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either done or expected to be done, that God accepts of persons, and receives them into favour.-Indeed they who deny God their youth, the best part of their lives, and spend it in the service of Satan, dreadfully sin, and provoke God; and he very often leaves them to hardness of heart, when they are grown old. But if they are willing to accept of Christ when old, he is as ready to receive them as any others; for in that matter God hath respect only to Christ and his worthiness.
II. But I am afraid that I have committed sins that are peculiar to reprobates. I have sinned against light, and strong convictions of conscience; I have sinned presumptuously; and have so resisted the strivings of the Spirit of God, that I am afraid I have committed such sins as none of God's elect ever commit. I cannot think that God will ever leave one whom he intends to save, to go on and commit sins against so much light and conviction, and with such horrid presumption.-Others may say, I have had risings of heart against God; blasphemous thoughts, a spiteful and malicious spirit; and have abused mercy and the strivings of the Spirit, trampled upon the Saviour, and my sins are such as are peculiar to those who are reprobated to eternal damnation. To all this I would answer,
1. There is no sin peculiar to reprobates, but the sin against the Holy Ghost. Do you read of any other in the word of God? And if you do not read of any there, what ground have you to think any such thing? What other rule have we, by which to judge of such matters, but the divine word? If we venture to go beyond that, we shall be miserably in the dark. When we pretend to go farther in our determinations than the word of God, Satan takes us up, and leads us. It seems to you that such sins are peculiar to the reprobate, and such as God never forgives. But what reason can you give for it, if you have no word of God to reveal it? Is it because you cannot see how the mercy of God is sufficient to pardon, or the blood of Christ to cleanse from such presumptuous sins? If so, it is because you never yet saw how great the mercy of God is; you never saw the sufficiency of the blood of Christ, and you know not how far the virtue of it extends. Some elect persons have been guilty of all manner of sins, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; and unless you have been guilty of this, you have not been guilty of any that are peculiar to reprobates.
2. Men may be less likely to believe, for sins which they have committed, and not the less readily pardoned when they do believe. It must be acknowledged that some sinners are in more danger of hell than others. Though all are in great danger, some are less likely to be saved. Some are less likely ever to be converted and to come to Christ; but all who do come to
him are alike readily accepted; and there is as much encouragement for one man to come to Christ as another.-Such sins as you mention are indeed exceeding heinous and provoking to God, and do in an especial manner bring the soul into danger of damnation, and into danger of being given to final hardness of heart and God more commonly gives men up to the judgment of final hardness for such sins, than for others. Yet they are not peculiar to reprobates; there is but one sin that is so, viz. that against the Holy Ghost. And notwithstanding the sins which you have committed, if you can find it in your hearts to come to Christ, and close with him, you will be accepted not at all the less readily because you have committed such sins.Though God doth more rarely cause some sorts of sinners to come to Christ than others; it is not because his mercy or the redemption of Christ is not as sufficient for them as others, but because in wisdom he sees fit so to dispense his grace for a restraint upon the wickedness of men; and because it is his will to give converting grace in the use of means, among which this is one, viz. to lead a moral and religious life. and agreeable to our light, and the convictions of our consciences. But when once any
sinner is willing to come to Christ, mercy is as ready for him as for any. There is no consideration at all had of his sins; let him have been ever so sinful, his sins are not remembered; God doth not upbraid him with them.
III. But had I not better stay till I shall have made myself better, before I presume to come to Christ. I have been, and see myself to be very wicked now : but am in hopes of mending myself, and rendering myself at least not so wicked: then I shall have more courage to come to God for mercy. In answer to this,
1. Consider how unreasonably you act. You are striving to set up yourselves for your own saviours; you are striving to get something of your own, on the account of which you may the more readily be accepted. So that by this it appears that you do not seek to be accepted only on Christ's account. And is not this to rob Christ of the glory of being your only Saviour? Yet this is the way in which you are hoping to make Christ willing to save you.
2. You can never come to Christ at all, unless you first see that he will not accept of you the more readily for any thing that you can do. You must first see that it is utterly in vain for you to try to make yourselves better on any such account. You must see that you can never make yourselves any more worthy, or less unworthy, by any thing which you can perform.
3. If ever you truly come to Christ, you must see that there is enough in him for your pardon, though you be no bet
ter than you are. If you see not the sufficiency of Christ to pardon you, without any righteousness of your own to recommend you, you never will come so as to be accepted of him. The way to be accepted is to come-not on any such encouragement, that now you have made yourselves better, and more worthy, or not so unworthy, but--on the mere encouragement of Christ's worthiness, and God's mercy.
4. If ever you truly come to Christ, you must come to him to make you better. You must come as a patient comes to his physician, with his diseases or wounds to be cured. Spread all your wickedness before him, and do not plead your goodness; but plead your badness, and your necessity on that account; and say, as the psalmist in the text, not pardon mine iniquity, for it is not so great as it was; but, "Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great."
THE MOST HIGH A PRAYER-HEARING GOD.
PSALM XLV. 2.
O thou that hearest Prayer.
THIS Psalm seems to be written, either as a psalm of praise to God for some remarkable answer of prayer, in the bestowment of some public mercy; or else, on occasion of some special faith and confidence which David had that his prayer would be answered. It is probable that this mercy bestowed, or expected to be bestowed, was some great public mercy, for which David had been very earnest and importunate, and had annexed a vow to his prayer; and that he had vowed to God, that if he would grant him his request, he would render him praise and glory. This seems to be the reason why he expresses himself as he does in the first verse of the psalm: "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed;" i. e. that praise which I have vowed to give thee, on the answer of my prayer, waiteth for thee, to be given thee as soon as thou shalt have answered my prayer; and the vow which I made to thee shall be performed.
In the verse of the text, there is a prophecy of the glorious times of the gospel, when "all flesh shall come" to the true God, as to the God who heareth prayer; which is here mentioned as what distinguishes the true God from the gods to whom the nations prayed and sought, those gods who cannot hear, and cannot answer their prayer. The time was coming when all
* Dated January 8, 1735-6. Preached on a fast appointed on the account of an epidemical sickness, at the eastward (of Boston.)
flesh should come to that God who doth hear prayer.-Hence we gather this doctrine, that it is the character of the Most High, that he is a God who hears prayer.
I shall handle this point in the following method :
1. Show that the Most High is a God that hears prayer.
2. That he is eminently such a God.
3. That herein he is distinguished from all false gods.
I. The Most High is a God that hears prayer. Though he is infinitely above all, and stands in no need of creatures; yet he is graciously pleased to take a merciful notice of poor worms of the dust. He manifests and presents himself as the object of prayer, appears as sitting on a mercy-seat, that men may come to him by prayer. When they stand in need of any thing, he allows them to come, and ask it of him; and he is wont to hear their prayers. God in his word hath given many promises that he will hear their prayers; the scripture is full of such examples; and in his dispensations towards his church, manifests himself to be a God that hears prayer.
Here it may be inquired, What is meant by God's hearing prayer? There are two things implied in it.
1. His accepting the supplications of those who pray to him. Their address to him is well taken, he is well pleased with it. He approves of their asking such mercies as they request of him, and approves of their manner of doing it. He accepts of their prayers as an offering to him; he accepts the honour they do him in prayer.
2. He acts agreeably to his acceptance. He sometimes manifests his acceptance of their prayers, by special discoveries of his mercy and sufficiency which he makes to them in prayer, or immediately after. While they are praying, he gives them sweet views of his glorious grace, purity, sufficiency, and sovereignty; and enables them, with great quietness to rest in him, to leave themselves and their prayers with him, submitting to his will, and trusting in his grace and faithfulness. Such a manifestation God seems to have made of himself in prayer to Hannah, which quieted and composed her mind, and took away her sadness. We read (1 Sam. i.) how earnest she was, and how exercised in her mind, and that she was a woman of a sorrowful spirit. But she came and poured out her soul before God, and spake out of the abundance of her complaint and grief: then we read, that she went away, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad, verse 13; which seems to have been from some refreshing discoveries which God had made of himself to her, to enable her quietly to submit to his will, and trust in his mercy, whereby God manifested his acceptance of her.-Not that I conclude persons can hence