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which the truths of the Gospel make upon the minds of men, depends upon the manner in which they attend to them, that is, upon the exercise of their own reason and free-will. To what purpose would this advice be given, if men had not the power of resisting the wiles of the devil, of supporting the trials of persecution, and of withstanding the temptations of the riches and pleasures of this world, the three causes to which our Saviour ascribes the failure of religious instruction ?
Christ said to his disciples, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh, receiveth ; and he that seeketh, findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened (r).” These commands to ask, to seek, and to knock, prove, that our Saviour required some voluntary steps to be still taken by those who were already persuaded of the divine origin of the doctrines which he taught: and his assurance that every one that asketh, receiveth ; that he that seeketh, findeth; and that it shall be
(r) Matt. 6. 7. v.9 & 8. We find a similar doctrine in the Old Testament, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you ; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” 2 Chron, c. 15. V. 2.
opened to him that knocketh, imply, that if men do not ask, they will not receive ; if they do not seek, they will not find; and if they do not knock, it will not be opened to them : that is, they will in vain hope that their “ heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them (s),” if they do not by their prayers and exertions endeavour to obtain his favour and assistance.
Our Saviour represents the “man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods,” as saying, upon his return, to each of those servants, who by trading had gained other talents besides those which were entrusted to them, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things ; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (t):" Does not this part of the parable shew the power of exertion, and the certainty of reward? And does not the casting of the unprofitable servant, who had hidden his talent in the earth, into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, prove, that those who are slothful and inactive, who do not by their own diligence improve the gifts which they receive in this life, will be severely punished in the world to come?
(s) Luke, c. II. v. 13. (t) Matt. c. 25. v. 14, &c.
“ No man,” says Christ, “ can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw bim; and I will raise him up at the last day ... Every man that hath heard, and hath learned, of the Father, cometh unto me...He that believeth on me, hath everlasting life (u):” our Saviour is here speaking of those, who, in consequence of embracing his religion, shall inherit eternal happiness; and he declares that no one can attain this saving faith, without the directing influence of the Holy Spirit; and that every one who has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the evidences of the Gospel, and has duly profited by the instruction and assistance which his heavenly Father has afforded him, will partake of a blessed resurrection. Let it however be remembered, in the words of Dr. Doddridge's note upon this verse, that “the truth is, God's drawing does not exclude our consent to follow, and our activity in doing it; but it always includes a divine agency. The words to “come” and to “ learn” imply the exercise of the human will; and the words cept the Father draw him," prove the
of God with respect to the persons here spoken of, namely, those who shall be saved. (x.)
(u) John, c. 6. v. 44, &c.
(x) The following is the comment of Bishop Hooper, one of our Reformers and Martyrs, upon this text:
Many Jews expressed their belief in Christ during his ministry, and a still greater number, both Jews and Gentiles, enibraced his religion when preached by the Apostles, subsequent to his ascension into heaven. There is not a single passage in the New Testament which leads us to suppose, that any supernatural power was exerted over the minds of ordinary hearers; and therefore we are authorized to attribute their faith to the voluntary exercise of their reason. It is certain that men are capable of comprehending some truths, and of judging of evidence in soine cases ; why then should they not be competent, by the use of their natural faculties, to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah?
-a truth attested by evidence of the simplest and most powerful nature, by words such as
man never spake (y)” before, by deeds such as were “ never seen in Israel (2),” and by the clearest fulfilment of prophecies which were ac
knuwledged (y) John, c. 7. v. 46.
(z) Matt. c. 9. v. 33. man cometh unto me, except my Father draw him." “ Many understand these words in a wrong sense, as if God required no more in a reasonable man, than in a dead post, and mark not the words which follow,
Every man that heareth, and learneth of my Father, cometh unto me.' God draweth with his word and the Holy Ghost, but man's duty is to hear and learn ; that is to say, to receive the grace offered, consent to the promise, and not to impugn the God that calleth.”
knowledged to relate to the future Redeemer of the world. The faith of the converts is invariably represented as the effect of what they saw and heard. It was produced in several instances by the performance of a single miracle: thus the nobleman of Galilee and his whole house believed, in consequence of the recovery of his son from the point of death at Capernaum, at the very moment our Saviour said to him at Cana, “Go thy way, thy son liveth (a).” The Samaritans believed, because they “ heard him themselves, and knew that this was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world (b).” And our blessed Lord replied to the well-known message of John the Baptist, not by a direct answer, but by exhibiting and reciting the accomplishment of predictions in himself, which every Jew understood to belong to the Messiah (c); and thus it was pronounced, that those who saw and heard what Jesus did, were of themselves capable of understanding that he “ was the Christ, the Son of God (d).”
“ If any man will do 'Eav tis Jean movzīv, if any man be willing to do) his will, says Christ, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of
God, (a) John, c. 4. v. 50 & 53. (b) John, c. 4. V.42. (c) Luke, c. 7. v. 19, &c. (d) Matt.c. 26. v. 63.