« AnteriorContinuar »
it spontaneously directs its future motions to God, heaven, and things divine.
When our Lord said to Matthew, “ Follow me;" though an invisible power accompanied the word to the heart, as the plumage wings an arrow to the mark; yet there was no compulsion on Matthew : he was not forcibly compelled, but, by grace, willingly and effectually inclined to follow the Lord that called him. He was not dragged, but drawn; and, being drawn, he ran.
From this view of the case, I cannot for my own part, but be of opinion, that the laboured attempts of some learned men, to reconcile the efficacy of God's grace with the liberty of the human will, are to the full, as needless as the methods they have frequently taken to do it, are unscriptural and dangerous. For, to make a show of reconciling what were never at variance, is needless : and to represent the divine will as depending on that of man, is fundamentally subversive of those high and great apprehensions of the Deity, which even the religion of nature dictates. We know that every reasonable creature is endued with a will, or faculty of disliking, on one hand; and of desiring, on the other. • By virtue of this essential power, the will chooses that which is most agreeable to it; and delights in what it chooses.
But then this choice is determined to good or evil, according to the moral and spiritual state in which a man is. In a state of unregeneracy, his will and desire are carried toward that which is evil : since, as is the fountain, such is the stream ; and, the man himself being morally corrupt, bis faculties and his actions must be so too. In a state of grace, the bias and inclination of the will are to that which is spiritually good : the man himself being formed anew, and sanctified by the holy Spirit, his faculties, and the prevailing tenor of his actions,
must, of course, bear the impress of heaven ; since, as is the tree, so is the fruit.
Hence it appears, that, in the work of converting sinners to himself, God is so far from impelling them as machines, or dragging them blindfold and against their wills, into happiness (though I do not see where would be the injury of even that); but this is so far from being the case, that the eyes
of our understanding are then, and not till then, opened, to discern where our happiness lies, and in what our real interest consists: even in the knowledge, love, and resemblance, of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent: and this no sooner discovered to the soul, than the will, from that moment, chooses and aspires after the divine favour, the divine image, the divine presence, and the divine glory.
Here, you see, is not the least encroachment on human freedom. The will continues free, or unforced, at the very time that grace is all in all. Here is sovereign efficacy, without violence; and invincible energy, without compulsion. There is no force (but that of love); and there needs no other. The soul that has once had but a distant glimpse of the ravishing beauty and goodness of God, the infinite excellency of holiness, the exceeding greatness of the Redeemer's kindness, the fulness of his merit, and the immense riches of the salvation procured by him; the soul that has once seen and tasted these, needs no compulsive force, in order to love him, who is the fountain of good, and to aspire after that good, of which he is the fountain. The transcendent power of the sacred Spirit, by which his influence is made invincibly effectual to conversion, is no more inconsistent with liberty of will (truly understood), than the shihing of the sun is inconsistent with the liberty of seeing.
Was there but this single instance of converting grace on record in scripture, this (I mean the instantaneous conversion of Matthew, mentioned in the passage before us) would be sufficient to put the point out of all doubt. He was a person who sustained the character, and discharged the office, of a publican, or tax-gatherer for the Romans; an employ, above all others, odious to the Jewish nation, and, at the same time, infamous to a proverb. We may suppose, that it was a principle of covetousness and attachment to the world, which induced Matthew, who, as both his names declare, was an Israelite by birth, to engage in a way of life, which could not fail of rendering him hateful to his countrymen; who considered every publican, and more especially if he was a native Jew, as a tool to foreign tyranny, and a betrayer of his country. Notwithstanding the odium and detestation he was sure to incur, Matthew, previous to his conversion, accepted of the office; and, in all probability, was as avaricious and oppressive in the execution of it, as the rest of his hireling brethren. To see such a man, and in the very midst of his actual employ, wrought upon at once, by a word speaking; so wrought upon, as instantly, to leave all, rise up, and follow that blessed, but despised person, who had not where to lay his head ;-All this evidently shows, that a conversion, so speedy and so total, and of such a person too, could be effected by no less power, than that which is omnipotent; and may vie with the greatest miracles which the Son of God performed.
It is true, indeed, there was something extraordinary in the call of Matthew. He was called, not only to be a follower of Christ, but (ultimately) to be an apostle likewise : and it was this that justified his forsaking all secular employment, that he might be more at liberty to attend his divine Master, and then to diffuse bis gospel. But, I apprehend, that, with regard to the conversion of Matthew as a Christian, the grace and power by which it was brought about, were neither more nor less than must be exerted by the good Spirit of God, in order to the conversion of any person whatever.
Besides : it is more than probable, that Matthew's call to the apostleship was subsequent to that call, of which the text speaks. For ought appears to the contrary, this history simply relates to his conversion as a man, not to his mission as a public minister: for (except in the single instance of Judas) Christ made men believers before he sent them forth as preachers. It should seem that when the Son of God said, " Follow me," a call to faith and sanctification was chiefly meant: which graces are equally necessary to the salvation of one as well as another. Hence our Lord declares, concerning all his people, without exception, “ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" and St. Paul exhorts us to be “ followers,” or imitators,
of God, as dear children;" for it is certain that the Saviour of sinners says, in effect, to every sinner he saves, “ Follow me,” in holiness, in love, in every good word and work: and that grace, which stands connected with everlasting life, never fails of inducing those who partake of it, “ to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world;" to be ornaments to the gospel they profess, and to walk in the blameless footsteps of him who hath redeemed them unto God by his blood, and by whose power and grace they are called to glory and virtue. We are not indeed required, like Matthew, to renounce our temporal vocations, and bid adieu to that lawful state of life, and honest labour, in which providence hath placed us : for we may rise up, and follow Christ, without doing that. Nay, it is our indispensible duty, to be industrious and diligent in our civil employments; and he that worketh not, should not eat; the drones should be driven from the hive. Religion is so far from being a plea for idleness, that idleness is absolutely incompatible with true religion. “ Let every man abide in the same calling, wherein he was called,” says the apostle: i. e. let every man continue in the same secular calling, and carry on the same lawful business after conversion, that he did before. The reason why St. Matthew was, in the literal sense, made to forsake all, and throw up his employ as a custom-house officer, was, as I observed, but now, that, by being at perfect liberty to attend on the personal ministry of Christ, he might be thoroughly qualified, both to preach the gospel afterwards, and to write that evangelical history of what he had seen and heard. But this affects not us. The case of the apostles, as such, was peculiar to themselves. We can have no such motives to forsake all; and he must be a madman who now thinks he has. There are other ways of forsaking all. We are to forsake all, not in a secular, but in a spiritual sense. Forsake iniquity, forsake the love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ; forsake all dependence on our own righteousness; forsake all sinful connections; all unscriptural doctrines, and unscriptural practices; nay, in point of affection, forsake even all things, and give up our hearts to God. This is the forsaking to which we are called. Thus rise up, and follow Christ. Pray for grace to make you happy in the love of God, and holy in all manner of conversation and godli
Beg of the blessed Spirit, to raise you up from the death of unbelief and sin, to the life of faith and righteousness, and to make you follow him in the regeneration. So shall we immediately on our dismission from the body, follow the Son of God into the glories of his kingdom; and lift up our heads with joy, when flesh and heart fail.
Nor shall death finally detain our mortal part. by grace, we have these evidences of our belonging to Christ; these marks of our interests in his merits,