« AnteriorContinuar »
igence to make their calling and election sure. It is a great thing to be certain of one's election to eternal life. The only way to put this out of doubt and uncertainty, is to be sure of one's effectual calling; and to be sure of this, so as not to be deceived, is a difficult thing. Subtil is the grand deceiver. Deceitful is the human heart. Many are the ways of fatal self-deception. The apostle to the Hebrews, having given an awful warning of the terrible consequence of apostacy, after hopeful good beginnings, says, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." This charitable persuasion was grounded on the good fruits which had been seen in many of them. Nevertheless he adds, "And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end." Frequent are such exhortations to the most hopeful professors. I shall conclude with one of these; 2 Cor. xiii. 5, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
EPHESIANS II. 10.
It is of importance that good men should
know, and be ever ready to acknowledge, that all their goodness is from God; and that for this, as well as for pardon and justification, they are indebted to free grace. This is the doctrine here inculcated upon the Ehpesian christians. Having spoken of the resurrection of Christ by the mighty power of God, the apostle begins this chapter with sying, you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." And he goes on to remind them of the extreme vileness and wretchedness of their former condition and character; when, according to the general course of this fallen world, they had walked in all manner of evil ways, under the guidance of the first grand apostate, who was the assumed and chosen God of rebel men. This was said to those who had lately been converted from the laciviousness, debaucheries, and abominable idolatries of Paganism : but the apostle freely confesses that even the Jews, of whom he himself was one, were no better by na
ture than the heathen, nor less the heirs of divine wrath. That the recovery of either of them to a state of holiness, and to the hope of heavenly happiness, was of the rich mercy and wonderful love of God. To impress more deeply upon them, a proper sense that their whole salvation was of free grace, he observes that the only thing in them whereby they became entitled to it, was believing in Christ; and that a heart thus to believe had been given them, and was not of their own acquirement; that this gift was before they could have done any thing to the glory of God, inasmuch as they were at that very time first made capable of any works truly good; and that to all the works of righteousness which they would ever be able to do, they had been freely predestinated long before. See ver, 8, 9, and the whole of ver. 10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
The doctrine in our text, intended for present discussion, is only this,
That fallen men must be new-created, before they can do any works truly good.
It is proposed, in the ensuing discourse,
I. To explain this doctrine :
II. To prove it; and,
III. To answer objections.
In the first place, I shall endeavor to explain the doctrine by showing wherein this new creation consists; or what prerequisite to good words is so totally
wanting in man by nature, as to need being created
It is common to speak of the original depravity of human nature as being universal; and of regeneration as a universal change and so much do some love to deal in generals only, that nothing particular can be learnt from them, on either of these subjects. It is indeed true, that both native depravity, and renewing grace, have an extensive influence; even over the whole man, soul and body. But yet, certain it is, that man was not universally annihilated by the fall; and that the renewing of the Holy Ghost is not a proper, universal, new creation. Here then, in order to a clearer understanding of the matter, it may be useful briefly to notice a few negative particulars.
1. It is very certain that no faculties, members or senses of body, necessary for the performance of good works, are the things totally wanting in all men by nature, or the things created anew in regeneration. Probably our bodies are weaker now, and their senses less perfect, than they might have been if sin had not entered into the world, and death by sin: but most men have still bodies good enough to be capable of many good external actions, if nothing else were wanting: nor have men other or better bodily eyes, or ears, or tongues, or hands, or feet, when they are made new creatures by being born again, than those they had before: though they use them in another and better manner.
2. The same may be said of the mental capacity of understanding. This faculty may be much impaired by vicious courses, and is alway darkened in wicked men because of the blindness of their heart. It is certain, however, that no natural men, except idiots, or such as are quite delirious, are totally incapable of good works for want of understanding. And it is probable that even natural fools and distract