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for the whole human race. He hath sent his Spirit to all, reproving "the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." That Spirit proves alike effectual to all who yield to him.
2. Is man unable to obtain the qualification requisite to his being chosen? Naturally he is. But Christ "lighteth every man that cometh into the world." "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men," &c. Hence your ability through the grace of God. On this ground alone are you commanded to come to God. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." This command is of universal applicability.
3. Man then must be unwilling. This is the great
reason. Such is the doctrine of the Bible. He knows that he cannot be chosen without the wedding garment, but he will not go to Christ for it. "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."
It is not then a necessary consequence that "but few are chosen;" it is a contingent event. Your election is left entirely with yourselves. Were it not so, you could be neither innocent nor guilty.
1. How suitable, my brethren, for us to ask, Are we chosen? Many who are in the church here may not be admitted to the church above. Our membership here will not secure us a place there. If chosen, how obedient should we be, that we may not be cut off!
2. Impenitent hearers, can you deny that you have been called? Do you not feel condemned for not hearing? God calls again: "Come, for all things are now ready." "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Will you hear? How many more times do you expect to be called? What would you give in death for one call more?
YE WILL NOT COME TO ME, THAT YE MIGHT HAVE LIFE.-John v, 40.
OUR text, if carefully analyzed, unfolds four distinct ideas: 1. That we are, by nature, in a state of spiritual death, exposed to eternal death. 2. That Christ is the only dispenser of spiritual and everlasting life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." 3. That he requires of those who wish to escape the former, and to embrace the latter, to come to him. 4. That the great obstacle in the way is in man himself; that is, in his will. The Saviour seems to have anticipated the whole host of objections which men would offer, drawn from the nature and amount of evidence, &c., and by one step to have placed himself in advance of them all. He throws all blame from himself, and lays it where it belongs, at the sinner's door. It is well to reflect before reflection will be useless-to consider the reasons which we have for refusing to come to Christ. That we may do so, I will adduce a few of the many facts which show that the will of the sinner is perverse.
I. It is opposed to reason.
The excuses which sinners urge are not sufficient to justify their determination to neglect or despise religion. The sinner says,
1. "I do not need religion." In all your past lives, conscience has proved this assertion false. Your actions, in framing a system to carry you to heaven, have denied it. Men in all ages have had a religion of some kind; the sentiment of religion is engrafted in our nature, and we cannot live without it. But the assertion charges God with folly in providing and promulgating, at so great a price, that which you do not need. He is not prodigal of means, as his works testify.
2. "I have other matters to engage my attention." Now you mean, 1. That these are more important than religion, or, 2. That they are opposed to it. If you mean the first, it amounts to this; that time is more valuable than eternity-the body than the soul. Look at it and ask, Is this reason? If you mean the second, then those "other matters" must be sinful, and, of course, unnecessary, as religion provides for all necessary pursuits. To permit things unnecessary to prevent our attending to those which are necessary is this reason?
"O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
3. "I do not believe the Bible." Is this reasonable? Must you not reject all history on the same ground? Yes, but you do not. Take the creation and the deluge as proof of its inspiration, and is not unbelief greater credulity than belief? All unbelievers, total and partial, admit that religion can do them no harm; it is of infinite importance if the Bible be true, for, without it, they must be for ever miserable. If therefore there were a thousand chances that they would not suffer without it, and one only that they would suffer, in view of the greatness of that suffering, reason would prompt them to embrace religion, and thus be on the safe side. But what unbeliever regards it?
II. It is opposed to his highest interest.
It is our highest interest, as individuals and as social beings, to possess religion, for it makes us happy and useful in all circumstances. Every approximation to its principles is an approximation to our real interest. The temperance reform proves this conclusively. So of other moral enterprises. Religion tends to abolish wars, &c., for it is "good will toward men." The more it is diffused, the more harmony and love prevail.
This, however, is a partial view of the case. Man is
immortal, and bound by reason to act in reference to his whole existence-especially to that part which lies beyond the grave. Now the sinner's will is most emphatically opposed to his highest interest considered in this enlarged view; for it drives him from heaven, and confines him in hell. The strongest motive, if there be sense in words, is drawn from the highest interest, which is our future, eternal happiness. You see, then, that the will of the sinner, made to yield to motive, is influenced, not by the strongest, but by the weakest motives. What would you think of scales that should turn so? There has been foul play with them, you would say. What think you of our will, which turns not by the interests of heaven and hell, but by the veriest trifles of time? May it not at last weigh out to us eternal death?
III. Christ has come to us.
Among foes, if one meet another half way, reason would prompt to meet him; but if he should come the whole way, it would be base to refuse to see him! Christ came the whole way-removing obstacles-making a smooth path even to our feet-and we refuse to treat with him!
1. It would have been a manifestation of great love to come in any way, since he is the Sovereign, we the rebels. But he came in person, not by an ambassador. He came, making a sacrifice of heaven with all its glories. He came to heap upon us his favors-to take us to himself. Are not these reasons which should influence us to come to him?
2. He comes in his word, abounding in instruction, persuasion, and love. He comes in every minister, his ambassador. It was much to come once, but how often does he come ! Yet the sequel is, "Ye will not come to me !"
3. He comes by his Spirit. The Spirit impresses his
word and providences. His Spirit comes, too, under the greatest discouragements, unasked, repulsed, and grieved. Yet, after all, the assertion of the text is true. From this subject we see,
1. How universal and fearful are the ravages of sin. It has depraved us all. Many do finally refuse and go. away. All refuse for a time. A moment's delay were too long. How fearful the moral aspect of man! What spectacles of horror are exhibited to the universe! If the inhabitants of the bright worlds above can learn nothing else from human apostacy and divine redemption, they may assuredly learn this-the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The human heart, with its blackening shades of perversity, may be the sad picture which is hung out to the view of unsinning worlds, to preserve their allegiance to the Deity.
2. We learn what we must do. We must change our will. God has left it free, and proffers his aid. Do you say you cannot change your will? Your life gives you the lie. Why do you live so unconcerned if this be your condition? For a change of your will is necessary to salvation; and, as God has left the will free, unless you change it, your awful destiny is sealed! Belshazzar trembled when he saw that his doom was fixed; why do you not tremble in view of your destiny? Dare you avow to God, on the bended knee, that you cannot, with divine aid, change your will? If not, away then with the pretext for ever.