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impressions as you may now be under, and labour tO' six them in your minds.
2. Abstain from every thing by which these impressions may be .weakened or effaced.
If you arc really awakened, sin will appear to be the disease and ruin of your fouls; and therefore, if ever you hope for recovery, you mult immediately and refolutely depart from it; nor must you give up this or that particular vice, with which perhaps you: will not sind it very difficult to part; but every siri without exception. In a word, if you would have the Spirit of grace to carry on a good work in your fouls, you must give no encouragement to any sinsuL inclination; and particularly, guard against deliberate, and presumptuous sins ; for these are plain obstructions to his gracious influences, and eminently provoke him to withdraw.
3. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shalt be faved. This is the advice which the apostles gave to the awakened jailor, when he folicitoufly inquired! what he must do to be faved: And, indeed, it is art advice of the highest importance to every convinced and humbled sinner. You are guilty, diseased, and helpless. To whom then should you apply for relief,but to the Great Redeemer and Sovereign- Physician* who is able to fave you to the uttermost ; and expressly declares, that if you come to him he will in nowise cast you out? Be persuaded, therefore, whoever you are,- though perhaps the chief of sinners, immediately to fly to Christ as your only resuge; and to* lay hold of his persect righteousness as the foundation; of your hopes. And know, for your encouragement, that if you thus accept of hir% and subject yourselves. to his government, you have the highest assurance possible, that you shall not perish, but have everlasting lise. "For this is the will of Him that sent me,'" fays our Saviour himself, " that every one that seeth "the Son, and believe*-h on Him, may have everlast"ing Use j and I will raise him- up at the last day."
Lastly, Lay it down as a most certain principle, that no attempt in religion is to be made in your own strength. If you know your own hearts, you must be sensible of this. For whether we consider the frailty and degeneracy of our nature, the power of evil habits, the inconstancy of our best refolutions, or the malice and activity of our spiritual enemies, nothing is more evident, than that of ourselves we can do nothing. Beware, therefore, of undertaking any thing in your own strength ; but go in the strength of the Lord God, and in his name set up your banners. And if you thus wait upon him, you shall renew your strength; his grace will ever be sufficient for you ; and he that hath begun a good work in you, will carry it on, till at last he persect it in glory. v
THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS, A JUST CAUSB OF JOY.
LcKE XV. 23, 24.
Let us eat and be merry : for this my fin was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
THESE words are part of our Saviour's parable of the prodigal fon, a parable so instructive and assecting, that it well deserves your serious consideration. It was delivered by way of reproof to those self* righteous Pharisees, who murmured at our Saviour, because he freely admitted publicans^and sinners to be his hearers, and fometimes conversed with them, in order to reclaim them. With this view, he represents to them in the most lively manner the extravagant folty> and the miserable consequences, of a vicious and licentious lise. He unfolds the genuine seelings of a sinner's foul, when once brought to himself, and rendered sensible of his danger and guilt. But especially* he discovers, in the most surprising manner, the companion of an ofsended God to the chief of sinners* and how highly he is pleased with their conversion. Thus, when the prodigal came to himself; when he
conceived conceived the intention of returning to his sather, and was putting his resolution in practice: while he is yet asar off, the sather is represented as seeing him, as running to meet him, and embracing him with as much kindness as if he had never offended; nay, 25 restoring him to the highest marks of paternal asfection. "He said to his servants, bring forth the bdi ** robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his ** hand, and shoes on his seet; and bring hither the "satted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be met"ry (a)." And then, in the text, he justisies their mirth and joy on this occasion, by assigning the reason of it: " For this my son," says he, " was dead. "and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."
In these words, three things offer themselves to our consideration: First, The description of a sinner before his conversion: Secondly, Thei happy change produced in his state and practice upon that event: Lastly This change mentioned as a justisiable ground of the highest joy.
These three particulars, we propose through Divine assistance briefly to illustrate; and then conclude with some practical improvement.
I. Let us consider the description here given as, of a sinner before conversion.
You see it consists of two parts, and each of them very signisicant. He^ represented as dead and lost: bori which expressions present to us, in a lively manner, the misery and wretchedness of his condition.
A sinner, before his conversion, is represented as dead. This is a very common sigure or emblem in holy scripture. Thus in 1 Tim. v. 6. he that siveth in pleasure is said to be dead while he liveth; in Eph. ii. 1. unconverted sinners are said to be dead in trespasses and sins; and in chapter v. 14. they are called.upon not only to-awake out of sleepy but tearise from. the dead.
C*) Lake Xt.
It is almost unnecessary to observe, that when sinners are represented as dead, it is not meant that they are destitute os natural or animal lise: nor does it import, that they are devoid of all capacity of being '" restored to spiritual lise, any more than the prodigal was incapable of being made alive, in the sense and account of his father. No: sinners, before their conversion,- are naturally alive as well as others; and though their reafonable powers are indeed wosully perverted, yet they are not extinguished. Their understandings render them capable of thought and consideration, of reflecting on the miserable condition to which their sins have reduced them, and the gracious offers of divine mercy for their recovery. And though their wills are indeed enflaved by sensual lusts,- yet they still retain that power of choice and self-deter» mination which is essential to man.
But the expression in the text imports in it two things :—that an unconverted sinner is destitute of spiritual or divine life; and that he is virtually under % sentence of eternal death.
i. An unconverted sinner is destitute of spiritual or divine lise. As the prodigal was dead to his father when he was gone from him, and spending his substance in riotous living, fo an unconverted sinner is dead to God his Creator and Sovereign. He is engaged in a voluntary rebellion against him ; and not at all disposed to live to his glory. He has no prevailing sear of God, or affection to him. On the contrary, he has a strong aversion to him in his heart; or, in the expressive language of the apostle, the heart is enmity itself against him. It is true, indeed, unconverted sinners are alive in a natural sense. They eat, drink,- and fleep; they move and walk as well as others ; they rejoice in the work of their hands; and many of them spend their days in pleasure, and then go down to the grave. But this deserves not the name of lise; it is rather styled death in scripture; because, though they live,