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door of the tabernacle, to offer an offering unto the Lord. Lev. xvii. 4. Thus the Israelites, and, in some of the cases, the strangers who resided with them, were not only required, but required under this terrible sanction, punctiliously to use the Means of Grace, both ordinary and extraordinary.
It is further to be observed, that the Israelites are no where, either in the old or New Testament, censured for the fact, that they altended on these various Means of Grace. They are often censured for their impenitence, and unbelief, indeed; and the more severely for being impenitent and unbelieving in the midst of these solemn services, because the abuse of such privileges obviously enhanced their guilt. But not a hint is given us, either by Christ, the Prophets, or the Apostles, that they were censurable, merely for being present, when these means were employed by others, or for being active in employing them, themselves, for their own good. The Gospel, therefore, regards this subject exactly as it was regarded by the Law; and has introduced no change, in this respect, into the Divine dispensations.
2. It follows from the same discourses, that Ministers ought to advise, and exhort, sinners to use the Means of Grace.
If God has appointed these means, and is daily blessing them; if he has usually, and not improbably always, wherever the Gospel has been published, conveyed his spiritual blessings to men in this way; then it cannot be reasonably doubted, that Ministers ought to advise sinners to labour, in this way, to gain eternal life. As to sinners in general, this is the only way, in which eternal life will be gained. Refusing them this advice, therefore, is no other, than refusing them any advice concerning their salvation.
To this scheme it is however objected,
1. That regeneration, being immediately, and solely, the work of the Spirit of God, is not at all accomplished by means; and that, therefore, sinners, however strenuously they may use the Means of Grace, do, in, truth, nothing towards this change of character.
That the act of regenerating, man is an act of the Divine Spirit alone, I readily admit, and fully believe; but I deny the consequence, drawn from this doctrine. If I am not deceived, I
I have, in both the preceding discourses, particularly in the first, proved it to be an error. The Text itself, if I mistake not, is å decisive proof, that it is an error. The Text asserts, to say the least, that St. Paul, by his preaching, contributed to the regeneration of the Corinthian Christians. In a humbler sense he begat these Christians, as truly, as God did, in a higher sense. But if Paul contributed to the regeneration of these men by his preach ing; the men themselves as certainly contributed to their own regeneration by being present at his discourses, by hearing them, by understanding them, and by feeling with strong impressions the truths which he uttered. Had not all this been done by them;
St. Paul might, with exactly the same success, have preached to the dead.
In the doctrine, for which I contend, there is; I apprehend, nothing embarrassing, and nothing which is even peculiar. God, as was observed in the first of these discourses, is equally the sole Agent in the production of a crop. But it would be a palpable absurdity, to conclude from this fact, that the crop would come into existence without the labours of the farmer. Were he not to plough, and sow, the ground; a child knows, that not a stalk of wheat would be produced. St. Paul contributed as really to the spiritual harvest, as the farmer to the natural one; and in the same sense : for, without his labours, that harvest would not have ex. isted. Neither Paul, nor the husbandman, is at all concerned in the creative act of God, employed in each of these cases. But both of them do that, without which this creative act would not exist. Accordingly, where the Gospel is not preached, regeneration does not take place; as crops have no existence, where the earth is not cultivated.
2. It is objected, that the use of the Means of Grace, on the part of sinners, is itself sinful; and that Ministers therefore, cannot conscientiously advise sinners to use the means ; since this would be no other, than advising them to commit sin.
As this, in all probability, is the Objection, on which the greatest stress is laid, and that which has contributed most to perplex those to whom, and, not improbably, those also, by whom, it is urged; I shall consider myself as justified in examining it at some length. It is presented in various lights. 1 will endeavour to follow the course, pursued by the objectors themselves.
It is triumphantly alleged, that the Scriptures have decided the point in debate ; and established the objection, immoveably, by such declarations as the following. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Prov. xv. 8. The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination : how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind.* Prov. xxi. 27. He that turneth away his ear from hear. ing the Law, even his prayer shall be an abomination. Prov. xxviii. 9.
then, the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, if the prayer of the wicked is an abomination; it cannot be lawful for the wicked to pray, nor for a Minister to advise him to pray.
I have, I believe, alleged the objection in its full force, and in the very terms, in which it is usually alleged. This, at least, has been my design.
It is not pretended, that sinners are in the Scriptures expressly forbidden to pray; nor that Ministers are expressly forbidden to advise them to pray. The objection is inferred from other de
: elarations of the Scriptures. Like other inferences, it is, how
Especially when he offereth it to serve some base end. Hodgson,
ever, to be suspected, until it shall be shown to be certainly, and necessarily, derived from such declarations. The authority of a certain conclusion, fairly derived from the Scriptures, I admit. But in order to this admission, I must be satisfied, that it is certain, and fairly derived from the Scriptures. Let us now examine this inference.
1. The Objection is founded on this general doctrine; that, whenever an individual will commit sin in any conduct, he cannot lawfully adopt, nor be lawfully advised to adopt, that conduct.
But from this doctrine it will follow, that sinners cannot lawfully do any thing, while in a state of sin, nor be lawfully advised to do any thing. There is as much certainty, that a sinner will sin in all other conduct, which he adopts while he is a sinner, as in pray. ing. The ploughing of the wicked is expressly declared to be sin. Prov. xxi. 4. The way of the wicked, that is, his universal course of life, is declared to be an abomination to the Lord. Prov. xv. 9. The thoughts of the wicked are declared to be an abomination to the Lord. Prov. xv. 26. Of course, the wicked cannot lawfully plough, think, nor live in the ordinary course of life, that is, converse, labour, buy, sell, and provide for their families ; nor be lawfully advised to do these, or any of these, things.
It will be remembered that all these declarations, and all those quoted in a preceding paragraph, were written by an Israelite under the Mosaic dispensation ; and written for men, living, also, under the same dispensation. Yet, in that very dispensation, God required Moses to command all sinners, of that nation, to labour; to cultivate their own ground; to circumcise their children ; to celebrate the passover; to offer sacrifices; to be present at the public worship of God; to hear and learn his word from the mouth of their priests ; and to teach all these things to their chil. dren. It will not, I presume, be questioned, that Moses in enjoin. ing these things upon the sinful Israelites, as well as upon the virtuous ones, acted lawfully; or, in other words, was guilty of no
But what was lawful for Moses, in this case, is in itself law. ful. Accordingly, it was lawfully done by all the Ministers, who followed him in the Jewish Church. It cannot therefore fail to be lawful to Christian Ministers, unless it has been plainly forbidden.
It will here be said that Moses, in requiring this conduct of the sinful Israelites, neither commanded nor authorized them to continue sinners in performing it. This is unquestionably true. So far from allowing them to continue in sin, he required them to perform these various duties from supreme love to God. Equally true is this of the Christian Minister, in directing sinners to use the Means of grace, or to perform any of the other duties of life. Instead of directing or allowing them to remain impenitent, he directs them to perform every duty with a virtuous disposition.
From this doctrine it will also follow, that it is unlawful to advise Christians themselves to use the Means of grace, or indeed to
adopt any course of conduct whatever. Both the Scriptures and observation teach us, that Christians continually sin ; that they sin in their repentance, in their faith, in reading the Bible, in prayer, in the observance of the Sabbath, in their attendance on public worship, in the education of their children, and in the ordinary business of life. Whatever conduct they adopt, we know that they will sin in performing it. On this principle, therefore, they cannot lawfully adopt, nor be lawfully advised to adopt, that conduct. Of course, as our Lord, when he directed the Apostles to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, knew that they would commit sin in obeying it; the direction itself, according to the scheme which I oppose, was unlawful.
It will here probably be asked, What then shall be done? Shall we advise men to commit sin? To this question I answer, that, according to the spirit of the objection, you must either advise them to nothing, not even to repent and believe; or you must advise them to commit sin: for according to the objection, advising them to any thing, even to repent and believe, is advising them to com mit sin.
But I apprehend that this account of the subject is as unfound ed, as the scheme enforced by it is impracticable. God, as it appears to me, deals with mankind, and, if he deals with them at all according to the System of Providence which he has established, must deal with them, as rational beings. As they are all originally sinners; every thing addressed to them, either by God or man, must be addressed to sinners. He has commanded and exhorted, sinners in his own person; and has required men also to teach, and exhort, them in his name. In these commands and exhortations, two things are included : the Act to be done, and the Disposition with which it is to be done. The command or counsel sometimes includes both expressly; and sometimes but one. mands and counsels, as direct to the performance of the act, direct to that act, which, in the case stated, is proper to be done ; and imply the disposition with which it should be done. Such, as direct the disposition, require that, and that only, which is virtuous. Those, which require the act, regulate both the heart, and the external conduct. Those, which require the disposition, regulate merely the affections of the heart.
Commands of both these kinds, God has evidently given to men as rational beings merely; and often without discriminating at all their moral character. They are given to all men. The duties which these commands enjoin are numberless. They occur every day, and are as obligatory on the sinner as on the Christian. They bind with their whole force every man by whom they are known. Among these, are prayer, attending public worship, reading the Scriptures, and industry in our lawful business. God requires every man to perform these various duties of life as they occur. He does not leave him at liberty to defer the performance, until he VOL. IV.
has discovered whether he is the subject of Evangelical repent
He requires the performance at the time; and, if the individual refuse, God will not hold him guiltless. But, it will beasked, Is not every action to be performed from supreme love to God? An answer to this question has already been given. This disposition is implied in every action which God requires us to perform; and God will accept of no performance which does not flow from this source. To such a performance only, is an impenitent sinner directed, when he is directed to pray, to read the Scriptures, to worship God in the sanctuary, or to use any of the Means of grace.
It will be further asked, Whether the man, who performs the act merely, can be said to obey the command of God? What is here actwally done is easily understood; so easily as to admit of neither debate nor doubt. The person in question performs the act which God requires. But if he does not perform it cordially, he is not obedient in the cordial or virtuous sense.
I shall perhaps be asked still further, Whether the man, who performs the act merely, is any better for
performing it, than if he had neglected or refused to perform it? I answer, that, supposing the man's disposition substantially the same in both cases, he is less sinful when he performs the act, than when he neglects or refuses to perform it. This I say with confidence, because God has said it repeatedly, and in the most unambiguous manner. Of several kings of Judah, who were plainly sinners, particularly of Joash and Amaziah, it is directly said, that they did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. Of Joash it is said, that he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the Priest, Of Amaziah it is said, that he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart : that is, not with a good or virtuous heart. In other words, these princes performed those external actions, which God had required. The same thing, in substance, is declared concerning several other Kings of Judah. But who can doubt, that to do that, which is right in the sight of the Lord, whatever it may be which is thus right, is less sinful, than to do that, which is wrong in the sight of the Lord ? Who can doubt, that these declarations are intentionally commendatory; and that they exhibit these princes as thus far less sinful, than those, of whom it is said, that they did evil in the sight of the Lord ?
The same sentence of God concerning the same subject is given us, in another form, in the cases of Ahab and Jehu. Of Ahab it is said, that, when he heard the words of Elijah, announcing to him the destruction of his family, he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth and went softly. It is immediately subjoined, And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days. In his son's days I will bring the evil