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a feast; which is the illustration repeatedly employed by the holy Spirit. Without an appetite, a relish for the provisions, and some confidence in him who gives us the invitation, men will make light of it: yet they, who go their way, have the same warrant to come to the feast, as those who actually partake of it.
The sincere beggar feels his poverty, desires relief, submits to the humiliating circumstances of his condition, and supplicates his more affluent neighbour in the best manner he can: yet these are not his warrant for applying and expecting help; but he takes his encouragement from the wealth or bounty of him, of whom he solicits relief; and if he has bidden hịm come, and promised in that case to help him, this constitutes his warrant for coming,
All the Jews had the same warrant to return and rebuild Jerusalem, after Cyrus had issued his proclamation: but their settlements at Babylon, or in other places, with the perils and hardships of the attempt, would have overcome their almost expiring attachment i to the holy city; if the Lord had not “ stirred up the
“ spirit” of some among them': -The rest had the same warrant but not the same willingness, to return : and this illustration is peculiarly apposite; because the reļuctancy of the Jews arose from unbelief, and the carnal state of their hearts; and their disregard to this typical redemption aptly represents the sin and folly of those, who neglect the great salvation of the gospel.
A willingness to be saved from eternal misery, and to be made, eternally happy, according to men's several notions of happiness, is natural to all: but a desire of that holy felicity proposed in Scripture, and of that humbling salration from merited wrath and from all sin which the gospel proclaims, is widely different. Yet no willingness to be saved, which leaves a man wholly unwilling to be saved in the way, and with the salvation, of
i Ez. i. 1-5.
the gospel, can be of any use or value. The want of this willingness is the sole reason of the sinner's unbelief and destruction. They, who perish from under the means of grace, have the same warrant to believe in Christ, as they who are saved: but the gospel is to most men “ a price put into the hands of a fool to get wis“ dom, while he has no heart to it.”
- The brazen serpent, lifted up in the centre of Israel's
camp, with the publick declaration of its use, was a sufficient warrant to every man, when bitten by a fiery serpent, to look unto it. But if any were so deprived of sensation as not to feel the fatal bite, or so stupid as not to fear approaching death; if any foolishly preferred other methods of seeking a cure, or were so proud, rebellious, and unbelieving, as to shut their eyes, or look another way; or if any looked without at all expecting a cure according to the word of the Lord, they must have perished; not for want of a warrant to believe; but because they did not submit to the wisdom and authority of God, or rely on his faithfulness and mercy, in this appointed way of preservation.--Every man of reflection will see, how these things apply to the case before us : and it is obvious thence to infer, that all sinners, to whom the gospel is sent, have an equal warrant to believe in Christ, and to expect salvation from him, according to the holy Scriptures; and that men perish for want of a disposition of heart to comply with the invitations of mercy, and to submit to the authority and commandment of God our Saviour.
Some Reasons for insisting on this position,- That the
• Word of God is the sinner's only and sufficient warrant - for believing in Christ.'
As a disposition to believe is equally necessary to ; salvation, with a warrant to believe; it may perhaps be
thought, by some readers, that it is not very important to insist, so fully and strenuously, upon this point: for after all, the warrant will be of no use to those, who have no heart to avail themselves of it. In considering this part of a pour subject, it may be observed :
I. That it is extremely futile to suppose the case of a man believing without a disposition to believe; and then gravely to make provision for it!--Whatever warrant or encouragement may be given, unless we leave matters unexplained or mis-stated, so that men think tliey be- . lieve when they do not, the indisposed will utterly disregard our words. To lay the blame therefore on the want of a disposition to believe, can discourage none but such as are consciously unwilling ; and these certainly are not entitled to encouragement: but if the sinner had no warrant to believe, those would be discouraged who were most earnestly desirous of salvation; while the proud and careless would be furnished with an excuse for their unbelief. .
Should we even say, "A sincere willingness to be • saved in the Lord's way is the sinner's warrant to be• lieve in Christ; and without this it is presumption to
apply to him; the consequence would be, that a newly . awakened person, defective in knowledge and judgment, destitute of experience, and agitated by tumultuous fears and conflicting passions, must solve to himself various difficult questions, concerning the nature of a sincere willingness, and the necessary measure of it, before he could think himself allowed to come to the Saviour. Whereas, if the nature of salvation and of faith is clearly explained; and all men without exception are invited, exhorted, besought, and commanded in the name and by the authority of God, to believe in his only begotten Son: the willing come without hesitation; others feel their reluctancy to be criminal, perilous, and fatal if not overcome; convictions are frequently excited, and prayers for a willing mind presented; and God blesses his own word to break the -stout heart, and bind up the broken heart, while the obstinate are left without excuse.
It is a fact, capable of the fullest proof, that in those places, where nice speculations on these subjects are avoided, men find scarcely any difficulty respecting them: but when deeply impressed with a sense of guilt a iu danger, and earnestly desirous of the salvation of the gospel ; they apply to Christ for it, as the sick do for admission into an hospital. They seldom are troubled about a warrant to believe, though finding much difficulty in ac-' tually believing, they are led to pray with him of old, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;" and are often distressed with anxious fears, lest they should not believe aright, or with a true and living faith. The language of their hearts seems to be this; • Every sinner, . however vile, is invited and commanded to believe in • Christ, and to come to him for salvation: therefore I • may and ought to come. I now feel very desirous of these blessings, which heretofore I despised, and would gladly embrace the gracious invitation. Lord, help me
to believe, and teach me to come aright; for I dread • nothing so much as coming short of thy salvation ! Nay, those very persons, who, previous to deep convic- .'. tions, have systematically perplexed their minds with nice distinctions and doubtful disputations, are often constrained, by urgent fears and desires, to act in direct opposition to their former scheme, and to apply to Christ in the manner above described !
If any thing be considered as a warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ, except the word of the gospel, it must be something of an holy nature: so that if his convictions and desires be not holy, he is not warranted to believe. But this would fully justify that total unbelief, which the Scriptures decidedly condemn: for certainly a man ought not to do what he is not warranted to do. It like- . : wise sets a newly awakened person to resolve one of the most difficult questions in divinity. For he must so accurately understand the nature of true holiness, as to be able, in his own concern, under great discomposure of mind, to distinguish the minutest portion of it from all counterfeits; and clearly to ascertain its actual existence in his heart, amidst all the immense alloy of selfish and
sinful passions! It would probably be found impossible for the ablest theologian in Christendom certainly to determine such a question, in respect of many peculiar exercises of his own mind : how then can it be expected, that embrio converts, so to speak, should be able, during an overwhelining tempest, to make such accurate observations and nice distinctions ?- The general proposal of the truth, and the scriptural exhortation and assurance, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt “ be saved," exactly suit the case of such persons; while the event will shew the nature of their convictions.' Whatever better informed and more experienced persons may determine concerning the nature of saving faith, whether it be or be not an holy exercise of the heart; the convinced sinner can decide nothing of the kind in respect of his own experiences: nor can others determine the question for him ; since many are alarmed, and convinced, and as far as we can see, appear even to be humbled, who never believe to the saving of the soul...
Two very small seeds may be essentially distinct in species, yet the best eyes, assisted by the finest glasses, can scarcely know one froin the other: how then could a person, with very weak eyes and with a very dim light, certainly distinguish between them? But when they are sown, and grow up, the plants that spring from them will be easily and infallibly distinguishable. Thus it is with men's convictions : some are essentially different from others; but all our endeavours exactly to know such as are spiritual from such as are merely natural, except by the event, will answer little purpose. We must judge as well as we can, and act accordingly : but we shall frequently find ourselves mistaken. How impossible then must it be, for the alarmed enquirer after salvation to find a warrant from any holiness in himself, to encourage his application to Christ? And how wise and gracious' the general language of Scripture; “ Let “ him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him « take of the water of life freely!”While we proceed on the scriptural plan, the Lord will distinguish what we canuot. They that thirst for the pure“ water of life,-