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bad habit is no extenuation of the deed ; because still it is a deed of choice, and not of constraint against choice; and of this he is and must be conscious. He cannot but be convinced, in defiance of all sophistry and all palliation, that he really has chosen, hitherto, the course he has pursued; he has wilfully resisted God's command and Christ's entreaty, and just as wilfully preferred an unconverted state.
The extreme absurdity of expecting that he will be able to justify himself by the plea supposed, may be still further evinced, by just taking up any other case in which the depravity of the will has been displayed by the breach of moral obligations. How absurd it would appear, even to the party with whom I am now reasoning, to hear a disobedient servant, or an undutiful child, reply, when charged with the violation of duty, “Very true; I do not deny the charge, but my will was indisposed to comply; and, you know, I could not help my will being opposed to yours !" Suppose a criminal, arraigned for robbery or murder, arguing in his defence upon the same principle—“I did not choose to be honest;" or, “ I know I willed to commit that murder, and I could not help doing according to my will." Now, all these cases would appear the more aggravated by the distinct acknowledgment of the will having deliberately chosen so to act; and every impartial man, instead of admitting that such a plea removed responsibility, would say, that the criminality was hereby made the more obvious, that the guilt was placed precisely at that very point, and that this wilfulness was the very thing which constituted the guilt, for without that there could have been none. The unconverted person, who pleads his in
ability, or impotency of will, to 0.100se God's como mands, or to submit his heart to the authority of the Saviour in the business of repentance and faith, should remember, that he is pleading nothing to the point; nothing that God either will or can admit, or ought to admit. He ought to be aware, that he is not pleading that he had no will of his own in this business; if he could do that justly, it migh avail; but his whole plea is, that, with the natural power to will, he had an inclination to will wha his conscience and judgment told him was evil. This is, therefore, no excuse in the sight of God, but the very highest proof of guilt. He labours under a grievous fallacy, therefore, who imagines that he can make out a valid extenuation of his impenitence and unbelief, by referring to this subtle question of his will. He would do much better by humbly acknowledging that all the guilt lies upon his own head; and that, when he shall appear in the judgment, he will undoubtedly be speechless before that righteous Judge, who now s commandeth all men everywhere to repent;'* and who will then say, 6. These mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”+
Let me faithfully forewarn the reader, that all his excuses will be found a refuge of lies. All his metaphysical sophistry is opposed to the plain common-sense view of the case. Facts are before reasoning, and more weighty than opinion; and he may rest assured, that the repose he seeks for, in these false refuges of a corrupt and perverted reasoning, will be disturbed at last by the stern reality of his condemnation. 66 The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: * Acts xvii. 30.
+ Luke xix. 27.
and the covering rarrower than that he can wrap himself in it."*
7. It is, however, necessary to observe and point out here an opposite error, into which others fall; an error of presumption, no less fatal, and, perhaps, even more prevalent, than the one just combated. It consists in supposing that, because they feel they have a will of their own, they can direct i to the discharge of this spiritual duty of repentance and faith at any time; and so they defer the duty under the false notion, that when they choose, the great work can be done. But this notion is just as perilous as that which would release the will from all responsibility. This would represent the will of man as alone efficient, while the other would reduce it to a cipher. In the one case the unconverted would sink the idea of the will altogether, as if they had none; in the other, they would make it omnipotent. How perverse are the thoughts of transgressors !
It is evident from the Scriptures, that the real truth lies in neither of these extremes. our experience proves it to be. For, after every attempt, on the one side, to escape from the guilt of impenitency, it still cleaves to the conscience; and, on the other, many who have been self-suf ficient and presumptuous, and depended upon thei. own strength of purpose, and future good inten tions, have been constrained in anguish to confess their hardness of heart, and to acknowledge that, as they had refused the call of God, he had left them to be filled with the fruit of their doings It is certain, that he who presumes upon his futuro ability to perform spiritual duties, does not understand the real weakness of his soul towards all that
* Isa. xxviii. 20.
is morally and spiritually good; does not know. nor feel, the corruption of his whole nature, nor the perverting influence which evil affections exercise over his will. The promise of pardon and grace
is to those who repent when the testimony is addressed to them; not to those who promise to repent and believe at some future period. This would be to parley and bargain with God for a continuance in sin. His nature, as well as his word, forbids it. He who thus presumes to defer obedience to the divine testimony, is a stranger to the dependence of sinful man upon the grace of God for so important an act as that of repentance. Does he know or believe the word of Christ, “ Without me ye can do nothing ;'* “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him ;”f and does he presume, that of his own unassisted free-will-a will altogether under the influence of corrupt motives hitherto-he can choose at any time to return to God, and change his own nature ? A mortal, sinful man ought to tremble at the thought of such temerity. Or does he imagine that, after suffering the accepted time, now, to pass; the time in which compliance on his part would have placed him in a happy conjunction with sovereign power; after treating the supreme command with indifference and delay; after resolving to continue unconverted, willing to reject the present offer, that he may continue in sin—he shall be able to obtain, and God will be obliged to impart, those gracious influences, without which he can neither be converted nor saved ?
In true conversion, there is required a right affection of the heart: this is what he cannot give * John xv. 5.
John vi. 44.
to himself. For it he is dependent upon the grace of God; and this he can have no scriptural warrant to expect, if he neglect the present call, and reject the Lord's accepted time. For that grace he is dependent now. His entire hope of receiving it is involved in an immediate and humble casting of himself in faith upon the promise, which is implied in the expostulation, “ To-Day if ye will hear his voice.' 8. I must not omit to notice, among the
reasons why some have never yet been converted, the predominant love of an easily besetting sin, which holds the soul fast after it has felt itself willing to give up all other sins. This is a cause which extensively operates in the minds of persons awakened to a sense of their danger. Sin, in some of its forms, perhaps in all but one form, may appear exceedingly sinful; but if it retain its dominion in only one particular, the soul is still its slave. This may be an easily besetting sin, a sin which you excuse to yourself, which you extenuate and diminish ; but it is a true saying of Scripture, “ A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."| A little leak will admit water enough to sink a ship. A little spark will kindle a fire that may burn a house, or a city. So, what men call a little sin, and which they would have spared, because it is little, and alluring, will corrupt and subjugate the whole soul. Let sin but possess the affections of the heart, and it will run like poison through the blood. How can the salvation of the soul be pursued, if even a single sin is cherished ? The very thought of making provision for it, proves that the heart is not right in God's sight: the attempt to conceal it is vain, and can be attended only * Heb. iii. 7.
| Gal. v. 9.