespasses and sins: however, at thy command, I would attempt the most unpromising undertaking ; I would proclaim even unto dry bones and dead souls, 0 ye dry bones,
dead souls, hear the word of the Lord. Ezek. xxxvii. 4. I would also cry aloud for the animating breath of the Holy Spirit, Come from the four winds and breathe ; breathe upon these slain, that they may live, v. 9.
Ye dead sinners, I would make one attempt more in the name of the Lord to bring you to life ; and if I have the least hope of success, it is entirely owing to the encouraging peradventure that the quickening spirit of Christ may work upon your hearts while I am addressing myself to your ears. “And, O sirs, let us all keep our souls in a praying posture, throughout this discourse. If one of you should fall into a swoon or an apoplexy, how would all about you bestir themselves to bring you to
life again! And alas! shall dead souls lie so thick among us, in every assembly, in every family; and shall no means be used for their recovery? Did Martha and Mary apply to Jesus with all the arts of importunity in behalf of their sick and deceased brother, and are there not some of you that have dead relations, dear friends and neighbors, I mean dead in the worst sense, “ dead in trespasses and sins?" and will you not apply to Jesus, the Lord of life, and follow him with your importunate cries, till he come and call them to life ? Now let parents turn intercessors for their children, children for their parents, friend for friend, neighbor for neighbor, yea, enemy for enemy O! should wc all take this method, we might soon expect to see the valley of dry bones full of living souls, an exceeding great army. Ezek. xxxvii. 10.
In praying for this great and glorious event, you do not pray for an impossibility. Thousands as dead as they, have obtained a joyful resurrection by the power of God. Here in my text you have an instance of a promiscuous crowd of Jews and Gentiles that had lain dead in sin together, and even St. Paul among them, who were recovered to life, and are now enjoying an immortal life in the heavenly regions; and, blessed be God, this spiritual life is not entirely extinct among us. Among the multitudes of dead souls that we every where meet with, we find here and there a soul that has very different symptoms: once indeed it was like the rest; but now, while they are quite senseless of divine things, and have no vital aspirations after God, this soul cannot be content with the richest affluence of created enjoyments; it pants and breathes after God; it feeds upon his word, it feels an almighty energy in eternal things, and receives vital sensations from them. It discovers life and vigor in devotion, and serves the living God with pleasure, though it is also subject to fits of languishment, and at times seems just expiring, and to lose all sensation. And whence is this vast difference? Why is this soul so different from what it once was, and what thousands around still are? Why can it not, like them, and like itself formerly, lie dead and senseless in sin, without any vital impressions or experiences from God or divine things? The reason is, the happy
reason, my brethren, is, this is a living soul: “God, out of the great love wherewith he loved it, hath quickened it together with Christ,” and hence it is alive to him.
My present design is to explain the nature and properties of this divine life, and to show you the manner in which it is usually begun in the soul: I shall open with the consideration of the last particular.
Here you must observe, that, though spiritual life is instantaneously infused, yet God prepares the soul for its reception by a course of previous operations. He spent six days in the creation of the world, though he might have spoken it into being in an instant. Thus he usually creates the soul anew after a gradual process of preparatory actions.
In forming the first man, he first created chaos out of nothing, then he digested it into earth; on the sixth day he formed and organized the earth into a body, with all its endless variety of members, juices, muscles, fibres, veins, and arteries; and then, after this process, he inspired it with a living soul ; and what was but a lump of clay, sprung up a perfect man. Thus also the fætus in the womb is for some months in formation before the soul, or the principle of life is infused. In like manner the Almighty proceeds in quickening us with spiritual life ; we all pass through a course of preparation, though some through a longer, and some shorter. And as one reason why the great Creator took up so much time in the creation of the world, probably was, that he might allow the angels time for leisurely surveys of the astonishing process, so he may
advance thus gradually in the new creation, that we may observe the various steps of the operation, and make proper reflections upon it in future life. My present design is to trace these steps to their grand result, that you may know whether ever divine grace has carried you through this gracious process.
And that you may not fall into needless perplexities, it may be necessary for me to premise farther, that there is a great variety in these preparatory operations, and in the degrees of spiritual life. Indeed the difference is only circumstantial, for the work is substantially the same, and spiritual life is substantially the same in all; but then, in such circumstances as the length of time, the particular external means, the degree of previous
terror, and of subsequent joy and vitality, &c. God exercises a sovereign freedom, and shows that he has a variety of ways by which to accomplish his end ; and it is no matter how we obtain it, if we have but spiritual life. I shall therefore endeavor to confine myself to the substance of this work, without its peculiarities, in different subjects; and, when I cannot avoid descending to particulars, I shall endeavor so to diversify them, as that they may be easily adapted to the various cases of different Christians. To draw their common lineaments, whereby they may be distinguished from all others, is sufficient to my present purpose : whereas, to draw the particular lineaments, or peculiar features, whereby they may be distinguished from one another, is a very difficult task, and cannot be of any great service to what I have now in design.
I have only one thing more to premise, and that is, that the way by which divine grace prepares a sinner for spiritual life, is by working upon all the principles of the rational life, and exciting him to exert them to the utmost to obtain it. Here it is proper for you to recollect what I observed in my last discourse, that even a sinner dead in trespasses and sins is alive, and capable of action in other respects: he can not only perform the actions and feel the sensations of animal life, but he can also exercise his intellectual powers about intellectual objects, and even about divine things: he is capable of thinking of these, and of receiving some impressions from them: he is also capable of attending upon the ordinances of the gospel, and performing the external duties of religion. These things a sinner may do, and yet be dead in sin. Indeed he will not exercise his natural powers about these things while left to himself: he has the power, but then he has no disposition to employ it : he is indeed capable of meditating upon spiritual things, but what does this avail when he will not turn his mind to such objects? or if he does, he considers them as mere speculations, and not as the most interesting and important realities. How few, or how superficial and unaffecting are a sinner's thoughts of them! Heaven and hell are objects that may strike the passions, and raise the joys and fears of a natural man, but in general he is little or nothing impressed with them. He is ca