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and of their future incorporation with the Christian church. Though they are dispersed among all nations; hated and despised of all mankind; often banished from one place to another, and oppressed where they are; though they no where subsist in a national capacity, and few of them possess lands of their own; yet they remain every where distinct, in respect both of their nation and religion, and have never mingled with their neighbours. They have had every motive, which a people could have, to drop their national and religious distinction; for, on account of both, they have often been oppressed, and always despised; and yet of both they are fondly tenacious. A similar instance never was known. The gospel which has expressly foretold so singular and improbable an event, must be divine. The design of Providence, concerning this people, cannot be doubtful. The time is coming, when they shall turn to the Lord, and be grafted again into his church, from whence they were broken off by unbelief.
We proceed to observe farther,
IV. That work, by which God fits and prepares the saints for glory, is great and marvellous.
Mankind, in their fallen state, are represented as dead in trespasses and sins. While they are under the power of a vicious and corrupt heart, they are incapable of enjoying the felicities of God's heavenly kingdom. That change, by which they are made meet for this kingdom, is in scripture called a work of God. He begins, and he performs it. Not only the external means of this change are from him, but there is also a kindly operation of his Spirit, which accompanies them, and gives thern their efficacy. The Apostle says, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.
To express the greatness of this work, the gospel compares it to a new creation, a heavenly birth,
a resurrection from the dead. 66 any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Except one be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "You hath he quickened-" "Ye are risen with Christ, through the faith of the operation
The conversion of a sinner, is a great work, as it makes in him a mighty change.
He is formed to a new temper-is made partaker of a divine nature has the same mind in him, as was in Christ. He walks in newness of life. Once he walked according to the course of the world, and yielded himself a servant to uncleanness, adding iniquity unto iniquity: Now he yields himself to God, as one who is alive from the dead, and his members instruments of righteousness to God. Once he placed his affections on earthly things; now they ascend to things above. He was once under guilt and condemnation; now he is brought into a state of peace with God, and is made an heir of the heavenly inheritance.
This is a marvellous work, as it is a work of marvellous grace.
By grace are ye saved, says St. Paul, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. With respect to himself, he says, I obtained mercy; and the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant. When the saint reviews his former guilty life, his stupidity, hardness of heart, unbelief, abuse of privileges, resistance of the Spirit, and opposition to the sentiments and convictions of his own conscience; he admires that grace, which effectually wrought in him to awaken him, and bring him to repentance and newness of life. He says, By the grace of God I am what I am. And, God hath shewn the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to me by Jesus Christ.
This is a marvellous work, as it is wrought in a marvellous manner. Our Lord says to Nicodemus,
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth. So is every one, who is born of the Spirit.
The nature of the change itself is very plain. It is the turning of the heart from the love of sin, to the love of holiness: The effects of it are also easy to be understood. These are putting off the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new man, which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness. But the manner in which the Spirit operates to effect this change, is, like other divine operations, wonderful, and, in a great measure, inexplicable. We know not how our own spirits move and actuate our bodies; much less can we explain, how the Divine Spirit influences and directs our minds. But we must believe, that that immense Being, who is above all, through all, and in us all; who compasses us around, and possesses our hearts and our reins, is able to excite in us pious thoughts and resolutions, to work in us holy and spiritual dispositions, to guide and assist us in a virtuous and heavenly course, without suspending the exercise of our rational faculties, or controlling
our moral freedom.
This is a great work, as it is effected by divine power.
A soul habituated to vice, and opposed to holiness, is called enmity to God. To subdue this enmity and opposition, must be a divine work. The gospel is mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds. The word, as the sword of the Spirit, becomes quick and powerful. Sinners are made willing subjects to God, in the day of his power. But though the Spirit works powerfully, it works not mechanically or compulsively, but kindly and rationally, and in a manner adapted to the intellectual mind. We are to work out our salvation, because God works in us. It may be added,
This is a great and marvellous work, as it is in finitely important.
The unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They must be washed and sanctified by the Spirit of the Lord. To be carnally minded is death: To be spiritually minded is life and peace.
How solicitous should we be to become the subjects of this great work; and to know whether we are the subjects of it?
Let none imagine conversion to be a small and trifling change; or religion to be a careless and superficial business.
Let none be satisfied with any evidence of their conversion, short of an habitual temper of holiness, discovering itself in a steady course of obedience to the gospel of Christ.
Let none delay the work of repentance, under an apprehension, that to accomplish it will always be at their own option, whenever they find occasion. If it is a work in which they are dependent on the grace of God, let them apply themselves to it now, when they have most reason to hope for this grace. There is such a thing as total hardness of heart. The longer the sinner neglects the concerns of religion, the greater is his danger of falling into this awful state. Therefore, seek the Lord, while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. V. The dispensations of God's providence toward particular saints, in bringing them to glory, are great and wonderful.
All things work together for good to them who love God. The eyes of the Lord are upon them, and his ears are open to their cry. He not only hears their prayers, but does for them exceeding abundantly above all that they ask or think.
He answers their prayers in ways unknown to them-grants them many favours beyond what they asked, or could even imagine-causes those events
to operate for their spiritual good, which seemed to wear a different aspect, and to have a contrary ten, dency-conducts them along through dangers, which they thought it impossible to escape, and delivers them from many hidden evils of which they had no apprehension, until after they had past them.
He employs his angels as ministring spirits to the heirs of salvation, and directs all the methods of his providence to their ultimate safety and hap piness.
When the saints, once arrived to the heavenly world, shall from thence take a review of past scenes, I question not, but they will be filled with thankful admiration of God's great and marvellous works towards them, while they dwelt below. They will then see, how they were delivered from such a danger, rescued from such a temptation, and carried safely above such a snare. They will then see, how such an adversity roused them to a sense of duty, such a disappointment prevented some fatal transgression, such a prayer was answered, which they thought had been lost in air, such a desire was in mercy denied, and such an event, though strongly deprecated, was productive of substantial good. They will then see, how they have been mysterious. ly conducted along through this dangerous and ensnaring world, and brought at last to the realms of security and joy. They will find the truth of the Saviour's promise-What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. It will be no inconsiderable part of their felicity, to see the mysteries of Providence unfolded, and the intricate scenes, which once perplexed their reason, and tried their faith, all unravelled, and made plain to their view. They will then admire the order of those providences, which once looked like confusion; the wisdom of those dispensations, which once appeared unaccountable; and the kind intention of those