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Mr. Clark's SERMON At the Thursday-Lecture in BOSTON, February 13. 1734.

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A Sinners Prayer for Converting Grace; Or, THE Necessity and Efficacy OF THE Grace of GOD IN THE CONVERSION OF A SINNER Asserted and Practically Improved, Chiefly for the Direction and Encouragement of the Unconverted to pray for Converting Grace.

In a SERMON Preach'd at the Lecture in BOSTON, February 13th. 1734. Published, with Enlargements and Additions, at the request of several of the Hearers.

By Peter Clark, A. M. Pastor of the Church of CHRIST in Salem-Village.

2 Cor. v. 17, 18.

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away, behold all things are become new, and all things are of God.

Psal. xxvii. 14

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

BOSTON, N E. Printed by S. KNEELAND & T. GREEN for D HENCHMAN in Cornhill. MDCCXXXV.

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THE Necessity and Efficacy OF THE Grace of GOD IN THE Conversion of a Sinner.

JER. XXXI. 18. latter clause.

—Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God.

THE prophecies contained in this chapter, as well as in the forego­ing, and two following, relate chiefly to the happy deliverance of Israel from the land of their captivity, and their restoration to the enjoyment of the institutions of God's worship, and of all the rights and privileges of his peculiar people in their own land. And because the design of God in deli­vering his own people into captivity, was to reform and purge them from their sins, especially from their idolatries, which had been very provoking to him, [Page 2]and against which he testified his displeasure in that awful dispensation; therefore in the predictions and promises of their return out of captivity, we find fre­quent intimations of a signal work of repentance, that should be wrought in them, to prepare and qualify them for so great a mercy, that before their return to their own land, and in order to it, they should first penitently return to the Lord their God, from their sins and idols, with humiliation & supplication; that God being reconciled to his people upon their repen­tance, might with honour to himself, appear for them as remarkably in works of mercy, as ever he had ap­pear'd against them in works of judgment. For a specimen, or proof hereof, let it suffice to cite one passage, & that parallel to our context Jer. 50. 4, 5. In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord the chil­dren of Israel shall come, they & the children of Judah, together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, come and let us join ourselves to the Lord, &c. And it is observable, that the children of Israel are there joined with the children of Judah in their return to God, & seeking the way to Zion; for it is a mistake to think, that only the tribe of Judah and Benjamin return'd out of cap­tivity; for there were many of the ten tribes that associated with the two tribes in their return from Babylon. Particularly, we read 1 Chron. ix. 3 of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh, that dwelt in Je­rusalem after the captivity. Therefore in our text, where the same work of repentance is foretold, and exemplify'd, and on the same occasion, and in order to the same happy issue of the troubles of God's peo­ple, here promis'd, Ephraim is brought in bemoaning himself, &c If it be ask'd, why Ephraim, rather than Judah? I can give no account, unless it be for one [Page 3]or other of these reasons, First, Because, that as the kingdom of Israel is often denominated in the prophets from Ephraim the ruling tribe; so Ephraim first open­ly, & professedly revolted to idolatry in the separation of the ten tribes from the house of David, under Je­roboam, and idolatry being the special sin that pro­vok'd God to cast his people out of the land he had given them, it being a breach of the marriage cove­nant between God and them, and Ephraim being in a special manner guilty of this sin, he therefore espe­cially, is brought in exercising repentance for it: and this may be the meaning of that penitent reflection in the following verse. I was ashamed, yea even con­founded because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Which may be understood of this sin of idolatry, which was the sin of the ten tribes from their youth, from their very beginning, when they were first form'd into a kingdom, and which was indeed their reproach and ruin. Secondly, Because in the verses immediately preceeding, a promise is made for the comfort of Rachel particularly, mourning bitterly for the loss of her children, that they should return from the land of the enemy, verse 15, 16, 17. therefore in the verses immediately following, the repentance of E­phraim who descended from Rachel, is particularly mentioned, & God's acceptance of him to mercy de­clared, as that which prepared the way to the fulfil­ment of the promise of his deliverance & restoration. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, that is, the descendants of Ephraim: nothing being more usual in the prophets, than to put the name of the progenitor for his posterity, as Jacob, for the children and posterity of Jacob. And to go no farther than the context, Rachel weeping for her children, is put for the matrons in Israel about the time of the captivity, who descended from Rachel. The peo­ple of God are here spoken of as a single person un­der the name of Ephraim, to shew that their repen­tance should be general, and that they should be [Page 4]unanimous in it, and as Mr. HENRY observes ‘it is thus express'd, that it might be the better accom­modated to particular penitents, for whose directi­on and encouragement this passage is intended.’

The words express the language of a repenting sin­ner recommending himself to [...] mercy of God. He bewails his impatience, and incorrigibleness under the great and sore calamities God had inflicted on him for his sins, and in order to his amendment. Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Which speaks either his need of chastisement; I was untractable, and not to be manag'd or govern'd by gentler methods, therefore I needed, and justly deserved this severe correction; or rather it speaks the effect of his chastisement; thus I was chastised indeed, but behaved myself very un­towardly under it, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, I was not amended by it, but grew impatient and refractory under the yoke of afflictions; this he re­flects on now (when God had begun to mollify his heart) with humiliation for his past contumacy: and hence he is convinced that the greatest afflictions will not suffice to bring a sinner to repentance with­out the effectual operations of divine grace, and con­fesseth it to God, as an argument, in pleading for that grace; which is the import of the petition that follows in the words of the text, turn thou me, &c. wherein we may observe,

1. A prayer for converting grace. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; it speaks his sense of his own impotency to turn himself, his need of the grace of God to turn him, his dependance on that grace, and earnest desire of it. Turn thou me, and then I shall be turned q. d. if thou Lord wilt exert the power of thy grace, the effect shall certainly follow, then I shall be assuredly and effectually turned. Some ren­der the word actively, then I will return, so it expresses [Page 5]his promise, or resolution in a dependance on divine grace and strength, quick'ning, exciting and assisting him, to return to God by repentance and reforma­tion: like that of the spouse, Cant. i. 4. Draw me, we will run after th [...]e. Or that of David, Psal. cxix. 32. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. It comes to the same effect, whether we understand it passively or actively, for conversion and repentance is at last the sinner's own act, being first quick'ned, moved, and inclined by the grace of God. And he that truly desires, and prays for converting grace, must be understood to purpose and resolve to repent, and turn to God in a dependance on that grace, to improve the grace given, and co-operate with it, in actual conversion from sin to God.

2. An argument or plea to inforce this Petition, for thou art the Lord my God. Ephraim had been a very froward and undutiful child, had broken God's covenant by going after his idols, and God had laid him under the tokens of his displeasure, exercising him with very sore chastisements, for his covenant violations; but he had not, as yet, utterly cast him off, nor dissolv'd the covenant relation, he was still beloved for the fath [...]r's sake, with whom the covenant was first made; and he improves this relation, as a plea in prayer for the mercy of the covenant, for grace, for converting grace. It may also denote his present choice, and acceptance of the God of Israel for his God; he had been going a wh [...]ring after his idols, having forsaken the God of his fathers, but now having long smarted for his idolatry, grows sick of his idols, loaths 'em, forsakes 'em, according to [...]hat prediction, Hos. xiv. 8. Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with Idols? and being by his distress reduced to a found mind, resolves with the prodigal son to go to his father; as tho' he had said, I acknow­lege myself to have been a stubborn refractory child, [Page 6]and am no more worthy to be called thy son; yea, de­serve to be utterly cast off, and disinherited, never­theless thou art my God, and father by covenant. [...] own the relation, and desire to come up to the ob­ligation it lays me under to return to thee, and beg thy grace to enable me hereunto. I take thee the God of Israel, & thee alone for my God, renouncing all false gods, and devote myself to thee, and thy service. This temper and disposition God had pro­mised to bring his people to, thereby to prepare them for mercy. Jer. iii. 19. I said, now shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, &c. and I said, thou shalt call me my father, and shalt not turn away from me. And if we take the word in the former clause, in the active sense, I will return, these words, for thou art the Lord my God, may be understood as an argument, which penitent Ephraim uses with himself, to quicken his return to God; and so he may be conceived to speak to this effect, O my God, I have foolishly and wickedly departed from thee, yet thou hast still the supream right in me, and dominion over me, and I am still under solemn co­venant obligations to thee, as my rightful Lord, to obey and serve thee; and my hope and dependance is on thee, as my sovereign benefactor, as my God in covenant, the portion of mine inheritance, there­fore will I return to thee. It seems to be a compli­ance with that direction God gave his backsliding people, how to answer his call, and to address him in their penitent return to him. Jer. iii. 22. Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.

The instructions which the words afford us, may be reduc'd to these three heads, or points of doctrine.

  • Doct. I. That the converting grace of God is neces­sary to the effectual conversion of a sinner.
  • [Page 7] Doct. II That it is the great duty and concern of unconverted sinners to pray for converting grace.
  • Doct. III. That the unconverted children of the co­venant, have great encouragement to pray for conver­ting grace, from their covenant interest, and propriety in God as their God. Turn thou me, for thou art the Lord my God.

It is the first of these that I purpose chiefly to speak to, the other two may be considered by way of inference, and motive, in the application of the doctrine.

Doct. I. That the converting grace of God is neces­sary to the effectual conversion of a sinner.

I shall endeavour here briefly to shew, First, What conversion is, or, when a sinner may be said to be turned. Secondly, The necessity, & victorious efficacy of the grace of God in the conversion of a sinner.

First, I shall shew, what conversion is, or when a sinner may be said to be turned.

It is a very harsh, and forc'd exposition which Grotius gives of these words, to this purpose, return thou me to my own country, and then I will repent: im­porting a present obstinate, incorrigible disposition, contrary to the whole tenor of this passage, which exhibits a most humble, contrite, penitent frame, on the sinner's part: and the most tender expressions of pity and compassion on God's part, of any that are to be met with in the whole scripture. Unquestionably therefore, the turning here intended, is no other than the conversion of the soul from sin to God. And here, I need not tell you, that this supposes a de­parture from God, a turning away from him, else [Page 8]there could be no room for such a duty as returning to him.

Conversion to God supposes a state of degeneracy from him, which is the state of all mankind, fallen in Adam from their primitive integrity, and all have more or less departed from God by actual transgres­sions, and backslidings. Psal. xiv. 2, 3 The Lord locked down from heaven upon the children of men: to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether be­come filthy: there is none that d [...]eth good, no not one. All sin is a turning away from God, and forsaking him, as our supream Lord, last end, and chief good, and a turning to self and the creature, to the flesh, and the world. Jer. ii. 19 Know therefore, and see, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast for­saken the Lord thy God. Therefore in returning to God, he is to be consider'd as our supream ruler, and benefactor, whom we have undutifully and perversly neglected and forsaken. Consider him in his natural relation to us as our creator, and as he exercises a do­minion over us by his providence, so we can neither turn from him, nor to him, for in him we all live, and move, and have our being, * good and bad. But con­sider him in his moral character and relation, as an holy and righteous ruler, and a kind and gracious benefactor; so we may be said to forsake him by sin, and return to him by repentance, and obedience. We forsake him as our supream ruler, when we de­part from the rule of his commandments, either in heart or life, either by sins of omission or commission, and in opposition to his laws and precepts, are go­vern'd by our own corrupt inclinations and lusts. And we depart from him, as our supream benefactor, when we pursue an imaginary felicity in the interests [Page 9]and enjoyments of the world, apart from God, in the room of God, and in the neglect of God the creator, who is bless'd for ever. Jonah ii. 8 They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy. Jer. xvii. 5. Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whese heart departeth from the Lord. And therefore in returning to him, we must own him as our supream Lord and ruler, and turn from all our transgressions, and sinful deviations from his laws, un­to our duty and allegiance to him; saying, as we are directed, Isai. xxvi. 13 O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. We acknow­lege none but thee for our rightful Lord, and law­giver. We must renounce the dominion of sin and satan, and take the will of God for our rule, and re­solve to be ruled by it in everything. And we must return to him, as our supream benefactor, by renoun­cing the idols and vanities of the world, whereby our hearts have been alienated from him, and by taking him for our chief good, portioning ourselves in his favour, depending on him to pardon and bless us, and to communicate an all-sufficient happiness to us. In a word, we must return to him as our Lord to rule, and as our God to make us happy.

And as to the requisites and ingredients in a sound conversion, let me only note,

  • 1. In the conversion of a sinner, there is a work of conviction and humiliation wrought in his soul; whereby he is convinced of the evil, and damnable nature of sin; his carnal rest is disturb'd and broken, he finds himself deserted of his earthly refuges, de­spairs of relief from every creature to his wounded conscience, and is heavy laden with a sense of guilt and corruption, which is the wormwood and gall that embitters all his comforts, and the sting of all his afflictions, and fills his soul with vexation and [Page 10]terror, which excites in him a loathing of his sins, and an earnest desire to leave them, and to have no more commerce with them This work of humi­liation is necessary to mortify the love of sin, and to break off the sinner's heart from it, to make the re­medy of God's grace and mercy in Christ, welcome to him on any terms, and to influence his inclina­tions and endeavours unto a ready compliance with all the methods of grace, & the terms and conditions of salvation. This is exemplify'd in the prodigal son, who never tho't of returning to his father's house, till reduc'd to the last extremity. Luk xv. 17, 18. When he came to himself, he said, how many hired ser­vants of my father have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger: I will arise, and go to my father. And in those three thousand converted, Acts ii. who when they heard the word preached by Peter, with a close application to their consciences, were pricked in their heart, and said, men and brethren, what shall we do? And in Saul Act ix 6 he trem­bling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the same temper, and contrition of spirit is represented in the instance before us, of a true penitent, ver. 19. After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even con­founded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.
  • 2. In the conversion of a sinner, there is a change wrought in the temper, byass, and inclination of the soul; turning it from sin to holiness, from the crea­ture to God: it does not suffice to conversion, that a sinner forsakes some sins, that he lived in before. Men may escape the pollutions of the world, and be out­wardly reform'd, and yet retain their swinish nature, which afterward they may, and too often do discover by returning with the sow that is washed, to her wal­lowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 22. But there must be an inward change in the disposition of the mind, an healing and renovation of the powers and passions of [Page 11]the soul, by the word and spirit of God, of the under­standing, conscience, will, and affections: the sinner is transform'd, by the renewing of his mind, into a new creature. Rom. xii. 2. Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. He is rectified in his apprehensions, and esti­mations of things, he sees more of the deformity of sin, of the beauty of holiness, of the vanity of the world, of the need and worth of a Saviour, of the ex­cellency and importance of things spiritual and hea­venly, than ever he saw before; the will and affecti­ons are in part cured of their corrupt byass, and pre­vailingly inclined to the things of God, to seek, serve, and enjoy him. Sin hath its rise from a corrupt heart. Mat. xv. 19. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murthers, adulteries, &c. therefore the work of con­version must begin in the heart, the fountain of all external operations, in purging, healing, and rectify­ing those inward springs of motion; and this inward change of the heart is necessary to an universal change of life and conversation: and this is the peculiar ef­fect of God's grace promised, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, &c. And I will put my spirit with­in you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, & ye shall keep my judgments and do them.
  • 3. In conversion, a sinner forsakes all his former sins both in heart and life. This is insisted on as the prime requisite in actual conversion. Isal lv. 7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his tho'ts: and let him return unto the Lord, &c.

(1) He forsakes all sin in general; that is, tho' sin still adheres to him, and sins of infirmity will una­voidably attend him every day in this interim of mor­tality, yet he allows no sin to reign in him, he cherishes no sin in his heart; but in his judgment, will, and [...]ffections, he is set against every sin, Psal. [Page 12]cxix. 104. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. And the reason is, he that truly turns from any sin, as sin, as it is against God and his law, must turn from every sin.

(2) He forsakes his beloved sin in special: that sin, whatever it be, whether pride, uncleanness, injustice in traffick, drunkenness, lying, or any other sin, which he is most addicted to, thro' age, constitution, custom, condition or circumstances of life, and which he is most tender of, and most easily and frequently over­come by, and which he is most loath to part with; which, yet, his heart chiefly smites him for under convictions; that sin, I say, a true convert will be most careful to forsake, and mortify, and watch, and strive, and pray against it, and get the victory over it. The call is, to turn especially from our own evil way. Jer. xviii. 11. Return ye every one from his evil way. And the truth of grace will discover itself in the most serious endeavours to keep ourselves from our own iniquity. Psal xviii 23. I was also upright before him: and I kept my self from mine iniquity.

(3) He will forsake the sins both of heart and life. He will particularly forsake heart sins, and abhor evil and vain tho'ts, and imaginations, all unbelieving, irreverent, blasphemous, and murmuring thoughts against God, and his providence; uncharitable, un­righteous and revengeful thoughts against his neigh­bour, and all proud, covetous, unclean thoughts; he will crush sin in the Embryo, and not suffer lust to conceive in his heart, nor evil thoughts to lodge with­in him. Jer. iv. 14. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou may'st be saved; how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? Here lies the main difference between a sincere convert, and an hypocrite; the care of the latter is chiefly employ'd in keeping clean the outside, that he might recom­mend himself to the good opinion of men, and if he [Page 13]can but do this, all is well, though he is full of all uncleanness, hypocrisy, and iniquity within. Where­as it is the first and chief care of a true convert to approve his heart to God's acceptance, to keep the mind and affection clean, pure, chast, and meet for communion with him. He will take care to have a pure heart, as well as clean hands Again, he will exercise a strict care to forsake all sin in his life; and to live no longer the rest of his time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God, 1 Pet. iv. 2. For tho' every one is not certainly a true convert, that forsakes some sins he had formerly lived in, and leads a life visibly blameless; yet a true convert will cer­tainly forsake all his former sinful customs, and prac­tices; for where there is a change of the heart, there will be a change of the way; and the streams will partake of the nature of the fountain: and in this the children of God are manifestly distinguish'd from the children of the devil, namely, in their abstinence from, and opposition to all sin. 1 Joh. iii 9, 10 Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.

(4) In conversion the sinner returns to God whom he had forsaken, and devotes himself to him by [...]aith in Jesus Christ. Conversion consists in the prevailing inclination, and tendency of the soul to God, as our last end, and chief good; as was before observ'd and indeed the compleating act of our return to God, must be a serious and solemn dedication of ourselves to him in covenant. Behold, we come to thee, for thou art the Lord our God *. And when sinners are once perswaded to take up unfeigned resolutions to return from their wand'rings, and ‘deliberately, soberly, [Page 14]and resolvedly, consent to the covenant of God (according to the tenor of their Baptism) dedicating themselves, intirely and absolutely, to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as their owner to be disposed of by him, as their ruler to obey him, as their benefactor and chief good, thankfully to de­pend on him, and love him, & live to him, as their ultimate end,’ the work is then done, and they are truly, and effectually turned to God. And if it seem too presuming for a poor sinful creature to un­dertake such a solemn covenant transaction with the great God of heaven; 'tis true, GOD, absolutely con­sider'd, is inaccessible to sinful men; there is no com­ing to him but by a Mediator: we should therefore be humbly sensible of the distance and variance be­tween him and us, and see our need of the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, in whom he is reconcilable, and conversable with man, and offers a covenant of reconciliation to us, founded on the atonement made by his blood, in whom we have access with confidence in the love and compassions of the Father. By him therefore we must return to God, by faith embracing him in all his offices, giving up ourselves to God by him, to be taught, saved, and ruled by him, and to live in the observance of all his gospel ordinances, and commandments. I am the way, saith Christ, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, Joh. xiv. 6. and Heb. vii. 25. He is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him But let this suffice for opening the nature of conversion.

Secondly, I come now to shew the necessity and victorious efficacy of the grace of God in the conversion of a sinner. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned. This shews, (1) The necessity of converting grace; as it implies a full conviction, and perswasion, "that un­less [Page 15]God do turn him by his grace, he shall never be turned, but wander endlesly." Again, (2) It shews the invincible efficacy of divine grace. God works with a conquering power in conversion; if he gives converting grace, the sinner, the most obstinate sin­ner shall be turned. "If he undertake the conver­sion of a soul, it will be converted. Let me here speak a word to each of these;

1. There is a necessity of a work of divine power and grace in the conversion of a sinner. Which ap­pears,

(1) From the nature of man in his fallen, degenerate state. All mankind are naturally in a state of de­fection from God, destitute of original righteousness. 'Tis evident not only from scripture, but universal experience, that man is born into the world under corrupt byasses, and vicious inclinations, which, as he grows up, are increased, and strengthned by customs, whereby he is become averse from God, and an ene­my to all spiritual commerce with him, and pr [...]ne to all manner of evil; we can't in reason conclude that man came so corrupt out of the hands of God at first, but that he has lost his original rectitude, and there­upon the faculties and passions of his soul are exceed­ingly disorder'd, according to the scripture account of this matter, which agrees with the common experi­ence of mankind; the scripture informs us, Eccl vii. 29. That God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions▪ Man being carried off by his curiosity from the centre of his felicity, and the bond of perfection between God and him being dissolved by transgression, he is continually wand'ring from mountain to hill, in quest of his lost happiness; and is put upon many shifts and inventions to supply the [Page 16]want of one God, and obstinately adheres to the crea­ture, and carnal satisfactions, and is as obstinately disaffected to the blessed God. Upon the dissolu­tion of the union between God and him, his spiritual life is gone, and till it be restored by divine grace, he is uncapable of spiritual communion with his maker, of all spiritual sensations and employments; and labours of a moral impotency to duties of holi­ness, is weak, yea dead to all spiritual good: dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1. Chap. iv. 18. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, thro' the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; he is wholly estranged from things spiritual & heavenly, & has a strong bent to the things of the flesh, and the world, and a root­ed aversion to holiness, which nothing can effectu­ally cure, but the divine operations of the Spirit of God. Our Saviour proves the necessity of the rege­nerating grace of the Spirit, in order to our being restored to the spiritual life, and to an inheritance in the kingdom of God, from the universal corruption, and carnality of man's nature. Joh. iii. 6, 7. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not, therefore adds he, that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. That a man who is carnal by nature, might become spiri­tual, there is a necessity of the regenerating work of the Spirit. Without the restoring grace of the Re­deemer, man fallen is not only impotent, but full of enmity against holiness, and the duties of the spiritual life, as the scriptures abundantly declare. Joh. xv. 5. Without me, saith Christ, ye can do nothing; no more than a branch sever'd from the vine, can bear fruit of it self. Rom. viii. 7. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither in­deed can be. Col. i. 21. — alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works: or, as the original might be rendred, enemies by your mind in wicked works. The mind and affections being strongly bent to [Page 17]courses of transgression, is the cause of all enmity a­gainst God. And how can such a degenerate crea­ture, renew himself by repentance, or convert him­self to God, without the special influences of divine grace?

(2) It appears from the nature of that work of grace, by which this change is effected [...] It is called the workmanship of God, and ascrib'd to his creating power, which exceeds all power in the creature. Eph ii 10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Chap. iv. 24. That ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness, and true holiness. 'Tis also term'd regeneration or a beget­ting us again. Jam. i. 18. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. 1 Pet. i. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again, unto a live­ly hope, &c. Regeneration and conversion, in a gene­ral sense, are used as terms equivalent, but in a strict sense, there is this difference, regeneration confers a supernatural power, or spiritual inclination of the soul dead in sin; in conversion, this power is drawn forth into act, in the exercise of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; and in both these the grace of God works, both in conferring vital powers, and in drawing them out into act; and the quick'ning of a soul, that lies in a state of spiri­tual death, by the regeneration of the Spirit is necessary unto actual conversion. And this is ascribed intirely to God, exclusive of all other causes. Joh. i. 13. Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And if such a change as amounts to a new birth, is necessary to the con­version of a sinner, surely man cannot be the author of it in himself, no more than he may be said to be­get himself at first; but the power and grace of God is necessary to the production of it

[Page 18] It may therefore be asserted with good reason from scripture, that if God doth not bestow his special converting grace on a sinner, he never will be con­verted. 'Tis possible indeed, natural men may go a great way toward conversion, and yet fall short of it: they may be half converted, almost perswaded to become Christians*, not far from the kingdom of God: they may be under a preparatory work, under strong convictions of sin, and misery, they may confess their sins, as Pharaoh and Judas did: they may purpose and resolve to repent, and amend their lives; they may leave some sins, and make a shew of returning to God; but without the effectual grace of God, they will never be thorowly converted, will never turn to God with the whole heart, but feignedly. As God complains of his people, Jer. iii. 10. and Hos. vii. 16. They return, but not to the most high; they are like a deceitful bow; which however it may seem to point to the mark, yet carries not the arrow half way to it, or casts it another way. It is divine grace alone that can effectually bring a degenerate sinner home to himself.

2. There is a victorious efficacy in the grace of God, which being exerted, shall infallibly convert a sin­ner, even the most obstinate, and hard'ned sinner. Turn thou me, and the effect shall answer the virtue of the cause, and I shall be turned. So Jer. xvii. 14. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed, save me, and I shall be saved. 'Tis God alone who can heal, and he can powerfully, and effectually heal the distemper'd soul of a sinner: for as for God, his work is perfect; if he undertake any saving work, he can and will bring it to effect. Tho' the sinner may resist for a while, yet he shall not finally do so, but shall be made to yield at last in the day of God's power with [Page 19]him. God's grace works so strongly (and yet with a sweet harmony with the reasonable nature of man, without putting the least force on his natural liberty) that it shall not be left in the power of the sinner's will, finally to srustrate or defeat the design of it; this can't be deny'd, without denying the sovereign dominion of God over the creatures he has made; especially free agents, and the will of man in parti­cular, to govern and bend it to his own purposes. Yet some there are, who suppose, that when God has done all that he has promised, and furnish'd a sinner with suffic [...]n [...] aids of Grace, whereby he may be converted if he will, it is at last lest on the free will of man, whether he will be converted or no, and that he may sinally resist the operations of divine grace. If so, then instead of saying, turn me, and I shall be turned, at may be said, tho' thou turnest me, yet I may never be effectually turned. But the contrary to this is manifest from scripture.

(1) Because the regeneration and conversion of a sinner is expresly ascribed to the will of God, and as expresly denied to the will of man. In the fore cited Joh. i. 13. believers in Christ are said to be born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The new birth is not the product of the will of man, but of the will of God. Jam. i. 18. Of his own will begat he us, &c. Again Rom. ix. 15, 16. He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. His inference hence is, so then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, and that according to his own sovereign will. The phrase, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, as it speaks the ab­solute freedom of the divine will, so it imports the irresistable efficacy of it. If God will have mercy on any soul, nothing in the world shall hinder it; for there is a powerful efficacy in the will of God, he [Page 20]works all things according to the counsel of [...]is [...] will, Eph. i 11. he works them effectually (as the word signifies) with a potent, irresistable energy. If any are converted and saved, it is not of man that willeth originally, but of God that willeth, and worketh according to his will.

(2) It is ascribed to the mighty power of God, even that power to which all things are possible. When our Saviour had laid open the difficulties of salvation, or of entering into the kingdom of God, Mark x. 26, 27. the disciples were exceedingly surprized, and being astonished out of measure, saith the evangelist, said among themselves, who then can be saved? Jesus looking upon them, saith, with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible: he speaks it indeed, with reference to the conversion and salvation of rich men, but the same is true of all sinners wedded to their lusts. The young man that came to Christ with that question, good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (on which occasion those words were spoken by our Saviour) shew'd as good a disposition to the kingdom of God, as any meer natural man may ordinarily be sup­posed to do, yet it required the almighty power of divine grace to bring him into it, and to subdue his heart and will, to the grace and government of Christ; and when this power is put forth the most obstinate shall be made to yield to it. 'Tis not the preaching of an apostle, but the power of God accom­panying it, that works faith*, and captivates the souls of men to an obedient subjection to Christ. And this power of God, to which all things are pos­sible, is infinitely greater than that which is in the devil, or the corrupt nature of man to make re­sistance.

[Page 21] (3) God has promised by his grace, to take away that principle of enmity, and resistance in the [...]arnal will; and herein lies the work of his grace princi­pally, in subduing the obstinacy of men's hearts, in curing the will, & affections of their carnality. Deut. xxx. 6. The Lord thy God will circumeise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed to love all thine heart, &c. Ezek xxxvi 26 And I will take away the stony heart cut of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Now what is it that may be supposed to resist, or frustrate the operations of grace, but the heart of stone, or the perverse obstinacy of the will? but this, God has promised, shall be taken a­way by the prevailing efficacy of his grace.

(4) Because in the work of grace, the will is re­newed, and powerfully inclin'd towards God; as the scriptures clearly testify. Psal. cx 3. Thy people shall be willing, or become thy willing subjects, in the day of thy power. Phil. ii. 13. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure. Joh. vi. 44. No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him, saith Christ; which shews the necessity of divine grace; and our Saviour's inference (verse 45. Every man therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me) shews its victorio [...]s efficacy. If the Father draws, by the Word and Spirit, the sinner infallibly comes to Christ.

(5) Because of the absurd consequences of the con­trary opinion; that leaves the work of conversion at last to the self-determining power of man's free will, for then the great and glorious designs God had in view, in the work of man's redemption by his Son Jesus Christ, would appear to have been built on a precarious bottom, then the decrees of God might be frustrated, and his intentions defeated, contrary to that declaration, Isai. xlvi, 10. My couns [...]l shall stand, and I [Page 22]will do all my pleasure; then God's promise to Christ of a numerous seed to serve him, is grounded on an uncertainty, & Christ died for an uncertainty, the fruits of his death and undertaking depending on the slip­pery and inconstant free will of man; then the elect have no more special grace than the reprobate, the saved than the damned; then a regenerate man may share in the glory of his salvation, if it be the good use of free will, and not the good work of free grace, that makes him to differ from those that perish. These, and divers other absurdities, that flow from the opinion of the power of man's free will, to use or finally to resist the grace of God, are too open and manifest to dwell upon, and serve for the confirmation of the truth opposed by it. Let us come now to the

IMPROVEMENT.

First, Let us learn hence to settle right thoughts about the nature of conversion, and to try our state, whether or no we are truly converted. There is cer­tainly something more in conversion, than many people are aware of; it is more than a turning from error and false worship, to the true religion; some suppose, that conversion is only for heathens, and in­fidels, and those that are without the church: why then are the people of God here brought in, pray­ing, Turn thou me, &c? why was John the baptist sent, to turn many of the children of Israel unto the Lord their God? Luk. i. 16. why was Christ sent to bless the children of the jewish church, in turning them from their iniquities? Act. iii. 25, 16. It is more than the reformation of a scandalous life. 2 Pet. ii. 20. If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowlege of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them, than the beginning. It is supposed, that men may be outwardly reformed, and purg'd from the gross pollutions of the world, by [Page 23]the force of conviction, and of gospel light & know­lege, and yet for want of a gracious change of the inward man, may finally revert to them; that is, they may be visibly reform'd, and not savingly converted: yet how hard a matter is it to bring sinners, even to this, to reform their drunkenness, their uncleanness, their lying, injustice, and the like immoralities; alas, sinners, you may leave these sins, and yet fall short of conversion, and salvation; but while you persist in them, you are certainly in the broad way to hell: more is required of you, than the leaving these pol­lutions of the world, yet whilst you will not be pre­vailed with to do thus much, which it is, confessedly, in your power to do, by the common aids and assis­tances of grace, how far are you from the kingdom of God? and how justly may God be provoked to deny you his effectual converting grace, without which you must perish everlastingly? Again, it is more than some compunction and sorrow for sin. How often do awakenings, convictions, and good re­solutions prove abortive, not being deep and serious enough, to produce a thorow change in men's hearts and lives. Yet again, it is more than putting in practice some neglected duties of religion; many mistake here, if they who have neglected prayer a great part of their lives, begin now to pray in their families, or in secret, if they publickly recognize the covenant of their baptism, if they join themselves to the communion of God's people in special ordinances, and come to the Lord's table, surely now (they are apt to think) they are converted persons, now they are just men that need no repentance: alas, foolish virgins! have you never read or heard, that Christ in the great day, will say, depart from me, to many that will be able to plead, we have eaten, and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets, Luk xiii. 26, 27. and what the doom of the man was in the parable, who came to the marriage feast, not having on a wedding garment, Mat. xxii. 11, 12.

[Page 24] Be not mistaken, saving conversion is more than all this; and 'tis nothing else, nothing less than the life and image of God in the soul of man, evidencing itself in newness of life, and universal holiness; a renouncing the corrupt inclination of the flesh, the service of sin, and the idols of the world, that former­ly possess'd the throne in our hearts, & an unfeigned, and un [...]e [...]rved dedication of ourselves to the Lord Jehovah, to love and serve him, to live to him, and be happy in him, as our supream Lord and benefactor, our last end, and chief good. O let professors be perswaded to search and try their hearts and ways. Try your state by those requisites, and ingredients of a sound conversion, that have been mentioned; that if you have been under mistakes about your con­dition, you may be undeceived while there is a remedy at hand, and whilst there is room for such a prayer as this, turn thou me, &c. An error here is fun­damental, and most dangerous, and fatal; when per­sons take it for granted, that they are true converts already, when they are not so indeed; publicans and harlots, open and notorious sinners, lie more open to conviction, and so are more likely to enter into the kingdom of God than they; they are secure under all the terrors of the Lord, and all the threat'nings of the law and gospel, which are design'd to awaken and alarm all unconverted sinners, while they please themselves with a conceit that they are not of that number: and tho' they are conscious to themselves of many sins of omission and commission that they live in, yet they reckon them as the infirmities of God's children, and so are very easy and contented, for who lives without sin? O let not a deceived heart turn y [...]u aside, lest you perish with a lie in your right hand * Take heed, brethren, lest your hearts be hard'ned thro' the deceitfulness of sin

[Page 25] Secondly, What has been said, serves for conviction to those that indulge a secret opinion of their own suf­ficiency, and power to repent and turn to God when they please. Such a conceit may be found with many, who yet have orthodox notions concerning man's impo­tency, and the necessity of effectual grace. For the truth of this, I will appeal to the consciences of many, who under strong convictions of the sinful­ness and danger of their condition, and of the neces­sity of conversion, to satisfy conscience resolve that some time hereafter they will repent, yet for the present wilfully neglect the doing what they think they can do in order to conversion, and what they purpose some time or other to do. Now what does this argue, but that you think it is in your own pow­er to repent when you please, without any more spe­cial grace from God? otherwise it is a desperate hazard you run, by putting off convictions, and de­ferring repentance, while the Spirit of God is striving with you, lest he depart, and return no more. And I am perswaded, if sinners would seriously consider this, and believe it, they could not be easy in their wretched neglects and delays. Again, have you not, when lusts have been importunate, and temptations strong, yielded to commit a sin against conscience, and, it may be, against solemn vows, with such a tho't as this, if I venture this once, it is but to repent, and all will be well. And does not this suppose, that you think that repentance is at any time in your power, whether God gives you the grace of his Spirit or no? otherwise it is a fearful venture indeed, to provoke God to his face, by whose grace alone, you must be enabled to repent, if ever you do so in sin­cerity. Therefore,

Thirdly, Be deterr'd from sinning upon presumption of repenting; for this very reason, because of the ne­cessity of the grace of God, to thy repentance and conversion, which he is not bound to give. He may [Page 26]do it, and he may not, if he please. If thou takest the liberty of thy will to sin, God may take the li­berty of his will to deny thee grace, and leave thee to thine own hardness, and impenitent heart, to trea­sure up to thy self wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

Fourthly, It may serve to humble all, especially un­converted ones, in a sense of the hardness and obstinacy of their hearts by nature, that nothing can move or melt to a temper pliable to God's will, but the ef­fectual grace of the Spirit of God. Judgments can­not do it of themselves, they may rouze and terrify, but without the gracious influences of the Spirit, will rather have an hardning efficacy. An unconverted sinner under divine chastisements, behaves as a bul­lock unaccustomed to the yoke. A messenger from the dead cannot do it. Luk. xvi. 31. If they hear not Mo­ses, and the prophets, neither will they be perswaded (i. e. to repent, ver. 30) though one rose from the dead. The most awakening sermons, the most lively preach­ing cannot do it. All the former prophets could not soften and subdue the hearts of the men of their ge­neration. Zech. vii. 12. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his Spirit, by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts Isaiah's preaching did but make their heart fat, and their ears heavy, and closed their eyes, that they did not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts, that they might be converted, and healed, Isai. vi. 10. that is, this was the effect of his preaching, thro' the hardness of the people's hearts. And thy heart is made of the same metal. If Isaiah, Jeremiah or E­zekiel were alive, there is hardness enough in thy heart to withstand all their calls, expostulations, and warnings. Nay, if Christ himself were on earth a­gain, who is greater than all the prophets, if he [Page 27]should weep over thee, as he wept over Jerusalem *, he could not humble, soften, nor convert thine ob­stinate heart, without exerting his omnipotent grace. Learn then, to know the plague of thine own heart, and seriously bewail it before God.

Fifthly, Let it be improved for caution against a­busing this doctrine of the necessity of God's grace in the work of conversion.

It is abused, when men pretend it as an excuse for their continuance in sin, or neglect of known duties; they hope to amend and do better, when God gives them grace; and thus, in a very impious man­ner, they lay the blame of their sins, upon God's de­nying them grace. But know, O sinner, that thou art bound by the command, which requires nothing of thee, but what is suited to the powers of thy rea­sonable nature; and thine impotency to do what is required, lies not in the want of natural faculties, but in an obstinate and perverse disposition of will, which is so far from excusing thee from the duties of holiness, that the neglect of them must needs expose thee to the upbraidings of thine own conscience. And the promise offers thee grace sufficient in a sense of thine own impotency, and thou art forever inexcusa­ble, if thou dost not seek it earnestly, and use the ap­pointed means to attain it; but if you content your selves in the slothful neglect of what you may and can do in the use of means, you despise the grace of God, and forfeit the influences and assistances of it, and will perish as inexcusably, as if it had been ever so fully in your own power to convert yourselves.

Again, It is abused, when persons admit of dis­couragements from duties, because they are uncer­tain, [Page 28]whether God will give them grace, and for that reason are discouraged especially from binding them­selves with religious vows to an holy life, and taking upon them the obligations of their baptismal cove­nant, or joining themselves in church fellowship, be­cause it is doubtful whether God will give them grace, which is necessary to enable them to live up to their religious engagements.

But the apostle has taught us to reason quite the contrary way. Phil. ii. 12, 13. Work out your own sal­vation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good plea­sure. He doth not say, because it is God who works in you of his good pleasure, therefore sit still, and wait for the motions and operations of grace; no, but be encouraged hence to work, to stir up yourselves, and put forth endeavours in working out your salvation, never questioning the concurrence and powerful aids of divine grace; which are never wanting to se­rious endeavours; and then be encouraged to hope for the success of your endeavours, for if God works in you, and with you, your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Wherefore give up yourselves to God, use the means of grace, you are then in the way of God's blessing, make trial of his ways in good earnest, depend on his promised grace, and you shall find it sufficient * to carry you thro', as thousands have done before you, who have had no more assu­rance of God's grace than you, but they trusted God, and were helped, and found his grace sufficient for them.

But some may say, if God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, then let me do what I will, or can, I may yet fall short of grace.

[Page 29] But this is a preposterous way of reasoning. 'Tis true I must acknowledge, that God is at liberty to withhold his grace (for if it were due, it were not grace) and may justly do it after all my endeavours, for my ill deservings, yet considering the general offer of grace to all, without exception, it is much more reasonable, and more for the glory of God, and for the honour of his grace, to argue thus, Let me do what I can in the use of means, and I have no reason to despair of grace, and help from God, but rather much encouragement to expect it; and a sense of sin and unworthiness should be no discouragement, for he gives grace to none because they are worthy, nor de­nies it to none meerly because of their unworthiness, for so he should deny it to all; say then, Lord, I am a poor wretched creature, unworthy of a favourable look from thee, there is nothing in me to move thee to pity or help me, but my own wants and miseries; yet since thy grace is free to all, even the most un­worthy, and thou hast mercy in a sovereign way on whom thou wilt, if therefore, Lord, thou wilt, thou canst glorify thy mercy on such a vile unworthy object as I am, therefore will I wait on thee, and if I perish, I will perish at the footstool of thy grace. A soul bro't into this humble yielding frame, is a fit object of the divine compassions and grace. Jam. iv. 6, 7. He giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves there­fore to God. Hence,

Sixthly, Let me proceed to an use of exhortation, from the consideration of the necessity and victorious efficacy of the grace of God in conversion, Let all con­cern'd, be excited and quick'ned to pray to God, and pray earnestly for his converting grace, to be poured out on themselves and their children: for if conversion be the gift and work of God's grace, what more rea­sonable and necessary, than that his grace should be acknowleg'd and magnified, by our humble dep [...] ­dance on it, and earnest desires after it, exp [...]e [...]d [...] [Page 30]fervent prayer and supplication? And thus God ex­pects we should shew our value of this blessing, and our disposition and readiness to ascribe to him the praise and glory of it intirely. And there are several sorts of persons concern'd in this exhortation, to whom therefore I would address it with all seriousness.

And First, I would press it upon all unconverted o [...]s, or those who have reason to think themselves such, to pray to God for his converting grace. Se­condly, On true converts themselves, after grace re­ceived, still to pray for the grace of God to convert, and recover them from their backslidings. or decays of grace they may have fallen into. Thirdly, On Parents in covenant with God, to pray for their un­converted children. And Fourthly, On the uncon­verted children of the covenant in particular, to pray for the grace of God to convert and turn them to himself; taking encouragement from their visible covenant relation to God, as their God.

First, Let me urge and inculcate, the great duty and concern of unconverted sinners to pray for converting grace; pursuant to the second point of observation from the example in the text: which contains (as was ob­serv'd) a petition for converting grace, such as be­comes every unconverted sinner to offer up to God. And though Ephraim, who is here brought in pray­ing for his conversion, was not altogether in a state of natural corruption, and unregeneracy; his lan­guage in this and the following verse, is expressive of a very humble and penitent disposition, a good work was already begun in him by the grace of God: yet still the same grace was necessary to bring it to some perfection, without which (that is, if God should then have left him, without the further assis­tances of his grace) he is sensible that he should still miscarry, that he should still wander from his duty and happiness, and never be thorowly converted and [Page 31] healed; and therefore prays, turn thou me, and I shall be turned. The same sense every unconverted sin­ner ought to have of his condition, and to humble himself, and confess his sins, & bewail his impotency and insufficiency to turn himself, and to beg of God the powerful influences and aids of his Spirit, in order to his effectual conversion.

If it be said, that such sinners are as uncapable of do­ing this, as of converting themselves, they are uncapable of making such humble, penitent, believing supplica­tions as God will accept, for this supposes them al­ready endow'd with the grace of repentance. But

I Answer, Sinners must needs be supposed to have desires of their own happiness, which are inseparable from a reasonable creature, and it is the will of God that such desires should be cultivated and improv'd; there are many important duties of religion urg'd upon men, from a supposition of these natural desires of their own welfare; and if sinners would suffer themselves to be set right, by the rules of the word, in the method of pursuing these desires, they would not fail of everlasting happiness, and under this no­tion, they may desire the grace of God, without which, they know they cannot be saved; and it must needs be granted also, that they are capable of taking to themselves words to express such desires to God; and if sinners might be prevailed with to do this, with that fervency and importunity that the nature of the thing requires, tho' prompted thereunto meer­ly from a concern for their own welfare, they have sufficient encouragement set before them, to hope that such their desires and prayers shall not be alto­gether without success. Wherefore in order to the inforcement of this exhortation, I shall endeavour to shew these two things,

  • 1. That it is the unquestionable duty of all unrege­nerate and unconverted ones to pray to God.
  • [Page 32] 2. That it is their great concern to pray for conver­ting grace.

1. That it is the unquestionable duty of all unregene­rate and unconverted ones to pray to God. Though they are supposed destitute of supernatural habits, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit of grace and supplication, that should frame their hearts unto this duty, in order to the acceptable performance of it, they are still under indispensable obligations to pray to God: and the more sinful and wretched their condition is, and the more sensible they are of their own vileness, and unworthiness, the more need they have certainly, to bemoan themselves to God, and pour out their hearts before him in prayer, for the succours of his mercy and grace.

That this is matter of plain duty, appears, in that prayer is a duty of worship founded on the law of nature, the obligations whereof reach every man, be­ing of equal extent with the humane nature; this is a part of natural homage due from all reasonable creatures to the God that made them, by the law of their creation, and dependance on him. Psal. c. 2, 3. Serve the Lord with gladness —. Know ye that the Lord he is God, it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. Psal. xcv. 6, 7, O come let us worship, and how down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. It is highly reasonable that de­pending creatures, endow'd with reason and under­standing, should in this way, own the sovereign au­thor of their beings, on whom they have a constant and necessary dependance for life, breath, and all things. The neglect whereof therefore is a counter­acting the end of our creation, and a violation of the prime dictate of the law of nature. For prayer is a duty which natural conscience requires of men, there is a natural reverence of God in the consciences of [Page 33]men that prompts them to this duty. The unen­lightned heathen, tho' mistaken in the objects of their worship, have yet ever tho't it their duty to pray to the gods they own'd. Thus those pagan mariners in Jon. i. 5. in a distressing tempest at sea, being taught, as it should seem, by the meer voice of nature, cried every man to his god. And those that neglect this part of God's worship, are justly construed to cast off the natural reverence of God. Job xv. 4 Thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God. Moreover.

This duty is enforced by the plain positive com­mands of the word, often repeated, from the obliga­tion whereof no sort of men can pretend exemption. Such as Psal. lxii. 8. Trust in him at all times, ye peo­ple, pour out your heart before him. Isai. lv. 6. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him, while he is near. Luk. xviii. 1. He spake a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint. 1 Tim. ii. 8. I will that men pray every where, &c. These & the like commands which often occur in scripture, enjoin the duty upon men indiffe­rently, without determining whether they be rege­nerate, or unregenerate, and are of equal extent with the law of nature obliging every man to pray. Again,

There are many gracious promises God has made to prayer, which are design'd for the encouragement of such sinners, and do therefore greatly inforce their obligations thereunto; such as Prov. viii. 17. They that seek me early shall find me. Mat. vii. 7, 8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth, &c. i. e. every one, whosoever he be, that makes a business of serious importunate prayer, shall undoubtedly find acceptance and success in his pe­titions. Isai. xlv. 19. I said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. And many others of the like im­portance, [Page 34]which should encourage and perswade all men, even the vilest sinners to the practice of this duty; so that their interest invites them, & their ne­cessities should drive them to their prayers. For con­sider again, that the natural state of fallen man is a state of extream indigence: he is wretched, miserae­ble, poor, blind and naked, Rev. iii. 17. which calls aloud upon him to apply himself to the mercy of God by earnest prayer for relief. Who of all the living do more need divine mercy and succour than unregenerate sinners? so that their being sinners, and unregenerate, is so far from excusing them from prayer, as a duty they are unfit for, that it shews them the greater need they have to pray, to confess their iniquities, & beg pardon of their offended Lord, and his grace and mercy to heal the maladies, and re­lieve the necessities of their poor perishing souls. And let me add,

That God's affording to sinners a day of grace, and a season of trial in this world, for their eternal state, confirms their obligations to this duty, and should quicken them to the speedy and serious practice of it. Thro' the riches of God's goodness and for bear­ance, they are still in the land of hope, in a state of trial, and expectation; their final condition is not yet determined, God hath not yet pass'd a sentence of rejection upon them, he doth not yet say unto them, tho' you cry unto me, I will not hear, such a sentence he will pass upon men, when he comes to deal with them in wrath, and to execute judgment without mercy*. And this is the condition of those poor sinners that are gone to their everlasting state, tho' they cry never so earnestly for mercy, it will be all in vain, when their state of trial is over, and their opportunities of grace at an end, the bowels of God's [Page 35]compassions will be for ever shut up against them. Many will at last cry with the greatest vehemence and importunity, Lord, Lord, open to us, when it will be too late to prevail by their most importunate en­treaties, the door of mercy being shut . But it is not so with sinners in this time of trial and hope that God has mercifully afforded them in this world; the door of mercy is now open to the greatest sinners, especially to those that enjoy the gospel, and means of grace; they have the greatest encouragement that can be desired to seek God; he is near to them in the offers of his grace, and the strivings of his Spirit, it is now a time when he may be found by humble, and diligent seekers. God reveals himself to them on a mercy seat, and the way to the throne of grace is open to them by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, who is ready to befriend them by his agency, and in­tercession with the Father. They have now an ac­cepted time, and day of salvation; and their penitent supplications may find acceptance with the God of mercy, as God heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, &c. From all which considerations it appears, that sinners in a state of unregeneracy are under the plainest ob­ligations to pray to God.

Object But it is said, without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb xi 6 And that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, Prov. xv. 8. therefore some may be ready to think that it is better to forbear a duty, than to contract new guilt by the performance of it.

Answ It is granted, that faith towards God, and the Mediator, is certainly necessary to our pleasing God in duties of worship, especially in prayer: and that the unregenerate not having a justifying faith [Page 36] cannot please God, Rom. viii. 8. And further, it is true that such sinners as go on wilfully in a course of transgression, and rebellion against God, can't be tho't to pray acceptably, yea their prayers are an abomina­tion to him; for be that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination, Prov xxviii. 9. But what does all this infer, but that whilst men content themselves in an unregenerate state, and live securely in sin, and think by their for­mal services and duties of worship, to atone for their moral transgressions, they are the objects of God's displeasure, and the more so for their hypocrisy, and dissimulation in their prayers and devotions. And this, surely, is a very dangerous state not to be rested in securely. But for a more direct answer to the ob­jection in a word or two,

(1) If unregenerate sinners are bound to pray by the law of nature, and the express commands of God's word, as has been prov'd, it is unreasonable to sup­pose, that their want of fit qualifications should make void their obligations thereunto; for then it would follow, that the profanest sinners would be chargea­ble with no guilt, for their ungodly neglects of the plainest duties of God's worship, as being under no obligation to them for want of suitable qualifications; which is an open absurdity; yea, this very defect is their sin and fault, for what is it that may be sup­posed to render sinners unqualified, or unmeet for the duty of prayer? not meerly their being sinners; for the greatest sinners praying to God in an humble, penitent, broken hearted manner, shall, without doubt, find acceptance with him: but their being wilful resolved sinners, securely persisting in sin, which is rather an aggravation of their guilt than any excuse for their omission of God's worship.

Therefore,

[Page 37] (2) It is equally their duty to repent, believe, and pray; as the apostle Peter directs Simon Magus, Act. viii. 22. Repent of this thy wickedness, and pray God, &c. When sinners, therefore, are called upon to pray, it is not meant that they should pray without repen­tance towards God, and faith towards the mediator, but these graces are to be exercised in prayer, we must exercise repentance in humiliation, and confes­sion of sin, and faith in our supplications for mercy in the name of Christ, which suggests another argument whereby this duty is enfore'd. For if it be the duty of sinners to repent and believe in Christ, as most certainly it is, then it is unquestionably their duty to pray, for these graces are to be acted in prayer, and every man that sets himself to repent, or makes any offer towards it, will think it his duty to pray to God; 'tis one of the first and main duties in which his own conscience will direct him to exercise repentance. And there is no incongruity in calling upon sinners to exercise repentance and faith in their prayers to God for the grace of repentance, and conversion, because the operations of divine grace are no other­wise to be expected, than in concurrence with our best endeavours in the use of the means of grace.

(3) Tho' sinners be not at present in a state of justification and acceptance with God, though they have not as yet receiv'd the Spirit of adoption, en­abling them to cry, Abba, Father; yet it must be confess'd, that it is much better and safer for them to pray as well as they can, than wholly to neglect it. There is certainly a difference to be made between wicked men, or those that are in an unregenerate state, in respect of their prayers; and it may truly be said, that the prayers of some sinners are more a­greable to the will of God, than those of others. some pray only to cover their hypocrisy and wick­edness, and get esteem among people; as the phari­sees, who gave alms, and prayed, that they might be [Page 38]seen and have praise of men, Mat. vi. 2, 5. and for a pretence made long prayers, Mat. xxiii. 14. Some pray in a formal manner, without any serious desires to­wards God, meerly from a dictate of conscience. Some pra [...] for provision for their lusts; they ask amiss, that they might consume it upon their lusts, Jam. iv. 3. Some think by their prayers to make some compensation for past miscarriages, that they may run on a new score; 'tis no wonder at all that such prayers are an abomination to the holy God. But then it must be acknowleged, that there are some sinners, who are put upon praying, and that in secret, by a sense of their sinful and wretched state, and their need of a Saviour, and out of a serious concern for the welfare of their souls. And supposing that such sinners are not yet converted, yet there are hopeful symptoms upon them, and they are making progress towards conversion; and certainly it is much more pleasing to God, for sinners to pray as well as they are able, in a contrite sense of their sins and wants, and their case is more hopeful, than if they liv'd in the careless omission of such an important duty of worship and means of grace. Consider therefore,

(4) Prayer is one of those ordinances of God where­by he conveys saving grace, and therefore to be at­tended by unregenerate persons, no less than the hearing of the word, as being an appointed means of conversion; in the want of supernatural abilities, they must improve their natural faculties, & continue lying at the pool of Bethesda, waiting on God in out­ward ordinances, for the quickning healing influences of his holy Spirit. You are directed to take with you words, and turn to the Lord, and say unto him, take away all iniquity, &c. Hos. xiv. 2. And in this way God may meet you, as he has met thousands, with his gracious visits, and spiritual blessings. But this leads me to the second particular,

[Page 39] 2. That it is the great concern of unconverted sinners to pray for converting grace. And having shew'd it to be their unquestionable duty to pray, that it is their great concern to pray for converting grace, requires no great labour or proof. For,

(1) Conversion and repentance is the gift of God, and not in the sinners own power without divine grace, as has been prov'd, and every such gist must be ask'd in prayer. Regenerating grace is a good and perfect gift that comes down from the Father of lights. Jam. i. 17, 18 Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. Of his own will begat he us, &c Therefore it is highly fitting, and reasonable, that if any man lack this gift, he should ask it of God, as verse 5 If any of you lack wisdom, or grace, let him ask of God, that giveth unto all men liberally, and upbraid [...]th not, and it shall be given 'Tis fitting that the indigent sinner should express his desire and value of this gift; and that the donor of it should be acknowleg'd, and the honour of his grace secur'd by humble and earnest prayer.

(2) God has promised the grace of regeneration and conversion. The first saving grace is matter of promise; it is exhibited to sinners in such promises as these, Deut. xxx. 6. The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, &c. Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts — They shall all know me from the least of them, unto the greatest, &c. Ezek. xxxvi. 26. A new heart will I give you, &c. Now the promises are the rule & warrant of our prayers. To pray for what God has promised to give is to ask according to his will, and this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, be heareth us, Joh v. 14. And the promises afford great encouragement to a sinner's prayers, for hereby it appears not only that God can [Page 40]work conversion if he will, but also that he will do it for some, yea for many, and most probably for those whose hearts are stirred up to seek unto him for it. And such is the wretchedness of an uncon­verted state, that a probability of obtaining so great a blessing should excite all to pray for it.

(3) Prayer is the means sanctified, and appointed by God for the obtaining this gift. Among the many choice mercies promised to the church and people of God, in Ezek. xxxvi. the promise of giving a new heart, and spiritual blessings, is of principal considera­tion, ver. 26, 27. yet the means which God has or­dained for the accomplishment of this his promised grace, is serious and earnest prayer; as it follows, ver. 37. Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them. So Luk. xi. 13 — How much more shall your heavenly father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him? God can indeed work grace without our prayers, and he is sometimes found of them that sought him not *, in a way of sovereign preventing mercy: but tho' God has not ty'd himself to means, so as never to work without them, yet he has so ty'd us to them, as that we should never expect any saving influences from above in the neglect of them, especially to prayer, which is a self abasing, and soul-humbling duty, re­quisite and conductive to the honour of divine grace, and necessary to prepare us for the blessed effects of it.

(4) The calls of God to repentance and conversion are design'd to direct and quicken sinners to seek his converting grace. God calls sinners to do that which without his effectual grace they cannot do, as Ezek. xviii. 32 Make you a new heart, and a new spirit: and yet it is his grace alone that must do this, which [Page 41]therefore he has promised, chap. xxxvi. 26. But not­withstanding this, God's calls to sinners to turn, and make them a new heart, are not useless and in vain, tho' they labour under a moral impotency to obey these commands; but they are design'd to set them about their duty, with all seriousness, which is the most effectual means of beating down all carnal conceits of their own sufficiency, which they are prone to indulge, that being sensibly convinc'd of their own impotency, they might humbly implore the grace of God to work that in them which he requires of them. A man confined to a sick bed, may per­haps sometimes imagine that he can get up, & walk, as at other times; but the least attempt soon makes him sensible of his impotence. So sinners may ima­gine that they can break off their sins by repentance, and turn to God when they please, and can scarce believe a necessity of the almighty power and grace of God to work a change in their hearts in order thereunto, but when they make the attempt in good earnest, and set themselves seriously about the work of repentance, in renouncing carnal habits, and hum­bling their souls unto obedience to the will of God, they soon begin to feel their own weakness, and need of the succours of divine grace, to carry them thro' a course of repentance, in humiliation for, and morti­fication of sin, and in recovering them to and esta­blishing them in a new and holy course of life; a sense whereof naturally and necessarily leads them to their prayers, & engages them to seek God by hum­ble and earnest supplications for the promised aids and influences of his grace and Spirit. So that as the pro­mises are design'd to encourage their compliance with the commands, so the calls and commands of the word are design'd to drive them to the promises, to seek by prayer the grace promised, which is ne­cessary to their effectual recovery from sin to holiness.

[Page 42] (5) If sinners are obliged to pray for any thing, they have the greatest reason in the world to pray for converting grace. This is of greater necessity and importance to their happiness, than all temporal blessings, than health, wealth, liberty, peace, or even than their daily bread: these things serve only to the comfort and convenience of this present mortal life, and afford no relief to the soul against its greatest necessities, and miseries, but the renewing & healing grace of God is necessary to the life and well being of the immortal soul. Yea, in some sense they have more need to pray for converting grace, than for the remission of their sins; for though this ought to be ask'd of God in prayer, yet without conversion there is no possibility of obtaining it, repentance and re­mission of sins being inseparably connected in the gospel covenant But if we obtain converting grace, we are assured of the forgiveness of sins, and of all the privileges of mercy, by the certain promise of God. Isai lv. 7. Let the wicked forsake his way, — and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly par­don. And if God gives repentance, he will infalli­bly bestow remission of sins: for he hath exalted his Son Jesus Christ, with his right hand, to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and for­giveness of sins, Act. v. 31. Thus you see how much it is the concern of the unconverted to pray for con­verting grace.

Now then, let all unconverted ones, and all those that have just grounds to fear that they are yet in their sins, and strangers to the new birth, suffer the word of exhortation to prevail with them.

Be excited in a sense of duty and interest, to put forth endeavours, and cry mightily to the God of all grace for his effectual renewing, quick [...]ning, heart-changing grace, which is necessary to your turning [Page 43]from sin, and living to God; beg of him to give you repentance (as well as forgiveness of sins) by the operation of his Spirit, & thro' the merit of his Son's blood. To that end,

1. Think often and seriously, of the miseries of your condition whilst unconverted; the wrath and curse of God abideth on you: and without conver­sion there is no pardon, no peace with God, no sal­vation, no possibility of escaping the perdition of hell. Christ has told you once, and again, Luk. xiii. 3, 5. That except ye repent, ye shall perish: and without the effectual grace of God, you never will repent, or be converted. The carnal mind, and will, is enmity a­gainst God, opposite to all holiness, Rom. viii. 7. and will for ever continue so, unless divine grace work a change in the byass and inclination of your souls. As it is said, through faith ye are saved*, so thro' conversion ye are saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Let such thoughts as these dwell on your minds day and night, when you rise up and when you lie down, to quicken your importunities at the throne of grace, for divine mercy and grace in Christ to succour the pressing necessities of your souls. And consider further,

2. If the present accepted time be neglected, you will cry in vain when it will be too late. They that turn their back upon God all their days, yet in the time of their trouble, they will say, arise, and save us, Jer. ii. 27. In a time of distress or sickness, or under the near approach of death, sinners will cry to God for mercy, if their consciences be not fearfully stupi­fied; a sense of their necessities will urge & constrain them to it; which shews, that it is meer security and obstinacy, that they do not now pray as well as when [Page 44]distress cometh, that they do not now lay to heart their spiritual necessities, and stir up themselves to seek God, while he may be found a prayer hearing God: and for the neglect hereof, God threatens that they shall cry and not be heard. Prov. i. 24,—28. Because I have called (viz. verse 23. Turn thou at my reproof) and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand in the offers and promises of grace (such as, behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you, ver. 23.) and no man regarded &c. then it follows, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh, — then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early but they shall not find me. Again consider,

3. If you perish without the grace of God, it will evidently appear that your destruction is of your selves. Tho' you cannot save yourselves, nor in or­der thereunto recover yourselves out of your misera­ble degeneracy by a true repentance without the efficacious working of divine grace; yet since God offers you this grace, and is ready to confer it, and waits but for your humble and earnest seeking for it. Mat. vii. 7, 8. Ask, and it shall be given you &c. for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Which words of our Saviour imply, that none that ever set themselves in good earnest to seek the grace of God, and continued importunate, at the door of mercy, have been rejected, but have obtained their suit; for every one that asketh, receiveth: since, I say, this grace is to be had for asking by importunate prayer, if you will not be perswaded to do thus much, you must needs inexcusably perish; it will appear that God has done for you all that becomes him, as a wise and gracious ruler to do for his worthless, re­volted creatures, to prevent their being lost for ever; and the blame of your perdition will lie wholly at your own door; because you despised the grace of [Page 45]God, whilst it might have been obtained, not esteem­ing it worth asking; how justly may Christ then upbraid you with your folly, in your contempt and refusal of his grace, as the cause of your eternal. ruin, You would not come unto me, that you might have life, Joh. v. 40.

How sad is it, sinner, (if thou believest these things) that the consideration of the misery and danger of a sinful state, will not press out one sigh or groan from thy heart, or excite thee to offer up one cry, to breath out one fervent desire to the Father of mercies (who alone is ready and able to pity and help thee) from one week, or month, or year, to another? and how much more lamentable is thy case, the less it is lamented by thee?

But if by these considerations, I might prevail with any to engage in the serious practice of the duty ex­horted to; let me proceed to counsel and direct you in a few words,

1. Consider well what it is you must aim at in your prayers and endeavours after conversion. I have endeavoured by some brief hints, to obviate your mistakes about conversion. If you imagine, that no more is intended in it than a forsaking some sinful customs, or refraining from gross scandals, or leading a life visibly blameless in the eyes of men, or of com­mon professors, or putting on a form of godliness, and keeping up a course of external religious duties (all which a meer hypocrite may do (to outward appear­ance) as well as a true saint) you will scarce see any need of the physician of souls, or any need of the healing grace of God, or of earnest supplications for that grace to repair the distemper'd frame of your souls. But you must know, that conversion consists in the recovery of your souls to the life of God, from which you are naturally estranged; your understand­ing [Page 46]and judgments must be renewed unto a thorow conviction of the evil of sin, and of the vanity of the world, and the insufficiency of all its enjoyments, of all the pleasures, profits, and honours of it to relieve you against your greatest miseries, or to make you truly happy; and of your absolute need of Christ, and of his superlative worth, and excellency, and sufficiency to answer all your spiritual necessities and disires; the bent of your wills must be turned to choose and love God in Christ as your chief good, in opposition to the world, and the idols of it; the prevailing aim of your lives both in duties of worship, and in common conversation, must be to please God, by approving your hearts to him, in a strict course of obedience and spiritual devotion to him; your affections must be displac'd, taken off from things on earth, and set on the things above. In a word, the image of Christ must be formed in the heart, and the whole soul must be endow'd with such a spiritual, divine temper, as may qualify it for complacential converses with God, and render it meet to see and enjoy him in heaven. Nothing short of this must be your aim, when you set yourselves to pray for the grace of God to renew and convert you, for the ef­fecting whereof you will see a necessity of the great­est importunity in your addresses to the throne of grace, for the heavenly influences of the divine Spirit. Therefore,

2. You must pray with deep humiliation in a sense of the miseries of your carnal natures 'Tis a requi­site of acceptable prayer, that a man should know the plague of his own heart, 1 King. viii. 38 This plague of the heart, is the corruption and depravity of the degenerate soul of man, which admits of various de­nominations, according to the different respects in which it stands in opposition to the blessed God; (for the aversion of the heart from God, and its oppositi­on to him, is the great disease of all humane souls, [Page 47]since the fall) With respect to God as creator, the plague of the heart is ignorance, blindness, atheism, unbelief, whereby men are taken off from a depen­dance on God as the first cause. It is an evil heart of unbelief that discovers itself in departing from the living G [...]d. With respect to God as a sovereign Lord and ruler, the plague of heart is obstinacy, hardness of heart, the enmity of the carnal mind, the rebellion of the appetites & passions against the law of the mind, the unsubmissiveness of the will, murmuring, impa­tience, and discontent, whereby man withdraws his allegiance from God. With respect to God, as the chief good, the plague of heart is hatred of God, wea­riness of God, creature love, inordinate affections to earthly things, the pleasures, profits, and enjoyments of the world, whereby men are carried away from their true happiness in God, as the supream bene­factor. With respect to God as the final cause, this plague of heart is self-love, self-esteem, self-seeking, pride, ambition, vain-glory, and the like, whereby man arrogates to himself the glory and praise that is due to God alone, as the last end. Now every un­renewed soul is deeply infected with this plague in the understanding, spiritual darkness, cursed preju­dices against truth and holiness, in the will stub­bornness and disobedience, in the affections, carnal lust, and raging passions, envy, wrath, malice; of which plague, nothing but the regenerating grace of God can effectually work a cure; and in praying for this grace, you must labour to be sensible of, & deep­ly lament these distempers of your souls. Till a man comes to know, and have some experience of the plague of his own heart all his prayers will be flat and cold, and undertaken but for form sake: but when he once begins to feel his disease, and to have a true sense of this heart plague, then the spiritual phy­sician [Page 48]will be valued and desired to good purpose, then he may be supposed to pray as one in earnest, with life and fervency, as knowing that no cure is to be expected but from a divine hand; then he will cry out, Lord, give me thy holy Spirit, to renew and heal my diseased soul, to take away this plague, or else I shall pine away under it, and perish for ever from thy presence; Lord, heal me and I shall be healed, &c. Thus you must humble yourselves before God, not only for some particular sins of life which may lie heavy on your consciences, and you can have no rest till you have confess'd them to God, and sought forgiveness; this indeed ought to be done, but you must go on with your confession and humi­liation to the fountain whence these impure streams issue forth, which is a corrupt nature; and confess to God, not only against thee have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, Psal. li. 4. but also, behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me, ver 5. Humble yourselves likewise in a sense of your utter insufficiency to renew or recover yourselves from the maladies and miseries of a carnal state; and of your utter unworthiness of any relief or help from God; humbly refer yourselves to his compassions, and ac­knowlege that all your expectations are from his free grace.

3. Pray in faith. Jam. i. 6. Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. Say not, faith is God's gift in the work of conversion, for tho' it be the work of God, yet it must also be the act of the sinner, and is ne­cessary as the foundation of all your religious ad­dresses to God; for he that cometh unto God must be­lieve that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently se [...]k him, Heb. xi. 6. And you are bound to believe and to exercise faith in prayer, and therefore in a sense of du [...]y, you must exert your best endea­vours; and in this way you may expect relief from the supernatural influences of divine grace; pray [Page 49]therefore, as you are able, with faith in the promises of grace, such as those before-mentioned. By faith plead the power of God, whereby he is able to make good his promises, Lord if thou wilt thou canst change my heart of stone into an heart of flesh; to me it is im­possible, but not to thee, for with thee all things are possible. Plead the truth and faithfulness of God in his promises, whereby he is engag'd to make them good, Lord, I could have no hope or encouragement, to ask at thy hands, the great and precious gift of thy grace and Spirit, but that thou hast spoken such a word as this, I will give a new heart, &c. I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh *; therefore have I found in my heart to make this the matter of my request to thee; wilt thou frustrate the hope and ex­pectation that thy word has raised in a sinner's heart? O let not thy word of promise fail.

Particularly, you must exercise faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and have an eye in all your ad­dresses to God, to the powerful mediation of our Sa­viour, thro' whose hands all saving gifts and spiritual blessings are dispens'd out unto men; and since God has commission'd and impower'd him to give repen­tance, and remission of sins, & 'tis his voice that quickens those that are dead in sin, for as the father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the son, to have life in himself , and was pleased, that in him all fulness should dwell, for the renovation and reconciliation of fallen sinners therefore you must seek to him for the blessings of his grace, to turn you from your ini­quities, and to work a cure on your souls. Take en­couragement from the instances of the power, and compassions of our Lord Jesus (extant in the gospels) in healing bodily infirmities, to bring your diseased souls to him by faith and prayer, expecting the saving [Page 50]influences of his Spirit, those healing beams of the Sun of righteousness. How ready and able was he, when on earth, to heal the various maladies and dis­tempers of mens bodies? did he ever deny the re­quest of any one that sought him for such a mercy? Believe then, that (seeing spiritual cures are now more especially the work and business of the great physician) he is as able and ready, & compassionately inclin'd, to bless your souls with the healing influ­ences of his grace, upon your serious application to him, in a sense of your spiritual wants & maladies, and with confidence in his wisdom, ability and com­passion; address him in the language of the leper, Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean *, and be encouraged to hope, that he will say unto thee, as to him, I will be thou clean, and then thou shalt be purged from thy spiritual leprosy. Only believe, for as Jesus said to the father of him that was possessed, if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth : (the almighty power of the great Saviour to which every saving work is possible, being en­gaged by faith). Trust your spiritual physician, follow all his prescriptions, and doubt not of success.

4. You must pray with earnestness and constancy. Be very importunate at the throne of grace; the ne­cessities of your souls, require the greatest earnestness and vigour in your supplications, beg as for your lives, that God would give you the saving grace of his holy Spirit. It may be you will say, I have often prayed to this purpose, but still I find my corrup­tions and lusts as strong as ever, and my heart as lit­tle subdued to the will of God as before. But it may be thus only in your own sense, and apprehension, and you may perhaps be more sensible of the power of sin and corruption than before, which is often the [Page 51]case of sinners under a work of illumination. But if this be really the case, the true reason may be because you do not stir up yourselves to earnestness in prayer, but perform the duty in a formal heartless manner, rather from a dictate of conscience, that you ought not to leave it undone, than from the inward sense of your minds and desire of your souls in a sense of indigence & want. If therefore you would succeed in your supplications, stir up warm & earnest desires towards God, wrestle thro' discouragements, say with Jacob, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me *, with the blessing of a renewed healed soul. Our Saviour has, in several parables, recommended and encouraged importunity in prayer; particularly Luk. xi. 5, — 9. And he said unto them, which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come unto me, and I have no­thing to set before him: and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise & give thee. I say unto you, tho' he will not rise and give him, be­cause he is his friend; yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth The scope and design of which parable, is declared in the words immediately subjoin'd; and I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. And the par­ticular blessing he directs us there to ask, is the gift of the holy Spirit, ver. 13. the author of all saving grace. The parable is not so to be understood, as if the blessed God needed our importunity, or was moved by it (as men are) to do that which he is un­willing to do otherwise; but it is design'd to shew the success of importunity in our prayers, and its pre­vailing efficacy for the obtaining mercy from God, [Page 52]not by making him more willing to give, but by making our own hearts more fit and prepared to re­ceive the blessing ask'd.

Again, you must be frequent & constant in prayer. It is not sufficient once, or twice, in a pang of devo­tion, to make a fervent prayer for grace, but you must continue in prayer with persevering importu­nity, cry day and night unto God, and not give over, until he shall have mercy on your souls.

Lastly, Let your prayers for converting grace be followed with answerable endeavours in the work of conversion. This direction indeed would be super­fluous, if sinners might be perswaded to be importu­nately desirous of their own conversion; for is it possible to desire any thing very earnestly, and to sit still without suitable endeavours? if it be not so in temporal concerns, it is a delusion if we imagine it will be of any more force in the matters of our souls. In praying to God for his grace to turn you from sin to holiness, you admonish yourselves of what must be your aim and endeavour in the course of your lives. If you revert to your former loose vain behaviour, you do in effect deny, and retract your own prayers: and can you then think, that God will have any re­gard to them? Tho' you cannot turn yourselves, without the special grace of God, yet he expects, that you should frame your doing to turn to him*: and if you will not do what you may and can do ‘by the improvement of your natural faculties, and the common aids of the Spirit,’ it will be just with God to deny you his special grace; and if you be not converted and healed, the blame will for ever lie on yourselves. Set yourselves therefore in a depen­dance on divine grace, to watch and strive against sin, [Page 53]and to reform ill habits, and break off from bad com­pany, diligently attend the means of grace, commune often with your own hearts, and consider your ways; come to a point at last, and be fully resolved and de­termined for God, and holiness, and heaven: and de­sist not till the work be compleated, that is, till you have prevailed with yourselves seriously and prayer­fully, understandingly and deliberately, to come into a covenant dedication of yourselves to GOD the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be his entirely, to trust in, love, and serve him, and to be pardoned, and sanctified, ruled, and saved by him eternally. And let this be done, 1. Privately, in secret trans­actions between God and your own souls. 2. Pub­lickly, in the presence of his people. And 3. Practi­cally, in a life of holiness and devotedness to God. Now arise, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee *.

This may suffice for the first branch of exhortation, which, being mainly design'd, I have the more largely insisted on. I proceed now in a few words, to press the exhortation,

Secondly, On true converts themselves, who after grace received, are still concern'd, to pray for the grace of God to convert and recover them from their back­slidings, or decays of grace, they may have fallen into. For if conversion be the acting of the life of grace, in repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, as I have shewed; and if the grace of God works, not only in conferring gracious habits in regeneration, but in drawing forth those habits in­to exercise in actual conversion, and repentance; (as appears from Phil. ii. 13.) then it is not at all un­becoming the regenerate themselves to make this prayer in the text, turn thou me, and I shall be turned. [Page 54]Because, as sin remains in them, and too often breaks out into act, so they have need of turning more and more unto God every day of their lives, and it is by his grace that they are enabled so to do, which there­fore must be sought by daily prayer; especially in these two cases,

  • 1. Under declinings of the spiritual life. When they find in themselves a dulness, heaviness, and straitness of spirit, and indispositions unto and in holy duties, and the life and vigour of grace under decays, when they have lost much of their spiritual savour, and there is an abatement of that love and delight which they once had in the things of God, & in their converses with him in the word, prayer, and the sa­crament, and carnal affections sadly prevail; then it is time to cry out with the psalmist, in his complaint and prayer, Psal. cx.x. 25. My soul [...]leaveth unto the dust; quicken th [...]u me according to thy word; & ver 32. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart: and with the spouse, Cant i. 4. Draw me, we will run after thee 'Tis God's pro­mise, not only to put his Spirit within us, but to cause us to walk in his statutes, &c. Ez [...]k. xxxvi. 27. We must pray therefore for the powerful co-operations of the Spirit of grace, without which we cannot move, much less [...]un after him. When we are fallen from our first love, we must repent, and do our first works , and own our dependance on divine grace for our recovery: the life of our souls lies in a close dependance on God thro' Christ, by faith, for as we depend upon him as the God of nature, not only for our natural lives, but for every motion and action of life; so we must depend on him as the God of grace, for all the acts of the spiritual life, and for the pre­servation, progress, and increase of it, for in him we [Page 55]live, move, and have our being in the spiritual, as well as natural sense. And we must express this our dependance, by continual humble prayer, under decays, more especially, we must look up to God in Christ, and earnestly supplicate for the revival of his work in our hearts, by fresh influences from above: to which purpose, that prayer of the church (which speaks the language of the text) may be (not impro­perly) used, in Lam v. 21. Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned: renew our days as of old.
  • 2. When they fall into any sin; against which they have no absolute security by grace receiv'd, nor by the promises of the covenant of grace; for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, Eccl. vii. 20. And as the falls of the saints on scrip­ture record do testify, in such cases they must be con­verted anew. Mat. xviii. 3. Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, said Christ to his own disciples (when they discover'd a frame of spirit unsuitable to the gospel state, in aspiring after the preheminence) and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Conversion therefore is two-fold; a conversion from a state of sin, which is the first con­version of a finner, when he is turned from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and satan unto God: and a conversion from the acts of sin, which is incumbent on all regenerate believers, as often as they fall into sin, or suffer any carnal lust to prevail in their hearts. Peter's recovery from his fall, is called his conversion, Luk xxii. 32. therefore they must be­gin the work of repentance anew, and implore the efficacious influences of divine grace, to assist them in it. As David, after his fall, begs of God new creating grace. Psal. li 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me; as if the [Page 56]work of grace had but then its beginning, and the new creature were then first to be formed in his soul; for the same effectual grace is necessary to reduce the backsliding children of God, that was put forth in their first conversion; for however certain the per­severance of believers is unto the kingdom of glory, yet it is a truth, that if the grace of God doth not recover them from their falls, they shall yet perish; but this grace is secured to them by the promises of the new covenant*, and by prayer as the means of their accomplishment; therefore you must live in a daily sense of your dependance on the power of divine grace, to work all your works in and for you, and in a believing dependance on it, must work out your salvation with fear and trembling: and in the cases I have mentioned especially, you must stir up your­selves to supplicate the powerful influences, and aids of the Spirit of grace, in order to your being converted, and renewed again by repentance, with as much ear­nestness, and importunity, as ever you did in your first return to God from the wandrings of your un­regenerate state: and you have a prayer to this pur­pose, indited by the Spirit of God, Psal. cxix 176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant: for I do not forget thy commandments But I purpose not to enlarge here. I should now proceed to press this duty,

Thirdly, On parents in covenant with God to pray for their unconverted children. And,

Fourthly, On the unconverted children of the cove­nant in particular, to pray for the grace of God to con­vert and turn them to himself, taking encouragement from their visible covenant relation to him as their God.

[Page 57] But these two branches of the exhortation will come in with better advantage, under the considera­tion of the argument pleaded in the text.

I shall now therefore, suggest some motives proper to enforce the exhortation, and encourage sinners to pray to God for his renewing, healing, and converting grace. And they are of two sorts, First, Such as are common to all unconverted sinners. Secondly, Such as are peculiar to the unconverted children of the covenant; which will lead me to take some notice of the argument in our text to enforce the petition, — for thou art the Lord my God.

First, I shall propound some motives and encou­ragements, that are common to all unconverted sinners, who are awakened to any serious concern about their condition, & would be glad to know what hope there is in the God of Israel concerning them.

If, therefore, the serious consideration of the mise­ries of your unconverted state, and your own insuffi­ciency to turn yourselves, and of the necessity of divine grace to turn you, has wrought in you an in­clination and willingness to seek that grace, you have great encouragement set before you, to hope for the success of your supplications, and that you shall not seek in vain.

1. You have great encouragement from the merciful and gracious nature of God, whereby he is disposed to do good, and bestow his favours freely, without re­gard to any merit or defect in the creature Psal. cxl [...]. 9. The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works Luk. vi. 35 — He is kind unto the unthankful, and the evil Consider what God has done for you as a bountiful creator and benefactor, in a way of preventing mercy; he has end [...]w'd you with a reasonable immortal soul, capable of commu­nion [Page 58]with himself, both here and in eternal glory: and will he not have regard to the desires and aspira­tions of such a soul, toward himself, in order to the attaining the end of its creation? yea he complains of the wretched stupidity of the children of men, in not improving those excellent faculties he has given them, in enquiring after their maker. Job xxxv. 10, 11. But none saith, where is God my maker,—who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven Consider also, while you have been persisting in sin, and disobedience a­gainst him, how merciful and kind he has been to you; 'tis he that feeds and cloaths you, that heals your diseases, and preserves you from innumerable destructive accidents, that holds your souls in life, and suffers not your feet to be moved; and makes so many of the inferior creatures serviceable to your comfort: yea, more than all this, he has sent his Son to die for you, and his gospel to invite you to mercy, and his Spirit to thrive with you, to bring you home to himself; and all this he has done without your asking, or desiring. And can you suppose, that so gracious a God will deny you his saving converting grace, when you cry unto him? He heareth the in­ferior creatures who in their way cry to him for food and sustenance. Psal. cxlvii 9 He giveth the beast his food, and the young ravens which cry; and will he not much more hear his reasonable creatures, especially when they cry to him not for corn & win [...], not for pro­vision for their lusts, but for grace to serve and glo­rify him, to enable them to answer the end for which they were made? 'Tis an argument of great force in prayer, to plead the general pity & bounty of God, for special grace to relieve the souls necessities: as Psal. cxix. 64 The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes. q. d. ‘Lord, thou art good to all the creatures according to their necessities, and capacities,’ and wilt thou withhold what the ne­cessity of my soul craves at thy hands? wilt thou [Page 59]not afford me instruction & guidance from thy word, which is more needful to me, and which I choose and prize above all earthly blessings? ‘Thou feed­est the young ravens that cry, with food proper for them; and wilt thou not feed me with spiritual food, the bread of life, which my soul needs, and craves, and cannot subsist without*.’ Such a plea cannot but avail much with God, he cannot but be pleased with such desires of his creatures, who con­fiding in his gracious nature, and readiness to give liberally to all, fix their choice on such mercies, as he is more ready to give, and has more pleasure in giving, than any temporal commodities, health, wealth, and prosperity; these he often distributes in anger; as when the Israelites ask'd meat for their lusts, he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul, Psal. cvi. 15. But the gift of his Spirit and grace, is a gift that proceeds from pure love; and therein he fulfils all the good pleasure of his goodness . The gifts of grace come freely, & readily from him; he satisfies his good pleasure, and takes delight in the communication of them. And for our encourage­ment to ask the holy Spirit, our Saviour, that he might root out of our minds, those unworthy conceits we are apt to entertain of the blessed God, as if he were hardly drawn, or with great difficulty prevailed with, to bestow his gifts of special grace, has assured us that he is much more wise, and kind, ready and willing, to give his holy Spirit to humble importu­nate seekers, than earthly parents are to give good gifts unto their children. Luk xi 11, 13. If a son shall ask bread of any of you, who is a father, will he give him a stone? No surely, he must have an heart of stone indeed, who will deny his child bread, when he needs it, and asks it,— if ye then, being evil (as the best parents are in comparison with God, who only is [Page 60]good; yea the worst of men, who have the least moral good in them, have yet ordinarily so much natural goodness, as to be kind to their children) know how to give good gists unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him? Our Saviour here, has taught us to argue from the bowels of the fathers of our flesh, to the comp [...]ssions of the Father of spirits, much after the manner of the psalmist's reasoning, Psal. xciv. 9, 10 He that planted the ear, shall not he hear? he that formed the eye, shall not he see?—he that teacheth man knowlege, shall not he know? i. e. He has all the virtues and perfections of creatures, in himself, in a super-eminent manner; so here, he that has put so much compassion into the heart of a father, shall not he have the compassions of a father, infinitely, and transcendently in himself? He hath infinite wisdom to chuse what is best for us, and infinite goodness to bestow it on all that ask him, and that is his holy Spirit, which is comprehensive of all good things; (compare Mat. vii. 11) thus ready and willing is God as a Father, to give the grace of his holy Spirit, which is necessary to conversion and sanctification, to poor, humble, importunate supplicants.

But you will say, if I were a child of God, I could take more encouragement from his fatherly love and compassions, but I am a sinner, and an enemy.

But does not this argue, that you have so much the more need of his Spirit to renew, and heal, and sanctify you for his service? You are a sinner, but you desire to be a repenting, returning sinner; an enemy, but you desire to become a willing subject; and are you not sensible of your want of his Spirit? and hath God excluded any sensible sinner from this encouragement to ask, which is grounded on his pa­ternal goodness & pity? Consider he is your Father by creation, if not by regeneration and adoption. [Page 61]And this is the argument I am now upon, God's kindness to his creatures. Our Saviour, in the para­ble of the prodigal's return to his father, has instruc­ted you to eye God as a father in your penitent re­ [...]urn to him; tho' he be an offended father, yet is he ready to shew himself in & thro' Christ a reconciled father, upon your repentance: therefore you may and ought humbly and penitently, to address him in the language of the prodigal, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, &c. Luk. 15.18, 19. And you may hope to find that pity and compassion with him, that is very affectingly represented, by the kind reception the returning prodigal met with from his father.

2 You have encouragement to ask this grace, from the wisdom, power and goodness of God in your cre­ation. This I touch'd under the former head, as an argument of his general bounty to his creatures; I would urge it here, as an encouragement and plea, that may be used with God in prayer, for his grace to recover us out of our degeneracy, that we may know, and love, and serve him with all our powers and capacities; because we are his creatures, made f [...]r his service and glory Psal. cxix. 73. Thy [...]ands have made me, and sa [...]h [...]oned [...]: give me understand­ing that I may learn thy commandments: this is a plea that may be used by sinners as well as saints: our being God's creatures, the work of his hands, should be an encouragement to us, and may be pleaded in prayer to God for wisdom, and grace to enable us to serve him as now creatures.

(1) You have encouragement hereto, from the consideration of the creating wisdom of God; which is seen in appointing every creature its use and end, and in fitting them with proper qualities, and dispo­sitions to serve their several ends Now the end of man is to serve and glorify God by active homage [Page 62]and obedience, as becomes a reasonable creature; and though our fall has disorder'd our faculties and laid us under an incapacity, yet it has not dissolv'd our obligation to serve the end of our creation; and since there is provision made of new creating grace in Jesus Christ, the redeemer of fallen man, we may the more confidently ask this grace, which is necessary to our answering the end we were made for, that we may not appear to be made in vain, that God would form us anew for himself, that we might shew forth his praise; that we may be his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (which I conceive is meant of our original obligation by our first creation) that we should walk in them, Eph. ii. 10. This is to ask what has an imme­diate tendency to the honour and glory of God.

(2) From the consideration of the creating power of God. He that formed us at first, tho' now we are deformed by sin, can easily form us anew by the same power; tho' we are fallen from him, and by our fall have marr'd the work of his hands, and cannot of ourselves recover the original rectitude of our natures, yet God that once made man upright, can new make him. Tho' we see nothing but ruin and disorder in our souls, blindness in the understanding, obstinacy in the will, rebellion in the affections and appetites, against the dictates of conscience, yet despair not of a reparation, the creating power of God, to which all things are possible, is a great support to faith in prayer. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Psal li. 10. The God whom we pray to is able to create, to bring order out of confusion, beauty out of deformi­ty, light out of darkness, and to rear up to himself living temples out of the ruins of man's apostacy: what we cannot do for ourselves, and what no crea­ture can do for us, that God can do; for nothing is too hard for creating power.

[Page 63] (3) From the consideration of the creating goodness of God. For his good pleasure all things are, and were created, Rev. iv. 11. He could have no other motive to create, but his sovereign good will and pleasure; unworthiness therefore should by no means discourage you from asking new creating grace. 'Tis true we deserve not the least grace from God, other­wise it were not grace: but as God created us with­out regard to any merit of ours, of his meer good pleasure; so tho' we deserve nothing, yet we may be encouraged to ask the grace of renovation, from the same free unmerited goodness of God, that at first gave us our beings. But,

3. You have encouragement from the fulness and perfection of Christ's satisfaction. 1 Joh. ii. 2. He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Christ's propi­tiatory sacrifice has so far appeased God towards man­kind in general, as to lay the foundation of a general invitation and offer of grace to all sinners, to encou­rage them to come to God by him, by repentance, faith and prayer*. This is a great matter, yea the very foundation of a sinner's hope towards God: for otherwise we could have no confidence to look up to an holy God in prayer for any mercy, guilt would fly in our faces, and our own consciences would tell us, that we have nothing to expect from a righteous God, whom we have so highly offended, but wrath and judgment. Therefore the unenlighten'd souls of men are represented to be at a woful loss how they should come before the great God in an accepta­ble manner. Mic vi 6, 7. Wherewith shall I come be­fore the Lord, and bow my self before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings? — will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? &c. But [Page 64]now the terror of divine justice is vail'd in Christ, in whom God appears sitting on a throne of grace, in­viting sinners to come to him in the name and me­diation of his Son, and to lay open their wants, and make known their requests to him for mercy, and grace to help them in their time of need, Heb. iv. 14, 16. Particularly, Christ has (by being made a sacrifice, and a curse for us) so far aton'd the incensed justice of God, & secured the honour of his other attributes, that he is pleas'd to open the rich treasures of his grace to men, and is ready to impart the gift of his Spirit unto men, even to the rebellious, to subdue, con­vert, & sanctify them to himself So that all things are now ready on God's part, and Christ's part, since he has made full satisfaction by his death, and no­thing is wanting but a willingness on thy part, to come to him by serious believing prayer for his offer­ed grace. And this consideration should both direct you how to pray for converting grace, or the gift of his Spirit to renew and sanctify you, you must ask it in the name of Christ, thro' whose mediation by sa­crifice, and intercession it is dispens'd unto sinners*: and it should also encourage you to pray for it, in an humble, penitent, believing manner, because if you do thus pray, your guilt and unworthiness shall be no bar to the acceptance of your prayers with God, who is ready for the sake of Christ's satisfaction and intercession, to give his holy Spirit to them that ask him.

4 You have encouragement from the general pro­mises of the gospel; such as Joh. vi. 37. Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. Chap vii. 37, 38, 39. If any man thi [...]st, let him come unt [...] me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall fl [...]w rivers of living water; but this sp [...]k [...] he of the Spirit, &c. and many others. [Page 65]You must come to him for the first grace; for he has full power to give the Spirit, & to give repentance. Come therefore to Christ in the way of humble, be­lieving supplication, and he has given his word that he will not reject you, yea that he will give abun­dant satisfaction to your desires.

5. You have encouragement from a probability or possibility of prevailing. Isai. lv. 6. Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found. If God may be found by a sinner's seeking, if he may obtain mercy, and find grace, to supply his soul's necessities, this should be a prevailing motive with you to seek him earnestly. In times of danger and distress, a meer peradventure has been thought a sufficient inducement to the duty of prayer; and when prayer has been made upon no greater encouragement, it has prevail'd and cer­tainly an unconverted state is a most dangerous state, the necessities of the soul are exceeding deplorable, if you lie still in your sopine negligence and sloth, there is no remedy, but you must pine away, and perish for ever in your in quiti [...]s; but [...] [...]here be but a peradventure of succeeding in your, praye [...] for the grace of God; should not this excite you to do your best, and pray with all the earnestness you are able? It may be that God will have mercy upon you that you perish not; it may be, that you may obtain his effectual renewing grace, and then you will be happy for ever: l [...]t such a thought as this put life into your endeavours, and pravers. But indeed there is more than a have possibility of your succeeding, if you he import up [...]e and co [...]stant in your supplications; if you cry day and night unto God for has grace, you shall without all [...] prev [...] what else is the me [...] ­ing of that promise of our Saviour? L [...]k xi. 9, 10. 'so [...]ecited.

[Page 66] 6. You have encouragement from the examples and experiences of other sinners. Prayer has always been the practice of sinners in their first conversion to God; and many ('tis not to be doubted) have received the first saving impressions from the Spirit of God in the duty of prayer: and some of the vilest and unwo [...] ­thiest sinners, have sought, and found mercy & grace to help them in their exigencies. I might mention several on scripture record; such as Manasseh (2 Chron. xxxiii 12, 13.) Saul (Act. ix II) the publican (Luk xviii. 13, 14) but I shall only propose to your considera­tion, the instance before us, Ephraim is brought in making a most penitential prayer, and the compassi­ons of God are set forth in a very lively manner to­wards him: to which there is scarce a parallel in the whole scriptures (as I have observ'd) unless it be in the parable of the prodigal returning to his father, and the affectionate embraces he receiv'd from him upon his return, Luk. xv. 20, 21. &c. So here God dis­covers the heart of a compassionate father towards his returning prodigal child, ver. 20 Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.

I shall only add, that if by all these considerations, sinners might be prevailed with to pour out their h [...]arts in prayer to God, as they have been directed, it would be no small evidence of a good work already begun in them, which must be carried on towards perfection in a course of serious and fervent suppli­cations: for this is one of the first discoveries of the Spirit of grace poured out on any soul; the Spirit of grace will be a Spirit of supplication. *.

[Page 67] And why should all these motives and encourage­ments lose their efficacy upon you? Remember, sin­ners, that it is a limited time, and but of a short du­ration, that the golden sceptre is extended, that God offers his grace and mercy to you, which may be ob­tain'd by your importunate intreaties at tho throne of grace: and is this season to be trifled away in security and indolence? If you neglect this day of your op­portunity, thro' remissness and sloth, it may be over before you are aware; and then how wretched and desperate will your condition be to eternity? If death seize you before conversion, no tongue can tell, or heart conceive, the miseries that shall come upon you, you will die in your sins, and lie under the curse and wrath of God for ever, eternally banish'd from this world, and from the presence of God in heaven, unto the regions of darkness, where none but devils and damned spirits have their abode. But it is im­possible to describe the horrors of those wretched souls, that are hurried out of this world before they are savingly converted to God. O then be per­swaded to know and consider in this your day, the things which belong unto your peace, before they are hid from your eyes .

Secondly, I come now to offer a word of encourage­ment more peculiar to the unconverted children of the covenant: suggested to us in the third point of ob­servation from the argument in the text, viz.

That the unconverted children of the covenant have great encouragement to pray for converting grace, from their covenant interest, & propriety in God as their God.

Backsliding Israel, under the name of Ephraim, is here represented, as owning their covenant obligations to [Page 68]God, and claiming a covenant interest in him, as their God, improving it as an argument in prayer to him for his effectual grace to recover them from their backslidings, that he might receive, and own them as his peculiar people, and shew himself their God. Turn thou me, — for thou art the Lord my God This pray­er, and plea, may be accommodated for the encou­ragement of all the children of the covenant, who are in an unconverted state, in setting about the work of repentance, humbly, earnestly, and believingly to seek the grace of the covenant, which is necessary to their effectual conversion. I shall endeavour in a few words, to shew the propriety and force of this plea.

1. By the children of the covenant, I mean all that are born in the church of parents in visible covenant with God, and are brought under the initiating seal of the covenant, viz. circumcision under the old testa­ment, and baptism under the new: wherein as God engages to be their God, so they come under a solemn covenant dedication to him, to be his children and servants. Thus all the seed of Israel were the chil­dren of the covenant under the old testament, by virtue of God's premise and command to Abraham and his seed. Gen xvii [...]. 7, 9 I will establ [...]sh my cove­nant between me, and thee, and thy seed after thee— to be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee.— Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, then, & thy seed after thee in their generations. H [...]ce the apostle Peter preaching the gospel to the J [...]s, the natural posterity of Abraham, stiles them the children of the covenant, as they were the visible heirs of the cove­nant and promise God made to Abraham. Acts iii. 25. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant, which God made with our fathers, &c. And it is no less evident, that the children of christian parents under the evangelical dispensation, are in like man­ner, children of the covenant; for the christian church succeeds the church of Israel, in the possession [Page 69]of all the main privileges of their covenant: parti­cularly, that the blessing of Abraham, consisting in God's promise to be his God, and the God of his seed, comes upon the families of the Gentiles, thro' faith in Christ, is plainly declar'd, Gal iii. 14. And the a­postle Peter holds forth the covenant in this extent to the Jews, to bring them over to the christian faith and baptism. Act. ii. 39. For the promise is unto you and to your children: this privilege must be in­tended in these words, to belong to them upon their being baptized in the name of Christ, and so becom­ing members of the christian church, as much as ever it belong'd to them, as they were members of the church of Israel; otherwise it could be no motive to prevail with them to submit to the baptism of Jesus, or encouragement to expect the gift of the holy Ghost upon their being baptized, as it is evidently design'd to be*. Therefore, now, by the children of the covenant, are to be understood all those that are born of christian parents, and by baptism dedi­cated to God, who stands in a more special relation to them as their God, than he doth to others. And as they are under more sacred obligations to God than others, so they may plead this relation as an encouragement to their faith in prayer for the grace of the covenant, and for all temporal and spiritual blessings: thou art the Lord my God, by virtue of that standing promise of the covenant, I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed.

2. Many of the children of the covenant, the visible heirs of the promise, are yet in an unconverted state; [Page 70]strangers to the saving grace of the covenant. This is presupposed & implied in praying for converting grace. which is represented as the duty of the children of the covenant. They may be the children of the covenant and yet unconverted. The children of parents in visible covenant, yea, and of such as are truly godly, are born in sin, and children of wrath, even as others. The apostle in Eph. ii. 1, 2, 3. runs a comparison between the Jews and Gentiles, as to their natural state. ver. 1, 2 he speaks to the Ephesian Gentiles, And YOU hath he quickned, who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in time past YE walked according to the course of this world, &c but in ver. 3. he speaks in the first person, Among whom also WE all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our fl [...]sh — and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Not only ye Gentiles, who were aliens from the common wealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise (ver. 12.) but also we Jews the seed of Israel, to whom pertain'd the covenant and promise, were, as to our natural state, equally corrupt, sinful, subjects of God's wrath. And many of the children of God's people do sadly degenerate in their lives, and go astray from the God of their fathers, and their God, in courses of transgression and disobedience, pursuing the idols of the world, and fulfilling the desires of the fleshly mind; so that they have as much need as others to be converted, and need the grace of God to recover them from their backslidings, and reduce them to their covenanted duty. Therefore were all the prophets of old, and John the baptist, Christ, and the apostles, sent first to the covenant people of God to call them to re­pentance: particularly, the apostle Peter tells the children of the covenant. that God having raised up his S [...]n Jesus, sent him to bless them in turning them from th [...]ir iniquities, Act. i [...]i 25, 26 Many of the children of the covenant therefore need to be turned from their iniquities, and [...]ed the redeemer's grace for their [Page 71]conversion. Wherefore a covenant interest in God as our God, does not necessarily argue a state of grace and conversion. There are barren as well as fruit­ful branches in the true vine *, hypocrites as well as real christians that profess relation to Christ in the visible church.

Consider therefore, we may be said to be in cove­nant with God, and to have relation to and interest in him as our God, either by external profession and dedication; or by the grace of the covenant inwardly dispens'd and receiv'd, that is, by the regenerating, and sanctifying grace of the Spirit, and hy an inward devotedness of soul to God. Now the unconverted children of God's people, are in covenant with him in the former sense only, namely, in respect of the covenant externally administred, and their external dedication to him. And tho' there is a very great difference, between this external administration, and the inward spiritual dispensation of the covenant, yet it is a great privilege to be brought under the ex­ternal administration, to have a name in the house of God, and to stand in visible covenant relation to him, which the children of God's people should prize, and be thankful for. Hence,

3. The unconverted children of God's people, who are in visible covenant with him, should improve their covenant relation to and interest in him as their God, as an encouragement to pray, and as a plea in praying for converting grāce.

Here I shall shew,

  • (1) What is implied in this plea, And
  • (2) The value and efficacy of it in prayer.

(1) Let me shew, what is implied in this plea, im­proved in prayer by the children of the covenant, — thou art the Lord my God.

[Page 72] [1] It implies their acknowledgment of the relation that God stands in to them as their God in covenant; their adherence to and acquiescence in it. When E­phraim is brought to say, thou art the Lord my God, it is as much as if he had said, Tho' I have gone away from thee, and set up other gods, and served them, yet now convinced of my sin and folly in so doing, I will have no more to do with idols, but will hence­forth own thee, the God of Israel, for my God alone; thou art my God not only by external covenant, but by my own choice, and consent. And in this man­ner God justly expects and requires, that the chil­dren of his people should explicitly own him for their God (renouncing all their idols) in order to his acceptance of them to the mercies of his covenant, and hearing their prayers. Zech. xiii 9 — They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, it is my people, and they shall say, the Lord is my God. Thus they must own the relation, and consent to it, if they would improve it as an available plea in prayer. While in their unconverted state, they have set up other gods in the room of the true God, in placing their chief love and delight, trust and de­pendance on creatures, which is due to God alone. They are guilty of spiritual idolatry: carnal pleasures, worldly possessions, and honours, were their gods. Phil. iii. 19 — Whose God is their belly. Col. iii. 5. — Covetousness which is idolatry. And a covetous, or worldlyminded person is an idolater Eph v. 5. But in returning to God, they must renounce all the idols of the world, and say with an hearty choice and con­sent, the Lord is my God.

[2] It implies their acknowledgment of the obliga­tion they are under to God, as their God in covenant, to love, reverence, and serve him with all their ca­pacities. Thou art my Lord, and my God; other lords besides th [...]e have had the dominion over me, sin, satan, and fleshly lusts, but by thy grace I resolve to [Page 73]shake off their usurp'd dominion, & relinquish their service; and return to thee my rightful owner and sovereign, hence forward to yield dutiful subjection and obedience to thee, and to make thy service the business of my life; thou art the Lord my God, to govern me by thy will, as well as to bless me with thy grace.

[3] It implies their dependance on God for those covenant blessings that are founded on this relation. For God to be a God to any, implies some extraor­dinary favours: and indeed this promise, I will be thy God, is comprehensive of all the promises in the word of God All temporal and spiritual blessings, and eternal blessedness, is bound up in this one great promise All that can be expected from God our creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, is intended, as pro­mised to those to whom he promises to be a God in covenant: and they may on this ground, look for the power and bounty of the creator, to preserve them from all evil, and to supply them with all good; and for the benefit of the merit and righteousness of the redeemer, to relieve their souls against the guilt of sin, and the penal consequences of it; and for the grace and comfort of the sanctifier, the holy Spirit, to recover them to the life of God, and to be in them the earnest of life everlasting. And what can be desired more? Wherefore this plea, thou art the Lord my God, implies some confidence in God, or some hope of the mercies that this relation lays the foundation of.

(2) Let us consider therefore the value of this plea, and the efficacy of it in prayer, and what encouragement hence arises to the unconverted children of the covenant, to pray for converting grace.

1. God's relation to them as their God in covenant affords great encouragement, as it shews that he stands [Page 74]ready to confer the saving grace of the covenant upon them, if they don't put a bar in the way by a wilful contempt or refusal, or if they do but seek him ear­nestly for it. Christ ordained and directed his a­postles to preach repentance and remission of sins first to the Jews, because they were the children of the covenant, Luk. xxiv. 47. — beginning at Jerusa­lem. Act. iii. 25, 26. Ye are the children of the covenant, saith the apostle Peter, unto you first God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, &c. Nor were they finally deserted till they obstinately re­jected the gospel offer, and invitation. God stands ready to bless the children of the covenant, with his converting grace; and what an encouragement is this to a serious and diligent seeking of it!

2. They may conclude from their covenant interest in God, that there is greater hope and likelihood, that he will bestow his grace on them than others. 'Tis true indeed, that the Lord is ric [...] to all that call upon him, whether Jew or Greek, Rom. x. 12. but the children of the covenant are nearer to the grace of God than others: they have a greater sufficiency of means and advantages, they have the prayers, instructions, and examples of their pious parents, and the prayers of the church for them, and word of God read and heard; to all which means the dispensation of the Spirit is annex'd by the promise of God. Isai. lix. 21. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, my Spirit that is upon thee, & my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, &c. The apostle speaks of them, as the natural branches, of whom there is greater likelihood, that they should be graffed into their own olive tree (under which emblem the church of God is represented) Rom. 11.24. — How much [Page 75]more shall these which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree. ‘God may suffer the branches of the covenant to grow wild, and may graff in a strange slipp, saith one, but it is most kindly to the natural branches, the grace of God runs most freely and kindly in the chan­nel of the covenant. — Certainly it is a great ad­vantage to be born of parents within the covenant, they have an excellent inheritance, till they disin­herit themselves by their own unthankfulness, and rebellion.

3. There are indefinite promises of the covenant, that belong to them, which are ordinarily obtain'd in the way of prayer; promises of regenerating, converting grace, (as I have observ'd) Now to whom, or on whose behalf are those promises made, but to the seed of God's covenant people? the children of the church who need to be regenerated and converted? Such as God's promise of circumcising our hearts, and the heart of our seed, his pouring his Spirit upon our seed, and his blessing on our off-spring* the promise of writing his law on our hearts and others which I have mentioned. They run indefinitely, but are all made to the church on the behalf of their uncon­verted children, and are sealed to them, as by cir­cumcision of old (whence the phrase of circumcising their hearts) so by baptism now, (whence the same work of grace is term'd the washing of regeneration, Tit. iii. 5. agreably to God's promise, Ezek. xxxvi. 25. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness—will I cleanse you) And I have shewed, that God hath appointed prayer as the means of the accomplishment of these pro­mises. Therefore in pleading their covenant interest in God, they do in effect plead these promises, which [Page 76]God has made and sealed to them; and this is to pray according to his will: and therefore they may be encouraged to hope that they shall not seek in vain. And consider.

4. It is a plea very pleasing to God, and prevailing with him. Partly,

(1) As it implies a sense of their obligation to God, and an inclination and desire to come up to their cove­nanted duty, and to answer God's relation to them, by a serious and hearty dedication of themselves to him. Turn me to thy self, O Lord, for thou art my God: the import of which prayer, from the mouth of a child of the covenant, must be this, viz Lord, I own thee to be my God, & to have a supream right and dominion in and over me, not only as creator and ruler of the world, but as a God, and Father by covenant, whereby I am solemnly bound to love, and serve, and glorify thee; I have sinfully & shamefully broken thy covenant, and have forsaken my own mercies, and turned aside to lying vanities; but the desire of my soul is to return to thee, in compliance with thy merciful invitation, return ye backsliding children ; O grant me the grace which thou hast promised, to restore me, by repentance, unto my duty and happiness, in serving and enjoying thee as my God and portion for ever. Such a plea from a bro­ken hearted sinner, is very agreable to the will of God, and must needs be of great force and preva­lency with him. Partly,

(2) As it argues a good temper of mind, and a dispo­sition pleasing to God to improve a covenant interest in him, as a plea for special grace. It may indeed, be pleaded by believers, for all kinds of mercies, even [Page 77]temporal mercies. Jacob improves it as a ground of trust in God, for bread to eat, and raiment to put on, and providential protection*. But to make choice of and prefer renewing grace above all other in­stances of covenant mercies, is no small symptom of a gracious disposition, which he that will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoaking flax, will not despise, because it is the work of his own grace: and when God has put such a tho't and desire into a sin­ner's heart, it may reasonably be hop'd, that it shall not be without success. We know how Solomon suc­ceeded in that prayer, 2 Chron. i. God puts it to his choice to ask what he would, ver. 7. — Ask what I shall give thee, Solomon's request is, ver. 10. Give me now wisdom, and knowlege, that I may go out and come in before this people; and how pleasing this request was to God, appears from the answer given to it, ver. 11, 12. God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and knowlege for thy self, that thou mayest judge my people, &c. Wisdom and know­lege is granted unto thee, and I will give thee riches and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. Thus, those that seek fi [...]st the king­dom of God, and his righteousness, shall not only obtain what they seek, but shall have all other things (so far as God sees best) added unto them . Partly,

3. Because the glory of God is more nearly interested in this petition and plea; more than in praying for the pardon of sin: for pardon of sin more immediately respects the sinner's security and comfort, which he may desire from self-love; but grace to serve God, is more immediately conducive to his glory Now as Christ has taught us to make this our first & principal [Page 78]petition, thy name be hallowed, or glorified, so the more nearly the glory of God's name is concern'd in any petition that we offer up to him, the more plea­sing it is to him, & the more hope of speeding. And it is especially for the glory of God in the eyes of the world, that those to whom he stands in visible rela­tion, should be an holy people, as his name is more dishonour'd by the unholiness of their lives, than by the sins of others; for he will be sanctified in all them that come nigh him, Lev. x 3. And as God makes this an argument with himself in promising sanctifying grace to his people. Ezek. xxxvi. 22, 23. Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy Names sake, which ye have pro­phaned among the heathen. — And I will sanctify my great Name, which was prophaned among the heathen, which ye have prophaned in the midst of them, &c. So it may be pleaded to good purpose, by the children of God's people, in prayer for converting sanctifying grace; Not for my sake Lord, tho' thou shouldest have no regard to such an unworthy worm as I am, but (since thou hast taken me into so near a relation to thyself) for thy holy Names sake, for the glory of thy great Name (which will be more polluted and disho­nour'd by my sins, than by the sins of others who are aliens and strangers) I beg the promised gift of thy grace, to make me holy, and to enable me to walk answerably to my covenant relation to thee, and that thou may'st be sanctified in me, in the eyes of men. And what is this but to pray that God's name may be glorified?

'Tis confess'd that the spirit of this plea (as it has been open'd in these particulars) can proceed only from a gracious heart, which has been impress'd by the Spirit of God, with a disposition and tendency towards its divine original: but it shall suffice to have shewed the native import of it rightly managed, and how prevalent with God, and what abundant encou­ragement [Page 79]it affords the children of the covenant in praying for the grace of repentance, and conversion. Now then, let it be briefly applied,

(1) In a word of exhortation to parents in covenant with God, to pray for their unconverted children. In your supplications at the throne of grace for your own souls, you must bear upon your heart the case of your children's souls, and be earnest in prayer, as for other mercies which they need, so more especially & prin­cipally for the saving grace of the covenant, that their souls may be cured of their corrupt byass, that they may be principled with the fear of God betimes, that they may be made wise, and virtuous, and holy; that good things may be found in them towards the God of Israel; that being begotten again by the Spirit, they may be instated in the blessings of God's family, and that whether they live a longer or shorter time, in health or sickness, in prosperity or adversity in this world, they may be made heirs of life & immortality, and live in God's favour, and in his presence for ever hereafter. It is unquestionably the duty of all parents thus to pray for their children especially of those that are in covenant with God, in imitation of the exam­ple of the father of the faithful, Gen. xvii 18. O that Ishrael might live before thee! and of David, 1 Chron. xxix. 19. Give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart to keep thy commandments —.

Thus you must express and exercise saith in God's promise, I will be the God of thy seed; and plead the same argument that is here put into their mouths, Lord, thou art the God of my children by external covenant, and hast encouraged me therefore to dedi­cate them to thee, and they are thine not only by creation, but by baptismal dedication: O take pos­session of them for thy self, betimes, by thine indwel­ling Spirit, turn them to thyself from sin & satan from the vanities of the world, and a vain conversation; [Page 80]they are the children of the covenant, O send the Spirit of thy Son to bless them in turning them from their ini­quities. By saith plead the promises God has made to the seed of his people, the promise of circumcising their hearts, of pouring his Spirit and blessing upon them, and of their being taught of the Lord. Isai. liv. 13. Remember thy word of promise, and establish it unto my children, on which thou hast caused me to hope.

Thus you must express your value of this blessing. For God to be the God of your children, is a far greater privilege, than to have all the riches, wealth, and honours of the world heap'd upon them: and he will then be their God according to the full intention, and utmost extent of his covenant love: when he gives them his Spirit to regenerate, and sanctify them to himself. O then, put in for a share in this privilege, on the behalf of your children, by your earnest prayers for them, that whatever they want, they may not want the special blessings of the covenant, for therein is all their salvation, and all that is necessary & con­ducive to their happiness in both worlds. Thus you must express your tender affection to your children. When they labour under grievous bodily diseases, you are full of compassion towards them, & will seek to the physician for healing; and can you without concern, see them infected with spiritual distempers, the hereditary disease of a carnal nature derived by their natural birth from our first parents, which with­out a cure wrought by regenerating grace. will prove mortal to their souls? How many distressed parents came to our Saviour, when on earth, for the cure of their sick and diseased children, and prevailed; take encouragement hence, and shew your compassion to the souls of your children, by bringing them in the arms of your faith and prayer to the great physician; and beg the healing influences of his grace on their souls Every godly parent, next to the salvation of his own soul, will be most solicitous & desirous of the [Page 81]conversion & salvation of his childrens souls, which must be express'd both by frequent instructions, counsels, and admonitions, and also by constant and fervent prayer with and for them: perhaps they neg­lect praying for themselves, how sad would it be, if you also should neglect praying for them!

And let not those parents that are exercised with ungracious wicked children (which has been the lot of many a godly parent) be therefore discouraged from praying for them; for how perverse and disobe­dient soever they be, if God undertake to turn them they shall be turned. He that can of stones raise up children to Abraham, can easily by his grace soften and subdue the hardest heart, reduce the most obsti­nate and refractory, and work a cure on the most desperately diseased soul. Be encouraged then, to hope and pray for their conversion. St. Austin was a very vicious youth, for whom his godly mother Mo­nica was often in tears and prayers: a certain pious Bishop observing her weeping for her son, said unto her, it cannot be that a son of those tears should perish . And he had a remarkable conversion, and prov'd an eminent instrument of God's glory. Therefore hold on praying, though there should be no more encou­ragement than that, Who can tell whether God will be gracious unto you, that your child may live *.

(2) Let it be applied, in a word, to the unconverted children of the covenant, to exhort and incite them to seek converting grace. You have this encourage­ment over and above what has been propounded to the unconverted in general, that the Lord is your God in external covenant. The encouragement arising hence to seek the grace of the covenant, has been at large declared: God's promise of being your God, virtually compriz [...]s all the promises of grace contain­ed in the scriptures of both testaments; which must [Page 82]be drawn forth to an accomplishment by prayer; and you may with more confidence than others, plead such indefinite promises, as that, I will give a new heart: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and the like. God is ready to give Himself, his Son, his Spirit and grace to such as you, which you should improve as a motive to seek him earnestly & diligently; and as a ground of faith and confidence in prayer. Bless God, therefore, for so distinguishing a favour, that you have a name and a place in his house, and are admitted into so near a relation to him; on which account, you may with good reason say, the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, yea I have a goodly heritage. Yet be caution'd against trusting in the privileges of your birth, and baptism; for tho' you are born of the most religious parents, and baptized in the church, yet you are also born in sin and corruption as much as others, and are by nature children of wrath even as others: the natures you derived from your first birth, being as carnal, and as deeply polluted as those of others; and the sins of your lives being against greater mercies and engage­ments, than the sins of others, will expose you to a sorer condemnation. See then, a necessity of your be [...]g born again of the Spirit, otherwise it had been better for you never to have been born at all, never to have had a being. See also a necessity of the grace of God to work this change in you, and of earnest supplication for that grace, whereunto you are encou­raged by the covenant offers, and promises of grace, sealed to you in your baptism, the obligations & pri­vileges whereof you should seriously & well consider.

And if these considerations have been effectual to work any convictions on your minds, delay not the prosecution of them, but take the first opportunity in some convenient retirement, to pour out your hearts before God in the language of repenting Ephraim, and fall down on your knees, and say, in words to [Page 83]this effect; O Lord God of my fathers and my God! thou hast of thine infinite mercy, brought me into bonds of thy covenant (in my early days) wherein thou hast engaged and sealed to be my God, and Father, Re­deemer and Sanctifier, as I am laid under a sealed obligation to be thine; I confess and bewail my treacherous departures from thee, and the degeneracy of my nature and life, for which I deserve to be cast off by thee for ever; nevertheless thou hast made known to me by thy word, that thou hast mercy in store for thy backsliding children, both for pardon and renovation, thro' the merits of my Redeemer's blood; I acknowlege thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be my God in Christ, and desire to comply with thy gracious calls to return to thee from all my backslidings, and in a sense of my own insufficiency, I beg thy promised grace to enable me; turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God.

The rule of God's dispensation towards the children of his covenant people, is, not to leave them till they first forsake him. 2 Chron. xv. 2. The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. And they may be said to forsake him, either by courses of open transgressions, or by neglects of religious du­ties, especially the neglect of seeking God by prayer; for there is no medium between seeking and forsaking him. If they forsake him, he will cast them off for ever; but they that seek him early shall find him: and if the seed of Israel would thus seek him, seek him early, seek him earnestly, verily they shall not be found to seek in vain.

FINIS.

ERRATA. Page 6. line 11. read how. P. 9 l. 25. read rule us. P. 17. l. 21. for of, r. on. P. 19. l. 36. and p, 20. l. 3. r. irresistible. P. 39. l. 5. for or, r. of. P. 44. l. 6. r. turn you P. 57. l. 29 r. desert.

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