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The Sovereignty exercised in Divine Influences founded
on the Atonement.
I. It is an awful fact that unless God will sovereignly exercise his gracious influences on the hearts of men, not one of the human race will ever avail himself of the benefits of the atonement, and consequently, no flesh would be saved.
Men will slight and neglect the atonement, not because they have no power or ability to avail themselves of it, but simply because they have no inclination or disposition to make any use of it. They cannot choose death without possessing and exercising the very powers that would enable them to choose life. It is a most grievous error to suppose that unless sovereign grace dispose these powers aright, man is not accountable and blameable for exercising them wrong. Divine influences are not in the list of the elements of human accountableness. The justice of God has supplied man with grounds sufficiently firm and broad to hold him accountable without divine grace. Man ought to do his duty, to love God, believe in Christ, obey his word, whether he have grace or not.
If "not having the grace of God” is a good plea for not doing one's duty —the less a man has of the grace of God, the less is he obliged to obey God; that is, the more wicked a man is, the less and less is it his duty to be good; the less thankful a child might be to his parents for distinguished favors, the less is it his duty to thank them. Besides the very man that tries to palm this plea as an excuse with God will never allow it to avail with himself from his fellow-man. Suppose his child or apprentice to say to him as an excuse for neglecting his commands. “If I had the grace to obey you, I would;
I suspect that God has not given me grace to obey you, I hope you
will excuse me. Suppose again,
a man who refuses to pay him a sum of money that is due, to say, “if I had grace to be honest and upright I would be so, but as God has not given me grace to be so, have me excused.” This very inan who puts off the claims of God with such flimsy plea, would spurn all such excuses, and would treat him according to his ability to do right, and would actually make his want of disposition to be honest, an aggravation of his offence. The whole scriptures declare that God will judge mankind on the same principles.
All mankind are, of thernselves, so opposed to the designs of the mediation of Christ, and so inclined and disposed to persevere in sin, that unless God in his sovereignty will exercise his influences in special and personal cases, not one of all the human race will ever be saved. Yet their rejection of salvation, in other words, their refusing to be saved, is solemnly pronounced by God to be a conduct criminal, blameable, and condemnable.
That without divine influences mankind would let the atonement sustain a total and eternal failure, may be proved from the nature of the case—from facts in the past history of man-from the doctrine of the scripture concerning divine influences—and from the impossibility of accounting for the conversion of a sinner on any other principle.
It is in the physical and moral constitution of the nature of man, that what he is unwilling to do, he never will do. Hence the scriptures speak of that which a man is unwilling to do as a thing impossible to come to pass. When Christ charges the Jews with this unwillingness, he represents their coming to him as impossible. “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life,” for “how can ye believe which receive honor one from another;” “no man can come unto me unless my Father draw him.”
When we say that a kind father never can murder his own child, or never will murder it, our meaning is, that such an event will never come to pass.
We do not mean that the thing is
physically impossible in itself. So when we say that no sinner will, of himself, come to Christ, we do not mean that he has not power to come, but that such an event will never transpire—for the enmity of the human heart against God never will change itself to friendship.
This statement of the case of man is corroborated by an unbroken chain of facts in the history of mankind. The ages and generations gone by, do not furnish one instance of a man who has ascribed his conversion from sin to his own agency and goodness of heart. All such persons recorded in the scriptures plainly declare, that it is God that made them to differ, and the theme of their song is, “not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.' The cases are innumerable in which the best means have been tried and used in vain, though they were means adapted and intended to succeed with them. Witness the ministry of Noah, of Moses in the wilderness, of Isaial, and of the Savior himself. Yet among men of the same character, means apparently less likely to succeed have prospered mightily. Such success, productive of such infinite good, cannot be ascribed to the capriciousness of the human will, but to the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
The holy scriptures invariably ascribe the success of means and instruments to divine influences. Their language is, “It is God that worketh in you to will and to do." “We are His workmanship in Christ." "You hath He quickened,” &c. All the instances of conversion mentioned in the scriptures are ascribed to God: e. g. those of Zaccheus, Paul, Lydia, &c. The Bible also teaches us that prayer to God for the exercise of sovereignty is one means of obtaining success. will change himself, it is to man the prayer ought to be made, and not to God. To address a prayer to God for the conversion of any man, is an acknowledgment that such a conversion is to be effected by his grace and Spirit.
On any other principle than the sovereign application of divine influences, it is impossible to account for the conversion of man. The theory of “common grace" will not account for it, for it leaves the question behind it, “How comes one man more than another to make a right use of this common grace.” The self-determining power of the will will not account for it, for there is no such thing. A will not determined by motives, is not the will of an intelligent and accountable being. To say that peculiar circumstances of afflictions, &c. will not account for it unless these peculiar circumstances always produce the same results; to think that conversion is an accident that happened by chance, is an insult to a wise God that worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, and is the efficient cause of every good thing in the universe. God alone changes the beart.
II. God has a sovereign and independent right to impart divine influences in what degree and on whomsoever, he pleases, according to the counsel of his own will.
In all the disputes against the exercise of this sovereignty the condition and character of mankind as condemned criminals worthy of death, are always forgotten. At the bottom of every reasoning against the sovereign dispensation of divine favor, there always lurks a supposition that man has some claim upon his Maker; and on such dato time will never see an end to the dispute.
Upon the supposition that every man is unworthy of any favor from God, the question in dispute is very simple. It is this—“Has God a right to shew a kindness to any person that does not deserve it?” Probably there is not a man on the earth that will deny that God has such a right; most assuredly there is not a man that would consent to abide by such a denial, that God should shew him no more favor than he deserved. Captious cavillers, who forget their condemned character, will still dispute, "Is it just that such a right should be exercised?” This objection supposes such a right to belong to God, but doubts its justice when exercised. This ob
jection is the shell of a theological monstrosity unparalleled in hideousness. It supposes that God will exercise his right in a wrong manner. It is worse, for it supposes that God's right to confer benefits on the undeserving is a
The disputant supposes that it is wrong in God to confer favors upon any of his creatures beyond their due, and in the whole argument forgets, that he himself is a condemned, and undeserving character.
Take an illustration of this. Suppose Newgate, or any other prison, to be thronged with criminals under sentence of death, and regarded by all honest men as justly condemned. It is known in the constitution of the realm, that the king has the prerogative of reprieving and pardoning any criminal he pleases. The actual exercise of this prerogative to pardon has no injurious aspect upon the condition of the condemned criminals. Rather, the existence and the exercise of such a prerogative is pure and entire good. It is not a prerogative to inflict tortures on them, but its very design and aspect is to confer good. Suppose such a prerogative not to exist—the exclusion of it would not improve the condition, or better the prospect of any one criminal. You, therefore get no accession of good by excluding the king's prerogative. But allow it to be introduced, and you immediately secure a splendid amount of good. Suppose the king, in the exercise of his prerogative, to pardon any number out of them, and you gain so much good. Will the gaining of so much good be really a wrong to the rest? Try to answer these questions. How does this good wrong them? Does it make their case worse? Does any thing befal them, after all, worse than what was justly due to them? Would they have been better off, had there been no prerogative exercised?"
Your conscience will not answer these questions in the affirmative, but your heart says, “I should not LIKE the king to pardon other offenders and pass by ME." Yes, that is the real truth, that is an accurate statement of the case. All your opposition to the exercise of di