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THE IMPOTENCY OF SINNERS, WITH RESPECT TO REPENTANCE AND FAITH, NO EXCUSE: ILLUSTRATED IN A SERMON, By STEPHEN WEST, A. M. Pastor of the Church in STOCKBRIDGE.

HARTFORD: Printed by E. WATSON, near the Great-Bridge.

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THE IMPOTENCY OF SINNERS, &c,

JOHN vi. 44.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him.

OUR SAVIOUR, in the preceeding parts of the chap­ter, had represented himself as the bread of life; and said: He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. This representation gave umbrage to the Jews because it insinuated the in­sufficiency of the rites and sacrifices of their law, to purge the conscience; and contained a tacit reprehen­sion of them, for the undue confidence they had placed in the Mosaic offerings and institutions. The manna, the bread which Moses gave them in the wilderness, they considered as a testimony from Heaven that their religion was from GOD; and, that a careful compli­ance with the forms and modes of their worship, was sufficient to bring them into the divine favour, and se­cure to them eternal life. And this testimony in fa­vour of their religion, in feeding the whole congregation of the Jews, not only once but forty years, they viewed as more convincing and irrefragable, than any of the miracles which had been wrought by CHRIST. Our LORD lets them know, that whatever they might think of the manna that was rained down in the wil­derness, HE was the true bread which came down from Heaven: And although, from a vain and proud confi­dence [Page] in their conformities to the Jewish ritual, they might reject him; yet all that the Father gave him should come to him and believe on him, and he would give them eternal life. This brought into view the sovreignty of GOD, in the salvation of sinners, and therefore more effectually stung the pride of the Jews▪ upon which they immediately fell to murmuring, upon hearing him represent himself in the light of so much importance. The clearness of our SAVIOUR's reason­ings, the excellency of his doctrine, together with the mighty miracles which he wrought, being insufficient to convince the obstinate Jews, naturally brought into view the necessity of divine, almighty power, in order to bring men cordially to embrace him, and believe on him. Therefore he says, murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. They were to know that the salvation which he offered, was all of GOD: That, as the salva­tion itself was of GOD, so also was the heart to comply with the offers and proposals of it: That, it was not of man nor in man to receive and embrace him, unless it were given him of GOD. This seems to be the import of our SAVIOUR's reasoning, and this the true import of the text.

BUT, as the terms which are here used to denote the necessity and importance of special divine influence, in order to bring men to believe on CHRIST, and embrace him, imply some kind of impotency in men with respect to coming and believing; many find it difficult to reconcile them with other parts of scripture, which represent impe­nitence and infidelity as the greatest of sins. If, no man can come to CHRIST except the FATHER draw him, people cannot discern the criminality of remaining unbelievers.

THE design of the present discourse is to obviate this seeming difficulty; and to shew, that the impotency there is in natural MEN to believe on CHRIST, is altogether consistent with the infinite criminality of unbelief.

IN order to illustrate the subject, it will be necessary to enquire,

  • [Page 5]I. WHAT That impotency is in sinners, with respect to coming to CHRIST, which is expressed by the terms no man can come to me, &c.
  • II. WHETHER this impotency affords any reasonable excuse to the sinner, for remaining in impenitency and unbelief.
  • III. WHENCE ariseth the necessity of divine and al­mighty power, the special influences of the spirit of GOD, in order to bring men to repent, and believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

I. WE are to enquire what that impotency is, in sin­ners, with respect to coming to CHRIST, which is ex­pressed by the terms, no man can come, &c.

IN order to right apprehensions of the nature of that impotency, which is in fallen men, to that holy obedi­ence to which men are universally called in the word of GOD; it may be proper for us to examine into the meaning of the terms can and cannot, and enquire in what sense they are generally used, both in the holy scriptures and in common language.

THESE terms are sometimes used in common lan­guage, and I apprehend also in the sacred writings, to denote only natural consistency and possibility in the nature of things, or the reverse. Thus we say an effect cannot exist without its cause; a part cannot be greater than the whole; nor the whole greater than all its parts. In a sense similar to this, are the terms often used in scrip­ture. Thus Bildad says, Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water?’ * Our Saviour also says, "No man can serve two masters." So James says, Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries, either a vine figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.’ § In like manner, it is unquestionably true, that the sinner's coming to Christ is an effect which can arise from no other cause than the drawings of the Father; and it is in vain to look to any other source for such an effect.

[Page 6]BUT the terms can and cannot, in such an application of them, have no reference to moral characters and actions, in determining them to be either virtuous or vicious. Because a man cannot serve two masters, it doth not from thence follow that he ought not to serve one: Because no fountain can both yield salt water and fresh, and virtuous and vicious actions cannot proceed from the same principle; it by no means from thence follows, that men are not obliged to holy and virtuous action. And, because coming to Christ is the effect of no other cause than the drawings of the Father, it would be very odd from thence to infer, that no man is under obligati­on to come to him. Such reasoning as this would, at once, annul the whole law and gospel; and, sup­pose that moral obligation lies upon no Being but God. It would suppose that the necessary dependence of creatures, on the Creator, was inconsistent with mo­ral obligation, and destroyed it.

The terms can and cannot therefore, in this use and im­port of them, having no reference to moral characters and qualities, in determining them to be either good or bad; we have no further concern with them in the present discourse; the design of which is to shew that the impo­tency there is in mankind, with respect to coming to Christ, and believing on him, affords no one any reason­able excuse for neglecting it.

Our business now, therefore is, to enquire into the use which is made of these terms, both in the holy scriptures, and in common language, as far as they respect the characters of men; and, wherein they relate to those powers of moral beings which are essential to virtue and vice, praise and blame.

And, here let it be observed,

1. That the terms can and cannot, often refer to the natural abilities, strength or opportunity any man hath, for doing or performing any action that is proposed to him. We say men can or cannot perform any action, or do any deed, according as they have, or have not [Page] strength, talents, or oppo [...]y for it. Thus men cannot soar above the clouds, nor overturn the moun­tains. So, the blind cannot see, nor the deaf hear. Men cannot bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, nor loose the bands of Orion. Men have not an arm like God, nor can they thunder with a voice like him. So, men cannot reason with the power and strength of angels, nor can any creature comprehend God. Some things it may be said men cannot perform, only for want of opportunity. Thus many cannot understand the sci­ences and arts, the reasonings of Newton, or the demon­strations of Euclid, because they have not had opportu­nity to study and acquaint themselves with them. To denote such a kind of impotency as this is the term can­not often used in the sacred scriptures. Thus we are told that ‘When Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau, his eldest son,’ &c. § And that ‘when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see’ So, in the storm which befel the ship in which Jonah was, when he fled from the presence of the Lord, after the sailors had cast lots, and it had fallen upon Jonah; it is said ‘The men rowed hard to bring the ship to land, but they could not. * And the prophet Daniel, tacitly blames the king Nebuchad­nezzar for requiring it of the magicians and astrologers to reveal his dreams to him, and says, ‘The secret which the king hath demanded, cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers shew unto the king?’

SUCH a kind of impotency to any thing as this, is always supposed to excuse from the performance: This sort of cannot, is inconsistent with every idea of moral obligation. Moral obligation lies upon that which is, not upon that which is not. Therefore Paul saith, ‘If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according [Page 8] to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ * Neither Isaac nor Eli were criminal for not being able to see; nor the sailors; because they could not reach the shore; nor the astrologers and magicians, because they could not reveal the king's secret. And, if this was the nature of the impotency brought upon mankind by the fall, they could not be deemed crimi­nal for not performing those actions, and that service, which otherwise might have been expected and requir­ed of them. To relieve the mind under the uneasy apprehensions which naturally possess it upon a con­viction of having neglected mercy, and the love of God; this notion of the impotency derived to men by the fall, has however been invented and applied to mankind in their present depraved state. This is one of those idle excuses with which the fertile inventions of men have furnished the sinner's conscience. And, so long as the sinner imagines that he can avail himself of it, every attempt to disturb that repose which he takes in impe­nitency and unbelief, will be in vain. You may as ea­sily convince the sinner's conscience of criminality in the sight of the just God, for not taming the wild beasts of the desert, as for not curbing his own lusts, and tam­ing the ferosity of his own heart; so long as he thinks his impotency to the latter, is the same as 'tis to the for­mer. And, so long as we can excuse ourselves to our own consciences, so long we shall undoubtedly think ourselves excusable in the sight of God.

2. The terms can and cannot, as they are often used, both in the sacred scriptures, and in common language, refer to internal, mental dispositions, the affections of the heart. We frequently use the term cannot, to denote unwillingness or backwardness of disposition; and, to express a high degree of unwillingness, a strong aversi­on of the mind, we often say we cannot. When we say we cannot comply with proposals that are made to us, we often mean no more than that our minds are exceed­ingly [Page 9] a verse from it. Thus we often hear peasons say they cannot be willing—they cannot agree—they connot con­sent, &c. when we take them to mean nothing more than that their dispositions, their wills are strongly a­verse, and exceedingly indisposed to certain objects or proposals. Innumerable instances of such an applica­tion and use of the terms can and cannot occur in com­mon life.

Nor, is such an use of the terms uncommon in the word of GOD. Thus the DEITY himself saith, to ex­press the strong abhorrence which he had of the hypocri­sy of the Jews; Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the cal­ling of assemblies I cannot away with;* and, to express the strength of parental affection, it is said: Can a wo­man forget her sucking child, that she should not have compas­sion on the son of her womb? To denote a similar kind of impotency, the prophet says; Can a maid for­get her ornaments, or a bride her attire? In a like sense our Saviour used the term, when he said to the Jews, Can the children of the bride chamber fast while the bride­groom is with them, § and again; O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? So likewise; How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another? Therefore the Apostle Paul, to express the purity of his disposition, and the strength of his love to the truth, says: For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. The reverse of this disposition in Paul, we of­ten express by the terms, prone to evil, and backward to that which is good.

ACCORDINGLY it is said, 1 John, iii, 9. 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. There is the same reason for considering it as no virtue in those who are born of GOD, that they cannot sin; as, no vice in those who are not born of GOD, that they cannot come to CHRIST and believe on him.

[Page 10]NO one imagines that it was no virtue in the Deity that he could not away with the hypocritical services of the Jews; nor, in Paul, that he could do nothing against the truth. And yet both these may be imagined, with as much reason, as, that it is no vice in the sinnes that he cannot come to CHRIST and believe on him. That fame cannot which is consistent with the being and na­ture of virtue, is likewise consistent with the being and nature of vice. That same kind of impotency with re­spect to evil which denotes height of virtue and strength of goodness; with respect to good must, by a parity of reason, be considered as denoting a proportionably high degree of vice and strength of wickedness. If it de­notes the perfection of virtue and goodness in GOD, that He cannot away with wickedness; with equal reason must it denote the entire, perfect wickedness of the devil, that he cannot away with the exercises and displays of righte­ousness and goodness. So, if it was a virtue in Paul that he could not oppose the truth; it must be a vice in the sinner that he cannot embrace it. He must put a very odd construction upon language, who understands the term cannot in one case as designed to heighten the idea and description of the goodness; and, in the other, to diminish the apprehension of the wickedness. For, if impotency as to opposition to the truth, is praise-worthy; impotency to embrace and promote it, must, for the same reason, be criminal. If the strength of disposition to goodness be such in any one, as that it may, with pro­priety be said that he cannot do evil; the strength of disposition to evil in men, may be such as that, with equal propriety, it may be said they cannot do good. And, by the same rule whereby the terms, in one case, imply a high degree of virtue; in the other, they imply a high degree of vice.

THAT the words of our text are to be taken in this latter sense of the terms can and cannot, is evident from various considerations. Such as,

[Page 11]1 OUR SAVIOUR saith to the unbelieving Jews: Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. * And, in the next breath, How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from GOD only? Their cannot consisted in the obstinacy and opposi­tion of their wills—their pride, and love of the praises of men. The impotency in mankind to repent and believe the gospel, may justly be said to consist in the obstinacy and opposition of the will, because the language of the gospel is Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: Come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price. And, The spirit and the bride say come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely. § And was there any other impotency or can­not in the sinner, with respect to embracing CHRIST and believing on him; we could see no consistency in pu­nishing men for rejecting the offers of the gospel, and treating them as though impenitency and unbelief were criminal and faulty.

2. ALL the sinner's impotency, with respect to com­ing to CHRIST and believing on him, vanisheth and is gone, upon his being willing to come, and loving and approving the character and work of CHRIST. The impotency of the sinner with respect to receiving and embracing CHRIST, must be supposed to consist in some­thing which is really an obstacle in the way of his clos­ing cordially with him. And, when every thing is re­moved which lieth as an obstacle in the way of CHRIST's being embraced by the sinner; all that wherein consists the impotency of the sinner in regard to his coming to him, must also, certainly be removed;—unless any one should say that the sinner's impotence to come to CHRIST, consists in something which is no obstacle in the way of his coming.

AND, it is abundantly manifest, that when the sinner feels his heart friendly to the character and work of [Page 12] JESUS CHRIST, there is no remaining difficulty in the way of his coming to him and embracing him. The sinner is not called upon to ascend up into Heaven to bring CHRIST down from above, nor to descend into the deep, to bring him up again from the dead. * Was this the con­dition upon which he might hope for the benefits of his atonement and intercession, whatever might be the af­fections of his heart toward the person and character of CHRIST; there would still remain in him, an utter im­potency and inability to come to him and embrace him. But, this is far from being the case; for, when the truth concerning the person, offices and character of CHRIST, is known and understood, and the approba­tion of the heart is gained; the salvation of the gospel becomes certain, and is immediately the object of a sure promise; without the removal of any other obstacle or inability whatever. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart:—that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD JESUS, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. If, indeed, we were called either to ascend or descend in order to bring CHRIST to us, after all opposition of will and disaffection of heart to his person and cha­racter are removed; there would then really exist a cannot in regard to coming to him, beside the aversion of the will, the disaffection of the heart. But, when the salvation itself of the gospel, is connected by a divine promise, with the belief of the heart and the confession of the mouth; no impotency in the sinner, with respect to coming to CHRIST, can be conceived of, after a per­son is disposed in heart to believe, and with the mouth to confess him.

3. THAT the impotency of the sinner, with respect to coming to CHRIST, consisteth in disaffection of heart, and, that there is no other cannot in the sinner, in regard to his coming, beside a very strong aversion of will; as evident from the promises of the gospel. GOD pro­miseth [Page 13] all good to asking; and, there is nothing more than asking required of us, as a condition of receiving. Thus the promises run, 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; and he that seeketh, findeth: And to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.* And this we find to be the general tenor of the promises, the invariable language of the gospel. Passages of the like tenor are too numerous to be parti­cularly mentioned; and, the point too plain and obvi­ous to require it. And, we know that there is no ob­stacle in the way of asking, seeking, &c. after the mind is become friendly to the salvation of the gospel, and the heart disposed to receive it. It is easy to see that persons may be so indisposed to certain objects and things, as that they cannot desire, or seek them; but, when this disaffection of heart, this aversion of the will to the proposed object, is removed; every one will rea­dily confess that the person's impotency, his cannot with respect to desiring, asking and seeking it, is, also, effec­tually removed. When any object or good is pro­posed, and promised to us upon asking; it is abundantly manifest that there is no impotency in us, with respect to obtaining it, beside the dislike of the heart, the disapproba­tion of the will. There can be no impotency is us, with respect to obtaining the possession of any good which is promised to every one that asketh, beside the heart's disrelish of the good proposed: And all the cannot which is to be found in us, in regard to our obtaining it, is the exceeding aversion of our wills from it. We use the word cannot to denote this sort of impotency, only when the aversion of the will is very great and exceed­ingly strong. When the will preponderates but in a low and small degree, against any object or proposal, we say we are not willing, we do not chuse to comply. But when this preponderancy is great and strong, and the mind is entirely and exceedingly averse from a compli­ance; [Page 14] we then adopt a term which implies a certain kind of impossibility, and say we cannot comply. It is a­bundantly evident, therefore, that when any object or good is promised to us by HIM who connot lie, merely upon our asking; there is, in reality, no impotency in us in regard to obtaining it, beside a strong disaffection of heart, and aversion of will, to the nature and qualities of the proposed object. This being the case, it is ma­nifest that the cannot spoken of in the text, denotes no other impotency in the sinner, with respect to his com­ing to CHRIST, than the exceeding disaffection of his heart, and aversion of his will, to his character and work.

4. IT is evident, from the scriptures that all the power which GOD puts forth in drawing men to CHRIST is exerted upon the will and exercised in making men wil­ling: Therefore, the impotency in sinners, to come to CHRIST, consisteth in the aversion of their wills, from coming to him. In this light David considers the mat­ter, when he says: Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. So, the Deity saith, by the Prophet, concerning Israel, Behold the days come, saith the LORD that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. And again, I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh, that they may walk in my sta­tutes, and keep mine ordinances and do them. § Nothing farther is necessary to bring men to walk in the ways of the LORD and keep his statutes and judgments, than a new heart, a heart of flesh, and this new heart, this heart of flesh, consisteth wholly in love, true, benevolent affecti­ons. Therefore the power of GOD which is exercised in the conversion of a sinner, is exerted only upon his will; bowing and subduing that to submission and love.

[Page 15]WE hear nothing, in the Bible, where it treats of the new creation, of any new truths revealed to the under­standing, or, of any enlargement of the natural powers or faculties of the soul. The impotency in sinners who are educated under the light of the gospel, does not consist in want of reason and understanding, or defect of natural capacities and powers; if it did, a new heart and a new spirit, that is, new affections and dispositions of mind, would not of themselves be sufficient, with all that objective light which is held up in the word of GOD, to bring men to walk in GOD's ways, and be obedient to his will.

GOD has sufficiently exhibited the character of CHRIST, in his word and works; and has given us suf­ficiency of reason and understanding to see and become acquainted with it. And, we are so framed as that our judgment approves of the character and work of CHRIST, our consciences tell us that his proposals are right and reasonable.

THE Deity hath, also, so constituted and formed our natures, as that we do invariably exercise affections to­ward objects thus brought into our view. What other powers, or abilities, can possibly be necessary in order to our being under real obligation to love the LORD JESUS in sincerity; or, in order to render our disaffec­tion of heart, to him, infinitely criminal and inexcusea­ble? No one, it may be presumed, can frame an idea of any powers whatever existing in human nature, which would render it more suitable, or agreable to the dictates of common reason, that men should be un­der obligation to love GOD.

WE now proceed to enquire,

II. WHETHER this impotency affords any reasona­ble excuse to the sinner, for continuing in impenitency and unbelief.

THIS impotency, it is to be kept in mind, consisteth in a real aversion of the will from the law of GOD, from holiness, from the character of the LORD JESUS. It [Page 16] doth not consist in such a want of affection and love as is to be found in inanimate nature, or in the brutal creation: Nor does it consist in such a want of love, as we often express by the term indifference. Many times the state and disposition of the mind is such, respect­ing certain objects and things, as that it is difficult to determine which way it preponderates, and whether the mind be pleased or displeased with them; if there is a preponderancy of the affections, it is, nevertheless, so small as to be scarcely discernable.

SUCH a state of mind as this, is never, in common language, expressed by the term cannot; but, to denote such an indifferency as this, we always use some more soft and gentle term—some word or epithet which de­notes a state of mind considerably removed from every thing to which the ideas of impotency are wont to be af­fixed by mankind.

BUT, when the aversion of the will is such that no arts of perswasion will overcome it, and no motives or rea­sons will subdue and conquer it; then common language affords a term which denotes a certain kind of impossi­bility; and, to express this exceeding strength of op­position in the will, common sense adopts it, and, we say we cannot comply with such precepts or proposals.

IT being then remembered that the impotency spok­en of in our text, denoted by the terms no man can come to me, &c. implies a real and exceedingly strong aversion of the will, in the sinner, from coming unto CHRIST; it is to be enquired whether this impotency with respect to his coming, affords him any reasonable excuse for ne­glecting it.

1. IN human affairs this sort of impotency is never esteemed any excuse. The parent never excuses his child, nor the master his servant, nor the prince his sub­ject, upon saying that he cannot submit to his righteous authority, and government. For the child to say that he could not love his parents or his brethren, nor could submit to the wholesome rules and regulations of his family; would be so far from suggesting a reason for [Page 17] disobedience, that it would manifest its peculiar aggra­vation. Good and wholesome rules of family and govern­ment, are impracticable only to the obstinacy and per­verseness of the child, or the servant. And obstinacy and perverseness, according to all the dictates of reason and common sense, and all the methods of human admi­nistration and government, the higher they rise, are the more censurable and inexcusable. For the child to say that he cannot love and honor his parents, is so far from suggesting an excuse for his undutifulness, that, above all things, it shews his need of chastisement and correction, and much more so doth the like plea for undutifulness to GOD: For, our obligations of love and duty to the supreme GOD, arising from the infinite perfection and purity of his nature, and the relation which we stand in to him, are infinitely superior to those of filial duty and affec­tion: And, therefore, a perverseness, an obstinacy of will in this case, which arises to such a height as to au­thorise the use of the term cannot for denoting and ex­pressing it, must surely highly merit the just judgment and righteous indignation of GOD.

2. GOD himself doth not excuse sinners from the obligations of love, on account of such an impotency as this. The command of GOD to fallen man is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. * And the law curseth every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Here we have the judgment of HIM who always judgeth righteous judg­ment—who weigheth every thing in an even ballance. Accordingly, we find our Saviour dooming men to eternal destruction, for impenitency and unbelief. Ex­cept ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins He that be­lieveth not, shall he damned! § Upon this ground it was that our LORD considered the cities wherein most of his mighty works had been done, as exposed to a more [Page 18] aggravated condemnation, at the day of judgment, for their impenitency and unbelief, than Tyre and Sidon, or even Sodom itself. The impotency in the inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, to repent and be­lieve, was the same as that which, in our day, takes place in the sinner's heart. And this impotency, in our SAVIOUR's view, is so far from excusing their infidelity, that it is its peculiar aggravation. This impotency was much more strong in them, than was ever manifested or existed in the inhabitants of Tyre or Sodom, and there­fore it was that our LORD said; For if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day. *

BUT, had it been the sense of HIM in whom are hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, who is perfectly ac­quainted with our frame, and knowing to all the im­perfections and frailties of our nature; that there was any impotency in fallen man, which rendered the per­formance of true spiritual service, not a matter of real duty and obligation; surely, we never should have heard him dooming those to everlasting ruin for their impenitency and unbelief, who laboured under that same impotency with respect to coming to him, and believing on him, which is urged by sinners, in our day, as an excuse for their abominable neglect. Much less, should we find him considering the strength and greatness of this impotency, as rendering those who laboured un­der it, worthy of a peculiarly aggravated destruction. The impotency of the inhabitants of Sodom to repent, really never rose to the height to which it did, in the inhabitants of Chorazin, Capernaum, &c. And yet, the impenitency of the latter, was far more criminal than that of the former. Therefore, in the view of infinite wisdom and justice, that impotency in sinners of man­kind, with respect to holy spiritual service, whereby they cannot come to CHRIST, is so far from excusing their wickedness, that it is its peculiar aggravation. AND, to this representation of the matter, the reason [Page 19] of men perfectly corresponds. For, when a child doth not love a wise and tender parent, he is universally judged to be criminal: But, when his aversion from his parent has arisen to such a height, that all means and methods to bring him to a sense of his duty, prove ineffec­tual, and he plainly declares that he cannot love him, his wickedness is universally judged to be exceedingly great.

3. It would be very absurd to suppose that disaffect­ion of heart to the true character of the LORD JHSUS, is excuseable on account of its strength and greatness. It has been already observed that the term cannot, as it is often used in scripture, and the phrase no man can, as used in our text, as far as it relates to the character of the subject, is designed to express an exceeding strength of opposition of will, to certain objects or proposals. That degree of disaffection and dislike, which is so weak and low, as not to admit of the term cannot for expressing it; and which doth not generally suggest the idea of any sort of impossibility; by the common consent of mankind, is universally thought to partake of the na­ture of either virtue or vice, according to the several natures and qualities of its object. And, if such a low degree of backwardness with respect to coming to CHRIST, as we should not express by a term that sug­gested any impossibility in the case, yet, according to the dictates of common reason, and by the universal consent of mankind is deemed criminal: it would be very re­markable that this same backwardness of heart with re­spect to coming, when it has arisen to such height, and existeth in such strength, as that, according to the com­mon use of language, it may with propriety be said thta the subject of it cannot come; should then be deemed in­nocent and excuseable. Such a method of reasoning and infering as this, at once confounds all human rules of computation respecting different degrees of vice, and the several alleviations or aggravations of crimes. If a low degree of disaffection to CHRIST is criminal, a higher degree of it must be proportionably more so; [Page 20] and when the disaffection arises to such a height as to render it impracticable for the subject of it to come to him, and is of such a strength and malignity as to re­quire the term cannot fully and properly to express it; neither the dictates of scripture, nor of common reason, would hesitate a moment to pronounce it far more vile and criminal. When the disaffection of any one, to CHRIST, is such as that he cannot come to him, and be­lieve on him, was not his conscience amazingly stupid and blind, instead of drawing any excuse from this im­potency, he would feel it to be his own wickedness, and that it constituted the very essence of it, and would, in his conscience, condemn himself to an everlasting hell for it, when he is endued with reason and understanding to discern the fitnesses of things; when the infinitely excel­lent character of the LORD JESUS is exhibited sensibly to his observation and view; when his judgment and con­science approve, and pronounce it excellent and perfect in every part: Then to feel such strength of aversion of will from CHRIST, as that he cannot come to him and em­brace him in his proper character; the sinner would at once know, was an impotency of a most horrid nature, a crime of the deepest dye, which of itself rendered him a vessel of wrath fit for nothing but destruction.

IT is, indeed, nothing but abominable stupidity of conscience, and of heart, that ever suggested that impo­tency in the sinner with respect to coming to CHRIST, which is meant to be expressed by the terms, no man can come unto me, &c. as an excuse for not repenting and be­lieving on the LORD JESUS. And this excuse, as well as every other that can be invented, the sinner may assur­edly know, like the thin cloud and vapour, before the beams of the rising sun, will immediately vanish and slee before the clear, full sight which will break in up­on his conscience at the last day.

4. IF this impotency, in the sinner, with respect to coming to CHRIST, affords any excuse for his impeni­tency and unbelief, it must be because aversion of will [Page 21] from the LORD JESUS, and disaffection to his true and real character, are not sinful. For any one to say this, is the same as to say that it is not in itself sinful for us to feel heartily opposed to the character and work of CHRIST, to exercise voluntary opposition to the true GOD.

THERE is, in fact, no impotency in sinners under the Gospel, to repentance and faith, (which at all affects their moral characters, or has any relation to their praise worthiness, or criminality) beside what is volun­tary and consists essentially in the opposition of their wills. And to plead this impotency as an excuse, is to plead wickedness itself as its own excuse.

IF voluntary opposition to GOD is sinful; the sin­ner's impotence to repent and believe is sinful; be­cause the very impotence itself consisteth in voluntary op­position. And, if voluntary opposition to GOD is sin­ful, the point of controversy is certainly determined; for sinfulness itself cannot be excuseable.

THE sinner who pleads this impotency, when the duty and obligation of repentance and faith are urged upon him, it may be presumed, is not yet become sen­sible that he is an enemy to GOD: He is not yet convin­ced that the feelings, the voluntary affection of his own heart toward GOD are sinful, or such as deserve censure and blame. Was the sinner once effectually convinced of this, his conscience would at once feel the real obli­gation of repentance; and, this conviction must im­mediately disarm him of every excuse. For,

5. IF, voluntary opposition to GOD is not sinful; if real, actual unwillingness to come to CHRIST, is not cri­minal, it must be because we are not in reason answerable to GOD—because he hath no right to command our wills, and call upon us to love him. To say that we are not blameable for persisting in impenitency, because GOD doth not give us a heart, a will to repent; is the same as to say, that GOD hath no right to command us to re­pent of sin and love him, unless at the same time he [Page 22] gives us hearts to comply. And this, every one must see, is the same as to say, that GOD's commands are not binding upon any but those to whom he gives hearts to obey. According to such reasoning as this, it is very obvious, that impenitent sinners cannot righteously be commanded to repent and believe on the LORD JESUS. And this indeed is the grand object which the sinner has in view; the darling point to which all his pleas and excuses tend.

IF the sinner is absolved from the obligation of re­pentance and faith, by the consideration that GOD hath not given him a heart to repent and believe the gospel, it is then manifest, of course, that all impenitent sin­ners are freed from moral obligation. And, if this is a consideration that dissolves moral obligation; it must be because GOD hath no right to enjoin any thing up­on the creature, beside what he is disposed and hath a heart to perform. But, was this the truth, it would be obvious that the disposition and will of the creature, must be the only rule and measure of the divine commands; and therefore the only rule and measure of his duty. This every one may see, is a rule and method of reason­ing▪ which at once cancels all moral obligation; mak­ing the will of the creature his own and only law; and denying all authority which the Deity hath over men. Such reasonings as these are the suggestions of a heart impatient of every restraint, and fruitful in inventions for easing the conscience from every sense of moral ob­ligation.

IF the sinner is indeed under obligations of repentance toward GOD, and faith toward our LORD JESUS CHRIST, it is utterly in vain to urge any consideration whatever in excuse of impenitence and unbelief. If GOD, who judgeth righteous judgment, considers a rejection of CHRIST as being blameworthy and criminal; it is plain that▪ in his view, there is no cannot in the sinner, with respect to his coming to him, that takes off the obliga­tion of it. The sinner ought to feel and know there­fore, [Page 23] that all his excuses for remaining impenitent, be­tray his impatience of the obligation of the divine law; and, undoubtedly have their origin in a real disposition of heart to annul the judgments of GOD, and break his bands asunder.

6. TO urge that there cannot be obligation on a creature to love GOD, unless where the DEITY gives a heart, or disposition to comply with the precepts of love, is the same as to say that we cannot consent to be creatures, dependent on GOD, and yet accountable to him. To urge an indisposition of mind to comply with di­vine precepts, as an excuse for opposition to them; is to deny the mutual consistency of dependence and moral obligation. To lay the blame of an indisposition to obe­dience, at GOD's door, because a heart or disposition to obey, is only from GOD; is to urge the consideration of the dependence of the creature on GOD, as an argument against the obligation of obedience. For, if the ideas of entire dependence, and of moral obligation, are no ways in­consistent with each other; the consideration of our being creatures absolutely dependent on GOD, is certainly no manner of excuse for our being and continuing enemies to him.

THE excuse, therefore, of cannot, so often urged by the sinner, and so difficultly yielded up, when the duty of repenting and believing the gospel is brought into view, really terminates here; and betrays the secret de­sire, the latent wishes of his heart, after independence on God. Would we consent to be creatures, and, in the dispositions and affections of our minds, take our place accordingly; every difficulty in the way of our coming to CHRIST, would at once subside, and be removed; and we should then find no cannot with respect to coming that would be any bar in the way of it, or, for a mo­ment, keep us at a distance from him.

IT is of the utmost importance, therefore, that the sinner should know and feel that this excuse is most per­fectly insignificant, and infinitely vain: and, that we should all be effectually persuaded and convinced that [Page 24] our impotency to love so exalted and glorious a charac­ter, is so far from excusing us, that it is the very thing which constitutes our wickedness, and renders us so infinitely vile and odious in the pure eyes of the holy GOD. This impotency is so far from being a reason why the impenitent sinner should not be damned; that it is the very thing, above all others, on account of which he deserves everlasting burnings. However the powers and faculties of the human mind may be supposed to be impaired by the fall; or, whatever debility and weak­ness may be derived to mankind from Adam; still, there can be no reasonable objection to our employing all the powers and faculties which remain, in the service of GOD: However our powers may be impaired, the duty and obligation of a faithful improvement of those which are left us, remain still in full force. And, when we are assured, that if there be first a willing mind, it is ac­cepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that which he hath not; * we have, certainly, no reason to complain if we are condemned and punished for misimproving and abusing the powers and talents of which we are actually possessed. While we have reason to discern and apprehend the character of the LORD JE­SUS, as it is exhibited in his wonderful and glorious work; and judgment and conscience to approve and decide wholly in its favor; it is, in the nature of things, impossible that we should not be under obligation to love him with all our hearts, with all the powers and affec­tions we have; and no impotency, in the sinner, to this, can possibly exist, beside a disaffection of heart and will to so pure and holy a character: which, by the terms, is the very reverse of duty (what is duty for the sinner) and therefore is the very essence of his wick­edness—the thing itself for which he deserves the eter­nal displeasure of the infinite GOD.

THIS brings us to enquire,

III. WHENCE ariseth the necessity of divine and al­mighty power, the special influences of the spirit of God, [Page 25] in order to bring men to repent, and believe on the Lord JESUS CHRIST. Our text says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." In order to understand the true ground of the necessity of special divine influences in bringing men to CHRIST, we may observe the following things. Such as,

1. No effect ever takes place without some sufficient and adequate cause. It is an acknowledged maxim, that every effect requires a cause; and that such an one as is adequate to it, and sufficient for the production of it. If this point be given up, almost all principles of reasoning are, at once unhinged; and we are set at loose from all certainty respecting the most important and acknowledged truths. All created existence is the effect of divine and almighty power; an effect to the production of which nothing short of omnipotence is adequate. It is the prerogative of GOD, proper and peculiar to him, to create and, out of nothing produce existence. So that wherever we behold created existence, we have an infallible, never failing proof of divine al­mighty power. No existence, either in whole or in part, creates itself. In this sense every thing, every effect, re­quires almighty power.

2. The sinner's coming to CHRIST is an effect to which nothing is adequate, as a cause, beside the drawings of the FATHER: This is an effect only of the special influ­ences of the spirit of GOD. That divine power whereby GOD effecteth meer creation—whereby he produced the material system, our natural world into existence: is wholly inadequate to such an effect. Yea, that divine power whereby GOD alone formeth moral nature, brings men into being and upholds them in existence, is not a cause equal to the production of holiness in a sinner's heart. This power alone, in however high a measure it is exerted will not bring a sinner to repent, and be­lieve on the LORD JESUS. The peculiar glory even of the power of GOD, appears in the new creation: And, this new creation never takes place otherwise than as an [Page 26] effect of the special influences of the spirit of GOD. There­fore, they who receive CHRIST and believe on him, are represented as being born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of GOD. John i. 13. And our SAVIOUR saith that except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of GOD. John iii, 5. GOD, in bringing men to CHRIST, draws them with the cords of a man, with bands of love. Hosea xi. 4. And it is not in the heart of man to come to CHRIST, unless he is thus drawn of GOD.

3. That, on the sinner's part, which alone renders the special influences of the spirit of GOD, necessary and essential to his coming to CHRIST, is obstinacy of will and disaffection of heart. When we speak of the neces­sity of the exertion of some special influence on a crea­ture who is every way furnished with abilities and powers for moral action, in order to bring him to a compliance with the dictates of reason and right; with duty and obligati­on; it naturally awakens an apprehension of something in the sinner himself, lying as an obstacle or bar in the way of his compliance with his duty. There is nothing in the sin­ner, which lies as a bar in the way of his repenting and believing the gospel, beside this enmity and obstinacy of will. Enmity of heart, therefore, against GOD, opposite of will to the LORD JESUS, to his character and work; are what alone, on the sinner's part, render special, divine, spiritual influences necessay to his being brought to re­pentance toward GOD, and faith toward our LORD JE­SUS CHRIST. Such is the enmity and wickedness of the hearts of sinners, as that it is not in them to come to CHRIST unless the Father draws them.

GOD, by his almighty power, continually upholds eve­ry one of us in being: He gives us reason and judg­ment to see and understand, and know that we ought to love him; but we will not. Therefore his almighty, spiri­tual power must be put forth in order to bring us to it. For this reason it is that no man can come to CHRIST, except the Father draw him. Man hath such an aver­sion [Page 27] of will from coming, that it is not in him to come. And when our SAVIOUR saith that no man can come, &c. he is so far from designing to furnish the sinner with an excuse for impenitency and unbelief, that his words are excellently calculated to bring the wickedness of the impenitent sinner very fully and sensibly into his view. Nothing gives us so striking a view of the exceeding strength of opposition there is, in sinners hearts, to CHRIST, as to hear it represented by him who is the true and faithful witness, as being such that, according to the common use of terms, it may properly be said that he cannot come unto him: For this teacheth us, that there is not only some degree of opposition, but an exceeding strength of enmity, in the carnal heart against the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

IMPROVEMENT.

1. WHAT has been said on this subject, teacheth us, that converting grace, when first bestowed upon a sin­ner, is always both an unsought and an unpromised favour. What is said respecting the Gentile world, is also equally true of every one whom divine grace over­takes, and whom GOD brings home into his kingdom, that he is sought of them that asked not for him, that he is found of them that sought him not. Isaiah lxv, 1.

IN a person who is so opposed to CHRIST as that he cannot come to him, it is in vain to expect any asking or seeking after him. We never ask or seek after that which is wholly disagreeable to us; much less, if possi­ble, after that which is freely offered to us without money and without price, to which we have such an exceeding strength of aversion and opposition of will, as that we cannot accept and embrace it. To teach and exhort, therefore, impenitent sinners, to seek and pray for converting, regenerating grace, under an appre­hension that they are rather inclined to comply with such di­rections, than actually to repent and believe the gospel, must certainly arise from a wrong apprehension of the nature [Page 28] of that impotency there is in sinners respecting repent­ance and faith. And not only so, but such kind of directions must also, exceedingly tend to blind the sinner both with respect to his own character and duty, and keep out of view the real opposition and enmity of his heart against GOD.

TO encourage sinners to hope that there are any pro­mises in the word of GOD, to any askings or seekings which are not of faith, is to encourage them to trust in a refuge of lies: For, when we are directed to ask, we are, at the same time, directed to ask in faith, nothing wavering, and told that he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed ▪ And then, to let us know how vain all such asking is, the Apostle adds, let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the LORD. James i. 6, 7.

2. WE see, in what has been said on this subject, a reason why the divine law should loose none of its de­mands on sinners; and why there should be no relaxa­tion of its binding force and authority. If the circum­stances and impotency of sinners were such as that reason would plead a relaxation of its demands upon us since the fall, and common sense dictate the propriety and importance of it; it would be exceedingly difficult for us to discern the necessity or wisdom of the atone­ment; or, see it to be even consistent for CHRIST to come to magnify the law and make it honourable: For, on the other hand, this design of the coming of CHRIST directly combats the principle which urgeth the reasonableness of a relaxation, in the demands of the law, on account of the impotency there is in fallen men to comply with them.

If the demands of the divine law were above what in reason, could be required of fallen creatures; the essential righteousness and goodness of GOD, would have been sufficient security for all reasonable abatements, without the death of CHRIST, or any price paid as a ransom from the power of too severe and rigid a law. But, now all [Page 29] the original demands of the law upon mankind are kept up, because we have lost no powers of obedience, which can, in the least measure, excuse us from the obligati­ons of it.

SOME seem to imagine that the right which the Deity hath to bind us to real holiness and the perfection of it according to our measure, in our present fallen state, ariseth from the consideration of the sufficiency of pow­ers with which human nature was originally endowed, without any regard to the nature and extent of the pre­sent powers of mankind. Accordingly we often hear it said, that GOD hath not lost his right to command, though man hath his power to obey; than the which few sentences have ever been invented that were more directly calcu­lated to relieve and stupify the conscience of the secure sinner. For, in the first place, though reason teaches us that for any one voluntarily to deprive himself of his ori­ginal powers of obedience, is in itself criminal, and deserv­ing of punishment; yet this is a crime which, on the pre­sent supposition, is chargeable on no one of mankind ex­cept the first of the race. This therefore is a crime from which every one of the fallen race of men are taught, by the sentence under consideration, to consider themselves as entirely free. And, in the second place, it is utterly impracticable, even by all the arts of subtilty of which the most practised critic is possessed, ever to convict the conscience of sin, for not exerting and employing pow­ers of which the person was never in any meassure pos­sessed. For, reason teaches us that the servant is not criminal for neglecting to run, at the master's command after he has dislocated his joints or broken his bones; though he may be for his carelessness, or violence offer­ed to himself, in breaking his legs. And, although, in the third place, the sinner should be persuaded to be­lieve that, by some certain law or constitution of go­vernment, he is holden to punishment for not exerting powers of which he never was possessed, and of which Adam alone, was guilty of the crime of depriving him; [Page 30] yet, he never will feel himself deserving of it: And, his consciousness of innocence will be as balm to the soul, molifying and healing every wound that is in­flicted on him.

IS it possible for any one who considers this as the ground of his exposedenesss to future punishment, to feel his need of an infinite atonement, and be brought to look only to boundless mercy, and sovereign grace, for relief? Is this that sense of sin and conviction of guilt, which prepares the mind for discerning the ex­cellency of the gospel, and the glory of the mediatorial work and character? And are these the doctrines adapt­ed by infinite wisdom, and awaken the consciences of sin­ners, and bring their own characters, in all their pollu­tion and deformity, into their view? Certainly no: But, on this supposition, the gospel can only be, as it was heretofore to the Jews, a stumbling block, and to the Greeks, foolishness. Under the influence of such instructions and apprehensions as these, it will be utter­ly impracticable for the sinner ever to attain to such a sense of sin as is altogether necessary to his heartily im­bracing the gospel.

GOD's law, and his right to command, remain in full force because nothing is now required of us but what it is infinitely fit and reasonable that we should perform. This, and this only, is the true ground and criterion of right, on GOD's part, and obligation on our's. The Deity now requires nothing more than a rational, faithful improvement of the powers, opportunities and talents which we actually have; and all this was re­quired of Adam. And the whole difference, in a moral view, between Adam in innocency, and his fallen race is, that the former was disposed to this proper improve­ment of his talents and powers, but the latter are not. By an unwillingness to obey, every consideration concurs to evince, that GOD doth not lose his right to command; much less, if possible, when the opposition of the will to obedience, ariseth to such a height as to authorise the use of the term cannot in order fully and properly to ex­press it.

[Page 31]However the natural force and vigor of the human mind may be abated by the fall, no reason can be given why we should not be required to love the LORD our GOD with all our heart, and soul, and strength and mind. No reasonable objection can be made against the law which requires us to love the DEITY in proportion to the views under which he is actually exhibited to our un­derstandings, and the dictates of our own consciences res­pecting his worthiness of love. And this is all that the divine law now requires, or that it did originally require of man, nor is it to be supposed that any one, without this conviction of his own obligation, and his real crimina­lity for neglecting to comply with it, can ever discern the glory of the gospel, or behold the beauty, and relish the character of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. And that person, whoever he is, that is settled down in a hope of his own good estate, and yet never hath been convinced that even now, in his fallen state, he is under all ima­ginable obligation actually to love GOD with his whole soul; and, that the real criminality and sinfulness of every exercise of his own affection and heart which is, in its nature and tendency, opposed to such a love, re­quires an infinite atonement to make it consistent for even goodness itself to forgive him, has only the hope of he hypocrite, which will soon perish; and all his reli­gion will vanish before the light of eternity, like the thin cloud and vapour before the beams of the rising sun.

3. IF the sinner's impotency to holy duty consisteth in the obstinacy of his will, the aversion of his heart from the commands of the word of GOD, it is manifest that there is no reason why he should not be called to immediate repentance and faith. When there is no other reason of the sinner's impenitence, than his voluntary opposition to it, there can, surely, be no reason why the calls, invitations and directions of the gospel, should ter­minate on any thing short of true, hearty submission and repentance. And, for the Deity to give directions to any thing short of repentence and faith, as a term or medium whereby to obtain his favour and his farther gracious [Page 32] assistance, in consideration of human impotency to real repen­tance and faith, would be at least a tacit acknowledg­ment of the validity and justice of the hardened, obsti­nate sinner's plea; and would therefore suppose it an unrighteous thing for sinners to be damned for impeni­tency and unbelief.

WHEN we see the righteous commands of a parent disregarded by the rebellious child, and hear the fond mother, in order to save appearances, and preserve at least the air of authority, lowering her demands till she brings them down to a level with the perverse disposition and inclination of the child; it fills us with a just indig­nation. And what better or more honorable do they think of the DEITY who imagine that his original demands of true and supreme love, are abated, on account of the perverse disposition and inclinations of the sinner, and his calls and directions now softened and lowered down to the level of the sinner's present disposition; so that GOD now, immediately requires nothing of the impenitent sinner but what it may comport with his impenitent disposition to perform. Nothing is more grateful to the impenitent sinner, than to hear himself directed to some exercises and doings short of real repentence as a means or conditi­on of finding favor with GOD; because he feels that eve­ry such direction evidently justifies the excuse which he makes for remaining impenitent, drawn from his impotence respecting true repentence: And it incoura­ges him to hope for peace of conscience upon such doings and performances as may comport with his present ut­ter indisposition to the love of GOD, and aversion from it. And, if peace of conscience, and hope of security, are to be obtained at so easy a rate as this; the sinner will naturally think that the urgency of the case is not very great and pressing; but, even these doings and per­formances may be deferred to some more convenient opportunity. And yet, how often do we hear impeni­tent sinners directed to a tedious round of ungracious doings and duties, as the prescribed means of conversi­on, and the condition of GOD's bestowing converting [Page 33] grace upon them: while the reason alledged for such directions, is the present weak and impotent state of human nature with respect to truly gracious exercises and holy duties.

WHAT can be more reproachful to the holy and just GOD, than to suppose either that he required an infinite price paid to him, before he would suffer himself to be prevailed on to abate any thing of those demands which nevertheless, could not with reason be kept up upon depra­ved, fallen men, on account of their impotence to comply with them; or, that the influence of the atonement upon the divine mind was such, as to dispose the DEITY to yield a little in his demands, on account of the extreme back­wardness and indisposition of the sinner to obey? And, yet, it is abundantly evident that either the one or the other of these suppositions, or something similar to them, is certainly implied in the opinion that any of the directi­ons of the word of GOD to sinners, have, for their ob­ject, any thing short of true, genuine, cordial love.

4. WE may infer, from what has been said on this subject, that the sinner who feels, and is really convinc­ed that this impotency to come to CHRIST, is his own fault, his crime, will never mention it as an excuse. Peo­ple are never wont to mention the crime itself as it's own excuse: Such sort of pleas are proscribed by common sense, and the universal consent of mankind. When we plead an excuse of a crime, it is something distinct from the crime itself. If the sinner's impotency to come to CHRIST is his own wickedness, it is an affront to the great GOD, to his law, and to his son, JESUS CHRIST, for him to mention it in any other view than as con­demning himself for it. What would the parent think of the child who should say that he could not submit to the wholsome rules and regulations of the family—that he could not be subject to parental authority? He would be so far from considering this as any tolerable excuse, that he would infer from it, the child's need of severe discipline and correction. What, then, must the DEITY, the just and holy GOD, think of the sinner, when he [Page 34] hears him say that he cannot repent of his sins, and cannot love the LORD JESUS? For the sinner to say that he can­not repent of his sins, is to express the exceeding strength of his love to sin, and the amazing attachment of his own heart to his lusts. And to say that he cannot love the LORD JESUS CHRIST, it to express the strong, un­conquerable aversion of his mind and will from him.

DID sinners themselves view the matter in this light, (as they certainly would do, were not their consciences exceedingly stupid and blind) we never should hear them hold such a language as this, or talk in a strain so exceedingly daring and provoking. To say that we cannot repent of our sins, and cannot come to CHRIST; and plead this at the same time, as an excuse for not re­penting and believing; is directly to fly in the face of the GREAT GOD, of his law, and of the glorious SAVIOUR of sinners. He that can talk in such a strain as this, and derive peace and quiet from this excuse, we may rely upon it, has never yet been convinced, even in conscience, that he is a sinner. For, if it is not our own fault, our wickedness, that we do not repent and be­lieve the gospel, where can wickedness be found? If it is not our own fault that we do not repent and believe, we are certainly not sinful, on account of impenitence and unbelief: that is, our impenitence and unbelief are not our sin. And, if we are not sinners in this respect, certainly we are not in any other. And it cannot be that in this respect we are sinners, if that impotency with respect to repentence and faith, which is usually ex­pressed by the term cannot, be a reasonable excuse for impenitence and unbelief.

THUS doth this excuse of cannot, so often in the sin­ner's mouth, instead of manifesting any degree of awak­ening, respecting the things of religion, or any just ap­prehensions of things, discover the exceeding stupidity of his conscience, and a very high degree of carnal ease and security. The danger of such, and the wretched­ness of their condition, is greater and more dreadful than can be imagined. And, unless it shall please GOD to strike such light and conviction into their deluded [Page 35] minds, their blinded consciences, as shall make them feel and know that this cannot, with respect to their re­penting and believing, is their own sin and infinite wick­edness; and, in this way, effectually shut their mouths, so that they dare not open them in such an excuse, they will infallibly perish, and be sealed over to eternal destruction.

HOW must the sinner appear in the eyes ef that GOD who weigheth every thing in an even ballance, whose commandments are all holy and just and good, when HE requires him to love that which is, in itself, infinitely lovely and excellent, and most perfectly worthy of our love; yet freely declaring and protesting that he cannot love him, that it is not in his power to do it; and urging this cannot, at the same time, as an excuse for remaining an enemy to God! Certainly, such wickedness as this can be equalled by nothing but the patience and goodness of GOD, on the other hand, in sparing, forgiving and saving sinners.

5. FOR sinners to be directed to any thing short of repentance toward GOD, and faith toward our Lord JESUS CHRIST; or any thing to be done, or duty to be performed, any otherwise than in the exercise of a hum­ble, penitent and broken heart; evidently encourageth his vain confidence, and manifestly implieth that his impotency affords him some degree of reasonable excuse. Paul considers all mankind as being without excuse for not glorifying GOD as GOD. He saith, that the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without ex­cuse. Rom. i. 20. Paul was, by no means, unacquaint­ed with the impotency of human nature, and, no man was more deeply and effectually convinced of the ne­cessity of special, divine and almighty power, in order to bring sinners to repent and believe the gospel; and yet we find that he considers even the heathen themselves as being without excuse in their opposition to GOD. Ac­cordingly, in his preaching, we find no directions to any thing short of real hatred to sin, and love to CHRIST; or, which can be complied with, without the exercise of supreme love to GOD.

[Page 36]WHENEVER sinners find themselves directed to any thing which may be performed in the exercise of their present impenitent tempers, they immediately loose sight of the obligation of repentence and faith. And, when any doings or performances short of repenting and believing, are directed to as the appointed way and means of obtaining God's favor; the direction naturally dimin­isheth the importance of repentence and faith; and makes the sinner less sensible of the obligation and ne­cessity of true, cordial submission to a sovereign GOD.

FOR a sinner to be advised and directed to any thing, as a means of obtaining GOD's favour, or converting grace, or any thing with which the favour of GOD is connected, short of a hearty turning from sin to GOD; will naturally give him to think that he is excused from the obligation of immediate repentance and turning unto GOD: He must, in such a case, surely, think him­self excused from the obligation of repenting, until he has done something else, And, when, or where such directions will land him upon the duty of immediate re­pentance, is extremely uncertain. The sinner will na­turally conclude that his adviser doth not consider real repentance as his present duty, or matter of present ob­ligation, if he does, why doth he advise, direct or ex­hort to something else,—something entirely short of it, and of a quite different nature from it? If there were any such directions as these, in the bible, sinners would na­turally and necessarily feel themselves encouraged and countenanced in present impenitence; and be strength­ened in their apprehensions of the reasonableness of urging their impotency to repent and believe, as an ex­cuse. Whenever, therefore, the preachers of the gospel give such directions as have for their object something short of a hearty repentance and turning to GOD, they really countenance and encourage the vain and idle ex­cuses of the sinner; and so long as any thing short of cor­dial submission and love, is pointed out as the way of duty; and an appointed means of the recovery and salvation of the sinner; it will be impossible for the sinner to find his own way on every side hedged up, and himself absolutely [Page 37] dependent on a sovereign GOD. Nothing can more di­rectly tend to keep the true and real character, both of the DEITY, and of the sinner, out of view, than such kind of directions and exhortations as these. They naturally represent the holy GOD as considering it but a fit and reasonable thing that some kind of allowance should be made on ac­count of the impotency and weakness under which man­kind labour since the fall; and his mercy to be of such a nature and quality, as to incline him to look with a favourable eye, upon those doings, exercises and striv­ings of the sinner, which are wholly destitute of every degree of love, and wholly void of every thing that partakes, even in the lowest measure, of any submission to GOD, or concern for his honour and glory. Thus is the grace of GOD made an excuse for continuing in sin. And not only so, but they also teach the sinner to consider himself as complying with present obligation, and fulfilling it, without hearty repentance and turning to GOD. And, so long as a person views himself in this favourable point of light, how is it possible he should see himself a lost, miserable, undone sinner? Under the influence of such doctrines and directions as these, how is it possible that sinners should ever be con­vinced of their voluntary enmity against GOD, and opposition of heart to the proposals and invitations of the gospel.

HOW can the sinner under an apprehension that he complieth with his present duty, by something short of repentance and a hearty turning to GOD, because of the impotence brought upon him by the fall, ever embrace the sacrifice of CHRIST in any other view than as an atone­ment for that impotence, and not, for his own personal sin and wickedness. And, were this in fact the case, (which such kind of exhortations and directions as are now un­der consideration, are admirably adapted to encourage the sinner to hope and believe that it is) what a view would it exhibit of the nature of the law and government of GOD, of the character of the sinner, and of the design and end of the death and sufferings of CHRIST! a view [Page 38] shocking indeed to every friend to CHRIST, and infinite­ly dangerous and hazardous to the sinner.

6. WE may infer, from what hath been said on this subject, the great importance of sinner's being effectu­ally convinced that their impotency to repent and be­lieve the gospel, is really their own fault, their wickedness. When this impotency is alledged by sinners as an objecti­on against their being urged and called upon to real ho­liness and nothing else, it is obvious that they are not con­vinced that it is any crime in them to be totally impo­tent as to holy, spiritual love. And, so long as this im­potence to repent is considered only in the light of a cala­mity, not as a crime, it is abundantly manifest, that the sin­ner can never feel himself deserving of eternal damnation for his impenitency; or, that it would be a just and equit­able thing in GOD, eternally to damn him for his impe­nitence and unbelief. So long, therefore, as this is the view he entertains of the matter, he will necessarily feel his heart opposed to that GOD, whose fixt purpose it is eternally to punish sinners for impenitency and unbelief.

UNDER such views as these, and in such a state of mind as this, how unprepared is the sinner to embrace the gospel, or to behold its glory! How unprepared to trust in the mercy of GOD, and that through a Savi­our who came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil. Very low and degrading must the sinner's apprehension be of the divine mercy, while he entertains such views as these: and very dishonourable and shocking, of the na­ture and end of the undertaking and coming of CHRIST. To such are most applicable the words of our blessed LORD, to the proud, self righteous Pharisees; They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinner to repentance. Mark ii. 17. If their eyes are not opened to see themselves to be sinners in a very different man­ner from what they now do, they have no relief to expect for themselves, from the LORD JESUS CHRIST. Duty, therefore, to GOD, a concern for the prosperity and glo­ry of the Redeemer's kingdom, and love to the souls of men, all concur to urge the vast importance and obli­gation, [Page 39] of pressing continually and incessantly upon the sinner, the indispensible and absolute necessity of repentance toward GOD, and faith toward our LORD JESUS CHRIST, as the only term or condition upon which the word of GOD gives him the least encouragement to hope for GOD's fa­vourable notice and regards.

7. IS it so, indeed, that nothing but divine and al­mighty power ever doth, or can, bring the sinner to re­pent and believe the gospel; hence let impenitent sin­ners see the dreadful, undone state and condition in which they are really involved. You are, in every re­spect under that divine law which requires you immedi­ately and perpetually to love the LORD your GOD with all your heart; and that on pain of eternal damnation. The obligation of this law is perpetually binding upon you, and incessantly urging and pressing and pursuing you, and this with the whole weight of the authority of the GREAT GOD—with all the binding force and obligation that the authority of JEHOVAH himself can give it: And you, at the same time, under the power of such an invincible obstinacy, such an uncon­querable aversion of will, from even the least degree of compliance, as nothing but divine power itself, can sub­due and overcome! O sinner, how dreadfully wretched and dangerous indeed is your condition! How inex­pressibly evil and odious is your character in the sight of GOD! Surely you are in the hands of an absolutely sovereign GOD. On his pleasure alone is your eternal state suspended: And on him alone doth it depend, whether you shall be brought to dwell with him, in Heaven; or, be sent to an eternal hell. His decree, his pleasure, will fix your fate for eternity. Oh! that you might see and feel this; as until then, there can be no hope of you! Come, then, and bow to his glorious sovereign; acknowledge your own offence, and seek his face. Do not any longer, justify yourselves and quar­rel with GOD: But kiss the son lest he be angry, and ye pe­rish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The END.

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