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himself #." And Maximus Tyrius argues, agreeably to what was said above, that “ if skill in the professions and sciences is insinuated into men's minds by a divine influence, we can much less imagine, that a thing so much more excellent as virtue is, can be the work of any
for strange must be the notion that we have of God, to think that he is liberal and free in matters of less moment, and sparing in the greatestt.” And in the same discourse he tells us, 66 that even the best disposed minds, as they are seated in the midst between the highest virtue and extreme wickedness, need the assistance and the help of God, to incline and lead them to the better sides.”-I am sensible, that all these philosophers, with many more who speak to the same purpose, living after Christ's time, may be said to have learnt such language from christians; and if they did so, I wish all who have since worn the name, had been equally teachable : But some who appeared much earlier, speak much in the same manners, as I might easily shew you, if it were not already more than time to observe,
* Ικετευω σε, Δεσποία, ο σακηρ και ηγεμών τα εν ημίν λογ8, συμπραξαι ως αυτοκινήτους ημιν σε τε καθαρσιν την απο τα σωματος και των αλογων παθων, κλ. Simplic. in Epictet. ad fin.
* Είλα εκεινα μεν ηγη θεια τινι επιπνοια ψυχαις ανθρωπιναις ανακρινασθαι, το δε τέλων σπανιώτερον την αρετην εργον ειναι τεχνης θνησης" η πολλά αξιον νομιζεις το θειον, πε5 μεν τα φαυλα καλας και αφθονως παρεσκευασμενον, προ- δε τα κρειττω απoρoν. Max. Tyr. Dissert. xxii.
Αι αρισαι ψυχης Φυσεις, αμφισβηισιμοι εν μετρια της ακρας αρελης, σε την εσχατην μοχθηραν καθωρμισμεναι δεονται ξυναγωνις Θεα και ξυλληπτος της επι θαλερα τα κρειττω ροπης και χειραγωγιας. Max. Tyr. ibid.
§ It is here remarkable, that Xenophon represents Cyrus with his dying breath 66
as bumbly ascribing it to a divine influence on his mind, that he had been taught to acknowledge the care of providence, and to bear his prosperity with a becoming moderation :» Πολλη δε υμιν χαρις, οι καγω εγιγνωσκον την υμετεραν επιμελειαν, και δε πωποτε επι ταις ευτυχιαις υπερ ανθρωπος εφρωνησα. Xen. Cyropæd. lib. viii. cap. 7.8. 1. And Socrates is introduced by Piato, as declaring, “ that wheresoever virtue comes, it is apparently the fruit of a divine dispensation ;» Θεια μοιρα ημιν φαινεται σαραγιγνομενη η αρέλη, oις σαραγιγνεθαι. Plat. Men. ad fin. p. 428. And to this purpose Plato has observed, “ that virtue is not to the taught, but by divine assistance ;» Αλλ' εδ' αν διδαξειεν, ει μη Θιβ υφηγοιίο. Εpinom. page 1014. And elsewhere he declares, that if any man escape the temptations of life, and behave himself as becomes a worthy member of society, as the laws of it are generally settled,” which by the way is something very far short of religion, “ he has reason to own that it is God that saves him ;" Ευ γαρ χρη ειδηναι, ο τι τσερ αν σωθη τε και γενήλαι οιον δει, τοιαύτη καλαςασει πολίζειων Θεα μοιραν αυτο σωσαι. D. Repub. lib. vi. pag. 677. Edit. Francof. 1602.
[3.] That we may further argue the divine agency in this bles
sed work, “ from the violent opposition over which it prevails in its rise and progress.
The awakened soul, when labouring towards God, and aspiring after further communications of his grace to form it for his service, may justly say with David, Lord how are they increased that trouble me? How many are they that rise up against me* ? With how many threatening dangers are we continually surrounded ? and what a numerous host of enemies are ready to oppose us ? The law of sin that wars in our memberst, and concerning whose forces it may well be said, Their name is legion, for they are manyt: The evil infuence of a degenerate world, whose corrupt examples press like a torrent and require the most vigorous efforts to bear up against them : And in confederacy with these, and at the head of all, the prince of darkness, whose counsels and efforts, with relation to this world of ours, do as it were centre in this one thing, to prevent men's regeneration ; because it is by means of this, that those are Recovered out of the snare of the devil, who were before led captive by him at his will ş.
I persuade myself, that when I am speaking on this head, though some may imagine it to be mere empty harangue, and a common-place of declamation, the experienced soul will attest the truth of what I say. It may be, some of you, who, by what of these sermons you have already heard, have come under some serious convictions, and been awakened in good earnest to be thoughtful about being born again, have felt such a struggle in your own minds, that you may say, You never knew before what the flesh, the world, and the devil were, nor could have imagined, that their opposition to this work was so forcible and violent, as you now find it. To reform the irregularities of the life, is comparatively easy ; but to root sin ont of the soul, to consecrate the whole heart to God, and demolish those idols that have been set up, as it were, in the secret Chambers of imagery I, is difficult indeed: All the corruptions of the heart in such a case are ready to exert themselves, and it is natural for the lusts of the flesh to unite against that which is set upon destroying them all; nor did you ever know before, that there was such a world of sin within you.-With violence also does the Strong man armed exert himself, when his goods are about to be taken from him by one stronger than himself; as our
* Psal. iii. 1. + Rom. vii. 23. Mark v. 9. $2 Tim. ii. 26. || Ezek. viii. 12.
Lord with an unerring propriety and wisdom represents it *: And indeed it seems, as if through the violence of his malignity, and the righteous judgment of God, who, whenever he pleases, can Take the wise in his own craftinesst, that Satan sometimes overshoots his mark, and raises so sensible an opposition, against the cause of God in the soul, that an argument might be drawn, even from that very opposition, to prove the truth and excellency of what he sets himself so directly against.-- And you have now perhaps experienced too, more than you ever did before, the inveterate opposition of the seed of the serpent, to that of the woman: You have found, that since you began to think of religion in good earnest, some have derided you, others it may be have reviled you, and enemies have sprung up out of your Own houses; though the impressions you have felt tend to make you more amiable, more kind, and more useful, and therefore one would think should conciliate their friendship : But this is a memorable instance in which self-love seeins to make, as it were, a sacrifice of itself to the hatred of God.-Now therefore to accomplish such a mighty change in the midst of such opposition, must evidently speak a divine interposition. And surely the christian, when thus recovered and restored, has reason to det clare, as Israel did, If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side when these confederate enemies rose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our souls, and would have quenched and buried every spark that looked like divine life, and have borne away every purpose of reformation and holiness. The remark will be further illustrated, if we consider, [4.] “ By what feeble means this change is accomplished.”
The apostle observes, that in his day They had the treasure of the gospel lodged in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power, which rendered it successful, might appear to be of God, and not of man|l.
And it is still in a great measure apparent, that the same method is made use of from the same principle. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; and it at any time they are mighty and effectual, it must be only through God. It is Not by secular might or power**, that this great work is accomplished: No, nor by the refinements of learning, or the
* Luke xi. 21, 22. | 2 Cor. iv. 7.
* 1 Cor. iii. 19.
2 Cor. x. 4.
Mat. x. 36.
Psal. cxxiv. 1-5.
charms of eloquence. These things indeed have their use; the understanding may sometimes be convinced by the one, and the affections moved by the other : Yet where both these have been done, the work often drops short ; and it may be the plainest addresses, from a weak and almost trembling tongue, shall perform that which the far superior talents of many have not been able to affect. A multitude of such instances have been found, and perhaps seldom in these latter ages more observable, than in the compass
our own observation. Now whenever this work is accomplished by the preaching of the gospel in a christian country, there is generally some circumstance that shews it is a divine, and not an human work. It is not the novelty of the doctrine which strikes; for all the main truths, on which the conviction and impression turns, have been known even from early infancy. No miracles awaken the attention, no new discoveries astonish the mind: But what has a thousand times been heard, and as often neglected, breaks in upon the mind with an almost irresistible energy, and strikes it as if it never had been heard of before. They seem, as it were, When the Lord turneth again their captivity, to awaken out of a dream*, and wonder at the accident that has awakened them. The ministry of the word may seem but feeble when compared to such an event: and yet sometimes even less solemn methods than that shall be effectual. One single text of scripture accidentally occurring to the sight or thought, one serious hint dropped in conversation, shall strike the mind, and pierce it through with an energy that plainly shews that from whatever feeble hand it might seem to come, it was shot out of the quiver of God, and intended by him that made the heart to reach it: Since there is almost as much disproportion between the cause and the effect, as between Moses lifting up his rod, and the dividing of the water of the sea before Israelt. In many instances, remarkable providences, which one would have thought should have struck the soul as it were to the centre, have produced no effect; and yet a word, or a thought, bas accomplished it: And after the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the
fire, have made their successive efforts in vain, it has appeared that the Lord has been in the still small voice I. On the whole, a variety of circumstances may illustrate the matter in different degrees; but taking it in a general view, the remark appears to be well founded, “ that the weakness of the means by which the saving change is wrought, argues plainly that the hand of God is in it ;" as when Anointing the eyes with spittle gave sight to the blind*, it was evidently the exertion of a miraculous power.—But now, agreeably to what has been advanced under these several heads, I shall proceed to shew at large, [5.] “ That the scripture teaches us to ascribe this great change
* Psal. cxxvi, 1.
+ Exod. xiv. 16.
# 1 Kings xix. 11, 12.
on the mind to a divine agency and operation.”
And here you will see that it does not merely drop here and there an expression which is capable of such an interpretation; but that the whole tenor of the word of God leads to such a conclusion; and surely, if we own the word to be divine, we need no more convincing argument of the truth of this remark. The only difficulty I shall here find, will be like that which occurred under the former head, and proceeds from the variety and multiplicity of texts which offer themselves to me, while reflecting on this subject : However, I will endeavour to rank them in the plainest and best order I can, under the following particulars,We find God sometimes promises to produce such a change in men's minds ;-and at other times he speaks of it as his own work, when it has been already produced:- The scripture represents even the increase of piety in a regenerate heart, as the effect of a divine power, and how much more must the first implanting of it be so ;-Nay, it goes yet further than this, and expresses the necessity, as well as the reality, of a divine influence on the mind to make it truly religious, and resolves the want of true religion into this, that God withholds his influence.—If therefore any one, and much more if all these particulars can be made out, I think it must force a conviction on your judgments at least, that what we are endeavouring to confirm in this discourse is the doctrine of scripture. 1. There are various places in scripture, wherein God promises
to produce such a change in men's minds as we have before described;" which plainly shews that it is to be acknowledged as his work.
Thus Moses says to Israel, without all doubt by the divine direction, The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest livet. And this circumcision of the heart must surely be the removal of some insensibility and pollution adhering to it, and bringing it to a more orderly, regular, obedient state: Which, as it is sometimes made
* John ix. 6.
+ Deut. XXX. 6.