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the happy resurrection, of which I have spoken, will be your portion, you may learn from that, which God has already done for you. He has quickened you who were dead in your sins; he has male you meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints; he has raised up your head, Christ Jesus, and has placed him, and in him has placed your nature, already in heaven. And if the head is raised, the members will follow. If you believe that Jesus is risen, you must believe, that them who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him ; for he is the first fruits of them who sleep, and because he lives, they will live also."
That the Ephesians might have the more admiring sentiments of the power and grace of God in quickening them to a spiritual life, and raising them to a hope of the heavenly inheritance, he leads them to the contemplation of that dismal state of corruption and guilt, in which the gospel found them. A description of that state is contained in the words which I have read. The several expressions, by which he describes their past condition, I shall now explain and illustrate. And let us remember that the description is applicable to other sinners, as well as to those ancient Gentiles. This general application the Apostle teaches us to make.
I. He expresses their state in more general terms. "They were dead in trespasses and sins." What is here said of them, is elsewhere said of all under the power of sin : "They are dead, while they live." Hence conversion is called "a rising from the dead;" and "a passing from death to life." These expressions, however, being figurative, must be understood with proper qualifications.
Sinners possess the natural faculties of men; and in their worldly affairs they often exercise such prudence and activity, that our Saviour once observed, "the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light." Their deadness consists,
not in the want, but in the perversion of the intellectual powers: And their recovery consists, not in the creation of new faculties, but in the holy direction of the faculties which they have. They are, then, to be addressed as rational beings; truth is to be placed before them; arguments are to be proposed to them; the terrors of the law are to be applied for their awakening; and the invitations of the gospel are to be urged for their encouragement. Come, and let us reason together," says the Almighty to a wicked and des generate people. "Paul," in the presence of Felix, "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and a future judgment." His design in his preaching was, "to open men's eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”
We are not from this description to infer that sinners, in a state of unregeneracy, are on account of their deadness excusable for continuing in that state; for as the state itself is criminal, continuance in it is continued and increasing criminality,
Nor are we from the use of such metaphors to conclude, that sinners under the gospel can do nothing to their conversion, more than the dead to their resurrection; and that therefore it is improper and absurd to exhort them to repentance; for with such exhortations the scripture every where abounds.
It is often asked, whether the unregenerate can do any thing of themselves, which has a tendency to their conversion? But the answer is, They who enjoy the gospel are not left to themselves. If you suppose a man under the power of vicious inclinations, and at the same time destitute of all means of religious knowledge, and without any influence from the spirit of God, you then have the idea of a sinner properly left to himself. But this is not your case. You have the gospel in your hands; and it is daily proclaimed in your hearing There is an agency of the divine Spirit attending it; and you have been, and, we hope, still are
in some degree the subjects of this agency. With these advantages, there is something which you may do. Confound not your case with that of uninstructed Heathens; for God has made your case different from theirs. In respect of the awakening and convincing motions of the Spirit, as well as in regard of external means, God has been beforehand with you. He has granted them before you sought them. He has knocked at your door, before you invited him to come in. He still stretches out his hand to the disobedient and gainsaying. When the gospel is called a ministration of the Spirit, and the Spirit is said to be ministered to men in the hearing of faith-when Christ is said to stand at their door and knock, that they may hear and open to him-when the Spirit is said to strive with the wicked-when God promises that he will pour out his spirit on the offspring of his people-when sinners are reproved for having always resisted the Holy Ghost; and when they who oppose the gospel, are said to do despite to the spirit of grace; it is plainly supposed and implied that there is an operation of the Spirit, which attends the publication of the gospel, and which is commonly afforded to them who hear the word of salvation; and that, in consequence of this, they are capable of such an attendance on the instituted means of religion, as may hopefully issue in their real conversion.
It is sometimes asked, whether any thing done by an unregenerate person can be acceptable to God? The answer depends on the meaning of the word acceptable. If hereby is intended that which intitles to a future reward, the answer must certainly be in the negative. But if by this is meant that which, by the gracious appointment of God, may be useful in order to obtain the renewing influences of the divine Spirit; doubtless, in this sense, something may be done which is acceptable.
But is not every thing, done by the unregenerate, wholly sinful and abominable in the sight of God? In answer to this inquiry, let it be observed, that the unregenerate have the natural principles of hope and fear
these principles, in awakened sinners, are put in motion by the application of the divine word and the operations of the holy Spirit. Now those prayers for mercy, those watchings against sin, those reformations of life, and that attendance on means, to which sinners are excited by the influence of the word and Spirit of God, cannot be called wholly sinful, or perfectly abominable in his sight. God does not abominate the work of his own Spirit.
There is certainly, then, more hope of their obtaining salvation in the use, than in the neglect of appointed means. Hence they are called upon to "awake and arise from the dead"" to repent and turn to God""to make them a new heart, and a new spirit.'
Farther: From the metaphor used in the text we are not to conclude, that all sinners are alike; for though all are in a sense dead, yet some are under a greater death than others. The metaphor is usually in scripture applied to sinners of the most vicious charac ter. When we speak of human nature, as totally depraved, we mean only a total destitution of real holiness; not the highest possible degree of vitiosity. Native depravity may doubtless be increased by posi tive habits. In order to denominate one a sinner, it is not necessary that he should be as bad as possible. We are not to conclude ourselves holy and regenerate merely because we cannot find every vicious disposition operating in us to the greatest imaginable degree. Though natural death does not, yet spiritual death does, admit of degrees. Evil men wax worse and worse; add sin to sin, and treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.
But though we may not overstrain this metaphor, yet there is an undoubted propriety in the application
which the Apostle makes of it. The moral state of wicked men much resembles a state of natural death. They may be said to be dead, in respect of their stu pidity. We read of some, who are past feeling-whose conscience is seared-who have eyes which see not, and ears which hear not, and a heart which is waxed gross. This is, in a high degree, the case of some sinners, and more or less the case of all, until they are awakened by the grace of God. Look around; how easy and secure do multitudes appear! How unaffected with the most important concerns! How unmoved at the most awful threatenings! How indifferent about the consequences of their sins! Their hearts are like a mortified limb, which feels no pain under the scarifying knife.
They are represented as wanting spiritual senses---they savor the things of the world; not the things which are of God. They, indeed, love the effects of God's goodness to them; but they delight not in his character, as a holy, just and faithful Being. They desire heaven, under the general notion of a very happy place; but desire not that which makes heaven a happy place, the presence of the holy God, the society of holy beings, and employment in holy services. They have not a proper relish for God's worship, ordinances and word. They may, indeed, be pleased with them in some respects. We read of a wicked people, who took delight in approaching to God, and to whom God's word was as a lovely song of one that had a pleasant voice, and could play well on an instrument. They may feel a natural pleasure in certain mechanical emotions of the passions excited by objects presented to the sight, or by sounds which strike the ear; as the artificial tears from the image of the Virgin Mary will melt down an assembly of Catholics; or as a concert of musical instruments will enrapture the hearers: But they relish not the word and ordinances of God, considered as means of holiness, and as designed to con